Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Twenty First Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30

The readings of this Sunday focus on God’s universal salvation, and at the same time we are warned of a complacent spirit of easy salvation. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the narrow gate. It is the answer to the question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Those who enter the narrow gate will enjoy the Father’s eternal banquet. Those who do not have the determination and courage to live their faith will remain outside the Master’s House. Those left outside are lukewarm and complacent Christians who had known the Master; who ate and drank with him. They had been witnesses to his teaching. But now they are outside. They thought it was their right to enter his house, but they are shut out. Through their own choice they lost relationship with the Master. The big question is am I inside or outside? Am I in a state of grace? Are you with the Lord? That is the goal of our lives “to be with Jesus, at all times and for all eternity.” Why are we here? The answer is far deeper than just “to go to Mass.” We are here because we need to be with our Loving Lord. And we need to be with Him always, not just one hour a week in a Church, but throughout the week, wherever He can be found. Jesus speaks about people coming "from east and west, north and south" to "recline at the table in the kingdom of God," but urges us to "Strive to enter by the narrow gate." He speaks about people who thought they had it made, being locked out. Jesus wants you and me to consider the possibility that we might not be saved and challenges us with the possibility of being lost; of being outside when He shuts that door.

The Gospel therefore reminds us that we cannot afford to be complacent. Jesus uses the example of a narrow gate and a closed door to make the point. "Try your best to enter the narrow door, because I tell you many will try to enter and will not succeed" (Lk. 13:24). It is important that we reflect for a moment on why they will not succeed. You will recall that two weeks ago, we spoke about watchfulness and preparedness for the Lord's second coming. In the present text, Jesus returns to the same theme, and this time leads us to become more aware of the consequences of being found unprepared. "Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door" some will find themselves outside, knocking the door, and Jesus will answer, "I do not know where you come from". The implication here is serious. If you will have been on "vacation", away from God, Christ will certainly not recognize you. You will be a total stranger, naked, without his grace; without a wedding gown. The time for cleaning yourself will have expired, and there will be no way of sneaking in! So what message do we take home today? 1) Those who enter the narrow gate will enjoy the Father’s eternal banquet, but one has to strive to enter that narrow gate with determination as if it were a question of life and death; 2) It is not enough to be baptized. Paul reminds us today that there is a discipline to be followed; there are values to live by. 3) When that day comes, it will not be enough to claim that we went to a Catholic school or we have gone to Church every Sunday and have given our Church offering. 4) Good deeds of the past by themselves will not buy a ticket into heaven; they must be matched by a life worthy of our Christian calling. The bottom line is whether you and I will be inside or outside! The choice is mine and yours.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Friday, August 12, 2016

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10; Hebrew 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53

Rejection, opposition, division and even martyrdom are some of the words that help to focus on the message of this Sunday. The readings of this Sunday remind us that to be true disciples of Jesus we must be prepared to face rejection, opposition and even martyrdom. In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah has prophesied the coming deportation of Israel to Babylon. He is immediately accused of treason and thrown into a deep well by the king because of speaking the truth, but the Lord saves him because of his faithfulness. In the letter to the Hebrews, we are reminded of how Jesus endured the cross for our sake, and entered into the Father’s glory. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the painful struggle and conflict that must take place to bring about the Kingdom of God. “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!...Do you suppose I am here to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division...” What Jesus is speaking about is the paradox of the Kingdom that grows in spite of opposition and confrontation.

The readings therefore teach us that living our faith and the Gospel we preach, can indeed lead to persecution and death. We are therefore reminded not to lose sight of Jesus who is always with us. During my 20 years in Rome, I often sat at dinner with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf who told me his own story of conversion from the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, the most conservative Lutheran wing in the US. Fr. Z who is now a journalist in Rome told me that while he was in high school he discovered the Catholic faith and told his parents that he wanted to become a Catholic. Immediately he became an outcast to all his relatives. As if that was not enough rejection, as soon as he became Catholic, Fr Z was attracted to the priesthood and when his parents discovered, he was told never to come back to their home. While in the seminary, he questioned the lifestyle of the Rector, and he once again faced another rejection, accused falsely to his bishop and sent away. He was eventually ordained by the bishop of Valletri, South East of Rome, which explains why he lives in Rome. This story of Fr. Z, illustrates the point of this Sunday readings. We are told that in the midst of such conflicts, Christ is present in our struggles. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Jesus reminds us of the painful struggles and conflicts that must take place to bring about the Kingdom of God. 2) Like Jeremiah, Jesus Christ and Fr. Z, as followers of Jesus Christ we must face rejection, opposition and even martyrdom. 3) Once the fire that Jesus brought on earth is set ablaze no one can extinguish it; the kingdom of God grows despite rejection and opposition. Think about it. I am Msgr. John Mbinda. God bless you.
©2016 John S. Mbinda

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Wis 18:6-9; Heb 11:1-2,8-19; Lk 12:32-48

Three key words sum up the message of this Sunday readings: preparedness, faithfulness and Hopefulness. After last Sunday's teaching on how to relate to material possessions, this Sunday Jesus focuses our attention on the importance of vigilance and preparedness for his coming. Such preparedness requires being faithful and hopeful as disciples waiting for their master's return. Jesus uses an interesting story of servants waiting for the return of their master any time. The servants keep vigil, trusting like Abraham who kept the faith and trusted in the power of God. In the Gospel story, Jesus is the master, who tells us: "You too must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at a time you least expect." In today's society all that sounds like some kind of uncertain future. Yet, we are aware that preparedness is a fact of life. We carry a spare tire in preparation for a flat. We purchase insurance in the possibility of theft, accident, death or destruction. The list for our human preparedness is long. This Sunday Jesus challenges us regarding our spiritual preparedness.

Fidelity is difficult in today's society that prefers freedom over fidelity to the Gospel. Some might be afraid of being too committed. Jesus tells us not to be afraid of deepening our commitment to the Lord; of standing for the truth. The Gospel teaches us that our faith is treasure entrusted to us to be guarded. In the story, Jesus implies that we must not let a thief steal that treasure away from us. That is why Jesus underlines the importance of the present moment of waiting for his coming. The waiting is not a time we could take a vacation, away from God, as if we wanted a break from God. Rather, it is a time for creating a deeper relationship with God; continually walking on our journey of faith; and constantly being strengthened by the sacraments. That is why we come to Church on Sunday, not just to fulfill an obligation, but to be together with God's people journeying with Christ in the hope of His coming. This is what we celebrate at every Mass keeping alive Christ's memory, “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The best way to prepare for the Lord’s coming is not by doing something great just on time, but by being faithful all the times. The question is, what will that moment be like? The readings help us to be prepared for that moment of truth, so that it will be a moment of fulfillment; a moment of complete trust and calm before our Lord and just Judge who will welcome us into the eternal banquet. Three points sum up the central message of this Sunday: 1) Just as we invest so much in preparing for uncertain futures, Jesus teaches us to invest on our spiritual preparation and to be ready at any moment when he comes. 2) The first reading gives us the example of Abraham who was totally committed to God by his faith and trust. 3) It is not easy to wait for a promised future, and that is why God gives us His grace to help us to hang on there vigilant, ready at all times to receive Christ when he returns. How well are you prepared should Christ come right now?

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Ecc 1:2,2:21-23; Col 3:1-5,9-11; Lk 12:13-21

Guarding against greed and putting our security in God help us to focus on the central message of this Sunday readings. You probably have heard the story of the American travelling through Europe and decided to visit a famous wise Rabbi who lived there. When he arrived at his home, the tourist was surprised to see how simply the Rabbi lived – in a single room with only books, a table and chair. “Rabbi” the tourist asked, “where is your furniture?” The Rabbi responded, “Where is yours?” The tourist responded, “my furniture? I’m only passing through here.” The wise Rabbi responded, “So am I.” I tell this story because the readings challenge us to put our security in God and not in possessions. The writer of the first reading highlights the point in saying that all things are vanity!” Yes, ALL stuff. The reading helps us to take a good look at what really matters in life. The concern for things is vanity, like the smoke or the mist that evaporate and disappear so quickly. Paul in the second reading, reminds us why we must choose the values of the gospel. "If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above....Think of what is above, not what is on earth." In other words, Christ and not stuff or one-self is the highest possession we can have.

The parable of the rich fool in the Gospel comes after someone in the crowd asks Jesus to intervene in a family inheritance dispute. Jesus first makes comments on the dangers of greed: “Take care to guard again all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He then tells a parable that touches on the real issue in the heart of that person – greed. Jesus in the gospel is referring to greed that leads to building false security only on stuff for one’s happiness and comfort.
Jesus’ teaching on greed is addressed to all of us: adults, youth and children. Last summer while on vacation I observed my six and four year old grandnieces fighting daily over toys, iPads and the TV remote. One day I asked my eldest niece, “who will use your toys and iPad when you die?” She simply burst into tears as she ran upstairs to her bed. I had touched a hot button in her. None of us want to be reminded of the shortness of our lives, but that is the truth. As one nine year old parishioner recently reminded us adults that “Life is worth more than stuff.” The point of the parable is clearly that possessions do not guarantee life. Indeed they may make us so blind that we do not see what really matters most in life – that is greed. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) All three readings point to the lesson that there is more to life than stuff. The story of the wise Rabbi is a clear example that there is nothing wrong with living a simple life because we are just passing through here! 2) The readings suggest that we must stop building bigger barns and place our priorities on what matter most in life. In the words of Mother Teresa, that means accepting the challenge to “live simply so that others may simply live.”

2016 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Gn 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

The readings this Sunday are about prayer, the first sign of a dynamic Catholic. They focus our attention on prayer as a gateway to relationship with God. In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham, after offering hospitality to the Lord is at prayer that sounds like a bargain. Abraham is quite successful in pleading for God's mercy upon the innocent people of Sodom. This prayer of Abraham is an example of perseverance. The reading offers us a model of prayer as though God was a familiar friend, someone we can talk to along the way. But is important to realize that Abraham's prayer is not for himself but for others.

The Gospel focuses on the Lord's Prayer as found in Luke which is slightly different from the prayer we normally use at Mass from the Gospel of Matthew. In the gospel passage, Jesus is at prayer and the disciples are so impressed that they request, “Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”. They want to be in union with the Father and not just to recite some words. After giving them a model of prayer, Jesus offers two brief parables one of which is quite humorous, the parable of the friend at mid-night. This man goes to his neighbor at mid-night to ask for bread because he has guests who have just arrived. His friend, already asleep, wakes up, and says: “Are you crazy? It is mid-night, my wife, the kids and I are asleep and the baby may wake up and begin crying. If I get up I will disturb everybody”. The parable ends with the persistence of the neighbor until he gets the bread. Jesus concludes, if that is how your earthly friend will respond to you, how much more will your heavenly Father? The second parable is about dads and their kids and Jesus concludes, if earthly dads know how to provide good things to their kids, how much more will your heavenly Father? So Ask, Seek and Knock. God is listening and will even give you the greatest gift, the Holy Spirit. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings invite us to reflect on the importance of prayer. 2) They offer us a model on how to pray and how to enter into an intimate relationship with the Father through prayer as Jesus did. 3) Like the friend at mid-night we need to persevere always and never give up in prayer.

©2016 John S. Mbinda