Thursday, January 18, 2018

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Forty days more; time is running out; this is a time of fulfilment. The readings this Sunday proclaim an urgent appeal for conversion through the transforming power of prayer – the first sign of a dynamic Catholic. In the first reading, Jonah preaches to the Ninivites and they turn away from their sins. They are transformed. In the Gospel Jesus proclaims repentance and calls his disciples who respond and are transformed. Paul in the second reading makes a passionate appeal for our transformation because “time is running out”. If “time is running out”, am I ready? How is my spiritual health? When my day begins with grumpiness and continues with road rage; when I don’t want to see anybody near; when I want things to go my way; when I want to control things, then my spiritual health is down and in need of transformation. How do I transform my spiritual health? A flight passenger once shared his experience on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco sitting behind a family with a crying baby. He could have remained miserable on that flight, but when he resorted to praying for the family, the situation changed. Prayer, the first sign of a dynamic Catholic is transformative. It has the power to change the way we look at situations, because it is not about us; it about the other. In the story of the passenger on the flight, he prayed for the family that was struggling with a crying baby and the situation calmed down all the way. He was transformed.

So how do I transform my infected spiritual health? The answer is through prayer. All it takes is to establish a routine of daily prayer and follow it. Dynamic Catholics begin their day with personal prayer. They establish a routine and will do everything to defend that routine even if it means waking up one hour earlier. You see, it is not enough to say I want to pray daily. I need to be resolved about it, and actually sit down and pray. I say this because the majority of Catholics have no plan but they think they pray. Others start praying and sit down to watch what happens. When nothing happens, they blame God who is not listening and then they give up. All it takes is an inner transformation that Jesus, Jonah and Paul proclaim this Sunday with the question: “How is my spiritual health?” “Transforming of people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.” God has incredible possibilities for you and I when we allow ourselves to be transformed by prayer. We can do this by simply setting a time daily to say a brief prayer first thing in the morning: “Lord Thank you for this day. Help me to be the best version of myself today as I start my day. Amen.” Say this prayer or a similar one daily and I guarantee you will see some change in your life. The take away message this Sunday is threefold: 1) The readings this Sunday proclaim an urgent appeal for conversion through the transforming power of prayer – the first sign of a dynamic Catholic. 2) God has incredible possibilities for you and I when we allow ourselves to be transformed by prayer. 3) All three readings underline conversion - spiritual transformation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament strengthens our resolve to be the best version of ourselves and thus become more effective witnesses of Jesus Christ.

©2018 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42

The readings this Sunday are about the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic – evangelization; sharing our faith with others. In today’s First Reading God calls the young Samuel, who experiences the call of God while asleep. God calls him three times that night, and each time he runs to his Master Eli without realizing that it was God who was calling him. Samuel is actually in profound conversation with God. When he is called again Samuel responds to God and offers himself saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” a sign of preparedness to serve.

In the Gospel, Jesus calls his first two disciples because John points out Jesus to the disciples, saying, “Behold the lamb of God.” Why does John the Baptist use this phrase? The title Lamb of God for Jesus appears only in the Gospel of John, with the initial proclamation: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" in John 1:29. This title reaffirms John 1:36, the text we have in this Sunday Gospel passage. The proclamation takes place in the presence of the first two disciples of Jesus, who immediately follow him. These two proclamations of Jesus as the Lamb of God are closely linked to the Baptist's other proclamation in John 1:34: "I have borne witness that this is the Son of God". At the baptism of Jesus, John witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and the Father declaring Him to be His Son. Therefore John knew that Jesus was the Messiah who had been prophesied in the book of Isaiah 53:7, "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." In the Old Testament, the Israelites sacrificed lambs at the Passover feast (Ex. 12:21) and as offerings (Lev. 14:10-25). Jesus Christ is the Lamb that God would give as a sacrifice for the sins not only of Israel, but of the whole world (Is. 52:13-53:12). In that one masterful sentence, John summarizes the whole of God’s plan of salvation revealed throughout the Old Testament. John therefore uses the phrase “Behold the Lamb of God” to authenticate that revelation, and give witness to it. The witness of John is so convincing that two of his disciples decide to follow Jesus. Then the conversation continues when Jesus looks back and sees the two disciples following him. “What are you looking for?” Their response was, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They are so attracted to the person of Jesus that they want to be with him, and Jesus simply tells them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying and stayed with him that day. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Evangelization is the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. We are called to share the story of our faith. 2) Like the first disciples of Jesus, we yearn for Jesus and suddenly someone points Jesus to us. Like the two disciples we become not just followers but engaged and excited to bring others to Jesus. 3) Now that we have become His disciples and stewards, Jesus sends us to share the story of our faith with others so that they too may be transformed by Jesus Christ.

©2018 John S. Mbinda

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Epiphany of Our Lord Year B

Readings: Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Appearance, manifestation, revelation of Christ to the nations. This Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek language “epiphaneia’ which means ‘appearance’, ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifestation’. So we could say that we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord. The feast of the Epiphany originated in the third century to commemorate the first appearance of Christ (the infant King) to the entire world as Savior. The first reading from Isaiah speaks about light shining through the darkness and the clouds—a wonderful image of describing what epiphany is trying to tell us about our Lord. Our own darkness and the clouds of our lack of understanding so often make it difficult for us to recognize in daily life the presence of God, in the Lord Jesus, in the Church or in other people. Psalm 72 focuses on the nations coming to adore the Lord. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you” and then speaks of kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to the Lord. The Psalm in a sense introduces the Gospel of today that recounts the story of the three wise kings from the East (also called the Magi), who represent all the nations. These Magi come as seekers of the source of the light. The star is only a guide for them. On finding the source, the infant king, they are overjoyed, they confess, worship him and offer him gifts. In the preface of the Epiphany, we get a sense of the mystery we celebrate. "Today you revealed in Christ your eternal plan of salvation and showed in him as the light of all peoples". The mystery of Christ's birth, the mystery of the Incarnation, is therefore made known to all people all over the world without exception. St. Paul in the second reading speaks about the inclusive nature of salvation in God’s plan.

The central message of the Epiphany is that Jesus is revealed to us as a light to the nations. The Magi go in search of this light guided by a star until they find the source of the light in Bethlehem. With them we too seek and recognise the child who is born to be our Savior. Like them, we too pay homage to Christ and accept the light that Christ brings into our hearts. Since we are led to discover Christ, we are therefore called to go out and share with others the Good News revealed to us. Through our daily witness, in loving others, in forgiving them, in our faith and compassion, in our courage and perseverance, may we be like the star that guides them in their journey of faith, to seek and to discover Christ in their lives. The message we take home is two-fold: 1) We are invited today to recognize God's light, God's presence in our lives, and to let our hearts rejoice and overflow because now we know the best way to live is allowing God in Christ to be with us 2) Consequently, we are called to go out and share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ revealed to us; to share the light that Christ has given us so that others too may see the path to the best way to live.

©2018 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Solemnity of the Holy Family Year B

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-27

Transforming the family, faithfulness and family spirituality are the key words that help us focus on the message of this Sunday. The solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, mainly to remind us that Christmas is a family feast and that Jesus was born and raised in a family just like us. But first a story. There is a story about a young lawyer who lived quite a distance from her elderly father. Months had passed since they had been together and when her father called to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him. She had court schedule, meetings, new clients, research, etc., etc. At the end of her recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” The daughter’s response was immediate, “Dad, I can’t believe you’d ask that! Of course, I’ll come!” To which the father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come; I need you more now than I will then.”

What is the relationship between family and stewardship as a way of life?  Matthew Kelly has come up with another book entitled Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children.  Have you ever asked yourself, “What does God want for my family?” I am sure you still recall that often quoted sentence of Matthew Kelly: “Transforming people one at a time is at the very heart of God’s plan for the world.” This incredible plan of God applies to the family too. God has an incredible plan for transforming the family into what it should be: a place where each of us can become the-best-version-of-ourselves. In the book Matthew Kelly presents some compelling suggestions for transforming the family: a daily routine for family prayer, simplicity life, a family culture of sharing time, family meals and a sense of mission. We only have time to consider family prayer. The media frequently reminds us of the current national divorce rate of roughly 50%.  An interesting fact Kelly points out is that 1 in 2000 couples who pray together on regular basis end their marriage with divorce.  The statistical difference is amazing and certainly reinforces the teaching that “the family that prays together stays together.”  Our lives can and will be transformed by sacred scripture and by a strong relationship with God, but this can only take place if we make time to get to know God and to talk to God.  The key here is letting your kids see you spending time in prayer, letting them see you make this time a priority, teaching your kids the skills of prayer just as you teach them so many other skills, teaching them to turn to God for guidance in times of joy and of happiness, and teaching them to listen for God’s voice in their lives.  The important question is: How can our children grow to know and love God and time in prayer if we do not bring that time to them every day?  Kelly poses two challenging questions for parents:  Do your kids know more about Disney characters or pop stars than they know about sacred scripture, the life of Jesus, and the Saints?  Do we want our kids emulating the TV characters, or do we want them imitate faithful and heroic lives?  If we expect our kids to follow God, we need to teach them the best way to live. Parents just like Mary and Joseph are the family catechists. One may say that Mary and Joseph lived a family spirituality centered on Jesus: they learnt to look at Jesus with eyes of faith; to listen to him with attention and to meditate on the unfolding mystery of the Son of God in their midst. But above all, they loved each other. The message we take home is that God has incredible plan of transforming each family into what it should be: a place where each of us can become the best version of ourselves.

©2017 John S. Mbinda

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Readings: Is 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Someone is knocking at the door. More than two thousand years ago, while silence covered the little town of Bethlehem, something extraordinary happened. God came knocking at the door of Mary and Joseph to let Jesus be born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was about to be born, Mary and Joseph could find no room in the inn. I would like to tell you two stories that are relevant to the Nativity of Our Lord.

There is a story of a Catholic priest who had the custom of visiting his parishioners on Saturday afternoon. He came to one home and knocked on the door. No one answered, but he could hear the radio playing and even some footsteps so he knew someone had to be inside. He knocked louder. No one came. Finally, he pounded on the door, but got no response. So he took out a business card, wrote a Bible verse on it and stuck it in the door. Ten minutes later the lady - who had been in the house all the time - opened the door. When she did, the card fell out. She saw the priest's name and the Bible verse: Revelation 3:20. Curious, she got out her Bible and read the verse. It said: "Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking...if anyone opens the door, I will come in and we will have a meal together." Well, on Sunday morning the priest noticed his business card was in the collection basket. When he picked it up, he saw that his verse was crossed out and replaced by Genesis 3:10. The priest was curious so he got out his Bible. The verse said, "Behold, I saw you walking in the garden...but I was afraid and I hid myself." Now suppose that priest was in fact Jesus Christ, the woman would have missed out a chance of a lifetime.

The second story is about a little boy called Wallace in the Midwest, who was playing the innkeeper in the Nativity Play. But he hated his role and told his teacher that he preferred to be one of the shepherds. Since he was bigger and looked tough, the teacher persuaded him to keep the role of the innkeeper. When the actual play started, all went well until Mary and Joseph arrived at the inn. Mary and Joseph asked for a room, and Wallace replied, “seek elsewhere, this inn is full.” When Mary and Joseph started walking away, the innkeeper stood watching them with tears in his eyes, and suddenly out of line with the play, he shouted to Joseph, “bring Mary back.” The teacher did not know where this was leading to, but to the surprise of all, the innkeeper said, you can have my room.” Some in the Church felt that the innkeeper had ruined the play. Others felt it was the best Christmas Nativity play ever seen. (Story told by Richard Innes). The message we take home is threefold. 1) Christmas is about opening the door for Christ who knocks. Open the door, Christ is knocking. 2) Like the little boy in the story, Christmas is about letting Jesus take our room, our hearts, our lives. 3) When we open the door of our hearts to Christ and let him take our room, he uses us as instruments of transforming this world. That is the source of Christmas joy and happiness. May this Christmas bring us great joy, peace and happiness during the coming weeks and throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

©2017 John S. Mbinda