Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
Readings: Is 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16,5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42
A man of suffering, pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; by his stripes we were healed. Because he surrendered himself to death… he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. Sometimes I wonder why God would have allowed His own Son to undergo such an extreme suffering, torture and death on the Cross. The celebration today is not a Mass but a commemoration of the Passion of the Lord leading to his Death on the Cross. As we gather around the mystery of the Cross on which Jesus Christ died, we are confronted by that very question: “why did God allow Jesus to die on the Cross?” The answer to that question speaks volumes and is found in the Scriptures that we read – both the Old and the New Testament. A simple answer to the question is that God loved us so much that He would embrace the very humanity that rejected Him, disobeyed and denied any responsibility. God chose to enter humanity, to take on human flesh, so we can see, hear and experience the consequences of sin: a shock therapy to awaken our consciences. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (5:8) that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Peter in his First Letter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” How could you and I return such a love for God? In a few moments we will come to venerate the Holy Cross.
Shortly we will hear the words, "This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world." And we will respond, "Come, let us worship." Then we will come forward to reverence the cross by kissing it. We normally bring in procession the cross veiled. We do that because we can get so used to Jesus on the cross; we can take him for granted. When the crucifix is presented before us and unveiled gradually, it should give a kind of shock to see what Jesus suffered for us. We come to adore Jesus on the Cross with the full weight of our sins. Pope John Paul II reminded us Catholics that part of the burden of sins is our human solidarity – the original sin is shared by all humanity; human sinfulness is shared by all, whether we admit it or not.
On this Good Friday, Jesus calls us to repentance based on solidarity with the sins of humanity and conversion from our own personal sins. Today we come to the cross burdened with our sins of the past, but even more with the present sins of our society. We live in a consumer society which can so easily make us blind to social sin. Social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity each individual's sin against a neighbor in some way affects other people. That is an offense against God because it is an offense against one’s neighbor. When rights and duties of individual citizens are infringed upon, that too is social sin and we all carry the burden of guilt, challenging us to speak up against any structures of sin in church and in society. However, social sin must never lead us to ignore or to forget our own personal sins. Jesus Christ shed his last drop of blood for you and I. At this celebration, we are moved and deeply challenged by God’s profound love that has no limits. We see ourselves in the drama that unfolds before us; a drama of God’s love for us, and yet our denial, betrayal, rejection and even our participation in the Crucifixion of his Son. The famous Negro Spiritual helps us to reflect on our role in that drama. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord; Were you there when they nailed Him to the Cross?" Yes, you were; yes you were there participating in my crucifixion. “Lord, have mercy on us and move us to repentance. In humble gratitude we ask for your forgiveness as we kiss your body crushed for our sins and thank you. Lord Jesus, you died for me. I don’t know how to thank You. Help me to live for You for the rest of my life. Amen. Amen”
©2014 John S. Mbinda
Holy Thursday Homily
Readings: Ex 12:1-8,11-4; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, so you should also do.” Tonight we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the ministry through which the memorial of Christ is kept alive – the Priesthood. We celebrate the mystery of how we become “One Ohana” (family) in Christ through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and in the sharing of His Body and Blood. In the Gospel of John however, the emphasis in tonight’s celebration is on the ministry that makes the Holy Eucharist possible under the image of Christ the “servant” who washes the feet of others.
Rather than present the institution of the Eucharist, St. John Evangelist gives a commentary on the Eucharist – The Holy Mass in the form of Christ’s foot washing. Tonight Jesus first gives his final testament, then rises and washes the feet of his disciples. He then concludes with “as I have done for you, so you should also do.” Jesus stoops down from the height of his divinity and serves his own creature. He asks us to stoop down as well. God comes to serve us, so we too may serve the least of society. Just as Christ becomes Food and Drink for us, we too become bread broken and wine poured out for others. Bishop Larry Silva in the short video before Mass helps us to see how we become food and drink for others. We do this by giving our time, talent and treasure: our energy, our love to those who count for nothing, those whose God-given dignity is still veiled, whose dignity is still hidden to the eyes of the world. We are called to reach out to the sick, the poor, the handicapped, the dying, the unborn, to those who are nobodies in the eyes of the world. So often, our society treats them as servants or slaves, as nothing. Our sharing in the Eucharist will be quite fruitless unless we become the bread broken and wine poured out for others. In so doing we become instruments that make possible.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis shows us what it means to stoop down like Christ. Last year, the Pope celebrated the Lord’s Supper at a Juvenile prison the Casal del Marmo outside Rome. In all humility, Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve of these neglected young people (boys and girls), who never dreamed of having any attention in the world. That is what our stewardship must do for the least – give them dignity, more humanity and hope in this world. “As I have done for you, so you should also do.” This sets the stage for the Rite of the Washing of the feet which is indeed a powerful metaphor for the servant Church founded by Christ and for our servant parish community here in Mililani. This is what we must do if we are to be bread broken and wine poured out for others, as we symbolically wash the feet of others. A faithful steward is one who gives time, talent and treasure in the service of others so that they may have life in abundance. How do you wash the feet of others? How do we as parish ohana (family) serve those in need in our midst?
©2014 John S. Mbinda
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Palm Sunday Year A
Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Matt 26:14-27.66
Joyful entry into Jerusalem; dramatic passion and death on the Cross; pointing to the resurrection. These phrases sum up the message of Palm Sunday. It is the prelude to the Holy Triduum –Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. There are two parts in today’s celebration that highlight what we celebrate on Palm Sunday: First of all is the blessing of the palms at the beginning, followed by the solemn procession. This part highlights the Joyful Mysteries of Christ. The blessing ritual simply makes sacred the natural symbols of palms to assume a religious significance. The celebrant prays, “bless these branches and make them holy.” The procession and triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a prophetic event. The Gospel proclaimed after the procession reminds us of the prophecy. We hear that "This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.'" The event therefore was not just by chance; it is also highly symbolic. The Gospel of Matthew refers to the prophecies of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.
Jesus chooses to enter the city 4 days before the Passover. In this first part of today’s liturgy, Jesus communicates the fulfillment of a prophecy: that he is the promised peace-loving and gentle king, who has now come as prophesied. He is greeted with a well known pilgrim psalm 118 “Hosanna son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was an acclamation to the one who comes to bring salvation from the hands of the Romans rulers, pointing to salvation from everything that oppresses human beings – above all sin. We therefore celebrate prophetically the triumph of Jesus over sin through his death and resurrection that becomes a reality in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
The second part of Palm Sunday, the Liturgy of the Word, plunges us into the Sorrowful Mysteries of Christ in his Passion and Death. The Passion of Our Lord that we hear today is already prophesied in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah where he gives us a glimpse of what the messenger of the Lord will undergo. He will pay a heavy price and suffer both physical and personal insults. He will be beaten, his beard plucked and spat upon. Psalm 22 blends well with the theme of the passion of the Lord, unfolding the drama of Christ’s suffering. The psalmist uses graphic metaphors to describe the bystanders in terms of ravenous thieves ready to strip him of his clothes, but neither mockery nor suffering will undermine his purpose and hope. All three readings today clearly points to the Good Friday events through which we enter into a drama of cosmic proportions. This drama has an interesting cast of characters with Christ in the center stage. Whether we like or not, you and I are much part of this drama of human sinfulness that condemns Jesus to a violent death on the cross. We are part of the crowd that cries loudly, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” So what message do we take home on Palm Sunday? On this final Sunday of Lent, as we enter into the Sacred time of Holy Week, we are invited to reflect on what Jesus means in our lives. Yes, we recognize him as our Savior, but we need to look at him more closely this time to discover just what kind of a Savior He is. Jesus takes the form of a slave, yet glorified with a name above all other names; He is an example of humility and self-offering, particularly suffering for others especially those who identify with his suffering: the poor, the humiliated, those stripped of their clothes and food taken off their tables; those disposed and marginalized; the abused and the ridiculed for no other reason except their creed and skin color. The core of the message of Palm Sunday is the following: 1) if you and I are to be saved, we must go where salvation takes place, on our streets and homes and where violence rages at 2 a.m. in the dark corners of society, where despair and apathy hold sway daily; where the innocent are abused and the needy neglected; we must go where there is misunderstanding, fear and jealousy; we must touch the untouchable and do the unthinkable. In brief, we must go where Christ emptied himself for our sake; we must go to the Cross to encounter Christ in the suffering of many. 2) The passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ must touch us deeply; it must move us to repentance, and prepares us to follow the path that Jesus takes as He completely humbles himself to the point of “assuming the condition of a slave, even accepting death, death on the Cross” for our salvation. 3) Palm Sunday points beyond Good Friday to the resurrection, and reminds us that there can be no resurrection without Good Friday, without entering through the Passion and death of Our Lord, in order to rise with Him into the newness of life.
©2014 John S. Mbinda
Friday, April 4, 2014
Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A
Readings: Ez 37: 12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45
Life and death; hope and despair are the key phrases that sum up the message of this Sunday. All three readings this Sunday lead us to meet Jesus who is not only the water of life and the light of the world, but also the resurrection and the life. It is around this central theme of our faith in Jesus as the resurrection and life that the Church celebrates the third Scrutiny with those preparing for Baptism at Easter. In the prayer over the candidates this Sunday the celebrant says these words: "Free from the grasp of death those who await your life-giving sacraments and deliver them from the spirit of corruption." The purpose of the third scrutiny is to help the elect candidates to deepen their faith in Christ who is the life and the resurrection. The readings therefore provide a sharp contrast between life and death; hope and despair. They also remind us of real life experiences of the destructive effects of death in real families. We are reminded of the pain of death of loved ones faced by millions of people all over the world daily. The prophet Ezekiel in the first reading urges the devastated nation of Israel to look beyond the destruction of Jerusalem to a new future, when God’s Spirit will restore Israel. If you are facing grief or conflict in the family, there is good news for you. The prophet Ezekiel offers hope for those who believe in the God of life. You and I have many times encountered the shattering effects of death in the family as I did just one year before my ordination when I lost my dad in a tragic automobile accident in which 3 others died with him in 1966.
The Gospel opens with the announcement that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is ill. Jesus’ immediate response is that this illness will not result in the death of Lazarus but that it will be an occasion for God’s glory to be revealed to all and that the Son may also be glorified. Even though Jesus had a deep love for Lazarus and his sisters, he remains in the same place for another two days. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is already dead for four days. The dramatic episode of the raising Lazarus to life is a reminder that Jesus is the source of life; he is the resurrection and the life. Just as in any funeral we have attended, there are tears the eyes of Mary and Martha as they tell Jesus, that if he had been there, their brother would not have died. The whole account is a beautiful catechesis that Jesus offers as the episode develops. On meeting Jesus Martha says: “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died.” “Your brother will rise to life,” says Jesus. “Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day,” replies Martha, reflecting on Jewish belief of life after death. Jesus uses the occasion to lead the two women through a gradual revelation of who he is: "I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die". The passage is a powerful revelation of who Jesus is from his absolute control over life and death. In other words, Jesus has the power to transform death into life; to bring hope in the midst of despair; and joy out of grief. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The good news is that Jesus is the resurrection and source of life that he promises to anyone who believes in him. 2) We are led to strengthen our faith in the life after death. 3) Our faith in Christ who transforms death into life has been strengthened in the liturgy. We are sent to share this good news with others who may be in grief or in despair and care for them.
©2014 John S. Mbinda