Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thirty Third Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Mal 3:19-20; 2 Thess 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19 [2 Thess 3:10] about not eating if

Signs of the end and readiness to meet the Lord are some of the phrases that help us to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The readings draw our attention to the urgency of being ready for Christ’s triumph over the enemy in a battle that is already taking place. In the first reading from the prophet Malachi, we hear that the day is coming when those who do not listen to the Lord will be burnt up, while those who listen and dance God’s melody will leap like calves going to pasture. Paul in the Second Reading deals with the question of the Second Coming of the Lord, because some faithful in Thessalonica believed that Christ was about to return soon, and therefore there was no need to work. Paul corrects that misunderstanding. As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, the readings turn our attention to the end times, symbolized in the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic events before the end.

Jesus in the Gospel teaches us that before the events of the end take place, we too must undergo persecution, but by our perseverance, we will secure our lives. Jesus also cautions against the danger of false prophets, who try to announce the end of the world. Christians from the very beginning have always been curious about the meaning of today’s readings, and some would want to ask the same question the disciples asked: “Teacher, when will this happen?” They want know when exactly the end-times will be. Jesus confirms that the end times will certainly come, and warns against false prophets. “Take care not to be deceived…because many will come using my name and saying ‘I am he’ and ‘the time is near at hand’... And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen, but the end is not so soon” (Lk. 21:8). Because those are only signs, do not listen to anyone telling you when the end of the world is coming: whether they be priests or televangelists or self-proclaimed prophets or spiritual writers. As soon as you hear any preachers say they know when the end will come, be sure to avoid them like the plague. Jesus in the Gospel does not tell us when the end times will come. He only speaks about signs of the end: wars, earthquakes, insurrections, famines and plagues; “and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven." The point Jesus makes is that we should not be concerned about when the end will be. Rather we should be concerned about our readiness at all times. The Gospel therefore underlines that aspect of readiness: our growth in faith and hope, and gearing ourselves for Christ’s victory, which is also our victory. In the face of suffering and persecution, through perseverance, we will triumph. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.” The message this Sunday may be summed up in three points. 1) The readings draw our attention to the urgency of our readiness at all times for Christ’s triumph over the enemy. The battle is already taking place. 2) We must not live in fear, but in faith and hope, prepared to stand up for the truth; prepared to suffer persecution; ready to meet the Lord. 3) The bottom line is whether you and I will secure our lives; whether we will triumph in the end; whether that day will find us ready, in God’s grace. The choice is yours.
©2019 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thirty Second Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: 2 Mac 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thess 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38

The resurrection, life after death and the immortality of the soul, are some of the words that help us to focus on the message of this Sunday. The readings help us to affirm our faith in the resurrection, and to capture a glimpse of what life after death beyond this world might be. The first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees is an account of Jews who remained faithful even in the face of persecution as they believed they would rise into new life. The point of the reading is that even though the body may die, the soul is immortal; our life here on earth has a purpose; God created us with our destiny in heaven hereafter. That is why the seven sons and their mother display such an incredible faith in the face of death and torture. They are so convinced of life after death. The first reading therefore underlines the foundations of belief and hope in the life hereafter. All seven sons die for their faith, each in turn professing his faith before death. Their faith hinges on their belief in the resurrection; that there is life after death. They believed that the King of the world would raise them up to live again forever. That promise would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ in His resurrection giving new life to all who believe in Him.

The Gospel from Luke is another reminder of the immortality of the human soul. But just as in the first reading, the Gospel reaffirms our faith in the resurrection, and reminds us that our faith witness is bound to be met with opposition and cynicism. In the Gospel, Sadducees are making fun of Jesus. “So, there is life after death? Well, prove it for us? Suppose a woman had seven husbands, and they all died before her, whose wife would she be at the resurrection?” The issue is, if there is life after death, will there be marriage in heaven? So they thought they had outsmarted Jesus; they had Him backed into a corner. Doesn’t that method of opposition sound familiar? Jesus in His response helps us to understand that our risen bodies will be different from what they are now. Our bodies now are mortal and vulnerable to all sorts of viruses. In the resurrection we will be like the angels. In other words, we will be so transformed by immortality that we will not need to eat; no going to the grocery store; no health care insurance; no need to continue the human species. Therefore, there will be no need for marriage. This faith is founded on our hope in the resurrection, because as Jesus tells us, our God is not a God of the dead but of the living. The resurrection will transform our mortal lives into a life of eternal love of God and one another far more exciting than we have ever experienced on earth. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings challenge us to live in the light of the resurrection, full of hope that indeed there is life after this present earthly life. 2) That is why we confess in the Creed that “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” The resurrection is the center-piece of our faith and Christians have shed their blood because of that faith. 3) Just as the Jewish family in the first reading endured suffering because of their faith in the resurrection, we too must be prepared to defend and to live our faith in the light of resurrection.
©2013 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thirty First Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Wis 11:22-12:1; 2 Thess 1:11-2-22; Lk 19:1-10

Curiosity, a merciful God, who seeks and finds the lost, leading us to conversion, are the key words that unlock the message of this Sunday. The readings reveal to us a merciful God who seeks out and saves the sinner. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom leads us to meet a God who is merciful to all, who forgives and spares all things, because God is a lover of life. He does not want the sinner to perish, but to be saved at any cost.

The story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel reveals God who seeks out and saves sinners. Zacchaeus has heard that Jesus is coming, and out of curiosity, he wants to see Him. Zacchaeus is small in stature and, because of the crowd blocking his vision, he cannot see Jesus. Determined and curious to see Jesus, Zacchaeus first runs ahead and discovers that he is still lost in the crowd. Then he decides to climb a sycamore tree. In spite of being a rich and important man, he does not hesitate to climb a tree to see Jesus. By so doing, Zacchaeus in fact risks public ridicule because no adult ever ran in public and certainly no respectable person would ever climb a tree in public. Zacchaeus knows that he is not very welcome among the crowds anyway. He knows that many citizens might take the chance to give him a kick or a push and he would probably wind up bruised. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho and a wealthy person because he extorted money from people for Roman taxes. He was therefore considered a traitor and a sinner and so people avoided associating with him publicly. Jesus refuses to conform to the expectations of his society and seeks to meet Zacchaeus who is anxious to see Jesus. On reaching the spot, Jesus calls him: "Zacchaeus, come down because I must stay at your house today". Jesus did this because "the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost". Although Jesus says nothing about conversion or about Zacchaeus leaving his job of collecting taxes, we notice that Zacchaeus in meeting Jesus becomes a totally changed person. He experiences a radical conversion of heart and Jesus acknowledges what has taken place in Zacchaeus. "Today salvation has come to this house". The story of Zacchaeus is our story too, because God searches out anyone who strays away from grace. But like Zacchaeus, we too must accept to come down and confess our sinfulness so that Christ may bring salvation into our lives. It requires our ability to open our hearts so we may hear Jesus inviting us to come down from our tree, so that Jesus may enter into our lives. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The story of Zacchaeus helps us to understand the mystery of God who seeks out and finds us when we are lost; 2) As in the case of Zacchaeus, God often uses curiosity and attraction to the Church as well as the sinfulness of her members to touch others; 3) Like Zacchaeus, we must risk our reputation and be determined to embrace God’s grace leading us to conversion.
©2019 John S. Mbinda

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Thirtieth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Sir 35:12-14, 16-19; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14

Humility, total dependence and our need for God’s mercy are some of the phrases that help us to focus on the central message of this Sunday.  The readings once again return to the theme of prayer, drawing our attention to the need for humility and total dependence on God. In the first reading we hear that God listens to the cry of the poor, precisely because of their total dependence on God. The responsorial psalm highlights that point. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those who are crushed in spirit He saves”. I once heard the story of a priest who shortly before starting Mass, noticed that the front pews were empty (very Catholic) and so urged those at the back to come forward. All moved forward except one woman who remained at the back throughout the Mass. After Mass, as the priest was greeting parishioners on their way out, that woman told the priest: “Father, I just recently returned to church. I’ve made the big step to walk through the door, but you’ve got to let me ease my way up into the middle of the congregation. I have a lot of things that the Lord and I need to deal with first.” That is a wonderful example of real humility before God.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus confronts us with the familiar and challenging parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. This parable is addressed to us and is like a mirror that enables us to see clearly who we are. The central message of the parable is that God listens and favors those who humble themselves, and rejects the hypocrite; those who refuse to face the truth about their need for God’s mercy. The story is simple. "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector”. The Pharisee did not even need to pray, nor did he need God! He took up his position and spoke the prayer to himself. In the parable Jesus urges us to imitate the attitude of the tax collector, who is deeply aware of his sinfulness, and in need of God’s loving mercy and forgiveness; empty and in need of being filled with God’s life and grace in Christ. The tax collector is repentant – moving toward conversion. That’s why he was at the back of the temple. He had made the big step to enter the temple door. He didn’t feel that it was right for him to come any closer because of his unworthiness. He and God had things he needed to work out. He needed God’s mercy; God’s forgiveness. For that reason the tax collector is favored by God, and goes away more justified; more transformed than the Pharisee. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings draw our attention to the need for humility and total dependence on God in every prayer. 2) Jesus in the parable reminds us that religious practices are only blessed when they flow from an authentic interior life of true humility. 3) That is why the tax collector was filled with God’s life, while the Pharisee returned home unchanged, without being touched by God’s life. Am I going to return home today touched by God’s grace or simply unchanged? The choice is yours.
©2019 John S. Mbinda

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Twenty Ninth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18: 1-8

Persistence, determination and fighting Amalek, are some of the phrases that sum up the message of this Sunday. The readings focus on the power of persistent prayer. Such persistence is the determination to continue in prayer particularly the highest form prayer of thanksgiving – the Eucharist, every Sunday and even every day. Being at Mass Sunday after Sunday or even daily may be compared to Moses keeping his arms upraised - a gesture of prayer, in order to assure the Lord’s continuous protection and help as we hear in the first reading. “As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage” in battle against one of the most feared fighters Israel ever confronted. No nation on earth could ever defeat the Amalekites. But with Moses’ arms raised in prayer to the God of Israel, with Aaron and Hur holding Moses’ hands up high in a posture of prayer, with the forces of God on the side of Israel, not only was Amalek defeated, this fierce nation was totally destroyed. Paul’s second letter to Timothy also sees the apostolic ministry in terms of persistence. “Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient...through all patience and teaching.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells “his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” Jesus is aware that his disciples and us tend to give up too soon, and therefore tells them the parable of a widow who kept going to a judge until he finally accepted to intervene for her. The point of the parable is clear: There is nothing impossible with God just as there were no enemies too strong for the forces of Israel with God on their side. When God fights with us against the forces of evil, we will win the battle. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Just as Israel had fierce battles with Amalek, you and I have our own Amalek to fight – our vices and weaknesses. Whether we fight our sinful habits: explosive temper, anger or whatever vice like alcoholism or drug addiction, don’t ever give up. 2) The power of persistent prayer is exemplified best by going to Mass Sunday after Sunday or even daily and in all humility believing that in the end, being on God’s side, you will win the battle. 3) The readings remind us of our own fierce battles with our own Amalek of anger and sloth and gossip. We must never to give up, because with the persistent power of prayer, even the fiercest enemy – the devil will fall. Think about your own Amalek today and be determined to go into battle fighting on God’s side.
©2019 John S. Mbinda