Sunday, April 20, 2014

Second Sunday of Easter Year A

Second Sunday of Easter Year A
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; I Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Peace, forgiveness and reconciliation are some of the key words underlying the message of this Sunday. The Second Sunday of Easter is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Indeed the Gospel reading leads us to discover the meaning of God’s mercy. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appears to his disciples once again. On that occasion Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them." (Jn 20:22) In other words, Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit who would accompany them in their mission of bringing about peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. This Sunday bears greater significance because of the canonization of two Popes: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. As many of you will recall, Pope John Paul II was very instrumental in promoting devotion to Divine Mercy on the occasion of the canonization of Blessed Faustina, on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30 2000. Pope John Paul II beatified 1,338 people and canonized 482 -- more than all his predecessors combined. The canonization of Pope John Paul II just 9 years after his death in 2005 indicates the genuineness of his journey in perfection.

The readings on this Sunday set the tone for the entire Easter season. Their purpose is to continue helping the newly baptized towards growth in the mystery of Christ, who is now risen and in our midst. The readings therefore provide a meditation on the mystery of the resurrection and our own incorporation into that mystery through our initiation. In the Gospel, the risen Lord appears again to the gathered apostles. On this occasion He gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit the principle of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. The focus of that event may be interpreted in terms Christ revealing God’s Divine Mercy. What is Divine Mercy? From the diary of St. Faustina, the message is nothing new, but a reminder of what the Church has always taught through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful, forgiving and that we too must show mercy and forgiveness. But in the Divine Mercy devotion, the message takes on a powerful new focus, calling people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone — especially the greatest sinners. The message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us —no matter how great our sins when we repent. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins. The message of Divine Mercy is threefold: 1) Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world. 2) Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. 3) Have completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive. In brief, God’s name is Mercy!  The message of this Sunday may therefore be summed up in three points: 1) Today we affirm our faith in the Risen Lord who channels the greatest gift: the grace of God's Divine Mercy, won for us by the blood of Christ on the Cross and the resurrection. 2) Many Christians have discovered that God’s Mercy is not cheap. They had to struggle through a painful conversion experience and repentance. On this Sunday we are called to a conversion experience so that God’s mercy and compassion may touch us deeply. 3) Just as the Father sends Jesus to share the grace of Divine Mercy with all of us, we too are sent to be instruments of peace, forgiveness, and God’s compassion and mercy. 


©2014 John S. Mbinda

Easter Sunday Morning Year A B C

Easter Sunday Morning Year A B C
Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Col. 3:1-4; John 20:1-9 

Christ is risen! Alleluia! It was Easter morning and a man was coming out of the church after Easter Sunday Mass. The pastor was standing at the door as always to shake hands as people leave the church. He grabbed the man by the hand and pulled him aside. The pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!" The man replied, "Father I'm already in the Army of the Lord." Then the pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?" He whispered back, "Father, I'm in the secret service!” Secret service or not, Christ wants us here every Sunday. That is the only way we are nourished and equipped to be in the service for Christ. Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday are interwoven because what we celebrate this morning is the mystery proclaimed at the Easter Vigil. It is important therefore to see the two moments as continuous. Easter Vigil recalls and re-enacts the mystery of God's salvation for us in the resurrection of Christ. Easter Sunday not only focuses our attention on recalling the resurrection of Jesus and its impact on the first disciples, but also on the meaning of this event for our own lives and for our faith. Easter Sunday highlights not only our faith in the resurrection, but we also joyfully proclaim and witness our faith in the Risen Lord among us.

Proclamation and witness are the two central themes running through today's readings. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter speaks about his own experience and shares that experience with the listening crowds. Because of his experience of knowing with utter conviction that Jesus, who died on the Cross, is now alive, Peter is so filled with the joy of it, that he simply must share that same joy with others – so that it can be theirs, too. Similarly the experience of the resurrection by Paul leads him to advice that we keep focused on the risen Christ, since Christ is our life. For Paul, we know that his experience of the Risen Lord brought a total revolution in his life, and gave him a total new vision of things and especially of the meaning of Jesus' life and message. In the Gospel, we have the experience of the empty tomb as a sign that Jesus is risen, He is not there. This first day of the week is full of emotions and commotion. The discovery of the empty tomb by Mary of Magdala leads to her running back to tell Peter and John that the Lord's body is not in the tomb. That experience may have been very disappointing, but it was also a clear message that Christ is risen as he had said. John, who writes the Gospel, tells us that he entered into the empty tomb, “he saw and he believed”. He believed that the Lord is risen indeed. That experience strengthened the faith of the disciples in the resurrection, and completely transformed their lives. Renewed in their conviction, they were moved to witness to the mystery of the resurrection. The message we take home on this Easter day is that we too like the disciples be moved to proclaim the resurrection of Christ in our lives to others without fear. May the risen Lord give us the grace and the courage to live as people deeply touched by our faith in the resurrection, and proclaim that “Christ in risen indeed, alleluia”.

©2014 John S. Mbinda


Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Vigil Year ABC

Easter Vigil Year ABC

Tonight we proclaim and celebrate the great mystery of our salvation, accomplished in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter Vigil is the longest single celebration in the Roman liturgy. In its fullest form, it is intended to begin at dusk and conclude at dawn. In other words, it is an all night event, watching in prayer for the resurrection. Easter Vigil celebration, as we notice tonight, is full of symbolism, and I simply want to highlight some of the symbols used to help us reflect on the mystery we celebrate.

There are four sets of symbols that run through Easter Vigil: light and darkness, life and death, slavery and liberation, water that destroys life and life-giving water. I would like to dwell a little more on the first set. We start this celebration in darkness for a very important reason. Darkness is the first movement of Easter Vigil liturgy, in order to help us reflect on what it means to be in darkness, both physical and spiritual – a theme we have met during the season of Lent. Tonight, the contrast between darkness and light is highlighted in the fire-lighting ritual that is only a preparation for the lighting of the new Paschal Candle. That lighting symbolizes the dispelling of our spiritual darkness by Christ, the Risen Lord. The celebrant uses the following two prayers: “Make this new fire holy, and inflame us with new hope”, and then again before the procession into the Church, the celebrant prays, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”. To underline the dispelling of darkness, our candles flicker to life in the darkness, as we process together singing the “the Light of Christ”. Towards the end of the Easter Praise (the Exultet), we hail the Paschal Candle praying that its light “mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night.” Tonight, the Church makes use of many dramatic liturgical symbols to celebrate the mystery of our salvation: light and darkness, life and death, slavery and liberation, water that destroys life and life-giving water. The dramatic symbolism of burial with Christ and rising with him is highlighted in the blessing of the Baptismal Water, when the Easter Candle is dipped three times into the water. The baptism of those who have been preparing themselves in our parish is a clear expression of that mystery of dying and rising with Christ.

The resurrection of Christ ushers in a newness of life, a new spring-time in our faith. The elaborate liturgy we celebrate tonight invites us not only to remember the history of God's saving works and blessings upon all creation, but also to recall our personal participation in that mystery, the participation in the newness of life, that began with our baptism into Christ. The Liturgy of the Word helps us to recall that history, and offers us new insights on the meaning of our personal participation. Let me highlight Paul's words in Romans 6 read tonight, inviting us to recall the most important day of our life, the day we were formally incorporated into Christ through baptism. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life”. Tonight, dear friends, as we reaffirm our baptismal commitment, let us pray that the event we celebrate, the Resurrection, may lead us to live as people deeply touched by our faith in the resurrection, and proclaim throughout this season that Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!

©2014 John S. Mbinda


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord

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

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