Friday, June 26, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings: Ws 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43
The readings this Sunday proclaim the good news of how God in Christ is well able to reverse fortunes by transforming suffering and death into wholeness and life. “Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.” This Sunday, we meet two people whose lives are transformed by the presence of Jesus. Jairus is a Jew and a synagogue official in Capernaum. In desperation and concern for his daughter’s life, he approaches Jesus. Similarly, a woman suffering of haemorrhage for twelve years, though afraid, decides to come close to Jesus in order to touch his cloak. These two represent each one of us who just like them struggle with the same issues of sickness, life and death. The gospel passage however proclaims a God will not allow fear, sickness and death to have the last word. It also shows us the compassionate face of God in Jesus who reassures Jairus with those comforting words, "Do not be afraid; only have faith". Through faith, fear in the woman with haemorrhage for twelve years, is transformed into courage. Her sickness is transformed into spiritual and physical health. The death of the little girl raised by Jesus to life, becomes our hope of eternal life in Christ who is risen and is alive. Coping with misfortune is a major preoccupation for many families that face terminal illness of a loved one, death and even poverty due to lack of employment and material resources.

Faith in Jesus and what he can do is what drives Jairus and the woman in the gospel to Jesus. Jairus approaches Jesus directly, kneels before him and asks for the healing of his daughter. The woman only wishes to touch his clothes in order to be healed. In both cases, it is their faith that gives them the boldness and courage to approach Jesus with deep faith that he has the power to heal.  The gospel therefore leads us to discover Jesus, the source and solution to human search for security and wholeness. In his resurrection Christ enables us to overcome suffering, poverty and death. After Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus to life, the crowd is “utterly astounded.” The presence of Jesus transforms the situations of sickness into wholeness and death into life. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The gospel passage proclaims the good news of how God in Christ transforms suffering and death into wholeness and life. Therefore sickness and death do not have the last word. 2) This Sunday as disciples and stewards we hear those reassuring words of Jesus to Jairus “Do not be afraid; only have faith.” 3) The readings therefore invite us to trust and hope in Christ, who transforms our fears into great hope and boldness, our sickness into wholeness and death into life.

©2015 John S. Mbinda 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings: 1 Job 38:1,8-11; Psalm 106; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41

There is a story about a fishing fleet that went out from a small harbor on the east coast of Newfoundland. In the afternoon there came a terrible storm. When night settled down, not a single vessel of the fleet had found its way back into the port. All night long, wives, mothers and children prayed to God to save their loved ones. When the morning broke, God answered their prayers. To the joy and surprise of all, the entire fleet sailed back safely into harbor. I tell this story because in the Gospel of this Sunday Jesus saves his frightened disciples from a terrible storm on the Lake of Galilee. The Gospel passage is a metaphor for our lives. We are in the boat, the storms of life are raging around us, and like the disciples, we may think that Jesus is unconcerned, or “sleeping.” When we find ourselves in such storms, we need a spiritual vision to guide us safely to harbor, so we can be the best version of ourselves. The Gospel reading also reveals the true identity of Jesus. In the calming of the storm, Mark brings out clearly both the humanity and divinity of Jesus as well as the humanity of the disciples. Although the disciples had been accustomed to rough waters, this time the sudden storm gave them a terrible fright. Jesus was fast asleep, tired from the long hours of a busy ministry during the day. For a moment they completely forgot Jesus was with them, and in panic, they feared they would all sink in the waves. In their fear they cried to Jesus for help.

Jesus commanded the wind and the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then Jesus took the opportunity to offer his disciples an impor­tant catechesis, challenging their lack of faith and lack of awareness of who he really was, namely God, the Lord of all creation, including the storms. The point of this event is that in the midst of the turbulence of our life’s journey, Christ is present. Like the disciples, when we are so frightened, he asks us: "why are you terrified?" Sometimes we may wonder why bad things happen to us or even to good innocent persons. God does not cause evil, but He permits it in order to teach us the mystery of his presence in our lives; in order to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. We have only to turn to God in faith for God is always in control. In the first reading from the book of Job, God reveals himself to Job as the one who controls the storms and the seas; the one who made the clouds. Job has no reason whatsoever to doubt for God indicates to Job that He is in full control of creation. God explains to Job about the origin of the earth, the seas and the light. In the Gospel, Jesus is the revelation of God who has superiority over the seas and all creation. To his Apostles Jesus asks a question which should resonate in each one of us today because it is actually addressed to us: Why are you terrified? So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like the apostles, in the turbulent storms of our lives, may we not forget that indeed Jesus is right there; all we need to do is to turn to Him in prayer of faith. 2) Christ indeed saves us from the rough seas and the storms of our life. 3) Before such a God who controls the storms and the seas, as disciples and stewards we need not doubt, that He is well able to control the storms of our lives through Christ in our midst.

©2015 John S. Mbinda 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

The readings this Sunday proclaim the mystery of the kingdom of God. The first reading uses the metaphor of a “tender shoot” to prophecy that God will take the exiled people in Babylon and bring them back to Israel. The passage foretells a reversal of fortunes by God who will restore an exiled people into a nation. God chooses the weak and the lowly to make them strong. That prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. I am reminded of the amazing story of St. John Vianney’s path to the priesthood which had been marked by many uncertainties, failures and tears.  Virtually failing his studies, his ordination had only come about because his close friend was able to pull some strings in the Diocese of Lyons.  And even when ordained, few held any hopes for this illiterate, simple peasant.  For a man to be sent to Ars was held by his brother priests as a disgrace. As pastor of Ars, he became known for his priestly radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings through the Sacrament of Confession. I tell this story because this Sunday Jesus in the Gospel uses two short parables to show how the kingdom of God unfolds mysteriously like in the case of John Vianney.

In the second parable, Jesus compares the growth of the kingdom to a mustard seed that a farmer plants and then retires from the scene going about other duties. The growth of the seed does not depend on him for it has its own potential growth. The point of the parable is that the kingdom of God starts small, in each of us, but when we allow ourselves to grow in God’s life, we become powerful instruments of growing the kingdom. God has incredible possibilities for each of us to be transformed into something beautiful for God and for the growth of the Church. “Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.” The growth of the seed which is God’s plan happens in the most unexpected ways, times and places. Even the people who come our way in moments we never planned is part of that growth. The kingdom of God grows in the most unlikely places: in the poor, in the midst of persecution, in our sickness or that of our relatives, in our family trial moments; in times of personal struggle. What seems humanly insignificant, failure or impossible is transformed by God’s power and grace into success, and a wonderful experience of God’s salvation. The message we take home may be summed up in three points. 1) The readings proclaim the mystery of the kingdom of God that grows unnoticed in each of us. 2) The readings challenge us to be open to God’s planting of the seed of his word in our hearts.  3) As stewards, we must never be discouraged by what seems to be insignificant or failure in our lives, for God thrives in failure and powerlessness.

©2015 John S. Mbinda

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Year B

Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the evening of the last day of his visit to the United States, October 2005, Pope John Paul II was scheduled to greet the seminarians at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. It had been a very full day that would end with a quick stop at the Seminary. The schedule was tight. The plan was simply to greet the seminarians while they stood outside on the steps. But the Pope decided to first make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. When his wishes were made known, security flew into action. They swept the building paying close attention to the chapel where the Pope would be praying. For this purpose highly trained dogs were used to detect any person who might be present. The dogs are trained to locate survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes and other disasters. These highly intelligent and eager dogs quickly went through the halls, offices and classrooms and were then sent to the chapel. They went up and down the aisle, past the pews and finally into the side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Upon reaching the tabernacle, the dogs sniffed, whined, and refused to leave, their attention focused on the tabernacle, until they were called by their handlers. They were convinced that they discovered someone there.

I tell this true story because while some Catholics doubt the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, those dogs sensed a real, live Person in the tabernacle! The Gospel from Mark on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper not only underlines God’s covenant sealed with the Blood of His Son, but also the unity brought about by the sharing in the Eucharistic meal. The Eucharist is therefore a great sign of unity and communion with Christ and with one another. In 2005, Pope John Paul II reminded us that “The criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged, will be our mutual love and in particular our concern for those in need”. Our celebration of the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the injustices around us. “The Eucharist commits us to the poor” says the Catechism, 1397. Pope Francis draws our attention to the link between our faith and the poor. “We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them”, Joy of the Gospel, #48. The Catechism, #1397 also teaches that, “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.” Therefore stewardship as a way of life takes this social aspect of the Holy Eucharist seriously. Dynamic Catholics share their time, talent and treasure to care for brothers and sisters in need both locally and globally. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1). To receive the Body and Blood of Christ authentically, we must recognize Christ in our brothers and sisters in need. 2) The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the injustices around us because at its very heart, the Eucharist is a proclamation of social justice. 3) The Eucharistic event is the most powerful language Jesus has spoken to us, but the power of that language can easily be lost if we neglect its practical application on the social level. Therefore, at the end of Holy Mass we are sent to become bread broken and drink poured for others.

©2015 John S. Mbinda

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Most Holy Trinity Sunday Year B

Readings: Deut 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mat 28:16-20

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Amen. That brief familiar prayer immediately leads us into the central mystery we celebrate this Sunday - the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Jesus in his earthly life gradually revealed to his disciples the mystery of being totally united with his Father. One is reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Philip in St. John's Gospel, where Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied to him: "You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me"(Jn. 14:11). We recall that at Jesus' Baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him. In the preface of Trinity Sunday we pray in the following words: “You have revealed your glory as the glory also of your Son and the glory of the Holy Spirit: three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in everlasting glory”. Even with such a beautiful prayer we can hardly claim to understand the profound mystery of the Holy Trinity. In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus instructs his disciples before his ascension into heaven to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. A document called the Didache or Teachings of the Twelve – written as early as 50 A.D. - gives the same mandate of baptizing in the name of Triune God: “After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you do not have living water, then baptize in other form of water. If you are not able to baptize in cold water, then baptize in warm. If you have neither cold nor warm water, then pour the water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore the Trinitarian baptismal formula is not only biblical but also backed by apostolic Tradition.

The Holy Trinity is not a subject for theological speculation, but a life of communion to be lived and shared. There is a very simple way to reflect on the mystery we celebrate this Sunday. The life of the Holy Trinity is a life of intense sharing of one and the same life, in the most perfect manner possible. That is perhaps the reason why, God in creating us does not immediately take us into heaven. The explanation is simple. If God did so we would mess life up there! Thus our life on earth is meant to be a time to practice sharing life with the people God has given us, in order to gain the experience of the Trinitarian life first. We need to do this so intensely and intimately that we become totally transparent to others, with nothing of our own to hide, in complete trust and confidence in one another. In other words, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not just a subject for theological speculation but a life of communion and sharing to be imitated and lived. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) We are challenged to try to live the Trinitarian life of communion with each other intimately and intensely 2) The life of the Holy Trinity is a life of communion and sharing we can live and imitate. Let me conclude with a familiar formula that the presider uses to greet the assembly at the beginning of the Holy Mass. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14).

 ©2015 John S. Mbinda