PENTECOST MESSAGE 2020 Beloved Parishioners, Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, marking the wondrous event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. It gave strength and courage to the once timid and fearful Apostles who now became emboldened and could stand before powerful Kings and nations to declare openly that ‘Jesus is Lord.’ We celebrate the 2020 Pentecost from a unique perspective. We are all observing this necessary lockdown which has been in place since the middle of March this year when our churches were closed for public worship. This lockdown and the subsequent isolation, especially for the elderly, has been very difficult for many parishioners. As we deal with these difficulties, we must bear in mind that the lockdown is very necessary to save lives. Only the living can praise the Lord. Let us also call to mind that the apostles who are ‘drunk’ with Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost and preached the Gospel openly with great enthusiasm were on a lockdown for 50 days. The period they spent in isolation was not a wasted time. The Spirit can also work in the silence of our homes and hearts to later release huge quantity of vibrant faith and joy On this day let us know that the Holy Spirit is still alive in our parish and hopefully soon we shall return to some level of church activities. Happy Feast of Pentecost to you all! PENTECOST SUNDAY Acts 2: 1-11; Psalm 103; I Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23
You may be familiar with some T-shirts with the inscription “Catch the Spirit”. But you cannot catch the Spirit, you cannot hold the Spirit. Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). Fifty days after Easter, the disciples were together, among them was Mary and the women that followed Jesus. Then the Spirit of God descended on the disciples; they were filled with his power. It was as if they were born again. They began to proclaim the good news with enthusiasm. They were no longer afraid of the enemies of Jesus. They spoke with great power. They came out openly with their message – the Good news of Christ. Their witness is described as ‘speaking in tongues’. The people there were surprised and reacted accordingly by saying that the apostles were drunk. However, they were not drunk. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and people from different countries were able to understand them – people from Asia, Africa, Europe and Middle East. They saw the language of the apostles as their own language. They spoke a universal language. This is another way of saying that the whole people were once more one. There was love and understanding. There was good spirit. The Apostles began to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22). Yes, the Holy Spirit bears fruit and wherever the Spirit dwells love and life is renewed or recreated. Just like the Holy Spirit we cannot say that we have possessed love. Love must be rediscovered, renewed, deepened every time. Anyone who wants to live by the Spirit of God needs to be renewed by the Spirit himself. And that is what it is all about today. That we must allow ourselves to be guided and lead by the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. He breathed on the apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. This Spirit will help you to forgive and accept forgiveness. We all need him. The Holy Spirit is necessary for every human being, just as breath. As a church community, we are not alive if we do not give God’s spirit space in our lives. The spirit moves the believers to action in a world longing for authentic witness. The early Christians manifested the presence of the spirit in and among them through the way they lived. We can feel and observe the presence of the Holy Spirit in people, groups and places when we come in contact with them. Wherever the work of the Holy Spirit is present, it is just good there, you want to remain there, you want to sit and rest there, you just want to savour the friendliness there. Everyone desires to be associated with such places or people. Such people live in love and unity. Authentic faith makes us act differently and contrary to the standards of the world. Your daily personal efforts to spread the reign of love and justice may be as lightweight as snowflakes. However, by heaping our snowflakes together we shall eventually be able to break the heavy branch of sin, evil, hatred and injustice growing in our world today. Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Saturday 7th Week of Easter, May 30, 2020 Acts 28: 16-20, 30-31; Psalm 10; John 21: 20-25 “The world itself could not contain the books that would be written” Today’s liturgy is the last celebration in this Easter season, tomorrow is Pentecost and on Monday we begin the ordinary time of the Church’s year, circle two. With Pentecost celebration the Paschal candle is removed from its present position between the altar and lectern, and then be placed by the side of the sanctuary, close to the baptistry, to be used during baptisms and funerals. The portion of St. John’s Gospel we read today summarises the ministry and life of Jesus. The Gospel reported Peter’s probing questions about the fate of John himself. Jesus had earlier predicted that Peter would face martyrdom. When Peter saw John coming, he questioned Jesus, ‘What about John, how will he end up?’ Peter displays a common threat in us. Often, we probe into other people’s lives without first examining our own position. We see the speck in other people’s eyes without noticing the plank in our own eyes. This is the ‘yeast of the pharisees’, and we have to expunge it from our system. Coming back to Peter’s question, Jesus’ answer is very remarkable, "If it is my will that he remains until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" The people did not understand Jesus and so the rumour went around that he had said that John will never die. The will of God is inexhaustible, and his immensity is beyond comprehension. St Augustine rightly pointed out that “God is inexpressible. It is easier for us to say what he is not than what he is. If you could conceive him, you would conceive something other than God.” This helps understand why John summarises the Gospel by saying that if all that Jesus said and did were to be written down the world itself could not hold the books. Yes, God is unknowable. He is a mystery that will each time need to be revealed anew. That is why we need the Holy Spirit, who will teach us the whole truth. The attitude of the Christian is to remain open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He is a Spirit of love and peace, gentleness and joy. Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit Fill the hearts of your faithful Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. AMEN.
Friday 7th Week of Easter, May 29, 2020 Acts 25: 13-21; Psalm 102; John 21: 15-19 “Do you love me” Love demands responsibility. That is why if anyone claims to love you but remains apathetic to issues concerning you then he or she is not serious. Love finds expression in actions. God showed that he loves us by sending his only begotten Son to draw us back to himself. The Son ratified this love by offering his life for humanity – the beloved of the Father. Any love relationship that lacks sacrifices is not worth it. In our Gospel reading of today the Risen Lord asks Peter three times if he loved him. Peter had denied Jesus three times shortly before his crucifixion and death. Now is the time for reconciliation and commission. Peter must cancel out that triple denial with triple commitment to love. Love can be a soothing medicine of restoration. Peter must have learnt from this encounter with the Lord that is why he authoritatively affirms that love covers multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Nothing heals the wounds of sin and evil more than love. Love must be deep and sincere, that is why Jesus wanted to elicit authentic love from Peter by asking him this question repeatedly until he is convinced that he really loves him in the proper way. In the Greek Bible, there are three different words translated by the one English word love. There is eros (sensual or erotic love); there is philia (love of the likeable); then there is agape (self-sacrificing and unconditional love). Agape love is in the will. It is a decision. Agape love can reach out to someone who doesn’t even deserve your love. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you have agape love for me?” meaning “Do you love me in such a manner as to sacrifice your life for me.” Peter knows that he has not lived up to this standard of love. He knows that he disowned Jesus in order to save his head. So, what does Peter answer? He answers, ‘Yes, I like and admire you, but no, I have not been able to love you with a self-sacrificing love as you demand.’ Jesus understood Peter’s penitence and humility, so after the third time Jesus accepted Peter’s philia for him and upgrades it to Agape. What Peter is saying is “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.” And Jesus, the merciful Lord and saviour, the eternal High Priest just did that. He accepted Peter the way he is, infused his grace into him and made him the chief shepherd of his flock. Jesus says to him, “Follow me.” Charles Clayton Morrison says that the Church is “the only society in the world in which membership is based upon a single qualification, that the candidate be unworthy of membership”, but be willing to take off his or her shoes (my addition). My dear friends, since love is at the heart of our Christian life, let us, like Peter, ask Our Lord Jesus Christ to accept our imperfect love and upgrade it to self-sacrificing love so that we will be able to follow him till the end. Let us pray: Word made flesh, and splendour of the Father, you are the light of the world. As you change water into wine you invite us to celebrate God’s joy in us. As you go on bended knee to wash our feet you show us the way to the Father’s humble love. Through the gift of your Spirit, may we live as true servants of your word so that the world may come to know that we too are sent by the Father. AMEN.
Thursday 7th Week of Easter Acts 22: 30, 23: 6-11; Psalm 15; John 17: 20-26. Anwar Sadat, the great Egyptian leader bore a mark on his forehead from touching it to the ground in prayer. His body played a role in his prayer, as many other religious people. African children bringing offertory gifts to the sanctuary will be swinging, singing and dancing that you may begin to wonder what was going on. Again their bodies play a role in their public prayer. Jesus’ body also played a role in his prayer. He knelt during prayer. At a point in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed facing downward. When he cured the deaf and dumb man, he lifted his eyes to heaven. Today, in his great priestly prayer for us, he prayed with eyes lifted up to heaven. It may be necessary to ask ourselves what role our bodies play in our prayer. What special posture do you employ in your prayer? An unknown author says, “I kneel when I pray, not only to show reverence to God, but also to become more reverent before him.” In our Gospel reading of today’s Mass Jesus prayed, not only for his immediate disciples but those who will later believe in him, including you and I. He uses the greatest powers God gave us: the power to address him in prayer, to pray for us. What was Jesus’s prayer point? He prays “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. Jesus basically prayed for unity. Unity and love are the signs of any authentic Christian community or group. The division among Christians has been described as a scandal and an obstacle to effective witnessing in our world. You cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to the world when you are not united. Jesus’ prayer for unity is a challenge to both the individual and the Christian family. The unity for which Jesus prayed is a unity based on divine love. It is a unity that is possible only with the love of God in us. It is not a unity based on human wisdom, on power or on diplomacy. It is not a unity of uniformity or a unity which deprives others of their individuality but a unity in the essentials, that makes room for diversity. The famous saying that goes back to St Augustine is appropriate here, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty; in all things, charity.” As we wait and pray for a rekindling of the fire of divine love in the hearts of the faithful at Pentecost, let us all resolve, in our own little ways, to work for this unity by living in the love of God and our neighbour. Let us pray: Gracious God, When our hearts are broken or our minds are distracted, when we are anxious and troubled or when our faith is weak, give us confidence that we can still turn to you even though we have no words, because you encounter us just as we are through the presence of your Spirit who prays in us a wordless prayer of longing and love. AMEN.
Wednesday 7th Week of Easter, May 27, 2020 St. Augustine of Canterbury, Feast 1 Thessalonians 2: 2-8; Psalm 95; Luke 10: 1-9 Today the Church in England celebrates the Feast of St. Augustine, a Benedictine monk, who was born in Rome but died in Canterbury in the year 605. He was sent by Pope Gregory 1 to covert the pagans in Britain who were disposed to accept the Catholic faith. He faced great difficulties in accomplishing the task assigned to him, but together with other monks he was able to record outstanding success. He baptized King Ethelbert of Kent on Pentecost Sunday in 596, and some of the nobles and other people followed his example. He erected his monastery and Episcopal See at Canterbury. He was the first bishop of Canterbury and worked assiduously for the development of the Diocese. Today we celebrate the role he played in planting the seed of faith in England. A common feature of the early missionaries is their courage and vision, accompanied by great sense of sacrifice. They envisioned well paved road in the thick forest and set down to construct it. In the Gospel reading from St Luke, Jesus tells the disciples the magnitude of work that needs to be done and the lack of willing agents to tackle the job. However, he sends out 72 disciples to different cities to proclaim the Kingdom. He warns them of the difficulty involved but admonishes them to be detached, humble and graceful. With 72 or more manpower at his disposal how is it that Jesus is still in need of more hands? I think the work of bearing witness demands all hands-on deck. If we look at it closely, we see that 72 faithfuls will not even be enough to bear adequate witness in towns like Tunstall or Burslem to talk of all nations. It boils down to the fact that we are all called to be witnesses. Psalm 95 enjoins us to “Proclaim his help day by day, tell among the nations his glory and his wonders among all the peoples.” Our Christian call is to never let the light grow dim. We ought to bear witness to the kingdom wherever we find ourselves. Nobody is less important in this task, if you have received the light you can share it with the other. Few words of admonishment can be all the miracle your neighbour needs to turn a new leave. St Augustine bore witness to the truth of the Gospel, may we all be strengthened in our zeal to be powerful instruments in the hands of God through his Spirit living in us. Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and open up the word of God for us, that we may find there our hope, our courage and our joy. Through faith-filled sharing of the word may we become more authentic witnesses of the transforming power of your love so that the whole world may join in the praise of our liberator God. Amen. St. Augustine of Canterbury, Pray for us.
Tuesday 7th Week of Easter, May 26, 2020 Acts 20:17-27; Psalm 67; John 17: 1-11 “I have accomplished the work which you gave me to do” The Power and the Glory is a book written by Graham Greene on the religious persecution in Mexico. One of the characters in this book is an old priest who became depressed because of the tension and constant harassment of the Church. He becomes an alcoholic and could not properly carry out his priestly duties to his parish. Eventually, the persecution caught up with him, and he was arrested, imprisoned and later sentenced to die. On the morning of his execution he was so sad and cried profusely, not because he was going to be executed, but because he felt he wasn’t able to accomplish his duties as a priest. In fact, he thought he was a failure and would go to God empty-handed. Like this priest, we are confronted with issues of how we have performed our tasks at the different stages of our lives, especially as we grow older or come closer to death. We ask ourselves how much have we accomplished? As a husband and father did I fulfil my obligations to my family? As a wife and mother did I live up to my responsibilities? Was I a good child in the family and school? Did I fulfil my duties in the society and Church? Have I cared for those who needed my help? Did I take good care of myself? How will I give account to my creator? These are salient issues, but remember that it is not about being successful, but rather it is about doing what we are expected to do. The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant based moral life on doing one’s duty. According to him duty should motivate our every action; do your duty and you are doing a justifiable moral action. Jesus in his final discourse, as we saw in our gospel reading of today, tells the Father that he has accomplished his mission and is waiting for glory. His mission includes making the Father’s name and purpose known to the people entrusted to him. It is not all about Jesus, but about the Father’s will which he was commissioned to accomplish. Paul, in the first reading, says that he considers life of little importance to him, if only he could finish his mission and the ministry entrusted to him by Jesus, and that is to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace. My dear friends, how faithful are we in carrying out our mission on earth, the job Jesus Christ asked us to do? St. Philip Neri, whose memorial we celebrate today, was faithful to his priestly duties. Let us pray that through his intercession, we will always hear the voice of the Spirit calling us to action in our society. Let us pray together: Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. (Ps. 51). Amen.
Monday 7th Week of Easter, May 25, 2020 Acts 19: 1-8; Psalm 67; John 16: 29-33 “Be of good courage, I have overcome the world” The end of the story is often more significant than the beginning; and the question is not how you started the race but how you finished. Jesus tells the disciples in our Gospel reading of today that they will have trouble in the world but they should not be bothered because he has overcome the world. How can one not be bothered in the midst of tribulation? There is no other way than by focusing on the living hope that awaits us. Jesus at this point in time was about to be betrayed, rejected, tortured and killed, yet he saw victory. In the story of Jesus, you have the example of someone who sacrificed all, seem to have lost everything yet he was the number one winner and the uncontested champion. He was victorious in his trials. He tells us that he has conquered the world. This is the world that is opposed to the kingdom. We are always caught up between these two kingdoms. The world pulls us towards gratification of the flesh with the maxim: eat and drink, make merry, acquire more and more, enjoy the much you can, make the world yours for life is too short. The tribulation the Christian faces is to challenge the false hope this world offers. The kingdom of God invites us to live joyful lives in the spirit of Christ. It is the joy we acquire by treating others as we would like ourselves to be treated; a joy that emanates from making sacrifices for our brothers and sisters, and saying no to evil. This type of joy endures and it is the outcome of the one victory Jesus won for you and I; it is a kingdom that is worth having, irrespective of the cross that could be involved. Paul in the first reading asks the disciples at Ephesus whether they received the Holy Spirit when they were baptised, and they answered, “No, we have never heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” They were only baptised into John’s baptism. Paul then baptised them, laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. The outcome of this is that they started speaking in tongues. The lifeless disciples become vibrant. The Holy Spirit is the strength of the Christian and without him there is no life. He creates and recreates. As we approach the feast of Pentecost let us pray: Giver of the Spirit, Your people are burdened and afraid. We have fallen victim to a virus that has turned our world on its head. We are vulnerable now and wondering what you are asking of us. Through your gentle Spirit teach us to look again to the life of your Son, that we may learn from Him what it means to live in the Spirit, and be faithful to you. Amen. St. Bede the Venerable, Pray for us!
POPE FRANCIS ADDRESS TO YOUNG ATHLETES (who were to participate in May 21 international event called “We Run Together”)
The Holy Father’s Words: I thank all of you for the work you do: each one does something for the community, for others. And this is joy. And people even offer their life for others: mothers for their children, fathers for their children, and many others … to give something of mine for others. And you give beauty to others - the beauty of sport. This is something important: to understand how to give beauty. It is that motto of the Association that is so important: you are not detached from others, “You run together,” together. And there is always an attitude that we find in that passage of the Gospel, of the two disciples that ran to Jesus’ sepulcher on the morning of the Resurrection (Cf. John 20:3-6). The youngest (John) arrives first, and then the older one (Peter) stayed behind, but there is always the respect of waiting for the other. And there is an ancient Medieval rule for pilgrims, for those that did pilgrimages to Shrines in the Middle Ages - they are also done today; we think of Santiago de Compostela, for instance - a rule that states: One must go in step with the one who is weakest, with the one who walks more slowly. “No, but I go first … “No. One must keep up, as John did: yes, he arrived first, but he waited for the other. This is a very beautiful thing, which we must learn, as humanity: to walk in step with persons that have another rhythm, or at least consider them and integrate them in our step. Thank you all!
SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 26; 1 Peter 4:13-15; John 17: 1-11
Message to My Daughter, is a 1973 moving story of Miranda, a completely disoriented teenage girl who saw the world as “meaningless, cruel and stupid.” Her mother died when Miranda was barely two years old. She felt so unloved and insecure and thought nobody could ever love her. One day Miranda discovered a tape left by her late mother titled ‘Message to My Daughter’. As she listened to this tape Miranda found out that her mother loved her so much and had noble thoughts about her. She then discovered that she was not the unloved child she thought she was. Actually, her mother loved and cherished her tenderly. This was a game changer as she changed the way she saw herself and could now positively relate with people around her. She became cheerful, put herself together, and was able to make good grades at school.
Today we read from the famous priestly prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John 17: 1-11. The rest of the chapter will be read on Thursday. This prayer summarises the purpose of Christ’s life on earth and his special prayer to the Father for his disciples. He says, “I pray for them, because they belong to you: all I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified.” In this high priestly prayer of Jesus, we realise that he thought about us, not only his apostles. We belong to him; he loves us and commends us to the Father. Just as Miranda realised that her long dead mother loved her, whenever we read John 17, we know that Jesus loves us tenderly and cares about us. It makes a lot of difference for us to know that Jesus thought of us, that he had us in mind as he died and gave his life for the salvation of the world, that he actually prayed for us. We know that the Father always hears the prayers of Jesus. That is why as followers of Christ we must be assured that we are in the palms of his hand. Jesus is our strength. We must, therefore, not let anything or situation put us down. We are a blessed people.
On Thursday last week, exactly 40 days after Easter Sunday, the Church commemorated the great event of the Ascension of Jesus Christ to the Father. In our first reading today, we hear that, after the Ascension, the apostles together with several women including Mary, the Mother of Jesus, retired to the upper room and were engaged in continuous prayer. Prayer is the attitude of people expecting the coming of the Paraclete. Let us in this coming days preceding Pentecost, pray for a rekindling of the fire of divine love in the Hearts of all the faithful. Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful And enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created And you shall renew the face of the Earth. Amen
Saturday 6th Week of Easter, May 23, 2020 Acts 18: 23-28; Psalm 46; John 16: 23-28 “I am going to the Father” Jesus did not come to the earth to draw attention to himself, rather he came to show us the way to the Father. He is the mediator between us and the Father. He is the linking path between heaven and earth. But, perhaps more, he came to make us co-inheritors of the glory the Father has prepared for him. With his coming there is no dividing line again between the secular and divine, flesh and spirit, servants and masters, rather with him and through him we are co-heirs of the Kingdom. He took flesh so that we will take on divinity. Today Jesus tells the disciples that their prayers will be answered. However, he says that they will not be depending on him to answer their requests as they used to. That will no longer be necessary, they can now talk to God directly. Now that he is ascending to the Father they can interact with God without any difficulty, but they must do so in his name. The mighty name of Jesus is the master key for opening all spiritual doors. When we mention the name of Jesus in prayer the heavens listen and take action. This is possible because we have united our wills with that of Christ. We therefore, ask for what Jesus himself wills for us. Many prayers go unanswered because they may be objects of our selfish desires. But when a prayer is in line with the divine will for us, it cannot go unanswered. Therefore, he tells them, “if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Until now you have asked nothing in my name.” The disciples have been asking for one thing or the other but ‘nothing in the name of Jesus’, they have not united their wills with that of Jesus. Today let us pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who alone can teach us and help us present our deeper desires to God in an acceptable way. Have a blessed day!
Friday 6th Week of Easter, May 22, 2020 Acts 18: 9-18: Psalm 46; John 16: 20-23 “Your sorrow will turn into joy” Sorrow and joy are opposites that dot the live of every person. The magnitude may differ from person to person, from age to age, and from circumstance to circumstance, but surely, they must be part and parcel of everyone’s life on earth. Walker Percy rightly remarked that, “Joy and sadness come by turns”. Life is a mixture of sorrow and joy, weeping and rejoicing. But will there be a time when joy will overcome and displace sadness? Yes! Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel reading of today’s liturgy that, “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” Sorrow passes away. It is not a permanent condition that anyone is condemned to. Trees shed old leaves and produce fresh ones. A grain of wheat falls to the ground, dies and new life springs from it. A woman in labour groans in pains and anguish but at the sight of the new born baby her face lights up with a joyful smile. The coronavirus pandemic lockdown will be over and we shall gather together again in the banquet of the Holy Eucharist to celebrate love. The disciples of Jesus will lament and weep while facing the challenges of life here on earth but their hearts will rejoice when they see him again. The presence of the Lord is their joy and our joy. And this joy is eternal, no one can take it away. A note left behind by a 13-year-old girl who died of Leukaemia reads: O God, I’m free! Valleys are green, and the sun shines Through the storm and tempest. Your hand came through. I grasped it. O God, you brought me life. You came through the dark, A faint spark; but it lit my soul. My fire is burning, Lord. No one can put it out. My God, I am Free! (from Mission Magazine) My dear friends, how strong is our faith that the promises made to us by Christ will be fulfilled? Having celebrated the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father, let us pray that through the light of the Holy Spirit we will all work for the joy that never ends. Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!
Thursday 6th Week of Easter, May 21, 2020 ASCENSION THURSDAY Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 46; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Matthew 28: 16-20 Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, forty days after his resurrection. He has accomplished his mission on earth and triumphantly goes back to the Father. We celebrate it with joy because his victory is also our victory. The Church observes it as a Holy Day of Obligation. What does the Ascension of Jesus mean to us? First of all, we must realise that His ascension to heaven is not a departure from us, after all he said that he is with us until the end of time. Pope Benedict XIV reminds us that, “Christ’s Ascension is not a journey into space toward the most remote stars; for basically, the planets, like the earth, are also made of physical elements. Christ’s Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death that conditions our life. It means that he belongs entirely to God.” That he belongs to God and he is in heaven makes him even close to each and every one of us because he is no longer limited by this physical existence. We read in our first reading that Jesus after addressing his assembled disciples “was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” The disciples were amazed at this event and were continuously gazing into the sky. It was not clear what was going on in their minds nor how long they stood there looking upwards. They loved their master whom they had enjoyed his presence, guidance and protection all this while. There is no doubt that the disciples were distressed and confused. The question is ‘why do you stand looking into the sky?’ This very question is addressed to us today. Why are you always gazing into the sky? Why is your faith too shallow, and lacking any substance, bereft of any witness? Why are you not looking downward, left and right, to look for what needs to be done? Jesus has ascended to the Father and the disciples have to settle down to do all what he commanded them to do. His last words to the disciples are, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” These few, simple words are the very last, most important, words that Jesus spoke to his apostles at his Ascension. We are Christians and Church to carry out this injunction of Jesus. By our whole lives, by everything we say and do, we are witnesses of the immense meaning of the fact that a loving God has given us the fullness of life through Jesus Christ. Jesus has shown us how to live, die and ascend to the Father. We must therefore draw closer to him so that where he is, we also might be someday. Happy Feast of Ascension to you!
Wednesday 6th Week of Easter, May 20, 2020 Acts 17: 15, 22-18:1; Psalm 148; John 16: 12-15 “The Spirit of Truth” The truth of the Gospel is not easy to comprehend. Even in our many years of Christianity there are still aspects of our faith that we struggle with. Understanding the whole truth according to St Augustine is not ‘possible in anyone’s mind in this present life.’ In the other words, we cannot depend solely on our mental faculties to understand the eternal truths. We need some help. Jesus told the disciples that he still has many things to say to them but they cannot bear them now but “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” The truth of the Gospel is unfolding. Everyday the Holy Spirit is leading us to the truth and he brings us closer to God. Because “without the Holy Spirit, God is distant” (Cardinal Suenens). As Christians we are called to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit because he is at work in us and around us, waiting to be discovered and followed by those who are ready to listen and hear the sound of the wind. The devil uses ignorance as a great weapon to confuse the people, and ignorance is opposed to truth and knowledge. According to the Prophet Hosea, ‘people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. The Athenians whom Paul encountered in our first reading of today were wallowing in ignorance and thus worshipped an “unknown god” and ordered their life accordingly. Paul instructs them that the god they worshipped as an ‘unknown god’ is the living God he has come to preach to them. Through the same Holy Spirit some of the Athenians came to faith and people like Damaris and Dionysius accepted the new life. However, some of the people laughed at Paul at the mention of the resurrection, while others said, “we will hear you again about this”. The Holy Spirit works with those who are open to Him. The Blessed Virgin Mary was open to the Holy Spirit and made herself available and so she became a channel to bless the human race. The Holy Spirit worked in her and guided her to accomplish her mission on earth. Let us pray: Holy Spirit of God, I surrender myself and faculties under your supreme power. Make use of me as you did the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that through me you will bring your glory and presence to those who open their heart to receive you. Amen. St. Bernadine of Siena, pray for us.
Tuesday 6th Week of Easter, May 19, 2020 Acts 16:22-34; Psalm 137; John 16: 5-11 “He will convince the world of sin and righteousness” The three Godhead has role in our salvation history. Each played a role in lifting man from the pit of meaninglessness to abundance of life in God. Jesus, after completing his work on earth tells his disciples that if he does not go the Spirit of Truth will not come. And that Spirit will teach them, he will open their eyes and mind to know what is good and bad, he will prove the people wrong, he will lead the world to the truth. Have you ever tried to bring someone to the light of the Gospel? It can be a frustrating experience, especially if the person in question is the stubborn type. Your consistent attempts may appear fruitless. You may even give up. But, eventually, the person may give himself or herself to Christ. Arguments and philosophising are not enough to bring people to Jesus. It is the Spirit of God that moves our hearts to the truth of the Gospel message. The Spirit, however, can use people and events to teach us. On Pentecost Sunday, the disciples received the Holy Spirit. Attracted by the sound of the ‘strong wind blowing’ the crowd assembled. Peter then addressed them, “This Jesus whom you crucified, is the one that God has made Lord and Messiah.” These words deeply troubled the people and they asked, “What shall we do brothers?” Peter instructs them on what they should do. That day three thousand people repented and were baptised. It was the Spirit of God that convinced them and moved their hearts to choose the right part. In our first reading today, the jailer abandoned his old ways and together with his household received baptism after Paul and Silas were miraculously saved from the shackles of their captors. In prison, these two disciples never ceased praying and praising God – great gifts of the Holy Spirit. Prayer and praise are great tools that prompt God’s miraculous intervention in our lives. In the face of difficulties and crises we must not relent in praying and praising God. The Spirit always proves to us that God is God, and man is man. How readily do we admit our errors and allow the light of truth to rule our lives? The Holy Spirit is willing to lead us to the truth, but are we ready to let go of our erroneous views? May St. Dunstan who worked assiduously to restore sanctity in the Church pray for us to move from error to the truth. Come O Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful!
Monday 6th Week of Easter, May 18, 2020 Acts 16: 11-15; Psalm 149; John 15: 26-16:4 “You also are my witnesses” There is this story of a Religious Education teacher who came to class with a big poster covered with a newspaper. She asked each of the 15 students to cut a piece out of the poster and take home. They had to discreetly preserve each piece, but must return them the next class. At the next class the students came back with their pieces. The teacher then instructed them to carefully put the pieces of paper back from where they had cut it off. When they had done all that they discovered that there remained two ugly holes that needed to be covered. It happened that two students had either forgotten or lost their pieces. What an unfortunate situation and an ugly sight to see the poster with the missing pieces. Jesus tells the disciples that together with the Spirit of Truth whom he will send they will bear witness to him. Jesus’ assertion is based on the fact that the disciples knew him very well because they have been with him from the beginning. You may be familiar with the slogan, ‘if you know something, say something’. It will be strange if you witness an event or knew a thing but when the time comes for saying what you know you keep mute. Jesus wanted the disciples to tell the world what they had heard him say, and all they had seen him do. Jesus gives them a divine mandate to bear witness. Some of us have been part of the Christian project for 10, 20, 30 or more years. We learnt the Catechism, heard the word of God regularly, celebrated the different sacraments and received the Holy Eucharist uncountable times. We have encountered Jesus in different ways and in many situations. It will, therefore, be inappropriate to say that you and I do not know Jesus. Since we know him, we ought to stand up for him before other people. I could remember a few occasions when I failed to bear witness either by offering some prayers when I should have or sharing the word of our Lord Jesus when it was needed, I ended up feeling bad for not doing what I ought to have done. Just like the poster that was not beautiful again because of the missing pieces, whenever any of us fails to witness to Jesus our world loses some of its beauty, something will be missing and the world becomes less desirable. How are you witnessing to Jesus in our world today? May the Spirit of Truth strengthen us and help us witness; and may we not be the ‘missing pieces.’ St John 1, pray for us!
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21 Since we celebrated Easter, the liturgy has been telling us one central Christian truth: that Christ is risen, he is alive, and still present with us. This truth is recalled in the various appearances of the risen Christ to his disciples, because these appearances were in order to show that this resurrected Christ was indeed the exact, same identical bodily, human Jesus that the disciples had known in life. They saw him, touched him, talked to him, and ate with him just exactly as they had done before his death. As Jesus gets ready to leave his disciples, he promises to send them another Paraclete. He was a Paraclete to the them, and in his absence the new paraclete will be in charge: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete” (John 14:16). Paraclete is from the Greek Paracletos, literally means someone who is called to stand beside a client. In legal terms that would be an attorney. But a Paraclete is much more than an attorney. Probably the word that captures the true meaning of Paraclete is the word “coach.” The Paraclete is our coach, always by our side, to instruct and correct us when we make mistakes, to encourage and motivate us when we feel down, to challenge and inspire us to be the best we could, to defend us and fight for our rights when the judges are unfair to us. In short, the Paraclete means for us all that Jesus meant for the disciples. Why do we need a Paraclete? For the same reason that athletes and sports people need coaches. No matter how good they are, sports people always need coaches. Even Andy Murray, the UK tennis star has a coach. Left on our own, we are prone to mistakes and errors. Pelagius, the 5th century British thinker taught that human beings have the natural ability to fulfil God’s commands if they so choose. The church condemned his teaching as a heresy, insisting that human beings always need God’s grace in order to please God. Pelagianism is the belief that we can fulfil our human destiny just by being ourselves, and that we do not need the grace of God that comes through faith, prayer or the sacraments. Many people today are Pelagians without even knowing it. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that we all stand in constant need of divine help. We all need the divine Helper, the Holy Spirit who stands always by our side, the Paraclete. How then do we receive this all-important Spirit Helper? Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The Paraclete is a special gift Jesus gives to those who love him and keep his word. This Thursday is Ascension Thursday. Between Ascension and Pentecost, the church invites all her children to a period of prayer and waiting for the renewal of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us observe this period as a special time of prayer just as the disciples did, because we need the Holy Spirit today as much as they needed it two thousand years ago. The Novena to the Holy Spirit begins on Friday 22nd May, 2020. Come O Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Saturday 5th Week of Easter, May 16, 2020 Acts 16: 1-10; Psalm 99; John 15:18-21 “The world hates you” Jesus advises his disciples that the world will hate them. Jesus makes this assertion so credible that one begins to wonder why the world is inclined to hate his disciples. First of all, the world is used here not in the cosmological sense as the dwelling place of people but in a theological sense. It is used as a society organised in total exclusion of the influence of God (William Barclay). It is a world ruled by the agent of darkness and totally opposed to the light. The mention of Jesus disquiets it, and it condones evil. St. Augustine in his popular book De Civitate Dei, (The City of God) Book XIV talks of two cities, the earthly city and the heavenly city. According to him, “Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.” The two cities exist side by side with each other, and one is distinguished from the other by the people’s attitude and philosophy of life. The world is characterised by darkness, and it finds the light irritating. The world loves only those who are of the world. Out of the world Jesus removed his own. It is wholly Jesus’ decision to take you out of the world into his own wonderful light. Because Jesus wages war against the world, the world hates not only Jesus but his disciples as well. The good news is that Jesus has defeated the world and the disciples are capable of defeating it too by faith. Today in our society, unfortunately, this world still exists, and it does not like you because you are quite different from it. How courageous are you to stand up against the world? Are you ready to shine ever brighter to dispel this darkness or are you so laxed in faith that the world will blow you off like a dry leave? Will you consume the darkness or will the darkness consume you? What will you gain if you win the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul? Let us ask the Lord of light to strengthen us in our faith so that influence of the world of darkness will not conquer us and our families. Have a blessed day!
Friday 5th Week of Easter, May 15, 2020 Acts 15: 22-31; Psalm 56; John 15: 12-17 “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” A true friend is a treasure and anybody who finds one should consider himself or herself blessed. I talk of true friends because there can be false friends who are unreliable and are prone to betrayal. But the scriptures extol the virtues of friendship, and thinks that a good friend loves even more than a brother (Proverbs 17:17). Friendship is based on a bond of mutual trust and affection and it moves one to willingness to offer anything for the good of the other. Today Jesus says his disciples are not his servants but friends. A servant or a slave is subordinate to his master. He is miles apart from his master. On the other hand, a friend is on the same level with his friend. You hide practically nothing from him or her and you are ready to stick out your head for him or her. our friendship with Jesus is based on the revelation of himself and the Father to us. He made known to us all we needed to know and be in order to realise our eternal destiny. He crowned our friendship with him with his ultimate sacrifice of himself on the cross. Friendship derives from and grows towards love. Jesus did not only love us but he wants us to love our neighbours the way he loves. We may all be familiar with the story of St. Maximillian Kolbe. In a Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Southern Poland, a prisoner ran away in the labour camp. In retaliation the Nazis picked ten prisoners at random to be killed. It happened that one of those picked for execution was a father of a family. As the guards matched the victims for execution, this man was overwhelmed with sorrow because of his young family at home. Moved with pity, a Polish priest named Maximillian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take the man’s place. A Nazi official, though stunned by the priest’s offer, accepted and Maximillian was executed in place of this man. He died for a man he hardly knew. Have you ever made a sacrifice not just for a friend but for someone you did not know? We have a good friend in Jesus. He gives even his own life for us to live. Let us always count on his friendship in spite of our weaknesses and faults. And let us love one another as he has loved us. Peace be with you!
Thursday 5th Week of Easter, May 14, 2020 Acts 1: 15-17, 20-26; Psalm 112; John 15:9-17 St Matthias, Apostle “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” Saint Matthias, a saint of the 1st century, lived in ancient Judea, Cappadocia (now Turkey), Egypt, and Ethiopia. He is the patron of Carpenters, Tailors and Alcoholics. Matthias was one of disciples of Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. He came into early contact with Jesus and was with Him at His baptism by John the Baptist at river Jordan. After the Ascension, there was the need to replace Judas Iscariot so there could be twelve apostles. Consequently, Peter directed the one hundred and twenty disciples assembled in the upper room to choose a replacement. Matthias and Barsabbas were nominated, and they prayed, “Lord who knows the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And from the two the lot fell to Matthias. He preached the Gospel in Judea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. He emphasised the importance of self-control, insisting on the need to mortify the desires of the flesh in order to experience the peace and joy of the Spirit. According to Matthias, people must subordinate their physical desires to their spiritual desires. St Matthias is also known as a patron of all who struggle with the addiction of alcoholism. He was martyred by beheading in 80 AD. St Matthias is represented in Christian Art with a battle-axe; the axe depicting the instrument with which he was beheaded by his persecutors. In the Gospel reading of today, Jesus says that he is the one who chooses. He elects the people he desires. He chose Matthias for a task he destined for him, and that was why Matthias bore fruit. In the same way he chose Matthias, he chose you and I to be his friends through our baptism and commissioning. It is an unmerited grace. We make the mistake of saying ‘I chose to be a follower of Jesus, I chose to be this and that in the Church, but the truth is that we may have presented ourselves but it was Jesus that decided out of love to accept us. A certain man in the scriptures wanted to follow him but Jesus refused, but some people who didn’t request to follow him, he called to follow him. That you are a Christian is a favour. Since we have been blessed through the unmerited love of Jesus we must also love and show favour without counting the cost. Jesus says, love one another as I have loved you. May we love Jesus as Matthias loved him, and may we be ready always to make the ultimate sacrifice that our faith demands of us. Prayer to St. Matthias O Glorious St. Matthias, in God's design it fell upon you to take the place of the unfortunate Judas who betrayed his Master. You were selected by the twofold sign of the uprightness of your life and the call of the Holy Spirit. Obtain for us the grace to practice the same uprightness of life and to be called by that same Spirit to wholehearted service of the Church. Then after a life of zeal and good works let us be ushered into your company in heaven to sing forever the praises of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Wednesday 5th Week of Easter, May 12, 2020 Acts 15: 1-6; Psalm 121; John 15: 1-8 There is this Hasidic parable about a hungry boy. The boy was travelling with his father through a thick forest. When he spotted a patch of ripe berries, he begins to pick and eat them. His father waited patiently for him because he loved him so much and would not want to upset him, but the boy would not leave what he was doing. When the hour grew dangerously late his father could no longer wait for him, so he says, "I will start out; you may stay a few minutes longer. But to make sure we don't get separated, keep calling, 'Father! Father!' I will answer you. But as soon as my voice begins to fade, come running." The Hasidic masters used this parable to explain the need to remain united with God in prayer. In our Gospel reading of today Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” A branch has no life apart from the vine. Jesus is the vine and the disciples derive life from him. To poses this life from Jesus a disciple must remain with him because separated from him we have no more life in us. If that connecting rope binding us to Jesus breaks, we may be in danger of having some wolves come to devour us. The rope that keeps us tied to Jesus is prayer. Prayer keeps us connected to God. “Prayer is speaking and listening to God and desiring to be united with God and do his will.” And St. Francis de Sales says that, “The chief exercise of prayer is to speak to God and to hear God speak in the bottom of your heart.” The Father in that Hasidic parable told his son to keep on calling and he will be answering, but as soon he fails to hear him he should run for dear life. One who cannot pray and do not feel the light of Jesus around him or her needs to wake up. When you remain with Christ you bear much fruit, fruits that are good and lasting. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). These are the fruits a faithful disciple is expected to produce. Though we are in isolation and keeping social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, we must not separate ourselves from the vine – Jesus Christ, who is the source of our strength. May Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us.
Tuesday 5th Week of Easter, May 12, 2020 Acts 14: 19-28; Psalm 144; John 14:27-31 “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” “Shalom”, meaning ‘peace’ was a word of greeting used by the Jews whenever they meet each other. It was therefore, a usual way of exchanging greetings during the time of Jesus; and he used it several times whenever he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. Today in our Gospel reading he did not just greet them with peace but he leaves it with them. It looks as if it is something tangible that we can see and touch; something we can embrace and wrap around us. But that’s precisely what it is. We can feel peace, see it and hear it. Peace cannot be hidden. It is like bread that can satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst. Jesus makes a distinction between the peace the world gives and the peace he gives. The peace the world gives has a lot to do with absence of war or external aggression. In this case, you can even exchange pleasantries with your enemy and still remain enemies. Your hearts are far apart, and when you relate with the other person it is based purely on what you get out of it rather than genuine love. This type of peace is imperfect. On the other hand, the peace Jesus gives is an internal spiritual disposition which is hardly affected by external circumstances, and it is enduring. When you posses the peace of Christ you are free from unnecessary anxieties and your fears are conquered. It was the type of peace, a former slave trader and an Anglican cleric, John Newton (b. 1725) had when he composed the popular Amazing Grace. Then, he had allowed the ripples of his past life to fall off, and he prudently embraced Jesus. Paul had the same peace when after been beaten to pulp by some Jews at Lystra for preaching in the name of Jesus, resuscitated and with Barnabas continued to preach the Gospel openly. He even admonished the disciples at Lystra to be steadfast in the face of any opposition to bear witness. Persecutions, sufferings and intimidations could not stop the disciples because they were at peace with Christ. Jesus Christ, our Lord was totally at peace throughout the time of his suffering and crucifixion that he continued working till a moment before he breathed his last. He tells us to accept his peace which is antidote to fear and anxiety. This peace, you and I experience whenever we draw closer to Jesus through the proper reception of the sacraments of the church, while allowing the stones and filth in our lives to fall off. When we are filled with the word of life, we feel some inner tranquillity that cannot be easily swayed by some worldly machinations. “Until Jesus is enough for you, no person or thing will ever be” (Steven Furtick). May the peace of Christ be with us, and fill us with joy and contentment now and forever. Amen!
Monday 5th Week of Easter, May 11, 2020 Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 113B; John 14:21-26 “If a man loves me, he will keep my word” There are divergent views on how best to show someone that we love him or her. For some people, they know that you love them by the kind words you speak to them, to others it is through the material gifts they receive from you; yet, for some others through the satisfaction of their bodily desires. It could also entail putting together bits and pieces of all of the above and even more. Often, it depends on individuals and what they consider their ultimate goals in life. It is, however, important to know that if you love someone there must be a way you show that person that you love him or her. Today Jesus tells us how he knows that someone loves him. He says, “If a man loves me, he will keep my words.” ‘My words’ is synonymous with, ‘my teaching’ or ‘my commandments’. So, the way we show Jesus that we love him is by observing his teachings. Very demanding, you may say. Yes, it is, because we are called to a way of life. Our faith is embedded in the fabrics of our lives. We live it out in the morning, afternoon and evening. It is not like a shirt we put on and off as the occasion demands. At all times a Christian should be able to evaluate the conformity of his or her life style with the teachings of Christ. If one finds out that he or she is wondering away from the path of life mapped out for us by Christ, then it calls for a change of direction. Keeping the words of Jesus attracts the Father’s love to us; and together they will come and make their home with you in union with the Holy Spirit. God considers his children so precious as to make his home in us. This is a deep spiritual experience, and reaching that level in our faith journey is a privilege. Jesus is telling us today that God desires to live with us and in us. St. Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” God dwells where there is order and unity; and love is the fragrance which delights and attracts God, because God is love. When we live in love our hearts are pure. Jesus came to teach us one thing – to love the way he loves. “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another.” The love of Jesus to us was demonstrated through his sacrifice on the cross. “The love of a kind deed lies in the love that inspired it” (Talmud). How practical is our love of God and neighbour? May God help us to always love him as we ought to. Peace be with you!
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 32; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12 “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1a). The disciples were worried that Jesus will leave them; and they were not prepared to face the world alone. Jesus knowing their anxiety tells them that they have to master their fears. What reason does Jesus give them? It is both simple and profound: “You believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1b). Faith helps us to conquer our fears. It is taken for granted that the disciples believe in God, the challenge is for them to also believe in Jesus. He has given them life and hope, and assured them of his love and support. They have seen his miracles, and they know that he is the Messiah, but yet they could not put to use all they have gotten from him. They forgot that when Jesus goes to his heavenly Father, his Spirit will still be at work in them. The efficacy of Jesus does not depend on his physical presence. From a distance he can still perform wonders. Moreover, Jesus lives in and through the disciples. He is Emmanuel, God-With-Us. He lives in you; he lives in me. It is easy to believe in God, a spiritual being that we cannot see. The challenge is to believe that the all-powerful God is present and active here and now. Jesus is trying to convince them that if God could work through him, then God could as well work through any other human being. Jesus places himself on the same level with them so as to make them believe that God can use them and work through them in spite of their human deficiencies. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (verse 12). Today, many of us are like Philip; our prayer is, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (verse 8). Show us that God is with us in the church. Show us that God is alive and actively involved in events in our world today. What does Jesus answer? “How can you say, 'Show us the Father?'” (verse 9) when God is so deeply involved in the events and crises of the church and of the world. You see, the incarnation (God becoming flesh) has removed the wall of division between the divine and the human. The history of God and the history of humanity have become inextricably intertwined. The story of the kingdom of God, which Jesus came to inaugurate, cannot be told apart from the story of the church in the world. God took a risk when he decided to become human. Whether the divine risk will result in success or failure is up to us. When we see things happening in the church or in our world the way they should not, it is not time to blame God for abandoning us to our own whims and caprices. No, God is always with us. When things go wrong, it is a time for serious soul searching, a time for us as individuals and as a group to ask ourselves: Where did we miss it? How can we get back on God’s track? What is God saying to us in these events and crises? Meanwhile, we should not let our hearts be troubled. May all of us be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we may become instruments of the presence of God in our community. Through us may the world be filled with hope and love today and always.
Saturday 4th Week of Easter, May 9, 2020 Acts 13: 44-52; Psalm 97; John 14: 7-14 The former traditional ruler of my village was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He was kind, friendly, honest, God-fearing and widely loved by his people. When he died at almost 90 years of age, his wife who was few years younger than him was heartbroken. They had lived together for over 60 years and have loved each other so much. One could always predict the mood and actions of the other. The preparation for the burial of her husband was still going on when she died too. The children confessed that their mum had lamented, saying that without her husband there was no life left in her. She was so united with her husband that she could not live without him. Sometimes two people can be so united that they think and act alike. In our Gospel reading of today Jesus talks about his union with the Father. He says “He who has seen me has seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Jesus was responding to Philip’s request that he should show them the Father. This is perhaps the most earthshaking words that Jesus ever spoke and he said it without qualification. Many people of Jesus’ time could not accept this and it was the main reason why they demanded his crucifixion. But we have to take it that we are humans and can hardly grasp the immensity of the Godhead. Up till today the mystery of the union of the Father and Son remains a hard nut to crack. But we believe and accept this teaching as far as our human experience can take us. Jesus is one with the Father and by extension the Holy Spirit. To pray to Jesus is to pray to the Father. To worship the Father is to worship Jesus. One in purpose and action. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. His mission on earth was to accomplish the will of the Father. He lived in imitation of the Father, always and everywhere. He loves the world the way the Father loves the world. Jesus was the channel through which we comprehend the Father; and we can only unite ourselves to the Father through Jesus. When we become one with Jesus, we will possess the Father. Union with Jesus guarantees your ability to do great things as Jesus did. “He who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” There is immense transformative power in unity. Where there is unity the impossible becomes possible. When the light of Jesus shines on us we become light too. Jesus Christ, our Lord, make us one with you, that our lives may be transformed through the love of the Father and power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Friday 4th Week of Easter Acts 13:26-33; Psalm 2; John 14:1-6 In the seminary refectory on a certain day, a group of us – twelve priests, who were part of the seminary staff / formators were assembling for supper. While coming in, one of the priests was singing a popular African hymn about what we shall be doing in heaven. The lyrics says that we shall wear white robes, and with the angels, be singing Hosanna in the presence of God. Arguments and discussions were always part of our supper. So, on this day ideas were exchanged, with many scriptural references on the nature of heaven and what we shall be doing there, but we never arrived at an agreement. One of the priests who had taught in the seminary for over 30 years and authored many philosophy books was just smiling while the argument was rising higher. I prompted him to say something but he would not, instead he kept smiling. I think his smile is full of wisdom and perhaps directing our attention to 1 Corinthians 2:9, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” God has a plan for those who love him and the joys of heaven is inconceivable. Today in the Gospel reading Jesus tells the worried disciples that there are many rooms in his Father’s house and he is going to prepare a place for them there. The characterisation of heaven as his Father’s house is very significant. As a child, a father’s house is a place of safety, peace and love. Jesus wants to let us know that God will receive us back to our home with love at the end of our earthly existence. Heaven is not an empty void or a product of aimless speculation. It is a home and it is real. Jesus did not only come to save us from the ravages of evil and desolation but he will see to it that we are comfortably accommodated in heaven. He will not only secure a place for us but he will come personally to take us to heaven. But that is not all, he will make sure that we stay beside him in his Father’s house. He will continue to play the servant-leader role there in heaven. Who am I that Jesus will prepare a room for me? But that is Jesus for you. He loves his own and lavishes love on those who love him. Our hearts should, therefore, not be troubled. We are in save hands. Thomas seem to have gotten it right and that is why he asked Jesus how he can get to the Father. And Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” To be part of heaven you do not need to ask where and what, you just have to embrace Jesus. He will safely bring you to the Father. Peace be with you!
Thursday 4th Week of Easter Acts 13: 13-25; Psalm 88; John 13: 16-20 “A servant is not greater than his master.” The washing of feet in the ancient times was the task of a servant. For Jesus to do what ordinarily servants do was to teach his disciples a lesson on how they should live and act. Jesus says, “I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.” A true leader is someone who serves others not the other way round because Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” The mark of a true disciple is his or her willingness to wash the feet of others. When you refuse to wash other people’s feet you are making yourself greater than the master, but Jesus says you cannot be greater than your master. How can we wash the feet of our brothers and sisters? Each time I show love to someone, especially if that person does not merit it, I am washing the person’s feet. Whenever I volunteer to take up a task in the Church or community, I am washing other’s feet. Those times you stand up for the truth, you are washing your neighbour’s feet. When you do your duty as a parent, husband or wife in the family you are washing the other’s feet. Each time you care for someone in need or visit the sick you are engaging in feet washing. Whenever you sacrifice your comfort for the sake of the other, you are washing his or her feet. Our happiness as Christians depends on washing each other’s feet. And the time to do it is now. “I shall pass through this life but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to a fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Stephen Grellet). May we be good servants of our brothers and sisters as Jesus was. May the Spirit of Jesus guide us always. Have a blessed day!
Wednesday 4th Week of Easter, May 6, 2020 Acts 15: 1-6; Psalm 121; John 15: 1-8 Light has an energy which makes it more desirable than darkness. At the break of the day every morning birds sing in joy to welcome the light with hope of a better day. Light and darkness are recurrent themes in the bible especially in the Gospel of John. Jesus says, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” To know and believe in Christ is to posses the light; but without Christ one is living in darkness. Jesus is the total and final revelation of God to the world. He is like the sun which shines out for all and enriches the world. You experience the warmth of the sun more when you are exposed to it. The more we draw closer to Christ, the more we possess his light and life. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5). At Antioch, the Spirit directed the disciples to send Saul and Barnabas as missionaries to bring the light of Christ to the Gentiles. Filled with the Spirit, they moved from place to place proclaiming the word of God with power, and liberating people from darkness. Their efforts and that of the other disciples brought hope for many people. My dear friends, Christ called us out of darkness into light. The light we have received is supposed to be held high for all to see. The light shines brighter when we share it with others. How am I sharing the light of faith that I have received? Am I keeping it to myself? Have I the courage to extend the light to someone who needs it? May Christ fill us with the power of his light and enable us to share the Good News with everyone.
Open the file to read the Pastoral letter from Archbishop Longley.
Tuesday 4th Week of Easter Acts 11: 19-26; Psalm 86; John 10: 22-30 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in response to the Jews who wanted him to declare if he was the Christ. Jesus says that he has said several times clearly that he is the Christ but because they do not belong to his fold, they do not hear his voice. To hear the voice of Jesus and follow him, you need to be drawn to him. Stuart Chase was right when he said that “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” Proper disposition is necessary for receiving the Gospel of life. He cannot shepherd you unless you dispose yourself to be guarded and guided by him. And to be disposed to receive Jesus you have to listen to him; you have to know him; you must believe in him. The problem of our day is that there are many voices out there that many people find it difficult to discern the very voice of Jesus. Every day we are challenged with different voices; which one should you follow? If you have many teachers teaching you the same subject, there is the possibility of confusion. Jesus recognises the existence of false teachers, prophets and shepherds, and we must be careful whose instruction and rules guides our lives. Life is very precious that it cannot be toyed with. We have our established Church with tested procedures of coming to the knowledge of the Master. Why must anyone abandon this and be jumping on every voice and message that springs up, irrespective of its source. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep.” A good shepherd is willing to die for his sheep. Travellers in Palestine have stories of how good shepherds take care of their sheep. One of them said that ‘he once saw a shepherd leading his flock. Suddenly they came to a shallow stream. The flock was afraid to cross to the other side. So. the shepherd picked up a lamb and carried it on his shoulders. And as he crossed the stream the others followed.’ A good shepherd leads his flock. They follow him because they know he will lead them to safety. Jesus invites us to follow him closely especially when the going gets tough, because “my father who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” We are all secured in the hands of Jesus, he is one with the Father, and no opposing force can take you and I away from him. Praise the Lord!
Monday 4th Week of Easter Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 30; Matthew 10: 17-20 English Martyrs, Feast The blood of Martyrs is the seed of faith from which Christianity grew. Whenever we celebrate the feast of Martyrs, we call to mind the pure love of God displayed by our forebears who preferred to suffer persecution and even death for the sake of their faith. Their love of God was like a fire burning in their hearts and they refused to compromise it. They chose life in eternity than temporal existence here on earth. Their horrendous sufferings and pains help the world peep into the truth of the Gospel. And their commitment to Jesus is the yardstick for our own journey of faith. Today we celebrate the English Martyrs, who suffered for their faith in England between 1935 and 1680. They were many of them – the laity (men and women), priests and religious of different ages, and from different backgrounds. This was the dark age of the history of Christianity in this country. The executions started under Henry VIII with the refusal of some of the faithful to accept the 1934 Supremacy Act and the suppression of monasteries. By the time the subsequent crisis ended in 1680 many people have lost their lives through heroic witness to the Gospel. We celebrate their commitment to the faith. In the Gospel reading of today Jesus reassures the disciples of his constant support and of the need for them to be courageous. He says, “when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say,” because the ‘Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you.’ Jesus foresaw the difficulties the believers will encounter in the world. He realised that the bearer of the light has to confront darkness if the light must shine. Everyday of our lives we are confronted with opportunities to let the light shine. How have you acted in such situations? When you show little kindness or love you are witnessing to Christ. When you stand for the truth, you are the voice of Jesus. When you say no to discrimination and hatred, you are standing by the side of Jesus. As we grow in our Catholic faith, may we continue to work for the unity of all Christians. English Martyrs, pray for us!
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10 Jesus left many images of himself but the most outstanding one which the early Christians valued so much is the one of the Good Shepherd. Before ever the crucifix was known they had the image of the good shepherd that takes good care of his flock. Jesus himself says, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.’ For Jesus to be a shepherd is to give your life for the other person. St Peter put it this way, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” A good shepherd likes his sheep. He brings them to the green pastures and fresh water. He knows them by their names. If any of them is sick he takes good care of that one. A good shepherd is like a good mother. So, is Jesus to us. He knows each one of us by his or her name. He does not forget anybody and respects everybody. Jesus knows his own “by name”, to the core of our being – our joys and our hopes, our griefs and our anxieties and he is with us through it all. He loves and treats each as though you are the only one who existed. Even in this challenging time of coronavirus pandemic, Jesus is with us. He reclined with us in our homes. He is with all who are suffering from this terrible illness. He is with the scientists and medical workers who are trying to find a solution. He is Emmanuel: God-with-us. He wants his work of shepherding to continue in our world and we are all called to be shepherds in different capacities. But today the Church reflects on the vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and prays that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to his vineyard. In our Diocese and around the dioceses in the country the Church is in dire need of young men and women who will answer the call to be priests and religious. The family as you know is the fertile ground for the sprouting of vocations. At this time, we pray for the gift of vocations. God needs your one loaf and two fish so as to feed thousands of people. The church will not end in our time. The Lord asks, “Whom shall I send.” Let us pray together: Lord Jesus, send labourers into your harvest. Inspire, in the hearts of your people, vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Bless our families with a spirit of generosity. May those whom you call to the priesthood and religious life have the courage to give themselves to your Church as co-operators in your work. St. John Vianney. Pray for us!
Saturday 3rd Week of Easter, May 2, 2020 Acts 9: 31-42; Psalm 115; John 6: 60-69 St. Athanasius, Mem “Do you also wish to go away?” I can hardly forget the day I did my First Holy Communion. Apart from the usual catechism lessons, my elder sister had instructed me on what the Holy Communion is and how I should conduct myself when receiving it. I was to hold my hands in a praying position while walking up to the sanctuary and while coming back to my seat; and be focused on what I was receiving. When the priest puts the Holy Communion on my tongue, I should not chew it but allow it to dissolve by itself. She warned me that chewing it like ordinary food has serious consequences. Of course, I followed her instructions religiously. I did not only chew the Communion but I refused to put any other thing in my ‘Eucharistic’ mouth that whole day. The teaching of Jesus about giving his flesh as food and his blood as drink did not go down well with many of his listeners. The Eucharistic language was difficult for them to understand; it was too strange to be true. Consequently, some of them stopped following him. So, Jesus asked the twelve if they wished to abandon him too. Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter has manifested a radical profession of faith which has remained the ideal way for approaching the tenets of our faith. While faith is not opposed to reason, we must admit that faith is larger than reason. Many people keep away from the Church because they claim that some of her teachings do not add up. Some even claim that some of the Church’s teachings are outmoded and needed modification. It is true that the Holy Spirit is constantly working in the Church to bring about renewal, but the core of our faith is unchangeable. Today many people approach the Holy Eucharist without faith in the real presence, and this has affected our attitude towards it. To dilute the message of Jesus in the name of making it more acceptable is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. St Athanasius whose memorial we celebrate today was a champion and defender of the faith. He was born in Egypt and had a strong Catholic upbringing. As a deacon, he was chosen by his bishop to attend the Council of Nicaea in 325. There he was outstanding in his defense of the divinity of Christ. Though meek and humble he never tolerated the enemies of the faith. He was a great apologist and is honoured as one of the greatest Doctors of the Church. Let us pray for the gift of faith; that we may hold unto the word of God rather than human wisdom for “it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” St. Athanasius, pray for us.
Friday 3rd Week of Easter, May 1, 2020 Acts 9:1-20; John 6: 52-59 St Joseph the Worker Today is the first day of a new month – the month of May. April has come and gone, and it was the full month we had total lockdown and our churches were closed for public worship for the first time in my living memory. We had a great deal of deep thoughts and reflections on our life (spiritual and temporal) in this world. We saw our strengths and limitations as a human family. I guess we are ready to move on, better prepared. Why am I saying all these? Because I pray that the month of May will be different. I hope this month will see our churches opened again for public worship even if it means wearing face masks. There was this story of a man who was asked why he believed in miracles. He replied, “Because I see them every day in the lives of people who have been changed by the power of the risen Jesus.” In our world today people are changing every day even when we do not realise it. It may be very gradual to be observed or it may be very obvious to everyone. But it is happening. Jesus is still working among us. Saul, later called Paul, was a persecutor of Christians, but after encountering the Risen Jesus, he became a formidable foundation of the Church of Christ. Faith is alive, love has conquered. Jesus gives us life through the Eucharistic meal. Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” The Holy Eucharist makes us one with Christ; and we live not our lives, but his. It is a communion with Jesus and with one another – intimacy with Jesus and unity with the whole Church. It strengthens us and implants in us the seed of resurrection. Empowered by Jesus we engage in meaningful human labour as St Joseph, the worker. Through human labour we share in the creative power of God and cooperate in building a more just and Christian society. Pope Pius XII in 1955 constituted the first day of May as a day for working people in the example of St. Joseph, the Worker. Joseph worked diligently for the upkeep of the Holy Family. At times it wasn’t easy but he persisted knowing that in our labour we glorify God who ‘helps those who help themselves’. St Ignatius of Loyola was right when he said, “Work as though everything depended on you; pray as though everything depended on God.” Through the patronage of St. Joseph and by the grace of God who laid the law of work, may we be strengthened as we seek for sustenance through Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Thursday 3rd Week of Easter, April 30, 2020 Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51 “Anyone who eats this bread will live forever” The ‘Living Bread’ or the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in the bible may escape our attention, yet it is one of the most important messages Jesus wanted us to understand very well. He came primarily to explain to us that he is the bread of life and to offer his very flesh as food for us. His public life began and ended with instances of him offering his people food for sustenance – all prefiguring the Holy Eucharist. At Cana in Galilee, he changed water into wine as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. He fed the crowd with bread at Capernaum. At Jerusalem he instituted the Eucharist, and at Emmaus he celebrated it. He admonishes us to always break the bread in his memory. In our Gospel reading today he says “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” The Eucharist gives life to the world and it bestows immortality to those who receive it in faith. Just as ordinary food gives us nutrients and keeps us healthy, the Eucharist meal nourishes our soul. Whenever we receive it, we undergo some kind of transformation until eventually we become what we eat- Christ himself. Christ is the personification of love and mercy. He gave his life for us on the cross to set us free. The Eucharist consumes our very being and disposes us for greater heavenly favours. We become new creatures. St Ignatius of Antioch calls the Eucharist “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but that we should live forever in Jesus Christ.” You cannot be receiving it and remain the same, and that is why proper disposition is indispensable for appreciation of the Eucharist for “everybody who believes has eternal life.” If you do not feel transformed by the Holy Communion you receive, it is not because it is powerless, but because of your frail faith. Jesus has said it and we believe that his words are true and they give life. May the Lord help us to cling to his truths with fidelity, and may the Living Bread from heaven give us new strength and new hope. Have a joyful day!
Wednesday 3rd Week of Easter, April 29, 2020 1 John 1:5-2:2; Ps 102; Matthew 11: 25-30 Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Doctor of the Church. Patron of Europe. God has special love for the weak of the world. He takes them from their nothingness to great heights. This is because God is God and he can make something out of nothing. He uses insignificant people to accomplish great things. In the Gospel reading of today Jesus declares, “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” Yes, the hearts of the simple and children have enough space to contain the message of God, but the hearts of the presumed wise and learned are filled up with scraps and hence no space for the message of life. Those who think themselves wise have no room for Jesus. If you make yourself wolf then you have no need of the shepherd; he only shepherds lambs for, “he puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted, casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.” God chose St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) from childhood to do great things. She was born to a humble family and grew up in one of the darkest periods of the church’s history. She had an outstanding prayer life from early age and was endeared to Christ. She made the vow of virginity at seven and this led to bitter persecutions against her. But the Lord was with her. At the age of fifteen she entered the Third Order of St. Dominic while still residing at her family home. She deepened her spiritual life at this time. Perhaps, the most outstanding thing about this young lady is the way God used her to restore his Church. She did not only help in bringing rebellious Italian cities back to the obedience of the Holy See but she brought back the exiled Gregory XI from Avignon back to Rome. As counsellor to Pope Urban she rebuked the cardinals who played role in electing an antipope. St. Catherine was very courageous. Her love for the Church of Christ was unrivalled; she defended the truth with love beyond all telling and gave the devil a good fight. She died in Rome at the age of thirty-three. On 18 June 1939, St. Catherine was proclaimed the Patroness of Italy; and Blessed Pope Paul VI proclaimed her Doctor of the Church in 1970. Today we celebrate her as the Patron of Europe. She lived and died serving the Church in Europe. What would she say today if she were to come and see the state of the Church in Europe? She may have a lot to say to us about supporting and sustaining our Catholic faith. Through her intercession may we share in the mystery of Christ’s death and rejoice in the revelation of his glory. May Christ, the spouse and crowning glory of virgins be our strength.
Tuesday 3rd Week of Easter, April 28, 2020 Acts 7: 51-8:1a; John 6: 30-35 With the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic, many people especially in the developing countries, do not have enough food to sustain them and their families. Because their governments are not as supportive of them as in the West, and they cannot go out to look for their daily means of livelihood, many of them face starvation. However, in the past few days some of the wealthy people in some of these communities in one of the African countries started buying foodstuffs and distributing to the less privileged ones. One of those who commented on this act of generosity said, “Now we can separate the men from the boys; we now know the people who are for us and those who are not.” Feeding the hungry separates men from boys. In the scriptures God shows that he is God by feeding his people. In the desert God fed the Israelites with manna through Moses. Now the people came to Jesus looking for a sign. They wanted him to feed them as God fed the Israelites in the desert. Jesus promises them bread from heaven. He says, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” Pressed further to give them that bread, Jesus tells them that he is the bread of life and anyone who comes to him shall not hunger again. Even today Jesus feeds us. And unless we eat the food he offers we have no life in us. He feeds us with his WORD and the HOLY EUCHARIST. The Word of God gives us strength and direction. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. When we break the Word of God, we are encouraged to face the difficulties of life. Our joy is complete when we read the word of God. On the other hand, the Holy Eucharist, the food of angels, makes us one with Christ. It makes us resemble Jesus. The more we eat it the more we become one with the One who died for us on the cross and rose again to new life. We are victorious through him. We must allow ourselves to be fed by Jesus. Stephen, the first martyr, was filled with Holy Spirit through Christ and so he was able to bear strong witness. He was not afraid of his adversaries. Jesus, we hope in you; be in us and with us always that we may be like you!
Monday of 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 27, 2020 Acts 6: 8-15; John 6: 22-29 We have two lives to nourish: physical life and spiritual life. One requires physical food, the other spiritual food. The difficulty, however, is that many people nourish only their physical life to the neglect of their spiritual life. This is a case of misplaced priority. In fact, you just need to nourish your spiritual life and then your whole life will flourish. In the Gospel reading of today, the crowd that Jesus fed with bread came looking for him at the lakeside of Capernaum. Knowing fully well their wrong intentions for seeking him, Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give you.” Working for the food which perishes is engaging in the fleeting things of life. It is like trying to fill spiritual emptiness with material things. It leaves us empty and fake. On the other hand, working for the food that does not perish is living the life of faith. This type of life leads to personal transformation and the transformation of others. When we live by faith we see and act differently; and our whole strength is directed towards the work of God. Faith is not a single action; it a life style, spread through every day of our lives; it is a positive energy which fills us with love. We must unleash that energy of faith into the society. Ronald Rolheiser says that spiritual energy “wants all of us, it can beat us up like the playground bully. It is difficult to contain once it enters.” The Book of Proverbs warns against “eating the bread of idleness”. On this day let us reflect with Isaiah, “Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry? Listen to me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all.” Let us pray that the spirit of the Lord will lead us to deeper spiritual reality and that we will be witnesses of the Gospel.
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 14: 22-23; Ps 15; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24: 13-35 In this era of social media, you can chat with somebody for weeks (maybe months) before you meet him or her in person. That first meeting is always dramatic. Though you may have seen his or her online picture, that may not be enough for you to recognise that person when you meet physically. There is often something that sets the recognition process in motion. It could be the person’s voice or some other thing. Mary Magdalene recognised the Risen Lord by his voice when he called out ‘Mary’. Thomas recognised him by the wounds in his hands, feet and side. But the most concrete way the disciples recognised him was at the breaking of bread. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus didn’t know he was the ‘stranger’ who joined them on the way. When he explained to them God’s love and mercy in the scriptures, from Moses through the prophets, their hearts were set on fire, but they did not recognise him. It was at the breaking of bread that their eyes were opened and they recognised him. The breaking of bread did the magic and it is akin to the Holy Eucharist we celebrate as a community of faith. Whenever we break the bread during the Eucharist celebration, Jesus is present to us in the words of consecration and in the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic community is a place of encounter with the Risen Jesus. Though we need to have personal relationship with Jesus, the church is essentially communitarian. Unfortunately, at this time of lockdown we cannot gather as a church. Many of the faithful have no option than to resort to following online liturgy, prayers and faith-based initiatives. These can be very enriching but they do not alter the intrinsic communitarian nature of the Church. Pope Francis lamented the present predicament the Church finds herself and says it poses danger of people living their faith only for themselves, totally detached from the sacraments, the Church and the people of God. According to him, “the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments – always” (CNS, April 17, 2020). May the Risen Lord continue to reveal himself to us so that our hearts will glow with his light and love. Rather than a setback, may the present temporary closure of churches be a spring boat for a more authentic faith in the Risen Lord. Happy Sunday! Fr Stan
Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter, April 25, 2020 1 Peter 5:5b-14; Mark 16:15-20 ST. MARK, feast. “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them.” Following the mandate of the Risen Lord that they should “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation”, the Apostles went out and courageously preaching the Word. Their audacity was a sure proof of the resurrection. The accompany signs and wonders confirmed the veracity of their message. Humility was the proper disposition that attracted people to them. St. Theresa of Avila says that humility, detachment and love are the three rudiments for the spiritual life and that “humility situates persons within the realm of right relationships.” St. Peter admonishes the faithful, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humility is an indispensable tool for following the Risen Lord. St. Mark, whose feast we celebrate today was a humble servant of God who played a very prominent role in the spreading of the Gospel to all creation. Born in Jerusalem, and once converted to the faith by the St. Peter he didn’t look back. He accompanied Peter to Rome and acted as his secretary. Peter saw him as a trusted companion and addresses him as “my son, Mark”. The Gospel according to St. Mark, which Mark himself authored, was the conscientious rendering of all he heard from Peter about Jesus, and that is why often that Gospel is called “Peter’s Gospel”. He also accompanied Barnabas and Paul in their apostolic journeys to Cyprus. Mark founded the Church in Alexandria, Egypt and his ministry there bore fruit for the church. He set up the first Christian school in Egypt which produced distinguished doctors and bishops. Later he was imprisoned and tortured to death by pagan authorities. The Spirit of God used Mark to accomplish great things for the Church. Can you recall a time in your life when Jesus used you to bless someone? “The holiest moment of the church service is the moment when God’s people – strengthened by preaching and sacrament – go out of the church door into the world to be church.” (E. Southcott). Like St Mark, may we be faithful witnesses of the Gospel. Peace be with you!
Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter, April 24, 2020 Acts 5: 34- 42; John 6: 1-15 There is this story: A father left 17 ducks as assets for his three Sons. When the father passed away, his sons opened up the Will. The Will of the father stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 ducks, the middle son should be given 1/3rd of 17 ducks, youngest son should be given 1/9th of the 17 ducks. As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the sons started to fight with each other. So, they decided to go to a wise man who lived in a cave for advice. The wise man listened patiently about the Will. The wise man, after giving the dilemma some thought, brought a duck of his own & added same to the 17. That increased the total to 18 ducks. Now, he started reading the deceased father’s Will. Half of 18 = 9. So, he gave 9 ducks to the eldest son. 1/3rd of 18 = 6. So, he gave 6 ducks to the middle son. And, 1/9th of 18 = 2. So, he gave 2 ducks to the youngest son. Now add this up: 9 + 6 + 2 = 17 and this leaves 1 duck which the wise man took back. There is always a solution to any difficult problem, and one person can make all the difference. This wise and generous man is all the warring brothers needed to bring peace and harmony among them. In our first reading, the Apostles are presented before the Sanhedrin accused of preaching in the name of the Risen Jesus, but a Pharisee named Gamaliel rose up in their defence. His witness eased the anger of the elders and the Apostles were subsequently set free. In the Gospel reading Jesus feeds the five thousand men with five barely loaves and two fish donated by a boy in the crowd. The boy made the difference here. The Apostles had no way of resolving the food crisis until the boy voluntarily gave them his lunch. This enabled Jesus to perform a miracle which became a foretaste of the Eucharistic banquet God prepares for his people. God needs our five barley loaves and two fish in order to perform miracles in our community. When we gather for the Holy Mass, Jesus takes what we offer – bread and wine, fruit of our labour, blesses and gives them back to us as food of angels, the bread of life, his body and blood. You and I are the means through which others are blessed. May we be effective instruments in God’s hands. I wish you a blessed day!
Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter, April 23, 2020 Acts 5: 27-33; John 3:32-36 Parents have special fondness for their children who listen and obey them. Such children motivate their parents to even impart more favour on them. Without the rule of obedience, the family and the larger society will be one bunch of chaotic entity, lacking peace and orderliness. We are talking of purposeful rather than blind obedience. Jesus’ mission on earth is animated by his willingness to totally obey his father, “Behold I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrew 10:7). Obeying God is the recipe to live. In our gospel reading of today Jesus says that, “whoever disobeys the son will not have life.” It follows then that whoever obeys have life. This gives credence to the words of Moses to the Israelites. “See, I set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God … then you shall live and multiply” (Deuteronomy 30:15). Peter and the other Apostles when instructed to stop speaking in the name of the Risen Lord, boldly answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Human precepts that are not guided by divine illumination is imperfect and cannot give life. Robert Frost, in The Road Not Taken, remarks, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I – took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Is your Christian life rooted in obedience? Which aspects of Jesus’ teaching do you find difficult to obey? Why are you finding it difficult to obey a particular teaching of the Church? Perhaps, it is difficult or makes no sense to you? The latter is often the case. At times we fail to see the reason why we must obey God’s commands. We rationalise excessively that we are left with nothing substantial. God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. St. George, the Patron of England, whose feast we celebrate today was a great man of God who gave his life for the faith. Through his intercession, may we continue to grow in our witness of the Risen Lord.
Wednesday of 2nd Week of Easter, April 22, 2020 Acts 5: 17-26; John 3:16-21 “For God loved the world so much That he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This is the famous verse of the scripture that is called “the Bible within the Bible.” It summarises the gospel message and is extravagantly quoted by biblical preachers as the basis of their ministry. At the heart of this verse is what God has done for us and our expected response. Our salvation is God’s initiative guided by his love for humanity. This love he demonstrates by offering his most precious son. Love does not count the cost, rather it lavishes all resources on the beloved. But that is God. Human beings mostly love restrainedly, but God pours his heart out so that the beloved will be satisfied. St Augustine pointed out that “God loves each one of us as if there was just one of us to love.” Therefore, Jesus came to the world not to condemn but to save the beloved of the Father. And he uses all his mighty power to save, that is why no situation or individual is so bad that redemption is ruled out. Even dry bones can be fleshed and nursed back into life. The circle of love, however, is imperfect until an act of love is well received. You obtain salvation when you are open to the Son of God. Christ is all light and goodness, anyone who walks with him is in the light but the one who chooses to reject him walks in darkness and evil. Christ sets before us light and darkness. You chose what you prefer. He demands a clear decision – either to accept him and be saved or to reject him and be judged. Our gospel reading of today, therefore, encourages us to take the bold step of choosing light always. It is a progressive step. Each day we pledge to continue that journey of grace, a journey with Christ and in Christ. May the Lord guide and empower us to consistently continue on this journey.
Tuesday of Second Week of Easter, April 21, 2020 Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7-15 Last night I had a prolonged text message exchange with a friend about the divinity of Jesus. On Sunday I sent him a happy Divine Mercy Sunday wish and an electronic prayer card. I didn’t know he was having issues with his Catholic faith. As children we were nurtured with the catechism lessons in our village and it has since formed the bedrock of our faith. Having lived here in the UK for many years, he is now raising serious questions about his faith. It was difficult getting him to appreciate the beauty of our Catholic faith. My closing message to him was: “My dear friend, remember that religion is a metaphysical reality which came down to us through divine revelation. We cannot understand it fully with our mental faculties. Where reasoning stops, faith begins.” It is obvious that coming to faith in God is not that easy; not everyone can comprehend it. Nicodemus, a wealthy member of the pharisaic circle and a secret admirer of Jesus, had doubts about the message of Jesus. And Jesus meticulously explains the tenets of the faith to him. Jesus says to him, “You do not believe me when I tell you about things of this world, how will you ever believe, then, when I tell you about things of heaven?” Faith is an attitude and it is available to the courageous. It is like taking a quantum leap beyond what reasoning can offer. Doubts and questions can arise about our faith, but we cannot throw away the baby with the dirty water. Faith is a supernatural gift and it is open to anyone who prays for it. Nicodemus loves Jesus and can only grow in his relationship with him. The early Christians were able to build a thriving community because of their faith in the Risen Lord. Barnabas – son of encouragement, supported the Christian community with all his strength because of his faith. May we encourage one another and pray that the love and peace of Christ will grow in our hearts and homes.
Monday, Second Week of Easter, April 20, 2020 Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8 “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” These are the words of Jesus in reply to the question of Nicodemus on, “How can a man be born when he is old. Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus talks of two births. The first is biological and physical, the second spiritual and metaphysical. The biological birth happens once, while the spiritual birth has many layers and endures. The second birth, which is spiritual, is brought about through WATER and SPIRIT. Water is a cleansing agent. We appreciate this now than any other time in our lives. I can’t count the number of times I wash my hands daily these days to avoid contacting COVID-19. It has become an obsession. Water washes things, makes them clean and fresh. Water is a symbol of purification. Being born again of water means receiving a new past, washing our sins away. When we enter or leave the church building, we bless ourselves with holy water; and we are cleansed with holy water at Asperges me. Before consecration at Mass the priest washes his hands as he humbly prays, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” In a liturgical setting water causes spiritual cleansing to occur, and that is what happens at baptism. Spirit, on the other hand, transforms things. It recreates things and makes them new. When you are born of the spirit you receive a new future in the family of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one is born of water and the Spirit when you are purified and transformed. The Church offers this new life through the Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. These sacraments incorporate us into the mystical body of Christ. They change one’s spiritual status because, “that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Once received these sacraments become a way of live, welling up to eternal life. Bob Dylan was right when he said that whoever “isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” May the Lord renew in us the grace of baptism and grants us the spirit to speak his word with boldness.
KEEP THE FAITH ALIVE I know we are already doing a lot of prayers as a faith community from our homes. Do not give up. Keep on praying the 3pm Divine Mercy Chaplet especially on this Divine Mercy Sunday (Plenary Indulgence today for those who confess and receive communion – even spiritually at this time) The 9.45pm daily rosary is highly encouraged and I am happy more parishioners are signing up for it. Follow your preferred online liturgy and visit our parish websites and Facebook page for some additional resources and reflections. Stay safe and well! Fr Stan
Second Sunday of Easter Reflection Today is the last day of Easter Octave and the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast is mostly attributed to a polish mystic St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (died 1938). She received extraordinary messages directly from Jesus. The messages are on the immensity of God’s Mercy. It is not a new revelation. Of course, there cannot be, because Jesus had already revealed everything that needed to be revealed 2000 years ago. He reminded the world through St. Faustina of the Mercy of God. He says, "Now is the time of mercy … I want to pour out My mercy in a big way." We need God’s Mercy now more than ever. St. John Paul 11 explained that as there are many blessings in our world, evil has equally increased. However, he admonished us ‘not to be afraid’, because as St. Paul would say, “where sin has increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Jesus is the hope of humanity and there is nothing his mercy cannot penetrate. When Jesus offers us God’s Mercy we are filled with his peace. In the Gospel reading of today’s Mass Jesus appears to the fear-stricken disciples; he offers them his peace and asks them to forgive the sins of one another. Peace is a special gift of God. And Mercy is offered to a peaceful people. The fruits of mercy, peace and love is the flowering of community; and Jesus is present in the world through the worshipping community. The early believers lived together, shared whatever they had and went as a body to the temple every day. But they gathered afterwards in their homes for the breaking of bread. Therefore, the temple and their homes are the two important places of worship. Presently, we worship in our homes because of the necessary lockdown. We ought to realise that our homes are the domestic church. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them’. Bear in mind that most of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were in the homes of his disciples and wherever they gather, rather than in the temples. We are more blessed when every home becomes a place of special encounter with the Risen Lord. An altar or a special place of prayer in your home is encouraged. Let this Easter celebration stir up our faith in the Risen Lord. Please stay safe and well! Happy Divine Mercy Sunday! Fr Stan
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Easter Saturday, April 18, 2020 Acts 4:13-21; Mark 16:9-15 The Risen Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene and sent her to tell the brethren that He is risen. Did they believe her testimony? No! He appeared to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. When they narrated their experience to the apostles, the news again was not believed. This time around Jesus appears to the college of Apostles and reprimands them for their hardness of heart and unbelief. There and then he commissions them to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” The first reaction to Jesus’ mandate to the Eleven is: how can these men with their unbelief and doubts preach the gospel? How can they conquer their fear and face the hostile people with this news? I think we don’t have to be necessarily saints in order to preach about holiness. We don’t have to be world class theologians in order to bear witness to the Risen Lord. Peter and John were “uneducated, common men” yet they bore strong witness that the rulers, scribes and elders were marvelled. Their only qualification and strength was that they had been with Jesus. My dear friends, not only have we experienced the Risen Jesus, but he has given us his body and blood as food. He is in our hearts and in our lips. We cannot but be his witnesses. John and Paul said “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Even from where we are at the moment, we can be part of the group that bear witness to the Risen Lord. A Dutch missionary, Brother Andrew, used to smuggle bibles into the communist countries. Once he recorded carrying across 800 bibles in his VW Beetle. “Christianity is a battle, not a dream” (Wendell Phillips). All are invited to be soldiers of Christ. May we not get tired of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Easter Friday Reflection, April 17, 2020 Acts 4: 1-12; John 21: 1-14 The Risen Jesus appears to the disciples for the third time in the Sea of Tiberias. The had gone back to their former occupation – fishing. The message of the resurrection and its implication is not yet obvious to them. The whole night, they laboured in vain as they caught no fish. Jesus guides them to a miraculous catch of fish. Their obedience to the Lord triggered the great catch of fish. Certainly, ‘unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do workmen labour.’ When you follow the instructions given by Jesus wonderful things happen in your life. He is the Alpha and Omega; and “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus calls them children – an indication of his affection and tenderness towards them. God is full of love and compassion. The disciples are indeed children in their faith and wisdom. As a master, Jesus teaches and nurtures them to maturity of faith, and forms them for the ministry they are called to undertake. He prepares breakfast for them. It was within that context that he broke bread, a reference to the Holy Eucharist. We recognise Jesus whenever we gather to break the bread of the Eucharist. A great teacher that he is, Jesus uses metaphors and parables to convey his message to his disciples. The Gospel of John is specific on the number of fish the disciples caught – 153 fish. While biblical commentators agree that this is symbolic, they do not agree on its meaning. The most plausible explanation is the one given by St. Jerome many centuries ago. He suggested that the number 153 symbolises all the nations of the world in line with the ancient zoologists’ view that there were 153 kinds of fish in the sea. The parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-50) give credence to this view. The Good News of salvation is for all peoples. It is the duty of the disciples to spread the news of the Kingdom of God to all nations. What is your role in this call for universal spread of the Gospel? Is the spirit of the Risen Lord moving us to bring the light to anybody anywhere? “Our business is not to do something for the Church, but to do something with it” (J. F. Newton). May the spirit of God direct us to bear authentic witness to the Gospel.
Easter Thursday Reflection Acts 3:11-36; Luke 24:35-48 Faith is a journey and one arrives at it gradually. Believing in the resurrection was not easy for the disciples. They struggled with it. Jesus had to show himself to them several times before they could figure it out. In the Gospel reading today Jesus appears to the disciples again but they did not recognise him. They thought they were seeing a spirit. To demonstrate to them that he was real, Jesus did two things: he showed them his hands and feet; and then ate fish. While these gestures helped the disciples believe that he was the Jesus they had known, could it be telling us something more about life after resurrection. Why did he eat material food? Does the risen body have internal organs that can digest food? Could it be that Jesus wanted to give infallible proof that he was not a spirit since material food is incompatible with the nature of the risen body? That could be the case, but my interest is really drawn to the fact that the risen body still has the marks of the wounds of the crucifixion on it. St. John’s gospel account even indicates that Jesus showed them his side. It is clear that Jesus retained the marks of these wounds, even in eternity, as tokens of his sacrifice and victory. The book of Revelation attests that in the midst of the elders “stood a lamb as it has been slain” (Rev 5:6). The only visible mark in the risen body of Jesus is the mark of his sacrifices he made for us. The cross – a sign of Jesus’ love for us, is the price he paid for our liberation. The marks of sacrifice endure this physical life. The only thing we shall take to the life beyond are our good deeds – the fruits of our sacrifices here on earth. Our good deeds go with us to eternity. May God give us the grace to labour for the things of heaven.
Easter Wednesday, April 15, 2020 Acts 3: 1-10; Luke 24: 13-35 In describing the journey of two disciples and the Risen Jesus to Emmaus, Luke observed that when the two disciples reached where they were going ‘Jesus acted as if he were going further’. Some people have wondered why this gesture when Jesus had planned to meet with the disciples. William Barclay suggests that this is the “courtesy of Jesus”. Jesus is a gentle Saviour; he does not force anyone into submitting to him. He allows us to exercise our God-given freedom to reach out to him. ‘God who created you without your consent cannot save you without your assistance’. When you come out of your hiding place the sun will shine on you. The Emmaus disciples were wise enough to have invited ‘the stranger’. Once in the group, ‘the Stranger’ became the host. When he broke the bread, they recognised him as Jesus, their Master. Their eyes were opened and they were blessed with divine joy. My dear friends, we ought to be disposed always to ask Jesus to stay with us. He has to be invited. It is when we do this that he can come into our lives spiritually and renew us in his love. We do this through prayer and proper disposition of mind and heart. But we see also that the Emmaus disciples did not know that they were inviting Jesus to stay with them. They thought that ‘man’ was just a stranger. Our invitation to Jesus is often indirect. We invite him into our lives through different categories of people. Mary Magdalene saw him as a gardener; the Emmaus disciples thought he was a lonely traveller; the apostles at the shore of lake Galilee thought he was a scavenger; the disciples at the upper room thought he was a ghost. How difficult it is to recognise Jesus in our daily lives. “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?” And the King will answer them, “‘Truly I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” Peace be with you! Fr Stan
Easter Tuesday April 14, 2020 Acts 2:36-41; John 20: 11-18 The image of Mary Magdalene standing beside the empty tomb weeping keeps me wondering. Jesus was already dead and buried but she continued visiting his grave. What was she intending to achieve? I think it shows how deep she loves Jesus. She even referred to the dead body of Jesus as “My Lord”. Love and commitment beyond death is indeed upright. But her deep love for Jesus combined with her unmitigated emotions blocked her thoughts and stifled her faith that she was looking for a dead body instead of a resurrected Jesus. Jesus then appeared to her and asked a very crucial question: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary should not be weeping because she is expected to have known that Jesus is the Messiah, the ever-victorious King and Saviour. Mary is not unaware of the many teachings of Jesus about suffering, dying and rising on the third day. Why then is Mary weeping? Jesus is asking you and I the same question today. Why do we weep when we encounter difficulties and even death? Why are you worried? Why do you lose faith? We mustn’t lose faith because Jesus has won the victory over suffering and death. Also we read that Mary could not recognise the Risen Jesus until he called her by name. The inability of Jesus’ close friends to recognise him after he rose from death is a reoccurring issue in the resurrection event. It tells us a lot about the nature of resurrection. Resurrection is not restoration to life as was the case with Lazarus. Resurrection is a quantum leap into a new life, with a new body. Paul calls it a spiritual body which is totally different from a physical body. According to him the physical body is like a seed, while the spiritual body is like a plant. What is planted decays and what sprouts up is a new plant (I Corinthians 15: 35 ff – The resurrection body discourse). My dear friends we shall someday be raised from the dead as Jesus, leaving behind this earthly body for a glittering, spiritual body. May all of us be found worthy to benefit from the fruits of Jesus’ victory over sin and death!
EASTER Monday, April 13, 2020 Acts 2:14-22-33; Matthew 28:8-15 What is good news to some people may be bad news to others depending on which side of the divide you are coming from. And the forces of evil do not sleep, that is why the light must keep shinning. The Risen Jesus appears first to the heroic female disciples and they offered him the first post resurrection homage and worship as he plans a crucial meeting with his brethren. Meanwhile, the enemies of the resurrection plan to spread false rumours and cover up the truth. The glamour of the resurrection was too powerful for them and they thought the best way is to spread falsehood. However, Peter, in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, full of joy and exaltation proclaims the message that Jesus is truly risen. His message is based on his experience of the Risen Lord. Belief in the resurrection is liberating, and an individual without a proper disposition to the resurrection cannot fully realise his or her potentials. The celebration today challenges us to reflect on how the resurrection event influences our lives. Do we embrace the good news and allow it transform our lives, or do we allow cynicism and faithlessness to overcome us and ruin our lives? We ought to uphold the truth always because it won’t stay in the grave. The light ought to be held high so that people will see through it. He is indeed risen! Alleluia! Fr Stan
Beloved Parishioners, Happy Easter to you all. As we celebrate the great feast of Easter 2020 from our homes, may the blessings of our Risen Lord fill your hearts. Let nothing or any situation diminish the joy of the Resurrection in our lives and homes. Please make sure you create some Easter joy wherever you are and however you can afford. I believe that through the celebration of this Holy Season, the Risen Lord will give us new hope, renewed faith and relief from the challenges surrounding us at this time. Have a blessed day! Fr. Stan. Chukwube, CSSp
EASTER REFLECTION “HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN” No other message can be greater than the message that the three sorrowful days of the stay of Jesus among the dead is over. Jesus is alive. He has conquered sin and death. Easter as a very important feast calls for great rejoicing and celebration. But how can we celebrate when we are surrounded by the cloud of sickness and death in the wake of this coronavirus pandemic? Our usual inspiring and faith nourishing Lenten observances were totally subdued as we are confined to our homes. We were reduced to web and television Christians. The usual vibrant celebrations with hugging and handshakes disappeared. But we are people of hope. The sun will shine again. Our faith and our life hinges on the resurrection of Christ. “If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then everything is in vain”. St. Paul prayed for one thing in particular: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection”. Resurrection of Christ has power. It has power to turn our lives around. The resurrection of Jesus teaches us never to give up hope. Jesus was condemned for a crime he did not commit; his close friends deserted him; he died and was buried by few people. Every hope seemed to have been lost. But on the third day he rose from the dead. It reminds us that truth is immortal. We can suppress Truth, but on the third day Truth will rise again. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on doing what is right. True will always be true. We must learn to believe in the sun even when it is not shining, knowing that by and by it will shine again. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad. We must see beyond our present predicament to better days ahead. Nelson Mandela of South Africa said that it was optimism and vision that helped him survive in isolation for 27 years. Resurrection of Jesus helps us to be people of hope. Today Christ is risen. In Him we shall all bounce back stronger. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord! Happy Easter to you all! Fr. Stan. Chukwube, CSSp
GOOD FRIDAY REFLECTION Today we commemorate the crucifixion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We observe this day as Good Friday (sometimes called Holy, Long or Great Friday; the Germans call it Kartfreidag – sorrowful or mournful Friday). It is not clear how the name Good Friday evolved. Some people think it was originally called God’s Friday. The origin of Good Friday may not be clear but what is clear is that this day is good because of what it means for all of us. With his death Christ redeemed his brothers and sisters – all of us. He gained for us new life, new hope, and new light. Did the Father demand the death of his son, as a price for our sin? Not quite! That would make God a sadistic, blood thirsty being. He did not will the death of Jesus, but he willed that Jesus should confront and challenge the network of sin in human society, even though all the forces of sin would rise up against him and kill him. That is what the scripture means when it says that Jesus ‘obediently accepted death, even death on a cross’. This is the consequence of his doing what God had sent him to do. It is the consequence of his faithful preaching of God’s word of salvation. He was killed because the religious and secular authorities would not repent and relinquish their unjust power. He died because of the weight of our sins. The last statement of Jesus according to the passion account of St. John that we read today is “It is finished”. What is Jesus saying? Biblical scholars point out that these words mean “paid in full." So, when Jesus said, "It is finished," what is it that is finished? It is the debt we owe God by our sins. It has been paid in full. Jesus was telling the Father, these people do not owe anything anymore; I have paid it in full. Jesus must have said that with a smile on his face. It was a victory song to the Father and to all of us. Our sins are wiped away. God has forgiven us through Christ The sacrifice of Jesus calls for gratitude: Gratitude strong enough to make us turn away from every type and shape of sin; gratitude strong enough to brighten our lives no matter how difficult things may be; gratitude strong enough to make us preach the good news of freedom to all; gratitude strong enough to make us care for one another; gratitude strong enough to makes us challenge the structures of sin and injustice around us and stand on the side of the poor and oppressed without counting the personal cost or risk; gratitude to make us love without limit. It is a gratitude which will make us reach out and venerate any cross wherever we may be now. That popular Good Friday Latin hymn Crux Fidelis (Faithful Cross) talks of the Sweetest Wood, Sweetest Nails. As we look up to the cross today and contemplate Jesus dying to make the full payment for our sins, let us thank him, and let us promise him that our whole live will be one unbroken song of thanksgiving to him who gave his life to make full payment for the inestimable debt we owe for our sins.
MAUNDY Thursday, April 9, 2020 THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Our Holy Week figure on this Maundy Thursday is Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Maundy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum, the three most holy days in the Church’s liturgical circle. It is a day we commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the sacred priesthood. Catholic priests all over the world observe this day in a special way and renew their priestly commitment. I will be doing my own renewal before the Blessed Sacrament this evening after the Mass of the Last Supper. It will be great if you can take some time to say a little prayer for us priests. May God bless you as you do that. Mary is a special mother of priests, so it is appropriate that we have her as our Holy Week figure on this Maundy Thursday. No one can claim to be closer to Jesus than Mary. From the moment she conceived Jesus in her womb to Jesus’ last breath on the cross, Mary was united with her son. She was a disciple per excellence. The very first miracle of Jesus at Cana was ‘ordered’ by Mary. Mary was quite prominent at the passion of Christ. She observed everything that happened that day and journeyed sorrowfully with her son to his crucifixion. She wasn’t physically strong enough to help her son carry the heavy cross as Simon did, but she was spiritually and emotionally bound with the suffering Saviour. May suffered every pain that Jesus underwent at his passion. She felt the weight of the cross on Jesus’ shoulders on her own body, felt the stroke of the cane on Jesus’ bloody body, experienced the impact of every bang of the nail on Jesus’ feet and hands. Like Jesus, she had no strength left in her; and as Simon helped Jesus carry the cross, Mary Magdalen and some other women supported her so that she will be able to finish the painful journey. Mary understood Jesus’ agony and death as a way of fulfilling the Father’s will to redeem the world. She must have offered Jesus her strength so that he will be able to accomplish his mission. She was a good mother. The Passion of Jesus is also our Passion. We die and rise with him. A good way to identify with Jesus in his Passion, as Mary did, is to be united with him in his mission. Our commitment to Jesus and his Church is weak. If we desire true life, the Cross of Jesus is the answer. We shouldn’t turn our backs to him in whatever guise? May we love Jesus as Mary, our Mother did!
Wednesday of Holy Week, April 8, 2020 SIMON OF CYRENE AND VERONICA Simon of Cyrene and Veronica are our Holy Week figures today. Both of them assisted Jesus on his way to the crucifixion. Simon from Cyrene (present day Libya, in Africa). He was on his way when the soldiers compelled him to help Jesus carry his cross. Initially he was hesitant but realising the type of person Jesus was, he was so glad to be of assistance to him. Why was Simon picked from the crowd to help Jesus carry his cross? Was it because he was a foreigner? Perhaps he was physically fit. Could it be that the soldiers saw he was visibly shaken on seeing a man being tortured, and so commanded him to carry the cross? Moved with deep sympathy, could Simon have volunteered to carry the cross? We may not know precisely why he had to carry the cross of Jesus, but he must have carried it for the rest of the journey to Golgotha. Pundits of the actual death of Jesus had even suggested that Simon took on himself the capital punishment of Jesus. A person with a golden heart can go to any extent to show love to the one in need. In any case, the blood and sweat smeared cross of Jesus became the element of baptism for Simon. What a beautiful way to become a disciple. The name Veronica was likely coined from two Latin words, vera and icona meaning ‘true image’. It is a name ascribed to the woman who wiped the blood and sweat covered face of Jesus with a towel. The impression of the face of Jesus remained on that towel till today. She may not have been strong enough to carry the cross as Simon did, but she was courageous enough to force her way amid the ruthless soldiers to wipe spittle and dirt off the face of Jesus. Veronica restored the face of Jesus to its original beauty. What a relief Jesus must have felt, at least to have one more clear gaze at the people he loved so much before his death. Veronica was a true disciple, a compassionate and courageous woman. A true mother. How can you wipe dirt off the face of Jesus or carry his rugged cross today? How deep and sincere is your love for Jesus and his bride – the Church? Do you have any sympathy for the poor and needy in our society and across the world? How often do you make selfless sacrifices? Do you offer God sincere worship and praise? Are you ashamed to profess Jesus? How is your prayer life? Do you have time for Jesus? Lord, our faith in you is weak, be our strength.
TUESDAY OF HOLY WEEK, April 6, 2020 PETER Our Holy Week figure today is Peter, the Apostle. Peter, originally called Simon, was from Bethsaida. He was a fisherman by occupation and a former disciple of John the Baptist. Immediately answering the call, Jesus appointed him head of the Apostles and was with Jesus from that moment on. Peter really did great things with Jesus and loved him deeply. He was always ready to stand by Jesus and displayed rare wisdom in Jesus’ divine mandate. Always speaking his mind and never seems to bear grudges. Peter was a key witness of the agony of Jesus – from his arrest, to his trial up to the crucifixion. What role did he play? He was hiding in the crowd. From there he was observing his master insulted and scourged. Did he love Jesus? Sure, he did but it was a dormant love. Love that has not enough sparks. Loving from a distance is transient. Fear overtook his emotions. Nothing destroys faith more than fear and it paralyses the flow of divine flavor in the believer. With the many killer soldiers brandishing dangerous weapons ready to slaughter the son of the Almighty Father, has Peter any reason to be afraid? Was Peter justifiably afraid? Yes of course, he was human and a close disciple of Jesus. He feared that the mob will also descend upon him. He wanted to preserve his life. A popular Jamaican Reggae King once said, “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” That is true but first you must fight before running away. Peter never did. He denied that he ever knew who Jesus was, not once, not twice, but three times. At that third time, Jesus defying the excruciating pain from his injuries gazed at Peter. Their eyes met and Peter melted with remorse. The gaze of Jesus penetrates the soul and lays bare our sinfulness. He had warned Peter about this ordeal (John 13:38), but the lure of sin is too heavy for the chicken-hearted. However, Peter still has love for his sorrowful Master, so he went away and wept. You and I must weep, not away from the crowd, nor in the privacy of our homes, but in the open. Our repentance must be evident. We must weep for our sins and feeble love for God until we have no strength left and every tear dry from our eyes (Joel 2:12-13). Lord, you died for our sins. We want to follow you, help our lack of courage and commitmen
MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK, April 6, 2020 (Each day during this Holy Week we shall focus our reflection on the roles played by some key figures during the last days of Jesus’ earthly life. Today we look at Pilate). PILATE. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea who presided over the trial and condemnation of Jesus to death. He knew that Jesus was an itinerant preacher who accompanied his words with wondrous actions and made many bold claims, especially to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Had Pilate seen Jesus as a threat to his hegemony he would have arrested him before ever the Jews brought him to his court. Note that Pilate was a ruthless ruler who had no regard for the Jewish religion and culture. In fact, the Jews detested him. Why then did they bring Jesus to him? After all, when they wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery to death, they never had any recourse to him. Pilate who exercises civil authority in the whole land, had the power to make life and death decisions. Why then did Pilate refuse to act? Not only had he no incriminating facts for passing death sentence on Jesus, but his wife had warned him not to have anything to do with ‘that man’ because of the terrifying dream she had the previous night. Why then did Pilate chose the path of apathy in this case? There is no other reason than bad politics – that is the disease called Pilate, and that is my interest here. Pilate was seeking cheap popularity with the Jews in order to assuage his evil deeds against them. He only needed to stand by the truth to save life, but he didn’t. He preferred his personal glory and the admiration of the crowd than ‘human’ life. He washed his hands to absolve himself from the death of an innocent man, but he lacked the courage to rise in his defence. Could any quantity of water and detergent wash off the guilt of remaining silent in the face of evil? My dear friends, what reasons have you for acting Pilate at certain times? What are you afraid of? What interest are you protecting by refusing to speak up for someone crying for your assistance? Are your decisions influenced by selfish interests or by love of humanity? Pilate’s inaction (and ours too) makes Jesus’ heart bleed. Mary, the sister of Martha poured expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet as a sign of love, how do I show Jesus that I love him? A broken heart is a precious sacrifice pleasing to God. Peace be with you!
Two things stand out in the celebration of Palm Sunday– the Palm and the Passion, joy and sadness, light and darkness. Before celebrating the passion, the Lord’s joyful entrance into Jerusalem is celebrated. All Jerusalem, with palms in their hands came out to welcome the King of the Universe. There was a lot of dancing, jubilation and displays of acceptance of Jesus. But it did not take time before the mood changed. It was no longer ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, but rather, ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ The people who hail you today may be the same people who will jeer at you tomorrow. Could it be true that fame and blame go hand in hand? The glory and praise the world gives does last. In the early times of the Church, it was customary to burn straw beside the remains of a dead pope with these words, ‘sic transit gloria mundi’ – meaning, ‘so passes the glory of this world’. Yes, the glory and glamour of this world passes away. We see that in the sports world, and even in politics. You are very popular, with many admirers and friends but as soon the fortunes change, you lose all. The things we hold onto thinking that they are indispensable will sooner than later be dispensable. See how the coronavirus scare has overturned the fortunes of the whole world in just a couple of months and all of us are scampering for safety. Vanity of vanity, all is vanity. The life of Jesus and the choices he made teaches us what actually is important – it is about what brings us closer to God; it is about making sacrifices for others; it is about seeking the will of God. Jesus was faithful to the mission the Father sent him to do. He was not distracted by the lures of this world. Even in the face of the cross, he held his head high. The central symbol in our celebration today is the Palm. The palms symbolise victory. The palms are telling us that Jesus was already victorious and triumphant when he entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the events leading to his suffering and death. The palms are telling us that God’s saving presence was always with Jesus, so too it is always with us. The palms mean that though there is suffering and sickness and death in this world and in our lives, we are victories over them. All that is necessary on our part is, simply, to live as fully and positively as we can in whatever situation we find ourselves, even if that situation is as bad as that of Jesus on the cross. Even in the face of the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, through Jesus we are victorious. No evil or difficulty can remove the spirit of hope in us. This symbol of palm really means victory. It stirs up ever strong faith and hope in the certain victory we have over all evil, over all adversity, over all temptations. Let us go into this Holy Week assured that nothing will hold us down. We shall always be victorious, even in the face of the creepiest obstacles. The Cross of Christ is our strength. Fr. Stan
Saturday 5th Week of Lent, April 4, 2020 Ezekiel 37:21-28; John 11:45-57
BETTER ONE DIES THAN ALL The popularity of Jesus is growing and the leaders of the people are not finding it funny. His many miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus from death, and his great sermons were not helping matters. Many people are believing in him and the chief priests and the Pharisees were worried. They were afraid that with the revolutionary manner of Jesus’ message the occupying Roman government will rise up and destroy them. The final decision is that Jesus had to be stopped; he had to be killed. Is that really the best way to solve a perceived problem? Should one life be taken in order to save another two or more lives? Does anyone have the power to decide which life is to be taken and which one is to be spared? Is life not sacred? Shouldn’t we do everything possible to save every life, even that of the most ‘insignificant’? Did Jesus not leave ninety-nine sheep in search of one that was lost? What are our ethical grounds for making decisions about life and death? Does fear influence our decisions about serious issues as life? Caiaphas, the high priest said, “Don’t you realise that it is better for you to have one man die for all people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed.” Though representing the popular sentiment at that time and even in our own time, Caiaphas didn’t realise that he made the most ironic statement in all scripture. He was prophesying about the significance of the death of Jesus without knowing what he was saying. It was true in the sense that had Jesus not died the entire human race would have perished. Jesus died to give us life. May Jesus be praised for having died our death and restoring us to live in God.
Friday 5th Week of Lent, April 3, 2020 Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42 THE JEWS TOOK UP STONES TO STONE JESUS This is not the first time the Jews wanted to stone Jesus. In fact, throwing stones has become a way they silence perceived offenders and often inflicting capital punishment on them. They picked up stones to stone the woman caught in adultery and would have murdered her if not for Jesus. Jesus was not a fool or a madman to be pitied or shunned; he was not a criminal, nor the devil to be stoned. Why then did they consider it appropriate to stone Jesus? Because He rightly claimed to be what he is – the Son of God. When Jesus says, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father”, he is saying that he is one with the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father and the Holy Spirit; to accept Jesus is to accept the Father and the Holy Spirit; and to love Jesus is to love the Father and the Holy Spirit – one in the Three Godhead. A unity of existence and participation in one another. We are also partakers in that family of God. At baptism we are made Christ like and assumed the status of sons and daughters. We are partakers in the divine life - to the glory of God (1John3:2). You should not pick stones to stone Jesus for proclaiming the good news. Never! You should also not pick stones to stone your neighbour for any reason – not with physical objects, not with hurting words and bad attitudes. Never! May God pardon us for the times we offended him and may he set us free from the bonds of the sins we have committed in our weakness. Amen!
Thursday Week 5 of Lent, April 2, 2020 Genesis 17: 3-9; John 8:51-59 One of the vows made by most religious congregations in the Catholic Church is the Vow of Obedience. For the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers this vow entails obedience to the Superior, and accepting to go wherever you are posted. One of our priests, after returning from a burial ceremony, would say of the dead person, ‘we have transferred him; we have settled him and he didn’t even say a word.’ He properly saw death as a change of place, a change of address. He professes what we all believe. In the Gospel reading, Jesus says, “If any one keeps my word, he will never see death.” His Jewish audience refused to accept this teaching and thought he was mad. They challenged him with Abraham and the great prophets who saw death. But Jesus is greater than all these people. He is God, the Son, the giver of life. Death came into the world through sin. But through the cross and resurrection, both sin and death were destroyed. Jesus’ power over death is what set him apart. If he didn’t conquer death, then his message has no relevance. He came to restore us to life. Anyone who embraces his message will live forever. Listen to Henry Ward Beecher: On this side of the grave we are exiles, on the other side, citizens; on this side orphans; on that side, children … and proclaimed as the sons of God. May all of us who place our hope in your mercy be made heirs of your promise. Amen.
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Wednesday Week 5 of Lent, April 1, 2020 Daniel 3: 14-20.24-25.28; John 8: 31-42 Jesus tells the Jews, in the Gospel of today, that if they accept his word, they will no longer be slaves but will be truly free. Their response is that they have never been in bondage to anyone and so have no need of been set free. The truth, however, is that the Jewish nation has been in bondage to one foreign power after another: the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks. Even at the very time Jesus was addressing them they were in bondage to the Romans. We can be in bondage in two ways. First, you can be a slave of another person. Second, you can be a slave of sin. In this case, your ignorance, prejudice, bad habits, evil thoughts, fear of the unknown, hatred, superiority/inferiority complex, your anger, your impatience, your unforgiveness, your pride, etc., can enslave you. This is the type of bondage Jesus is talking about today. He has come to set us free from these. If you can identify the ways you are enslaving yourself and admit your need to be freed from them you can benefit from the freedom Jesus is offering to us today. King Nebuchadnezzar repented from his wickedness and accepted the truth and worshipped the true God. Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Enlighten our hearts, O Lord and set us free. Amen
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, March 31, 2020 Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30 The Israelites, as we heard in our first reading today, lost patience with God. They were not happy with the type of food God (and his servant Moses), was giving them. So, they rebelled against God and Moses. As a punishment, the fiery serpent invaded them and many were bitten to death. God in his mercy directed Moses to make a bronze replica of the serpent, put it up as a sign, and anyone bitten by the snake who looks at it will be saved. In the Gospel, the people refused to accept Jesus. But he told them that they would know who he is when they must have lifted him up as Moses did the bronze serpent in the desert. Jesus lifted up on the cross is the sign of our healing and salvation. The hope of humanity lies in Jesus crucified. On Friday 27th March, Pope Francis led the world in prayer for healing and for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. The image left in my mind is that of the Pope standing and looking up in prayer to the giant miraculous Crucifix. He kissed the crucifix, whispering some prayers. I don’t know what he said to Jesus at that moment, but I guess he must have said something like this: ‘As you healed the Israelites from snake bite after they looked up to the bronze serpent, so may you heal the world from the scourge of this deadly coronavirus as we look up to you.’ We are always healed and restored to life through Jesus, crucified. Amen
Monday of Fifth Week of Lent, March 30, 2020 Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; John 8:1-11 The two readings of today's Mass are on the same theme: the accused and the accuser versus God, the Father of Mercy and love. In the first reading Susanna, the wife of Joakim, was accused falsely of committing adultery by two wicked elders. The punishment for this, according to the law of Moses, is death by stoning. The stage was set for stoning Susanna when God intervened through Daniel, and Susanna was saved and her accusers, who were really the actual villains, received the ultimate punishment. In the Gospel reading the Scribes and Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in adultery to death when Jesus intervened and set her free. Listen to this transformational request: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Surprisingly, they started leaving one after another, indicating that they were equally sinners. What an irony! You condemn your neighbour to death for the same offence you are guilty of. When you point an accusing finger at your neighbour the other four fingers are pointing at you. ‘We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. Jesus, the Lord of mercy, lover of the humble, source of our life, is always ready to forgive us. He said to the adulterous woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go away, and don’t sin anymore.” Lord, enrich us with your blessing and enable us to pass from former ways to newness of life, so that we may be found worthy of your heavenly Kingdom. Amen
Homily 5th Sunday of Lent Year A Lent is coming to a close and for the past few Sundays we have been reading some very important passages from the Gospel according to John. Most of them are centered on the new life which Jesus Christ brings. What is the life that is being talked about? It is a type of transformative live which creates a new being out of the old. St Paul talks of that which no eye has seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him. Today we read about the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Of all the miracles Jesus did the raising of Lazarus ranks as the most astonishing to the people of his time. Why? Traditionally the Jews believe that the soul of dead person somehow remains with the body for 3 days. After that the soul departs finally from the body never to return again. And it is at this time that corruption sets in. When Martha says to Jesus that ‘Lazarus has been dead for 4 days’, she was expressing the common view that this is a hopeless situation. In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already dead for four days and is decaying is impossible. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.” The story of the raising of Lazarus is more than a pointer to the raising of Jesus. Jesus rose on the third day; his body never saw corruption. This miracle is a challenge never to give up hope even in a hopeless situation in which we find ourselves, as individuals, as a church, or as a nation. But first we must learn how to cooperate with God so as to experience his resurrection power in our lives and in our world. The way we cooperate with the miracle working God is through practical obedience. That is the point John is making in this Gospel story. To work this miracle Jesus gave three commands and all were obeyed to the letter. That is how the miracle happens. First, “Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’… So, they rolled away the stone” (vv 39-44). Did they understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the stone? Not at all. They were just expressing practical agreement (obedience) as opposed to intellectual agreement. Divine power seems to be always activated by human cooperation and stifled by non cooperation. The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” (vv 43-44). We do not know what happened inside the grave. All we know is that the dead man gropes his way out of dark tomb. Even a man rotting in the tomb can do something to help himself. The third command again is addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (v 44). Lazarus could not unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them. Many individuals and communities today have fallen victim to spiritual death. We are being tied up by many things: bad habits and attitudes, bad memories of past events, unhealthy relationships, and so on. Jesus is ready for a miracle. Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death? Are we ready to unbind (forgive) one another and let them go free? May the Lord Jesus unbind us all, set us free and give us new life. Amen.
Archbishop Bernard intends to celebrate 11am Sunday Mass on 29th March for the Re-dedication of England as the Dowry of England and celebrate the Holy Week liturgies via live- streaming at St. Chad’s Cathedral. It is hoped that Watching on Holy Thursday night will be live- streamed until Midnight from St. Chad’s Cathedral and this will be a focus of prayer for all Catholics in England and Wales.
SATURDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 28, 2020 Jeremiah 11:18-20; John 7:40-52 A GENTLE LAMB LED TO THE SLAUGHTER After Holy Mass on a Sunday morning last month one of the school children walked straight up to me and asked ‘What is the Lamb of God’? Her mum was standing few meters away watching us. I guess the child heard these words during Mass and really desired to understand what they meant. I told her that it was one of the titles of Jesus. That as the Jews used to sacrifice a lamb to God, especially for the cleansing of their sins, so Jesus offered himself for sacrifice for the sins of the world. She nodded and said, "Thank you Fr Stan," and her mum smiled. Jeremiah in our first reading talks of ‘a gentle lamb being led to the slaughter-house’. Jesus is the innocent, trustful, gentle lamb that was sacrificed for our sins. The Father did not send His Son to come and die, rather he commissioned him to do all within his power to save humanity. And when he came the weight of our sins weighed heavily on him, that he had to offer his life. What a great sacrifice! Jesus got the title of the Lamb of God from the type of sacrifice he made for us. The school child was struck by Jesus as the Lamb of God. The people of Jesus’ time said of him “Nobody has ever talked the way this man does.” What about Jesus attracts you most? “May the working of your mercy, O Lord, we pray, direct our hearts aright, for without your grace we cannot find favour in your sight”.
FRIDAY, 4th Week of Lent, March 27, 2020 Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22; John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 Our two readings today point to the gathering plot to have Jesus arrested and put to a shameful death. Why must he be put to a shameful death? The two readings give different awkward reasons. For the first reading, he is a virtuous man and rebukes our philosophy of life. He thinks he knows God more than us and claims he is a son of God. Again, he says that the virtuous will have a happy end. For the Gospel reading, Jesus has to be put to death simply because they claim to know where he comes from, while they thought that when the Messiah comes no one will know where he comes from. These are clearly human parameters for actions but they seem to be forcing God to be like human beings. But the truth is that we are supposed to seek the mind and will of God for us. God cannot bow to human standards rather humans have to conform to the standards of God. We ought to think and act the way God wants. The Gospel reading says that the Jewish authorities would have arrested Jesus but they couldn’t because his hour had not yet come. Everything has its hour. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time for everything: time to be born and time to die, etc. Jesus cannot be taken before his time. No matter the conspiracy, no matter the efforts the Pharisees conjure, they can never arrest Jesus before his time. Everything is the hands of God. Nothing happens outside of God. He is the Alpha and Omega. Our live is in his hands. He alone can define our future irrespective of the tsunami approaching us. Let us abandon ourselves in his hands. Do not be afraid! This evening, Friday 27th March, Pope Francis will preside over a time of universal prayer for an end to the Pandemic. The ceremony will consist in readings from the Scriptures, prayers of supplication, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and will conclude with Pope Francis giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those who listen to it live through the various media. The blessing is normally only given on Christmas and Easter. You can watch the broadcast at 6pm Rome time (5pm in London) on the Vatican website: www.vaticannews.va/en/epg.html#schedules(The page also lists the Vatican Radio schedule)
Thursday 26th March, Fourth Week in Lent Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47 The Israelites, as we heard in the first reading of today’s Holy Mass, still on their way from Egypt to the promised land, got disenchanted and rebelled against God. They made for themselves a molten calf and worshipped it as their god. They credited to this molten calf the great and wondrous things God did for them in the past. Understandably, God was very angry with them. He wanted to destroy them, sparing only Moses, his beloved servant. However, Moses pleaded with God and God relented and did not punish his people. Two this stand out here: first, God’s readiness to listen to Moses and how quick he was to relent; his love for his people is so deep. Second, Moses was not only concerned about his personal safety but he wanted God to extend his mercy to the rest of the people. in this way, he manifested deep love of his neighbor. Jesus often talked about the power of good example. Good example makes more impression on people than many words. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, “these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me.” The good works Jesus did was evidence of his Father’s support and authentication. How are your actions bearing witness to the type of person you are? Does your action show that the Father is backing you? Keep us safe, Lord and defend us, so that we may persevere in your love.
Wednesday 25th March SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD Is 7:10-14,8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38 Today 25th of March, exactly 9 months before Christmas, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord. The feast of Annunciation is also the feast of the conception of Jesus. Angel Gabriel announces the news the world has been longing for, the news of God extending hands of reconciliation to the lost humanity through the Incarnation of the Word. God in his infinite mercy does not forget his people. He constantly seeks the well-being of the people he created in his image. He does this through human cooperation. The opening prayer of today’s Holy Mass says that ‘God willed that His Word should take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary’. Mary made herself an instrument in the hands of God so that through her, divine plan for humanity will unfold. The first Eve disobeyed God and lost his friendship; the second Eve obeyed God and won his friendship. The first Eve was not committed to divine invitation; the second Eve was committed to divine proposal and so brought us the Saviour. Mary’s ‘yes’ followed by total commitment made the coming of the savior to us possible. It was not easy for her to say ‘yes’ considering the fact that she was already betrothed to Joseph. It takes a great deal of will power to set aside our plans for any other calling. Mary said ‘yes’ to divine plane. Let us imitate Mary and always say ‘yes’ to God and back it up with commitment. Our ‘yes’ to God is a sacrifice. Accepting to do God’s will pleases God, and brings happiness and fulfilment to our lives. HAPPY FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD TO YOU ALL BELOVED PARISHIONERS.
Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent, March 24, 2020 Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; John 5:1-3,5-16 “DO YOU WANT TO BE WELL AGAIN”. This is the question Jesus asked a man who has been sick for thirty-eight good years. Probably Jesus wanted to elicit faith in him from this man. For most part of the 38 years the man had been coming to the miraculous Sheep Pool to get cured, but because he was crippled and only the first person to enter the pool gets cured, he kept on coming hoping that one day he will receive his own miracle. He did not give up. He saw sick people who had helpers getting well. He has every reason to give up, but he didn’t. He had faith; he had hope. Faith is hoping for things unseen and unheard of. Today Jesus the Pool of pools, the helper of helpers, the father of the fatherless and the mother of the motherless, the LIVING WATER, came to him and he was cured. It was of this LIVING WATER that Prophet Ezekiel prophesied when he said, “Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live.” Jesus is the hope of humanity. Terrified and wounded by the dreaded COVID-19, the world is like the sick man at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem. Cure seems unachievable. But I pray that Jesus the LIVING WATER will flow into every aspect of our lives and society, so that we may live. May the peace of Christ be with you! Fr. Stan
Dear Parishioners, In view of the menace of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Church in England and Wales have suspended public worship and gatherings in any setting beginning evening of Friday 20th March. These really are very difficult and challenging times for all us. As we suspend all parish gatherings and events (including Holy Masses) till further notice, there is the need to remain steadfast in our faith and prayers. I will keep on celebrating the daily Masses in private (9 am on Sundays; 9.30 am on weekdays at Sacred Heart Church only). The parishioners of our two churches are encouraged to join in spirit from wherever you may be and you can make spiritual communion. Be assured that the Masses you booked and the intentions of our parish will be included in these private Masses. Our churches will be open for private Eucharistic Adoration every Sunday (Sacred Heart Church 9am to 10.30am; St. Joseph’s 11am to 12.30pm). For these private devotions and prayers in the church, adequate social distance must be maintained and you must sanitize your hands before entering the church. Because of the serious nature of this virus and based on Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181 the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. I urge all parishioners to be faithful to the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary at your private time. Let us also be united in praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm every day for God’s mercy in eradicating this coronavirus pandemic. The parish bulletin with all necessary information will be provided every week and it can be accessed through our websites: www.thesacredhearttunstall.org.uk and www.stjosephsburslem.org.uk Copies of the bulletin will also be available in the churches during the set times for private prayers. Our parish telephone line 01782838357 is accessible anytime, and please do not hesitate to contact us for any assistance, including emergency sick calls. Our parish office will also be available for essential services. Suspending public worship does not mean an end to our Catholic faith. Let us keep the Church alive in our hearts and homes. We ought to pray often; and do not be afraid, “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Fr. Stan
Dear Guardian Angel, go for me to the church, there kneel down at Mass for me. At the Offertory, take me to God, and offer Him my service: What I am, what I have, offer as my gift. At the Consecration, with your seraphic strength, adore my Saviour truly present, praying for those who have loved me, for those who have offended me, and for those now deceased, that the blood of Jesus may purify them all. During Holy Communion, bring to me the Body and Blood of Jesus uniting Him with me in spirit, so that my heart may become His dwelling place. Plead with Him, that through His sacrifice all people throughout the world may be saved. When the Mass ends, bring home to me and to every home, the Lord's blessing. Amen.
Please join us at 3pm daily, from the comfort of home, in saying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. We are asking for God's Mercy in eradicating this Coronavirus pandemic.
Please find below a 'How to Pray the Rosary Guide'.
During these uncertain times we will try to keep you all as up to date as possible. As a Parish the last public service will be tomorrow morning at Sacred Heart Tunstall. Mass begins at 9.30am. Both Churches will then stop public services until the restrictions are lifted. However, Mass will still be held but behind closed doors. The Divine Mercy will also be said everyday at 3pm. The Parish Office phone line is open 24 hours please leave a message on the answer machine. Please feel free to message me over Facebook with questions, queries and concerns. We will still be taking Mass requests, 1 per day, with stipends to be paid when possible. Prayer requests will also be taken. If you want the prayer public, then please post it straight to the Facebook page. Otherwise private intentions will be recorded as x intentions. I will be updating the websites as we get more information. Stay healthy, strong and safe. Look out for each other. Pray.
Prayer intentions are being gathered on our Facebook page.
A letter from the President and Vice-President on behalf of all the Bishops of the Conference 18/03/2020