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Daily Reflection: April 1, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

In today’s gospel passage, we read how Jesus told His audience that in a little while, He will no longer be with them—He will be going away. Jesus made it abundantly clear that unless they repent and change their evil ways and believe in the One the Father sent to redeem the world; they will die in their sin. He emphasized that where He was going, they cannot come. In their confusion and lack of understanding of spiritual matters, they wondered whether He was going to kill Himself. In its implicit sense, Jesus was reminding His audience and indeed all of us His followers that there are certain opportunities in life which come only once and do not return. They have been given the privilege of having Him present in their midst and that privilege can be accepted or refused. The consequence of which-ever way we decide determines our future life in the world to come. We must remember that life and time are limited. And so, it is within the span of life God has given to us that we can make this decision to follow or reject Him and His gospel message. The time given to us is limited and we do not know the limit—when He will demand account of our stewardship on earth. In speaking about going away, Jesus was referring to His return to His Father and to His glory. This event happened when Jesus ascended to the Heavens after His resurrection. Because of their disobedience and continuous refusal to accept Him as the Lord and Messiah, they were lost about this truth. Thus, they shut themselves out of God’s plan and out of God’s Kingdom. Those who refuse to accept Christ die in their sin, die at enmity with God. But those who accept Jesus Christ already walk with God in the light of life. To them, death opens the way to a closer walk and relationship with God. To accept Christ and His good news of salvation is to be a friend of God, and to refuse Jesus and His teaching is to be a stranger before God. Thus, in accepting Jesus Christ we become friends of God and in that friendship with God the fear of death is forever banished.

Dear Friends, as we face God this day let us be wise enough to make decisions that will offer us the wonderful opportunity of enjoying eternity with God. Many people will die in their sins because they rejected the very author of life—the only way through which they will be rescued from slavery to sin and death. Unfortunately, many people are so taken away and are lost in their insatiable desire for the material things of this passing and changing world that they become blind to the priceless gift which Jesus Christ is offering us. Do not focus all your attention on this world’s values and miss what is most valuable—eternal life with God. Jesus reminds us that to live in sin is to be a slave of the evil one, but to repent and accept Him as our Lord and Savior makes us free and gives us the courage and ability to love God above everything. Avoid sin today and live for Him. Sins are like credit card, enjoy now and pay later.

It’s never too late to start afresh with God. He’s waiting for you today.  

God loves you and so do I.

 

Daily Reflection: April 2, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

Dear Lord, during this lock down, please watch over all your children wherever they are especially those reading this reflection. Protect them, their family members and loved ones under the shadow of your wings and may your peace dwell in their hearts and homes today and always. You are the Alpha and Omega and with you ALL things are possible. We humbly implore you to speak your words of healing and calm this raging storm and restore us again to fullness of life. AMEN 

In today’s gospel passage, we read an assuring message from Jesus about sharing eternal life with Him—if we keep His words “Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps my words, He will never see death”. To keep Jesus’ words means to listen to His words and obey them. When Jesus says that those who listen and obey His words will not die, He is not talking about physical death but spiritual death. It is therefore a thing of joy that those who hear His words and obey them even if they die in the physical, they will be raised on the last day to live with Him eternally. God made a promise to Abraham—a promise that was ratified with a covenant as we read in today’s first reading. In this covenantal relationship between God and Abraham, God promised to make Abraham the father of nations. God promised him that all nations will be blessed through him (Gen 12: 1-7; 15: 1-21). God also promised that He will maintain His covenant with Abraham even unto his children and generations yet unborn. He will give his descendants the land of Canaan to inhabit. It was in the setting of this covenant that God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. Abraham believed all of God’s promises and trusted that what was promised him must come to pass. Thus, Jesus Christ who obviously is a descendant of Abraham brought this promise to fulfillment when all nations were blessed and redeemed through His suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus therefore offers salvation, peace and eternal life to the entire created order. His statement about existing before Abraham was born was a surprising statement to the Jewish audience who found it difficult to comprehend. But Jesus was referring to His divinity. Not only that Jesus made a bold claim of existing before Abraham, He equally applied God’s holy name to Himself— “I am” (Exodus 3: 14). The name “I AM” is the only name that God identified Himself with in the Old Testament in the passage of the burning bush when He sent Moses on a mission to redeem the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. This claim demands a response from us, and this response cannot be ignored. Because of this truth, the Jewish religious leaders tried to stone Jesus accusing Him of blasphemy—since Jesus made Himself equal to God. How have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him? Jesus demands from us a total and wholesome response to this invitation. Where do you stand with Him today?   

Dear friends, as we face God this day, let us joyfully welcome and accept the Good News of salvation as proclaimed to us every day. In accepting this Good News, we are accepting life—life not just here on earth but in the hereafter. Thus, we are to obey the Lord in every respect because He is Lord. And if you don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is—the only one with the power and ability to meet your every need. The only one who gives us the message of eternal life. “He only is my rock and my salvation; my stronghold; I shall not be shaken…trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him, God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62: 5-8). When we enter a close relationship with God and experience the immensity of His love for us, we will come to a clear understanding that knowing and following God is not an option, it is a necessity. “Apart from me you can do noting” (John 15: 4-5).  

Trust Him today, listen to His voice today and obey His commands and He will certainly deliver us from every affliction especially the one that is devastating our world today.

 God loves you and so do I

 

Daily Reflection: April 3, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

Dear Lord, during this lock-down, please watch over all your children wherever they are especially those reading this reflection. Protect them, their family members and loved ones under the shadow of your wings and may your peace dwell in their hearts and homes today and always. You are the Alpha and Omega and with you ALL things are possible. We humbly implore you to speak your words of healing and calm this raging storm and restore us again to fullness of life. AMEN 

JOKE: The preacher’s Sunday sermon was “Forgive Your Enemies.” 
He asked how many of the congregation have forgiven their enemies? 
About half held up their hands. 
He then repeated his question. 
Now about 80% held up their hands. 
He then repeated his question once more. 
All responded, except one elderly lady. 
“Mrs. Johnson, are you not willing to forgive your enemies?” 
“I don’t have any.” 
“Mrs. Johnson that is very unusual. How old are you?” 
“Ninety-nine,” she replied. 
“Mrs. Johnson, please come down in front and tell the congregation how a person cannot have an enemy in the world?” 
The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle and said, “I outlived every one of those bitches!”

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus made a bold claim of being equal to God. For this claim, the Jewish religious leaders picked up stones to kill Him. Jesus and His Father are not the same person, but they are One in Essence and Nature. Thus, Jesus is not merely a good teacher, a prophet, a miracle worker, an itinerant preacher—He is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is God Man. So, His claim to be God was unmistakable. Even though the Jewish religious leaders were amazed and fascinated at His miracles and preaching skills, they refused to accept His claim to be equal with God. They wanted to stone Him to death because their laws said that anyone who makes a claim to be equal to God is stoned to death: “One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer” (Leviticus 24: 16). Jesus reminded them that He had spent all His days doing miraculous things—healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, and comforting the sorrowing—deeds so full of help, power and mercy that they obviously came from God. So, for which of these marvelous deeds did they want to stone Him? We are stoning you not for any of these marvelous deeds but for the claims you made. In His response, Jesus referred them to Psalm 82: 6 where the Israelite religious leaders and judges are called gods (Exodus 4: 16). If God called the Israelite religious leaders gods because they were agents of God’s revelation, how could it be blasphemy for Jesus to call Himself the Son of God? Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders because He is the Son of God in a unique, unparalleled relationship of oneness with God the Father.

Dear Friends, as we face God this day, let us with our whole heart accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Let us establish a relationship with Him through prayer and surrender our lives completely to His Lordship. Sometimes we tend to seek Him only in miraculous and extraordinary events in our lives while forgetting His ever-abiding presence in the sacraments, in the Sacred Scriptures and in everyone around us. In arguing about the divine nature of Jesus Christ, the Jewish religious authorities exhibited their prejudice and hatred for their Lord and Savior. They exposed their lack of faith and love for God; they exposed their prejudice in their vague interpretation of Sacred Scriptures and their lack of understanding of the teachings of Moses and the prophets. In their pride and pretenses, they sought after vain glory. As we reflect on the gospel passage of today, we need to re-examine ourselves in the light of our interpretation and understanding of who Jesus truly is for us. Let us with open hearts and arms welcome Him into our hearts, lives and homes today as our unseen guest whose presence radiates joy, peace, love and healing. Let the light of His presence reflect in us in such a way that it brings light to the darkness in others. 

Trust Him today, listen to His voice today and obey His commands and He will certainly deliver us from every affliction especially the one that is devastating our world today.

God loves you and so do I

 

Daily Reflection: April 4, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

Dear Lord, during this lock-down, please watch over all your children wherever they are especially those reading this reflection. Protect them, their family members and loved ones under the shadow of your wings and may your peace dwell in their hearts and homes today and always. You are the Alpha and Omega and with you ALL things are possible. We humbly implore you to speak your words of healing and calm this raging storm and restore us again to fullness of life. AMEN 

JOKE: An atheist started complaining to his Catholic friend: “Christians have their special holidays like Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, etc. Jews have their religious holidays like Yom Kipper and Passover, and the Muslims celebrate Ramadan. In fact, almost every religion has its own holidays, but we atheists don’t have any holidays. That’s unfair! It’s discrimination! “The Catholic asked his friend, “Why do you say that atheists have no holidays? We’ve been observing a special day in your honor for years!” “What are you talking about?”” the atheist asked. “When do we have a special day that honors atheists?” “Every April 1st,” his friend replied.

In today’s gospel reading we hear how the High Priest and his council members, the elders, the scribes, and the Pharisees etc. reacted to the good news of the last miracle of Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel before His passion and death—the raising of Lazarus from the dead. They were filled with hate, anger, fury, animosity, confusion and jealousy because Jesus raised a dead man from the dead after four days in the tomb. They were angry to the point of even trying to arrest and kill Lazarus as well. The good news of the miraculous healing was received with mixed feelings. While many were happy that the hand of God was at work, others were bickering, murmuring and filled with anger at Jesus and His healing ministry. The Jewish leaders convened an urgent meeting where they debated how best to do away with Jesus—how to silence Him forever. At that meeting Caiaphas the High Priest spoke on behalf of the entire Council and Jewish nation: “It is expedient for you that one Man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” John regarded this statement of Caiaphas as a prophecy. As high priest Caiaphas was used by God to explain the death of Jesus even though Caiaphas did not realize what he was saying—better for one man to die than the whole nation to perish. However, Jesus did not die just for the sake of one nation—the Jewish people, He died for the sake of the Jewish nation and for all the nations of the world. His suffering and death brought salvation to all. The Jewish leaders knew that if they did not stop Jesus, the Romans would discipline them. The Roman Government gave partial freedom to the Jews as long as they were quiet and obedient. The miracles of Jesus often created uproar and disturbance among the people.  Hence all the plots and counter plots to execute Him. The religious leaders knew that Rome’s displeasure would bring additional punishment and untold hardship on their nation if they did not stop or silence Jesus. Thus, the execution of Jesus brought to completion the divine plans for the redemption of human race. During Lent, we reflect and commemorate the events that led to the death of Jesus Christ and we should not forget the teaching of the Church since Vatican Council II: “We may not hold all Jews responsible for the death of Jesus, neither those of Jesus’ day nor of ours.” And Mary Boys clarifies this statement thus:“The Church reads the passion of Jesus Christ so as to remember the extent of His love…not for assigning blame for His death.”   

Dear Friends, as we face God this day and as we look forward with joy to the coming feast of Easter, let us continue to examine our consciences and beg for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Let us not be like the Jewish leaders who out of pride and jealousy decided to end the life of Jesus by any available means hook or crook. Beware of pride in your life. If you allow it to grow and blossom in your life, it can lead to so many other sins. In their pride and arrogance, the Jewish leaders were so hardened in heart that they preferred to reject God’s Son rather than admit that they were wrong. “Pride goes before a fall.” Remember too that in life, no one has ever pleased the world. Do good things, people will complain; do bad things, people will complain; even do nothing at all, people will still complain. The teaching of Mother Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind here: “What you spend years building; someone could destroy overnight—build something anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow—do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough—give the world the best you have anyway. You see, in the end, it is between you and your God. It was never between you and them.” 

Trust Him today, listen to His voice today and obey His commands and He will certainly deliver us from every affliction especially the one that is devastating our world today.

God loves you and so do I.

 

Daily Reflection: April 5, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

JOKE: Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and so stayed home from Church with his mother. His father returned from Church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked why. His father explained, “You see when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so, we got palm branches today.” Aw, shucks grumbled Little Johnny. “The only Sunday I couldn’t go to Church and Jesus shows up!”  

Today the Church celebrates the Palm or Passion Sunday, a feast day which commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the city of God. This event will culminate in His arrest and trial and subsequent crucifixion and death. Today marks the beginning of the Holy Week. During the Holy Week, we remember and relieve the events surrounding the mystery of our salvation. As we do this, we experience a little bit of the pain and suffering that Jesus Christ bore for us as He paid the ultimate price to bring about our salvation. We should be very thankful and grateful to Jesus for showing us God’s love and for taking our sins upon Himself. One important way to thank Him sincerely for His benevolence and love is to participate actively in all the activities surrounding the Holy Week especially the three days of the Easter Triduum. During this lock down, you can still follow these liturgical activities from home by watching them on EWTN Television and several other channels and life streaming from some of our parishes. 

Today’s first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah from chapters 40 to 55, there are four short passages which Bible scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s first reading is the third Servant Song. The four Servant Songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. The second reading from the letter of St Paul to the Philippians presented Jesus Christ as the Humble Servant. A Humble Servant willing to give up His rights in order to obey God and be at the service of God’s people. In the second part of today’s gospel from the gospel of Matthew, we are presented with the events surrounding the passion and death of Jesus Christ. As we look at it closely, we are challenged to re-examine our individual lives in the light of some of the characters in the story. We look at Peter who three times swore and denied His Master three times. We look at Judas Iscariot the Treasurer of the apostles who out of greed for money sold His Master for only thirty pieces of silver. Pilate acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus even when he was aware that Jesus committed no crime and that it was out of jealousy that the Jews wanted to get rid of Him. Herod who hitherto mocked and ridiculed Jesus now used this golden opportunity to make peace with Pilate. We see the Jewish Religious leaders who were ready to die if Jesus was not condemned to death. They saw in the death of Jesus a mission accomplished but the consequence of this accomplished mission three days after hunted them forever.   

Dear Friends, as we face God this day, may we continue to appreciate the marvelous work that Jesus did to bring about our salvation. He humbled Himself even to the point of taking on our human nature to redeem us. Like Christ, we should have a servant’s attitude. We should serve out of love for God and for others and not out of guilt and fear. Remember that you can always choose your own attitude towards life. You can approach life expecting to be served or you can look for opportunities to serve others. At every Mass, we receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. At that moment, we become Christ bearers because we bear Him in our hearts. We also become Christ conveyers because we are to convey Him to others at home, place of work, shopping plazas and wherever we find ourselves during our daily activities. As we carry Jesus Christ into the world, we should expect to receive the same type of welcome that He received on Palm Sunday. Some people will offer us friendly reception while others may be hostile. We must remain humble in the face of every opposition knowing that like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. 

Hope you have a spirit-filled, nourishing and magnificent Holy Week celebration and may the Risen Lord continue to shine through you radiating peace, love and mercy towards all.  

God loves you and so do I

 

Daily Reflection: April 6, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ:

JOKE: A Jewish father was concerned about his son who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah but was sorely lacking in his knowledge of the Jewish faith.
To remedy this he sent his son to Israel to experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers," the son said. "It was wonderful and enlightening, however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity."
"Oy vey," replied the father, "what have I done?"
So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace. "It is amazing that you should come to me," stated his friend, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian."
So in the traditions of the patriarchs they went to the Rabbi. "It is amazing that you should come to me," stated the Rabbi, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons? Brothers, we must take this to God," said the Rabbi. They fell on their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.
As they prayed the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated, "Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel and guess what..."

In today’s gospel passage, we read how a woman named Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly perfumed oil—Pure nard. Pure nard was a fragrant ointment imported from the mountains of India. Thus, it was a very expensive ointment and Mary must have spent a fortune to procure it. Mary had a sister called Martha and a brother called Lazarus who Jesus had earlier raised from the dead—they were friends of Jesus. Jesus often visited their home whenever He was on that route with His apostles and they have always entertained Him and His companions. In today’s gospel, we see two contrasting images of servant-hood. Both Mary and Judas were disciples of Jesus; they both belong to the inner circle of Jesus and both have at one time or the other sat at the feet of Jesus. Both have great faith and admiration in the Master and what the Master can do. But at a closer look and analysis, you wonder what must have moved one of them to splendid generosity and love and the other to betrayal and dishonesty. Unfortunately, the story does not allow us to see into the depths of their hearts and perhaps see things for ourselves, but it does invite us to search our own hearts thoroughly. Judas made good use of a pious phrase to hide his ulterior motives. "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?" However, Jesus already knew what was in his heart. Jesus knew that Judas often dipped into the disciples’ money bag for his own selfish use. He knew all about this but never did or said anything. Similarly, when we choose the way of sin, God may not immediately do anything to stop us, but this does not mean He approves of our actions. Sin leads to more sin, a downward spiral that can only be stopped by repentance and conversion of heart. And this we can only accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit. The life of Judas had become deceitful and full of lies and unfortunately the devil was using him. Satan is the father of lies and deceit and a lying character simply opens the door to his influence. The fact that Jesus knows us through and through should prompt us to always keep our actions consistent with our words. And because we have nothing to fear while with Him, we should have absolutely nothing to hide from Him.

 Dear Friends, as we face God this day, may we take a closer look into our lives and give thanks to Jesus for the wonderful opportunity of knowing that He is always at our side. The Lord is always by our side and has expressed His love for us when He paid the ultimate price for our salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3: 16). This week is called Holy Week. A week when we reenact the events which culminated in our salvation. The Church invites us to pray especially for an end to the deadly disease/virus that is ravaging and devastating our world today and for repentance. That mankind may turn away from sin and evil deeds and return to their merciful God who wishes not the death of a sinner but that a sinner should repent and change his/her ways (Ezekiel 18: 26-32; Ezekiel 33: 11). Mary showed how much she loved Jesus when she generously poured a very costly ointment on the feet of Jesus. And as Jesus remarked, it was to prepare His body for His death. Mary’s love for the Lord urged her to give her best and nothing but her best for the Lord. She not only poured the costly ointment on His feet; she also used her hair to wipe the dusty feet of an itinerant preacher. Does your love for God spur you to do things for Him without counting the cost? How about the poor? Do you ever think of ways you can be of service to God through assisting and serving the poor, the needy, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned?        

Wishing you and your loved ones a spirit-filled and grace-filled holy week. 

God loves you and so do I.

 

 

Daily Reflection: April 7, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ: 

JOKE: An old priest lay dying in the rectory.  He sent a message to a banker and lawyer in the parish, asking them to come to his home. When they arrived at the rectory, the housekeeper ushered them up to the priest’s bedroom. When they entered his bedroom, the priest held out his hands and motioned for them to come and sit down beside him, one on each side of the bed.  He grasped their hands, looked at them, smiled contentedly and then just lay there staring at the ceiling.  No one said anything for a long time. The banker and the lawyer were flattered that their pastor thought so much of them, that he asked them to be with him during the last moments of his life.  However, they were puzzled.  He had never given them any indication that he was particularly fond of either one of them.  They remembered far too well, many of his uncomfortable homilies about greed and materialism that made them squirm in their seats. The banker finally came out and asked him, “Father, why did you ask us to come to see you?” The old priest really had to struggle to speak, but finally managed to tell them, “Jesus died between two thieves, and that’s how I want to go too.”

In today’s gospel passage, we read about the events that happened while Jesus was at table with His apostles for His Last Supper in commemoration of the Jewish Passover feast. It was a very critical moment in the life and mission of Jesus. He knew from the onset who Judas was, yet He chose him as an apostle. And not only did He choose him as an apostle, He appointed him to an important position in the apostolic college—the Treasurer. Jesus knew for certain that Judas was a thief who used to help himself by stealing from the common fund for his personal expenses, yet He left him in charge of their finances. And so, at the Last Supper, Jesus was greatly troubled at the treachery of Judas who coolly and gently took the morsel of food from the hand of the Lord and then disappeared into the night to perfect his plans and to carry it out. Jesus continued to instruct them when Judas left but they didn’t seem to comprehend as their minds were all set on the news of the coming kingdom where they will assume very important positions of honor. It did seem that He pressed the panic button when He told them that He was going and that where He was going, they cannot come now until later.

Here we ponder and reflect on the role of Satan in this whole saga. But unfortunately, the role that Satan played in the betrayal of Jesus does not in any way remove the responsibility from Judas. Probably he was disillusioned with Jesus who was busy talking about dying instead of putting up plans to set up the long-anticipated kingdom. Judas may have done what he did in his effort to twist the hand of Jesus and force Him to make use of His powers to prove that He is the Promised Messiah. Jesus seemed to be too slow in His approach. On the other hand, Judas may have lost patience with Jesus’ approach that he no longer considered Him as the Messiah—the chosen One. Satan used this opportunity to do the unthinkable. Satan assumed that the death of Jesus will bring an end to His mission and completely thwart the plans of God. But the death of Jesus brought salvation and redemption to all created order. 

Dear Friends, as we face God this day, may we remember that no matter how far we run from Him, He knows our plans. No matter how far away we drift from Him, He is aware of whatever is going on in our lives. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew everything about Judas and even about Peter, but He did not change the situation and He did not stop loving them. In the same way Jesus knows all we do to hurt Him, yet He still loves us unconditionally and will always forgive us whenever we ask Him to. It was because Judas did not understand this aspect of Jesus’ life that he ended his life in a tragic manner. In like manner when we don’t understand the loving, caring, healing and forgiving aspect of the life of Jesus, we wallow in sin and we eventually become lost. On the contrary Peter understood how merciful, caring and loving Jesus is and was forgiven. Thus, his life ended triumphantly because he never let go of his faith in the One who loved him. May we too never let go of the only One who loves, cares, heals and forgives us—Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word of God. 

Prayers and prayer for you, your family members and all loved ones during this Holy Week bearing in mind the critical situation we all are in. 

God's loves you and so I.