Tuesday, December 20, 2011

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

“There is no limit to the power of a good woman”. R.H. Benson

2 Sam 7:1-5-8:11:16. David wants to build a house for God. But instead God promises to build an everlasting dynasty for him.

Rom 16:25-27. God’s plan of salvation for Jews and gentiles has to fulfillment in Christ

Luke 1:26-38. God’s promise to David was fulfilled in Jesus.

· When the birth of a child nears, the whole attention is given to the mother.
· The focus is on Mary, the will of the Father to be done and will have to help us.
· Today many people- feel happy to do things that they think or matter
- No commitments
- No answer to the questions asked
- No one whose needs tie you down
Mary did say – sorry, but I have my own plans- I want to do my own things.
- It is not what I want, but what God wants is what matters
- Life imposes a lot of duties on us
- We may never see the fullness and meaning of what we do. (Boy with old woman) completely hidden from us.
GOSPEL
v To say yes, you may never know what you are committing yourself to.
v Mary did not know that every door could be closed in front of her- she would be a refugee in the foreign land- 33 years later that her son would be executed like a criminal- she never said yes once but a continuous yes in her life.
v We say yes to our responsibilities/commitments – a leap in the dark- we do not know the implications of what we are undertaking.
v Mary asked a question- how can this happen? Faith is not blind. Beyond reason but not against it- let God be God.
v Bow to the mystery
Christmas Tree- nice, beautiful, child not crying, no dirt (1st pp)- not real, not true, its false, wrong picture, 2nd pp changes, colored Jesus, dirt, background slums, shanties etc.

First Xmas was full of uncertainty, hurry, disappointment and fear, no picnic for Joseph and Mary
- Long journey, arrived at Bethlehem poor, unknown, without influence of any kind, they couldn’t get accommodation- at birth, no Dr. or Nurse to stand by
- It’s easy to move away from poverty of original crib.

Resp
Come Lord Jesus
Come into our hearts R
Come into our homes R
Come to those who are lonely R
Come to those who are fearful R
Come to those who are sick R
Come to those who are poor R
Come to those who are grieving R
Come to those who have faith R
Come to those who have no hope R
Come to those who have no love R
Come to those who are victims of violence R
Come to those with the grip of addiction R
Come to us in our needs of Christmas R


“He who takes the child by the hand takes mother by heart”- Danish proverb

Saturday, December 17, 2011

PERSONAL LETTER TO MR. KWAMCHETSI

OPEN LETTER TO MR. KWACHETSI MAKOKHA
17th /12/2011
Dear Mr. Kwamchetsi,

Greetings and warm regards for the season. I am an ardent reader of your articles but this one entitled “Open letter to New ICC Chief Prosecutor” Ms fatou Bensouda left me with some disturbing questions and I said I should write a few lines to you as a sign of food for thought.
I am a student at the Catholic University doing my mastery in Pastoral Theology and also a pastoral agent in qualitative Evangelization in AMECEA region.
Your letter to the ICC Prosecutor sounded to me as personal, of course a letter has a personal idea, tone and it is sometimes rouses different emotions, thoughts, desires depending on who is writing and to whom it is written to. You expressed your your free hand of writing or can we say tying the thoughts which you shared with us in this Saturday's Daily Nation dated 17/12/2011.
Some points I would like we reflect together and I do believe in the whole big picture of reality. Sometimes you will never know where you are until someone asks you a question or shares about the issues raised.

1. Personal description can be done but to some extent.When it remains on physical level then it is not integral. Your description of Ms Fatou Bensouda could go beyond physical to intellectual, spiritual, and other qualities which to me I felt you didn’t mention. Let me think may be it was due to your angle of thought and emphasis, or depending on where your stand is in the matter.
2. You are a learned and schooled personality of this country but if I find myself thinking that you ascribe to a certain school of thought of “I am an African and I need to be treated as an African” that can make me uneasy to some extent. Ms .Fatou I do believe she is entitled to her views which you and I are called upon to respect and engage her in reverential dialogue.
3. Men and in this case I mean African men have ruled and mismanaged African continent and I know you know them who have poorly mismanaged African resources, intellegentia, and the whole concept of Africa as a Family set up. Ms. Fatou should not be asked to perform miracles which you yourself find hard to tackle. The poor woman has not even entered into office as prosecutor but we are piling up many demands. I think we need to give her time.
4. We find ourselves looking outside of this country and seeing and thinking why can’t she do this and that about others (Asia, America, Europe) while we ourselves are burning with deep hatred of each other in this country, people still in IDP Camps, Corruption left, right and centre. Before Ms. Fatou sorts us let us put our house in order. Our mother Wangari Maathaai insisted on thinking internally and acting locally but that should not mean that we cannot be helped when in difficulties or faced with enormous challenges. “Mgeni aje mwenyeji apone”. We have compromised our prophetic voices; we have lost the trend of thought that even we do not know who is who? Everyone is talking and no one is listening to the other. Surely what will Obama’s investigation benefit Kenyans in IDP camp, our corruption, negative ethnicity. Just food for thought.
5. You say that Africans solved their challenges by sitting under trees but the question is; where are the trees to sit under?, land grabbing, deforestation, watelands encroached, the ecology interfered with. B) Breaking cola nut, I think what is important is breaking the Kenyans hearts which have turned out to be harder than the cola nut. C) Drink beer- with the kumikumi killing people, rendering men impotent and wasted, family break up due to the love of the bottle. Drinking should not be glorified today as African virtue/value, it has no value today dear Mr. kwamchetsi.
6. You mentioned about compensation of the lost life. Who has compensated the lives lost in 1992, 1997, 2007 in this country. Its up to us to ask ourselves deeply from the bottom of our hearts and souls what happened? We all wanted ICC to help us what has changed that we are turning against the Dr. who gave us the medication. It is not Ms. Fatou’s business but if we can’t reflect she will help us meditate according to the ICC smart qualitative objectives of Rome Statute.
These are some of the disturbing thoughts which I wanted to share with you and I do hope we can think towards making Kenya to be truly Kenyan and truly INCHI YETU. We can’t afford to think one think, write this and act differently from our beingness. We are opinion leaders of this country and we need to address our issues than looking out of what is not happening out there. We have very burning issues which me and you can sit down and say, what we can do and whom can we approach to help us? than feel pride in ourselves is too much ignorance. Our people are dying for lack of knowledge and we just can’t afford to waste time being too rhetoric.

Yours faithfully

Padre Joseph M. Nyamunga- CUEA

ID. No. MA/PT -1019830

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – B

Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; Psalm: Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

“Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the mind” – Alice Meynell

THEME OF THE READINGS

Rejoice because the Lord is near: the theme permeates the entire liturgy of this Sunday. It is not a question of a superficial happiness or a passing excitement “because Christmas is coming”, but of the joy of salvation (Opening Prayer). Salvation that is glad tidings for “all the people” (Luke 2:16) but especially for the poor and lowly (First Reading and Psalm). The mission of the servants of the Saviour is to prepare the way (Second Readingand Gospel).
DOCTRINAL MESSAGE-
Christian joy. A part of our tired post-Christian society (which includes, or at least deeply affects, many of us who still think of ourselves as Christians) desperately looks for happiness in all the wrong places. It tends to confuse happiness with fame, fun and pleasure; but these do not generate joy, which is a signpost of true happiness. “Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. For joy comes from another source. It is spiritual.” (Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino). Others seem to believe that if only we could get the right kind of political system, or the right people implementing the proper policies, or more advances of medical science, then all would be well. This is salvation, according to the world.
Christian identity. The poor or lowly to whom the good news is announced have a particular readiness for salvation, not because they have nothing in the bank or have no vote, but because they trust in no human power for salvation –as those who have money or power are more readily tempted to do, (Mark 10:25) – but only in God. Their lack of human means opens them to a true appreciation of their essential powerlessness in the eyes of God. That is why they are prime candidates for the glad tidings of the gospel. Mary of Nazareth “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord” (CCC 489). She thinks of herself as simply his maidservant, while simultaneously recognizing the wonderful things he has worked in her. This God-given self-awareness fills her with joy (Luke 1:38.47-49). John the Baptist too has a clear idea of his identity, rooted in the word of God. He is not any of the things the world thinks of him, however flattering. He knows who he is (a voice in the desert) and what God has sent him to do (prepare the way). He knows he does not exist for himself, but for another, whom he is happy to acknowledge as infinitely superior.
Christian salvation. As noted above, in our society people seek happiness rather than salvation. It is true, according to today’s liturgy, that joy, salvation and a more just and human world are somehow interconnected. We learned in math class that the order of the factors does not alter the product. But the Christian mystery does not obey the laws of mathematics: it is essential to get the order of the factors right. It is not the pursuit of human happiness and fulfillment, or of social justice, that brings salvation; rather, the salvation that comes from on high, “wrapping us in a mantle of justice”, enables us to be instrumental in bringing about a more just world and to find the joy that no one can take away (John 16:22). Catechesis. Our new life in Christ (CCC 1691-96), and our creation in the image and likeness of God (CCC 1701-09) are key ingredients of our true identity. The surpassing joy called beatitude is our vocation (CCC 1716-24).
PASTORAL APPLICATIONS
Christian mission. We know the formula that the world ignores. Salvation is Jesus Christ. People have given up on Christianity, because they do not know Christ. He is “the One among us whom we do not recognize” (Gospel) and who holds the secret of true joy. The task of the apostle of the new evangelization – and every Christian is an apostle by baptism – is to smooth the way for a rediscovery of Christ. First of all, by making this discovery himself, every day, for only then can he or she share it with others with the conviction of personal experience.
Among the privileged places where he is waiting to meet us, we should think especially of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is precisely a celebration, a time of joy. His face also looks out at us in the person of the poor, and of those long suffering physical or moral imprisonment – even prisons of their own making. If we bring them joy this Christmas, we ourselves will find it.
Who am I? To discover Christ it will also help to discover oneself. Only when we situate ourselves in the truth can we really see and appreciate in the right perspective who Jesus is. The gospel is a marvelous instrument for this, because it is a living book, constantly actualized. When it is read in the Church, it is Christ himself who is speaking (cf. Vat.II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 7). Of course, he no longer directs his words or the words of the other actors in the gospels, to Peter, or John, or Martha, but to those who listen to those words now. Thus the question, “Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” (Gospel) is posed to me today. Am I able to answer it? Have I a clear sense of my identity, deeply rooted in the gospel? For example: that I am a creature, patently insufficient; but that I am also loved by my Creator, with a Father’s love that surpasses my wildest dreams; that I am a sinner, but a saved sinner; that I have been sent: I have a mission in life; that I exist, in his plan, for others, and most of all, for the Other, my brother, who is Christ. Such awareness is the foundation of the lasting joy of salvation.
“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” Swedish proverb

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT

Isaiah 63:16-19; 64:2-7,
Ps. 79,
I Cor 1:3-9,
Gospel Mark 13:33-37

“When you do not know what to do- wait” (Anon)

In the calendar of the church, this is how this Sunday is announced: ‘The first Sunday of preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ’
Advent means ‘coming of the Lord’. The four weeks of advent mean a time of preparation- it is a time of holy desire, longing and expectation.
Go to the shops in Nairobi or the city around you; take a glance over newspapers. In one way or the other they are preparing men and women in for Christmas.

Whatever their faith shall we believers do less than non-believers?

How is the Church preparing for her children?

i) She places us before the first coming of Christ. Here we can see and experience the spiritual desire and longing for certain noble souls. She also introduces us into the method by which God once prepared men for the redeemer. This is why; we have passages from the OT. The prophet Isaiah is remarkable at this time. He shows us the progressive revelation of God to man. The gradual and progressive revelation correspond an ever increasing longing for man [woman] for the Redeemer. This is expressed in the prayer typical to this period: “drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just; let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour”

ii) Advent is a time for repentance- it is time of spiritual renewal, a time of conversion. As John preached penance and conversion to the Jews, we too should heartily repent in the way we do things, being late for Mass, being petty or some things, and simply being there for your husband or wife, being there for your ecclesial community and being sincere to yourself and asking for assistance from a brother or sister. Think of political party members who work hard to get in more members. They insist on fidelity to the party ideals; this is why dissidents are expelled from it, etc.

iii) Advent is a moment to pause and recite the prayer of our Father “Thy kingdom come”. The kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. This should be our deep yearning in each of us in every year. Engage yourself in this season of Advent to read a spiritual book for two hours every day, meditating for 15Min, taking a walk through the gardens, plant a tree, visit the terminally ill in the hospital, don’t wait to be told. Be an example to your family by coming back early at home, talking less in the community, love football less, and of course for the lovers of Latin American soap opera simply be yourself and be loveable anyway.

If you place a frog in a pot of hot water, it will jump right out. But if you put in a pot of cold water that is slowly brought to the boil, the frog will just sit there. Its nervous system is so primitive, it needs a sudden jolt to realise that it is in danger.

It is a moment to wake up, dust ourselves from the past unbecoming habits and allow Jesus enter into our lives once more

“It’s good to hope, it’s the waiting that spoils it”. (Yiddish proverb)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CHRIST THE KING

Ezekiel 34:11-12. 15-17;
1 Corinthians 15:20-26. 28;
Matthew 25:31-46

DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE A KING/QUEEN?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. CHRIST THE KING It takes a little while to let the full meaning of these words sink in – Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King – King of the Universe!

But what a shock the very first words of our celebration! - Words which the Church places on our lips in the Entrance Antiphon: The Lamb who was slain... We may not know much what it means when we talk of a king. We have been too addicted with corrupt leaders, dictators that even mention of the word king sends chilling signals.

So, to call Jesus a King, even a Universal King, is not really a great difficulty for us. It just means that instead of ruling the constituency, he rules the whole government. No problem! And what’s more, the gospel we have just read cooperates obligingly in reinforcing this traditional idea.

Centre stage, just as one would expect, there is ‘the throne of glory’ to which the Son of Man will come ‘in his glory’, escorted, unsurprisingly, by ‘all the angels’. He will take his throne and ‘all the nations’, every single human being ever born, will be assembled before him to be judged. Everything as it should be!

[The language of the Jerusalem Bible translation is wonderfully subtle. The nations will not just assemble, they will be assembled. We get a little bit of that sense of reluctance many will experience in coming before the great King as well as the power of the irresistible decree which commands their presence.

And they will not just be assembled; they will be assembled before him. The sheep belong to the shepherd and now, at long last, they will assume that proper relationship to him which human freedom frequently chose to ignore. And it will be precisely that relationship to the King which will constitute the substance of his judgment.]

But here we are in for another shock, or rather, we are in for the first shock all over again. The King will not pronounce judgment against us because we have failed the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely and the naked; he will pronounce us guilty because we have failed him! Not ‘they were hungry’ but ‘I’ was hungry!

In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me– not to one of the least of these ‘subjects’ of mine but to the least of these ‘brothers’ of mine - not ‘you did it for me’ but ‘you did it to me’. It’s beginning to look as though we might need to radically rethink our understanding of Christ as Universal King.

It is, of course, the shepherd who calls the lambs and the goats to assemble before him. Jesus is king according to the Davidic model of shepherd-king. The beautiful image from the first reading sets this image firmly in our minds: As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. Jesus truly is a ‘true shepherd’ to his sheep.

When the wolf approaches what does the true shepherd do? He becomes a sheep! No, more! He becomes a lamb. He draws the wolf to attack him, rather than his sheep, and he becomes ‘the Lamb who was slain’.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, became one of us and died in our place. In so far as the wolf did this to me, the shepherd, he did it to you – and as I rose from the dead, so did you.

Perhaps now we are a little closer to glimpsing the astonishing identification the shepherd makes with his sheep. If Jesus allowed us to be torn to pieces by the wolf in his flesh and to rise to new life in his resurrection, is it any wonder that he now considers any act of love towards us as love shown to him? In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

Jesus Christ is not just Lord, or King, he is our Lord, our King; he leads us from within ourselves; he is truly among us. We have been transformed into him, without ceasing to be ourselves – that is why we must love one another ... because it is the way he has loved us.
Keep that kingship of your baptism and behave in your spiritual life like a king: Walk, Talk, Laugh like a king and queen in your spiritual life.
Have a kingly/queenly Sunday

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PASTORAL REFLECTION ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE SICK

This subject of Pastoral care for the Sick was able to raise some questions and awareness zeroing in to my people called the Samia of Eastern Uganda and who also extend to Kenya near the Border of Busia (Butula, Port Victoria, Marachi) who are the sub-tribe of the big tribe called the Lughias.
It is apparent that as we enter into high technological world of IT, interest in this topic has grown considerably. Search of religion-based literature more so in this topic of sickness and healing among the Samia of Eastern Uganda and books related to this topic. A cursory review of the available abstracts shows, as one might expect, the articles in the medical literature show a preponderance of scientific studies that are usually single or double blinded, looking at a specific disease entity, such as malaria, Cholera, Ebola, meningitis etc. The religion-based literature has fewer scientific studies and more individual case studies with theological discussions. This paper may be able to arise in us that interest and venture into research and publication of African Traditional Healing and its effect.
People all over the world instinctively ascribe various causes to sickness and ill health. This is in order to give reason and meaning to sicknesses and to find a care for them. The main response to the one sick therefore is to restore and maintain the health of the person both in body and spirit.
Sickness and ill health in Africa
In many African communities, when someone falls sick, the question of who might have caused it is at the back of people’s minds. Usually people attribute sickness and ill health to various social and cultural causes such as the evil eye, breaking taboos, or as a result of a curse from a senior member of the community. This may be due to an effort of the spirits to communicate a message to the living, such as installing a person as a driver, or to seek attention from the living by causing illness in a member of the community. This calls for the performance of rituals which may include sacrifices in order to appease the spirits, while at the same time restoring the health of the affected person.
Serious difficulties and sickness may also trigger in person’s minds that there is some immorality, whether personal or communal, that is the root cause. This leads one to go to divination to find the causes, treatment and prevention. The diviners are like phone operators that can contact various sources whether ancestral, medical, or social to find out where the evil is coming from then prescribe the rituals to remedy it. The herbalist, on the other hand, usually is consulted for curative medicine. The major difference between the diviners and the herbalists are that the former mediates the involvement of the spiritual world in the problems at hand, while the herbalist focuses on herbal remedies. Often the diviner and the herbalist are combined in one and the same person.

Sickness and ill health elsewhere

In Western countries, sickness and ill health is attributed to biological, physiological, and psychological elements. When a person falls physically sick, the belief is that the cause is either bacterial, viral, or a chemical imbalance in the body. Other times an ailment is attributed to body fatigue or depression. When sick, patients will seek diagnosis and prescriptions from Western trained medical practitioners, who prescribe chemical medicines and/or psychotherapy.
Today in Western countries, many people seek alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal concoctions, and homeopathic treatment. Many people feel differently when asked of the cause of the problem, what is the feeling the community about the same, is there any remedy/ies that are applied? And what if the problem continues? Are the services of a diviner ever contemplated?
Causes of illness among my people the Samia attribute it to many incidences around them for those in the village and in the rural face different things in their life but their world view is quite separate, either due to educational re-awakening or simply lack of knowledge: witchcraft, germs, viruses, bacteria, malevolent spirits, evil eye, angry ancestors, natural causes, bad weather, infection, poor hygiene, food and water contamination, food poisoning, fungi, microorganisms, a curse, evil people breaking the community’s moral code, felony/wrong doing. Physical causes: negligence of rituals or duties expected of a person by the ancestors, repercussions for bad behaviour, fate, excess acidity, harmful insects, and forces of nature. Psychological problems: stress, uncleanliness: emotional problems: evil tongue, exposure to contagious diseases, someone with a bad intention, strenuous work, as a result of an accident, lack of nutritious food, fatigue, the causes of the problems lies in the biological functions of the body, alteration in the body chemistry, bad omens. This is a mixture of both worlds (traditional/modern). In this paper I have combined both.

Remedy for Illness

My people have resorted to use of herbal medicine, some go to go to hospital, but this is a small percentage especially in the village, the majority consult a diviner, others consult a medical doctor, self medication, consult a herbalist, using Western medicine, resort to pray to God (church on Sunday, Mass Intentions etc), gods (on lake Victoria – Lubale – the god the island, mountains, rocks or specific tress) where sacrifices are offered in case the sickness is suspected to be arising from the spirit world, they get into contact with a specialist to diagnose the problem, there is always an element of consulting a healer, elders are to be consulted if the sickness is as a result of neglecting ritual duties, a ritual is performed, intervention of a church leader filled with the Holy Spirit, taking a prescribed medication, common among the charismatic (town parishes) but ‘hulekuha’ in villages and always done by the elders.
Community’s Interpretation of Sickness
Among the Samia’s there is usually a feeling that someone caused the illness, long and incurable sickness is considered to be the work of a witch, as a result of a curse from a senior member of the community, it also creates a sense that the ancestors are annoyed, it is a punishment for one’s evil deeds, if a disease cannot be treated in hospital then it is declared to be as a result of witchcraft, a repercussion of something the person did, the person or people as a result of wrong doing or as a punishment, due to failure to observe certain rituals and duties in the community, my people strongly believe in this ‘philosophy’, it is a sign that God or ancestors are displeased, as a result of going against the laid down community procedures such as breaking a taboo, the community’s family, as a result of the person having committed a grave sin, the community explanation of the disease depends on a person’s life history and that of his/her family, as result of an evil eye cast by the victim’s enemy, caused by enemies of the sick person, the community thinks that sickness caused by being poisoned by one’s enemy. One is taken to the diviner and one sees all these pieces of bottles, nails being vomited out by the patient then one has not option and has to put reasoning aside to see the African magic at work.

What is done if Illness Persists

My people strongly believe that once the herbal fail to work that is ‘gone case’ who comes in picture? The diviner to find out the cause and possibly a remedy, consult a doctor, prayers are offered to God for healing, those who are Christians, but what comes first is to seek the services of the a herbalist, family members come together to seek help from their ancestors to intervene for them, a major sacrifice ceremony is likely will be held after consulting a diviner, (goat sacrifice, blood libations etc) efforts are made to redress any wrongs, seek God’s mercy, seek more advice from experts, go to the wise people, seek further medical advice, leave matters in God’s hands, higher diviners may be consulted. This calls for deep individual and community self examination, once the eyes focus on an individual as a cause, the consequences are dare and may lead to the violation of human rights, because one has to be sacrificed and usually the innocent are caught in the cross fire.

One’s Perception when Sick

There is always this feeling of sadness and fear that death as being on the way, feel awful and that balance of life has been disturbed, the sick person feels he may have offended someone or something, may have neglected social responsibilities, is a punishment from God, wonder whether one may have wronged someone, there is something wrong with the body system due to a reason that can be proven medically, feel that God has gone far from you, feel that you are under attack from the devil, there is a feeling that life has been interrupted, there is a sense of not being at peace with God, spirits or ancestors.
The idea of bewitchment crosses one’s mind, as a result of a mistake or sin committed, one usually wonders what has caused the disease and why God can’t bring a solution, to first seek the cause of the illness, when sick one takes it as normal unless the doctor is not able to treat it, if the sickness persists despite medication one feels that perhaps there may be another cause.
Among my people think and feel that some bad element is after their life, There is always that feeling of sadness and lowness and the body becoming weak, there that other feeling and thinking that it is normal for human beings to be sick although at times one may ask himself/herself what she/he did to deserve it, there is a feeling that God is not fair to the person, sometimes one feels angry with God if the pain is very severe, there is a feeling of sadness and thoughts that one may not get better, One tries to relate the problem with the present occurrence such as a change in weather, where one is and the nature of work one has been involved in, there is a feeling that certain disease is the cause of being unwell, one feels that sickness as a result of something she/he did not do right.
Christians in Africa encounter the reality of witchcraft in various ways. The interaction between Christianity and witchcraft has been the subject of much pastoral and scholarly discourse…The complex nature of the centripetal relationship has given rise to diverse interpretations of witchcraft which is as old as humanity. This phenomenon is one of the ways through which man or woman attempts to answer some mysterious or difficult questions in life .
However, both medical and religious articles seem to agree this topic is one that currently stimulates both interest and controversy. Several investigators on the medical side are beginning to feel that carefully crafted scientific double-blinded studies will not give us a definitive answer about whether or not prayer works predictably to effect physical healing, but a positive correlation exists. Since prayer is a communication with God, the assumption is God will respond to effect healing or somehow aid the healing process. In this area, the theologians seem to give us better answers than the scientists.
Before we begin to understand what sickness and healing is, the starting point is always to look at the big picture and this may call for thinking bi and out of the box. A human person is seen as a person, who is an adult, initiated into a particular society and what is required of him or her is actualized and witnessed. This could be in a form of killing a lion, marrying and having many wives (polygamous) to prove his leadership qualities, the many wars one has fought. This is a proof to the society that one is man enough to resist these challenges and still be counted upon for advice, expertise, hence being the elder of the elder. (Omusahulu wabasalu).
This can be brought out very clearly in the book “Things Fall apart” by Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe when he writes about the young man called Okwonko who had washed his hands and he was worth to dine with the elders, hence he can partake in the breaking of the cola nut. Why? Because he had worked very hard to overcome the bad impression Okwonko had portrayed in the Umofia village as being a lazy man. Knowing that after a wonderful work here on earth, he would be able to join the ancestors hence making a big clan of the ancestors of the tribe. That is why sacrifices, naming, sacredness is so fully lived to the extent that John Mbithi could say “Africans are notoriously religious.”(African Traditional Religion and Philosophy) This is what makes African cultures wholistic, mysterious to the outsiders and a centre of sacredness, that everything done, there are always rituals, be it in marriage, funerals, birth etc. One is born in it and one finds himself doing it because it is the tradition and customs, it binds one and one has to simply follow without questioning.
In this paper we want to fully dig deeper into this reality of sickness and healing. What usually happens when people are stricken with illness and sickness? How do they heal? Who heals them, what do they use is it herbs or witchcraft? What rituals accompany this healing process? Since we have very many African cultures, this paper will be centered on the Bantu speaking tribe called the Samia people of Busia District- Eastern Uganda.
My people looked at sickness as an expression in the world of the underworld, associated with human power. Someone, somewhere does things that tap the power of the resting ancestors (underground technology) for healing (white magic)or for disaster (black magic). On the horizontal humans (“omundu hu mundu”- person to person/ omulahusi- diviner) while on the vertical axis God (Nasaye/omwibula-‘producer of the producers’). The great healer and provider for the good health. The only thing is that humans cannot fully comprehend how and when he will act or respond and this to an extend creates fear, anxiety more so to those who are sick.
The Samia people whom we call ourselves Abasamia, we always associate sickness to someone, as the saying goes in most African cultures ‘nothing happens without a cause/reason.’ Even knocking your foot on the stone, we will delabour to find out the reason behind that, Maraa eeh! Your neighbour wants you dead or where you are passing is a bad neighbor. This is reasoning in my people, sometimes you just have to understand where we come from, because that is how our world view operates. May be if I was not to become a Catholic priest I would be thinking in the same way. This in its self calls for healing; healing of the self and not many people from such thinking and it will not be easy (Cf. The story of the Plato allegory of the Cave).
There may be temptation of interpreting other tribal cultural beliefs with western tool of research. This paper will use the pastoral theology methodology known as Pastoral Cycle: Insertion, Social analysis, Theological reflection and action plan. It will be based on qualitative research, oral interviews by the Samias who are in this campus both students and staff, emailing, phone calls.
This subject matter has been researched on by many other tribes but this is the first academic work among the Samia people of Busia- Eastern Uganda. We need to know and deeply find out a fully compressive understanding of sickness and healing among my people Abasamia.
Alyward shorter says
“African traditional religion lives on in the minds of the ordinary Africans, jostling with never Christian and Islamic ideas… long-held religious beliefs and values with a related understanding of human relationships, morality, and so on, continue to flourish in the minds of people in Africa.”
This kind of mentality has confronted us with western understanding of the issue at hand of sickness and healing, instead of us having a reverential dialogue we become to reactive and reactionary, and this has failed us to lay our priorities right. Instead of the interlockers, stakeholders meeting to discuss, this has held my people hostages hence my people doing what we feel right and best to their lives. After the debate and philosophy and theology discussion we can listen to them. This debates have left the Samia people in utter poverty of Christianity and not mentioning about the sacrament of anointing of the sick which to them is still in the intensive care unit. (ICU).
Many people, especially my people look at sickness and healing in quite an eye of suspicion and as a sign of ancestors not happy with the tribe or the individual who is sick and as such needs healing. This means that one to be sick will often call for isolation, seclusion, building up anxiety in the sick person, fears, trouble. My people will always ask ‘why did it happen particularly to him or her and this has some connotation of offending the ancestors.’ There is this mentality of associating sickness with a curse among the Samia, if it so happen to be, then a very strong exorcist will be hired for the job of unlocking the portion of death or disaster.
This happenings and unfolding surprisingly also occurred in other tribes and to the amazement of the whites (missionaries) who simply associate this kind as voodoo, witchcraft, ignorance and backwardness. The surprising thing is that if they categorize that in such a narrow minded perspective why are there many who believe in it to date? This is one element which crisscrosses in most cultures.
Sickness among the Samia was looked at from the physical. When one becomes thin during sickness, there is an association of the evil forces at work which are sacking the human blood, spiritually the good spirits has fled and no longer able to stay with evil in the same entity, hence leaving the body a home of the devil who tortures others through the possessed person. That is why sickness like madness was associated with the tool of the evil one to torture other members of the family, clan and tribes. One was not to approach a mad man, it was believed that the devil to recruit its members it went through a mad man. Once a mad man quarrels with you, abuses you or beats you who will be infected with that spirit which haunts you until you eventually become mad.
To heal the mad man had to be tied on the tree in the forest, then a cock is taken to the witch doctor (Omulakusi) who does the ‘African magic’ they leave the man in the cold that he eventually surrenders to the cold, shrinks and broken down and eventually given the herbs to drink to cool the brains, and from the observation the person returns to normalcy. Whatever goes on and the healing is beyond human mind. There are also some incidences where the person may be very far from the area of ‘operation’ but simply the doctor looking in the water in the basin and he is able see the person who has bewitched you or is after you soul and heart. This should be a very good research for pastoral theology with much emphasis on tradition enlightening science.
Healing of the whole in totality has its ultimate agent god and the world of ancestors and spirits, prayers of the libation and thanksgiving, something is done to repair the damage, whether reconciliation with the ancestors or the unlocking of the curse for better life and health. Human relationships are unavoidable part of the situation of sickness and they need to be treated, but they are also an indispensable component of the process of healing.
Every where people begin to search for an experience of God, for the personal awareness of his presence. In our understanding, ancestors are ‘departed’ parents of the family or clan who maintain a relationship and care of the living. They have special capacities because they no longer experience the limitations of human beings. Therefore they are able to meditate between the creator and the living. They are still parents and they are neither divinities nor God, they are never worshipped but venerated many of my people see a priest as the higher than all the ancestors, therefore they only consult.
The communion between the living and the ancestors never ends. It goes on forever. Ancestors are clothed with supernatural powers from the creator. They are capable of protecting the members of their family, clan and community wherever these members are. They have needs like their surviving descendants. It is the responsibility of the living to meet the ancestors’ need. Failure to do so can result in retribution, which could be in a form of sickness or misfortune, enforcing discipline in case of the breaking social values facilitating holistic healing.
When we speak of healing, we also speak of sickness because they are connected. Sickness does not only mean the pains in the body, the malfunctioning of cells in the body. The concept is usually more complex. It refers to an imbalance within the human being, the clan and also within the community, and that needs healing.
Therefore healing is restoring harmony and wholeness in humanity and its relationship: physical, psychological, social, moral, economic, political and spiritual. When disharmony occurs, it is experienced as illness in the community. The causes are multiple: they could be related to ancestral wrath, witchcraft and natural circumstances. In order to restore the disturbed harmony, the Samia consult the ancestors either directly or through the healer, in order to establish the true cause and healing rituals to be performed.
To experience the sacredness, the healer becomes an object that serves as medium of the sacred power. He brings back the spirits of the person who died far away from home. Sacred communion of meals, bring spiritual healing combined with herbs, roots, fruits, tree barks, leaves, vegetables, seeds.

New Testament Perspectives on Prayer and Healing

In the New Testament, it is Jesus Christ who manifests God’s power of divine healing and commissions his disciples with the authority to heal by prayer and to cast out demons. Jesus parabolically twice refers to himself as a physician. In Mark 2:17 when the Pharisees ask his disciples why he eats with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus replies “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.” In Luke 4:16-30 he responds to the doubters in the Nazareth synagogue, “Doubtless you will quote me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’Part of Jesus’ mission and a major part of his work as the messiah was restoring health and wholeness to his people:
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." (Matthew 12:2-6)
After Pentecost, the apostles and disciples continue to proclaim the gospel. Healings continue along with casting out demons. One of the most frequently quoted texts regarding prayers for healing is James 5:13-16:
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (emphasis mine).
Also, tightly woven with this topic of prayer for healing is the need for community confession and mutual forgiveness. For Jesus, forgiveness of sins and healing often went hand in hand, for he had the authority to do both. For example, in Mark 2:3-12, when the paralytic is let down through a hole in the roof, Jesus first pronounces to the crowd that his sins are forgiven. Then, in order to show the murmuring scribes that he has authority on earth to forgive sins, he heals the man!
James implies that sometimes sin is a cause of illness, as well as a hindrance to healing. Sin and sickness went hand in hand in the ancient mind. The confession of sin was then evidently necessary if healing was to occur. James [may be] requiring that confession becomes a repeated action. The practice of public confession was important to Judaism and the early church.
James promises that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects (5:16).” It does indeed. Sometimes its effect is to change our circumstances, and a sick person is dramatically healed (the Elijah model). Sometimes its effect in to change our characters and we persevere and trust the sovereignty of God (the Job model). Sometimes its effect is to change our priorities, and we rest in the assurance that “my flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:26, the psalmist model).
God wants us all to be in right relationship with Him. Sin and illness impair that relationship, for He would have us worship Him in wholeness and in health. When we are ill, we are to seek repentance, ask forgiveness for a restoration of health and right relationship with God. We are to ask others of our faith community to pray with and for us. Then, if the illness is serious, we are to seek the help of a physician, who will pray to the Lord that He will grant them success in diagnosis and treatment, for they are part of God’s plan for healing and God has given to them the knowledge and gifts of the healing arts. This art of writing this paper for class presentation is itself a Research which is the highest form of adoration.

Treatment outcomes when the physician or healer prays

As a priest I should start praying with the patients in the pastoral visitations and calls, taking their spiritual histories as part of their normal initial history and physical. Gradually, by word-of-mouth, the patients will let their friends know that a priest was here was a doctor. He did not offer to pray for or with his patients, however, until one forced it out into the open, stating "I came to you because you’re a Christian doctor. I would like you to pray with me”.

PASTORAL ACTION

Pastoral care of the sick and the suffering is not limited to anointing or giving them viaticum. It includes even the needs the sick have, the needs the family have plus other services. The work of caring for the sick is not only limited to the priests but all people of God. Jesus Christ is the doctor of life, a great healer, the doctor of doctors (cf Ezekiel 34:11-16). In the messianic activity, in the ministry of Israel Christ went around doing good Act 10:38. Jesus Christ was sensitive to all human suffering. Sickness brings a crisis for the sufferer and the relatives. As pastors we should know the types of sickness disturbing our people. It is with this that a pastor may try to fight against the advancement of sickness. We should make use of the community in helping in the ministry of caring for the sick. The sick would like to see that s/he is attended to in time, given assistance (material and spiritual), talked to our voices to the sick are very powerful, it brings consultation. But this should make the carers of the sick to be careful with the patients suffering from contagious diseases. If possible use an instrument for anointing.
Catechists and wives should be given opportunity for annual retreats. The catechist should know how to send the information to the parish priests. He should know to prepare the place of the sick person, e.g to see that a table is available, a candle or lamp etc. How to receive the pastors on arrival e.g. reverence to the Blessed Sacrament should be kept in mind. Should know to prepare somebody before she or he dies and also the people. The mourning shouting and confusion shouldn’t come with someone’s death. One should not necessary need to make noise in order to be heard.
There should be pastoral care for the parents and relatives to come to terms with the reality and will of God and not resort to witch hunting or curses or to waste time to know who killed the deceased. People should not keep themselves in dangerous situations, as in sinful ways like retaliating back or looking for the cause of death.
Reciting the prayers and calling on for God’s forgiveness and making an act of contrite
A sick person who is far from a priest can say an act of contrition hence good catechesis.
As priests we should prepare ourselves for our end since getting the sacrament of the sick at our time may be hard and difficult. We help others into the other world it is also opportunity for us to be ready by asking for the anointing of the sick whenever we are seriously sick so as to give meaning to the sacrament.
Sick calls: when called it is good not to waste much time. But know first the sick person’s situation as it will help you when you go there: is he or she Christian, married, is she/he a child, youth etc.
Pray for a good journey when going, have some money when going. When the priest reaches, reads the signs that the patient is passing away, shorten the Rite of Celebration.
Oils for anointing:
- it is advisable to take along the oils of anointing whenever you go for safari.
- Keep the oil as near as possible in the house, in a ready handbag
- If there is possibility of getting first Aid box, do have it.
- Know some experts in medicine.
When we visit the sick:
- Console them
- Encourage them
- Pray
- Help the people to lead practical signs from the patients, patients expect to receive charitable services.
- Help those who are able not to overcharge the members of the sick because they are in problems.
The aged:
- Also need People who approach suffering with a merely human attitude of mind cannot understand what it means and can easily collapse in defeat. We as Christians, however being instructed in the Faith, know that suffering can be transformed. If we offer it to God into the instrument of salvation and into a sacred way which helps us get to heaven.
For Christians pain is no reason for gloominess but for joy, the joy of knowing that on the cross of Christ all suffering has redemptive value. Treatment outcomes when the patient's faith community prays for the patient. Treatment outcomes when a faith community who does not know the patient prays

Sunday, October 23, 2011

30TH SUNDAY OF YEAR A - Mission Sunday

Exodus 22:20-26;
1Thessalonians 1:5-10;
Matthew 22:34-40

'I get so lonely I could die.'

These lyrics from the well known song Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley may speak to our own life experience. Indeed, there's something logical about putting loneliness and death in the same sentence.

Man is made for relationship. He is who he is because of who he loves and whom he is loved by. The philosophers would say that man in relationship is a human person; man alone (without a sense of loving or being loved) is only a human being, i.e. a human who merely exists.

Man is made for love. The guests in Heartbreak Hotel know this only too well. Without love human life loses its meaning and becomes alienation which gives birth to the words: I get so lonely, I could die.

How important then to listen carefully to Jesus' words today: You must love… .

They are framed as a command but are actually an analysis of what gives human life its fundamental significance.

A careful reading of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis will show that in the beginning, from the moment of our creation, God established us in four relationships. These relationships are part of the very substance of our human lives: our relationship with God, with our self, with others, and with the natural world. These four relationships shape the very path we must walk to reach our destiny and therefore, thanks to our fallen human nature, constitute the decisive stumbling blocks on our journey.

It is in our relationship to God, to our own self, to others and to the natural world, wounded but redeemed, that we now live out our daily lives as disciples of the Lord. How important, then, that we get them right, because it is so easy to get them wrong!

It may come as a surprise, for example, to hear a married couple say “We have always loved God more than we love each other”, Or for a father to say, 'My first love is for my wife, and only then for my children.'

Obviously there is much more to say in order to fine-tune exactly the hierarchy of love I am attempting to assert here. But the truth remains that we can get our relationships wrong all too easily and cause, thereby, significant disorder in our own life, and in the lives of those who form our relationship network.

I love to hear engaged couples telling me they have decided to live chaste lives until marriage because they 'want to be faithful to God!' These couples have got it right. They have put God before themselves; they are in a right relationship with him and therefore, with each other.

You must love the Lord your God … this is the greatest and the first commandment.

And when they marry this couple will be in a right relationship with their children who have a right to be born within a loving, stable, committed and secure marriage.

To get the order of our love relationships right is to bring about the 'order of God's love'. St Ignatius sometimes used this beautiful phrase. It is an order which brings peace and life, health and fruitfulness.

The greatest and first commandment is to love God. How? With all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second commandment is to love our neighbour. How? As yourself. This is the divine vision and plan according to which we were 'put together' in our mother's womb.

It is a great tragedy to meet individuals who live as though they understood the first and only commandment to be: I will love my self with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind. Let us pray to be preserved from this catastrophic corruption of our true nature.

Next week each of the three readings affirms what we sometimes forget - that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the one Father. The love we have for our self is the definition, the template, of the love we should have for each other, and there must be no exceptions.

As we have just heard in the first reading today we must not molest the stranger because we ourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We must not be harsh with widows or orphans or the Lord will make our wives widows and our children orphans. The consequences of breaking the bond of love between ourselves and our neighbour are severe.

Christian warfare is fought on the battlefield of relationship. Let us examine ourselves in the light of the great commandment of love, and allow the Lord's words to be both encouragement and correction for us.

"If you love truely, you don’t need to be told that you should" take it as an obligation

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 25:6-10;
Philippians 4:12-14;
Matthew 22:1-14

Do you remember how last week God lovingly prepared a vineyard on a fertile hillside? He dug the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted choice vines … built a tower, .. and dug a press…(Isaiah). What care God took! In fact God said: What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?

This week God lovingly prepares a marriage feast: a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines (Isaiah). What a feast! …my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready (Matthew).

Note that: Everything is ready! The vineyard is ready for the harvest and the feast is ready for the guests - and so God sends his servants.

Incredibly the tenants of the vineyard seized the servants: thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Those who were invited to the feast ignored the servants and some even thrashed and killed them.

Last week God asked for what was rightfully his and found himself rejected; this week he offers what is rightfully his to those he loves and finds himself contemptuously spurned.

Last week he was disobeyed; this week he is humiliated.

The marriage feast, of course, is the kingdom of heaven. The servants are the prophets, the greatest of whom is Jesus, and those who were invited are the Chosen people, represented particularly by their leaders.

The disconcerting question which baffles us is 'Why would they refuse?' Why would people so comprehensively, so completely and maliciously refuse to enter the Kingdom so lovingly prepared for them?

The Scriptures are littered, so to speak, with the sad memory of those who failed for all sorts of reasons to enter the Kingdom, beginning with Lucifer, the angel of light, and his demons.

The elder son in the parable of the prodigal son would not enter the feast because his pride was stung by his father's generosity to his wayward brother. It becomes clear that his relationship with the father had always been that of slave, rather than son. And since he was the more obedient 'slave' he felt he was worth more.

The five foolish virgins failed to enter because they had not taken the Kingdom seriously enough. They had not adequately appreciated the greatness of the gift and so had not adequately prepared. The door was shut in their faces.

The householder just fell asleep and the judgment which unexpectedly sneaked up on him like a thief, found him not ready.

Fornicators (those having sex outside marriage), adulterers (those having sex with someone else's husband or wife) or practising homosexuals, were found unfit for the Kingdom.

Those who hear the word of God but do not keep it will not be recognised by the Lord and will not gain entry into the Kingdom. When they knock on the door they will hear the Lord say, 'I do not know you.'

The goats, those who showed no love or mercy towards their neighbour, and consequently showed no love towards God, will be cast out into the darkness and not be permitted to enter the Kingdom.

Those who will not wear the wedding garment, in other words, those who lack the necessary dispositions for entering heaven will be cast out.

The busy, those preoccupied with worldly concerns, those who build their houses on the shifting materialistic sands of power, pleasure or possessions, who worship money rather than God, who try to 'save' their lives rather than 'losing' them in the service of the Lord are not worthy of the Lord and cannot enter the Kingdom.

Let us remember that the invitation God gives us is to the king's feast. We are invited to a wonderful communion with the God and with each other. The Sunday Eucharist we celebrate on earth is a rehearsal for this eternal banquet. That is why it is so important. It is here, at each Mass, that we are slowly transformed and sanctified for the moment we are called to take our seats at the marriage feast in heaven. It is here, at each Mass, that we are strengthened to live the kind of life God looks for in us.

When we refuse God who has prepared a place for us in his house he does not punish us, we punish ourselves. We miss out on all he has made ready for us. We miss out on the 'party', the feast and have to spend eternity outside the Father's house, in the dark. That would be hell, wouldn't it?

Share a meal with someone who has not eaten or may not know whether s/he will eat today.

27TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

First reading Isaiah 5:1-7;
second reading Philippians 4:6-9;
Gospel Matthew 21:33-43

A vineyard wakes to new life in Spring. Tiny buds appear on the bare branches and before long the whole vineyard is a blaze of delicate green soaking up sunlight and air. Deep in the soil the roots drink in the rain and search for the minerals needed to form the rich fruit of the harvest. The vineyard belongs to the Master. It is to his glory that it yields a bountiful harvest.

You are the vineyard. Yes, you! And me!
One day the Master will send his servants, the angels, to gather in the produce of the vineyard. That will be a day of intense joy for some and a day of shame for others.

Yes, we are the Master's vineyard. And the vine he wishes to grow in us is Christ, his Son. This is the harvest he desires to find in us on that day. To put it simply we must 'bear' Christ in ourselves; Jesus must become himself in us so that all may become one in him. What a wonderful thought!

Through Baptism Jesus was 'planted' in us. Through the other Sacraments (Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick) his life, his presence, is strengthened in us. Through Reconciliation we are restored to this life should it be weakened or destroyed by sin. The Master has thought of everything and he looks forward to the harvest.
Still there is more we can do: prayer, penance, almsgiving, fasting, spiritual reading, service of neighbour, evangelisation of our culture. The tenant's work is never done.
In the time remaining I wish to be very practical and offer you an implement, a 'gardening tool', for your work in the vineyard. It is a Bible.
Not so long ago Pope Benedict said '…I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of "Lectio divina": "the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer …" If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church -- I am convinced of it -- a new spiritual springtime.
Prayer is real 'labouring in the vineyard' and lectio divina is a form of prayer as powerful as it is simple. It is a really good shovel.

Without prejudicing any other form of prayer I'll try to give a glimpse, just a glimpse, of this ancient method of prayer which, coincidentally, solves many of the problems associated with daily prayer - like the question of distractions, routine, what do I do? what do I say? - and so on.

A Bible is the word of God. This fact is basic. When we read Scripture God is speaking. We don't need visions or locutions because here God is speaking.
The word of God is also, and at the same time, the action of God. Everywhere we read: God said ... and so it was. In the Bible the word of God continues his work and goes on creating, healing, loving, strengthening, forming, comforting, correcting and disturbing us.

Where the word of God is, living, active, powerful, God himself is not far away, in fact he is truly present.

When we read the Bible we are looking for the Lord and, if we are faithful to our daily reading, we will most certainly find him. He will open our eyes to his presence and causes us to realise that, in fact, he is never absent.
Let me give you a simple image. You're on a railway platform waiting for the train. Are you really waiting for the train? No, you are really waiting for the arrival of the person who is on the train. It would be silly if the train pulled in and we all stood around admiring the train and ignoring the passenger.

Admiring the train is what's called Bible Study. Lectio Divina is searching for the passenger. And you know which passenger I mean, don't you?
The Bible is also like a huge house occupied by a vast number of the most interesting and wonderful (for the most part) people you could ever meet. In this house live Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Sarah, Joshua, Saul, David, Rebecca, Esther, prophets, kings, judges, men and women and lots of children.
Do you know these people? You should. They are the ones who preceded us in the faith and as we watch them living out their faith, with all their difficulties and trials and human weaknesses and fears we quickly come to realise that their lives are our lives - they are our elder brothers and sisters - that we are really looking at ourselves. As they learn about God, so do we. As they experience his love and mercy, so do we. As they hear the word of correction, so do we.

Have you ever been with Adam and Eve under the tree being tempted by the serpent? Have you ever stood with the People on the shores of the Red Sea trapped between the waters and the angry Egyptians? Have you ever celebrated the second Passover - in the total peace and safety of the 'desert of Sinai' in the wonderful 'twilight of the evening'?
We end with a thought from Psalm One:
Happy the man who ... finds his pleasure in the Law of Yahweh, and meditates on his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted by water streams, yielding its fruit in season, its leaves never fading ...

Keep watering yourself by reading the Bible, let it not collect dust.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TWENTY- SIX SUNDAY OF YEAR A

Ezekiel 18:25-28;
Philippians 2:1-11;
Matthew 21:28-32

Do YOU regret staying with SOMEONE in our life?

St Paul is writing to the Christian community in Philippi, a community which he himself founded. In fact, this was this first Christian community in all of Europe.
St Paul is writing from prison in constant danger of death. His tone is fatherly and pleading, serious, concerned and inspiring. He is addressing the community about something much deeper than itself; he is speaking about communion, what he calls: our life in Christ.

We can easily imagine him sitting in his prison at a rough table writing on a sheet of parchment. He has already been writing for some time and little by little he begins to be absorbed in what he is writing. Once more, in his mind's eye, he stands among his beloved brothers and sisters in far away Philippi and opens his mind and his heart to them. He speaks to them of the life and love and Spirit they have in common: their life in Christ.

Hearing his letter today two thousand years later we ourselves are quietly drawn back through the ages until we, too, find ourselves standing side by side with the Philippians listening to what Paul has written and conscious that we, too, share their life in Christ. We recognise this life which is offered undiminished to every man and woman of every age who seeks to become a disciple. Truly it is: our life in Christ.

The origin of this life is, of course, the Blessed Trinity. If we are in communion with one another it is because we share in the communion of love that possesses the Trinity - Father and Son, in the Holy Spirit. It is the Father who sent his Son, born of a Virgin, to draw his people into communion with him through the gift of the Holy Spirit won for us through his passion, death and resurrection.
For Paul this communion is the prized possession of the Christian community and must be valued above all and preserved at all cost and so he pleads with them to reflect on it: If our life in Christ means anything to you …
The beating heart of communion is exactly what St Paul says - our life in Christ. When we are in communion we share in the very life of God or, as we say, we are in the state of grace.

Just as the life of God in us is a saving reality so the absence of that life, through grave sin, is a reality which leads to eternal loss and, in normal circumstances, can only be restored through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Though our being in communion is an invisible, spiritual state it does manifest its presence externally in a very clear way and this is precisely Paul's preoccupation as he speaks to the Church in Philippi.
He instructs his people that to live in Christ should mean also behaving, thinking, and loving like Christ. He calls them to be united in their convictions and in their love; to have a common purpose and a common mind.
Again, this brings us to the basic question of the source of the communion he desires for his people. How can the Philippians who, like us here in this church (with all our different backgrounds, needs, personalities, educational standards, and so on), be united in their convictions? How can they have a common purpose and a common mind? Or to put it more boldly: How can they all (and we) become like one another?

His answer to these questions is daring and liberating: In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus. I repeat: In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus. Every evil around us starts in the mind then once we have accepted the devil to control us we become savages what today we call ourselves who tend to act that way “Educated savages”

Is this not the evangelising challenge of the present age as it was for Paul two thousand years ago. This is your challenge and mine - to surrender our opinions, our minds to Christ and to accept his teaching, his mind.

Communion is much more than a feeling; it is an objective reality based on the truth revealed by Christ to and in his Church. Regrettably we have had painful examples of what happens to those who break communion by holding convictions which are at odds with those of the Master. Look at what happens to us in Africa who can save us! And what do you think will happen to those wounded and have no pastoral outreach not even spiritual counseling, who are dissenting from the 'mind of Christ' and feel betrayed by their brothers and sisters in the same community they were living together, can they still believe that there is something called community?

Let me finish by recalling St Paul's plea and even daring to make it my own: be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy.

Take care of yourself and keep and respect the sense of communion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

25th Sunday Of Ordinary Times: Year A

Isaiah 55:6-9;
Philippians 1:20-24.27;
Matthew 20:1-16


Last week the Gospel laid bare for us the roots of forgiveness. We discovered that it is difficult and, most often, impossible, for us to forgive others when we haven’t yet appreciated how much we ourselves have been forgiven. This week the Gospel is about goodness, about generosity. We discover that it is difficult to be generous to others when we haven’t yet appreciated how much we ourselves have been given.

Last week, the servant who was forgiven a huge debt could not find it in himself to forgive his brother servant a small debt. Somehow he had missed the experience of being forgiven which is where we learn to forgive others.


This week the servant who was given a full day’s work and a full wage is jealous of his brother because he has missed the experience of being generously treated himself. It is from the knowledge of generosity bestowed upon us that we learn to be generous with others.

We can be like those servants who worked hard all day - and we have - we have laboured hard. All those Masses we’ve offered - our Reconciliations - our prayers - our donations to the needy - our forgiveness of those who hurt us - our faithfulness in marriage - sacrifices for the kids. We have been faithful and we have laboured hard.

Trouble is, bit by bit, we can come to believe we deserve more than others. When God is generous to the sinner, especially one who has hurt us, we can come to resent it. Deathbed repentance is not always popular with us Christians. We resent his generosity to others because we fail to see his generosity towards ourselves. So we envy others - their popularity, good looks, intelligence, possessions, their partners in marriage, their fame - and we say: 'How come they got all that? How come God seems to have given them more than me? Surely I deserve more?'

OK, so why is it that in the 1st Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass we pray: Do not consider what we truly deserve … ? In other words: Do not give me what I truly deserve ….On the one hand 'Surely I deserve more'; on the other hand, 'Do not give me what I truly deserve.'What’s going on here?

Surely I deserve more! The fact is, however hard we’ve worked, we have really done nothing more than our duty and all that we have received is pure gift; we have deserved none of it.

Joshua 24:13 reminds us: I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive groves you never planted. We would do well, as a matter of fact, to thank God for the great gifts he has given us which enable us to serve him in the first place! Do not give me what I truly deserve! The true Christian can see what he truly deserves and asks God not to give it to him, so let’s not ask God for justice or we’re all 'doomed'. Let’s ask for mercy, forgiveness and generosity and then let’s be merciful, forgiving and generous to others.

At the end of last week I mentioned that if you have a problem forgiving, pray for the gift of forgiveness, and make an inventory of all that God, and others, have had to forgive you for. At the end of this week I advise that if you suffer from jealousy, make an inventory of everything God, and others, have given you, and you will find it much easier to be generous with others.

God keep you safe and remember to count your blessings and name them one by one…

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

24th Sunday of Ordinary time

Forgiveness is divine

Forgiving those who have hurt us is not easy. The bigger the hurt the more difficult it is to forgive and for many people also the longer it takes to forgive.
Peter, it seems from his question in the Gospel today, also found it difficult to forgive. (Matt 18:21) He asked Jesus, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” It could give the impression that Peter was finding it difficult to forgive. (Could it have been his mother-in-law? Do you know why Peter denied Jesus three times? Because Jesus cured his mother-in-law!) Jesus said Peter is to forgive not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matt 18:21) Jesus is saying we are not to hold any grudges. Holding grudges, being angry and resentful, storing up anger in our hearts, is very unhealthy. It can eat into a person. I read earlier this week that anger is one factor contributing to heart disease. We are to forgive seventy-seven times. We could look at it like this. Somebody did us a great injustice in the past. Every time we meet that person or think of that person we have feelings of revenge or resentment or anger. Forgiving seventy-seven times is thinking thoughts of forgiveness every time we meet that person or think of that person. Forgiving seventy-seven times is breaking the cycle of thinking revengefully and instead thinking forgivingly.

Is there anything that can help us to forgive those who have hurt us? Forgiveness is a decision. Decide today to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean blotting out painful memories but it means not acting out of them. That is why when the hurt is deep counseling may be necessary to free us from acting out of past negative experiences. One thing I say to people who are having difficulty forgiving a hurt is to repeat to themselves, “I will not allow X to control my life. I take control of my life back from X. From now on I will control my life.” This is my daily exercise whenever I find some road blocks created by beings like me on my way.

Another thought that should help us to forgive is to remember that Jesus died to save the other person just as he died to save you. Try to visualize the person beneath Jesus on the cross. Can you see Jesus dying for that person? Think of the parable in the Gospel today (Matt 18:21-35). The king forgave the servant who owed ten thousand talents (it would take 164,000 years to earn this! Yes, 164,000 years). God has forgiven us the sin of Adam because of the death of Jesus. Then in the parable that servant was owed the very small sum of 100 denarii (one hundred days wages) but did not forgive. God has forgiven each of us ten thousand talents (164,000 years of wages). We are asked to forgive just 100 denarii (100 days wages) when others offend us.

Another help to forgive somebody is to be humble enough to admit that we cannot control another person in the sense of expecting an apology from the other. Giving up the need to control or dominate the person who hurt us, surrendering the need to expect them to ask forgiveness from us, frees us to forgive them.
In this Mass today we celebrate Jesus dying on Calvary for us. Because of his death on Calvary the debt of 10,000 talents we owed God has been forgiven. We go from here and forgive those who owe us 100 denarii.
The beauty, scent, perfume of marriage is forgiveness.

May you have a forgiving week.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST INTERIORITY


Our culture is a powerful narcotic, for good and for worse. But let’s begin with the good side. A narcotic soothes and protects against brute, raw pain. Our culture has got its very kind of thing, (from medicine to entertainment), to shield us from pain. That can be good, provided isn’t a false crutch.

But narcotic can be bad, especially when it becomes away of escaping from reality. Where our culture is dangerous, it can shield us from having to face deeper issues of life, faith, forgiveness, morality, and mortality. These constitute a virtual conspiracy against the interior life. How? By keeping us so entertained, so busy, so preoccupied, and so distracted that we lose all focus on the deeper things. We live in the world of instant and constant communication of mobile phones, and email, of iPods that contain whole libraries of music, of television packages that contain hundred of channels of malls and stores that open 24\7 , of restaurants and clubs that stay open all the time, of sounds that never die and lights that never go out.

We can be amused, distracted and catered for 24/7. All this have made our life so wonderful, but has also conspired against depth. The danger is that we are all developing permanent attention deficient disorder. We are attentive to so many things that ultimately we aren’t attentive to anything, particularly to what is deepest inside of us. This isn’t an abstract thing! Typical our day is full of things (work, noise, pressure, and rush), that we finally get home at night and have some time when we could shut down all the stimulation, we are so tired and fatigued and that what soothes us is precisely something that functions as narcotic, a sporting event, a game show on television, a mindless sitcom, or anything that can soothe our tension and relax us enough to sleep. Isn’t bad when we do this on a given night, but it’s bad when we do it every night. What happens, it becomes apparent that we can not find space in our lives to touch what’s deepest inside of us and inside of others.

Given the culture, we can go along like this for years until something cracks in our lives, a loved one dies, someone breaks our heart, the doctor tells us we have terminal illness, disease, or some other crisis is powerful enough to suddenly render all stimulation and entertainment in the world empty. Then we are forced to look into our own depth and that can be a frightening abyss, if we have spent years and years avoiding looking into it.

“I have lived too long where I can be reached”
hence we end up with statements such as good people, but as people who are not immoral, just distracted, not lacking in soul, just preoccupied, not disclaiming depth, just lacking in practice. Our culture is a powerful narcotic, for good and for bad; it has the power to shield us from pain, to soothe us in healthy ways. That can be good, sometimes we need narcotic. But our culture can be over-intoxicating, too absorbing, it can swallow us whole. And so we have to know when its time to unplug the television, turn off the phone, shut down the computer, silence the iPod, lay away the sports page, and resist going out for coffee with a friend, so that for a moment at least, we are not avoiding making friends with that one part of us that will accompany us into the sunset.




Thursday, September 1, 2011

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR A

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

If your brother/sister does something wrong…

Jesus is speaking here to his disciples about correction within the community of believers. The manner of this correction is aimed at preserving communion even if, ultimately, the offender refuses correction and shows himself to be outside the communion of the Church.

It is important to note immediately that Jesus is not just giving advice. Jesus well understands that even in the Christian community there can be individuals or groups who threaten communion, and since communion is the hallmark of the Christian community it must be dealt with sensitively, justly and firmly. In any given society, group, community there are people whom we tend to brand as trouble causers, they are never settled, they hop and hop and jump here and there to “disturb the still waters”. You will meet them and they too need our attention so that they can be helped too, because we often forget them in our prayers and programmes.
If your brother/sister does something wrong go and have it out with him, alone, between your two selves.

This would appear to be an exceptionally simple and self-evidently sound instruction. I imagine there would not be a single person, even you who is reading this reflection who would disagree with it. And yet, I also wonder if it is not the least listened to instruction Jesus ever gave?
Remember that this counsel is aimed at only one thing – preserving communion (fellowship) – the larger communion of believers (which can easily be fractured by poorly handled disputes-especially in marriages, offices and in our civil courts) and the ‘re-entry’ of the offending brother into that communion through repentance.
Therefore Jesus desires that we first of all approach our brother/sister: and have it out with him/her, alone, between your two selves. Notice Jesus’ insistence: Go (to him/her)… alone ... between your two selves?

This ‘going’ is not always easy to do but we must remember it is our brother/sister. We are going to speak with one who shares with us in the loving communion of the Church. He/she is family and family issues need a deep reflection and sobriety lest many years of quarrels takes us no where except makes us less dignified in the eyes of God. No one, nobody should ever disfigure the image of God in our brother/sister.



We have all experienced those who go stomping off to have it out with someone they are angry with; perhaps we have done it ourselves. Going to a brother/sister is a very different kind of going than that. We go to present our difficulty to him/her in an honest, loving way and we listen with great openness to his response. We are alone and his dignity is respected (and should we prove to be the one in error then our dignity is respected too).
To do otherwise than follow this teaching of Jesus is fraught with dangers for our brother/sister, the community, and for ourselves. Our brother/sister has a right to dignity, to proper correction and to the opportunity to reform himself. When we act hastily in anger, or fear, or even self-righteousness we run the risk of depriving him of all this and of ourselves becoming even more guilty than he is.

Jesus is aware of the dangers of a false step in the very beginning of this process of correction and so, I repeat, he insists that we should go alone and speak with our brother/sister that is the way out if you can’t keep to your cacoon.
Naturally this requires a certain degree of personal maturity and a great deal of true Christian love. The temptation is always to tell ‘others’; to get it out of our system. Unfortunately, what we tell others goes into the system and soon extraordinary damage can be done out of all proportion to the initial wrong.
Only when individual communication with our brother/sister bears no fruit despite our best efforts should we ask that others become involved, and only when this, too, fails should we tell the community. It will then become clear to our brother/sister that he/she has placed himself/herself outside of the communion of the Church. We have then ‘had it out with him/her’ in the way which Jesus commands and in the way which preserves our innocence.

The practical implication of all this for us as individual Christians in this Sunday is the duty we all have to bring our behaviour into line with the gospel. All of us, including myself, have failed and still do fail from time to time in this matter of correction. If we are looking for some area of our lives in which we can improve we should take today’s instruction from Jesus very seriously. There would be a lot less gossip in our community and there would be many more deeper friendships because the truth is that we often build the strongest and best friendships with those who have corrected us in a proper way.

Best wishes to you all as you reflect on these wonderful message of God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR A


“LOOK AT THE CROSS AND YOU WILL GET YOUR STRENGTH” – M.Rosa

In the lives of each of us there may be something painful, big or small, something that we wish to be different. In the lives of each of us there is a cross. The cross can be caused by somebody else, or we may bring a cross on ourselves due to our choices or sometimes the cross is neither the fault of others nor ourselves, but because of the accidents of life or simply because we are human and do not have the perfection of God.

1. At first we may deny that we have a cross. Perhaps we do not want to face the pain of the cross so we pretend that everything is fine, we have no cross. But one of the mysteries of life is that a grace awaits us if we carry our cross just as resurrection awaited Jesus after he died. If we deny our cross we are losing out on the grace God has planned to give us.

2. After we move beyond denying our cross and admit that we have a cross we may experience anger. We ask the question, “Why?”, “Why me?”, “I didn’t deserve this.” “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” It is natural reaction. We see Peter reacting like this in the Gospel of this sunday when Jesus indicated that he would suffer and die in Jerusalem. Peter rebuked him and said ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord. This must not happen to you’ (Matt 16:22). At this stage of coping with our cross we may be angry with others, or even angry with God. It is easy to blame God when we cannot understand why we are in pain. But God did not cause your cross and blaming God is making an unjust accusation against God. Blaming others who are innocent is also unjust. Surely blaming God for some trouble is because we are afraid to face the pain of the real cause of the problem. Get to the real root of the problem or cross. For some people this type of inner work and healing needs therapy or counseling. Look at the life of Jesus. Do we see Jesus blaming his Father for his cross? No. The Father did not kill his son Jesus, it was Roman soldiers who scourged him, crowned him and crucified him. The Father did not give them the orders, the orders came from Pilate. Pilate was afraid of the crowd who were on the point of breaking into a riot (Matt 27:24). He even knew that Jesus was innocent (Matt 27:24) But the blame doesn’t lie totally with Pilate. Some of the Jewish leaders made a plan to have Jesus killed (Matt 26:3-4). So in the life of Jesus we do not see Jesus blaming the Father for his cross and in fact we see there is a whole group of people who paved the way for Jesus’ cross. When we have a cross instead of blaming God let us get to the root of the problem. For some people this type of inner work and healing needs therapy or counseling. Blaming God for the problems of the world is only passing the buck instead of facing up to our own culpability for what has gone wrong. No one has yet come up with an adequate answer to explain the mystery of human suffering; all we have are bits and pieces of answers. (Many questions and few answers)

3. After admitting the pain, and accepting that there is a painful situation some people make bargains with God such as, “God, if you get me out of this I will be a priest, nun, get married in church” or similar bargains, “God if you get me out of this I will make a pilgrimage.” And indeed going on that pilgrimage or becoming a priest or what you have promised is indeed a wonderful grace and sometimes it takes a cross to prepare our souls to receive God’s grace.
4. After feeling anger towards God or others previously it is possible later to experience anger with oneself because of one’s cross. Anger turned in towards ourselves is sometimes called depression. (Have you been depressed of late?)

5. When we move beyond anger with ourselves or depression because of our cross we arrive at where it was meant to lead us all the time, grace. We accept and cherish a grace in the plan of God for us because of our cross. One of the mysteries of life is that a grace accompanies every cross or we will receive a grace if we carry our cross. Jesus would not have risen from the dead if he did not die on the cross and we are running away from a grace that awaits us if we are running away from our cross. Any cross is painful but with prayer and the help of other people we can carry our crosses, and we need to pray a lot if we have a heavy cross. Jesus, on the night before he died, suffered in agony in the Garden in Gethsemane. “Father if it is your will, let this cup pass me by. Not my will but yours be done.” (Matt 26:39) Sometimes we also say ‘let this cup pass me by.’ But grace awaits us if we can say ‘not my will but yours be done.’ If the cross is particularly heavy we may be a long time waiting for the grace because we may get stuck for a while in one of those stages we go through after a cross, but the grace will certainly follow if we work our way through all the thoughts that go on inside us and arrive at acceptance.
(These five stages of healing have been used in spiritual books for spiritual healing e.g. those hurts of life, memories that are wounded. One has to go through Five (5) stages of forgiveness as Dennis Linn and Matthew Linn would put them. They are taken from a book On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross where she applies these five stages to accepting terminal illness.)
Perhaps we could describe receiving the grace after the cross as a healing. After the cross comes new life, resurrection, grace, thanksgiving. So we can say “Thanks be to God I have come through it.” We know we are healed, we know we have received the grace only when we can say “Thanks be to God.” The particular grace we receive is often in proportion to our cross. If we know the pain of being hurt by others, we end up being more sensitive to others, not wishing to impose hurt and injury on others ourselves. Some parishes, small Christian communities, have bereavement support groups; those who were bereaved in the past forming a group to give support to those who experience bereavement.

As Philly Bokele Lutaya(late) the first Ugandan musician to go public that he is HIV/AIDS victim would sing : Today is me tomorrow is someone else, for you and me to make the world a better place to live…
To receive the grace that accompanies our cross it is important not to become stuck in any of the stages we can go through when responding to suffering. So it is important to move from
1. denial
2. to anger
3. to bargaining
4. to anger with ourselves or depression
5. to acceptance of our cross and grace.
We move through these stages of healing by sharing our pain with the Lord when we pray. We don’t have to be perfect when we pray. We can tell the Lord everything. Another help in moving through these stages to arrive at acceptance and grace would be to tell a trustworthy friend. There is a saying “A trouble shared is half a trouble.” If we are a caring Christian community we should be helping each other to carry our crosses. If we’re not helping each other to carry our crosses we’re not a caring Christian community.

I think there is something holy about our cross. It keeps us close to God. When there is some pain in our lives, when we have to carry a cross we depend more on God. I think it is part of God’s mysterious plan that we carry a cross because it keeps us close to God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that sufferings are the kisses of Jesus in our lives.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, [herself] take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 16:24-25)
Be a dear brother/sister to whoever is going through the cross and if it’s you going through it accept the will of God make use of that as a moment of self-growth in Christ and towards holiness

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

18th Sunday of ordinary time- Year A

First reading: Isaiah 55:1-3;
Second reading: Romans 8:35.37-39;
Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21


“To a man with an empty stomach, food is God”. - Mohandas Gandhi

The fourteenth chapter of Matthew's gospel from which today's reading is taken is crammed full of issues, tensions and disturbing events, not to mention the overwhelming of complex human needs by which Jesus is assailed, and which, moment by moment, pile up over his head and threaten to entirely bury him.

Herod Antipas, a man enslaved by lust and human respect deals treacherously with John the Baptist and has him executed for speaking the truth. John, the precursor to the Messiah, humbly offers his life for the truth he was sent to speak. He has the truth and he knows what to do with the truth.
Would Jesus have grieved more over the heroic death of his beloved John than over the coward betrayal of Herod? His heart would have been broken for both men and deep anguish would have penetrated into his soul.

Today we would be encouraged to take 'compassionate leave' from work and perhaps some weeks of counseling to help us cope.
Jesus, too, feels the need to withdraw, the call to prayer, and heads by boat to 'a lonely place' where he could be alone with his disciples but the people thwart his plans. Instead of rest and healing he finds 'a large crowd'. Most of us priests find no time or even forget to go for a break to rest. Why? The parish work is much and I feel burnt out, and yet the Christians we not be happy see him tired, they will ask themselves “why can’t bishop give fr. Rest! Poor man is tired.” When you see us tired please help us to rest so as to serve you better.

Could you imagine reading: Jesus instructed the Twelve to go to the crowd and tell them that the Master had just had some bad news and wasn't feeling too well. He said 'Tell the crowd to come back in a few days so I can have some time out'?
Instead we read: So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

What would you call that? Generosity? Compassion? Self-forgetfulness? If this had been an exceptional occasion of putting the other first we might be content to call it something like generosity. 'Oh, remember that day, when he was looking for peace and quiet but the crowd was there instead; wasn’t he generous?'
It seems to me there must be another word for it, something to capture the mad extravagance of his total 'being there for me'.
Perhaps divine generosity is a better term. Divine generosity is not just something to thank God for; it brings us to worship him. It is’goodness without limits' perhaps best imaged by the twelve baskets full of scraps left over from the miracle which follows. They stand there in a heap, perhaps under a tree, tantalising the imagination much like the stone jars of wine left over from the feast at Cana.

Jesus is just like that. More … always more. Impossibly more! More patient, more forgiving, more loving, more understanding, more merciful, more self-giving - divine generosity - and with those capable of understanding I sink to my knees in adoration. As a priest if in my ministry I think I can solve all problems of the parish, I am completely mistaken. Some issues as a priest I surrender them under the feet of his cross (meditation, Adoration, confession, Echaristic celebration).
The crowds have received more than a free meal; it is a free meal pointing them to a fullness of life sustained by a food beyond their capacity to purchase. This was the burden of Jesus' entire mission - to lead them (and us) beyond the material to the spiritual - where true life is to be found.

Isaiah, in the first reading, cries out with the very words of God, imbued with a kind of desperate longing for our response: Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy?
This impassioned invitation from the Lord himself is searching for ears capable of hearing and valuing it; for men and women, and children, who have somehow learned to pierce the darkness of this world's offerings which blocks us to have glimpse of the eternal beauty and joy of the world beyond.
Money … wages … can buy food for this life; for eternal life we must draw close to Lord. Approaching the altar of sacrifice and believing that the spiritual food should enable us to build the temple of God by sharing and eating physically together (family).

When the crowds have gone Jesus sends the disciples across to the other side of the lake and himself goes up into the hills to pray. He shows us the source of the strength and the integration of his inner, psychological life. Jesus lets absolutely nothing stand in the way of his prayer; not a busy day, not a tragedy, not the acclaim of a crowd, not even his death on a cross. Jesus, in fact, died praying. Most of us by the time we are dying, we die complaining, sad, lonely, frustrated. This is a good food for thought of always think about how shall we be the time death knocks our door.

Chapter fourteen goes on to describe how, just before dawn Jesus goes to the disciples walking on the waters of the stormy sea. The Twelve are terrified on seeing him and Peter steps out to go to the Master who must reach out a saving hand to stop him sinking. When they reach the shore more crowds come to meet him and he must spend another day, teaching, healing, giving, pouring himself out. What a truly awesome Saviour we have! As for me, three months serious work one week sabbatical. Whether granted or not I need a rest to energize myself for the mission.
Good Sunday to all.
“Whenever hunger comes through the door, love flees through the window” – Jewish saying

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