The best way to happiness

Sunday readings in brief 4 A

Zephaniah 2:3,3:12-13; Psalms 145(146), 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Mathew 5:1-12

The best way to happiness

Dear friends, today is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. I would like to remind us once again that the Ordinary Time of the liturgical calendar is the moment of learning about the Kingdom of God. The end-term test of this season is conversion. St. Paul says, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

One of the most sought things by all people is happiness. The concept of happiness varies though from one person to the other and from one community to the other. For some happiness means having all material things possible. For others is having power and authority over others. For others still is simply getting something solid in the stomach.

One day some years ago, I took a couple who had visited me from abroad to a slam dwelling in one big city in East Africa. The couple hailed from one of the most developed countries in the world. As we entered the slams, we were greeted by a foul smell coming from the gutters full of the sewer. It was around 6 p.m. and the streets were congested with people coming from work. Some were buying foodstuff from the roadside kitchens most of them suspended above the sewer gutters. The children were playing around and shouting, “How are you”, or “why are you” (difficult to distinguish what they were saying) to the visitors. They looked dirty but extremely happy.

When we left the slams into the main highway towards the city center, there was silence in the car and I could hear some sobs from behind. I looked through the rear mirror and saw one of the visitors wiping tears from her cheeks. I was prudent enough not to ask immediately what the matter was but as soon as the mood returned to normal, I inquired. The answer I got hit me off-guard because I did not expect it. She exclaimed, “They are so poor but very happy”; “in my country, many people have every material thing they want but are not happy still”, she added.

It is evident to all that material things and power cannot buy true happiness. Today’s readings exalt different categories of values as the source of true happiness. From the first reading, we have humility, integrity, and truthfulness. St. Paul says that God chose the foolish by human reckoning to shame the wise by human standards. We gain nothing by boasting about worldly things. ‘If anyone wants to boast, let him or her boast about the Lord’. One day I overheard one technician boasting to his friends about how he managed to cheat the Parish Priest by charging him twice the normal amount to repair the sound system in Church!!! By the way, the technician was a member of that Church.

As he began his ministry, Jesus called his disciples and explained to them what happiness is and where they should be looking for it. In the first part of his summons on the mountain Jesus enumerates nine beatitudes or if you like blessedness or happiness. All of them are directly opposed to the values sought by many in the world then and even today. The poor in Spirit are thought to be cowards men. Gentleness is regarded as a weakness.  Mourning is tantamount to being cursed. Seeking what is right is out of fashion, we often seek what is convenient. Mercy left the world a long time ago. Peace is too expensive these days. Very few are willing to suffer for doing the right thing and finally very few are willing to be abused, insulted, or hated because of the name of Jesus.

However, though the world is getting more secular every day and the values of the kingdom seem not attractive; the human conscience cannot be annulled. We may suppress our conscience for a while but when the time for reckoning comes, every human being becomes solitarily vulnerable. Many mighty and powerful have fallen. Many who trampled others down are rotting in their graves. Many who were wealthy and famous cannot come out in open today and many died in solitude. Careful though we must be, being poor or hungry because of laziness is not a blessing and there can be nothing to be happy about it. Many backstreet preachers are misleading many to think that worshipping every day and night without doing anything to earn a living will earn their blessings. That is not anywhere in the beatitudes.

Dear friends, as we continue to learn about the values of the kingdom of God, I invite us today to reflect upon the things that we give priority in our lives. Are they aligned with the beatitudes?

Have a happy Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD (see also http://www.svdkentan.com)

Fourth Sunday in ordinary time year A

Fourth Sunday in ordinary time year A

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

Psalm 146

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

Dear friends, today is the fourth Sunday in ordinary time year A. The readings which are being proposed for our meditation are talking about humility.  According to saint Augustine “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” therefore as Christians, we all need this virtue in our daily life. Based on the readings of today, I would like us to reflect on the theme: “Be Humble”. There are three ways to be humble in life: (1) by keeping faith in the Lord), (2) by enduring hardship because of Christ, and (3) by acknowledging our background.

Thus in the first reading taken from the book of the prophet Zephaniah, we hear how the prophet was encouraging the people of Israel to embrace humility “Seek the Lord, you humble of the land, who do his command; seek righteousness, seek humility”. This is the advice Zephaniah was given to the remnant of the house of Israel. By the time the prophet was writing this verse, Judah as a kingdom was under pressure; for the Assyrians were getting ready to invade their land. What to do? To surrender to the pagan master or to resist? At that particular moment of confusion, the prophet encouraged the people of God to seek the Lord meaning they should expect their deliverance from God. In other words, Zephaniah was requesting from the people that they should have faith and hope in the Lord, he will deliver them.

Dear friends, this exhortation of Zephaniah is also applied to us today, many times we have felt like God has abandoned us, or like the remnant of Israel, we were confused about taking the right decision, but today God is assuring us of his support. He is with us, all that we need to do is to trust in him and put our hope in him. The first step toward humility is to recognize the presence of the Lord in our lives. Through humility, we can escape the wrath of God as the prophet has stated in the first reading.

The second way of being humble is by accepting the hardship of life. In today’s gospel, Saint Matthew proposed to us nine (9) ways of being humble as Christians known as beatitudes. Jesus has seen the crowds and he decided to instruct them, for he knows that these people were thirsty for the word of God which is life.  He based his teaching on the practical aspect of life, meaning that he knows what they were going through.  Many among the crowds were poor in spirit, others were meek, others were also merciful toward their fellows, and others have pure hearts and peacemakers. While some of them were experiencing persecution, hunger, mockery, and so on. Jesus was able to satisfy these people by speaking the words of peace, the words of healing into their ears. He did not promise them that their suffering and persecution will be removed on the contrary he encouraged them to persevere for a great reward waiting for them in heaven.

Our situations might be similar to the crowds to whom Jesus has talked in today’s gospel. So what we need to do is to apply these words of encouragement to ourselves as well. Many of us are experiencing hardship, suffering, and persecution in various ways and we are about to give up. But today, Jesus is calling us to persevere until the end. We can only persevere if we are humble enough.

In the second reading Saint Paul lectured the Corinthians on how God himself has chosen them; meaning that the Christian life is a call, it is God who calls. He calls who he wanted to call at any time. Based on their calls, the apostle Paul reminded them that they have come from an ordinary background compared to the elites among them but also they were weak in the sense that they have no influence in their society but yet God has called them. What saint Paul was trying to say is that God’s vision is different from human’s view for he says that “but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise”. Dear friends this second reading is reminding us of three things: one our call comes from God, we did not call ourselves, two we should bear in mind our background, without God we are nothing, what we are today is by the help of God, therefore we should not boast, three God has called us for a purpose and this purpose is to transform the world in which we are living. Just as the Corinthians were exhorted to make a difference in their daily life, we are also called upon to do so; this can only happen if we are humble. This is the third way of being humble.

Do we want to have a humble life? If yes, today the readings are challenging us to make a move, a step toward a virtuous life. May God help us to embrace humility with joy, amen.

Fr. Issere Agre

Third Sunday in ordinary time year A

                                               

Isaiah 9:1-4

Psalm 27

1 Corinthians 1:10-13.17

Matthew 4:12-23

Dear friends, today is the third Sunday in ordinary time year A. On this Sunday, we are celebrating “The Word of God”. The Sunday of the Word of God was instituted by Pope Francis in September 30, 2019, in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit illis and is to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. It reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: “As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness”.

            The Word of God proposes to our meditation today is inviting us to reflect on the theme: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The Israelites in their journey with God knew that God will establish definitely his kingdom at the right time. For them, they were thinking of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. However, the kingdom of God was extended to all nations both the people of God and to the gentiles alike.

Thus in the first reading taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we hear how God promises to save his people. There was a time when the Israelites experienced darkness in other words they have been invaded by external powers (the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Romans later on) but the experience they had with the Assyrians was still fresh in their mind. They were ashamed most especially the two tribes (Zebulun and Naphtali).  In their anguish, the Prophet reminded them of the promise of the Lord by saying that “The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light” meaning that, the hour has come when the Almighty God will save his people. The people who were suffering before now began to experience God’s love through the light of the Lord and to add to that they were told that they will be multiplied as a nation, their joy will be increased and they will be totally free from their oppressors.

Brethren, the kingdom of God begins by manifesting itself through the liberation of those who are experiencing a hard time and any other form of slavery. Just as God has changed the situation of his people in the Old Testament, he will also change our situations, all that we need to do is to put our hope and trust in him.  That is why we have sung with palmists by saying “the Lord is my light and my salvation”. The psalmist puts his trust in the Lord at all times and knows that God will never abandon him no matter how will be the situation.

In the Gospel reading, we are told that “when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee”. The gospel of John said more about the personality of John the Baptist; when the Jewish leaders sent messengers to him to find out if he was the Messiah he simply said “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord” [John 1:23] meaning that John the Baptist started his mission before Jesus. The fact that Jesus left the area where John the Baptist has been arrested does not mean that Jesus was afraid on the contrary is to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which Matthew states clearly in the gospel of today. Indeed, Jesus went to the region of Galilee more specifically in Capernaum where he accomplished great things: first of all, the presence of Jesus in those areas is considered a total transformation for the people in that region have experienced the light, Jesus, that light who shines and removes away all kind of darkness. To add to this, he began preaching and the core of his teaching was “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Jesus has brought the Good News to the people of Capernaum. In order to mark his stay, Jesus decided to choose the first four of his companions (Simon and his brother Andrew and the two sons of Zebedee James and John). By the fact that Jesus has called these four fishermen, it means that the kingdom of God accommodates everybody.

Dear friends, today Jesus has come to each one of us to know our experiences, to experience himself our joys and pains. Let us warmly welcome him just as the people of Capernaum did. He also wants to associate us with the kingdom of God by being the agents. Today, we are called upon the spread the Good News about the kingdom of God to others through our way of living, and through active participation in our various parishes and other places of worship.

At times those of us who are involved in the mission of God, experience some challenges, and one of these challenges saint Paul in the second reading talked about is the division of the faithful living together in one community. The Christians of Corinth started disagreeing among themselves but the apostle heard about it, and he advised them to be united for Christ is unity. In our various communities and parishes, we might have the same issue but let us not divide on the contrary let us solve issues that arise as people of one family.

May these readings of today help to reach the stage of unity as we proclaim the kingdom of God to the entire world, amen.

Fr. Issere Agre

Christ is one for all

Sunday readings in brief 3 A

Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalms 26(27); 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Mathew 4:12-23

Christ is one for all

Dear friends, today is the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. As explained in earlier reflections, this is the season to learn about and embrace the kingdom of God. Jesus is the teacher who refers to the prophets before him to consolidate God’s plan to save humanity in himself.

The first reading and the Gospel talk about the light that came to illuminate the people who were living in darkness. This light is Christ Jesus – God made man for the salvation of humanity. Darkness and Light are symbolically used to signify the burdens that weighed down the people and the lifting of those burdens respectively. The people of Israel lived in the darkness of slavery, uncertainty, corruption, injustice, and war. People lived in fear and anguish because of frequent interruptions of peace.

The main reason for this precarious life was ignorance of God’s law and the hard-headedness of some of their leaders who did not listen to the warnings of God’s prophet. During this time, there was collective responsibility whereby the entire community paid for the mistakes of a few. Even innocent people bore the consequences of the bad choices of their leaders. The poor were being oppressed without any possibility of ascending the social-economic ladder because of the caste system prevailing.

These poor had nothing left to hope for except for the prophecy of the Messiah who was to come. Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my help” is a lamentation by someone who was being treated unjustly and who wish to depart and live in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. There are many good and innocent people suffering today at the hands of oppressors who have no one to turn to for help. There are many men and women living in relationships full of both physical and psychological torture by their spouses or in-laws. There are many children living in very bad conditions because of the sour relationship between their parents.

Modern-day imposter prophets who purport to preach in the name of Jesus, unfortunately, cause some of these divisions. Many innocent faithful fall prey to these popularity-seeking overnight prophets. St. Paul scolds the people of Corinth for fueling division in the Church of Christ on the bases of adherence to this preacher or the other. Through a word from the family members of a faithful woman called Chloe, Paul came to learn about the divisions in Corinth. People were arguing about which preacher they belonged to among Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter), who were all preaching in the name of Christ. Though Paul and Cephas did not agree on some issues about administration matters of the Church (see the Council of Jerusalem Acts 15), he however, sought to bring unity among the Corinthians arguing that Christ was one and not divided.

Sometimes many religious leaders forget in whose name they preach and let their personal differences and interests enter into the way of the Gospel. There are divisions everywhere among many Christian denominations because of disagreements between the leaders. Christians too for lack of leadership end up taking part with different factions adhering to and supporting one or the other making matters even worse. Today, we have hundreds of Christian denominations preaching the same Christ with almost directly opposing messages such that someone who is not a Christian may wonder if there is one Christ or many.

When Jesus called the first two pairs of disciples, he promised to make them fishers of men. He meant, to give them authority to bring salvation to people who had suffered for too long in the hands of oppressors some in the name of religion. Today, these fishers of men continue to fish men and women but not from anguish to salvation but vice versa. There are too many broken families today because one or the other member has been caught in the net of the so-called fishers of men. Neighbours do not greet each other because they belong to different fishers of men. The entire community is divided because different groups go to worship in different Churches.

Dear friends, the light of Christ is already made manifest to us. It is our individual responsibility to choose whether to remain in darkness or come out and see the light. This can only be done by seeking to know the true values of the kingdom of God preached by our Saviour Jesus Christ and his true apostles. Catechesis is not an option if one wishes to understand the values of the Kingdom. The Bible is a complex library of salvific writings that need wise interpretation.

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD (see also http://www.svdkentan.com)

The way it is! Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

Based on life experience analysis

One of the co-founders of SAP (System Analysis Program Development), one of the most successful Software Companies in Germany once said that “if we stop innovating we will lose”. Innovation is simply introducing new products in the market or improving on the already existing products so as to increase profitability. This is done through a number of ways such as increasing efficiency hence reducing production and maintenance costs, improving the quality of the product to attract more customers and make more sales, and investing in marketing to popularize the product hence competing with other similar products or alternative products, etc.

It is my opinion also that any organization, including religious and philanthropic, government, institution, or business that does not innovate is either dying or it has already died. There are some existential factors that give every organization a business orientation. These are demand, supply, marketing, resources, and customers. Every organization targets a certain category or people that consume their products. Even religious organizations such as Churches, Congregations, and charity institutions, aim at satisfying their customers who are either the faithful or the poor. As times change, new demands for both goods and services arise and it is only those suppliers that meet the standards of demand that survive in the market.

Now, focusing more on religious institutions under the umbrella of the Church, the changing times have caused a significant paradigm shift that demands innovation in order for these institutions to remain relevant as they play their role in the Church. Before the faithful went to seek services in the Church and its institution and most of them accepted and conformed to whatever they received in faith. Today, that is no longer the case, people chose what they want and in some cases, the ministers even need to sell market their services to attract the target groups. This may sound like a “commercialization of faith” or “trivialization of the supernatural” but if you care to reflect you will realize that the faithful too like everyone else is just being son and daughters of their time.

One of the most important innovations that every organization that wishes to remain sustainable tomorrow should effect is what is known as “organizational structure and culture”. This includes leadership, recruitment, and updating of both personnel and structures. A leader of an organization or an institution is like a driver, a pilot, or a captain of a ship. There may be other crew members but the overall task of reaching the destination safely depends on the one who navigates the system. A pilot may have the best co-pilot and crew members in the market but can easily crush the aircraft.

This is because the final decisions that either make or break the entire structure of an organization rest on the capacity of the head leader to navigate different aspects. An overall leader needs to be the following and more.

  1. A good manager – is responsible for controlling and administering an organization.
  2. Human Resource is responsible for ensuring that the member performs their duties efficiently. Need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the members and know how to deploy them to various tasks.
  3. CEO – directs the agendas of an organization, manages organization structures, and drives profitability.
  4. Diplomat – is the face of an organization in relation to the state and other organizations.
  5. Legal person – he or she is the one charged with legal matters and the jurisdiction of the organization.
  6. The last result – he is she is the one who makes the last decision in case of contention on which way to go.
  7. Answerable – he is the one to answer queries about matters related to the organization at the highest level. And many others.

This demands that a leader should possess multiple capabilities and possess multidisciplinary skills in order to take the organization in the right direction.

A leader must possess the ability to create room for innovation by the members without compromising the core values of an organization. A non-innovative leader renders the members dormant and even risks losing some of them to other organizations that are open to innovation.

When a leader is deploying every member to a particular task, he or she must be satisfying the following key issues.

  1. What is the overall impact that the organization wants to create in the world or for humanity?
  2. What are the sustainable objectives that the organization needs to achieve?
  3. What is the output required in order to meet the objectives desired?
  4. What is the input required to produce the desired output?
  5. What is the financial resource needed for every input?
  6. What are the Psycho-social and cultural specifics that the member required for a particular environment?
  7. Does the member being deployed possess the skills needed to perform duties pertaining to his or her office?
  8. Where two or three members are required to work together, does each of them understand and accept the ABC of their roles?
  9. Are there in place mitigation procedures in case of misunderstanding?

Going back even before deployment, religious organizations such as Congregations and institutes of consecrated life need to recruit, train and assess their members. If any of these critical processes are not well done, there will be a problem when the time for deployment arrives. Just as they say in Kiswahili “Mtoto umleavyo, ndivyo akuavyao” (the way you bring up the child, the way he or she grows), the performance of an institution depends on the recruitment and the training of its members.

Most human activities are scientific in nature, meaning that they can be systematic and organized in measurable explanations. If our religious institutions will remain relevant in a scientific world, they too have no alternative but to appreciate and employ science in the way they run their affairs.

When electing leaders in religious institutions, apart from the invocation of the Holy Spirit to inspire the electorate, the members need to be abreast with the needs of the institute, the directions they need to take, and the profile of the desired candidate.

If this is done meticulously, the chances of succeeding are elevated. If not the reverse is definitely true. One cannot act in the same way and expect different results. For different results, different strategies are required.

This is the way it is. It is the way the world works today.

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