Ascension of our Lord

 Sunday Readings in Brief: Ascension 2021

Acts 1:1-11; Ps 46(47); Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53

Dear friends, today is the feast of the ascension of the risen Lord. It is forty days since the resurrection. Today he is bidding farewell to his disciples but only temporarily because he promised to come back. As he left them, Jesus gave his disciples the mission to go out there and witness the good news to all humanity. However, he first instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until he could send them the Holy Spirit who would help them in their mission.

Just like many of us, the disciples were anxious to know whether this was the time when the kingdom of Israel would be restored. It seems that still, the disciples had not yet understood the real meaning of the “kingdom of God”. Still, they had not fully understood what the Kingdom of God entailed. Jesus knew that after they had received the Holy Spirit everything would be clear to them.

Jesus sends his disciples to go and preach repentance and forgiveness in his name. In our society dominated by lies, delusion, violence, injustice, inequality, irresponsibility, selfishness, greed, politics of hatred, and many other evil forces that have taken us captives, Jesus is instructing us to preach change that would lead to a new world.

In the Gospel of Mark 16:15-20, Jesus reveals to the disciples that if they act in his NAME, they would perform the signs that he performed. However, the disciples could only perform them not in their capacity but “in the name of Jesus”. They would be able to cast out demons, speak new languages, hold dangerous serpents without harm, survive poisoning, and heal the sick by laying their hands upon them. He was giving them immunity to all dangers they would face in the cause of preaching the Gospel. This is very important because the world is full of opposition towards the Good News. It means the end of business for those who profited through the ignorance of the masses.

For them to be effective in the mission of preaching the Gospel, Jesus gives them, the Spirit who would help them do the things that he did. As Christians, when we are baptized and confirmed in our faith we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to perform the things that Jesus performed. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians is explaining Jesus is the head of the Church, which is his own body. We need to be aware that the Church is not a human enterprise but has Jesus as its Chief Executive Officer.

Nevertheless, today many people have misinterpreted the meaning of the mission to preach the Gospel. In a world where everything has been commercialized, and many are seeking alternative ways to live better life other than hard work and perseverance, the preaching of the gospel of prosperity based on quick-fix-miracles has become the most profitable business. In the name of the Gospel, many have established business entities to delude innocent people and con them of their money and possessions. To make their business even more attractive, they use all kinds of tricks including stage-managed “miracles”.

People who do not want to follow the long and tedious process of attaining a “good life” through hard work and perseverance, think that miracles are the best shortcut. This has led those with sharp entrepreneur minds to design custom-made “miraculous products” for every need. The Gospel that was supposed to be voluntary and faith-driven has become a product like any other in the market. However, those who are keen enough will be able to distinguish what true faith in Jesus is and what is not. Do not be deceived or deceive yourself because nothing good comes easy. Jesus had to give his life for us to be saved.

Finally, we have read that after Jesus had been taken from them, the disciples returned to Jerusalem full of Joy. This is different from the day when Jesus was crucified. It was a good end with a promise. Now Jesus will no longer be present to them physically but rather in Spirit.

Dear friends, I invite us to embrace fully the new life receive through the Spirit and live according to what we have learned from Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.

Peace and Justice are kin

Sunday readings in brief 6 Easter C

Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Ps 66 (67); Ap 21:10-14,22-23; Jn 14:23-29

Peace and Justice are kin

Dear friends today is the sixth Sunday of Easter. In three weeks, we will celebrate the Birthday of the Church – the Pentecost and conclude this Easter season. Today Jesus begins his farewell speeches to his disciples as he prepares for his ascension to the Father. Jesus had been with them a long time and had taught them many things concerning the Kingdom of God. However, there remained only one test for them, the test of love.

As we read some time ago in chapter six of the Gospel of St. John, not everyone was following Jesus because of their teachings. Some had a wrong understanding of who he was and what his mission was. Jesus fed the crowd with physical bread as a visible sign of the living bread of his body and blood that he was preparing to give them. However, some followed him because he the bread for their stomach and were not ready to hear anything beyond.

Today he is telling those who stayed with him to the end that the only way to demonstrate their love to him is by keeping his word. Keeping someone’s word means faithfully adhering to his or her instructions. The word of Jesus was not only his but also the Father’s word and this is what made the difference. Jesus put it clearly to his disciples and indeed all those who listened to him that he was not preaching his word but the word of one greater than him, his Father. He also demonstrated that he found tremendous peace in doing the will of his Father. The will of the father was that all be one in peace and that Justice may reign on earth (Lk 4:16-20).

Jesus came to plant the seed of peace in the world by preaching justice. There can only be peace when everyone feels treated justly. Peace cannot be realized as far as there are agitations among some members of any community. Communities with good governance and the rule of just laws are known to be peaceful. It is not enough to have powerful governments with the strong military capacity to have peace, what is needed is justice for all and peace will thrive.

In the first reading, we hear how agitation rose among the pagan converts to Christianity because some Jewish converts wanted to force their traditional practices on them. These Jewish converts thought that others needed to follow their traditions because Jesus preached to them first. They wanted to remain in their traditions and be Christians at the same time. When the matters escalated and threatened to destroy the community, Paul and Barnabas thought it wise to consult with the Apostles in Jerusalem. This led to the first meeting of the Apostles to discuss the matter and come up with a decision. It was very important to put things in order if the gospel was to be accepted by people of non-Jewish descent.

By its nature, the message of salvation does not have any permanent address but abodes everywhere it is welcome. In other words, I argue that the Gospel does not belong to any human culture but rather permeates every culture transforming it to be godly. The problem of communities losing faith and nations passing laws to drop religious adherence is because of conflict of interests between cultures. When the principle of any religion becomes discriminatory to others because they follow other traditions than the majority, then there will always be conflicts. In the second reading, St. John’s vision of the Holy City is a symbol of unity among the peoples from all corners of the world. The symbolic 12 gates represent all the tribes of the chosen nation of Israel and the 12 foundation stones represent the 12 apostles who became the pillars of the new universal nation redeemed by Christ.

Dear friends, the world is home to millions of living and non-living species of which human beings are part. We can only have peace if we learn and accept to accommodate others and share the gifts God has given us. I invite us today to reflect upon our attitude towards people who do not belong to my ethnic community, my country, or my racial background. You can rate yourself between 0 and 5, five being super accommodative and o being intolerant.

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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The New Look

Sunday readings in brief 5 Easter C

Acts 14:21-27; Ps 144 (145), Ap 21:1-5; Jh 13:31-33,34-35

The New Look

Dear friends, today is the fifth Sunday of Easter. We have three more weeks left in this season where we celebrate the gift of salvation that God has given us in Christ Jesus. However, every Sunday is Easter Sunday, whereby we relive the mystery of our salvation. Today’s readings invite us to reflect upon the concept of “new”, and new things have something that attracts us though after coming into close contact with them, not everyone appreciates them. This is because “new” involves change and transformation and not everyone wants to change or transform. The concept of renewal and renovation is a common one among all cultures. When things become old and ugly, we renovate to give them a “New look”.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus preached was something new to the people of his time. Heralded by John the Baptist, everyone braced for it and was anxious to know what they needed to do to form part of it. However, after getting to know the real content of the Kingdom, we are told, that many fell behind and no longer followed Jesus (Jh 6:66). They were afraid of changing their old ways and opted to stay away from Jesus. 

In the first reading, the new thing is that God was opening the door of faith to the pagans through the work of Paul and Barnabas. This was something that many of the Jews converts found difficult to appreciate and it would bring confrontation that led to the first council of the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 15). In our communities, we sometimes find it difficult to welcome new members who are not from our culture. 

In the second reading, St. John talks about a new heaven and new earth that replaces the old ones. He says it was as beautiful as a bride dressed for her husband. This is where God lives with his people (Emmanuel). In this city, there will be no more tears for those who live in it. This is the Church where Christians love and console one another.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives to his disciples the only precepts that are required for all those who live in this new world, “Love one another as I have loved you”. It is not a world of traitors like Judas and probably this is why today’s Gospel starts with the phrase, “when Judas had gone Jesus said…”. Love is the greatest value that should visibly distinguish between those who belong to the city from those who do not. 

When we were baptized, we were born to new life and became the children of God through Christ. The Church is the New Jerusalem and the new city where those who live in it must embrace its new ways of Love, peace, justice, tolerance, forgiveness, and hard work among others. It is contradictory that those who are born to the new world through baptism continue with their old ways. This can only happen when people enter the city unprepared or by making holes in its walls.

In my mission, I struggle with Polygamy, child marriage, discrimination against women, and other bad traditions among the baptized. This happen because there was insufficient or no instruction about Christian values at the time of their baptism. This example is replicated in other Christian Communities in different ways. We have many people baptized but who are still stuck in jealousy, hatred, negative competition, greed, selfishness, sloth, and many other evils. This prevents us from enjoying the climate of the new city. 

Dear friends, today I invite us to reflect upon our ways as the citizens of the new city, the Church. As baptized persons, do we live the Christian values in such a way that attracts those who surround us or do we make them shake their heads in disgust at our conduct? 

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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