Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Sunday readings in brief: Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Numbers 6:22-27; Psalms 66(67); Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

The logical Conclusion

Dear friends, today is the 1st of January, and the feast of Mary, Holy Mother of God. During the first centuries after the resurrection of Jesus, faith matters were not organized. Not much was written about the main content of the Christian faith apart from the Gospels, which related to the life of Jesus and the letters of St. Paul and other letters which tried to explain faith in Christ. As time went by, the young Church experienced a huge shift, that is from being persecuted to being the Roman state religion, politics, and clave for power invaded the Church leaders. There were also cultural differences between East and West that brought sharp divisions

There was a big division among the bishops about the major tenets of faith. The matter was so grave that the laity tended to be champions of orthodoxy while their bishops (seduced by closeness to imperial power) tended not to be. The dispute began with the question of whether Jesus Christ was of the same nature as God or whether he was the only man. Bishop Ario led the faction that said that Jesus was created by the Father and was not equal to him. Bishop Athanasius on the other side led the faction that defended orthodoxy that Jesus was the true God and true man- consubstantial with the father. The First Council of Bishops convened in Nicea in 325 and defined Jesus as the true God and true man. Arianism was rejected and Ario and his followers were excommunicated.

This declaration of faith brought about another dispute that was about the position of Mary. If Mary was the Mother of Jesus and Jesus is the son of God, it is only logical to conclude that Mary was the mother of God. The matter was disputed for a long period and was put to rest by the declaration by the council of Ephesus in 432 that Mary was Theotokos – Mother of God.

Since the beginning, the Church has always honored Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God and the mother of all those redeemed by her Son Jesus. God chose and prepared Mary as the second Eve who would bring salvation to the world. God created Man and Woman in his own image and likeness and placed them above all His creatures. God respects us so much, that he cannot violate the freedom He gave us in the beginning. That is He chose to come to us in our own nature so that he can teach and convince us to return to God.

Through Mary, the world has received salvation and that is why we honor her and ask her to intercede for us to her son. Mary accepted the heavy task of being a mother of a child that was a big mystery to her and risked even being banished from the community were it not for the generosity of her spouse St. Joseph. Jesus came to redeem and makes sons and daughters of the Father with the right to inherit the kingdom of God that had been taken from us by sin.

Mary kept everything in her heart and became the first believer in her son. By bringing Jesus on earth and raising him until he began his public ministry, Mary became a co-redeemer. We are also called to be Jesus’ co-redeemers in our communities.

Dear friends, as we contemplate upon the role that Mary played in the history of salvation, I invite us to also reflect on the role each one is given to play in bringing salvation to our communities. Through baptism, we have become sons and daughters of God. Our vocation is to bring others to Jesus. May the mother of our Lord and the mother of us all help us to play our role in bringing salvation to all?

Have a happy new year

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

Making Christmas meaningful

Making Christmas meaningful

For many children in the developed world and big cities in the developing world, Christmas is a season of beautiful memories. Memories of gifts, going out to have fun in malls, delicious meals, new clothes, toys, and the list can go on and on. This is on top of so many other privileges they have including schooling in the best schools and having well-furnished bedrooms. Well, not all children enjoy all these. Here in Simanjiro, many children have only one incomplete meal per day, sleep 10 or more in one small room with no light, and on a bed made of cow skin, and attend public schools where in many instances up to 200 of them share a classroom. For them, Christmas is just as ordinary as any other day. While boys are going after livestock girls are helping with fetching water and firewood. Apart from missing out on festivities that other children have, many of them are denied their basic rights such as education. Even worse, girls are sold off to adults and even old men as second, third, or fourth wives when they are still as young as ten years of age.

Since the last year 2021, we started Pontifical Childhood Singing completion in our Parish, whereby we gather children from all our 30 stations. We use this platform to give children a moment to celebrate being children and beautiful moments to remember when they grow up.

The refrain of the song was about the meaning and values of the Pontifical Childhood Pastoral group. “Pontifical Childhood is a pastoral group that brings children together and teaches them good Christian values”. The verses were: 1) The group gives children the opportunity to achieve self-awareness and be responsible in Christ, 2) The group helps to fight against child abuse in our society, and 3) Prayer to God for parents and caretakers to bring up their children in good values.

Just like we do with the adult choir completions, every year we go to a different station. Despite the heavy rains that pounded on Christmas eve, 20 stations managed to bring their children some from as far as 70 Kilometers away. First, we had a Mass outside that was led by children’s choirs from different stations. Immediately after mass, there was a heavy downfall that went on for about an hour. We all squeezed inside the Church. After the rain subsided we continue with the singing completion.

A total of 863 children took the stage to present their interpretation of the song all of them dressed in pontifical colours – white and yellow. The biggest choir had 88 children. We had two judges who adjudicated the performance and gave marks based on: how they entered the floor, the dress, the conductor, the singers themselves, and how they finished and left the flour. Each of the two adjudicators give his own marks and the average of the two made up the final school.

The winner and runners-up carried home a big trophy and the third place settled for Pontifical Childhood rosaries. All the participants also got a roll-pop candy.

We have already seen how this competition is raising the spirit of our children. We believe that the long-term transformation will be as beautiful as the memories that these children will grow up with.  

Football with a difference

Football with a difference

The recently completed World Cup that took place in Qatar has been rated as one of the best ever. No one can dispute the fact that football has become one of the biggest factors uniting nations or at least gathering them on one platform. When we were children, we enjoyed football for fun and we could play even at night during the full moon. Today, while for some countries football has become one of the major sources of revenue, there are many others also who depend on football for their livelihood. Be the players themselves, managers of the teams, coaches, referees, betting companies, suppliers of football-related equipment such as balls, jerseys, shoes, and medals, transport companies, as well as the hospitality businesses among many others.

We know players who came from a poor background, became stars in football, and brought economic transformation not only to their families but to their local communities. However, to reach those levels where football starts paying back is not easy at all especially when you are born and brought up in some of the remotest parts of the world.

When I arrived in Simanjiro and began going around our stations, I started observing how talented the young people were when they played football on dust village playgrounds. They had no event even on a minor scale to test or showcase their talents. It was then that the idea of starting a football tournament came to my mind in October 2019. First I looked for some of them who would help me to sell the idea to the rest of the teams. The next thing was what to compete for and thanks to Athenry Group from Ireland who through one of their volunteer nurse Ms. Louis, helped with trophies, balls, and second-hand jerseys that they got from their local town teams. We named the tournament St. Arnold Janssen Super Cup after the founding of the Divine Word Missionaries.

To my surprise, five teams from neighboring villages responded positively and the marches took off. The first finals were played on Christmas day 2019 and it was a big success. The following year 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and we were not able to have the tournament. However, in 2021 we resumed again and instead of Christmas day because of the Children singing competition that was planned for the same day, we fixed the finals on 24th the eve of Christmas as the official date for the Cup Finals. This time, we had to buy new jerseys, trophies, balls, and medals for the winning teams. Six teams took part.

During the finals, we invited local leaders and politicians who promised to support with contributions to get even more rewards for the winning teams to come in 2022. As one would expect of politicians, their sweet promises came to nothing when the real moment came. We approached them months before the 2022 tournament began, which attracted 10 teams but none of them came through. So we once again had to settle for what we could afford to reward the enthusiastic winners. They say promises from politicians are as good as jokes that you can tell again and again when people forget them.

However, the tournament ended very well with a lot of improvement in terms of management and standards of the players. We decided to incur extra costs to get a professional referee and linesmen for the semis and final marches which added a lot of value to the games. We had no complaints about the results being different from the previous year. Hundreds of football fans came out to cheer. We also had a commentator who thrilled the fans with his comments.

I am personally so much encouraged by how the tournament has grown and am looking forward to showcasing our local talents outside the district and even getting them to major tournaments in the big cities.

The meaning of Christmas

Sunday readings in brief Chrismas Day Year C

Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalms 97(98); Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

The meaning of Christmas

Dear friends, today is Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God. This season will end with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. I would like us today to reflect briefly on the meaning of Christmas. Well, there are many ways and perspectives from which the meaning of Christmas can be derived. I would like us today to answer only two questions that will help us to understand the meaning of this day. These are: i) Why did God come to us in Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – God with us)?, ii) Why did God choose this way (being born as a baby) to come to us?

The first question: God came to us so that he may restore our broken nature and make us once more sons and daughters. If you read the book of Genesis carefully, it suggests that God created man and woman in his own image and likeness and was always very close to him. However, because of sin, these lost that image and likeness and therefore separated him from the love of God. Since then, God made many attempts to bring man and woman back to him but all proved futile because man and woman kept separating from him. Finally, God sent his only Son Jesus Christ to come to us and restore our broken nature and teach us the way that would take us back to the father. The main Message of Jesus to the world is that God the Father loves all of us and each of us can choose to come back to him voluntarily.

The second question is why God choose to come to us as a child born of a woman just like us, whereas being God he could have used many other ways. In my opinion, again influenced by the story of creation and the previous attempts to save humanity, God chose this way because he respects us and cannot violate the freedom he gave us. This is underlined by the very fact that God created us in his image and likeness and breathed in us his own life. Giving someone true freedom means letting him or she choose the path he or she wants to take without muscling or putting limits on their path. St. Augustin of Hippo puts it even more clearly that, “he who created us without our help will not save us without our consent”. This is tremendous freedom of determination that God gave to us and that he will never take from us.

Because of this freedom given to us, God could only bring us back to himself by persuading us that going back to him is the best thing to do. In trying to persuade us, God used many people who were prophets or leaders such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah,  Isaiah, and John the Baptist. In different ways, each of these and many others tried to make people understand God’s plan. Before Abraham, God had tried to save the entire humanity together, and when this failed God decided to use one nation to save the entire humanity – the people of Israel. When this too proved difficult, God, therefore, decided to come to us and seduce each one of us individually. This is told through the Prophesy of Ezekiel “”Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man’s virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man’s wickedness shall be his own” (Ez 18:20).

The Book of Hebrews tells us that God no longer speaks to us again through prophets but through his Son who has come to destroy all the captivities of mankind. The Gospel reminds us that the Word of God who was always with God and himself being God became flesh and dwelt among us in order to restore us individually and make us a living Church ended to heaven. In his turn, the son chose for himself people who would continue with his mission to bring all people to himself. All of us who are baptized and in a particular way those chosen to be ministers at the altar have the mandate and the responsibility to bring the message of salvation to all.

Dear friend as we embrace the baby Jesus in our hearts, I would like to remind us that no amount of prayers meetings, baptisms, miracles, crusades, adorations, or cleansings by anyone on earth, even in the name of Jesus, will save us if we ourselves are not ready to be saved. All these will be only massaging our spirits to think that we are on the right path. True salvation is voluntary and involves transformation.

Merry Christmas

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

The Plan of Salvation

Sunday readings in brief 4 Advent A

Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalms 23(24); Romans 1:1-7; Mathew 1:18-24

The Plan of Salvation

Dear friends, today is the 4th Sunday of Advent Year C. Next Sunday will be the Feast of the Birth of Our Saviour Jesus Christ – Christmas Day/Noel. Today’s readings focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman who gave birth to our Saviour. This was prefigured during the time of King Ahaz of Israel through the prophecy of Isaiah, that a virgin would give birth to a King. At this time, Judah (Jerusalem) was being attacked by Assyria who had found an ally in Israel. Ahaz was forced to pay heavy taxes and the enemy occupied Judah. The child prophesied was King Ezekiel who became a good king and a true Immanuel – God with his people. However, Ezekiel did not meet all the expectations of the true Messiah Son of David and henceforth the hope of another Messiah remained. This hope would be fulfilled when the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ who was a descendant of King David through Joseph.

In his writings about incarnation, St. Athanasius says that “for the Son of God became man so that man might become God”. The project of salvation was initiated by God himself but was carried out by human beings. God in his might and power would have chosen numberless ways to come to save his people. However, he chose to carry out his plan throughout human history, and for many generations, the message of salvation was preached until finally, he came to us in our own nature and form.

We can trace the Chronology of salvation history from the very creation to today. Creation – We believe that God created everything that exists – and that He created a universe that was good. …, Covenant with Abraham. …, the Exodus and Moses. …, the Kings of Israel. …, Prophets. …, Jesus Christ. …, Jesus’ Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. …, Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church.

In every generation, God calls people to continue his mission of saving the world. During the Old Testament, God lifted up kings and prophets who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, carried out his plans with the hope of restoring man and woman’s original status that was destroyed by the original sin. After the coming of Jesus Christ, God continued to raise apostles who, through the power of the same Holy Spirit, continue to take the message of salvation, already effected, to people of all nations. You and I, through Baptism, have received the mission to preach the Good News of salvation to others through our words and deeds.

St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father is a great example for us today. Just like any of us, Joseph was astonished to learn that his spouse Mary was with a child that he was not responsible for. However, unlike many men in his time, Joseph did not think of disgracing Mary by reporting her pregnancy to the elders but rather decided to leave quietly. It is at this point that God brought him on board in his magnificent plan of salvation. Perhaps this was a test for Joseph and he passed it very well. Likewise, God has his plan and all of us are called to take part in it. However, many of us fail the test and are not able to carry out God’s plans for us as individuals and for the World through us.

Having been in active missionary work at the grass-root for a while now, I can testify that God always approaches us to carry out specific tasks to bring salvation in the world. Nevertheless, God will never arm-twist or coax anyone in any way but rather seeks our voluntary participation.  If we manifest our willingness, though in itself a gift from him, he gradually unveils his plans to us and assists us on the way as he did to Joseph. Remember his call to many before us (Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and others), and how he helped them overcome their weaknesses to become monuments of faith.

Dear friends, as we begin the last week of advent that will lead us to Christmas, I invite us to look into our lives and see whether we are cooperating with God in his plan to save the world or if we are obstacles. If we dispose ourselves to God, he will reveal his wonders to us but if we ignore his promptings, we will die without realizing his plans for us.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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