Dare to be holy! Dare to be a temple because the world needs you!
Beloved in Christ, God saves the
world, but He does not save the world without the help of human instruments,
such as you and me. That is why God has called you and me to become his
disciples. Our responsorial psalm reminds us that our God is kind and merciful;
and He desires that every human being in the world comes to experience this
love and mercy. Jesus in the gospel reminds us that we are called to experience
God's salvation and help others do the same. What does Jesus mean by “be
perfect”? He means I cannot control what people do, but like God, I can control
my reaction to what people do. So, I should live in such a way that people can
experience God’s love and mercy through me. That is the honor and the
privilege we have as Christians: to help others come to know and experience
God's love and mercy; The question I ask myself today is if I take a look at
the way I live, the choices I make, the things that I do, do I really get it?
Do I really get what it means to a disciple of Christ to bring God's love and
mercy? Our first and second readings remind us of what it means to be a
disciple of God.
To Be Holy: The first reading tells us that to be a Christian is to
accept the call to be Holy. What does it mean to be holy? In the bible, to say
that something is holy is to say that thing is set apart for the salvation of
people and the glory of God. So the call to be holy means we should live as
people who are set apart for the salvation of souls and the glory of God!
Beloved in Christ, Christians are not called to blend in, but to stand out so
that we can be light in the darkness to help others walk the path of life in
such a way that they may not tremble and fall; but that they may be safe and
have the best of life. This is what makes God happy, a concept which is
described in theological terms as glorifying God!
To be a Temple: Taken literally, a temple looks like a passive place, a building
that cannot move, talk, or do anything. But symbolically, a temple is much more
than that. It is an active reality. There are some basic characteristics of a
A temple stands out. It does not just
blend in. It welcomes everybody both sinful and righteous.
However, the purpose of the
temple is to transform lives: To make those who come in as good better,
and those who come as sinful, good. The temple is to help people encounter
the divine so that they can be transformed to become like the divine being
who dwells in the temple.
In the temple, you always find wisdom
that goes beyond what the world teaches. A true encounter with a temple
makes one realize that people cannot live by human wisdom alone. Life
based only on human wisdom can survive for a time, but eventually, it
leads to destruction and emptiness. It is only when we allow human wisdom
to be guided by the wisdom of God that life becomes complete, and brings
Beloved, we need to ask ourselves
some important questions as we reflect on these readings. In the family, among
my friends, and in my work place: Am I a true temple? Do I welcome everybody?
Do people who encounter me become better human beings? Do I help them get
transformed into the men and women God created them to be? Do people find the
Wisdom of God when they interact with me or do I live and teach only human
wisdom? My prayer for you and me this week is that God will give us all the
graces we need so that, in words and actions, we can dare to be holy, we can
dare to be a temple so that through us people will experience God's love and
Maintaining our Usefulness and Radiance
as Salt of the Earth and Light of the World
Beloved in Christ, in our gospel today Jesus reminds us that
we are the salt of the earth and light of the world. He goes on to admonish us
to be careful with the way we live our lives so that we don’t lose our
usefulness as salts and our radiance as light. Our first and second readings
bring out some important dos and don’ts that we need to practice so that we do
not lose our relevance as salts and our radiance as light.
The first reading tells us that in addition to reaching out
to the poor, we need to avoid oppression, false accusation, and speaking evil
about people. I would like to suggest that we find some time this week to
reflect on these don’ts. Avoiding Oppression: Do you oppress people? You may
think “oh I don’t have any power, so I don’t oppress anybody”. But I want you
to think about this. When you are dealing with people, do you always want to be
the one receiving praises? Do you feel confortable when somebody else receives
the praise? Are you able to genuinely rejoice in the successes and blessings of
others? Do you manipulate your relationships to get what you want out of them
or do you empower others through your words and actions?
The reading also tells us we need to avoid false accusation
and malicious speech. As I reflected on this I remembered an incident that
happened last year. There was this person who always looked very grumpy and easily
got annoyed. Every time I talked with him he was grumpy. So I drew the
conclusion that this guy is just a grumpy person so I will not worry myself
about him. Anytime I was going to meet with him, I prepared my mind that he
would be grumpy. One day, I was having a chat with him and he did not look that
grumpy so I remarked: “Um, no offense but today you do not look grumpy”. He looked at me, smiled, and then told me he mostly
comes across as grumpy because he has sleep problems and does not get more than
one hour of sleep at night. I felt so ashamed because I was so wrong. I had
accused him falsely. I began to pray that God would cure him of his sleep
disorders. Beloved, maybe as you hear this story, you are thinking: “Oh father
Richmond, I thought you were better than that”. But before you judge me, I just
want you to take a moment to ask yourself “Do I always take time to
understand what is going on with people before I draw conclusions about their
St. Paul in the second reading
tells us not to rely on human wisdom in our interaction with people. In our
interaction with family, friends, and others in our church community and the
society where we live, we need to allow the power and wisdom of God to direct
our thoughts and actions. It’s only in this way that we can maintain our
usefulness and radiance as salt of the earth and light of the world.
The Lord Will Enter His Temple (Your Life) and Redeem You.
So Hold on to His Promises
Beloved in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, as a child in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. We recall the day when Mary went into the temple to be purified after childbirth according to the Jewish custom. We all these events because they so how God fulfilled his covenant he made with Abraham and his descendant. So, we celebrate this feast to thank God for being such a faithful God, who keeps his promises. Beloved, the Words of God that we hear when we gather are not just some history that is recounted. They are more than that. The Words are Spirit and they are life. Our first reading today tells us God will enter into his temple, make all things new, and help us live our lives in a way that is pleasing to him.Which temple is God talking about? It's not only the place of worship; it's also our lives because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit. The second reading tells us that Jesus did not come into the world to be a bystander. No! He came to hold us by the hand and walk with us out of suffering and death.
Brothers and Sister in Christ, our gospel reading also reminds us that all those who open up to these Words ( God's Promises) and hold on to them will see these promises taking flesh in their own lives. The gospel affirms that life will not always be easy but those who hold on to the promises of God will always find joy and strength to overcome their problems. Mary was told that because of the child, a sword would pierce through her heart! Why did Mary not give up? It was because she held on to the promises of God as the Angel had told her: "The Lord is with You". Simeon had seen many suffering in his own life and that of his people. Why did he not give up? It was because he held on to the promises of God. Anna had lived her life many years as a widow. A widow in Israel at that time had a tough life. Why did she not give up? It was because she held on to the promises of God.
Beloved in Christ: Are you going through any tough time in your life right now? Are you struggling with any situation right now in your life? Are you afraid, worried, or anxious about anything right now? Our readings today assure you that God will enter into your life and makes things new! I don't know what you are going through right now, but I assure you that God knows and he will redeem you. So, hold on to the promises of God and don't give up!
Fishers of Men Must Care About Souls That are Perishing
It takes sacrifice, devotion, trust, and unity to be fishers of men. Our first reading today is about God's promises to His people to make all things new, to take away the darkness of their lives, that which threatens their lives and takes their joy away. God wants to restore lives and and bring joy to the world! The rest of the readings show how God fulfilled that promise for the people of old and how he will fulfill that promise for us today.
The gospel and the second reading tell show us what it takes to bring that joy to the world: It calls for sacrifice. John the Baptist had to offer his life, suffer imprisonment and even death in order for him to bring the joy of the gospel to others. Jesus had to sacrifice comfort, leaving his home in Nazareth and settling in a new area Capernaum in Galilee in order for the words of the prophet Isaiah to be fulfilled. The disciples-Peter and Andrew, James and John had to do the same. They left their families and businesses in order to bring joy to the world! You may be thinking so is God asking me to give up my business and family? Maybe God is not asking you to literally move or give up your business, but He is rather asking you to do what you do in a new way so that you can bring God’s joy in a more effective way to others. Maybe God is not asking you to move from your town but he is asking you to live there in a new way so that you can bring God's joy to people more effectively. That is what Jesus means by Repent: Do things differently and in a way that is more pleasing to God and life-saving for others.
Beloved, living as fishers of men calls for listening to God's call with your heart not only with your mind. If we keep rationalizing every part of scripture and God's invitation for us to reach out, we will always find excuses and they will become obstacles. The human mind alone cannot please God. The disciples were able to respond to God's call because they listened with their hearts, but not only with their minds. Being a fisher of men calls for trust. We need to pay attention to the invitation. It has a future tense of something greater than we have currently: "I will make you". Finally, we need to work together as a family. Jesus called the Apostles as individuals, but he did not want them to remain individuals. He wanted them to form a community of love. That is why St. Paul reminds us in the second reading to stay united with the Church. Beloved, people are waiting for us to bring them life and the joy of the Gospel! It takes sacrifice, devotion, trust, and unity to be fishers of men.
It is only when we live as Servants of God that we can overcome sin
"Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will". This is the responsorial psalm we just sung and that song summarizes our purpose and mission as Christians. The question I ask myself is “does my life reflect this song that I just sung?” Or perhaps if I want to be true to myself do I have to add the phrase "... when it is convenient?" In our gospel, John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus is the lamb of God and that the purpose of Jesus dying on the Cross is to set us free from sin. He died so that sin will be no more. St. Paul echoes the same point in our second reading when he says you and I were called to be holy. This means we are called to overcome sin in our own lives and help others do the same. Beloved, if we fail to do this, then Christ died in vain. When we listen to readings like this, we need to ask ourselves "I am becoming a better person because of my relationship with Christ? Does my relationship with Christ help me to overcome sin and help others do the same?
St. Gregory of Nyssa reflected upon what it means to be a Christian and he concluded that the goal of the Christian life is to merit to be called “Servant of God”. The Prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, reminds us that we cannot become light for the world unless we are ready to become servants of God. Beloved in Christ, there are times we succeed in overcoming sin and become a light for our family, friends, and community; and if you pay attention you will see that anytime you succeeded in overcoming sin was a time you were willing to be a servant of God. The times we fall into sin and/or make others fall into sin are when we fail to be Servants of God!
In our world today, the word servant has a negative connotation and nobody wants to be called a servant. In the secular world, the term servant refers to a person who does a job which is considered inferior for a somebody considered noble, such as a king, queen, president, etc to do. But in the Bible, a servant is not an inferior human being, but a person who is honored and given the privilege to do something that only God can do. It is in this sense that the Bible uses the word servant. Thus, Moses is the servant of God; the prophets are the servant of God; the Blessed Mother is the handmaid of God; and Christ is the servant of God par excellence. It is precisely because these women and men of our faith were not ashamed to be servants of God that they become a light for the world. The primary title of the Pope is "Servant of the Servants of God"; and in the Catholic Church the first title a person needs to have in order to be considered for sainthood is "servant of God". Beloved, that is what we are called to be. There are some basic characteristics of all servants of God:
They love the will of God
They deliver God's word exactly the way God wants them to deliver it. They see themselves as messengers and know that their job is not to compose the message, but to deliver God's word as He gives it.
They obey the Word of God even when it is difficult to do so
They defend the will and the Word of God
Today, find some time to ponder the question: “I am a servant of God or I am trying to be the master of my own life? Do I love and defend the Word of God and the teachings of his church? Do I live to do God's will at all times or only when it is convenient for me?”
Beloved in Christ,
on behalf of Fr. Jon Seda, our Pastor, and on my on behalf I would like to
thank you very much for all the Christmas cards and the gifts cards you sent
us. We are very grateful and we continue to keep all of you in our prayers.
Talking about gift cards, I remember Fr. Jon came to my office after Christmas
day and saw some gifts cards on my desk and said “Wow you have a lot of gifts
cards; just be sure to make time to use them. Find time to eat! Don’t waste
people’s gifts cards”. So I said “Ok I will; but you must also learn how
to follow the instructions on your gifts cards. Don’t take Kum & Go’s gift
card to Casey like you did"
My Dear People of God, today we celebrate the gift of God’s
Manifestation of his glory and salvation to the world, the gift of God’s self
to us. We celebrate the gift of the Word that has become flesh in Jesus Christ,
who is a light for our path and a lamp for our feet, the gift of peace and joy
in our lives. In our readings today, God reminds us that he has more blessings
in store for us than we can think of. In the first reading, the People of
Israel had returned from exile but they were going through a tough time
rebuilding their country and their lives. Everything seemed to be falling
apart. It was at that time that God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell the people
to rejoice and rise up in splendor because God was going to glorify them in a
way that they could never imagine. Beloved, these words of God are not history.
The promises of God were not only meant for the people of Israel, but they are
also meant of you and me. As we begin this New Year, we also have some problems
we wish to overcome. We have our fears and anxieties about how 2014 is going to
be. We all hope for something new, for a better life and maybe we are already
struggling with how to rebuild our lives. The prophet tells us, the glory of
the Lord will shine upon you and even though we still see some darkness,
because you have problems, God promises to shine over us to remove the darkness
in our lives, and glorify us. Isaiah says God will do this because he wants to
make us a blessing unto others.
St. Paul, in our second reading, talks about how God revealed some
great mystery to him, a mystery that God did not reveal to the past
generations; and he said God revealed his glory to him so that he, Paul, will
become a blessing unto others. Beloved in Christ, God has something great in
store for you and me in 2014. God promises to reveal his glory to us in a way
that past generations did not know. God promises to reveal his glory to us in a
way that we did not know in 2013. You are a means of God blessing to somebody
in your life and because of that God will bless you in 2014.
However, our gospel reading reminds us that we have to play our
part for God’s promises to come true. The story of the three wise men teaches
us that it is only when we follow God’s instructions and obey his words that we
find his glory. Peace, joy, and the fulfillment of our dreams come about when
human beings do not rely solely on their human wisdom but follow God’s word. If
the wise men had relied only on their own wisdom, they would not have seen the
glory of God in their lives. They needed Scripture to tell them where the Savior
was born, where their joy could be found. In addition, it was because they
followed God’s voice that they returned to their country safe, filled with joy.
Beloved in Christ, let’s take some time to reflect on how we followed God’s
instructions last year. As an individual, find some time to sit down and ask
yourself " how did I do in terms of following God's instruction last year?
Can I do a better job this year? Find some time to sit down with your family
and ask yourselves “How did we do, as a family, in following God’s instructions
last year? Can we do a better job in 2014? Find some time to sit down with your
friends and ask yourselves “How did we do, as friends, in following God’s
instructions last year? Can we do a better job in 2014 ?” Beloved, Peace
and Joy comes from following God’s Voice. My prayer for you and me is
"Christ be our light, shine in our hearts; shine through the darkness.
Christ be our light; shine in your Church gathered today!" Let's join the parishioners of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish, Dumaguete City- Negros Oriental to sing out this prayer: