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To Live is to Make Choices. Do My Choices Prepare Me to Meet the Lord?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

On the 1st November we celebrated All Saints Day, whereas on the 2nd we kept the Commemoration of All Souls in purgatory. Traditionally, in November we often remember our departed dear ones, visit their tombs and we pray & offer Holy Masses for them. Seen from this point of view, particularly this month, reminds us of death and of importance of preparing ourselves worthily so that we may meet the Lord when He calls us to life eternal. But the questions is:
Am preparing myself to meet the Lord? Do my choices made in freedom enable me for this?

The gospel focuses on the Last Judgment, which each one of us must one day experience. In fact, the first reading reminds us to seek truth, which of course means living with an eye toward Jesus’ Second Coming and Judgement.
God has entrusted us in this life with the power to make of ourselves what we aspire to be forever. We do this by virtue of our free will. To live is to make choices. We can either choose God and His Word as our ultimate wisdom; or, in our God-given freedom, we can place our highest priorities somewhere else. Death marks the final free choice in a pilgrimage of choices leading to a future: with God or without God.

Our Faith as Catholics tells us that life without God is meaningless. We were created by God for God and our destiny is to be with Him forever. Outside of Him there can be no personal fulfillment, no lasting peace, no real happiness. In fact, all other goals (attractive as they may seem to the senses, and even at times to the intellect) will shatter and vanish forever like so much cheap broken glass swept away for disposal.

Since death is the last free choice in our journey to God (a journey during which the living Lord Jesus is constantly at the side of anyone who sincerely calls on Him), it represents the summit of a series of elections taken God-ward. For that reason, it is both anticipated and prepared for throughout life. This is to say that, when we are about to die, we will be the kind of persons we have aspired to be at the moment of death. Thus, the way we have lived our commitment as Christians made in baptism and confirmed later in life, describes in general the way we shall die. Specifically, the way we have participated in Sunday Mass, received the Eucharist; the way we have tried to remain faithful to our state of life (in marriage or vows or ministry); the way we have tried to share our faith; the way we have seen Christ in others: in this same way we shall die.

The early Church Fathers used to emphasise that the moment we are born, we begin to die to this world in order to be born again to eternal life. One might say that in death we finally achieve the mould/matrix we cast for ourselves, by ourselves, through roads freely travelled, graces embraced, hopes grasped, despite the difficulties.

Dear brethren, as Christians, we need not look to the future with unnecessary anxiety or worry, but trust in the Lord and make right & wise choices here and now so that, we may keep our lamps burning to meet the Lord when He comes or calls us. Have a Meaningful Weekend!

Fr Saga.
(Pastor)

All Saints Day…We can all do this.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

This Sunday (1 Nov) we celebrate All Saints Day. Saints are many and there is a multitude of them. This explains that holiness is not for a few but for many and we should say that it is for all, because all of us are called to holiness.

By the way: Who are the saints? How does one become a saint?
More importantly, can I become a saint?
The saints are those who let God act in their lives, who have chosen Jesus as their friend. Saints are those who have lived close to Jesus in everything in their life, who have trusted Him even when things seemed difficult, unfair. Some of these people, after they died, are indicated by the Church even as examples to be imitated. So, we have St Dominic Savio, St Francis of Assisi, St Marguerite d’Youville, St Teresa of Jesus, St Kateri Tekakwitha , St Josephine Bakhita, St John Bosco and so on. Saints were people of great faith, many in number and of all ages. Reading their life is beautiful, exciting and full of teachings …. And yet, one may tend to think:
Oh! I may never be able to be like them … holiness is not for me … It is for strong people …
for God’s favourites … I’ll think about it tomorrow or when I’ll be big… etc.

We don’t need super-powers in order to be saints. Let us look at the life and experience of our Patron Saint Dominic Savio. He lived in Don Bosco’s oratory. One day he heard a sermon of Don Bosco on the easy way to become a saint. Don Bosco particularly developed three thoughts that made a profound impression on Dominic’s soul, namely: First, it is God’s will that we all become saints. Secondly, it is easy to succeed in becoming saints. Thirdly, a great prize is prepared in heaven for those who live a holy life. For Dominic that sermon was like a spark that inflamed his heart with God’s love. For a few days he said nothing, but he was less cheerful than usual, so his companions noticed it and therefore Savio was asked if he was suffering from anything. He replied saying that he was affected by something good. He then added that he felt a desire and need to become a saint. He carried on saying: Before I didn’t think I could become a saint so easily, but now I have understood that I can do this by being happy. He said that he absolutely wanted and needed to become a saint. Later, Savio summarized his experience saying: Here at the oratory we live happily and holiness consists in being cheerful. How beautiful! Domenic Savio understood that being cheerful was a holy thing! Let us just imagine:
if there were to be at least one person in every family who lives his/her holiness by being happy and cheerful, even when there are difficulties! Oh! What a lucky family that would be!
Well, we all can do this …

Dear brethren, let us keep this in mind: a Saint is not a super-hero. She/he is only a fragile, insignificant being, but with the strength and trust in God, she/he becomes great and very strong. This helps us to understand that the first and fundamental question with respect to holiness is not whether I can do it, but rather am I interested in it. Secondly, the path to holiness is not driven by the calculation of one’s strength, but by amazement at the beauty of the encounter with God, by really entrusting oneself to Him, to whom nothing is impossible. The Beatitudes, mentioned in today’s Gospel, are the pathways to holiness which will make us truly happy and blessed. So, let us follow these Path ways and be Happy always. Happy feast of All Saints!

Fr Saga
(pastor)

We are citizens of two “realities”: Heaven & earth – God & civil authority.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The readings of 29th Sunday in ordinary time remind us that we are citizens of two “realities”: Heaven & earth – God & civil authority.
We are citizens of the country in which we live. To it we owe many things (safety, public services, education, health, etc.). Because the Christian is a person of honour, each must be a responsible citizen and needs to pay respect to one’s ruler.
We are also citizens of Heaven. Therefore, we owe everything to God and He deserves our complete submission. He made us in His image and likeness. All that we are and have is from Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. We belong to God and we give ourselves completely to Him.

If there is a conflict between our dual citizenship, then we must choose in favour of God, even if this would entail hardships and sacrifices. We must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. But then, what if Caesar begins to play God? History tells that it happened and may happen directly or indirectly. When it happens, then, we, Christians, must affirm in faith that all human beings are children of God before they are citizens of the State. Therefore, certain innate rights that we have (Life, Freedom, Happiness …), cannot be sacrificed. Likewise, as Christians we have to abide by God’s law respecting human dignity, equality, and the common good and adhere to God’s law regarding discrimination, abortion, euthanasia, dishonesty ….

History tells us that when “Caesar played God”, there were amazing courageous personalities who defended great values and eternal truths even to the point of sacrificing their own lives (for example, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, St. Stanislaus of Poland, the Martyrs of Uganda, and the French Carmelite Nuns during the Revolution, and many others …).

Dear brethren, as we conclude this reflection, let us remember what our Mother Church tells us: “Human institutions … must labour to minister to the dignity and purpose of man. … fight against any kind of slavery, … and safeguard the basic rights of man …. Indeed human institutions themselves must be accommodated by degrees to the highest of all realities, spiritual ones… ” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, No. 29).
Though we are members of great nations, we primarily belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is our King. Therefore, let us continue to be good Christians & upright Citizens as St John Bosco recommended us.

As the Church keeps the World Mission Sunday, let us pray for all Missionaries in the world and do what we can, so that the Good News of the Lord may reach every corner of the world. Amen.

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

How well prepared am I to take part in the Wedding Banquet of the Lord?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

Today’s gospel (28th Sunday ordinary time) presents the parable of the Wedding Banquet. Jesus used this parable in order to tell us that the invitation to the New Covenant was offered first to the chosen people of God. When they turned it down, then only, the invitation was extended to others. Those who rejected it were warned and those who came in for the feast but ill-prepared were thrown out. The wedding banquet, clearly, symbolises the life of grace here and now with full culmination in eternal glory. The wedding is for the Son of God, Jesus, who is the Bridegroom and the Bride is God’s people, all of us, everyone of us. No one can say that he/she was not invited.

Throughout history, God sends his prophets who help save everyone. The invitation is extended to all, but unfortunately not many seem to show interest. Many refuse the invitation of God and they tend to choose lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and lust for power. By doing this, they freely and deliberately choose to exclude themselves from the wedding banquet.

Despite all this, God keeps sending his helpers (prophets) to invite everyone who could be found on the main roads, by-lanes and at street corners. Many did come to the wedding banquet (good and bad ones) and the hall was filled with guests. When the King entered the banquet hall to greet the guests, he noticed one without a wedding garment and when confronted, that person became speechless and had no excuse. As a result he was immediately thrown into the outer darkness, for he was out of place. At this point, we may ask if the wedding garment was necessary and if yes, then, what did it signify. Well, the answer is a big YES and it means the good works that one does to the needy; it means seeing Jesus in each one and seeing them as brothers and sisters. We are all servants of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the lonely, the sick and those imprisoned.

Therefore, when we really love our brethren in need, then, we can make ourselves worthy of the invitation and can joyfully and meaningfully partake of the wedding banquet. Let us be well-prepared, so that we may be found to be worthy of the life of grace here and now with full culmination in eternal glory.

Let me take this opportunity to wish every one of you
a wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving Day. God bless!

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

How to produce the fruits that are expected of us?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

Today’s first & the gospel readings (of 27th Ordinary Sunday) narrate to us an interesting parable: the parable of the Vineyard. The first reading from Isaiah is indeed a love song which describes how God planted his beloved people a vineyard on a very fertile hill. Because he gave it all his loving care, he obviously expected it to yield grapes, but unfortunately it yielded only sour wild grapes. God calls the guilty people to pronounce their own judgement. Since there is no reply, God proceeds to pronounce the sentence. Consequently, he will remove the protective hedge and wall, so that the vineyard will lie exposed and become a wasteland, with no more care nor rain. God looked for right reason and instead got treason. He looked for plain dealing but got only complaining.

Similar is the tone of anguish in today’s Gospel. Jesus laments for he sees no positive response from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Like in the first reading, Jesus describes how God planted a vineyard, enclosed it, dug a wine press in it, and leased it to tenants. When the harvest came, God sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants rebelled and killed all of God’s messengers. They killed even God’s own Son, so that they could grab his inheritance. After punishing those wicked tenants, he leased the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.

We see how God turned it all around. By means of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God established a new covenant with his people. Now, we are the people to whom God’s kingdom has been given and we are expected to produce the fruits of the kingdom. At this point some of us may ask: how to produce the fruits that are expected of us? Well, Paul tells it all in the second reading wherein he, in the name of Jesus, asks us to do whatever is true in faith, honourable with wisdom and just toward ours neighbour; whatever is pure toward God, pleasing leading to friendship and commendable preserving our good reputation.

Dear brethren, if we learn to do these and all what Jesus has taught us, then, we will bear sweet fruits in abundance and the Peace & Love of God will be with us. So shall it be!

God bless & Have a joyous weekend!

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

What is the Christian Sense of Responsibility?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

 

One of the themes of today’s liturgy (26th Ordinary Sunday) is that of “Responsibility”. We should say that the word “Responsibility” in reality comes from the two words, “response” and “ability“. It means a capacity for replying to someone to whom a reply is due. For anyone with Faith, for anyone who believes that human being is God’s creature destined to live with him forever, responsibility means reference to God’s will for human being. And God’s will for us, humans, is that we live responsibly so that we may always live honestly well and in harmony with God and one another.

 

Prophet Ezekiel in the First Reading asks the people of Israel to take responsibility for their own lives and behaviour. God is not unjust, not a God of punishment and he surely wants all of us to be saved. However, this loving God makes it clear that to be saved, we all have to take responsibility for our lives. We must not blame God or, for that matter, anyone else for our sins. And therefore we must use the gift of freedom that God gives us to choose always what is right, just and holy.

 

We note the same theme, that of individual responsibility, echoing pretty clearly in today’s Gospel, too. It is illustrated succinctly and clearly in the parable of the two sons who are asked by their father to carry out a particular job/responsibility. Both sons disappoint their father, one by his refusal to work, the other by his empty promises. Yet, the rebellious son has a complete change of heart. Consequently he repents and carries out his father’s will.

 

Carrying out Christian responsibility is not always easy for us who are the disciples of Jesus. Being responsible for right actions before God, for instance,  entails carrying a cross, undergoing suffering and accepting sacrifice. This is highlighted in the Second Reading of today. It reminds us that Christian responsibility is a service to others, a suffering service Рjust like what Jesus himself did in his whole life.

 

As we reflect on this important theme of the mystery of Christian responsibility, let us ask the Lord to give us the Grace to cultivate always a greater sense of Christian responsibility.

 

Have a wonderful  weekend!

 

Fr Saga

Pastor

Workers in the Vineyard

Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy of this 25th ordinary Sunday presents the parable of the Vineyard which we have heard so many times and reflected on it. Only Matthew has this parable focused on the “difference” between the first and the last workers in the vineyard, who receive the same reward. If we are all “workers”, then life is all “work”. As we can see, the Christian mystery is contained in the image of this “landlord” who goes out at dawn to hire workers for his vineyard. Actually, this is the Christian vocation, the call to salvation and we are all called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Outside this, there is only the useless life of the unemployed.

The different hours of the day, obviously, indicate the presence of God, his interventions and calls in history. Among the five calls there are also those at the time of the Crucifixion and at the time of Jesus’ death. Those who were first called could indicate the people of the First Covenant, and the ones called last may point to the pagans, sinners, towards whom the Master shows a privileged attention that eventually arouses the protest of the early comers.

The stern response of the Master to the complaining workers sounds like this: “… Or are you envious because I am good?”. This is the radical distance between our heart and the infinite love of God. The most difficult thing to accept about God is his mercy. It is the terrible accusation of the Inquisitor against Jesus.

The fact that the owner goes out at different intervals to bring workers into the vineyard means that the master wants everyone to enter. The vineyard does not need us, but we, by all means, need the vineyard and we, indeed, need to be grafted onto the vine which is Jesus.

When the time was due to give out wages, the master does it starting with those who came last and this causes the murmuring on the part of the early comers – murmuring that changes the first into the last. Those invited first don’t seem to appreciate the gift of the agreed money, a price that is the same for everyone and offered even to those who came at the last minute. After all, money – which here indicates salvation – is Jesus himself. It is for this reason the lucky ones are, in fact, those who receive the “promise” at the beginning of the day. But unfortunately they fail to realize the goodness of God.

At the beginning we said that this is “life” and it is all “work”. Faith is born in me when Jesus comes to me, finds me and puts me to “work in his vineyard”. From this moment on, certainly life becomes beautiful.

We are all called by Jesus to work in his vineyard. Let us thank him for the gift of faith and salvation that he offered to us all.

Happy Weekend!
Fr Saga.
Pastor.

FORGIVE & BE FORGIVEN

Forgiveness is the focus of today’s Sunday readings. While the beautiful text of Sirach and that of the Gospel say it so, the second reading highlights not only the mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation of God but also the importance of we showing God’s mercy to others in order to receive it ourselves.

Overlooking faults, suppression of the revenge instinct, forgiving and forgetting are indeed Christian imperative. The Gospel today uses the example of a king’s forgiving an official who, in turn, refuses to pardon a colleague. Obviously the lesson refers to God and us. And in turn, to us and our friends and neighbours. Who of us can say – if the truth were known – that God has not forgiven us so many times, for so many faults, of so serious a nature simply because we begged him, with hearts filled with contrition and resolve, to receive us back into his mercy? Despite such generosity on God’s part, how many of us are tempted to go right out and adamantly refuse to forgive another?
Each Sunday – daily, in fact, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice – we pray, in the Lord’s Prayer: not simply, “Forgive us our trespasses,” but, rather: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Don’t these words have meaning?

God knows that we are only human: this is why he forgives us so readily. But he also knows that with his help we can forgive others, if we only make the effort to do so. Otherwise he wouldn’t have commanded us to do so. God never commands us to do the impossible.

Forgiveness, finally, should be a daily occurrence. Doesn’t God forgive our weaknesses every day? If this is the case, then, we don’t have to wait till Christmas to act like Christians, especially, to judge others kindly and compassionately, as God judges us.

We know for sure that anger, vengeance, and resentment are terrible evils in the eyes of God. They must be dealt with and put aside, otherwise, we may risk ourselves not to be forgiven at all.

If I harbour anger against another, can I expect healing from the Lord?
If I show no mercy toward another, can I then seek pardon for my own sins from the Lord?

Therefore, dear brethren, let us put aside enmity and forgive our neighbour and thus stay always true to the commandments of God who is love and mercy.
God bless.

Fr Saga
Pastor.