Theme: Three Effects of Pentecost: New Creation, Oneness, and Sacrament of Confession
Last Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. We learned that Jesus going back to his Father was not a farewell nor the end of everything but a commission. Jesus commissioned us to be his witnesses, make disciples of all people, and teach them to observe what he commanded. We also learned that we would not do this mission alone. He reassured us of his permanent presence until the end of the age. That is why he enjoined us not to depart from our “Jerusalem” but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1: 4). Today in this Mass of the solemnity of the Pentecost (which marks the end of the East Season), we have gathered here in our “Jerusalem” as our Lord ordered us to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. The scripture readings of today teach us three messages. First, with the Holy Spirit, God recreates us; we are a new creation, which means, our unity with God is restored. (See the Gospel). Second, with the Holy Spirit God breaks all barriers of divisions and restores unity among us. We are one in the Spirit. (See first reading). Therefore, though we come from different cultures and have different gifts, we all form one body with Jesus. (Second reading). Third, with the Holy Spirit God empowers the Church, through the ordained ministers, to forgive our sins, reconcile us with him and with our brothers and sisters, and heal the emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds that sin causes. (See the Gospel).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the symbolism of “breathing” to fill his disciples with his Spirit. In the Old Testament, it was God who used that symbolism in the story of creation. When Adam was created out of the dust of the ground, he needed the breath for him to start living. The book of Geneses tells us that God blew into his nostrils the breath of life then Adam became a living being (see Gn 2: 7). Likewise, the disciples, though they followed Jesus for three years and were very well-trained to carry out the mission of the ... READ MORE
Theme: Jesus’ Ascension is not a Farewell but a Commission
The Gospel’s stories that we heard on the last two Sundays (taken from the Last Supper discourse in chapter fourteen of the Gospel of John) prepared us for this Sunday of the Ascension of our Lord and for the next Sunday, the Pentecost. In both Gospels of the fifth and sixth Sundays of Easter, Jesus prepared his disciples that he would go back to his Father. He instructed them to keep his commandments as proof that they loved him, and as a result, he would ask his Father to send them an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who would be with them always. The first part of this discourse is fulfilled in today’s celebration. We are celebrating the Ascension of our Lord. Jesus is lifted up to heaven and has returned to his Father. We heard two different versions of this event, the version of Luke (in the first reading) and that of Matthew (in the gospel). The two accounts do not contradict each other. Rather, both emphasize the types of missions that Jesus has left us which the Church wants us to know and meditate on. The physical departure of Jesus to heaven is not a farewell or the end of everything. Rather it is a commission. Luke and Matthew teach us that before his ascension, Jesus left to his disciples including you and me some missions to accomplish. He commissions us (1) to be his witnesses everywhere (see Acts 1: 8b), (2) to make disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28: 19), and (3) to teach the people to observe what he commanded us (see Matthew 28: 20).
Before we analyze the missions that our Lord expects us to do, let us look at one important detail that Luke mentions in our first reading. He says that the Ascension takes place on the fortieth day after the resurrection of Jesus (v. 3). The Church also celebrates the Ascension of the Lord (which fell normally last Thursday, May 18th) forty days after the resurrection (April 9th). Note that in the Scripture, the number forty conveys the symbolic meaning of preparation. We can recall Noah’s forty days in ... READ MORE
Theme: “If You Love Me, you will Keep My Commandments”
We are on the sixth Sunday of Easter. Next Sunday will be the Ascension of the Lord, and the following one will be the solemnity of Pentecost. So, we are approaching the end of the Easter season and ready to resume the Ordinary Time (which is the time of growth and maturation of Christians in the Church of Jesus). To prepare us for this transition, the Church, our mother, suggests for our meditation the “Last Super Discourse” in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John which we started reading last Sunday. Note that in this discourse, Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist (Mass) and the Holy Order (Priesthood). In this same discourse, he spoke to his disciples of his death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is in this Discourse that Jesus prepared his friends to transit from the time they related to him in person to the “age of the Church” in which they and all of us experience his presence in the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments in his Church that he just founded.
In the Gospel that we heard last Sunday, Jesus told his disciples that there were many dwelling places in his “Father’s House.” In addition to the interpretation in which “Father’s house” can point to heaven, we saw that by the “Father’s House”, Jesus meant the Temple or the Church in this present time where his disciples and all believers will be meeting with him and the Father whenever they gather together with their fellow believers in the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments. The first reading story of that Sunday was a very good example of the gathering of the early Christians in the Church, the ... READ MORE
Theme: The Solidness of the Church of Jesus
All the readings of this Fifth Sunday of Easter point to the Church of God and the celebration of the Eucharist. In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that there are many dwelling places in his father’s house. The “Father’s House” can be interpreted as heaven where there are enough places for all believers. Biblical Scholars also interpret the “Father’s House” as the Temple or the Church in this present time where Jesus’ disciples will be meeting with him and the Father whenever they gather together with their fellow believers in the celebration of the Eucharist. In this reflection, we will focus on this latter interpretation. Our first reading passage gives us an example of this gathering of the believers in the “Father’s house”. The author of the second reading calls the “Father’s House” a “Spiritual House”. He portrays Christians as stones built into this “Spiritual House” with Jesus being the foundation stone.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about his continual presence in his “Father’s House” which is the Church after his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Note that chapter 14 of John’s Gospel is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his apostles at the Last Supper. Jesus already told them about his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Now in our passage, the evangelist depicts Jesus as fully aware of how his followers are troubled by hearing that shocking news. Jesus commences by exhorting them not to let their hearts be troubled. He invites them to have faith in him the same way they have faith in God. It means that the way they relate to God that they do not see physically is the same way from now they need to relate to Jesus. So, Jesus calls them to believe in his continual presence among them in his Father’s House which is the Church.
In verses 2 and 3, Jesus makes three important statements: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”, “I am going to prepare a place for you”, and “I will come back and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14: 2-3). In Jesus’ “Father’s House”, there are enough places for all believers. Jesus is telling his disciples and us that he is going to prepare these places for us, then he will come back to take us to himself because he wants us to be where he is. We may interpret the “Father’s House” here as heaven where we will be with Jesus. But note that heavenly life starts here and now. Jesus here is pointing to the Church that he just founded at the same event of the Last Supper before the farewell discourse. He indicates to them the Church where to find him after his death, Resurrection, and Ascension. He informs them and us that in his Church, there are many dwelling places that he is going to prepare for us. to meet ... READ MORE
Theme: We are Both the Sheep of Jesus and Good Shepherds for our Brothers and Sisters
This Fourth Sunday of Easter is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It is also called “The Good Shepherd Sunday” because, in all three Liturgical Years, we read the “Good Shepherd” discourse in chapter ten of the Gospel of John (Year A: vv. 1-10; Year B: vv. 11-18; and Year C: vv. 27-30). The scripture readings of today teach us about what we should do as sheep of Jesus and as good shepherds of our brothers and sisters.
First, let us see what we are expected to do as the sheep of Jesus. In our Gospel, Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd” who calls each of us by our names, walks ahead of us, and leads us (John 10: 3-4). As Jesus’ sheep, we are called to do three things: hear the voice of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, recognize it, and follow him. First, we need to hear Jesus when he speaks to us. Our Risen Lord speaks to us in the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass), in Scripture reading, in our hearts, when we pray, and through our brothers and sisters. We need to take advantage of all these moments in which Jesus speaks to us and be attentive to his voice. Second, we are called to recognize his voice. In this world, there are many voices of the “bad shepherds” that deceive us. Jesus identifies them as “strangers’, “thieves’, and “robbers”. To recognize Jesus’ voice among many others, we need to hear him regularly when he speaks to us and become familiar with the way he speaks to us. That is why attending Mass regularly, praying at home, reading the Bible, and listening to our brothers and sisters are very important. Third, the Gospel asks us to follow Jesus. Being a Christian is being Jesus’ follower. The author of our second reading teaches us what it means to follow Jesus. For him, following Jesus, which is our ... READ MORE
Theme: The Risen Lord is the Motivation of our Christian Faith
Many Christians come to Church, follow Jesus, or pray to God because of someone or something that motivates them to do so. For some Christians, their motivations are their loved ones (spouse, parents, children, etc.). For others, their motivations could be the ministry that they do in the Church (Parish Council, Finance Council, etc.). In case of a loss of that specific person or ministry, consciously or unconsciously, they leave the Church or stop praying. I personally went through this crisis. In March 2021, I lost my lovely mom. It was difficult for me to accept her death. She was the one who was motivating me, praying for me, and sustaining me in my life as a priest. Her death made me go through a crisis of losing my enthusiasm for being a priest. During my grieving period, which lasted about a year, I struggled to regain spiritual and pastoral strength to continue to serve God as a priest. I recovered thanks to the help of the spiritual direction that I sought. Our Gospel of today tells us the story of two disciples of Emmaus who did the same experience. They lost completely the motivation that kept them following Jesus. As a result, they decided to abandon their discipleship and return to their former lives in Emmaus. Jesus appears to them in their moment of crisis and provides them with spiritual direction using two methods: the sharing of the Scripture and the breaking of the bread to resurrect their spiritual motivation.
These two disciples lived in Jerusalem because they were Jesus’ followers. Their motivation in following Jesus was maybe the expectation to get good jobs when the Messiah overturns the power of the Romans. At this point, the Messiah died. They have no more hope and no more motivation. The evangelist Luke says that they left Jerusalem and were going back to their village, Emmaus. Many Christians are ... READ MORE
Theme: “Whose Sins You Forgive are Forgiven Them”
Since the year 2000, the Church has designated the Second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday”. The background of the feast of Divine Mercy is centered on a devotion stemming from the private revelations of Saint Faustina Kowalska from Poland. To make official these private revelations, Pope John Paul II, in 2002, added “Plenary Indulgence” to Divine Mercy Sunday. “Plenary Indulgence” is a complete pardon that Jesus grants to us as he himself revealed it to Saint Faustina, “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy.” (Diary 1109). Through the Gospel passage of this Sunday, the story of the Easter appearance of Christ to his apostles, the Church invites us to contemplate our Risen Lord as the ambassador of mercy.
Our Gospel tells us that the disciples huddled behind locked doors. This was for fear of “the Jews” who executed Jesus. Their master died, everything seemed finished, and they feel like they are the losers in this scene. Moreover, they are thinking at this moment that the people who killed their Master are searching for them to kill them too. They live with great fear and confusion. Amid their terrible feelings, Jesus appears to them. Many of us today are going through similar crises. Anxieties, worries, and any other sufferings that we face daily create fear in us and force us to close ourselves off in our minds. The way ... READ MORE
Theme: Our Love for Jesus Causes Us to Believe in His Resurrection
This morning we are gathered here in our Church with great joy to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord which marks a new life in Christ of each one of us. All our scripture readings of today testify that our Lord has risen, he is alive. Three witnesses (Mary of Magdala, Peter, and the other disciple) in our Gospel give us the report of the empty tomb. Peter, in our first reading, proclaims the living Christ, his life (all over Judea, beginning in Galilee), his death, and his resurrection. And finally, Saint Paul, in our second reading, explains to us what we need to do as we now know that we are raised with Christ.
It is important to know the context of our first reading to better understand what Peter teaches us. Note that our first reading is a speech attributed to Peter on the occasion of his visit to the house of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. This Gentile Cornelius was a generous supporter of the Jewish community in Caesarea. One day, while he was praying, he has a vision and was told to invite Peter to his house. (Acts 10: 1-8). Peter also had a vision while he was praying. In that vision, God told him to cancel certain food prohibitions that kept both Jews and Gentiles separated from each other. And because of this prohibited food, Jews and Gentiles could not enter each other’s homes. (See Acts 10: 9-23). So, here Peter, a Jew, entered the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and dealt with many other Gentiles that he found there, Cornelius’s household, relatives, and friends. The first thing that Peter did was he acknowledged in their presence that Jews (including himself) were not supposed to associate with or visit Gentiles. But in the vision, God showed him that no human being is to be considered “profane or unclean”. (See Acts 10: 28). Peter thus broke the tradition that separated Jews from Gentiles. Next, after Cornelius had explained to Peter why he invited him, now comes our first reading story. Peter delivers his testimony to the Gentiles and each one of us about the central mystery of the Christian faith. As an eyewitness, he tells us that Jesus was sent by God, was ... READ MORE
Theme: “Go Tell my Brothers to Go to Galilee, and There They Will See Me.”
The liturgy of this Easter Vigil draws on the symbolism of light versus darkness. Darkness is identified with sin, ignorance, and insecurity. The Easter Candle is the symbol of “Christ our light”. Tonight, we heard seven Old Testament and two New Testament readings. The seven Old Testament memorable stories tells us about salvation history. From the beginning, God created the world and called everything good, but sin enters the world, therefore, redemption was needed. So, throughout the readings of the Laws and Prophets, we heard many voices and events of leading Israel and the entire created world back to the fullness of our relationship with God. This is what the liturgy of tonight is about. Through the water of baptism (catechumens will be baptized and the rest of us will renew our baptismal promises), the fullness of our relationship with God will be restored. In this Easter Vigil, you and I participate in the resurrection of our Lord and so become “children of the Light”.
The first reading (Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 2) makes us recall the moment God brought life to the world. The first thing to be created was the light and the last one was a human being whom God created in his image. There are two important details to note in this story. First, everything that God created, he saw how good it was. As to say, out of great love, God created everything perfectly. Second, God brought into being everything that exists in the course of six days, and on the seventh day, He rested. The lesson here is that we must work for six days and keep the seventh day free for rest and worship of God our Maker.
From the passage of our first reading to the story of the test of Abraham, we heard in the second reading (Genesis 22: 1-18), the book of Genesis unfolds the introduction of sin into the world (Adam and Eve) and the subsequent return of chaos (Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, Tower of Babel). All these stories demonstrate how far humanity through its arrogance of exploiting creation for its own success falls into sin, and consequently moves away from God’s original designs. Chapter twelve of this book brings the story of Abraham with whom God intends to restore the goodness of the original creation. God called Abraham to ... READ MORE
1st Day: Sunday, March 26, 2023 (Within Masses)
2nd Day, Monday, March 27, 2023
Theme: The Purpose, Importance, and Types of Prayer
I. The Purpose and Importance of Prayer
We learn from the Scripture that though Jesus is the son of God, prayer was at the center of his life. In many places in the Bible, we see Jesus praying to God, his Father. For instance:
1. Mark 1:35: Jesus got up, left the house very early in the morning while it was still dark, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
2. Matthew 14:23: After he had dismissed them, he went up to a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
3. Luke 6:12: One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God.
4. Luke 22:32: But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
5. Luke 22:41-44: He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
We are called to follow Christ’s example of ... READ MORE AND DOWNLOAD A PDF COPY
ST. AUGUSTINE AND ST. BARTHOLOMEW CATHOLIC CHURCHES
2022 ADVENT REVIVAL
Theme: The Power of Prayer
Revivalist: Rev. Fr. Leon Ngandu, SVD
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1622 Marshall Street, Little Rock, AR 72202
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