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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 05 August 2018

Reading

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15

Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54

Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

John 6:24-35

Biblical Reflection

In Exodus the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmurs against God, the provider of life. Their pressing question is this: life or death? The God who maintains them replies: I will rain down bread from heaven for you. True to this promise, God truly provides bread (manna) and meat (quail) for the survival of his chosen people.

Paul urges the Ephesians not to live as the (other) Gentiles do, and not to follow their former way of life, of corruption and lust of the “old self.” The “new self” is renewed and created in the likeness of Christ Jesus, in true righteousness and holiness.

In John’s Gospel, the giver of life is the giver of food. He is not only the giver of the daily food we eat, but also the giver of himself, who feeds us with himself. As we believe in him, we gain from all the generous gifts he provides for us. Hunger and thirst disappear and all our fundamental human needs he satisfies and takes away.

Link with the Social Teachings of the Church [1]

Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God, who does not fail to show his love and providence to his children. – No. 35

Entrepreneurs and directors of public agencies involved in the research, production and selling of products derived from new biotechnologies must take into account not only legitimate profit but also the common good. This principle, which holds true for every type of economic activity, becomes particular important for activities that deal with food supply, medicine, health care and the environment. –No. 478

Compare also: CSDC Nos. 482, 581, 583.

African & World Wisdom

Happiness is as good as food. –Maasai

An abundance of food at your neighbour’s will not satisfy your hunger.               – Bayaka, Central Africa

Where love sets the table, the food tastes best. – French

The God who made the mouth will provide the food. – Nepalese

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do we in our SCC fully feel like citizens of Kenya?

Are we interested in the social affairs and the ups and downs of the country?

Where and how do we find the food for our spiritual nourishment?

Are the community and the Church resources for our well-being?  

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Hermann Borg, OFM, a Franciscan Friar from Germany who serves in Kenya, where he is a leader in the Mother Earth Network and an active member of RSCK-JPIC. They have been edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 29 July 2018

Reading

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 6:1-15

Biblical Reflection

The Second Book of Kings proposes a lesson of faith, love, and stewardship. The passage depicts the miracle of daily existence. Human community depends upon God’s providence as well as human generosity and a willingness to share. The confinement of our perspectives and our unbelief in God often lead us to face problems that we fail to solve adequately.

Elisha’s act showed that Yahweh was a true God who was concerned with the needs of his people. His servant, all too human, hesitated to act. Now, millennia later, as Christians, we are also challenged to grow in faith and obedience, to be open to guidance and wisdom, and to act with honesty and charity. Despite personal weakness, failure, and doubt, we can still strive to trust fully in the Lord.

In the Gospel the scene of the loaves and the fish can be understood as a multiplication of God’s graces to his people. God is intimately involved in our lives, feeding and teaching. The bread from heaven signifies teaching and feeding from the heaven. The Gospel presents Jesus as Son of God, providing for God’s children. From this passage we can draw these major lessons:

We are worthwhile in the eyes of God. We must therefore ask ourselves is there anything to keep us away from the table and from the blessings of the Lord?

Our offerings are worthy. The man from Baal-shalishah offering twenty barley loaves and the boy in the Gospel with five were used by God as a blessing to all who had assembled before Elisha and Jesus.

God knows and provides for humanity’s needs, even without our mentioning them.

In the Eucharist, the central prayer and activity of the Church, the Bread of Life is administered. The Eucharist multiplies graces in Christian’s lives. The Eucharist channels God’s love through an action of service to humanity that spreads out, especially from those who have gathered together in friendship with God.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid. A mere glance at the scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor: “I have observed the cry of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their task masters” (Ex 3:7-8, 10).... We ... see how he is concerned for their needs. – No. 187

The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might”[2]… it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. – No. 188

African Wisdom

Andu matiui ngu, moi ithendu. – People do not know hard firewood but only branches: We put aside hard tasks and devote ourselves only to easy ones.

Cia uthoni ciambaga nguhi. – The buying of a wife begins from a little thing: Great events have small beginnings.

Gwika wega kumathaga ugi. – One good action reaps another.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What sacrifices have you made for the sake of others?

As Christians, how can we use our resources to favour those who are in need?



[2] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Libertatis Nuntius (6 August 1984), XI, 1. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19840806_theology-liberation_en.html

These reflections were prepared by Consolata Sisters, and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 



Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 22 July 2018

Reading

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

Ephesians 2:13-18

Mark 6:30-34

Biblical Reflection

Jeremiah depicts God’s act of salvation: redemption for the Israelites, both those at home and those scattered among the nations. The prophet announces a Messianic reign during which Israel will enjoy righteousness, justice, and security under the guidance of wise leaders who do God’s will. A promised shepherd will rule Israel with authority and power, giving Israel a bright future. Thus will a new history be inaugurated.

The second reading shows how the death of Christ has become a bridge to usher in unity, love, and reconciliation among and between Jews and Gentiles. There is no room for hatred, division, or ill feeling against one another. Through the paschal mystery Jesus unites the whole human race.

The Gospel proposes Jesus’ mission of gathering the lost sheep of Israel who wander in the wilderness. When he sees the pitiable crowds, Jesus begins to sense more fully his own call to be the Good Shepherd, who will feed physically and spiritually.

Jesus saves humanity from sin, death, and the forces of Satan. Jesus is the shepherd who embodies God’s mercy before the bewildered crowds and gathers the scattered of Israel, feeding them with bread and the Word, disclosing to them the mystery of the Kingdom. The deserted place evokes the Exodus, where God worked signs and wonders for the Israelites; now this is done through Christ, for the new Israel.

Link with the Teachings of the Church [1]

Christ the Lord came to redeem His people from their sins. He gave the authority to Peter (Roman Pontiff) by entrusting the care of His sheep and his Lambs, as the pastor of all His mission is to promote the common good of the universal church being assisted by the members of episcopal college of bishops who their work is to teach all peoples, to sanctify men in truth and to give the spiritual nourishment and to bring unity to the sheep of Christ. – Cf. Vatican II, Christus Dominus: The Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church

"... What shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead." – Joy of the Gospel, No. 36

"What counts above all else is 'faith working through love' (Gal 5:6). Works of love directed to one’s neighbour are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit." – Joy of the Gospel, No. 37

African Wisdom

Ciakorire wacu mugunda – The food found Wacu in the field. – Gikuyu, Kenya           

Meaning: God takes care of his people in their difficulties and he comes to save them.

Cira wothe wambagiririo na nda – Every case begins from the stomach. – Gikuyu, Kenya

Meaning: Empty belly hears nobody. One of the most important duties in life is to provide something to eat.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What can we do to ensure that leaders don’t take citizens for a ride?

Discuss the gravity of the money scandals in Kenya today.

These reflections have been prepared by the Consolata Sisters and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



[1]..http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651028_christus-dominus_en.html                   andhttp://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html 

 



Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 08 July 2018

Reading

Ezekiel 2:2-5

Psalm 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Mark 6:1-6

Biblical Reflection

The readings show the connection between the messenger and the recipient of the Good News. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is sent to the Israelites, a people who were stubborn and had rebelled against God. It was the prophet’s obligation to speak to them without minding whether they would listen or not.

In the second reading, we hear the messenger Paul musing on his own weaknesses. He rejoices about them, since it is through his weaknesses that the strength of Christ is made manifest. In the face of humiliation and persecution for the sake of Christ, he has to be glad.

Thirdly, whatever happens in the Gospel can happen to us too. We want to see a God who is powerful, a God who saves us at the very moment of our sorrows, a God who punishes our enemies, etc. In short, we want a God who works extraordinarily in our daily routines. We are scandalized and we fail to recognize a God who is too close to us, a God who enters into our families, businesses, studies, etc. We fail to recognize a God who became like us in all things but sin. God comes to us in the ordinary ways of our lives and therefore, we must discover Him in everyday things and events.

Link with the Social Teachings of the Church

“Corruption radically distorts the role of representative institutions, because they are used as an arena for political bartering between clients' requests and governmental services. In this way political choices favour the narrow objectives of those who possess the means to influence these choices and are an obstacle to bringing about the common good of all citizens.” Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 411

Corruption is mentioned “Among the causes that greatly contribute to underdevelopment and poverty.” Ibid., No.447

“The common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues.  Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.” Laudato sÍ, No. 156

African Wisdom

Asiyesikia la mkuu huvunjika guu.” – Kiswahili Proverb

→  Whoever does not listen to an elder's advice gets a leg broken.

A wrong done by many people does not make it right. – Tharaka dialect

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What actions are clearly identified with the escalation of corruption?

Discuss how you can be involved in eradicating corruption in your village or neighbourhood?

Explain some visible indicators of a corrupt system.

Outline prepared by the Novitiate community of the Consolata Sisters, and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 




Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist (B): 24 June 2018

Reading

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14a-b, 14c-15

Acts of the Apostles 13:22-26

Luke 1:57-66, 80

Biblical Reflection

The story of the nativity of John is fascinating, and the key to understanding it is the naming of the child. According to the African culture, in so many ways similar to Semitic and Biblical culture, the naming of a child is very important, often celebrated with great solemnity.

Traditional names are not given haphazardly.  They always have a specific meaning, often indicating either the circumstances in which the child was born or the role that the child is going to play in society. The name could also indicate the future character or even the vocation of the child.

In John’s case, it is God himself who gives the name.  Before John was born God already had a name for him. Peter van Breemen, SJ, has authored a fine spiritual book entitled Called by Name.  And Isaiah 49:1 reads, “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name.”

The Solemnity of the Nativity of John reminds us that we have been special in the eyes of God, even before we were conceived by our parents. In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you.”  That is to say, you are so special in my eyes. I know you through and through. Indeed every child, even the not-yet- born, is special in the eyes of the Lord.

God has a purpose for each one of us. He did not create us in vain. In his sight there is no anonymous or hopeless person. He knows us even before we were conceived. He knows us even before we were born. This is what makes life so special, sacred, divine. Life belongs to God. We are special the way we are. Our lives are precious in the eyes of God.

The name of John means Yahweh has been gracious or Yahweh is gracious, or Yahweh graciously gave. Africans well understand this language. When you ask someone, “How are you?” you are likely to hear, “I am by the grace of God!” I live by the grace of God! I eat by the grace of God! I survived by the grace of God! By the grace of God, I will make it! By the grace of God I will come out of this hopeless situation. These are people who are always receptive to the grace of God, which is a gift, beyond any expectations. The response is a profession of faith in the goodness and providence of God. God is the provider of everything at any time and in any situation.  This outlook has been the source of resilience in moments of trial and hardships.

So it is with the parents of John the Baptist.  Both Elizabeth and Zechariah are advanced in age, beyond child-bearing. Elizabeth probably suffered more. Lack of fertility was seen as a curse from God. But their barrenness has not affected either one. They still believe in God’s grace and mercy. When Zechariah receives the news, he is performing his priestly duties. Luke 1:6 points out, “Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” And now, God has visited Elizabeth, the one who was said to be barren, who holds a child in her hands, by the grace of God. Yahweh has been gracious to her. He graciously gave the child, John.

Link with the Social Teaching of the Church

Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individual's earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an “ultimate” but a “penultimate” reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.  -– Evangelium Vitae, No. 2

African-American Wisdom

Children are the reward of life. – Congo

A child is a child of everyone. – Sudan

The name is the person. – Rwanda

Questions for reflection in SCCs

God has given each one of us a name and a mission.

How do I respond to that name?

What is my mission in this world?

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. MAGANYA Halerimana Innocent, M Afr, and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 17 June 2018

Reading

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Mark 4:26-34

Biblical Reflection

Today’s readings are about TRUST in God. They invite us to trust in God always. God is in control of the slow but sure and steady transformation that takes place in our lives and in the world. The readings invite us to be patient, especially when our expectations are not met as we would have them and our hopes are dashed. TRUST, PATIENCE and HOPE are the key words for our meditation today.

Ezekiel’s images of the lowly tree that grows into a big tree and of the dry tree that blooms and flourishes are meant to rekindle trust in a God who does not lie. God always fulfils his promises. God’s promise is made to a people in exile, defeated and under siege. God himself will take the little seed that remains from the exile, replant it, and restore Israel to its full glory. The situation will be reversed and the mighty oppressors will be subdued by Israel. The little tree will grow up to become a huge cedar, and birds of all kinds will find shelter and nest in it.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks in images. His ministry was centred on the Kingdom of God. He spoke of the Kingdom in metaphors drawn from nature or common life. These metaphors are at the same time vivid and strange. They leave the mind in sufficient doubt about their applications, but in such a way that they can be applied to the concrete situations of each person’s life. Jesus uses his images to catch the attention of his listeners.

What is the Kingdom all about? What is it like? How does it come about? How does it grow? Who makes it grow? How can we recognise its fruits? Can the Kingdom of God be accelerated? Can we hasten it? These questions were probably in the minds of Jesus’ listeners. Like those who listened to Jesus, we too have a kind of a vague idea of what the Kingdom is all about! We would like to comprehend this reality; we would like to see tangible and palpable signs of the growth of this Kingdom.

What does Jesus himself say about the Kingdom of God? He does not give a direct answer to our questions. Instead he takes two examples from nature and daily life. In both parables he uses the example of a seed.

The Kingdom of God is like a man who throws a seed on the land... and The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…

The two parables call for patience. Often we are impatient! We want to know everything about the Kingdom. At other times we are discouraged because things do not happen the way we would have expected. At times we even lose hope, especially when we see that the world is not responding well to the message of the Kingdom. We would like to hasten the coming of this Kingdom.

In response to our impatience, Jesus tells us that our job is to scatter the seed, without discrimination. That is all we are called to do. Growth will follow the normal process without any intervention from our side. The Kingdom will grow without our knowing how it happens. This is also the source of our Hope.

What happens to the seed, so to speak, it is not our business, but it is God’s business. God is in charge of the growth of the Kingdom. It is God’s work and not ours. Success does not depend on us. The Kingdom belongs to God, it originates in God and it is ever sustained and attended by God. All we are to do is to plant the seed of the Kingdom: seeds of hope, seeds of love and seeds of peace! God will take care of the rest.

The second parable is that of the mustard seed, the smallest and tiniest of the seeds. It suggests the growth of the kingdom of God from tiny beginnings to worldwide size. From humble beginnings, the Kingdom is growing. Mustard bushes are like weeds. Once they grow and drop their seeds, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. Jesus may have been drawing on this knowledge as well in his choice of the mustard seed. No-one will be able to root out the kingdom once it has been planted.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

Seeing reality with the eyes of faith, we cannot fail to acknowledge what the Holy Spirit is sowing. It would show a lack of trust in his free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways.

This means more than acknowledging occasional “seeds of the word,” since it has to do with an authentic Christian faith which has its own expressions and means of showing its relationship to the Church...

An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged. – No. 68

Wisdom of the Ancestors

If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today.  – African Proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What is my contribution towards a society free of corruption?

Am I part of the problem or will I be part of the solution?

What is my responsibility as a Kenyan?

Can Christians in an SCC do anything to help develop “a more just and believing society”?



Outline prepared by Fr. Innocent Halerimana MAGANYA, Missionary of Africa, and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                                  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 



Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B): 10 June 2018

Reading

Genesis 3:9-15

Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Mark 3:20-35

Biblical Reflection

Genesis: The text describes the negative consequences of the first battle between good and evil (the serpent), with a positive conclusion of hope: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers...”

2 Corinthians: Whatever may be Paul’s tribulations for the sake of Christ Jesus, he is not discouraged; he believes and speaks and hopes for “a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”

Mark: Jesus rejects the accusation of being possessed by Beelzebub and implies that his own kingdom is strong and undivided: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Link with the Social Teaching of the Church

From the beginning, sin is present in human history (cf. Genesis 3 and The Catechism of the Catholic Church,[1] Nos. 386-390).

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,[2] under the heading “The Tragedy of Sin,” elaborates on this presence of sin. It succinctly describes not only personal sin, but also its social aspect (cf. CSDC, Nos. 115-119).

The marvellous vision of man’s creation by God is inseparable from the tragic appearance of the original sin (CSDC, No. 115).

At the root of personal and social divisions, which in different degrees offend the value and dignity of the human person, there is a wound which is present in man’s inmost self. In the light of faith we call it sin... (CSDC, No. 116).

The mystery of sin is composed of a twofold wound, which the sinner opens in his own side and in the relationship with his neighbour. That is why we can speak of personal and social sin. Every sin is personal under a certain aspect; under another aspect, every sin is social, insofar as and because it also has social consequences.... (CSDC, No. 116).

Certain sins, moreover, constitute by their very object a direct assault on one’s neighbour. Such sins in particular are known as social sins. Social sin is every sin committed against the justice due in relations between individuals, between the individual and the community, and also between the community and the individual. [Here follow examples such sins]. Every sin against the common good and its demand, in the whole broad area of rights and duties of citizens, is also social sin (CSDC, No. 118).

The consequences of sin perpetuate the structures of sin. These are rooted in personal sin... It is thus that they grow stronger, spread and become sources of other sins conditioning human conduct...  The  actions and attitudes opposed to the will of God and the good of neighbour, as well as the structures arising from such  behaviour appear to fall into two categories today: ‘on the one hand, the all consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention to impose one’s will upon others.’ In order to characterise better each of these attitudes, one can add the expression: ‘at any price’ (CSDC, No. 119, quoting from the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, of John Paul II, 1988).

African Wisdom – From column headings in Kenyan newspapers

Greed is the genesis of our national crises. —Lukoye Atwoli

There isn’t enough to satisfy everyone’s greed. —Gabriel Dolan

Why money is everything in Kenya. —Sunny Bindra

This idolisation of money won’t end well. —Sunny Bindra

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What does the word ‘greed’ mean for you?

Should all rich people be considered greedy? Could a less rich person, even a poor one, be called greedy?

What are the remedies for greediness?  A simpler life style?  Not being a slave to money, but its master?  Service? Sharing?  Generosity?  Imitation of Jesus as model of detachment?

If we are truly disciples of Jesus, can greediness still become a problem in our own lives?

Can honest, hard work for one’s family ever degenerate into greed? If so, how? Or why not?

Outline prepared by Fr. Roger Tessier, MAfr, and edited by a team of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


5th Sunday of Easter (B): 29 April 2018

Reading

Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31

Psalm 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

1 John 3:18-24

John 15:1-8

Biblical Reflection

Farmers especially will appreciate the significance of today’s gospel reading. Every farmer expects a fruitful harvest after the tedious work of ploughing and planting. The gospel challenges us to be fruitful as Christians. Only by the fruits we produce will others come to recognize us as Christians. “By their fruits you will know them” (Mt 7:16). A plant will be fruitful only if it remains connected to its source. In the same way, our fruitfulness as Christians is possible only if we remain firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, who is the true vine.

Jesus Christ, the true vine, gives a practical example of what it means to stay connected to our source. An example of the source could be our community life: family, school, place of work, and so on. In the first reading, Paul could not carry out his ministry because he was ‘outside’ the community. The situation changed dramatically upon his incorporation into the community, when he was enabled to preach boldly.

We can also reflect on the blessings that incorporation into Christ – the true vine – offer us. One of these blessings is that we become a people led by love. This loving union with Christ continues to drive us on, and it is expressed in our actions towards our brothers and sisters.

Think of what happens to any branch that is severed from its source. It withers and dies. If we are cut-off from Jesus Christ, then our lives, like the branch of a tree, will wither and die, and we will not be able to live life to the fullest as Jesus wants us to.

Link with the Teaching of the Church

This Fifth Sunday of Easter is a good time to remind ourselves that we are called to enter into solid relationships, both with Christ and with one another. Cut off from Christ we lose the essence of who we are as believers. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council express this truth vividly: “All are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and towards whom our whole life is directed” – Lumen Gentium, No. 3.

In the same vein, we are called to be a people bonded with one another and with the wider community: “Between all the various parts of the Church, there is a bond of close communion whereby spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources are shared. For members of the people of God are called upon to share their goods” – Lumen Gentium, No. 13.

Pope Francis beautifully echoes the same invitation: “True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others” – Evangelii Gaudium, No. 88.

African & World Wisdom

You suffer smoke produced by the firewood you fetched yourself. – Kenya, Luhya proverb, cf. http://www.afriprov.org/weekly-african-proverbs/248-2002-weekly-african-proverbs.htmL

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. – cf. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/22/borrow-earth/

Questions for reflection in SCCs

In what ways can we take care of the environment in our families and SCCs, so as to be connected with God?

Can I, as an individual, name at least five practical ways by which I can abide in Christ, who is my true vine?

Do I live united with Jesus and with others?

These reflections were prepared at the Theology House of the St. Patrick Missionary Society, the Kiltegan Fathers, in Karen.  They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

4th Sunday of Easter (B): 22 April 2018

Reading

Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12

Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

Biblical Reflection

Today’s reflection centres on the theme of the good shepherd. It is especially easy to relate to the image of herder in those parts of Kenya where the Maasai can be seen leading their livestock to pasture. For Christians, Jesus is the shepherd par excellence. But not just shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd simply because he lays down his life for us, His sheep. What is more, the death that Jesus takes on Himself is the death that was meant for us, the sheep.

Jesus the Good Shepherd gives fullness of life to His sheep. This is the message of today’s first reading. The healing of the crippled man is attributed to none other than Jesus. A person who truly loves us will help us achieve the ultimate worth of our lives. The action of such a person can help us pass from being crippled to living in complete wellness. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gives us a change of status and identity. Before Jesus’ coming among us in the flesh, we could not call God our Father. It is Jesus the Good Shepherd who leads us to the Father so that we not only become children of God but we also receive a dignity that is to be ours eternally.

Today’s gospel is at the same time an alert to the many fake shepherds around us. This warning is especially relevant for the present age. Fake shepherds come in diverse forms: ideologies, principles, philosophies, and so on. John’s gospel today gives us a clue to help us distinguish between the Good Shepherd and the fake shepherds. The fake shepherds abandon us in times of difficulty and persecution. Fake shepherds are only around for a short time, i.e., when everything is rosy. In contrast, Jesus the Good Shepherd is always there with us and for us, especially in our moments of difficulty.

Link with the Teaching of the Church

“This revelation of love is also described as mercy; and in man's history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ.” – Redemptor Hominis, No. 9

“[Jesus] restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart.” – Gaudium et Spes, No. 22

“Let us ... try to understand the guise ... false prophets can assume. They can appear as ‘snake charmers,’ who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness! False prophets can also be ‘charlatans,’ who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains!” –Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2018

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we are invited to turn wholeheartedly and follow Christ the Good Shepherd. The magisterium reminds us that “...the Father ‘has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son' (cf. Col 1:13). If we yield to the call and attraction of the Father, in Christ we all have redemption and eternal life.” – John Paul II – General Audience – 27 April 1988, The Kingdom of God

World & African Wisdom

An empty pot makes the loudest noise. – Credited to Plato by Shakespeare

A deaf ear is followed by death and an ear that listens is followed by blessings. – Samburu Proverb, Kenya

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can we listen more closely and attentively to the voice of the Good Shepherd in our families and SCCs? 

Do I honestly feel that I am being led by the Good Shepherd?

What things threaten to take the place of Jesus the Good Shepherd in my life?

These reflections were prepared at the Theology House of the St. Patrick Missionary Society, the Kiltegan Fathers, in Karen.  They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

3rd Sunday of Easter (B): 15 April 2018

Reading

Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

1 John 2:1-5a

Luke 24:35-48

Biblical Reflection

It is not easy to believe in the Risen Christ. Ultimately, the truth of his Resurrection is grasped and accepted only through faith.

Jesus himself awakens faith in us, and some of its fruits are peace, joy, and love: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.” Faith helps us taste and experience peace and joy in our lives.

Luke is trying to say something like this in today Gospel as he describes the disciples meeting with the Risen Lord. They all have different stories to tell; some recognized him while sharing a meal with him in Emmaus. Peter had seen him. Most had no experience; they do not know what to make of it all.

Jesus appears: “Peace be with you!” To awaken faith in the Risen Jesus we must be able to sense his presence with us today, in our family, our parish, our small Christian community, in our Church, and in our country. The Risen Lord is with us at all times and in these difficult times for the Church and our country we are challenged to believe that he is with us.

The presence of Jesus does not transform or change the disciples automatically. Some become afraid and think it is ‘a ghost.’ Then we hear Jesus say: “Touch me and see” and he shows them his hands and his feet. The disciples are full of doubt: they just cannot believe. Are they like us, or are we like them?

It is the same for us today. Faith is not automatic – it begins to grow slowly in our hearts and sometimes in weak and fragile ways. It grows in the midst of doubts and questions; we are invited to accept that our questions can help us grow in faith in Jesus.

Jesus is always with us, opening our minds and hearts to understand and accept Him. He wants us to become witnesses – “You are witnesses of these things” – men and women and youths, who speak and act from experience and who truly preach ‘in his name.’

Faith is a process; it may take a lifetime and it is truly built when we trust in Jesus and in his love. Let us make more and more room for him in our hearts, our Christian communities, and our Church. As John says today again in the second reading: “Whoever claims to abide/ live in him ought to live just as he lived”.

Link with the Magisterium of the Church

When God reveals himself to us, he requires from us an obedience of faith. By faith, we freely commit our entire self, our will, and our intellect to God, who has revealed himself. In order for this to happen we need the help of the Holy Spirit to orient our heart to God.  – Cf. Dei Verbum, No. 5

“Faith also means believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity.” – Evangelii Gaudium, No. 278

However, it is not enough for us to have faith. A true person of faith is called to share and inspire faith in the society. So how can we propagate and deepen faith today in a world where too many people are becoming cold to the presence and peace of The Risen Lord; in a world where the urge to selfishness, corruption, tribalism, impunity, nepotism, and a lack of interest in the common good has become so strong? The Council Fathers of Vatican II encourage us to begin from the family.

“This mission – to be the first and vital cell of society – the family has received from God. It will fulfil this mission if it appears as the domestic sanctuary of the Church by reason of the mutual affection of its members and the prayer that they offer to God in common, if the whole family makes itself a part of the liturgical worship of the Church, and if it provides active hospitality and promotes justice and other good works for the service of all.” – Apostolicam Actuositatem, No. 11

African Wisdom

If you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other – Ethiopia

When the roots of a tree begin to decay, it spreads death to the branches.  – Nigeria

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What can our SCC do to be a source of encouragement and a good example to families on the values of praying together?

How can we nourish and grow our faith in the Risen Christ?

Do my family, my SCC, and I promote true faith and love in our country and our world?

These reflections were prepared at the Theology House of the St. Patrick Missionary Society, the Kiltegan Fathers, in Karen.  They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

2nd Sunday of Easter (B): 08 April 2018

Reading

Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35

Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

1 John 5:1-6

John 20:19-31

Biblical Reflection

Several themes can be drawn from the readings of today, including testimony and witness, faith, peace, and forgiveness. What connects all of these, however, is the theme of resurrection. To experience the resurrection means to have a profound experience of the truth that Jesus, after he was crucified, passed from death to life. Jesus is alive not only to the disciples to whom he appeared in the gospel of today, but also to each of us in the here and now.

The challenge of Thomas is the same for us today. It is to experience Jesus as alive and present in our midst, in the lives we are living. The resurrection of Jesus is like that “Eureka!” moment when everything finally falls into place. It is the moment – like an abrupt spark – when we are convinced, in often inexplicable ways, of God’s presence with us. It is like a light of God which floods the centre of our being. We just feel God’s presence in us, even though we lack the right words to explain this experience.

It is in this experience that the words of Jesus to the disciples become words addressed to us: “Peace be with you.” The experience of encountering the Risen Christ always calls us to change, to growth, to conversion, and to commitment.

This commitment is very well expressed in the company of believers in the day’s first reading. The believers were of “one heart and soul.” Belief in the resurrection of Christ led the believers to practical action. Their action is primarily that of fraternal charity.

You and I are also called to put our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ into action. The way we extend helping hands to our needy brothers and sisters will go a long way to prove that we have experienced the risen Christ. An experience of the resurrection of Christ begins with us but leads out towards others.

Link with the Magisterium of the Church                           

Faith in the Resurrection is central to the Good News of our faith: “The Resurrection was first of all the confirmation of all that Christ had ‘done and taught.’ It was the divine seal stamped on his words and life.”[1]

The Resurrection is the anchor that holds Christianity together: "...The Church knows with all the certainty of faith that the Redemption that took place through the Cross has definitively restored his dignity to man and given back meaning to his life in the world, a meaning that was lost to a considerable extent because of sin. And for that reason, the Redemption was accomplished in the paschal mystery, leading through the Cross and death to Resurrection.”[2]

By this redemption we have been made new.

But believing in the resurrection commits us to some responsibilities. The full picture of our redemption encompasses both the profound awareness of the gift that Christ’s paschal event has granted us and an awareness of the responsibilities that now fall to us. One such responsibility is to live a truly reconciled life; to live as a people reconciled both to God and with one another: “Reconciliation of all with God through Christ must become the reconciliation of all among themselves” (op. cit., 1989). Finally in the words of Pope John Paul II, “The whole life of a Christian must be paschal! I invite you all to bring to your families, your work, your daily concerns, your schools, your professions, your free time and also your suffering, the serenity and peace, the joy and trust that come from the certainty of Christ’s resurrection!” (Ibid.).

African Wisdom

As many are willing to say wisely: I am Christian first, then a Kenyan, and then a member of a certain tribe.

Peace is costly, but it is worth the expense. – Kenyan proverb

Ashes fly back into the face of the one who throws them. –African Proverb    

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can we be instruments of peace, reconciliation, and healing in our own families, SCCs, churches, and the society at large?

In what practical ways can I bring my faith in the resurrection to my family, work, or school each day?

Can I mention specific moments when I am truly able to say that I have experienced the risen Jesus in my heart and in my life?

These reflections were prepared at the Theology House of the St. Patrick Missionary Society, the Kiltegan Fathers, in Karen.  They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 



[1]  Pope John Paul II. General Audience, Wednesday 8 March 1989 - in Italian & Spanishhttp://www.totus2us.com/teaching/jpii-catechesis-on-jesus-christ/the-resurrection-is-the-high-point-of-revelation/
[2]  Pope John Paul II.  Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis, 10.2.

 

 

 

 

 

5th Sunday of Lent (B): 18 March 2018

Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration Justice for All

Source: 2018 Lenten Booklet of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)

In our Lenten Campaign weekly topics, we shall seek to bring about reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and national integration by truthfully reflecting on the pertinent issues that affect our communities and the country at large.

Child Protection is our topic in the fifth week. A society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable among its rank and file. As the Catholic Church, we have an obligation to ensure that the fundamental rights of children are respected. Delinquency has been blamed on how children are brought up and exposed to unethical and criminal activities. We must seek ways of addressing child abuse in our society.

See: Story

In Baraka village, there lived a widower with a daughter who survived after the mother died giving birth to her.  His relatives were kind and supported him to raise the girl. With God’s grace, the girl finished her primary school education at the age of 12. She performed well and earned admission to a good secondary school.

Her sickly and unemployed father could not raise fees for her secondary school education. An uncle offered to educate the girl. He took her to his home and enrolled her in a day school, some 20 km away. She had to walk for many hours to and from school. The long walking distance forced her to wake up early to ensure that she arrived in time for her classes.

Besides the long walks to and from school, the girl was expected to do house chores every day before she went to bed. She had to fetch water, wash dishes, cook, clean the house, wash clothes, and name them. She had no time for her homework or rest. These heavy responsibilities affected her health adversely.

As she struggled in these harsh conditions, her uncle’s wife enrolled for studies in the neighbouring city. The girl, now in form two, was left with the uncle who was a trader in the village. He turned against the poor girl and started molesting her sexually.

The girl’s father trusted his brother. He called him often to inquire on her wellbeing and the brother kept assuring him that the girl was doing well but never allowed the girl to talk to her father.

One day, a child rights officer visited Baraka village to sensitise the community on children’s rights. The villagers, included the widower, were made aware of forms of child abuse, even by relatives. The awareness evoked emotions and concerns on his daughter’s welfare since it was more than a year since he last saw the girl. He shared his fears with the officer, who encouraged him to make a surprise visit to find out how his daughter was doing.

Arriving in his brother’s home, he was disheartened by his daughter’s skinny appearance. The girl, on seeing her father, broke down in tears. The father consoled and calmed her down.

The girl narrated her sad story. The man was saddened and angry with his brother. He was overcome by emotion and drew the neighbours’ attention. On hearing his story, the neighbours arrested the girl’s uncle and handed him over to the police, who charged him in a court of law. He was jailed for life. The girl was taken to a rehabilitation centre and later she got sponsorship for her education. She worked hard and became a medical doctor.

Judge: Situation analysis

In our society today, most children risk being abused or suffer from worse forms of violence. Child abuse can be defined as the physical maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child. In Kenya, child abuse is prevalent. However, most cases go unreported because many perpetrators are family members or individuals who are known to the child.

Most children under the care of guardians suffer quietly in fear of being disowned or kicked out. As in the story above, some cases of child abuse are even widely tolerated in society, like having minors who are domestic workers in homesteads sometimes for monetary gain, including school fees, which is in actual sense, child labour.

In Kenya, more than 33,929 cases of child abuse have been reported in the past 10 years. Out of this number, 13,878 were children abandoned and neglected, 528 were victims of child trafficking, abduction and kidnapping and 3,123 of child labour. Another 1,025 cases were of emotional abuse, 7,317 of physical abuse and 7,832 of sexual abuse. However, this is not a true picture of what children go through. In remote areas where abuse is more rampant, cases are only exposed when there is a major incident. Some cultural practices tolerate some cases of child abuse. [1]

The Constitution outlaws all cultural practices that are inconsistent with the law. The Penal Code outlines criminal offenses and prescribes penalties. Some of the punishable offenses include:

Sexual abuse: Offenses outlined in the Penal Code include rape, defilement, indecent assault, incest and unnatural offenses.

Physical abuse: Offenses include common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm.

Other outlawed practices that endanger the lives of children include concealment of birth, killing of the unborn and procuring of abortion among others.

Other laws that have provisions for child protection include:  the Children’s Act; the Sexual Offenses Act; the Trafficking Act; the Basic Education Act of 2013; and Teachers Service Commission code of conduct.

For us to protect children, we need to treat them with respect and be mindful of their boundaries. We should never commit or condone corporal punishment. It is the responsibility of everyone to challenge and report potentially abusive behaviour. As the Church, we are called upon to help children to grow and develop. We should as parents help our children to be able develop self esteem and know forms of child abuse and violation. We should provide an environment that can help them report cases of abuse and violation.

Readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

Spiritual reflection:

“If a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it bears much fruit.”

The human being fulfils his goal and grows to maturity only when he is capable of love, when, that is, he gives his life for others. What for the world is defeat and shame, for him is victory and glory.

God knows our uncertainties and fears. The covenant we are living today and the Spirit of Jesus Christ provide us with strength to give our lives as he gave his. This means we must stand up for the most vulnerable in the society and protect them from any abuses. The guardian angels of children are watching over them and those who violate their rights await great punishment. God has made a new covenant. We ask him to create in us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can learn how to obey his commandments and become the source of eternal salvation to children.

Act: Reflection questions

How do we interact with our children to better understand their well being?

What is the role of the Church and me as an individual in promoting child protection?

What is the policy of the Church on child protection?

What are the different forms of child abuse within our communities?

What are the signs that a child has been/is being abused?

Examination of conscience:

Have I been involved in child abuse?

Have I used the culture to justify child abuse?

Have I protected those vulnerable in the society?



[1]

 

 

 

 

4th Sunday of Lent (B): 11 March 2018

Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration Justice for All

Source: 2018 Lenten Booklet of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)

In our Lenten Campaign weekly topics, we shall seek to bring about reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and national integration by truthfully reflecting on the pertinent issues that affect our communities and the country at large.

Security is paramount in many spheres of life. Personal security is only one aspect. We must consider other security concerns that impact our lives, such as family security, food security and health security. School dropout and the ever-increasing threat of terrorism and cattle rustling are security issues too. In the fourth week, we will concentrate on Security and examine how we can enhance all kinds of securities in our communities.

See: Story

The two communities of Sokote and Kwaro near Mawe Kubwa Mountain, lived harmoniously for long and practiced farming for their livelihood. The Kwaro community took good care of the environment and planted many trees. Nature rewarded them; they enjoyed clean air, and consistent and reliable rainfall.

The Sokote community, on the other hand, though highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, did not care much about the environment. They cut down trees without replanting. Some businessmen thrived on selling timber and charcoal burning. Worse, they directed factory waste into their rivers. These activities affected the environment, food and health security of the communities near Mawe Kubwa Mountain.

Natural calamities hit the Sokotes. The weather patterns changed, causing unreliable rainfall patterns and rivers dried up. Outbreak of diseases and persistent food shortages became common. People lost jobs, businesses were shut down and lives were lost. Women and children walked long distances in search of firewood and water, forcing many of the children to drop out of school.

The hardships forced the Sokotes into crossing over to the Kwaro Community land in search of food for themselves, and pasture and water for their animals. The Kwaros’ food reserves were adversely affected, raising tensions between the two communities. The Kwaro elders, sensing that tension would escalate into violent conflict, formed inter-community committees to find ways of helping the Sokotes. The committees came up with solutions on environmental care, sustainable agricultures, afforestation, environmental and health education, and promotion of peaceful coexistence. This helped the two communities coexist peacefully.

Judge: Situation analysis

Security can be simply defined as the quality or state of being secure and free from danger, fear or anxiety. In the past, security was defined in relations to the state. This was simply the ability of the nation-state to defend itself from external aggression. But with time, this approach to security has changed and the human person became the centre of defining security. Human security threats, therefore, cannot be tackled through conventional mechanisms alone. Instead, they require a new consensus that acknowledges the linkages and the interdependencies between development, human rights and national security.

The United Nations, therefore, defines security as the protection of “… the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms – freedoms that are the essence of life. It means protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats and situations. It means using processes that build on people’s strengths and aspirations. It means creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.”[1]

From the story, the environment, if not taken care of, can affect all other aspects of human security. The communities of Sokote and Kwaro suffered from food insecurity, ill health, conflict among other problems, due to deteriorating environmental conditions. Currently, the human race is suffering from the effects of climate change. This is due to change on the balance of our planet by living beyond our means. We have burnt massive amounts of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and gas) and cut down vast strips of forests, which would naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the air. We have destroyed forests that are also home to countless plant, birds and animal species.

Kenya and most African countries have suffered greatly from the effects of climate change. The widespread poverty, recurrent droughts, floods, inequitable land distribution, over dependence on rain-fed agriculture and few coping mechanisms all combine to increase people’s vulnerability to climate change. For instance, disadvantaged people have little security against intense climatic actions. Floods and droughts have damaged property, caused loss of life, reduced business opportunities and increased the cost of conducting business as recently witnessed in most parts of the country.

Concerned with the effect of climate change, Pope Francis reminds us that “our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God” (Laudato Si’, No. 119). To save ourselves we must take responsibility to care for the earth, which is our common home. As a country, we must have a legal framework and policies that guide Kenya on social security, not only on paper but make deliberate efforts to implement them.

Readings:

2 Chronicles 36:14-16; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3: 14-21

Spiritual reflection:

The first reading tells us that it is our fault when we refuse to follow God’s law. We condemn ourselves to unhappiness. It is our responsibility to choose how we respond to God’s invitation to love. We can do nothing to merit our salvation. Our evil actions only bring about condemnation. “Anyone who does evil things hates the light and will not come to the light, because he does not want his evil deeds to be exposed” (John 3:20). When we refuse to disclose the truth, we endanger others’ lives. Our personal conscience is the arena in which the big lie and the straight story do battle. St. John is telling us that we know very well those dark, shifting forms that live in us; our lust for money and power; our readiness to use people; the bitter vengeful memories that we keep chained up in us like many half-starved and alert watchdogs; our knowing indifference to the poor and hungry of this world; our double standards and cultivated misuse of reason; and our envy of other people’s talent. We sadly hide these things or keep them obscure. We refuse ourselves to see them in us. We live in denial. God shines his light on us only to be better able to get down to the work of creating a new order of things.

Act: Reflection questions

Of what practical actions should we partake to enhance food security individuals and as a community?

How do I promote environmental safety in my community?

How can we contribute as a Small Christian Community towards ensuring that the Government enforces food, health, environmental and other human security policies?

How can I contribute towards security in my community?

Action Plan

As an integral ecologist emphasises, human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings. At the same time, each creature has its own intrinsic value that must be respected. Let us hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, No. 49), and do our best to ensure an appropriate and timely response. (Pope Francis, Message on World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation).

The Catholic Church in Kenya, in heeding the call by Pope Francis, is calling upon all Catholic faithful to take actions and plant trees on June 5, 2018, to commemorate the World Environment Day. The event can be organised in Small Christian Communities. Each Christian can take a tree to church for blessing or organise a session to bless the trees during the Small Christian Community meetings. Parishes and Small Christian Communities can also organise to support poor families to plant fruit trees to improve the nutritional value and livelihood.

Examination of conscience:

Do I dispose my garbage in a responsible manner?

Have I supported any militia groups?

Have I been violent either physically or emotionally?

Have I sent or forwarded hateful messages in the social media?



[1]  Human Security Unit United Nations, An Overview of the Human Security Concept and the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, 2003:4 at http://www.un.org/humansecurity/sites/www.un.org.humansecurity/files/human_security_in_theory_and_practice_english.pdf  
  

 

             
 

 

3rd Sunday of Lent (B): 04 March 2018

Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration Justice for All

Source: 2018 Lenten Booklet of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)

In our Lenten Campaign weekly topics, we shall seek to bring about reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and national integration by truthfully reflecting on the pertinent issues that affect our communities and the country at large.

It is estimated that the youth constitute about 35 per cent of the country’s more than 40 million people. We also know that unemployment is high. This calls for special attention to Youth and Development, our focus for the third week. How can we empower the youth and create opportunities for them? How effective would incubation centres be in assisting young people to establish and build their businesses? We call on all and sundry to look for ways of training the youth on matters finance and project management.

See: Story

Kioo and Kipepeo were great friends living in Pamoja Village. The two, though educated, never wanted to be employed in their village despite the many employment opportunities available. They spent much of their time searching for jobs outside their village since they believed that they were of a higher social class.

In Kwetu, the neighbouring village, two young men, Tumbo and Kifaru, though talented, were jobless. They spent sleepless nights watching football matches at Mr. Umoja’s Restaurant.

Having no young professional role models in the village made many young people lose hope. Many in the village dropped out of school. Most children, though baptised, never attended church services.

This situation caused anxiety in Kwetu. Elders and church leaders held a crisis meeting to find solutions for the situation in their community. A programme to sensitise the youth on education, life skills, career choice, talent development and job innovations was developed.

The elders and religious leaders created a link with the neighbouring Government of Pamoja Village. An exchange programme for innovative ideas across villages was established. They also created industrial parks for the young people, which helped to change their perception of life and restored their hopes.

The youth in Pamoja became innovative. Kipepeo, Kioo, Tumbo and Kifaru got jobs. Kipepeo became a secretary at Pamoja High School; Kifaru was elected Governor; Tumbo became a famous electrician and Kioo a pilot. Eventually they got families and lived decent lives. Most children and youth looked up to these successful people in their villages for inspiration.

Judge: Situation analysis

The youth constitute a significant share of Kenya’s population. Despite being a majority, the problem of youth unemployment is a big challenge. According to the World Bank, Kenya’s youth unemployment has remained consistently high, currently approximated at 12.5 million. If this trend is sustained, the country is setting itself up for failure in the future marketplace.

As a country, developing and implementing appropriate strategies, policies and programmes to mitigate the risks and challenges the youth face, must be a priority for the government. If ignored, this large segment of the population will continue to suffer and the current economic, political, cultural, and social problems facing them will worsen. The number of youth involved in violent and criminal activities in our country today is a pointer to that direction. We need to harness the energies of the unemployed in Kenya. There is need to train the youth on savings, personal financial management and identifying available opportunities.

We can begin by creating opportunities and vocational centres for the young people to grow their professions and skills with support from the local communities. The Youth Fund under the State Department for Public Service, Gender and Youth Affairs can play a big role in enhancing youth employment.

Readings:

Exodus 20:1-17; 1st Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

Spiritual reflection:

God has given us laws which if followed will help us address the challenges we are experiencing with the youth. In the second reading, Paul tells us to stop reasoning like the ‘Jews’ and the ‘Greeks.’ We should purify our religion of cults that have nothing to do with love of God or of our neighbours. Like St Augustine, they should know that their ‘hearts are restless until they find rest in God.’

The youth are becoming cynical of the Church. They complain of a lot of work. They want to take shortcuts in life. They are afraid of being mocked. They are bombarded with negative energies to the extent that they refuse to learn.

We should encourage our youth to obey the laws. “For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). They should keep God real in their lives.

Act: Reflection questions

What programmes do we have for our young people?

How can we use technology positively?

How are we empowering our youth to be self-reliant?

How are we engaging our youth in church and society affairs?

Examination of conscience:

In what ways have I contributed to the downfall of youth in my area?

Have I contributed positively to mentorship of the youth?

Have I incited youth to do something bad to others?

 

2nd Sunday of Lent (B): 25 February 2018

Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration Justice for All

Source: 2018 Lenten Booklet of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)

In our Lenten Campaign weekly topics, we shall seek to bring about reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and national integration by truthfully reflecting on the pertinent issues that affect our communities and the country at large.

We need to create a reconciled community. If we bring up our children in an unreconciled environment, we shall create in them a spirit of negativity. Reconciliation is our theme for the second week. We need to be a reconciled community where we give each other the space to be. If we overcome this, we will give ourselves more opportunities to define our common problems as a country and address pressing national issues, especially those afflicting the youth such as drug abuse and addiction. In addition, our politics will be focused and effective in shaping our common destiny as a nation-state.

See: Story

The rich village of Maendeleo, which was blessed with many clans and people of different cultures, was an example of a developed community. Once after every four seasons, the residents elected elders from each clan to represent them in the Village Council. They also picked a Chief Elder to head the council.

Being a village of many clans and cultures, their unity started fading away with time. Clan competitions became the order of the day and some people started seeing themselves as special. The prevailing narrative was always ‘us’ and ‘them.’

Some of the clan elders exploited the division for their personal gains. These divisions distracted the elders from addressing the real development needs of Maendeleo Village.

Increased unemployment in the village pushed the youth to drug abuse and gambling in the hope of getting quick riches. To get money for betting and drugs, some of the youngsters engaged in illicit activities like stealing and misuse of school fees. A number of them committed suicide because of life’s disappointments and hopelessness.

Come the next election, campaigns were characterised by politics of division and violence. This left many people injured, displaced and property destroyed. Learning in schools and health services were negatively affected. With the bad experience, the people of Maendeleo Village realised that their elders were the problem. The clans agreed to work together and reject all the elders who caused division and discord.

The Maendeleo Village wise men and women called a baraza where those present resolved that there was need for reconciliation to help people recognise the strength in diversity. They were encouraged to correct the past wrongs in the spirit of forgiveness to restore the glory of the village of Maendeleo.

In the next elections season, the people of Maendeleo Village turned out in large numbers to vote for their preferred leaders. Ziliaro, who was elected as the Chief Elder, thanked the villagers and invited Tifalu, her opponent to work together for the benefit of their people. The two led Maendeleo to reconcile and develop the village together.7

Judge: Situation analysis

Most African countries present a complex set of ‘pasts’ relevant to transitional justice and truth-seeking. Kenya is one of the countries that has not come to a closure of many of her ‘pasts’ despite the efforts made on truth finding, including the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), the Ndungu Commission on Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Public Land, among others. The TJRC recommended public apologies, restitution, reparations and memorialisation. In doing this, Kenya as a country then could be reconciled with her ‘pasts’.

To date, no major attempt has been made toward doing justice and most importantly, to reconcile the people of Kenya. Although the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has made few steps towards cohesion and integration, the reality of unaddressed injustices and unreconciled ‘pasts’ continues to plague our country.

Reconciliation as it relates to relationships entails restoration of friendly relations. It is also the action of making one’s view or belief compatible with another. With reconciliation, it means that we restore our relationship to one that enables us to be compatible and friendly with one another again.

It is becoming necessary that we look at the root causes of our strife. We have witnessed immense propaganda, insults, fake news, half-truths, biased media, partisan religious leaders, and divisive political and legal analysts. These people have exploited innocent Kenyans, planted hate in people and fuelled violence.

There is need for us to name and shame those who bring divisions among the people of Kenya. We can petition national and international organisations to sanction them as individuals or institutions. Individually, we need to pause as Christians and ask ourselves a pertinent question, if at all we can live as a reconciled nation: Do I take the Gospel message of reconciliation and love to the places I live and work?

We are called to remember the message of Pope Francis to Kenyan in his pastoral visit in 2015. He voiced his appeal to men and women of goodwill and to political leaders to work for reconciliation, peace, forgiveness and healing; and — above all — spoke of the grave environmental crisis facing our world and of the urgent need to take responsibility for creation and to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received.

Readings:

Genesis 22:1-2. 9a. 10-13 15-18; Romans 8 (31b-34); Mark: 9: 2-10

Spiritual reflection:

Faith in God and Faith in Christ. Abraham needed faith to follow the road God showed him. Abraham made a sacrifice. Foundation of our faith: God is faithful and has unconditional love for us. If God is for us, who can be against us? God did not spare his own Son so as to reconcile us to himself. Reconciliation is a form of transfiguration. We reach transfiguration by first passing through the way of the cross and placing ourselves in Gods hand. Reconciliation is a sacrifice, it was not easy for Abraham to sacrifice his only son, but it takes great faith for one to do so. Whenever there is a dispute or conflict, it takes heroic faith in God for the one who feels aggrieved to take the initiative towards reconciliation. As Kenyans, we need to go up the mountain and listen to the voice of God in reconciling with Him and each other.

Today’s readings show us how Abraham was willing to give up his son to reconcile with God and the Father willing to spare his Son so as to reconcile us with himself. There is need of sacrifice for us to have reconciliation.

Act: Reflection questions

What kind of conflicts have you encountered in your community?

Who were the actors involved in the conflict?

How was the conflict resolved?

Give ways that you can address various conflicts in your area.

Examination of conscience:

Have I been able to give reconciliation a chance in my life?

Have I forgiven those who have wronged me?

Have I been a channel of peace in my community?

Do I believe in the teachings on forgiveness as taught by Christ?

 

Sixth Sunday, Ordinary Time (B): 11 February 2018

Readings

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1

Mark 1:40-45

Biblical Reflection

Leviticus: The Law of Moses was clear on how those affected by skin diseases such as leprosy were to conduct themselves. The law judged them harshly, quarantining them for their uncleanness and forbidding interactions with other members of the community.

Today’s uncleanness is no longer of the skin but rather of the heart and mind. The people and their leaders have created laws to set themselves apart from those they see as threatening to their well-being and their unscrupulous nature. The rich formulate their own laws to keep the poor away. This is the law of greed and self-preservation.

1 Corinthians: St. Paul is reminding us of one thing, to avoid pride; if we content ourselves with actions that give glory to God, without expecting praise from others, then we shall truly be living according to the instructions of St. Paul. Contrary to the call to do everything for God’s glory, many people do whatever they want to, paying no heed to what others want or might say. Pride deprives a person of the humility to serve others wholeheartedly, without expecting reward or praise. Pride poses a challenge to many of us. But when we seek the grace of God we can better understand that serving others means serving God.

People of today may share food and drink, or serve each other based on their status in a relationship or on what they expect to gain out of the act. And yet the call to Christians is to be objective and to extend love to everyone, particularly the most vulnerable in society. With open hearts, full of love, we disregard no one and we expect no reward from fellow men and women.

Mark: Jesus heals the leper not only to express his power but to show there is no impurity that he cannot cure, no sin he cannot forgive. Our sins and impurities should not hinder our reaching those who need us most. Jesus’ act of touching and healing the leper reminds us that as Christians we ought to emulate his example and open ourselves to those we have isolated: the outcasts, the street children, the crippled, the elderly, those affected and infected by HIV/Aids, and those whose plight frightens us and makes us afraid to reach out.

In our communities and in society today, countless “lepers” are scolded, admonished, and separated from the entire family. Sometimes we are in effect separating ourselves because we claim to take the position of God, judging others and labelling them with all sorts of diseases.

Jesus is reminding us that our superficial perception, so often the criterion for human judgment, should never give us a reason to set others aside. We need to listen to inner voices and hear those who are calling on us for their liberation. We are challenged to cross the boundaries of our ethnic and religious divisions and of our differences in social status so as to embrace as Jesus did, responding to the call ‘make me clean.’

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“The benevolence and mercy that inspire God's actions and provide the key for understanding them become so very much closer to man that they take on the traits of the man Jesus, the Word made flesh. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus describes his messianic ministry with the words of Isaiah which recall the prophetic significance of the jubilee: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Jesus therefore places himself on the frontline of fulfilment, not only because he fulfils what was promised and what was awaited by Israel, but also in the deeper sense that in him the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. He proclaims: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9). Jesus, in other words, is the tangible and definitive manifestation of how God acts towards men and women” (CDSC No. 28[1]).

African Wisdom

He who wears too fine clothes shall go about in rags. – Ethiopia     That is, change is a reality that can easily affect anyone, regardless of status.

All errors are amendable. – South Africa  That is, there are no mistakes or errors that cannot be forgiven.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How do we reach out to those we see us outcast by their family members?

What is your own leprosy for which you need to call out to Jesus to cure

What challenges could hinder your reaching out to those with “leprosy” of various forms?



[1] CSDC: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Pauline Publications Africa.http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.htmlThese reflections have been prepared by Mr. Cyprian O. Omoding, who holds a BA in Social Sciences and Philosophical Studies and a BA in Sacred Theology. He is completing an MA in Peace Studies and International Studies at HIPSIR, and he is working as Child Rights Officer for the Edmund Rice Advocacy Network, a Ministry of the Christian Brothers in Kenya. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of RSCK.

 

Fifth Sunday, Ordinary Time (B): 04 February 2018

Readings

Job 7:1-4, 6-7

Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Mark 1:29-39

Biblical Reflection

In Chapter 7, Job sees serving others as drudgery and life itself as hopeless. Christians will later realize that humanity has been set free and transformed by the power of Christ, whose Church is endowed with various charisms, all calling on humanity to reach out to neighbour. Through service, humanity can experience the presence of God in those who are served.

Psalm 147 promises the restoration of hope to the hopeless and the broken. Christians will find hope in service to one another. Simply being present to others can imply the willingness to serve them. The ones who are healed and restored must give glory to God and not to human beings, for it is the Lord who rebuilds Jerusalem. We humans are merely instruments in God’s hands, and our different gifts and various ministries are intended to serve humanity.

In 1 Corinthians, the faithful are called as servants of Christ to fulfil the cardinal obligation. By Paul’s example, Christians are reminded to be of service to each other, freely, without expecting any reward. The freedom shared by Christ among the faithful has given Christians the task of ministering and preaching the good news of Christ, of liberating from sin, of offering hope, and of being present to the abandoned and compassionate toward the suffering.

In Mark’s Gospel, it is Jesus’ ministry to set people free, regardless of their social standing. The healing of the sick was a sign of being set free. Jesus liberates from possession by demons and from the burden of the flesh in order to grant the spirit of service to others, as shown by Peter’s mother-in-law, who upon being healed begins serving. Jesus’ withdrawal to a deserted place shows that humanity cannot exercise its freedom without prayer. In the midst of difficulty – as experienced in Kenya today – Christ remains the hope, and prayer draws energy for continued service and outreach.

Link with the Social Teaching of the Church

The quest for justice can never be far removed from the social teachings of the Church, which aim at promoting respect for life, for human dignity, and for God’s creation. The principle of stewardship challenges us serve to one another by working to sustain God’s creation for future generations.

In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate[1], Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person... It would be wrong to uphold one ... while trampling on the other” [No. 51]. The duty is none other than service to humanity and to Mother Earth.

Numerous Biblical texts[2] can help ground our understanding of the social context in Kenya and they call us to repent for our sins and return to God. The practical way to achieve this is to reject whatever leads to ruin and death and to embrace life. That is what Moses did. When called by the true God, Moses chose the Lord’s way and returned to Egypt from the desert where he had fled, in order to serve the Israelites by leading them to the Promised Land.

Chapter 3 of the encyclical, “Fraternity, Economic Development and Civil Society,” opens by praising the “experience of gift” that is often insufficiently recognized “because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life.” Yet “economic, social and political development, if it is to be authentically human, needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity” [No. 34]. As for the logic of the market, it “needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility.” If it is ever to turn around from its disintegrating social fabric, which is precipitated by political and ethnic segmentation, Kenya must chooses service to humanity over selfishness and consumerism.

Africa Wisdom

“If you have no teeth, you will have to persuade others to bite for you.” – Tswana

The proverb teaches that everyone has some inadequacy and will have to seek assistance from others. We must all be disposed to serve one another.

“What you give to others bears fruit for you.” – Senegal

“The calculating spirit destroys real generosity.” – Agikuyu, Kenya

These two proverbs are both consistent with the Gospel message of the Golden Rule, which would have us do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. This is what it means to serve. Serving others from a loving heart simply means loving oneself and extending the same love to others. Though a positive outcome for oneself shouldn’t be a primary motivation, the good effect is inevitable. The Agikuyu proverb provides a warning about caring too much for one’s own advantage. Certainly, many citizens tarnish the spirit of generosity by caring too much about what’s in it for them. With a true African spirit, a communal spirit, hunger and want cannot prevail. But in Kenya today, many experience poverty while a small portion of the citizenry possess more than they need.



[2] Cf. Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9.These reflections have been prepared by Mr. Cyprian O. Omoding, who holds a BA in Social Sciences and Philosophical Studies and a BA in Sacred Theology. He is completing an MA in Peace Studies and International Studies at HIPSIR, and he is working as Child Rights Officer for the Edmund Rice Advocacy Network, a Ministry of the Christian Brothers in Kenya. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of RSCK.

 

Fourth Sunday, Ordinary Time (B): 28 January 2018

Readings

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Mark 1:21-28

Biblical Reflection

Chapter 18 of Deuteronomy presents those with religious responsibilities, both the priests who offer sacrifice and the prophets who speak in the name of the Lord. A prophet is an intermediary between God and His people, who helps disclose God’s message. Moses, more than other prophets, enjoys free and familiar conversation with God, and he prophesies the rise of a prophet like himself. Sometimes prophets do not remain faithful and fall prey to lying spirits, as in 1 Kings 22:22.

Paul tells the Corinthians that the Lord deserves the full devotion of every Christian. Whoever marries does well, while whoever does not marry, he says, does even better (1 Cor. 7:36-38). Here, the apostle insists that, compared to married people, the single man or woman is more likely to escape the worries of the things of the earth to serve and please the Lord. Fewer weights will slow down the race, and fewer distractions can divert attention from the goal. Yet even here the apostle speaks with caution and delicacy. He is not saying that being unmarried is better than being married or that spousal love separates one from God. St Paul is saying only that the celibate life places those who live it to the full in a favourable position to serve the Lord. True virginity can open the heart to unlimited love.

The passage from Mark’s gospel reveals an opportunity to discover the way of Jesus and to understand how he comes to cure our human frailty. Jesus doesn’t communicate the word of God in the way the rabbis used to. His message is new and he proclaims it “with authority.” The disciples chosen at the very beginning of his ministry follow His action keenly, to understand it in depth. The expression "a man with an unclean spirit" reflects the normal life situation of everyone in this world. Each of us is tormented by an evil spirit slumbering somewhere in our being, holding us most often through the smallest things. And when anything stronger comes in, the fight intensifies immediately. A dentist treating an aching tooth can seemingly aggravate the pain of the infection, even while healing. Here, the defense of the evil spirit is to make noise and incite worry. In contrast, we are challenged today not to react or judge too quickly, but to take time to see, to receive, and to understand life’s situations. Yes, Jesus speaks with authority. He acts with force. However, he does not ask us always to take sides immediately. The way that Jesus proposes is the true way by which we dispose ourselves to answer him seriously. The Lord will not be offended by a slow response if it has deepened. The Lord is reliable. He is here. He is patient. Let us take time and go to him with deliberation.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’” – No. 120

“Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God’s wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.” – No. 259

African & World Wisdom [2]

Patience is the key which solves all problems. – Sudanese proverb

Haraka haraka haina baraka. / Hurry, hurry has no blessings. – Swahili proverb

Patience is the mother of a beautiful child. – Bantu proverb

Pretend you are dead and you will see who really loves you. – African proverb

To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better. – Wolof proverb

The Bible is full of warnings about false prophets and false messiahs. These satanically inspired people have appeared in almost every generation of history.” – Billy Graham

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Discuss the place Christ occupies in your life.

What do you think are the fears that most separate you from the Love of God?

What do today’s readings say about the characteristics of a good prophet?

What is your contribution as you participate in the prophetic ministry of Christ?



[1] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel.http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

 

 

[2] Cf.http://afritorial.com/the-best-72-african-wise-proverbs/; http://www.afriprov.org;   https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/prophets

 

These reflections were prepared by Rev. Yao Kouame René Dan, SMA, a deacon of the Society of African Missions who is studying at Tangaza University College, and they have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                                                                                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

Thirty Sunday, Ordinary Time (B): 21 January 2018

Readings

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

Biblical Reflection

The reading, from the prophet Jonah, tells the story of the conversion of the people of Nineveh, and it immediately follows the first call of Jonah, where he refuses to fulfill the mission God has entrusted to him. Jonah’s having missed one opportunity to obey God demonstrates that God is the God of the Second Chance. Now Jonah will unwillingly comply with the will of God by preaching to the people of Nineveh. The people listen and repent of their evil ways. It is worth noting that Nineveh, as far as Israel is concerned is a foreign land, and yet God’s love extends to its people. The event highlights the universality of God’s love for every people. The reading illustrates the call to repent and to turn towards God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns that little time remains to embrace the Gospel. Paul preaches against procrastination, the thief of time. For him, the Gospel must be embraced now and must be lived in every second of our lives, before it is too late. We are therefore shown that though earthly things are important, divine love takes precedence.

The excerpt from Mark’s Gospel has two parts: a summary of Jesus' preaching (1:14-15); and the stories of call (1:16-20). These two parts are connected through the sense of urgency evoked by the proclamation of the reign of God. Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming repentance, saying, “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’’ (1:15). Right after this, he begins calling Simon and Andrew, as well as James and John. The verse makes us understand the urgency of responding to the call of God. Mark teaches those who hear Jesus’ call that they can become disciples, and that this call extends to everyone. Jesus calls but he does not look back, and he continues to call others. The call comes here while the four disciples are going about their daily activities, and not during prayer! Following Jesus won’t be an easy task, but the reward is surely great.

We today are also called to be prophets: to speak by our words and actions against immorality and the many vices of our society that are becoming norms; to respond to the call of Christ within us; and to be Christians in all our dealings. This path will lead us to actions that reflect our true being.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples and missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’ If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully.” –EG, No. 120

“All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives.” –EG, No. 121

African Wisdom [2]

Atakalo litajiri. What He (God) wills, will happen.

Toba ni vitendo.  Repentance is deeds, i.e., Words are not enough to prove a change of mind.  

Those whose palm kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble. – Cited in Achebe, Things Fall Apart

“When you follow the path of your father, you learn to walk like him. – Ashanti/Ghana

Questions for reflection in SCCs

— Through the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repent and God forgives them.

How many times have I condoned crime and overlooked immorality?

How can I become an effective instrument of God’s salvation, to all people?

Jesus called ‘‘them’’ and they followed immediately. Give some examples of God’s call in your life and the urgency of your response.

How committed are we to our calling as Christians?

List what you could do if you were sent by God like Jonah.

Am I afraid of being sent to challenging places? If yes, if no, why?



[2] Cf. http://swahiliproverbs.afrst.illinois.edu/god%20and%20religion.htmlThese reflections have been prepared by Paschal Deo-Angyi, SMA, a student of the Society of African Missions who is studying theology at Tangaza University College. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                                                                               This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent (B): 24 December 2017

Readings

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

Biblical Reflection

2 Samuel. Now that he has conquered his enemies, King David feels so safe and powerful that he pridefully proposes to build a house for God. God, however, reminds him that everything the king has, he got from God. God will continue blessing him in his descendants.

Psalms/Romans. The actions of a Christian should proclaim the mercies received from God. All glory should be given to God.

Luke. Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promises. He is the only saviour. Luke presents Mary as the Ark of the Covenant in the temple of Zion, seat of God’s presence in the middle of his people. Playing on the image of the cloud that ‘covered’ the temple, the angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...”

A Mystery is revealed; it is working marvels; and Mary is called “Full of grace.” God has filled her to be the mother of His Son. When Mary understands her vocation, she gives her consent, a Yes that has transformed human history.

As Christians, our relationship with God should be the centre of our lives. If we forget this, we will end up replacing God with something else from this world, like money or power. Like David, we will be afraid of losing what has come to us, but forget that it has all come by God’s grace.

We celebrate that God has given us a Saviour. Through Jesus we have entered into a new, life-given relationship with God where we can experience our own personal liberation from sin. When we say a total ‘yes’ to God we will feel the joy and peace that is the sign of God’s children.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church [1]

“The common good must be served in its fullness, not according to reductionist visions that are subordinated by certain people to their own advantages; rather it is to be based on a logic that leads to the assumption of greater responsibility.” CDSC, No. 167

“God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it.” CDSC, No. 170

African Wisdom

If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom.  —African proverb

A wise person will always find a way.   —Tanzanian proverb

The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water.   —Cameroonian proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

God wants us to follow him. He invites us to do so in many ways. Why has he called you to join your SCC?

What is the contribution of your SCC to the growth of the Church?

Who are we preaching in our Church and in our SCC? Are we preaching God or a substitute for God?

Are you giving praise to God for the gifts you received from Him? Are you giving praise to God with the gifts you received from Him?

These reflections have been prepared by Alejandro Gonzalez, MG, a Guadalupe Father who is working at Lenkisem in Maasai Land. See http://kenia.mg.org.mx/?page_id=254. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



[1] CSDC: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Pauline Publications Africa.http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

 

 

Third Sunday of Advent (B): 17 December 2017

Readings

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11

Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Biblical Reflection

Advent is a time of preparation to welcome Christ in his definitive coming at the end of human history; but it is also time for us to prepare, to revive, to remember, and to celebrate his first entrance into history, his being born as the man Jesus, like us in all but sin.

On this Third Sunday of Advent, through the oracle of the prophet Isaiah, we hear a new voice, unknown, without name, announcing a special vocation, a call given by God referring to the renewal of the community. The same Spirit of God that has anointed the voice both authorizes and moves its action.

The servant’s mission is to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation: happiness about the liberation of Israel and the end of captivity. The joy is especially for the poor, the suffering, the liberated slaves, and the imprisoned. The voice announces a future of grace and a time of joy, hope, and liberty.

John’s Gospel places attention on the testimony of John the Baptist. Some positive characteristics are evoked, either by the Baptist himself or by the Evangelist, but it is equally important to note the negatives about the Baptist: he is “not the light,” not the Christ, not the Prophet.

The Baptist’s authority is clearly seen in his denying that any title be attributed to himself, while pointing rather toward Jesus. John is the witness of the one coming after him. To the question “Who are you?” John has a very personal answer that points directly to Jesus: John is a witness to the light; he is “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’”

All of us who are baptized are invited like John to bring the light of Christ to different environments, to the places where we move. First though, we must meet the Lord in prayer, in the sacraments, and in his Word so as to receive his grace and enlighten our way.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“The Church's social teaching is the indispensable reference point that determines the nature, modality, articulation and development of pastoral activity in the social field. It is the expression of the ministry of social evangelization, aimed at enlightening, stimulating and supporting the integral promotion of the human person through the practice of Christian liberation in its earthly and transcendent dimension. The Church exists and is at work within history. She interacts with the society and culture of her time in order to fulfil her mission of announcing the newness of the Christian message to all people, in the concrete circumstances of their difficulties, struggles and challenges.” – CDSC No. 524 [1]

“In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation. As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.” – EG No. 119 [2]

African Wisdom

He, who learns, teaches. — Ethiopian proverb

When there is peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield. — Ugandan proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What is to be changed in our SCC in order to for us to welcome Christ in better ways?

Do we participate in the SCC to be given titles or to gain the fame of being good Christians?

Are we letting God to be our strength, our hope, our joy, and our vindication?



[2] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.htmlThese reflections have been prepared by Fr. Juan Ascencio Franco, MG, Regional Superior the Guadalupe Missionaries, Nairobi Kenya, and have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Second Sunday of Advent (B): 10 December 2017

Readings

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

Psalm 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

2 Peter 3:8-14

Mark 1:1-8

Biblical Reflection

God’s salvation. In the last words of today’s Gospel we read about John the Baptist’s message: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The whole of God’s salvation depends on the Spirit in the lives of his people. In other words, by spiritual empowerment God’s salvation will ultimately be accomplished in the hearts of believers — and through their hearts, in the world. This is the hope we wish to have, and we wish it because of God’s promise. We don’t close our eyes to evil, and we should not fear it. We believe that the power of sin is defeated by the power of the Spirit. This is salvation: the spiritual transformation of believers, individually and then collectively. God’s life in the world depends on the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ gift of the Spirit is our confidence.

Incarnation. How can this happen? How can the Lord come and pour out the Spirit? How can the world of injustice and terrorism be overcome? Is this possible? In Christmas God invites us once again to cooperate in receiving Jesus and in receiving his power. The celebration of the birth of Jesus is the celebration of the beginning of God’s history of salvation, the history of a people’s empowerment. With the birth of Jesus we can experience the birth of hope. Jesus’ coming at Bethlehem and his coming at the end of time make the empowerment of the Spirit happen. God has created everything and has created us in His image to draw us close; and God has used the Incarnation of Jesus to draw even closer to us, with a closeness sealed by baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Preparation. We are there to prepare the coming of Jesus properly. John the Baptist speaks of a serious preparation: we are invited to listen to “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’” (Mk 1:3). And in reference to the possible obstacles to conversion, Isaiah proclaims: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain” (40:4).    

Commitment. Our contribution now to God’s plan of salvation is preparedness. We are called to choose whatever enables us to receive God’s power and love. Preparation in this context means observing the world as God does, being guided by the community of believers, and standing ready to act with a strong sense of justice and mercy, especially towards those in difficult situations. Spiritual preparation means readying our hearts to follow God’s way and being committed to act with a mind on conversion and mission.

Togetherness. “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together…” (Is 40:5). The glory that God has reserved for us is meant to be enjoyed by everyone. God’s plan is the world’s salvation. Our real challenge is to equip with gospel values a community that can eventually be empowered to follow God’s path of liberation. We often attend mainly to our own particular business, and we are therefore too busy to be interested in the preparation of everyone else to receive the One who brings salvation through the Holy Spirit. But it is only from such a point of departure that sustainable individual and social transformation can result.

God’s patience. Before we even wish to receive the empowerment that God prepares through the birth of Jesus, God takes the initiative and waits for us to move at our own pace. We are slow. We don’t always move quickly in the right direction, despite the urgencies of life. In his second letter to the Church Universal St. Peter says: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard 'delay,' but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (3:9).

Spiritual preparation for receiving the source of empowerment, Jesus, has not been easy, and it will never be so. We are about to celebrate Christmas, with the required and customary preparations of two thousand years. From a Christian perspective, many situations have changed and many others continue to challenge us. Let that Voice of Is 40:5 speak to us, and may it sensitize our hearts to conversion.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain, does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear” (No. 24).

African Wisdom

A leader who does not take advice is not a leader.   – Kenyan proverb

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.   – African proverb

When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.   – Ethiopian proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What could be the “good news” for Small Christian communities in our parish today?

Is the message of John the Baptist still valid for our time and our country?

[1] Pope Francis. The Joy of the Gospel. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

[1] Baawobr, Bishop Richard , MAfr. (2010). Bible Study and Sharing on the Gospel of Mark for Christian Communities. Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa.

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Javier Gonzalez, MG, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Nairobi, and have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

First Sunday of Advent (B): 03 December 2017

Readings

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:33-37

Biblical Reflection

We have arrived once again at the hopeful season of Advent, which entails a threefold transcendental dimension of faith: the living memorial of the first coming of Jesus Christ; the celebration of His spirited action in our present-day lives; and the paramount expectation of His second coming. Past, Present, and Future are interwoven and illumined by a single, just, and loving act of salvation that is solemnly confessed: God is Faithful!

The third part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, taken as the first reading, was written at the beginning of the return from the Babylonian exile, in the 5th century B.C.E. The experience of this return is not as sunny as foretold by the previous oracles concerning the restoration of Israel, with Jerusalem becoming the “Holy Zion” adorned by God in beauty and justice. Rather, the people of Israel return with weighty disappointments: first, only a small number of people come back to Jerusalem, while others stay behind, conforming to life in Babylonia; second, a rampant moral crisis has encroached upon the hearts of many of the returnees; third, the city of Jerusalem and its Temple are devastated and the inhabitants are given to idolatry. Fraud, corruption, injustice, and iniquity pervade the Holy City after the return. Seemingly, no spiritual lesson has been gained from the experiences of the past.

In the midst of this dark situation, Isaiah speaks on behalf of those few hearts who seek conversion and pray for a definitive deliverance (63:16d, 64:5-7). He invites his listeners to look back on the past (64:4b) and identify the obstinate refusal throughout history to comply what is righteous, just, good, and holy, and to understand that their rejection of the covenant with God is the root cause of every form of individual and social slavery.      

The wretched past repeats itself, but a prayerful memory of the past serves to acknowledge above all the persistent saving intervention of a faithful God who across history has redeemed his people (64:3).

God’s faithfulness of old animates those in the present to recognise the spiritual gifts that Paul mentions in Corinthians 1:5-7. God’s supreme intervention in human history through his Son’s incarnation is alive. The grace and peace that only God can give (1:3) are assured when Christians in the here and now testify to Christ.

Testimony to Christ today is not aimless, in spite of the world’s contempt for God. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus urges looking to the future with hope, for He is coming (13:33.35) to bring about what has begun with his first coming, that is, the ultimate restoration of a world made dysfunctional by sin. The work – the joy – of the servant who keeps vigil until the day of the Lord is simple: to give testimony to Christ every day.                                                

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“Christians, particularly the laity, are urged to act in such a way that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise and thus strong in faith and hope they make the most of the present, and with patience await the glory that is to come.” – Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 579 [1]

African Wisdom

Aliyeongolewa na Mungu hapotoki. – A person saved by God cannot be made crooked.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Every child is a future contributor to the society and its common good. Could you share some ideas and experiences of how a family can bring up child from an early age with solid Christian values?

Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium [2] that “memory is a dimension of our faith” and that “the believer is essentially one who remembers” (No. 5) for together with Jesus Christ we recall all the moments of the past where his grace has been present in every situation of our lives. Try to share among yourselves a living experience where you have realised a grateful moment of God’s presence in the midst of a difficult or delightful situation and consider what spiritual lesson you have got out of the experience.      

As you look at the current situation of Kenya, what do you think God is inviting the citizens of this nation to convert from?



[1] CSDC: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Pauline Publications Africa.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

 

[2] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Jose G. Martinez Rea, a missionary priest of the Guadalupe Fathers working in Christ the King Parish / Kibra, and they have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

 

The Thirty-third Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 19 November 2017

Readings

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Matthew 25:14-30

Biblical Reflection

The readings especially, the Gospel, speak of how the disciples are to conduct themselves as they await the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are expected to remain vigilant, ready to receive Jesus at His second coming. His coming is certain but unforeseen.

Christian discipleship is compared here to a master-servant relationship. The master is the giver of different talents according to the servants’ abilities. Talents – signifying money – stand as a metaphor for God-given abilities. Positive discipleship requires spending our talents, i.e., making use of our talents the sake of the Kingdom. The talents are to be used for the common good and not for selfish interest or personal gain. Talents used for the benefit of others will multiply and increase.

Sitting on our talents or making poor use of them may attract no reward or praise from the master, the Lord, who is the giver of these good talents. God’s judgment will be based on how well we use our talents. It will be severe for those who hide their talents and make them ineffective for the God’s community. On the other hand, those who use their talents in the service of the Kingdom will be praised, rewarded, and entrusted with greater responsibilities.

Link with the Social Teachings of the Church

“The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative” – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. [1]

“On a planet conflicted over environmental issues, the Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan; it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored” – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. [2]

African Wisdom

After a fool’s deeds comes his remorse.

A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness.

If a child washes his hands he can eat with Kings.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What are the talents God has given me?

How do I use them for the benefit of the People of God and His creation?

In which ways do I sit on my talents, rendering them ineffective?

What steps can I take to use my talents more effectively?



[2] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/sharing-catholic-social-teaching-challenges-and-directions.cfm These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Paul SIla Nzomo, OFM Cap, the Custos of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of Kenya and the current Chairman of RSCK. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

The Thirty-second Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 12 November 2017

Readings

Wisdom 6:12-16

Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

Biblical Reflection

The first reading, from the book of Wisdom, gives an invitation for all people to be vigilant, seek wisdom and love her. This wisdom is considered to be the source of happiness: “He who seeks wisdom will have no difficulty.”

The second reading is a reminder to all that Christ is the hope for all: “We shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

The gospel invites all to reflect on the fate of unpreparedness. To be too late to prepare to meet the Lord is a tragedy, as it was for the five foolish virgins who never had enough oil in their lamps and thus missed the joy of the wedding feast. All need to be ready to meet the Lord by preparing at every moment, like the five wise virgins who were ready to meet the bridegroom by making sure their lamps had enough oil. They indeed enjoyed the happiness of the wedding feast.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“In every age the true and perennial ‘newness of things’ comes from the infinite power of God, who says: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5). These words refer to the fulfilment of history, when Christ ‘delivers the Kingdom to God the Father … that God may be everything to everyone’ (1 Cor 15:24-28). But the Christian well knows that the newness which we await in its fullness at the Lord’s second coming has been present since the creation of the world, and in a special way since the time when God became man in Jesus Christ and brought about a ‘new creation’ with him and through him (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)” Centesimus Annus, No. 62. [1]

African Wisdom

By crawling a child learns to stand. – West African proverb

Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. – African proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Why?

Every person seeks happiness in life.

The choices we make in life can increase or reduce our happiness.

The practices of Christian faith can bring greater peace to Kenyan politics.

True and authentic happiness comes from God himself.

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Arnold Shirima, OFM Cap, who lectures at the Consolata Institute of Philosophy, and they have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



[1] John Paul II, On the Human Person (Centesimus Annus), Nairobi, Paulines Publications, 1989. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus.html

 

The Twenty-ninth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 22 October 2017

Readings

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6

Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b

Matthew 22:15-21

Biblical Reflection

The excerpt from Isaiah contains the core message of the entire chapter, and it asserts the pre-eminence of God before all created realities, whose Maker is, indeed, no other but God. It evokes in us a need to give God the rightful place and primacy, in our lives and in all we do.

Through the prophet, the Lord addresses Cyrus, King of Persia, who did not even know the Lord, about the deliverance from slavery and oppression in Babylon that Cyrus has decreed for God’s people Israel:

“For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other” (vv. 4-6).

If we truly acknowledged God and His pre-eminence above all things and knew his Divine will for his people, then each one of us, from the least to the greatest in the eyes of society, would, like King Cyrus, rediscover our Christian vocation and mission – to work and do all in our power for righteousness and salvation to sprout forth in our land. But chaos, shame, and confusion will continue to abound in our nation unless we put aside the idols we have made for ourselves and turn our hearts to the one and only God, the Saviour.

On this World Mission Sunday, the Church, like Paul, gives thanks and rejoices for all the beloved of God, who has chosen us in Jesus Christ, through the preaching of the Gospel, not “in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4-5). Today we celebrate our call and mission as Christians, that is, participation in the very Mission of Christ himself, handed down to us in the Church. We offer continuous prayers for the success of the mission throughout the Universal Church. And what is this success? It is having firm faith in God that is demonstrated daily by steadfast works of love among believers and steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ amidst all the challenges of life.

In the Gospel, Jesus exposes the unacceptable malice and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, which could typify our own attitudes and behaviours of every day. Too often, no trace of honesty is to be found in what we say, and we set numerous traps to destroy our opponents. Thus do we compromise our faith and calling.

The point of contention with the Pharisees is the duty to pay tribute to Caesar, the icon of Roman domination over Palestine at that time. In their judgement, Jesus falters if he approves paying taxes to Caesar, for that means approving foreign domination and the oppression of Israel. Furthermore, in their religious perception, he would be idolatrous and irreligious, since all tribute and devotion belong to God alone. On the other hand, if he condemns paying taxes, they will find something else to accuse him of: inciting the people to rebellion against Roman rule and therefore, treason.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's’ [Mt 22:21]. ‘We must obey God rather than men’ [Acts 5:29].” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2242 [1]

Jesus agrees with the Pharisees in their belief and affirmation that adoration and cult belong only to God, not to the State, nor to any other earthly reality. Christians must resist all temptation to allow any power in the temporal order to pretend to take the place of God. Christians need to recognize that all things belong to and are subjected to God, their Creator. Therefore, God cannot be eliminated from human struggles to build an earthly city. It is wrong to say that God has no interest in the designs, works, and associations of mankind, including the political and socio-economic spheres of life.   If man pretends to build a world devoid of God, then such a world will end up against the very man that has built it. – Cf. John Paul II, the Post-Synodal Exhortation to Bishops, Clergy and Faithful on Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church Today, Reconciliatio et Pænitentia, 2 December 1984, Nos. 14 and 18 [2]

Nonetheless, Christian wisdom has always envisioned and upheld the spirit of no unjustifiable revolt against the state, and Christ’s disciples are exhorted to fulfil their civic obligations, including respect for legitimate authorities of the State, paying of taxes, participation in exercises of national importance like voting, etc. – all in the effort of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. – Cf. Rm 13:1-7; 1 Pt 2:13-17

African & World Wisdom

A hypocrite's hatred is hidden behind flattering words. –African Proverb

Hypocrites kick with their hind feet while licking with their tongues. – Russian Proverb

Abudu mungu kwa njia ya kuabudu, ukiwa huwezi usipoteze wakati wako: Worship God in the way of worshipping; if you cannot, do not waste your time. Said of those who worship in order to show off. –Kiswahili Proverbs, Center for African Studies University of Illinois [3]

 

The Twenty-eighth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 15 October 2017

Readings

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

Matthew 22:1-14

Biblical Reflection

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah presents the image of a loving God who will prepare a banquet for his people. He will wipe away tears from them and once again bring them great joy. All are invited to sit at the same table and share a meal together at this banquet. It does not matter how unworthy one may be.

At this banquet, God will destroy death and restore life to everyone. In this way, the prophet presents a new vision of God: a saviour who comes to redeem all, out of merciful love. This inclusive and unconditional love of God will restore the dignity of God's people. God will take shame away and grant grace and salvation. This is the God that people have hoped for, who now has come to bring great joy.

In his letter to the community at Philippi, St. Paul tenderly expresses a deep feeling of friendship that binds him to them. His gesture of friendship and his faith in God assure the Philippians that, with God's help, everything is possible.

St. Paul demonstrates how, through the power of God, a person can master every situation. He speaks of himself as fully initiated for everything; he fears nothing. With the help of God, he is prepared for every challenge – hunger, poverty, persecution, and similar hardships.

The Apostle further demonstrates that in Jesus Christ, God accomplishes all human needs. Accordingly, Paul gives thanks and glory to God for the wonders God does for his people. These understandings harmonize with the image of the loving God expressed in the first reading and the day’s gospel.

The gospel compares the Kingdom of God to a wedding feast. In a moving parable, the evangelist Matthew narrates how a king prepares a wedding feast for his son. But when he calls in those invited, they not only refuse to come in but they also mistreat the king's servants, eventually killing them. Deeply angered, the king in turn commands his servants to destroy the murderers. Moreover, he orders them to call in people who have not at first been invited.

Today’s banquet imagery demonstrates the joy of Messianic times. Only those who accept God's invitation will experience this profound joy. To enter the Kingdom of God depends not on colour, tribe, or nationality, but on one's readiness to accept God's invitation. Through baptism, everyone is invited to participate in God's glory. The experience becomes real when one shows a personal response, as signified in the celebration of liturgy. The experience entails the actual sharing of one's life in God as an individual and above all sharing life in God as a community called together to sing God's praises.

To eat a meal together at the same table establishes special bonds among the participants. It implies sharing the same life and, in this way, establishing new relationships. The symbolic power of a wedding feast where guests share a meal together creates new friendships, trust, sincerity, and love. Thus, the readings of the day offer an enriching and inspiring experience of God's love towards all humanity.

Moreover, through this invitation, God shows unconditional acceptance of the very ones who were at first considered unqualified to enter God's Kingdom. The Good News is that everyone is a beneficiary of God's Kingdom. Today's readings become particularly significant in a milieu that excludes some segments of society from qualifying for God's love. God does not set conditions and limits for enjoying his love and mercy. Even those who feel marginalised, forgotten, despised, and side-lined have a place as the banquet God prepares for all..

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church[1]

“Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet” ––Evangelii Gaudium, No. 14.

African Wisdom

Umoja ni nguvu, utengano ni udhaifu. – Kiswahili Proverb.

Unity is strength, division is weakness.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do we sometimes reject God's invitation?

Are we sometimes too busy, to the extent of ignoring our spiritual life?

What are we doing to promote peace in our country?

In proclaiming the Gospel, do we ever promote division instead of unity? When could this happen?



[1] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.htmlThese reflections have been prepared by Fr. Edward Mushi Matela, AJ, Vice-Rector of the Apostles of Jesus Theologicum, Langata, Nairobi, as well as Director of the Queen of Apostles Scholasticate Library and a lecturer in Systematic Theology. They have been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twenty-seventh Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 08 October 2017

Readings

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

Philippians 4:6-9

Matthew 21:33-43

Biblical Reflection

The readings of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time teach that the vineyard is the nation of Israel, the cultivators are the religious leaders of Israel, and the owner is God. The messengers are the prophets sent by God to water the vineyard with their sweat and sometimes with their own blood. These prophets often experienced rejection and were killed, and the son whom the owner of the vineyard sent and who was killed is Jesus Christ.

A great number of people entered into the mystery of the death of Jesus, the Son of God, from his passion to the crucifixion; for example, Judas, Peter, the disciples, the arresting party, the witnesses who gathered to speak against Jesus, Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, etc. It will be important to ask ourselves who really betrayed and killed Jesus?

Even though it puts forth some bleak images, reading from Isaiah, overall, sings a song of the love and tenderness of God. Vines always require intensive, laborious work, and tender and careful commitment. God in his love shows tenderness and infinite love for his people, the Israelites, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people set up for his own possession.

God demonstrates genuine love by protecting, guiding, and sustaining humanity in the history of salvation, as recounted throughout the Bible. Psalm 18 evokes God’s great work at the Exodus: A vine from Egypt you transplanted, you drove away the nations and planted it.

Addressing the Philippians, St. Paul emphasizes trust and confidence in God, because trust in God frees us of anxiety and makes us real before God in our requests and thanksgiving. Peace of heart and mind will keep us focussed on Christ.

The Gospel demonstrates the goodness and generosity of God, who has planted, protected, and provided for his vineyard, which is expected to produce rich fruit. But God’s people reject his offer and refuse to turn the crop over to their Master. God gives a responsibility, but he does not come to supervise, because he knows that he has given the ability to accomplish the task.

God’s patience is repeatedly manifested; God in his mercy and love continues to send many prophets, to the point of sending his only Son, not to condemn but to save. In the parable, the tenants, filled with greed, envy, and malice, respond by killing the messengers and even the son. Nevertheless, God continues to care for us, despite our rebellion, pride, ingratitude, and self-satisfaction. And God continues to speak to us through his word in the Scriptures.

The Kingdom of God finds its foundation in the hearts of individuals, families, and nations who are moved by an earnest desire to foster the love of God and the love of neighbour in both private and public life.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“Consecrated men and women are sent forth to proclaim, by the witness of their lives, the value of Christian fraternity and the transforming power of the Good News, which makes it possible to see all people as sons and daughters of God, and inspires a self-giving love towards everyone, especially the least of our brothers and sisters. Such communities are places of hope and of the discovery of the Beatitudes, where love, drawing strength from prayer, the wellspring of communion, is called to become a pattern of life and source of joy.In an age characterized by the globalization of problems and the return of the idols of nationalism, international Institutes especially are called to uphold and to bear witness to the sense of communion between peoples, races and cultures. In a climate of fraternity, an openness to the global dimension of problems will not detract from the richness of particular gifts, nor will the affirmation of a particular gift conflict with other gifts or with unity itself. International Institutes can achieve this effectively, inasmuch as they have to face in a creative way the challenge of inculturation, while at the same time preserving their identity” Pope St. John Paul II, 1996, Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, No. 51.[1]

God continues to send messengers. God still sends “his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.” Though the call to be God’s messengers may belong more particularly to the Christian in consecrated life, to some extent every Christian is meant to serve as a messenger and a prophet of God in the world. Pope John Paul has noted some of the goals proper to God’s messengers.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How have I maximized my potential? Have I made any choices in life that minimize it?

Am I more like the servant or the tenant of the parable? In what ways?

How do we as Christians continue to betray Jesus?

Why do I love Jesus personally, and what values he has left for me to live and imitate?

These reflections have been prepared by Fr. Geoffrey Inira, AJ, the Rector at the Apostles of Jesus Shrine of the Sacred Heart through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at Karen-Langata. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Twenty-sixth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 01 October 2017

Readings

Ezekiel 18:25-28

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

Philippians 2:1-11

Matthew 21:28-32

Biblical Reflection

Contadicting the Israelites who complain that God’s way is not fair, Ezekiel teaches that the way of the Lord is just. Thus does he condemn Israel as a nation: it is the people as a whole who have sinned and not God.

Even when speaking of individual conversion, the prophet is implying the responsibility of the nation, i.e., corporate responsibility. In practice, this kind of responsibility can be recognized in parents who have influence on their children and kings on their subjects.

The personal responsibility of the individual willing to convert remains nonetheless the key that opens the door to grace and closes it to vice. Despite our difficulty in choosing holiness, the transformative power of God’s grace spurs inner conversion and the beginning of new life in God.

Psalm 25 gives assurance that God shows sinners the way, guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way. Self-confidence about salvation, rather than humility, therefore, poses a risk to spiritual growth. Over-confidence in God is detrimental, but awareness of the need to be close to God opens opportunities for divine nourishment. Grace makes us gracious and vice, vicious.

Paul tells the Phillipians to do nothing from selfishness or conceit but to act in humility, while counting others as better than oneself. Once again, Christian teaching highlights concern for the whole community. Christians who draw encouragement from Christ and consolation from love, who participate in the compassion and mercy of the Holy Spirit, can complete Paul’s joy by being of one mind and heart. Christians are called to form a community; faith is not just the project of individuals.

In the passage from Matthew, it can be noticed that Jesus does not ask which son pleased the father. The pertinent question is which of the two did the will of the father. The doers have it; the sayers have lost it.

While his rudeness to his father is not defended, the punch line is that the son later repents. Christians are called to “walk the talk” and not just “talk the walk.”

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

The Vatican II document Gaudium et spes[1] (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) emphasizes the following:

“…Man is split within himself. As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. Indeed, man finds that by himself he is incapable of battling the assaults of evil successfully” No. 13.

“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience… Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality” No. 16.

“Man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure” No. 17.

“Since human nature as [Christ] assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too” No. 22.

“Therefore, although rightful differences exist between men, the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace” No. 29.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What is the real basis for my support of a particular candidate? Can my reasons be justified?

What can I do concretely, as an individual and as a member of the community, to help ensure peace at the time of the election? What must I not do, if peace is to be valued?

This outline has been prepared Fr. Felix Charles Owino, A.J., of the Apostles of Jesus, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twenty-fifth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 24 September 2017

Readings

Isaiah 55:6-9

Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a

Matthew 20:1-16a

Biblical Reflection

God’s ways are not human ways, nor are God’s thoughts our thoughts. This Sunday’s readings invite us to reflect on the infinite generosity of God that is expressed in his mercy and justice. The points that follow are made clear in the readings.

We are equal before God. The Gospel parable is at one level a warning to the Apostles, who had the privilege of being the first to enter the Church, from its inception; a warning to be aware that others would also come in later days. Therefore, they were not to claim a special honour and special place just because they were first.

The parable also serves as a warning to the Jewish Christians, who considered themselves a chosen race, never to look down on the Gentiles who would be coming into the Church.

The parable warns those today who have long been members of our Catholic Church never to think that the Church and the Jumuiya belong to us or that we can dictate policies. We are invited never to look down on or consider inferior those who join us late or from other faiths. Once we have joined, we are all equal before God.

God is ever merciful and ready to forgive. At every moment God is ready to accept us, forgive us, and admit us into his Kingdom. It is an error to say I have been living away from God for so long, God cannot forgive me. It is never too late for God to forgive: the third hour, the sixth hour, the eleventh hour. God is ready to forgive.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading, “Seek the Lord while he may be found… turn to him for mercy.” We might think we are too late to seek his mercy and forgiveness, but God has told us that “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.” For God, “One day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

The Psalmist has said, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” This does not mean that we can delay our conversion. No. “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” If he has given the opportunity to seek him, do so immediately; old age might not give this opportunity.

We are invited to move beyond our human perceptions of justice. The parable teaches that in some cases we need to go beyond what justice prescribes. The ones hired last have been waiting desperately the whole day for a job. They too have families and children waiting for them at home. If they do not work they will sleep on an empty stomach. One denarius is just enough to survive for a day. If the master considers mere justice and reduces their day’s wage because they worked for only one hour, they will not have enough to live on that night. But the master goes beyond justice and considers what they need for a living.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

Repeatedly we learn from Catholic social teaching:

Everyone has a right to decent, meaningful work.

Labour is not a commodity to be bought at market prices determined by the laws of supply and demand, rather it should be determined by the human needs of the worker (cf. CSDC No. 271).

“We must pay more attention to the one who works than to what the worker does. The self-realization of the human person is the measure of what is right and wrong” (Laborem Exercens - “On Human Work,” Donders translation, Pope John Paul II, 1981, #6).

From such statements we understand better that we must never treat workers in our homes, farms, and institutions as slaves; rather we must uphold the dignity of workers.

The economy of Kenya exists to serve people and not people to serve the economy.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What is our understanding of God’s mercy and justice?

How do we treat new members of our SCC? How are we treated as new members? Do we have exclusive or inclusive attitudes?

How do we treat our workers? How are we treated as workers?

Do we carry out our responsibilities in the Church because of reward or honour? What is the motivation behind our services in the Church?

This outline was prepared by Chrisantus Keengwe Moses, a scholastic with the Comboni Missionaries, who has been spending his pastoral year in Kariobangi North Parish. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twenty-fourth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 17 September 2017

Readings

Sirach 27:30–28:7

Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

Romans 14:7-9

Matthew 18:21-35

Biblical Reflection

The readings of the 24th Sunday call us not only to reflect on what forgiveness is, but also to welcome into our hearts the grace of God that enables us to exercise pardon wherever it is needed.

Sirach teaches his people that obtaining forgiveness requires practicing it first. Having one’s own sins forgiven happens only after forgiving someone else’s sins: Forgive your neighbour’s injustice; then when you pray your sins will be forgiven (Sir. 28:2). But in the Gospel the order is different: one’s sins are forgiven first, motivating the forgiving of someone else’s faults later on: Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you? (Mt. 18:33).

All of us have sinned. We have offended God. But the Lord forgives us first, and the Lord’s forgiveness precedes any other forgiveness. The Lord sets an example for us.

The Lord’s forgiveness originates in his love. Only one full of love can be capable of forgiveness and ever ready to exercise it. If the Lord is compassionate and merciful, this mercy is but the daughter, the consequence, of God’s unceasing love. We cannot expect anything else from God, who is the holiest because he forgives all our iniquities. In doing so, God makes us know his perfection and holiness.

When Jesus urges us to be perfect and holy like his Father in heaven, he is urging us to be merciful. The ruthless cannot logically expect mercy: Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his sins? (Sir. 28:4). This would be incongruous. The problem is also addressed in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4).

Forgiveness has social connotations. It cannot be exercised without affecting others. When we sin, others bear the consequences of our sin. In the same way, when we impart pardon, its effects are felt by the other members of the society. There is no forgiveness without debtors!

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church [1]

“Mutual forgiveness must not eliminate the need for justice and still less does it block the path that leads to truth. On the contrary, justice and truth represent the concrete requisites for reconciliation…. However, in order to re-establish relationships of mutual acceptance between divided peoples in the name of reconciliation, it is necessary to go beyond the determination of criminal behaviour, both of commission and omission, and the procedures for seeking reparation. It is necessary, moreover, to promote respect for the right to peace. This right ‘encourages the building of a society in which structures of power give way to structures of cooperation, with a view to the common good’” (No. 518).

Just as God’s forgiveness restores the original relationship between humankind and it creator, forgiveness is needed to restore relations within human society. Our societies are so destroyed by our sins that reconciliation must begin with forgiveness, particularly when conflicts have been ethnic.

African Wisdom

Usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta. – Swahili Proverb

That is, if you do not fill a crack, you will have to build a complete wall. Let us repair broken relationships before hatred escalates to the point where it is too late. – A stitch in time saves nine.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What situations that you are experiencing indicate the need to reconcile with your neighbour?

What are the main obstacles to real and lasting reconciliation?

How can you create moments of reconciliation in the life of the SCC?

Outline prepared by Fr. Adrian Mora Masis MCCJ, of Marsabit Cathedral, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.         This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twenty-third Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 10 September 2017

Readings

Ezekiel 33.7-9

Psalm 95.1-2, 6-7ab, 7c-9

Romans 13.8-10

Matthew 18.15-20

Biblical Reflection

First reading – The prophet, a man of the Word, cannot keep silent, though he may annoy or irritate someone. To warn sinners is a precious service: it gives them the occasion to change, to turn round, to convert, and to opt for the good. Actually, it makes them free to take charge of their own lives. God holds us accountable for their blood, if we have not tried to warn them. We are responsible for our actions and for the words we say – or do not say (omissions) – to others.

Second reading – Any religion can become mere formalism. Christianity, of course, may be seen as a code of good conduct: Do not covet someone else’s spouse, do not kill, do not steal, respect private property, obey authorities… These are all good things. But they become Christian only if they are motivated by love and done with love. They must be carried out to obtain joy and to give it to others: Love your neighbour as yourself.

The Gospel – Jesus has given his Church the power to bind and loose, which she also exercises through fraternal correction. Sin is personal, yet it is never an individual affair, because it touches upon the lives of all. It is the duty of all to help each other to overcome evil. The community also has the power to make its prayer true and efficacious: even when alone, Christians always pray together.

People who attend Mass call themselves “brothers” and “sisters.” And so they are, from the day of their baptism. Not without reason does the Church define herself as “God’s family.” But do these words really reflect our convictions? Imbued as we are with a culture of individualism, our very sense of belonging has gone down the drain. Many frequent the sacraments, but they do not see the Church as a “tangible and visible” reality, with its services and structures, including its authority. Faith is undoubtedly a person’s choice, but this choice inserts us into a community of “saints and sinners.”

The Word of God today invites us to verify our sense of belonging, which, after all, is essential to true Christian maturity. Forming a community together requires brotherly correction. If “the other” is really my brother or sister, how can I remain indifferent before his or her mistakes – and not just their offences against me? I must have the courage to speak out, like Ezekiel in the first reading, since I know that the community improves with the improvement of each member, and suffers for the sins of each of its members. True love makes us put aside the indifference that we often try to justify with an “I-don’t-want-to-interfere” attitude. In other words, as the second reading teaches, love is the essence of Christianity, which is a concrete religion, not limited to mere inner feelings, but one by which we commit ourselves to bettering reality: I stand with you, no matter what; I help you to get better, but by bettering myself; I warn you because I love you.

The world does not agree with this way of being and doing, and it brands valid attempts to help us see our mistakes as undue interference and meddling. As Christians, we must humbly admit our own defects and mistakes, even as we help others see theirs.

Jesus prescribes brotherly correction to his disciples (cf. Gospel) as a guarantee of positive communitarian life.

Link with the Social teaching of the Church

“The mystery of sin is composed of a twofold wound, which the sinner opens in his own side and in the relationship with his neighbour. That is why we can speak of personal and social sin. Every sin is personal under a certain aspect; under another, every sin is social, insofar as and because it also has social consequences… The character of social sin can unquestionably be ascribed to every sin, taking into account the fact that, “by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others” [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 117, quoting the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia of John Paul II].

“Certain sins constitute by their very object a direct assault on one’s neighbour. Such sins in particular are known as social sins. Social sin is every sin committed against the justice due in relations between individuals, between the individual and the community, and also between the community and the individual. Social too is every sin against the rights of the human person, starting with the right to life, including that of life in the womb, and every sin against the physical integrity of the individual; every sin against the freedom of others, especially against the supreme freedom to believe in God and worship him; and every sin against the dignity and honour of one’s neighbor. Every sin against the common good and its demands, in the whole broad area of rights and duties of citizens, is also social sin. In the end, social sin is that sin that “refers to the relationships between the various human communities. These relationships are not always in accordance with the plan of God, who intends that there be justice in the world and freedom and peace between individuals, groups and peoples” [CSDC No. 118].

“The consequences of sin perpetuate the structures of sin. These are rooted in personal sin and, therefore, are always connected to concrete acts of the individuals who commit them, consolidate them and make it difficult to remove them. It is thus that they grow stronger, spread and become sources of other sins, conditioning human conduct” [CSDC, 119, quoting The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1869].

Pope Francis on “Fraternal correction”

“Sure, when they tell you the truth, it’s not nice to hear. But if it is spoken with charity and love, it is easier to accept… You cannot reprimand a person without love and charity. You cannot perform surgery without anaesthesia: you cannot, because the patient will die from the pain... Love is like an anaesthetic that helps you to receive treatment and accept reprimand. Take your brother to one side and talk to him, with gentleness, with love… “If you really need to reprimand a little flaw, stop and remember that you have many more and far bigger!” [Pope’s daily homily, 12 September 2014].

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How is brotherly correction carried out in your Small Christian Community.

Do you really want to “gain the brother,” or you aim at slandering him, under the camouflage of “brotherly correction”?

This outline was prepared by Fr. Franco Moretti, MCCJ, a Comboni Missionary serving at Kariobangi Parish, Nairobi. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twenty-second Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 03 September 2017

Readings

Jeremiah 20:7-9

Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Romans 12:1-2

Matthew 16:21-27

Biblical Reflection

In the Gospel of today, Jesus tells his disciples that he must first suffer rejection, be crucified, and then rise again on the third day. In so many words he explains that there can be no redemption and salvation without the cross.

Certainly this was something unexpected – because of the image and the idea of “Messiah” they had – and the disciples are mesmerized. They do not want to believe, they try not to accept this prediction.

Peter, often the first to react to whatever Jesus has to say, wants to protect Jesus from any threat or harm. That is why he rebukes the very thought of Jesus having to face rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion. 

But what is perhaps most surprising is Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s concern. He calls him “Satan.” When Jesus was out in the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry, Satan had tempted him to follow a path other than the one chosen by the Father in heaven. Now Jesus recognizes in Peter's response another temptation to seek a less costly path for accomplishing his mission, a path different from the way of the cross. Literally, “Satan” means adversary – one who stands in opposition. Jesus reminds Peter that his role is not to be an adversary but a disciple – one who gets behind his Master to follow with trust and obedience.  

And trust and obedience are two of the qualities needed to be a true disciple. Trust, because one must truly believe that God’s way is the right way, the only way, even when it is not fully understood. A trust based on love, a trust that – even if at times fearful or uncertain – is nevertheless built on the immeasurable love of Christ. And with this trust, because of faith, obedience is possible. An obedience that is no longer an obligation or a duty but a choice: a choice based on love and built on trust. A choice, an obedience that becomes life-giving, and love filled that empowers us to follow as true disciples and to embrace our own crosses when necessary.

Jesus understands that the cross is the only way he can truly save us: at the price of his blood, shed for our freedom. Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus defeats Evil and all evils that hold us. Through his resurrection, Jesus defeats all evils that cause our death. Through his obedience to the Father's will, Jesus opens the way to new life, true life. Through his life-giving sacrifice, Jesus shows us the true meaning of life. His death on the cross has won pardon for the guilty, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death has made possible our freedom and has allowed us to live as to live as sons and daughters of the merciful Father. 

His true disciples must be willing to lay down their lives in order to gain new life in the Father and with the Father. As Christians and as disciples we live an interesting paradox: we lose what we gain, and we gain what we lose. When we try to run our life our own way, we end up losing it to futility. Only God can show us the way to a true, free, and fulfilled life.

Every decision made determines the persons we are. Sometimes we can gain all we have set our hearts on, only to wake up suddenly and discover that something is lacking, that our lives are not complete, that something truly important is still missing. Neither money nor possessions, nor any kind of power and glory can mend a broken heart, cheer a lonely person, give true freedom and true happiness, or… “buy” Heaven.

And the Cross is the way to and the means for this fantastic, life-giving journey: although it is heavy and we sometimes struggle to carry it, we need not fear.

Link with the the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“Faith always remains something of a cross; it retains a certain obscurity which does not detract from the firmness of its assent. Some things are understood and appreciated only from the standpoint of this assent, which is a sister to love, beyond the range of clear reasons and arguments. We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness” (No. 42).

This is why it is important to remember that we disciples preach and proclaim the message we have learned by following the Lord – and by carrying our own crosses – not mainly by words, but mostly by the way we live, the way we also carry the Cross.

The kingdom we are called to proclaim as disciples is a Kingdom of love, peace, and justice, a justice based on the utmost respect for the dignity of every human life. And we must uphold justice, peace, integrity, and honesty with a faith that is embodied in our everyday lives.

In today’s world and in today’s Kenya, these values are often challenged and are sometimes in danger of being disregarded and undermined in the name of a relentless search for power, wealth, and dominance.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Let’s identify the crosses in our lives, the real crosses, and name them clearly.

How do I carry my crosses? With anger? With resignation? With frustration? With hope? With faith?

As a way to continue the journey, complete this sentence: A true disciple is…

What is your role in building the Kingdom of God? … And the country of Kenya?

This outline was prepared by Fr. Maurizio Binaghi, MCCJ, a Comboni missionary stationed at Holy Trinity Kariobangi North Parish. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

The Twenty-first Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 27 August 2017

Readings

Isaiah 22:19-23

Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

Biblical Reflection

The first reading is from Isaiah’s oracles to the pagan nations, although it is directed to the people of Jerusalem, supposedly the city of God. It presents a picture of a people that have forgotten to put their trust in God. Led by Shebna, a scribe, the “master of the palace,” the children of Israel have put their trust in military defence and in their own might. Upon seeing this, the Lord God loses his trust in their leader: he calls him a disgrace!

The Lord therefore goes ahead to appoint a new leader, one who is loyal to him and one who follows his precepts. He appoints Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, and upon him he bestows the key of the house of David.

In the gospel, because of his witness to who Jesus is – the Christ, the Son of God – Peter is given a position of authority (You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church). Peter has allowed the spirit of God to work in him and to lead him. He has been open to God’s revelation. The position that Peter receives is not just one of authority, but even more so one of service to his fellow disciples and to all that he was going to evangelise, that is, to the whole Church.

The second reading is a reminder that everything comes from God and ends in Him. He is the author and creator of all. When we trust and believe in him, he opens our spiritual eyes so that we can identify with him even more and give him all the glory.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church[1]

“Man, in fact, is not a solitary being, but ‘a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential’” No. 110, quoting Gaudium et Spes.

“The movement towards the identification and proclamation of human rights is one of the most significant attempts to respond effectively to the inescapable demands of human dignity. The Church sees in these rights the extraordinary opportunity that our modern times offer, through the affirmation of these rights, for more effectively recognizing human dignity and universally promoting it as a characteristic inscribed by God the Creator in his creature” No. 152, quoting Dignitatis Humanae.

Leadership is God-given. The call to servant leadership is what the Church teaches, based on the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the perfect example that leads us to the Father. Leadership is not given for personal gain or for the exploitation of others; it is rather given so that we may provide service in love to others. In relating with each other, we humans exercise our nature to lead and to be led, as we practice the values that Christ has taught through the Church.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Why?

True and authentic leadership comes from God himself.

Leadership depends on the number of people under the leader.

Leadership can be nurtured and developed in the family.

Every Christian is called to be a leader in some areas of life.

A good leader is driven by love and compassion for others.

 

The Twentieth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 20 August 2017

Readings

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

Biblical Reflection

In Isaiah, we are reminded of the inclusivity of God. A congregation of sisters has a song with a line going, “You called us for God, from every tribe, people, language and nation …” All over the world, since time immemorial, strife has been born out of the prejudice that other people are somehow worth less. By using the word foreigner, Isaiah reminds us that all are welcome, reminding us to see others as God sees them, for many a time we are too quick to judge and to label others. Seeing others as God sees them literally translates into love—LOVE for all humanity. Love is what will break down the barriers that we have erected between us.

Matthew shows us the human nature of Christ at play, as he tries to “stick to the script.” He knew his mission was to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and he was focused on accomplishing that. But the pleadings of his disciples and the persistence and resolve of the Canaanite woman touched him to respond. Faith is born through perseverance, but many times, the challenges of everyday life seem to make us forget God’s promises to us. We need openness to the cry of the poor, lest in our schedules, business, and busy-ness we forget to help those who need us most.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel *

“Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way” Evangelii Gaudium, No. 46.

The Pope’s words resonate with the Gospel of Matthew, urging us to be aware of all that is around us; otherwise, we might miss the mark. We have let our careers and rituals, although good in themselves, define our lives so completely that, essentially, we walk around with blinders.

The story is told of a woman who headed an organisation devoted to providing clothing to the needy, yet she repeatedly failed to notice the beggar by her gate as she drove in and out. She was so completely focussed on solving the problems of the world that she failed to notice that her own world needed her too. Let’s take pause and ask ourselves where Jesus’ cry of ‘I thirst’ is present in our surroundings and how we can quench that thirst.

African Wisdom

A family is like a forest: when you are outside, it is dense; when you are inside you see that each tree has its place. — Ghana

When we reach out to learn from others and accept them, so shall we realise that each one on earth has a place at the table, a place in the divine plan.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Could we stretch ourselves, to accept and love even those who may seem different from us?

Could we find time to reach out in any way to the marginalised around us?

Could we learn something from those who are different from us? ...from their culture, their faith system, etc.?

* Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

This outline, prepared by Ms. Mumbi Kigutha, was originally published in August 2014. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Eighteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A):

Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration: 06 August 2017

Readings

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9

2 Peter 1:16-19

Matthew 17:1-9

Biblical Reflection

On this special Feast of the Transfiguration, Jesus invites us to come to him and see through to his reality. The invitation begins in the first reading, where Daniel recounts his personal experience, seeing God – “the Ancient One” – garbed and bearded with the whiteness of snow, on a throne engulfed in flames. To the Ancient One there is presented “one like a Son of Man,” who is for Christians an image of the Christ, Jesus, who is to come.

The Messianic importance of the Old Testament imagery is striking, for this Son of Man shall receive “dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.”

Now Matthew’s New Testament account invites us all into a similar experience. Chapter 17 actually begins with “After six days,” thereby connecting the event to Jesus’ recent prediction of his passion and his statement on the cost of discipleship. The path up the mountain leads through prayer to encounter. On this high mountain, Jesus reveals the transcendent truth of who He is to the mortal eyes of Peter, James, and John; but at the same time, each one of us is being called to look inward and contemplate deeply so that Jesus can reveal to us too who He is and what we will become in Him.

The three disciples are invited to practice their faith and their freedom by embracing the path that Jesus has prepared. So are we, right now. The testimony of Peter in his second letter is unabashedly that of an eyewitness to the Transfiguration, and he calls on Christians to be attentive to the prophetic message.

As Christians, we are invited to carry the invitation to others. All three readings call us to look at the new king who wants us to be part of the transformation that comes through his appearance before the Ancient One and through his transfiguration in the presence of Peter, James and John.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God’s wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence” No. 259.

Wisdom of the Saints

“Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here. – Excerpt from a sermon on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus by St. Anastasius of Sinai, used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ on 6 August.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How have I contributed to the peace and unity of Kenya and of the Church?

Have I recognized the presence of Christ in my life?

What is the place of God in my life?

How can this great feast still have the impact on us that it did for the early Christians?

Outline prepared by Br. Peter Obi, FSC, a De La Salle Brother, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                   religiousconference@gmail. com



[1] http://w2. vatican. va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium. html

 

 

The Seventeenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 30 July 2017

Readings

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

Biblical Reflection

In the first reading, Solomon asks for the treasure of wisdom in order to rule the people. Since he asks for wisdom – and not for riches or long life – God is pleased with him and blesses him with many other gifts which he has not asked for. God will not refuse his gifts to those who ask for an understanding mind so that they can discern between good and evil and make good choices. When our desire is to seek wisdom from God, we demonstrate our total dependency on God, and our complete trust in God.

The second reading tells us that those who are called by God are to be conformed to the image of his Son. Jesus is the Wisdom of the Father. The Wisdom of God is in the person of Jesus, who does the Father’s will and is glorified. By loving the Father, Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son. Paul’s abstract ideas – call, purpose, predestination, conformity to Christ's image, justification, glorification – are all made concrete in the person of God’s Son.

The Gospel stresses the importance of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a treasure, and we are called to sacrifice all we have to obtain it. The Kingdom is of such value that it demands all our time and effort to achieve. It is like a treasure in a field, like a pearl, like a great catch of fish.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society. We are seeking God’s kingdom: ‘Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Mt 6:33). Jesus’ mission is to inaugurate the kingdom of his Father; he commands his disciples to proclaim the good news that ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 10:7) – No. 180.

African Wisdom

Iri guthua ndongoria itikiyagira nyeki — The goats with a lame leader do not arrive at the grass. —Kikuyu Proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can Christians ensure that good leaders are elected into government offices?

Are Christians supposed to run for elected positions?

What are the main obstacles that prevent Christians from voting for good leaders during elections?

Outline prepared by Fr. Emmanuel Akwagiobe Ihwo, SPS, of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.             This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Sixteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 23 July 2017

Readings

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19

Psalm 85: 5-6, 9-10,15-16

Romans 8:26-27

Matthew 13: 24-43

Biblical Reflection

The reading from Wisdom contrasts God’s power and sovereignty with God’s kindness and compassion for the weakness of the human person. In this way is demonstrated the lesson to be kindly and forgiving towards others.

The passage from Romans teaches that the Spirit of the Lord probes our hearts’ desires for God in ways that our limited words cannot express. That is to say, we cannot really pray unless we are guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to aid the “groanings” and the weakness of “the holy ones.” But for the Spirit to help us, we must first express the desire to pray.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses three parables to teach the nature of the Kingdom of God. The parables of the wheat and the darnel, the mustard seed, and the yeast demonstrate the encompassing love that characterizes God’s Kingdom. The wheat and weed are allowed to grow together until harvest time; the mustard seed grows into a tree that offers shelter to the birds of the air; and the yeast leavens a large amount of flour. Abundance and magnificence constitute the promise.

The warning not to pull up the darnel before the harvest is given to safeguard the wheat, and not because the weeds are needed. Evil can masquerade itself to look good; the darnel resembles the wheat, so much so that any attempts to uproot the darnel will definitely lead to pulling out the wheat as well.

The parables do not show perfection, but rather good and evil, virtue and sin, which are always part of life’s reality. The call to all is to be kind and compassionate, just as God is.

Link with the social teachings of the Church

“... God, who wishes to work with us and who counts on our cooperation, can also bring good out of the evil we have done. ‘The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable.’” Laudato sí, No. 80.[1]

At the harvest, the wheat is separated from the darnel. The labourers will be given instructions on what to do.

“God freely willed to create a world that is in a state of journeying towards perfection. As long as the journey is still on, good and evil will continue to exist in the world.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 310.[2]

Here is a simple answer to the problem of evil in the world: it is just part of life’s journey.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

In what ways can Christians promote cohesion and reconciliation in the community?

Aware that all people embody something good and that people are in fact fundamentally good, how do we help those with difficulties such as addiction, poor upbringing, handicaps, etc., to live their lives more fully?

African Wisdom

A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone. – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Ch. 3.

Being humble does not mean having no pride. Good pride, not arrogance, is a valid element of self-esteem. Failure and disappointment can be borne and overcome through solidarity with the community.

This outline has been prepared by Fr. Godfrey Kisabuli, SPS, the Vocations Director for the St. Patrick's Missionary Society’s East Africa District and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Fifteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 16 July 2017

Readings

Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

Romans 8:18-23

Matthew 13:1-23

Biblical Reflection

If God’s word is efficacious, it follows then that all his promises must be fulfilled. Using the image of the water cycle, Isaiah proclaims that God’s word must achieve its purpose. Just as the rains eventually return to heaven – but not without first watering the earth – God’s word achieves its purpose before returning to Him. God does not just speak; He speaks with a purpose that must be fulfilled. God’s promises of prosperity and peace will be fulfilled. The people of God are invited to trust in these promises.

In Romans Paul points to the hope that the entire creation holds. This hope is the freedom in Christ of all held in the slavery of decadence. It is the freedom of the Children of God, a glory yet unrevealed.  God’s promise to His children extends to the whole of creation, whose great challenges Paul compares to the pains of birth.

In the Gospel, the parable of the sower reminds all of the need to be “rich soil,” to listen to and understand the Word. It is only by listening and understanding that one reaps a harvest. Jesus warns about what happens when depth is lacking or riches distract. The call is to remain focused on the Word so as to yield a rich harvest.

The readings bring together clearly the interdependence between the human person and the whole of creation. The images of rain, seed, and soil indicate growth and new life. The act of sowing highlights the responsibility of humans to take care of the earth. Cooperating with the grace of God achieves both physical and spiritual growth. Like the human person, all of creation finds fulfilment in God. Creatively and actively caring for all creation is humanity’s call.

Individuals and communities are called to produce rich harvests for the common good of both the human person and the whole of creation.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

“The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures.”[1]

We are all called to care for the environment, and Pope Francis suggests that we sometimes fail to carry out this duty because our inner selves are in need of care as well. We need an interior conversion: “It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion.’”[2]

“The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, ‘so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,’ sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ….”[3]

Questions for reflection in SCCs

In what ways do I experience God in his creation?

In what ways can individuals and communities better preserve and care for the environment?

This outline has been prepared by Fr. Godfrey Kisabuli, SPS, the Vocations Director for the St. Patrick's Missionary Society’s East Africa District and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Fourteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 09 July 2017

Readings

Zechariah 9:9-10

Psalm 145: 1-2, 8-11, 14, 17

Romans 8:9, 11-13

Matthew 11:25-30

Biblical Reflection

In the Old Testament, Zechariah prophesies that the King – the Messiah – will bring peace to all nations and rule to the earth’s ends. In the New Testament Jesus is ultimately perceived as King, but his role as Son of God cannot be deduced by earthly means alone; Paul reveals to the Romans the effect of the indwelling of Spirit. And Matthew shows that God the Father has equipped Jesus to carry out the process of redemption.

The gospel points out the extraordinary presence in history of Jesus, who has come to revive the lost relationship with God. Paradoxically, understanding the revealed this mystery requires only the simplicity of a child. Jesus goes on to explain his special relationship with God the Father. In fact, it is because they are one that the Father and the Son can know each other so fully.

In effect, Jesus says Since I have been given everything, you need to trust in me. Whoever carries a heavy burden in life and is tired needs to put on the yoke of Jesus. The yoke is a wooden beam spanning two animals to help them pull something heavy together.  Similarly, to carry the burdens of life, Christians must yoke themselves with Jesus. If his yoke is easy, as he says, it could be because the bulk of the work is his. The free gift of God’s grace, and not just our human actions, will earn our salvation. Nonetheless, we cannot leave it to Jesus to do all the work. Being truly yoked to him means pulling one’s weight, making the best possible effort, and striving to reach for seemingly unreachable goals. 

Jesus’ words are a consolation to all who feel crushed by life’s problems. Being human frequently entails high levels of stress. One of the marvels of Jesus’ teachings is that his help to carry the burdens is available.  Christians must be ever grateful for the many times Jesus helps to bear the cross, and consoled to know that he is always present.

The psalm response fits well with the reading from Matthew, as it recounts the goodness of God, who is so prodigious in love: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.” With that compassion, God has sent Jesus, who took on flesh, suffered, and redeemed humankind, leaving the Spirit to dwell within his disciples. Could we ask for more? The Father has given us Jesus to take our yoke upon himself.

Link with teachings of Pope Francis

In 2014, Jeffrey A. Krames, a Jewish-American business writer specializing in management styles, wrote Lead with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis, published by the American Management Association. (More can be read at the link below). Though not a Catholic, not a Christian, Krames recognizes and admires some of the most significant teachings of the Pope, which have endeared Francis to people everywhere:

Lead with Humility; Smell Like Your Flock; Who Am I To Judge?; Don’t Change – Reinvent; Make Inclusion a Top Priority; Avoid Insularity; Choose Pragmatism over Ideology; Employ the Optics of Decision Making; Run Your Organization Like a Field Hospital; Live on the Frontier; Confront Adversity Head-on; Pay Attention to Noncustomers.

Wisdom of the Saints.

The first degree of humility is the fear of God, which we should constantly have before our eyes. – St. Louis de Blois, a Flemish Benedictine, 1506-1566.

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues; hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance. – St. Augustine of Hippo, a North African, Early Christian Theologian and Philosopher, 354-430.

There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world. – St. Teresa of Àvila, a Spanish Mystic and Carmelite, 1515-1582.

It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a French Cistercian Abbot, 1090-1153.

Humility is the mother of many virtues because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness, and peace are born. He who is humble easily obeys everyone, fears to offend anyone, is at peace with everyone, is kind with all. – St. Thomas of Villanova, a Spanish Augustinian Friar and Archbishop, 1488-1555.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can we identify ourselves with the destiny, vision, and mission of Christ at this time of in the electoral campaigns?

How am I becoming closer to Christ in discipleship and life commitment?

What am I denying myself for the sake of the less fortunate in my neighbourhood?

These reflections have been prepared by a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society (the Kiltegan Fathers) and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Thirteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 02 July 2017

Readings

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16

Psalm 89: 1-2, 15-18

Romans 6:3-4,8-11

Matthew 10:37-42

Biblical Reflection

Today’s first reading and Gospel have a close link: the importance of generosity in our own lives. We are called to be generous with our time, our resources, and our God-given talents.

We should be willing to give without counting the cost because God’s generosity to us is beyond measure and we are all called to follow the example of his generous heart.

This week we are reminded in a special way that we should be willing to carry our own cross and at times the cross that is laid on our shoulders by other people, e.g., our own family members, our community members, our leaders, and the environment in which we find ourselves.

We can carry our own cross by denying ourselves bodily satisfaction in order to help the last the lost and the least. We can also show mercy to those who have hurt us, which is another way of carrying the cross. Parents have a special duty towards their children and they carry the particular cross of guiding them in the way of love by being good role models.

The second reading invites us to walk the road less travelled, the road that leads to newness of life, despite our human shortcomings.

When we embrace our cross, we will find it easy to be there for other people and to be generous to them without looking for anything in return. In doing that we will receive our own rewards from the giver of all that is good. We will be witnesses in an environment where individualism has taken over, and where too many people think only of themselves, without thinking of others or of future generations.

These readings, especially the Gospel, insist that our actions be motivated by our willingness to give, to care for others, and to risk taking up our own crosses, even if it means being rejected by our relatives and friends, our nearest and dearest.

Link with the teachings of Pope Francis

Encouraging Christians to carry their cross in happiness even in challenging times, Pope Francis has said,

“And that is the temptation of falling into a state of ‘spiritual well being.’ We've got everything: the Church, Jesus Christ, the Sacraments, the Virgin Mary: everything. A good job from the Kingdom of Heaven. We are good, all of us. At least we must believe this, otherwise it would be a sin! But ‘spiritual well being’ isn't enough. Like the parable of the young rich man: he wanted to follow Jesus, but only up to a certain point. To be a real Christian you must receive the last anointment: the cross anointment, the anointment of true humiliation. He humiliated himself to the point of death. Even death on a cross. That is the cornerstone, the proof of our Christian reality: Am I a ‘well being’ Christian or am I a Christian that walks with Jesus towards the cross? It consists on being able to endure every single humiliation. 

“The sign of a true Christian is his ability to withstand humiliations with joy and patience; and this is something we don't like... But there are many Christians that looking towards the Lord, they ask for more humiliations to be more like Him. This is the choice. Whether to be a Christian of well being – and you'll go to heaven, I'm sure you'll be saved – or a Christian close to Jesus, through His way.”[1]

African Wisdom

Umoja ni nguvu –Swahili. Unity is strength. We are all invited to realise the value of unity by helping each other and looking for common solutions to issues affecting society.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How will you be an agent of peace in the forthcoming general elections in Kenya?

Are you willing to change the lives of the less privileged by helping the poor and the needy in your locality?

Who are the lost, the least, and the last members of your community, and how will you minister to them?

This outline has been prepared by Fr. Bosco Kamau, SPS, a Councillor on the Leadership Team of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society (aka, the Kiltegan Fathers) and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Twelfth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 25 June 2017

Readings

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:26-33

Biblical Reflection

Be calm, God is in charge!

Just after the post-election violence of 2008, I was privileged to work with Small Christian Communities in Christ the King Parish, Kibera. The greatest pain among the members was the shame they felt for having failed to stand up for their brothers and sisters during the clashes because of fear — brothers and sisters with whom they had shared the same cup and the same bread at the Eucharist. Even today many Christians are still not willing to stand up against the evil in society, especially if a personal cost is involved.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah stands up for truth and justice despite threats to his life. Christians who stand up for gospel values may be denounced and be targets of terror. To fail to stand up as Jeremiah did for justice and truth is to allow sin and evil to thrive. In his Letter to the Romans Paul says, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men…” The power of good and the power of evil in each of us must never be underestimated. Unless individuals make conscious choices to stand up for gospel values, evil spreads like bush fire. It has been said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Not turning out to vote for good leaders will allow bad leaders to rule.

The prophets bravely faced up to injustice, corruption, bad governance, and other social evils; unlike them, all too often, we can fail to stand up because of fear for our lives or reputations, and risk to our jobs or social status. Jesus tells us today, “Fear no one.” Evil does not have the last word, and the good will always triumph. We may suffer in the flesh and be denounced and persecuted. But the Lord will never leave us alone: “Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Link with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [1]

“The consequences of sin perpetuate the structures of sin” – No. 119.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us that, “The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised...” No. 218.[2] A single match can produce fire to burn a whole forest, but fire can also bring warmth and light to a whole nation. Like the single match stick, voters must choose to bring warmth and light to the nation by participating in the election of good and just leaders for the country. “Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” Let us be calm, God is in charge!

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What fears exist in our community as we approach the elections?

What must the SCCs do to offer prophetic voices that dispel the fears?

What social actions can SCCs take – as a group – to promote peaceful elections?



[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html   This outline has been prepared by Fr. Philip Amek, MHM, the Regional Leader of the Mill Hill Missionaries, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Eleventh Sunday, Ordinary Time (A):

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ: 18 June 2017

Readings

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Sequence — Lauda Sion

John 6:51-58

Biblical Reflection

Some catechumens preparing for First Communion were asked, “What is the sacrament of the Eucharist”? One courageous boy said with a strong voice, “It‘s ugali.” Everyone burst out laughing. One might think he was just joking, since ugali is the favourite food of the locale. Regardless of why he said that, what he had in mind was simply that to live we need food for the body; otherwise, malnutrition or death, as has been experienced throughout the country. Similarly, for spiritual nourishment, the faithful require the Body and Blood of Jesus, that is, the Eucharist.

Today’s first reading and gospel highlight the importance of food. In the wilderness, the Israelites eat the manna that God provides for their survival. In the Gospel, Jesus invites his disciples, other listeners, and of course you and me, to eat and drink his Body and Blood in order to live in Him and He in us; yes, to live in unity with God – the Father, the Son, and the Spirit – as we were reminded last Sunday’s celebration of the Holy Trinity. The strong message of today’s celebration can enrich our faith journey. Whenever we participate in the Mass, let us meditate continually on the “Eucharistic Menu” of Jesus.

When St. Camillus de Lellis distributed communion to the sick, he encouraged them to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and then in return offer their fragile state of health to Jesus Christ whom they have received in His Body and Blood. The saint is suggesting to the patients to exchange their imperfect and fragile bodies for the resurrected Body and Blood of Christ. The image demonstrates meaningfully and mystically another way of looking at today’s celebration.

Jesus says “…Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” The problem of pain and suffering remains a philosophical and moral issue that is always hard to handle; the fragility of the human person evokes all kinds of emotions, perhaps most notably the fear of death, which can inspire a sense of hopelessness that makes us become angry with everything, including both God and ourselves.

“... The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. ...whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These words of Jesus speak to all of us who undergo psychological, emotional, and physical pain in body and in spirit. Families and communities, indeed the whole world, will encounter all kinds of painful experiences. What to do? To remain there and start crying? To choose the easiest way out by running away? But where can we run to?

For Christians, St. Camillus’s advice is both practical and feasible. As we share at the table of the Lord, we can exchange our feeble selves with the Body and Blood of Jesus. This spiritual transaction renews our own fragile bodies. Christ is coming to us: “…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...” We are not alone. We are not fighting pain and suffering all by ourselves, but the Trinity lives within us. In our leap of faith we can come to recognize that perfect medicine is contained in the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Divine Physician, our doctor in all our moments of anguish. Horrible hurts may still remain in us, but faith in Jesus as our doctor heightens the health of individuals and entire communities. Our faith can help us improve relationships and restore balance in the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual spheres of our lives. Lives of faith offer sanity to individuals, church, society, and the whole world.

St. Paul, in his words to the Corinthians, reminds us, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

Link with the Encyclical Letter Laudato Sí [1]

“It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.” No. 236

Even as Pope Francis discusses “Care for our common home” and the balance of nature, he takes time to show us once again the beauty of the Body and Blood of Christ in God’s work of creation.

Question for reflection in SCCs

What ideas or practices can help us connect our participation in the Eucharist to our everyday lives?

Modern Christian Wisdom

Joe Wise's hymn Take Our Bread, from the liturgical reform movement of a half century ago (1966), still teaches richly on the Eucharist.

[1] Outline prepared Fr. Jacob Mugo Mbiti, OCD, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                               This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



[1] Laudato sí, mi’ Signore = Praise be to you, my Lord                  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

 

The Tenth Sunday, Ordinary Time (A):

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity: 11 June 2017

Readings

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

John 3:16-18

Biblical Reflection

Exodus: The text narrates the renewal of the Covenant on Mount Sinai. The two new stone tablets represent a new beginning. They contain and they are the expression of God’s will for salvation, the will of “a merciful and gracious God.”

God is present to Moses in the dark and mysterious sign of a cloud, which evokes the presence of a God who is at the same time distant and close, hidden and manifested. On the mountain, Moses hears and recognizes the divine name, that is, God reveals the deep meaning of His being: merciful and rich in kindness and fidelity.

Moses, on behalf of the people, prays and implores God for favour and forgiveness. God’s pardon makes possible a new creation, and the sinner is transformed and received as God’s heir: “Receive us as your own.”

2 Corinthians: The concluding greeting of this letter evokes the deepest mystery of the Living God: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

Jesus Christ is presented in relation to grace, since it is in Him that free salvation from God is revealed; “God” refers to the Father, who is viewed in relation to love (Agape), that is, the original source of creation, love itself; the Holy Spirit is called upon in relation to communion, as the Spirit creates unity amid diversity and makes communion with the Father and the Son possible for us.

John: All of the redeeming action of the Son is rooted in the free love of God, which is before anything else and is for the salvation and the life of the world: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The ‘giving’ refers to the Father’s plan of salvation on the cross.

God’s love does not impose itself; it is offered freely. It is not possible to remain indifferent and unaffected by his love. To refuse God’s love is to judge oneself.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love. This revelation sheds light on every aspect of the personal dignity and freedom of men and women, and on the depths of their social nature. “Being a person in the image and likeness of God ... involves existing in a relationship, in relation to the other ‘I,’” because God himself, one and triune, is the communion of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 34[1] citing Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 7.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives. – Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium / The Joy of the Gospel[2], Pope Francis, 2013.

The Church is essentially a mystery of communion, “a person made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The fraternal life seeks to reflect the depth and richness of this mystery, taking shape as a human in which the Trinity dwells... many are the settings and the ways in which fraternal communion is expressed in the life of the Church. –Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, No. 41, Pope John Paul II, 1996.

The arduous process of building national unity encounters particular problems in the Continent where most of the States are relatively young political entities. To reconcile the profound differences, overcome longstanding ethnic animosities and become integrate into international life demands a high degree of competence in the art of governing. –Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, No. 111, Pope John Paul II, 1995.

Wisdom from the Early Church

“The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father ‘to gather all things in one,’” . . . – Ireneaus [120–202 A.D.] Against Heresies, Book I Chapter X[3]

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Having heard this message, what should we do?

Knowing Moses’ prayer, how should we pray?

Having more, how can we act in solidarity with those who have less?

This outline has been prepared by Fr. Juan Ascencio Franco, MG, Assistant Parish Priest at Christ the King Parish, Kibera/Nairobi, and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (A): 14 May 2017

Readings

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

1 Peter 2:4-9

John 14:1-12

Biblical Reflection

Acts: Gathered around the risen Lord, the young community grows, and with this, new challenges come. Clearly, from the beginning, the community of those who believe in the risen Christ display diversity. The state of internal peace is disrupted and tension arises because of favoritism or neglect regarding the care afforded to widows from various backgrounds. This problem is dealt with and a solution is found: seven men are chosen, very able people of great faith, wisdom, and integrity, filled with the Holy Spirit, to take care of the charitable work forming part of everyday life in the community. That the apostles can now give themselves to prayer and preaching reveals a balance in the community between evangelization and good actions, between word and deed, and no one is being torn or overburdened.

1 Peter: The first recipients of this letter — among them, powerless slaves — might have felt homeless or leaderless, but they are told that they have a leader who brings them together and builds them up into a living community: the risen Christ, who himself lived through rejection and death, only to be raised. A good life can involve staying close to him and being living stones! Oppressors will stumble and end up in dismay. As a radiant expression of its vocation, four titles are given to this community to build it up: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own. And to what end? To sing the praises of God, who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.

John: This Gospel text is taken from the Last Supper discourse of Jesus to the disciples. It stands in the tradition of farewell speeches. It offers the reader a better understanding of the significance of the impending death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus talks about the future of his disciples: that he will take them to a place prepared for them, whether through his second coming or their death. Jesus promises that they will not undergo the troubling of heart which he has had to undergo.

Thomas typically misunderstands the words of Jesus, professing ignorance of the way. In reply, Jesus identifies himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is he who has brought the truth which from the Father.

At the intervention of Philip, Jesus once more stresses the mutual relationship between himself and the Father. His whole ministry is the work of the Father. This work will continue and even be multiplied in the future ministry of the disciples who will be sent, just as he has been sent by the Father.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church [1]

“The lay faithful are called to cultivate an authentic lay spirituality by which they are reborn as new men and women, both sanctified and sanctifiers, immersed in the mystery of God and inserted in society. Such a spirituality will build up the world according to Jesus' Spirit. It will make people capable of looking beyond history, without separating themselves from it, of cultivating a passionate love for God without looking away from their brothers and sisters, whom they are able to see as the Lord sees them and love as the Lord loves them. This spirituality precludes both an intimist spiritualism and a social activism, expressing itself instead in a life- giving synthesis that bestows unity, meaning and hope on an existence that for so many different reasons is contradictory and fragmented. Prompted by such a spirituality, the lay faithful are able to contribute ‘to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their own life ... they must manifest Christ to others’ [Lumen Gentium, 31]” No. 545.

“The lay faithful must strengthen their spiritual and moral lives, becoming ever more competent in carrying out their social duties. A deepening of interior motivations and the acquisition of a style appropriate for their work in the social and political spheres are the results of a dynamic and ongoing formation directed above all to the attainment of harmony between life, in all its complexity, and faith” No. 546.

World & African Wisdom

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. –Multi-national Proverb.

Where there is love there is no darkness. – Burundian Proverb

It is the spirit that walks a person through darkness. – African Proverb

Questions for reflection in SCCs

In what ways do I have an impact on the environment where I live because I follow Christ?

What do you say about this statement: “True faith transforms life and renews the face of the world”?

What do I do to keep growing in closeness to Christ and to live my faith?

Outline prepared by Fr. Albert Fuchs, SVD, [Divine Word Provincial Leader in Kenya and Executive Member of RSCK] and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.       This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (A): 07 May 2017

Readings

Acts 2: 14, 36-41

Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6

1 Peter 2: 20b-25

John 10: 1-10

Biblical Reflection

Acts: The inspired preaching of Peter touches the listeners and elicits in them the eagerness to conform to the message they have heard. This message is turning their worldview and their world upside-down and gives new meaning to suffering and death. Peter’s preaching aims to set them apart from the present “perverse generation,” calling them to a new way of life, a complete change of attitude, manifested in Baptism. It is obvious that the message is a matter of life and death, and that the listeners respond to it generously.

1 Peter: Among the readers of 1 Peter were poor slaves who would often have to endure unjust punishment from pagan overseers. Peter wants to encourage them with the example of the innocent Christ who suffered terribly and unjustly in his passion. He uses the language of the fourth servant Song of Isaiah (Is. 52:13 – 53:12). The early church identified Christ with this suffering servant. Christ who took the sins upon himself is exalted because of his patient suffering. “Through his wounds you have been healed,” is one of the most powerful statements about Christ’s salvific death. Christ is the Shepherd who is also the guardian of the souls of his followers. He gathers them into a new community.

John: Jesus compares himself to the gate through which sheep enter the sheepfold, to be kept safe and secure. Jesus is the true shepherd, who passes through the gate, with the sheep following happily. Jesus even identifies himself with the gate, the proper entrance to a sheepfold.

Thieves take other routes. Such were the Pharisees who had shown neither empathy nor mercy in their treatment of the man born blind. Such were the recent rulers who had brought God’s people into the crisis where they found themselves, “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34). The words “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” are a challenge to any attitude which limits or curtails the life provided by God to his people in Jesus Christ.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel *

“It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability, in which we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, even if this appears to bring us no tangible and immediate benefits. I think of the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others. Migrants present a particular challenge for me, since I am the pastor of a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all” (No. 210).

In his exhortation, Pope Francis invites us as Christians to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability in which we encounter the suffering Christ (cf. Nos. 210 – 214).

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How, if ever, have you experienced Christ’s care for you yourself?

What ways have you got to join your suffering with that of the crucified Jesus Christ?

What is the atmosphere in our SCC, especially in this time of political rallies, as the campaigns continue and we approach the elections?

What means do we have to overcome divisions in the SCC that are based on ethnicity, political alliance, or preference?

*http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

Outline prepared by the Fr. Albert Fuchs, SVD, [Provincial Leader in Kenya] and edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

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The Third Sunday of Easter (A): 30 April 2017

Readings

Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33

Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

1 Peter 1:17-21

Luke 24:13-35

Biblical Reflection

Peter’s Pentecost discourse in Acts is essentially the proclamation of God’s plan of salvation. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter explains that the suffering, the crucifixion, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus are part of God’s promise to all of liberation from sin, so that each one of us can experience the great love that God pours out in Jesus Christ.

In the reading from the first letter of Peter, the Apostle reminds us that we share in the grace of our risen Lord, in whom our faith and hope are centered. Such spiritual knowledge summons us to a close relationship with God, of whose presence in the world we are called to be signs.

Today’s reading from Luke’s gospel can evoke contrasting human emotions. The two “downcast” disciples must be desolate of heart, hapless, confused, sad, disillusioned, and demotivated as they walk on the road to Emmaus. Later hapless, full of joy after having encountered and recognized the risen Lord at the breaking of the bread, they encounter the group of the apostles. After they have spent time with the Lord, whom they confused with a stranger, their hearts are fully consoled and filled with joy.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt. 28:19). ... The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’”

Thus does Pope Francis remind us of our missionary mandate as the bearers of the good news of the resurrection, the message of love. As Francis reiterates our call to become “missionary disciples,” we can easily picture the example of the two disciples of Emmaus. What then is “the Joy of the Gospel” if not simply the Good News of the Resurrection, which fills our hearts and renews our commitment to love God by loving each other?

In opening the eyes of the two men from Emmaus, God reveals himself to us too, so that we can recognize him in those we consider as strangers, in those who have lost their sense of the future, and in those discouraged by the events of life: economic crises, loss of job, high cost of education, and unequal distribution of opportunity.

Christian Wisdom

The French Catholic novelist François Mauriac has written, “If you are friends with Christ, many others will warm themselves at your fire…” Quoting St. Bonaventure, he continues, “On the day when you no longer burn with love, many will die with cold.”

Easter calls us to burn with the fire of Christ so that we can warm many others.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How is Jesus alive and present in your community, in your family, and at your workplace?

How can your friendship with Christ influence your social environment?

How is your heart responding to the Easter readings?

What concrete actions can we take to make the journey from our own “Emmaus,” leaving behind unpleasant habits, routine, and apathy in favour of greater commitment to our obligations and responsibilities as Christians and as citizens?

Considering your daily life as an “Emmaus journey,” where do you find answers to issues you face such as disappointments at your workplace or broken relationships in your family?

Outline prepared Father Stephen Muriungi, OMI, of the Formation House of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in Karen, Nairobi. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                                               This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Second Sunday of Easter, Sunday of Divine Mercy (A): 23 April 2017

Readings

Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47

Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24                                                                                                                                         

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Biblical Reflection

Joy, Trust, Surrender, Faith, and the Mercy of God are the themes of this week’s readings.

The passage from Acts relates the consequences of Joy among the first believers: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” The source of this Joy is the Resurrection of the Lord. A new way of life has started and they can feel it, they can experience it. Their faith and their trust have grown to the point where they need not fear the future or fear insecurity. No one in the community remains needy. This joy has brought many others to join the community and has given assurance of salvation in the Name of Jesus. Easter brings all Christians to experience a Joy that increases commitment to preaching the Good News and to sharing the faith.

In the second reading, St. Peter links the Resurrection of Christ to the Mercy of God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” Here is another reason for Christians to rejoice during Easter: to celebrate the redemptive deeds of God through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This mercy is received and shared among the believers. The Mercy of God always renews our life.

The Gospel invites us to faith and trust in the Resurrection. Jesus himself confirms his resurrection by revealing himself to the apostles. The doubts of Thomas are cleared away! We need to believe unconditionally in Jesus’ words: “…..Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Easter is a time for growth in faith and trust in Jesus. We can then experience the true peace and true joy of the Resurrection.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘disposable’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’” No. 53.

The first Christian community lived the true faith by sharing the word of God and sharing with the community all that they had. Modern Christians are challenged by the lifestyle of the first Christians. In The Joy of the Gospel No. 53, Pope Francis has invited us to say No to an Economy of Exclusion.

African Wisdom

Umoja ni nguvu! ‒Swahili.   = Unity is strength.

The first Christian community grew stronger through its unity: one body and one heart! Our church and our country Kenya will grow stronger if we promote unity and communion.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can we revive the spirit and the lifestyle of the first Christian community in our church today?

What are the main obstacles that prevent Christians from experiencing the Joy of the Resurrection in their lives?

Are the Christians of today’s world different from Thomas?

*Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel,

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

Outline prepared by Fr. Fidèle Munkiele, OMI, formation director of the Kenya Mission of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and a prison chaplain. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                                   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Resurrection of the Lord, Mass of Easter Day (A): 16 April 2017

Readings

Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43

Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Colossians 3:1-4

John 20:1-9

Biblical Reflection

Acts ‒ Seeing. “We are witnesses of all that he did…” Witnesses must speak of what they see, for the good of themselves and of their communities.

Psalm ‒ (Thanking). “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,…” Genuine thanks leads to acts of imitation as expressions of gratitude.

Colossians ‒ Judging. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,…” This is not so much about pious thoughts of never-ending banquets and peaceful, restful homes to live in. What is “above” is God’s desire for justice and the liberation of those who are enslaved, persecuted, abused, or lost.

Gospel of John ‒ Acting. “They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter...he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb…”

How often do we encounter situations where we stop to “look” but don’t “go in”? How often do we “see” an injustice but just talk about what should be done (usually by the Government or others), and we never actually do anything? Every community needs a variety of personalities. We must embrace the impetuous, those who have the initiative to take the first step. They’ll not always get it right, but after the first step is taken, others can make the necessary corrections.

Overall, the flow of the readings can be seen as See, (Thank), Judge, and Act. Most Christians spend a lot of time rejoicing at Easter. Do we help them to see this celebrating – a form of thanking God – as a precursor, a stepping point, to judging what to do about the injustice around us, and then to doing something to change it?

The Resurrection, to be meaningful, must lead us into actions that liberate those who are trapped in our societies, e.g., street children, victims of human traficking, or the men, women, and children suffering in South Sudan who call out for intervention by forces of justice. The Resurrection is not a personal “get-out-of-jail-free” card that lets us go on living “for ourselves.” The Resurrection calls us to action, injecting courage in our arms and helping us bring healing and real resurrection to the poor of society.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel

“Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good” No. 9.

World Wisdom

An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. ‒ Alexander the Great

Q: Are you willing to be the lion? It takes only one to start the action.

An untouched drum does not speak. ‒ Liberia or Shona / Zimbabwe

You've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette. ‒ France

Q: Will anything change if we are silent or stand at the door of the tomb?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Q: Can we be the light of the Resurrection, and speak and act against injustice?

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Have you ever had a deep feeling of starting again? A resurrection experience?

Has anyone ever helped you leave the past behind?

How do you express your gratitude or sorrow? In words? In actions? Or both?

What are the difficult topics in your community that no one wants to discuss?

Have you ever been brave and tried to deal with abusive situations “next door”?

* Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel,

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

** Cf. http://nairobinews.nation.co.ke/news/catholic-university-financial-crisis-loss-sh400-million/

Outline prepared by Fr. Gerard (Gerry) Conlan, OMI, Kenya Mission Treasurer of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Karen. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

6th Sunday of Lent / Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (A): 09 April 2017

Readings

Matthew 21:1-11

Isaiah 50:4-7

Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

Philippians 2:6-11

Matthew 26:14 ‒ 27:66

Biblical Reflection

Palm Sunday is viewed as Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem. But a question lingers: Was the entry really “triumphant”? Maybe it was. But we recall from Mark 10:32-34 that Jesus had already predicted to his disciples what would happen on that day. In Jerusalem, the Son of Man would be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes and would be condemned to death. Still, the disciples did not grasp his meaning. What then is the meaning of Palm Sunday?

The readings set us in motion to decipher the meaning. The passage from Matthew that is read before the procession shows us who Jesus really is. First, Jesus chooses a donkey, a “beast of burden.” At the time of Jesus, a horse would have been more appropriate for a King, more prestigious, symbolizing power. He chooses a donkey, although he does not even own one. The meaning for his choice is made explicit: “This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’” (Mt. 21:5).

The crowd, however, does not let Jesus enter the city in the simple way he had planned. They come singing, spreading cloaks and branches in his path, and proclaiming, “Hosanna to the son of David.” Most striking, much of the crowd are aware of who Jesus is, for when the people of the city ask, "Who is this?” the crowd answers, “This is Jesus the Prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Shortly thereafter Mt. 21:15 recounts, “When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wondrous things he was doing, and the children crying out in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.” Of course, they do not accept that Jesus has come to do the will of his father, and that his kingdom is not of this world.

Essentially then, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem demonstrates, first of all, his strong obedience to do the will of his father. Even in the face of hostility, Jesus does not abandon his mission and in his resolve he fits well into the words of the Prophet Isaiah (50:4-5) from today’s reading, “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” Jesus also demonstrates a strong trust in God the Father, without fear of being disgraced or shamed, because he knows that God cannot abandon him and will help him be victorious.

A second lesson of Palm Sunday flows from Jesus’ demonstration of humility. Jesus is so profoundly humble that even those in authority are confused. The Apostle Paul clearly elucidates the humility of Jesus: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself…” Yes, Jesus triumphs in virtue and is victorious in defeating evil. Thus is he recognized as light of the world.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

The virtues revealed in the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem reflect his firm yet non-violent approach to transforming society. Since its inception the Church has continued this approach in its social doctrine and continues to enlighten the faithful on the importance of being “the light and the salt of the world.” Following Christ as their model, Christians are called upon to build a society that is more just and more peaceful. The Church itself becomes a precursor to the establishment of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

“In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour.” [1]

Questions for reflection in SCC;

What are the qualities of a good leader?

What should guide the choice of one candidate over another?

Is service delivery a measure of good leadership?

 [1] Pope St. John Paul. Centesimus Annus, 1991. (Encyclical letter on the centenary of Rerum Novarum.)

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus.html

Outline prepared by Fr. Dionisius Mwandiki Ananua, OMI, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

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4th Sunday of Lent (A): 26 March 2017

Readings

1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

Biblical Reflection

1 Samuel: “God looks at the heart, not the appearance...,” Samuel is told by the Lord. We live in a world in which appearances count more and more every day: capacity to attract others, eagerness to capture attention, ability to look “cool” in the eyes of others, mastery of techniques of glamour, enchantment, and seductiveness. The virtual world has swallowed up the real world. Both male and female need to appear better than the reality. Many of our life expectations seem to turn round whether we appear good to others…, which becomes a central worry for today’s youth. How difficult it is to look to the heart of people in a world like this…

Ephesians: “We are the children of light; we are no more in darkness,” says St. Paul. Those who discover the joy of the Gospel, those who have met Jesus in their lives, are no longer in darkness and live no more in despair. Light allows us to see and removes our blindness; the light that comes when embracing Jesus in our lives helps us look deeper into the hearts of people. It is this light that diffuses appearances and lets the goodness, the righteousness, the truth, and the beauty that come from inside shine out.

John: The story of the cure of the blind man of today’s Gospel is the story of our journey of life and faith. We are blind when we are conceived and then nurtured in our mother’s womb. We can hardly see when we are physically born. The miracle of nature ‒ step by step, as light appears in our life ‒ brings about the faculty of vision. “[I]t is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” What happens in nature is reflected in our faith. Belief is the process of seeing and understanding our singularity and purpose and the real truth of life, i.e., the works of God.

And yet the world does not see, does not perceive this intimate experience, but challenges it. The world is guided by rules, scientific procedures, and standardised systems. Our journey of faith is constantly challenged, just as the Pharisees challenge the blind man who now sees. Not even the evidence of “seeing” and believing is recognised. It is unacceptable, it cannot be… The Pharisees taunt the man who now can see, asking, “Do you dare to teach us?”

As in last Sunday’s account of the Samaritan woman, here comes a new life, a new sight, as happens at baptism. In fact the blind man recovers his sight when he washes his eyes in the pool. Similarly, after baptism, Christians receive new life, new vision.

We cannot be blind to the harsh reality of life. We must not let ourselves be flattered by the evidence of the powerful and the persuasiveness of the so-called righteous. What we see and live, we have to communicate.

African Wisdom

When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him. ‒ Ashanti Proverb

Judge not your beauty by the number of people who look at you, but rather by the number of people who smile at you. ‒ African Proverb

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe. ‒ Augustine of Hippo

Questions for reflection in SCCs

How can we choose good leaders without looking at appearances only but by knowing them from the heart?

What can we see to strengthen our belief that we are children of light who can defeat darkness?

What tricks do the powerful use to make us believe what we cannot see?

This outline was prepared by Fr. Alex Campón Brugada, MCSPA, the Director of Caritas-Lodwar. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

3rd Sunday of Lent (A): 19 March 2017

Readings

Exodus 17:3-7

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

John 4:5-42

Biblical Reflection

Exodus:

During the long pilgrimage in search of the Promised Land, the people of God went through many temptations. Especially in times of serious difficulties such as the lack of water, they doubted the presence of God in their midst. For instance, instead of accepting the consequences of their own decision when they left Egypt, they looked for someone to blame, Moses in this case.

Romans:

Paul presents us with solid foundations for our hope of salvation. It is not to be found in our human understanding, or in our logical thoughts, but in the unconditional love of God revealed to us through faith in Jesus Christ. And this hope is not the product of our fantasy or wishful thinking; it is not deceptive, because Christ truly died for us.

John

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a cross-gender, cross-cultural and inter-religious event: Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, engages a woman, a Samaritan, of a distinct religious belief. At the beginning, they seem to be talking about two different kinds of water. At the end, even others who were “different” recognise the grace of God and a unique opportunity for salvation in the presence of Jesus.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church and the current situation in Kenya

In the current situation of drought in Kenya and several East African countries, water again takes centre stage as a basic and undeniable human right that must be secured for all.

Where can we strike the rock so that water may flow unreservedly for all? How can we reach the inner well so that we may never struggle again?

An invitation from the Scriptures today would be to gather peoples of all faiths, all genders and cultures, to confront the problems of water resources at local, regional, national, and international levels. Water is a basic necessity for us all. Together we can analyze the current and future demands, study the best methods to enhance water supplies (rain harvesting, damming, drilling of boreholes, pumping with renewable energy sources) and seek the funds and technical means to achieve this dream. Wednesday this coming week is the International Day of Water, proclaimed by United Nations. Let us encourage each other to mobilize our communities so that conflicts around water scarcity can be avoided, and the vision of “clean water for all” can be implemented. When we strive to provide water for all, many others will come to believe in what we believe.

Besides all the external factors that need to be tackled to provide water for all, the Gospel reminds us of the inner motions each one of us must develop: unless we discover the well that is hidden within our hearts and allow it to flow, in vain shall we be working out there! The God of compassion and consolation silently awaits each one of us to direct our attention to him, to show us the way with tenderness and steadfastness. We need to set aside times and spaces daily to listen to His voice, guiding us through all the confusions and bombardments of our times.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

What is the current situation of water resources in our area? Can we take a small initiative to secure water for all, and to promote a fairer distribution of the available water?

Can I spare some minutes every day, to beg God to show me the well within me that will flow with blessings in good and bad times alike?

Outline prepared by Fr. Albert Salvans, of the Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle, Lobur Mission (see http://mcspa.org/10th-anniversary-of-lobur-mission/).

It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

2nd Sunday of Lent (A): 12 March 2017

Readings

Genesis 12:1-4a

Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

2 Timothy 1:8b-10

Matthew 17:1-9

Biblical Reflection

In Genesis, the call of Abraham and the subsequent promises mark a dramatic transition in the Old Testament story. In today’s reading, God’s words to Abram begin with a command: “Go out of your country and father’s household…” Abram is commanded to “cut ties” with his close blood family, kinship, and household. God’s calls Abram to loyalty and commitment; it is a unique call, superseding what was considered the most important bond in the ancient world, that of family ties. This call offer abundance of land, offspring, and blessings. Abram is called to a wider mission, a universal mission, aimed at changing the entire world by bringing new hope, settling new territories, and creating new promises.

In the second reading, Paul reminds Timothy that as a result of his call as a witness of Christ’s Gospel, and with the gifts of strength, holiness, grace, life, and immortality, he is challenged to bear every hardship, deriving power from the Gospel of salvation. In v. 8a, Paul has implied that giving public witness without shame for the sake of the Gospel is the call of every Christian.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain where he is to be transfigured in their presence. This occurs six days after Jesus’ foretelling his death to the disciples. These three disciples have been with Jesus the longest, and a strong bond of friendship and trust has formed. In their presence, the magnificent transfiguration takes place, and they are astonished, speechless, and unable either to comprehend or explain the event until later, i.e., until after the resurrection. With Jesus and the disciples appear Moses and Elijah, who represent respectively Law and Prophecy. Thus does Jesus signify the fulfilment of the two most important components of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Law and the Prophets.

In the event of the Transfiguration, which foreshadows Easter, the glorified and glowing Christ reaches out to the three disciples and raises them up, assuring them of his protection: Rise, and do not be afraid....” In the Transfiguration, we see Jesus, his clothes and face shining with glory like the sun, surpassing Elijah and Moses and assuring his disciples that he will not leave them.

The disciples’ reaction ‒ particularly Peter’s ‒ indicates clearly that the way Jesus has manifested himself during the event is extraordinary; Peter feels compelled to react, to do something, and he suggests erecting a booth (a tent or tabernacle) to preserve the experience in memory. He wants to prolong the stay “on the mountain top.”

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [1]

“Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’” No. 15.

Pope Francis here reminds us that we can experience the wonder of a personal encounter with Christ once we go out of our daily routine. This personal experience never leaves us the same as before; it transforms us and fills us with a joy that we cannot help but share with our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis invites us to be evangelizers, especially after being transformed by the encounter with Christ through the Gospel. We are invited not ‘to build booths’ on the mountain top as Peter opted, but rather, to go down the mountain and make known to others what we have seen and heard from the Lord. Moving out of our comfort zones, whether our homes, our places of work, our schools, colleges, or universities, we are spurred to take first steps to make other people share in the joy that Christ brings us.

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’ The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” No. 3.

The first requirement for this personal encounter is a desire: something that keeps stirring within us, creating the urge to move out and embrace Christ’s invitation. We have to be open and humble to let Christ in our lives so that the encounter with him may materialize.

African Wisdom

Kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa. (One finger cannot kill a louse.) ‒ Swahili (Kenya). This proverb emphasizes the need for unity if we are to achieve great things in life.

If you want to walk fast, go alone; if you want to go far, walk with others. ‒ Uncertain origin. The support of others, even different from us, can help us achieve greater goals.

Milk and honey have different colours, but they share the same house peacefully – African Proverb. This saying encourages mutual co-existence, regardless of differences in (we may infer) tribe, background, or religious affiliation.

Palipo na wengi, hapaharibiki jambo. (Where there are many, nothing goes wrong.) ‒ Swahili. This maxim highlights the importance of unity and community: many heads can bring rich ideas and make constructive contributions.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Can I recall any moments of personal encounter with Christ? What were the circumstances?

How can I prepare myself for this personal encounter with Jesus?

Have I experienced the joy of the Gospel in other people’s faces? In priests, religious, Church elders, etc.?

How have I shared this joy with others and has it brought any transformation in me and in those who heard it? Mention some of these changes if any.

Am I ready to go beyond my tribal borders for the sake of the Gospel? How have I done this with my neighbours who are not of my tribe or ethnic group?

How am I an agent of change, based on the Gospel values of unity, peace, and brotherhood?

Outline prepared by Fr. Wycliffe Ochieng Owiye, MCSPA, Assistant Parish Priest, St. James- Kaikor Parish, Diocese of Lodwar. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

1st Sunday of Lent (A): 05 March 2017

Readings

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

Biblical Reflection

In the creation account in Genesis, mankind turned what was originally a free gift from God, creation itself, into a possession. This act and attitude affect both nature and our own humanity: My life belongs to me and I can do with it whatever pleases me; I can decide over good and evil, and whatever I do is my own business. Thus, the world becomes a war zone, everyone against everyone else, each one blaming the other, while hiding our faces from God.

Paul in his letter to the Romans insists on this topic: sin has entered into the world. The world is no longer the perfect society from paradise, but is riddled with injustice, violence and oppression. Jesus would be put to the test by this world precisely and by the powers and tendencies controlling it. He has not come to proclaim the Kingdom in a happy world, but in a world that is cunning, a world of competition, falsehood, and deceit.

First, Jesus is told by the Tempter that to satisfy his own needs he could use his own powers. Nobody will notice, so there is no problem. That is a deadly trap. Jesus has power, and we all have power, though limited. The temptation is to use our power for dominion, even when we believe that we are doing good and, indirectly, for our own benefit. Charity towards the poor, if done from a position of dominion, exhibiting oneself, for one’s own recognition and inner satisfaction, becomes self-destructive. Jesus will never take a short cut and exploit the suffering of the poor for his own benefit or recognition.  

Second, he is told that he could throw himself down from the parapet of the temple, the highest point in Jerusalem, with impunity. The setting implies egoism: from there, one stands above everyone else. From there, one cannot look into the eyes of the people, only over their heads and shoulders. We look no longer into the eyes of the poor, but from a position of dominion, only pretending to be there for the poor.

The movement of the Tempter is always upwards, trying to climb the heights, as in climbing the Tower of Babel. The movement of God is always downwards, emptying himself and becoming human. We cannot find Jesus by moving upwards, up to the summit of power, position, and authority, but only by moving downwards, towards the little ones, those who suffer, looking into the eyes of the so-called “poor of the Gospel.”

Third, Jesus is presented with all the Kingdoms and peoples of the earth: all could be his. Jesus, you want to be successful? Use the strategies of this world, that is, manipulation, dominion, blackmail, to submit all creatures to your power. The Kingdom of God, in contrast, is not imposed by force and dominion but is a free gift.

We have to move away from the traditional view of Jesus being tempted by the “devil`” to realise that what the Gospel narrators are trying to tell us is that Jesus was never overtaken by the evil currents of this world, where human strategies, dominion, and oppression take the lead. In the beginning of his public life he had to confront these currents and move away from them. Paul portrays him as the one who has overcome this sinful world with its cunning devices and brought acquittal and life for everyone. From now on, we will not find him in the positions of dominion, in the Temple in Jerusalem, but among the poor, on the roads of Galilee.

Link with the teaching of the Church: Encyclical Letter Laudato si’

“The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. The rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations” Laudato si, No. 66

“Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for ‘instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature’” Laudato si, No. 117.

“Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts” Laudato si, No. 205.

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Our churches and our communities are trying to achieve self-reliance. In doing so, are we building a church that is at the service of the poor, or are we more moved by human strategies?

Jesus says, when doing charity let your right hand not know what your left hand is doing (Mt 6:3). In harambees for social activities in our communities, are we ready to contribute freely and generously, or do we insist that our names and our donations be recorded and made public? Do we help out of our heart, or for some self-interest?

How do we behave in our families/parishes/communities? Do we respect the different opinions and give space for plurality of thought, or are we rather moved by a desire for dominion and control?

Outline prepared by Fr. Avelino Bassols, Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

7th Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 19 February 2017

Readings

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

Biblical Reflection

This Sunday we continue listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and today the Lord addresses this invitation to us: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For many of us this is a demanding request that we can even consider an impossible task. The truth is that if we are genuine followers of Jesus we are people who forgive and who have mercy.

Everywhere on our continent, testimonies of forgiveness and reconciliation abound and Jesus’ invitation has been deeply accepted by many African peoples. It is enough to hear Nelson Mandela describe the ways he dealt with his “enemies” to understand that the words of today Gospel resound in the African soul.

A story comes to mind from one of the latest books by Fr. Laurenti Magesa on African Spirituality[1], concerning Marcel Uwineza, a young Rwandese Jesuit priest, whose testimony follows:

“The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was not just a tragedy for me; it left me with wounds that took time to heal. I remember after July 1994 when the genocide ended, it was so hard to love or see anything good… (in) a Hutu. Some of our Hutu neighbors killed my father, buried him and later exhumed his body for (the) birds of the air and dogs to feast on … They threw my two brothers and my sister in a pit latrine alive and (they) died inside. They led my maternal grandma and many cousins to the big River Nyabarongo and threw them there (to drown). I am sure the fish of Lake Victoria ate them. They raped my aunt and gave her HIV. They seriously beat and wounded my mother… this was to develop into something she would not survive after the genocide. How on earth was I to live and love these people again? No! This was not something I was ready to do. The God who ask us to love our enemies, no, I was not ready to listen to him! Why had he let my beloved people be killed like cockroaches? Why had Nkurunziza and Kanani killed my beloved relatives? I… remember how my father had given them land and paid school fees for their kids.

“Yet this God got hold of me! Why did I survive? Why was I still alive? Am I better than those who were killed? Why had they (the genocidaires) not discovered Mr. Kabera’s big empty beehive in which he hid me during the genocide? These questions troubled me for years. I could not see a future without my father, mother and brothers. I had become a prisoner in myself. It was not until I read Psalm 116:12, where the Psalmist says: ‘How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me…?’ that I realized that I have been given more time (to live) and so I should use it well for God.

“A few years later I went back to the village (Kabirizi, Gitarama) where we lived and to my surprise I met one of the killers of my brothers and sister. I could not believe my eyes. Upon seeing me, he came towards. I thought he… (was) coming to kill me too. But I could not believe what happened….; it appeared like a movie…; he knelt before me and asked me to forgive him. If there is one time I felt God invading my life (it) was this time. I…(took) him and embraced him and said: I forgive you; the Lord has been good to me. Ever since (then) I (have) felt free! My wounds were able to heal the wounds of others. That is how I later found myself desiring to give the gift of my very self to the Lord as a Companion of Jesus (Jesuit), who I am as I write…”

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do you know of similar testimonies in your family or in your community?

Why does hate make us prisoners of ourselves?

Why does forgiveness make us free?

How can our wounds heal the wounds of others?

Before the general elections, how can we, as Children of God in Kenya, work to heal the wounds of the post-election violence of 2007-2008?

Outline prepared by Fr.Jairo Alberto, MXY, of the Yarumal Missionaries. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



[1] MAGESA, Laurenti, What is Not Sacred?: African Spirituality, Acton Publishers, Nairobi, 2014, p. 162-163.

 

6th Sunday, Ordinary Time (A): 12 February 2017

Readings

Sirach 15:15-20

Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Matthew 5:17-37

Biblical Reflection

Today’s first reading and Gospel have a close link. The importance of the Law in the life of the people of Israel also seems to be central to Christian life. It is valuable to look at this passage from Matthew in its context, the Sermon of the Mount — the foundation of Jesus’ other teachings — which leads the Matthean community to recognize Jesus as the new Moses and portrays a particular way of being Christian that is rooted in the Torah. However, the Law that Jesus interprets here has a special condition: this Law is not to be abolished but to be fulfilled.

Introduced by the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), the Sermon on the Mount moves on to the simile of Salt and Light (Mt 5:13-16) and then to today’s Gospel. The Lectionary apportions these passages over successive Sundays.

This week’s passage presents the sense in which believers of Jesus should accept the law. Anger results in killing, lust in adultery, etc. The intention of Jesus, in the writer’s eye, is to move from merely external obligation to an internal comprehension rooted in a sense of righteousness that envisions the Kingdom of heaven (v. 20).

Here we find four antithetical statements drawn from the Torah that move listeners to act in an unprecedented way. Jesus offers a new interpretation of the law, placing at its heart one’s relationship with the other. The structure is clear. The enunciation of the statement of the law is followed by a small (or longer) explanation of the principle that is surpassed by Jesus’ contrasting and innovative claim of authority: “But I say to you…” He illustrates finally how the hearer should move from an external observance to an internal attitude that views the other as being close, as being a neighbour.

These four statements can be summarized as follows:

First (vv. 21-26), a teaching about respecting the integrity of our brothers and sisters, with worship and interior attitude towards the other intertwined;

Second (vv. 27-30), a teaching about desire, in which any assault on the dignity of the other reflects the internal impulse to desire, with fault impugned to one who reduces the other to an object of desire rather than valuing the other’s humanity;

Third (vv. 31-32), a teaching on the relationship of couples, in which — many scholars would assume — for disciples of Jesus, divorce is no clear option, although divorce could be accepted on grounds of unchastity, which might refer either to a libertine way of life or to consanguinity of a couple, something common in the Greek world; the main point being that the marriage relationship of man and woman should be long lasting and should favour mutual support, and it is not to be dismissed at whim.

Fourth (vv. 33-34), a teaching about oaths, by which Jesus stresses the rectitude of intention that should be demonstrated in the actions we perform; oaths invoke a higher authority to witness to and judge one’s actions, yet Jesus wants each one’s action to be measured by no outside authority, but by one’s capacity to do good to others.

These readings, especially the Gospel, insist that our actions be motivated by inner freedom.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church [1] and the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel [2]

“The proper exercise of personal freedom requires specific conditions of an economic, social, juridic, political and cultural order that ‘are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighbourly fellowship and rebels against divine truth.’ Removing injustices promotes human freedom and dignity: nonetheless, ‘the first thing to be done is to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the individual and to the permanent need for inner conversion, if one is to achieve the economic and social changes that will truly be at the service of man’” (CDSC, No. 137).

The Gospel also insists on an ethical way of behaving, where the common good is upheld at all costs. As Pope Francis has said, “In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement” (Joy of the Gospel, No. 57.)

Questions for reflection in SCCs

  • Does the idea of making Kenya a better place for all of us as God’s children motivate our actions?
  • How do we view the ongoing political campaigns in our neighbourhoods and constituencies? Do they really promote peace and reconciliation?
  • Are we avoiding hate speech, so as to form the conscience of the electorate clearly?

Outline prepared by Fr. Ramiro Reyes, MXY, of the Yarumal Missionaries, Nairobi. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

4th Sunday of Advent (A): 18 December 2016

Readings

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 24:1-6

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

Biblical Reflection

In the reading from Isaiah, the promise of a saviour for Israel is revealed to King Ahaz. Generations later, Paul, in his letter to the Romans, shows that this promise had never been forgotten by the Jews.

In Jewish mentality at the time of Jesus, it was the man who generated, while the woman offered her body for the development of life. Matthew knew all that; and yet – after describing 39 generations of men – he says that Jesus is generated by Mary. This is a sharp break with tradition and the scientific knowledge of the time.

Mary is legally married to Joseph, but they were still in the period that separated formal wedding from cohabitation, a period that usually lasted one full year. During this time Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant by the work of the Holy Spirit.

We might understand what Joseph felt. His dreams of building a happy family were shattered. According to the Law – and Joseph was a just and law-abiding man – he had to renounce Mary publicly, for she had conceived out of wedlock. She would either be stoned to death because of adultery, or sent away from the village, only to end up as a concubine or a prostitute.

Joseph cannot continue with this marriage, but he does not want the death of a person: God wants the sinner to repent and live, not to die! Joseph decides to send Mary away in secret. However, he has no clue how to do so.

When the stubbornness of the Law is cracked by love, there is enough space for God to intervene. And God does intervene. In a dream – a tool to describe God’s mystical encounter with Joseph – Joseph is told to change plans, to remain with Mary and be a father to Jesus, whose name is now given.

Once again, tradition is broken. A first-born son was always called by the name of his grandfather. But here, God invites Joseph to call the son Emmanuel, God with us. Joseph wakes up and, silently, does what he has been told.

Link with the Social Doctrine of the Church

The universality and integrality of the salvation wrought by Christ makes indissoluble the link between the relationship that the person is called to have with God and the responsibility he has towards his neighbour in the concrete circumstances of history. … This link finds a clear and precise expression in the teaching of Jesus Christ and is definitively confirmed by the supreme witness of the giving of his life, in obedience to the Father's will and out of love for his brothers and sisters (CSDC 40).

Wisdom for Advent from Wisdom 2:12-15

Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law

and charges us with violations of our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.

Questions for SCCs

In what ways can Jesus “annoy” us?

How does his “opposition” make our lives better?

Do traditions sometimes conflict with God-given personal rights?

What are some changes that society needs to stop resisting?

 * CSDC: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Pauline Publications Africa.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

This edition of YKM was first published in December 2013. It was prepared by Fr. Joseph Caramazza, MCCJ, a Comboni Missionary who teaches at the Institute of Social Ministry in Mission (ISSM) of Tangaza University College, and it has been edited and slightly expanded by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


2nd Sunday of Advent (A): 04 December 2016

Readings

Isaiah 11:1-10;

Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17;

Romans 15:4-9;

Matthew 3:1-12

Biblical reflection

While the reading from Isaiah proposes a prophecy with a positive vision of the Messiah, the gospel shows both positive and not so positive aspects. John the Baptist is seen preaching in the desert. He asks for conversion because the kingdom of heaven is close. In Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven is a synonym for the Kingdom of God; in Chapter 5 Matthew insists the Kingdom is here now. We realize then that this conversion is not a moral change to enter into a future reality. This conversion must be a change of attitude that starts now and is geared to change society, its structures, and the relationships between people. All these change point towards building a new reality.

John’s preaching seems to be well accepted, and many come to receive his baptism. Even the elite come to him ‒ the Pharisees and the Sadducees. John invites them to a real change of life: “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” This is something the elite are not willing to do.

At this point we find a negative aspect in John's preaching. He prophesies a Judging God, which is something that Jesus will not do later on in his ministry. However, John recognizes that he himself lacks the ability to bring about a deep change.

A new reality that is coming will be able to baptize with Spirit. John's baptism is a symbol of repentance. Jesus' baptism will be a complete change of reality. Baptizing with the Spirit means immersing the person in the reality of God.

John's preaching is heavily influenced by his vision of God as a Judge, supporting those who follow him, while punishing the others. Jesus will open a new scenario: God loves all, for He is a loving God.

Link with the Social Teaching of the Church [1]

“The Church teaches that true peace is made possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not easy to forgive when faced with the consequences of war and conflict because violence, especially when it leads ‘to the very depths of inhumanity and suffering,’ leaves behind a heavy burden of pain. This pain can only be eased by a deep, faithful and courageous reflection on the part of all parties, a reflection capable of facing present difficulties with an attitude that has been purified by repentance. The weight of the past, which cannot be forgotten, can be accepted only when mutual forgiveness is offered and received; this is a long and difficult process, but one that is not impossible” No. 517.

African Wisdom

If you offend, ask for pardon; if offended, forgive. ‒ Ethiopia                        

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Is our SCC geared to service (huduma), or are we afraid of giving of ourselves for the good of others?

Do we have a welcoming attitude towards our neighbours, or do we structure our community along different lines?

In closing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invited all Catholics to reflect the Mercy of God in their encounters with other people. Are we taking this invitation seriously?

This edition of YKM has been prepared by Fr. Joseph Caramazza, MCCJ, who specializes in textual criticism of the New Testament and who teaches at the Institute of Social Ministry in Mission (ISSM) of Tangaza University College. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

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1st Sunday of Advent (A): 27 November 2016

Readings

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122:1-9

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44

Biblical reflection

Isaiah starts his ministry with a vision: All nations shall be attracted to Jerusalem, which in turn will be raised to become the highest mountain of all. This meeting of people will herald a new era of peace. The reading ends with the invitation to the house of Jacob, the very People of God, to walk in the light of the Lord.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul puts forth what has become a traditional theme of Advent, the call to be awake, for light and salvation are close at hand.

In the Gospel, Jesus links the coming of the Son of Man to the events at Noah’s time. The Flood was not the end of the world, but the beginning of a new community, renewed by those events. So the time of the Son of Man is also a time when God proposes not death, but Salvation. Yet most people do not recognize the signs of the time.

They were eating and drinking … the people were so taken by ordinary life that did not realize the importance of their time, and the Flood took them by surprise.

The same will happen to this generation. People will be working in the fields, or grinding at the mill (i.e., normal, everyday activities). One will be taken, the other left. The word used for ‘taken’ (paralambano) means ‘to take’ in the sense of ‘to welcome,’ ‘to accept.’ This should not be read as ‘taken away’; it has a positive meaning.

Just as few entered the Ark, few also will accept the message of Christ. God prepares Salvation for all, yet not all welcome it. To enter the Kingdom one has to recognize God as King, and this can be done only by welcoming the teaching expressed at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the Discourse of the Mount, when Jesus invites his disciples to embrace total self-giving and commitment in life. There he also warns about persecution on account of his name. This is why we need to be awake, ready to give testimony of our faith in Him.

Link with the Social Teaching of the Church

The Magisterium condemns “the savagery of war” and asks that war be considered in a new way... War is a “scourge” and is never an appropriate way to resolve problems that arise between nations (CSDC No. 497*). 

The laity must ... work at the same time for the conversion of hearts and the improvement of structures, taking historical situations into account and using legitimate means so that the dignity of every man and woman will be truly respected and promoted within institutions (CSDC No. 552*).

Questions for SCCs

Can the Church’s teaching on war also be applied to our lives as individuals and as neighbours and members of small communities?

How can a Small Christian Community help its members “read the signs of the times”?

When have you recognized the Lordship of Jesus in another person?

*CSDC: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Pauline Publications Africa.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

This issue of YKM was prepared by Fr. Joseph Caramazza, MCCJ, and was first published during Advent 2013. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.                                                        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C): 20 November 2016

Readings

2 Samuel 5:1-3

Psalm 122:1-2.4-5

Colossians 1:12-20

Luke 23:35-43

Biblical Reflection

This week’s readings first recall Saul and David, then explain Christ as the firstborn of all creation, and present him as King of the Jews, but more. The readings invite us to an understanding of Christ’s kingship that goes beyond our human understanding. Because of their authority, kings are highly respected in society. We are challenged to reflect on the kind of authority Christ has, and on what kind of territory he owns. A worldly king (or queen!) controls a territory with boundaries, and has authority limited to a certain level, but Christ’s authority is borderless, without limits; his territory surpasses human territory, and this is the essence of His kingship.

In his words to the Colossians, Paul establishes titles for Christ’s royalty over humankind. Christ is the image of the God whom we do not see, and the tool through whom God has created the universe; hence, Christ wields a supreme power over all things by making all cohere, by holding creation together. Through his precious blood he reconciles all. Not only has all been created through him, but he is our redeemer; he has purchased us and made us his property and possession. Christ is the head of the Church. God has bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as his special possession and dominion.

The reading from Paul alludes to our inheritance as a chosen race of God. Paul emphasizes whose authority qualifies us to share in the inheritance of this unique kingdom, a kingdom of light. What makes this kingdom most appealing is that it is the place where redemption and forgiveness are found. The late Dr. Maya Angelou, in her definition of who God is, proclaimed simply, “God is all.” This idea gives an insight into what Paul is trying to make the Colossians understand, that even while God is all, God is manifested in the Son, who is the firstborn of all creation, and all were created through him. The universe is the unique territory where Christ is king. And Christ’s authority flows from God the Father; that is to say, God’s authority is manifested in his Son Jesus, the Christ.

“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” The taunts of the rulers and the soldiers demonstrate how the powers of that time understood the kingship of Christ in a merely human way. The king they have in mind is one who uses his authority to glorify himself. But Christ, whose authority as king is inherent, whose kingship is used to glorify God, had said earlier, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Luke 10:21). Now he has no retort, choosing humility over self-glorification. Thus is he mocked and sent to the cross.

World Wisdom

“The kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” ‒Frederick Buechner

Questions for reflection in SCCs

Do you believe that Christ has set a good example for us to practice our authority as Christians in humility, in our own little ways?

We all practice authority in our own different ways. How do I practice it as a follower of Christ, who is a true king, who rules in humility?

When you compare earthly kingship and heavenly kingship, what kind of kingdom do you find ideal?

This edition of Yes, Kenya Matters was prepared by Sr. Delvin C. Mukhwana, DHM, a Daughter of the Heart of Mary, who works with the Justice and Peace Commission of AOSK. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                 www.rscke.org

 

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C): 06 November 2016

Readings

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14

Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15

2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

Luke 20:27-38

Biblical Reflection

This week’s readings bring us face to face with the supreme mystery of our faith, the resurrection of our body from the dead. In fact, the question of the resurrection is vital not only to the Christian faith but also to all who reflect on life and death.

The first reading recounts the martyrdom of the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother, with each encouraging the others to die for the sake of faithfulness to God’s law, while hoping for the afterlife. Clearly, faith in the resurrection of the body already constituted a belief amid pious Israelites, even before the coming of Christ.

In the time of Jesus, however, one of the political-religious parties within Judaism, the conservative Sadducees, opposed belief in resurrection. In today’s Gospel reading, to make this idea of resurrection look absurd, some of them come to Jesus with a loaded question based on the tradition of Levirate marriage (29-33).

Jesus’ reply highlights two ages: marriage is an institution of this age, necessary for the continuation of the race; but in the world to come there will be no marriage, because those who have risen are like the angels.

While Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees may have been employed to counter doubts about resurrection, it is clear that the primary attention was to be not on resurrection as such but on the resurrection of Jesus. On that belief depends the understanding of both the present and the future life of the followers of Jesus.

Therefore, the belief of the followers of Jesus in eternal life—which would become the belief of all Christians—is not founded on some metaphysical principle of immortality as such, but on the central reality of the history of salvation, i.e., on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Link with the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel *

“...Christ, risen and glorified, is the wellspring of our hope...” (No. 275).

“Christ’s resurrection contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force...” (No. 276).

“Christ’s resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of the new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!” (No. 278).

World Wisdom

Death is only a level crossing from one life to another, from life in its beginnings to life in full achievements. From this incomplete life to that transformed one.... ‒Raoul Plus, SJ, 1882-1958)

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ‒Norman Cousins                                          

Questions for reflection in SCCs

  • Do you find any reason to believe in afterlife except as a consequence of a relationship of faith in the Risen Christ?
  • How convincing do you find arguments for immortality based on natural reason?
  • Do you find Christian teaching too preoccupied with the afterlife?

**http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

This edition of Yes, Kenya Matters was prepared by Br. Jean Bosco Kambale Kanyama, AA, an Augustinian of the Assumption, who is studying Theology at Hekima College. It has been edited by a team of RSCK-JPIC, The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Religious Superiors’ Conference of Kenya.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                              This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                            www.rscke.org

2nd Sunday of Lent (B): 25 February 2018

Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration Justice for All

In our Lenten Campaign weekly topics, we shall seek to bring about reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and national integration by truthfully reflecting on the pertinent issues that affect our communities and the country at large.

We need to create a reconciled community. If we bring up our children in an unreconciled environment, we shall create in them a spirit of negativity. Reconciliation is our theme for the second week. We need to be a reconciled community where we give each other the space to be. If we overcome this, we will give ourselves more opportunities to define our common problems as a country and address pressing national issues, especially those afflicting the youth such as drug abuse and addiction. In addition, our politics will be focused and effective in shaping our common destiny as a nation-state.

See: Story

The rich village of Maendeleo, which was blessed with many clans and people of different cultures, was an example of a developed community. Once after every four seasons, the residents elected elders from each clan to represent them in the Village Council. They also picked a Chief Elder to head the council.

Being a village of many clans and cultures, their unity started fading away with time. Clan competitions became the order of the day and some people started seeing themselves as special. The prevailing narrative was always ‘us’ and ‘them.’

Some of the clan elders exploited the division for their personal gains. These divisions distracted the elders from addressing the real development needs of Maendeleo Village.

Increased unemployment in the village pushed the youth to drug abuse and gambling in the hope of getting quick riches. To get money for betting and drugs, some of the youngsters engaged in illicit activities like stealing and misuse of school fees. A number of them committed suicide because of life’s disappointments and hopelessness.

Come the next election, campaigns were characterised by politics of division and violence. This left many people injured, displaced and property destroyed. Learning in schools and health services were negatively affected. With the bad experience, the people of Maendeleo Village realised that their elders were the problem. The clans agreed to work together and reject all the elders who caused division and discord.

The Maendeleo Village wise men and women called a baraza where those present resolved that there was need for reconciliation to help people recognise the strength in diversity. They were encouraged to correct the past wrongs in the spirit of forgiveness to restore the glory of the village of Maendeleo.

In the next elections season, the people of Maendeleo Village turned out in large numbers to vote for their preferred leaders. Ziliaro, who was elected as the Chief Elder, thanked the villagers and invited Tifalu, her opponent to work together for the benefit of their people. The two led Maendeleo to reconcile and develop the village together.7

Judge: Situation analysis

Most African countries present a complex set of ‘pasts’ relevant to transitional justice and truth-seeking. Kenya is one of the countries that has not come to a closure of many of her ‘pasts’ despite the efforts made on truth finding, including the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), the Ndungu Commission on Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Public Land, among others. The TJRC recommended public apologies, restitution, reparations and memorialisation. In doing this, Kenya as a country then could be reconciled with her ‘pasts’.

To date, no major attempt has been made toward doing justice and most importantly, to reconcile the people of Kenya. Although the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has made few steps towards cohesion and integration, the reality of unaddressed injustices and unreconciled ‘pasts’ continues to plague our country.

Reconciliation as it relates to relationships entails restoration of friendly relations. It is also the action of making one’s view or belief compatible with another. With reconciliation, it means that we restore our relationship to one that enables us to be compatible and friendly with one another again.

It is becoming necessary that we look at the root causes of our strife. We have witnessed immense propaganda, insults, fake news, half-truths, biased media, partisan religious leaders, and divisive political and legal analysts. These people have exploited innocent Kenyans, planted hate in people and fuelled violence.

There is need for us to name and shame those who bring divisions among the people of Kenya. We can petition national and international organisations to sanction them as individuals or institutions. Individually, we need to pause as Christians and ask ourselves a pertinent question, if at all we can live as a reconciled nation: Do I take the Gospel message of reconciliation and love to the places I live and work?

We are called to remember the message of Pope Francis to Kenyan in his pastoral visit in 2015. He voiced his appeal to men and women of goodwill and to political leaders to work for reconciliation, peace, forgiveness and healing; and — above all — spoke of the grave environmental crisis facing our world and of the urgent need to take responsibility for creation and to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received.

Readings:

Genesis 22:1-2. 9a. 10-13 15-18; Romans 8 (31b-34); Mark: 9: 2-10

Spiritual reflection:

Faith in God and Faith in Christ. Abraham needed faith to follow the road God showed him. Abraham made a sacrifice. Foundation of our faith: God is faithful and has unconditional love for us. If God is for us, who can be against us? God did not spare his own Son so as to reconcile us to himself. Reconciliation is a form of transfiguration. We reach transfiguration by first passing through the way of the cross and placing ourselves in Gods hand. Reconciliation is a sacrifice, it was not easy for Abraham to sacrifice his only son, but it takes great faith for one to do so. Whenever there is a dispute or conflict, it takes heroic faith in God for the one who feels aggrieved to take the initiative towards reconciliation. As Kenyans, we need to go up the mountain and listen to the voice of God in reconciling with Him and each other.

Today’s readings show us how Abraham was willing to give up his son to reconcile with God and the Father willing to spare his Son so as to reconcile us with himself. There is need of sacrifice for us to have reconciliation.

Act: Reflection questions

1.       What kind of conflicts have you encountered in your community?

2.       Who were the actors involved in the conflict?

3.       How was the conflict resolved?

4.       Give ways that you can address various conflicts in your area.

Examination of conscience:

1.       Have I been able to give reconciliation a chance in my life?

2.       Have I forgiven those who have wronged me?

3.       Have I been a channel of peace in my community?

Do I believe in the teachings on forgiveness as taught by Christ?

Multimedia

Audio - Various



Video: Kamba Peace Museum - Machakos

 

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