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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.

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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.

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

 

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.

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

 

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

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