Sunday, January 25, 2015

Homily for Today

Follow me and I will make you fishers of men! Welcome my brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus to today's celebration of the Holy Mass. It is always a joy to be united with you in this great Feast which we are about to partake in.

During today's First Reading from the Book of Jonah, [Jon. 31-5, 10] we heard how Jonah answered God's calling. Jonah was called by God and told to get up and to go to Nineveh, that great city, where he was to proclaim the message of the Lord.

In obedience to the Lord God, Jonah set out and went to Nineveh. He proclaimed the Divine Word of God, advising the sinful people that unless they repent of their sins, in forty days, their city would be overthrown. Fearing the wrath of God, the people realized that they had sinned against Him. Immediately, they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, from the greatest to the least important, put on sackcloths. A sackcloth is a coarse cloth worn as a symbol of mourning or penitence. It is not something very comfortable to wear. But, it serves its purpose of making a sacrifice for the grace of God to be dispensed upon the sincere heart that applies this method of repentance alongside with a fast.

As we all heard, the people turned away from their evil ways. Consequently, God changed His mind about the calamity that He was about to send to Nineveh. Through Jonah, the faithful servant of the Lord, the people were once more united in the righteous ways of the Lord God.

Reviewing the Second Reading from the First Letters to the Corinthians, [1 Cor. 7:29-31] to some, this Reading may have been rather difficult to understand. Paul told those who have wives to act as if they have none, those who mourn as though they were not mourning, those who rejoice as if they were not rejoicing, those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world, as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world was passing away.

To understand this passage that refers to one's calling to live a spiritual life, it is necessary to review other parts of the First Letter to the Corinthians. It is necessary to ask ourselves, what was Paul talking about? We find that answer in 1 Corinthians 10:11 where Paul told the Corinthians that Christians are already living in the last days, on whom the ends of the ages had come. There are no other coming ages.

Contrary to what some of our separated brothers and sisters believe and preach, there is no coming of a glorious age. There is no coming of a worldly Kingdom of God or a thousand years of peace when Jesus will reign on earth as King in a physical body. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. It is invisible and it is already among us today.

The final age began with the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, believers are united into the Risen Lord. [Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12-3] Through one's living faith in the hope of things to come, believers are already in the future. They have passed beyond the desires of fame, pleasures and wealth, having fixed their eyes on Jesus in Heaven. They patiently awaiting the glorious moment when their own bodies will be resurrected in the glory of the Lord Jesus. [Gal. 1:20; Rom. 8:9-11, 23; Eph. 1:19]

When we received the precious gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit during the Sacrament of Baptism, we received our "first instalment" towards the guarantee of the full inheritance that awaits the faithful Christians. [Eph. 1:13-4; 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5]

When the glorious resurrection of the bodies is fulfilled, there will be no more competition, no more worldly needs, no fame, no desires, no wealth. We will all find the fullness of our happiness in the love of Christ.

Those who are detached from the world, they already have a foot in Heaven. While they are in this world, they are not of this world. The religious who consecrate their lives to the Lord, through their virginity, they join the baptized who are part of the life to come in the resurrection of the saints. Their virginity places them in the future to come.

Those who are married, because of the responsibilities that come with the married life, both spouses being placed in the affairs of the world which is passing away, those responsibilities become an obstacle to their precious spiritual growth and communion with the Lord.

The celibate person, the virgin, they are free of family responsibilities. Through their intended perfect consecration to God in body and spirit, they have the opportunity to immediately taste the life of glory that all Christians anticipates. [1 Cor. 7:32-4]

During today's Reading of the Gospel of Mark, [Mk. 1:14-20] we heard Jesus calling the Apostles to be, Simon, Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Each and everyone of them left what they were doing to answer the calling of Jesus to a life of self-denial and ongoing sacrifices. By answering their calling, they became faithful servants of the Lord, their names going down in history so we may remember and model after their example, their living faith in Christ.

Jesus said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." Fishers of men are ambassadors of Christ. They represent Christ. Christians, through their Baptism, they are called to be lights in the world. They are those who are called to go forward and to evangelize to the world as Jonah obeyed, as Paul obeyed, as all the disciples of the Lord Jesus obeyed, some even to death. They are called to evangelize, first to their family members, then their friends, their co-workers, the strangers, all of those with who they come in contact during their lives, all for the glory of God.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have a calling to answer. Some are called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders or or religious life. Some are called to the Sacrament of Marriage. Some are called to live a life of celibacy. Even the teenagers and children have a calling in their youthful days. While the calling of each may vary according to their status in life, the needs to serve the Holy Church are many. Jesus calls some to preach, some to be lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, altar servers, choir members, members of parish committees, members of the Catholic Woman's League or the Knights of Columbus, ministers to the home bound, and the list goes on and on. There is a place for everybody in the Body of Christ.

Each members of the Body of Christ is as a living stone that belongs to a great Temple, the House of God. If we remove some of the stones from the structure, it will begin to fall. Equally, if all the members of the Body of Christ, of the Parish, do not become actively involved in the ministry of the Church, the Parish will suffer. The Church cannot flourish by itself. It needs people! It needs you!

To lead His Church by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus chose men and women who are weak human beings. He did not choose angels. Had He done so, we would have angels ministering to us. Having chosen weak human beings, it is to be expected that no one is perfect in their calling. All have to learn as they grow in Christ. Remember Peter, did he not deny knowing Jesus three times when his life was threatened? Where were the disciples of Jesus when He was arrested? They all ran away! But that is the kind of people that Jesus chose in His Divine Wisdom.

Knowing this, there is a necessity for the members of the Church to pray for each other that all may be receptive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in His ministry to promote the growth of the Church from generation after generation. As your Bishop and priests need prayers so they may be good leaders, so do your brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is not a one way thing. Jesus wants us all to be united as one in His Body. We must pray for one another if we sincerely desire to overcome the power of Satan that always seeks to destroy the Church by destroying its members.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, preparing ourselves to participate in the great Feast of the Holy Eucharist in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, let each and everyone of us ask the Lord Jesus to bless our Parish with an abundance of active holy members to do His holy work. Let us ask Jesus to strengthen us in our works so that we may shine as true lights in the world, showing patience where it is needed, love where there is hatred, kindness where it is the least expected. And finally, let each and everyone of us pray for those who have fallen to sin, that they may once more rise and take their place as fruitful and obedient servants of the Lord Jesus in the Body of Christ.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1JON 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, “
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial PsalmPS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Reading 21 COR 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning, 
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

AlleluiaMK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

Weekly Prayer

The Weekly prayer from Living with Christ.

“They left their nets and followed him.” 
Jesus, I’ve always been surprised 
by how quickly your disciples 
left their nets to follow you. 

I know there’s symbolism here, 
but sometimes I wonder 
if they left so quickly 
because they weren’t 
very good fishermen. 
After all, in the gospels 
they never seem 
to catch a fish without your help. 
And following you 
probably seemed easier 
than the backbreaking work 
of hauling nets. 

The gospels don’t show them 
as very good disciples either— 
not until you pour out 
your Spirit upon them. 

Jesus, sometimes things 
in my life and work 
drive me crazy 
and make me think 
it would be nice 
to drop it all and run away. 

Help me to remember 
that the disciples 
left behind their nets, 
but not their lives as fishermen. 
In the same way, 
you don’t ask me to run 
from who I am, 
but to take who I am 
and put it at the service 
of your kingdom. 

So I follow you, Lord, 
but it isn’t easy, 
And I fear that 
I, too, am often not 
a very good disciple. 

Pour out your Spirit 
on me too, Jesus, 
Inspire me to follow you 
more closely today, 
and every day of my life. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Protect the family – Pope's parting message to the Philippines

.- In his homily for the Jan. 18 Closing Mass in the Philippines, Pope Francis pointed to our identity as God’s children, calling for the protection of the family against the numerous attacks that threaten it.

The Christ Child, explained Pope Francis, “reminds us of the importance of protecting our family, and those larger families which are the Church, God’s family, and the world, our human family.”

“Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”

Just as Jesus welcomes and embraces children in the Gospel, the Pope said, “(w)e too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage.”

“Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected,” he continued, adding that we must care for young people, “not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”

Pope Francis spoke to estimated millions of Filipinos gathered at Rizal Park in Manila at the final public event during his Jan. 15-19 trip to the country.

Huge crowds have turned out for the Pope's Masses and public events in the Philippines, where 86 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. In recent years, the island country has struggled with the effects of several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

During his apostolic visit, the Pope deviated from both his official schedule and prepared speeches – meeting with impoverished children from the streets and going off-the-cuff in remarks to families on the dangers of contraception and redefining marriage.

Noting his joy in celebrating Mass on Hoy Child Sunday, the Pope spoke in his final homily on “the link between God’s Kingdom and the mystery of spiritual childhood.”

Our deepest identity, the Pope explained, is found in our adoption as “God’s children, members of God’s family.”

“We saw a beautiful expression of this when Filipinos rallied around our brothers and sisters affected by the typhoon,” he observed.

This identity as God’s children must be protected, Pope Francis continued. He explained that Christ himself needed the earthly protection of his family – particularly St. Joseph – when he came to earth as a child and immediately found his life threatened by King Herod. Similarly, we must protect the family and spread the faith.

The Philippines’ status as the foremost Catholic country in Asia is both a special gift and blessing from God, and also a vocation, the Pope said.

“Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia,” he stated, stressing the calling to be witnesses amid a world of sin that has disfigured the beauty of the natural world.

Through sin, the Holy Father continued, “man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance, and corruption.”

Surrounded by troubles and difficulties, we may be tempted give up, the Pope acknowledged. “It seems that the promises of the Gospel do not apply; they are unreal.”

However, the real threat is the lie of Satan, who often “hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being ‘modern,’ ‘like everyone else’,” Pope Francis explained.

“(Satan) distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. And, so we squander our God-give gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink; we turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focus on the things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God.”

Learning from the Child Jesus, we remember our identity as children of God, and we are willing to fight against attacks on the family structure and God’s family, the Pope reminded.

“It was a frail child, in need of protection, who brought God’s goodness, mercy and justice into the world,” Pope Francis said. “He resisted the dishonesty and corruption which are the legacy of sin, and he triumphed over them by the power of his cross.”

“Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.”

Homily for Sunday

Welcome to all, parishioners and visitors, to the House of the Lord to commemorate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. I ask you all, "Why are you here today? What are you looking for?" I believe you are here because of your desire to answer your spiritual calling to grow in the Lord Jesus. Such a blessing comes from the grace of God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Through the Three Divine Person because all what God does is done in the fullness of the Blessed Trinity.

During today's First Reading from the First Book of Samuel, [1 Sam. 3:3-10, 19] we heard that the Lord God called Samuel. At that time, Samuel was not too enlightened about spiritual matters. Being worldly minded, he believed that Eli was calling him. As an obedient servant, three times after hearing a call, he went to Eli and asked him what he wanted. Each time, Eli told Samuel that he had not called him. As we heard, God had to call Samuel three times before Eli was spiritually enlightened enough to realize that it was the Lord God who was calling Samuel.

From these Bible verses, there is a spiritual lesson for us to learn. It is of utmost importance that we think spiritually at all time in our daily lives in order to have a fruitful relationship with the Lord God. If we allow ourselves to become too worldly, we will not hear God's calling to each and everyone of us, be it in marriage, in the religious life or even as a single person. But, if we allow our hearts to remain in harmony with the grace of God, His Spirit will enlighten our intellect so we will be able to obediently walk our living faith alongside Jesus Christ.

Samuel answered his calling from God. As he grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his Words fall to the ground. This means that as Samuel learned the Words of God, either directly from God speaking to him, or from inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and also from the teachings of Eli. Samuel valued those words! He memorized the laws of God, His commandments. He kept them in his heart. He made a genuine effort to implement them in his life through his thoughts, his words and his actions. He answered God's calling by persevering in His living faith to the best of his ability.

The life of Samuel is a living example to each and everyone of us. As Samuel grew in the knowledge and understanding of the Lord, we too are called to grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Lord. For it is through spiritual growth that we are sanctified in Christ.

During today's Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, [1 Cor. 6:13-15, 17-20] we heard that our bodies are meant to serve the Lord. They are not meant to be used for worldly desires and pleasures that do not glorify God.

Why are our bodies meant for the Lord? Because, as God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, He will also raise us by His power.

Our bodies are members of the mystical Body of Christ. We are as branches attached to the vine. [Jn. 15:5] If we bear spiritual fruits from our walk of life, it is because we are attached to Jesus. [Jn. 15:2, 4] If we bear spiritual fruits from our walk of life, it is because the root that gives us life is holy. "If the root is holy, then the branches also are holy." [Rom. 11:16]

During the First Letter to the Corinthians, we heard St. Paul saying that there are sins outside the body and there are sins against the body. If we are disrespectful towards someone, that is a sin outside the body. If we are selfish, refusing to share the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us, that is also a sin outside the body. All our unchristian words and actions that do not shine in the love of Christ are sins outside the body.

A sin against the body is when we lower our morals to satisfy our fleshly desires in unhealthy carnal relationships contrary to the sacredness of the Church Sacrament of marriage. A sin against the body consist of all forms of sexual relationships outside the Sacrament of marriage, pre-marital sex, common-law relationship, cheating on one's spouse, prostitution, and even same sex marriage or relationships.

Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we became Temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us. To commit immoralities against the body is to blaspheme the sacredness of the Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit. [Lk. 12:10]

Because we have become Temples of the Holy Spirit, we do not own our bodies. Although we have a free will, we no longer have a right to choose what is unholy. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have waived that right, alleging our obedience to the spiritual law of God. Having been bought with a price, by the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God, we are called to glorify God in our body.

Now some of you may not understand how and why you could be Temples of the Holy Spirit. Allow me a moment to explain this.

When we received the Sacrament of Baptism, we received free undeserved gifts from God. We were born again of water and Spirit. [Jn. 3:5] Through the holy water used during the Sacrament of Baptism, by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, we received our new life, our new creation, as a stepping stone towards our salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. For this to happen, we were crucified with Christ on the Cross! We died with Him! We were buried and raised again with Him as new creations. [Rom. 6:4-11]

Now some may say, I do not remember dying or being raised with Christ. Your death and resurrection were spiritual. Through it, you received a new heart and human spirit. Your first human spirit died with Christ and was buried with Christ. Your new heart and human spirit resurrected with Christ as a new creation. Your first spirit was called to die because it inherited the original sin. As such, it had to be replaced by a new human spirit of the godly seed. As the Holy Bible teaches, everyone has a human spirit. [Job 32:8; Prov. 18:14, 20:27; Ecc. 3:21; Eze. 11:19, 36:26; Zech. 12:1; Mal. 2:15; Mt. 26:41; Lk. 8:55; Jn. 3:6; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:11] For a body without "a spirit is dead." [Jas, 2:26]

Your new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:18] Your new creation is pleasing to God because of its holy nature.

Now, as the last Bible verse states, your new creation within you is protected by God, [1 Jn. 5:18] through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is protected against Satan so he will not corrupt your new spirit. When you will experience physical death, your soul shall continue to manifest itself in Heaven through your new creation that is holy in nature. Through the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, you now qualify to inherit the Kingdom of God. Your new creation is your first instalment towards the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.

Having received a new heart and spirit of the godly seed, God expects us to live holy lives and to marry others of the same spirit of the godly seed. He expects us, his holy people, to marry those who belong to his holy family so that we may bear holy children.

Returning to my original topic, when we take part in non-marital fleshly relationships, we sin against the body. To sin against the body means to sin against the Divinity of God, against the indwelling Holy Spirit, against the nature of our new heart and spirit of the godly seed and against the Sacred Sacrament of marriage.

Hear what it states in the Letter of James. "Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, 'God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?'" [Jas. 4:4-5]

It is no wonder that in the Book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce! "For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel... So take heed to yourselves adn do not be faithless." [Mal. 2:16]

God wants each and everyone of us to enjoy His Kingdom through the Blood of Christ. He is jealous of the new hearts and human spirits that He has created within us, desiring that our freedom of choice will cooperate with His Divine Will so we will be assured our redemption. God is so over-protective of the new heart and human spirit that He has created within each one of us, that He has placed His Holy Spirit alongside ours to protect them from the grip of Satan.

Having received God's new creation within us, we have become "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people." [1 Pet. 2:9]

From today's Reading of the Holy Gospel of John, [Jn. 1:35-42] we once more perceive God's calling. It is revealed to us by the actions of the two disciples of John the Baptist who followed Jesus. For it is Jesus that we must follow in order to be saved. He is the Lamb of God, the perfect human sacrifice for the redemption of ours sins.

Jesus is our Rabbi, our Teacher. He shows us the way, the truth and the life. [Jn. 14:6] From the Gospel Reading, we also learned how Peter came to follow Jesus. His call came through Andrew who was God's instrument of grace to call Peter. Throughout the Holy Bible and even in our daily lives, we see how the grace of God works through His children to implement His Divine calling.

So, I ask you again, "What are you looking for? Are you looking to answer the calling of the Lord?" If you are looking for the way, the truth and the life, then you must fix your eyes on Jesus. You must answer your calling by living holy lives in harmony with the nature of your new human spirit that coexists within you with the indwelling Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit.

When I see your presence here, I rejoice! Why do I rejoice? It is because I know that you are striving to walk in the way, the truth and the life that comes to each and everyone of us through Jesus. Your presence here today is a spiritual sign that the grace of God is at work in all of you. It is an indication that you are longing to participate in fellowship as one in the Body of Christ so you may share together in the great spiritual Feast with Christ. It is an indication that you desire to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life.

As long as you continue to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist on a weekly basis, although being weak in human nature, there is hope. And as long as there is hope, the grace and mercy of God will not let you down. May God be with you as we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass.

A Prayer for the Week

Found this prayer at Living With Christ website;

Weekly Prayer

Sunday, January 18, 2015

“Behold, the Lamb of God.” 
Today, Jesus, help me remember
that I have been baptized
into your life, death,
and resurrection.
Let me never stop pondering
what that means for me.

Help me remember
that your Spirit has
come down on me
like a dove from heaven
and remains on me forever.
Let me never stop pondering
what that means for me.

Help me to join
with your whole body today
and to be open to your Spirit
uniting and transforming us
into your very Body and Blood,
with which you feed us.
Help us truly to become
part of your heavenly liturgy.
And let me, Jesus,
never stop pondering
what this means for me.

Today, Jesus,
help me truly be your disciple.
Help me to love as you love.
Help me to stay true to you,
even when the world
tries to pull me
in a different way.
Help me live compassionately,
and to respond with kindness
when I feel insulted.
Help me to learn how to forgive
seventy times seven times.
And let me never stop pondering
what all this means for me.

Help me, Jesus, to do all this,
so that what John said of you,
he can also say me
as I share your life:
“Behold the Lamb of God.”

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reading 11 SM 3:3B-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God. 
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 21 COR 6:13C-15A, 17-20

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

AlleluiaJN 1:41, 17B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We have found the Messiah:
Jesus Christ, who brings us truth and grace.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

Some prayers to start

"Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with the power of your Holy Spirit that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth. Let your Spirit be aflame in my heart that I may joyfully seek to do your will in all things."

Lord you know my heart. You know all of my thoughts, desires and intentions, whether they are good or bad. You love me despite all of my failings and dark corners. Thank you for your patience and forgiveness. Thank you for the countless graces that you shower on me daily, though I do not realize it. Thank you for revealing your love to me so that I can stand tall and continue on in the hopes of embracing you forever in heaven. I now dedicate these precious moments to you so that I can know and love you more and be transformed into you.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Homily for Today's Mass

My Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord, as you might have noted during the three readings from the Holy Scriptures, all of them were associated with the Baptism of Jesus, either prophetic in nature or descriptive of the event itself.

During the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 42:1-4, 6-7] we heard the prophecy that the promised Messiah would be God's chosen Servant in Whom the Divine Soul would delight. [Is. 42:1] The Messiah would have the Spirit of God upon Him, bringing forth justice to all the nations, not just God's chosen people.

As the Servant of God, the Messiah would not cry or lift up His voice or make it heard in the street. His mission would be modest and gentle in nature. The promised Messiah would not force the people to conform to His teaching. The transformation that would take place within those who heard the Word of God would be an inner one, a change of heart.

The Messiah would come to save the sinners, not those who are already saved. A dimly burning wick He would not quench. For there is always hope for the souls when the grace of God is at work. In the end, the promised Messiah would faithfully bring forth justice, not a worldly justice but a spiritual one.

As Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, whose who are persecuted for righteousness's sake and those when people revile them, persecute them and utter all kinds of evil against them false, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. [Mt. 5:3-11] In the end, spiritual justice shall be served.

The Lord God stated that He has called us to righteousness. He has taken us by the hand and kept us. He has given us as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. [Is. 42:6-7]

As God's loved people, we are "the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, (we are called to) let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven." [Mt. 5:14-6]

We baptized Catholics are called to let our lights shine on the prisoners of darkness, those who are slaves to sin, that they may escape the darkness that chains their souls. "But how are (we) to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim? And how are they to proclaim Him unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' [Rom. 10:14-5] Truly, unless those who are in darkness have heard the Word of God through the light of God that shines through us, they in turn cannot proclaim it to others.

Keeping in mind that all have a free will, those who live in darkness, unless they recognize their blindness and imprisonment, they cannot be cured and freed. Unless they desperately admit their need of God by experiencing an inner transformation of the heart, they cannot be saved. Knowing the power of prayer, we faithful servants of the Lord raise our voices heavenward in prayer of intercession, asking the grace of God to shine abundantly upon those souls, that their hearts be softened so they may hear the Word of God and believe wholeheartedly.

In today's Second Reading from The Acts of the Apostles, [Acts 10:34-8] we heard Saint Paul tell us that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; (and) Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." [Acts 10:38] My brothers and sisters in Christ, "God shows no partiality. In every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him." [Acts 10:34-5]

Today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 3:13-17] recreated the event surrounding the Baptism of the Lord Jesus. When Jesus came to be baptized, John the Baptist insisted that it was he who should be baptized by Jesus. For the Baptism of John was a rite of repentance and confession of sin. How could Jesus submit Himself to such a Baptism when "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth?" [1 Pet. 2:22] Jesus' submission to the Baptism of John was to demonstrate that He was a faithful Jew who obeyed the Law and the practices associated with good Jewish life.

"And when Jesus had been baptized, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and (John) saw the Spirit of God descending like a Dove and alighting on Him." [Mt. 3:16] "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'" [Mt. 3:17] Here the Dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the image of a dove is a symbol of love. The Dove, the Holy Spirit, echoes the love of the Father for His only begotten Son Jesus.

The Words of the Heavenly Father, "This is My Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased" [Mt. 3:17] echo the Word of the Lord through the great prophet Isaiah, "Here is My Servant, Whom I uphold, My Chosen, in Whom My Soul delights." [Is. 42:1] This identifies Jesus as the Servant of the Lord. His Messiahship is not one of a royal conquering Messiah, but one of a Servant Who proclaims the good news and suffers.

Summarizing the Baptism of Jesus as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn that the Baptism of Jesus was a major turning point in His life. Prior to it, we know very little of His life between age twelve and thirty. "Jesus' public life began with His Baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the Jordan. [Lk. 3:23; Acts 1:22] John preached 'a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins'. [Lk. 3:3] A crowd of sinners, [Lk. 3:10-14; Mt. 3:7; 21:32] tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes, came to be baptized by him. 'Then Jesus appears.' The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives Baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, 'This is my beloved Son.' [Mt 3:13-17] This is the manifestation ('Epiphany') of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God." (C.C.C. # 535)

"The Baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". [Jn. 1:29; Is. 53:12] Already He is anticipating the "Baptism" of His bloody death. [Mk. 10:38; Lk. 12:50] Already He is coming to "fulfil all righteousness", that is, He is submitting Himself entirely to His Father's will: out of love He consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. [Mt 3:15; 26:39] The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming His entire delight in His Son. [Lk. 3:22; Is. 42:1] The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from His conception comes to "rest on Him". [Jn. 1:32-33; Is. 11:2] Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened," [Mt 3:16] the heavens that Adam's sin had closed, and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation." (C.C.C. # 536)

"Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in His own baptism anticipates His death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with Him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and "walk in newness of life": [Rom 6:4] Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with Him; let us go down with Him to be raised with Him; and let us rise with Him to be glorified with Him. [St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 9: PG 36, 369] Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God. [St. Hilary of Poitiers, In Matth. 2, 5: PL 9, 927]" (C.C.C. # 537)

The Baptism of the Lord

  • First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
    1 Behold my servant, I will uphold him: my elect, my soul delighteth in him: I have given my spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
    2 He shall not cry, nor have respect to person, neither shall his voice be heard abroad.
    3 The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
    4 He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he set judgment in the earth: and the islands shall wait for his law.
    6 I the Lord have called thee in justice, and taken thee by the hand, and preserved thee. And I have given thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles:
    7 That thou mightest open the eyes of the blind, and bring forth the prisoner out of prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. 

  • Psalm: Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 9-10
    1 A psalm for David, at the finishing of the tabernacle. Bring to the Lord, O ye children of God: bring to the Lord the offspring of rams.
    2 Bring to the Lord glory and honour: bring to the Lord glory to his name: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.

    3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty hath thundered, The Lord is upon many waters.
    4 The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence.

    9 The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags: and he will discover the thick woods: and in his temple all shall speak his glory.
    10 The Lord maketh the flood to dwell: and the Lord shall sit king for ever. The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace. 

  • Second Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38
    34 And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons.
    35 But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him.
    36 God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all.)
    37 You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached,
    38 Jesus of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

  • Gospel: Mark 1:7-11
    7 And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.
    8 I have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
    9 And it came to pass, in those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
    10 And forthwith coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit as a dove descending, and remaining on him.
    11 And there came a voice from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 

Let Us Pray!

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inflame my heart with the joy of the Gospel. May I find joy in seeking to please you just as you found joy in seeking to please your Father."

My heavenly Father, you made me out of your infinite love. Even though I have failed to love you as a good child should, still you send me gift upon gift. You sent your Son to redeem me and to make me one with you, in and through your Son. You and your only beloved Son sent your Spirit of Love and Truth, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in my heart, mind and body. I wish to open my heart and eyes to all that you have done for me and continue to do for me, and to love you in return, growing in generosity with you, your Church and all of your children.
Lord, bless me with authentic interior poverty.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Without the Church, Jesus 'is at the mercy of our imagination,' Pope says

Pope Francis celebrates New Year's Day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God of Jan. 1, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Pope Francis celebrates New Year's Day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God of Jan. 1, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

by Elise Harris
.- In his homily on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis said that Jesus and his mother Mary are “inseparable,” just like Jesus and the Church, who is the mother of all humanity that guides her children to God.

“To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an ‘absurd dichotomy,’” the Pope told Mass attendees who were present in St. Peter’s Basilica for his Jan. 1 Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“(The Church) is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity…Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling,” he said.

Without the Church and her guidance, our relationship with Christ “would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods,” the Roman Pontiff continued.

It is not possible to understand the salvation offered by Jesus without also appreciating the motherhood of the Church, he explained, adding that it is also impossible to love and belong to Christ without loving and belonging to the Church, because the Church is God’s family who brings Christ to humanity.

“Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ” who lives among us and can be encountered inside the Church through her sacraments, Pope Francis explained.

“No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ.”

In his reflections, Pope Francis noted how the Church, in celebrating the solemnity of Mary as the Mother of God, reminds us that she, more than anyone else, has received the Lord’s blessing by giving a human face to the eternal God.

At Jesus’ birth, he and his mother Mary “were together, just as they were together at Calvary, because Christ and his mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother,” the Pope observed.

Mary is capable of being so close to her son due to the knowledge of heart and faith that she received from him, as well as her experience of motherhood and her openness to allowing God to enter into her own plans, the pontiff noted.

“She is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that fullness of time…that is why Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother,” he said, reiterating that it is not possible to understand Jesus without the Church either, “because the Church and Mary always go together.”

By giving us Jesus, the Church offers humanity the fullness of God’s eternal blessing, he said, noting that Mary is the “first and most perfect” disciple of Christ, and is the one who opens the path to receive the Church’s motherhood.

Mary is the model of the pilgrim Church and is the one who sustains the Church in her maternal mission, he observed, noting that her “tactful witness” has accompanied the Church since its beginnings.

“She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people,” the pontiff said, and prayed that Mary would obtain the Lord’s blessing for all of humanity.

Pope Francis then noted how Jan. 1, in addition to the Marian solemnity, also marks the World Day of Peace, which this year holds the theme: “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.”

He prayed that the Lord would generate peace in individual hearts, within families and among nations, and called on each person, according to their capabilities, to combat modern forms of slavery and foster solidarity with the help of Jesus, who became our servant.

The Roman Pontiff concluded his homily by drawing attention to a statue of Mary and the child Jesus at the side of the altar, and noted how her title as “Holy Mother of God” dates back the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.

“What a beautiful greeting for our mother,” he said, and invited the congregation to join him in standing and honoring her by reciting aloud the title “Mary, Holy Mother of God” three times.

Homily for Today

The glory of God has shined upon us. For "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." [Eph. 3:6] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates Epiphany Sunday.

According to the New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, the word "Epiphany" had its origin from the Greek word "epiphaino." "Epi" signifies "upon," "phaino" signifying "show." Combined, these words means "to show upon." This Feast, usually celebrated on January 6 th, commemorates the manifestation of the glory of Christ that was shown upon the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, as well as His Baptism and the first miracle at Cana. Originating in the Eastern Church in the 3 rd century, it soon spread to the West, where it is now commemorated especially for the apparition to the Magi. In England and many European countries it is popularly known as Twelfth Night (after Christmas) and is the occasion for the revival of numerous quaint customs.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 60:1-6] was the beginning of three Chapters of prophecies that provided a lyrical description of the new Jerusalem. In the new Jerusalem, the glory of God would be seen, not only upon the Jewish nation, but also upon the Gentiles. This truth is made very obvious in the last verse where it states, "They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." [Is. 60:1-6] As the Gospel of Matthew affirms, "wise men (magi) from the East came to Jerusalem" [Mt. 2:1] and offered baby Jesus "gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." [Mt. 2:11]

Have you ever wondered why the three magi offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Surely, they could have offered something more valuable such as diamonds, platinum and gold. Now that has value! Obviously, it was not the goal of the three magi to offer baby Jesus valuable items. Their goal was to offer symbolic items. Gold was a gift that was fit for a King. The magi did not perceive Jesus as their equal but rather as their King. Frankincense was a gift fit for a priest. The magi perceived Jesus to be a priest, one who is an advocate between God and man. Myrrh was used to embalm the dead. While the magi perceived that Jesus was their King and a priest, they also perceived that He would die for the salvation of mankind.

As the Holy Scriptures reveal to us, indeed nations have come to the Light of Jerusalem. In the early life of the Lord Jesus, at the brightness of the dawn, kings came to adore Him. The visit of the wise men, as the visit of the shepherds, was followed by millions of spiritual sons and daughters of God who have sought out the pure Truth that is found in the Lord Jesus.

The new Jerusalem, the invisible Body of Christ, had its beginning in the City of Jerusalem. Lk. 24:33, 47; Acts 1:4] It is made visible through the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that was personally instituted by Christ Himself. Both, the new Jerusalem and the Holy Catholic Church constitute the mystical Body of Christ that unites the angels and the saints of Heaven and earth.

As The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians [Eph. 3:2-3, 5-6] made known to us today, prior to the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the salvation of the Gentiles had remained a mystery. While this truth was prophesied in the Old Testament, it appears that God's people had been blind to it until such time as the fullness of time had arrived. Now, by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, the mystery had been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets. Saint Paul was commissioned to make known to the world the grace of God that had descended upon the entire world. By the grace of God, we who are included among the Gentiles, "have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." [Eph. 3:6]

Today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 2:1-12] teaches us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of king Herod. History reveals to us that Herod the Great, a satellite king of Judea, reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. Based on this knowledge, contrary to what many believe, because of the timing related to the death of king Herod, Jesus had to be born at least 4 years earlier than established by the present calendar.

Frequently, the wise men are referred to as "magi." This singular tense of the word, tangus is a term that was used in those days to mean any one skilled in occult knowledge and power. Because Matthew mentioned that the magi observed the star rising, [Mt. 2:2] this supports that they had knowledge of astrology. Another factor to consider is that they came from the East. This implies that they came from Mesopotamia, the home of astrology in the Hellenistic world.

The record of the magi, like the genealogy of Jesus, [Mt. 1:1-17] confirms that Jesus was the promised King and Messiah. For it is a King that the magi were seeking to worship.

When king Herod heard that a King was to be born among the Jewish people, he panicked and called together all the chief priests and scribes. He panicked because he was afraid to lose his throne. After consulting the chief priests and scribes, king Herod learned that it has been prophesied that the King would be born in Bethlehem, the land of Judea. [Mic. 5:1-5] Bethlehem of Judea was the birth place of king David.

Next, we heard that king Herod told the wise men to continue their journey and when they find the Child Jesus, to report back to him so he too can go and pay homage to the King of the Jewish people. As we know, king Herod had no intention whatsoever of paying homage to the Child Jesus.

And so the magi continued on their journey. The next thing we heard during the reading from the Holy Bible is that the star led them, not only to the town, but also to the house where Jesus dwelled. When the guiding star stopped over the house, the magi were overwhelmed with joy.

As the story of Christmas tell us, when the magi found the house, they entered it and found the Child Jesus with Mary His mother. They knelt before Jesus and presented Him with gifts of "gold, frankincense and myrrh" [Mat. 2:11] as prophesied in the Old Testament. [Ps. 72:10; Is. 60:6]

This reading highlights two important truths. First of all, it reveals the royal messiahship of Jesus to us. Secondly, it tells us that we as Gentiles are also called to adore the Lord Jesus as the magi have done.

As fellow heirs to the Kingdom of God, we are called to always be faithful to the first commandment of God, "I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before Me." [Ex. 20:2] When we have one God, we are loyal to Him. But if we have two masters, we cannot serve both. We will "be devoted to one and despise the other." [Mt. 6:24] "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." [Rom. 8:5]

As we enter the new year, this provides us with a great opportunity to review our status before God. Are we faithful to God or do we have other gods? Are we preoccupied with pride, having elevated ourselves above God? Is there an obsession with food in our lives? Is there an obsession with wealth to the extend of having become uncharitable towards others?

Are some of us over-weighted and exposing ourselves to medical conditions that can affect our proper functioning in society? Is there an addiction to illegal drugs, prescribed medications or alcohol? Is our faith place in astrology, Bingos, VLT's, Casinos or other forms of gambling? All of these bad habits are detrimental to our spiritual growth, alienating us from the true God, the Lord Jesus.

As the Magi knew the true God, let us also remind ourselves of this truth. With the beginning of a new year, now is the time to make a resolution to overcome one of our bad habits. Naturally, we cannot do it alone. By the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, we can overcome all ailments that impede our spiritual growth.

Today, yes today, not tomorrow, let us review our spiritual needs and commit ourselves to overcoming one of our weaknesses so the glory of God may shine through us more effectively. May the grace of God strengthen each and everyone of you in the days, the weeks and the months to come.