From Pastor's Desk
From Pastor's Desk
Sunday, March 26th, 2023 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Ezequiel 37:12-14, Psalm 130 “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption ”, Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45
My dear brothers and sisters, when someone we love dies, we become aware of a large absence in our life. In today’s Gospel we hear how the death of Lazarus leaves a large absence in the lives of those who loved him. By the time Jesus arrives Lazarus is already dead, and Martha voices her regret: if Jesus had been here with them earlier, things would surely have turned out differently. But Jesus’s absence is essential to the story. John tells us at the beginning of his account that through the death of Lazarus the Son of God will be glorified. Just as the blindness of the man in last week’ Gospel served as the occasion to show Jesus as the light, so the death of Lazarus will serve to show Jesus as the life.
Who Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, he will show her that he means now: “I am the resurrection and the life.” So the death of Lazarus does not mean that it is too late for Jesus to be his life. In a loud voice Jesus calls to the dead: “Lazarus, Come out!” The great miracle is that while he is dead Lazarus hears the word of Jesus and obeys it. Hearing the voice of the Son of God, Lazarus lives again. When Lazarus comes forth he is still wearing the clothes of a dead man. He is still enshrouded. Jesus now addresses the community: “Unbind him; let him go free.” In obeying the word of Jesus the community plays its part in helping Lazarus unwind and emerge into the light of his new life.
The story of the raising of Lazarus proclaims the great truth that Jesus is Lord of life. He has power to call us out of our tombs- for the Christian life only begins when we, Ben though we are dead, hear the word of God and obey it. We know from experience that we don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. E can be dead in the midst of life- hoping for a word and a community that will put us together again. The voice of Jesus calls us all from making the tomb our natural habitat. It also challenges us to take responsibility for our brother who, like Lazarus, is loved by Jesus. If we see someone buried alive we are invited to do as Jesus and the community do in the Gospel: call them, and help them go free. If we do that as part of our Lenten task, then the resurrection at Easter won’t come as too much of a surprise. May the grace of God be with us, amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, March 19th, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is traditionally called Laetare Sunday from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her”. This Sunday speaks to us of joy, because as we journey to the Calvary with Jesus this Lent, we are reminded that the moment of our redemption is coming closer. Joy has a spiritual origin, arising from a heart that loves and feels itself loved by God. Today, rose-colored vestments are permitted in place of purple. In this way the church reminds us that joy is perfectly compatible with mortification and pain. It is sinless and not penance which is opposed to happiness.
In the first reading, the prophet Samuel was sent by God to Jesse to anoint one of his eight sons as the future King. As Samuel arrives, Jesse presents seven of his sons to the prophet. It did not occur to him that his youngest son might be the chosen one. Samuel in a similar way was impressed by the eldest son and seeing his great height thought he would be God’s choice. But he was wrong. They forgot that “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” The Lord saw in David something more than meets the eye. And as Christian, St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “we walk by faith and not by sight”.
In the gospel, Jesus saw the need of the man born blind; that he wanted to be healed. The irony of the story is that the man born blind recognized Jesus as the messiah while the religious leaders failed to see. But this man’s journey to recovery of sight is of great importance to us. Jesus made clay with his saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”. Jesus demonstrated his love for this man by healing him. He united deed and a word-command, but leaving it to the blind man to make the final decision to obey his word. Jesus’ action and word would remain unfruitful if this man would refuse to go and wash. He obeyed the command and his sight was restored. Instead of his healing arousing in the heart his parents, neighbors and the religious leaders joy and rejoicing; it causes interrogation, separation, division, rejection, anger, and fear. Why, because they refused to see the miracle and the person who healed him. Bless us Lord that we may see! In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, March 12th, 2023 – Third Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”, Romans 5:1- 2, 5-8, John 4:5-42
My dear brothers and sisters, we enter into the third week of Lent. Last week, we participated in our Lenten retreats with the theme “From the Cross to the Light”. As we look at the light, we are filled with hope. There is a type of hope that can help us momentarily and give us motivation to keep going. However, this hope runs out the moment we stop thinking about it. This type of situation is what the people of Israel experienced in the desert. Of course, the natural need for food naturally leads us to seek the means to achieve and satisfy hunger and thirst. But the message that the book of Exodus wants to communicate to us is deeper: complete trust in God. This confidence is different from the one we were referring to up to now; we can call it with the same name, hope, but the origin is God.
This hope is what we know best as a theological virtue; that is, it is a gift from God. The essential difference between the virtue of hope and the hope that we can manufacture is that we receive the former from God through grace. The second ends the moment we put it aside. Although the first, the hope of God, we can also deny it and we will become blind to it. It is in these moments that we begin to lose our entire trust in God and we can even tempt God, as the people of Israel did.
Our response should be like that of the woman at the well. Jesus waits for us at the well, even in the heat of midday, to draw us closer to Him. Just as the people of Israel approached Moses to ask for water, so we put ourselves at the feet of the Samaritan woman and approached the well with Jesus.
Hope is possible by the grace of God: the hope that He gives us, which is a firm confidence that God fulfills the promise of eternal life. All this comes from living water that becomes a spring capable of giving eternal life. This is God's hope. The firm conviction in eternal life for the gift we have received. This is our faith. And so we are invited to share that spring of charity with our neighbor today.
In this third week of Lent I would like to invite you to reflect on these as questions: ·
1.What hopes have I created that do not bring me satisfaction?
2.What moments remind me of experiencing the living water that Jesus Christ offers me?
3. And, with this information, what do I want to say to Jesus in my prayer today? May the grace of God be with you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, January 22, 2023 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3, Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation”, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17, Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
My dear brothers and sisters, Pope Francis instituted the third Sunday in Ordinary time as “Sunday of the word of God. We hear in today's readings what it is like to live without light and what it is like to pass from the darkness and shadows of life to the light that shines like the splendor of salvation.
The prophet Isaiah pro-claims, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” And then Saint Matthew, the evangelist presents the context from which Jesus' preaching emerges as an announcement of the coming of light: “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The two readings highlight how salvation is manifested and presented to us in history as a divine response to human reality. Darkness seems to dominate and reign in the existence of many people and the suffering may be impossible to escape. However, it is necessary to see the reality of the world’s situation from another perspective, with the eyes of faith.
The eyes of faith, open our hearts to the light of faith. This powerful light cannot come from ourselves; it comes from God. Faith is born from the encounter with the living God, who calls us and reveals his love to us, a love that precedes us and on which we can rely to be safe. The light of faith has everything to do with the goodness of God and our openness to receive his love and direct our lives through it. It is about entering into the divine light, because we have been invited to be in union with Christ, who is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”
For many people of the world, life is often surrounded by darkness and it is difficult to see a spiritual light that shines as a sign of hope. Living in the midst of the darkness of human suffering and facing the forces of death and sin, it is difficult to recognize and experience peace. In other words, they are not used to seeing the light when almost everything seems dark. Indeed, many people do not think about light, but ask the question, Where is God?
However, we will not find God if we think that he is not within history, if we think that he is not interested in human experience. God does not stray from the path of man and through Jesus Christ he has permanently approached humanity, because in the Incarnation, God has become human. It is a work that can only shine and illuminate the darkness of sin. It is about Jesus Christ, who is the divine light in person. May we experience his light and love, and our faith renewed as we encounter him in the Holy Scriptures.
May the Lord bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, November 27, 2022 – First Sunday of Advent - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122 “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord “, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24: 37-44
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this week we begin the season of Advent. It is a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Advent is the time when we remember that Jesus came into the world and that he also promised one day to return in all his glory.
Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope. The Word of God tells us that Jesus has not come just once. He comes and keeps coming, but are we ready to recognize him? The readings of this Sunday invite us to be vigilant, to keep our eyes wide open in order to discover and prepare the ways that Jesus has chosen to come and free us from what is not right in our lives. We are called upon in this season to get our personal life in order so that our special guest will be pleased, delighted, and feel welcomed.
The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel Reading assures us that there is hope of new life. Jesus warns us that it is very easy for us to be caught up in speculations or give way to despair. If we abandon ourselves to the cares and pleasures of this world, they will blind us and prevent us from seeing the coming of the Son of Man. We are exhorted to be vigilant and prayerful in such a way that we can make our way safely through the cosmic disorders. It is necessary to be disciplined in our behavior so that we can remain on the right path as we await the coming of the Lord.
We prepare for special visitors in special ways. We desire to delight them, help them to feel comfortable. We ask ourselves and perhaps others about what food they like and what activities would please them. These are visible signs of affection. Advent is precisely the time that the Church offers us to train ourselves to wait on the Lord. The Lord invites us in this season to raise our eyes and open our hearts to welcome him. We all de- sire a new world. We desire that the peace of Christ reigns in our world instead of war, poverty, injustice, cor- ruption and prejudices. The advent season helps us to focus on the journey toward the birth of Jesus who is the peace of the world and the manifestation of the love of God for all humanity. Just as his coming more than two thousand years ago changed human history, our hope is that each time we celebrate his birth, the earth will be renewed. Our participation in these efforts may be spiritual as we accompany the agents of peace with our prayers and love. It can also be through our personal efforts as we promote peace in our personal spheres of life. May the Advent season be for each one of us a true journey to encounter the Lord our Redeemer. May the Lord bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and f the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, August 14th, 2022 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C Readings: Jeremiah 38, 4-6. 8-10, Psalm 40 “Lord, come to my aid!”, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the gospel reading Jesus tells us that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” What did Jesus mean by fire? Fire is used in the Bible in many ways. Fire is used as a sign of purification- the prophet Isaiah recounts that “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,’ he said, 'now that this has touched your lips.' Your wickedness is removed, your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7). Fire also signifies God's presence and love. We can remember the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples like tongues of fire, showing them God's power and giving them the courage to go and bear witness to the gospel. Fire represents God's judgement on sinful people. We can recall the story of Sodom and Gomorrah whom God punished with fire.
Jesus was so filled with his experience of the Kingdom of God, that his heart was on fire to invite all people to experience the presence of God's love in their life. It called for purification from every burden and sin that clings to us. An invitation to experience the love of God and bring to people's notice the consequences of sins. “The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
When we are filled with that fire, we cannot but allow ourselves to be instruments of God's love, mercy and compassion in the world. Yes, it will come with some struggles. Jesus says, “a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father," It will also invite hatred, a feeling of abandonment and loneliness. Times when we will even question if we are doing the will of God, because we will go through the experience of the absence of God. But these challenges and struggles should encourage us to persevere. The second reading exhorts us that: "in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood”. Consider what Christ went through to save us. He was mocked, beaten, spat upon, imprisoned, wrongly treated, and crucified like a criminal but he remained faithful.
We are called to be faithful to the mission that God has entrusted to us, no matter how small, big, or challenging it might be. Let us never forget that it takes only a tiny spark to ignite a forest fire. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” May the Lord grant us an experience of that fire so that we can be true witnesses to the glory of his holy name.
In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, May 1st, 2022 – III Easter Sunday - Cycle C Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41, Psalm 30 “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me ”, Revelations 5:11-14, John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14
My dear friends, Jesus desires to ignite the faith of disciples and to restore their hope that his plan for them is still in place. At the call of Peter in Lk 5:1-11, he realized his unworthiness at the catch of fish, but Christ told him that he will be a fisher of men. This was a new life for him. Peter was privileged not just to be one of the twelve disciples but one of the three that formed the inner circle of Jesus (together with James and John). At the transfiguration, the healing of the daughter of Jairus, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter promised that he will even lay down his life for the Lord. But he denied him three times.
Today’s gospels help us to understand that this was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. But before this third appearance, Peter had reached a point where he felt like quitting. But Christ came and gave him three opportunities to renew his love and commitment to him.
My dear friends, in life, there are many things and experiences that can happen to us that will make us want to quit. Sickness, persecution, betrayal, temptation, fall, trial, repeated failure or sin. But we encounter a God who assures us that he is a God of new opportunity and grace.
Probably, earlier Peter had made the promise to die for the Lord, based on his own power and effort, but he recognized his weakness and inabilities and therefore his need to trust in the Lord who called him. Follow me. Know that the plans of God for you are still in place. The bible tells us that weeping may last a whole night but joy comes in the morning. Because we serve a living God, a loving and compassionate God. He calls you to follow, trust and give him praise even with your present situation. We celebrate Christ in his Word and in the Eucharist. We celebrate the Easter Good News, which transforms us, gives us hope, joy, love, unity, a sense of direction in carrying on the mission of the risen Lord in the world. May the Risen Lord fill us with Easter joy and hope.
Father Paschal Chester
Sunday, March 27, 2022 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - Cycle C Readings: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12, Psalm “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday gospel presents us the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a classic Lenten text as it sums up many of the main points of this graceful season. It is about a ‘turning around’, a home-coming. Reconciliation is the main focus as is relationship: it is a healing of the rift that was caused by the son’s selfishness. The Father’s gift of love to his son is extraordinary in the circumstances; it is without any conditions or punishment that we would normally expect. God will go to any length to bring the person back to a loving relationship with himself.
Though it is often called the ‘Prodigal Son’, it is rather the story of the Prodigal Father, who is outstanding in his generosity and compassion. It is the father who is the central figure in this story. Initially he seems unwise in giving his wealth to his younger son. We can easily relate to the behavior of the son who recklessly spends all on pleasure and self-indulgence. Through it all, the father merely waits and watches. Extraordinarily, he is never angry and never condemns. When the son finally ‘comes to his senses’, and humbly makes his way home, he is overwhelmed by his father’s love and affection. Nothing is too good to be home, he is overwhelmed by his father’s love and affection. Nothing is too good to be brought out to celebrate the return of the boy who “was dead and has come to life again”.
This is a picture of love and forgiveness that is not normally the way things work out. Normally when someone squanders all the family wealth in such a reckless way, the welcome is far from warm and there is a sense in which the person ‘deserves’ to be punished for such behavior. More than likely most of us would react like the elder son (the end of the story not quoted here). He was obedient, dutifully serving his father and, understandably, he feels strong resentment at the ‘soft’ treatment doled out to his brother - how dare the father act like this? It is simply not fair!
Lent reminds us of the unconditional nature of God’s love for us. Like the younger son, we don’t really deserve it. It is hard to believe and accept. No matter what kind of person I may be, no matter what I have done against God, against others, or against myself; God’s extraordinary love (called agape in Greek) for me is absolutely guaranteed. This is the essence of the Christian message and the basis of our hope and transformation. Love heals and reconciles, it forgives the past and opens up a new future. It is an opportunity for a new start and a new freedom. Remember, it is never too late for God who always invites, hopes, renews.
May the Lord bless us, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father Paschal Chester
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15, Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful”, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12, Luke 13:1-9
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in Lent, God invites us to change our ways. In the gospel Jesus shows us that his father is always calling us. Time is short; we should choose to follow him now. The first reading tells us about Moses who, when God called him, abandoned his own plans and accepted the Lord’s proposal to return to Egypt and liberate his people. The journey to freedom is long and hard. The children of Israel in the desert gave in to so many temptations. This happens to us even when we do choose to follow the Lord. This is the message of the second reading.
In his book “the Priesthood in union with Christ”, Fr Garrigor Lagrange, O.P devotes a section to the four ends of the sacrifice of the Mass. End in this sense means the four reasons why we offer the Sacrifice of the Mass: Adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and petition.
Through adoration, we put God our creator at the center of our worship. During Mass, we have an obligation to worship God and not ourselves. Whatever we do and whatever role we play should be to worship him and him alone. The second end of the mass is in thanksgiving to God for all his gifts and favors received. In our prayers, our songs, our ministry, and our offertory we offer a thanksgiving to God for all his favors. We do reparation for the sins committed against God in order to restore to God the glory he deserves which he has been deprived of by our sins. So our attitude should be that of reverence because we come to meet God to plead his mercy for ourselves and those who have divert-ed from the way of salvation, for their return to communion. The fourth end is to request divine help and all the graces necessary for salvation. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:10 “ I am what I am by the grace of God”. We need his grace to persevere and as we unite ourselves especially during the Holy Eucharist abundance of graces flows from the seat of mercy. May we entrust ourselves to the Lord as we journey together and may the Lord bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Father Paschal Chester
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