Tag Archives: Jesus

‘Tis the season to be jolly!

Santa Claus

It’s Christmas again!

Would you believe that? Where did all the time go? It feels like it’s only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas. Last year’s Christmas is still so fresh in my mind. I’ve been so busy all year round that now I feel like I haven’t prepared enough for tomorrow.

One thing I learned is that Christmas is not just a day. It’s a season. So it’s never about 25th December only. It’s composed of the days preceding the material day and even the days after. Up until last week Wednesday I was busy revising for exams and honestly I feel like I need more time to get myself in the Christmassy mood.

Looking around me I see Christmas decorations, on the streets, and even in my house. But truth is, I really don’t feel this Christmas. However, deep down I know it’s not just reading for exams that has deprived me off of the Christmas cheer, it’s been some of the things going on in my family; the depressing stuff. So now it’s Christmas and I feel unprepared.

From my own experiences, I’ll keep reiterating, Christmas is not just about giving gifts and travelling to all the fancy places in the world; it’s about spending time with our loved ones, making them feel cherished; just spreading some cheer. It’s true what they say; ‘the best things in life are free’.

Putting a smile on another person’s face need not cost a single dime. Sometimes it’s about dedicating a few minutes of our time to those who need us; using our God-given talents to cheer others up. So now that it will be Christmas day in just a few hours, we still have time to put smiles on people’s faces. We have time to let go off the grudges we’ve been holding, and to forgive those who may have wronged us in whatever way.

If there’s something you can do to make another person happy, do it. You’d be surprised what doing good does to our souls. It livens us up in ways so unimaginable. And what better time to do it than now? It’s Christmas y’all.

Listen to all Christmas carols as is humanly possible because we only get to listen to them once every year; and that time is now. And while you’re at it, have the merriest of Christmases. 🙂

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAVE A HAPPY & PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR 2016!

christmas tree

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What will people think about me?

Saint Joseph

Whom to please, God or man?

How many times have you found yourself conflicted about whom to please? To please God, or to do all you can to please fellow men. Many times most of us find ourselves at odds, especially when it’s something we feel we need to do so we can look cool; so we don’t lose credibility in our friends’ eyes, yet doing that precise thing would make us fall from God’s grace.

During this period, as we count down minutes to the birth of Christ, we get to learn from the story of a man, who is not celebrated a lot- he fades into the background once the star of the season (Jesus) comes to the scene; and not to mention His Blessed mother- a virgin, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to focus on the story of Joseph, Jesus’ father, because from him there’s so much to learn. As most of us are aware of, Joseph and Mary were Jews, and at the time Mary conceived, she and Joseph were not married. They were only engaged and had therefore not consummated their relationship.

Actually, at the time, so much would have gone wrong if God-forbid they had engaged in coitus before being married. For starters, Mary would probably have been stoned to death for engaging in sexual immorality. Now that brings me to Joseph. When Mary had that Immaculate Conception, he obviously knew the baby wasn’t his and he could have done what the men of this generation do without a tinge of remorse.

“He’s not mine!” Joseph would have denied vehemently, and unlike the guilty men who just bail on women they had been involved intimately with when they say they are pregnant, his denial would have been warranted. We, who have been enlightened about the story of Jesus of Nazareth, know Mary was a virgin when she conceived.

Joseph, however, did anything but. I’m thinking, if he was from this era we live in, he would have called Mary all those unholy names after making it clear that the baby she was expecting was not his. And maybe, just maybe, he would have called the authorities on her, given that they lived in a time when all these sexual shenanigans people from this era partake of so indiscreetly, would have cost them their lives.

But contrary to what would have been expected of a guy in his position, he accepted Mary. He didn’t care that maybe all those who knew the baby wasn’t his would have had him ostracized. The thing about most of us, is that we’re inherently afraid of being shunned by society, so whenever we feel like our actions might get us rejected by the larger society, we cower and do what will keep our relationships intact, caring less about what God will think of us.

Basically, if Joseph did what most us would have expected him to do, he wouldn’t have accepted Jesus because deep down he knew that was not his son. He would even have accused Mary of lying. I mean, just think, how often do women get pregnant by Immaculate Conception? It was just that one time; and Joseph believed it. He didn’t go all berserk, accusing her of whoring. God forbid!

Obviously, as the story goes, God intervened: Joseph contemplated breaking up with Mary but as he didn’t want to humiliate her in public, he planned on doing it in private; however, when he was asleep an angel of god appeared to him, asking him not to break the engagement as she had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child would save mankind from sin. (Matthew 1:18-24)

But then again, how many times does the Holy Spirit speak to us and we blatantly ignore? I would say, severally. Joseph, however, listened to the voice of God, and accepted that Mary had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, and he unquestioningly, agreed to become the father of Jesus.

Joseph didn’t do what he thought would save him from people’s derision; he chose to follow the will of God. Now, years later, we talk about him, awed by his submission to the will of God. Chances are if he had acted in fear-fear of being rejected by society-he would have disobeyed God and by so doing, he would have earned God’s wrath, instead of blessings.

Prayer to St. Joseph

We have so much to learn from that. Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, where we’re not sure whether to follow God’s will and be shunned by society or do good in people’s eyes but displease God in the process, we should take comfort in Joseph’s story. Following the will of God will always earn us blessings.

Knowing how much pressure people find themselves subjected to whenever they have to make some very conflicting choices, it’s not hard to understand why, or even how people end up making choices that make them fall from God’s grace. We shouldn’t get discouraged though. These problems we face are not unique to us. They happened before and as it is, Joseph’s story should encourage us all.

The question to ask is not, “What will people think about me?” but rather, “What will God think about me?”

It’s better to be at war with all of society and be at peace with God, than be loved by all of humanity but lose favour in the eyes of God.

And because tomorrow is Christmas, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. May the new Christ child be born in our hearts.

Christmas

 

Of temptations and Lent

Jesus in the wilderness

“We’re all in the desert”. Those were the priest’s words during mass as we celebrated the first Sunday of lent. Today’s gospel was on Jesus’ stay in the desert for forty days and nights (Mark 1: 12-15). In the olden ‘Biblical’ days, it was believed that demons resided in the desert.

Ergo, when Jesus went to the desert, He put Himself at ‘a risk’…not that the demons would have done anything to Him, no matter how desperately they desired it. However, that just goes to show the magnitude of His suffering for those forty days He stayed there. I’m imagining it was like head-to-head; with every demon giving it their best shot so they could brag they’re the ones who annihilated the Son of the Almighty God.

Satan, the father of all evil, tempted Him but Jesus remain steadfast; his faith unwavering, as He prepared Himself for the excruciating pain He knew lay ahead of Him during His passion. Based on what we read in the bible, He wouldn’t have wished such agonizing pain upon His own self, but only agreed to it as that was His Father’s will. Forty days later He was out of the desert, having triumphed over Satan.

In the Genesis story of how Lucifer – a once hallowed angel- came to be the father of all evil, we’re told that He wanted to have the same power as God. Subsequently, God kicked Him out of Heaven and damned him to hell – the eternal pit of fire.

Angry and vengeful, Lucifer waged war against God, promising to turn the same men He’d created in His own image against Him. With that he set up camp on earth, determined to live up to his threat. From then on, temptations became the order of the day as he tried to win more and more souls for himself and slowly, the world became full of evil as brother turned against brother, shedding blood callously… and the rest, as they say, is history.

This, I believe, is what the priest had in mind when he said we’re all living in a desert. Satan walks in our midst, doing his best so we can all sell our souls to him. More often than not, we find ourselves at crossroads, trying to choose between the real right decision that might not be the most pleasant or even easy to achieve and the easy decision which appears more appealing but which invariably turns out to be another one of Satan’s numerous traps.

For instance, someone’s marriage is on the rocks. Right when they are in the middle of that crisis, another person comes along promising them the moon. So instead of working on the breaking marriage, which might actually turn out to be the best decision in the end, one opts to get into a secret affair with the ‘stranger’.

Eventually, one learns first hand that ‘it’s better the demon you know than the angel you don’t’, when everything with the ‘stranger’ moves from rosy to disastrous. It’s all part of the devil’s schemes to get back at God; problem is, were the ones caught in between; and he strikes when we’re most vulnerable.

The painful fact is that for as long as the earth rotates in its axis, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there will always be temptations; moreover, based on the strength of our faith, chances are we will fall sometimes.

We may not be in a situation to help it but there’s a solution; to pray without ceasing. Lent is that time of the year when we’re called to reflect on our actions – what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do – and how all that affects our relationship with God.

Mostly, we fall into temptations because of the problems we encounter in our lives. If we’re going through a difficult phase in our lives, the bible tells us to pray, believe that God has heard our prayers and then wait patiently without worrying.

Not worrying, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts is easier said than done, but once we get into the habit of entrusting God with those ‘impossible’ problems, we will realize the benefits that come with it. We will wade through those murky waters and come out victorious, just like Jesus did.

So don’t forget; the secret really, is to pray, pray and pray some more. Additionally, the pillars of lent, are prayer, fasting and alms giving –helping those in need; and as I’ve said before, anyone – irrespective of faith/religion- can take this Lenten season as a period to reflect, and to see what they can do to be better than they were yesterday.

 

Blessings hidden in our crosses

Accepting our crosses

A Christian’s life is basically filled with suffering and tribulations. Jesus suffered too, ergo as His followers, our own suffering doesn’t come as a surprise. He set the precedent for us so we wouldn’t find it unusual or even unfair; He personally showed us how to persevere even when the crosses feel unbearably heavy.

Sometimes, it happens that when we can’t deal with those problems we start running away from them. That however, is not the right way to handle difficult situations. Problems are meant to be tackled and as it is, those sufferings are not meant to weaken us. They are meant to strengthen us. In those crosses lie massive blessings. So if we’re to uncover those blessings, we need to work hard, handling those crosses right.

Countless faithful have been known to abandon their faith when the going gets too tough. But a Christian’s life is about perseverance. Life in general is all about perseverance. If one was to take a close look at people who have made it big in life, they didn’t have it easy. Most have gone through so much agony to be successful.

The good thing is, when one perseveres, the victory feels even greater. Instead of running away from those crosses, we should embrace them and take them to God, so He can help us deal with them. He listens to all our problems. One thing I keep reiterating is, God works at His own appointed time.

If He is not granting us our wishes, it is not because He is not listening, but because He knows there is a better time to fulfil those prayers; and the best part is, His timing is always right. Difficult situations could make us sceptical-even I, get sceptical at times-but that is the absolute truth.

When God allows crosses like sicknesses to torment us, He doesn’t allow it because He wants us to suffer; on the contrary, He allows it because He knows we have so much to gain from it. Sometimes when those crosses feel unbearably heavy, we imagine God is punishing us. But again, that is not the case. He is a merciful God, and no matter how many times we wrong, He is ever willing to forgive us.

If you’re going through something difficult right now, it’s not a punishment. What’s more, there are many blessings contained in those crosses. If you trust God enough and remain patient, He will reveal it all to you in due time.

Before Jesus died on the cross He said, “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, but yours, however, but your will be done.” (Luke 22: 42). He didn’t want to go through what had been prophesied because He knew it would be so painful, but because He knew it was His Father’s will, He accepted it.

Instead of despairing, when in great anguish He prayed more fervently.

That’s the spirit we need to embrace; to accept the crosses which come our way, because like with Jesus’ suffering, there is victory in our own suffering. His death on the cross was not for naught; He saved all of mankind, by paying the ultimate price. If He didn’t accept that cross, He wouldn’t have had anything to triumph over. But because He persevered, we still sing His praises centuries after He resurrected.

Such will be our victory, if we hold on. If we take those crosses to God and ask Him to help us with them instead of running from them. We need to remember, there are blessings hidden in those crosses. We should think of the problems as a treasure hunt. During the search one encounters many difficulties, but then, finding the treasure makes all the suffering worth it. besides, nothing good comes easy, right?

Lord, You have deceived me

Jesus carrying cross

Lord you have deceived me,
And I was deceived
You are stronger than I am,
And you have overpowered me.
Everyone makes fun of me;
They laugh at me all day long.

Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout,
“Violence! Destruction!”
Lord I am ridiculed and scorned all the time
Because I proclaim your message.

But when I say, “I will forget the Lord
And no longer speak in His name,”
Then your message is like a fire burning deep within me.
I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back.

I hear everybody whispering,
“Terror is everywhere!
So let’s report him to the authorities!”
Even my close friends wait for my downfall.
“Perhaps he can be tricked,” they say,
“then we can catch him and get revenge.”

But you, Lord, are on my side,
Strong and mighty, and those who persecute me will fail.
They will be disgraced forever, because they cannot succeed
Their disgrace will never be forgotten.

But Almighty Lord, You test men justly;
You know what is in their hands and minds.
So let me see you take revenge on my enemies,
For I have placed my cause in your hands.

Sing to the Lord!
Praise to the Lord!
He rescues the oppressed
From the power of evil men
Curse the day I was born!
Forget the day my mother gave me birth!

Curse the man, who made my father glad,
When he brought him the news,
“It’s a boy! You have a son!”
May he be like those cities
That the Lord destroyed without mercy.

May he hear cries of pain in the morning,
And the battle alarm at noon,
Because he didn’t kill me before I was born.
Then my mother’s womb would have been my grave.

Why was I born?
Was it only to have trouble and sorrow,
To end my life in disgrace? (Jeremiah 20:7-18).

Jeremiah was a prophet chosen by God, even though at first he was reluctant to accept the calling, citing youth (Jeremiah 1: 4-18). He lived during the latter part of the seventh century B.C. and the first part of the sixth century. During his long ministry he warned God’s people of the misfortune that was to fall upon the nation because of their idolatry and sin.

He was a sensitive man, who loved his people profoundly and who hated to pronounce judgement upon them. But as he says in the lamentation above, the word of the Lord was like a fire in his heart, which he couldn’t suppress, no matter how much he tried.

At one point in life each believer feels the same way; when they feel like their belief in God is being questioned, especially if something is not going right and others just can’t seem to understand why one would still believe in Him when everything around shows He is manifestly unreliable.

Sometimes remaining faithful to God feels difficult when the people we interact everyday don’t support us; because truth is, it is difficult trying to remain strong in faith when everyone else is a cynic.

“Why do you still believe in God?” A sceptic asks. “He is not real.”

“He is real,” a believer argues.

“Where was he when I lost my job? Or when I got kicked out of my house by the landlord because I couldn’t afford the rent? Where was he?” The sceptic questions.

When confronted with such scepticism, a believer tries to answer all those questions in a way that will help the doubter understand God is real and His intention isn’t for people to just suffer futilely. But what happens when that faith is the sole cause of one’s misery?

What if someone told you, who believes in God strongly, all the problems you have would cease if you did one little thing; if you denounced God? That if you stopped believing in Him, all those who hate you will love you and you will be popular. Would you do it?

That is the kind of life Jeremiah lived. His life was particularly difficult because he continued to believe in God, when those around him were opposed to it.

Suffering is part of a Christian’s life. Jesus suffered in the hands of men before He was eventually nailed on the cross and from His Passion, we’re reminded to persevere when we find ourselves enshrouded in misery.

When He was calling His disciples He told them, “If anyone wants to come with me he must forget himself, take up his cross everyday, and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23) He wanted them to know being His followers wouldn’t be an easy thing. They would be persecuted and killed for believing in Him.

Just like the Martins sang, He didn’t promise we wouldn’t suffer; but He promised to always be there; to see us through the storm. Believing in God doesn’t mean one has it easy; it only means one goes through each day fighting, hoping God will make it all fine. So don’t feel deceived if you pray every day and life still feels unbearable.

In the world we live in today, people are guided by the ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ mantra. So if Jeremiah lived in this century, he would have denounced God-hypothetically- just so he could be happy. That mantra however, as seen from Jeremiah’s life experiences, is not the attitude a Christian should adopt. If you can’t beat them, keep trying until you finally succeed.

It’s only by being persistent that we pass tests, and from that triumph we get testimonies. So whatever your situation in life, don’t give up; and don’t give in to pressure. Do what’s right, and God, the faithful Lord He is, will grant you that victory.

What type of soil am I?

parable of the sower

“Once there was a man who went out to sow grain. As He scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it burned the young plants; and because the roots hadn’t grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up.

Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and chocked the plants. But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants bore grain: some had one hundred grains, others sixty, and others thirty.”

And Jesus concluded, “Listen then, if you have ears!” (Matthew 13: 3-9)

The purpose of the parables

Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them. For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him the little he has.

The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them:

‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand;

They will look and look, but not see, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, their eyes would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’

As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. I assure you that many prophets and many of God’s people wanted to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.” (Matthew 13: 10-16).

Jesus explains the parable of the sower

“Listen then, and learn what the parable of the sower means. Those who hear the message about the message about the kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in them.

The seeds that fell on rocky ground stand for those who receive the message gladly as soon as they hear it. But it does not sink deep into them, and they don’t last long. So when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they give up at once.

The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear the message; but the worries about this life and the love for riches choke the message, and they don’t bear fruit.

And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as one hundred, others sixty, and others thirty.” (Matthew 13: 18-23).

Understanding the parable

In the parable, Jesus talked about the sower. He is the sower; the one who doesn’t choose or discriminate against anyone. He preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven to anyone who cares to listen. He even gives chances to those who might not even listen, and He does it tirelessly; without giving up.

The seeds on the other hand, are the gospel and we are the soil. Some of us are likened to the soil along the path, others to rocky ground, others to thorny bushes and others to good soil, depending on how we understand the gospel, and our faith in relation to it.

This parable used by Jesus helps us reflect on the kind of people we are. How strong is our faith?

“What type of soil am I?” This is the question we need to ask ourselves.

 

These men are drunk

Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious men who had come from every country in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because each one of them heard the believers talking in his native language. In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, “These people who are talking like this are Galileans! How is it then that we all hear them talking in our own native languages?” (Acts 2: 1-8).

Amazed and confused they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”

But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These men are drunk.” (Acts 2: 12-13).

Peter’s message

Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles (together with Matthias, who replaced Judas) and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd: “Fellow Jews, and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means. These are not drunk, as you can suppose; it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. Instead, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about:

‘This is what I will do in the last days, God says.

I will pour out my Spirit on everyone.

Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message;

Your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.

Yes, even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my spirit in those days, and they will proclaim my message.

I will perform miracles in the sky above, and wonders on the earth below.

There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke;

The sun will be darkened, and the moon will turn red as blood,

Before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.

And then, whoever calls up to the Lord for help will be saved.’

Listen to these words fellow Israelites! Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose divine authority was clearly proven to you by all the miracles and wonders which God performed through Him. You yourselves know this, for it happened here among you.

In accordance with His own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed Him by letting sinful men crucify Him. But God raised Him from death, setting Him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold Him prisoner.”

Significance of Pentecost

Sunday marked the 50th and last day of Easter. The word Pentecost’ is an English translation of the Greek word ‘pentekostos’, which means fifty. In the church it’s the commemoration of the day God poured His Holy Spirit down upon His first followers, and the day about three thousand new members were converted into the group.

Holy Spirit

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised His followers that He would send them a helper. On the day of Pentecost He fulfilled that promise. The Holy Spirit, as seen in the book of Acts, came down, and empowered the disciples to go out there and spread the gospel of the Lord.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to everyone for their particular service.

The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The same Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person He gives the power to heal.

The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not.

To one person He gives the ability speak in strange tongues, and to another He gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as He wishes, He gives a different gift to each person.

One body in Christ

Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it’s made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (Corinthians 12: 3-13).

Peter’s message on Pentecost to the people who had gathered (and what each one of us should reflect on) was, “Each one of you must turn away from his sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit.

For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away-all whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2: 38-39).