FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME GOSPEL MESSAGE
As a parable Jesus likened his followers to salt and light, which are so important for society, both for the benefit of individuals and for life in society. Jesus did not intend for his disciples to show their personal advantages over others. Jesus wanted to emphasize that anyone who wants to be His true disciple must always have and realize his identity or identity as taught, owned and done by Jesus Himself. The meaning of Jesus’ words: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”, to His disciples does not mean that they should primarily directly “salt” or “illuminate” others, because they feel and believe themselves as salt more “salty” or as light more “shining” than other people. What Jesus meant primarily is that we should always try to maintain and improve our original identity as followers of Christ. That is, living and acting according to the teachings and example of Jesus. Jesus’ words are: “Do not lose your identity as true Christians. If you live according to my life, which is like salt and light, then others will recognize you, your true identity”.
Today we are living in a society in a rapidly changing world. There is much that is good, but there is also much that is not good, so it is as if in many places Christians can be swept away by the flood of bad elements in society, barely escaping. Our religious teachings and beliefs can easily be pushed aside by the views, attitudes, styles and actions of many people who consider themselves modern. In fact, many of their views and movements of modernity are contrary to true human values (humanism), let alone against the essence of authentic Christian teachings!
Now, in the face of such changes in society, Christians must continue to behave, live and act according to the teachings and example of Christ, who was not influenced by anything or anyone in His time, whether it was the scribes, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the council or the Roman government. The Jesus Christ that we follow, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is one and the same. This is what Jesus asks of His disciples: that they do not lose their identity as true disciples of Jesus. Salt must remain salt, and light remains light! Even though the situation and living conditions of Christians in past societies are not the same as today, the salt and light of Jesus’ teachings and example must not differ or diminish.
Jesus did not speak and act in society by appearing as an extraordinary figure with a flashy style as a “big man”, but rather, he simply addressed the poor people. He appeared as a man of mercy. But in His appearance and in His simple words, Jesus was known for who He really was. Jesus was known for His identity: He is the merciful Savior. Jesus wants us to live and act as salt and light, meaning: we must behave, live and act with our identity according to the example of Jesus’ identity.
Father Wifridus Ngalla, cicm
4th Ordinary Sunday Gospel Message
Jesus calls His disciples to a faith that is based on complete trust in God’s infinite love and grace. Six hundred years earlier, Jeremiah spoke of such faith when he wrote, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, who puts his hope in the LORD; he will be like a tree planted by the waters, whose roots go down to the water’s edge, who does not experience the heat, whose leaves remain green, who does not worry in a dry year, who does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Many Jews overlooked Jeremiah’s words and saw material possessions, a good wife/husband, good health, many children, and faithful friends as evidence of God’s blessings. But in the Beatitudes Jesus does not proclaim success or wealth as a blessing. Instead, he highlights those who are poor, hungry, weeping, despised and persecuted as blessed. These are the ones who rely on God’s love and Jesus promises that they will gain life with God and enjoy true peace and joy.
Jesus said that the blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who are gentle to others, who mourn and long for God, who passionately fight for justice, who show mercy to others, who have a pure heart, who bring peace to our lives, who are persecuted and abused but still hold on to their faith in God.
Jesus believed that selfishness does not bring blessings. We are called to be aware of the needs of others and help them with a loving heart and abundant gratitude.
So, true Catholics are poor in spirit, who realize that they are nothing without God. They grieve if they drift away from God.
True Catholics are those who strive to love others the way God loves them.
True Catholics are those who have faith that in the experience of deep sorrow, God’s love never leaves them, and that God has the power to bring healing and enable them to love God and others.
True Catholics are those who share Jesus’ passion and willingness to fight for justice for the underprivileged, disadvantaged, and marginalized. They have a passion to fight for justice and their hearts ache to witness the suffering of refugees, the poor and those who have lost hope of survival.
True Catholics are those who are aware of their weaknesses and sins yet trust in God’s mercy. After experiencing the power of God’s forgiving love, they grow into individuals who are compassionate towards others. True Catholics are those who have a pure heart and do things with the right intentions.
True Catholics are those who seek peace in every situation and do not say or do things that cause anger or disharmony in life together. They are peacemakers.
True Catholics are those who accept the trials and tribulations of life, without neglecting others and still trusting in God. They do not stop loving, forgiving, or caring for others, no matter what happens, even when they are suffering.
Being a true Catholic as Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount is not an easy task for us. There are many things that challenge us to strive for them in our daily lives. However, thanks to our partnership with Him, who always walks with us, we can.
Father Wifridus Ngalla, CICM
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Message
The gospel of Matthew that we heard today describes what Jesus did first after John the Baptist was arrested. Jesus may not have gotten away but rather returned to Galilee. He did not avoid, but instead entered danger, because Galilee was the territory of Herod Antipas who imprisoned John the Baptist. It was in Galilee that Jesus formed a new community that was exactly the opposite of the cruelty of the rulers of the economic snares of the tax collectors. Jesus freed them from this oppression and later used this group of disciples to change the world.
That is why Matthew links the coming of Jesus to Isaiah’s prophecy of a great light during a people who dwell in darkness. Indeed, Jesus was the light that so powerfully drew the disciples to be around him and do great things because of him. The only figure who brought so much life and later so many followers was Jesus. Later Luke describes an impressive historical event that after Jesus’ departure, these disciples truly influenced the world because of their shared faith.
When the world around us influences us to look good, what happens is that we create our own image according to the world’s expectations. We easily copy the style of famous people, giving the impression of being ideal and perfect in whatever we do. It’s a self-righteous, know-it-all mentality about everything, including spiritual matters and ministry. This mentality does not appeal to anyone! Ministry groups are often ruined by a few people who put themselves above others. As a result, these groups end up with fewer and fewer members. If that’s the case, how can you witness and attract new members? How can we fish for people when the light is shifted from Christ to ourselves? The church is losing its appeal to the world because some of its members lack self-knowledge.
Isaiah’s image of a great light shining in the darkness also seems to have disappeared from the Corinthians, as we hear in Paul’s letter. Paul rebuked the Corinthians, for there were divisions among them that were detrimental to the community. Some prided themselves on being Paulites, others on being Apollos or Cephas. They shifted the common ground of faith from Christ to certain people whom they admired. When Christ is no longer the only figure to listen to and follow, the community of faith will fade and eventually disappear.
We are all invited to realize that being together in faith with others is a form of testimony of faith desired by Christ. Our witness of faith is not only personal, but moreover communal, that is, as a community. The only attraction of our community is Jesus Christ. If our service through any group is sourced and centered on an intimate relationship with Christ, our faith togetherness will change this world for the better. We need to be brave enough to admit that sometimes we overvalue ourselves to the point that we discourage people from joining our ministries.
The witness of the faith community is not a stage. Let us serve together with others in simplicity, so that Christ alone will illuminate the world.
Father Wifridus Ngalla, CICM
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Humility is defined as “the virtue that expresses a spirit of deference.” In the gospel, John the Baptist showed humility through his witness to the Greater One. In our culture, a good witness gives first-hand information. We are consumed with the “facts.” But, in Jesus’ culture, a good witness had a good reputation. The quality of their witness depended upon the quality of their character. John placed his reputation, his character, and his very life at the service of his witness. His willingness to defer, to be humble, made John’s witness all the more powerful.
What was John the Baptist’s witness? A command and a statement. The command was “LOOK!” The statement described the object of the command: the “Lamb of God,” the one taking away the sin of the world. [1:29] In early Christian communities, the Lamb had two symbolic meanings. For those who saw darkness in the end times (like John the Baptist), the Lamb of God symbolized the victorious Warrior-Judge who would destroy the evil in the world （Rev 17:14). But for others (like John the Evangelist), the Lamb of God was the instrument (the Passover sacrifice) through which God would forgive the world’s transgressions (Jh19:14,33,36). The tension between these two meanings has become part of tradition. Even today, some see Christ as the Judge who condemns the world at the end of time. Others focus upon the loving mercy the risen Christ shows to sinners.
As the Sacrament of Christ’s death and resurrection, Baptism is the primary means to receive God’s Spirit. In Baptism, we enter the water. In doing so, we take part in Christ’s death and our death to the self (Original Sin). When we rise from the water, we partake in Christ’s resurrection and his new life (the Spirit). Sharing in his Spirit enables us to live out God’s will. Because we take part in Christ’s death and resurrection in Baptism, this sacrament not only takes away our individual transgressions, but also “washes away” the effects of the world’s selfishness, Original Sin. In Baptism, we become one with the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Baptism is the sacrament of life in the Spirit, a life of deference to God. Who has shown you a live lived in deference to God’s will? How has that person inspired you to do the same?
John the Baptist lived his life in deference to the One God would point out. He lived most of that life in ignorance of the final outcome, but in hope God would make that outcome plain. His life gives us a primary example of Christian humility, living in deference to God’s will. John was truly the humble witness.
This gospel shows us the two dimensions of humble witness, the sight of faith and the witness to God’s power. Where do you see God working in your life this week? Who have you told about God’s activity?
Fr. Wifridus Ngalla, CICM
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Gospel Message
In today’s Gospel, we read of Magi who, upon seeing a star shining in the sky, received a blessing from God and came looking for the newborn Messiah in the land of Israel. There must have been many people who saw the same star at that time, but not many who knew, grasped, and followed the meaning of the star as a sign of the birth of Christ. It is a simple image that teaches us that to see and find God requires sensitivity to His grace and effort to seek Him. The Magi who saw the star traveled for weeks through the desert in search of the birth of the Messiah, as indicated by the star.
Many Jews did not know that their king had been born, but these Magi from a distant land recognized Christ as their king and worshipped Him. The Magi represent the Gentiles who would later accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Yes, they represent all of us who now believe in Christ. If we truly want to follow Christ, we do not need to worry about what others think, nor do we need to fear that we will be considered extreme because we do not follow the trends of the world. Our Christian mission is not an easy one, and it may even involve sacrifice, but we know that at the end of our struggle there will be God’s light.
Is not our life a journey toward Christ? And through Christ, do we come to God the Father? Then our life is a kind of journey in which we must walk with the light of faith. We do not have to rely on our own abilities to find Him. Christ gave us the Church, guiding us through His teachings and sacraments, so that we could encounter and be united with Him.He also gave us the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model of the Church, to lead us in this journey of life to Christ the Son.
We need to look to this star and always find Christ. May we too experience the joy of finding Him, and may we go to Him with the highest offering of gold, the prayer offering of frankincense, and the sacrifice of myrrh. On this Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Divine One allows the unfamiliar to gaze upon Him. Those who diligently seek the Lord will see His glory, which is difficult for ordinary people to see. Deep joy becomes a tangible fruit when we can feel and see the presence of God. God is always near to us. It is up to us whether or not we can recognize the signs that God is trying to tell us. After finding Christ, let us also remember that our mission is to proclaim Christ, especially to those who do not know Him.
Father Wifridus Ngalla, CICM