The fruit of humility is love

17th Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 9:30-37

The Rev. Fr. Leonard Oakes

 

Last Night’s September to remember Annual Fundraising dinner dance must have been the most entertaining night we’ve ever had. Everyone had fun and everyone went home satisfied.

The highlight of the night was the dance competition where a pair of best dancers will be awarded the first and only prize in the swing and cha-cha dance competition.

A couple of pairs took the stage and displayed their very best before the judges and the crowd. One of the pairs partner jumped into the lap of her partner and gestured a flying position which raised the crowd to their feet and shouted, “Bravo, Bravo!!”

Then out of nowhere, came a very familiar pair, Fr. Jureck Fernandez and Lito Parangan who displayed their manly position trying their best to display their winning performance amidst their stiff muscles. They even displayed a snobbish facial expression just to convince the judges.

After the dance, the three pairs were anxious about the result, all the more with Fr. Jureck and Lito (who were holding hands with a fervent prayer that they will win). After so much deep breathing exercises, the judges awarded the first prize to the pair whose partner jumped and gestured the flying position.

I overheard Fr. Jureck and Lito arguing with the judges still trying to convince them that they were the best. I approached them and asked, “What are you arguing about?” Unwilling to disclose their concealed feelings, I told them, “Had one of you jumped into the other’s lap and gestured your snobbish position, you would have won the prize.” They sadly said, “We’ll do next time.”

I was glad I didn’t get tempted with Deacon Jon Owens’s invitation to dance. We could have gotten all the judges votes. Please don’t wonder what dance position we could have displayed.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples were arguing about who is the greatest among them. Each must have boast to the other about his accomplishments.

There is an amusing fable about a smart dog who talked out his two friend-ducks to fly him from the north to the south. The dog prepared for the trip by tying the ends of a long, stout cord at its middle and the trio took off. The journey was going well until someone on the ground looked up and, marveling at the ingenuity, he shouted, “Hey, that’s terrific! Whose idea is it?” In his eagerness to grab the credit, the proud dog opened his mouth to say, “Mine!” letting go of his bite…Down he went to his demise.

In the Gospel, here was Jesus, their leader, on His last journey towards Jerusalem and death and all the disciples could discuss was who was going to be the greatest among them in heaven. After hearing this, Jesus must have wanted to pull out whatever hair He had left or kicking a stone out of frustration. Three years of teaching and loving them, and all they got out of it was this-nosy pride!

Time and time again, Jesus have told His disciples that the kingdom of heaven was not about seeking honor and glory and power for oneself, but it was about serving others. If they were prepared to serve others, then and only then could they have a top place in His kingdom. It is most likely the people in the top spots in heaven, if ever there is, will not be sitting in soft chairs sipping the drink of their choice. Most likely, they will be on their knees with a wash basin of water in one hand and a towel in the other, washing the feet of those whom they have been ignoring.

A lot of times we tend to ignore the very least in our society. Many of us tend to evaluate people in terms of the job they do. We tend to look up to doctors, lawyers, priests, bankers, etc. while we don’t exactly admire janitors, garbage collectors or used car dealers. That is both unfair and silly, isn’t it? All people are worthy of our respect, regardless of what they do for a living. After all, the human being is far more important than the job they have.

The part that fascinated me the most in this Gospel is the love of Christ to children.  “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Jesus reminded his disciples about the importance of children. They are the first group of people,  other than the seniors, who are most ignored in our society.

There’s a story about this whole family who went out to dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone got a menu, even the youngest, July, who was 7 years old. Since the conversation was an ‘adult’ one, July sat there ignored. When the waiter took their orders, he came to July last.

“Have you decided what to order young lady?” he asked. July answered, “I will have a Hawaiian Burger, a french fries and halo-halo”.

“No”, said her mother. “She will have a small salad with low fat dressing and chicken nuggets,”. “And milk to drink”, chimed in her father. The waiter looked at July and asked, “Would you like catsup or mustard on your burger”? She said, “Catsup with some fried onions on top please. Oh, and put a very small piece of lettuce on top to please my parents. Thank you very much”.

As the waiter walked away to place the order, July turned toward her family and said, “You know what? He thinks I am real”.

You may have heard the phrase, “Children should be seen but have no voice”? That phrase is demeaning because it shows kids to be of no or very little worth. And, that is just the opposite of how Jesus saw little children. He saw children as people-as real-who are to be loved and respected as much as any adult. Have you ever wondered why kids become rebellious? It is precisely because their needs are ignored. Jesus wants us to reflect upon the importance of our children and their needs met.

The Beauty of Holy Child and St. Martin is we honor and respect each other regardless of our nationality, age, work and family background. There are great miracles happening in this Church. People are blessed with how we welcome new people in our midst. People are blessed with the warmth and loving spirit that is around us.

I implore you all to continue to be humble in your service to each other because the fruit of humility is love. Let our light shine that people may see our good deeds and glorify God in heaven. That is the secret of good evangelism.

Let us continue to be a warm and welcoming community to everyone. Entertain them and treat them as angels from God. For whatever you have done to them, you have done it also to Jesus. Amen.

Diocesan Youth upcoming activities

Hear ye, hear ye, Holy Child and St. Martin Youth!!

2013-2014 Events:

September 21, Saturday, 10 am to 12 noon –  Second Poetry Workshop with Ruth Hoppin at HCSM Fellowship Hall.

 

October 4-5, 2013, Friday-Saturday – Nightwatch Night Walk at Grace Cathedral. Students Grades 9-12. Walk to the SF Night Ministry.

 

November 1-3, 2013, Respite Retreat at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Grades 6-12.

 

November 2, 2013, General Confirmation at Grace Cathedral.

 

January 20, 2014, Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service. (Feeding at the shelter)

 

February 14-16, 2014, Happening 31 at St. John’s Oakland.

 

April 25-26, 2014, Middle School Nightwatch at Grace Cathedral (6th – 8th Graders)

 

May 10, 2014, ECO-CONFIRMATION

 

July 9-13, Episcopal Youth Event (EYE), Philadelphia, PA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do people say that we are

Who do people say that we are?

Mark 8:27-38

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

In the Gospel of Mark 8:27-38, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Why is Jesus interested to know about what people say about him? Is he not aware that they know him to be the son of Joseph the carpenter? Others regard him as John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the Prophets? Jesus is aware that his disciples have gone through the villages and have gathered information about what people say about him.  Jesus has been away for a while and the people might have forgotten about him, thus he asked the question, “Who do people say that I am?

Jesus is trying to determine about what people say who he is and what his disciples think he is and try to correct them.

See, Jesus wanted to make sure that he won’t have an identity crisis not only from the people that surround him but also among his followers. He asked, “But who do you say that I am?”

There were two old friends who met each other after a long time. Unable to remember the identity of his old friend, one of them said: “Gosh, I haven’t seen you in years. I can’t seem to remember – was it you or was it your brother who died?”

If identity were a matter of what others say, then there can be a lot of mistaken identity. That is why Jesus goes on to ask: “But who do you say that I am?” True identity is found not on what others say for that is hearsay, but on what the person say.

Jesus points out today that true identity is what or who God says we are. Jesus praises Peter for his personal knowledge of Him, but rebukes him for objecting to His true identity to the Father as the Messiah who will have to be rejected and killed and rise again. The bottom line of identity is who or what God says.

The story is told about a priest who advised an old man to start thinking about the hereafter. To which the old man replied: “Father, I do that all the time. Wherever I am – in the kitchen, in the laundry, in the living room – I ask myself: Now what is it that I’m here after?” Indeed, what is it that we are after in this world and in our lives?

And so we ask ourselves, who are we and why are we here in this specific place. Did we just find ourselves here out of the sudden, or we were sent here for a reason? Is it enough that we come here or is there a specific reason why we are here and we should listen deeply to our callings and discern to follow them and begin to flourish and bloom the love of Christ that is within us?

The beauty of Holy Child and St. Martin Church is that we come from different culture, traditions and faith. We respect each other and strive to know each other better before and after the service. We take time to sit and make conversation with someone whom we don’t know much and begin knowing each other. We have the time to sit over a cup of tea or coffee and share our own struggles in life and there we find strength and support.

That’s how Holy Child and St. Martin is introduced to the world, a place of worship, a place where all faith can come together and a place where respect and true identity are shared.

I just learned lately that people are talking about the growing seed that’s happening at Holy Child and St. Martin when someone said to me, “Fr. Leonard, I heard about your wonderful health and wellness program and your mission to reach out to the uninsured and medically deprived members of the society in your area.” I asked, “And how did you learn about that?” She said, “Through your website and words of mouth from the community.” I further added that we are currently working with Seton Medical Center, New Haven Health and Hospice Care Inc, Clinic by the Bay and Rota Care of Daly City, in recruiting registered nurses who will volunteer their times to follow up patients in health education and medication management, and that we have opened our Health Clinic rooms for Free blood pressure checking, heart rate, lungs and weight monitoring with wonderful health professional volunteers every Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm and Monday at 8 am to 11 am.

Last Monday at our regular Monday Bread for the World ministry, we had someone new from the community who came in because she saw the sign, “Free bread, pastries and dance.” She did not only take bread for her family, she also helped us wrap bread and joined in the Dance exercise.

Haidee and I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with John and Heather Cooper at the Buon Gusto Italian restaurant last Thursday. John is the current Senior Warden of St. James Episcopal Church in Lincoln California. Heather is the treasurer and member of the Stewardship Committee of the Church. We shared about our common ministry to the church and the community. Just as we know about their programs, they too have learned about ours.

At yesterday’s retirement of Mrs. Myrna Villalon, some of her visitors visited me in my office and they said, “Fr. Leonard, we noticed the huge improvements inside and outside the church. We would love to be able to come by sometime at your Sunday service.” I shared with them about the miracle of the Santo Nino and the project of a stained glass window. I introduced them to St. Martin of tours, San Martin the Porres, the Senior De Los Milagros, San Isidro and Santa Maria Virgin Mulawin, and that this Church welcomes all faiths for there is only One God who is our Father.

Why am I saying these stories? It makes me wonder how people know about us and our programs from a sky view with that of how much do we, in our close view, know about our programs and the opportunities that are knocking in our mission to spread the love of God here and around us? I said that because, it is my hope that each one of us will feel the belongingness of every grace and ministry we are called to do and be a part of walking the talk.

Last Sunday, I shared about the gift of hearing and that we are blessed with open ears to hear the word of God and do them. I shared about the poetic song of Simon and Garfunkel where it says, “People hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never shared.”  I then challenged you to do something about the wonderful message you heard and start making a difference.

Well, let me tell you, last Friday night, Alona Garcia-Pailano took her two kids with her and started organizing the Children Sunday School room and I invite you to go see the miracle she has done. She is inviting others to come and help in the painting.

Desiree Alesna, stepped up to volunteer as a licensed Arthritis instructor and a licensed Taichi and Zumba instructor.

Romy and Amy Mijares stepped up as co-chairs of the Bread for the world program.

Fr. Jureck Fernandez also stepped up to chair the Acolyte trainings and organize the men’s group.

Ada Fernandez and Gloria Digno have signified to be part of the Lay Eucharistic Ministry (LEM).

Many others have stepped up to take part in the life and work of the Church. You see, each of us are beginning to shine in the love of God by letting others know about who we are and what we can do to spread the good news about the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ who is with us.

So I ask you today to look around you, what is it that you can do in your simple but humble ways to make the love of God in Jesus Christ be visible in this Church. Look at the person next to you or around you, How much do you know about that person or persons and how would you plan to share your story with that person trusting that such sharing is just between you and that person alone? I encourage you all to continue sharing the love of Christ, the Messiah, to be our guide in our togetherness in this wonderful place, Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City.

 

HAVE HEALTHCARE QUESTIONS?

HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2012

1:00 p. m. to 4:00 p. m.

HOLY CHILD & ST. MARTIN EPISCOPAL CHURCH

777 Southgate Avenue, Daly City, CA 94015

Tel: 650-991-1560  www.hcsmdalycity.org

Emergency tel #: 650-534-5831 Rev. Leonard Oakes  E-mail: RevLeonardOakes@gmail.com

HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS FROM PHYSICIANS FOR A NATIONAL HEALTH PROGRAM (PNHP) AND

HEALTHCARE FOR ALL (HCA) WILL PROVIDE INFORMATION AND ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (aka OBAMA CARE), UNIVERSAL SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE,

AND THE LOCAL GROUPS WORKING TOWARDS BETTER MEDICAL CARE FOR ALL

WE WILL BE SHOWING a MOVIE ABOUT THE HEALTCARE SYSTEM IN CANADA

HAVE HEALTHCARE QUESTIONS?

WE HAVE ANSWERS!

“Be opened, Be healed!!”

                                                      “Be opened, Be healed!”

Fr. Leonard Oakes

                                                               September 9, 2012

                                                              Mark 7:31-37

A story was told of an elderly gentleman who had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%. The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.” The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. Consequently, I’ve changed my will three times!”

In a very relative story, I visited one of our members at a care home last Friday. I remember before she moved to her new place, she was wearing a speaker aid for her hearing. I would speak through that speaker whenever I talk to her. Last Friday, at the new home, she told me that her family moved her to this new place because she doesn’t get the care she needed at that former home. She’s lonely and felt deprived. But most especially she hears her caregivers say bad words to her thinking that she can’t hear them. Too bad, they lost a very wonderful woman who cared for the rest of the residents.

The Gospel today talks about the miracle and gift of hearing, and there is no miracle which so beautifully shows Jesus’ way of treating people than that of the Gospel’s. When he came into the district of the Decapolis in the region of Galilee, they brought him a man who was deaf and who had impediment in his speech. Jesus shows his tender consideration for the weak by leading the deaf man away from the crowd so as not to embarrass him and I think that is the tenderest considerateness a person can do to another. Jesus knows that deaf folks are always embarrassed. A deaf person knows he cannot hear; and when someone in a crowd shouts at him and tries to make him hear, in his excitement he becomes all the more helpless.

Have you ever experienced a time when someone is nodding to what you’re saying with a big smile only to find out that he is partially deaf and that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed so he pretends he understood what you’re saying? Jesus must have seen that from this man and he showed the most tender consideration for the feelings of a man for whom life was very difficult.

The Gospel story shows us most vividly that Jesus did not consider the man merely a case; he considered him as a person with a special need and a special problem, and with the most tender considerateness Jesus dealt with him in a way that spared his feelings and in a way that he could understand.

First, Jesus leads the man away from the crowd then puts his fingers into the man’s ears; spits on his own fingers; touches the man’s tongue with the spittle; looks up to heaven; sighs and speaks the healing command: “Ephphatha” (“be opened.”)

We may ask, why does Jesus carry out this elaborate ritual, while in other miracles he simply speaks a word or touches the individual? It is probably because the deaf man cannot hear Jesus’ voice or express his needs. People of that day believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties. The early Church Fathers saw an indirect reference to baptism in the way Jesus healed the man. In baptism, the priest who baptized us touched our ears and mouths that we might hear the word of God and speak about Christ to others, sharing the “good news” with the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, and the broken-hearted. What we see is not simply the healing of a physical defect, but a concrete sign of the transforming power of God’s Love. The power of God’s Love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, sickness into health, death into new life. The miracle is not only about the physical healing of person who was deaf and speechless. It also points to the opening of a person’s ears so that he may hear the word of God, and loosening of his tongue so that he may speak his profession of faith in Jesus. The miracle has great relevance to us, because a person can have perfect hearing, and yet not hear the word of God, have perfect speech, and yet be unable to make an act of faith.

Have you ever heard the famous poetic song of Paul Simon and Garfunkel, “Sound of Silence?” It says, “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never share, and no one dared, disturbed the sound of silence.” The song speaks about a vision of our gifts that are supposed to be shared, voiced out rather than hidden and swallowed by the sound of silence.

A group of men came to me one time saying, Fr. Leonard, we wish our wives could just say their prepared sermons intended for us be delivered to you then we will just listen to you instead. We are becoming deaf the way they treat us. Your voice is more soothing to the ears. That’s another form of becoming deaf and one must consider that there is a concern being brought to one’s attention.

On another occasion, a woman came to me saying, “Fr. Leonard, I thought women talks more than men, but boy, my husband talks like some women, his voice reduces my ability to hear. Please talk to him.”

Whatever form of impediment one has, it is hard to communicate when you are not being understood. Jesus recognized the predicaments of the deaf and mute so he touched them with compassion and dignity.

Do you believe when I say to you this morning, we have our own deafness and muteness in life? When I say to you, God has been calling you to do something for this Church by stepping up to initiate your leadership in your own gift and capacity, would you realize it?

God is calling each one of us to have faith and believe in yourself and “be opened” “Ephphatha” to reach out to others and share the gift God has given you, In Church, at home, at work and wherever you may be. We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. This may be because many of us are preoccupied with other things and Church is just a secondary. We only need to be with God when we are in trouble or in need. No, we need to come together as a community to praise and thank God for everything that we are enjoying. There are many ways to express your sincerity to God. Look around, listen, what is it that you can bring before God that may please Him. Speak out and don’t hold your peace. let us imitate the deaf man in the gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd, and spending more of our time in coming to know him intimately as we study Holy Scripture and to experience him directly in our lives in personal prayer. Our growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues.

May our Lord touch us through this Gospel so that we also can say “Ephphatha” (Be thou opened) to everything and everyone shut in or closed, to God and His loving providence. May it be our prayer to say, “Lord Grant us to live the rest of our lives the best of life.” Amen.