Feast of the Holy Child – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Feast of Holy Child
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2016

The Rev. Leonard Oakes
God reveals himself in many ways and forms. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself as the creator of all that live upon the earth and in the heavens. God revealed himself as the Spirit hovering above the face of the water. God created us in His own image. God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and in the liberation of Israel from their bondage in Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea to the promised land. God revealed himself to Israel as the liberator, great provider. In the New Testament, God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son whom God sent to save the world from our sinfulness and restore us back to Him. God revealed himself through a messenger proclaiming that a Child Jesus, the Holy Child of God will be born and be among us. The child grew up in wisdom and grace and elevated the people’s understanding of God by showing them that everything is possible with God when we love God, love ourselves and our neighbors, that God is not confined in one’s country and territory, that God is a universal God where there is neither Jews nor Gentiles but only One God for all and that includes all, regardless of color, ethnicity, race, age, gender and whatever background one may have, for God loves us all.

And that’s how God revealed himself here at Holy Child and St. Martin. As a symbol of the presence of God and his miracles.

St Martin Parish during the 60’s was used to be a very popular and people filled parish with a lot of young people in their Sunday School and in their acolyte ministries. But diversity was not popular in this place then. 98 % were Europeans, and the other 2 % were one Japanese/Chinese family, who happened to be the Children of Elsie and Ernest Ching, and another black family have been attending their Sunday school. During the late 80’s however, part of the property of the Church where the houses around the corner are now situated has to be sold to support the salary of the priest and also to pay some of their loans from the Diocese. After which, the number of membership declined for many reasons, until only about 30 or less members were faithfully worshiping here.

On the other side of San Francisco, a group of about 50 or more Filipino families have been worshiping in an in law space at St. Barnabas started by then Fr. Sancho Gaerlan and succeeded by then Fr. Vito Villalon. It was said, “St. Barnabas congregation have the people but they are in need of a bigger space, while St Martin has the space but is in need of people.” Bishop William Swing saw that need. And because the bishop has the authority over mission stations, he made the two congregations agree to merge in Daly City during the early 1990’s and there emerged the name Holy Child and St. Martin. Now some of the original St. Martin’s didn’t like the idea of having St. Martin after the name Holy Child because they were here first, hence it was suggested that the name should be St. Martin and Holy Child. But theologically, God, the Holy Child should precede first before a disciple or Saint Martin. This idea was not acceptable to some and they left. But there were those who stayed and faithfully served this church. Since then, this church grew up in number until today. Look around you, see the diversity that God made us. The beauty of our diversity is when we all work together for the glory of God. That each culture is recognized and lifted in our midst. One does not dominate the other, but rather it is our joy to have another more in our family. There’s a plenty good room in God’s house. I want you all to remember that, plenty good room in God’s house and it is our joy to welcome more. Let us welcome all with genuine heart and continue to respect and recognize each other in all our doings for the glory of God. God turned water into wine!
And so today, I greet you happy Santo Nino Fiesta day!

The story of Santo Nino came to us in many different ways. I was reading the article of our brother Gino Soberano on the origin of Santo Nino. In his article he wrote, “Sto. Nino originated in Europe in the early 15th century. It spread its popularity throughout the Christian world including the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan had discovered the Island in 1521. It was later discovered that the reason the Island of Cebu in the Philippines accepted and welcomed the group of Ferdinand Magellan was because they introduced the Holy Child Jesus in that community, which they relate of their own belief of a child saving that island from disasters. The Holy Child traces its roots in a small town in Prague where the Holy Infant image was molded in a wax form and given as a gift to an Empress. Even Queens possessed this Holy image. From generation to generation, it has been told that in different places in Europe and in many different countries, the Holy Infant Jesus worked miracles where he was honored and adored. He turned barren towns into prosperous cities. He turned Churches alive with people, he cured many diseases.”

In 1993, the Holy Infant Jesus Replica was airlifted from Manila to San Francisco and was officially enthroned by Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California on that same year With The Rev. Vito Villalon as the Vicar. Mng. Gino revealed to us of an inscription he once read, “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”

In April of 2005, the church was devastated with fire coming from the office of Fr. Rico, the Vicar at that time. It was the night before Easter Sunday. My memory of that devastating moment is still vivid. A church neighbor, Nollet Mata called me on the phone at around 11 PM. His voice was filled with worries as he reported to me, “Fr. Leonard the church is on fire” I immediately called fr Bayani who was living in Vallejo and informed him of the incident. I rushed to the church and saw the fire and smoke from the church office. I was enveloped with fear and started to shiver as I prayed to God to spare the church. I Introduced myself to the Fire battalion chief as the assistant priest of the church. He asked me to come with him and walked me through the smoke into the church. I saw the unimaginable shattered and melted windows and interior part of the church. I knelt at the altar for brief prayer and as I rose, I noticed the Santo Nino has never been damaged or burned nor any slight melt happened. I had goose bumps. I’ve never been that much of a santo Nino fun until I myself had witnessed the miracle that just happened in my very eyes. He transformed me that day. I remember what my mom told me that the sto. Nino is a patron of water. That to me and the rest of us is a miracle that happened in this Church.

Yet, a miracle continues to happen in this Church. People have been healed and touched. With your presence and more others to come, bringing forth your talents, time, treasures and skills before God in this Church is certainly a miracle worth celebrating. Because this Church is Alive! There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. This church was baptized with both the baptism of fire and water and we live to witness and share that miracle.

What happened here during that Good Friday night needs to be shared. We need to share the love of God in sparing us from dissipation and restored us to become more stronger and blessed. We need to share the love, the joy and the light that we receive from God. Sharing the grace we enjoy to those who are deprived of having them; the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the uninsured. We are bound to share the blessings of our Health and Wellness Ministry to the rest of the community. Such is the outward visible sign of the inward grace that we receive from God. We have become the beacon of hope in this place, sharing the stories of those who are lost and bringing them to light.

God continues to be with us because we recognize his presence and his love. Miracles will continue to be revealed in this place where new wine, new spirit of love is shared. Just like what the Gospel tells us today. Jesus turned water into wine.

I remember in seminary when we had a regular morning Eucharist. The celebrant found that the wine have been emptied and didn’t know what to do. He prayed and after prayer, he asked the sacristan to get Coca Cola and gin tonic, mixed it and used it as the Eucharistic wine. Turning drinks into Eucharistic wine.

A small boy was asked by a visiting relative if he attended Sunday school.
When he said he did, he was asked, “What are you learning?”

“Last week,” came the reply, “our lesson was about when Jesus went
to a wedding and made water into wine.”

“And what did you learn from that story?” the relative inquired.

After thinking for a moment, the lad answered, “If you’re having a
wedding, make sure Jesus is there!”

It is indeed when Jesus is present in our midst that things become possible. When Mary found about the lack of wine, she immediately thought about Jesus and said to the attendant to just do what Jesus wants him to do. Jesus revealed his glory – and his disciples put their faith in him.
Jesus’ turning water into wine is itself a picture of all that he came to do. Jesus takes what is and shows us that it has the possibility to become something else. Something that is renewed and reenergized. That which is tired, worn out, devoid of joy, empty, and lacking purpose can be transformed. It can be turned into something rich, fragrant, and ripe with the fullness of joy through his presence, through his care.

The miracle in Cana also tells us that Jesus can bring new life. He can fill the emptiness in our lives – he can take whatever it is that we bring to him – no matter how little – or how much – and utterly remake it – giving to it a good taste which is beyond the best that we ourselves are capable of providing.

It is when we recognize the presence of God in our midst and do what is pleasing in God’s sight, that God reveals himself to us. May we continue to make miracles in this place and beyond, by sharing our stories, our compassion and love for all. Amen.

“New Year, New challenges” – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

New Year’s Vicar’s  Message
January 3, 2016
I greet you all with a Happy New Year!

Although I spent my time in bed beginning on New Year’s Eve, I hope you had a wonderful time with yourself, your family and friends welcoming the New Year with Positive Thoughts and resolutions.

Year 2016 promises us at Holy Child and St. Martin with a very prosperous and wonderful year to celebrate as a community. It promises us new ideas, improved leadership on both Lay and Clergy, and renew our relationship with God, ourselves, our community and the rest of God’s creation around us.

Let us begin the year with a challenge that requires positive attitudes for the greater glory of God. Let us challenge ourselves with a goal to accomplish these challenges:

First, I challenge you all to step up and be leaders beginning today. The task of the Church is not to maintain it but to propagate the Good News of God by raising good leaders and that all members will participate in the various tasks ahead. I thank all those who have already stepped up for they have advanced our ship to the path God wants us to be. But it is not enough that only few are doing such work. We need a collaborative energy to accomplish all things. I encourage you to pray that the Holy Spirit will touch and ignite the gifts that are in you and let them shine.

Secondly, I challenge all the leaders of the various ministries in this Church to open wide the door for all to have a part of. There’s indeed plenty good rooms in the glory train. I challenge the Men’s Group to continue what you have started and plan to make your programs better.
I challenge the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) to welcome new leaders to move your bus forward. We have a lot of young mothers who are full of talents and enthusiasms. Encourage them and let them lead the way. I encourage the young mothers and singles all to step up and maintain your respect to those who have been there, but be resolved that what you have to bring is to glorify God. I challenge all the Youth in this Church. You may have many extracurricular activities in school and have even accepted works to help your tuition and other expenses, but let me remind you not to slowly drift into the unknown where God is only a second choice for you and that you only need God when you are in trouble. So many things take us away from our giving back to God. Make it a point that you give back to God and the community. Better is a one day in your house than thousand elsewhere says the lord. We have opportunities for you to reach out to the poor and the needy if you only find time to be part of them. We don’t want you to lose your way and find yourselves into oblivion where emptiness and depression will enfold you and corrupt your Godly mind. As your Vicar and Pastor, I pray what your parents pray, that you will someday become a successful persons with a happy family of your own. I thank the Seniors for what you are currently doing, but I challenge you to widen you tent and be inclusive. Make it a point where you can go out for a lunch or dinner sometime and get reconnected. I ask you to help us guide our young ones. You have been there and you have so much to contribute with your wisdom.

Lastly, I thank all the pledgers and donors that benefit our church programs and administration. Without you and without God touching your hearts to give, we would not be able to get to where we are going. I continue to pray that your hearts will be filled with the Love of God because you care. I thank all the Clergy that God sent in our midst. God knows our needs and so He keeps sending us Angels, to lighten our burden and to share our care to all. I also thank all the volunteers who have given and continue to give their time and talents to move our various programs forward. May each day and moment you give serves as your prayer and thanksgiving to God who gave you life and the reason to live. I also thank all our community partners and the Diocese of California for the guidance, collaboration and support they provide to keep us all woven as a beautiful tapestry of God.

And finally, my family and I would like to thank you all for the love and the care you so continuously share to us for all these years. I can only magine 18 years ago when God sent us here to part of this wonderful family, and the 7 years that God called me to serve HCSM as your Vicar. God indeed is with us! Thanks be to God! To God be the glory, forever! Amen.

“We await for the birth with sheer gladness”. The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Christmas Eve Homily
December 24, 2015 at 7 PM.

In every drama or a play like the one our pageant casts did wonderfully tonight, there is a beginning, a development, a climax, an ending and recapitulation. The story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of the story told of old that a child will be born and be called Emmanuel, God with us, the son of the living God is with us. The story developed when this prophecy of old came true in the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea. This story was further developed when the rumor came to the ears of Herod the king who became fearful and threatened of the presence of this new kid in town. He had asked everyone who may have a knowledge where to find this child who will be born king and will be the savior of all. Wisemen from the East came and inquired from Herod about the star they have seen and have been following from afar. Herod had asked them to find the star, and if found, to return and report to him so that he too could go and worship him. But the men were wise enough to know that Herod has dark plot to kill and eliminate the child. Herod was indignant and uncertain on what to do to save his honor and glory. A lot of things were playing in his mind. What if the child will take over my throne? What will happen to me? NO! Not on my watch! So the horrible things happened. King Herod ordered all first born male to be killed, hundreds and thousands of them in all of Israel. I have seen that place called hades or hell just outside the walls of jerusalem where it was told that blood of children flowed in the Kidron valley, the valley of death. What horrid deed had he done? Slain all first born children to save his name and pride. That is the sad story behind the birth of the one who is to come, the light of the world, the son of the living God, the messiah, the savior, the Christ. The development of the story lead into the climax when this Child grew and became a teacher, healing and opening the eyes of the blind, even raising a dead man into life. Until at last he was crucified died and was buried. But his death was the price of our sins and once again we are made one with God. The ending of the story is his resurrection and ascension to heaven where he seated at the right hand of God the Father. His death and resurrection are the focal point of our faith, where if the crucifixion did not happen, there will be no resurrection, but he has to resurrect so that we too become partakers of the eternal life he has promised. The ending is not like those in the movies. There has to be a recapitulation of this story as we await for his coming again. Jesus said he will come again at the end of the world, we do not know when? Thus, we do this the whole year round so that we won’t forget the reason why we are here in the first place. So that we may continue to walk humbly with God. Because if we forget, there will be chaos in this world especially now that every thing seem to have camouflaged the meaning of the birth of the light who was sent to be among us and dwell with us, our Savior Jesus Christ. People have continuously eat of the apple in the garden because they want to become god and eradicate God from the face of the Earth. Consumerism have changed the plot of the story. It is slowly drifting into the abyss because people are letting it happen in exchange of being nice and accommodating to other non believers whose aim is to erase God in history. There are about 2.5 billion Christians in the whole world celebrating at this moment the gift of God in this light who is with us, who is one of us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because we believe. In celebrating, we become vigilant of the Second Coming.

Let us not therefore allow ourselves to fall into the same pit those self seeking and self centered powers continue to do to eliminate the Christ in our lives. Let us not allow ourselves to be part of the ideology of consumerism by trying to retract the focus of the reason of this season but rather we keep our lights shining among people so that God in heaven will be glorified and not ourselves.
Last night, our youth, representing the Asian Commission in the Diocese of California, brought love to the shelter residents at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in San Francisco. We have seen the people’s faces the smiles and hope in life because of people like us and those support such movement to feed and reach out to the poor and the homeless around us.

Let us all share God’s love to all with unceasing prayers and honor God in the most high. That is the message of Christmas; to share God’s love and be of service to each other and to everyone. Let us hold our children and our grandchildren close to our hearts and treasure them. Let us again and again be gathered here at Church and in our homes to celebrate the Love and the joy of the birth and renew our commitment to each other and the world around us. Please keep in your hearts and minds those who are without in the world. Pray they too will have a glimpse of what we enjoy. Give love this Christmas and everyday. To love and be loved is the duty we have as people of God. Let us wait for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ with sheer gladness and great expectations!

Let me offer you a Christmas song tonight with all my heart in it. You may sing it with me to make the night feel better:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Kindly turn to the person next and around you and just give them a big hug and a smile greeting them, “Merry Christmas”

“What is God’s call for us?” Deacon Tricia Rosso

Second Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2015
What is Gods Call for Us?

​In the Gospel reading for today, Luke writes “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:2b-3). John heard God calling him. He responded to Gods call by proclaiming a baptism of repentance. I am going to talk about the challenges of discerning our vocation for our lives and how we respond to Gods invitation.

On this 12th anniversary of my ordination as a deacon of the Church, I want remind everyone here today that by virtue of our baptism we are all call to be ministers for Christ. So each of us has a vocation to which God is calling us (and we can have more than one vocation). Just as John the Baptist heard God calling him in the wilderness, we too want to listen to hear the voice of God.

For us, in our society today there is a major challenge we may face when God calls us. Our lives are busy with things to do and places to go. Lets face it we live in a culture that is on the go 24/7. We are always doing a particular task, working, picking up the kids, or going to another meeting. Also we can constantly be distracted by watching television or other electronic devices, listening to music, doing something to occupy the passing time. It is three weeks before Christmas. Are we spending any quiet time away from our frantic busyness to discern Gods voice?

I believe that God, in order to get our attention, may allow us to participate in a wilderness experience. A wilderness experience is defined as an encounter of unknown challenges that for me, may cause me to trust and discover a new insight for my life. For instance, a Biblical example is the story when the people whom God freed from Egypt spent forty years in the wilderness so they could be forged as a people who followed the one God. Also Jesus spent forty days in the desert, alone, before He began His public ministry.

Today any person can participate in a wilderness experience the Native Americans call a vision quest. A vision quest is a supernatural experience in which an individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit, usually an anthropomorphized animal to obtain advice or protection. I thought it would be interesting to share the requirements needed to go through a vision quest.

The requirements for a vision quest are:
1. Able to fast
2. Able to camp out for long periods of time
3. Knowledge of first aid
4. Prepare sleeping equipment or sleep on the ground
5. Knowledge of spiritual things like meditation
6. Bring a spiritual instrument so you can play or chant
7. Be comfortable with the solitude
8. If the weather permits you may wish to remove all clothing or cover yourself in a blanket
9. Create a sacred stone circle on the ground in which the person sits
10. A journal to record your experience

I guess I wont be participating in a vision quest anytime soon. Wilderness experiences are challenging to go through; I dont enjoy them but I pay attention.

​One wilderness experience I went through caused a major transition for my spiritual life. My cousin Peggy was diagnosed with melanoma in 1970. She lived for only five years. When my mother told me Peggy would not survive through the night, I felt heartbroken. After all, I assumed that the two of us would grow old together. Peggy was only 19 years old; I was 21. That night I called my voice teacher, Susan Witt, and talked to her for an hour. From that conversation, the only words I remember Susan saying to me were; “hold on to what you believe! Until this experience, my belief in God only was intellectual. The only answers the Roman Catholic Church offered me were doctrinal theology or the Baltimore Catechism. That was not helpful. I did not have a personal, living relationship with God. Yet Jesus asserted that God is a God of the living, not the dead. From then on I knew that in order for me to face the challenges of my life, I want to experience God in a heartfelt way.

​I believe that when God gets us to pay attention during a wilderness encounter, it should lead us into a time of reflection. It is a time for us to notice what is really important in our lives; our relationships with God, our families and our friends, human, animal, and nature. I believe that we are not meant to be continually going and doing and not take the time to notice, wonder and be present. I called Sister Lorita Moffat, my spiritual director, last week to find how she was recovering after major surgery last fall. True to form, she replied, I am learning how to be present every day. In another words, we are both learning how to live in the present moment. This is teaching both of us to trust God. Another person who experienced John of the Cross dark soul of the night was Mother Theresa. Many times in her journal she wrote that she did not feel worthy of Godslove. By the way, there is a new movie that was just released about her life.

​After I lived through wilderness experiences, reflected on their importance for my life, and continually learn to trust God in the present moment, then I could discern and still am discerning Gods call for me. How do I respond to Gods call this time? With what I am experiencing at this present moment I believe I am called to listen, reflect, pray, wait and be present. However, this is not what I had in mind that I would be doing at this time in my life. When I retired from my paid job, I had some dreams I want to complete. Like most people in our American culture, I dont want to be sidetracked and have my dreams put on hold. God has other ideas for me at the present moment. God knows what God is doing even when I do not have a clue.
And some of you may think the clergy has all the answers. I have news for you. I have been told that the clergy are the keepers of lifes important questions.

​The poem, The Advent, written by a Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello, describes in beautiful, simple words, what I have said.

​The Advent

​The events of history were controlled
​For my coming to this world
​No less thanfor the coming of the Savior.
​The time had to be ripe,
​The place just right,
​The circumstances ready,
​Before I could be born.

​God chose the parents of his Son
​And endowed them with the personality they needed
​For the child that would be born.
​I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose
​To be my parents
​ Until I see that they had to be
​The kind of human beings they were
​If I was to become
​What God meant me to be.

​The Christ child comes, like every other child,
​To give the world a message.
​What message have I come to give?
​I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
​In a word
​Or image.

​Christ comes into this world
​To walk a certain path,
​Fulfill a certain destiny.
​ He consciously fulfilled what had been written for him.
​As I look back I see in wonder what was written
​And has thus far been fulfilled
​In my own life,
​And for each part of that script,
​However small,
​I say, Thanks
​To make it holy with my gratitude.

​I look with expectation
​And surrender
​At all that is to come
​And, like the Christ,
​I say, Yes. Let it be done.

​Finally I recall the song the angels sang
​When Christ was born.
​They sang of the peace and joy
​That give God glory.

​Have I ever heard the song the angels sang
​ When I was born?

​I see with joy what has been done through me
​To make the world a better place
​And I join those angels
​In the song they sang
​To celebrate my birth.

​This poem is true for all of us.

What is our vocation? We are all called to encounter the wilderness, listen, reflect, discern, and respond to Gods invitation. We are called to be people of hope, like John the Baptist was for people in the first century. We have a way to live in this chaotic, violent, and broken world. God wants us to cultivate a living, loving, forgiving, grace filled relationship with God. We are to share with other people that they too can enjoy this life-giving relationship no matter what life brings them. We all called to share the good news, or gospel, with people who are suffering, lost or lonely in this world. We can do share the good news with confidence, no matter what, because God is and always will be Emmanuel-God with us. Amen.

Rev. Deacon Tricia Rosso