Prodigal in loving

“Loving and Forgiving are you O Lord”
(Jos 5:9a, 10-12; II Cor 5: 17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Let us Pray: “Thank you Lord for the rain to quench your creation. Thank you for the Sun to brighten our days. Rejoicing with you and the rest of your creation, visit us always with your love and grace.”

Today’s parable is so famous that song writers, book writers and biographers write and publish similar stories of many men and women. This is the story of human kind. A story of Jealousy, of selfishness, of Love and Forgiveness.

Jealousy is everywhere, in the animal kingdom and in those in power.

In the Old Testament, the story of Cain and Abel relates a jealousy that ended in tragedy when Abel’s offering pleases God more than that of Cain’s offerings and as a result, Cain was indignant and killed his own brother. This passage is where the famous saying came, “Am I my brother’s keeper” where one denies the existence of another and chooses hate rather than love.

Jealously among the disciples of Christ in the New Testament was also very evident. In many occasions, Jesus rebuked his disciples because of envy and jealousy among themselves and those who do similar power of healing Jesus does to the people.

In the history of human kind, Leaders of Nations go against leaders of other nations because of jealousy and envy of powers.

In human families, greed, envy and jealousy often end up in tragedy and broken relationships and kept themselves in perpetual distance.

In our Church and every other Church and religious groups, there is jealousy and envy over leadership and accomplishments. There is selfishness where one tends to grab more attention and disregards others. It often leads to destruction of one’s personal life such as the saying, “Divide and conquer” to destroy one person or groups and use the name of God in vain to protect their image and to support their reasons.

We have forgotten about the Love of the Father and the presence of forgiveness that the Father has expressed in the story. The prodigal son may have spent all he had but after realizing all that, he repented and asked his father’s forgiveness and wanted to be loved again.

Most of the time we criticize someone who had done similar things and not realizing that we are pushing the person or persons against the wall, giving them no choices but to feel guilty and outcast. Each of us somehow have had our wrong decisions in life, but we don’t need another guilty feelings inflicted upon us. We have forgotten about love and forgiveness. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. If God has forgiven us all of our sinfulness, how much more should we forgive others.

The other side of story in the Gospel can also be seen this way:
The end of the parable story is incomplete because we never knew if the older son celebrated with his brother and father. The loving father says, “We must celebrate and rejoice.” One may think it was a happy ending. Another thinks, in the end, there was a perpetual distance between the two brothers.

The unclear ending of this parable draws attention to the decision which the older son must face. The choice whether to celebrate or not celebrate with his brother becomes a key to unlock the meaning of the parable. The decision of the elder son which is left hanging in the air suggests that this parable is about the willingness to accept the brother who has come home. It asks us: Are we willing to rejoice in the good fortune of others?

When someone comes to our midst and contribute good things that glorify God, don’t we celebrate and rejoice for that is a sign that the presence of God is in our midst?

The parable then clearly invites us to avoid jealousy in our own lives. But if we can not avoid that, we must understand the root cause of jealousy. The parable gives us the answer. The older son is unable to accept the love that his father has for him even when it is clear that the father loves him when He says, “My son, you are here with me always and all I have is yours.” And yet, for some reason, this elder son will not believe in the father’s love. Because he will not accept the gifts that flow from that love, he ends up being jealous of his brother.

We can surely avoid jealousy in our own lives if we only accept the love God that has for us and the gifts that God has given us. Even though our gifts might seem less than the gifts of others, we need to accept that the gifts that we have been given are valuable and important.
Even then, sometimes we think: If God loves someone so much, there will not be enough love left over for me. But the parable clearly says this is wrong. The father is excessive in loving, prodigal in loving. The parable assures us that with our God there will always be enough love for all of God’s people.

This story invites us to claim the love that God has for us and the gifts that God has given us. It invites us to be thankful for our gifts and to accept, whatever those gifts are, they are a sure sign of God’s unfailing love for us. If we can be thankful for the gifts we have received, we can avoid jealousy in our lives. When we claim God’s love, our response to someone’s success or exaltation will be joy rather than envy. We will be able to celebrate with them, because no matter how much someone else can be blessed, we will know that we are never left out. With our God, there is always enough love to go around. Let us all be new creations and be ambassadors of Christ. Let us always be loving and forgiving. Let us not waste our time and life destroying anyone’s life just because we always want to be the center of attention. Let God be glorified always and not our selfish ways. Let us be welcoming and rejoice when you see new and old faces that come our midst, for they were sent by God.

We are so blessed to have elected members of the Bishop Committee and have appointed chairs and co-chairs for our various ministries in this Church. I have seen compassion and dedication in their hearts just as those who have served in those capacities in the past.
These leaders know the needs of the church and the people, and are resolved to be more welcoming, giving of their time, talents and resources with a goal that all our members feel a part where they belong and able to shine the lights that were given them and in the years to come, become a self sustenance, self reliant, self governing Church. I ask you all therefore to always be loving and forgiving and roll up your sleeves and be ready to plant the seeds of love and forgiveness in this God’s Holy Place and People. Amen.

“Manaoag: Come and See!”

“Manaoag: Come and See!”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Good morning! Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! Naimbag nga agsapa yo Amin. Welcome to Holy Child and St Martin.

I can feel the air being filled with joy today! The Love of God is in our midst in this house of prayers for all faith. We are glad that you are here. Let me tell you that there’s plenty good rooms in God’s house and all are welcome!

I’m beginning to feel the warmth flame of fire out of the burning bush, for God is present today in our celebration. Let us give God the praise and the glory. (Applause) Yes Lord, we have come to gaze upon you in this Holy Place, that we might behold your love and your glory.

On our Church website you will read a motto that says, “Come, See, Be renewed, Be empowered and Be a part of a community of Love and Hope.”

“Come and See” are invitations of something very interesting, something that is out of the ordinary. When someone asks you to “come and see”, the question that always come to mind is, “what is it there to see? Is there something worth coming here to see? Is there something worth to prove?” We invite people to “come and see” because there are wonderful blessings being transformed and shared happening in our midst. We are called by God to a wonderful cause and we are unable to keep that among ourselves alone because the blessing overflows freely out from our heart to the rest of the people around us and beyond.

Such invitation reminds those of you who have been following Our Lady of Manaoag for years, that the name Manaoag meant, “To Call, to Invite, Come and See!”
You came into this space today because God sent you here to come and see the miracle that is about to happen when God made it possible for Jesus and his Mother Mary to bring Love and joy in this very diverse community.

You might be wondering how in the world did the statue of Our Lady of Manaoag get to Holy Child and St Martin Episcopal Church? Let me tell you at the outset how the Lady brought miracles to those who have had healing and answered prayers from her place of origin until she found us here.

An excerpt from the Book of Manaoag tells us that, {Folk tradition has it that the Blessed Mother showed herself to a middle-aged farmer and gave him a message on where she wanted her church to be located. The meeting was dramatic. She showed herself on a low tree amidst the glow of heavenly light.

It is said that the man was on his way home from a grueling day in his farm. Foremost in his mind of course, was his family. He worried about his home and his crops which he knew would be laid to waste anytime the raiders come for another attack. Faced with this hopeless prospect, he resorted to the wellsprings of his faith. He has been taught by the good Padre to have full trust and faith in the goodness and mercy of God and in the protection offered by the Heavenly Mother. These thoughts came to him. He sighed resignedly to Virgin Mary and somehow his fears vanished as he continued his slow pace homeward.

As he followed the path from the hill in the deepening dusk, he became aware of a mysterious light coming from somewhere. He turned to the west to assure himself that he was not being deceived, and sure enough he saw that the sun has set. He made a full stop and turned his gaze to the light – – a tree nearby. Instantly, he recognized the radiant face of a woman holding an infant in her arms. Unable to grasp the significance of the phenomenon and overcame by superstition, he wanted to run. In a moment of hesitation he heard a sweet voice called out his name. He stood transfixed at the smiling face of the mysterious lady. He knelt down. She continued in her singularly sweet voice, “Son, I want a church here in my honor. My children shall receive many favors in this place.”

We can surmise that such joy from the extraordinary experience would not remain locked up in the breast of the man but would overflow to others. Conceivably, he told his tale to his wife and children then to his close relatives and friends. But when he went to tell it to the Padre, he got a different reception. The old Padre not only did not believe him but went on to insinuate that the man was suffering from hallucination that was induced by the extreme heat of the day.

We can imagine the dismay of the man about the reaction of his spiritual counselor. He and his fellows in the settlement have been monitored on the love and veneration of the Blessed Lady of the Rosary and in a moment of truth, should be asked to reject the revelation of Herself. And yet he was a witness of it all!

Nevertheless, the story spread fare and wide. People in the neighboring settlements heard of it and they came to verify it. These went home not only assured in the truth but they also felt that their petitions have been answered. The pilgrimages to the Lady developed into a tradition, They felt they had to make a visit to the Shrine at least once a year to fulfill a vow, make new petitions to Her, and offer the devotion.}
Last year, Pope Francis visited the Philippines and stopped by the place where the shrine is. The following month, the place was consecrated as the Minor Basilica for Our lady of the most holy rosary.

I had a similar revelation when my friend Erly mentioned about the Lady of Manaoag community and later introduced me to JR who was so moved that a priest like me would welcome another faith tradition. I wrote an email to Bishop Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California. I related to the good bishop about the time when The Holy Child Jesus/Santo Nino was first introduced in this place and miracles happen as membership increased. I also told him about the time when this Church welcomed San Martin the Porres and Senor De Los Milagros or Lord of Miracles and how our Peruvian families were welcomed in this place. The Bishop was happy to know of the inclusion of Our Lady of Manaoag and have given me the approval to welcome such community.

Yes, Miracles continue to happen in this Church. The love and respect that we share will surely heal us because we welcome all God’ s people.

There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. There is something worth coming to see in this blessed place;

We have invited people to “Come and See” So that in coming, we may be renewed and empowered as a community of love and hope.

There are more miracles to come and I tell you my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing that we cannot do because God is with us! If God is with us, who can be against us? No one, because we all take it to God in prayer.

By welcoming all, May we all constantly be renewed, Be empowered and continue to be a part of a community of Love and Hope.” May we all continue to bear fruit.
The Gospel today tells us that we are each a fig tree planted by the Lord to bear His fruit. He gardens us; He nurtures us; He cares for us with Word, Sacraments, and the Grace to seek His Presence in others. But we must produce. We are living on God’s time, not our time. How well are we using this time? That is the challenge of today’s Gospel reading.
Today’s gospel is all about that lack of action. We are compared to barren fig trees, trees that produce no fruit. God is that patient gardener who keeps fertilizing, and cultivating, and hoping that Someone would act to build God’s Kingdom. Now the actions that build God’s Kingdom are actions that we are all called to do.
The challenge then that I give to each of you here today is this:
identify one action, one action which you can do that will build God’s Kingdom. Choose one action which will move the world a bit closer to unity, to peace, to justice. It might be picking up the phone to call a relative from whom you are estranged and simply letting that person know that the door is still open to reconciliation. It might be reaching out to someone in your neighborhood who is in need—a person who you have thought for some time could use some help, but so far you have never acted to help. It might visiting someone at home or at a nursing home. It might be welcoming all others who come to our midst as one great thing that we should do, able to risk our vulnerability, our comfort zones for the sake of uniting all in the love of God. HCSM represents not only one tradition but many. In order for us to prosper and grow just as God wants us to be, we need to be able to respect each other and celebrate our common faith in the One God who is father of all.
If we need to bear more fruit in this age, we should be able to expand our tents because there is plenty good room in God’s glory train.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to do at least one thing to produce fruit, so that there might be at least one fig on the branch of the tree which was previously barren. Any action we do builds God’s Kingdom. I know that it’s Everybody’s job, and I know that Anybody can do it. But Somebody has to do it. That Somebody is you and me. And so today, I say, “Mother Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are welcome in this place. Forgive those who deny your presence and teach us to Love God, ourselves and our neighbors. Intercede for us with The Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.