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“Blind, But Now I See” The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14,

John 9:1:41

 

Blind, But Now I See

 

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have been blind from birth, to sit in darkness, to need help with the basic activities of life.  You must beg to receive your daily bread. In the culture of the time, if you didn’t have any money, or family to care for you, you would have been destitute, outcast.  And then Jesus comes along to where you are sitting, without judging you and saying that sin somehow caused your condition.  He actually speaks to you. And then he asks you to do something strange.  He spits in the mud and makes a paste, spreads it on your eyes, and then asks you to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  And when you do, suddenly you can see! The beauty of colors, of sky, of earth, of animals, and especially human faces, the face of Jesus and your parents, fills you with joy and wonder.  It is overwhelming, and you feel quite overcome.  Who is this man, who can cure blindness?   Who is he?  You wonder, but your heart is singing, and somehow your intuition tells you he is from God.

There is so much packed into this story. Like the recent scripture passages we have heard over the past several weeks, the gospel writer is using the story as an opportunity to reveal the nature of Jesus.  As I have mentioned before, John’s gospel is filled with conversations that then become monologues with Jesus proclaiming his unity with the Father from before time, and his nature as the Son of God.  He uses “I am” a lot in this gospel, “I am the light of the world, I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life, I am the door.”  The gospel is also a window into what was going on in the life of the early church at the time.  As the last gospel written, John was probably composed around the year 90 A.D, when the church was struggling with its identity and seeking to balance its roots in Jewish tradition with the universal call to share the Gospel with all people.  Believers began to suffer persecution for their faith, and were thrown out of their previous places of worship.  There is a lot of talk about darkness and light, those who do evil and who don’t believe, and there was probably the expectation the Jesus was going to come again soon in his glory.  And yet, while that expectation of his coming in glory was in the future, in John’s gospel, it is also being realized in the present, in the here and now.  Jesus is the light of the world now, the bread of the world now.  He is the resurrection and the life, now.  The dead are being raised, the blind are being given sight, the lame walk, and people are coming to believe, now.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus is fulfilling God’s promise to reconcile the world to himself.

This is the setting for today’s passage, the backdrop for this story of grace and faith, of fear and doubt, of judgment and also of compassion, courage, and hospitality.  What did the story mean for those who heard it so many years ago, and what might it mean for us?  What does this story teach us about our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters?

First of all, I think it teaches an important lesson about the mystery of illness and suffering.  In the beginning of today’s passage, the disciples see the blind man and asked Jesus who sinned, the man or his parents, to cause his distress?  In ancient times, people commonly believed that illness and infirmity were punishments for sin.  As if the person afflicted weren’t suffering enough, imagine what it would be like to believe it was because of some sin or shortcoming in his or her life!  Jesus refutes this and says the blindness is not the result of sin.  He says he was born blind “so God’s works might be revealed in him.” I don’t think that is to say God caused him to be blind so that he could heal him later, because that’s not the way of love. Suffering is not sent by God, but is an inevitable part of living as imperfect beings in an imperfect world, and God longs for us to have wholeness. Sometimes it comes through a physical cure, as in our story for today, other times not.  But God always brings healing to our deepest spirit.

Second, Jesus’ response to the blind man is deeply, radically compassionate and hospitable.  He invites people to be seen, loved, and included in community.  Many of the religious authorities of the time reduced religion to a set of beliefs and purity codes that were burdensome and kept people distant from God, rather than drawing them close, as Jesus’ Abba, the  Father, longed to do  They put rules ahead of human need.  Rules about what could be eaten and with whom and what could be done on the Sabbath missed the point of the great call to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  Jesus is condemned because he healed the man on the Sabbath.  So the religious leaders consistently focus on the letter of the law, of following the rules, and miss out on grace.   For them, purity of observance is more important than purity of the heart that shows love and mercy.  At that time, and sadly, still in our own time, people who are disabled, suffer diseases, or mental illness are seen as invisible, unworthy.  Jesus will have none of that.  Not only was the blind man in the story able to see after his encounter with Jesus, he was seen, and valued, and cherished, and invited into relationship with the living God.  For us as Jesus’ followers there is no one who is beneath our notice or unworthy.  All are called to fellowship in the body of Christ.

Finally, this gospel juxtaposes physical and spiritual blindness. Physical blindness affects the body, the outward self, but spiritual blindness is a condition of the heart. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and religious authorities because they condemn the blind man as a sinner, yet are oblivious to their own lack of charity, of compassion, and of living faith.  They have their own preconceived ideas of what God is like, and box the Divine in with a fixation on rules, doctrines, and purity laws, when they should be focusing on works of love and mercy.  They have their own beliefs of what the Messiah should be like and how he should behave, and they can’t let the scales fall from their eyes long enough, they can’t come before him in humility and not knowing long enough to see that when they are in the presence of Jesus they are in the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwells. They are in a place of spiritual blindness because they find the darkness more comfortable than the light of truth that shows them their need and dependence on God alone.

What about us?  What blinds us spiritually to the presence of God in our midst?  Is it a judgmental spirit that looks for faults in others instead of graciously overlooking their flaws and appreciating how special and unique they are, gifted and cherished by God?  Is it a heart that has forgotten how to sing, how to be grateful, to receive life as a gift?  I know that at times I can have a complaining spirit, and am asking God to help me to give thanks and be grateful.   Is it the tendency to live from a place of fear and mistrust, which keep us from seeing the face of Christ in our neighbors, all of them?

Friends, what keeps us struggling with spiritual blindness?  Is it the desire for wealth and influence and power?  Is it unhealed resentment and bitterness that casts a shadow and a dullness over our hearts so that we can’t enjoy a loving relationship with God or others?  Or is it our own desire, buried deep inside, to be our own gods, to direct our own destiny, rather than joyfully surrendering ourselves to God?  How is God inviting you to let Jesus touch the eyes of your heart and soul and fill you with his light and peace?           The English poet and and Anglican priest John Newton let Jesus touch the eyes of his heart. He lived much of his early life without direction or concern for the life of his soul.  He lived recklessly and aimlessly for himself, and became involved with the slave trade.  He finally came to a point in his life, where in his words; he “professed his full belief in Christ, and asked God to take control of his destiny.” He then went on to become a priest, a prolific writer of hymns, and a fierce foe of slavery.  God had healed the spiritual blindness and transformed him.  People all over the world sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Blind, but now I see.  And yet even in our blindness and our darkness, God never abandons us.  In that wonderful Psalm, 139, we read that even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.  In John’s gospel we read that the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it.  God is calling us to invite Jesus into our hearts anew this Lent, and to let his light be our light, his vision our vision.  May we all grow more and more in the brightness of the vision of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. Amen.

All the we have to offer – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Pentecost 24
November 8, 2015
1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

All That We Have and All that We Offer

​Use your imagination to enter the scene we have just heard read in the Gospel. Jesus is walking in the Temple and observing the people coming through its gates. He sees many coming and depositing money in the temple treasury. Wealthy people, some of them perhaps temple leaders, glide up in their long robes and fine dress, and deposit large bags of coins that make a heavy “clunk.” They talk busily among themselves, and many and don’t even see the poor widow walking quietly up from the side. Or some of them see her, but don’t acknowledge her, for she is one of the multitudes of the anonymous poor, so they think, and then they go about their “important” business. The widow gathers her simple cloak about her, weary from her day’s work, and takes out all the money she has left in the world, 2 copper coins, and with a prayer on her lips and in her heart, she deposits them carefully in the treasury. She doesn’t know where her next money will come from; yet somehow it seems important that she offer what she has to God, and trust in his provision. Her life has been hard, for in that culture, widows without family to provide for them were bereft and alone in the world. There has been suffering, there have been times of despair, but God has always been with her.
​Why do you suppose Jesus draws attention to this scene? Here he is, arriving in Jerusalem for the last time, where he will be betrayed and will suffer death. He is trying to prepare his followers for his suffering,, and to remind them of the coming of the kingdom of God and the ultimate triumph of the will of God. Yet, he still has time to notice the details, to teach in story, parable, and observation. Here he is teaching his disciples, and us, the importance of humility. He is also teaching us that we must live out our faith in works of hospitality and mercy, and that we are called, like the poor widow, to give all of ourselves, what we have and, who we are, to God.
​First, humility. There is a common misconception that humility involves thinking less of oneself, or putting oneself down. Actually, the root of the word humility is from the Latin word humus, which means ground, earth. A humble person is grounded, secure in the knowledge of his or her great value in the sight of God. Humble people can appreciate their gifts and virtues, knowing they come from God and accept their faults and shortcomings honestly and without shame. There is no phoniness and needing to be someone they are not. Secure in the knowledge of God’s great love, a humble person does not have the need to be the center of attention, or to lord it over others. This arrogant behavior is what Jesus is calling attention to in this story. The religious leaders who crave the recognition and deference of all, who long to be lifted up as important, lose sight of their dependence on God and their responsibility to others. They become blinded to the needs of those around them, showing outward signs of piety, but “devouring “widow’s houses and their living.”
​I think we can agree that our culture does not promote humility! I recently saw a bumper sticker that said: “ He who dies with the most toys wins” I thought to myself, what a commentary on the competitive, self-aggrandizing part of our culture. In advertising, social media, and in our institutions, we encourage people to be number one, to succeed at all costs, to promote themselves. This goes well beyond a healthy self-regard and pits people against each other, and blinds us to the call to be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of others. Humility, as taught by Jesus, is a much needed antidote to arrogance. Humility teaches us that there are limits to our human ability and power. Humility reminds us that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return. Humility teaches us to let go of our own limited human perspective, and to see the world from God’s perspective. There is a wonderful quote, and I’m not sure of the source, but it sums it all up. It goes: Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
​This Gospel lesson also teaches us the importance of harmony between our faith, our words, and our actions. We can pray and attend church regularly, we can come up in this pulpit and preach beautiful words, but if we don’t live out what we preach and believe in acts of justice and mercy, our words are hollow, false, and accomplish little. Jesus tells us that our faith and our words must be reflected in our actions. It is not acceptable to offer long prayers and proclaim piety while letting poor widows suffer. It is not enough to conduct beautiful liturgies that bring comfort and solace; we must inspire people to extend the circle of God’s love to everyone, particularly the lost, the lonely, the poor, the forgotten. We cannot practice our faith for ourselves and our church community alone, or it will grow stagnant and die. We are the living body of Christ, and we need to be his hands, feet, mind, and heart in the world. We are indeed called, as written in the book of the prophet Micah, to “do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8). If we live out our faith this way, it will turn this world upside down, just as it did in ancient times, and grace will run wild and free.
​Finally, we are called to give all of ourselves, body, mind, and spirit to God in Christ. The widow in the story did not hold anything back. Though she did not know where her next income would come from, she offered all freely, trusting in God’s abundance. We are not to say, this part of my life, my church life, is what I will give to God, but ALL of it, my work life, my relationships, my decisions about vocation and money, the nitty gritty, I will offer all of it to God. We offer all of ourselves, our hopes, our fears, our joys, our gifts, our strengths, and our wounds and sins, to God, asking him to strengthen, heal, and transform us, and then send us out as bearers of his light in the world. We may feel at times like we don’t have much to offer, but we don’t have to depend on our sense of abundance but on the endless abundance of God. He will take our two copper coins and multiply them in his bounty!
​It is also appropriate today that we remember and honor our veterans, who gave all of themselves, who held nothing back, in tireless and whole-hearted service to their country. Like the widow in the story, these soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women offered the utmost of what they had to God and to their country– themselves. They went off into the dangerous unknown, not sure if they would come back alive, and released everything they had, their hopes and dreams for the future,, their families, their very lives, into the care of God. Some of them were famous generals and commanders, many of them are the unknown multitudes who served with dignity, humility, courage, and unselfishness, and they are forever remembered by us and by God. As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “it is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining for us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the “last full measure of devotion,” We also offer great thanks for all the living veterans, some of them right here in our congregation today, who by their sacrifice and courage have also given their” last full measure of devotion” to God and their country. We thank you, we bless you, we honor you, and we carry you in our hearts and prayers!.
​Humility, acts of justice and mercy, wholehearted devotion to Christ- these things make the kingdom a present reality among us. There is a wonderful offertory hymn, “All That We Have, and All that We Offer, that goes like this:
All that we have, and all that we offer
Comes from a heart, both frightened and free.
Take what we bring now, and give what we need
All done in his name
We ask you to take our hearts, Lord, broken, frightened, free and loving, and fill them with your grace and compassionate love for our world. We open our hands and share our treasure, however humble, take it in your abundance, and multiply it. Speak through our lips, and love with our hands and hearts, and help us make your Kingdom come here on earth In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Leadership is Service – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant”

Mark 10:35-45

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Hey It’s good to be back home again!! Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend, Yes it’s good to be back home again.” I love John Denver songs. There are many great things a faith leader can benefit when he/she sets sail away from his/her local community for a while, even when it’s only one week. While I was away in Seoul Korea to attend the Episcopal Asiamerica ministry Consultation as a member of the EAM Council, and to attend the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Anglican Church of Korea, I met great world leaders as well as local people who continue to spread the love of God to all through partnership and collaborations. I had the chance to meet the rector and Vestry members of Trinity Wall Street New York, one of the richest parishes in the whole of the Episcopal Church, who were so humble to visit our Filipino migrant workers in a poor neighborhood outside the city. We danced and we ate together a tasteful Igorot delicacy, Chicken soup / Pinikpikan style. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” Not only did I make a connection with faith leaders and local people, but I also learned and witnessed the history and geography of the North and South Korea. I sat down on top of the Observatory building looking below the river that divides the two nation. I began to sing quietly Bob Dylan’s song “Blowing in the wind”……. Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind. I thought what happened after South Korea experience was the highlight of my being away for two weeks. I had the most wonderful experience being with my family on our first cruise vacation to Ensenada Mexico. I will never trade such experience with the world. It strengthened my spiritual journey and my being a husband and a father. I encourage you all to do the same. Have sometime for your self and family or friends. Experience that which you have been deprived. I believe God is calling us all to enjoy life, experience the mountain top feeling, the smooth sailing at sea, then come back renewed and ready to face what life has to give. Those who have been there will surely agree that we need a time to be with God in many mysterious and wonderful ways. I could certainly relate now with what Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you, will be your servant.” The name “Great Britain” says a lot on greatness. Among other things it points out the basic desire in every person to become great. It is so basic that if one cannot become great, one tries to attach oneself to something that is great. If that too is not possible, some strive at least to look great. Moved by this universal desire to become great, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus whether they could be a sort of Bishop, Rector, Vicar and a Deacon when he becomes King. Jesus does not blame them for asking this, but points out to them, perhaps to their embarrassment, that true greatness is achieved through service: “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness, must serve the rest”. Jesus first outlined in today’s gospel, the accepted standard of civil authority: domination, authoritarian with rulers lording it over their subjects. But this is not how it must be in his community. He saw authority as an opportunity to serve.

In this coming year, it is good that we reflect on who can be a good leader in the light of today’s gospel. People seek authority for different reasons. Some people like the power that goes with it; it makes them feel important and in control. Others like the prestige it brings. Others like the higher salary. All these reasons have one thing in common – authority is seen as an opportunity to promote oneself. Authority can be distinguished into two kinds: an authority which imposes, dominates and controls; and an authority which accompanies, listens, liberates, empowers, gives people confidence in themselves and calls them to be aware of their responsibilities. Jesus sees authority as an opportunity to serve. As always, he set the example himself. He did not lord it over people. He appealed, he invited, called them by their names but left the response to them. This is how he wanted authority to be exercised in his community. Authority should not be given to those who seek it, but only to those who have proved that they are willing to serve. Service is not to be understood as meaning only servant jobs. Service is also any noble and unselfish act. It includes one’s daily duty taken as God’s will for us. We do serve God and human society at large whenever we do our daily task with a sense of dedication and justice, also offering a helping hand to those with whom we live and work. Of course duty, however praiseworthy, is not the ideal Christian service. Christ challenges us to go beyond one’ duty and serve our fellow human beings without hope of gain or reward, without gratitude or praise. True Christian service is, therefore, that which is done solely out of love without any personal advantage, in order to continue Christ’s work of bringing light and hope, help and healing into the lives of others. Suffering and service go hand in hand. Service always involves suffering because one can’t help another without some personal sacrifice. Let us ask ourselves: Am I willing to render selfless service to all my fellow human beings? Am I growing a good seed within me? There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

May we all do service to all, for by doing service comes greatness. Let us not be afraid to become vulnerable for that which God calls us to be. I would like to share this wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake which I learned at yesterday’s Diocesan Convention. I would like to invite you all to say it with me:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake

Amen.

Have you Epiphany?

First Sunday in EPIPHANY

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

A husband composed a song to convey his story:
“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me: A note that says, “Let us save our money for the new year, which means you will not get a gift this Christmas. “On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me, long list of bills”

Today is the day after the 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany, “God is revealed to us”. You may not have gotten any gift during those 12 days of Christmas but God has given you the most gift you ever have, His son our Saviour Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who, through him, God the father is revealed. He is the light that will guide us back to God the Father. In him, will never get lost.

On our way back from sacramento last night, we lost our way going to San Francisco . It was too late when I realized that the road I took was taking us to 99 South towards Lodi and Jackson. No, no, we were not looking for Jackson Rancheria Casino. Thanks to GPS, we found our track back. It took us three hours from sacramento to San Francisco, which should have been two hours only.

I wonder how the three Magi in the Gospel story found the Child Jesus by just following a star? It was suggested that they were astrologers who studied the stars and other heavenly bodies but I don’t think they had an improvised GPS then. I don’t think that just by following the direction of the star, there were no cliffs or water either? Riding on the back of a Camel? I am pretty sure they had to avoid those roads and took a longer route. The Wise men came following a star searching for the one born King of the Jews. The Bible says they came from the East. It was probably Persia. They traveled hundreds of miles and even on camel back they probably did not move much faster than a quick walk. Back then they did not have travel insurance or Highway Patrol or even a gasoline station to ask a map. It was a dangerous journey especially for three very wealthy men with chests full of treasure. They probably had to bring their own security force with them to protect them from robbers. They took at least one wrong turn. They assumed that anyone born to be King of the Jews would be in the palace of the King of Israel. They came to King Herod who became interested to see the Child with a dark intention. They finally got on the right path with the help of an angel who told them not to go back to Herod. And with God’s help they finally found Jesus.

I can only assume that these three Magi went through many hardships and a few wrong turns, but I aslo believe that amidst those challenges, they kept searching and they found God come in the flesh to save us all. God reveals himself all the time if we only seek. The problem is that many people are not looking. How many people saw the star of Bethlehem but failed to notice it. And how many more who saw it failed to ask what it meant. God is being revealed to us all the time. So why don’t people see God. For the most part, it is because they are not looking for God. They may see things and simply overlook them. So they may walk right by and not question what they have seen. So we need to seek. If we want to find God in our world we need to seek. We need to open our eyes and be looking. We need to expect to see something and then we need to question what it means. Like the Wise Men we need to seek to find. Seeking may not be easy. But if we only make our resolves and determinations to find God, we will find him with much joy.

One can’t seek God for granted. If the Wise men had only sought the Messiah on the weekend they would have never have found him. They had to dedicate their lives to it. It probably took them years and cost them a fortune. It was also a trip that include some wrong turns and some dangers. When you seek, know that there will be missteps. You may go down some valleys and peaks, some deeo water or dead ends. But keep seeking. Keep looking despite the dangers. Somewhere, somehow, you will find God revealing Himself to you and the things around you. And you will be able to say, “Aha!” Much to your surprise, He has been there all the time and that you didn’t have to look farther.

Would you like to have an Epiphany experience? Would you like to have the spiritual lights turned on in your heart and soul or turned brighter. Would you like to be suddenly aware of the presence of God in your life? Then seek. Look for God in your life. Don’t do it on just Sundays. Seeking God is not for granted; it is life endeavor. It may take a while so keep seeking. It may be hard to job at this time or home for a shelter this cold season. There may be hardships and wrong turns but keep seeking. Like the wise men follow the light of the star that you have seen and let it lead you to Jesus. Then when you arrive at your epiphany, you can open the treasure chest of your heart, and you can worship God almighty come in the flesh to save us all!

In our journey to seek God, let us bring Christ to others.Here’s my suggestion in doing so:

We are going to kick start our new year with a plan and the plan will revolve around our calling from God to make a difference in our lives, families, church and community.

Invite one friend next sunday. It will be the feast of the Holy Child Jesus, Santo Nino. Let your guest feel the revelation of God’s presence in our worship and fellowship. David and Marie had their Epiphany experience when they first came for a visit here in our midst. They are back because they felt the presence of God in our worship and fellowship.

Let it be our goal to bring at least one or two friends this year. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Just say, “come and see, we are a loving and caring community.”Build that friend to be part of one of our programs. Let him or her feel God’s calling to seek for the star in Jesus through our church and community program.

The revelation of God does not end in the birth of Jesus. It goes beyond the spirit of the Birth, it goes through our hearts and beyond, to the next person whom you bring Jesus to. It goes beyond the walls of this Church. God reveals himself to us at Holy Child and St Martin through our compassion to the poor and the uninsured in our community. I ask you all to turn on your lights and join me in the distribution of the health flyer to anyone, anywhere for people to know that the star of God is just right here in our midst. We will be going door to door in the neighborhood, in every bus stops, in every laundry area to invite people to come and see how God is being revealed through our programs for the community. You will also find that on our meeting with the people, God is also revealed to us. God has been calling us all along to do this kind of ministry. Keep your hearts open that God may enter and reveal himself to you. May the light of God revealed in the word made flesh, Jesus our Lord, be with you today and as you leave this place to proclaim God’s love to the world. Happy Epiphany to all. Amen.

“Please don’t take away the Child Jesus so soon”

First Sunday after Christmas Day

 “Please don’t take away the Child Jesus so soon”

 John 1: 1-14

 The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

 December 30, 2012

 Every parent would agree that the birth of a child gives light to a home. There is plenty of joy to see a beautiful little child smile or grip your finger with his/her little hand. Each parent would remember the time when you cuddled your child and sing the lullaby, so gentle to put the child to sleep. A sibling may be so excited to have a brother or a sister to care and play with. A parent could also wish that moment of birth and child bearing last longer.

 A parent told me one day, “Enjoy the company of your child while she is young.” There is truth to that especially when your child begins to observe privacy and lock herself in her room or when she wants to move away to a far place to exercise her independence. So please don’t take away the feeling of having a child as the light of a home, at least not so fast, for I want to keep the wonderful feeling a little longer.

I saw a neighbor removing his Christmas decors just a day after Christmas. I asked why? He said, “Christmas is over” Please don’t take away the child Jesus so soon. I need to feel the story a little deeper, a little closer, a little while. Let his light consume my heart. You see, soon he is going to be grown up and suffer pain and be crucified. Please don’t rush, let me enjoy the moment a little longer.

We all know the difficulties of every parent whose child was a victim of human failures and even with that of natural calamities. In the fullness of time, the light of God will heal their hearts. Let us continue to pray for that light to penetrate the deepest darkness in our society.

Last night, I watched the news about Russian president Vladimir Putin signing a law banning Americans from adopting Russian kids. There were these childless parents who only had two months to go before the adoption papers are finalized only to find they are being deprived from loving and having a child. This reminds me of our friend Lyle Richardson who has an orphanage in Russia. I just hope and pray that he is not deprived of sending support to that institution.

Christmas reminds us of the many families who have to be separated and be deprived of love and joy and the opportunity to a better life in their pursuit of happiness. I am talking about the parents or their children being separated from each other because of immigration issues.

This reminds me of the recent gathering I attended at the San Francisco State building in our attempt to ask Governor Jerry Browne to support and sign the TRUST Act. 75 people from religious and community organizations came out to watch Mary and Joseph knock on the door of Gov. Brown – asking that he works on the TRUST ACT immediately, to prevent more families like theirs, from being separated this holiday season. I acted as one of the Magi carrying the symbolism of light. The three magi’s went through the building security process while the rest of the people are chanting and singing outside the building. Then we went up to the 14th floor where the office of Governor Browne is. I knocked at the door three times, getting our gifts ready to present to him. One is carrying 400 signed cards asking the Governor to sign the TRUST Act, the other is carrying big pen for him to sign and I was carrying a candle light as a symbol that when he signs it, it will give light to the darkness these families are going through. Unfortunately, the door was locked and it has been locked for a year now due to budget constraints. The Governor can only be reached in Sacramento California. We came down and reported to the people, not of without hope, but with a stronger conviction that we will go to Sacramento on January 7th, just a day after the Three Kings day, to deliver those undelivered gifts. I ask your prayers and support to all families who are vulnerable to being deprived of love, joy and happiness. Let the light of the child Jesus, the word of God, illuminate the darkness of the nation. Let not your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in the love of the light that came to save us.

Brothers and sisters, this is that time of the year when families are re-united again and celebrate the coming of the light in the Holy family in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph.  We take this time to reflect on what it is to be a family. The family is the basic unit of society and the Church. It is in the family that we first learn to communicate, and that we learn what is good and bad. It is in the family that we learn what love is because it is in the family that we first receive love. It is in the family that we first learn to forgive and to pray. It is in the family that we first learn about God and Jesus, Joseph and Mary. It is in the family that we learn to value ourselves and to value everything else, picking up our values from what is said and unsaid by our parents. Our family forms us for many years to come.

It is important for us to continue to re-tell the story of the Holy Family in our homes. Let the light of God’s word shine in our homes, ever remembering the love of God every time we are about to fall from the pit of dissolution. Ever remembering that God sent Jesus to us to reveal his love and to show us the way to him. God chose a family to show us how all families are to find their way to him. We pray that our families fulfill God’s plan because that is the only way to be happy families.God’s Holy Family was a family with special graces but yet a family with trials. Every family has particular graces and blessings and every family also has difficulties and crosses. But God did not abandon the Holy Family, certainly God did not abandon us for He has given us grace full of Love and joy.

Let the words in the Gospel be our hope when St. John wrote:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

May the blessing of the light be with you now and in the coming years. Amen.

May Patience and Compassion be our experience of rebirth in Christ

Last Sunday of Advent 2012

                                                  The Rev. Leonard Oakes                      

 For the past Sundays in Advent, we have been anxiously waiting and preparing for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is the last Sunday of our preparations. We are now with much patience waiting for that very moment where we celebrate the rebirth of God’s Love for His creation in the form of His Child Jesus, Santo Nino.

Two more days and it is Christmas! In my personal experience as one who is anxiously waiting for this event, I have one important message to share:

It was said that patience is a virtue. Well, patience indeed will reap joy when it is coupled with perseverance. When I was a child, I would patiently wait and constantly check my Christmas stocking if I have a gift from Santa. I remember that socks with hole on it. Even now, I still wait and at times check if there is something inside my decorated stocking.

Last Sunday, I sang an old song from a barrowed tune “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”  So I sang, “I’m dreaming of Ipad Computer, it’s been a year since I last ask.” Patience and perseverance had their prayers answered. And so now, I’d like to sing it again for you, but this time it will be this way: “Thank you, thank you, thank you very much thank you.”

God hears your prayers in many ways. I remember a story about these young brothers who were spending their night at their grandmother’s house and she told them that before they go to bed to make sure they said their prayers. They went to their room, got down to their knees. They youngest boy started to pray at the top of his lungs. “God I pray for a new Xbox, I pray for a new computer, I pray for a new ipod so I could listen to Christmas songs” His brother punched him and said, “Why are you screaming? God isn’t there?” He said, “I know that, but Grandmother is.”

I have now the latest Ipad with retina because your love for me is overflowing. My patience and perseverance have gathered their prize. (That doesn’t mean the collection for your contribution is over since I have to pay back the Church of what I used to obtain that item. Mrs. Milanes will be with patience wait for you at the door.)

But let me tell you my experiences in my numerous attempts to buy that computer and how I passed the test of Patience. I was on my way to best buy whistling with lots of smile to everyone I meet as I entered the store. I went straight to the computer department and saw this Mac Pro computer with retina and fell in love not with the prize but with the features it offers. A lot of visions came to my mind as I look at it. I thought about being able to surf the internet faster in my research for books or issues to read. I thought about not having any headaches and frustrations with this new device. I was resolved to buy that computer so I called the treasurer and said, “I found what I needed.” I gave the quote to the treasurer and she issued me a check. I tell you, I was with high spirit and very positive about having that computer. I went back to best buy and gave them the check. The cashier runs the check with her check reader. Believe it or not, the machine came with this message. “Denied, you have to call the tele- check for verification.” I said to the cashier, “I’m pretty sure there’s money in the checking account.” She told me to call the 800 number and the customer service representative told me that this happens especially when the account has no transaction history with the store. I told her, “I have been buying items for the church here with another account that we recently closed.” She advised me to get the old account number so she could run in her computer. I called our treasurer and inquired about the old account number with Chase Bank. Soon as I got the number, I called back the 800 numbers and Alas! She found the transaction history and said It is alright to use the check. After two hours, I am ready to play that new computer. The cashier run it again but denied. The cashier thinks we should try another check since the old check has imprints at the back. It was already 9 in the evening so I said, “Let’s do it tomorrow.”

I would ask you, what would you have said if that happened to you? Would you have screamed at the customer representative? Would you have cursed Best Buy and promise not to come back anymore?

I went back that morning with a new check and it was again denied. I decided to go to the bank and requested a cashier check. I went back to best buy and gave them the cashier’s check but the machine denied it again due to subject to verification of clearance. I smiled and suggested to the cashier to call the manager and try to talk to the bank manager. After several minutes, it got approved and processed. I now have the Ipad in my hands; I hugged it as if it was a reunion. I thanked the cashier for her patience and assistance. On my way to the car, I whispered to the ipad, “I’m not going to let them stop me from having you.” I knew God was checking on my patience and now I enjoy the fruit of your love this Christmas.

I challenge you to have patience and perseverance in your daily life. You may not get the answer to your prayer now, tomorrow, next week, next month or the whole year, but if you will not give up, God will not give up on you. Keep praying and believe you will one day find the answers to your prayer. Patience makes a difference when you persevere. Do not be discouraged.

Today’s gospel tells us how Mary, who is carrying Jesus in her womb, made a difference in the lives of her cousin Elizabeth and of the child in her womb. Mary, being anointed by the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and her child. The trip from Nazareth in Galilee where Mary lived to a village in Judea where Elizabeth lived would take four days by foot. The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and faith. Elizabeth’s unborn child leaped with joy in recognition that salvation was near.

Mary, with her patience and compassion, helped Elizabeth in her time of need and served her baby John was born. That was her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to Elizabeth. This story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry. Each of us has a unique call, leaving us no reason for envy. Mary brought the Savior; John recognized and identified Him; and Elizabeth gave prophecy, mediating God’s word by interpreting this event.

We can make a real difference in the lives of others by bringing Jesus to them. Every day is Christmas and Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Thus he enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring.

I invite you to spend time with your family during this season. Visit your elderly parents and grandparents. Share your patience and compassion for them. Hug your children and be slow to anger for they carry the love of Christ in their hearts. May Patience and Compassion be our experience of the rebirth of Christ in our lives. Share a chat or smile with your neighbor. Sharing Jesus with others is the best Christmas gift we can give. God wants each of us, like Mary, to carry to those around us the Lord of Life. Let us take the time to visit others this Christmas, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God. Amen.

Take it to the Lord in Prayer

Third Sunday in Advent C 2013

(Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7)

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Our Advent waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ have been visited by the spirit of sorrow at the early end of this week. It’s hard for us to be happy and joyful today as the whole nation is in deep shock because of the Massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed when the shooter opened fire Friday morning. We are all deeply saddened and we remain speechless as the news continues to unfold. I ask for a moment of silence and sound 26 bells in memory of the victims. May the souls of the faithful through the mercy of God rest in peace!

In the midst of our sorrow, the prophet Zephaniah announced to God’s people, in the midst of difficult time in their history, to “sing, shout, rejoice and exult for joy”. They should sing for joy not because things were wonderful, but because God was in their midst. We sing for joy today because God is with the people of Newtown in Connecticut. God is in their midst of suffering and pain. We heard Paul in the second reading affirming this act, while in prison, tell the Philippians to rejoice always. The scriptures give different ideas about joy than our culture does. Our society seems to tell us joy stems from what we have. The scriptures tell us our joy comes from what we have now but it also comes from what we will have in the future, something we can trust in because God is faithful to his promises.

We may find it hard to do what Zephaniah and Paul ask us to do because of self pity, constantly putting other people down to make ourselves look smatter or better; holding on to anger and resentment. It only eats us up inside and does not produce joy. We have to forgive.

And then there’s fear and worry. Paul advises us to have no anxiety at all. That might sound impossible but there are so many things that cause us anxiety, which only God understands. If self-pity, guilt, anger, unwilling to forgive, resentment, fear, and worry work against our having joy, then what will lead to joy? We must decide to be joyful. Paul tells the Philippians “rejoice’ as if it is something for them to choose to do rather than it being something that just happens to them. “Rejoice in the Lord always” and “Do not worry about anything”

With that, I want to play you this singing bass fish Rev. Lynn gave me as a gift which helps me cope up with stress. The song was from Youtube sensation Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  I like it when its tail wiggles. In times when I think that even though we live in a world that is full of toys, comforts and luxuries yet fewer and fewer people seem to experience true peace and satisfaction in their lives, and in times when life is full of problems and we continue to experience more and more worry and anxiety, I still have time to sit down and take a deep breath and sing this song:

In every life we have some trouble/ When you worry you make it double/ Don’t worry, be happy.
Ain’t got no place to lay your head/ Somebody came and took your bed/ Don’t worry, be happy.
The landlord say your rent is late/ He may have to litigate/ Don’t worry, be happy.
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style/ Ain’t got no gal to make you smile/ But don’t worry, be happy.

I like it when Bobby just whistles his problems out. Yet, when we look deeper to compare the song with our readings today, there is a big difference between St Paul and Bobby McFerrin on this issue. Bobby McFerrin tells us “Don’t worry, be happy” without telling us why we should be happy or more importantly how to not worry. Paul, on the other hand tells us both why we should be happy and how we can dissolve our worries and attain happiness. Here we have Paul’s key to happiness.

Paul tells us why we should not worry when he said: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near”. We should be happy not because everything is going well with us right now, not because our health and finances are in great shape, not even because the Church Women bought you your favorite computer this Christmas, but simply because the Lord is near. We should be happy not because of what the past and the present have shown but because of what we shall see tomorrow. It is a happiness that springs from the faith and the hope that our Lord is coming to save from our sinfulness and become inheritors of God’s kingdom.

Paul today reassures us that the coming of the Lord will be a happy surprise for those who believe and hope in Him. We have to remember that Paul was writing these words from prison where he was not sure if he will come out alive. So here he is teaching us not only by word but by example as well. “Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” The Lord is coming.

Why and how not to worry could be difficult to explain to the family of the victims in Connecticut at this time of grief. How could one keep from worrying when one is surrounded by apparently gargantuan problems and difficulties? Yet, Paul gives us an answer in the second part of the reading. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In every situation, in every difficulty or problem, in all circumstances, Paul knows one thing we should do rather than worry, and that is: take it to the Lord in prayer. Paul does not ask us to deny that we’ve got problems or to pretend as if they are not there. He urges us rather to face our problems squarely, not with worry but with prayer.

 Turn your worries into prayers and have peace in your heart “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. It is the peace that God gives, the peace that nothing in the world can give, and all because we have learned to trust God in everything and in every situation. We have learned to bring everything to God in prayer no matter the magnitude of the problems facing us at this time. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

I have another song for you today. Nine more days before Christmas, I still have time to sing: Maestro, take it to the key of D. “I’m still dreaming of Imac computer, it’s been a year since I last asked. My old computer is 13 years old now, and it’s giving me headache every time.” I know, I don’t have to worry for there are people like you who are blessed to give. Lord, hear my prayer. Amen.

What are you preparing for?

Second Sunday in Advent C 2012

Fr. Leonard Oakes

 What are you preparing for?

The popular Filipino Boxer Manny Pacman Pacquiao may have surely learned this time that in everything, preparation and not over confidence is needed to win a fight. For those who still cannot believe Manny lost, get over it and learn that we are now entering into the season of preparing ourselves for the coming of the birth of Christ, the Santo Nino in our lives.

One of the important lessons I learned when travelling to another country especially if it is more than one week, is to make sure you have everything packed. It is used to be that my wife Haidee would prepare all my travel needs. She in fact offered to do it for me but I wanted to show her that I can do it. The next thing I found was I was missing a lot of stuff such as socks, underwear, hygiene kits. I had more sweaters than shirts which I didn’t get to use because it was warm and humid in most places we’ve been in the Philippines. So I bought things in the Philippines out of necessity.

Preparation cannot be done quickly and sloppy, it has to be planned ahead with sound decisions and constant checking with a list. One cannot be over confident that he has it all otherwise he will find things to be costly.

When I arrived home from a two week vacation in the Philippines, I noticed the cleanliness and well organized settings inside our house. The tables are cleared from clutters, the sofas are rearranged, the bed is well presented so that when I started to unpack my travelling bags and placed some of my things in the table, my wife was quick to say, “no, no, no, don’t put your things on the table, we have to start our new year with a clean and organized home.” I thought about that to be neat and true, don’t you agree? We should prepare for our new year with a life free from so much clutters and mess.

Last Sunday, we learned from Mrs. Marietta Flores that Advent is a time for waiting, waiting for the birth of Christ in our lives. Waiting and Preparation are two things that go together in this season of Advent. You see, things are changing and seasons are rotating, but as they rotate, change comes with it, change that renews the face of our being. We started our new year with winter where everything slows down. It is about time to unpack our troubles and worries in life and just go slow but prepared for the coming of a new day in our lives. It is time to rest and be reenergized and prepare for another wonderful year to travel. When spring comes, we shall begin to grow a new life, so fresh and renewed and ready to have a full bloom in summer until the cycle begins anew.

Advent is a time for waiting with much anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Christ in our lives, our family, our community and the world. It is also a time to prepare for a new miracle that is being brought by the birth of Christ. We shall not be caught unaware but prepared and ready to embrace those changes that will make us worthy in the eyes of God.

We must always be ready to reveal the miracles of the love of God in this community. We have been keeping our voices low for sometimes. Just like Zechariah in our Old Testament reading, who was serving in the Temple when an angel appeared to him and said his wife would have a baby who would prepare the way for the messiah and that he would be called John. But because Zechariah didn’t believe the angel (for his wife is already old and many years post menopause) (At least not men oppose), the angel then said to Zechariah that he would not be able to speak until all that had taken place. So for nine months, he was unable to talk until his wife Elizabeth had the baby. Imagine yourself not being able to say a word for nine months? I know some people who would explode if it happened to them.

When Manny Pacqiao was knocked out, his fans were silenced for a long minute. Then with disbelief, they started to make comments, both negative and positive. “Kunak tu met nga saan nga bira nga bira.” “I told him not to keep punching without planning.” Others would say, “He will come back next time with a perfect plan.”

If you were told to shut for nine month, what would you say once you could speak? Would you have a list of smart remarks and comments to make? Would you have a list of opinions to express? Would you complain that you’re tired of being told on what to do? Of all the things that Zechariah could have said, he praised God for sending a Savior. He opened his lips and told everyone that God was sending light into the darkness. He broke the silence by proclaiming the grace and salvation of God.

Like Zechariah, it’s about time to open our lips and praise God for the gift of our salvation.

It is time for us to break the silence. The world needs to see the light of God in Christ. But too many people lose the real light of Christ in the artificial Christmas lights. They miss the gift of love and life from God in the rush to get the perfect gift for that someone. They lose the manger and the baby in all the other decorations of the season. The real meaning of Christmas is being camouflaged with commercial sales. We who see the real meaning of the season need to say something!

We have some help in breaking the silence. Zechariah had an angel to help him see it and tell others. But we have the genuine article! Jesus the light of the world dwells in us. He will enable us to tell the world.

Our seniors and the ECW are planning to have a Friday evening soup for the community. Inviting the poor and less fortunate in the community to simply come and enjoy a hot soup and some bread and entertainment. Many from the community are not able to eat good meals a day because they are tightening their belts from unemployment and other reasons.

Last Wednesday night, a group of health professionals gathered at the Church hall to give birth to the realization of our health and wellness volunteer program. These wonderful Doctors, Registered Nurses, LVN, Senior Living Administrators, CNA and others do know the meaning of the birth of Christ in this community by offering their time and talents to reach out to the least of God’s people, the uninsured, the less fortunate; by offering free blood pressure check up, health education, referral program and other health needs these poor people cannot afford or able to benefit due to financial and other reasons.

We are all part of the blessing. You and I, young and old are part of this calling. Beginning this week, our trained professionals will put flyers and brochures together and be ready for distribution in preparation for a health fair on January 29, 2013.  I call upon us all to put on our cloak, wear the sandal of Christ and be ready to go house to house, community to community, bus to bus, in every grocery store and food court, from car to cars and tell the people that we are here with loving arms to embrace the season and the new year with care and service through our health and wellness program.

This Friday, a concert is set to benefit our Santo Nino Stained Glass window project. Invite others and share them the miracle our Santo Nino brought to this Church and the Community. In this coming Sunday also, we will dedicate and unveil the santo nino stained glass project. Our loving and wonderful Lyle Richardson came all the way from Florida to be with us on this occasion. Let us give him a big round of applause. I invite you all to come and be part of that miracle. It is free for all.

What does the Lord require of you? To wait patiently, prepare to welcome the Love of God through Jesus Christ and be of service to those of the least of your brothers and sisters, whoever and wherever they may be. That is the message I would like us all to keep in heart this season. Even when we think we don’t have enough to share, even when we are a mission station struggling for our own needs, we are still blessed by God, for God is for us, God is with us and He will not abandon us even to the end of the world. So let us give praise and thanks to God our creator and provider. Amen.

 

 

Fidelity and Love

On Marriage and Children

Mark 10:2-16

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

Today’s Gospel invites all the married couples and teenagers who are in the processes of selecting their life partner, and people who are undergoing crisis in their family to reflect on deeper meaning of Marriage itself. There are so many forces that destroy the very basics of family today, and we cannot just sit here and do nothing to address them. I thought this topic to be appropriate to talk in the presence of our youth and young adult today who are in many ways affected just as parents are.

Marriage is a gift from God. The book of Genesis portrays the first couple being introduced by God in person and joined with his blessing. God knew only too well that, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). God calls the majority of men and women to become holy and find their fulfillment in marriage through a loving and loyal living together to the end. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospel rightly quoted the words in the book of Genesis: “6 But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ 7 `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

It is sad however, that the rising divorce rate has become a confusing religious and social problem. We only sympathize with all the divorcees, for marriages though “made in heaven” are lived on earth where, too often, self-giving is absent and selfishness overpower love to the extent that marital fidelity indeed becomes difficult. However, any promise to be true has to fulfill certain conditions as in the case of a seed which is a promise but it has to be first buried in the soil and exposed to rain and wind and sunshine before it sprouts. Likewise, God’s promise of fulfillment through marriage has some conditions, namely totality in love and fidelity to the end. Hence at a Christian wedding, the couple promises each other, not a Rose Garden but the gift of themselves for ever. Therefore do not look so much at how your spouse will make you happy. Look instead at how you can give yourself away to each other. Live out the ‘I do” promise every day.

I did a wonderful wedding celebration at the beautiful Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland yesterday. A good number of married couples with their children were around. I saw in their eyes a reaffirmation of their vows when the bride and the groom exchanged their marriage vows with tears of joy.  I wondered however, if there were those among the guests, who had to go through the agony of failure in keeping their vows.

There’s so much emotional pain that divorce can cause. When you invest your life in another person and that relationship falls apart, it hurts. Psychologists rate the stress caused by a divorce as being higher than the stress caused by the death of a spouse. Sometimes the marriage is so dysfunctional or even abusive that divorce is the only recourse. Even in that situation divorce is a difficult and painful transition. The unthinkable results however affect the children in their growth. Psychologist and sociologist agree that many of the youths coming from broken families have anti-social and behavioral problems. And one reason is due to lack of parental love and supervision.

Divorce inflicts traumatic experience of separation suffered by the couples and children; it has become a simplistic way of resolving marital problems. Couples who resort to divorce because one of the spouses is irresponsible, unfaithful and a drunkard is only transferring their personal problems to another marital relationship — if they don’t change their old traits and vices. So, it’s recycling personal problems, which will lead to another divorce.

(A couple was arguing about expenses. The wife said to her husband, “Will you quit buying liquor, you’re spending money irresponsibly! To which the husband replied, “What about you? You keep buying make ups and other beauty products.” The wife explained, “I have to use make ups so that I will look beautiful to you.” To which the husband also explained, “I need to get drunk so that I can appreciate your beauty.” This scenario can go on and on until the relationship becomes monotony.)

A high school teacher asked her class what’s the word used to describe a marriage with many wives. A student answered, “polygamy.” “You’re right,” she said. “How about a marriage with two spouses? Another student replied, “ bigamy.” “Correct,” the teacher said, “And how about a marriage with only one wife?” A student raised his hand and blurted out, “Ma’am, monotony!” Of course he meant “monogamy.”  However, unintentionally his answer touched on a problem in marriage, which is monotony.

When monotony strikes a relationship and there’s a loss of respect and affection, it will lead to the dissolution of that relationship. The husband used to give her wife flower, used to kiss her and say the words I Love You. Now, he would just leave without saying anything, comes home anytime he wants. The wife doesn’t take shower anymore. She doesn’t wear her beautiful night gown anymore.

I read on facebook about how couples, after many years of marriage, think of their spouses. He compared them with the type of songs they sing. The text message runs this way: “On the day of their marriage, they sing: “Love divine and love excelling.” After ten years of marriage they sing: “Lord have mercy” After 20 years of marriage, their song is: “Take Oh Lord and receive.” After 30 years,  they sing Elvis Presley’s “Please release me let me go”

So, what should be done is to work out couple’s problems and save their turbulent marriages as far as possible. When bitter conflicts crop up inflicting emotional wounds, it is important that the wound be treated with real sorrow, which goes with a resolve to reform; otherwise it leaves a permanent scar.

Sometimes there are valid reasons that make the Christian teaching on marriage difficult to swallow. But there is value in faithfulness that can overcome the difficulties of married life. It would be huge joy and fulfillment to feel if, despite all the trials and difficulties, a couple persevere and see their children grow to become good parents someday.

Another recommendation that we should do is to frequent our coming to church together as a family. A study indicated that if couples attend Mass together each Sunday they have a sixty times greater chance of having a lasting marriage. And if they pray together every day – even just prayers before meals or kneeling down at the bedside at night, the marriage is practically unbreakable. The reason is obvious. Didn’t Jesus say in the gospel today, ‘married couples’ are no longer two but one flesh? Certainly he will bless you with joy of being together. In fact the first miracle he performed was for that young couple in Cana to save their wedding reception – and he wants to give you everything you need, each day, to have a beautiful married life. Therefore never forget to be with Jesus as couples every day.

The other recommendation I would like to share, is for the youth and young adults to be the light at home. I know fear will envelop you at times to even say a word to your parents, but if you sense that there is a problem at home, stand up and be a light by reminding the household to pray and stay together.

Today is acolyte recognition Sunday. The word acolyte means altar servers whose primary role is to light the altar candles and assists the priests and deacons at the altar. In tagalog, “Ako” means “I am” “AKO LIGHT” “I am light” Youth and young adults, be the light at home and show your good deeds to others so that God in heaven be glorified.

To all parents, learn from the story of a zipper who always unifies that which at times separates. Keep those pants zipped, don’t let it fall open otherwise you will fall into temptations. Amen.