Fr. Jacob Dankasa – My Blog

Archive for the ‘Homilies/Sermons’ Category

Our Gospel today (Matt 25:1-13) presents us with the parable of the ten virgins. Five were foolish and five were wise. The wise virgins made deliberate decision to take extra oil in case of unforeseen events but the other five didn’t see the need and, of course, they were embarrassed afterwards when their oils went dry.

In our everyday life, we find ourselves making deliberate attempts to prepare for the unforeseen future. We plan for retirement, put money in our 401k, plan our savings, and some invest in the stock market and are anxious each time the market goes up and down. We do all these planning to be sure that the future is enjoyable for us. It’s truly wise for us to plan for our future.

Our readings today admonish us to also extend this wise preparation to our spiritual lives. As Christians we need to also be deliberate in preparation for our spiritual lives. Like the stock market, we should pay attention to our spiritual lives when it goes up and down. We need to make deliberate arrangements to include prayer and God in our schedules. We wake up in the morning and prepare how to accomplish the tasks for the day, but most times we forget to include prayer as part of the tasks. Finally we get done with our daily schedules so tired that we have no time to pray. This is like running out of oil because we didn’t make prayer as part of our daily plan. 

Christmas is on the way and many of us are making bucket list of what to accomplish this Christmas. Check your bucket list and see if you have a space for how you will live your spiritual life this Christmas. Apart from attending Church services, what else is the place of God in your list? In the light of our Gospel today, I will encourage us to include in our Christmas bucket list something we may achieve to grow our spiritual life: giving to the poor, reconciling with someone you have trouble relating with, spending some time in prayer with your family etc. These are some ways you can keep your oil burning without running out.

One area that needs to have God included in our plans is when people are planning to get married. There are a lot of things that go into preparation for marriage. In most cases, many forget to make deliberate plans to include their spiritual lives in the list of their plans, with the exception of probably going for the wedding service. Marriage is a lifelong commitment and for us to keep the oil of love burning beyond the wedding day, we need deliberate plans on how we will include God in our scheme of things. People trying to get married should not restrict their planning to the material preparation. You should also draw out your spiritual plans, your prayer lives, and the place of God in your family. When we include a space for God as part of our life journey, our oils will never run dry.

Finally, in all that we do and in all our plans, check and see if there is a space for God. He alone can give you the Holy Spirit to Keep your plans burning with Success.

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God has bestowed us with various responsibilities as His children. He has positioned some of us to be clergy in order to lead the people of God towards Him. Some are chosen to be parents, to lead families and children to God. Others are chosen as leaders to bring order to structures in society. But for many of us we are called to be Christians to show people the way to God. 

In all these responsibilities, and especially as Christians, our readings today (Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8:10 & Mt. 23:1-12) challenge us to be good role models to those who look up to us. When we preach, teach and demand the right conduct from our parishioners, our children, our friends and from those who are struggling in their faith, or those who do not share our faith, we must also develop the inner holiness to live by example in true humility. Otherwise we will only be exhibiting spiritual superiority that lacks credibility.

The readings challenge us against spiritual superiority that is not backed up by inner holiness. Such superiority turns us to spiritual police that are only concerned with the rights and wrongs of other people while inside of us we lack the spiritual discipline to apply same standards of holiness to ourselves. 
True holiness is not achieved by merely applying your Christian standards on other people. True holiness is achieved by applying the Christian standards to oneself first. When we apply our christian standards to ourselves and live by them, we become the pathway through which others will learn to be holy. True spiritual leadership should begin with me living the life of holiness. True spirituality should teach me to be humble. When I become truly spiritual, I will learn to see my imperfections which will lead me to acquiring the humility to see how best I can help others to grow alongside me in achieving true growth in holiness.
Unfortunately, many of us spend time dissecting what is wrong or right about other people’s lives and applying standards to others which we don’t live by (“They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Mt. 23:4). This type of manufactured spiritual leadership is not healthy for personal growth in holiness and is not effective in changing other people’s lives. Oftentimes, we find ourselves fighting over whose religion is the best, whose church is the best or whose faith is the best. Meanwhile, we personally neglect to live by those very standards that define a person who professes that faith which we externally fight for. 
When we truly live by the standards of our faith we will not need to fight over whose faith is the best. Already, the best can be seen by our very lives. When we live by the standards of our beliefs our credibility to explain to others what we believe will be like no other. People will walk the rain and snow to hear and learn from us. Achieving inner holiness is a lifelong journey. Let’s walk it together.

The teaching of Christ in our Gospel today (Mt. 18:15-20) seems to go contrary to our perceived everyday model of reconciliation. In our everyday life we instinctively expect the person who offends us to come seeking for reconciliation. On the contrary, Christ lies the responsibility for initiating reconciliation with the person who is offended: “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his faults.” Christ admonishes us to reach out to the offender. This goes with a lot of humility. 

Christ presents four steps towards reconciliation: First is a private consultation. Effective reconciliation begins by privately seeking it. It will be counter productive to tell the whole about a wrong doing committed against you by someone before making the person in question know about it. This may jeopardize the process. In a Christian spirit, let the person be the first to know that you feel offended by his/her actions. When this first step fails Christ gave a second step where you involve one or two responsible people that can help mediate. Be sure that such people are truly responsible because some people can make matters worse between you. The third step, if the second fails, is to involve the church or the community.  

The last step, if all fail, is to treat the person “as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” This last step can be misunderstood. Many may think that this means you have finished trying; you should hate the person or treat the person with disdain. Definitely, that’s not the kind of advice we will expect from a person like Jesus who symbolizes persistent love. When Christ advised his listeners to treat the person as they would a Gentile or a Tax collector, he is asking them to follow his (Jesus) footsteps. How did Jesus treat the Gentiles and the tax collectors? You remember what he did to the Samaritan woman at the well who was considered to be a Gentile? Remember what he did to Zacchaeus and Levi who were considered to be tax collectors? He didn’t condone their behaviors neither did he hate them or despise them. He never got done with them, he never finished trying. 

This last step is about the most challenging. Christ is asking us to still forgive and love even when our efforts for reconciliation fail. It is not an invitation to hate, but it is a christian call to never give up on trying to win back a brother or sister. If we can do nothing else, we can at least continue to pray for the person and still leave room that someday reconciliation may be achieved. This was reiterated by St. Paul in the second reading (Rom. 13:8-10): “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another…. Love does no evil to the neighbor.” When you seek reconciliation and the other refuses, you’re exonerated in the side of God. The burden of sin is taken away from you. But continue to lift the person up to God. This is so weird and difficult. But a christian is known by his weird and difficult actions that eventually lead to God. 

As we interact with people everyday we develop relationships that influence how they perceive us. There is hardly a one-way universal perception of an individual. People perceive us differently depending on how much they know us. Sometimes it is better not to ask people to tell us what they think about us unless we are strong enough to contend with what we will hear. In today’s Gospel (Mt. 16:13-20), Christ asked his disciples to tell him what they hear on the street about people’s perception of him. But the important question came when he wanted to know what the disciples, his closest companions, think of him. Peter spoke out from his personal experience of Jesus and said he is the Christ.

This challenges us with the question of our personal experience of Jesus as Christians. The important thing is not what others think about Jesus or what the scriptures say about him. What is important is an individual experience of Jesus as a believer: how do I experience him in my life? How do we explain Jesus to others from a personal point of view not what we hear or read about him.”

For Peter, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, not because he read it somewhere but because he allowed himself to have a personal relationship with Jesus that made him reach that conclusion. Peter, had a personal experience, a personal touch that came as a result of his openness to Jesus. For us to have a personal experience of Jesus we need to have a relationship with him, to be open to his promptings and dispose ourselves for him to touch our innermost emotions.

For us who are Jesus’ followers today, saying that He is the Christ, the Son of God is a repetition of a revealed truth. Such statement is a fundamental fact of our belief. Beyond this, we need something more, something deeper. We need real personal relationship to enable us describe him in our own words or terms. For example, for me, my personal relationship with Jesus makes me to describe Him as a confidant that never betrays my trust, one who knows my darkest sides, my weaknesses, but instead of getting disappointed and abandoning me he rather draws closer and encourages me to be better. He is the one that waits on me when there is no one to relate with. He is the one who does not judge me but always cautions me. He is the one who upholds me when am about to give up. Who is Jesus to you?

The challenge of having a personal relationship with Jesus is that his relationship is not selfish. He wants us to share with others what we feel and experience with him. When Peter proclaimed him as the Christ, the Son of God, he crowned Peter and gave him the mandate to be the harbinger of that belief, to defend it and to share it with others. It therefore means that as christians, we are expected to be to others what Christ is to us because his relationship is infectious. If I truly experience Jesus and have a personal experience of him, then it should be translated to living it out with others. Therefore, if Jesus is a friend that never judges me, I should not judge others. If he is one who knows my darkest sides and yet stands by me and helps me to erase them and become better, then I also need to stand by my friends, my family etc. to strengthen them despite my knowledge of their weaknesses.

Today, we are invited to share with the world our deep-rooted experience of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Gospel today (Mt 15:21-28) presents us with a story of a woman who came to Jesus seeking for help to heal her daughter. This woman was a Canaanite, a group of people that were cast out by the Hebrews and considered unclean because they were seen as pagans. Although this woman knew she was considered as unclean among the Hebrews, she didn’t allow her so called ‘unclean’ status to prevent her from seeking help from a Hebrew whom she saw as capable of helping her. 

From the onset, this woman taught us a lesson. That we should not allow any barrier to stand between us and our God. Never allow the feeling of unworthiness to further push you away from God or never feel that your sins are too grave that God is no longer interested in you. If we know the God we serve and what we need, then we must not be distracted but remain focused on the prize.

Interestingly, this woman was never discouraged even by Jesus’ words that alluded to her as ‘dog’. The use of the term ‘dogs’ to refer to the Gentiles was a common practice among the Jews of Jesus’ time who believed they’re the only true children and heir of God. Jesus certainly didn’t believe in such discriminatory perception. However, he repeated the words as a reminder to his people and to show them that anyone who has faith can be saved, not only the Jews. It was also a test of faith for the woman. 

Although her faith was tried, she passed the test. She was focused on the prize and not the obstacles on the way to the prize. She abandoned her pride and focused on the needs of her daughter. She believes that this Holy man was more than what he just told her. Her pride was also tested. She refused to succumb. She knew that this man called Jesus was a holy man, and since he has done it for others, he will do it for her. And so she persisted. This woman had her faith and pride tested but she passed with patience and persistence. 

Brothers and sisters, what are the hurdles we encounter in the process of seeking God’s favors? Sometimes our prayers and requests seem to go endlessly without results. There are times we experience more hardships and even increased problems on the way despite our prayers. Such feelings of helplessness and seeming lack of immediate response from God are capable of discouraging us and creating the feeling that God doesn’t care. But like this woman in the Gospel, if we focus on the prize not the hurdles or the bumps on the way, we will eventually enjoy the flavor of our patience Sometimes God delays His answers so that we can cherish His gifts when they come. And again, at other times God’s delays may indicate His change of plans for us against our erroneous desires. Remember, He controls the future and He will not hand you a snake instead of a fish. Stick to God’s plans with patience. One who is patient can boil a rock and drink from its sauce. 

Doubts and fears are two strong enemies of human endeavors. So many of us are determined to walk through the waters of life but unfortunately our fears and doubts truncate our determinations and thwart our efforts. In our Gospel reading today, Peter was affected by the effects of fears and doubts. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and asked to do the same. He was invited by Jesus. Sure enough, Peter started walking on the water quite good. But when the wind became strong he was frightened. Doubts set in, and he started sinking. 

Peter walked on the water not by his power but the power of Christ. As long as he relied on the power of Christ he kept walking on the water. But the moment Peter started focusing on himself and thinking it was his ability and power, he started to sink. He sank because his human powers were limited by fear, doubts and uncertainty. Peter began by trusting in God, but his failure came when he turned attention to himself and began to trust more in his ability rather than God. But when he returned his attention to the powers of Christ and invited Jesus to help him, he received the strength and continued to walk again.

As humans we have our storms, our troubles and our worries in life. These are often worsened by our doubts and fears. Our strength alone is not sufficient to combat these troubles because our human abilities are beclouded by fears and doubts and the evil one does well in an environment of fear and doubt. But the more we rely on the power of God, the stronger we become with the ability to manage our troubles. The moment we assume we can solve our problems independent of God, we find ourselves stumbling and sinking the more into our problems.

Are you experiencing chaos in your life? Is your faith beginning to slip? Are you feeling rejected? Are you tired of trying? Those are moments of doubts and fears. Don’t give in easily or else you will be drowned and be taken away by the storm of your problems. When you realize your family is tearing apart, and you no longer find joy in your spouse or your kids, don’t merely rely on your power alone to fix it – call on God. Or it may be that when you started your job you’re all excited but later down the years you no longer find joy in it, you’re getting frustrated with everything. Don’t allow yourself to sink. It’s time to call on your helper for more strength. Whatever you do seek the hands of God. Without God, our human powers are full of doubts, uncertainty, mistrust etc. Although Peter was afraid because of the storm, he never allowed himself to be defeated by his fears. He fought his fears by calling on Christ – a superior power – to help him. Whatever solution you seek for your problems, never forget to include a spiritual solution.

Focus your attention on Jesus and be courageous to call on Him always. With trust in Jesus we can walk on the waters of life despite its turbulence. Never rely on your abilities alone. Remember, we draw our strength from God and we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

In the transfiguration event, we are presented with a scene that appears to be an open transition from the Old covenant to the New. Moses and Elijah represent the old covenant – standing for the law and the prophets respectively. Jesus appears in the middle of these great men of the scriptures as a fulfillment of the covenant. The transfiguration brings to the fore the relationship between the Old and the New Testament. The presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus shows us that the Old Testament and the New Testament are not opposed to each other. Rather, they complement each other in the fulfillment of the law and the prophets through Jesus Christ. We believe that the scripture or the Bible in its entirety is the revealed Word of God. 

Furthermore, as a confirmation of who Jesus is, while in the presence of his disciples, and standing amidst the representation of the Old Testament (Moses and Elijah), God pointed at the face of the New Covenant (Jesus Christ) and asked us to ‘Listen to Him.’ A kind of a transfer of authority from the old to the new, not in opposition but in transition. The transfiguration fused together the law and the prophets into the new covenant – salvation through Jesus Christ.

The voice of God in today’s gospel commands us as christians to listen to His son. How does Jesus speak to us today and how do we listen to Him? There are various ways. As christians Christ speaks to us through the scriptures, through the Church and it’s teachings and through the traditions of the Church. Unfortunately, many Christians today see the Bible, the scriptures, the Word of God, as boring. Some of us cannot sustain a long-term interest in reading the bible. It is easier for some to finish a 100-page book in hours but they cannot sustain reading only a two-page chapter of the bible in a month.The question is why the lack of interest on the things of God? As Christians, we need to transfigure our image and ignite our interest for the things of the Divine so that we can hear Him and listen to Him.

Sadly too, many of us have ignored these channels through which Christ speaks to us. We fail to listen to him when we decide to pick and choose what to believe in the Scriptures and in the teachings of the Church. So many of us have allowed personal and societal ideologies to dictate what to believe about what the scriptures and the Church teach. It is sad that for some professed Christians social and political ideologies speak to us more than the Word of God. We prefer to listen to those loud societal voices while ignoring the gentle whispering voice of God. As Christians, the teachings of our faith should shape our moral, social and political ideologies, not the other way round. When we take the teachings of the Scripture and the Church together we will realize that they do not fit into just one narrow ideological view. Our faith is not a ‘party-line’ ideology. It supersedes all. We must be true followers of Christ who listen to him in its entirety. We cannot afford to remain pick-and-choose christians.

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