Fr. Jacob Dankasa – My Blog

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ 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.

We celebrate Pentecost to commemorate the action of the Holy Spirit as He stirs the people of faith and burn their fears in order to live out their faith with pride. As people of faith, when we allow the Holy Spirit to stir us, we fly without wings to do nothing but become His instruments, to use us to stir others to holiness. To live out our Pentecost is a call to take action and live out our faith.

There are various ways to live out our faith in the spirit of the Pentecost; but here, I will recommend one way of demonstrating our faith, particularly, using the social media – a refreshing trend that is changing the face of our society today. As part of our Pentecost action, I recommend people of faith to consider developing a practice of taking photos of themselves at a beautiful location around their church facilities as they attend weekend masses (or worship) and post these photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media they belong to. Let the world know that you are at church. This is not hypocrisy, this is not mere show up, this is evangelism. The world should know how much you cherish your faith and how proud you are of the God you serve. No shame, no regrets! If there is anything to show off, let your God be first.

If we’re all convince of who we worship, then we must demonstrate that we belong to Him. And no place can be as appropriate to showcase this today than in the social media. One thing is certain, I may not be able to see the inside of your heart, but what I see from the outside can either help me move towards God or away from Him. You may not know how much influence you have on others and what the Spirit can do through you on social media; don’t undermine the work of the Holy Spirit because He lives even on social media. You never can tell how many people will begin to go to church because you do. Pictures speak a thousand words – never underestimate the power of an image. Many people don’t have the courage to publicly demonstrate their faith. But that is what the Holy Spirit has come to help us overcome: to burn our fears, our shyness, and like He did to the pre-Pentecost apostles, fill us with courage to “renew the face of the earth.”

So, when next you go to that place of worship, let the world know that there is a God that you dearly worship- show him off! #HolySpiritInvadeSocialMedia

In my church community (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas), we have a small gathering place called the ‘forum’. People meet, relax and study in the forum, with coffee, donuts, cookies and free Wifi. But my most impressive moment is what takes place at the forum among some of the older members of our church everyday of the week after our morning masses.

Every morning, many senior citizens of our church community gather together in the forum after the morning mass and share their time together. This is an informal gathering where they have some coffee together and share stories. The joy that radiates from these older members of our community knows no bound. They talk and chat with strength that is unimaginable of people their age, and express their inner happiness in laughter that is so infectious. Sometimes they celebrate their birthdays. Some among them may be struggling with illnesses or the weight of old age, but none of these deters them from this magnificent communal expression of joy which is seen from the energy they exude. Certainly, they have found their strength in their faith community and their joy is unstoppable. Their expressions of happiness and sense of life-fulfillment give me hope that old age is not a burden but a gift. I admire them, I love them and I envy them. May God bless their hearts.

I have talked to a few of them and asked them about the gratification they derive from coming together every morning. The answers I received were amazing. They expressed how they go to bed at night always hoping to be gathered in the morning; they feel stronger when they listen to the stories of others and share theirs; and they find comfort in one another. For some of them, it takes away loneliness and isolation, and makes them feel that life is worth living.

What else can someone of that age ask for than to live life in happiness feeling the sense of a family. This is what the church community is and this is what it should provide. The very elderly in our communities should find a second home in their faith communities, they should feel loved and welcomed. I invite more older members of our community to come share this joy and live life at its best. Make your 80’s feel like 20’s again!

I dedicate my blog post this Holy Week to all senior citizens in our various faith communities. May the Passion of Christ strengthen and brighten your days.

Go and find a home in your faith communities!

The sacrament of reconciliation or penance is a very important sacrament of the Church. The Catholic Church in its teachings encourages the faithful to utilize this sacrament as a free gift of God’s forgiving grace. Going to confessions to receive absolution and forgiveness heals the soul of the penitent. In a state of mortal sin, confession is required before reception of Holy communion, except a grave reason prevents one from approaching the sacrament. In a state of venial sin, however, a good act of contrition can be said before reception of holy communion.
However, as important as the sacrament of confession is, it must not be used as a pretext to remain in the very acts that cause one to sin. One should not feel too comfortable in perpetually committing sin simply because the sacrament of penance exists. Efforts are needed! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1451) states that “among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” If you find yourself going to confessions every day or every week, or at any opportunity of seeing a priest, then you may also need to examine yourself if you are making enough effort to stay away from those sins that take you to confessions all the time.
Our efforts to stay away from sin is very important. As we seek the gratuitous mercy of God and are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance this season of Lent and in this year of mercy, let us also make a renewed effort to abstain from occasions of sin.

Jesus disappointed the scribes and the Pharisees by not presenting them with the type of answer they had hoped for. Instead, he challenged them to learn the virtue of mercy and compassion. Jesus clearly did not endorse the sin of the woman caught in adultery because he told her to go and sin no more. Jesus helps us to understand how the mercy of God works. God does not condemn us as long as we are alive. He gives us the opportunity to turn from bad to good, and His mercy is endless and gratuitous.

Those who tried to stone the woman caught in adultery represent the hearts of humans that are saturated with judgement and condemnation of other people without taking into account their own individual sins. When we learn of the sins of someone that have become public knowledge, before we say it serves him/her right and throw stones on the person, we should ask ourselves if we have no secrets that resemble what the person is accused of. Let us learn to pray for each other and wish our brothers and sisters good. No one deserves mercy, we all deserve justice. But mercy comes as a free gift from God. We should allow people the opportunity to find this gift through prayer and compassion rather than judgement and condemnation.