Thursday, September 21, 2023

September 24, 2023; 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)


Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-6

‘When God Doesn’t Make Sense’.

1.    The first reading today sets the tone for the Gospel and the lesson therein. Isaiah says, “Seek the Lord while he may he be found; call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.” When we look at the ways of God and how He treats his children, it seems that His ways do not make sense to us most of the time. Take today’s Gospel, for example; Jesus tells us a parable of the landowner who, after inviting workers to work in his vineyard at different hours, paid the same amount regardless of when they started and ended. And to make matters worse, the latecomers were paid first. Those who started work early were angry. It seemed so unfair. Does this make sense? In the Bible we note that many times, God doesn’t make sense to us. But he warns us: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” 


2.    In the parable, those who worked since morning should be paid more, or at least, they should be given additional tips to compensate for the number of hours they worked. Their anger and jealousy would seem justifiable. After all, the latecomers were the sinners who listened to the preaching of Jesus and repented. The early workers were the Pharisees. They were angry because the sinners repented, entered God’s kingdom late, and were getting the same reward as themselves – eternal life. It just doesn’t make sense.


3.    The whole teaching of Christ doesn’t seem to make sense either. Consider the teaching on the celebration at the return of one sinner who repented over the ninety-nine who do not need repentance (cf. Lk. 17:7). Or the celebration over the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son (cf. Lk 15). Is God more concerned about sinners than the righteous? The senselessness of God is more apparent when one reads the teaching of Christ in Mt. 5:38-47. “Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to the law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Who does that? Does this make sense? Again, in Mt. 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus answered I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” So why do God’s actions seem so senseless based on how we human beings act? Why is God’s way so different from ours? Why should God go out in search of his children who wandered away from him?


4.    God’s standard of mercy and forgiveness might make us uncomfortable. In our hearts, we may cling to the retributive justice of ‘an eye for an eye.’ For this kind of justice, Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would make the whole world blind and toothless. Something about God’s gracious and unmerited compassion seems a bit unfair to us. Thus, it appears that God doesn’t make sense. This is why we find it hard to be practicing Christians. We want to be like God. “The serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad” (Gen.3:4-5). Since God’s ways do not make sense to us, we feel that perhaps God wants to keep us in the dark, preventing us from being wise and masters of our destiny. This was the thought process before the fall. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So, she took some of its fruit and ate it, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Gen. 3:6). 


5.    When we do not accept God’s ways, we make our own God in our image and likeness. (cf. Exodus 32:1). “When the people became aware of Moses’ delay in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will be our leader.” When God’s ways do not make sense, and his teaching seems too difficult, we look for an easy way out and begin to do things our way. We may stop listening to the Church and its teachings, stop reading the Bible, and begin to look for what works for us. Church becomes routine and boring or obsolete, and prayer a waste of time. We pursue a life of comfort and run away from the cross of any kind. And yet St. Paul reminds us that “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25).


6.    The Gospel of today teaches us about the need to repent and follow God’s ways. There is often a vast difference between a man’s profession of faith and his actions. If God’s ways do not make sense to us, imagine what our children think of our ways of doing things. Please do not give up on your defiant and rebellious sons and daughters; be hopeful; maybe, one day, they will repent and return to obey you. Perhaps they, too, think that you are not making sense. 


7.    The landowner’s answer should help us ponder God’s ways over our own. “On receiving it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” He said to one of them in reply, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me about the daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ This parable teaches us that it doesn’t matter when we receive the faith; the reward is the same: eternal life. This is God’s gift unmerited. It is grace. God’s gift is not negotiated. We may have served in ministry for 30 and 40 years or just one year, the blessing is the same. So let us pray that God may give us the spirit of final perseverance to remain faithful in the Church and the service of God and his people till the end. Amen. 


                     Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Thursday, September 14, 2023

September 17, 2023; 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: Sirach 27:30-28:7; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35 

Forgiveness is a Christian Imperative! 

1.    Last Sunday, we reflected briefly on why we should forgive those who wrong us. We saw that when we forgive, we do ourselves a favor. Today’s readings warn against hoarding our hurts. The first reading states, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.” It urges us to “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  

2.    Christ demonstrated, throughout his teachings, that forgiveness is an absolute to attaining well-being and healing. One of the best teachings of Christ on forgiveness is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s Gospel 15: 11-32. The main character in the story is the father. Lk 15:20 says, “His father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” The father who was wronged was the one who ran to his son, not withholding affection from him. He treated him as if he had never left. Forgiveness is about making room for the weakness of others. We must find a reason to forgive others as Christ did, praying for his executioners: “Father, forgive them for do not know what they are doing.” Christ was able to do this because he always saw the good in people. He saw an opportunity to lift those who sinned and worked for their salvation. He pursued good in people despite the situation he found them.

3.    When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he taught them the ‘Our Father.’ At the end of the prayer, he added, “Unless you forgive, your heavenly father will not forgive you your trespasses.” A Christian believer must learn to forgive others in return for God’s forgiveness. Christ made this point clear in the parable of the unforgiving servant (the gospel.) He concluded the parable with this punch line: “So will my heavenly Father do to you unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” Forgiving others is a necessary part of receiving forgiveness ourselves. Christ would always forgive the sins of the sick before healing them. Why? It is because sickness was tied to the sinfulness of the sick person. man, the story of the man born blind in John 9:2, “His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Forgiveness was, therefore, necessary for healing.

4.    Forgiveness is closely linked with our prayers being answered. The absence of the same indicates that prayers will neither be heard nor answered. The gospel of Mark tells us to point blank: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25-26). Without forgiveness and peaceful co-existence among brothers and sisters in the faith community, the offerings and sacrifices made to God are entirely worthless. Matthew’s gospel reads, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:24-25). Forgiveness is a response to God’s forgiveness. Because we are forgiven, we must learn, encourage, live, practice, and teach forgiveness. The first reading asks, “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself? Can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?”

5.    Even though forgiveness is complicated and difficult, we must ask God for help. Forgiveness will be impossible on our own, but with God, all things are possible. We are entirely healed when we can forgive. We must live a life of forgiveness because our time together is too short. Let me conclude with this short story that I am sure most of you have heard before. “A young lady sat in a bus. A loud, grumpy old lady came and sat by her at the next stop. She squeezed into the seat and bumped her with her numerous bags. The person sitting on the other side of the young lady got upset and asked her why she did not speak up and say something. The young lady responded with a smile: “It is not necessary to be rude or argue over something so insignificant; the journey together is so short. I get off at the next stop.”

6.    If each one of us realized that our time here is so short that to darken it with quarrels, futile arguments, not forgiving others, discontentment, and a fault-finding attitude would be a waste of time and energy. Did someone break your heart? Be calm; the journey is too short. Did someone betray, bully, cheat, humiliate, and make life unbearable for you? Don’t worry; be calm, pray, forgive, and move on; the journey is too short. Whatever trouble someone or nature throws at you, remember, and tell yourself the journey is too short. No one knows the duration of the journey but God alone. So, let us cherish friends and family. Let us be respectful, kind, and forgiving to each other. Let us be filled with gratitude and gladness. If I have hurt you, please forgive me. If you have hurt me, you already have my forgiveness. After all, our journey together is so short. May God bless our journey together. Amen.

                     Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, September 8, 2023

September 10, 2023; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20


Correct One Another in Love

1.    Today the Church stresses the importance of brotherly love and correction. We are prone to build a wall of separation rather than a bridge of love. Once upon a time, there were two brothers. Their father had a large farm, and when he became too old to work, he called his sons and said, “I am too old to work anymore. I will divide my farm in half and give each of you one half. I know you will always work together and be good friends.” When the brothers started farming on their adjoining farms, they were best friends and shared everything. Then, one day, there was an argument between the two brothers, and they stopped speaking to one another. For many years, not a word was spoken between them.


2.    One day, one of the brothers was at his house when a carpenter came to his door and said, “I would like to do some work. Do you have any work that I can do?” The brother thought momentarily and then replied, “I would like you to build a fence on my property. Build it near the stream that separates my farm from my brother’s. I don’t want to see my brother anymore, and I would like you to build a high fence there, please. I’m going into town, and I’ll be back this evening.”


3.    When he returned that evening, he was shocked that the carpenter had not followed his instructions. Instead of building a high fence, he built a bridge over the stream. The man walked down to look at the bridge, and as he did, his brother walked towards him from the other side. His brother said, “After all the terrible things I’ve done to you over the years, I cannot believe you would build a bridge and welcome me back.” He reached out to his brother and gave him a high hug. The brother then returned to his farmhouse to talk to the carpenter. “Can you stay?” he asked. “I have more work for you to do.” The carpenter answered, “I’m sorry, but can’t stay. I have to go, for I have many other bridges to build.”


4.    Now and then, we are confronted with conflicts in our families, places of work, church, and community. Our strength is not falling but getting up each time we fall. When faced with conflicts, we often build a fence between ourselves and see others as enemies. We would stop talking to our presumed enemies, avoid them, and close in on ourselves. We should not run away from people who hurt us, but we should do what we can to achieve peace and correct each other in love. Christ wants us to love rather than hate. Instead of a wall, he wants us to build a bridge of love between us.


5.    Jesus does not give up on anyone. He wants us to explore every means possible for reconciliation. Christ did not give up on Peter but prayed for his conversion. Neither did he give up on Judas, as this story demonstrates. The saved were partying in heaven. Missing was Jesus. Peter found Him at Heaven’s gate and asked: “Master, why are you standing outside?” He replied, “Peter, I’m waiting for Judas.” If Christ won’t give up on Judas, should we give up on people? We should extend our kindness even to those who hurt us. When we forgive people, we do not do them a favor but set ourselves free to love. Hence, St. Paul tells us in the second reading: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “While it is possible to win the argument, your anger may lose the war.”


6.    Let us pray at this Mass, dear friends, that instead of building fences of hatred, we may build bridges of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct us so that we may learn to correct each other in love. Let us take these words of Christ to heart and learn to live by them: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:3-5). God bless you!


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

September 03, 2023; 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: Jer. 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27 

Jeremiah’s Burden – The burden of preachers!

1.    In today’s first reading, Jeremiah used the language of a betrayed lover to describe his relationship with God. God seduced, enticed, and manipulated him with promises of fidelity and commitment into a relationship. The Lord said to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you before you were born, I dedicated you, and a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer.1:5). And when Jeremiah protested, “Ah, Lord God! I know not how to speak; I am too young.” God told him, “Say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:7-8) The Lord then touched his mouth, saying, “See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” (Jer. 1:9-10). Jeremiah was further assured: But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: Against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 1:17-19).

2.    Why then was Jeremiah mad at God? It was because “Violence and outrage is my message.” Because God’s Word has brought him “Derision and reproach all day.” Jeremiah thought that God’s promises at the time of his call would mean that everyone would love him and be receptive to his prophetic messages. But this was not the case. Those he preached to hate him; they ridiculed him, suspended him in the mud pit, threw him into jail, and threatened to kill him. And so, in the first reading, Jeremiah cries out complaining, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.” (Jer. 20:7). Jeremiah’s plight is that of every prophet who preaches the word of God. No wonder why some of today’s preachers preach what people want to hear and not God’s word. 

3.    Jeremiah’s burden came from his mission. He pointed out rottenness and corruption in high places, in sacred sanctuaries, among people who were supposed to be shining examples of virtue and champions of justice. He chastised the priests to reform their lives. He confronted kings and rulers to render justice to the poor. When Jeremiah preached, the outcome was violence and destruction; those in powerful positions and priests would mock and ridicule him. And so, he resolved not to speak of God’s Words anymore. But he immediately confesses his complete impotence to remain silent. Instead, he cried out that God’s word was like fire burning in his heart, imprisoned by his bones, “I grow weary holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” Jeremiah is gripped by the power of unrelenting love and so must keep on preaching.

4.    Jeremiah had to deal with the burden of his mission, just as Christ had his, dealing with his disciples who did not quite know what his mission was about. Last week, he asked his apostles: “Who do you say I am?” Peter had an A+ with his answer that Christ was the anointed one of God. Christ gave him an exulted position and called him the Rock on which he would build his church. Peter was given the keys of the kingdom to bind and to lose. Peter had his five minutes of fame! But in today’s reading, Christ said to Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” One wonders how deep Peter’s knowledge of Christ was. When Peter said that Christ was the anointed one, his understanding was that Christ would rescue God’s people from the hands of the Romans; establish a kingdom in which there would be no more poor or sick or blind or lame. As we recall in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7), there will be peace, love, and justice in that kingdom. Sinners would be converted, and the world would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.

5.    Christ was expected to be a high priest or a judge; he was to be a warrior or a great prophet like Elijah. He was to be so great, prosperous, and powerful that suffering and pains would have no place in his life. And the Apostles saw themselves as sharing in the greatness of their master. They were destined to have high and influential positions in that kingdom. Why is Christ discussing suffering, the cross, or even dying? Peter had to prevent him from talking like that. But Christ saw in Peter’s reaction another form of temptation trying to derail him from his mission. He called him Satan, a tempter, a barrier, an adversary, and a stumbling block. Just like Jeremiah, no one wants to suffer, no one wants the cross, and no one wants pain. We want an easy way out, so we cut corners, peddle the truth, compromise our principles, and follow the crowd. No, Lord, this must not happen to you. Jesus rebuked Peter and reminded him not to give instructions but learn from him instead. Jesus lived a sacrificial life. He loves us above and beyond his call of duty. His aim is to bring us to a life of union with God. This means we must say ‘yes’ to God and ‘no’ to self. He calls us to dethrone ourselves and enthrone God and so please God in all that we do. Secondly, Christ invites us to take up our crosses as he did his and live a life of sacrifice. We must abandon our ambition and serve Christ and those entrusted to our care. We do this through prayer, a good sacramental life, and a life service life to others. We pray that we may offer ourselves “As a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Amen.

Rev. Augustine E. Inwang, MSP

Thursday, August 24, 2023

August 27, 2023; 21St. Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)


Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

Have You Ever Met Him?

1.    When faced with hard times, like a death in the family or betrayal of trust from friends, who would you say Jesus is for you? When faced with difficult situations in life, who is Jesus for you? Sometimes, it feels like we don’t know who Jesus is. This reminds me of a story told by Mark Link in his Sunday Homilies. A little girl went to CCD class for the first time. After class, her mother asked her, “Amy, how did you like CCD today?” The little girl said, “I didn’t like it at all.” Her mother said, “It was your first time. Just wait a few weeks. You’ll come to like it.” Three weeks later, the little girl came home from CCD with big tears in her eyes. “What’s the matter?” her mother asked. “It’s CCD,” the little girl answered. “Must I keep going?” “Why?” asked her mother. “What’s wrong?” “Well,” said the little girl, “everybody talks about somebody named Jesus. And I don’t know who he is. I’ve never even met him.”

2.    Christ must have wondered if those talking about him have ever met him. Do they know who he is? Was there anyone who understood him? Did they recognize him for who he was? Do they know what his mission was? Was Christ only a miracle worker, a healer, a food provider, or the one who raised the dead? This question was crucial to Christ. Has our knowledge of Christ changed us?

3.    So, to the question, “Who do you people say I am?” many people had opinions about Jesus and who they thought he was. But Christ was not interested in what others said about him, but rather, in an individual experience of him. And so, when Peter made his profession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Christ knew that there was at least someone who knew and understood his mission. He knew that with Peter as the leader of the apostles, his work was safe, and his mission would go on without him. Peter could be entrusted with a leadership role over others. He was given the keys to the kingdom. 

4.    But how did Peter come to this sublime knowledge of Christ? Because this type of knowledge can only come from God, as St. Paul opines in the second reading: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For from him and through him and for him are all things.” I believe Peter came to this knowledge through his personal encounter with Jesus. He encountered Jesus when he was directed to catch many fish to the point that his nets were tearing. When Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Lk. 5:1-11). Peter could not have forgotten that experience! He saw firsthand how Jesus healed the sick, beginning with his mother-in-law. (Lk. 4:38-39). He heard, many times, the teaching of Jesus. He knew that Jesus taught with authority, unlike the Scribes and Pharisees. (Matt. 7:29). He was rescued from drowning in the sea of Galilee. (Matt. 14:22-33). He saw Jesus doing the kind of work reserved for enslaved people, like washing of feet. (Jn. 31-17). He saw Jesus feed the multitude with just five loaves and two fish. (Matt. 14:13-21). He, of course, witnessed Jesus as he spent hours in prayer, sometimes even throughout the night. (Lk 3:21; 11:1-13). Jesus lived with his apostles, so they experienced his simplicity of life. No ordinary human being could do all these except the anointed one of God! Yes, I know who you are, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

5.    With Peter’s confession, Jesus gave him the keys. He trusted him to take charge of his Church because Peter understood what true power meant. It is service above all; it is suffering, and at times, it entails sacrifice. It means being responsible for others in love. Jesus knew that Peter would always fall back on him for support. He knew that he would not arrogate power to himself like Shebna. Shebna used power and authority to enrich himself. He forgot the one who put him there and why he was placed in that exulted position. Corrupt leaders often feel they have absolute power and forget that the one who gave it can also take it back. And Shebna’s power was transferred to Eliakim.

6.    A true leader always looks for the source of his power. And this comes from the knowledge of God. We can know the worth of a person by the power they wield. Our understanding of Christ will assure our humility in the exercise of power. That is why power in the Church is service, and to exercise this power appropriately, one must have a deeper relationship with Christ. So, in your position of authority, who do you say Jesus is? In your family, who do you say he is? When faced with temptation and sickness that defile all cures, who is Jesus for you? In your free time alone and your confusion, who is Jesus for you? Let us pray for a proper understanding of power and authority so as to get to know Jesus personally and intimately. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Saturday, August 19, 2023

August 20, 2023; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

We, the Outsiders!

1.     In today’s Gospel Jesus said to the Canaanite woman “It is not right to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs,” instead of being insulted, her answer was “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Who was this woman, and why was she so ill-treated by Jesus, who was naturally compassionate and empathic to women, children, the poor, and the sick? Being a Canaanite woman, means she was a Gentile, a non-Jewish. The Gentiles despised the Jews and vice-versa. She was an outsider. She did not belong to the family of God’s chosen people. This woman whose daughter was afflicted with sickness must have heard of the wonderful things which Jesus did; she followed him and his disciples, crying desperately for help. After ignoring her for some time, Jesus told her point-blank, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yes, Jesus was sent to minister to his Jewish people. This passage describes the first time that Jesus was outside of Jewish territory. It foreshadowed the going out of the gospel to the whole world. 

2.     How do we treat the outsiders of our world today? How do we relate with people who are different from us, speak other languages, have an accent, or do not belong to our class? How do we see the immigrants, Africans, native Indians, women, the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized in our midst? We often put people into categories. They are Democrats; we are Republicans or Independents. We are not comfortable with people who have different political views from ours. You are either with us or against us. Those who do not belong to our group are the outsiders. Depending on the categories we place them in, the outsiders will always rely on us and the generosity of people around them. Their dependence is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness, but within that weakness lies their strength. An African proverb states that he who sees a person in the bush often forgets that they came from home. So, we see this woman, an outsider, going to Jesus for mercy, for love, for healing, not for herself but for her daughter, whom she loved dearly. She would not take ‘no’ for an answer until her daughter was healed. The disciples saw her as an embarrassment and a nuisance; and wanted Jesus to get rid of her. “Give her what she wants, and get rid of her.”, they demanded. Just the way we see and treat the outsiders we meet. They are embarrassments in our streets, feed on us like fleece, and we are tired of caring for them. We do not want them in our country taking all our jobs; we are spending too much money on their health care and welfare. The disciples’ reaction was not compassion and love and was far from a Christian response to someone in need. It was shameful and despicable. Jesus knew it. But just like all the outsiders, no insult would prevent her from getting what she wanted for her daughter. Yes, even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table. But wait a minute! She was a foreigner, an outsider, a non-Jewish; her tribe was not among God’s chosen people; where did she get her faith from?

3.     Her faith came from her love, not for herself, but for her daughter. It was love that made her approach this stranger. It was love that made her accept rebuff and insult. She saw compassion in the seeming words of insult from Jesus. There is nothing more substantial and nearer to God than our love for others. We live better when we live for others. This woman’s faith grew stronger when confronted by Jesus. She looked into the face of Jesus and discovered in her heart something divine and ended up calling him Lord. “Lord help me.” When faced with sickness and deprivation, the outsiders only have their Lord to fall back on; and that is when their faith grows ever stronger. God is genuinely close to the brokenhearted. She came crying out for help and ended up on her knees in a prayer of adoration. She humbled herself and acknowledged the God of her salvation. She was not discouraged because the prayer of a contrite heart will always win favor from the Lord.

4.     The lesson from the gospel reading is that Jesus always takes advantage of every great opportunity to teach. Since his mission was to the Jews first, and this woman was a Gentile crying for mercy, Christ had to awaken true faith in her heart. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the dogs.” Her answer, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters,” demonstrated that her faith was strong enough for her miracle to be granted. “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Isn’t it funny that Jesus re-enforced her faith and showed it as an example to others? 

5.     Because of her faith, being an outsider was no longer a barrier to approaching Jesus. Peter recognized this after he visited Cornelius, a Gentile, when he said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35). And John noted, “But to those who did accept him he gave the power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.” (Jn. 1:12). Our faith and the water of baptism are stronger than racial and tribal bond. In Jesus, it doesn’t matter whether you are an outsider; once you believe in God and commit yourself to him, “Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.”  May God, who accepts us as we are, help us to accept others as they are. Amen.


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Sunday, August 13, 2023

August 13, 2023; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

Take Courage, it is I!

1.    Today we are presented with the faith of Elijah in the first reading and Peter in the Gospel. In the 17th chapter of the first book of Kings, we read about Elijah’s effort to win Israel back from the precipice of collapse and decadence to the worship of the true God. Due to his zeal for God and burning with righteous indignation, Elijah killed the 450 prophets of Baal. They had turned people away from the worship of God. Elijah’s action infuriated Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, who was a passionate promoter of paganism and the worship of the Canaanite god, Baal. Jezebel threatened Elijah with a death sentence. She said, “May the gods do thus and so to me if by this time tomorrow, I have not done with your life what was done to each of them.” (1 Kings 19:2). Elijah had no choice but to run for dear life, begging God to take his life. God did not take his life but instead fed him miraculously. Strengthened by this nourishment, Elijah came to the mountain of God called Horeb; there, God revealed himself to Elijah in a light breeze. God does not always appear to us in thunder, lightning, and earthquake. He is as effective and powerful in a gentle wind as in a more provocative and dramatic phenomenon. Elijah’s faith was tested. He almost gave up on life, but God showed up and changed his fortune and destiny. He renewed his faith because he gazed at God rather than on himself. He listened to God and allowed God to direct his life. It is incredible what we can hear when we pay attention to God’s words. Meditation and contemplation are types of prayers that enable us to listen to God extraordinarily.

2.    If we did not celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ last Sunday, we would have witnessed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and two fish and the feeding of five thousand men, women, and children, not counted. In today’s reading, we are told that after this heavenly banquet, Christ made his disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side while he dismissed the crowds. He made sure that everyone was adequately taken care of and sent home. He then went up the mountain to seek quiet time with his Father, be alone, rest, and pray. Nothing would prevent him from keeping the divine appointment with his father. He would pray at night if he couldn’t pray during the day. By honoring the divine appointment with his Father, Christ would be energized and strengthened to carry out his mission. By listening to God, we, too, will get to know God’s will for us. Are we too busy to pray? Learn from Christ, the Son of God. He needed to spend time with the one who sent him to be effective and productive in his mission. Prayer is the key to a successful life, a fruitful ministry, and a committed Christian life.

3.    While praying on that mountain, Christ sensed his disciples were in trouble at sea. They were struggling as their boat was buffeted by strong wind and waves, so he swung into action. “It is I, do not be afraid,” he assured them. Peter asked, “If it is, you bid me come to you on the water.” Christ invited him, and he stepped on the water while keeping his eyes fixed on Christ. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to go down into the water. Then he cried out for help, “Lord, save me!” 

4.    The raging waves of the sea can be compared to the storms of our lives. At times our lives are ravaged by turbulent waves of atrocities and adversities. No matter how much we fix our gaze on Jesus, he seems to pass us by. Our faith has been tested repeatedly, like that of Peter and Elijah. How do we handle the stormy weather of broken relationships and shattered dreams? Unfortunately, some of our storms are self-inflicted; we struggle to free ourselves from the shackles of misguided dreams and misplaced priorities. We are drowned by worldly desires that drag us down each time we try to get up. How do we deal with the waves of drugs in our families, malignant ailments, and cancerous afflictions that defile all logic? Our Church is not spared the turbulent waves of sin, deceit, cover-up, and unaccountability of sexual misconduct and impropriety. How do we deal with mistrust among people we should trust all our life? Innumerable problems and unanswerable questions in our families, places of work, and friends weigh us down like stone in the water. At times like this, we cry out like Peter, Lord, save us; we are drowning. And Christ will ask us, men and women of little faith, why did you doubt? It is I, do not be afraid.

5.    These readings teach us that no matter the condition of our faith, Christ will meet us in the hour of our needs. He will come to us as he went to the disciples in the rough and turbulent sea. He knows our needs; he is always willing to assist us. No matter our waves be it lousy marriage, struggle with temptation, dealing with depression, or grieving the loss of a loved one, we are not alone. Jesus tells us, “In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Just like the wind died down and there was calm when Jesus entered the boat, if we invite Jesus into our boats, he will calm our storm and grant us peace. May God bless and assure us of his presence in our lives now and always. Amen.


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP