The influence of Paul in Christianity is based on his missionary journeys around the towns and cities adjoining the Mediterranean Sea. His name will always be remembered among Christians because he is a role model in spreading the gospel of Jesus to distant lands far from Jerusalem. In his early life, Paul was not a Christian himself, but his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus to arrest 'believers in the way,' reformed him. He became an apostle specially appointed by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles. He had major missionary journeys mainly to people in the Hellenistic culture. The popular towns and cities Paul evangelized are Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Rome, and others. Eventually he wrote letters to these locations instructing the new converts to stay firm in the faith. He produced many spiritual writings about the faith and sixteen enjoy a place in the bible.READ MORE
After the celebratory engagements of Christmas and New Year, we face the next stage in God's revelation about the personality of Jesus. The work of John the Baptist is not yet over. There is one important event he must accomplish: Introduce Jesus.
John the Baptist refused to accept that he was the Messiah. He did not know Jesus when he was baptizing people by the Jordan River. In fact, he was performing all the baptisms by the river so that the personality of the Messiah could be identified. After so many baptisms, Jesus appeared before John needing to be baptized like others. It was at this encounter that John recognized Jesus by the signs God revealed to him. Biblical theologians give us many signs, but we but here we note only two significant signs. The first sign is the appearance of the Spirit upon Jesus like a dove. The second sign is the divine confirmation through the voice of the Father. John knew that Jesus was the Chosen One.READ MORE
One Sunday, I had only one candidate for baptism after Mass. The family arrived well before the Mass ended and took up positions in the front pews ready for the baptism of their lovely baby. Since I had the afternoon Mass, I dressed up appropriately in the sacristy and proceeded to the altar to start the initiation of this lovely baby into the Christian faith. The baby was dressed all in white, but he was busy having his lunch from a small feeding bottle and his face beamed with angelic smiles. I was later told that his father ﬂew in from Germany to attend his son's baptism. What a proud family! An older child was beside them wondering "who's this baby that has taken my position as the number one in the family." I guess the father of this baby is in the military because I could see his haircut was neat and his body looked as ﬁt like as a ﬁddle. The mother was there with her dress, elegant and beautiful and as happy as every woman can be. Beside her were three people; a couple as baptism sponsors of the baby and one lady as witness.READ MORE
In 2012, we watched the London Olympics. It was one of the highlights of 2012 in sports. It made me wish I was a young boy again with a ﬂexible body. I used to do acroba cs during my high school days but no more. Can you imagine how those Olympians prac ced winning the gold for themselves and their countries? They spent endless hours swea ng, rehearsing, and accep ng correc ons from their coaches.
Did you see Usain Bolt, the Jamaican who is considered the fastest man alive? What about the US women gymnasts? They won gold. I cannot forget the admiration that greeted those young ladies when I saw them on The Late Show w/ David Letterman. Dave teased them, drilled them with questions and even oﬀered to go to the next Olympics just to get the gold like they did. The audience went into laughter. I did also in my little room facing my TV. Gold is precious and if you win gold you can appear on many TV shows both at home and abroad. At the end of the London Olympics, America came in ﬁrst with 104 medals, followed by the People's Republic of China with 88 medals and in third place was the Russian Federation with 82 medals. Great Britain, the host nation, came in fourth with 65.READ MORE
I lost my great-grandfather in 1976 when I was seven years of age. He died at the age of 98. He looked very old to me. He was a man well respected in our community. After the passing of my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother lived on for another ten years. She passed away in 1986. By this time, I was in High School and in love with photography. I could afford a camera, so I took several pictures of my great-grandmother. It was only after her death that family members began to value her pictures. She was a sweet petite woman and I have memories of her old age even as I was young. I remember vaguely my great-grandparents, but they were an end of a chapter in our family. I watched my grandparents carefully and they did their best to keep up with the family traditions.READ MORE
'Oh little town of Bethlehem,' so the song begins. We have sung this song for ages in different versions and forms. We are so familiar with the lyrics that we can afford to look away from the songbook while we sing. It is the story of Jesus born in Bethlehem, a little town of Judea in a lonely manger without comfort or luxury under the watchful eyes of Mary and Joseph.
Today in our homes, the Christmas crib is the most recognizable image with the Christmas tree along with the assorted decorative ornaments we can afford. The song becomes relevant when we sing, 'For Christ is born of Mary.' We gather each year to commemorate this event with all our hearts and with all our love. It is not only Mary that is joyful seeing her child, Joseph too stands in awe at the sight of the baby promised by God. The dream is real!READ MORE
The picture is getting clearer. Joseph is betrothed to Mary. He is a just man. He does not want to break Jewish rules by taking Mary home without going by the customs and traditions of the Jewish people. He knows Mary is a fine woman, born and raised in the Jewish culture. She will not play any games with Joseph. Therefore, they both stay apart waiting for that day when their marriage will be recognized, and then consummated.
The drama becomes tense. An archangel visits Joseph and tells him not to be afraid. The archangel tells him to take Mary home because she will conceive and give birth to a child. This child will be born through the power of the Holy Spirit. Can anybody see the misery of Joseph? Is he to obey the Jewish culture or take Mary home as commanded by the archangel in his dream? The pains of Joseph are greater than those of because he could be killed for violating the culture in which they both live. Mary will have her pains too; pains far greater than what Joseph experiences.READ MORE
The world has witnessed new beginnings too innumerable to count. A few examples can help here. After the flood, the biblical Noah and his family started life afresh. In more recent history, after the First and Second World Wars people set about the task of rebuilding their families and nations. Again, after the 911 events, America set about rebuilding itself to face the challenges ahead. There are many examples to show how resilient human beings can be after undergoing tumultuous times.
Babies learn to walk. One-minute they fall but rise the next and continue their efforts. Parents smile with joy at their first steps. Babies learn to persevere. People who are ready to learn lessons from the past can reset their future today. And when you visualize how your future may be, then you can start building it here and now. The Christian man or woman is a person filled with faith that seeks to bloom in the present no matter how ugly conditions are.READ MORE
As a parent, your behavior towards your children should always be the best. You can be harsh with friends, but in your home, you should be gentle with your children by loving them tenderly. In fact, you treat those you love with kindness and complete tolerance. Children by their nature learn quickly from those around them, and especially parents who are the closest to them. Every child usually reflects his parent's character or perhaps the character of both.
When teaching your children, you let them know what is good or evil. They make mistakes . But your instinct as a parent is to forgive, to tolerate, and to focus on your job of teaching good behavior. The ability to offer your children a second chance does not degrade your role as a parent, but it enhances the bonds within the family so the strong can help the weak. That is what family is all about: loving, supporting, and caring for each other. For this reason, parents should lead their children with good examples in words and in deeds.READ MORE
Advent is the season we prepare for the coming of the Lord. It is strange that we highly prepare for the coming of the Lord every year, as if that is the only event in Christianity. Indeed, it is not only the outstanding event but also the definitive in Christianity when Christians remember the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem of Judea. Every year the Church commemorates his first appearance of Jesus with a religious ceremony known to all as Christmas. The taking of flesh of Jesus as a man that lived among us is known as the Incarnation.READ MORE
The virtue of human life is to be content with what you have. What makes life meaningful is the ability to acknowledge the blessings we receive from family and friends. If you grumble every day because of what you don't have, you may not appreciate what you have. On the other hand, if everyone got what they ever wanted, they may grow up to be arrogant. It however does not diminish the desire to seek what you want by keeping a positive attitude that those things can materialize tomorrow. Hope therefore, is a virtue that urges you to keep a positive posture that your dreams will come true someday.
From all indications, a review of the world's woes can directly be attributable to individuals who feel dissatisfied by certain standards in the world. Instead of accepting opposing views, they indulge in violent means towards a resolution as compared to a dialogue. The number of dissenting voices or groups is growing day by day and the effect of their collective dissatisfaction has rendered many innocent souls destabilized. This makes leadership uniquely important in guiding nations, peoples, individuals, or groups towards convening at the dialogue table to resolve those glaring differences. Most often the leadership gaps we identify can either increase the tensions between dissenting groups or lessen our focus for solutions.READ MORE
Throughout the history of the world, humans have obsessed themselves with how the world will end. It is natural to ask whether the world we live in will end at some point in time. But let us pause a moment to ask equally whether humans truly understand the origins of human life? Indeed, scientists have developed many theories on the origins of human life. Credit must be given to them for the research theories such as the theory of evolution or the big band theory. All these theories and many unpopular ones only reflect our desire to understand where we came from and what will happen to us. In a way, this gives credit to the human desire to ask about how the end will be.
Answers to the question of the end of the world are based on human observation on factors such as wars, weather, migration, economic imbalances, or other natural forces. As long as the world exists, humans will keep speculating on how the world will end.
In March 2016, Pope Francis released a document entitled Amoris Laetitia about the family. In it, the pontiff discusses marriage and his position on divorced Catholics who remarry civilly. For a long time, the Church has always taught that those who separate after a Catholic sacramental marriage and remarry in the civil way, cannot receive Holy Communion. In Chapter eight, the pope indicated that this could change through "discernment regarding the possible access to the sacraments of some of those who are divorced and in a new union." He chose his words carefully for the understanding in the Catholic world and beyond. A whole series of dialogue continues whether remarried couples in the civil way can receive Holy Communion.
Prior to this exhortation by Pope Francis, there were two Synods of Bishops on the Family in October 2014 and in 2015 in Rome. The pope seems to indicate that his position in Amoris Laetitia is based on the fruits of these two synods. Many dioceses all over the Catholic world have been studying the exhortation carefully in order not to water down the centuries-old teaching of the Church. Remarried couples like any other Catholics, need salvation through the reception of the sacraments of the Church. But this does not mean that the teachings of the Church should be reduced to accommodate couples who do not remarry in the Church but choose to do so in the civil way. By not recognizing the importance of the sacrament of marriage, they alienate themselves from Holy Communion.READ MORE
The story of Zacchaeus is a popular biblical discourse that bible students never easily forget because "he was short in stature." The story of Zacchaeus is always interesting to read. I often ask myself why Zacchaeus had to give half his possessions to the poor or promise to repay four times all those he had extorted. I often ask myself why a man of great wealth could dispose of it for no just reason. Was he excited by meeting Jesus? Finding answers to these questions to know the state of mind of Zacchaeus may be difficult. But reflecting on the story reveals that he desired a better life. The gospel tells us that he was from Jericho, and he was the chief tax collector of that town. By knowing his profession, we can say that he was familiar with cash flows. I can imagine how much money he extorted from the citizens on behalf of the Romans.
From reading biblical commentaries, I know that tax collectors increased percentages on amounts they collected in order to cover their administrative costs. As the chief tax collector, I imagine that Zacchaeus had a staff that was large and aggressive in collecting taxes. This job gave him fame and made him infamous for two reasons. While the Roman authorities pressured Zacchaeus to collect taxes for the numerous projects of the empire, he, in turn, pressured the citizens to pay or be locked up. Some unlucky citizens were even sold to cover their taxes. The Romans considered tax evasion a criminal offense. So, imagine Zacchaeus in the middle of these two sides: always receiving and always giving.READ MORE