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Monday, September 18, 2017

God is Merciful; We Must Be Too!

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 17, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Last week, the church reminded us of the importance of reconciliation through fraternal dialogue and mutual love. Today she, invites us to reflect on forgiveness. It is a very
important element of reconciliation, and our Christian belief. It is the central message of today’s first and gospel readings. (Sirach 27:30-28:7; Matt 18: 21-35)

There is a popular saying that to err is human, while to forgive is divine. That is to say, that the one who sins acts humanly. This is because, it is part of our attributes as humans to err or to sin. On the other hand, the one who forgives acts divinely. This is because, to forgive is to participate in a very important attribute and nature of God. That is, His divinity. It is what our God is known for.
“He is compassionate, merciful, love and He forgives” (Ps 102).

The first reading reminds us that for our prayer to be answered, we must forgive others. It presupposes that we are all sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness. So to be forgiven, first, we must forgive others. Therefore, Sirach urges us:
“Forgive your neighbor the hurt he does to you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.” This is a call to liberate others, in other to liberate and heal ourselves too.
In the second reading (Romans 14:7-9), Paul reminds us of something very important. The life and death of each of us has its influence on the other. Our ability to forgive too influences the other. Hence, it is important to note that, forgiveness has a double effect. It is a single dose medicine that cures one or many persons at the same time. It liberates the one who is forgiven, as well as, heals the one who forgives.

In the gospel, Christ takes forgiveness to a different and practical level. This unfolds in the dialogue between Peter and Christ. Peter asked a theoretical question:
“How many times must I forgive my brother?” Jesus answered him in the most practical way: “seventy-seven times.” Christ’s response, simply reminds us that Christian forgiveness does not have limits. We must forgive all, always and forever as the prayer of Saint Francis of Assis says: “Wherever there is injury, pardon.”

To demonstrate this, Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven.The wicked servant was forgiven a great debt, but he could not forgive his neighbor a little debt. He was set free, but he jailed his neighbor. The message of this parable is that we must treat others mercifully. We must forgive, because God forgives us every day. We must not always hold our neighbors to contempt. Rather, we must consider their situations as God considers our situation always.

What does it mean to forgive all and forever? First, it does not mean: “I forgive you, but we must go our separate ways,” or "I forgive you, but I do not want to see you again in my life,”
or "I forgive you, but I will not forget.” It means something much deeper. It means to restore unity, to believe that it is possible to walk together towards a common goal. It means to heal a wound, without leaving a scar.

It is important to add that, sometimes, one equally needs to forgive oneself for the faults committed against self. Endless grieving or guilt because of one’s mistakes reduces the quality of life. It hinders both spiritual and material progress. So, we must forgive ourselves too, in other to continue living in peace with ourselves.

Finally, he who forgives acts like Christ. So, as we pray today at this Eucharistic celebration: “Forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who offend us,” let us ask God to help us to be true to these words, by living them practically.
Thank you for praying for my mother, Lucy. she is recovering 
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 3, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Years ago, when Poland was still under Communist control, the Prime Minister ordered the crucifixes removed from
classroom walls. Catholic Bishops attacked the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. 

Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms. But one zealous Communist school administrator, the director of the Mietnow agricultural college, Ryszard Dobrynski, took the crosses down from his seven lecture halls where they had hung since the school's founding in the twenties. 

Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. 

The next day two-thirds of the school's six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby Church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the
protest. Soldiers surrounded the Church. But the press was there as well, and pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. "There is no Poland without the cross."

Perhaps the cross has come to symbolize something easy to us because we have not had to sacrifice for our faith in our lives. The more we are called upon to carry our own crosses, the more we will understand the cross Our Savior carried to the hill called Golgotha. That is why today’s gospel challenges us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. (Mt 16: 21-27)
"Customer Satisfaction" has become an important word today. The modern world values three things: pleasure, convenience, and comfort. This is a human standard. 

In today's gospel we heard about two standards -- human and divine. Peter took Jesus aside and and rebuked Him for speaking of  His future suffering and death. Jesus' response is "Get thee behind me, Satan! . . . You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

At Caesarea Philippi, Peter rightly confessed "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16) But Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ messiahship is something kingly, glorious, and triumphant. Thus, when Jesus revealed to his disciples that He was to undergo passion and death, the knee-jerk reaction of Peter was “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” As soon as it was said, Jesus rebuked Peter because he could be a hindrance to the plan of God. 

Early Christian theologian Origen suggests that Jesus was saying to Peter: "Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It's your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way you would like me to go." Satan is banished from the presence of Christ, and Peter is recalled as Christ's follower. Like Peter, the Church is often tempted to judge the success or failure of her ministry by the world’s standards. But Jesus teaches that worldly success is not always the Christian way. The standard of God is never about pleasure, convenience, and comfort. On the contrary, it is sometimes excruciating, inconvenient, and uncomfortable.

The incident was an eye-opener for Peter. Peter now has to learn that the standard of
God is not about comfort, not about privilege, not about convenience. It is often about pain and sacrifice. This is the cost of discipleship. 

There are three consequences of discipleship. First, self-denial, which is a means of opening our world to others and to God.  In a world devoted only to materialism, people tend to be become very self-absorbed. 

Second, we take up our cross. This value is difficult for the modern world to absorb because we are used to being comfortable. Crosses in life abound. They are present in our day-to-day existence. They may appear in a form of illness. They may also appear in a form relational misunderstandings or conflicts. In the name of convenience and comfort, some people may rebel against God because of illness. Or some may withdraw when they are faced with relational problems. For instance, in marital life, a simple misunderstanding already offers discomfort. It’s so sad that the only resolution for conflict that a husband or a wife knows is divorce. One must instead take up the cross and face the conflict. Find solutions to the problem. Carrying the cross can be liberating.

Third, we follow Jesus. Following Jesus is something definitive and radical. When we
follow Him, we follow the total aspects of His Person and life. There is no room for “pick and choose” mentality here. We cannot just say that we follow Him in His way of love, but not in His way of forgiveness or accepting the cross. This attitude will never make us His true disciples.

The gospel calls us to take seriously our  vocation as Christians. Pleasure, convenience, and comfort is not the end of our lives.  In the final analysis, life has taught us that sacrifice and pain are sometimes necessary, and a means to attaining glory. Amen.

(Say a prayer for my mum Lucy, to have a speedy recovery).
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

What Kind of god Did Mohammed Create?

One Who Does not Possess the Truth

by Lawrence Fox

This is the Quran: 
“Who could prevent Allah from destroying the Messiah, the son of Mary along with his mother and all the people of the
earth? His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He creates what He will and has power over all things." (Surah 5:19)

In the UK
That’s right Mohammed (570-632 AD), alleged prophet, founder of Islam and the author of the Quran, says that his god, allah, could destroy Jesus, the Messiah, and His mother Mary. Not to mention the rest of humanity. What kind of god did Mohammed create? 

This was allah’s wake of destruction in 2017: the Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt with 45  killed;  23 murders in Manchester, London by a British Muslim; and deaths in the Philippines top 500 with 381 of those ISIS fighters. In seaside towns near Barcelona, Spain, 13 are dead. There are countless others injured in all those locations and hundreds of thousands fled their homes in the southern Philippines to escape Islamic terror. 

Dearborn, Michigan
I am repeating the following observation:

We must understand Mohammed’s justification of violence in the name of his god, allah, by reflecting on the Islamic doctrine of unitarianism in the Quran. Islamic unitarianism is the belief that god is a solitary person. He has no inner reflective life. And he — the god allah — is revealed in violence and power. 

Allah tells Mohammad, “Unbelievers are those who declare, ‘Allah is the Messiah, the Son of Mary.’ Allah then says to Mohammad, say: 'Who could prevent Allah from destroying the Messiah, the son of Mary along with his mother and all the people of the earth?' His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He creates what He will and has power over all things." (Surah 5:19)

This so-called unitarian god is totally opposite of the Christian God. God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, His Son. He is self-sacrificing Love. He will not  act against His own Goodness. He has an inner reflective relationship -- a trinitarian communion of Three Persons in One God. In Islam, allah is a master of slaves. We are all slaves. In Christianity, God is Our Father. Jesus came in the flesh and revealed that to us.

 “I’m your boss because I am your boss. Allah is god because he destroys.” Islam believes it has the right to destroy and when it does, it demonstrates the will and nature of allah. It is a circular argument within the Quran and as such is lived in a circular manner throughout the life of Mohammad and Islamic History. 

“O Prophet ! Urge the believers to fight...they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because the disbelievers (non-Muslims) are people who do not understand.” (Surah 8:65) and again, “It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war and free them for ransom until he had made a great slaughter among his enemies in the land.” (Surah 8:67) 

Allah argues in the Quran that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because allah is able to destroy Jesus and his mother Mary and every other living thing. The destruction of all living things would be for allah a sort of Pyrrhic victory, Who would be left behind to give allah glory? This is a satanic teaching. 

It is also a strange revelation since allah recites elsewhere in the Quran, “They plotted and Allah plotted. Allah is the supreme Plotter. He said: “Jesus I am about to cause you to die and lift you up to Me. I shall take you away from the unbelievers and exalt your followers (Muslims) above them till the Day or Resurrection. Then to me you shall return and I judge your disputes.” (Surah 3:55) 

This Surah refers to the fact that -- while the Muslims do not believe Christ died on the cross -- allah supposedly killed Jesus in the first century before the Quran was written. If the Quran  proposes Jesus’ death -- given that Jesus is already once dead and revived  -- then the argument is absurd.  

The ability to destroy is void of any evidence of divinity, it is a non-sequitur (does not follow from the premise). Human beings are quite capable of destroying other human beings
as well as whole cities, cultures, churches, libraries, monuments, images, and anything else related to human history.  But none of these men are gods. 

Tragically, men rise and fall throughout human history arguing, “power as justice, power as truth, power as good” only to leave behind the ashes of destruction and pain. 

The promotion of violence as means of demonstrating truth betrays a weakness in one’s knowledge of the truth; a confusion of the mind and
an absence of Wisdom.

“For the Lord God did not make Death, He takes no pleasure in destroying the living.(Wisdom. 1:13)  Allah is not arguing from a position of strength but weakness. He does not possess the Truth. 

Note that while I read through the Quran a number of times, it became quite obvious that the author of the Quran was unable to comprehend what is Orthodox Christianity.  

According to the Quran, Christians worshipped Jesus and Mary as two separate gods along side allah; and the Jews worshipped Ezra the Priest, “The Jews say, ‘Ezra is a son of God’; and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is a son of God.’ Such are the saying in their mouths. They resemble the sayings of the infidels of old. Allah, Do battle with them! How are they so misguided! They take their teachers, and their monks, and the Messiah, the son of Mary for Lords (masters) beside Allah, though bidden to worship Allah alone. There is no Allah by Allah! Far from His glory be what they associate with Him.” (Surah 9:30) 

One would think that allah “being all knowing” would be able to grasp what Christians and Jews actually wrote and believed.  Christianity never taught that Jesus and Mary are other gods. Jesus is True God and True Man, One in Being with the Father. Mary, His mother, is a human being. The Jews never said Ezra is the son of God. It's not in the Old Testament.  

Anyway, Mohammed was taught to discern truth, virtue, and justice (right and wrong) from this perspective of power and violence. It is no wonder that after his journey to Medina; he becomes a warrior Prophet; recitals are begotten alongside acts of terror on neighbouring Arab and Jewish tribes. 

While in Medina, Mohammad received the revelation, “Kill the pagans (polytheists) wherever your find them, and capture 
The Yazidi  captives -- regarded as pagans by ISIS --  are lined up 
before execution in Iraq in 2014
them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush.”
(Surah 9:5) 

After Mohammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina -- known as the Hijra -- the swell of violence begins. Mohammed and his merry men attack Meccan caravans traveling between Syria and Mecca. In 624 AD Quraysh tribesmen respond and engage Mohammad and his followers at the Battle of Badr; which did not go well for Mohammad. The same scenario was played out again in 625 AD when Quraysh tribesmen engaged Mohammad and his followers at the Battle of Uhud; which again did not go well for Mohammad. So Mohammad changes his tactics. In 626 AD, Mohammad attacks the Jewish tribe of Al-Nadir and expels them from Medina. In 627 AD, Mohammad and his followers defeat the Meccans at the Battle of the Ditch. Things are now turned around and Mohammad is willing to attack the city of Mecca directly. In the same year (627 AD) Mohammad slaughters the Jewish tribe of Qurayza, beheading eight
ISIS victims in Paris 2015
hundred Jewish men allowing only one man to live and takes as slaves all the women and children. In 629 AD, Mohammad and his men slaughter the Jews of Kybar during a night raid. Mohammad’s tenth wife (Safiya bint Houyay) is the result of this slaughter. 

In the same year Mohammad -- according to Islamic Tradition -- sends letters to various Kings inviting them to embrace Islam including: Kings of Persia, Yemen, and Ethiopia and the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. These letters were Mohammad’s last will and testament to his followers, “Who is more wicked than the man who invents a falsehood about Allah or denies his revelation? Truly the evil doers shall not triumph.” (Surah 10:18) He is referring to Jews, Christians and pagans -- all non-Muslims.

In 630 AD, Mohammad takes Mecca and the city’s population is forcibly converted.  The Kaaba — a polytheistic shrine of the Quraysh Tribe — is turned into an Islamic religious site. The same thing happens to the Cathedral Hagia Sophia located in Constantinople. It was conquered by Turkish Muslims in 1453 AD. 

By the time Mohammad dies in 632 AD,  all of Arabia was conquered for Islam. When
Mohammad died, a number of the Arabian tribes had to be re-conquered including the tribes in present day Kuwait.  Between 639 AD and 651 AD, the land of Egypt, Syria and Persia were put under the foot of allah. Before the end of the 17th Century, lands today known as Persia, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Algiers, Spain, Sicily, Greece, Balkans, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine were under the sword of the Quran, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), until they pay the jizya (tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Surah 9:29) Prior to collapse of the Turkish Islamic Ottoman Empire, they slaughtered about 1.5 million Armenians in the name of allah. 

Tragically, those who today adhere to a literal reading of the Quran continue to reason that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he (allah) is able to destroy Jesus and His mother Mary and every other living thing.

However, we report that allah has not succeeded. Jesus and Mary prosper. Many have survived Islamic violence. 

To the serpent in the Garden of Eden, God said, 
“And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15)