St. Bernard Catholic Church

Wabash, Indiana



PASTOR'S REFLECTION



TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - SEPTEMBER 27, 2020

"A Happy End"

The Means justifies the End because the end distinguishes the Good from the Bad. Growing up in a devout family the end was of primary concern: How could a person achieve a well-ended life? My naïve mind (and those of my peers) imagined the guardian angels as Arithmetic geniuses, whose daily task was to document the good and the bad deeds of every human person. Consequently, each person would be judged with what is left, after the good deeds have cancelled out the bad deeds. A person whose good deeds superseded his misdeeds would go into heaven, while another whose bad deeds outweighed the good deeds would go into Hell. That innocent eschatological criterion with its flaws was indeed effective among my peers. For every misdeed then, we strived to make up with more good deeds so that our guardian angels will be proud of us. Some curious childlike minds developed a daily chart of personal deeds.

However, with an enlightened faith, daily chart of individual deeds sounds unnecessary. It became clearer that human souls can either be in the state of God’s grace or run short of it. The grace of God is copiously available to everyone, but mortal sin automatically causes loss of grace in the soul. All humans are at liberty to switch, back and forth, from graced life to non-graced life. In essence, the final state in which a soul concludes his life (moment of death) determines the final destination (hell or heaven). It therefore matters most in what state our earthly life ended. In this advanced theological truth, one mortal sin, especially at the 11th hour of life, is capable of draining the grace of God in the soul, be it actual or sanctifying grace.

Life is an ongoing pilgrimage with bundle of possibilities and modest puzzle. That some, who started well, might end badly, while those, who started badly might end well, succinctly articulates Jesus’ parable about two sons. The first promised to work for the father but failed. The second declined to work for the father, but ended up doing the work. Jesus taught that it was the second (son), who did the will of the father (Matt 21:28-32). As a result, documenting or trumpeting one’s good deeds might disappoint. Despairing (giving up) from trying is also perilous because a sinner today can become a saint tomorrow.

Likewise, do not give up on anyone or canonize another, until that invaluable second of last breath, which separates the soul from the body. Between the two great moments of birth and death is an ample period of growth and possibilities to ensure that one dies in the state of God’s grace. Since the exact moment of death is uncertain, now is the time to invest wisely. Let us work smartly rather than drain our energy in futility.
Good luck. Father Levi

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

"Collective Salvation"

Collective salvation is a judicious summary of the last two weekends’ reflections. These beautiful reflections bring to bear the twofold responsibilities of every serious Christian. First and rightly so, is the responsibility towards others (neighbors). Its core message challenges Christians to reach out to the neighbor (turned offender) in order to win the neighborliness back. The three rigorous but required steps are basically salvific for that neighbor at an edge – sincere efforts to save a neighbor from dying in his/her sins. This arm of responsibility is so imperative that its neglect holds the offended responsible for the loss of the offender-neighbor. The second arm of responsibility is directed toward self-love. The core message challenges Christians to free themselves from the venomous shackles of unforgiving. It was clearly stated that the only determinant for receiving God’s forgiveness is the practice of forgiveness toward others – “the measure you give (to others) is the measure you receive.” This dual responsibility of Christians defines heaven as a reward for activists of collective salvation.

That no one can go to heaven alone is factual. Isolated spirituality is self-contradictory. The will of all created angels was tested individually, which resulted to the division between good angels and demons. It happened because there is nothing like angelic race. As pure spirits, their individual decisions would remain irrevocable. Contrariwise, God created a human race (with spirited-soul and body) in the personalities of Adam and Eve. God also effected salvation for the human race. The same logic that extends the consequences of the sin of Adam to the entire humanity supports the salvation of the human race through the salvific act of Christ, which happened even before many generations were born. The human race connectivity stimulates the dual responsibility of all Christians aptly summarized as the conscious vision and mission for collective salvation.

Heaven is simply a leveler reward. Citizens of heaven gained entrance with a life passport doubly stamped as both a mentee (a believer in Christ) and a mentor (a witness of the gospel). Being a believer is necessary but insufficient without practical witnessing to the gospel. It does not matter the length of time any person was in active service (as a mentee-mentor) when death struck.

Heaven is a sanctuary for pure and inclusive lovers. As such, prospective citizens of heaven should shun all forms of envy and selfishness in order to be open to all arrivals: whether the early birds with the 6am and 9am on time flights, or those whose flights were delayed to 12 noon and 3pm, or others whose flights were cancelled and rescheduled for late hours of 5pm and 6pm (the end time on earth). Being open and receptive to late arrivals simply means being appreciative of God’s generosity (Matt 20:1-16), whose (holistic vision) ways are different from humanity’s perspectival understanding of every situation (Is 55:8).

Saint Paul understands the holistic vision of God, which informs the generosity of God, in his parting admonition to the Philippians (Phil 1:20-24, 27). His expressed dilemma to wish death in order to unite with Christ or live on because of his responsibility towards the salvation of others (especially the Philippians) attest to his consciousness for a collective salvation. Such consciousness in Paul confirms his readiness (then) as a prospective candidate of heaven to facilitate the salvation of others. He also proved his openness to God, who is generous in forgiving by “seeking the Lord while he may be found,” (Is 55:6-9). Paul stands tall as a model for all serious Christians en route to heaven. Recall that his flight though delayed did not prevent him from entering heaven — a clear show of God’s generosity to latecomers but also a required openness for Christians to adopt.

Good luck on our collective journey. Father Levi

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

"Embarrassing Logic of Unforgiving"

Why forgive, when you can retaliate or at least avoid the offender for the rest of your life? We get it completely wrong, when we think that we do others a favor by forgiving them. That is not strange, though, because naturally, self-love can be so possessive that it rarely leaves any space for the other to belong. In today’s society, many brag that they'd rather die than forgive. Some boast that they can live comfortably without recourse to whomever that stepped on their toes. For such people, giving a second chance is strictly unimaginable – an impossibility. But second chance can only constitute an impossibility, when erroneously we think the primary recipient of the favor of unforgiving is the other. Would it be a shock to notice that forgiveness is typically a self-favor?

Interestingly, forgiveness is first and foremost a double favor to the self. First, it is a spiritual favor. Second, it is a temporal favor. In general, forgiveness entails self-emancipation from destructive debacles. Naturally, we are designed by God to activate self-defensive mechanisms, whenever our lives are threatened. In a sense, we are programmed to protect our lives against violent attacks. Regrettably, we prefer to expose ourselves to the venom of unforgiving.

As humans prone to ethical wrongs and spiritual sins, we cannot escape the direct consequences/punishments due to our faults, except through the mercy of God, merited for us by Christ. The reason is “the wages of sin is death,” (Rom. 6:23). Providentially, God’s mercy frees us from death with a logical condition that we show mercy to those who wrong us. This golden logic of “the measure you give is the measure you receive,” (Luke 6:38) reveals the essence of forgiveness in Christian eschatology. Recall that the Lord’ prayer, (Our Father), is clear and emphatic on it: “… Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Invariably, it is our fault if we miss heaven. No one will miss heaven because he/she committed sin. Christ already paid the debts for our sins. Rather, many will miss heaven by ignoring the simple requirements. Unforgiving logically obstructs entrance into heaven; for when we refuse to forgive other people’s wrong against us, we automatically reject the mercy of God available for our sins. In fact, the criterion for accessing the mercy of God is the extent we show mercy or forgive others – “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy,” (Matt 5:7). Asking for God’s mercy without being merciful would attract the wrath of God. The prayer of an unforgiving person is an abomination in the face of God.

As social beings, we cannot avoid interpersonal relationships. In as much as we can control how we relate to other people, we cannot guarantee how other people relate to us. People knowingly or unknowingly hurt other people by day. Hurting others is as inescapable as road accidents. Road accidents occur for reasons ranging from inexperience, recklessness, drunkenness, health problems, mechanical/electrical faults, and unsafe road conditions. Just one of these conditions is enough to hurt the most careful driver. Since hurting others is inevitable, unforgiving is simply suicidal. Unforgiving is self-cursing – “drinking poison but expecting your offender to die.”

Forgiveness does not alter the principles of justice. Neither does it suppress one’s right to revenge or avenge injuries. But it takes prudence, the pride of ethical virtues, to moderate justice with mercy. Therefore, forgiveness is a prudent means of giving the offender a second chance. A second chance entails offering a reasonable excuse for the offender. Holding the offender excusable effects a healing process in the offended. The most effective reason for offering an excuse is that we deserve a second chance, too.

So, why go ahead and sign our death warrants by keeping malice or being obstinate in unforgiving? Unforgiving is a dreadful killer that secretly eats us up. The more people you do not forgive, the more you expand limitations on your freedom. The more malice you keep, the more you expand your enemies’ territories. On the contrary, the easier you forgive, the more you multiply your allies. Forgiveness widens our horizons, while unforgiving shrinks our comfort zone.
God bless you. Father Levi


TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

"The Bond of Responsibility"

Love of neighbor implies a twofold responsibility: First, to oneself and second to others, especially the distant other. Remember, oneself is also a neighbor to someone else. Regrettably, this second arm of responsibility is terribly played down or even neglected. Its suppression increases as modernity advances. Part of the sins of modernity is her birth of dualism, which pitches even Siamese (conjoined) twins against each other. Freely, modernity switches from idolizing one, to demonizing the other.

Freedom and responsibility are conjoined twin sisters that modern society treats differently. While the modern mind tenaciously lays claim on freedom for his comfort, responsibility (her twin sister), is shunned like a virus. Judgmentally, we are ultra sensitive to how good, people should treat us, but undermine being nice to others either as optional or burdensome. The scripture messages today put before us a challenge to review the neglect on responsibility toward others. Its significant absence can be blamed on willful suppression rather than on ignorance.

Every healthy relationship is built and sustained on the precept of “watching each other’s back” or mutual responsibility. Responsibility is a core demand of love. The lack of it infects relationship with flattery, deceit, and hypocrisy that lead to relational paralysis. Relationship is never static. It is meant to grow through mutual complementarity. As a basic check, any relationship that is not open to growth (learning and transformation) is a suspect of toxic infections. These sum up to a self-check: What is my responsibility in this relationship? What should I do to make it work? How am I endangering it? Rather than monitoring what wasn’t done right to me.

To be responsible indicates sincere commitment to warn the partner against a possible danger, which eludes his/her blind spot. The “warner-listener” dynamics presented in Ezekiel 33:7-9 is a universal template that not only protects a relationship, but also eliminates room for an accomplice. The word of God to Ezekiel wholesomely aligns with the ethos of the Igbo people of Nigeria: “Ahuu ekwughi ji okenye. Ekwuo anughi ji nwata” – while vicious silence destroys the warner, incorrigibility destroys the intended audience. The universality of “warner-listener” template is fittingly applicable to parenting, friendship, marriage, neighborliness, work ethic, and other social activities.

“Warner-listener” dynamics is at its best when guided by love. Love is the summary of all commandments (Rom 13:8-10). No sane person will willfully hurt the lover or deny the responsibility due to her. Responsibility is so central to humanity that its neglect caused the first death in human history. God reprimanded Cain, when he treacherously tried to excuse himself out from the responsibility he owed his brother, Abel: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If the first sin against God was disobedience, the first sin against humanity bordered on irresponsibility.

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus emphasizes the “warner-listener” dynamics with the clarity of “offender-offended” connectivity. In context, the responsibility of the offender to ask for forgiveness is assumed. That Jesus did not border to include this aspect shows that any pompous offender unable to say: “I am sorry,” in a relationship is a sheer disaster to the existing bond. Jesus concentrated on the offended in order to highlight the inescapability of mutual responsibility in day-to-day activities.

Three steps of responsibility are recommended: 1) One on one dialogue 2) Inclusion of witnesses 3) Involving the institutionalized authority of the Church. These steps are logical and should not be altered. Although the first is the hardest, it is the shortest and most effective means of peace restoration. The wise settle with this #1. However, when the three steps are exhausted without result, revenge is not even an option. The last resort: “Treat him like a Gentile” implies considering him as an obstinate person, who chooses to resist your responsibility toward him. Only when an impossible listener resists the warner’s responsibility could the warner be exonerated as an accomplice (Ezekiel 33:7-9). If at each moment, someone has to be responsible for another’s well being, then unforgiving would become a forgone alternative.
God bless you. Father Levi


TWENTY-SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 30, 2020

"Identifying the Obstacle"

Generally, challenges are compounded not because of their intensity, but due to poor handling. Poor handling intensifies challenges into difficult problems. Problems become complex when we fail to identity their root cause, or compromise interrogating our comfort zones. Interestingly, the inability to confront our comfort zone affirms us as “catalysts of our problems.” The way out is to carefully identify the obstacle in our lives, and remove it. If we search wisely, the many seeming obstacles would be reduced to one main obstacle. Overall, two outstanding steps are necessary: identifying and removing.

First, what does it take to identify the obstacle? Obstacle takes a lot of energy (gut) to identify, but when done, its obstruction is partly removed. The main obstacle functions (best) covertly. That is why exposing it is as effective as destroying it. Again, the main obstacle targets the primary goal of life. So, there is a close link between my primary goal and its obstacle. The simple truth is: Mistaking the primary goal for something else would automatically result in identifying a shadow of the obstacle or a false obstacle. This means that there could be false alerts on what the obstacle is.

Second, the earliest challenge is to eliminate false obstacles. What seems is not always what is. Most often we fail to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant obstacles. As a result, we tend to allow our biases and suspicions to mislead our search. Shockingly, our known enemies stand as irrelevant obstacles. For the very fact that we are conscious of their hatred feelings, their evil plans become easily predictable, and would subsequently immune us against the intended impacts. The Pharisees, the Scribes and the Chief priests, passionately hated Jesus because he called out their hypocrisy. Still, it was Peter, his Vicar on earth, that Jesus called “an obstacle” to his salvific mission. In this light, bias and suspicion are blind leaders. These blind leaders restrict our search only to the outside.

Third, we are left with the inward search of our comfort zones. Can your close associate be your main obstacle? Can your best friend, family and favorite fan be your obstacle? That sounds incredible. Indeed, it is the shock of its incredibility that distinguishes it as the main obstacle. The intense danger of the main obstacle lies in its undercover style of operation, which elicits shocks when exposed. Its concealing strength as an “enemy (from) within” justifies the stress for a thorough identification and exposure. The root of most individual failures can be traced directly or indirectly to family, friend or fan, solely because they are usually taken for granted. Since they belong to the comfort zones of our lives, they ought to be treated as holy cows that need no scrutiny.

Fourth, when the obstacle is identified, it MUST be given its backbench position.

Unless your main obstacle is identified, you cannot overcome it. Jesus found his obstacle in Peter’s suggestion: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you,” (Matt 16:22). And so, he did not spare him because of friendship ties. That was a tough decision, though. Wisdom faces its toughest test at the crossroads of “conflicts of interests.” Jesus excellently passed his own test by pleasing God rather than pleasing a human friend. Consequently, Peter got an instant backbench, so that Jesus’s mission can move on.

Good companions can rightly walk beside a person as peers or ahead as mentors. But the obstacle must be put behind: “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me” (Matt 16:23). That is where he/she belongs. Putting the obstacle behind entails confronting our fears. Personal FEAR would remain overwhelming until we decide to: Flee Everything And Run (defeated) or Face Everything And Rest (overcome).

Friends try to treat whoever that is the obstacle in your primary goal of life as Satan. Satan works so hard everyday to obstruct our reunion with God. Satan, however, uses human agents (often) closest to us to deceive and achieve his obstructing mission. Therefore, beware of what advise you take in, regardless of whom it comes from.
God bless you. Father Levi


TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 23, 2020

""Who Really Am I?"

Openness to other people’s opinions can be difficult, especially when such views contrast our comfort. Ordinarily, everyone enjoys praises and appreciations. But the degree of tolerance on people’s opinions about us varies from one individual to another. Some people have even developed a phobia toward listening about their blind spots. But the truth is, everyone has a blind spot that could only be seen by others. Most people in this category prefer to live in delusion than to face and improve the reality of their faults. Among them, the saying is popular: “appreciate me the way I am.” Where then is the room for growth (personal effort) towards perfection, “as our heavenly Father is perfect”? Should self-competition be trashed? Unless we are open to accept constructive criticisms, growth will be impeded. However, not all criticisms are corrective; many are destructive. I do not mean the latter. Destructive criticism aims at pulling someone down, and not at aiding his/her growth. Even though people’s opinion might not be accurate all the time, most times they can be insightful.

Teaching by doing, Jesus sets a golden standard for Christians at Ceasarea Philippi (Matt 16: 13-20). “Who do people say I am?” and “who do you say I am?” are timeless questions for positive growth. Nevertheless, only a few practice it. Does it mean that most people do not like growth? No. On the contrary, people prefer to pad up or package their personalities and market to the public. Some would garnish their personalities at the expense of basic ethical standards. That way, the gullible would be manipulated to believe the fake growth. The world's best kept secret is the faults of egoistic people. But for real growth to happen, one must pass through the two evaluations of Jesus?

First, “who do people say I am?” aims at getting a frantic outsiders’ feedback (opinion) on Jesus. Outsiders include critics, haters, objective observers, and admirers. Was Jesus uncertain on what could have been the outcome of such a mix? Does that shed a dim light on why he asked the question on a foreign land (probably to set a control over the audience)? Or was that a way to make the disciples feel freer to respond? Since Jesus identified himself as a good shepherd, he knew that his mission included rescuing the (stubborn) lost sheep, and that honest feedback enables self-evaluation. As bitter as public opinion might sound, it shouldn’t be suppressed.

Second, “who do you say that I am?” addresses a caution against sycophancy. With this question, Jesus challenged the honesty of his closest pals. It was no surprise that none of the disciples spoke up, until Peter was inspired by the Father to provide the classical answer, unknown to any human mind. I wish not to deliberate on the significance of his answer. That has received uncountable theological explanations. Probably, the Father’s intervention might have saved these close associates of Jesus from engaging in a flattering spree. After all, there was an internal contest on who would succeed Jesus. Fortunately, the Father (through Peter) solved the puzzle: “You are the Christ the son of the living God.” This extraordinary confession of Peter confirmed him as the Vicar of Christ for his church.

As a rule of thumb, answers to the two questions must not contradict. Christ is the prophetic fulfillment of John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah and others. While we are afraid of hearing the evaluations of the people about us, we must also be careful concerning the deceptive danger of sycophancy from close associates: family, friends, and fans. Why do all the words begin with the letter “f.” Could it be that all three are capable of causing the failure of any individual, when not balanced with the opinions of outsiders? Your guess is as good as mine. If then you want to stay away from failures, emulate Jesus by welcoming the evaluative opinions of both outsiders and insiders. Also be encouraged by Paul and Augustine, who were not ashamed to publish their faults.
God bless you. Father Levi


TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 16, 2020

"Faith Factor"

In Christ, no one is a foreigner; except the one who chose to. All are welcome. Everyone has a conducive space to fit in. The disparity of when one’s invitation arrived makes less of a difference. Such equitable standard underscores the warning of Jesus: “the first shall be the last and the last, the first,” (Matt. 20:16). Paul’s invitation arrived much later than those of the 12 apostles. Still, that did not prevent him from becoming the apostle to the Gentiles (the non Jewish world), and an outstanding mission model.

When Jesus defined himself as “the Way,” it includes the fact that everyone irrespective of one’s geopolitical location on the globe enjoys a proportionate vantage position from the center-point (Jesus). In short, if Christian spirituality were a circle with Jesus at its center, every believer would be seen occupying his/her relative but most strategic position in the journey of faith. Any attempt to displace or switch positions ends in futility.

Christian faith can be somewhat likened to karma (fate) in Buddhism. As one’s personal faith is capable of designing and redesigning interjecting circumstances in life, so is karma believed to shape the future of non-theistic devotees. Comparatively, the underlying difference is the absence of grace in the principles of causality that inspire karma. Essentially, it is the quality of faith, and not its age that swiftly draws a petitioner to Christ. Unsurprisingly, an 11th hour faith, manifest of the Good thief, earned him an instant pass into paradise, ahead of some cradle believers.

The central point in the story of the Canaanite woman and Jesus (Matt 15:21-28) is the quality of faith she manifested. Everything else in the story can be finely summarized as the process that led to her faith proclamation. At the confirmation of her ardent faith: “O woman, great is your faith!” her prayer was instantly answered. Her tested faith rapidly closed up her initial distance (as a foreigner from Jesus) and bonded her to Christ (the center and host).

In this context, foreignness refers more to ignorance of the true faith than mere geographic location. The words of Jesus in the dialogue, which sound impolite, actually highlighted the unprivileged status of the Canaanite woman as an unbeliever, such that the readers of the story would clearly understand the leap of faith she demonstrated that earned immediate answer to her prayer.

Isaiah affirms this incredible faith bonding (between any believer and God) as an instant game changer: “The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, … their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar,” (Is 56:1, 6-7). Paul reiterates this very fact of Isaiah’s prophesy in support of the key point noticed in Matthew, as he highlights the inclusiveness of the gospel: “I glory in my ministry (as apostle to the Gentiles) in order to make my race (Jews) jealous (Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32). Paul teaches that the gospel was not an exclusive gift to the Jews.

Friends, let us not be deluded. Every believer, regardless of duration, can redesign certain unwanted circumstances in life, by standing firm on personal qualitative faith. Sufficient grace to do our own bit is readily available: “My grace is sufficient for you,” (Cor 12:9). Ours is to demonstrate a quality faith, while God’s grace completes the process. Nevertheless, bear in mind that persistency and humility define a great faith.
Good luck, as we journey on. Fr. Levi


NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 9, 2020

"God’s Presence and Absence"

Previously, I have tailored my reflections on the event of Jesus walking on the sea to the ultimate authority of God over the laws of nature. I have also noticed that most standard homilies belong to this category, which delight in highlighting such marvelous act of Jesus. Sequel to that, I wish to concentrate on the underlying lessons of the event, by identifying the best conceivable reasons that led Peter to sink into the water.

My full stake is on the efficacy of God’s presence. God’s presence is a game-changer. The absence is a fiasco/disaster. Simply put, the sublime splendor of radiance, which defines the presence of God, accounts for the bliss of possibilities. One thing is to believe in the awe-inspiring presence of God, and another is to desire and experience it. To experience a taste of the presence of God entails a conscious transition from a particular wavelength to another. Since God’s wavelength is peculiar to God, even though accessible to human beings, communication can only be possible when the latter relate the former on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, the intense pomposity and rowdiness in the human societal wavelength tend to freeze the exchange switch that enables smooth transition from our mundane mode to God’s presence and back.

Where is God’s presence? How can we discover and encounter God’s presence? Elijah and Peter offer sufficient clues. By the way, the flight of Elijah to God, from the tyrannical king Ahab and queen Jezebel plays out as a fulfillment of his name. Eli (my God) / Jah (Yah[weh], the true God). Elijah (in Hebrew) means my God is the true God. The name implies staunch faith and dependence on the daily providence of this supreme God. Also, Elijah’s lack of genealogical records further strengthens his total dependency on God. No wonder, Elijah is an acclaimed epitome of OT prophets (Matt. 17:1-5, 10). This affirmation should not question the prominence of prophet John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11. Recall that Jesus associated Elijah to the personality of John the Baptist (Matt.17:12-13). As such, Elijah could be the OT prefigure of the NT John the Baptist. Both spoke truth to power and totally depended on God for survival.

At the very imminent threat to his life, Elijah swiftly sought the presence of God in the desert for protection (1Kgs.19:9a,11-13a). Arriving the mount of Horeb exhausted, Elijah waited patiently at the cave to behold the presence of God. The loneliness of a desert agrees with the fourth distinct manifestation of serenity. The previous three manifestations of violence only heralded the absence of God. God was not in the strong wind, and in the earthquake, neither was he in the fire. None, but the tiny whispering sound ushered the presence of God.

When last did we pay attention to the whispering voice from the sanctuary of our (sound) conscience? Does that not suggest that we often need quiet moments at lonely places in order to activate and listen to the whispering voice of God? It is no coincidence that Jesus severally withdrew to lonely places and communed with his Father. In fact, prior to the walking on the sea, Jesus kept vigil in prayer from evening till the 4th watch of the night (Matt. 14:22-33). Filled with the magnificent splendor of God’s presence, Jesus radiated the brilliance of light. The petrified disciples could identify such glamorous shine, at a wee hour, with no human, but a ghost. This luminous presence of God enabled Peter to walk on the sea, when he prayed for it. With God all things are possible. And prayer is key to possibilities.

Prayer activates the full awareness of God’s presence. Elijah overcame his fears in the presence of God and communed. Peter did not realize that he activated the presence of God when he prayerfully requested Jesus to command him to walk on the sea toward him. Rather than concentrate on the whispering voice of God’s assurance: “... do not be afraid,” Peter caved in to the forceful pressure of the stormy wave on the sea (which suggested the absence of God), and began to sink. He might as well have disconnected himself from the safe presence of God, by attributing this great feat of walking on the sea to himself with a shout out to the other disciples in the boat: “Yeah!!! I did it.” However, he quickly learned his lesson and reconnected to the saving presence of God with another fervent prayer: “Lord save me.” Friends, it is a choice to activate God’s presence through genuine prayers, and dwell in it as long as we desire, for maximum security, especially at this pandemic time.
God bless you. Fr. Levi


EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 2, 2020

"Teaching Generosity"

“No free lunch,” is a popular saying that does not pertain to God. God always serves a free lunch. At zero cost the world survives on atmospheric oxygen. As a being is, so it acts. In God, being and act, are one and the same. Jesus, the fullness of revelation of the invisible God, communicated the inseparability of God’s action from who God is. Even though, we cannot completely know God (as God is) due to our present incapacitation, we can at least comprehend who God is from what God does. This non-duality in God sheds light on the purpose of incarnation accomplished through the mission of Jesus.

At the core of virtues revealed by Jesus is generosity (charity). Creation properly understood is a product of God’s generosity. Creation in general and humanity in particular happened as free gifts. All we are and have are testimonies of God’s generosity. On the one hand, Jesus revealed the generosity of God. On the other hand, he aimed at inculcating generosity to all nations through his disciples. Multiplying generous people is that best kept secret for global peace.

Isaiah 55:1-3 recounts the overflowing generosity of God: “You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” In Romans 8:35, 37-39, Paul confirms that “nothing” can obstruct us from receiving the generosity of God.

The gospel of Matthew 14:13-21 explicitly demonstrates the dual purposes of Jesus’ words and deeds on that event of the 5000 fed. First, he felt deep compassion on the helpless crowd and suspended his planned isolation for contemplative prayers. It takes generosity to substitute personal interests with attending to the urgent needs of others. Urgency, strikingly, reminds us that delay is dangerous. Second, generosity stimulates extra steps in communicating similar spirit to other people. “Give them some food yourselves,” was more than a mere suggestion. In truth, Jesus was highly disappointed at the indifference of his disciples towards the starving people, when they suggested their dismissal.

For the disciples, dismissal was a huge relief from the nuisance of the crowd. The prolonged presence of this crowd prevented the disciples from enjoying a private time with Jesus, and possibly learning more confidential information from him. Engulfed in such self-centeredness, the five loaves and two fish were considered their exclusive dinner. Why share with these inconsiderate strangers (who probably had reserved foods at home), who ruined their plan to retire to a quiet place and rest? Recall that Jesus and his disciples were initially escaping to a lonely place after being exhausted from the day’s work. In this context, the interest of the knowledge-seeking crowd conflicted with the possessive attitude of the disciples. As a result, generosity was almost denied. How justified could the stand of these disciples be? The answer lies in the lesson Jesus taught them. Jesus emphasized that no excuses should negate generosity, because humanity is a product of God’s generosity. To be Christ-like, one should spontaneously respond to the urgent needs of others. Regrettably, the world operates on the reverse principle of “my need first.” Feeding of the 5000 was not as much a miraculous show of power, as it is a teaching opportunity of a lifetime course on generosity.

Aware of the importance of generosity, great parents delight in teaching their kids generosity. Growing up, I noticed that my mother as soon as she gave me snacks would beg that I give her a slice of it. When I did, she would smilingly, return the piece, which left me puzzling on why she even asked. Now, I know better that she was trying to inculcate generosity in me. At times, she would encourage me to go outside and share my snacks with my friends or playmates. Malta is a poor country; still she is rated the fourth most generous country in the world. Many priests and religious were trained through the generous donations from Malta. It takes only a compassionate spirit, not much of possessions, to be generous and encourage generosity.

Often, we presume like the disciples that our anger is justified or that we have reasons to suppress generosity. Interestingly, Jesus has proven such unrefined assumptions, wrong. No excuse is good enough to restrict the urgency of a generous appeal (whether explicit or implicit). In the same vein, selective generosity is as bad as its denial. Above all, teaching generosity to others would rapidly dispel self-centeredness from the world than other ethical approaches put together.
God Bless you. Fr. Levi


SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JULY 26, 2020

"Highest Investment"

Good life has great investments at its core. People severally invest on daily basis by converting available resources to richer assets. It could be a long-term investment like parents sacrificing certain pleasurable goods in order to provide quality education for their kids. It could as well be a short-term investment, such as displayed by a beggar mom. This caring single mom had only four bananas for the family’s dinner. She gave one banana to each of her four kids and reserved none for herself. Her sacrifice turned into a wise investment. In appreciation, each child secretly gave the mom half of one banana, which added up to two whole bananas. From the story, it takes sacrificial vision to invest wisely, especially when the welfare of others is prioritized.

How often do we ponder about the welfare of others in our day-to-day activities? To what extent does altruistic intents influence our actions? King Solomon is a biblical model in focus (1 Kgs. 3:5, 7-12). His uncommon request for wisdom was motivated by the welfare of his people, the Israelites. Such altruistic intent instantly merited him greater favors from God. Solomon sacrificed personal interests, but reaped much more than he invested: wisdom, fame, power and wealth. Solomon’s story teaches that one's investment in other people’s welfare guarantees one's welfare; but not the reverse.

Compassion toward the need of others is a practical expression for the love of God. God created everything out of love, and desires that humanity oversees creation in love. Whoever patterns his/her life in selfless love has not only invested wisely, but has also sealed the highest investment. The highest investment allows us to trade in all our selfish desires so as to merit eternal happiness in heaven. The wisdom of such selfless sacrifice might seem invisible except for the priceless gain of heaven. Paul articulates this wisdom better: “All things work for good, for those who love God,” (Rom. 8:28-30). To love God is to be guided by love toward all that God loves. God loves all creatures in their uniqueness. Augustine might have had similar wisdom in mind when he arrived at the conclusion: “ Love (as God does), and then do what you like,” — this maxim of ethical perfection guarantees that your likes and desires be strictly guided by love for God and neighbors.

Being benevolent stimulates the desire for the highest investment in life. Today’s gospel (Matt 13:44-46) emphasizes the importance of wise investment. The person, who found a treasure buried in a field, hurriedly sold off all his possessions, and bought the field, presents a typical example of wise investment. Similarly, the merchant, who sold all he owned and bought the most precious pearls, also invested wisely. If, therefore, the best of earthly treasures and purest pearls cost their new owners all they had, is it not most justifiable that the prize of heaven, whose worth is incomparable, should cost us all distracting material pleasures? So, invest wisely today on heaven, the highest of values.
God bless you. Fr. Levi


SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JULY 19, 2020

"Acting too Quickly"

In the parable of the wheat and the weed (Matthew 13:24-30), the expressed eagerness of the servants seeking their master’s approval: “Do you want us to go and pull them (weeds among wheat) up?” implies acting too quickly. Acting too quickly eliminates the suspension of action for a better assessment, while allowing clearer views. The inherent danger of acting too quickly is the regrettable, but avoidable idiotic end.

On the contrary, the master cautioned: “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest time.” Why wait till harvest time? Waiting does not mean inaction. Rather, it is a waiting that enables the most appropriate time and the most effective means of assessment. Timing and approach separate ingenious acts from inane acts. Harvest time is that ripe time when the fruits differentiates the wheat from its resembling fruitless weed (such as feather reed grass). This kind of waiting is not a delay, but an efficient strategy to achieve a fruitful result.

Acting in haste usually inflicts untold suffering or even death to the innocent due to narrow-mindedness. Narrow-mindedness is the prime cause of unbridled intolerance. So, why go to jail because of a hasty action that would have been avoided if given a second thought?

Gaining of time offers ample opportunity for repentance or change of heart. Time lag has caused the transformation of sinners into saints. Think about Christianity without the gifts of Apostle Paul, the great Augustine, Mary Magdalene, Francis of Assisi, whose conversions were phenomenal. These precious icons attest to the embedded treasure in avoiding premature judgment. Acting too quickly simply means premature judgment.

Interestingly, God, the master of the universe, chose to reserve the right of judgment to Godself, but at the end of time. Since a just judgment requires a holistic understanding, and humanity sees things in perspectives, only an all-seeing God is capable of rendering it. The civil society continues to grapple with just judgment, at times appealing to the psychological condition of the accused at the moment of a crime. Most often lack of complete information leads to unfair judgment. It takes an all-seeing eye to avoid unjust judgment.

Even in the Old Testament, similar affirmation of “live and let live” philosophy of cohabitation is echoed in the book of Wisdom: “For your (God’s) might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all ... Though you are master of might you judge with clemency, and with much leniency you govern us, … that those who are just must be kind; and you would permit repentance for their sins,” (Wis 12:13,16-19). The interplay of justice and kindness is key to cohabitation.

Cohabitation is God’s intention for all creatures because God takes absolute “care of all,” and has designated purposes for each organism, including the creepiest and most disgustful ones. Tolerance, though an imperfect acceptance of other people or things within our space, is still uncommon. Cohabitation exceeds tolerance. It is an openness to accommodate another person or thing by creating enough space not just for her to stay, but to belong.

The wisdom in cohabitation derives from the available rooms for transformation. In the world, good people can corrupt tomorrow, while notorious persons are capable of turning into illustrious citizens. None is guilty until convicted. And conviction can justly happen at harvest time — the end of time. If God, the master of the universe, is comfortable with such arrangement, who are we to alter it?
God bless you.
Father Levi


FIFTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME - JULY 12, 2020

"The Veritable Word & the Good Soil"

God likens God’s Word to the rain, which never returns void, in order to affirm that the Word is veritable (Is 55:10-11). Like the rain cycle, the veritable Word does not complete a return trip without causing humanity to yield fruits. Moreover, this veritable Word (with equal capability) is the viable seed that produces abundant fruits on a good soil. However, not every soil is good enough to yield fruits.

Every good soil is open to growth. First, it receives the seed, germinates it, and with the help of other important natural elements provides the nutrients that nourish the seed. In essence, the veritable seed (Word) collaborates with individual contexts in order to bring out the best in each person.

Why should only good soil bear fruits? Various soils are capable of becoming good soil. A soil in its natural state becomes good for planting when cleared of bushes and tilled. It takes hard work (suffering) to achieve a good soil. Laziness is a huge obstacle in the process of achieving a good soil. The soil of lazy persons is never ready for planting. When God, the sower, sends out the veritable Word into the world, the Word either drops on good soil or the fallow soils (untilled) of laziness, filled with rocks, thorns and the stiff paths (Matt. 13:1-9). In the eyes of lazy people, hard work is perceived as suffering, whereas the input (work) is nothing compared to the abundance of the harvest (output).

Why do all the good soils not yield fruits of a hundredfold? Why should the good soil yield various seeds, some hundredfold, some sixtyfold and others thirtyfold? Simply put, whether a hundredfold or sixtyfold or even a thirtyfold, each represent a hundred percent of fruit bearing. As God uniquely created every person, so are the gifts and expectations. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” but to whom less is given, less is expected.

Rather than compete in futility with someone else along the journey of faith, concentrate on yourself – compete daily with yourself – target to make your good, better, and make your better, the best. Your fruit bearing expectation might be hundredfold or sixtyfold, whereas you are busy comparing yourself with someone whose expectation is only thirty, thereby becoming lazy by day. Ensure that your soil of life does not lay fallow but constantly tilled. The little effort it takes to work on ourselves for growth is nothing compared to the glory at the end of time (Rom. 8:18-23). Therefore, it is our fault, if we cannot bear fruits as at when due, because the Word of God is ever veritable, but produces fruits only on a good soil. So, try and be that good soil, which bears good deeds as fruits.
Good luck as we get to work. Fr. Levi


FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JULY 5, 2020

"Unlearning to Know"

When Francis Bacon popularized the saying: “knowledge is power,” little did the world know that intellectual power can also be self-destructive. Most times the ignorant accepts his limitation, adopts openness to learning, whereas the learned in craving for advanced knowledge throws humility to the winds and destroys himself. As much as knowledge is power it takes moderation to manage it. At times unlearning what is learned creates room for humility.

Fate brought two men with striking disparity of knowledge at a local river. One was a professor of Oceanography, and the other an uneducated ferryman. Mr. Professor quickly contracted the services of the untidy ferryman to the estuary (where the river meets the sea), the destination of his research, and back. From the start of the journey, Mr. Professor displayed his wealth of knowledge, not minding if his high sounding jargons made any sense to the poor fellow. Startled at his quiet, Mr. Professor became more direct: “Do you have a college degree?” “No sir” came the reply. “There, goes a huge part of your life,” retorted the arrogant Professor. He repeated similar geographical and biological questions, but the answers were nothing than a definite no. Sarcastically, Mr. professor concluded: “I can see that you barely have a life to live.” Shortly afterward, the ferryman broke the long silence: “Mr. Professor, do you know how to swim?” “Not at all. Why do you ask?” replied the Professor. “I see a stormy wave approaching us. Since you do not know how to swim, there goes your entire life.” This reflects the story of life. That tiny missing link in a person could be in the possession of an unsuspecting other. We can never be complete without the other.

Jesus in today’s gospel (Mt 11: 25-30) introduces a paradigm shift: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” His disclosure of this unique plan of God ties with the main lesson in the encounter between the professor and the ferryman. Drawing support from these epic words of Jesus, our story substantiates that collaboration of knowledge keeps society alive, and that no one individual is a custodian of knowledge.

Raimon Panikkar, a mystic theologian and philosopher, wraps it when he said: Each individual perceives reality from a particular window; the cleaner my window, the clearer my vision. Therefore, the more open I am to learn from other people’s experiences, the richer my knowledge of reality.” Panikkar reminds us that learning is a natural ongoing process in which everyone is both a learner and a teacher. Good teachers learn from their students. Good parents, as well, learn from their kids. Growth or progress in the society is hindered when some people think they are citadels of knowledge – and as such can only give out knowledge, but not receive any. The key is openness to learn newness irrespective of the lowly sources. Proverb 6:6 affirms: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Learn her ways and be wise.” If wisdom can be learned from an ant, won't more be learned from every person?

Corroboratively, Jesus praises the Father for revealing the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven to the uninformed, but hidden to the learned. The knowledge of the kingdom is an inclusive knowledge suitable and accessible to all. By the benevolence of God it has become basic knowledge available even to those at the margins and to the socially branded nonpersons. Its availability at the lowest ebb guarantees no excuses of ignorance of the rule. So, why is such knowledge still hidden to the learned? Hiddenness does not mean unavailability. Neither does it mean ignorance. Keeping the knowledge of the kingdom “hidden” rather emphasizes the inability to look closer at the right spot and see what is covertly there. It simply means stooping low to learn from a negligible source. The wise and the learned fail to discover the knowledge of the kingdom because they totally rely on their elevated status with the unmatchable advantages, and so disregard the possibility of any knowledge from the lowly ones. This was the problem of Mr. Professor in the story. Interestingly, God’s plan has humbled them. But if in humility, the learned unlearn self-importance, and be open to learn from little ones, the knowledge of the kingdom will surly be revealed to them.
God bless you. Fr. Levi


THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JUNE 28, 2020

"A Prophet’s Reward"

Normally, a reward suggests a preceding remarkable act. Therefore, a reward does not belong to the first act, but rather comes as an appreciation of a completed good deed. Although the direct recipient could reward the generous giver, still a compassionate third party can also compensate him, instead. God rewards us both as a direct recipient of returned love, and as a benevolent third party for favors done to others. It is not uncommon to argue that we owe God nothing simply because God is never in need. As untrue as this claim is, I will proceed to provide some scriptural proofs supporting gratitude.

One important way of understanding individual and collective gratitude to God is to pay deeper attention to the meaning of “the reward of a prophet.” Before doing exactly that, can we come to terms with who a prophet is? Going with the most precise definition, a prophet is a mouthpiece of God. Being a mouthpiece of God falls into two related categories: 1) a fulltime traditional prophet, called like Elisha; and 2) prophetic witnessing expected from all believers. Both categories offer ample opportunities for believers to return merited favors to God. They are merited favors because as believers, we cannot but give back to the sole Giver (God). So, whereas God favors us with unmerited gifts (including life and its sustenance), we can only attract more rewards (from God) by giving back a tiny fraction of our bequeathed abundance. Such good deeds that attract rewards (more gifts) describe a prophet’s reward.

Who gets a prophet’s reward? Both a true prophet and a prophetic witness, who defends the truth (Christ) at all cost, would definitely be rewarded as a prophet. But not all prophets are true prophets. False prophets are manipulators that work for self-interests. On the contrast, true prophets voluntarily offer themselves as living instruments of God for services to people of their age and time. In words and in deeds, prophets sacrificially stand bold in solidarity with God, despite the taunt, the torture, and the death penalties, they face as the price of their fidelity. Paul in Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 sums up the life of a prophet as “dying with Christ, and rising with him,” or “dead to sin and alive in righteousness.” Alive in righteousness, Elisha inquired into the utmost need of the woman of Shunem and resolved it (2 Kings 4:8-11,14-16). Like Elisha, prophets of our time should be committed to the needs of God’s faithful people, and desist from swindling or exploiting them. In fact, the people of God should reflect the goodness of God as much as their (wealthy) prophets.

Essentially, the prophet partly shares his prophetic witnessing or mission with all God’s faithful. The compassion of the woman of Shunem, who volunteered and provided sufficient hospitality for Elisha, describes a vital aspect of prophetic witnessing. Every prophetic witnessing or good deed for the sake of God attracts various degrees of costly price. Even the sacred act of hospitality cannot be separated from the dangerous risk of hosting an enemy or an ingrate. Nevertheless, between the righteousness of prophet Elisha, and the prophetic witnessing of the woman of Shunem, lays the connecting rod of Gehazi, her servant. Often times our domestic or junior staff constitutes channel of reward and favor from God. Our attitude to them could hinder or foster our rewards. For Gehazi to have named exactly the most pressing need of his madam, when asked by Elisha: “can something be done for her?” shows a cordial relationship between them. That Elisha rewarded his host by respecting the answer given by her servant: “she has no son,” teaches all believers to treat people around them kindly. Who knows if the reward would have been hindered had Gehazi been mistreated. If for no other reason, please treat people under your care, kindly, for the sake of God.

Doing good for the sake of God is the core of all prophetic witnessing. The gospel (Matt 10:37-42) warns against replacing such prime goal with family ties or self-love. Acting for the sake of God explains what it takes to bear one’s cross daily with faith in the consoling words of Jesus – “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Hard as it sounds, therein lies the truth. Moreover, good deed done without expecting a payback from any (human) person distinguishes a virtuous act for the sake of God. Only such generous acts are able to express sufficient gratitude to God and in return attract the reward of a prophet. May nothing frustrate your own reward of a prophet!!!
Fr. Levi


TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JUNE 21, 2020

"The Cancer of Discrimination"

Discrimination has been humanity’s diehard habit. Facts show that this paranoid abnormality did not start with racial differentiations. Even as one people, the first generation of humanity displayed exclusive intention at Babel in resistance to God’s design for diversity. Unknown to them, the Christian God is a God of diversity, whose love relationship makes enough room for the other to belong. In the one God are three distinct persons that love and admire the distinctions of each as complementary. It was such self-giving love of the Trinity that caused creation. For example, incarnation (God-man in Jesus) happened in order to reveal who God is and how humanity ought to live a fulfilled life. Incarnation in itself demonstrated the openness of God to accommodate the diversity of human nature.Sadly, humanity in particular has failed to learn the beauty and serenity in diversity. Injustices and inhumane oppressions would not cease until rooms harboring discriminatory hatred are cleaned up and replaced with the multifarious beauties of diversity. Openness to newness is key. As soon as diversity was reinforced through differences of languages at Babel, other forms of discrimination ensued. Ancient Jews disparaged the Gentiles and the Samaritans. Among the Jews, the poor, the tax collectors, widows and women were virtually discriminated. Worse still, fellow citizens were discriminated against not because of any wrong they committed but because their righteous mode of life stood at odds with the welcomed irregularities preferred in the society. Prophet Jeremiah was a victim of such conspiracy (Jer 20:10-13). Jeremiah’s awful experience sheds light on the current wakeup call across the globe.

As the world is waking up to centuries-old ills of discrimination through protest marches, dismantling of slavery monuments and policy change, a lot more needs to be done.

Discrimination is still manifested in various forms and different shades. Racism is symptomatic of the deadly virus better described as “sameness syndrome.” Sameness syndrome underpins all forms of discrimination because of its anti-diversity stand, which perceives diversity as division. In fact, advocates of sameness theory are as deficient as a man of one book.

Jeremiah suffered discrimination in the hands of his own people simply because his righteous ways threw their evil deeds to their faces. Regardless of natural laws, what determines good or evil in a systemic sameness syndrome is the unreasonable solidarity in defense of comfort zones. Whatever that is perceived to threaten the comfort zone is radically resisted and eliminated. Such was the fate of Jeremiah. It must not be a crime. Otherness is enough to attract attacks.

Since racism is oppressive, xenophobia, tribalism, caste system, and other forms of discrimination double the oppression because the upheld differences in the latter are more imaginary than skin-coloration.

Everyone must not be a discriminator, yet the silence of sitting on the fence is as dangerous as being an activist of discrimination. Paul in Romans 5:12-15 reminds us of the incredible influence of the one strong activist toward the many. Just as Adam’s sin infected humanity, so did the grace from Jesus avail salvation for all. Similarly, if few ugly minds instituted policies that enthroned racism, its dethronement does not have to take a mammoth crowd, but a few sane minds to achieve.

The fall of the empire of discrimination is possible when the gift of diversity is appreciated. The beauty of life shines brightest as a gift. Only in gratitude to the gift of life can the inclusive diversity of peoples and things in the world reflect the immensity of their relational God. Both the discriminator and the discriminated deal with FEAR differently. Jeremiah, when threatened, understood the secret and found consolation in solidarity with this God of diversity. Rather than forget everything and run (fear), Jeremiah faced everything and rose (fear). Unmanaged fear is self-destructive, but self-confidence (in solidarity with God) conquers discrimination.

The same message echoes in the gospel: “Fear no one… do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt 10:26-33). Solidarity with God saved Jeremiah, it still works in our own time. Every life is uniquely the creative work of God and so bears the spark of God – each creature is precious to God. John Duns Scotus defines this truth as the Haecceitas (thisness) of each element in creation. Paradoxically, those who claim to kill in the name of God actually work against the God whose life approves and cherishes diversity as a personal signature. Therefore, it is obvious hypocrisy to claim to be Christians, but still discriminate other noble creatures of God.
Happy Father’s Day. Fr. Levi



SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST - JUNE 14, 2020

"Is the Body and Blood of Christ appreciated enough?"

A 12-year-old American girl diagnosed with kidney failure was struggling to live. The parents were ready to pay a donor but none was available. That morning the doctor read her medical report and told the parents that their daughter had less than a week to live, if the transplant was not done. Though broken, the parents still feigned some smiles to encourage their girl. Then came the shattering wish from the girl: “Mom, Dad, please don’t let me die.” Stuck in their helplessness, the doctor later invited them to his office. The heavens let loose with joyous shouts when the doctor said: “I got a matching donor.”

Two weeks after a successful transplant, the doctor scheduled a checkup with the family. The girl was anxious to meet and thank the donor that saved her life. At the waiting lounge an awkward incident nearly stole their joy. A hungry looking black male entered, sat next to the girl and with a smiley face gestured a “hi” wave. What happened next ruptured the happy mood of the entire family. The mom quickly grabbed and moved the daughter to her other side. Swiftly, the husband signaled the wife to move to the end of the bench, while he sat at her former position. With the girl squeezed between her protective parents, a significant gap was intentionally created between the black male and her dad. The gap was nothing compared to their frosty looks.

A breath of relief came when the doctor stepped out and ushered the family into his office. First, he expressed his excitement at the speedy recovery of the girl. Then he returned the check to the parents in respect of the wish of the donor. He did it for free. This amazing news doubled the curiosity of the girl to appreciate the donor. She promised to live ever grateful to such humane stranger.

At that point, the doctor excused himself and returned with the black male they disparaged at the lounge, and said: “Behold the donor that saved your life.” A spontaneous “oh my gosh!!!” froze their drooped lower lips. The girl being the first to recover from the embarrassing shock, said: “I’m sorry for coldshouldering you. Name anything I could do to reward your kindness. My parents are wealthy.” Smiling, the young man stuttered and said: “Just take good care of me (kidney) in you,” and left. The doctor later disclosed to the family that the young man developed post-surgery complications and had few days to live. As a result, he had quit his janitor job in the same hospital and was moving to his family house, but would not disclose his new contact address. Earlier on, while cleaning, he had heard the threatening health condition of the girl and volunteered to help.

The black male died couple days later. His substitutive death should help us to be more appreciative of what Christ did for us. Although the black male risked his life while saving the girl still he had hoped to live, afterwards. At best, his death was inadvertent. Specifically, Christ willfully gave up his own life for humanity to enjoy eternal life. Only him can do that for the entire human family (including the good, the bad, and the ugly). He did not just offer his life once that we might have fullness of life; he made endless provision of his body and blood for our nourishment in this world and life eternal in the next.

The body and blood of Christ, which is celebrated today doubles as material and spiritual food. While it sanctifies our physical body, it as well nourishes our soul (that life principle imaging God in humans) for that perfect union with God in heaven. God is the source of life. Any willful cutoff from God necessitates death of the soul (absence of life/God).

Unfortunately, that the body of Christ is universally available at no cost might have caused many to disregard this angelic food. Christians are that ungrateful family. Reasonably, ignorance does not have to excuse in hasty profiling. Severally, the body of Christ has received worse abuses than the rebuff the family gave to the generous black male that saved the life of their daughter. Here is the checklist: Do we Christians hear Christ whisper the last wish of the black male inside of us each time we receive his body and blood?: “Just take care of me (Christ) in you” or have we been guilty of disparaging the unidentified face of Christ in others? Of major concern in the story is how easily the girl’s mind was being shaped with unwarranted negativities. May the body of Christ purify our bodies, our minds and our spirits for the purpose of loving-kindness toward one another, before it becomes too late.
God bless you. Fr. Levi



MOST HOLY TRINITY - JUNE 8, 2020


Two basic dimensions of comprehending the Most Holy Trinity are the Immanent and the Economic. While the Immanent Trinity addresses who the Trinity is in itself (being), theEconomic Trinity underscores what the Holy Trinity does in relation to creation, but in particular to humanity (doing/activities). Fortunately, being and doing in the Trinity reflect each other. Since the Immanent Trinity is built on interpersonal love relationship, the Economic Trinity (an outward reflection of that love) unceasingly invites humanity’s active collaboration. But considering the fact that the finite human mind lacks the capacity (Karl Barth) to know the infinity of the Trinity, it is prudent to stay with the economic Trinity (Karl Rahner).

That humanity lacks the capacity to fully know the immensity of God should not imply a zero knowledge or tabula rasa of God. Rather, humanity is capable of knowing God to the extent God has revealed God-Self (in Christ). The selected readings of today’s solemnity affirm the validity of this assertion.

The one-on-one encounter of God with (an angered) Moses on Mount Sinai in Exodus 34:4-6,8-9 necessitated a functional definition of God as: “The LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” This self-expression of God humbled Moses, and melted his furious anger toward the stubbornness of his idolatrous people. In other words, if all believers should genuinely follow the footsteps of this God of a second, … a fourth … and a seventh chance, our gruesome world would be dramatically healed. At present, these divine characters of mercy, kindness and fidelity have been trashed, and replaced with endemic violence, hatred, discrimination and injustice in the world.

Consequently, the golden admonition of Paul in 2 Cor. 13:11-13 has become imperative for our ungodly society and age. Here, the apostle of the Gentiles articulates the splendor of living in accord with the Trinity: “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Paul has offered our politically manipulated world the gateway to global peace. The conditions are so right that they proceed from self-critique, and deconstruction of negative mindset, to brotherly love and cohabitation. When actualized, the peaceful presence of the Trinity can be felt, even more personal and real, than what Moses experienced. Again, Paul stressed the fact that the activities of the Trinity are capable of causing the radical healing obviously missing in today’s world, when his words are believed: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” The significance of this Pauline wishful prayer is manifested daily at the beginning of tons of Masses celebrated through out the world.

In John 3:16-18, Jesus Christ confirms that he is the full revelation of the Trinity. Jesus revealed a Trinitarian paradigm of love expressed in total giving (kenosis) for the benefiting sake of the other persons. His preference for the downgraded (tax collectors and sinners) is remarkable. On the contrary, our society is sick with selfish love, which has constituted a high wall of divide, rivalry, envy, suspicion, threats, vicious elimination, slander, murder, et cetera. Such endless list degenerates into racial profiling and killing. George Floyd mirrors one but Many of such inhumane acts. But if we desire to end avoidable deaths such as George, we must adopt the Trinitarian version of love (revealed in Jesus) as a way of life. Only this Trinitarian love, which improves the other, is capable of healing our selfish and pretentious minds.
Best of Holy Trinity Solemnity. Fr. Levi



FEAST OF PENTECOST - MAY 31, 2020

"Unity, Not Sameness"

In a dream, a man enjoyed a tour of heaven with St. Peter. The experience was deeply shocking. The first section was deafening with music and dances, including outbursts of shriek sounds from strange tongues. When asked, Peter replied: “they are the Pentecostal brethren.” The second section was loud with spontaneous biblical quotations. The man could easily predict that they were the Evangelicals. Moving further, a soft melodious tune from a large choir greeted them. They were the mainline Protestants. Then a radical turn to the right landed them at the final section. Its solemn atmosphere doubled the curiosity of the man. Before he could utter a word, Peter silenced him: “Sh..hh!!! Here are the Catholics in perpetual adoration. So, don’t disrupt their silence because they think they are the only ones in heaven.” Could this mosaic be the true meaning of UNITY intended by Jesus?

Given the emerging multiplicity of Christian denominations and the exponential sprouting of doctrinal and practical differences, how far could anyone prove that the Father answered the Unity prayer(s) of Jesus? Worse still, the numbers of the books of the Bible have not stopped provoking unresolved debates among believers in Christ. Have Christians failed Christ? Do non-Christians still take Christians seriously? By the way, why the concern about the Unity prayer on a Pentecost Feast, rather than concentrate on the challenging theology of the Holy Spirit?

At the intersection of Ascension and Pentecost lies the fundamental basis of Unity. Unity was the Last wish of the first advocate of humanity. Jesus prayed more than once for the Unity of his followers and their prospective converts. He defined this kind of Unity with the relationship he shares with the Father. Indeed, the Father and the Son are one, but distinct persons. Inferentially, Jesus prayed for a Unity that includes distinctness; definitely, not sameness. Distinctness flourishes in diversity, whereas sameness chokes it.

Jesus laid the foundation of the structure of Christianity by teaching and praying for Unity, as his Last wish (Jn. 17:21-23). Last wish is supreme, even to written will. In accord, the Holy Spirit kicked off his mission, as the second advocate, by demonstrating that the Father approved the Unity prayer of Jesus. With a powerful harmony of languages, the dramatic descent of the Holy Spirit reveled a Unity of understanding without dissolving the distinctions of native tongues – each person heard Peter in his native language (Acts 2:8). This proof is entirely different from the gift of speaking in tongues. Only those who have the gift of discernment could understand the message content of tongues. The manifestation of the Unity of languages was a unique event with a global understanding.

It is no coincidence that the most ancient name of the Spirit is ru’ah (wind). As wind, the Spirit functions through a borderless universe. She can neither be contained, nor restricted. As Christianity was founded under one head, so is the church of Christ spirited under one indivisible Holy Spirit. The underlying problem rests on Christians, who lack openness to the indiscriminating diversity of the Spirit. Evidently, division among Christians is a mental construct begging for a radical deconstruction. So, come Holy Spirit and enlighten the faithful on the necessity and true meaning of Unity. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says it all:

“How God will judge my life I know not, but I trust he will see me with mercy and compassion. I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, I will see some people whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expected who will not be there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there. When the record of any human life is set down, there are three pairs of eyes who see it in a different light. 1) As I see it. 2) As others see it. 3) As God sees it.” In God’s house all are welcome!!!
God bless you. Fr. Levi.



FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF JESUS - MAY 24, 2020


JESUSISNOWHERE is a cluster of words that forms two sentences when spaced out properly. Did you first see: JESUS IS NOWHERE or JESUS IS NOW HERE? The good news is: both sentences are very correct. The bad news is: they have different theological implications. In general, both sentences shed amazing light on today’s Feast of Ascension of Jesus. By the way, for pastoral reasons Ascension is celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter in America, except these six provinces (New York, Newark, Boston, Hartford, Omaha, and Philadelphia) that still maintain its traditional celebration on Thursday (40th day, after resurrection).

How does JESUS IS NOWHERE relate to Ascension? Jesus was seen, while he lived and worked among the Jews and their surrounding neighbors. At the completion of his mission on earth (thousands of years ago), including proper mentoring of his disciples, Jesus returned to the Father. On that very event, his disciples stood gazing but he was NOWHERE to be seen (Acts 1:11). It was difficult for these disciples to accept Jesus’ non-(physical)-presence. We cannot blame them because they missed Jesus more than many of us missed beingin the church for Masses. At least, our unpleasant isolation experiences could enable us to relate to the frustration of the disciples at the departure of their beloved master, teacher and friend.

Lost in their gaze as they pondered the NOWHERE of Jesus, reminisced the feeling of insecurity that overwhelmed them at the news of “the empty tomb,” 40 days back. For the second time, their hope waned. Ascension seemed more confusing to these men of Galilee than the resurrection. After resurrection, Jesus visited with them couple times, which strengthened their hope. Ascension rather highlights a departure that initiated his absence or seen NOWHERE. Lifted up into the sky unaided, flattened the same laws of nature, Jesus chose to obey in his lifetime. His disciples in their bewilderment might have lost this last display of Jesus’ supernatural power.

Extremely stretched, JESUS IS NOWHERE could be interpreted as a proof of his non-existence. Agnostic atheists might use it to deny or at least doubt the validity of the divinity of Jesus. But for believers, JESUS IS NOWHERE makes a complete sense when read together with JESUS IS NOW HERE.

JESUS IS NOW HERE is absolutely consoling. From the anxiety of being seen NOWHERE, Jesus is NOW HERE with us. He has transformed from a physical geographic presence to being ubiquitous or everywhere. Is this good or bad news? “As each person wants it” is the best answer. Surplus oxygen in the atmosphere does not mean that people have equal ability to inhale it. That America trashes surplus food, does not deny the fact that some Americans have limited access to food.

So how can we see Jesus, who, ordinarily is seen NOWHERE, and still, is NOW HERE? Jesus knew about this paradox, when he told his disciples: “A little while, you will not see me, a little while, you will see me,” (John 16:16). This statement of Jesus illumines and validates the possibility of this paradox: seen NOWHERE and still, seen NOW HERE. Jesus also knew that relying on our own strengths, we would be stuck in the perplexity of the paradox. So, he promised: “I will not leave you orphans (John 14:18).” “I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever,” (John 14:16). That Spirit of Truth will explain to you all things, and will remind you of everything I have told you (John 14:26).

Next Sunday, Pentecost, the Spirit will arrive. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern the presence of Jesus in our daily lives. Because Jesus is now ubiquitous, he is available to be found among the poor, the needy, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and the imprisoned. This is one reason, in Matthew 25, the criterion of the Last Judgment is centered on rendering services to Jesus disguised in various human forms of the needy. Most importantly, Jesus is found spiritually within us, and sacramentally in his Word and his Eucharist. For mystics like St Francis of Assisi, Jesus is even seen in nature’s flora and fauna. Let us therefore, rejoice and be glad as we celebrate the feast of Ascension because JESUS who seemed to be NOWHERE for the disciples, is NOW HERE, with us. May the coming of the Holy Spirit open our inner eyes to see Jesus, HERE and NOW.
God bless you. FR. Levi



SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER - MAY 17, 2020


"Love Act"

The one mission of Love, initiated by the Father, and accomplished by the Son, has a continuity plan being inspired by the Holy Spirit, till the end of time. On this penultimate Sunday, it is fitting that the readings anticipate the continuity of this Love mission. This provokes my reflection on the Love activity of the Holy Spirit, in view of a deeper discourse on Pentecost day.

Love is so commonly used that it means different strokes for different folks. A broad line divides love into: egotistic and altruistic. “My gain” or “the gain of the other,” motivates each side of the divide. A third position (a balance of the two) is rarely possible. Overall, giving characterizes a true lover, as testified by the Holy Spirit. Altruistic love best explains the love acts of the Holy Spirit. But before showing that, let us imagine a bit of altruistic love in the family setting.

My pick is the love of mothers for the last child. I would have picked an only child, but remembered that one (as quantity) occludes comparison. In other words, a mother’s predilection for a favorite child can best be seen in comparison with the siblings. I am unsure whether my proposition is culture-specific or a universal fact. Rather than worry about that, let us assume the accuracy of this proposition for informative purposes. So, how altruistic could mothers be toward the last child?

In general, most mothers boldly favor the last kid, at the envy of the older siblings. The last child (even as an adult) is jealously treated as a kid that must be excused and protected. Such protective mothers double as the advocate, whose weapon of defense stems from emotions, rather than logic. For not washing the dishes, the last child would still go unpunished. In defense, the mother would hurriedly do the dishes, and then make excuses for the favorite kid. Often she apportions blames among the older children for being insensitive to the feelings of the last child. Cuddling her, she would say: “Sweetie, you don’t look okay!!!” Really? This same child was super active playing before the mother returned. Notwithstanding the bias, the older kids had to learn to tolerate the partiality or the illogical treatment of their mother. Moreover, the mother would reserve the choicest part of her own meal for her last kid. Most times, this mother could be overly obsessive on the concerns of her last child. Despite the complaints of everyone else in the family, the mother practically lives for her last child.

Like the obsessed mother, the Holy Spirit loves to a fault with untold giving (7 gifts and 12 fruits). Her activities transcend the principles of logic because the Spirit blows wherever she wills (John 3:8). In the Spirit, love is an end, not a means. As an end, love effects perfect acts, while as a means it impacts imperfect acts. Love is perfect when its acts are for the pleasure of the lover. The love of the Spirit is other-directed. The Spirit lives and acts for the wellbeing of others (the beloved). Living for the beloved guarantees the joy and happiness of the lover. Jesus affirms: “If you love me, you would keep my commandments” (John 14:15-21). This love pattern contracts legalistic obedience. Obedience in order to avoid punishment is different from obedience born out of love. When urged by love, we act for the sake of the lover by overcoming the risks involved, even if it entails flattening the rules of logic.

Think of the Holy Spirit as the Love that proceeds from the Father and the Son, gifted to the world for the lavishing wellbeing of believers (including non-Christians). Yes. That is why she is the Love of God. This personified Love unceasingly showers love, and lovingly urges us to live out love. Jesus, before ascending to the Father, disclosed to his followers that only in love would the keeping of his commandments be possible. Specifically, he dramatized this point with Simon Peter (his chosen vicar) when he emphatically identified the success of shepherding his flock in the undying love for him (John 21:15). It is the Holy Spirit that inspires and consolidates this undying love for Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is an embodiment of shared Love.

Besides her distinct personality (as the 3rd person of the Trinity), the Holy Spirit exclusively retains nothing for herself. She is known by her love acts such as: Advocate, Sanctifier, Comforter, Intercessor, Paraclete, Spirit of Truth, the Dove, and the presence of God. Even her name is equally shared. To be holy is to be Godly (a quality shared by both divine and human beings). Similarly, all ethereal beings are spirits. Ultimately, her name validates the truth of her activities because the Holy Spirit is the quintessence of altruistic Love. As we anticipate the Ascension of Christ, which ushers the love activities of the Holy Spirit, let us be mindful of Peter’s instruction: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” (1 Peter 3: 15-18). Cooperating the Holy Spirit is our hope.
God bless you. Fr. Levi.



FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER - MAY 10, 2020


"You Will Do Greater Works"

Last Wednesday I presided a funeral service of a parishioner, fondly nicknamed “Miracle man,” by his family. It was recounted that this “miracle man” experienced certain miracles in his lifetime, and so, found God, and boldly shared his faith from the perspective of God’s mercy through miracles.

Simple put, miracle is understood as God’s purposeful intervention in the logical progression of things in the world. God occasionally interfereto right the negative consequences of human activities in the world, when called upon in prayers or when humanity has lost leadership control and derailed from the plan of God. Although as “cosmic priest,” humanity is endowed with freedom and rationality to lead the entire creation safely back to the creator by following the Way or examples of Christ, still God, like a caring mother, mercifully intervenes out of compassion to save the logical consequences of the recklessness of humanity. When this happens, miracle has happened; notwithstanding whether acknowledged or not.

Millions of miracles happen in a lifetime, but only a few like the “miracle man” recognizes and appreciates them. Majority of the modern minds would rather explain away awe-intriguing experiences as mere luck. We often hear: “Oh, he was the only lucky survivor of a highway fatal auto crash,” or “she is a great fighter to h

Up until the emergence of COVID-19, God was pushed away from secular spaces. In some countries, it was highly offensive to display one’s faith in public. Star players were suspended either because they celebrated their goals with religious signs or exposed “Thank you, Jesus,” written on their undershirt. Such tide of atheism was pilling high. Boomers or the millennial kids would easily imagine a world without God than one with God. In fact, the God of our time became the stone rejected by builders that proved to be the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-9).

Today, the narrative is gradually changing. For more than ten weeks human intelligence has technically surrendered to the menace of COVID-19. Suddenly, scientists, virologists, great leaders, technocrats, intellectuals, prophets, including the high and the low, have lost the claim of certainty on the knowledge of things in the world. Instead, they have humbly adopted the language of uncertainty towards finding solutions to contain corona virus. Many have returned to the rejected stone (God). It is common to see several videos from different nations, where health workers gather in prayers before and after their daily routine. Infected patients are not left out in holding on or attributing their miraculous healings to God. Rediscovering God as the last resort might not pass for a healthy faith, but it could also form a remarkable turning point.

If the world would pay heed to God at this time of the pandemic, be it discovery of vaccine, or healing of the infected, would happen like another miracle of life. If we believe the words of the scripture, Jesus assures us: “Do not be afraid. You have faith in God, have faith also in me,” (John 14:1-12). In conclusion, Jesus assured: “whoever that believes in me, will do the works I do, and will do greater ones.” Now that the world is in a desperate situation to win the war against COVID-19, is it not wise to effectively double efforts by turning to God for miraculous assistance.

The history of Christianity shows that God has been providing for those who call upon Him in truth and in faith. The first reading (Acts 6:1-7) recounts the ability of the apostles to assure the wellbeing of all, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They attended equally to both the spiritual and the temporal needs of Christ’s faithful. By so doing, none was neglected. Similarly, none of us would be neglected, if we earnestly backup the laboratory efforts of scientists with effective prayers. As a result, the duration for approved cure or vaccine against COVID-19 would happen sooner than expected (miraculously). “Lord let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”
God bless you. Fr. Levi



FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER - MAY 3, 2020


"Robbers or Shepherds?"

One of the ageless ingenuity of Thomas Aquinas in Moral Ethics is his discourse on the determinant role of Intention in human act. Indeed, Intention separates good act from evil act. It is intention that separates murder from manslaughter. It is also intention that separates philanthropy from the clutches of indebtedness. Still, it is intention that separates a good shepherd from a pilfering-herder.

Not every “help” is born from philanthropy. Most favors are more than what meets the eye. Such comes as an invisible trap into indebtedness. Because indebtedness increases vulnerability, the debtor is reduced to a defenseless victim of the whims of the magical donor. In other words, robbers in shepherd’s cloak simply manipulate the gullibility of their flock in order to take undue advantage of them. Jesus vehemently condemns such hypocrisy and invites shepherds to learn from his selfless example.

A good shepherd stands out from the crowd of self-enriching shepherds. Even though no one is good except God (Luke 18:19), still, there exist disinterested shepherds, whose efforts are pleasing to God. Despite its high demands, shepherding is a metaphor of Christian mission. Invariably, to be a Christian is to emulate the shepherding model of Christ.

How did Christ shepherd? He did the ultimate by laying down his life for his sheep, in order that they might have the fullness of life (John 10:10). His example overturned the indifferent shepherding standard of his time. Jesus as well challenged his faithful followers to adopt his own disinterested standard of shepherding his flock. By so doing, we come to the knowledge that both the shepherds and the flock are of great importance to Jesus, the good Shepherd.

A good shepherd enters through the gate (John 10:2). His activities are not shady. He cares, feeds, and nurses the sheep, thereby “smelling the smell of the sheep” (Pope Francis). In return, the sheep know his voice, recognize him, and follow him (John 10:3). He leads and the sheep follow. A good leader is preoccupied with the interests of the sheep — leading them to greener pastures, to running streams, and ever ready to defend the vulnerable sheep.

Every Christian is relatively a shepherd. While some are shepherds of one, three or five sheep, others shepherd a hundred fold and above. The gospel of today calls for inward search, especially pastors, bishops, overseers that pillage the flock of Christ. Even at the heat of COVID-19 lockdown some men and women of “God” still emphasize tithing and monetize prayers — milking dry their flock. Nevertheless, it is comforting to appreciate some shepherds of the flock who are donating foods, medical supplies, and stipends, to cushion the disastrous impact of COVID-19.

Besides ministers in churches, parents and guardians are also shepherds. As custodians of minors, what is it that motivates your support towards them? Could it be indebtedness or leader-service? The flock, like dependents, shows mental or physical vulnerability or both. According to Jesus, any intended act of taking advantage of the flock under our care defines us as thieves, who avoid the gate, and leech the flock, through the backyard (John 10:8).

Jesus is not only the good shepherd; he is also the Gate to the sheepfold (John 10:7). As the Gate to the sheepfold, all shepherds are to pass through him by emulating his selfless or his leader-service model. Whoever therefore that aims at being a good shepherd should pay attention to the beautiful words of Kevin Craw, as he summarizes Aquinas’ good intention: “If your heart is pure and your goal is right, you can’t go wrong.”
God bless you. Fr. Levi



THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER - APRIL 26, 2020


"Fear of the Unknown"

Fear of the Unknown is a disgusting experience that has persisted in human history. This invisible enemy uses death to spook everyone. Daily, the traumatic torture of the unknown leaves its victim gasping. FEAR can mean: “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise.” People have dealt with this unknown differently. While some were crushed, others were victorious. The victorious faced the unknown spiritually.

A reliable way of dealing with the unknown is the religious approach. The Christian faith walks on two legs along the journey of life: Intellectuality and Spirituality. On the intellectual level, we seek the knowable in the believed or the visible in the invisible. On the spiritual level, we seek the symbolized in the symbol (Prof. John Egbulefu). Faith can be that unfailing tool to deal with the confusion of the unknown.

The flight to Emmaus by the two disciples of Jesus was a radical reaction to fear of the unknown —the killers of their master were on the prowl. Complicated stories escalated their fear, and they sought a safe zone. Our time of COVID-19 posits greater fear of the unknown. The entire world trembles. Most people have fled the roads, avoiding social gathering, but seeking refuge in the seclusion of their homes.

Like the time of Jesus, media propagandas have continued to intensify the existing pessimism. The way out is to recognize the invisible presence of Jesus at this time of fear.

After Jesus’ resurrection, his proof of identity changed from his physical look to two indelible symbols. Blurred with uncertainty, his transformative look confused his disciples (including the eleven) such that they needed proof to recognize him. Last Sunday, Jesus showed his five wounds at the request of Thomas. These five wounds were peculiar to him, as the same Jesus, crucified, and pierced on the side with a lance, but alive in their midst.

Today, Jesus enlightened the confused minds of his two disciples at the Emmaus encounter. Preceded with a heartwarming breaking of the Word, Jesus revealed his second proof by breaking the bread. Emmaus experience undergirds the structure of the Mass; finely divided into the liturgy of Word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist. Most importantly, the Emmaus experience also proved the Real presence of risen Lord at every Eucharistic celebration. At the very moment of consecration: Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples; immediately, “their eyes opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight,” (Luke 24:30-31). Jesus vanished because his divine nature abhors duplicity. God is one and simple. It was therefore logical that the physical presence disappeared for the symbolized Real presence to enliven the two disciples back to Jerusalem, their mission territory.

With the ongoing restraint from sacramental communion, Christ’s faithful like the two disciples, can still encounter the risen Lord in the mystery of his real presence. The truth is: whether sacramental communion or spiritual communion, the same Jesus is received. We all need such a renewed faith in order to overcome the fear of the unknown, which previously blinded the eyes of the two disciples. We need to allow our eyes to be opened to the new ways of recognizing Jesus through spiritual communion with him, when the physical is absent.Being stuck to familiar modes blinds our eyes from recognizing the real presence of the risen Lord. Let us therefore pray for more graces to accept the things we cannot change as a protective gear to minimize the anxiety of the unknown.
God bless you. Fr. Levi



DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY 2020 - APRIL 19, 2020


The resurrection of Jesus was a transformative event in human history. Its uniqueness and relevance explains why Jesus did not allow it to stay as a mere faith option. Rather, he spent extra days on earth to provide substantive proofs for its reality. Ordinarily, Jesus accomplished the mission of the Father within his 3 years of detailed proclamation of the gospel in words and deeds, which culminated in the ultimate sacrifice of the self on the cross.

Why did he spend 40 days before ascending to the Father? The answer is simple: His apostles almost suffered despair at his death, and in fear hid behind locked doors in the upper room. They literally perceived the burial of Jesus as the dead-end of their calling. They lacked the hope to continue the gospel message. So, Jesus knew their collective weakness and took time to prove that he was alive in order to rekindle their hope and refocus them to the gospel mission. It took about five different encounters to restore the lost hope among the apostles. Thomas’ own was the last but the most dramatic.

Thomas’ dramatic insistence turned into a great theological enrichment. His insistence for empirical proof was so important that Jesus had to repeat his earlier visit to the ten apostles, a week after. Thomas’ thorough examination of the post resurrection Jesus instantly erased the suspicion that he could be either a ghost or a magical impostor. As a curious mind, apostle Thomas verified the peculiar identity (the 5 wounds) of the crucified Jesus in his risen (glorified) body. Overwhelmingly convinced, he adored Jesus and addressed his divinity: “My Lord and my God,” (John 20:28). Thomas’ faith declaration might be the only time in the Christian scripture, where Jesus was explicitly called God. What a revealing testimony!!!

Certain that his apostles had regained their hope in his proven resurrection, Jesus reemphasized their full participation in his own Mission: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” After imparting peace on his apostles (“Peace be with you”), Jesus invoked the Holy Spirit upon them: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Only then did he hand on to them the authority to forgive sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, are retained,” (John 20: 21-23). Because the one mission of Christ was designed for all times and to all peoples, the accompanying authority to act in the person of Christ, and forgive sins, is alive in the Catholic Church, through the unbroken chain of apostolic succession. In God, to love is to share. The imperative to be merciful/forgive one another, when wronged, is for all Christians, whereas the specific authority to forgive sins against God is reserved to those who share the ministerial priesthood of Christ.

Today, the Church celebrates this amazing gift of Divine Mercy, which is graciously available to all that needs it, through the instrumentality of priests and bishops. The dual authority to bind and to loose validates the efficacy of the auricular confession. Since God is pleased in having his vicars act as valid channels of mercy, the instruction of Jesus to the lepers: “Go show yourselves to the priest,” (Luke 17:14) reechoes the call to take auricular (ear related) confession more seriously. Sinners are spiritual lepers.

However, why border confess your sins, when Jesus already died for them. As demonstrated, auricular confession derives its authority from the risen Christ. This is the reason the two sacraments (Baptism and Penance) that have direct link with sins (sacrament of the dead in sin) were not instituted until after resurrection. So, if we imagine Christ as the ocean of mercy, auricular confession is the available means of drawing the mercy of God. A penitent experiences a holistic transformation in just 3 minutes walk, through the sacramental washroom.

Moreover, the authority to forgive sins comes with optimal responsibility: maximum secrecy; the inability of the confessor to forgive himself or his partner in crime; as the authority is conferred after ordination, so can it be withdrawn, when abused.

This simple means to God’s Mercy leaves Christians with no excuses to utilize confession as often as desired. Within its sacramental structure, the visible presence of the priest acting in the person of the invisible Christ confirms forgiveness. Forgiveness is so essential that while obeying the lockdown order, priests are open to appointments for confession. May no situation separate us from the merciful love of God. Amen.

Happy Divine Mercy Feast. Fr. Levi



EASTER SUNDAY - RESURRECTION OF THE LORD - APRIL 12, 2020


"Because He Lives"

Christ is not dead. He is alive!!! “Why seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).

Christ died that we might enjoy eternal life. Through his death, he paid off the price of our own death. His death exposed his unconquerable power over the clutches of death. By his stripes, the living are healed: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5).

By his brief sojourn in hades, the prisoners of death were revived and liberated. He is the victorious lamb, whose meekness defeated the satanic might. His unquenchable light shattered the cloud of darkness. Death can no longer threaten his own body, the church. As part of that mystical body of Christ, we are one with him. As faithful members of his body, we belong to Christ, and no marauding thief can steal us from him.

Christ is the reason for our undying Hope. He is the Anchor of our faith. The memory of him assures hope. Because he lives, we can see tomorrow. That he reduced death to a mere walkway makes him an unmatchable champion. Unlike other founders of religions, held bound by the power of death, our Master and Lord rose triumphantly at the dawn of the third day. Hurray!!! His resurrection has made us candidates of our individual resurrection!!! Indeed, we are children of the resurrection Light that dispelled the thickest of darkness.

Christ’s resurrection is the assurance that not even troubles, worries, anxieties, diseases, including the fear COVID-19, can separate us from the protective hands of the risen Lord. If we believe that he destroyed death, once and for all, then, why worry, when our hope is alive in him? His resurrection beams light on the Anchor of our salvation. At the sight of the anchor, everyone on board understands that the storm is overcome. This reason precisely provokes enduring joy of our hope. Therefore, our hope in Christ can never be in vain.

Rejoice and be glad because our Redeemer is alive. Happy Easter!!! Fr. Levi



GOOD FRIDAY - APRIL 10, 2020


"Thank God it is Good Friday"


1) "Ecce Homo (Behold the man)" - Words of Betrayal.
2) Traitor's Kiss - Sign of fake-love.
3) "I do not know this man" - Words of Denial.
4) "I Thirst" - Words of Anguish.
5) "Father forgive them," - Words of true Love.
6) "Consumatum est (It is done)" - Words of fulfillment.
7) What were you doing there? - Words of contemplation.
8) "I did THIS for you; what have you done for Me? - Words of the Last Judgment.

Which of these words touches you, most?
Stay focused & Safe, Fr. Levi




HOLY THURSDAY MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER - APRIL 9, 2020


"At the Feet of Jesus on Holy Thursday"


The first Holy Thursday was a practical expression of genuine love. Jesus on the eve of his anticipated execution left us timeless examples of love. He never allowed his impending passion and death to distract him from seeing the needs of his loved ones. He taught us that true love is proven in most difficult times.

Two arms are noticed. Faced with his agonies, Jesus took care of both the physical and the spiritual needs of the people around him. This example of charity opposes spiritualizing physical needs of others. They two though distinct are complementary. Apostle James emphasized the lesson therein: “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (James 2:16-17).

First, Jesus shared meal with his treacherous apostles. His envisaged knowledge of their abandonment inspired him to love them more. Food sharing (eating from the same bowl) is itself an act of communion. Cultures, who still eat together, avoid their enemies because of lack of trust, and absence of bond. But Jesus practiced the opposite. He never ceased to perform acts of charity because true love worries more about the need of the other, but less of one’s need.

Second, Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist as the ultimate sacrament of love and service. As the victim-priest, Jesus gave his all for the sake of love. He as well instituted the ministerial priesthood for the continuity of his example of love: “Love one another, as I have loved you,” (John 13:34). Finally, by washing the feet of his apostles, he left a timeless example of a servant-leader and mandated them to do likewise (John 13:14).

Staying home is an act of charity. It is frustrating, but also a considerate and compassionate discipline for the wellbeing of others. Every Mass either celebrated in private by the priest, or with the faithful is in full communion of the mystical body of Christ. Christ (the head) and his body (the church) are inseparable.

“You should wash each other’s feet” implies charitable works of reaching out, especially to the sick, the elderly, and the needy, at this period of restriction of movements. While the health workers, and other essential duty agents are out risking their lives, rendering services, those staying home can still practice the love example of Jesus.

Such charitable works can range from simple acts of phone calls, sending cards, to more engaging actions of prayers and almsgiving to the needy and the homeless. Providing food at this critical time to hungry children and families at accessible locations can save lives. It is a timely divine act that communicates love of God and neighbor.

It is timely because in addition to the psychological threats and anxiety generated by COVID-19, its accompanying lockdown order has inflicted more pains and sufferings on the people due to loss of loved ones, ill heath, loss of means of livelihood, financial impoverishment and food scarcity; especially in developing nations where online activities and steady electricity are impossible.

Celebrating our Holy Thursday today in isolation challenges our faith as true members of Christ’s mystical body, to practice the examples of Jesus, as he mandated us on the Last Supper (the first Holy Thursday). Earlier on, Jesus in his typical compassion also commanded his apostles to feed the hungry crowd, from their own meager reserve: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 3:37). This clear and distinct command demonstrates the cliché that a healthy mind or soul cohabits a healthy body. Therefore, spiritualizing other people’s hunger is unchristian. The beautiful words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta say it all: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Let us rise and do likewise. Welcome to the Triduum (the 3 holiest of days).
God bless you. Fr. Levi.



PALM SUNDAY - APRIL 5, 2020


"Celebrating Holy Week in Isolation"

In a lifetime, Christians, especially Catholics, are faced are forced to celebrate Easter, the epicenter of their faith in Jesus Christ, differently. In April 2020, the rich Christocentric spirituality of Easter, finely articulated in the Holy Week and climaxed in the Triddum (the 3 days of the redemptive acts, before resurrection), has turned out to be a celebration in isolation. Thoughts of wonder besiege believers on how satisfying a celebration in isolation would be, due to the global social distancing, prescribed as a protective measure against the peril of COVID-19.

In truth, celebrating in isolation can never be the same with the well organized and enriching community experiences of Easter liturgies. Rather than drain our emotional energies, wallowing in regrets, or shut down the oasis of our spirituality, is it not fair enough to ask God for the serenity to accept the consequences of COVID-19, as one of the few things in life, we cannot change. Is learning to deal with the era of COVID-19, without being crushed, not wisdom? As the world battles against this awful pandemic, staying positive and safe is required. A good start would be to make a departure from the memories of public celebration and discover the hidden lessons of isolation.

How positive could Easter celebration in isolation sound? In contrast to isolation being considered as a total disruption of worship of God, Isaiah admonishes: “Go, my people, go to your private room, shut yourselves in. Hide yourselves a little while until the retribution has passed” (Is. 26:20). Could there be any known retribution of our time, more fitting than COVID-19? It doesn’t matter much whether the retribution has divine, human or cosmic origin. In essence, this period of isolation can speak different meanings to us.

Have you imagined celebrating the Holy Week in isolation? Think of how Jesus celebrated the first Easter; definitely, not with pageantry, but in utter isolation. Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of the Holy Week. We are all called to celebrate the holiest of weeks of the entire church year in Isolation. Step by step, let us follow the isolation path of Jesus by reimagining his painful hours and days of sufferings and death, as the missing light for this period of stay home.

Let us identity elements of isolation on the first Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, more than other days of the Holy Week, ends in anticlimax. Jesus’ humble ride on a colt into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:1-11), climaxed to bitter isolation. Since the meanest form of isolation is that inflicted by loved ones, Jesus swallowed the nastiest part.

The crowd that welcomed Jesus with branches of olives and palm, amidst shouts of joy, spreading their clothes, was not different from the unanimous hooting: “Let him be crucified” (Mt. 27:22). His perfect humility and obedience were taken for granted. Apostle Judas, after dinning with him betrayed him. Peter, his chief of staff, denied him: “I do not know this man” (Mt. 26:74). Suddenly, the Master was labeled a stranger. Even the three members of his inner caucus: Peter, James and John, rather abandoned Jesus than keep an hour watch with him. The crowd that Jesus fed and healed chose the release of Barabbas, the criminal, but rejected him. Suspended on the cross, Jesus heavily wearied by the weight of humanity’s isolation lamented the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46).

Celebrating Holy Week in isolation enables us to capture the true presence of the events of the passion and death of Jesus. Therefore, our current state of isolation could as well enlighten us to experience a sincere participation in the passion and death of Jesus. If well taken, our awful experiences in isolation could ultimately turn into improved attachment to Jesus, during this Holy Week and beyond. Welcome to Holy Week.
Fr. Levi



FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 29, 2020


"Our Hope Shall Not Be in Vain"


Dear friends: May the peace of Christ, which the world cannot give, be with you! I address you as friends in the comradeship of Christ (John 15:15). The existing fear calls for renewed friendship and companionship centered in Christ, in order to resist the aggressive fatality of COVID-19. Unmanaged apprehension can be deadlier than the global pandemic, itself.

The trauma of uncertainties makes it extremely difficult to find the appropriate words of consolation. Actually, words at this challenging time might sound empty without the sacraments or effective COVID-19 vaccine. How much longer shall the suspension last? And how convincing would it sound to say: I still feel your presence in your absence? To assure you that your physical absence is complemented by your spiritual presence? Faced with the torments of the unknown, consoling words seem to sound unreal. However, the feebleness of my words is strengthened in the veracity of the Word of God.

Today, more than ever, I found reassuring hope in the prophetic words of the scripture. It couldn’t have been mere coincidence that at the peak of a global lethal threat to the most beautiful gift called life, God speaks to us in a language of reassuring hope. I believe that, if not all, as many as would personalize these words would recount the fulfillment of God’s promises, when the raging tide is calmed. Hear, then, the promises of the Chief Shepherd for us His vulnerable flock: God said: “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live” (Ezekiel 37:12-14). Imagine these beautiful reassuring words that sound like – I will enliven you. I am your life insurance. I will optimize your immunity.

Are you unsure of being part of the flock of Christ? “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:8-11). Are you scared that your friendship with God has been compromised? The Psalmist echoes consolation: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption,” (Responsorial Psalm 130: 7).

Sin constitutes a strong barrier between God and us: “Those who are in the flesh (carnality) cannot please God,” (Rom. 8:8); except they purge themselves of sins, and then live in the Spirit. Fortunately, repentance attracts God’s mercy. Mercy wipes clean sins and reconnects us to God’s friendship.

Perchance, infection occurred, believe the words of Jesus: “This sickness will not lead unto death…” (John 11:4) – Jesus did it to Lazarus. He would do it for you or your loved one. Just believe like Martha and Mary did.

Worst scenario: The Gospel acclamation reminds us that, “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die” (John. 11:26). In the process, whoever dies in friendship with Christ will eternally be alive. Courage, friends! You are not alone: “When Jesus saw her (Mary the sister of Lazarus) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled… And Jesus wept” (John 11: 1-45). Jesus shares our anxieties and pains. Please try to overcome isolation by believing that we are in it together with Christ.
God bless you. Fr. Levi



FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 22, 2020


"Impaired Visibility"


Impaired visibility is no proof for lack of presence. Rather, distorted visibility misleads to inaccurate conclusion. The reality of presence remains unchangeable but concealed until a change in direction or mental deconstruction happens. Physical shifts and mental adjustments can provide appropriate lenses for visible clarity. Imagine a sudden realization that reality has been perceived through poor visibility. Imagine also the immeasurable joy, and expository humiliation, that follow clarity of vision.

Suppose COVID-19, the most dreaded pandemic, is here to taunt the impaired visibility of our global society? Could it be that the world has existed blindly for thousands of years? Is it possible that COVID-19 came as a global warning?

Poor visibility is as bad as settling with symptomatic feelings. Settling for regular symptoms in a patient conceals the true nature of contagious virus, thereby exposing the public health to higher risks. The marauding COVID-19 arrived as unknown fast-killer with its concealed (window period) virulent fatality. Through impaired visibility, it was mistaken as a novel brand of the common flu. Likewise, the biblical Samuel focused on external features as clue to identify the chosen king of Israel. His visibility was blurred with manliness and good looks, present among the older 7 sons of Jesse, but lacking in the minor (son), David. On the contrast, neither age nor stature mattered as much as David’s shepherding virtue, which Samuel was unable to discern (1Sam. 16:1b, 6-7,10-13a). So, reality stays hidden under poor visibility.

The pandemic anxiety shaking global foundations and economy today can be compared to the dark world of the man born blind in the gospel of John. Within such precarious situations, questions like: whose sin caused the man’s blindness from birth was as unnecessary as asking today, by whose oversight is COVID-19 terrorizing the entire humanity? “Who sinned” sounds like “whose fault caused COVID-19”? And which country is responsible?

Instead, the corrective answer by Jesus could be inspiring: He is not blind due to any sinful act, but that “the work of God might be made visible through him” (Jn. 9:1-3). As we eagerly await the availability of COVID-19 vaccine, certain contemplations can be pertinent. Could God be speaking in the midst of the menace of COVID-19? Has the fear of death silenced the rowdiness of a busy world? Has COVID-19 forced people of the world to contemplate life and its purposes more than ever before? Has it proven that tight work ethics, economic growth, vacations, partying, going to games, can be forgone, whenever life is threatened? Who thought that stay-home order was possible?

Could it be that through impaired visibility the loosening of family bonds were unnoticed or ignored? Was it the case, that shared faith prayers, and the visibility of God’s presence, were restricted in the church buildings?

Could any positives be learned from COVID-19? The obvious is that life at its best lies in the sacredness of each human life, regardless of nation, race, religion gender, age or color. Could the stay-home order create more bonding in the family, especially for kids, who had struggled with insufficient time from working parents? Has COVID-19 panic caused a radical turn to God in prayers?

Humility is the way out of this killer virus. Cultural pride would prolong its devastations. Cultural pride like the Pharisaic conspiracy is the worst form of blindness because of its contradictory defenses. Cultural pride means being blind, but still denying it. Such blindness, according to Jesus is incurable, whereas the acceptance of blindness (or impaired visibility) summons divine healing – “that those who do not see might see and those who do see might become blind” (John 9:38-41). COVID-19 has proven that recklessness toward human life at any level can generate a pandemic.

Now is the time to emphasize family as the first church. Staying home with God would strengthen family bond and faith. The true church is Christ and his faithful, not the buildings. May God be our protection against this raging COVID-19, Amen.

Amen. Father Levi



THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 15, 2020


"Irresistible Thirst"


It is assumed that water only is capable of sustaining human life for 3-4 weeks. Water is one element that can sustain life across the desert, until stored energy is exhausted. Dehydration kills faster than hunger. And so, extreme thirst represents a periculum mortis (in danger of death) condition, which bends the rules. This vital importance of water beams its connection to life.

Thirsty of natural water in the wilderness, the Israelites desperately cried out against Moses. In their lament, these Israelites preferred slavery (in Egypt) with drinking water to freedom in the wilderness without water. Their desperation underscores the imminent threat to life induced by thirst. In order to survive the choking grip of thirst, these Israelites did not mind putting God to the test at Massa and Meribah (Ex 17:3-7). God in turn, reassured them of his omnipotence by using Moses to provide water from the rock – an improbable feat.

At the well of Jacob, similar force of thirst drew Jesus and his disciples into an enemy territory (John 4: 5-42). Traditionally, Jews and Samaritans harbor mutual hatred against each other. But the force of thirst shattered the cultural barrier. Like at Massa and Meribah, inhibitory territorial laws gave way to lifesaving actions. Oddities were also surmounted. While the Samaritan woman overcame her oddity of talking to Jesus, a Jewish male, at an odd (lonely) time of the day, Jesus overlooked the negative impression of conversing with an immoral woman. In other words, the raging force of thirst paved way for a successful dialogue that culminated in Christ oriented conversion.

Whenever barriers are broken, reality unveils. At the encounter of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, initially in need of natural water became thirsty of the living water (Christ), which wells up to eternal life. After her transformative experience, she ran into the city, and with her testimony predisposed the minds of her fellow Samaritans, and then invited them to meet Jesus at the well. With a burning thirst for Jesus, the Samaritans looked beyond his Jewishness and believed his teaching. Thus, they told the woman: “we no longer believe because of your word; for we heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world” (John 4:42).

These two biblical instances support the very fact that if thirst for natural water could lead to relaxation of regular rules and inhibitions, the equivalent force of thirst for things of Christ would reasonably produce amazing faith as it did among the Samaritans. In essence, the stories demonstrate that it takes an irresistible thirst for natural water to elicit the brand of faith that thirsts for the living water or eternal life in Christ. In this third week of Lent, Christians are called to thirst for Christ, the way they thirst for natural water on a scorching day.
Good luck and God bless you. Fr. Levi.



SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 8, 2020


"Self-forgetfulness"


Uncertainty defines every promise. This is not only true between human beings, but also appropriate between God and human persons. In both aspects, trust is inevitable. On the one hand, the degree of Trust is determined by the trustworthiness of the promisor. On the other hand, the trustworthiness of the promisor could be underrated by the doubtful mind of the promisee. In essence, it takes the trustworthiness of the promisor and the credulity or the childlike trust of the promisee in order to experience the fulfillment of a promise from God. Since, the credibility of God, the promisor, has been proven, it is reasonably correct to assert that the “Missing Arm” for the fulfillment of divine promises is the childlike trust or childlikeness of human persons.

Childlikeness can best be understood theologically as self-forgetfulness. It is natural for humans to be forgetful of things but ever conscious of the self. Self-forgetfulness is a complete reverse of this natural tendency. At the natural level, self-consciousness is the goal. But at the supernatural level, self-forgetfulness is the goal. Self-forgetfulness is the total dependency on the trustworthiness of God in order to have a successful engagement of the vagueness associated with divine promises.

Is self-forgetfulness an impossibility? Interestingly, many human beings engage in self-forgetfulness in their interpersonal daily interactions. Top on this list are new lovers and airplane passengers. These two groups of people exhibit more of self-forgetfulness than self-consciousness. Like new lovers, most airplane passengers worry less about the risk of lives they put at stake boarding an airplane with manageable conditions and inexperienced pilots. In fact, the slightest worry disappears completely when the airplane has been delayed for couple hours. Such situations automatically transform people’s options for self-consciousness to total dependency on another person (self-forgetfulness). So, if it is possible to occasionally practice self-forgetfulness, how often do we apply it to God?

Two biblical models of self-forgetfulness are given in today’s readings: Abram from the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament. Both are great personalities with natural virtues. Each however, had his own struggle along the journey of faith. Both wonderfully answered their divine calls with impressive sense of self-forgetfulness. Abram was asked to abandon his homeland and all its prospects, with a (vague) promise to become a father of great nation (gen. 12:1-4). Peter too, had to abandon his fishing business (and family tie) for a (vague) promise to become a fisher of men. His request at the scene of transfiguration attests to self-forgetfulness – “Lord, it is good that we are here,” than elsewhere; therefore, let me “make three tents for You, Moses, and Elijah” (Matt 17:1-9); but not even one for James, John and himself). None had clarity of vision concerning the fulfillment of his promise. Still, they struggled to substitute their self-reliance with absolute reliance on God.

Being humans, their trust in God wobbled with time and life challenges. At the moments of their failures, both sacrificed their self-forgetfulness and total reliance on God for self-reliance. Overcome with self-consciousness (what could happen to me?), both drifted into man-pleasers, rather than God pleasers. To please Sarah, the wife, Abraham was impatient with God’s promise and impregnated Hagar for an heir. The consequence of such impatience has continued to deny the world of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Peter was even worse. Self-consciousness of Peter turned into the forgetfulness of the Lord. As a man-pleaser, he denied the Lord 3 times. Like Abraham, Peter at some point lost fear of the Lord and fell into the fear of the people.

Abraham and Peter remind us of our strength and weaknesses as Christians. Whereas their faithfulness in God was strengthened by self-forgetfulness, their failures were caused by loss of fear of God, which culminated in self-reliance. The renowned preacher to popes, Raniero Cantalamessa (OFM), summarizes self-forgetfulness as: “Fear the Lord, and do not be afraid of anything else.” Jesus even in the midst of his passion endorsed self-forgetfulness when he said: “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children;” and “Father, let this cup pass me; not my will, but your will be done.” So, if Abram and Peter in their weakness practiced self-forgetfulness, we too can equally do that, so long as we prefer to be God pleasers rather than human pleasers.
God bless you, Fr. Levi



FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 1, 2020


"Why be Tempted?"


Tom, a certain young adult, got a surprise call from his baptismal sponsor. His sponsor travelled abroad a few months after Tom’s infant baptism, and barely communicated. The message was straight: “I returned yesterday, please come to my house and do an errand for me.” Tom obliged. Tom’s sponsor gave him $350 to buy a good phone he would use, while visiting.

In less than 10 minutes, Tom arrived at the phone shop (with nonrefundable policy) but spent another 35 minutes sampling the various phones on display. The entire 45 minutes were not enough for Tom to decide whether to buy a low quality Chinese brand and keep the balance for himself, or be honest and buy the original branded phone with the whole money. Eventually, Tom saw it as a rare opportunity to swindle his stingy sponsor. After all, his sponsor would soon travel back before the phone could develop problems. So, he used $200 to buy a fake brand of phone and falsified the receipt, by bribing the sales girl with $50 (equivalent of the local currency). Smiling home, he handed over the package with the receipt to his sponsor. His sponsor strengthened up, apologized for lack of communications in previous years, and with a passionate hug, gave Tom the package, saying: “Happy birthday, my dear.” Tom didn’t even remember it was his birthday. Overall, it takes a cheat to fall into temptation.

Was Tom tempted, and by who? Recall, he terribly lost $250 by attempting to scam his sponsor. How does Tom’s story resonate with the temptation of the 1st Adam (at Eden garden of plenty) and that of the 2nd Adam (at the barren desert). Understanding temptation as random trials meant to disprove (or prove) our love priority for God exposes who the tempter is. God cannot be the tempter because the same God desires our protectiveness from the consequences of temptations. Neither does God lead us into temptation – a reason Pope Francis has called for the review of the poor translation of Our Father in certain languages. In my native Igbo language the line: “Lead us not into temptation,” reads, “Do not allow us to fall into temptation.” The revision therefore would not affect “Our Lord’s prayer” in my language.The Bible calls Satan, the tempter, in both temptation of Adam & Eve (Gen. 3: 1-7) and in the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11). Truly, Satan is the tempter because he is the one that constantly doubts humanity’s faithfulness to the love of God. Satan prows about on a daily basis attempting to prove that God only entices human beings into love, with the claim that humanity would desert God if they were offered competing options not to love God back. It is no surprise therefore that the devil is diabolum in Latin (one who casts divisive barrier between humanity and God).

However, the devil only suggests with enticements. He absolutely lacks control over our wills, but overcomes our resistance by offering us that which we lust for, as irresistible bait. Adam & Eve were victims of the lures of Satan because of their insatiable appetite in the garden of abundance – affirming the Latin saying: Amor habendo habendi crescit (the love of having increases by having). On the contrary, the perfect contentment of Jesus assured his overwhelming defeat of satanic lures. Unlike the garden of abundance, the austere life depicted with the desert region allowed Jesus to focus on nothing but the love of God. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the recommended life jackets.

Should we get rid of temptations? We don’t have to aim at eliminating temptations, partly because we lack the ability, and partly because we lose the good fruit of temptation, which is renewed faithfulness in God. Temptation is no sin – a reason Jesus passed through it. Rather, temptation is a crafty lure to revolt against God. As noticed, temptation does not always lead to sin. Instead, drawing strength from Christ to overcome temptation confirms but also renews our profession of love to God. This first week of Lent, urges us to flee from inordinate pleasures that are capable of casting huge barrier between God and us. Such inordinate attractions are distractions. So, flee for your life!!!
God bless you. Fr. Levi.



SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - FEBRUARY 23, 2020


"A “Short cut” to Holiness"