Can you remember being touched by someone, something, or an event to the extent that your life was transformed? I confess that the best moments in my priestly ministry are those times when people tell me that I gainfully touched their lives though I am only an instrument in the hands of God.
A homeless beggar once received an envelope from a stranger passing along the street where he sits to beg for alms. Opening the envelope, he noticed that the stranger left a large sum of money running into some thousands of dollars, and there was a note that says, “I want this money to change your life.”
The beggar was amazed to see a large sum of money and the note, but what he did after would shock you. He went around the city, sharing the money with other beggars and telling each the same thing, “I want this money to change your life.” The stranger who was watching from a distance froze in tears. Coming to the beggar afterward, he commended his selfless spirit and offered to get him a home and a job in his company. By the way, the stranger happens to be one of the richest men in the region with chains of companies.
Touching or being touched is a significant human experience. We go through life touching and being touched by people through words and actions. In short, nothing moves unless there is an accompanying touch. Furthermore, touch can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.
In Mark’s Gospel (1:40-45), we learn about the touch encounter between Jesus and a leper. The leper comes to Jesus our Lord with the hope of healing. From the Book of Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46), we learn about the deplorable life of lepers, which involves ritual uncleanliness and isolation. Consequently, lepers must stay away from healthy people, and healthy people would also stay away from lepers.
We can see that ritually it was wrong for the leper to come to Jesus in the first place. However, the leper defied the limitations and breaking the protocols he comes to Jesus in total submission and reverence by bowing down and asking Jesus if he wishes to heal him. A quick lesson from the leper is that we should allow the Lord to do what He desires in our lives and not force our wishful demands on the Lord.
The response of Jesus could have shocked everyone. He was not only moved with pity, declared that he wishes to heal him, he also goes further to break the ritual protocol by touching the leper. He could have said “be healed” without touching him as he did in some other miracles he performed. Our Lord Jesus reached out to touch the leper physically, but the touch had far-reaching mental, emotional, and spiritual effects.
Spreading the Touch and Changing Lives
The narrative tells us that the leper received healing as he desired by his submission to the wish of the Lord. But when Jesus asked him to say nothing to anyone but show himself to the priest as the law prescribes, he goes off, announcing the goodness of the Lord to the public in the entire region, the priest could have seen and heard him anyway.
We could see here that the touch of Jesus goes beyond mere physical healing. The leper’s mind is also healed, leading him to appreciate the Lord’s goodness by spreading the good news to people everywhere. Here we learn that we need to respond by touching others whenever we receive a touching experience.
Your words and actions could be a regenerative touching experience to someone; every encounter we have with people anytime, any day, and anywhere could be an opportunity to touch their lives.
Life would be brighter and the earth a better place if every one of us would be moved with pity like Jesus and intentionally wish to touch someone. There are many people out there who may need a word or little support to carry on with life. Your intentional silence may be a reason for someone to give up, but your touch could make a positive difference in someone’s life.
St. Paul encourages us in First Corinthians (10:31-11:1) to imitate him by doing everything to the glory of God and by pleasing everyone in every way possible for their salvation and not to be self-seeking. St. Paul is, in other words, encouraging us to touch lives as touch matters to all.
In our Covid-19 infested society, the call to touch lives is even more relevant as many are touch-starved with the social distancing requirement . Reflecting on the widening gap in the social and religious landscapes, the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, Cardinal Joseph Tobin recommended, “Spiritual Closeness in a Time of Social Distancing.” We can maintain social distance while closely touching each other spiritually and emotionally. Distance does not keep people apart; it is the absence of touch that creates the gap.
February 14 is widely known as Valentine’s day or lover’s day. While love does not require a special day to be celebrated, we should understand that love is only real when it is practically expressed, not when it is professed with words, pictures, and gifts. True love brings positive touch and transforms lives. Our Lord Jesus would say, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).
As we continue our faith journey, let us resolve to keep touching lives through our prayers and productive words and actions and I hope this message touches your life.
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.
Have you ever been at that point when life does not seem to make sense anymore? Have you been so pressed and strained that you lack the strength to take another step? Trust me; I have there. It could be with the death of a beloved one, sickness, betrayals, series of failures, and other distressing issues. Often, life takes us on an endless journey from one challenge to another.
Life is not always fair, many would say. But there is something you need to know today; you are not alone. Many people are going through the same or even worse situations. Marty Rubin would say that “behind every mask, there is a face, and behind that face, a story.” Forget about how fanciful the mask or face may look; people have their terrible backstories.
The Example of Job’s Brokenness!
In the Book of Job (7: 1-4,6-7), we hear about the man who could qualify as the patron of suffering. Among other things, Job describes life on earth as drudgery that is hard work or struggle. He further laments that he has been assigned months of misery with troubled and restless nights.
We know that Job lost all his possessions and his children in one day. It was one calamity after another until his skin was infected with sores. We also know that God allowed Job to go through all those troubles because God placed a bet on him to disprove the devil’s claim that Job’s righteousness was dependant on his wealth and possessions. What if the challenges around you are part of God’s bet on your faith? Food for thought!
The Healing Presence of Jesus Christ
Mark’s Gospel (1:29-39) gives us a scenario that shows a massive healing of various sicknesses by our Lord Jesus Christ. It began in Simon and Andrew’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down with a great fever. When Jesus learned about her illness, he comes to her, and grasping her hand, he helps her up, and the fever left her immediately. That same day they brought all who were sick, and Jesus cured all of them.
Notice that the presence of Jesus Christ regenerated Simon’s mother-in-law and those of all the sick they brought to him. No sickness could stand the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. We did not hear about anyone who came to Jesus with any illness and could not get healing. The Book Acts of the Apostles (10:38) tells us that Jesus Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost and power and went about doing good and healing ALL who the devil oppressed.
Moving Forward: God will Heal your Brokenness!
Beyond Job’s complaints and lamentations over his miseries, he did not lose his faith in God; in fact, he was bold in spirit to declare, “my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25) despite his challenges. Job was, in order words, saying that God is the one that would redeem him from his troubles. He was also sure that because God lives, he will also live (John 14:19).
The Book of the Psalm (147:3) says that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. The good news is that no storm lasts forever. No matter how strong it rages, it will soon pass. Notice that at the end of Job’s narrative (42:10), God restored his fortunes and gave him twice more than he had before. Isaiah (61:7) says because your shame was double and dishonor was proclaimed as your lot, you shall have a double portion.
Moving forward, at what point are you in your life? You could be as challenged as Job or as down as the mother-in-law of Simon, but there is good news. The Book of Job (22:29) talks about lifting even when there is a casting down. The Book of Jeremiah (30:17) says that God will restore you to health and heal your wounds.
The simple thing you need to do is to bring that burden to the Lord, and He will sustain you (1 Peter 5:7). Why carry a load when someone has offered to take it up? Do not make the mistake of quitting, it often gets worse before it gets better. Rather, wait as Job and God will surely show up if you do not give up. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, the Lord will grasp your hand, and you shall rise again. Faith and trust would lead you to your victory.
God bless you and have a blessed weekend and a glorious week ahead.
Early in May 2011, both the internet and social media were agog with the “End of the World” prophecy of Harold E. Camping, a self-trained bible scholar and radio evangelist. Through the Family Radio based in Oakland, the preacher predicted that the world would end on Saturday, May 21, 2011, following the rapture of 200 million righteous people worldwide.
Camping spent Millions of dollars to send the message across the US and beyond with 5,000 billboards and about 100 million pamphlets printed in sixty-one languages. His followers also went about telling people to save the date as the world was finally ending.
The date came and passed, not even a bad weather report. Responding to the disappointment, Harold announced that God changed the date to Friday, October 21, 2011, and nothing still happened. Before the end of the year 2011, Evangelist Harold Camping had a cerebrovascular accident and remained with it till he passed on Sunday, December 15, 2013.
In Deuteronomy (18:15-20), we hear God telling Moses that He would raise a prophet like him for the people. God further says that He would put His words into the prophet’s mouth. That means the prophet would only say what God has commanded, not what he thinks or feels. Another important part is that if the prophet presumes to speak in God’s name an oracle God has not commanded or speak in the name of another god, he shall die
In the world today, prophecy and prophetic utterances are on the geometric rise. Almost every man or woman of God claims to hear directly from God, and most people are so gullible that they believe every trash that comes with the name of Jesus.
At the beginning of 2020, we were bombarded with series of prophecies about many lofty events that would make 2020 a magical year for everyone, but none of those who claim to see what is in the mind of God saw the Covid-19 virus coming. There were prophecies about victories for some leaders in politics and tremendous breakthroughs in other quarters, but they did not happen like Harold Camping’s prophecy.
So, what happened? Could it be that God lied? That is not even possible. The scriptures tell us that God is not a man that He should lie or the son of the son of man that He should repent (Numbers 23:19). Maybe God spoke, but the prophets did not understand what God said, or they heard from another god because the devil could speak convincingly as we read in Matthew 4:1f) during the temptation of Jesus.
Prophecy vs. Sentiments
One of the troubling facts in Christian practice today is that most people cannot distinguish between divine revelation and their human sentiments about certain realities around them. Consequently, what most people refer to as prophecies or revelations are their sentiments or even their wishes. It is human to wish that something happens, but it becomes an insult to turn it into a prophetic oracle from God.
For anything that happens around us, some people would try to attach some prophetic nuances. Some of them will quote Amos (3:7) out of context, where it says, “surely, the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secrets to His servants the prophets.” They forget that one of the things that characterize God is that He does whatever pleases Him (Psalm 115:3). By the way, if God truly reveals something, it would happen exactly the way He said it. Nobody needs to bring some explanations to it.
At the inception of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was nothing we did not hear about the virus from men and women of God. Some said it was a hoax and discouraged people from protecting themselves. Some others said it is a project of the anti-Christ harnessed through the 5G network, which is the fifth generation of the wireless mobile network faster than the previous network generations. Still, others proclaimed that the world was ending.
The high rate of infections and deaths seem to make the “Covid-19 prophets” to calmed down. But with the new vaccines, we are now hearing recent prophetic utterances about chips and altering the DNA. I mean, people are saying that God revealed that to them, and people are gullible to believe. Why? It is ignorance, which is itself a deadly virus.
These are Christians who claim to have faith in God. They soon forgot the Gospel of Mark (16:17), where Jesus says that signs would accompany those who believe in him, and by using his name, they would, among other things, drink a deadly thing it would not harm them. They could not remember that we are from God and we shall overcome because the One in us is greater than the one in the world (1 John 4:4).
Did we even forget that in the Book of Daniel (1:12f), Daniel and the three other young men fed only on vegetables and water for ten days and looked better than the others who were eating from the rich royal portion? If you are afraid of taking the vaccine, what about all the medications and processed foods you have been eating all these years? You are healthy not because you were careful; it has been God’s grace all along.
Moving Forward: Learning from Jesus and the Authority of God’s Word
Words are powerful, but they need an authority to become relevant. Mark’s Gospel (1:21-28) tells us that he taught in the synagogue in Capernaum, and the people were astonished because he taught as one having authority and not as their scribes. Here we see the distinction between speaking with power and speaking with authority.
When Jesus was preaching on earth, he did not say anything out of selfish sentiments or with the plan of gaining fame and validation from people. Jesus made it clear that he communicates what he had seen or heard from the Father (John 8:38; 12:49).
As baptized Christians, we are prophets not in the sense of predicting the future but in the strict sense of proclaiming the word of God by words and actions. Already, we have been given the authority to declare a thing, and it shall be established, and light will shine on our ways (Job 22:28). Instead of playing on our sentiments and feeling, let us rely on our faith and trust in God. Finally, those who were bold enough to make false prophecies need to be humble enough to accept their mistakes and apologize to God and the people they deceived.
Have a blessed week, and may God bless you richly.
Have you heard this lately? “I am very busy!” I bet you have, maybe from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or even you. Everyone in our world today seems to be busy. Even the days and months are also busy running. It appears that the year is already on a marathon to get to the end.
The worst narrative about busyness is when people say that they are too busy to pray or do other needful things. Being busy is not even the problem; the central question is, “how productive is your busyness?” Many people are busy with things that do not add an inch of value to their lives. One can be busy without being productive.
Now being busy is all about the way we use our time. We live and die in the context of time; in fact, our entire existence is affected by time. In life, those who pay attention to time and work with it succeed more than others. What do you do with time? We shall come back to that question.
The Book of Jonah (3:1-5, 10) tells us about God’s plan to destroy the city of Nineveh because of their wrongdoings. Consequently, God sent Jonah to announce: “forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” Put in another way, God was giving them a time frame to revert from their evil ways. Forty days means 960 hours or 57,600 minutes.
It is interesting to note that the people of Nineveh, great and small, responded within twenty-four hours (1,440 minutes) by their deep repentance. Time is of great essence, and the Ninevites understood that they could be saved or damned depending on how they respond to time.
In the First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7:29-31), St. Paul remarks that time is running out and that people should adjust their programs and lifestyles because the world in its present form is passing away.
In Mark’s Gospel (1:14-20), we see our Lord Jesus Christ announcing the time of fulfilment and urging the people to repent and believe in the Gospel. We also learn how the first disciples of Jesus, who were fishermen, responded immediately to the call of Jesus by abandoning their fishing material and mates to follow the Lord.
How to be Responsible with Time
God is the author of time. Long before the creation of human beings, God created time. The Book of Genesis (1:14) tells us that God created light in the expanse of heaven to separate day and night, and to be for signs and seasons, for days and years. After the flood, God reconfirmed the importance of time when he said that as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). We may not forget the words of the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1ff) that says, “there is an appointed time for everything under the heavens.”
Since time encompasses us, a pertinent question would be, “how do we respond to time?” Put in another way, “how can we be productive with time for our material and spiritual success?
Have a Proper Plan: Look around the world, what do you see? I see divine order, and this comes from divine planning. God is the ultimate planner, and He wants us to learn from Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ talked about planning when in Luke’s Gospel (14:28ff) he says, whoever wants to build a house or engage in warfare should first calculate the cost.
We become productive with time when we plan. Remember Benjamin Franklin’s statement that says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Some people go through life without a plan, and they still ask God for favors. The Book of Proverbs says, “commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and he will establish your plans (Prov. 16:3).
Stop Snoozing the Alarm Clock: This is another way of saying that one should hit the ground running. That means putting your plans into action. We often think that we still have time, but time is constantly on the go, as St. Paul tells us. Notice that the people of Nineveh did not wait for the next day to respond to the Word of God, and the fishermen followed Jesus immediately after they received the invitation. Your success is time-dependant; stop that procrastination.
Avoid Timewasters: Time wasters are those things and people that steal your attention but leave you without benefits and values. Today, social media ranks high as a timewaster. People spend hours watching videos, pictures, or reading comments on some frivolous content at the expense of important activities. Do not get me wrong, it is good to interact and socialize, but sometimes we do that a little too much. Some people read only one book in the entire year, and that is Facebook!
Think Differently: We are products of our thought patterns. The Bible says that as a man thinks so is, he (Prov. 23:7). Most people believe that they are busy, but they do not ask if they are productive. One way you can change the way you think is to tell yourself the truth about yourself. Lying to oneself is the worst form of lying. Your life may not change until you look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the hard truth about yourself and resolve to do things differently; nothing may change until you decide to change.
You can cheat people, but you cannot cheat time because it cannot wait to be fooled. The best you can do is to utilize time as it goes. That age-long instruction we heard in the elementary school is still relevant, “make hay while the sun shines.” The Book of Proverbs (6:6-8) tells us to learn time management from the ant that plans and uses the summertime to store food for the winter. Our material and spiritual breakthroughs would come from our intentional and committed use of time, especially when it is still within our reach. Make productive use of time so that time would not mistreat you. Finally, pay attention to this: “do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today!”. The time to start is now!
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.
Once upon a time, a rich man takes his only son to a wise monk to ask about the child’s purpose in life. Unlike other kids, the man had noticed that his son is always recollected and loves to stay calm by himself. In fact, his entire lifestyle runs contrary to the plans the man has for him when he grows. While waiting in line to see the monk, the boy wanders away.
When it was their turn to meet with the wise monk, the man could not see his son. Searching around with the monk’s help, they finally found him in the temple area by himself praying.
Turning to the man, the monk asked, “why did you bring him?” “I want to know his life purpose because I have plans for him to succeed me in my business as a great merchant”! The man answered. The monk smiled and said, “well, you can see he has a different purpose. I see a great wise monk, not a great merchant”. To cut the story short, the young boy grew to become one of the greatest monks in Tibet’s history.
There is a quick lesson for parents who choose professions for their kids while paying little or no attention to what God has designed for them. You could choose a diaper for your child as a baby, but you cannot choose the purpose of his or her life.
In the First Book of Samuel (3:3b-10,19), we read about the call of the young Samuel to God’s service, which turns out to be the purpose of his life. We could recall that his mother, Hannah, prayed tearfully to God to bless her with a son. She also promised that she would bring the boy to the Lord.
That sounded like a deal, right? When God blessed her with a son, Samuel, she also fulfilled her part of the agreement by bringing the boy to Shiloh to assist Eli, the priest. However, God had a higher purpose for Samuel to be a judge, priest, and prophet, as the events that followed showed.
Do I have a Purpose in Life? How do I Discover it?
Futurologists, psychics, palm readers, visionaries, and others are making a living out of many people seeking to know their purpose in life. Unfortunately, purpose is not something you pick from anywhere or from anyone; it is something you discover within you. Let us put it in another way; God created you with a purpose. But the question remains, “how do you discover your purpose?”
Who are you? Often, we answer this question by mentioning our names and titles. That may be conventionally right, but there is something about you beyond your name and title. A woman went for a job interview, and she was asked, “who are you?”; answering, she gives this shocking reply, “I am a child of God, who is fearfully and wonderfully made, but my name is …” The more surprising part is that she got the job.
We cannot fully define ourselves outside of God. Remember God’s words to Jeremiah, “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you” (Jer. 1:5). Often, some of us erroneously think that we are nowhere in the plan of God. No! God has a purposeful plan for you; there is a future for you and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Listen, you are not an accident; you are here for something, you are unique, you are special, and you are valuable.
Discover your Passion: What is the direction of your passion? I do not mean the wrong things that engage you. Your passion often points to your purpose. They include those valuable things you love to do with enthusiasm and joy. Remember, in our opening story, the young boy was passionate about prayer and solitude, and from those, the monk could identify his purpose.
Discover your Valuable Network: Porter Gale says that “your network is your net worth.” This statement is true about life, generally. Network here refers to the people you interact with and who influence your life in various ways. The Book of Proverbs (27:17) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Some people do not discover their purpose in life because of the type of people in their network. Imagine what could have become of Samuel if he did not have Eli in his network, who taught him how to respond to God’s call.
Discover the Power of Prayer: Prayer is our sure connection to God. When you do not have clarity about your purpose, talk to God, not to some mediums that would lead you away to some superstitions about your life’s purpose. Psalm (57:2) says, “I cry to God the Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me .” The Book of Job (42:2) says that God can do all things, and no purpose of God can be thwarted.
Your purpose in life is not just about a profession that would help you make a living. It is more of doing God’s will, which is a significant way of realizing our purpose in life. Yes, God created us to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and stick with will all the days of our lives.
For the above reasons, St. Paul encourages us in the First Letter to the Corinthians (6:13c-15a, 17-20) to live morally good lives because we are temples of the Holy Spirit and owned by God. There would be a need for us to adopt Samuel’s style by constantly paying attention to what God has to say to us. We should be able to declare daily, “speak Lord for your servant is listening.” And like the two disciples of John in the Gospel of John (1:35-42), we should be intentional to follow our Lord Jesus and stay with him when we finally find him.
God bless you, and have a blessed week ahead.
Life without water is unimaginable. Every living thing depends on water to survive. Science tells us that the average adult human body is about 60% of water. Notice also that we can stay a long time without food but not without water because dehydration could complicate the functioning of the brain due to a severe drop in blood pressure, which could lead to death.
The Japanese pseudo-scientist and author, Dr. Masaru Emoto, demonstrated that human consciousness and words could change the molecular structure of water through a verified experiment. The details are in his New York Times Best Seller book, “The Hidden Messages in Water.” Sadhguru, the Indian Yogi and author, claims that water has memory and could remember whatever you say or do to it.
Beyond all the scientific information, there is something about water and God that we need to understand and appreciate. If we go back to the Book of Genesis (1:1-2), we discover that water was already in place when God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the water. When God wanted to destroy the world (Genesis 7), he used water and saved Noah’s family with the ark floating on the same water.
Moses, who became the human hand God used to liberate Israel from Egypt’s bondage through the red sea, was rescued from water (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses also struck the rock to release water for the people to quench their thirst, though God asked him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:1-11).
The Gospels tell us that the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ started around the waterside area of Galilee. The first disciples were fishermen who were making their living from the water region. The first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). Do not forget that Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm on the sea (Matthew 14:22-32)
All these Old and New Testament instances support the fact that water occupies a central place in God’s relationship with humanity. One could ask why water and an answer could be why not since we may not have a more satisfying one.
The Water of Baptism
The Gospel of Mark (1:7-11) introduces the ministry of our Lord Jesus with his baptism by John in the Jordan River. John’s baptism was that of repentance, and one could legitimately wonder why Jesus (the sinless one) had to join the long line of sinners waiting to be washed clean of sin through John’s baptism.
Four reasons come to mind as to why our Lord Jesus Christ decided to receive the baptism of John:
A Proof of the Necessity of Baptism
Baptism initiates us to the Christian life. Of course, the Christian life is not possible without baptism. The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ shows that we need that cleansing from sin. St. Peter (1 Peter 3:21) says that baptism saves us not only by the washing away of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Sanctification of the Water of Baptism
As soon as our Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, entered the Jordan River, he sanctified the water of baptism. We could attest to the sanctification when our Lord Jesus Christ stepped out of the water, and the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” God the Father and the Holy Spirit come together to confirm and sanctity the water of baptism at the instance of Jesus, God the Son.
The Baptism of John the Baptizer
In the account of the baptism of the Lord, according to Matthew (3:13-17), John said that he should be receiving baptism from Jesus, not the other way round. But Jesus asked him to go on to fulfill all righteousness. John’s request was fulfilled because he desired to be baptized by Jesus. So being in the same water of baptism and making the request completed his baptism.
The Inauguration of the Lord’s Ministry
Notice that immediately after the baptism of Jesus Christ, the same Spirit present at Jordan river led him to the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights in preparation for his public ministry. Here we see the inaugural position of baptism in the Christian life and ministry.
One important event in the context of the Lord’s baptism was the opening of the heavens when our Lord Jesus Christ emerged from the water. The message here is that baptism opens the gates of heaven for us, but we should intentionally walk into it by how we conduct our lives.
But how do we conduct our lives? We do so by living the baptismal life. We see the baptismal life in the baptismal promises, including rejecting sin and Satan with all his works and empty promises. On the other hand, is the promise to believe steadfastly in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The celebration of the Lord’s baptism should recall the significance of the cleansing power of the water of baptism. He should, therefore, conduct our lives like those who have been renewed. St. Paul tells us that those in Christ are a new creation; old things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). This instruction is also very pertinent as we surf through the New Year with the invitation to a new life.
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.
Bill is one of those adventurous little kids in the Sunday School class. One Sunday, the teacher tried to let the kids understand that God is everywhere, so she mentioned that God could be found everywhere in their homes, even under their beds. Getting home that day, Bill decided to search for God under his bed. It was a bit dark, so he got his dad’s flashlight, and going under the bed, he started the ultimate search for God.
The search was so desperate that it got his parents’ attention, who saw how he moved things around in the room. His father asked, “Bill, what are you searching for? Did you lose anything?” Bill pulled out from under the bed and said, “my Sunday School teacher got to be kidding. She said that I could find God under my bed, but God is not there.
Thanks to Bill for the courage to search for God under his bed; though he could not find God physically, God was still with him during the search. Life is filled with narratives of searching. If you pay attention to your activities during the day, you will discover that you spend most time searching. It could be your keys, watch, phone, clothing, and footwear. People search the internet for information, news, entertainment, and other things. When we go out shopping, what we do is to search for items to buy.
How to Search and Find God
The story of the journey of the wise men (magi) from the East is central to the Christmas narrative because it links us to events after the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ by the angels to the shepherds.
The wise men could have shown up the same night Jesus was born. They saw a magnificent star and could understand that it signifies a King’s birth, and leaving their location and their trade, they came looking for the birthplace of this unusual King with one intentions, to worship him.
Coming to the land of Judea, they had the feeling that at least the King would know about the birth of this great King, but they were mistaken. Herod did not know and was not happy that a King was born. He felt insecure and asked the wise men to seek out where the child is and get words to him to that he could go and pay homage. We know he was lying.
When the wise men left, the star they saw earlier reappeared and led them to the place where the child was born, and seeing the child, they prostrated themselves and did him homage. They also gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, when they were leaving, they followed a different route, as they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.
Lessons on how to Search and find God
There are many lessons we could learn from the narrative of the visit of the wise men. However, we shall devote our attention to the theme of searching for God. How can we search and find God in our day and age, especially in our world’s slippery foregrounds filled with so many distractions?
The Desire to Search for God
The word desire is stronger than it sounds. It means an intense craving or longing for something or someone. Another way to render desire is hunger for something or someone. When one desires something, the individual could go any length to have it. There are, however, positive and negatives desires.
The intense hunger to see the King made the wise men abandon everything, their family, and friends to search for the Lord. Our Lord Jesus Christ said in one of his instructions, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). Isaiah says, “my soul longs for you, my spirit diligently seeks you” (Isaiah 26:9).
Faith and Commitment in the Search
The wise men were faith-full and committed in their search for God. To see a star and follow it can only be an act of faith, and set out to search for the King, not minding the distance, was an uncommon act of commitment. Jeremiah (29:13) says, you will search for me, and you will find me if you search me with all your heart.
St. Paul says, “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Notice that the wise men did not give up when the star disappeared; they stayed in the game of searching for the ultimate. Often, in the journey of life, we go through a situation that forces us to walk away when there seems to be no reason to keep trying. Notice that the star reappeared and led them to the place. Faith does relent; it endures to the end.
The Search to Worship
Many people have various reasons for coming to see God. The majority of us come to God because we have problems, and we seek solutions. The wise men were not searching for the new-born King because of the challenges in their businesses or families. According to them, “we have come to do him homage, in order words, they came to worship him.” And when they finally saw the child prostrated themselves before him in adoration.
Sincerely, why do you search or come to God? Worship is particularly important to God. One of God’s grave instructions to the people of Israel was to worship only the Lord God and serve Him alone (Deuteronomy 6:13). In the Book of Exodus (23:25), God asked the people to worship the Lord God, and He will bless their bread and water.
Notice also that the wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Lord. In worship, we offer ourselves completely to God. God is not interested in our material gifts but in offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, pure, pleasing, and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1).
Wise men and women are constantly searching for God with a strong desire to find Him with deep faith, commitment, and adoration. Let us resolve to power our search for God not for miracles but to have a personal touch and relationship with Him.
More practically, we can search for the Lord and find him in the word of God. The Book of Psalms (119:105) says your Word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my feet. We can search for the Lord and find him in the sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist. John (6:56) says, “whoever eats my body and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” We can search and find the Lord in the people around us. “Whatever you do to the least of my brother and sisters, you do unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
As you search for the Lord, may you find Him, and may you be blessed.
What makes the Year New? Look around; the things around you have not changed from what they were in the previous year. Think about it; we live in the same houses, driving the same cars, having the same family and friends; we could still have the same job and other things. So, nothing changed around us. Could the newness of the year be reduced to merely the change of our date and time? No!
The ideal New Year should be a profound personal transition, not just the change of time and date because those two are constantly changing. Most people enlist various things they would like to achieve at every beginning of the year, but they often end up just having a list of unaccomplished tasks.
The blessings of the New Year would not come from what you say you would do. They would not come from what you write in your notes. They would emerge from what you do. The characters you display, your attitudes, and habits would become the fruits of the new you. The New Year is just the new you; yes! The latest version of you.
Generating the “New You” in the “New Year!”
I have heard and seen people make declarations and resolutions at the beginning of each year, but they end up worse than they were in the previous years; why? The reason is not far-fetched. We do not start from within us. We are often preoccupied with what we want to achieve out there, especially to win people’s admiration, while neglecting our needed inner housekeeping. Let us look at some highpoints that go into the making of the “New You” in the New Year.
Keep the Useful Things
Not everything about the past year was bad. The experience of the covid-19 pandemic made most people resent the year 2020 completely. Some people feel that there was nothing good in the past year, while some prefer to say that the only good thing about the year 2020 was that it ended. That’s is false and irrational.
There are many good things an active mind would have learned from the past year. We had profound lessons from the virus. Did we not rediscover the power of home during the lockdown and the truth of the statement that there is no place like home? Did we not discover that the world needs God more than anything? What about our resilience and our revamped survival disposition? We emerged from 2020 stronger than ever. With that strength, we shall face the challenges of the coming years, and we shall win!
So, keep all the useful things you had in the previous year. Remember that it was not completely bad; at least you have your life as many people could not make it even a few hours to the new year.
Discard the Useless Old Things
If you are sincere, at least to yourself, you would agree that there are useless things that need to go in your life. They may be attitudes, habits, and even friends that keep you stagnated in a comfort zone. By the way, listen, “your comfort zone may not be your conquer zone.”
Take some time to examine yourself very well. Self-understanding is an important key to better living. How much of yourself do you know? If you can tell yourself the truth about yourself, you will understand that certain things you do are simply ruining your life while you have the illusion that you are happy. In life, do not force anything or anybody for favors; do your best and leave the rest to God!
Keep the old and unproductive things away from your life. In Isaiah’s prophecy (43:18), God advised us to forget past things and not consider them anymore. Do not bring your bad attitudes and habit into the “New You” in the New Year. In Matthew’s Gospel (9:17), Jesus advised against putting new wine into old wineskin as the skin would burst and the wine lost!
Discard those past hurts, forgive the past, let go, live, laugh, and love.
Start New Things
To start something new, one needs to disconnect from one’s present attachment to another reality. Let us take a clue from the story of Abraham. When God wanted to begin a new project with him, God asked him to disconnect from his father’s house and his homeland and head towards another land (Genesis 12:1-2). Abraham’s blessing could only come when he disconnects from his homeland. Joseph had to disconnect from his family to receive his blessings in Egypt, which benefited his family.
To start something new, you need to be purposeful and committed. There may not be a rising if you do not detach from something below. Please think of the airplane that flies; it must separate from the ground following aerodynamics’ principles, particularly the lift, weight, drag, and thrust elements. You can also be on a supersonic speed to make for a “New You” if you decide to disconnect from so many unnecessary things and people in your life.
To start something new, you need to change your mindset. A changed life is nothing short of a changed mindset. Okay, let us put it in another way, your life can only change when you change your mindset; “your mindset sets the miles of your life.” Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result; that is a sick mindset right there.
To start something new, you need to work on some of the major defaults of human nature.
Laziness: It starts from the mind. Laziness happens when you give yourself excuses for not doing what you are supposed to do.
Procrastination: This is one of the consequences of laziness. You leave what you need to do now to a later time, and you may never do them.
Distraction: This is a growing problem in the world today. Many people are mentally sick because of social and conventional media distractions through their phones and television. The mobile phone is has become the god of distraction.
Comparison: In this journey called life, do not measure your success with what is going on in other people’s lives. Hold on to what makes you different. The Psalmist says: “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Wait for your due season; it would come if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Life is never on the reverse. Do not expect things to go back to the way they used to be. Rise and embrace the new beginning. Please, take these final words seriously: “From now on, I will always prepare, I will pray constantly, and I will persist.”
God bless you and have an amazing New Year with a “New you.”
Once upon a time, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards decided to adopt a girl to be a company to their only daughter Marissa since they could not have another child. Though their daughter initially accepted the idea, when the girl, who is about their daughter’s age, showed up, something unexpected happened.
Marissa was no longer excited when she discovered that her soon-to-be sister had a different skin color from hers, and she was looking a little bit untidy. She despised her and was very unwilling to welcome her to stay in her room.
The efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards to make Marissa accept Jane as a sister met severe opposition. One day, Marissa was so mad at Jane for using her musical instruments, and when the parents instructed that she should be kind to her sister, she yelled back, saying, “Jane is not my sister and would never be one!” Hearing that, Jane ran to a corner to cry.
Marissa was still yelling when her parents looked at each other and started crying at the same. She was confused to see them holding each other and crying. Her mom mustered the courage to say, “Marissa, we wanted to tell you this all the time.” “What?” Marissa said impatiently, “your dad and I had a hard time having a child,” Mrs. Edward started. “We visited so many doctors and specialists without success. They all concluded that we could not have a child. We desperately wanted to have a child of our own, and so we adopted you from an orphanage when you were just three weeks, and we loved you like nothing till date”.
Marissa was speechless. She could not believe that he was adopted, recalling how Mr. and Mrs. Edwards have loved and treated her like their biological child. Marissa burst into tears and ran to look for Jane. Seeing Jane, she hugged her, saying, “I am so sorry for discriminating against you. Now I know that we do not have to be related to be family. I love you, my sister. For your information, I was also adopted, I just realized that today”.
We could learn from the story that we do not need to be biologically related to be a family. Family in God’s design and plan is beyond human blood. There is a higher dimension of connection that brings people together to a unified bond. Family is not just a collective noun; it is a progressive action among individuals having a common purpose.
The Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the Prototype Family
Family is a divine gift that reflects God’s very nature, a family of three divine persons. God was thinking about family when He saw that it was not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). God was thinking about family when He said, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
When God decided to redeem humanity from the sin of the first human family, He came through the family of Joseph and Mary. Mary was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and not through the biological contribution of Joseph, yet Joseph, who comes from the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David, becomes the Father of Jesus. Like in the opening story, we do not need to be related by blood to become family. The Holy Family teaches us that family goes beyond blood relationship.
Friendship: The best family is where people share friendship. Friendship is foundational for the sustenance of any relationship, including marriages. People who marry their friends fare better than those who just married a man or woman.
F.A.M.I.L.Y makes a Family
The family stands here as an acronym with great relevance and meaning that would potentially enrich our minds and transform our relationships.
God values friendship, and that was why he could call Abraham his friend (Isaiah 41:8). In John’s Gospel (15:15), Jesus called the disciples friends because he told them everything he heard from the Father. Here, we understand that friendship entails knowing and understanding each other very well. You can be friendly, but not friends with a stranger.
Acceptance: Family is where people should be accepted and not shamefully judged. All fingers are not equal, and we see this very clearly in the family. W should not reject people because of their weaknesses, but they should be encouraged just like we do when a child learns how to walk with all the rising and falling.
Thinks about how God still opens His hand of acceptance despite our failures and mistakes, as we can see in the divine invitation of Isaiah (1:18). Family cannot function well when there is no acceptance. George Orwell says that happiness can exist only in acceptance.
Mercy: Family is not always sweet; there are times when we feel hurt, offended, and trashed. How do you react to these? Fight back or begin a war? The worst part of family wars is that they often never end until mercy takes a seat.
Mercy is a step ahead of forgiveness. It means being able to let go of the past and give help for the future. We all are living on account of God’s mercy, and our Lord Jesus Christ encouraged us to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).
Interaction: The primary meaning of interaction is the exchange of action. In the family context, we think of gainful and positive communication that helps build and not destroy. Positive interaction would include helpful directions, encouragement, and constructive instructions, while negative interaction includes gossiping, blaming, shaming, and rash judgment. Positive interaction builds a family.
Love: Love is the heart of the family. Where true love exists, it is sacrificial, not transactional (John 15:13). One of the sins against love is loving because of what you would gain by loving or to love when it is convenient. Family cannot be effective without true love. Remember that love is not what you say; it is what you do.
Yield: To yield is to give another person a chance or an opportunity to do something or to have one’s way. St. Paul advised in the Letter to the Roman (12:10) that we yield to one another. Sometimes you need to yield to let peace reign. When you are wrong, apologize, but when you are right, keep quiet.
Moving Forward: Make Family Work
Family is what we make it to be. Everything about family depends on the contribution of every member of the family. St. Paul took the time to explore everyone’s functions in the family in the Letter to the Colossians (3:12-21). When everyone is at their best in wherever we find ourselves, we could build a family that reflects God’s purpose for family.
Your family could rise again. Do not allow the challenges surrounding your family the snatch away the blessings of God. Family is a good thing, so we should be careful about the devil’s destructive antics (2 Cor 2:11). The easiest way the devil could destroy the world is to destroy every family. Do not allow the destruction to start from yours. Save the family; save the world. God bless you.
The greatest story ever told is not the Midsummer Night’s Dream comedy of William Shakespeare; it is not the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet nor the tragicomedy of the Merchant of Venice. The greatest story ever told, which has no comparison and would never have any, is the story of the incarnation; God coming down to us, taking our human flesh, and dwelling with us (John 1:14).
Many Christians today do not have the proper insight and understanding of the Christmas story, so we have unfortunately allowed many unconnected accessories to come into the holy celebration.
Christmas is now a highly commercialized “commodity” as people give greater attention to the triangular-shaped trees and exotic bright lights than to the celebrant, Jesus Christ. Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist nation (70% of the population), has the tallest artificial Christmas tree globally, which is about 72.1 meters tall (236 feet 6.58 in). If you ask if the Christmas tree has a dependable representation and homage to Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, the answer would be in the negative.
What should we celebrate at Christmas?
There should always be a reason for any celebration we undertake. The funny thing is that most people celebrate for the wrong reasons. For instance, how many people celebrate their birthdays by thankfully reflecting on the purpose of their lives on earth?
At Christmas, we do not just celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but more profoundly, we celebrate God’s unfathomable love and humility. Let us take a more decisive look at the two essential pillars in the context of the celebration of Christmas.
Christmas celebrates God’s love:
God’s love for us is immeasurably profound. Jeremiah (31:3) tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love. And in the Gospel of John (3:16), we read that familiar but resonant statement that God loved the world so much that he gave us His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him would not die but have eternal life.
There would be a need for us to take a little time to reflect on God’s gift of love to us. Imagine that you decide to give out the best thing you have to someone; I mean something irreplaceable; what would you give? On the platform of love, God gave us Himself, in the person of the Son, so that we can live because we were dead to sin (Ephesians 2:5).
At Christmas, we celebrate the love of God made flesh. God’s love is no longer a mere scriptural text or message. It is now a fact of lived experience. Love is born for us, and this birth marks the beginning of a new era for humanity.
The love of God brought light into the world. The first light at creation (Gen. 1:3) departed when Adam and Eve sinned. Now, we have the light back. The prophet Isaiah said, “Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a great light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).” Light brings life, warmth, sight, and hope. Now we understand what it means when we talk about Christmas light; Christ, the light of the world, is the true light of Christmas.
Christmas Celebrates God’s humility
It often makes me emotional to talk about God’s humility, which is another reference point for us at Christmas. God humbled himself to the extent that the creator could be in the womb of one of His creatures and be born from the same womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Divinity took the birth route of humanity.
At Christmas, we celebrate the humility of God when He had to depend on us for provision, though he is our eternal provider (Philippians 4:19). At Christmas, we celebrate God’s humility by making Himself vulnerable to the point that he needed human protection from murderers like Herod. However, He is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). At Christmas, we celebrate God’s humility by allowing one of us, Joseph, to lead him to safety in Egypt though He is the shepherd that leads us along the right paths and through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23: 3-4)
Responding to the Christmas Message Amid the Covid-19
I was recently talking about the love of God to a lady who lost her husband and her mom to the covid-19 virus. Turning to me in tears, the lady asked me where God’s love was hiding when the virus claimed the lives of the two most important people in her life? Of course, I did not answer her because nothing could have made sense to her at that grieving moment.
We are celebrating Christmas with face masks, though we did not imagine this at the inception of the year. Many people could be mad at God for the sudden disappearance of what we use to know as normal. Some people feel that the Christmas celebration does not worth the stress this time because we may not do things the way we used to do them. If you have these or similar thoughts, you need to know that it could have been worse. Yes! We complain just because we are still living, not that we are better than the millions who are cooling off in the cemetery.
If you are alive on this day, you should have it as an obligation to thank God. The ravaging effect of the virus does not mean that God loves us less. Even amid what is happening, we could still attest to God’s love. God says in the Book of Jeremiah (29: 11) that he has great plans for a future and a hope for us. There is hope for us with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas; light cannot be born, and we remain in darkness; no; We shall rise and shine!
Moving forward with the Pillars of Christmas Story
There would be the need for us to respond to the two pillars of Christmas, namely, God’s love and humility. Love St. Paul says, conquers all things (1 Cor. 13:7). We respond to God’s love by giving love a chance in our lives. And we could do this by being generous with what we have just as we continually receive from God. We also respond by our intentional humility like the newborn King, who was so humble as to take our human form without counting his equality with God (Phil. 2:6-9).
May, the love of God, which surpasses all things, including the challenges around us, grant us renewed strength and energy as we set to launch into the new year. Merry Christmas and remember to love and be humble as not to stumble. Keep Christ in the Christmas! God bless you.