Homilies for Sundays of Easter

May. 25, 2019

Let us not place unnecessary burdens upon them.

Readings: 1st- Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; 2nd- Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23; Gospel- Jn. 14:23-29

We may want to ask what kind of peace does the world give. The world gives material peace, compromised peace. The world’s peace is based on worldly pleasures.  

The first reading reports, “there arose no little dissension and debate” about the issue of circumcision for the Gentile converts. Some Jews were pressing to have them circumcised into the Mosaic practice before they would be counted among those to be saved. This created huge tension among the disciples. They summoned the Jerusalem council to look at the matter. Paul, Barnabas, and others insist on giving these Gentiles access to the gospel unconditionally. They related their missionary experiences to the other disciples. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church at the time, referred the apostles to the words of the scripture. Those positive words formed the judgment of the Council regarding the Gentile converts as the disciples maintained, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage” (Acts 15:28-29). Here, we must pay attention to the mention of the Holy Spirit in the decision taken by the apostles. The Gentiles only need to keep God’s commandment and do what is spiritually right. 

Jesus says in the gospel, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn. 14:23). Loving God and keeping his word therefore become the condition for experiencing God’s love in return. Christ says, “we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” “We,’ here, refers to the presence of the Trinity. Whoever loves Jesus keeps God’s word. The person is not driven by unnecessary legalistic demands that sometimes create racial and ethnic dissensions. Whoever does not love God is not directed by God’s word. Such a person has no interest in the gospel. 

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s special gift to the disciples. He connects us to the peace of Christ by teaching and coaching us in the ways of God’s love. The peace of Christ is a lasting peace; it remains with his followers irrespective challenges and conflicts. Christ’s peace surpasses all human obstacles, failures, persecution, rejection, fear, and death. From the statement of the Jerusalem council in the first reading, we notice that those who pushed for the circumcision of the Gentile converts failed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The disciples maintained, “Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind” (Acts 15:24). To “disturb your peace of mind” means to disturb the peace that comes from Christ gives. Circumcision was the source of the peace for the Jewish society of the time. It is based on legalistic and societal demands. It is based on human connections. Some Jews including some disciples wanted the Gentiles to be like them before being like Christ. Some of us behave  like that in today’s world.

Some of us feel that others must be like them because they consider themselves owners of the United States. Some of us feel reluctant about accepting others in their midst. We want Spanish people to speak English before they would become Christians/Catholic. We want immigrants and strangers to be like us, else they leave. I’ve heard people ask, “why should they not be like me if they want to stay in America? “Why should we learn this language or that?” “In the church, why don’t they speak English? Why should we have Mass in other language other than English?” If you think that way, don’t you think you’re placing unnecessary burdens upon strangers and immigrants? Don’t you think you’re multiplying laws by wanting others to be just like you? 

Let me tell you this, you won’t understand the plight of strangers until you travel to other people’s lands and become a stranger.  I use myself as an example. At this point, I am processing my green card which is what I need to become an immigrant. I came into the U.S. very legally, sure you know that. And I am productive here. I am contributing to the society in a spiritually and pastorally meaningful way. While this process is on, I was given a parole card which is my work authorization and temporary status identity. As I was returning from Nigeria on May 11th, I came in through Atlanta. I was pulled aside at the immigration entry point. The treatment was different because I had only the parole card. The immigration officer took me to a different section and sat me down on a long bench. He ran multiple background checks on me. After that, he stamped on my passport, “Paroled till 2020.” 

Now, my driver’s license will expire on July 28, 2019. Last week, I received the notice to renew my license, so on Thursday, I went to MVA to renew my license. It was different. They ran several checks and were not able to pull up my record. Again, it was different. The white lady behind me felt so sorry for me because she noticed how I was pulled back and forth one line to another. The MVA licensing manager called the department of Homeland Services and at the end, they told me that my license could only be extended till November 2019. That means, I might be without driver’s license by November if my green card isn’t out. When you here that someone is out of status, you might not know the various reasons if you’re not a stranger/immigrant. Think about the inconveniences of going back to MVA by November. Think about the money I will spend in renewing my license almost after every five months. But one thing is certain, have the peace of Christ in my heart. I cannot run out of the status which God has given me as a Christian. I’m not referring to those who are coming into the U.S. illegally because that’s different. 

We should also know that there are people like me who are Spanish, Asian, strangers from all over the world. Such persons might have come in legally but not finding things easy because of immigration bottlenecks. They’re different from those who are entering illegally but things have become so tough for them. Their fault is that they are strangers and immigrants. We shouldn’t make things difficult for such people in the faith as well. When we come into the church and still discriminate, we make things worse in the midst of legalistic challenges. We act like these Jews who seeking to have the Gentiles circumcised. 

We all need the peace of Christ. It is peace that promotes love for one another. It is peace that comes from the knowledge of the Gospel. It is peace which derives from the Holy Spirit. It is peace that says, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’ (Matt. 25:34-36).




May. 18, 2019


Readings: 1st- Acts 14:21-27; 2nd- Rev. 21:1-5; Gospel- Jn. 13:31-33a, 34-35

Suffering is portrayed as a positive element in today’s readings. It starts with the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas across the Jewish and Gentile territories. Paul and Barnabas make new disciples as well as strengthen the old disciples. They remind these disciples of the inevitable fact that hardship occupies a prominent place in the Christian life. Paul and Barnabas encourage them to persevere in the faith with the words, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” These apostles demonstrate great love in their missionary experience which extends to the Gentile territory.

The spirit of perseverance is continued in the second reading. John uses images and symbols intended to give hope and confidence to the persecuted church. In his vision, God has the ultimate victory and will bring everything to perfection at the end of time. Such words are meant to provide for believers a deeper understanding of God’s abiding presence. According to John, God will wipe away every tear from his people’s eyes. He will destroy death and will eliminate grief and mourning in their midst. God’s presence will bring newness in the life of his people.

The gospel passage is mostly the extract from John’s gospel used at the Last Supper. It recounts the betrayal by Judas and the institution of the Sacrament of Love. Within two chapters in this gospel periscope, Jesus uses the word glorification five times: “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once” (Jn. 13:31-32). Jesus speaks intensely here about his imminent death which is the coming hour. Glory means praise and exaltation. Jesus is aware of his imminent death, yet he speaks of it as being glorified. The death of Christ brings to fulfilment the mission for which he came. His death is not a punishment by the Father, otherwise, he wouldn’t be talking about it as being glorified. He remarks that “God will glorify him in himself” meaning that he’s united with the Father through death. Scripture says, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1). Jesus’ death is the expression of God’s love for humanity.

A second aspect of that gospel shows the implication of Christ’s death. Here, we are presented with the relationship between death and his love. His death is the sacrifice which he offers for humanity. In this sacrifice is the image of God’s love as he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Christ offers us his body and blood upon the Cross. He institutes for us the commandment of love. The challenge is that we have to imitate Christ’s love in our relationship with others. Christ maintains, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Can we really love one another as Christ loved us? Can we love to the point of death?

Let us recognize that love involves sacrifice. Love is not leisure. It is not an activity of convenience. Love is demanding. To love one another as Christ loved us is a Christian duty and a responsibility that we owe. It’s a sacrifice that we must make. Loving sacrificially becomes the way to glorify God. Let’s therefore see love as service to God in response to the love of Christ for us. Christ died on the Cross for love. He forgave. He prayed for his executioners. He pardoned sinners. He opened his arms wide to welcome everyone to the Father’s embrace. He tells us, “so you also should love one another.” Let us imitate Christ in his sacrifice in our love for others- family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, immigrants, homeless, naked, poor, depressed, lonely, hungry, etc. By loving sacrificially, everyone will recognize that we are disciples of Christ.


May. 12, 2019


Readings: 1st- Acts 13:14, 43-52; 2nd- Rev. 7:9, 14-17; Gospel- Jn. 10:27-30


The goal of the Christian life is eternity. That’s what Christ came to give, the reason why he gave up his life. Christ is the Good Shepherd who know his sheep.

In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas move into the Gentile territory to spread the good news. In this first missionary journey to Antioch, they encounter large crowd of believers. As the gospel message continues to grow, they equally experience opposition from some Jews who contradict their message. These Jews are jealous of Paul and Barnabas. They circulate falsehood and make Paul’s missionary work tough. Paul and Barnabas move to the Gentiles with the words, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Those Jews reject the gospel, the message of life. They miss the opportunity to benefit from the richness of god’s word. On the other hand, the Gentiles take advantage their stubbornness. They are excited at the good news. The Gentiles are joyous that God could speak to them.

The second reading pictures the universality of God’s love with the vision of John. A great multitude from all parts of the world make up the image in heaven; people from every nation, race, people, and tongue. Both the Gentile and the Jewish community are represented before the throne of the Lamb. The Good Shepherd brings everyone into eternity without discrimination. He rewards his followers with the gift of life in the most perfect sense. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. There is no hunger, no thirst, no heat of the sun, and no darkness anymore because the presence of the Lamb is an everlasting presence, safety for evermore.

As the Good Shepherd, the mission of Jesus is to establishing an eternal relationship with his flock. It is a relationship which leads us to the ultimate realities of heaven. Jesus says, “I know my sheep and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Jesus knows his sheep. He cares for his sheep. He looks after them. He feeds them. He sacrifices for them. He invites the sheep to follow him. To be able to follow the Good Shepherd, we must hear his voice when he speaks. And the truth is that the sheep feels safe, secure, confident, and loved by the Shepherd. Jesus speaks to us through the Church; in the sacraments, in the words of the scripture. Jesus speaks through the voices of ministers and pastors. Jesus speaks to us in the family through our parents. He speaks to us through our teachers and guardians. Jesus speaks to us through our consciences guiding us to the knowledge and understanding of what is right.

The mission of the Good Shepherd is this, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” That’s exactly the mission of Christ, “I came that they may have life in full” (Jn. 10:10). The expectation for the sheep is clear, to listen to the voice of the shepherd and to follow. In the preceding verse, Jesus distinguishes between the sheep and the stranger this way, “But because you are not my sheep, you refuse to believe” (Jn. 10:27). Again, in another encounter Jesus states, “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God" (Jn. 8:47). 

Hearing and following are two important actions in human life and in every relationship. The marriage relationship begins with those actions. The man sees a woman, speaks to her about his love for her. The woman hears the voice of the man, falls in love with him and follows him. She feels safe and secure with the man. If the man’s voice is soothing, comforting, and promising, the woman follows with the hope that the man would be a good husband and that two of them would make a home together. If the voice of the man does not appeal to the woman, she refuses to follow him. There won’t be any marriage. Also, while married, couples listen to the voices of each other. If a couple finds the voice of her spouse supportive and strengthening, he/she listens and follows. If she/he doesn’t, it becomes hard to listen to that voice and to follow. There’s fear, anxiety and conflict in such relationship. The sheep is not guaranteed of safety and security. 

As parents and teachers, too, we speak to our children. They hear our voices and follow us. They listen and follow if they believe in what we say to them. Children who love the voices of their parents do what they tell them. They look forward to such voices. They believe that their parents will lead them to safety and to success in life. They follow their voices. In the church, the flock listen to the voices of the pastors and ministers. The flock is willing to hear the voice if such voices provide comfort and hope. The flock follows the voices of good and caring pastors. They obey them and heed to their instructions.

Hearing and following are actions that demand trust. Jesus says, “No one can take them out of my hand” and “no one can take them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:28, 29). Can we say the same thing about those whom we love and care for? Can we say of our church members, wives, children, that no one can take them out of our hands? The reason why Christ says that is because his hands provide safety for the sheep. The sheep listen to his voice, hear his voice, and follow him. 

Our job is to imitate the Good Shepherd. Our job is to provide safety for the flock entrusted into our care. Our voices should convey hope, trust and confidence. Our voices should be soft and supportive. Our voices should be meek and sincere. Our job is to lift the weak, the needy, the broken hearted. Our job is to provide guidance. Our job is to provide comfort and healing. The sheep seek assurance and safety from the shepherds of our time. They seek safety and assurance in the church, at home, school and in workplaces. The sheep will always listen and follow if the shepherds’ voices portray trust and hope. 

May Christ the Good Shepherd give us the grace to lead the sheep on a path that leads to eternal life.



Apr. 28, 2018


Readings: 1st- Acts 9:26-31; 2nd- 1 Jn. 3:18-24; Gospel- Jn. 15:1-8

Jesus uses the metaphor of the vine to express his desire for us in the gospel of today; “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower”.  Again, he says, “I am the vine, you are the branches”. The vine grows branches, and the branches become part of the vine. The vine is sustained by food from the earth while the branches are sustained by food from the vine itself. Any branch that does not grow in the vine will not bear fruit, and will be cut out from the vine.

Importantly, the image of the vine was used in the Old Testament to capture the relationship between God and Israel. In what the prophet Isaiah called “The Vineyard Song”, he lamented the disappointment which the owner of the vineyard recorded from the vineyard he planted on a fertile hillside. He cleared it of stones, built a watchtower to protect it, and hewed out a winepress. But the vine failed to produce grapes. Having exhausted all efforts to cultivate the vineyard, the owner of the vineyard decided not to prune it anymore. The vineyard became overgrown with grass. The prophet cried out, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Is. 5:1-7). That means that the choice to either bear fruit or not belongs to us.

In the gospel, Christ calls our attention to the danger of disconnecting from the vine. First is that we lack pruning from the Father. We become weak and vulnerable. We lose life and fertility. We fail to bear fruit. He states, “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned” (Jn.15:6).

On a positive note, remaining in the vine offers great advantages to the branch. Christ is the vine into whom and from whom we grow. To grow in him means to channel our efforts into him, recognize the need to go to him regularly. To grow from him means that we can only be sustained by his love through prayers and the sacraments. He is our source and our strength. He uses a strong verb to demonstrate validity of our relationship with him. The verb “remain” is a strong one. It also means, “abide, cling, dwell, endure, hold the fort, keep on”. Jesus is inviting us to abide in him, to cling to him, to dwell in him, to endure in him, to hold the fort with him, and to keep on being in him. Only in him can we bear fruits.

The second reading from Saint John seems as if it is the beginning of the discourse that is continued in the gospel. John writes about God’s commandments, and how our hearts respond to God’s invitation; “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn.5:24). Then Christ says in the gospel, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Every aspect of our lives must be connected to Jesus to bear the desired fruits.

John uses the image of the heart to express this relationship, “we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1 Jn.3:19-20). God’s love is shown in the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Sacred Heart was pierced with a lance on the Cross for our sake. The Heart loves us, gives us life, heals us, and circulates in us the blood of eternal life. The Sacred Heart is greater than our own hearts. As disciples of Jesus, our hearts do two things: “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us”. We must marry faith and love in our relationship with God. If we believe in God, then we must love as God loves since “God is love”.

When Jesus asks us to bear fruits, he is inviting us to bear fruits of faith which is love. The metaphor of the vine thus becomes clear when we follow Jesus’ words, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (Jn. 15:9). The invitation is to remain in Christ’s love to be his disciples. We cannot keep the faith box separate from the love box, else we lose the content of our faith. For instance, anyone who claims he believes in God and is violent or wicked cannot be a believer because no true believer in God perpetrates violence.

Jesus invites us to remain in him, to branch out to the world as extensions of his love. Faith can only be identified by its works of love. Faith is evident in the daily interactions we have with others. We carry God’s image everywhere- at work, at school, in business, at home, etc. We are like the person(s) at the front desk of an office. The front desk lady/man is the image of the organization. If that image isn’t cheerful, loving, receptive, those who come in and go out will identify that organization by an uncheerful face. The same applies to us. We all sit at God’s front desk. How we relate with others translates their understanding of God. We present to those we meet the image of Christ who is good, Christ who is light, Christ who is the way, truth and life, Christ who is the gate, the security, Christ who is trustworthy, and Christ who is kind. We must remain in Christ -Faith-, hence, bear the fruit of love. 


“Remain in me” is a special invitation to couples. It is a way of reminding you of the source of your sustenance in marriage. Your marriage cannot survive if it does not draw strength from Christ. Christ is explicit here, “Cut off from me, you can do nothing”; “Remain in me as I remain in you”. It is very clear.  Once couples start shrinking in their faith, they start shrinking in their love. As Fulton Sheen said, love one another as a gift from God, not as gods. That way, you find in her/him an irreplaceable gift that cannot expire. Always recognize that your love flows from the Vine whose branches you are. If you center on yourselves, you get frustrated, wear out and wither. If you concentrate on yourselves alone, then you expose yourselves to the tortures of self-centered ego. You become jealous. You become possessive. You become more of a receiver than a giver because your love is not refilled by Love itself. I urge you all to make Jesus the center and source of your love. Pray together as couple. Move to God together. Go along with your partner. Enjoy God’s love together, don’t stay back, and don’t pull the other backwards. God loves you together. That way, you will bear endless fruits. That way, you won’t contemplate divorce even when the challenges come in your marriage relationships.     

Apr. 21, 2018


Readings: 1st- Acts 4:8-12; 2nd- 1 Jn. 3:1-2; Gospel- Jn. 10:11-18 

I visited one of my very good friends on Thursday. She is ninety years old, a holy woman. What she did was to ask me to hear her confessions as usual. This time she said it’s in preparation for her death. She narrated that she needed to prepare adequately for the next journey. At the end of our conversation, she wrote a Mass card and gave me names of those I should say Mass for. Then she gave me one final intention, “Say mass for me in preparation for death”. Ironically, this friend of mine isn’t sick. She walks on her own and still drives her car. She visits the homebound till date and gives them Holy Communion. Don’t think she’s confined in one place waiting for death. No. She remarked that everything in her life had always been done by preparation. She gave examples: “I prepared for my trip to Europe. I prepared to have my children. I prepared for their baptisms. I prepared for everything. If I did prepare that much for my trip to Europe, why wouldn’t I prepare for the greatest trip in my life, which is death? Isn’t that interesting? 

If we think of the conversation above in relation to the second reading, we appreciate our relationship with God. Jesus taught us to call God, “Our Father”. And Saint John says, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called God’s children”. Then he emphasizes, “Yes, so we are”. In John’s passage, we see the relationship between being God’s children and being image of God’s love. At creation God says, “Let us make man in our image (tselem) and likeness” (Gen. 1:28). Then in the New Testament, John writes, “God is love” (1 Jn.4:8). We are God’s children because of God’s love. As children of God and image of Love, we are God’s representative here on earth. That is why the world wouldn’t know us. We enjoy God’s privilege of bearing his image on earth. We have dominion over all creatures. We are filiated through Christ. With Christ, we become con-filiated (adoption) into God’s love. Then St. Paul tells us, “Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand” (Col. 3:1). We are thus “trans-filiated” beyond earthly things into the perfection that will be at the end of time. That’s hope for the future. We become God’s image on earth, then behold the fullness of that image in heaven. 

Saint John writes, “what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn.3:2). This gives us an idea of what my friend described at the beginning. That we shall see God as he is should be something to prepare for with excitement. It’s a certainty as John says, “We do know”. We do know that we shall see God as he is. The author of the book of Revelation writes, “They will see the Lord face to face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (22:4-5). Heaven is about perfection where we will see God as He is. On earth, we have a privilege of catching a glimpse of him through created realities. The waters reveal him. The trees reveal him. The daylight reveals him. But humanity is the fullness of God’s glory on earth. The prophet Isaiah writes, “I will not yield my glory to another” (48:11). The “now” is who we are and what we live out, namely, God’s children. The “not yet”, is what we hope for, namely, to behold God’s face at the end of time. 

The gospel demonstrates how strong God’s love is for us. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn.10:11). Jesus is the good shepherd for our sake:

1. “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”. Jesus lays down his life for us. He is willing to die for his flock. He is committed to the safety of his flock. Jesus depicts his death and resurrection in his statement, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again”. 

2. “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me”. Jesus uses his relationship with the Father to describe his relationship with his sheep. Jesus knows us and wants us to know him, to be intimate with him as our shepherd. 

3. “A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”. Unlike the hireling, the good shepherd sacrifices for the sheep, goes ahead to protect them. The good shepherd takes care of the weak ones in the sheepfold. The good shepherd is different from the shepherds described in the Old Testament (Jer. 23::1-4; Ezk. 34:5-6). The hirelings become threat to the sheep. Christ is the good shepherd, and as David writes in the Psalms, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps. 23:1). 

4. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd”. Christ is advocating for the unity of mankind. At the end of time, Christ wants all to be united in God’s kingdom.

Think about this story that has been going around on social media for some days now. A little boy walks up to Pope Francis crying. He can’t just speak into the microphone. The little boy can’t ask his question because of the grief in his heart. So, Pope Francis asks them to bring the boy to him. He whispers into the ears of the pope about his atheist dad who died recently but had all his four children baptized in the church, “Is my dad in heaven?” That was a tough question. The pope said that God decides who goes to heaven, and that God has “the heart of a father.” He asked the young girls and boys in the audience if they thought God would abandon a father like Emanuele’s, who was a good man. “No,” the children shouted back. “There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” the pope said to the boy. “God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.” The pope had earlier said in his homily that this principle of doing good to others is one that unites all of humanity, including atheists; “Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point”.

The question of going to heaven may not be tough for us because we are already God’s children. That’s who we are. It’s our privilege. It’s a thing of joy to imagine that we are going to see Him as He is. But we must prepare for it by listening to the good shepherd, and following him. It is hard for nonbelievers who refuse to answer God’s children on earth. Christ’s prayer is to unite all of us at the end, “and there will be one flock, one shepherd”.