Sun, 11/22/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Daniel 7:13-14
Psalm 93
Revelations 1:5-8
John 18:33-37
Today is the last Sunday of the Church's Liturgical Year. We celebrate the feast of Jesus Christ as our King. He wants to be King of our hearts.
Ancient peoples worshipped idols. In place of gods made of bronze modern people have made new idols - money, goods, fame, pleasure, power, the business company, sports or even a hobby. To worship someone or something one makes it the center of one's heart and life. What is our hearts' center?
Dictators in some countries have made idols of themselves, with statures and pictures of the dictator everywhere. Eg.Stalin in Communist Russia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Kim Il Sung in North Korea. These dictators are like kings. They rule by oppression, terror and fear, backed by a large army.
A stature of a very, very, different type stands in a main street in Yokohama city near the Choyo Gate of China Town. This statue marks the site, 150 years ago, of the first Catholic Church in Yokohama (and Japan) in the Meiji era. It is a statue of Jesus Christ. (We do not adore statues; we use them only to remind us of the actual person). His left hand is over his heart, his right hand outstretched. Jesus loves each of us. He stretches out his hand to help us. He is the King of Peace. He is the true God who became human so that he could share our human life, and we humans share his life. Pilate asks Jesus:"Are you a king?" Jesus answers: "Yes I am, but not a king of this world." In other words Jesus wants to be King of our hearts. He invites us to make himself (who is God) the center of our lives. Jesus does not compel by force to become his followers. He gently invites us to follow him. He asks us to trust him and put our whole lives in his hands. He invites us to taste his love and share that warm love with others. His reward is peace of heart.
Sun, 11/15/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Mark 10:13-16
Psalm 16

Today we enter "Bible Week". It is also the Japanese Festival of the Blessing of Children aged 7, 5 and 3. So we use the above scripture.
There are often these reasons which hinder the prayerful reading of the Bible.
(1) "I have read it before. I know the story." Let us read it yet again (and again) and let the Holy Spirit give us a new insight.
(2) "The Bible is too difficult to understand." Yes, there are difficult passages; but try the easy passages first!
(3)"The Bible was written over 2,000 years ago and seems distant and dated." It is God's own message to us and as such is alive today. For example take today's Gospel (Mark 10:13-16). Jesus had been preaching all day. When he stopped in the evening, mothers brought their young children to Jesus asking him to bless them. The disciples told the mothers to go away because Jesus was tired. "You are making a nuisance of yourselves!"
Jesus heard this, and he was angry. Yes, angry! An anger on behalf of the mothers and against the disciples for being so thoughtless! Despite his tiredness Jesus hugged and blessed each child (and of course their mothers!) That scene was 2,000 years ago. Jesus, as God who became human, is exactly the same to each of us today. He is kind, approachable, he accepts us as we are. The scriptures and Jesus himself as depicted in the scriptures have an eternal present tense. They are never out-of-date.
In the same passage Jesus tells us adults to have the heart of a child, otherwise we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. This certainly does not mean "childish!" The distinctive characteristic of a small child is to trust him/her parents. God is Abba, Father. We are his children even if we are in our 90's! Abba has made a solemn promise (covenant) to look after us. Do we trust his promise? Do we trust our Abba God? Do we, in trust, put our whole lives in His hand?
"I keep the Lord ever in my sight. Since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm." (Psalm:8).
Pray this slowly and taste God's care for you.
Sun, 11/08/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: 1st Bk of Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146
Heb 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44
In the Catholic Church we use the word "offertory" at our Mass. The widows in Kings 17:10-16, and in the Gospel are examples of people who have a spirit of offertory. It is a attitude of the heart.

Let us look at the Gospel. In the temple the rich were putting in big coins which rattled down the trumpet shaped collection boxes making a big noise and so attracting notice to the giver. These rich people wanted people to notice and think how holy they were, giving such large donations to the temple. Even though they gave generous gifts there was no sense of "offertory". It was all an outward show. Their offering did not touch their hearts.

The poor widow put in the last two coins she owned. She did not give one coin to God, and keep one for herself. She gave her all. This widow knew what "offertory" meant. The 2 coins were a symbol of her whole self.

The widow of the Gospel is an example of Jesus' teaching:
"Happy are the poor of heart..." To be poor in this way is to depend utterly on God's promise to care for us. It means to give one's whole self into God's hands. It means, in short, to trust God.

If we come to Sunday Mass with this sense of "offertory" our Mass will have a deep meaning. At Sunday Mass we give God our prayer on this day, but also all our daily work and lives from Monday to Saturday. We give him our school work, our play, our house work, our office work, or if we are retired, our retired lives; if we are sick or in pain we offer God that. The path that Jesus invites us to follow is not just for Sundays but for our everyday lives. If we have this sense of offering, not only will Sunday Mass come alive for us, but also our daily lives will have a delightful taste.

To offer ourselves in this way we need to trust God. He has given his solemn promise to care for us. Jesus says:"I am with you always; I will protect you." In trust let us pray like this: "God, my loving Father, as your child I put my whole life in your hands." A sense of offertory is liberating.
Sun, 11/01/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Revelation 7:2-4,9-14
1 Jhon    3:1-3
Matthew  5:1-12

Today we consider the 8 sign-boards on the path to happiness. (also called "Beatitudes")
This is the famous "Sermon on the Mount." The path and values which Jesus teaches us contradict the values and ideas of the worldly! But if we tread Jesus' path we will be truly happy.

1) "Happy are the poor "of heart." This poverty realizes that God, our Father always cares for us so let us trust Him, not material goods. Such a trust will give us true, unshakable happiness of heart.

2) "Happy those who grieve." If we open our hearts to people who are sad, or are suffering in some way, we ourselves will taste consolation from God.

3) "Happy the gentle." To make more money or improve their status worldly people use power. Jesus says: Be kind, thoughtful and gentle - God will reward you.

4) "Happy those who thirst for what is right." It seems so much easier to go with the crowd - "everyone's doing it!' But Jesus challenges us to be brave and stand up for Christian principles - this alone will satisfy our hearts.

5) "Happy the merciful." Power, competition, success, fame - these are valued by the worldly. Jesus says: Compassion for the suffering, forgiveness, acceptance of others' human fraility - God will gladly forgive and be kind to such as these.

6) "Happy the pure of heart." (This means undivided love, 100% love of God)
The world is too busy for religion, prayer, following Jesus. At times we too say we are too busy to pray! But to meet God in prayer helps us to live our daily lives.

7) "Happy the peacemakers." So many people are at war within themselves, and clash with others. Others say:"What can I, just one person, do for world peace?" Jesus says that even if one person works for peace it will have an effect on the whole world, and that person too will experience peace of heart.

8) "Happy are the persecuted." Those who follow the path of Jesus often face discrimination, sometimes they are treated as "different" or a bit strange. Jesus says;"Fear not, I am with you. You will have your reward in Heaven.

If you deep down in your heart desire true happiness,prayerfully consider these eight sign-boards that Jesus gives us. Do you want to be happy? Try this way!
Sun, 10/25/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Hebrews  5:1-6
Mark    10:46-52

Very recently I visited an old lady parishioner in hospital. I gave her the Sacrament of the sick; she was only half conscious; her eyes were closed. In her ear I prayed: ‘Lord, have mercy’. And to the amazement of those present she replied ‘Lord have mercy’.

We use this short prayer at every Mass-repeating it 3 times.
It is a very, very important prayer. It is short and easy to pray. It has a biblical background. It comes from today’s Gospel. Read this very alive passage (Mark 10:46-52) slowly. It is vivid; let it sink into your heart; use it often and you too will pray it like this old lady.

Imagine a poor blind beggar sitting on the side of a dusty street. He asks for gifts from the passers-by. Then he hears a noise far off and asks someone near by: ‘What is all that commotion?’ Jesus has come into the town. He hears just the name ‘Jesus’ and cries out: “Jesus Lord, have mercy.” People tell him to be quiet, he is making a nuisance of himself, but he cries out louder: ”Lord, have mercy.” Jesus, with an ever sensitive ear, hears his cry and reaches out to him. “What do you want?” “Lord that I may see.” He is cured and follows Jesus.

We too cry out to the Lord Jesus. He still has a sensitive ear. He is full of compassion (i.e. he suffers with us); his specialty is mercy. He is so gentle in our human frailty. He understands and accepts our human weakness. He still reaches out to us today as he did to Bartimaeus in Jericho 2,000 years ago. The Scriptures have an eternal present tense. You and I are Bartimaeus.

Personally I cherish these short prayers or mantra. They have a special taste because of their scriptural background. Let us use them often: “Lord that I may see” (see with the eyes of my heart ? see you, and your people, especially those who are suffering). “Lord have mercy.”
Sun, 10/18/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33
(Angry Psalms 10,13,22,44,142,59)
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35(42)-45
Today let us reflect on the second reading only, i.e. Hebrews 4:14-16.
Jesus is called the Great High Priest, I.e. He is God who took real human nature. As such, he is our representative before God praying for us. Does this solemn title of Great High Priest make Jesus distant and unconcerned about us humans? Never! Just the opposite says today’s Scripture. Jesus understands every weakness of ours because he experienced them himself.

He was severely tempted in the desert; he was hurt by ingratitude, and betrayal by friends; he feared death in Gethsemene; he experienced emptiness of heart etc. Someone who has experienced cancer understands a cancer patient. Likewise Jesus is a God who understands us and has deep compassion when we suffer. Jesus’ living words to each of us have a deep meaning: “Fear not, I am with you”. We are never alone.
If Jesus is like this “let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace so that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help”(Heb 4:16)

Please take note of those words: “let us be confident” (JB), or “come bravely (CEV) “let us be brave”(GNB), “with confidence draw near “(RSV). In Japanese it is “daitan ni” which means boldly, daringly, fearlessly. I ask you this question: Is our prayer to God at times too polite?! Are we daring enough? Are we bold enough? Do we use already printed prayers too much? Maybe we should dare to just pour out our hearts to an understanding Jesus. Jesus does not want a falsely decorated heart. He wants as we are. If we have anger, unforgiveness, lust, hurts, problems, suffering, let us dare to pour them out before Him.
Abraham prays: “I am bold to speak like this to my Lord…” (Gen 18:27)

The Psalms listed above are called “The Angry Psalms”. They are not polite; rather they treat God as a loving friend and complain to Him. Are our prayers at times too polite?! Pour your heart out to Him who understands the fraility of our human nature. Jesus has experienced it! He wants you as you are.
Sun, 10/11/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalm 90
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-27(30)
The second reading (Hebrews) says: "The word of God (i.e.The Bible) is alive and active". The Bible has behind it the power of God, so that his words in the Bible can touch our very heart. "It can judge the secret emotions and thoughts" i.e. when we read the Bible prayerfully we meet our very inner self. It is then that we realize that we need God's help; so that we meet our God too in a very personal way.
In the Gospels we meet Jesus who is alive today and has the same loving attitude to us as those people 2,000 years ago. He gives true wisdom.
What is true wisdom? It is a gift from God that shows us what this life of ours on earth is really all about. Knowing and loving God and walking his path as best we can brings peace of heart.This peace is far more valuable than goods, wealth, fame, even health.
The Bible I use was given me by a nurse when I was in hospital in 1968. I value it. Passages which are important to me are marked in yellow "outliner". There are notes in the margings. In times of happiness the Bible has shown me that this state is a gift from God, so I thank him. In times of darkness, loneliness and sickness, the words from God though the Bible have given me hope, courage and support. The Bible gives meaning to my daily life. God is my support and strength.
If you open your Bible and read it slowly and prayerfully your life will be changed. God himself guarantees it!
Try this: (1) first relax and try to be quiet in your heart.
(2) on opening your Bible ask Jesus to explain the deep meaning as he did to the two going to Emmaus..
(3) read very, very slowly. Pause at places that echo within you. Ponder, chew those places slowly.
A minimum of 5 minutes a day of such Bible prayer will change your life.
"Unload all your worries on the Lord, since he is looking after you." (I Peter 5:7)
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 00:00
Scripture:Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm  127
Mark  10:2-16

In Jesus' time it was quite easy for a husband to divorce his wife. If the wife was a bad cook, or spoke against her mather-in-law she could be divorced! It was definitely a society where men dominated! This left the wife very insecure with the threat of divorce in the background. The deeper meaning of today's reading from Genesis and also Jesus' teaching in the Gospel is this: man and woman, husband and wife are equal human beings - different but equal. The differece is to complement each other; to harmonize together as a family.
Here is how we have a wedding ceremony at Hodogaya Church.
The opening prayer prays for God's gift of peace, and asks for His strength to live a family life. Then we have a Bible reading from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. ("Love is always patient and kind...")
The second reading is Luke 12:22-32 (God cares for you, loves you, protects you). Then the couple take their marriage vows to mutually care, love and protect each other. When the two take this vow, God Himself blesses them with His promise to be with them. After this all present pray for the couple. The priest then prays: "O God, you are our help and our strength." For me these are vital words for all of us. This young couple and all of us have our call or mission in life. Because we are human, therefore inherently imperfect and weak, we must rely on God's HELP and STRENGTH to fulfil our calling (whatever it be) Jesus says: Without me, (ie my help), you can do nothing (Jn.15:5). St Paul adds:"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Phil.4:13). In the final prayer of the wedding ceremony the priest prays: "Oh God we ask your help and strength, never foregetting prayer! ”
Let us acknowledge our human fraility and inability to do things ourselves alone, and ask God's help. God delights to give that help and strength.
Try it.
Sun, 09/27/2009 - 00:00
In our parish liturgy today we celebrated "Respect for Aged" day. Here is Fr.Hermann Heuver'SJ , Prayer in Old Age.
The full text of Fr.Hermann Heuvers' prayer-reflection.

《 LIFE'S ULTIMATE TASK  》
What is life's most important task?
To grow old with a cheerful heart,
To be still, even when I would like to be active,
To be silent, when I would like to talk,
To have hope even in times of frustration,
To carry my cross in humility and serenity of heart.
To put aside envy even when I see younger people walking God's path full of health and energy,
To humbly accept help from others when it is me who would rather give help,
So when I can no longer be useful for others because of fraility,
I need to gently and humbly accept the heavy burden of old age as a gift from God.
I have a heart that has been in use a long time
and now God is giving it a final polishing so that I can return to my true home all bright and shiny.
To gradually release myself from the chains that bind me to this world is indeed a wonderful work.
When I can no longer Do things let me accept this restriction with humility.
However, for my closing years God has kept for me the most important work of all, and that is.....
PRAYER
Even if I can no longer do anything else with my hands
right to the very end I can still join those hands in prayer.
I can pray asking God to bless all those I love.
As I approach my death may I hear God's voice when He says;
"COME! YOU ARE MY FRIEND
I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU"

By Fr.Hermann Heuvers S.J.
From "Autumn of Life"(1973)
(Translation: Fr.Barry Cairns)
Sun, 09/20/2009 - 00:00

Scripture: Wisdom 2:12−20
Psalm 54
Jacob 3:16-4:13
Mark 9:30-37

Jesus Christ is God who took on full humanity. Jesus is 100% God, while being at the same time 100% human. We Christians use the theological word "Incarnation" for this mystery of our religion.

Jesus is truly God and truly human - the word "truly " is important. Our God Jesus experienced the human heart and body just like us. It is precisely that which makes our God so approachable. He is a God who understands our human fraility because he has experienced it. Jesus experienced pain-of body and heart.

In today's Gospel (foretold in the Wisdom 1st reading) we see Jesus telling his Apostles about his forthcoming sufferings and death. He felt deeply the violent opposition of the country's leaders and realizes they will kill him. Jesus was destroying their false power base.

Have you ever had an operation in a hospital? Did you feel scared? Or have you been hurt by a friend's betrayal? Or have you felt unsettled when you moved house, or started a new job? Or do you fear your own death? (Usually we show that fear by running away from the fact that some time all of us must die).

Whatever your worry or fear is, go to Jesus. He is so approachable. He has experienced worry and fear, so he understands the human heart. "Unload all your worries on the Lord, sice he is looking after you" (1Peter 5:7)

We see in today's Gospel just how understanding Jesus is of human weakness. He is so gentle with the 12 Apostles who were fighting over who would be number one! And then we see Jesus welcoming a child and hugging him. Children of Jesus' time instinctively knew he was approachable and gathered around him.
Jesus our God is the same today. Let us go to him and tell him our worries in prayer.
Sun, 09/13/2009 - 00:00

Scripture: Isaiah 50:5−9
Psalm 116
Jacob 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35

In today's Gospel Jesus asks Peter:"Who do people say I am?" That is, Jesus asks Peter what others are saying about him! But then Jesus says to Peter himself:"But you yourself, who do you say I am?"  The Gospels have an eternal present tense, so Jesus in a living voice asks each of us:"Why do you say I am?" In other words we are asked what does Jesus mean for each of us.

Let each of us face ourselves and make an answer! This is vitally important for our own faith, because if our image of Jesus is hazy then our prayer to him will also be hazy and have no focus.
The answer is also important to help others who ask about Jesus.
Each person will answer differently but here is how I see Jesus. For me he is God who has experienced the human weak condition. This makes my God so understanding and approachable. He is easy to talk to. Jesus is my strength and support as I walk life's journey. I am never alone. In the Isaiah reading I like: "The Lord comes to my help." Yesterday (Sep.12) I prayed over a young couple in a wedding ceremony: "O Lord! You are our help and our strength." That is great consolation and encouragement for married life (and for me in my life as a priest). For me the words of Jesus to me at the Last Supper are special. "You are my friend" A friend is someone I can trust always; a friend knows everything about me (my strengths and weaknesses) and yet still accepts me as I am. I use a sumi-e sketch of a smiling Jesus often in my prayer. For me that smile sums up Jesus attitude to me - he understands, he is a friend, he is my support and strength. Sometimes my prayer is just to smile back at him!

I truly thank God that I have been blessed to know Jesus as my God.
Sun, 09/06/2009 - 00:00

Scripture: Isaiah 35:4−7
Jacob 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37

I listen to music in two ways. The first way is quiet, gentle background music (eg. Ojiri Masahiro's guitar CD's). This music quietens me to study. I hear but do not listen consciously. The second way I listen to music is to do nothing else, but intently listen to Bach or Beethoven.
Perhaps we listen or read Scripture in the same way? But the Bible is God's own message to us. Let us give the reading of the Bible our full attention: it is God speaking to us today. It is not ancient history, the Bible has an eternal present tense.
As a concrete example God says to a down-hearted people 2,700 years ago, and repeats the message in a living voice today: "Take courage! Do not afraid" (because I am with you, protecting you)
But we can read these encouraging words of God a thousand times and they might still mean nothing. When we read Scripture (precisely because it is the word of God), we need God's help and light to hear this encouragement within our heart.
And that is where today's Gospel scene is so important. Let us admit that the ears of our heart are deaf. Let us ask Jesus today to say over us the actual word he used: "Ephphate" (that is "Be opened".)
This week I ask you to try this. Put aside your cell phone, turn off your TV and Computer and first relax your feet, then hands, then shoulder, the jaw. Then ask Jesus to open the ears of your heart. Then open the Bible and read your chosen passage very, very slowly.
Or take: Be brave, fear not. I am with you.
or: Come to me all you are tired and heavily burdened. I will refresh you.
Spend 5 minutes a day in prayer and I promise you that your daily life will have a new taste and a new energy.
Sun, 08/16/2009 - 00:00

Scripture: Rv 11:19,12:1-6,10
1Corin.15:20-27
Luke 1:39-56

Each church receives a name of someone in heaven who prays for us before God. Our patron in Hodogaya is Mary, assumed into heaven (Assumption).

The church from very ancient times has always believed that Mary, after dying, (or as the Eastern Church says, after going to sleep i.e. dormition) was taken up by God, body and soul into Heaven.

Behind this belief is the truth that the human body is good. Final salvation for us too will be in heaven not only our soul but also a glorified body. We, like Mary, are united to Jesus in his resurrection. God sees our human body as good - do we?! Or do we put ourselves down as ugly, useless, of no use? God thinks differently.

The Vatican Council in speaking of Mary says that as a human at times she walked the path of faith in darkness. In other words she, like us (and her Son) experienced suffering. Mary was deeply troubled at the words of the angel, she was not formally married. She gave birth in a drafty stable. Holding her son Jesus she had to flee to a foreign country, Egypt. She lost him for 3 days when Jesus was 12. Mary saw her son rejected and chased out of his own village. She saw him die an excruciating death on the cross. One title of Mary which I personally like is “Daughter of the Covenant”. Through all her sufferings she believed that because of God’s solemn promise to care for all his children, in some way, some how God would care for her. In other words, Mary trusted God. Mary is an example for us. Her life gives us hope.

In the Gospel today we see Mary give up her own convenience and make the long journey to help her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgetting self has an effect on us too - it brings peace.

“Holy Mary mother of God, pray for us sinners. Now and at the hour of our death.”

Index of sermons

Sun, 08/09/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: 1Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

"Rice Is Strength." These words come from a giant sign-board outside a rice refining factory just past Kozu station on the Tokaido Railway Line. Rice is the staple food of Japan. Food gives nourishment and strength to our bodies.
If they had sign-boards 2,000 years ago in Jesus' time the words would have been "Bread Is Strength!"

Here is an example from my own experience. One time I went hiking with my classmates. I slept in, and in a hurry I set off without eating. First I felt hungry and weak, then dizzy in the head. I started staggering and finally fell over. I couldn't go further. Indeed food is strength, energy, nourishment.

When Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist he chose bread. At the Last Supper he took bread and said over it:"This is my Body (i.e. my very self). This holy bread which we call Holy Communion or Eucharist is strength for the heart and soul, it is what sustains us on the journey of life. It is Jesus Himself who walks life's journey with us. What a wonderful support!

Our Eucharist is fore-shadowed in today's First Reading.
Elijah is escaping into the dessert. Queen Jezebel wants to kill him. On the way Elijah is not only hungry but worse, he is discouraged. "I have had enough. I want to die" he says. He just cannot go on. Then he receives food from an angel and is able to continue his journey.

In the Gospel some people of Jesus' time found his teaching on the Eucharist too hard to believe. Jesus says:"Pray with an open heart and the gift of belief will be given to you by my Father."

Holy Communion gives us strength to walk life's journey with courage. Isn't God so kind to give us his own Son Jesus as support.

Index of sermons

Sun, 08/02/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 78
Ephesians 4:17,20-24
John 6:24-35

30 years ago I visited the Holy Land, Israel. I sat on the green grass of a hill overlooking the lake of Galilee where Jesus himself had stood and gave us the Beatitudes. Then I went to the edge of the Lake and sat on a rock. It was here that Jesus himself prepared breakfast for the disciples and asked Peter, “Peter! Do you love me?” Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have lived 2,000 years ago and to be able to meet Jesus himself!
This is what I thought, and then I realized that I can meet the very same Jesus in the Gospels. He is alive and with us now. Personally the reading of Endo Shusaku’s “The Life of Jesus” helped me a lot. Endo paints with words the portrait of the human Jesus, who as God shows us the heart of the true God. He is the love of God, the God of love.

But I still had a hunger and thirst to meet Jesus in a deeper way. Then the words of today’s Gospel hit me. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”
When Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He said:”This bread is my body.” Here “body” means one’s very self. Holy Communion is Jesus’ his very self.

When we receive Holy Communion we receive into our hearts Jesus himself. Yes, Jesus, his real self comes into our hearts. This bread indeed is a living bread, a bread of life, Jesus himself. We can meet Jesus in a very intimate way in Holy Communion.

The more we prayerfully read the Scriptures the more will we appreciate the deep meaning of the Eucharist.

Personally, what keeps me going, walking life’s journey is Holy Communion. It is Jesus his very self who is with me as my companion. I pray you have the same experience. Jesus says: “I am the bread that gives life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry. No one who has Faith in me will ever be thirsty” (John 6:35 CEV)

Index of sermons

Sun, 07/26/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: 2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 144
Ephesians 4:1-6
John 6:1-15

"Give us this day our daily bread". We pray this in the Lord's Prayer.
Our daily food which we eat and get strength from comes from God. Do we take the food of our daily meals for granted? Do we pray before each meal? Let us in Japan thank God that we have enough to eat. Do some of us eat too much? Do we waste food? There are countries where today people die of starvation. Do we know and care about them? Even in Japan today the overseas workers who made Japan so prosperous have lost their jobs and suffer from hunger during this recession.

In 1732 one million Japanese died of hunger during a famine. The fireworks in Tokyo's Sumida River last night (25/7/09) was first begun by the Tokugawa Shogun, Yoshimune to console those who died and to cleanse the country from famine. We are blessed today with enough food (sometimes, too much!) Are we grateful to God?
Are we generous as the little boy was generous to Jesus?

"Jesus, please use my lunch." Jesus, through the generosity of this young boy performed a miracle to feed many. Jesus asks our generosity today. (Never forget the reason behind the miracle -i.e. Jesus' deep compassion).

God is generous in his gifts to us. God does not give just enough to get through, but an over-abundance of gifts. In the first reading and the Gospel, there is food left over. This is the Bibles' way of saying that God is always generous.

The reason God gives an abundance is to share with others.
So we share our food, our money, our time, our convenience - in a word we share our hearts with others. At the last judgement let us hear Jesus say to us. "You fed me when I was hungry - come receive your eternal reward." Have you noticed that generous people have happy faces. Selfish miserly people have sad faces?!

Index of sermons

Sun, 07/19/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Jer 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34

He (Jesus) took pity on them. Mark 6:34 (Jerusalem Bible)
He (Jesus) felt sorry for the people. Mark 6:34 (Contemporary English Version)
His heart was filled with pity for them Mark 6:34 (Good News)

These are some English translations of the Greek Verb SPLAGCHNIZESTHAI. In Greek it is a rare word used 9 times in the Gospels, of Jesus only. It is an extremely strong verb meaning to be moved to the very depths of the human heart with feelings of compassion for the other person. It means to suffer with the other person with all one's heart.

Jesus in today’s Gospel has that deep compassion for the people who feel lost and unprotected by their shepherds. (Mark6:34). Jesus feels this deep compassion when he meets a leper (Mark 1:41), when he meets two blind men (Matt 20:34); when he sees a poor suffering boy in an epileptic fit (Mark 9:25), and when he sees the tears of that devastated widow mother when her son dies (Luke 7:13).

Let us get behind the reason why the Gospel writers used this rare, strong word. This is the heart of our God Jesus. He feels the same way towards us today. We can meet this Jesus who feels with us in this deep way. We meet Him in the Eucharist and in prayer.

Isn't it wonderful to have a Shepherd God who loves us so deeply.

To me the strength of this Greek verb puts extra meaning into the gentle invitation of Jesus. He says today in a living voice: "Come to me all of you who are weary and heavily burdened, I will refresh you." Let us go to Jesus.

Index of sermons

Sun, 07/12/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Amos 7:12-15
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:7-13

St.Paul tells us (in Ephesians): God, our loving Father has chosen us to be his beloved children and has lavishly poured out his blessings and gifts upon us. Why did God choose us? He chose us to share these gifts with others, (never to be an elite group!). But we might say: I am so ordinary. I have no qualifications to be such a sharer. Yes! admit we are weak with no qualifications, and rely on God's help. Amos and the 12 disciples are our models.

In 750B.C. God called a farmer called Amos to go to the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to call the people back to God's path. In a time of prosperity they had put material goods before God. From a worldly wisdom point of view Amos was unsuitable to be a prophet. He was a humble farmer living in a different Kingdom (Judah). But God deliberately chose Amos telling him to rely on God's eloquence and strength. God sent him - God will provide strength and ability.

Jesus chose 12 men who were fishermen, and a tax-collector. They had no qualifications as learned men or eloquence to teach the way of Jesus. But because it was Jesus himself who sent them he also gave them the strength and words to fulfill their mission. He told them not to rely on material props - no bread, no purse, no money, no extra clothes. Jesus said;"Just be instruments of my peace, I will always be beside you with my strength. I will give you the right words to say." "A smile is the beginning of Peace"(Mother Teresa)

Jesus sends each of us into our small society to be his witness, his prophet, his missionary. We share the gifts he has lavishly poured out upon us - in our homes, workplace, school, apartment house, at the shops and with all we meet. Eg. do I thank with a warm smile the check-out woman at the super-market? Do I give support and encouragement to those who are bullied? The sending of Jesus is for everyday life. He helps us.

Index of sermons

Sun, 07/05/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Ez 2:2-5
Psalm 123
2Cor 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6

There is not one single perfect human being in this world! Everyone, without exception, has a weakness. In today's scripture reading from St.Paul, human weakness is called a "thorn". (I feel "thorn in the flesh" is a misleading translation. "Flesh" in Greek means the whole person.)
Everyone has his or her own thorn. The thorn is different for each different person. Some examples of a thorn could be: a sickness of body or heart or mind; a problem or worry; a temptation, an addiction or dependence; depression, short temper; being so sensitive as to get hurt easily; having to live or work with a difficult person; a tendency to pride or selfishness - the list is endless! What is your particular thorn?
It is spiritually healthy to precisely name our thorn. Do not leave it vague! Remembering that our gentle, kind God accepts us just as we are, in an atmosphere of prayer let us face ourselves and name our particular thorn or weakness. We acknowledge to this kind God that by our own human strength alone we are unable to conquer our weakness (i.e. extract our thorn). We need His help. He will give us that help - He loves us as we are.
In this way we create an uncluttered space in our hearts so that Jesus can come and work with the strength of God.
In a living voice to each of us today Jesus says:
"My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak."
Please ponder those words at length and in depth. I have found them to be the most encouraging words of Scripture!
With all the Scriptural background of Jesus touching the weak, the hurt, the sinner I love the pithy saying:
"When I am weak, I am strong."

Index of sermons

Sun, 06/28/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Wisdom1:13-15,2:23-24
2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15
Mark 5:21-43

2,000 years ago in the small country of Palestine Jesus spoke the language of that area, a form of Hebrew called Aramaic. Mark wrote his Gospel for a wider audience by using the common language of the extensive Roman Empire, i.e.Greek. But Mark left some Aramaic words just as Jesus spoke them Eg. Abba, Ephaphate (Open!), Eli,eli..(on cross) and in today's Gospel "Talitha, koum." (Little girl, get up). Why did Mark give us the actual words of Jesus and also their translation? The message is: whatever language the Gospel use, Jesus' words and deeds always have an eternal present tense. Jesus words are always in a living voice today.

Let us now look at the two miracles in today's Gospel. Jesus heals the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She was embarrassed and was forbidden to enter the Temple. Jesus felt with this sad, lonely woman and not only healed her physical ailment, but also by a gentle conversation healed her of the wounds in her heart. Today we can taste the same gentle compassion, thoughtfulness and understanding of Jesus. He is alive today.

The healing of Jairus' daughter is like a class subject in the catechumenate of the first century. The topic is: what happens after we humans die? Jesus says: "Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead but asleep." Each night we go to sleep, this is normal. Death is no fearful big deal. It is just going to sleep. The Christians of the early church used the word "sleep" for "death", not as a euphemism but as a truth. At death we go to sleep, then Jesus touches us, and we wake up to eternal life and happiness. (Touch appears 6 times in this Gospel.) Let us face our own death in this healthy way. Death is not a dark, fearful truth to escape from. Jesus gives our experience of death light, hope and yes, joy. We wake up at home, in our loving Father's house.
"I am the resurrection and life. The one who believes in me, even though death comes, will live forever."

Index of sermons

Sun, 06/21/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Job38:1,8-11
Psalm 107:23-32
2 Cor 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

The theme which connects the 3 readings above is "storm". The Gospel describes a historical event, but Mark uses it to give encouragement to the Christians of the first century who were undergoing fierce persecution and suffering.
Do you have a storm in your heart?  If so, this Gospel is for you today! Storms of the heart can be caused by sickness, worry, being too busy, a broken relationship, a feeling of betrayal, lack of sleep, depression, loneliness, emptiness etc, etc.
If you are experiencing such a storm in your heart you will probably not feel the comfort and strength of God close to you.  In the words of the Gospel, Jesus is asleep in the boat of your heart.  At such a time prayer is often difficult.  But note well: it is only difficult if one thinks that prayer must always be polite and meek! But in prayer God wants our true heart.  If it is full of storm we will cry out in desperation: "Jesus! Do you not care? I am sinking!" The Psalms are a model of prayer.
Psalm 44:24 "Wake up! Do something Lord! Why are you sleeping?  Don't forget our sufferings and all our troubles". (CEV)
Psalm 83:1 "Our God! Don't just sit there silently doing nothing!"
Psalm 89:46 "How much longer, Lord? Will you hide forever?"
Psalm 22:1 "My God! Why have you deserted me?  Why are you so far away?  Won't you listen to my groans and come to my rescue?"
Those prayers are definitely not polite! They come from a storm tossed heart. The Psalms are the Bible's way, i.e. God's way, of showing us how to pray.
Jesus may appear to be asleep in your boat, but he is guarding you.  Cry out to him.  When it is the right time he will say to your storm: "Be quiet! Be calm."

Index of sermons

Sun, 06/14/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116
hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-26

The key word in the 3 scripture readings of today’s feast is “covenant”. The word covenant in the scriptures means a solemn mutual promise between God and we humans.
In the first reading from Exodus we have “the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you”. In the Gospel, at the Last Supper (the first Mass) Jesus says: ”This is my blood of the (new) covenant.”
Some American Indian tribes when they drew up a covenant of peace did this: each chief would make a small cut in his thumb and the two chiefs would press those thumbs on each other. In Japan there was an ancient custom of blood seals (keppan). A person would make a small cut in his thumb and seal the document with his blood finger print. In each case this meant: I will keep this promise even if it costs my life (i.e. blood).
God, through Jesus, takes a solemn oath to care for each one of us. But a covenant is a mutual oath. We in turn promise to trust God with all that we have and all that we are.
Jesus sealed this oath with his life’s blood on the Cross.
This oath is first solemnly given at our Baptism, and is renewed every time we assist at Mass. Jesus says in a living voice today at the consecration of each Mass: “This is my blood (i.e. life) of the new and everlasting covenant. Do this in memory of me.” We give ourselves to Jesus when we receive the Eucharist.
Just ponder the wonder and reality of this word “covenant”. God has entered the life of each one of us with a solemn promise: “I will be with you. I will always care for you. I love you. I am your God.” When we come to realize the deep meaning of this promise, we can say: ”God! I can trust your word. I put my life in your hands. You are my God!”
Such is the path to peace.

Index of sermons

Sun, 06/07/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33
Paul to Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Who is God for you? When you use the word "God", or pray to Him, what image comes up? (Please do not read on! Stop here and ponder this question. It is important for all of us!)

We look at the moon and stars, the sea, the mountains and may wonder where they come from. Psalm 33 says ultimately from God.
In a deep forest we may feel a sense of awe, a sense of God.
I felt this last month among the giant cedars of Nikko.
We can have this sense of God, and that is good. But it is only an entrance into the God whom Jesus shows us. Sometimes our idea of God can be very vague, misty and distant - even cold!
Jesus tells us that God is a loving, caring, gentle Father. Jesus teaches that God wants a warm relationship with us. For the word "Father", Jesus used the Aramaic word "Abba". In Mark 14:36 Jesus prays:"Abba!" Paul uses the word "Abba" twice, once in today's reading from Romans 8:15 and in Galatians 4:6. Note well that both Mark and Paul wrote in Greek but left this word in the Aramaic language because Jesus used this actual word, so it is important.
"Abba" was a word only used within the family circle by small children.
It is similar to our word "Papa" or "Dad". The Jewish scholars of Jesus' time were shocked at the word. "That is an insult to God. It is a sacrilege!"
But Jesus insisted on all to address God as "Abba". The word is full of meaning. It means God is kind, gentle, understanding, warm and close.
We are the special children of his whom he loves and protects.
To have this gentle image of God, St.Paul today tells us that we are only able to receive this gift by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to plant deep in our hearts the image of God as Abba. (Notice the Trinitarian aspect of St Paul's passage).
Let us trust this gentle God and put everything into his hands.

Index of sermons

Sun, 05/31/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104
Gal 5:16-25
John 15:26-16:15

Pentecost is a word from Greek meaning 50 days. On the 50th day after Jesus’ Resurrection the Holy Spirit came down upon the small gathering of the first church.   There were about 120 in all.

When Jesus ascended into heaven this small group of followers of Jesus became frightened.   Jesus seemed no longer with them to give them support and courage.   But Jesus had promised that He would send the Holy Spirit the Comforter to strengthen them.   So being full of fear, the group of about 120 men and women, with Mary the mother of Jesus, waited and prayed.   Then as Luke tells us in Acts, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.   They opened the doors which because of fear they had securely locked and came out.   With eloquence and courage they preached about the Way of Jesus publicly in Jerusalem.

Jesus had told them to go into the whole world, to the very ends of the earth to preach the ever good news that God loves each person.   In the Acts of the Apostles (which more accurately could be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit) we see the church of Jesus grow in numbers and go first into Samaria and Antioch, but then to Athens, Corinth, Malta, Rome.

What is the message for ordinary people like you and me?  It is this. Jesus has given us his Way of life.  ("The Way" was how the early church called itself).   We never have to walk the way or journey of life by our own human strength alone.   (If we try it we will get stressed and unhappy).   Jesus sends us today the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter.   (Com-fort = fortis is Latin, strength)
So like the 120, let us “wait and pray.”   That strength of the Holy Spirit will certainly come to us because Jesus has promised it.   (In Japanese the word we use “to wait” is “machi-nozomu” - which literally means to wait with hope).

On June 4, 1939, 70 years ago, the Church of Hodogaya was officially opened.
The Holy Spirit has been, and still is, working among us.   Thanks be to God!

Index of sermons

Sun, 05/24/2009 - 00:00
Scripture; Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Ephesians 4:1-13
Mark 16:14-20

2,000 years ago Jesus said to his small group of followers of that time; "Go into the whole world and share the Good News".  In a living voice Jesus says to us today;"Each of you go into your own small society and share the Good News that God is love".

Verse 15 of Mark is; "Go into the whole world…". Immediately before that command, inverse 14, we read ;"Jesus scolded them because they were too stubborn to believe the ones who had seen him after he had been raised to life.  So, in spite of their weak faith and hard hearts, Jesus commissioned them.  "In spite of" - No, really it was "because of".  The whole Biblical tradition of people who are called by God to work for him is that they ware weak people who acknowledged their human frailty and relied on God who gave them power and strength.  For example; Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Peter, etc.  That is why the words in today's Gospel are so important, verse 20 reads: "The Lord worked with them".  The Lord Jesus is still working among you and I today when we go out into our small societies (e.g. our families, school, work place, friends, etc.) to share the Good News that God loves all.

But our faith life and our ordinary everyday life are not two different worlds - they are one.  We all have some work to do.  Mothers, fathers, single people, students, children - yes, and in the broad sense retired people too, and those confined to bed and house too - all of us have in this broad sense some work.  Do not be just a "Sunday Christian"!  Invite Jesus into your everyday working life.  Keep in touch with him through prayer.  Tell him you can not do your work alone, tell him you need his help.  Jesus, our God, wants to work with us.  This makes our life and our work take on an energizing taste!

Index of sermons

Sun, 05/17/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

Last week Pole Benedict visited the Holy Land, Israel.  30 years ago I too was a pilgrim re-treading the footsteps of Jesus.  Today my strongest remaining impression is the church at Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  These 3 were friends of Jesus (John 11:11).  What deeply impressed me was a mosaic in the Church.  It depicted Martha and Mary talking to Jesus.  I gazed at this mosaic picture and it hit me; this is what prayer is all about - talking to Jesus as a friend. (In the mosaic scene there is even a dog looking up attentively at Jesus!)  St Teresa of Avila writes that prayer is a heart to heart conversation with Jesus, who is a friend who loves us.
In today's Gospel, which is Jesus' important last will and testament, he says to each of us in a living voice today:"I call you my friend".
St.Augustine (died A.D.430) commenting on Jesus' words writes:"Who is a true friend?  A friend is someone who knows everything about me and still accepts me as I am. " Jesus is such a true friend to you and me.
This friendship of Jesus is the very basis of our prayer. A friend is someone I can trust with the hurts of my heart, my suffering, my failures, the betrayals I experience.  I can go to Jesus and pour out everything - this is prayer.
If I have doubts or temptations, or cannot forgive someone, even if I have a grudge against God himself, I can still talk to him - he understands.  What Jesus wants in prayer is ourselves as we are.  He does not want us to dress up our hearts.  To do so would be false prayer, because I would be my false self.
Jesus says today: "You are my friend. Come to me, you who labor and are heavily burdened.  I will refresh you."
That is an invitation to prayer from a friend !

Index of sermons

Sun, 05/10/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 9:26-31
1John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

The Gospel readings of the Easter Season emphasise how the Risen Jesus lives with us today.  On Easter Sunday the message was that we enter into life with God through Baptism.  Then Thomas had a deep encounter with the Risen Jesus.  Then last Sunday the close friendship between Jesus, the shepherd and we, his much loved and cared for sheep.  Today we have the famous Parable of the Vine and the Branches. All images emphasise
a warm relationship with our God, Jesus.
I have a grape vine growing in my garden here in Hodogaya.  There is the main trunk and now in spring the branches are climbing up the trelliswork.  The branches will bear bunches of grapes.  All the life for the branches comes from the trunk.  If cut off from that life-giving sap the branch shrivels and dies.
We Christians get our life, our energy, our sustenance from Jesus.
We must be united to Him. He says: "Apart from me you can do nothing."
In this chapter 15:1-10, in order to emphasize the vital importance of the unity in the Greek text the word "meno" is used 10 times. ( In English it is translated as:"abide in me", "stay joined to me", "remain in me", and "make your home in me").  This vine and branches message from Jesus is given at the Last Supper so it is vital as His last will and testament. Having this warm, close relationship with Jesus is absolutely essential to live a as a Christian.
How do we foster this close, warm relationship between ourselves and Jesus?  In one word: PRAYER.
Talk to him in your own words.  Tell Jesus about yourself - your good times, your joys, your successes.  And about your pains, failures, sadness, loneliness, difficulties with people.  Or maybe do not use words: just taste his love for you as you are.  Your will find new life, new sustenance, new joy arising in your heart.  In other words you will be a happy, fruitful vine-branch because the life of Jesus will be flowing through you.  Just think of the wonder of that!

Index of sermons

Sun, 05/03/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118
1John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

Jesus today in a living voice say: “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me… I give up my life for my sheep” (Jn10:14 CEV).
Living right in the middle of Yokohama City we do not meet shepherds or see sheep!  Here is some background about sheep in Jesus’ time.  Often the shepherd was the son of the owner of the sheep, so he really cared for them as his own (much more care than a hired man).  The usual number of sheep cared for was 10-20 head.  The shepherd got to know each well and gave each sheep a name, and the sheep would come when its name was called.  The enemy of sheep is the wolf.  The shepherd uses his staff and sling-shot, and even gives his own life, to keep his sheep safe.  The good shepherd guides his flock to tasty grass and water.  In a word, the shepherd loves his sheep, he guards and guides them.  If one gets lost he goes looking for it.  The shepherd and his sheep have fun together.  They enjoy each other’s company.
From the 1st century the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has been most popular among Christians, even among those living in big cities.  Why is this so?  Today the Risen Jesus lives amongst us.  He really cares for each one of us.  He calls each of us by our own name.  He guards and protects us.  He offers to each of us his friendship.  He wants to enjoy our company and have fun together.  Jesus is such a gentle God.
Let us meet this gentle Jesus in prayer and in the Eucharist and in our faith community.  Jesus is there waiting for us.  If you get lost in pain or sadness, or get lost in any way, let the Good Shepherd find you.  He will put you over his shoulders and take you home to peace.
This is a beautiful parable, let us taste the love for each that is expressed in it.

Index of sermons

Sun, 04/26/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 3:13-15,17-19
Psalm 4
1John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

This week's "Catholic Newspaper" has an article which advises that sermons should have only one point!  But today's scriptures are so rich, I break the rule!
Point 1: The disciples of Jesus know for certain he died on the cross.  But here he is among them. "It's a ghost", they cried out and shivered with fear.  The reason for such fear is that they believed that ghosts of the dead returned to punish the disciples' wrong doings.  But our God is NOT a punishing God.  Jesus understands human weakness and says: "Peace be with you."
But they still could not believe that the dead Jesus was now alive.  So Jesus showed the wounds in his hands and feet where the nails of the cross had pierced.  This Risen Jesus was the same Jesus whom they had known. But they still had doubts.  Jesus accepted and understood their doubts.  So he eats a piece of grilled fish - ghosts cannot eat food!  The Risen Jesus is so full of understanding for human weakness, lack of faith and fear.
We today can meet that same Jesus in prayer and in the Eucharist.
Point 2: Why are the wounds of hands and feet left remaining on Jesus' risen body?  This has a very deep meaning.  It is as if Jesus is saying to us in a concrete way these words: "My friend!  Bring your own wounds of body and heart to me.  I have experienced wounds so I understand how you feel.  Come to me with confidence,  I will give you peace."
Point 3: Most of us have wounds in our hearts.  Some are hurts from way back in our lives that we just can not suppress.  They keep popping up.  Let us go to the risen Jesus. Let us pray Psalm 4, especially if we can not sleep at night because of these hurts.  Psalm 4 is a night prayer. It is a cry from the heart - a cry that reaches God himself.  Material goods will not dull the pain.  Only the light of the face of the Risen Lord can dispel that darkness of heart and let us sleep in peace.  Please try it!

Index of sermons

Sun, 04/19/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 4:32-35
1 John 5:1-6
Psalm 118
John 20:19-31

Today is called "Divine Mercy Sunday."   The word "mercy" as defined in a dictionary, and the meaning as used in the Scriptures are only distant relatives!  We can best understand the deep meaning of the mercy of God by looking at the way the Bible uses the word, but especially by looking at the concrete examples of the mercy of Jesus towards the people of his time.  For example take chapters 21 and 22 of John's Gospel.  Jesus is risen from the dead and appears to Mary of Magdala.  She was weeping bitterly with sadness, disappointment and loss.  The Risen Jesus calls her by name, "Mary", with gentleness and great kindness.  Peter had sinned greatly by denying that he even knew Jesus, three times: "Do you love me, Peter?"
In today's Gospel we meet Thomas.  For 3 years he had been with Jesus and saw him as his country's savior to chase out the Roman occupying army.  All his hopes were shattered with Jesus dying as a criminal.  Thomas was sunk in grief, disappointment and bewilderment.  He escaped from the others to grieve alone.  But he comes back to the group and Jesus appeared again, passing through locked doors and did not upbraid Thomas for his stubborn doubts.  Jesus was so gentle, so kind, so understanding of Thomas.  THIS is God's mercy.
This is the mercy we can experience today by meeting Jesus in prayer, in the community, in the Eucharist.
Is your heart a locked door?  Inside that locked room that is your heart are there wounds - of betrayal, anger, lack of forgiveness, hurts received as a child, stress, fear, low self image, inferiority complex, addiction, etc. etc.  We cannot cure ourselves.  Let the Risen Jesus into your heart.  He is full of compassion.  He says:"Come to me you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

Index of sermons

Sun, 04/12/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Acts 10:34-43
Collosians 3:1-2
John 20:1-9
I want to tell you about an old man, Mr.Tanabe, from whom I learned a great lesson.  He lived in his house next to his son's house, and he used to eat his evening meal with his son's family.  But then his son was appointed by his company to work in the U.S. for 3 years.  One day, one of old Mr.Tanabe's neighbours saw him eating his evening meal alone and said: "You must be very lonely eating by yourself."  Mr.Tanabe replied:"No I never feel lonely because I have my meal with the Risen Jesus."
I heard old Mr.Tanabe's answer and it hit me that this is exactly what the Resurrection of Jesus means.  Because Jesus rose from the dead He is no longer confined to one era or one country, but lives with us right now.  The Risen Jesus says in a living voice today to each of us:"Fear not! I am with you."
Jesus travels the road of life walking beside each of us.  We are never alone.  When we meet loneliness or suffering especially let us call to mind this great truth.
I told Mr.Tanabe how his words touched me and I asked him could I use his name and example for others. 10 years ago I preached at his funeral.
Because Jesus has risen from the dead and lives with us now, when we read his words in the Scriptures they are living words; He says to each of us "Fear not becasue I am with you."
The Ressurenction of Jesus has many aspects, this is one of them.
I knew it in my head, but God worked for me through Mr.Tanabe to bring it to my heart.

Index of sermons

Sun, 04/05/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah:50:4-7
Psalm 22
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15: 47

This Sunday has two traditional names: ①Palm Sunday.  Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches as a king.  This anticipates his Resurrection; Jesus is truly God.  ②Passion Sunday.  Jesus suffers and dies for love of us ? he is truly human.
In the first scripture reading Isaiah foretells the suffering of the Messiah ? Savior.  Christ experiences true human suffering so that he can give encouragement to those who get weary with suffering.  Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus was truly God, but gave up everything, i.e. put aside the glory of his being God and became truly human like us, he truly suffers.

Being truly human, Jesus experienced what so many feel when they meet suffering, i.e. a feeling that God has deserted them ? sheer emptiness.  Jesus prays Psalm 22 on the Cross. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  The psalm ends in hope: “O Lord, my strength, help me.”
The Passion story in Mark is starkly brutal, but ends with the Roman army officer proclaiming: “Indeed this man is the Son of God.”
The background of Mark’s Gospel, and especially the Passion Narrative, is important for us today.  When Mark wrote his Gospel the Christians of the first century were being persecuted and were suffering greatly.  So Mark is giving this encouraging message to those who suffer.  “Jesus has experienced real suffering like us.  He is now in our midst as we suffer.”  It is, as it were, a concretizing of Jesus’ own words: “Fear not, little flock, because I am with you.”  In the eternal present tense of the Scriptures Jesus says those words to us TODAY.
Shusaku Endo, in his book “A Life of Jesus” writes in ch 10, “Jesus is our eternal companion in the journey of life.  He experienced every human sadness and pain.  He is able to say to us: “I am beside you in your suffering.”
This for me gives great hope in suffering and desolation.  We are never alone.  Jesus says today in a living voice: “Fear not because I am with you.”
We can better understand the deep meaning behind Jesus’ suffering when we suffer with him.

Index of sermons

Sun, 03/29/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: John 12:20-33
Psalm 42

There is a line in today’s Gospel which I believe is vital aspect of every human heart.  That line is ”I have a request.  I would like to meet Jesus.”  If we want to meet Jesus, (for the first time, or in a deeper way) we must first WANT this meeting!  A yearning of the heart to know God or Jesus is the very first step in getting to know Him.  In other words, God will always respond to the yearning, searching heart.  This yearning is expressed so vividly in Psalm 42.  “As a deer gets thirsty for streams of water, I truly am thirsty for you my God.  In my heart I am thirsty for you, the living God.  When will I see your face? (Ps.42:1-2)
Is your heart empty?  Are you dissatisfied with your life?  Are you bored?  Do you get yourself busy so that you can forget your dissatisfaction?  Or get involved in gambling, shopping, sex, alcohol, etc etc to escape your real emptiness of heart?  Think this over!
Maybe at the bottom of all this turmoil I am really thirsty for God!
Try seeking God. Have a desire to meet Jesus.  Feel thirst with the deer of Psalm 42.  The last line of that Psalm is full of hope:
“Why am I restless?  I trust you! because you help me, and you are my God.”
The Gospels are full of examples of people with this yearning for something better.  They had a deep thirst in their hearts.  Material goods just did not satisfy.  For example, Nicodemus, Zachaeus, Bartimaeus, the man at the pool of Bethesda, Mary of Magdala, the woman with the alabaster jar and the long hair etc etc.  These people just represent you and me.
This week let us give ourselves just 5 quiet minutes and feel the yearning in our hearts.  That thirst is part of being human!  God is there!

Index of sermons

Sun, 03/22/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: 2 Chr 36:14-16,19-23
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

"God is love." To put this truth concretely: "God loves me as I am." When this truth "clicks" we become free; a warmth and meaning comes into our everyday actions.  But this "clicking" (or coming to realize vividly the deep meaning of this truth) does not come by our own efforts.  It is a totally undeserved present from God.
That is, as I see it, a summary of the 2 readings (Paul and John) in today's Mass.  God who is my Abba, Father pours his love over me, his child. I am enveloped in that love.  My personal prayer is that of the distraught father to Jesus: "Lord I do believe this, but please help my unbelief. Lord, increase my faith."  Let us also consider again this great love.  Most importantly, it is unconditional love.  God accepts me as I am.  God does not give this gift as a reward for some good action, he simply GIVES it as a present.  He gives this gift of 100% love to every human being.   Some have been gifted with knowing about this love.  Even if we forget, or even reject God, God himself does not stop loving us.  There are no conditions.  God does not use that small word "IF"!
To realize the depth of God's great love for each of us we need to give God a chance to give us his great light.
Are we too busy with worldly things to let God shine in our hearts?  Do we put first things first?  Do we give God some quiet time in prayer to let him work in our hearts?
This is the great challenge of Lent!  There are only 3 weeks left in Lent.
I ask you to spend at least 5 minutes in quiet, just tasting God's warm love.  If distractions come in (which is usual for us humans) just return to God's love.  If it happens that you have distractions only, then remember God loves you still, despite distractions!

Index of sermons

Sun, 03/15/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:12-25
Sometimes when non-Christians enter a Catholic Church for the first time and see a crucifix they are shocked.  The figure hanging on the cross repulses them.  It seems so cruel, so shocking!
In today’s reading St.Paul says: “We preach that Christ was nailed to a cross...... for the Jews a stumbling block, for the gentiles madness...... but for us it is Christ who is the power and wisdom of God”
Yes, the crucifix with the figure of Christ dying on it IS cruel and shocking.  It was a long, excruciating death.  But for Christians the scene has a deep meaning because the crucifix shines forth love.  This is how much God loves each one of us.  He freely gave up his life for us because He loves us.  Furthermore the crucifix always has the background of Jesus’ Resurrection ? death to life.
In Jesus, God became truly a human being.  He represents all human beings. As such he won for us (by the sacrifice of his life on the cross) truly wonderful benefits that were not available before his death.  Eg. He opened for us the gates of Heaven; As our representative he won for us the privilege of being able to approach God without fear and enjoy a loving Father’s care and love.
And in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, Jesus took on our human suffering.  His sufferings won peace for us, by his wounds are we healed.
Shusaku Endo writes: If Jesus had not experienced human suffering he could not say:”I am with you.” He could not face us and say:”Look! I am beside you when you suffer.  I understand your suffering because I have experienced human suffering myself.” Consoling!
This Lent let us look at Jesus on the cross.  From the cross Jesus says “I love you.”  To realize that you are personally loved by God is a truly wonderful gift.

Index of sermons

Sun, 03/08/2009 - 00:00
Scripture:Genesis 22:1-19
Psalm 116

When we read this scene from Genesis God can seem cruel.  But we moderns must read it with the background of both the writer and the people of those ancient times.  We ask ourselves: what message did those ancients get out of this reading? The answer in this case is that God is actually strongly forbidding human sacrifice.  In other words God is NOT asking for the life of his son; God is asking for Abraham's heart.  That understanding changes the whole flavor of the reading and makes it very relevant for us today.
In the Church and especially in relation to our Mass we use the words "sacrifice", "offering", and "offer".
During the Mass we have a collection.  People put money in a basket and these baskets are brought up in the offertory procession and placed at the altar.  That offering of money represents the offering of our hearts to God (like Abraham).  God wants our hearts!
If we come to Mass on Sunday with this sense of offering the ceremony can mean a lot and have an influence on our daily life during the week.
At our Mass we say to God: "Abba, Father I am your child. I trust you.  I give you my whole self, both my strengths and my weaknesses, both my body and my heart, both my joys and sorrows, both the times I feel good and the times I feel pain.  My God I put my whole self into your hands.  I trust you.  I know you will provide for me."
If we have that sense of trust and offering the Mass will be truly meaningful, and influence our whole life.  God will be in our daily lives and we will feel peace and encouragement.

Index of sermons

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 23
Mark 1:12-15
"Dust you are and unto dust you will return. Repent and believe the Good News"  These are the words we hear when our foreheads are anointed with ashes.  We begin Lent with this thought-provoking ceremony.
This is a deeply symbolic ceremony that touches the depths of the human heart.  We are all human, therefore all of us will die; that is, become dust or ashes.  That is a sobering thought and many of us try to escape thinking about it.  As escapes we can use, being busy or our work or hobby or alcohol or drugs or excessive watching of TV! etc, etc.  But in this ceremony of the ashes we honestly face the fact that we must die.  We ask ourselves: what is this life all about.  Am I really living or just existing?
But note well the words: "Repent and believe the Gospel”, i.e. believe that God really loves the total human person made up as we are of a body that will die and go into dust, but also of a soul which will exist forever.
Thinking of our own death will not be a time of black, frightening thoughts if we remember that Jesus died, but he rose again, THIS is our hope, our joy, our encouragement, because we are united to Christ.
Yes, thinking on our own death can make us feel empty, but it is in that very emptiness that God can work in us.  We can silence the static in our hearts and hear Jesus say in a living voice: "I have experienced death.  Fear not, I am with you.  Believe the ever-good-news that I love you.  Make a new start" (i.e."repent").  In Psalm 23 (the Good Shepherd.Psalm) we pray: "Lord, my shepherd...even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.."
Lent is a time to ponder the basics.  Let us try it with hope and joy.

Index of sermons

Sun, 01/18/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 23
Mark 1:12-15
"Dust you are and unto dust you will return. Repent and believe the Good News"  These are the words we hear when our foreheads are anointed with ashes.  We begin Lent with this thought-provoking ceremony.
This is a deeply symbolic ceremony that touches the depths of the human heart.  We are all human, therefore all of us will die; that is, become dust or ashes.  That is a sobering thought and many of us try to escape thinking about it.  As escapes we can use, being busy or our work or hobby or alcohol or drugs or excessive watching of TV! etc, etc.  But in this ceremony of the ashes we honestly face the fact that we must die.  We ask ourselves: what is this life all about.  Am I really living or just existing?
But note well the words: "Repent and believe the Gospel”, i.e. believe that God really loves the total human person made up as we are of a body that will die and go into dust, but also of a soul which will exist forever.
Thinking of our own death will not be a time of black, frightening thoughts if we remember that Jesus died, but he rose again, THIS is our hope, our joy, our encouragement, because we are united to Christ.
Yes, thinking on our own death can make us feel empty, but it is in that very emptiness that God can work in us.  We can silence the static in our hearts and hear Jesus say in a living voice: "I have experienced death.  Fear not, I am with you.  Believe the ever-good-news that I love you.  Make a new start" (i.e."repent").  In Psalm 23 (the Good Shepherd.Psalm) we pray: "Lord, my shepherd...even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.."
Lent is a time to ponder the basics.  Let us try it with hope and joy.

Index of sermons

Sun, 01/11/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Isaiah 55:1-11
I John 5:1-9
Mark 1:7-11
“Oh! Come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come!... Why spend your wages on what fails to satisfy”(Is.55)
Isaiah as a prophet and poet uses the imagery of bodily thirst to express the deeper thirst of the heart.
When our throats are dry we can drink buckets of salty water and still be thirsty ? in fact our thirst increases.  With the thirst of the heart we can have a mountain of worldly goods and comforts and still not be satisfied ? in fact we get even more frustrated!
We often realize that we have deep within us this thirst of the heart when life and everyday living becomes uninteresting.  We become bored with the way we live, or with our job of work.  We feel empty.  This thirst becomes more noticeable when we experience failure, or meet worry and suffering.  The movie director, Akira Kurosawa expresses this thirst in his famous movie “IKIRU”. It puts the question: ”What is this life all about?  Does it have any meaning?”   It is just at such a time of this thirst of the heart that God says: ”Come to the water all you are thirsty.” Jesus fulfils this prophecy when He repeats: ”Come to me all you who are tired and carrying heavy burdens, I will give you rest.”(Mt.11:28)
When we receive Baptism, God our Father (Abba) says through the Church: “You are my own dear child, I love you”.
Because we have become God's own child we can go to him full of trust, Our God (Abba) is so gentle and understanding.
He calls each of us by name, He loves us.
So if you feel this thirst of the heart, respond to God's gentle call: “Come to the water all you are thirsty. “  This invitation is repeated by Jesus: “Come to me all you who are tired and carry heavy burdens, I will give you rest”.   Let us go to him.

Index of sermons

Sun, 01/04/2009 - 00:00
Scripture: Isaiah   60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-6
Matthew  2:1-12
God put aside the glory of Heaven and became a real human person.  Jesus is 100% God, at the same time 100% human.
Jesus was born in a stable.  The first to come to visit him were Jewish shepherds representing the Jewish nation.  The prophets as spokesmen of God had promised the Jews a savior.  However in today's Gospel we see three non-Jews coming to visit Jesus.  They represent the nations of the whole world. The message of the scriptures is that the peace and saving power of Jesus is for all peoples, for every nation.
The 3 Wise Men had a great desire or yearning in their hearts to meet the One who could put meaning into their lives.  They were given a star to guide their journey.
In every human heart without exception there is a deep yearning - for happiness, peace and meaning in life.  This yearning is a vital part of being truly human.  We can smother that yearning by being too busy, or seeking to satisfy the yearning with material goods or fame.  Only by finding God can this yearning be satisfied.
This year let us seek true meaning in our daily lives. Like the 3 Wise men we are given a guiding star.  It is Jesus himself.  He says:"I am the light of the world.  I am the Way".
Let us spend some quiet time in prayer in the following way:  Ask yourself:"What am I truly deep down seeking in this life?"  Peace?  Happiness?  Meaning?  Fulfillment?  Please Jesus, show me the path to find God.
Jesus says:"Seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened."
When we come to realize that we have been given a treasure by God let us share it with others. In place of gold let our gift be thoughtfulness; for frankincense, a kind smile; for myrrh, forgiveness.

Index of sermons

Sun, 12/28/2008 - 00:00
Scripture: Genesis  15: 1-6
Hebrews 11: 8-11
Luke    2:22-40

"To have faith in God": what does it mean?  The Bible describes faith in this way.  God makes a solemn promise to each person to be with that person and protect that person.  Faith is trusting God's promise and living by it. Such trust does not prevent suffering, but it gives meaning to it.   In the Bible Abraham is a model of faith.
Abraham was asked by God to leave his home and go into the desert to found a new family.  But he had no children and saw the desert as a dangerous, waterless place.  God says: "Fear not Abraham I will be with you; I will be your shield" (a shield is protecting armour, so "shield" means here "God will protect").
"It was by faith that Abraham obeyed God's call... he set out without knowing where he was going"(Heb.11:8). In other words he trusted God's promise. Abraham put his future in God's hands.
We need such faith, such trust today.  Who of us knows what the future holds?  No one!  Let us call to mind God's promise.  God says to each of us: "Fear not, I am with you always; I will protect you."  Yes, we will still meet sufferings but with God by our side we can overcome them.
There is a line in Psalm 105 used in today's Mass:
"Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face."
Our loving Father God uses that strength to protect us, his children.  Let us go to him with confidence in prayer.
Abraham, Mary , Joseph, models of faith, please pray tat our faith and trust may become stronger.
Sun, 12/21/2008 - 00:00
Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1-16
Rome 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38
In the Gospel, the angel Gabriel, as God's spokesman, asks Mary if she would consent to be the mother of the Savior, promised to David.  Mary was 'deeply disturbed' by this request.  Mary feels she cannot possibly undertake such a role.  Then Gabriel says:"Fear not Mary, God is with you".  This means that God understands that the human Mary could not fulfill the role by her mere human effort, but that He, God, would give her the strength necessary.  Only after this assurance of God's strength does Mary reply:"Let what you have said be done to me".  At the moment of her acceptance God became human.
But Mary had to repeat many times this "I put myself in God's hands and rely on His help."  For example, when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place for her birth and only met refusals from inn-keepers; and when she had to flee to Egypt holding her baby; and when she saw her own Son, Jesus die on the cross.  Each time meant a "yes" to God.
Please do not put this way of God acting in Mary's life way out of your own reach.  This is the way God acts for all of us.
Each of us has our own role, work, calling in life.  Let us face the fact that we cannot fulfill this role etc. on just our own human strength.  We need God's help.  He says to each of us in a living voice:"Fear not. I am with you."  The more we realize that God is beside me in my everyday actions the greater will be our peace.  We are never alone.
At times we may feel like escaping from our role or task in life.  We think we will be free! Wrong!  True, deep freedom comes from joyfully (not
grudgingly) accepting our role in life.  The joy comes when we join hands with God, relying on His strength.  Happy and at peace is the person who joyfully combines what we have to do because of commitment, with what we want to do because of choice.  God is with us.

Index of sermons

Sun, 12/14/2008 - 00:00
Scripture: Isaiah        16:1-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John        1:19-28
From ancient times the Church has given this Sunday an interesting name.  It is called 'Joyful Sunday'.  Instead of purple candle, a pink candle is lit on the Advent wreath.
Advent is also a time for a spiritual stocktaking. Using the readings of the Mass let us face ourselves and ask some fundamental questions to ourselves!  Some questions we can ask ourselves are:-
Do I have a deep-down joy in my heart? (Even amid suffering?)
Such joy comes from knowing that God is close by me and protects me. "I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God"(Isaiah61:10). Can I say that and mean it?
Do I share with others the good news that God loves us all as we are?
For example with people who feel empty (poor) or stressed and down hearted (captive)?
We can all say with Mary:"The Almighty works marvels for me"
But do I accept the way God has made me, or do I have self-contempt, comparing myself with others.  Jesus tells us to love ourselves, i.e. accept ourselves as we are.
St.Paul tells us to "Be happy at all times; pray constantly".  To be joyful, to be happy we really must pray.  Prayer is not an optional extra. Prayer keeps us in touch with God who tells us how much he loves us.  THIS is the very basis of our joy.  Prayer is a warm friendship with God. Let's try it!
In the Gospel we see John the Baptist as a popular preacher.  Crowds came to listen to him.  But John was not proud, he knew his work and limitations and told people to go and listen and follow Jesus.  To give up yourself for another is true humility.  Let us ask ourselves: Do I have that kind of true humility?  Or am I self-centered and only think of myself.  God works in a deep way: if we forget our own convenience and think of others we will taste a joy that comes from Him. Let's try it.

Index of sermons

Sun, 11/30/2008 - 00:00
Scripture: Isaiah 64:6-8
I Cor.1:3-9
Mark13:33-37
O God! You are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:7-8)
In the Bible God is described in human words using various images. Today in Isaiah God is likened to a potter. God the Potter - it is a beautiful image used in Genesis, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and St. Paul.
Let us first consider an earthly potter. He carefully prepares his heart and hands by kneading the clay. In Jeremiah God says: "As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand" (Jer.18:6)   Indeed, God is so gentle with us. Then the potter puts the clay on his wheel and fashions his work.  There is a great unity of heart between the potter and his work. That is the heart of God between God and us his children - he loves us. A potter makes various works - a cup (some with handles, some without), a vase, a plate, a jug. Some he glazes, some he does not. God made us all different. Let us accept that difference and do not compare ourselves to another. "We are all the work of His hand." A potter takes pride in his work. He says to himself: "I made this myself, I am proud of it and I like it." God the Potter says that about each of us. God likes us - isn't that a comforting thought?!
Pottery is of its nature fragile. The potter knows this. God knows we are fragile, so easily broken - He accepts our frailty and loves us not in spite of that weakness but because of it. "The Lord is kind to us because he knows the clay of which we are made" Ps103:14.
On this first Sunday of Advent let us look at one of the most fundamental issues in the life of every person - an issue which influences our ordinary everyday life and the way we live.  That fundamental issue is: What is our image of God? Pray over the image of God as a gentle potter and let us put ourselves in his hands as pliable clay.