Monday, 27 February 2017

Pope Francis' message for Lent 2017

The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God "with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift

The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means "God helps”. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us

The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called "a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: "He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).

The Apostle Paul tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: "No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift

The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that "we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls "father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: "During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: "They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: "If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in is word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2016

Feast of Saint Luc the Evangelist

FRANCIS

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

THE ONE AND THE ONLY POGORO CULTURE


It was an honour to the Tanzanians having the privilege to present and share more concerning one of the cultures in the motherland, Tanzania in the cultural evening. Happiness and joy was vivid on every members’ face in the community, some hours before the event commenced. We all enjoyed listening to our two brothers, Evodius Lihiru and Aloyce Libongi, who shared about the Pogoro Culture. Historical background and culture teachings about Pogoro People were well narrated and I can bear witness, it was fabulous.

Here is a short history about the Tanzania, the country and the Pogoro culture.

Tanzania is a rich country which has many natural resources like Gold, Tanzanite, Diamond, Iron Ore, and other minerals. It has also got tourist attractions such as the Norongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Mikumi National Park, as well as Zanzibar Island. The natural resources enable the country to earn a lot of money to run the government programs.

Tanzania is estimated to have more than forty million people and more than one hundred and twenty tribes within the country. This is according to a census in 2012. All these people have their cultural practices and beliefs. Some are similar and others are not, but for this day, we had the Pogoro culture.

It is one of the famous tribes in Tanzania and is approximated to have more than six hundred thousand people which is approximately two percent of the population. Among these people, about five hundred thousand live in their original place (Ulanga District) and more than one hundred thousand live in town centers and few outside Tanzania. 

Pogoro are originally from Ulanga District in Morogoro region, southern part of Tanzania. The cultural practices like respect for elders, being hardworking, agriculture and circumcision have been so much appreciated by other tribes, even the government. 

Agriculture is the major means of production for Pogoro People. The main food is rice, posho (ugali), fish and beans. We do both small and large scale farming and also depend on natural vegetation because the land is very fertile, and with this we are able to get food throughout the year. The existence of a brotherhood spirit facilitates unity among people, and members always work as a team even in hard times.

We were also privileged to have a clip concerning the Pogoro traditional dance, sangura, was the most enjoyable part of that evening. It was really fun, superb and very interesting, especially the dancing styles. I am not incensing the event but the truth remains that, we really enjoyed it. It was a moment of reimbursement of the aliveness always present in the community

On the same evening, as Lavigerie fraternity, we were blessed by the presence of Fr. Charles Obanya, the East African Province Provincial.
Evodius Lihiru.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

THREE KEYS TO SPIRITUAL SUCCESS

Majority of us, if not all of us wish to attain success in life. However, since success is a journey which calls for renewal of commitments and calls daily for perseverance. Spiritual success is not different from the daily life success. It is characterized by various obstacles which hinder us from attaining our goals. Nevertheless, there are three fundamental keys which can open the door of spiritual success.    

The first key is to be in touch with the word of God “The Scripture”. The Gospel of John enlightens us about the Word, he says “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. When we read and meditate the scriptures we get in touch with God and thus, give us a better understanding of God.

The second key is prayer. A sincere prayer is productive. Our lives are fragile and can only be successful if they are held with prayer. It may seem risk and boring believing in Christ but the fruits are enjoyable. The amour against trials is prayer as it can be evident in the scriptures with Jesus. Before even making day-to-day decisions we need to prayer over them.

The third key is spiritual support. Spiritual accompaniment is very profound if we want to the spiritual success. It can be instrumental in our spiritual and human growth. Sharing our worries and fears is always a path of inner healing. This sharing is only possible when we have someone closer to us and whom we journey along with towards holiness together. The spiritual companion can help us in prayer in various situations which ourselves cannot make it by ourselves.

These three keys need to held firm by someone who wants to go far and grow in his/her relationship with God. Personally these three keys have been helpful to me and still on my journey to grasp them. The same keys can help the world today in situations where it goes astray.


Urbanus O.K Mutuku

BE UNITED

The 27th of January is the day we started our monthly recollection this time with Br. Joseph M.Afr. The theme of the recollection was based on culture and reconciliation. It is true that we are in a multi-cultural community with different personalities. This affects the way we relate and the way we perceive certain things and this brings diversity in our community. ‘By our charism,’ brother said in reference to the 1998 chapter ‘we are invited to be viable towards one another.’

We must try to adopt and must resist to vitalize our own thoughts against others. That calls us to move beyond ourselves and calls our personal examination in the community. Questions like how do I encourage the spirit of brotherhood in this community? In which way do I feel or not feel respected? What are my feelings when a conferee has different manners? help in the personal evaluation and help to promote unity. He also encouraged us to respect one another as an aspect of community life.

The recollection ended with a reflection on symbols we felt related to our personality in the community. These were to help us know one another and so live united.


John Agaba

Moral Conduct as the Ministers of God

Our moral contact is a profound way of manifesting the will of God. The grace of God gives us power to proclaim the Good News to the entire world. The will of God is in us by nature. You and I have decided to manifest this will by serving one another through the virtue of love. The words of St. Paul move my emotions, “a missionary is at the service of all” (Galatians 2: 1 ff). I have seen it being very fundamental to share with you brothers and sisters this beautiful writing. We are a family of God because the Son of Man shared his love to each one of us on the cross. St. Paul continues encouraging us when he says that the way parts of the body coordinate for the benefit of each other, in the same way; each one of us has an important role to play in the church. Pastoral work is a large part of this influential work in inspiring many people.

When we consider ourselves ministers of Christ, there is need to adhere to His values and life style. Let us remind one another some of moral conduct for our pastoral ministry. It is not that I know more than you but just to remind each other for the greater glory of God. We are united together, physically and emotionally, as children of God through His spirit. This concept reminds me as the ideas of a prominent African philosopher John Mbiti, who said, “I am because you are, since you are therefore I am”. This implies that we need to take care of one another. One of the early missionaries said that if the minister has saved his or her soul, he or she has also saved the souls of many. Failure to do so is contrary to the will of God. It precisely means that one cannot give what one does not have. We need to behave well in order to inspire others to adhere to what we proclaim. We should not 'preach water and then drink wine'. We are one in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

St. Augustine said, “Lord you have created us for you and our souls are restless until they rest in you”. This implies that, all that we do should reflect God’s will. You cannot tell me that our conducts do not matter. Actually, they matter a lot. Good Christian, to save souls, good humanity, and to do the will of God depends on our moral conduct.  Actually, morality can be divided into two parts: subjective and objective. These types can lead to positive or negative growth of spirituality, but it depends on the way we apply them to our real life.

Subjective moral conduct is within us. It is what we refer to as our sub-consciousness, what tells us to behave well. I strongly, remind you, how many times we have been seen misusing this kind of morality. My dear brothers and sisters, it is our duty and role to great peace and harmony in a society, by showing universal love. This will be accomplished if we have peace and harmony within our hearts first. Most of us we have created unfinished war within ourselves. If it is not handled well, it is projected to those who are near us, thus causing a lot of problems in the ministry. That is why the Church has been condemned many times with the issue of sexual abuse and misuse of church funds. We need to solve problems which are within us in order to behave well.

 The unwanted behaviors we project to the physical world can be recognized by others. It is what I called objective morality. To be ministers means to be social or outgoing and to have sense of humor. Most of us we have gone contrary to this. We cannot listen to one another anymore; we see others like objects instead of subjects. We have taken Christians as our source of income where we gain profits for our personal interest. If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, we need to follow His footsteps. We have gone against the natural moral law which states that “do good and avoid bad.” Whereas we are acting badly and avoiding to do good. Even the Gospel reminds us about the Golden rule, “do to others what you would like them to do to you”. Let us go back to our first motivations that made us to choose this kind of vocation. I think our ultimate vocation is to be human and serve humanity.

 By breaking these beautiful words, maybe they have been unsympathetic and annoying but it is the first step of changing and turning back to God’s will. It is my greater hope that these words will later be our turning point as the way Saul turned to God’s call on his way to Damascus. He said, “Now, it is not I, Paul living, but Christ living in me” and it is what I can call in layman's language Christification. For you who have read this writing, be the first one to be a positive turn, to be the light of the world and your name will be remembered as the way we are remembering the saints of the church. Know that hope is one thing and change is another thing but working for the same goal.



 Collins Imbusi