25 May 2017

It is Finished

Moments before his death, Jesus said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). What is the meaning of this word? It is not merely a statement that his life had come to its end. Having fulfilled the mission entrusted to him by the Father, Jesus declares, ‘It is finished’ – it is done, it is complete, the purpose for which I came to the world has been fulfilled!

That is why the Scripture says that Christ “had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12). He ‘had offered’ - it is already done; ‘for all time’ – it applies to people in all generations, including our own; ‘a single sacrifice’ – he does not need to repeat what is finished and complete.

On the basis of this one perfect sacrifice, God reassures his people, ‘“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Hebrews 10:17). God keeps his promises; his people are forever forgiven.

What then shall we say? Is there a need for more offerings for sin? Do I need to do penance, renew the sacrifice of Christ, or suffer in purgatory to be cleansed from sin? The Bible answers is definitive: “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb 10:18). No more offerings are needed and no other offerings will be accepted by God because the perfect sacrifice of Christ is both sufficient and effective.

It is finished – do you believe this word of Christ? Are you trusting in him and his finished sacrifice alone for the full forgiveness of your sins?

Lord, open our ears to hear an echo of your triumphant word. You have fulfilled the Father’s will to your very last breath. By your perfect obedience, even unto death on a cross, you have accomplished our redemption. Grant us faith God, that for our forgiveness, we cease to rely in the least in our works, but entrust ourselves to Christ and his finished work on the cross.

30 April 2017

Christian love for Muslims

In a video message broadcasted before his recent visit to Egypt, Pope Francis said that he hoped that his visit will be “a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world.”

Abraham had two children, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac is the father of the Israelites. Islamic traditions consider Ishmael to be the ancestor of Arab people. But is there any spiritual advantage of being a descendant of Abraham? 

John the Baptist rebuked his hearers, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Mt 3:9). Being a descendant of Abraham will not get you an inch closer to heaven.

Who then are the real children of Abraham? The Apostle Paul states that it is “those of faith who are the sons of Abraham … those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7-9).

He explains further that no-one is justified by the works of the law; indeed the law curses us because of our disobedience. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, redeems those who believe in him from that curse by his death on the cross (Please read Galatians 3 and 4:4-5).

Sadly Islam denies the cardinal truths of our precious faith. Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Most Muslims even deny that he died on the cross, let alone understand the redemptive significance of his death.

When the Pope calls Arab Muslims “children of Abraham” he is speaking as a diplomatic politician but not as a herald of the gospel. I grieve for the millions of Muslims who need to hear the good news more than the air that they breath.

We Christians must reach out to them in love. Dear Muslims please listen to the Bible’s message: Jesus is the Son of God. Believe in him. You too can be justified through faith in him and become children of Abraham and heirs of the promises of God.

30 March 2017

God’s Pulpit

The cross is God’s pulpit. From Calvary the Lord God speaks loudly and clearly to all humanity.

By the cross God warns us about the seriousness of sin. Its consequences are appalling and fatal. If God did not spare his Beloved Son, most certainly no sinner will escape his wrath and condemnation on the day of judgement. Let us not mistake the clear warning of the cross: the wages of sin is death.

By the cross God announces his love and mercy to sinners. He who died on the cross was sent by God himself to make amends on behalf of sinners, to die as their substitute. Jesus had no personal sin whatsoever. On Calvary he took upon himself the sins of his people, and suffered and died to deliver them from the penalty that was due to them.

By the cross God proclaims his good news to the world. Christ is no longer hanging on the cross. On the third day Jesus arose from the grave. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. The cross has become the way of reconciliation and forgiveness to all people. Christ is alive and exalted to the highest heaven. He is able to save completely all those who come to God by faith in him.

My friend, hear God’s warning and take heed. Welcome his invitation and trust your salvation to Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. Then hear from God’s pulpit the sweet declaration, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

4 March 2017

Satisfaction for sin

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are three major forms of penance in the Catholic religion (Catechism 1434).

But what is penance? The Catechism explains that, "raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin; he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance'" (Catechism 1459).

Penance is a matter of justice. It is a punishment for sin. "[Satisfaction] is meant not merely as a safeguard for the new life and as a remedy to weakness, but also as a vindicatory punishment for former sins" (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 8). In a word, the Roman Catholic religion prescribes prayer, fasting and almsgiving as means to ‘made satisfaction’ and a ‘punishment’ for sins.

I am deeply troubled by such teaching. It twists the very purpose for doing good works; it also misleads people from the way of salvation.

The Bible declares that Jesus "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Since Christ’s offering on the cross perfects his people and God forgives their sins, any human attempt to offer something more is both superfluous and offensive to the blood of Christ. "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:14-18). Friend, if you are burdened by guilt, stop attempting to make satisfaction by your efforts. Go to Calvary. There is the one and only offering for sins that God accepts. Jesus is the full and complete satisfaction for the sins of his people.

As Christians we fast and pray to humble ourselves before God and to seek his face, but we wouldn't dream of relying on these works to make satisfaction for our sins. We also give alms to help the poor and needy, but we do not consider this privilege as a punishment! We joyfully give charity because God gave us the greatest Gift of all! God gave us his Son to die in our place that we may be freed from all our sins.

Which way will you go? Will you attempt to make satisfaction for your sins by prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Or will you look to Christ and say, He took my punishment; he made full satisfaction for all my sins!

(Gospel e-Letter - March 2017).

29 January 2017

Mary, a testimony to God’s mercy

Why is it that some people prefer to pray to Mary and the Saints in heaven rather than to God the Father? Maybe they imagine God to be distant, indifferent or even hard-hearted?

Mary shatters this grotesque and idolatrous image of God. She joyfully declares that “his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). God is merciful. His mercy reaches even to us today.

Mary tells us that God exalts the humble. They fear God because they know that they are unworthy and that he is just and holy. 

Even so, they take courage and approach the throne of grace. They humbly come to him with reverence and awe. Their confidence is based on the conviction that God is merciful. God has never turned away anyone who pleaded for his mercy.

Mary is a witness to God’s goodness. She testifies that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. She herself carried him in her womb, gave birth and took care of him as a child. Mary also testifies that Jesus suffered and died, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God. She was present under the cross seeing her Son offering his life as a ransom for many.

If you ever had any doubt about God’s goodness and love, look to the cross of Jesus. It was God the Father who sent and offered him for our salvation. Jesus is the measure of God’s mercy! Let us therefore take heart and approach God the Father with reverence and faith. He will embrace us in his mercy if we come to him through his Son.

(Gospel e-Letter - February 2017).