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).

31 December 2016

Here I am Lord

Amidst the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life, the word of God is the solid rock upon which we can build our future.

How then should we respond to God’s word? Mary is our perfect model in this respect. When she received the message from God, Mary answered the angel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary believed and submitted herself to the command and promise of God. ‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ she declared. In other words, I recognise your authority over me and my duty to obey you; I am ready and willing to do whatever you tell me.

Mary did not object to the danger of spoiling her marriage or ruining her reputation. All fears were calmed by her solid belief in God’s wisdom and goodness. Moreover, she was convinced that God would fulfil his promise even though she did not understand how she could conceive a child without knowing a man. It was enough for Mary to trust in the power of Almighty God.

Finally Mary expressed her desire and longing to receive God’s promise. She prayed, ‘Let it be according to your word.’ That was her ‘amen’ to the promise of God. Her hope for the future was based on the faithfulness of God: the Lord will certainly perform what he has promised.

May we also adopt a humble and reverent attitude. When we hear God’s word, let us set aside every doubt and objection, and embrace it with all our heart. God will certainly keep his promises and bless us beyond our imagination in our faith and obedience.

(Gospel e-Letter - January 2017).