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Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Deep Down Thirst

In Many Places, Africa Does Not Have Clean Water;
And Sometimes There is Nothing to Drink at All

by Susan Fox 

Imagine you are incredibly thirsty and someone offers you a glass of water. 

But you can visually see organisms moving up and down in the water, which is brown in colour. 

“But since you are thirsty you could only close your eyes and drink.” Those are the words of Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH,  who drank that water while serving in Awasi, Kisumu, Kenya. 

His first appointment as a young priest  after his ordination on June 7, 2014 was to this incredibly large parish, St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya, consisting of 7,000 families, 21 mission churches, 30 primary schools and 11 secondary schools. Father is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993.

Not only did he deal with traveling a vast territory in the Western part of Kenya initially without a car, but he also had to learn a new language and deal with a new culture. “In Kenya we have 43 different languages and my mother tongue is Kikuyu. But  where I was sent,  they speak Luo,” Father Joe said.  

“But the main challenge which still remains is accessibility to clean drinking water. People would walk for miles to get water from rivers
Hauling water over great distances in Kenya
and dams which was not clean, so there were a number of diseases associated with dirty water and I feared for my life.”

In Awasi, they built  more reservoir tanks and supplied water filters through Water With Blessings, Middletown, Kentucky.

Where I come from, my birth village, we still face the same challenge of accessing clean drinking water but unlike my former parish, we do not have any river flowing or any lake near by. The only way to access this water is to drill a borehole which is extremely expensive to do,” Fr. Joe explained. 

Fr. Joe’s birthplace is in Central Kenya —  Gatura,Thigio in Kiambu County, about  25 miles from Nairobi and 250 miles from Awasi. Groundwater is the only available source of
water in Thigio. Currently, it rises to the
Water collection in Gatura,Thigio, future site of borehole 
surface during certain months of the year and can be scooped out, but during the dry season, the people don’t have water to drink. Their health suffers. And some die.  

Fr. Joe hopes to raise $25,000 for a borehole that will drill down to the groundwater on his grandfather’s land. Then he will need to install the electricity, buy a water pump, build a water tower, and  lay underground pipes, etc. He estimates the total cost of the water project will be $50,000 when completed. 

The borehole will provide clean water to 2000 families, a primary school and a secondary school in the Thigio neighbourhood. Fr. Joe
Lucy Nungari Mungai
has already paid for a geological report that shows the feasibility of the project. The borehole will be drilled in honour of his mother Lucy Nungari Mungai, who died last December.

Fr. Joe is now fulfilling his new assignment from the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope as a hospital chaplain in Long Island, New York. He has been a regular contributor to this blog since September 2016, and his sermons are universally enjoyed by our readers. 
Fr. Joe behind the gravestone of his grandfather Njoroge Mungai.
The borehole will be drilled on his grandfather's land
If you would like to donate to the bore hole, Fr Mungai has set up a Go Fund Me Page.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Though Others May Fleece Us, The Lord is my Shepherd

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2018
Hospital Chaplaincy, Long Island, New York

The pastor of a rich suburban parish was speaking to the children at Sunday school. He told them that as the pastor he was like a shepherd and the members of his congregation were the sheep. He then put this question to them: “What does the shepherd do for the sheep?” A little fellow in the front row raised his hands and answered, “He fleeces them.” 

True enough, shepherds go into the business for the purpose of fleecing, milking and feeding on the sheep. But when the Bible speaks of the leaders of God’s people as
shepherds, it envisions leaders who feed, protect and feel with the people as a good shepherd does for his flock.

The title “shepherd” in the Hebrew Bible refers primarily to God who shepherds His people. This is brought out in Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd.” Here God is portrayed as a faithful and good shepherd who leads the flock into well-being and abundance ("green pastures") and keeps them safe from every danger (“valley of darkness”) such that they want for nothing and fear no evil even as they are surrounded by their foes (wolves and lions). 

Kings, as God’s anointed deputies, were also referred to as shepherds. But some of them only got the title and not the qualities of a shepherd. Instead of feeding the sheep entrusted to their care they fed on them. 
God raised up prophets like Ezekiel to denounce such shepherds: "Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them." (Ezekiel 34:2-6)

Who says the Bible is out of touch with modern reality? Does this not sound like a description of Christ’s flock today? Don’t we still have career pastors and evangelists who

are more interested in their own comfort than in the spiritual advancement of their congregations? Don’t we have white-collar ministers who would pontificate in their offices or churches and never take a step to reach out to the weak, the sick, the strayed? Don’t we still have church authorities who “rule” with force and harshness? Are the people of God not scattered over the mountains and hills in search of spiritual nourishment?

On account of the infidelity of the shepherds to their divine calling, God made this promise to his people that He Himself was going to be their shepherd, their good shepherd (Ezekiel 34:15-16). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus who declared himself to be the Good Shepherd who has come
“that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). 

He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his own life to protect His flock. In those days, shepherds guarding their flock by night would
gather their flocks into an enclosure and sleep literally by lying across the entrance so that before a wild beast would attack the sheep it would have to attack them first.

Before Jesus left the world, He commissioned Peter to feed His lambs and tend His sheep (John 21:15-16). The work of shepherding God’s flocks is an ongoing task that is entrusted to the whole church with Peter as head. 

Since today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we need to ask ourselves two important questions. (1) Am I a faithful member of God’s flock? Only those sheep who follow the guidance of the shepherd could ever hope to arrive at the green pastures or be safe from the ravenous wolves. (2) How could I participate more closely in the work of shepherding God’s flock? Bishops and pastors, as well as Sunday school teachers and ushers – all participate in various forms of shepherding God’s flock. How can I be a better shepherd in my own state, reaching out with understanding and compassion to the weak and misguided dropouts of church and society, so that through me they may hear the loving voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd? 

Fr. Joe is asking us to asking us to donate to Water With Blessings for clean water in poor rural communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America & the U.S.A.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Raised From the Dead!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
3rd Week of Easter, April 15, 2018
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

What a joy it is for us Catholics to celebrate
Jesus pulling Adam & Eve from the Grave
after His Resurrection
this Easter season of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead! What a grace it is that we are called to be resurrected people! 

Today’s readings call us to reflect on the new life we are given through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

In today’s first reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), Peter boldly proclaims to the people that Jesus is the One who fulfills all biblical revelation in that
“the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus whom God has raised from the dead.”

Peter wastes no time proclaiming what to do with the revelation of our resurrected Lord! He says, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away." This theme of repentance is the message of today’s other readings as well. In today’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48), Our Lord appears to His disciples after He had risen from the dead. He proclaims that He is the One who fulfills the words of the prophets of old that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day; and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

My brothers and sisters, today’s message of
Fr. John Paul Shea
conversion and repentance proclaimed after the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the essential message of our faith. This is why Jesus suffered and died. He died so that we would repent and be forgiven of our sins so that we could have eternal life!

Today’s second reading (John 2:1-5a) teaches us that Jesus is the expiation for our sins,
“and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world...” John encourages us to keep Our Lord’s commandments. He says, “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.” For “whoever keeps [God’s] word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.” It is only by keeping God’s commandments that we live in Truth. John says in the beginning of today’s reading that he wrote these so that we may not commit sin. John understood as did the other early disiples of Our Lord that the goal of our Christian life is to be reconciled with God and strive to sin no more!

In today’s Gospel, as we hear of the appearance of Our Risen Lord, we hear that the disciples thought they were seeing a
ghost. Our Lord shows them that He is not a ghost. He shows them His hands and side -- that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as He does. Our Lord eats with His disciples.
In doing this, He convinces them that it was the same living body which they had seen, touched, and felt, yet it was at the same time a body that was glorified. In His resurrection, Jesus has given us a preview of the resurrected life that all faithful Catholics are called to share. Each one of us has been given a body and a spirit. We have been born into this world in the flesh but our spirit lives inside us. Our bodies and our spirit are
intimately connected. This intimacy of our body and souls is not only of this world we live today, but this intimacy is eternal. After our lives in this world and our bodies die we will be given a new body. Yet, where our bodies and souls will go for eternity depends on how we have lived the message of conversion and repentance that Our Lord has come to give.

This Easter our Church has celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism for the initiation of new Christians into our Church. (And today at Mass we will celebrate some baptisms).
These new Christians and each one of us are baptized into the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In baptism, we become one body and one spirit in the Church of God which will come to its perfection at the end of time.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us make every effort to allow God to transform our hearts so that we can be found worthy to live in the new world that is to come. Let us persevere in the salvation that has been won through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ so that we may be found worthy to attain eternal life. For, this world of sin and death is passing away and a new world is coming into light. What is not of God’s Kingdom will be thrown into fire and burned. But what is holy, pure, True, and righteous will be raised up in glory in the Kingdom of God.

May God bless each one of us and keep us faithful until the end. Amen.