FREEDOM OF RELIGION
July 4, 2020
"So, if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed" (Jn. 8: 36) As Catholics and members of the Charismatic Renewal in San Francisco, we are living in one of the most trying and challenging time of our Christian life. The recent happening of Covid-19 pandemic and the racial injustice which had resulted in lockdown of churches and protest respectively, may have caused many of us to ask where is our faith or how free are we to practice our Christian faith without external influence? Well it is in moments like this it become obvious that we need Jesus more than ever.
Jesus came into this world to set us free from the various captivity we were held. His death on the cross was meant for our freedom but how free are we today in our world? How free are we in our relationship with one another without the being judged by our skin color? How free are we in our practice of our religion with secular influence or people tearing down historic Statues of Saints? The recent happening in our world and society has made it obvious that even when Jesus has set us free, some like Pharaoh of Egypt has refuse to let us go. As we celebrate July 4th this year let us reflect on the theme of freedom or Freedom of Religion.
In the course of over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has developed a significant body of teaching on the relationship between Church and state, and religious freedom. In Dignitatis humanae, the Church teaches that religious freedom is the cornerstone of a society that promotes human dignity; it is a fundamental human right, which follows on the duty of all people to seek the truth about God. In recent time there have been great external force on the Church, restricting her members from worship. Statues of Saints have been turned down in protest and nothing is said of this.
It is important to know that the Catholic Church is at the forefront today in advocating and fighting for these indispensable supports of our nation and its freedom. We stand up for the freedom not only to worship, but also to live our faith without government coercion to violate the sacred sanctuary of our conscience. Pope Francis says: "Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth."
Sadly, in today's cultural climate, speaking and defending the truth about freedom of Religion often results in unjust and false charges of bigotry. We can expect claims of discrimination for upholding what for millennia has been considered a self-evident truth of Freedom.
Jesus teaches us to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Presently, we seek to have the freedom to do so. This is part of our human dignity - not only to be free to worship God, but free to serve Him and others through our schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, charities, and other institutions and to do so without compromising our faith and moral convictions.
There are many in our society who disagree with the teachings of the Catholic Church on various issues. They have the right to disagree. But it is quite another matter to deny to us the right to live our faith and to conduct our lives, ministries, and works in accord with the Church's teachings. And rather than engaging in civil and respectful debate, critics and opponents of the Church will sometimes resort to attacks that reveal the persistent anti-Catholic prejudice that for some reason is still deemed acceptable in our culture.
On this July 4th, as we pray for the protection of religious freedom in our nation, let us also remember in prayer the millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are persecuted and suffer injustices because of their faith. Not only are so many denied the right to live their faith or the right to worship, so many Christians and other minorities, innocent individuals and communities, are subjected to barbaric acts of violence, evicted from their homes and native lands, or sold as slaves.
Some are killed, beheaded, crucified, or burned alive. It is a great sacrilege that this evil is being done in the name of God. We are living in a new age of Christian martyrdom. May these present-day martyrs inspire us by their faith and courage! Their suffering and death were not in vain: their lives bear eloquent witness to the love of Jesus Christ.
May God who gave us life and liberty, bless us, our nation, and the world with renewed determination to protect these cherished gifts!
- Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem
FEAST OF ST THOMAS THE APOSTLE
Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem's Homily
Today we gather virtually again to celebrate this month's first Friday healing mass on the feast of St Thomas the Apostle. What a unique and special feast day to pray for the healing of our world, country, society and our brothers and sisters who are sick, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
God calls us. When we hear it, we answer in faith and begin to experience an authentic missionary journey. At times, many of us doubt; both the call itself and the path laid before us. As Thomas did, we find ourselves longing for proof. Moments of courage are interrupted by moments of fear.
Doubt can give way to fear, but faith gives way to action. Once the Apostle Thomas sets aside his doubt and embraces Jesus after the Resurrection, he is emboldened to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Likewise, we are emboldened by Christ's presence in word and sacrament and can allow faith to overcome fear and doubt.
We know little about this great Apostles Thomas. The much we know comes mainly from the gospel of John. The gospel of John talked about Thomas in four different occasions:
In Jn. 11 :16 On the receiving the message from the two sisters of Lazarus, Jesus decided to go back to Jerusalem, his disciples warn him against it but Thomas showed his courage when he said: "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
At the last supper, in Jn 14: 15, we find Thomas showing himself as someone slow to understand when he asked Jesus "Lord we do not know where you are going: so how can we know the way?" Jesus used this occasion to utter one of the most profound statements from his lips: "I am the way, the Truth and the life." (Jn. 14: 16)
In Jn. 21: 1-23, Thomas was also mentioned as one of the seven disciples present when Jesus appeared at the shore of the lake of Galilee. Thomas at this time had learnt his lesson that the best way to come closer to Jesus was to be with the rest of the Apostles.
The gospel reading of today gives us the other passage Thomas was mentioned in the gospel of John. It was the encounter he had with Jesus after his resurrection. For a reason we do not know Thomas was not with the rest of the Apostles when Jesus appeared to them in the evening of the day of resurrection.
When Thomas was told of the Lord's appearance, he doubted and said: unless I see…, unless I put my finger…, unless I put my hand… Thomas was not only laying down his condition to believe. He was more of saying to the other apostles that what they saw was not real but a product of their imagination.
Only Jesus can come to the rescue of Thomas, so when Jesus appeared again, Thomas was with them and he addressed him: Come put your finger … doubt no longer but believe. Did Thomas touch? The gospel did not tell us that, but I don't think he did, because his confession of faith was profound: "My Lord and my God." We would need volumes to express and explain the deep meaning contained in these words of Thomas. There are words of faith and total surrender to Jesus.
As we Celebrate St. Thomas today, we gather to celebrate our faith in total surrender to Jesus who is the healer and great restorer. We need to come and approach him in faith, no matter how far we are from our home viewing and praying with us at this mass. Your faith and total surrender to Jesus is what you need.
Faith in Jesus Christ brings us great treasures. Faith in Jesus Christ turned us from slaves of the devil into God's Children. Faith in Jesus Christ made us temples of God. Thomas faith grew day by day, so should our faith till Christ becomes our Lord and our God forever in heaven.
So, let us pray for an increase in faith for all of us especially during this trying time of Covid-19 pandemic and issues of racial injustice in our society. That God will give us the grace to surrender all to him for he holds the Key to our healing, restoration, breakthrough, peace, joy and happiness. May God bless us all in Jesus' name. Amen!!!
You can also watch directly from our Facebook page Facebook.com/SFSpiritOnline
Note: You don't need a Facebook Account to View.
The Holy Spirit Conference is Cancelled.
But save the date!
We are planning on having a teaching day on September 19th.
Check back here for more info
MESSAGE OF HOPE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC THAT IS UPON US
I write this message of hope to you brothers and sisters in the Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The Covid-19 Pandemic that has resulted in the death of many in our world has indeed affected and impacted everyone directly or indirectly. In moments like this our faith, hope and trust in Christ could be put to test. Many people may be wondering and are tempted to ask, "God why this pandemic?" It is not really a time to ask the "why" questions but the "what" should we do?
As priests, we are aware of the sadness, fear and frustration of many of you in the renewal as a result of this situation. Many of you have told me how you fear that the Covid-19 has impacted the foundation and core of your Catholic belief, making it impossible for you to attend your weekly prayer meetings and daily masses. Families may have been turned apart, lives lost, and the future can be changed forever when a friend, relative, loved one, fellow renewal member, or even a complete stranger is lost as a result of this situation. The question we should me concern now will be: "What can we do about it?"
We can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope. Our Christian faith compels us to choose hope. As St. Paul says, "Hope does not disappoint." Ultimately, hope gives us the strength to choose life over death and to work for that day when this pandemic is behind us. The Church, that is, the people who believe in the power and love of Jesus Christ - you and I - are called by God to give both hope and life. We must not be afraid to offer the healing power of prayer and the support of our community of faith as we confront this challenging evil of our time and place.
In moments like this, let us adhere to all the precaution that have been given to us to stay safe and join our individual and collective prayer for the healing of our world and an end to this pandemic. Even when we can't attend public masses, opportunities are there to participate in mass stream online. Let us see a positive side to this situation as the Holy Father suggest, that families should see their time together as a way to bind the family together in love.
In another occasion, while praying the Pope said: "I am thinking of the families under lockdown, children who aren't going to school, parents who cannot leave the house, some who are in quarantine,"… "May the Lord help them discover new ways, new expressions of love, of living together in this new situation,". In addition, he said: "It is a wonderful occasion for rediscovering true affection with creativity in the family. Let us pray for families so that relationships in the family at this time always thrive for the good."
In this challenging time therefore, let the words of St. Teresa of Avila be a source of encouragement for us "Let nothing disturb you, nothing frightens you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient." God alone indeed sufficient. we will overcome.
Let me conclude with this act of Hope is widely attributed to St. Augustine. Let us turn to it, that we might grow in hope for the only thing we truly need: For your mercies' sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: "I am your salvation." So, speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: "I am your salvation." After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, lest I die with longing to see it. The house of my soul is too small to receive you; let it be enlarged by you. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are things in it - I confess, and I know - that must offend your sight. But who shall cleanse it? Or to what others besides you shall I cry out? From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare your servant. Amen.
God bless you and your family.
Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
Parochial Vicar, St. Paul of the Shipwreck
San Francisco, CA
First Friday Mass and healing service -
March 6, 2020 at St Patrick Church in San Francisco
with the main celebrant Fr. Linh Nguyen.
As a lay organization, the mission of the Charismatic Renewal is:
- To help all people come to know the love of God in their lives as demonstrated through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
- To help our brothers and sisters respond to God's love by loving God in return through a commitment to serve Christ and His Church.
- To assist them to listen and follow the movement of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.
- To help our brothers and sisters recognize the ministry that God has called them to, and accept the gifts that God desires to bestow upon them for His work in our Church and in our world.
- To lead them to a New Life offered to us by the Holy Spirit.