Are you narrow-minded?

Narrow-minded people are by definition ‘not willing to accept ideas or ways of behaving that are different from their own.’ Well, in that case, I declare I am narrow-minded and every Christian ought to be. After all, why should I accept ideas and ways of behaving that go against the very commandments of God even if the whole world chooses to follow them?

Those who choose to love the Lord and are intolerant of sin (not the sinner) are often labelled, boxed and relegated to the back rooms of public debate as being narrow-minded; while sin is sanctioned as open-minded and desirable.

Quite recently I reached out to two friends, one married and one a happy bachelor. Both have been very actively working out to what can only be described as perfectly chiseled bodies. I presume that the goal of working out is to stay in shape, remain healthy and inspire others to stay healthy too. Up to this point in my life I thought of myself as ‘open-minded’ but of late I have been meditating on the path to holiness. Images such as this would have been for me something that should be perfectly acceptable and ‘open-minded’. Yet when you begin to meditate on God’s words and his will, you begin to see things differently.

I wrote to both my friends and I must say right away that they were kind and even respectful of my ‘narrow-mindedness.’ I made a case that a married man’s body belongs to him and his wife. While it has become an acceptable way of life to dandy one’s body half naked (even in Church) the scriptures tell us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) Even more, such images could and may be the cause of leading others to lust and sin. What if the body of this married man now became the envy of another woman or man?

Simply accepting what society has been dumping on us in the guise of open-mindedness has led to a downfall of the way we present ourselves even in the Church. The prophets never tired of condemning sin. Christ did not come to make us a happy-clappy society but to save us from sin. If that be so, then why is the condemnation of sin (again not the sinner) in any and every form been met with silence from the pulpit? Why do our Bishops and priests not feel the need to reiterate, even a thousand times the need for an appropriate dress code in Church? If the Vatican won’t let an inappropriately dressed person into St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, then why do we at a local level allow such behaviour as acceptable?

Jesus made a case for that road less taken; the road that has been called narrow-minded by the world. He spoke of the narrow gate in Matthew 7:13-14. He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Today, I want to pay tribute to the many clergy and especially the religious nuns who in our institutions enforced a strict moral life even though they were and are still flippantly dismissed as ‘narrow-minded’. I thank them for fighting a battle for heaven and encourage you to petition your Bishops, priests and religious to stop the desecration of Churches by the disrespect that such ‘broad-mindedness’ has led us to.

Fr Warner D’souza

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Why has God not heard your prayer?
Isaiah 43:19 is one of the many promises of God to us and our faith has shown us that God always keeps his promises. In Isaiah 43:19 he promises us, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” To the modern mind, this sounds farfetched if not ridiculous. Many unbelievers would scoff at God’s word and Catholic believers too may barely whimper a Hallelujah in response to this promise of God.
As a Christian and as a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, you must ask yourself if you believe the promise of Isaiah 43:19. As I said earlier, we know that God always keeps his promise and even though Isaiah 43:19 is a tall order, God has committed himself to make NEW things in our life, to MAKE A WAY IN THE WILDERNESS and to create a RIVER IN THE DESERT.
So, do you believe that God can create a way for you even when you see none? Are you prepared to walk that path trusting God’s guidance rather than your understanding? God understands our hesitancy to cling to his promise. In the very text of Isaiah 43:19, he acknowledges our hesitancy when he says, “Do you not perceive it?” So how do we proceed with his word which promises to deliver the seemingly impossible?
As we read God’s promise in Isaiah 43:19, the prophet reminds us that even in our moments of despair and confusion God is at work creating new paths and new opportunities where there seems to be none. Remember that God promised you ‘a way’. Yet, the focus is not on the way or the path but on the one who can make it possible for us. God is the ‘way-maker.’ He makes our way where there seems to be no way. We know that in the desert there is no way. The sand keeps shifting and there is no path to follow. It is for this reason that we should seek his voice in the desert not look for a path or way. He guides us, he instructs us. When you know you are lost, focus on the way-maker, not on the way! Your job is to fix your eye or Jesus, he promises to make that way for you.
When you focus on the way maker, on God he will begin to turn your obstacles into opportunities. Notice that the obstacles do not disappear. As Christians we want God to take away our obstacles and our problems. God does not take it away but he turns it around. He transforms our obstacles into opportunities. But He desires even more for us; it is He who turns our despair into hope and our trials into testimonies and not just any testimony but testimonies of triumph. But you need to TRUST that God has already gone ahead of you in the wilderness to make that path, to make crooked places straight and rough places smooth.
Yet even the greatest believer may have had that moment when the voice of the Lord in the wilderness is not heard, his path is not seen and the land seems arid and dry. His promise may seem distant and the timing seems delayed if not distant. I want you to consider that God’s timing is flawless. Let us ponder on this by looking at the narrative of Lazarus.
The narrative of Lazarus is not just a narrative of resuscitation but a profound lesson about God’s impeccable timing. (Lazarus, at this time in the narrative, was brought back to life, not resurrected and the narrative should rightly be called a narrative of resuscitation.) The Bible tells us that when Lazarus got sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus. Instead of rushing to help them, Jesus intentionally delayed (and this is very evident in the Bible) his eventual arrival. In the miracle that followed, Jesus proved his words when in John 11:43. He shouted out. “Lazarus come forth” and indeed Lazarus came back to life (resuscitated and then of course would die eventually to be resurrected)
So why does God delay when our prayer ought to be ‘on demand.’ Did he not say ask and you shall receive? What I say to you now is not to console you but to convince you. We have grown to accept that our life is often a series of waiting rooms. We wait for jobs, for doctors, for relationships, for healing and whatnot. Often in these ‘waiting rooms’ we become anxious. We wonder if God has heard our prayers.
Remember that HIS timing is DIVINE. Even when we feel forgotten, we are not, because God knows exactly what he is doing. God’s timing is designed for his glory and not ours. He has said this when he worked miracles that these miracles were so that God may be glorified. His timing does not always align with our timing. It is not aligned with our distress, desires or impatience. Yet his timing is always perfect.
You may be in a hurry to have God hear your prayer but God may not be in a hurry because he sees the bigger picture. He knows the end from the beginning. If you are in a period of waiting right now, wondering why God seems slow to act, remember that God’s delays are not his denials and listen to this carefully…. just like with Lazarus, he might be setting the stage for a greater miracle in your life. Are you ready for it?
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Why Church Ministry Fails – Reflection of Luke 9:1-6
There is a deliberate action on the part of Jesus when he “calls the twelve.” Jesus chose children of the earth to be active participants in his mission. Did Christ need us to go out on mission? Certainly not! But yet he does so. He who was capable of walking on water and raising the dead could certainly be a one-man show when it came to evangelization. Yet by his very action of calling the twelve, he taught us about collaborative ministry.
Ministry is not about what I can do but about what God can do through me and even more effectively with the collaboration of others. Yet so much of ministry has become about individual persons or individual institutions all trying to win souls for Christ yet in competition with each other.
The reality of petty parish politics is but an example of our human ego that desires to win accolades and praises for oneself, setting aside the collaboration of others. Even worse are those situations when a committee is left standing on the sidelines with no work to do while a busybody does it all. Then there are institutions that are all working for Christ but refusing to work with one another.
Church committees and ministries won’t always be able to see eye to eye but they can attempt to walk hand in hand. We have to accept that we are all different and that makes collaboration even more challenging. The reason why ministry fails is not because the objects of ministry are faulty but because we don’t respect the individuality and uniqueness of others, and worse if we can’t see beyond ourselves. Often and sadly, we are the stumbling blocks to ministry and evangelization.
When Christ chose the twelve for ministry, he did not share some bit of his ministry with them. He did not give them a slice of his powers, on the contrary, scripture tells us that he gave them ‘power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases with the mandate to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal.’ Christ gave his divine powers to the twelve and by extension to us. These are holy gifts to be treated with great love and not for our personal glorification. When we use ministry for our personal glorification then the ministry that Christ shared with us is thwarted by desires of ego and selfishness; desires fueled by satan himself.
Your ministry will never consist of perfect people, it won’t consist of like-minded people or minions that bend and bow to your every wish. When Christ sent the twelve out, he knew very well that Judas who would betray him, Judas who helped himself to the common fund would possibly be a hindrance to the ministry. Yet the twelve consisted of all sorts and all kinds and we have to learn to win over even a Judas with love while we serve the ministry we have been given.
Key to serving in ministry is the ability to fight satan who deceives us with his wily ways. He makes us see the worst in others while he continues to make us magnify ourselves. If anyone should be magnified in ministry it must always be God. Our Blessed Mother did not decide to get herself a new chair to honour the role that God chose her for. She rather magnified God who chose her and then became a woman of service to her cousin Elizabeth.
If you are in ministry, say this litany of humility each day.
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I , Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
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It is high time that Catholics arm themselves.
Some Americans revel in the fact that they have the right to bear arms. As Catholics, we too need to revel in the right given to us by God to bear a weapon of spiritual warfare. I am speaking of the Holy Rosary.
Sadly, this prayer became even for me, as it may be for many of you, a prayer that had to be said each day, not one that I deeply desired to say. It must be said that when you strip yourself of the armour of God, whatever that armour may be; a scapular, the Eucharist, the prayer to your guardian angel or St Michael or the Holy Rosary, you become defenceless against the enemy who then attacks you.
Many Catholics continue to live compromised lives where sin is condoned and justified. For a Catholic, sin must be vigorously and strongly fought against every day. We do this every day because the devil is at work not just every day but every minute. To combat the evil one, we need to carry our weapon of defence; the Holy Rosary.
For a long time, I noticed a former parishioner who wore the rosary around his wrist every day. In my ‘spiritual pride,’ I chastised him for doing so for it appeared to me as a piece of jewellery. He gently asked me if I had a rosary in my pocket to which I said no. “Then Father,” he said, “how do you defend yourself from the devil when he attacks you?”
Of late, the rosary has found itself around my left wrist as a reminder to both pray the Rosary as well as remind myself that Mother Mary leads the battle for me when the devil attempts to attack me. So let me explain the role of Mary as a defender of souls against the snares of the devil by looking to the Bible. This is something that I read and made a note of in my diary.
Biblically, Mary is the Ark of the new covenant. Just as in the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant carried the rod of Aaron which was dead and came to life and the manna from the desert and the table of the law or the ten commandments. So also, in like manner, Our Lady who is the Ark of the New Covenant carried within her the Word of God that became flesh. She also carried the great High Priest who would die and come to life again (like Aaron’s rod). Finally, she carried within her, the living bread that came down from heaven (like the Manna from the desert)
What was the ark in the Old Testament? First of all, it was a privileged place of encounter with the Lord. The Lord is the Lord of the universe; he is everywhere but this is a privileged place of encounter because he is there on the mercy seat. Likewise, Our Lady is a privileged place of encounter, she brings you directly into the heart of God. Also, when Israel was at war, the Ark of the Covenant was carried in the front of the army because when the Ark was in the front of the army the battle belonged to the Lord.
Mother Mary is the woman who crushes the head of the enemy. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she leads the battle from the front. We know from exorcists how much the demons hate Mother Mary who, as we know, is not a goddess but a creature. Yet, here is a creature of the creator who destroys satan crushing him under her feet. It is humiliating for satan that a creature of God could destroy him and that is why he hates her so much.
Today, turn to the Rosary as your weapon of choice. Keep it always on your person. It does not matter if you forget your house keys and get locked out of your house. It is worse if you forget your soul and get locked out of heaven. It does not matter if you forget your wallet and are unable to purchase that which you desire greatly. It will be worse if forget your God who ransomed you with his most precious blood. It does not matter if you forget your mobile phone and are unable to text, chat, call or email. It will be worse if you forget that God through Mary gave you a hotline to her son and you never dialed into that number or even spent some time in knee-mail.
“Put on the armour of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”
– Ephesians 6:11-12
I want to dedicate this article to Fr Clarence Sequeira, my former assistant in St Stephen’s Church, Cumballa Hill, whose love for our Blessed Mother is unmatched and who celebrates his birthday today and also to Fr Cleophas Fernandes, my former rector who also celebrates his birthday today. Two holy priest and men of God. 
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Stop hiding under the bed – Monday, 25th week in ordinary time – Luke 8:16-18

Much of Christianity has become a free-for-all-all. The cherry-picking of the faith in what applies to my life and what I wish to let go must stop. Catholicism is guided by scripture and tradition (not home-baked traditions). The time has come for us to call out Catholics; both in the hierarchy of the Church and the laity for what they have done (or doing) and what they have failed to do (which has become the malaise among the bishops and clergy).

Catholicism calls for consent; one that is given freely. A married couple freely consents to enter into matrimony. A penitent freely approaches the confessional, and a cleric freely embraces the discipline of celibacy. Even though our parents may bring us as babes to be baptized we consented to be a soldier in Christ’s army when we freely affirmed our faith in God and called the Holy Spirit to be our armour when we received the sacrament of Confirmation.

If this be so, then the faith must be practised and proclaimed in its entirety and in truth.
My faith cannot be altered because circumstances in my life have changed. For example, a Catholic who has fallen in love with someone of another faith may now feel compelled to worship their gods so that they may not offend them. These days we see so much of this on social media but clearly, this is a mortal sin against the first commandment, one that is rarely condemned from the pulpit. Rather, when challenged or put to the test, our light of faith should shine even more for the world to see.

The Gospel of today reminds us of the obligation to shine our light. Written tongue in cheek, if not with the deliberate intent of giving us a slap on our cheek, it says, “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 8:16)

This verse reveals both consent as well as an obligation. The person does not have to light a lamp, yet if one chooses to do so or as scripture says, having done so, one must do what is obvious. The verse reveals the impossibility of a ridiculous action. It says “no one” would ever do something as stupid as to light a lamp and then hide it under a jar or put it under a bed. Both these actions would be self-defeating as the light would be extinguished under a jar or it would be dangerous; for a lamp that is light and placed beneath a bed would set it on fire.

The verse of scripture draws us to the obvious use of a lamp that is lit; to give light to all those who enter. To do that, it needs to be placed on the right object, the lampstand. Apply this now to your life. No one is forcing you to be a Catholic but if you accept the Catholic faith freely then you cannot either make stupid decisions that endanger your soul or make a mockery of your faith by hiding or denying it before others.

While many may see this interpretation as hard, we need to remind ourselves that the way to heaven is not by the broad road but by the narrow gate. Being a Catholic is not easy and God knows how often I have failed in my call to be a holy priest. But taking up the cross, denying ourselves daily and following Christ is what we signed up for.

Perhaps you have lapsed in your faith or have run out of oil. This is not the end! Today is a good day to commit yourself to the Lord. The rejuvenation of your spiritual calling begins with your desire to be reconciled with the Lord and that is done only in the confessional. From there find yourself a spiritual father who will guide you and guard your soul. Look for someone you have seen in prayer daily at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and ask them to pray for you fervently. Commit yourself to the care of Our Blessed Mother by saying the Rosary each day or several times in the day. Be nourished by the eucharist daily at Holy Mass. Wear a scapular or a medal that hangs around your heart so that you cling to it in moments of temptation.

Soon, your light will shine for all those you enter into your life, for you will be the light that Christ uses to shine. How foolish we have been, hidden in a cupboard or under our beds.

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