[COLUMN] Welcome Bishop Albert Bahhuth!

WE warmly welcome our newly ordained auxiliary bishop, Most Reverend Albert Bahhuth, the Episcopal Vicar of the San Fernando Region, to our parish. It brings us great joy to have him with us this Sunday to celebrate Mass and bless our new Pre-K classrooms.

Bishop Albert is no stranger to many in our region, as he previously served as the associate pastor of  Holy Family Church in Glendale during his early years of priesthood and later as the pastor of

St. Finbar Church in Burbank. Following his tenure as Vicar General of our archdiocese, he was appointed as the pastor of Holy Family Church in Pasadena.

Bishop Bahhuth hails from a Lebanese immigrant family and responded to God’s call to priesthood later in life after completing a degree in engineering and pursuing a career in the food industry. His fellow priests and numerous parishioners recognize him as a compassionate man, a visionary and creative leader, and an exceptional administrator – qualities that prove invaluable for a bishop tasked with navigating the complexities of church ministry and administration. We are delighted that he has been assigned to our region of San Fernando.

Being a bishop or priest does not exempt one from engaging in the affairs of the secular world. After all, whether clergy or laity, we are all citizens of a country and this world. Political matters, governments, and international relations affect us in various ways. We cannot live in a bubble detached from global issues such as the Israeli-Gaza War unfolding today.

This is how we should understand today’s Gospel,  in which Jesus responds to a question from the   Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes to    Caesar. By feigning sincerity in their desire to know Jesus’   opinion on the matter of paying taxes to the Roman ruler, Caesar, the Pharisees and Herodians aim to trap him. If he acknowledges the legality of paying taxes, the Pharisees will accuse him of siding with the oppressive Roman authorities. On the other hand, if he says it is unlawful, the Herodians will report him to the Roman authorities as a troublemaker. Jesus, perceiving their malice and aware of their ulterior motives, responds with wisdom and asks to see a coin used for the tax. They give him a denarius, a Roman coin with Caesar’s image and inscription on it. Jesus then delivers his famous response, saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

As Christians, we must fulfill our commitments and responsibilities to earthly governments, all while following the principles of righteousness and justice according to our faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to prioritize our devotion to God while living in a world governed by human systems and authorities. We must denounce all forms of injustice, persecution, oppression, war, murder, and violence.

I have often preached that spirituality is not merely a means of becoming more spiritual but also a means of becoming more human. For religion to be genuine, it must touch the human heart, making us more loving, merciful, compassionate, forgiving, kind, and generous. Religion and spirituality are meant to enhance life, not destroy it.

Let us pray for all government and religious leaders, that they may lead with a vision of creating a more united world free from persecution, corruption,    violence, and war. We also pray for Bishop Bahhuth as he leads our region, as well as the Holy Father,  the cardinals, the bishops, particularly our archbishop, Jose H. Gomez, and the other regional bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Lastly, we pray for our parish, that it may continue to flourish as a     welcoming, joyful, and faith-filled community.

Sending warm blessings to all!

With much love,

Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

 

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