November 19, 2017
33rd Sun Ordinary Time
Sunday 10 am & 4:30 pm
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30
I absolutely & wholeheartedly believe in the concept of “Stewardship!” Yes you heard it right, I said the S-word – Stewardship. You might be thinking, “Are you crazy? Why would you believe so much in Stewardship? That’s just about giving money right ($)?” If that’s what you think it is then you have it all wrong. Our readings this Sunday help us to understand the concept of Stewardship and its vital importance in the life of the Christian disciple.
This is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time and the 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church (Liturgical) Year. At this time of the year the Church always focuses on preparing for the End Time, the Final Judgement and the 2nd Coming of Christ. If that’s the case then why am I talking about Stewardship? First of all, I only preach the cards I am dealt (the readings for that Sunday). And second because living Stewardship IS preparing for the End Time and the Final Judgement!
Before I get into the readings and the message for today let’s define the meaning of Stewardship: (1) “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” (All things are gifts given to us, our time, our talent & our treasure.) (2) Stewards are caretakers or managers of what belongs to another. (We don’t really own anything. All that we have is because of God and is on loan to us from Him.) (3) It is the essence of Christianity. (It is a spirituality. A way of life. It is what a Christian disciple does after they say “I believe”. It is the verb form or the action of living the Gospel.) And (4) Stewardship helps us trust not in the created things but in the Creator.
The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Proverbs, one of the Wisdom books. And on the surface it speaks of the value of a worthy wife. You might ask, “What does that have to do with Stewardship?” It has everything to do with it! This reading speaks of the attributes of a worthy wife which are also the attributes of a good Christian Steward (male or female): “She works with loving hands…she puts her hands to the distaff and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out to the poor and extends her arms to the needy…and she fears the Lord.” In other words, a worthy disciple, a worthy steward of the Gospel has the same attributes described in this reading and is a wise steward of God’s gifts. The worthy steward uses their gifts inside and outside the home. And they fear the Lord (reverence, awe)…The worthy steward is strong in faith, has great compassion, puts God’s gifts to use for the good of the Kingdom as is described to us in this reading from Proverbs.
The second reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians (say that fast 5 times!). St. Paul speaks of the 2nd Coming & the Final Judgement, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Then he says, “People will say peace and security, then sudden disaster comes upon them, and they will not escape…But you brothers and sisters, are not in darkness for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and of the day.” Living the spirituality of Stewardship in our daily lives makes us “children of the light”. Living Stewardship as a way of life (the sharing of our gifts) keeps us prepared for the end time, either the 2nd Coming of Christ or our own personal end, so that it will not catch us by surprise like a thief in the night. Those who live Stewardship are always ready, are always “alert & sober” as St. Paul tells us…I know this sounds morbid but we are all going to die someday (death & taxes). And because my wife & I do not want to leave the burden of our final arrangements and its financial burden & stress on our kids we have been making preparations. It’s expensive to die! But by doing this we are preparing for the end of our physical bodies. What about spiritually preparing for our death? By living Stewardship, which is the grateful response to God by the joyfully giving back a portion of our best time, talent & treasure, we are preparing for the end and beyond! By living Stewardship we are “children of light”. We are always ready, always prepared when we live Stewardship.
And this brings us to the Gospel and the Parable of the Talents. The whole point of this story by Jesus is the Final Judgment with the assessing of how well we have done with the many gifts entrusted to us…A talent to us today is something that someone is good at. But in the time of Christ a talent was a very large some of money. So taking into account both meanings of the word we can see the overall concept of Stewardship: time, talent & treasure…In the parable a man (Christ) is going on a long journey (from time of Ascension, waiting for 2nd Coming). But before He leaves He entrusts His servants (us) with His possessions (gifts). To one person He entrusts 5 talents, to another 2 talents & to another 1 talent. Meaning we are all given different gifts as well as different amounts of gifts. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with the gifts (talents) we are given. What are we doing with the gifts we have been given while Jesus is away before His second coming? Are we increasing them, using them for the good of others or are we burying them, keeping them to ourselves like the “wicked, lazy servant” who was thrown into the darkness? In this parable, after a time, the man came back to settle accounts with his servants according to what they have been given. There will be a time sooner or later where God will settle accounts with us according to what we have done with what we have been entrusted with.
People always seem to have time for and can afford what they value. Let me give you some examples (This is from a report taken a few years ago). Time: Each week the typical American adult watches over 38 hours of TV & videos, and spends over 9 hours per week on the internet (not including email). Youth ages 8 – 18 spend an average of 53 hours per week on electronic devices & media. Teens spend an average of 11.5 hours per week texting (averaging 826 texts per week). *The average American spends 1 hour & 38 minutes on religious or volunteer activities (includes travel time)…Treasure (money): Americans as a whole in a year - $705 billion on entertainment, $54 billion on jewelry & watches, $50 billion on shoes, $22 billion on salty snacks, $20 billion on video games, $14 billion on fragrances, $12 billion on coffee and $10 billion on Super Bowl activities & merchandise. *But spend far less on tithing (giving back to God). People seem to have time for and can afford what they value.
This is not to make us feel guilty (well maybe a little) or to say that we can’t have anything nice or fun (I do) but it is to help us take stock of our lives and what we value most. Do we give our first and our best to things that will rot away? Things that are temporary? Or as Catholic Christians do we live Stewardship by giving our first and our best to things that will last, eternal things? Like supporting God’s work here in our parish community, the building of our new church and ministries outside of our parish. How are we using our gifts (time, talent & treasure)? What are our priorities? These are the questions now and will be the questions at the Final Judgment.
So, let us all absolutely & wholeheartedly believe in and live the concept of Stewardship, “the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and love of neighbor.”
And let us mean the prayer we all prayed together at the beginning of mass, “Create in us a more open heart and greater awareness of our need to grow, to change, to be transformed, so that we may be better stewards of our gifts for the good of all.”
Living Stewardship is living ready, is living prepared!
October (21) 22, 2017
29th Sun Ord Time
4:30pm Sat, 8am Sun
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thess 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21
The phone rang and the voice on the line said, “Hello, is this Fr. Smith?” “Yes it is”, answered Father. “This is John Jones from the IRS. If you don’t mind, can you answer a few questions?” “Yes I can”, Father answered. “Ok, is there a man named Bill Doe in your parish?” Father answered, “Yes there is.” “Do you know him personally?” “Yes I do.” “Did he recently make a $10,000 donation to the new church?”…“Yes he will!” LOL
And that leads us into our readings for this Sunday. “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” This is what we heard Jesus say in today’s Gospel. But what did He mean by that? Of course, on the surface it means all of us must pay our taxes to Caesar (state, government) for the common good. And we must pay to God what belongs to God. We will explore the deeper meaning of that in a few minutes…What helps us to understand the true meaning of Jesus’ statement and the message for today is set up for us by the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah. In the first reading we heard about Cyrus who the Lord called His “anointed”. Now who was this Cyrus? He was the King of Persia, a foreigner, a non-Jew. He is the only one in all of scripture where a pagan ruler is called “anointed” by the God of Israel. The Lord said about Cyrus, “It is I who grasp him by his right hand, I who subdue nations before him, I who make kings run from him, I who open doors for him.” In other words, it is not by Cyrus’ might or power that he had success, it was because the Lord, the God of all creation. *But then we hear the key verse, the Lord says, “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me.”
That is the main message of today’s readings. That there is only one true God and everything is subject to Him and everything belongs to Him. The Gospel helps us understand this point. The last few Sundays Jesus has been “giving it” to the Chief priests and the elders of the people. So in today’s Gospel they decide to try to trap Jesus in getting Him to say something wrong. They send the Herodians who were a group who supported the Roman system of taxation. And the Herodians try to trap Jesus with the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Now this seems like a no-win situation for Jesus because if He answers no do not pay taxes to Caesar then He would be seen as an enemy of Rome and as a rebel. But if He answers yes then He is breaking the Mosaic Law and the 1st Commandment “You shall have no other gods before me” because Caesar considered himself a god. So what is Jesus’ answer? (Show me the money!) “Show me the coin that pays the census tax. Whose image is on it?” And they reply, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus came back with His classic answer, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” In other words Jesus is saying, “Give back to Caesar his idolatrous coin (the coin with the image of a false god on it) and give to God His due.” Jesus reasserts His sovereignty over all earthly powers and over all things. He affirms the words of Isaiah, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”
But as always we must discern what this means for us today. If we really and truly believe that our God is sovereign over all things including our hearts and that we are to give God what belongs to Him, what does that mean for us? What is our response? You see, in the old covenant God’s people believed that everything belonged to God by the very nature of creation. They believed that God protected them and provided everything for them. And because of their covenant with Him they were to give God sovereignty in their lives (as King), give God the worship He deserves, serve Him and give back a portion of their blessings in thanksgiving to Him. *The new covenant in Christ which we are a part of through our Baptism & faith is no different. Because we believe there is no God but our God and that He deserves His due…He deserves our best. We are expected to respond in giving God His due with a grateful heart. That means we come to Mass every Sunday not grudgingly but with a grateful heart, joyful and excited to encounter God where we worship Him and receive Him. That means we offer Him time in private prayer and meditation on His Word. It means we use the gifts we have been given to edify the Body of Christ. It means we joyfully and willingly bless the Church and the less fortunate with a portion of our treasure. We do these things because of what Jesus commanded, “Give to God what belongs to God.” And we do these things because of the truth spoken through Isaiah, “I am the Lord, there is no other.” And most of all we do these things in response to God’s love.
But when we do not do things when we do not live these things there is a problem. When God is not sovereign in our hearts and our lives, when we do not give Him His due, when we do not offer Him our best and our first…then there are false gods in our lives that we are serving and worshipping (me too). Maybe our gods are ourselves (pride), our bank account or material things, or any other number of things that have priority over the one true God. Whatever is more important than God in our lives is a false god. They are the Caesars in our lives…In the Gospel Jesus called the ones trying to trap Him “hypocrites”. The original meaning of the word hypocrite is “actor” or “one playing a part in a play.” Jesus called the so-called religious “hypocrites” because although they seemed religious on the outside, on the inside they lacked true love of God and love of neighbor. They lacked true religion. They lacked a true and real relationship with the creator of all things. We do not want to be called a hypocrite or an actor by the Lord do we? We certainly do not want to be called a hypocrite on the Day of Judgment!
The proof that God is sovereign in our hearts and our lives is in today’s 2nd reading where St. Paul speaks of the true Christians in Thessalonica recalling their “work of faith, labor of love and endurance in hope.” When we live the virtues of faith, hope and love then God is sovereign in our lives. “Endurance in hope” meaning we continue to place all our hope and dreams in the God of gods and the King of kings. “Work of faith” meaning we struggle every day but believe that Jesus is with us and will pull us through. And “labor of love” meaning we sacrifice for our God and for His people with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So in closing, when we place Jesus Christ on the throne of our hearts and keep Him there, when we serve Him and offer Him His due (our very best), when we live in faith, hope and love, then yes we can say we are not hypocrites but we are true disciples of the living, the one true God. And when we do this we will be like Cyrus (God’s anointed) successful and blessed because God grasps us by the right hand and opens doors for us…Who would not want to have Him as King and Lord, who is all-powerful, all-loving, compassionate & merciful and who provides for our every need? Why would you not?
This is the Gospel and as St. Paul said at the end of the 2nd reading, “It did not come to you in word alone, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”
To me and to you Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Amen!
September 17, 2017
24th Sun in Ord Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Sirach 27:30-28:7; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35
Charged with assault and the murder of a young woman, it only took the jury minutes to return with a guilty verdict against the accused man. The courtroom erupted in cheers as the verdict was read…As the man was led away from the courtroom his mother yelled out, “What you did was despicable, but I want you to know I love you.”…Outside the courthouse the media expected the parents of the young woman to cry out with hateful words, to demand the death penalty and to express their wish for vengeance. But instead, they chose to forgive the young man. Everyone looked on in disbelief! They weren’t denying that their hearts were crushed by the loss of their precious daughter and that justice must be done but they chose love and forgiveness over hate and bitterness.
The readings this Sunday speak to us about the necessity of forgiveness. To forgive is one of the hardest things to do for us human beings. And it is one of the most difficult requirements for a disciple of Christ. Two Sundays ago we heard in the Gospel, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Forgiveness is doing just that.
It’s not easy, it is nearly impossible to forgive in the flesh, in the natural. It is only possible through the grace (help) of the Spirit of God within us, through the supernatural. Our flesh and the world tell us to get revenge, don’t forgive, strike back! But as disciples of Jesus we are expected and commanded to forgive as He did on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” But you might say, oh sure Jesus forgave because He is God. Yes but He was also human. St. Stephen (one of the first deacons) forgave when they were stoning him to death. As many have done the same thing over the centuries, like the parents in the story at the beginning, but only with the grace of God. True forgiveness from the heart can only occur through prayer, as we are molded into the image of Christ.
But really, why must we forgive? Why as Catholic Christians are we expected and commanded to forgive those who have come against us? The 1st reason is because of the Lord’s Prayer that He taught us Himself, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” If we have ever prayed that prayer we are saying to God: “If I forgive than I ask you Lord to forgive me…but if I do not forgive then Lord don’t forgive me.” That is the condition, that is how it is simple as that. If I want to be forgiven I must first forgive…We heard just that in the first reading from Sirach, one of the Wisdom books. And Jesus illustrates this in today’s Gospel which is about the debtor who owed the king a huge amount. But he had no way to pay so he fell down, did him homage and begged for mercy. The king had compassion on the man and he was forgiven his entire debt…But then the man meets someone who owed him a much smaller amount. Does he forgive the man and let him slide? No! But the king heard about it and calls him in and tells him, “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you? Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.” In the story the king is God, we are the ones who owe the huge debt and the fellow servant (the other guy who owed the small amount) are those who have come against us. The huge debt that we owe is our sins, original and personal. We cannot make it into heaven with this debt because there is no way we can pay it back. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, how strong, or smart, how talented, how good looking or funny, there is no way we can pay the debt for our sins. That is why Jesus came, to pay the ransom for our souls. He paid for us the entire debt that we owe with His Precious Blood, the debt that we no way could pay. If we accept this unimaginable, tremendous gift and we are truly sorry for our sins then our debt is paid. *But then there is the condition: “I must forgive as I have been forgiven.” If we accept the mercy of the King of kings, then we must forgive those who have come against us. You see, we are just like in the story. Our debt is maxed out that we owe God, but those we need to forgive, their debt to us is much, much smaller compared to what we owe. Our ability and our willingness to forgive begins with our understanding and belief in the mercy and compassion of God. When we truly believe that we are forgiven through the Cross of Christ, then it helps us to forgive the other…That is the 1st reason we as Catholic Christians are expected and commanded to forgive those who have come against us: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
The 2nd reason we are to forgive is for our own good. Why? Because it sets us free. You see, when we do not forgive someone, when we hold bitterness and anger against someone it is us who are held captive not the other person. It is us who are slaves and it is us who are made sick inside not the other person. It has been said that bitterness, hate and unforgiveness against someone is like us swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die! Resentment and bitterness have even been believed to cause physical ailments. But when we forgive from our heart with the heart of Christ we are set free. When we choose to forgive, to let go, with the grace of God then the shackles fall off of us, the prison gate is open and we are made whole again, we are healed! Yes forgiveness is for the good of the other person but is mostly for our own good. That is the 2nd reason.
But in the Gospel Peter asked the question that we ask, “How often must I forgive? As many as 7 times.” Jesus answers, “Not 7 times but 77 times.” It was believed in the time of Jesus and Peter that one must forgive 3 times. After that you could demand vengeance. So by Peter suggesting 7 times he thought he was going way beyond what was required. But Jesus shocked Peter by saying “not 7 times but 77 times.” In other words, as disciples of Christ we are expected to forgive continuously without end. Think about it, how many times have you asked the Lord for forgiveness and how many times have you went out and fell again? That is what Confession is for right? As long as Jesus continues to forgive us we are to continue to forgive the other…And think about this, if God limited our times He would forgive us, if He said after such & such amount of times you can’t be forgiven any more. You used up all your passes. Heaven would be empty! God doesn’t limit the times He forgives us, we shouldn’t limit the times we forgive the other.
In closing, today’s readings are a continuation of last week’s readings which is a teaching on relationships within the Church community and within our own families. Jesus is teaching us as His disciples how to live with each other, how to live in a way that brings us peace that only His way of living can. The world tells us one thing but Jesus tells us the opposite. It is very difficult to forgive, I know, especially when it is very hurtful. It might not happen overnight but may take time, praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help you. Continue to cry out and ask the Spirit to help you and over time you will be able to and you will find a joy and a peace that cannot be explained…When we choose forgiveness over revenge, love over hate, we begin to see God in us because forgiveness is a participation in the very heart of God…Forgiveness is a necessity, it is a command, but it is for our own good, for the good of our family and for the good of the community.
August (19) 20, 2017
20th Sun Ord Time
All English masses
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15: 21-28
Today’s readings proclaim the greatest gift ever bestowed upon the Gentiles (non-Jews, us)! Which is the offer of salvation and the opportunity to be counted among God’s chosen people! The offer of salvation (bluntly, to be saved from Hell) through the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was given first to the nation of Israel. But because He was rejected, the gift of the Messiah was extended to all people! And that is good news for us, NO, that is the greatest news ever…that God loves all people so much that He offers everyone salvation.
In the first reading from Isaiah we heard the Lord speaking saying that even foreigners (Gentiles) were invited to His holy mountain (His Church & salvation)…In the second reading St. Paul tells us he is the apostle to the Gentiles. Apostle meaning “sent”. St. Paul was “sent” to offer the Gospel and the Good News of salvation to all people…And in the Gospel Jesus extends salvation even to a Canaanite woman, a pagan, a foreigner and an enemy of Israel.
This is God’s plan of salvation…to offer the Savior to all the world. This is the greatest gift ever given. But we must not take it for granted! We must know & fully realize the tremendous gift that has been offered to us…the opportunity of salvation through Christ and His Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church…It always makes me laugh inside when someone says, “I was born Catholic.” NOBODY IS BORN CATHOLIC! They might be born into a Catholic family but they are not born Catholic! A person becomes a Catholic Christian through Baptism and through faith. We must know and realize the great gift we have been given through being offered salvation in and though Christ and His Church. But we must make it our own. It’s not good enough to consider ourselves a Catholic Christian because our family is Catholic or because our spouse is Catholic. We must all make it personal, accept it as our own, place our own, personal faith in Jesus Christ and in His Church.
This is a universal call, a universal offer to all people. Even offered to people who we might think do not deserve it. This stretches our faith as it did for the people of Israel. Isaiah lived about 700 – 800 years before Christ walked the earth. It was unheard of for foreigners or pagans at that time to be considered to be among the chosen people. Yet the Lord God prophesied through Isaiah saying that yes even the Gentiles were called to salvation. This was shocking to the Jews. It may be shocking to us today that some certain people are offered salvation. Can you think of any that might shock you? Or that you think should not be offered salvation? They might be near or they might be far. Maybe criminals or terrorists (horrendous things or threaten to do horrendous things), or people who are different than us or have a different way of thinking or living, or who have come against us. But the scriptures tell us all are offered salvation…and all means all.
But to be among the chosen people of God and on the road to salvation a person must respond to the offer and must live in His covenant. The people of the old covenant were expected to live according to certain standards and follow certain guidelines. The people of the new covenant (all people today) are also expected to live according to certain standards and guidelines. We look to the first reading to see what that means. It is laid out for us in the reading from Isaiah, “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to Him, loving the name of the Lord and becoming His servants, all who hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain.” So first, it is saying foreigners (Gentiles, non-Jews) who join themselves to the Lord, who become one with Him, who receive Him into their hearts and lives, those who walk with Him and who serve Him will be brought to salvation. If we wish to be among the chosen people of God and on the road to salvation these are the standards we are expected to live by. This is the covenant we must uphold…simply put love God and love neighbor. It is the cross: the vertical beam up towards God, the horizontal beam out towards neighbor. Love God by the way we live our lives as stewards of the Gospel. And because we are one with Jesus we serve as He served offering our life as sacrifice.
In Isaiah it also said, “Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.” The people of the old covenant would bring their tithe offerings to the priest at the altar in the Temple as a thanksgiving. And now us as the people of the new covenant bring our gifts to the altar as a thanksgiving for being counted among the chosen people of God and for all that He blesses us with. Here at Resurrection we do not sit back to have our offerings taken from us as we sit in the pew…no, we freely bring our gifts up to the altar as we make a gesture of giving rather than being taken from. We do this by sharing a portion of our resources we have been blessed with but we are also called to offer a portion of our time and talent in service. We offer back our very lives in sacrifice and in service. In this we show concern for the other. In the Gospel the disciples wanted to send the Canaanite woman away considering her a bother. They missed the needs of the other. We must be aware and be concerned with the needs of the other not only of our own needs…These are the standards and the terms of the covenant we are called to live if are to be counted among the chosen people of God on the way to salvation.
As individuals we are called to live in the new covenant of the Gospel but as community, as Church we are also called to live in the new covenant and to spread the universal invitation to all peoples. It is through us, God’s chosen people that the Lord invites all to salvation. It is by and through us, the Church, that all people are invited and welcome on the road to salvation…Here at Resurrection we have a special and unique opportunity with the building of our new church, our new worship space. Our new church is expected to be finished early next year or by the spring. It is going to be beautiful on the outside and the inside. The bell tower is going to be lit up high in the air for all to see. When they do see it they will come to check it out, no doubt. This is our unique opportunity to be welcoming and inviting to all who come. This is our opportunity as Church to assist the Lord in His invitation to all people and the Lord’s words in Isaiah to be fulfilled, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” It takes the whole community to come together in an awesome project like this for it to be a success. A symbol of that is the beam that many of us signed. Names were put on it after every mass (English & Spanish). And that beam is placed inside the church as a symbol of unity and joining together as one community to provide for generations to come…If you are actively contributing to this awesome project, God’s project, then you are actively contributing to the Kingdom of God. That means that you will be contributing to the salvation of souls. That means that you will take part in every mass that is celebrated, in every Baptism, 1st Communion, Confirmation, Quinceanera, wedding and funeral. You will be taking part in God’s plan of salvation! If you are not yet, the Lord God is still giving you the chance to take part in it. Do not let this opportunity pass by. It is an opportunity not given to most, but it has been given to us here at Resurrection.
In closing, God’s plan of salvation, the offer of the Savior to all the world is the greatest gift ever given. But we must not take it for granted! We must know the tremendous gift that has been offered to us…the opportunity of salvation through Christ and His Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Jew and Gentile need to be saved from their sins and from eternal damnation. All are offered but it takes a response. Either we reject it like many do or just take it for granted, or we gratefully accept it and we live in the covenant and the standards it requires with the help of God.
We are so blessed to be Catholic and to be counted among God’s chosen people! May we show it by the way we live our lives for His glory!
July (15) 16, 2017
15th Sunday in Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm & Sun 8 am
Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23
A Devout Catholic lady who had to fly frequently for work. But she was very nervous every time she flew so she would bring he bible with her and read it to help her relax…One time, skeptical man next to her, chuckle & smirk…After a while, “You don’t really believe that stuff do you?” Lady, “Of course I do. It’s God’s Word.” Man, “How did Jonah survive all that time inside the whale?!!” Lady, “I don’t really know but I will ask him when I get to heaven.” Man sarcastically, “What if he’s not in heaven?” Lady, “Well then you ask him!”
The focus of this Sunday’s readings is very obvious which is the power and purpose of the Word of God. The Word of God (Sacred Scripture) is so powerful (why) because it is Jesus. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus is the written Word and He is the spoken or proclaimed Word. That’s why it is so powerful. And we as Catholic Christians must know the Word and we must allow it to affect our lives. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The way to get to know Jesus more intimately is through His holy Word…The scriptures are food for our soul. They are God’s love letters to each of us. Just as we must eat physical food daily for the nourishment of our bodies we must also eat and consume the Word of God daily for the nourishment of our spirits, our minds and our hearts.
We need to read and meditate on God’s Word daily but we must read it holistically (meaning as a whole & within context). And we must read and understand it within the Tradition and teaching of the Catholic Church.
The first reading from Isaiah Chapter 55 is one of the most beautiful references to the Word of God ever written. (*Read 1st from Lectionary)…The Word of God is effective. Just as the rain & snow come down from the heavens to produce fruit on the earth the Word of God comes down from Heaven to produce fruit in those who receive it. When we read and meditate on God’s Word it feeds our spirit, it changes our heart, it guides us and inspires us to live the Gospel and to spread the Good News. But just as when there is a drought (no rain or snow) it brings about famine and hardship in the same way when the Word of God is not received it brings about a spiritual drought, spiritual famine and spiritual death.
The Word of God will have a powerful effect on our lives if we allow it to. It will bring about conversion to the mind of Christ. The heart of the RCIA process (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is the Sunday readings, the Word of God. In the RCIA process there are no books or lesson plans. The study material is the Sunday readings. And it is the readings (God’s Word) that brings about conversion of heart and mind. I have been part of the RCIA team for many years and I have personally witnessed conversion and transformation in many, many people by and through God’s holy Word…I have always believed that the RCIA process is a perfect model for the entire parish to follow. All of us should be meditating on the Sunday readings in addition to the daily readings which will no doubt bring about conversion because as the Lord said in Isaiah, “So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth, my Word shall not return to me void.” In other words, God’s Word when received will have effect!
And that brings us to the Gospel and the Parable of the Sower. The seed that is sowed represents the Word. The Sower of the seed represents Jesus and also us. And the soil that the seed falls upon represents the hearts of men and women. So let’s look at 2 things: (1) the soil (hearts) and (2) the sower of the seed.
First, the soil (heart). There are 4 types of soil that the Word can fall on according to Jesus in the Gospel. Which one are you? 1) The Path – hardened. They hear the Word of God without understanding it and the evil one steals it away. 2) Rocky ground – shallow. They receive the Word with joy but it has no root. When tribulation or persecution come they fall away. 3) Among thorns – distracted. They hear and receive the Word but the world and material things choke it off and it bears no fruit. 4) Rich soil – receptive, humble, obedient. They hear the Word, obey it, live it and it bears good fruit.
Which one are you? I don’t know about you but to speak for myself I am all of them at different times. Of course I want to be only the rich soil but at times I am like the other three. To be the rich soil, a heart that is receptive and obedient to God’s word takes persistence, dedication and faith. And it takes prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fertile heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. The Word was written in the Spirit so it must be read in the Spirit. And ask the Spirit to help you believe and to live the Word of God and He most definitely will.
Now let’s look at the sower of the seed (Word). First to sow the seed you must have the seed right? We can’t give what we don’t have. As disciples of Christ we are all called to sow the seed, to spread the Word as Christ did. The way we do this is having the Word of God inside of us, in our minds and in our hearts and letting the Word come out from us by our words and our deeds. That is within our families, here at Church and out in the world (work, marketplace). Let the effects of God’s Word on us be shared with others around us. Our calling as Catholic Christians is to spread the seed (God’s Word) and then let Him do the rest. Just like the farmer spreads seed and waits for it to sprout we must do the same with the Word of God. We cannot worry or get discouraged when nothing seems to happen. We just do our job and entrust the rest to Christ…Scripture scholars speculate that Jesus told His disciples the Parable of the Sower and the different types of soil to encourage them not to get discouraged about results. Jesus tells us the same. We just do our best to spread the seed and leave the results to God.
So in closing, the Word of God is not the only component of living a strong faith life. Of course there are the Sacraments especially the Eucharist. There is prayer, worship and service. There is fellowship with other believers and there is Stewardship, the sharing of our time, talent and treasure. No the Word of God is not the only component of our faith but it is a very important part of it…As Catholic Christians must know the Word and we must allow it to affect our lives and those around us. As Catholics we are people of the Word. Did you know that if we attended mass every Sunday and weekday we would hear the entire bible in 3 years. But it is most effective if we read the readings before mass so we can better understand and it will soak deep into us. Also, every person in the house should own their own personal bible, their own personal love letter from God so they can mark it up, highlight it and make notes in it. If your bible is covered with dust then it’s time to open it up!
The Word of God helps us get through all different situations good and bad. Especially when you memorize them, stand on and claim that Word. For me a few of my go to verses: Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” From today’s second reading Romans 8:18, I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” And Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always until the end of the age.”
The Word of God is power. It is Jesus Himself. Consume it daily with a fertile heart for the nourishment of your spirit, your mind and your heart. Let it affect you and those around you.
B-i-b-l-e: Basic, Instruction, Before, Leaving, Earth.
June 18, 2017
Sun 8 & 10am
Deut 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
Today is one of the most important feasts in the Church, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” because it is the true presence of Christ Himself in the transformed bread and wine.
We see a foreshadow of the Eucharist in our 1st reading from Deuteronomy from the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). The people of Israel, after many years of wandering in the desert are about to cross over into the Promised Land. Moses gives them his final instructions and he reminds them of how God had provided for them by sending down manna from heaven to feed them and nourish them for the journey. God provided for His people a daily bread that would sustain them in the difficulties of life.
And God continues to provide for His people today by sending the Living Bread from heaven for us at every mass: to sustain us, to feed us, to strengthen us. At every mass the priest who stands at the altar in Persona Christi, in the person of Christ, prays over the bread and wine and the Holy Spirit comes down and transforms that bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. *But the question is “Do we truly believe that?” Do we believe with our whole heart without a doubt that that little wafer and that wine changes into Christ? St. Paul in the 2nd reading asks the Church at Corinth and he asks us today, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” What is our answer? The sad thing is that it is estimated that up to 75% of Catholics today do not believe it. 75%! That is a tragedy!
The crowds in the Gospel did not believe Jesus when He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The scripture said they quarreled among themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” In other words they were saying this guy is CRAZY! But did Jesus back down and say, “I’m just kidding, I didn’t really mean it.” No He did not! On the contrary, He repeated Himself 5 times to make His point and each time He said “eat my flesh and drink my blood” He intensified it. The first time He said eat, in the original language, it was (1) consume, then it was (2) dine, then it was (3) feast, then it was (4) eat, and finally it was (5) gnaw and chew. Each of the 5 times He used stronger language to get His point across that the Eucharist truly is His Body and His Blood.
If we truly believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ then that changes everything! Instead of dreading to come to mass, you look forward to it, you can’t wait. Instead of thinking of mass as an obligation you think of it as a privilege. It becomes your top priority. You even try to go to mass during the week whenever you can because you know and you are convinced that you will be receiving Christ Himself in the Eucharist. You will want to attend mass as much as possible because you know you will encounter in a personal way the one true God. If you truly believe it is Christ Jesus in the Eucharist you will spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration whenever you can. *(Friday nights, date night, recently 30 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament for special intentions, Georgiana’s idea, transforming as a couple & individuals).
The Eucharistic table is a meal that nourishes us and sustains us spiritually just like earthly food nourishes us and sustains us physically. We have to eat earthly food to fuel our bodies right? I drive my wife crazy sometimes when we plan a trip or even plan to go places even for the day. I’ll say, “Ok, but when are we going to eat?” She’ll say, “Do you have to plan everything around food?” I’ll be like “uh yeah!” Earthly food nourishes our physical bodies but heavenly food, the Eucharistic bread and wine nourishes us spiritually for the journey of life. It is food for our souls. It gives us strength to stay on that narrow path and strength to serve as we are called. And it makes us one with Christ. When we receive Holy Communion we are one-with or in-union with Christ. When we receive Him in the Eucharist with faith we become one with Jesus, with His very person. And with Him within us we can do great things! *Phillip Rivers said at a men’s talk once, “I go to mass every Sunday before the game and I feel that because I received the Eucharist, I feel like I have an advantage, I have something extra.” With Jesus within us through the Eucharist we have the power we need. We have something extra, we have an advantage over those in the world who do not believe He is the Eucharistic bread and wine. With Him in us we can do all things!
And the Eucharistic meal brings us in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ, the entire Body of Christ, which is the Church. St. Paul said in the 2nd reading, “Because the loaf of bread is one, we though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” When we receive the Eucharist in faith we become one with our fellow Catholics in this community and all over the world. When we have a meal together with family or friends that meal binds us together right? Even more than does the meal around the Eucharistic table bind us spiritually together with our fellow believers. Just as the bread and wine are transformed into Christ, we His disciples are transformed into His Body. We become a transformed people ready and willing to live out the mission given to us by the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ. And because we are one body we care for the entire body that we are a part of.
Jesus continues to give of Himself over and over in the Eucharist at every mass all over the world for the sake of the other. When we receive Him we should become like Him. We are what we eat as they say. By receiving Him we should also give of ourselves for the sake of the other over and over by the sharing of our time, our talent and our treasure in Stewardship as a way of life. Not just once but continually like Jesus gives Himself to us over and over.
In closing, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christin life” because it is the true presence of Christ Himself. It is His Body and Blood He gave on Calvary made present to us at every mass. It is the Living Bread that comes down from heaven to feed us and strengthen us for the journey to eternal life. If we truly believe this let us stay hungry and thirsty for Him, receive Him in faith and in reverence, let us be transformed into the tabernacle of Christ and let us take Him out to a starving and thirsty world. With Him we can do all things we are called to do!
June 10, 2017
Sat of the 9th Week in Ord Time
Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20; Psalm Tobit 13; Mark 12:38-44
Beautiful, powerful readings this morning that speak to us about gratitude from the heart put into action. In modern terms “Stewardship.”
The first reading is from the Book of Tobit in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). Raphael, one of the 7 angels, has been secretly helping Tobit and his son Tobias. They did not know that Raphael was an angel. But for helping them they blessed Raphael with much more than he deserved. Raphael is pleased that they did this, not because of the money but because by blessing they were praising God…Raphael reveals to them who he really is but before that he gives them a lesson in Stewardship, “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory…acknowledge the many good things He has done for you.” In other words, thank God for all His blessings upon us, acknowledge in our lives that all good things come from Him! Then because of our gratitude, put it into action as Raphael says, “It is better to give alms than to store up gold.” Almsgiving is money or goods given to the poor as an act of penance or brotherly charity. Thanksgiving and gratitude put into action by the sharing of our blessings is worth more in the eyes of God than any material thing on this earth. This, my friends is the true meaning of Stewardship.
And in the Gospel we hear the classic story of Stewardship about the poor widow who put in two small coins and about whom Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.” Why? Because she did not hold back but blessed without counting the cost…This is Stewardship.
So the readings this morning help us to examine our own lives including myself. Do we realize that all good things come from God? Are we so grateful to Him that we bless back because of that gratitude in our heart? If we do then we praise Him with our heart, with our lips and with our actions! And this is pleasing to Him and He blesses us even more!
May 21, 2017
6th Sunday of Easter
Sunday 10 am & 4:30 pm
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
Our Gospel this Sunday is a continuation from last week’s Gospel from John Chapter 14 where Jesus is at the Last Supper with his closest disciples speaking to them very intimately about a serious message. In the same way, He speaks to us (His disciples) very intimately, at this Eucharist and at every Mass, with a very serious message. Today He tells us as He did 2000 years ago, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” Jesus was the first Advocate but He promised to send another…First of all what is an advocate? An advocate literally means “one who stands beside”. It also means “an aid, an advisor, a counselor, an intercessor, a defense attorney, a teacher and a guide.” Now who wouldn’t want an advocate in their lives when it means all that?...We know that the Advocate is the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity. But the question is why would Jesus send Him to us? Because He knows that being His follower, that being His disciple in this world is not easy…being a Catholic Christian, living our faith is very difficult. Why? Because we have 3 enemies who make it difficult: (1) the devil (who does exist and is very real), (2) the world, and (3) is our flesh. With these 3 enemies against us it is impossible to live the life of faith without the Advocate.
So how do we get this Advocate (the Spirit of Jesus) the Helper and the Guide? As Catholics we believe that the Spirit comes to us through the Sacraments. At Baptism the Spirit of God is infused into our soul, dispelling the darkness and giving us the Light of Christ, making us a temple of the Holy Spirit and a child of God…At Confirmation the Bishop (or the pastor on Easter Vigil) lays his hands on the candidates and prays that the Spirit comes down on them as we heard in the first reading when the Apostles Peter & John laid hands on those in Samaria who had been baptized. In Confirmation we are anointed and empowered with the Spirit to be witnesses for Christ and for the Gospel. We are empowered to keep the commandments of Jesus…Jesus said in the Gospel, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” What are His commandments? Very simple, love God and love neighbor. That’s it! The whole Gospel message summed up in those 2 things. Very simple but very difficult to do without the Advocate.
Knowing the commandments is important but putting them into practice with the help of the Spirit and actually living them is essential. In the first reading from Acts Philip (one of the first deacons we heard about in last week’s first reading) because of His love of God and love of neighbor went down to Samaria to spread the Good News of Jesus. Now keep in mind Samaria was hated by the Jews yet with the Advocate empowering him, he put that aside and loved his neighbors who were actually his enemies by ministering to them. Love of God and love of neighbor is self-gift. It is self-donation. It is being more concerned with the well-being of the other than ourself. It is the sharing of our time, our talent and our treasure for the good of the other. Love of God and love of neighbor goes against what the world and what our flesh tells us (me, myself & I). Love of God and love of neighbor, even love of enemy, and the sharing of our blessings which we are all called to through our Baptism is possible only with the Advocate.
Like Philip in the first reading, with the Spirit working through us we can do great things for the Kingdom of God. Philip preached the Gospel, drove out unclean spirits from possessed people and the paralyzed and crippled were cured. You might say, I can’t do those things! Sure you can, with the Spirit of God in you. You can drive out unclean spirits by allowing Jesus to speak through you to someone who is going through a difficult time, who has lost all hope, and who is ready to give up. You can help heal the paralyzed and crippled who are frozen in fear and worry by sharing the peace and the healing you have found in Christ. We can do great things for the Kingdom with the Advocate by our side. The tremendous tragedy is many Christians do not know that within them they have the greatest power there is. The power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself inside of us!
But it is up to us to allow the Spirit of God to work through us. The Father has given us free will. We must choose to cooperate with the Spirit to do the Father’s will of loving God and loving neighbor. St. Teresa of Calcutta (aka Mother Teresa) said, “When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God, the Holy Spirit. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the Light of the World, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.” It is up to each of us to choose to allow the Advocate to work through us or not. It is a choice we must make every single day of our lives in the big moments but also in the everyday, small moments.…It is through the Spirit of God that we can do great things by our self-gift for the Kingdom…The key to this is the first verse from our 2nd reading from St. Peter, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Make Jesus Lord and King every day of your life and He will give you His Spirit as He promised. Be open to Him in prayer, in His Word and in the sacraments especially the Eucharist and you will have His Spirit with you. Simply ask and you will receive.
In closing, those who allow the Spirit of God to be their Advocate, to be by their side, to be their advisor, their counselor, intercessor, defense attorney, their teacher and their guide are on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. It’s not an easy road at times. Sometimes it is very difficult but with and through the Spirit in us we can and will make it to our heavenly home. How many others will we help make it there with us?
Jesus speaks these words of hope to us today at this supper of the Eucharist very intimately as He did to His disciples at the Last Supper. Let us believe and receive what He has told us, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”
April 23 (22), 2017
2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy)
Sat 4:30 pm & Sun 4:30 pm
Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
The Easter Season is 50 days in which it is a time above all others to rejoice in the fruits of the Paschal Mystery (the Passion, Death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ). It’s a time to sing Alleluia, even the double alleluia. And you know how us deacons here at Resurrection love to sing the double alleluia at the end of mass (LOL)!
We rejoice today as did the early Church. We heard in the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “Awe came upon everyone…in the breaking of the bread…as they ate their meals in exultation.” In the 2nd reading from St. Peter, “Rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” And in the Gospel, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” Now is the time above all others to rejoice!
But why do we rejoice? What is the reason for this glorious joy? St. Peter tells us because God, “Who in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” This is the reason to rejoice! We rejoice because Jesus through His resurrection has gained victory over sin and death! Because He is risen, we now have a way into heaven which had been closed off. If we have experienced Christ and accepted His mercy and His forgiveness we are an heir to the Kingdom of God and to all His promises! If we have experienced Christ in His mercy we now have hope where we had no hope before....But if you have not yet experienced Christ’s mercy, if you have not really seen Him yet like St. Thomas in today’s Gospel, the time is now to see Him and to believe. He waits for you to see Him and to touch Him, to experience Him. He waits for you to receive His love He offers youiHis H. He says to you with love as He said to Thomas, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” He is showing you His hands and His feet. Believe! Take that step of faith! He is speaking to you right now.
This Second Sunday of Easter is also “Divine Mercy Sunday”. It was established for the universal Church by the Holy See in the year 2000. The image of Christ in His Divine Mercy was given to St. Faustina (back wall). In the image there are two rays of light flowing from the heart of Christ: one is white representing the waters of Baptism; and the other is red representing the blood of Christ in the Eucharist. And in-between the two rays we can see the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These are the 3 “Sacraments of Mercy” empowered by the Paschal Mystery of Christ: His Passion, Death and Resurrection. His love and mercy, His way into Heaven, heirs to the Kingdom are there for us if we receive them. And if we do receive Him on a continuous basis, we have the reason to rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy!...Last Saturday night at the Easter Vigil we experienced indescribable and glorious joy as we baptized 2 adults, 23 children 1 baby. 11 received the Sacrament of Confirmation and 34 received their First Eucharist. The joy in this place was glorious! The Sacraments of Mercy were received and experienced…This is the joy we can all experience when we are open to the Risen Lord. If we place our hope and our faith in Him, if we receive His mercy, we will experience indescribable and glorious joy! A joy that cannot be explained but only experienced.
But at times in our lives it is not so easy to rejoice is it? We may be experiencing a season of trial, a season of burden: health, financial, family problems, etc. In times like these we are comforted by Jesus’s words in the Gospel, “Peace be with you.” Even though we may be in times of trial we can still rejoice because of the hope we have in the Risen Lord who has conquered all! Jesus enters in if we allow Him to, to offer us His peace that only He can give. In the Risen Lord we have peace in the midst of the storm because of the Resurrection. With Him the storm will pass.
But you might want to know why would a loving God allow us to go through difficult times? Because He cares more for the salvation of our souls than about our comfort. St. Peter tells us in the 2nd reading, “In this you rejoice although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our faith and our salvation are more precious than even gold. Gold is purified by fire to remove impurities. The hotter the fire the more impurities are removed. Our faith is purified by the fire of trials where impurities are removed from us when we endure in and through the Risen Lord who has conquered all trials. Just as Jesus was victorious over the cross He will give us the victory over our crosses. And as our faith grows and is strengthened.
But what do we do with this glorious joy and hope that we have in Christ. Do we keep it to ourselves? No! We see the example and model of what we are to do in the early Church. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear what the early Church did with this joy of the Lord, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them all according to each one’s need.” The early church rejoiced in the Lord and they did not keep it to themselves. They in turn shared their blessings for the good of others and for the growth of the Church…We also are called to not keep our blessings to ourselves but to share a portion of our time, talent and treasure for the good of others, for the growth of the Church and for the salvation of souls. By the sharing of our blessings with a thankful, grateful, joyful heart we are following the ideal model of the early Church and of Christ Himself. We do this every Sunday as we come forward to the altar to offer a portion of our treasure for the day-to-day operation of our parish. We do this every month for the building of our new church where countless souls will experience the Risen Lord. We do this in ministry where we offer a portion of our time and talent for the good of the Church. Why do we do this? Because of the joy we have experienced in the Risen Lord. It is because of His joy within us that we offer ourselves and our blessings…True joy comes from the 3 letters J-O-Y (Jesus-Others-You).
In closing, Thomas would not believe until he seen and touched the Lord. We have seen and touched Him…we seen Him in each other and we see Him in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. When we receive Him in faith in the Eucharist we become Eucharistic people sent out to share this indescribable and glorious joy. We become missionaries of Divine Mercy showing mercy as we have been shown mercy. As Jesus told the first disciples He tells us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Receive the Risen Lord, touch Him and believe in Him. Share Him within our community and with the world.
Rejoice! The Lord is risen. Alleluia, alleluia!
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord begins Holy Week, the highlight of the whole Liturgical Year. On Palm Sunday the Church recalls the entrance of Christ the Lord into Jerusalem to accomplish His Paschal Mystery. Vestments are red and the color red is throughout the sanctuary as a vivid sign of the Martyr of all martyrs.
At the beginning of mass, outside of the church, the Gospel passage is read before the procession of the account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a colt while the people spread palm branches and shout “Hosanna!”
In the 1st reading the Prophet Isaiah foretells of the promised Messiah and the one who would enter the city who would suffer for His people, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells of the Savior who humbled Himself for the love of His people.
And in the Gospel we hear the passion account according to Matthew.
As disciples of this Messiah, we must look at our own lives and recognize the times we hailed Jesus and the times when we have failed Him. We can then turn to Him who is love and be forgiven and strengthened to live as His disciples.
At the start of this Holy Week let us enter into the Paschal Mystery as it is made present to us in a mystical and real way. Let us experience the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior and be reminded of all that He has done for us so that we may sincerely proclaim in our lives, “Hosanna in the highest!”
The 4th Sunday of Lent is also known as “Laetare Sunday” which means “Rejoice” because we are half way through the Season of Lent. This Sunday sets a tone of joyful anticipation for the Easter mystery and rose-colored vestments are permitted, musical instruments may be played at mass and the altar may be decorated with some flowers.
But the readings this Sunday speak of blindness and sight as God sees not man. The first reading tells the story of the choice of young David, a shepherd, as the King of all of Israel. This did not make sense to Jesse as his older sons seemed to be the better choice. But the Lord tells Jesse through the prophet Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
The second reading from Ephesians states, “You were once in darkness but now you are light in the Lord.” Without Christ we are in darkness and cannot see. With Him we can see clearly and we are to become light. This looks forward to the Sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil and to the renewing of Baptismal promises at Easter by all the faithful.
And in the Gospel is the story of the healing of the man born blind. Jesus, the Light of the World, touches the eyes of the man and he can see for the first time in his life!
As disciples of Christ, we are called to allow Jesus the Light to touch us over and over again so that we are cured of our blindness of prejudice, judgement, selfishness, materialism and so on. With His light in us we will be able to see not as man sees but as God sees.
Rejoice! The celebration of the Risen Lord is coming soon. You are the light, show it to the world!
March 19, 2017
3rd Sun of Lent
Sun 8 & 10 am
Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
On this 3rd Sunday of Lent the RCIA Elect (adults & young people over the age of 7 preparing for: Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist) and the Candidates (adults preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist) will be experiencing the 1st of 3 Scrutinies. Sounds painful (knees)! Scrutiny, is from the word “to scrutinize” or look very closely at. The Elect and Candidates are called to look deep inside as they prepare for the Easter sacraments to fully realize where they have fallen short and that they truly need God’s saving grace. But during Lent we are all called to do the same are we not?
And so the readings on this 3rd Sunday of Lent help us to be open to God’s love and mercy. The theme of the readings are clearly about water (referring to Baptism), but more specifically “living water.” Living water where we find God’s saving grace.
The first reading is from the Book of Exodus after God had set His people free from slavery in Egypt and after Moses had parted the Red Sea with his staff. Yet after all they had witnessed the people were complaining because they were thirsty. They said, “Why did you make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst?” (We never complain when things don’t go our way do we?!!) The Lord told Moses to strike the rock with his staff and water would flow for the people to drink. And it did! God provided for His people. This was a foreshadow of the Cross of Christ (the Rock of our salvation) when the soldier struck the side of Jesus and water flowed. God provided for His people once again, but this time it was “living water”, water that gives eternal life.
The theme of water continues in the Gospel when the Samaritan woman encounters the source of living water in Jesus at the well. The woman came to the well at high noon, the hottest part of the day, most likely to avoid the other women because of her reputation. It was unheard of for a Jewish man to speak to an unfamiliar woman and especially to a Samaritan. Yet Jesus has an encounter with her by asking her for a drink. This is also unheard of because by touching what she touched would make Him unclean according to the Law. But Jesus ignores all that and meets her where she is, knowing full well about her past and her present. This Samaritan woman tried to satisfy her thirst by quenching it with other things and other ways. But now through this encounter with Christ she has found the one and only thing that can truly satisfy – which is Jesus…The Samaritan woman is an image of us all. We have a thirst that God Himself has placed inside of us. We try to satisfy this thirst with things that cannot quench it: with material things, with power, with wealth, with momentary pleasures through our senses. But we will never be completely satisfied, we will never find true joy until we drink of the living waters that only Christ can provide. To satisfy this thirst inside of us we must encounter Christ. Jesus knew all about the Samaritan woman’s past yet He met her where she was in the midst of all that mess and He satisfied her thirst. The same is with us. Jesus knows all about our messes, he knows all about our past and our present. He is more concerned about our future. He wants to meet us where we are and satisfy us only like He can so we can have a better future according to His will for our lives.
So the question is, have you encountered Christ? There is a huge difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him (head to heart). Think back over your life…Have you ever encountered Jesus in a real way? It may have been in subtle ways or it may have been in a profound way. The way you know if you have encountered Christ is that it changes you. Everything is different, you see things different, you act different, you live different, and you will thirst for Christ even more. St. Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians when he had an encounter with Christ. After that everything changed for him. The same will be true for us. When we have truly met Jesus we will be changed, we will be different than we were before. This encounter is not just one time but must happen over and over again… My wife and I grew up in Catholic families, we were married at a young age and we went to mass off and on. But we did not know Jesus until we started to attend a Catholic bible study when everything changed for us: our marriage, our focus, our priorities, our work, our relax time, the way we seen things and people and so on. Like St. Paul says in the second reading, we were filled with faith, with hope and with love. We were like St. Paul whose scales had come off of his eyes and he seen everything in a new light…The ways to meet Christ are unlimited: in the sacraments (Reconciliation & Eucharist), in His Word, prayer & contemplation, in events of our lives and through other people to name a few.
And like St. Paul and like the Samaritan woman after we have had an encounter with Christ we want to share it with others so they will come to know this Jesus and so that they will be satisfied also. This is called “Evangelization” the spreading of the Good News that you have experienced…The scripture said the Samaritan woman, “Left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” She encountered Christ and shared it with others. She could not hold it in. The same will be true for us. If and when we have encountered Christ we will not be able to hold it in either. It will come out in our daily lives according to the gifts and graces we have been given. It will come out by the sharing of our stories, and the sharing of our time, talents and treasure…And when we share the Good News of meeting Jesus it will be up to the other to receive it or reject it. It will be up to them if they allow an encounter with Christ. We just need to meet them where they are, not judging or condemning them. But just sharing with them right there in their mess like Jesus encountered us in our mess.
In closing, all living creatures cannot survive without water. The same is true for us Christians, we cannot survive spiritually without the “living waters” from the source who is Jesus. During Lent we are all asked to look deep inside and to realize that we need the saving grace that the living waters of Jesus provides because without Him we will be lost…The “living water” is available for us, which is the cure and the antidote for eternal death. We just need to stop and drink of it. Nothing on this earth will satisfy us, nothing will quench our thirst until we find the source of living water…Jesus the Christ through the Holy Spirit. He is waiting for an encounter with us. He is waiting for us at the well of eternal life.
Take a drink and keep drinking of the “living water.”
Feb 19, 2017
7th Sun Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
A few Sundays ago an elderly woman walked into church and a friendly hospitality minister greeted her and offered to help her to her seat. He politely asked her, “Where would you like to sit?” She answered, “The front row please.” The man replied, “You really don’t want to sit there…the deacon preaching today is really boring.” The woman said, “Do you happen to know who I am?” The man answered, “No.” She said very strongly, “I am the deacon’s mother!” To which the man asked, “Do you know who I am?” “No”, the woman said. “Good,” he answered and quickly walked away.
On this 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, in this Season of growth, we are continued to be taught and reminded of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Not one that just goes through the motions or who is Catholic in name only but a true follower and imitator of Christ. And the message for us in the readings today is holiness: what it is and how it calls us to live our lives.
The first reading is from the Book of Leviticus, the 3rd book of the bible. This book contains the rules, regulations and customs given by God through Moses to the people of Israel, to the chosen people of God. The scripture said, “The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the whole Israelite community.” So the message was meant for everyone in the community. And the core of God’s message to His people, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”…Through our Baptism we are now the chosen people of God. And His message to us is the same, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This message is not just for certain people in the Church. Before Vatican II in the early 1960’s that was the thought: only the priests and religious were called to holiness. But during Vatican II the Spirit of God spoke to the Church that not only the clergy were called to holiness but all members of the Body of Christ are to live holy lives (every man, woman, teenager and child). Whatever situation or walk of life we are in: single, married, young or older, rich or poor, healthy or sick, clergy or not we are all called to holiness.
So if we are all called to be holy we must know what it is. Holiness is to be filled with the Holy One, the Spirit of Jesus. Only He can make us holy. St. Paul said in our 2nd reading, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In other words, “Hello! Don’t you realize that through your Baptism you were filled with the Holy One?” We must know this, that each and every one of us who have been baptized have God Himself dwelling inside of us. Just like the tabernacle is the house of God housing the Eucharist we too are the house of God through Baptism and through the receiving of God Himself in the Eucharist. We must fully realize that we are a walking, talking tabernacle with God dwelling inside of us, if we allow Him to. He gives us His grace but we must cooperate with His grace. In other words, He will remain in us if we are open to Him and if we communicate with Him daily. We are called to be holy but only He can make us holy…Also, we must remember as St. Paul tells us that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit”. Which means we must be careful and mindful of taking care of our bodies, what we take into our bodies, that nothing enters that will harm them (drugs, excessive alcohol, unhealthy food, etc.) We must be careful of the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the type of things on social media, etc.). We must be careful how we dress, not only at church but everywhere we go. Remember our bodies are supposed to be temples of God.
Holiness also means “set apart”. It means set apart for a special purpose. The vessels used at mass, the gold ciboria and cups are holy because they are set apart for a special purpose. As the chosen people of God through Christ we are holy, set apart for a special purpose which is to take part in the mission of Jesus and His Church. Set apart to be different than the world, to lead the world to Christ.
So what does holiness look like? Is it someone who walks around all day with their head bowed and their hands folded? Not necessarily. But holiness can sometimes be seen on a person. When my wife and I were in our mid-twenties living in LA I noticed these 3 guys about my age at work. And there was something different about them. They seemed to be glowing. They were so filled with Jesus that you could see it all over them. They had a joy and a confidence that I had never seen before. And they were a big influence on me and my conversion. I imagine that’s why the saints are pictured with halos over their heads, because you can see it all over them.
But the way holiness is seen through most of us is living what we heard in Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love in action towards our neighbor is holiness revealed. Love in action is proof of our holiness that we are filled with the Holy One and set apart for a special purpose. But Jesus, in the Gospel, takes it even further. He says, “You have heard it said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This was a radical statement back then and is a radical statement today. Love your enemies?!! Really?!! This is probably the most difficult teaching of Christ and the hardest to follow. It’s easy to love your own kind, the ones on your side or the ones who agree with you. But what about the ones who are different, the ones who are against us or who persecute us? That’s not so easy is it?!! But that’s what we are called to. That’s what holiness is…why? Because if we are united to the Holy One, we are to live as Him in love of all people, friend and enemy as Jesus does. As He tells us, “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” The world says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to the one who is evil.” That is radical, that is different. We want revenge don’t we, we want to strike back. But with God’s grace in us we do not…I heard a teaching many years ago when I first started my walk with Christ about this. They said if there is someone in your life that is an enemy, someone who has come against you or your family and you really can’t stand them or even want to strike back at them: instead pray for them. Lift them up in prayer every day. Pray that they are blessed and that they find God. It will be very difficult at first…but it will get easier. And you will be set free. You will have room for the Holy One in your heart. You will remain holy. You will be holy.
To assist us to live holiness that we are called to we are given the Church which Jesus has sanctified. In the Church we find all the means necessary to live a life of holiness. We have God’s Word, we have the Eucharist and we have Reconciliation. In the Church we have the Pope, bishops and priests to lead us and guide us on our walk. We have the Blessed Mother and the Saints who we look to for an example of holiness and who we ask to pray for us. And in the Church we have each other, to help us on our walk to strive for holiness. To lift each other up when we are down or when we are straying away. We have each other to walk side by side on this road that we are called to walk…We have all the means necessary to live holiness in the Church.
Jesus says in the last verse of today’s Gospel, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God knows we will never be perfect but we are to strive for perfection by living in holiness, cooperating with the grace He offers us… Every man, woman, teenager and child is called to be holy. Filled with the Holy One, set apart for a special purpose, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we are called to be saints of God, so that He is seen all over us, for His glory!
On the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount. But as is usually the case, the first reading sets the stage. The first reading is from the 3rd section of Isaiah which is the time Israel was set free from captivity and re-establishing itself as a nation in its homeland. The reading is a reminder to them to not make the same mistakes that got them in trouble before captivity. The reminder is to make sure that they are true to the covenant which shows itself in sharing, giving and blessing especially towards the less fortunate.
The Gospel directs us how to do this: we are to be salt and light by the divine grace of God by our loving concern for others especially the poor and oppressed. In other words, as disciples of Christ we are called to a response to the Gospel by putting our faith into action. We are to be good stewards of our blessings which results in glory to God. As Jesus put it very plainly, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
To the world this does not make sense. But St. Paul tells us in the second reading that this wisdom is from God Himself.
True disciples of Christ are imitators of Him in compassion and in love. They are good stewards of their gifts, true to the covenant of their Baptism. Why? For the glory of God!
The readings on the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time speak to the disciples of Christ about “humility.” Christian humility is the virtue that stems from the knowledge that God is the author of all good and results in the Christian not thinking too highly of oneself.
In the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah we are told “Seek justice and humility, perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” In other words be humble before God and men, pleasing in His sight and we will be blessed and protected by our God.
In the second reading St. Paul speaks to the Church at Corinth and to us how the humility of Christ and His disciples does not make sense to the world, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.” In His wisdom we find the source of humility which is the cross of Christ. Paul tells us, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.” It is God that has done all good things through us. We acknowledge this in humility.
And in the Gospel, we hear from Jesus the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount in which He is shown as true Teacher and interpreter of the Law of Moses. Jesus teaches His disciples going beyond the Law. He teaches about humility as He lists the Beatitudes which all start out with “Blessed.” Blessed is translated as “happy”. If we live this new law of Christ in humility we will be “blessed”, we will find true happiness.
As disciples of Christ, let us bow before our God in humility, fully realizing that everything we have accomplished, every good thing we possess are a direct result of God working in our lives. Let us imitate the humility of the Humble One, our Lord Jesus Christ. In this and in all things good we boast in the Lord!
January 15, 2017
2nd Sun Ord Time
Sun 8 & 10 am
Isaiah 49 3, 5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
The Season of Christmas ended last Monday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. On Tuesday we began Ordinary Time for this Liturgical Year. Unlike Advent & Christmas or Lent & Easter which focus on a particular aspect of Christ, Ordinary Time throughout the year does not focus on 1 aspect but reveals the full mystery of Jesus…So what is the first thing the Church wants us to know as she begins to reveal the full mystery of Christ to us this Liturgical Year?
As always, for the answer we look to the readings. Our first reading is from Isaiah Chapter 49 which is 1 of 4 poems or “servant songs” that describe the mission of an unnamed “servant of the Lord”. This unnamed servant is God’s obedient instrument in bringing the people back to Him. The scripture said, “The Lord has spoken who formed me as His servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to Him and Israel gathered to Him.” Now there is debate whether Isaiah was talking about an individual or a community of people. But it is believed that he is talking about both: an individual servant and a servant people. This individual and this community were to be an ideal model of faith that truly served God, called from the womb or the beginning, whose mission it was to reveal God to the world and to be a light to the nations.
First let’s start out with the individual person who is this servant. In the Gospel it is revealed to us who this individual is: it is Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Lamb of God. Christ from the Greek means the “Anointed One”, who humbled Himself and came as Servant to reveal the Father to the world. The Gospel said the Spirit came down from heaven like a dove upon Him and remained upon Him. We celebrated His coming on Christmas a few weeks ago and on the Epiphany last Sunday when He was revealed to the nations. Jesus accepted the mission of making the Father known to the world, He accepted the will of the Father. It was of He who Isaiah prophesied, “You are my servant through whom I show my glory.”…Also important is the revelation that we are baptized into Christ, we are anointed by the Spirit also. In Baptism the Spirit comes down upon us like a dove and remains upon us if we allow it to. And like Jesus we are given the mission to live as servants of God to reveal the Father to the world. The Father wants to show His glory through us. But do we choose to accept this mission? Do we even know we have been given a mission? Do we choose in our daily lives to make the Father known and to allow the Father to show His glory through us?
Jesus’ main goal and purpose was to make the love of the Father known to all people. What is our main goal in life? What is our priority? Sure we all have goals and dreams in life. There is nothing wrong with that. We all want to be happy, we want good jobs to provide for ourselves and for our families, we want a nice home with nice things, we want good friends and good health, and on and on. But as Catholic Christians, baptized into Christ, our main goal in life, our top priority, above everything else, should be to make Jesus known to all the world by word and by deed (by our words and actions). This is our calling as servants united to Christ who came to be servant of the Father…As John the Baptist in the Gospel did not take any credit for himself but pointed to Christ, we too are to point to Christ Jesus by the way we live our lives…In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells the Church at Corinth and he tells us, “You have ben sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” In other words, in Baptism we were made holy, filled with the Holy One, set apart for a special purpose, a special mission as priest, prophet and king in Christ. We are supposed to be set apart from the world, we are supposed to be different from those who are not yet in Christ. By the way we live our lives can people tell we are Catholic Christians? At home, at work, out in the world, can they tell that there is something different about us? Or do we just blend in with everyone else? As individuals which we heard about in Isaiah, as servants of God, as models of faith, we are called to make Jesus known to the world by being different, by being set apart by being holy. That is the mission given to each of us through Baptism.
Now let’s look at a servant people, a community of people, whose mission it is to reveal God to the world, to be a light to the nations. In his time Isaiah was speaking about the nation of Israel but the Church sees this prophecy fulfilled in itself. The Church, with Christ as its head, a community of believers, a servant people, is to be a model of faith whose mission it is to bring all people to God and into His Kingdom. Like the individual, the Church is called to be holy. And like the individual the Church is not perfect because it consists of imperfect people but it is made holy by the Holy One. The Church is to be separate from the ideals of the world, set apart, different than world no matter what modern thinking says, but standing firm in the Law and teachings of God…This is the universal Church with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. But we look at our own community (or the visitors’ parish) as part of the Universal Church. Here at Resurrection our main mission as the servant people of God is to bring all to Christ, to make disciples, to make God known through our words and our deeds, through compassion and mercy, through service by the grateful sharing of our time, talent and treasure as a model of faith. We here at Resurrection are to be a light to the nations, to draw all to the knowledge of God’s love and salvation. We do this by our daily and weekly participation within the community. But one huge way we will be a light to the nations as community is the building of our new church. (Soon) The walls will go up and the tower will be raised high in the sky and will be lit for all to see from every direction. Our new church will draw attention to God and to His Church. It will be a permanent and constant invitation open to all people. And once the people accept the invitation to step inside, the beauty and the sacredness will no doubt draw them closer to Christ. The beauty of the new Church will draw them in but the beauty of the community of believers will keep them coming back…But to do this we cannot do it alone or with just a small percentage of the community. Even St. Paul needed help. In the 2nd reading he mentions Sosthenes who was with him. We know he had others working with him in ministry: Luke, Mark, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silvanus, Aquila and his wife Priscilla to name just a few. To be a light to the nations as a community of believers we need each and every member to participate. It cannot be done alone. It has to be every individual in this parish and every family to come together as 1 community of believers drawing all people to God and His Kingdom by the sharing of our gifts: our time, our talents and our treasure.
So, in closing and to summarize, the first thing the Church wants us to know as she begins to reveal the full mystery of Christ to us at the beginning of this not-so Ordinary Time is that Jesus is the Servant and Lamb of God who came into the world to make the Father known and we as individuals and as community are called to be an ideal model of faith imitating Jesus, living in holiness separate from the ideals of the world, whose mission it is to reveal Christ to all, to be a light to the nations. The Father wants to show His glory through us as individuals and as community. Will we choose on a daily basis to accept this mission as our top priority and purpose?
This year the Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord is the last Sunday of the Christmas Season. The word epiphany means “revelation” or “manifestation”, a secret being made known. The Epiphany celebrates the coming of God as man revealed to all nations which are represented by the magi from the East. This is a great feast for us Gentiles (non-Jew) because now the Kingdom is open to us!
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah Chapter 60 when the Israelites had just been set free from Babylonian captivity around 586 BC. Things were looking up for the nation of Israel as proclaimed by the prophet, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” We as Catholic Christians see this prophecy fulfilled in Christ, the Light who has come. The prophet foretells that “The wealth of nations shall be brought before you…bearing gold and frankincense.” This of course is fulfilled in the Gospel we heard today about gifts being brought before the new born King who has been manifested to all peoples.
In the second reading from Ephesians St. Paul says, “The mystery was made known to me by revelation…the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” This is huge! St. Paul is saying that the secret is out – not only Jews are chosen but now all are offered salvation through Christ.
As disciples, let us realize the great Epiphany as real in our lives. Let us get this secret out to the nations. And as the wise men sought the King and prostrated themselves before Him, let us continuously seek Him and lay our lives, our gifts, our talents and our treasure at His feet as we worship Him. As we do the words of Isaiah speak about us, “Rise up…the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”
Dec 31, 2016
7th Day in the Octave of Christmas
1 John 2:18-21; Psalm 96; John 1:1-18
Today is the 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas and the last day of the calendar year. Tonight we will ring in a New Year. But in our readings we hear about God doing something new with the coming of the Christ which we celebrated on Christmas Day last week and we continue to celebrate throughout this Christmas Season.
The Gospel today is the same exact reading we heard on Christmas morning (John 1:1-18). It starts out, “In the beginning…” This is the same way the Book of Genesis starts out, “In the beginning…” when God did something new by creating the heavens and the earth. John starts out his Gospel with these same words because God did something new by sending His Son into the world signaling a new creation begun in Christ. The Gospel said, “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…” With this new thing God revealed Himself to us through His Son. He made Himself present to us. John the Baptist testified that this Son of God, the Light, has come into the world to enlighten those who would receive Him.
The first reading this morning from the First Letter of St. John tells us that since the Word has come to dwell among us we are now in the last hour. In other words since Jesus has come the world it is now on the clock pushing towards the end of time as we know it. But we are not to worry or be afraid if we remain in Him who has anointed us with His Holy Spirit.
As we continue through this Christmas Season let us remain in the Light that has come into the world and has come into our hearts. And let us live in the Light as a testimony with our lives as John the Baptist testified to the Light…As the world will ring in a New Year this evening we continue to rejoice in God who continues to renew us through His Son.
“The One Who is seated on the throne of heaven is laid in a stable. A God Who is beyond access is touched by hands of human beings!” – St. John Chrysostom
“After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and of His first manifestations, and this takes place in Christmas Time” (Universal Norms, 32).
On the Vigil the word was proclaimed by the angel of the Lord to the shepherds and to us on that holy night, “For behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
On Christmas we once again give thanks and glory to God for the greatest gift ever given: out of love for us God became man for our sake.
From the wisdom of Bishop Robert Brom, “Christmas has become the Feast of Gifts. Let us imitate our God who has given himself to us in Jesus, by giving ourselves to each other as a gift of love.”
May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you. And in thanksgiving and gratitude may we all live the true meaning of Christmas every day of our lives in giving of ourselves as gift in imitation of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World.
December (17) 18, 2016
4th Sun of Advent
4:30 pm Sat & Sun
Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24
On this 4th and final Sunday of Advent we are just 1 week from Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation. So the question is, “Are you prepared?” “Are ready?” One way to prepare is to hang lights on your house, bring a tree inside and decorate it, put all the Christmas items out, scurry around buying gifts, get the food for your guests or to take to someone’s house, set aside your Christmas outfit or go buy a new one…whew, sounds stressful! That’s the practical preparations we make. But the more important preparation is spiritual, the more important thing is to know the real reason for the season: the coming of God as man as we heard in the Gospel “Emmanuel – God with us.”
This story I would like to share with you will help us to remember the real meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate. It is written by a gentleman named V.A. Bailey as he shares his experience just before one Christmas. He says, “I hurried into the store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself, ‘I’ll be in here forever.’ I hurried to the toy department and wondered if the grandkids would even play with my gifts?…Then, my eye caught a little boy holding a doll. He held her so carefully. I watched him turn and ask, ‘Aunty Jane, are you sure I don’t have enough money?’ Gently the woman replied, ‘David, Emily does not need a doll.’ The woman went to another aisle. David looked so sad that I couldn’t resist asking who the doll was for. He said, ‘My sister wanted it so badly for Christmas. I have to give it to mommy to take it to her.’ I asked him where his sister was. He looked at me with tear-filled eyes, ‘She has gone to be with Jesus. Daddy says mommy is going to have to go to be with both of them soon too.’ My heart nearly stopped beating…David went on, ‘I told daddy to make sure mommy goes nowhere until I get back from the store. I want mommy to take this doll to Emily.’…While he wasn’t looking I reached into my pocket and pulled out some cash. And I said, ‘David, how about we count your money again?’ He grew excited, ‘I asked Jesus to give me enough money. I just know I have enough!’ I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it. He looked up and shouted, ‘Jesus has given me enough for Emily’s doll!’…Just then His aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I couldn’t keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I started. On the way home I remembered a story in the news several days earlier about a drunk driver hitting a car and killing a little girl and that the mother was left on life support. Two days before Christmas I heard the report where the family turned off the machine. The day before Christmas there was a funeral notice saying that a Mass would be celebrated on St. Stephen’s Feast Day, the First Christian Martyr (which is the day after Christmas Day). The mass would be for the mother and daughter of that terrible accident. Little David was the son and brother…As I gathered with my family in front of an overblown meal which none of us could finish, holding expensive gifts we didn’t really need I thought, ‘We’ve lost the real meaning of Christmas. God-with-us arrives as a simple child in need of love, and in honor of that day we spend too much money, eat too much and drink too much.’…I left the table, went to my desk, and wrote a card for each member of my family. I told them what I’d never been able to say, ‘I want you to know I love you.’…Through David and that doll, God visited me in the last week of Advent. Christmas will never be the same again.” (End of story)
The real meaning of Christmas is about recognizing the immeasurable, amazing love of God, receiving His love and sharing His love. We can’t let ourselves get caught up too much with the commercialism of the world but we must know the real meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate: that God did come to us and we are to try to bring all people to this same knowledge of His love…We are getting ready to celebrate next week that, because of the love of the Father, He sent His Son into the world for our sake, to open the door to heaven for us, a door that was closed, shut tight because of sin. He came to open that door!
To prepare for something we have to know what we are preparing for. Just like when you are getting ready to go on a trip. You need to know where you are going, what time of year it will be, what is the predicted weather and so forth. To fully prepare for what we will celebrate next week we must know who we are preparing for…Our readings tell us who this Messiah and Savior is. In the first reading from Isaiah He is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us.” In the second reading St. Paul proclaims Him as Son of Man. But also Son of God. Both God and man. And in the Gospel Matthew calls Him Jesus which means “God saves”. Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Anointed One, God-with-us, both God and man is the reason we will celebrate. It is because He came to offer us salvation through a trusting, personal relationship with Him, united to His Cross and Resurrection. If we do not fully know why we celebrate, what is the point? What is the point of putting lights on our house and in our yard unless we know that we are saying, “Jesus, the light has come into the world to dispel the darkness!” What is the point of bringing a live tree into our house unless we know that the evergreen tree symbolizes everlasting life obtained from the tree of the cross. What is the point of exchanging gifts unless we know that Christ is the “Gift of all gifts” and out of thanksgiving and gratitude we give as we were given to…We must know why we do things as Catholic Christians and pass that knowledge down to our children and our grand-children and all who will listen.
And the reality is, is that Jesus did come to us and He continues to come again, again and again. He is truly Emmanuel “God-with-us”: in all of creation we see Him, in the little things and in the grand things. But He is with us most significantly in every Mass in four distinct ways: He is in the Word proclaimed, in the Eucharist (Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity), in the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), and He is in the people, you and me through our Baptism…Jesus comes to us over and over in different ways, in little ways and in grand ways. He comes to us in our family members and in our parish community, in the poor and less fortunate, He comes to us in good times and in difficult times, in ordinary times and in extra-ordinary times. Do we recognize Him when He comes? Do we acknowledge Him and receive Him?
In the first reading Isaiah said, “The Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.” This same verse was repeated by the angel to Joseph in the Gospel as a sign for him that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit…We are called to be a sign that Jesus the Christ has come and continues to come: in and through us, in our words and in our deeds. It is in the sharing generously of ourselves and of our blessings that we are a sign that God is with us. It is in our compassion and mercy, in our kindness and in our thoughtfulness that we are a sign for all that God is with us. We are called to be a sign that leads to Christ.
So as we enter into this last week before Christmas let us fully realize and know the real reason for this season: that Christmas is about the immeasurable love of God manifested in the incarnation of the Christ-child and for us to receive that love and to share that love by the gift of ourselves.
That is the whole point!!! In the words of V.A. Bailey, “May Christmas never be the same again.” Amen.
December 10, 2016
Sat of 2nd Week of Advent
Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Ps 80; Matthew 17:9a, 10-13
The first reading this morning speaks of the prophet Elijah. Who was Elijah? He was a very important figure in salvation history, a major prophet with fiery words who told it like it was no matter the consequences. He was a powerful man of God who at his death was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. The scripture this morning said, “How awesome are you Elijah in your wondrous deeds!”...But the key verse in the first reading this morning about Elijah that ties to the Gospel and to the Advent Season is, “You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord.” The scriptures foretold that Elijah would return before the day of the Lord. And he did as we see in today’s Gospel.
The disciples knew the scriptures and the teachings that Elijah would return but they needed more clarification as they ask Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus tells them, “I tell you that Elijah has already come and they did not recognize him.” Jesus is saying that Elijah returned in John the Baptist who had the same spirit as Elijah. John, like Elijah, was a powerful prophet of God, with fiery words who told it like it was no mater the consequences.
So the message for us today is that during this Advent Season, even though we have heard these scripture passages over and over every year, even though we seem to know them very well, we like the disciples should seek and ask for further clarification. We should seek a more clearer understanding to their deep meaning and apply them to our lives. This Advent let us go deeper into the meaning of what it means to prepare for the coming of Christ by asking the Spirit of God to help us understand. Then we too will be powerful disciples of Christ, prophets with words of fire, with the same spirit as Elijah and John the Baptist not afraid to speak out for the Kingdom of God.
The readings on the 2nd Sunday of Advent continue to give us hope as they look to the present day as well as the future coming of Christ. In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, which was written in the 8th century B.C., we hear of the Righteous, Just One who would come. He would be “a sprout from the shoot of Jesse” who was the father of King David. This meant that the promised messiah would be from the family line of David. This Just One would be filled with the gifts of the Spirit and He would be a just judge who would bring peace.
In the Gospel John the Baptist was the herald who announced this Just One, Jesus the Christ, who baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He would come once to forgive but would come again a second time to judge with justice with “His winnowing fan in His hand…and gather His wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” This is a stern, fair warning for all in the world.
And in the 2nd reading St. Paul tells the disciples “welcome all as Christ welcomed you” and that the Kingdom of this Just One is open to all, Jew as well as Gentile. St. Paul tells us that we are given hope in Christ through the scriptures which are written for our instruction.
During this Advent, as disciples of Christ, the Just and Righteous One, let us place our hope in Him as we trust the Word of God and be guided and encouraged by it. When we do we receive the peace that only He can give, a peace that passes all human understanding.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus…give us hope and peace.
The Season of Advent has a two-fold character: a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas (the first coming of Christ) and preparation of minds and hearts for Christ’s 2nd coming at the end of time.
The readings on the 1st Sunday of Advent focus on the latter, Christ’s 2nd coming. In the 1st reading from Isaiah Chapter 2 the Lord calls His people back to Himself and to the “mountain of the Lord’s house” meaning His Kingdom and ultimately His Church. This calling is sent out to all peoples Jews as well as Gentiles (us). The mountain is a symbol of the 4 weeks of Advent and also the journey of the rest of our lives.
St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading how to live the Christian life while we wait for the Lord’s 2nd coming: “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.” St. Paul says do not delay in living this life as he says, “You know the time, it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.”
And in the Gospel Jesus tells us, “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. So too, you also must be prepared.”
As disciples of Christ, we must always live a life prepared. We do this by loving God and loving neighbor in the stewardship of our time, talent and treasure. Being prepared starts with a personal relationship with Jesus and is manifested by love of our brethren.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
November 26, 2016
Sat 8 am
Last Sat of Year
Rv 22:1-7; Ps 95: 1-7; Luke 21: 34-36
This past Sunday was the last Sunday of the Church Year (Christ the King) but today is the last day of the Church Year. The Season of Advent and the new year starts tonight at the Vigil Mass.
And the readings at this time of year including this morning and into Advent always focus on the end time and the 2nd coming of Christ. The first reading this morning is from the very last chapter of the Book of Revelation and is the very last chapter in the entire bible. And in this reading we heard the last part of the vision given to St. John. In this revelation John and us are shown what heaven might be like, “The river of life giving water, sparkling like crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” And, “Nothing accursed will be found anymore.” And, “Night will be no more, nor will they need light…for the lord God shall give them light.”
But the key verse in this first reading and the theme that ties into the focus of this time of year is, “Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.” The theme for the end of the year and for the first weeks of Advent is Jesus is coming so: Be ready…stay vigilant…don’t get lax and get caught off guard…In the Gospel today Jesus says, “Do not become drowsy… Be vigilant at all times.” Drowsy is when you are so sleepy you are kind of out of it, don’t really know what is happening around you, not alert. Jesus is telling us as we wait for His return do not be spiritually drowsy but be wide awake, fully aware and alert, be spiritually awake at all times.
Today’s Psalm tells us how to be vigilant and alert while we wait, “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord…Let us bow down in worship.” In other words, to wait fully awake, fully alert for His coming we are to be filled with His joyful Spirit while we bow down before our King…St. Augustine said it best, “Let us sing a new song to the Lord, not with our lips but with our lives.” While we wait for His return let us live a life that keeps the prophetic message of this book. If we do we will not be drowsy but we will be vigilant, we will be ready.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
November 20, 2016
Christ the King
Sun 8 & 10
2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
The Church year closes this Sunday with the Solemnity of “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe”. That sounds like He’s some kind of super hero “King of the Universe”. But the fact is that Jesus Christ is Hero of all heroes and King of all kings, on this earth and in all of creation, past present and future. And that is what we are celebrating today which puts a nice bow on all that we have celebrated in Christ throughout the Liturgical Year.
This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to combat the growing secularism (taking God out of everything) and atheism (denial of the existence of God) of his time. Do you think we need to proclaim Christ as King in our time today among the secularism and atheism of our day? Even more now, right!
The Church teaches that “Christ’s lordship extends over all human history” (CCC 450) and that “He reigns above every earthly power and principality” (CCC 668). In other words He reigns supreme…In the 2nd reading from Colossians we hear the beautiful Christological hymn that proclaims this about our King, “For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers…He is before all things…in all things He Himself is preeminent.” Jesus Christ the King reigns above all things visible and invisible, past present and future.
But this 2nd reading leads us into the perplexing Gospel passage we heard today about the cross of Christ. The last verse from Colossians said, “For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things for Him, making peace by the blood of His cross.” And the Gospel is about Jesus nailed to the cross between two criminals. Why would the Church choose this Gospel on the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, Jesus hanging on the cross which seems like defeat?!! This is a paradox, something that does not make sense but is true. This feast fixes Christ’s messianic Kingship squarely in the mystery of the cross. It does not make sense to the world. But to us who believe with the eyes of faith it makes perfect sense that our salvation is won by having our King die a horrible, humiliating death. Because in a sense His throne is the cross…A throne of a king is always stationed high above the people where he looks down on his subjects. Jesus’ throne of the cross was high on the hill of Calvary where He looked down on all the people. He shows His Kingship from the throne of His cross by the authority to pardon the criminal that asked to be pardoned and by granting him salvation (only the King of kings can do that). And as the criminal did we can also approach the throne of Christ the King and asked to be pardoned. It is at the cross of Christ where we receive mercy.
In the first reading we hear about King David who was a type of Christ, who was a foreshadow of the coming Messiah. David was the prelude of what Jesus was to fulfill. The reading said about David, “The Lord said to you, You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.” As David was shepherd of his people Israel, Jesus is the Good Shepherd of all people. As David was commander of his army, Jesus is commander of His army of saints…David slew the giant with an unlikely weapon - a sling shot & a pebble, Jesus slew the devil, sin & death with an unlikely weapon – the wood of the cross…David was anointed king of Israel, Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ…David was the model king of Israel. Jesus is the King of all kings.
But the real question is, the most important thing is, is Jesus Christ - King of your heart, of your life, of your family, of your parish community? A good king reigns and has authority, is looked to for guidance and protection, is adored and reverenced, is obeyed. Is Jesus your King? Do you obey Him, give Him authority over your life, look to Him to guide you, do you reverence and worship Him, is He your top priority? Or is He just a nice idea, on the back burner, a second or third thought, one you look to when you need Him? If He is the King of your heart and your life people will know it. They will know it because you will imitate Jesus in compassion, in selflessness and in sacrificial love. You will take up your cross like Him, giving of yourself by sharing your time, your talent and your treasure for the good of the other and for the good of the Kingdom. Like Him you will offer pardon and mercy even when it does not make sense. Your life will be a paradox. People will know He is your King by your words and by your deeds. Jesus wants to be King of your life, King of your family, and King of this parish community. But it is up to us to allow Him to be.
When you allow Him to be your King in a personal, intimate relationship, then you can truly trust in Him. He is on the throne and in charge of all things. Our God is as they say is, “large and in charge”. So when troubles arise, problems occur, when worries are on your mind, give them to your King who has the authority and the power to handle them. If He sits on the throne of your heart than give everything to Him to take care of. And He will…But sometimes we do not trust in Him. We don’t fully believe in His power or how big our God is. Sometimes we give Him our cares then we take them back. There is a song by a young Christian singer named Natalie Grant that illustrates this very well. The lyrics are:
“I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I've designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world.”
If Jesus is your King, trust in Him and believe He has the power and the authority to handle all your cares. He is still on the throne. He’s got this!
And as followers, as disciples of the King, it is our mission as the Church to proclaim Christ as King in a world that does not recognize Him. We must proclaim Him in a world where secularism is the norm. Where God is taken out of the schools, the courtrooms and the public square. Where freedom of religion is getting less and less. In a world where more and more people, especially young people are denying that God even exists. By our baptism, powered by the sacraments of grace, we are to proclaim Jesus as King by the way we live our lives, starting in our homes, then our parish, then the community.
And let our prayer be of thanksgiving for our King in the words of St. Paul from today’s 2nd reading, “Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.”
In the words of the Mexican Cristeros, “Viva Crist Rey!” Long live Christ the King!
November 12, 2016
Josaphat, Bishop & Martyr
3 John 5-8; Ps 112; Luke 18:1-8
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr. St. Josaphat was born in Poland around 1580 and was raised Ukrainian Orthodox. As bishop he worked for the unity of the Church and because of this he was martyred in 1623. St. Josaphat was the first formally canonized saint of the Eastern Rite.
Our first reading is from the very short 3rd Letter of St. John (only 1 chapter). It is addressed to an individual who is praised for his work of supporting Christian missionaries and is encouraged to continue to support them as the scripture said, “Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.” And the author offers one reason why missionaries should be supported as he says, “We ought to support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the truth.” A Christian missionary is one who takes the Gospel to the lost, spreading the Good News of hope. And as the author says, the one who supports the one who goes takes part in the missionary work and the saving of souls. Most of us cannot leave home, job, family to be a missionary but when we support the ones who do by prayers and finances we actually take part in the missionary work as if we were there with them. In this sense we are co-workers in the mission field…St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) never left the convent walls yet she is the “patroness of missions” because she offered her life as a prayer for the growth of the Church. We are called also to support the spread of the Gospel by supporting missionary work…But missionary work is also taking place within our own Resurrection community where the Gospel of life is offered daily. We can all take part in this work by supporting it by offering a portion of our time, talent and treasure as good stewards.
The Gospel proclaimed today is one that we heard just a few Sunday’s ago. It is the lesson to be persistent in prayer without becoming weary (loose heart, give up). In the context of today’s message tied to the first reading we are encouraged to support God’s work without becoming weary, without becoming tired or complacent. We are called to support the work of the Kingdom here in our own community as well as the universal Church. Because when we do we are “co-workers of the truth.”
The last few Sundays of the Liturgical Year focus on the end time and our eternal destiny. On the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear in the Gospel about the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection or angels, try to undermine Jesus’ teaching on resurrection. They propose the story of the 7 brothers who all marry the same woman but all die childless. They ask, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?” Jesus reiterates His teaching on the resurrection once again, “He is not God of the dead but of the living.”
The first reading from 2 Maccabees is the powerful story of a mother and her 7 sons who refused break God’s law by adhering to man’s law. Their deep conviction and profession of faith lead to horrific torture and death. But they are willing to undergo this persecution because of their belief in life after death.
The question is as disciples of Christ do we have this same conviction? Would we be willing to die for our faith? That question can only truly be answered at the moment of decision. However the way we live our lives now will help us decide.
Many around the world in the Middle East and Africa, in the Latin countries and in the Philippines to name a few, are facing that decision today. It is something for us to think about. Do we have a deep enough conviction in faith? Do we really believe in life after death? If we do that is where we get our hope and our strength.
May the words from the 2nd Letter of St. Paul encourage us: “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who has loved us and given us encouragement and good hope through His grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”
Conviction in Christ and the resurrection is our hope!
The message from the readings on the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time is no doubt the patient mercy of God and that He invites all to turn from sin and to His loving embrace.
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we hear how great and grand God is and how small we are compared to Him. Yet the scripture says, “You have mercy on all, because you can do all things and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” Mercy is undeserved forgiveness. Our awesome God, creator of the universe, offers us this mercy. And He is overwhelmingly patient with us as the scripture says, “Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing.”
In the Gospel we hear the well known story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who was seeking to see who this Jesus whom he must have heard about. Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because they were considered traitors and thieves. And Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector! He was short in stature so he climbed a sycamore tree to get a look at this one who was changing people’s lives. When he responded to Jesus’ call to come down the scripture said, “He received him with joy.” Zacchaeus experienced the mercy of God that day and Jesus said about him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
As disciples of Christ we too must respond and accept the mercy of God and salvation every day of our lives. Like Zacchaeus we too are sinners who God patiently waits for to respond. And in turn we must spread the good news to the world about this mercy that is being offered.
The last line of the Gospel sums up this Sunday’s message, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” That is us, our families and the whole world.
October 29, 2016
Sat 8 am
Phil 1:18B-26; Psalm 42; Luke 14:1, 7-11
In the first reading St. Paul is writing to the Philippians from prison while awaiting his imminent death. But even though he knows what is going to happen to him he still rejoices because the Gospel of Christ is being proclaimed. He says, “With all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” The most important thing to Paul is that Jesus Christ is glorified through him.
St. Paul uses an interesting word “magnify”. To magnify means to make larger in size, to enlarge. I remember when my parents gave me a magnifying glass when I was a kid and we loved to look at bugs and plants and things. You could see every part very clearly…But St. Paul is saying that through his life, by the Spirit, Jesus is magnified or enlarged for all to see, He is made clear…As disciples of Christ we too are called to “magnify” the Lord in our lives so that all will see Christ through our words and our deeds so that He will be glorified.
One way to magnify Christ is through humility as we heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus tells the parable about not choosing the best places of honor for yourself but to choose the lower place. And He says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Humility in Christ is the opposite of pride. It is not thinking too highly of yourself while looking down on others. Humility in Christ puts the other first ahead of ourselves, it thinks of the others needs before our own. When we live in humility in the example of Jesus we magnify God for all to see.
Let St. Paul’s words be ours, “With all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” The most important thing to Paul was that Jesus Christ be glorified. May it be our priority also!
October 16, 2016
29th Sun Ord Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
*At a Catholic church down in Louisiana during the middle of the week there was an elderly lady who was kneeling in the front pew praying the Rosary. She was really working those beads, knocking out those Hail Mary’s. At that time the inside of the church was being repainted and there was scaffolding that reached all the way up to the ceiling. She did not know it but there was a painter on the top level of the scaffolding. And the painter decided to mess with her. He said, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up but didn’t see anybody so she continued with her Hail Mary’s knocking out those beads. Once again the painter yelled out, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up again but did not see anyone so she went back to her Hail Mary’s. This time the painter decided he would really mess with her so he yelled out, “It’s me Jesus!” To which the old lady responded, “Hush up! I’m talking to your momma!” (I don’t make them up, I just repeat them.) J
The readings this Sunday help us to focus on prayer, but not only prayer but specifically the necessity to be persistent in prayer. First of all we must define what prayer is. Prayer is simply communication with God. It is speaking to God whether it is in the form of set prayers like the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary” or the “Glory Be” or some other set prayer, or it’s just spontaneous words: whatever form it is it is true prayer if it is from the heart. But it is also listening to God, shutting up for a while and allowing Him to speak to us. It must be a two way conversation. Prayer is the lifeline in our relationship with God. Without it there is no way we can have a relationship with Him…But why does Jesus tell us in the Gospel about the necessity to pray always without becoming weary? Because He knows that sometimes our prayers and requests are not answered in the time that we want or in the way that we want. *One day while in deep prayer a young man looked up to heaven and asked the Lord, “God, how long is a million years to you?” The Lord answered, “My son, to me, a million years is like a minute.” Then the young man asked, “How much is a million dollars to you?” And God replied, “My son, to me, a million dollars is like a penny.” So the young man asked, “God, could you give me a penny?” And the Lord said, “In a minute.” J God’s time is not always our time. We want everything right now, our way. But Jesus tells us to be like the widow in the Gospel who did not give up but keep praying even when things seem to be taking too long or when nothing seems to be happening or when things are not turning out the way that we want. Why? Because when we continue to pray it builds our faith and our trust in the Father when we persevere. And that’s what God wants for His children, for us to have faith and trust in Him. Persistence in prayer builds our spiritual muscles like pumping iron builds our physical muscles. The more we consistently pray the stronger our faith will be.
Two weeks ago in the Gospel the apostles asked the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Prayer without becoming weary, without losing heart or giving up, increases our faith and helps us get through difficult times. It helps us to trust that the Father knows best. Yes prayer moves the heart of God like a child’s request moves their parent’s heart but most of all it helps us totally trust in God’s will for our lives…Jesus is our best example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was scourged and crucified. The scripture said He prayed so intensely that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) And we know what the answer to His pray was right? Was the cup of suffering taken away from Him? No! He was put on trial, mocked, scourged and crucified. He trusted that God the Father had a greater plan, the Resurrection and total victory! Jesus asks us to pray without losing heart, trust even when it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, trust that He has a greater plan for our good and for the good of those we pray for. And this increases our faith which is what is most important now and for eternity. Trust in the Father who wants the good for us even when it is hard to understand. We trust when we pray Jesus’ words as our own, “not my will but yours be done.”
Persistence in prayer, praying the same requests every single day in faith and in trust without giving up sometimes allows us to see results and sometimes not. Or it may take years before we see anything happen. St. Monica prayed for the soul and conversion of her husband for many years and finally seen the fruit of her prayers as her husband turned to the Lord just before he died. She prayed for her wayward son, lost out in the world, for many years when it seemed hopeless and he turned out to be one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church, theologian, bishop, and Doctor of the Church - St. Augustine…Sometimes we may pray for something or for someone but we will not see results in our lifetime but the fruit of our prayers may come to pass after we have gone home to the Lord. There are things I pray for every single day of my life waiting and trusting, confident that God hears me and will answer me in His time and in His way. And I continue to lift these requests to Him every single day as I pray the Rosary.
Now we turn to the first reading from the Book of Exodus where God’s people, through Moses, were told to engage the Amalekites (a fierce nomadic tribe) in battle. Amalek was one of the enemies of Israel and a real threat against them. The scripture said, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Moses with hands raised symbolizes prayer and goes along with our theme of persistent prayer. As long as his hands were raised in prayer he was winning the battle but when he let his hands rest he started to lose the battle. The same is true for us in our lives. When we continue to pray every day we will eventually win the battle against our enemies. But who are our spiritual enemies? What is a real threat to us, to our family, to our Church, to our salvation? There are basically 3 enemies: the evil one, the world and our own flesh. They manifest themselves in our personal lives in greed, selfishness, pride, jealousy, envy, lust for the flesh and for the material, indifference and complacency to name a few. They attack our spiritual and physical well-being, our marriages, our families and our souls. If we want to win the battle we must be persistent in prayer with our hands raised up like Moses. When we rest is when the enemy will start to take over. Prayer combined with the Word of God as we heard in the 2nd reading are our weapons to win the battle! But we must take advantage of them and utilize them daily. We must engage!
But the truth is we do get tired, we do get complacent, we do get discouraged at times. And that is why we need our Christian community, the Church (our brothers & sisters) to strengthen us, to pray with is and for us. The 1st reading said, “Moses’ hands grew tired…Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady…” We need the support of our brothers and sisters and we need to support them in return.
So, in closing, to be persistent in prayer does not mean endless repetition of long worded sessions but it is keeping our requests before our Loving God as we live for Him day by day always believing and trusting He will answer us in His time according to His will. And it is faith in prayer that keeps us going. Persistent prayer without becoming weary changes things, most importantly it changes us…So persist in prayer, do not lose heart, and trust that the Father knows best.
When we continue to lift our prayers to God, we have done our part, and the rest is up to Him. That gives us a peace that passes all understanding!
The readings on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time focus on the giving of thanks to God for His blessings. Thanksgiving is a key element in living stewardship as a disciple of Christ. One definition of stewardship is “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
In the first reading from 2 Kings Naaman a foreigner (non-Jew), an army commander and dignitary seeks healing from the horrific disease of leprosy. He hears about the man of God Elisha performing miracles so he and his whole entourage travel to seek his help. Elisha instructs Naaman to plunge himself into the Jordan River seven times (the waters of the Jordan symbolizing Baptism and the number 7 the perfect number in scripture). Naaman is indeed healed and returns to Elisha to offer a heartfelt thanksgiving. Even more important than Naaman’s physical healing is that he proclaims, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” This is a bold statement of faith for a pagan foreigner.
The first reading of course sets up the Gospel where 10 lepers were healed by Jesus. Besides suffering the physical effects of leprosy these 10 were also suffering as outcasts from the community, separated from all they loved. But only one of the ten returns to Jesus to give thanks, a non-Jew, a foreigner, a Samaritan. And Jesus tells him, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you.” Even more important than his physical healing is that he is promised salvation.
As disciples of Christ do we give thanks to God for all of His continuous blessings? Or are we like the other 9 who did not return but went on their merry way? We must thank God for the big things (prayers answered) but also for the everyday things we make take for granted: our spouses, families, a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, a vehicle or 2 or 3, gasoline for those vehicles, our jobs, our clothes, our food, our parish, etc., etc. And the proof or the fruit of our heartfelt thanks is sharing from those blessings in love of God and love of neighbor.
And because of our heartfelt thanksgiving may we hear the words of Jesus, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you.”
October 1, 2016
St Therese of Lisieux
Job 42;1-3, 5-6, 12-17; Ps 119; Luke 10:17-24
St. Therese of the Child Jesus (aka St Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower) is one of my favorite saints because of her humility and holy innocence. While still a young girl at age 15 with special permission she entered the Carmelite monastery where she lived a life of humility, simplicity and trust in God by word and example, while offering her life for the salvation of souls and the growth of the Church. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in September 1897. In her biography “The Story of a Soul” she urged all to follow “the little way” which is fidelity to God in the small things of every day life. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope St John Paul II on October 19, 1997. All though she never left the convent walls she is the patroness of missionaries, as well as patroness of florists and of France. She is also the patron saint of St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) who took her name at the taking of her own religious vows.
The first reading is from the last Chapter of the Book of Job. All week we have been hearing about the struggles of Job and finally in this last chapter he comes to the realization that God’s wisdom is far beyond mans’ as he says, “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” And he is finally content.
And in the Gospel the wisdom of God is revealed to the 72 disciples who had returned from mission rejoicing because the demons were subject to them. But Jesus tells them, “Rejoice not because they are subject to you rather because your names are written in heaven.” The disciples were thinking with the world’s wisdom of enjoying power. Jesus teaches them to think in heaven’s wisdom, what is really important.
Then Jesus praises the Father, “Although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” God reveals His wisdom to the childlike such as St Therese of Lisieux, to those who are humble, simple and who trust in Him. If we want to know the wisdom of God more fully in our lives, we must be the same.
St. Therese, pray for us, to follow “The Little Way” in the small things of everyday life.
The readings and message for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time are a continuation from the previous week’s readings and message. If you recall in last week’s first reading from the Prophet Amos the Lord was warning His people who were more interested in lining their own pockets not concerned at all with anyone else. And in last week’s Gospel Jesus pulled no punches as He said straight out, “No servant can serve two masters…You will either hate one and love the other.”
In this week’s first reading we again hear the Lord through Amos who warns those who are indifferent to those less fortunate. He is speaking to those who lay on beds of ivory, comfortable couches and who drink wine from bowls instead of a glass. The Lord says, “Yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.”
And in the Gospel Jesus tells the story to the Pharisees (upper class) of the rich man who ignored the needs of Lazarus who begged at his door yet he did not acknowledge him.
Are we told these stories to make us feel guilty? No. But we are reminded as disciples of Christ to be aware of social justice with Jesus as our example. The key word is “indifference” which means uninterested, apathetic or impartial. As disciples we cannot be indifferent, refusing to see.
We cannot take care of all the world’s poor but we can do something, we can do our part sharing a portion from the blessings we have been given. And we can strive to live as St. Paul exhorts Timothy and us in the second reading, “Pursue righteous, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness…keeping the commandment (love God & neighbor) without reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to the opposite of indifference which is awareness that leads to action. In this we will be a good stewards of what belongs to another, what has been loaned to us to manage. And we will not serve two masters but the only true master Jesus the Christ.
In the words of St. Paul, “To Him be honor and eternal power. Amen!”
Sept 17 & 18, 2016
25th Sun in Ord Time
Sat 4:30, Sun 8 & 10
Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
The readings on this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time challenge us to make a decision: whom will we serve, God or stuff? Jesus pulls no punches as He says in the Gospel, “No servant can serve two masters.”
And as usual, the 1st reading sets the stage for the Gospel. In the 1st reading the Lord God speaks through the Prophet Amos as He starts off, “Hear this.” Which means, if you know what’s good for you, listen up! In this passage God is shouting-out against His people who are self-serving, using material things only for themselves, ignoring the needs of others, as the scripture said, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and destroy the poor of the land.” They are even scheming up new ways to cheat, lie and steal so they can acquire more and more, as they say, “We will fix our scales for cheating.” You see if God is not in the picture, if He is not included in our human affairs, this is how the flesh reacts. It’s like that board game “Monopoly” where the object is to acquire as much as you can as fast as you can no matter what happens to everyone else. It is in our fallen nature. Just watch little kids. When one comes over to check out the other’s toy the one with the toy says, “Mine!” And pulls the toy to his or her chest. And even though he or she has plenty of toys they want more right?!! That’s how we are with “stuff” if God is not in the picture.
And that leads us into the Gospel where a rich man brings his steward before him accusing him of squandering his property. The steward was supposed to be the caretaker of the rich man’s belongings but did not do a good job of it. So the rich man takes away the man’s stewardship leaving him with nothing. Well, the man panics but he figures out a plan. He calls in his master’s debtors and settles for less than what they owe. And the scripture said, “The master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” In the story God is of course the master. So, is the Lord commending this dishonest steward, praising him?!! NO, not at all! There are two messages here. (1) Dishonesty is not being praised, but prudence, which is the virtue that helps us choose the right and helps us achieve it. Jesus is saying He wills for us His disciples to be prudent in choosing things of His Kingdom just as the world is in manipulating worldly things…(2) But the main message for today, which was set up by the Prophet Amos, is what Jesus says next, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What is Jesus telling us?!! Now we are really confused! Make friends with dishonest wealth so we can make it into heaven?!! We just heard in Amos how God shouted-out against those who cheated, stole and lied. Now He is telling us to make friends with dishonest wealth?!! First we must define what is meant by “dishonest wealth” which from the original language means worldly resources or worldly “stuff”: money, houses, cars, jewelry, clothes, shoes, cell phones, etc., etc. What Jesus means by “make friends” with these things is to NOT be enslaved by them, do NOT let them control you. Do not let them become your god, more important than the true God, do not worship created things instead of the Creator…There’s a saying, “What do you own and what owns you?” In other words, by “making friends” with material things they are not your master. We can take them or leave them. Material things are not evil in themselves, we make them evil when we allow them to possess us, when they have control over us.
We are given more insight in the next verses as Jesus says, “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? True wealth are things of heaven, the spiritual (faith, hope and love) which will last for eternity. Dishonest or worldly wealth will rot & fade away. Jesus goes on, “If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” This is the definition of a steward: one who takes care of something that belongs to another. What do we possess that belongs to another? Pretty much everything! Every good thing is a gift from God and we have been entrusted as stewards (caretakers) to be trustworthy with them, to manage them, but to always remember they are only on loan to us. This is everything: our own bodies, our spouses, our children, our parents, our homes, our cars, our jobs, our clothes, our time, our talent and our treasure, the environment and everything else in between. We must always be thankful for what we have been given and always share from what we have been blessed with because these things don’t really belong to us in the first place.
But really, does God need a portion of our money or our possessions? No He doesn’t. But He knows by guiding us and encouraging us to let go of “stuff” is for our own good. Stewardship of treasure is not about giving to a need, but rather it is about our need to give, a need to make sure that material possessions do not control our lives. Do you know that God thinks this is so important for us that about ½ of the parables of Jesus in the Gospels have to do with money or with material possessions? Half!!! Jesus teaches about it so much and so often because He knows that love of the material can actually keep us separated from Him. And He does not want that. He wants us close to Him. He wants us to trust in Him.
And as Bishop Robert Barron says, the secret to living Stewardship of Treasure is holy detachment. In other words, let go, bless and you will be blessed. Don’t hold on to anything too tight but give as God has given to you and continues to give to you. We can never out give God. Just try it…There is a worldly saying, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Wins what? A free pass to the eternal fire? The Gospel is always a 180, total opposite from the world so maybe the Christian saying should be “The one who dies with the least toys wins.” We were playing a card game on Labor Day Weekend in our back yard (no gambling though). The game was Phase 10, something like Rummy. The object is to build sets and runs and then discard all your cards, not getting caught with a bunch of points counting against you. The one with the least points at the end wins. This is a great analogy of the Stewardship of Treasure we are called to…holy detachment…the one with the least at the end wins. Look at the recently canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, aka Mother Teresa. She is a perfect example of this. Now she has won Sainthood in heaven…A few weeks ago the Gospel was about the narrow gate into heaven. If we try to get through the narrow gate with too much “stuff” we will not make it through.
And to practice Stewardship of Treasure for our own good the Lord God gives us plenty of opportunities: every Sunday as we come forward during mass to offer a prayed about portion of our treasure; here at Resurrection as we build our new church; ministries of charity here at Resurrection, and in the greater community like Interfaith, Father Joe’s Village, and Catholic Charities to name a few. God even provides opportunities for us with our family members and our neighbor in the community. When we give we are not giving to man or an institution we are giving to God when we offer a portion of our gifts. This is not a one or two time thing, this is a way of life. Why? Because it frees us from “slavery to stuff” and allows us to be close to our God. It teaches us to trust in Him. And it gives us a joy that things cannot give. We are all made with a God-hole that no material thing can satisfy. Only Jesus can truly satisfy us when we are free.
The 3 pillars of Stewardship are Time, Talent & Treasure. Today’s message is obviously Treasure. I know talking about money and material things makes us uncomfortable. But that’s what the Word of God and the Gospel is supposed to do…get us out of our comfort zone, stir us up, cause us to think, cause us to respond. And don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. It’s Jesus who is talking about it!
So hear this! The readings today challenge us to make a decision. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” What will our decision be? For today and for the rest of our lives? If we choose to live Stewardship of Treasure it will be for our good now and for eternity. And it will be good for the overall Kingdom of God.
Whom will we serve, God or stuff?? As for me and my wife, we choose God!
The readings on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of the mercy of God in the reconciliation between Him and His people. In the first reading Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Law and instructions for the people from the Lord God. But tired of waiting at the foot of the mount the people insisted on a god be provided for them. Aaron had them remove their gold and he molded a golden calf. At this the people celebrated in a drunken party. The Lord was ready to destroy them however through the intercession of Moses God had mercy on them and they were spared.
This leads into the Gospel where Jesus tells 3 parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (prodigal). In the previous verses to the first reading in Exodus the people celebrated at the molding of the golden calf. And after the lost were found in the 3 parables of the Gospel a great celebration commenced. This was opposite from the first reading as these were holy celebrations of the Lord. And in all three parables Jesus shows us the mercy of God which is undeserved pardon.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul gives his personal testimony as he shares how grateful he is that he, the worst of sinners, is shown mercy as he proclaims, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.”
As disciples of Christ, if we too admit that we are sinners, God will continue to show us mercy and we will be spared like the Israelites at Mount Sinai and St. Paul. In turn we must bring others to the knowledge of this mercy by directing them to Jesus and His Church by our word and deed.
Then we can truly celebrate!
Sept 3, 2016
St. Gregory the Great
1 Cor 4:6b-15; Ps 145:17-21; Luke 6:1-5
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church. He is considered one of the 4 great doctors of the Latin Church. St. Gregory was a true shepherd as he strengthened the faithful by writing extensively on moral and theological subjects, cared for the poor and instituted liturgical reforms and Gregorian chant. He is the patron saint of music. The Lord took St. Gregory home on March 12, 604.
In the first reading from 1 Corinthians St. Paul offers spiritual advice to the Corinthian church as well as us today. This community of believers had been blessed with many gifts (spiritual & material) and St. Paul is warning them to stay humble as he tells them, “None of you should be inflated with pride in favor of one person over another.” The word inflated from the original language is actually “puffed-up.” Like the type of fish in the ocean that inflates itself where it seems it will burst. Well, St. Paul is telling his readers then and now to not be “puffed-up” with pride like that fish. But rather stay humble and realize that all gifts are from God and not our own doing.
St. Paul goes on and tells them to imitate himself and the Apostles in humility as they are, “A spectacle to the world…fools for Christ…and the world’s rubbish.” St. Paul and the Apostles served the Lord Jesus in humility for the good of the Kingdom no matter what people thought of them or how they were treated and we should follow their example.
In the Gospel Jesus referring to Himself, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” He is saying to not worry so much about the letter of the Law but be in humility be more concerned with the Spirit of the Law – which is love of God and love of neighbor following His example.
So the message for us today is to not be “puffed-up” with pride but instead realize that all that we have, all that we have accomplished or will accomplish is a gift from God. When we realize this and remember it, it prevents us from being “puffed-up” with pride. It helps us to stay humble in imitation of Christ. It helps us to be good stewards of all of our gifts. And it helps us to be more concerned with the spirit of the Law of God, which is sincere, sacrificial love.
The unmistakable theme and message on the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time is humility. In the first reading the writer of Sirach (one of the Wisdom books) encourages his child to “conduct your affairs with humility.” He is instructing all including us to live all aspects of our lives in humility no matter what status we occupy in society. Why? The writer says, “You will find favor with God.”
This of course ties in to the Gospel where Jesus teaches, “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The whole Gospel message is a 180 degree opposite of the world’s thinking. The world says to take the highest seat and the most you can get but Jesus says take the lowest seat and give, serve and sacrifice. Jesus is our perfect example of humility as He left His glory in heaven for a time, lived in simplicity and gave His life for the benefit of the other. When we live in humility as Christ is when and how we find favor with God.
The last part of today’s Gospel passage from Luke 14 is humility put into action. Jesus says to not invite those who can repay you but extend the invitation to those who cannot. This is humility because we naturally want to invite our friends and those of higher stature in society but when we invite and welcome the less fortunate we humble ourselves and raise them up above us, counting them as important and significant. When we put humility in action Jesus tells us in the last verse of today’s Gospel, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I would have to say the Gospels must be considered as the ultimate Wisdom books!
August 21, 2016
21st Sun Ordinary Time
8 & 10 am
Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
One day, Father John paid a visit to the high school group after the Sunday evening Youth Mass and he asked one young man in front of the entire group, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The young man answered, “I do Father.” Then Father said, “Then stand over there against the wall.” Next, Father John asked a young lady, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The young lady replied enthusiastically, “Sure I do!” And Father again said, “Then stand over there against the wall.” Then Father John walked up to another young man and asked him, “Do you want to go to heaven?” His reply was, “No, I don’t!” Father exclaimed, “I don’t believe this…You mean to tell me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?!!” The young man replied, “Oh, when I die, yes. But I thought you were getting a group together to go right now!”
Our main goal in life, what we strive for most, what we are most concerned with should be salvation (eternal life) for ourselves, our spouses, our children, our parents, our family members and for all people. This life on earth is just a few short years, but life after this is forever. Salvation is the end result, the fruit of a life lived in love of God and love of neighbor through Jesus Christ and His Church…And our readings today speak to us about this salvation that is offered to all peoples.
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah the Lord gives us a vision of salvation that extends to the ends of the earth. This reading is from the last chapter of the book of Isaiah where the nation of Israel had returned from years of exile. They had been taken away from their homes and their land and now finally some had returned. And this vision was that God would send some of these that had returned back-out as missionaries to call all back to Jerusalem, the holy city, and to Himself. But the surprising, shocking piece of this message was that not only the Jews were called back to Jerusalem and to God but that all nations were being called to Him. Salvation is offered and extended to all people! The scripture said about these missionaries, “They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and camels, to my holy mountain.” In other words, these missionaries were to use any and all means to bring souls from every nation to salvation…And we as God’s chosen people through Baptism, are sent out as missionaries in our everyday lives to use any and all means to announce and to proclaim the glory of God and His salvation that is offered to all.
But in the Gospel someone asked Jesus, Lord, will only a few people be saved?” What was His answer? He didn’t plainly say yes and He didn’t say no. What He did say was, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” In other words, Jesus is saying that all are invited but many will not be strong enough (spiritually) to enter. In another scripture Jesus says the road to damnation is easy and wide and many travel it. But the road to heaven is narrow and difficult and many do not make it. Yes, the invitation to salvation is offered to all peoples but it requires a response (either yes or no). And if the response is yes to the invitation than the narrow road must be traveled which is not easy at times, which is very difficult at times, but leads to eternal life.
And Jesus goes on in today’s Gospel with a stern warning (a wake-up call) to all of us in the Church. He gives the example of those who will not be allowed to enter. He says, “You will stand outside knocking and saying, Lord open the door for us…And He will say to you in reply, I do not know where you are from…And you will say, We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets…Then He will say to you, I do not know where you are from…Depart from me, all you evil doers.” Wow! That is a clear and chilling warning to all in the Church to not just presume salvation, to not just go through the motions, put our time in once a week (punch the clock for an hour every Sunday) and expect to be all right in the end. “We ate and drank in your company” really sounds like the mass doesn’t it?!! Yet to some in the Church He will say, “Depart from me.” This is a very tough message but one we need to hear…And the Church confirmed it with its Vatican II document (Lumen Gentium, The Light of Nations), “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity (love of God & love of neighbor). He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in bodily manner and not in his heart. All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.” A stern warning to all of us in the Church to not presume salvation, to not just go through the motions.
So how do we know if we are on the narrow road to the narrow gate of salvation? How do we know if we are on the right track on the way to eternal life? This is not something to gamble with or to take for granted. As Jesus told us in the Gospels and the Vatican II document confirms, “persevere in charity (love of God and love of neighbor).” (1) We will know we are on the right road if we put God first in our life, if He has top priority over all things material or otherwise, and if we know Him in a personal way through His Son Jesus Christ. We are on the right track if we allow Him to be our Lord and our master, to guide us in all things large and small, and if we worship Him as He deserves. We know if we are on the right track if we serve Him in the Church and in all aspects of our lives not because we have to but because we want to out of thanksgiving for all that He has blessed us with. We know we are on the right track if we joyfully share a portion of our God-given time, talent and treasure not because we have to, doing it grudgingly, but because we want to out of sincere gratitude. (2) And we know we are on the right track if we selflessly love the other, putting the other’s needs before our own. We are on the right track if we truly care about our brother and our sister whether near or far and we do what we can to help them, to strengthen them, to lift them up. We know we are on the right track if we forgive the other as we have been forgiven, if we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. We know we are on the right track if we see Christ in every human being. These are just a few ways we can tell if we are on the narrow road to the narrow gate.
And just a brief word on the 2nd reading from the Letter to the Hebrews which ties into today’s message and gives us some insight into suffering and hardship. The scripture said, “Endure trials as discipline. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” God does not cause difficulties and hardship in our lives but allows them in order to help us to turn to Him and to trust in Him. Why? Because He cares more about the salvation of our soul then our comfort.
In closing, the offer of salvation extends to the ends of the earth, to all peoples, to all nations, and to all individuals. But that invitation requires an everyday response. When we say yes by accepting Jesus, who is Salvation (the way, the Truth and the Life), the reservation in heaven has been made for us. But just like one shows up to a dinner reservation by traveling a certain road we must get to the reservation of heaven by the narrow road that leads through the narrow gate. This road is not easy at times, is very difficult. We can only travel this road successfully by cooperating with the grace that has been given to us and to persevere in charity (love of God and love of neighbor). We can never earn our way into heaven but get there only with and through Jesus Christ. Salvation is the end result, the fruit of a life lived in love of God and love of neighbor through Jesus Christ and His Church.
If you were once on the narrow road and are just returning or if you want to start on the narrow road for the first time, the time is now!
So as the high school teens were asked we are also asked, “Do you want to go to heaven?” If our answer is yes our main goal in life, what we strive for most, what we are most concerned with, should be salvation (eternal life) for ourselves and for all people. And our yes should affect every thought, word & deed.
August 6, 2016
Feast of the Transfiguration
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28b-36
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. You can tell it is an important feast as we have a second reading besides the 1st reading and the Gospel and our vestments are white and gold. In this feast we see Jesus’ kingship, His dominion and His glory.
In the first reading the prophet Daniel is given a vision and sees “One like the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Son of man was a term used in the Hebrew Scriptures which had a double meaning. It referred to a human being but also referred to an exalted heavenly one. Daniel says, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.” We as Catholic Christians of course see the fulfillment of this vision in the Kingship of Jesus Christ who often referred to Himself as “Son of Man” both God and man.
In the 2nd reading the writer of 2 Peter testifies that they were eyewitness to this fulfillment in Christ Jesus and to His majesty, “We ourselves heard the voice come from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
The holy mountain he is talking about is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus where His “face changed appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.” Peter, James and John were privileged to see the glory of the Savior with their very eyes.
The message for us today is to also be “eyewitnesses” to the kingship, glory and majesty of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, not just once but over and over. We are eyewitness when we experience Jesus on the holy mountain of prayer (alone and in community during mass). When we are eyewitness of His glory, when we have a personal encounter with Him we cannot help but to be transfigured also into His image. When we experience Jesus for ourselves we are transfigured into one like Him who came not to be served but to serve. We are changed into one who like Jesus gives of himself for the sake of others and for the Kingdom.
When we are transfigured into Christ the voice of heaven rings out about us, “This is my beloved son, this my beloved daughter with whom I am well pleased.”