June (22) 23, 2019
The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ
Sat 4:30pm; Sun 8 & 10am
Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17
On this great Solemnity of Corpus Christi (The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ) we rejoice in the “true presence” of Jesus in the sacramental bread & wine and we rejoice in His presence in us as individuals and in the His Body which is the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The Eucharist (consecrated bread & wine) is the source & summit of the Christian life.” It is the greatest blessing and the Sacrament of all sacraments because it is not only from God, it is God! It is Jesus truly present!
So if Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, the question is: are we present to Him? Meaning, when we come to mass do we fully realize the Gift of all gifts that is being offered to us? Do we focus on Christ who is in the host & the cup with all reverence and awe? Are our minds and hearts prepared to receive Him?
In the first reading from Genesis (the very 1st Book of the Bible) we see the foreshadow of the Eucharist. The priest of the Most High, Melchizedek, king of Salem blesses Abram (later Abraham) with bread & wine. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice” and Salem means “peace”. So this Melchizedek, “King of Justice” & “King of Peace” is a foreshadow of Jesus Christ who is the true “King of Justice” & the true “King of Peace”. Jesus, the High priest, blesses us with consecrated bread & wine at every mass.
In the second reading St. Paul gives us the earliest reference to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday night where the Eucharist was first instituted.
And in the Gospel the feeding of the 5,000 foreshadows the Eucharist and the mass where Jesus continues to feed the multitudes.
Did you notice that in all 3 of these readings there is a “giving”? Abram gives a tenth of all his blessings in thanksgiving…The disciples distribute the loaves & fish…And Jesus gives His own Body & Blood. *That’s because the Eucharist is “giving”! The Eucharist, the consecrated bread & wine at every mass, is the Body and Blood of Christ given for the sake of the other on the Cross of Calvary made present to us. The Eucharist at every mass is Jesus giving of Himself completely for the sake of the other again & again & again.
And as we receive Him in the host & the cup we come in “communion” with Him in His holiness. We are united with Him and we are called to live as He lives, as a gift of our lives for the sake of the other…There was a young Catholic couple who got married on a Saturday. And like good Catholics they attended mass the next morning. They were kneeling as usual during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the priest in persona Christi prayed the words of Jesus as He raised the host, “This is my body which will be given up for you.” The young bride noticed her new husband crying. She asked him quietly, “What’s wrong?” (She wondered if he regretted marrying her!) He told her, “I have heard those words all of my life at mass (This is my body which will be given up for you). And I just realized what they mean…And those are the same words I said to you yesterday in our wedding vows.” This is what we are called to in Christian marriage but also what we are called to as Christians in general: to become one with Christ in the Eucharist and offer our lives as gifts for the sake of the other just like He did.
You see, when the priest raises the host, he breaks it symbolizing the broken body of Christ on the Cross for the sake of the other. By receiving Him and becoming one with Him we too are to be broken (in sacrificial love) for the other person. Just like the bread and wine are taken, blessed and shared, we too are taken (chosen by God), blessed in Baptism & Confirmation and shared for the sake of the world. That’s what is happening when we come forward and we receive Him in the host & the cup. Chosen, blessed and shared just like the sacramental bread & wine.
Yes Jesus gives of Himself completely in perfect love. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Jesus on the Cross showed us how much He loved us back then. Jesus in the Eucharist shows us how much He loves us today.” How can we possibly show our gratitude for this tremendous love? The word Eucharist in the Greek means “thanksgiving”. We show our gratitude by living a life of gratitude and by sharing of our blessings as Abram did in the first reading. But we might say I don’t have much…I don’t have much talent or much time or much treasure. Jesus is not asking us for the impossible. He is asking us to share a portion of what we do have in thanksgiving and then let Him do the impossible with it! Just like in the Gospel how He took those 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiplied them, He takes what we offer Him and multiplies it. And when we do share our blessings in gratitude we get blessed back even more! The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is Jesus’ powerful reminder that when we share our gifts in His name and in communion with Him there is always enough! People out there are hungry and thirsty. Jesus’ solution is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago. What He told the disciples back then He tells us today, “Give them some food yourselves.” You see a lot of times we look to the other person to provide, to share, to serve. But in communion with Christ, we are all called to continue the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes 1 person at a time with what He provides.
In closing, I quote St. Augustine on what he said of the Eucharist, “Become what you see & receive what you are.” “Become what you see” (Jesus truly present in sacrificial giving of self). “Receive what you are” (the Body of Christ). In the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, it is the source and summit of our faith. It binds us together with Him and with each other. It fills us with His holiness. It transforms us into His likeness and makes us a living tabernacle. Again and again we are called to the Table with Jesus who desperately wants to nourish and strengthen us with food for the journey. It is the greatest blessing because it is not only from God, it is God! How blessed are we as Catholics. May we never, ever take it for granted!
May 19, 2019
5th Sun of Easter
8 & 10 am & 4:30 pm
Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Have you ever watched a movie at home and you wanted to make sure how it got to the high point of the film so you rewound it to see what led up to that point? Well, that’s what we do on this 5th Sunday of Easter. Today’s Gospel passage is from John Chapter 13 and we rewind to Holy Thursday night, the night before Jesus is to be crucified. He is at the Last Supper speaking very intimately to His closest disciples, giving them clear instructions on how to live after what is about to take place on Calvary and after the Resurrection. The clear instructions are, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Now this is really not new because the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) talk about loving your neighbor. What is new is what Jesus says next, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” That is the commandment to His disciples 2000 years ago and this is the commandment for us His disciples today. Love as He loved.
So if we as the disciples of Jesus are to love as He loved, what does that look like? He showed us what real love looks like as an example to follow. At that Last Supper Jesus put love into action. He put on the servant’s apron & washed the disciples’ feet. This was the lowest task in the house yet Jesus humbled Himself, stooped down and proceeded to wash all of the disciples’ feet. Not just some of them but all of them, even Peter who would deny Him 3 times and even Judas who would betray Him. This is a clear message for us that we must love all, even those difficult to love.…Then He willingly took the scourging, the ridicule and the humiliation and willingly was nailed to the Cross, not just for some but for all who would accept Him. Why? To show us what real love looks like: self-sacrifice, self-giving, self-emptying. Love is willing the good of the other, for the sake of the other, without expecting anything in return. St. Pope John Paul II said, “We must die to ourselves in order to will the good of another person.” Jesus showed us how for an example to follow.
But what does real, sacrificial, self-less, Christ-like love look like today? We seen one real-life example of what it looks like in the recent school shooting in Colorado. Where the young Kendrick Castillo lunged at the shooter and was fatally shot but gave his class mates enough time to hide and to live. Kendrick risked and gave his life for the sake of the other. His father John said about his son, “I know that because of what he did, others are alive and I thank God for that. I love him. And he is a hero and always will be.” Kendrick showed us real love, sacrificial love in imitating the Cross of Christ…I love the photo of him and his dad in their blue Knights of Columbus aprons serving at a meal at the parish. Kendrick was also an altar server & was known as the Hospitality Minister with a big smile. You see, Kendrick learned real love, sacrifice and service from his parents and from his Catholic faith.
But that is a dramatic case, hopefully something we will not have to face. Nevertheless Jesus calls all of us to this sacrificial, self-giving love. So what does it look like in our daily lives? Let’s start with marriage. There was a young couple who just got married and they were celebrating with family and friends at the reception. And it came time for the “garter toss”. So the young bride sat on a chair in the middle of the dance floor and her new husband took a knee at her feet. All the single guys lined up hooping and hollering! *But to everyone’s surprise a pitcher of water with a bowl and a towel were brought to the groom. And instead of taking off the garter he took off her shoes & washed his wife’s feet. Symbolizing he would try to be to her the Servant Christ. In marriage the husband and wife are to serve each other, for the sake of the other, not expecting or wanting anything in return. They are to love each other as Christ loves them. Not just on the wedding day but every day and every year after that, in small, sacrificial ways for the rest of their lives.
Young people, what does real, sacrificial love look like for you? Maybe letting your brother or sister go first, or picking up their dirty dishes from the dinner table, or letting them play with your stuff (Nintendo switch). Maybe it means obeying your parents and doing your chores or homework without complaining or having to be told a 100 times. When you do these things even though you don’t feel like it, that’s sacrificial, real love.
For those of you who are single or married, what does this love look like in our church community? Self-giving, sacrificial love is put into action by living Stewardship, the 3 T’s. Stewardship is living as Christ calls us to by serving the church and community in some way, by offering your Time and Talent for the sake of the other. Christ-like love put into action is offering a portion of our treasure each week for the Church and it’s mission. Whatever we do for the sake of the other in our own family, here in our Church family or out in the community we are loving as Christ loves us. We are washing the others feet as Christ.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” It sounds simple. Simple, but not easy! Living a life of service and sacrifice for the sake of the other is definitely not easy. Why? Because it requires us to continuously fight against our flesh. Our flesh, our selfishness no way wants to serve the other. It wants to serve me! The only way we can live this love that Jesus calls us to is in and through Him. In the 2nd reading from Revelation a loud voice from the heavenly throne proclaimed, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” The Risen Lord is here in our midst! The more we empty ourselves of “self” and the more we fill ourselves with Christ, the more we will be able to love as He loves.
But why would we even want to try to live this way if it is so difficult? First of all because it is the true path to peace and to joy. But also, by living as Christ in sacrificial love, we glorify God. Jesus’ last words in today’s Gospel, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If you have Christ’s love in you and it comes out in action people will know that there is something different about you. They will see Christ in you and it will draw them to know Him also.
Love without action is just lip service (meaningless). But love with action in & through Christ for the sake of the other is fulfilling the new commandment…We are in the upper room and Jesus is speaking to each of us and He has given us clear instructions on how to live, “Love as I have loved you.”
March 24, 2019
Sun 4:30 pm
3rd Sun Ord Time “C”
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
The readings this Sunday remind us that life is a precious gift given to each of us. During the Season of Lent we are asked to take a close look at our lives to see how we are doing with this precious gift.
None of us knows how much time we are given here on this earth. In the Gospel we hear of two instances where people’s lives ended suddenly: (1) at the hands of another (Pilate) & (2) a freak accident (tower fell). In both instances the people died suddenly, unexpectedly. Jesus poses this question to His listeners, “Because this happened to them…Do you think that they were greater sinners than everyone else?” In other words, because people die unexpectedly are they punished because they are great sinners, worse than other people? Think of the tragedies of today: shootings, bombings and vehicles driving into people. Or natural disasters: hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes. Are the people who perish in this way greater sinners than the rest of us? Jesus gives us the answer and a serious warning, “By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did.” Jesus is speaking to His listeners (us). And He is talking about death but a spiritual death. He is saying that we are all sinners. And we are all going to die some day and then be judged. We all only have a limited time on this earth. Jesus is saying to examine our lives now, repent (change) before it is too late.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul also gives us a warning as he tells us of the Israelites who grumbled & complained in the desert, who turned their backs on God and who trusted in and worshiped other things rather than God. He said that “God was not pleased with them, for they were struck down in the desert…as an example for us so that we might not desire evil things as they did.” Paul said, “They have been written down as a warning for us.” Jesus warned us in the Gospel and St. Paul warned us in the 2nd reading to examine our lives and make the changes as necessary for the salvation of our souls before it is too late, because life is fragile…And in the last verse of the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” St. Paul is saying we all must be warned to examine our lives and make changes but he is saying especially those who think they are doing ok, those who think they have nothing to improve on, to those who think they are doing just fine. It is those who the warning is most urgent.
And now we turn to the last part of today’s Gospel passage where Jesus illustrates His warning to repent with the Parable of the Fig Tree. In this parable the fig tree was planted by the owner of the orchard (God the Father). He was not happy that the fig tree had not produced any fruit for over 3 years. He said, “Cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?” But the gardener (Jesus) said, “Sir, leave it for this year and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it, it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.” This is an illustration that yes God is patient but also just. It tells us that just like the fig tree God is patient with us but that we only have a limited amount of time to repent, to bear good fruit (good works of kindness and service).
So on this 3rd Sunday of Lent we must ask ourselves how do we compare to the fig tree? Are we bearing good fruit or are we not? Do we allow God to cultivate the ground around us and fertilize us by spending quality time with Him in prayer, in His Word, in the sacraments? After God, do we place as a priority others needs and concerns above our own? Do we put down the smart phones and other screens for a while to minister to others, to serve, to give, to share? *You see, the fig tree that God wanted to cut down in the parable wasn’t dying, it just wasn’t doing much of anything at all. Can this be said of our lives? Are we just existing? Are we just taking up soil? Just going through the motions? Or are we producing good fruit of patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity & compassion?
Life is precious, it is a gift, but it is fragile. We are all given a limited time on this earth. God is merciful, God is patient, but He is just. It is an urgent message and warning to us that we use this gift of life, our time, our talents and our treasure to glorify God and to serve our neighbor…The Season of Lent is also a gift to us, it is a season of grace that God gives us to examine our lives, to make changes as necessary so that we will not be cut down but that we will flourish & bear fruit for the Kingdom…How are you doing with this precious gift of life?
March 2, 2019
Sat 8 am
Sirach 17:1-15; Ps 103:13-18
The Gospel said, “People were bringing children to Jesus…” Imagine all the children coming around Jesus, all different shapes & sizes and colors. All with different demeanors: some quiet, some shy, some loud and rambunctious, some inquisitive and so on. Just in your own family each child is different and unique. I always get a kick out of the Sunday children’s dismissal. Some kids are so shy they barely make it up in front while some are bouncing all around talking to their friends. Well no matter what type of child came around Jesus, He welcomed them and He loved them. He had patience with them and He was overjoyed that they came to Him.
The same is true for us adults. We are all different yet Jesus welcomes us & loves us. He just wants us to come to Him and to get close to Him. He is overjoyed when we draw close to Him in a personal relationship through prayer, His Word and the Sacraments. He is overjoyed when we trust in Him as a child trusts their parents.
If you would…imagine yourself as one of those children in the middle of the crowd of those who came to Jesus yet He welcomes you personally, touches you with a warm embrace and makes you feel special. Now go out and do the same!
February 17, 2019
6th Sunday Ordinary Time
Sunday 10 am & 4:30 pm
Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26
A tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and fell over the side, clawing & scratching to save himself. Somehow he was able to grab hold of a small branch. Filled with terror he called out, “Is there anyone up there?” Can anyone help me? He heard a reassuring voice, “I’m here the Lord your God…but before I help you I want to know if you believe in me.” The man answered, “Lord, I certainly believe in you. I go to mass every Sunday, I read my Bible and I pray. I even put a few dollars in the collection basket.” The Lord replied, “But do you really believe in me?” The man was desperate, “Lord, I believe in you, I believe in you!!!” The Lord said, “Good…then let go of the branch.” The man was silent for a minute…then yelled out, “Is there anyone else up there?!!” (Let go and trust in God).
From Jeremiah we heard, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” In other words, blessed is the one who lets go of the branch. But we also heard from Jeremiah, “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah shows the contrast between a person that trusts in God for all things and in all situations versus the person who trusts in created things rather than the Creator. At the time of Jeremiah the people of Israel were going through a very difficult period and instead of trusting in God they turned to other nations and other things. And as we know, that didn’t turn out too well for them…So the question for us is “what do we trust in?” Do we turn to God and trust in Him for all things or do we place our trust in things that are passing away? The choice is ours. As Jeremiah puts it, when we trust in everything except God, even though it may seem ok for a while, we are like “a barren bush in the desert” (no life within us, eventually will dry up and wither away.) So in what do we place our trust in? Ourselves, other people, our own intelligence, our money? These are not bad things, it’s just that we must trust in God above all these things.
Trusting in the Lord is not easy. Letting go is not easy. On the contrary, it is difficult, especially when trials & tough times hit. Jeremiah says the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted beside waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green, in the year of drought it shows no distress but still bears fruit.” Have you ever seen a tree on the side of a cliff? It stays there firm not wavering even in strong wind & rain. Why? Because its roots are deep underground stretching out making it strong. That’s like a person who places all his or her trust in the Lord for all things and all situations, stretching out their “roots of faith” to Jesus the living stream. When the strong storms or the extreme heat of trials hit that person they do not waver because their roots are established in God…But the tree doesn’t wait to stretch out its roots just before the storm hits! It’s gradual, steady, a daily growth. Just as we cannot wait but need to establish our roots of trust in Jesus. It must also be daily, gradual & steady…And the storms will hit! The scripture said, “It fears not the heat when it comes.” It’s not if the storm or the extreme heat will come, it’s when it will come. We know in life stuff happens. The Lord allows us to go through different seasons in our lives so that we will learn to trust in Him, so that we will learn to rely upon Him and Him alone. No matter if it is health problems, or finances, or relationship issues, work or school problems, if we place our trust and hope in Him always, we will make it through and we will be stronger on the other side, when the storm subsides. No matter what we go through, even it doesn’t turn out the way we think it should, with Him we will have the peace that only He can give…*There is a beautiful contemporary Christian song by Ryan Stevenson with the lyrics,
“In the eye of the storm, You remain in control,
And in the middle of the war You guard my soul,
You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn,
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.”
Even in the eye of the storm He is on the throne. He’s got this. Trust in Him.
And also, to help us to learn to trust in Him before the storms or extreme heat hit so that our faith roots are stretched far & strong He gives us countless opportunities to share our gifts and our treasure. To let go of those branches that we hold on so tight to. He always provides for all of our needs showing us that we can trust in Him. My wife & I were praying about & discussing how much to pledge for this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal. We decided on an amount and made our commitment trusting that God would provide. A few days after that I received an unexpected cash award at work that will cover the pledged amount & then some! Trust in God, He will always provide. When we do it brings us peace during good times but especially during difficult times.
In the Gospel from Luke Jesus gives us a teaching that will bring us peace & happiness as He gives us the choice between the “Beatitudes” and the “Woes”. As we were shown contrast in Jeremiah, Jesus contrasts blessings and curse…The word Beatitude comes from the Latin for “blessing” and the word “blessed” broken down to its simplest meaning is “happiness”. So blessings, true happiness and peace can only be found in trusting in the Lord God & living according to His will. But then in contrast Jesus gives the “Woes” which means grief or unhappiness…The choice is ours: totally trust in Jesus or not, blessing or curse, peace or anxiety, Kingdom of God which is eternal or kingdom of the world which is passing away…The Lord God is challenging us today to let go of the branch and trust in Him fully which gives us true happiness in this life as we look forward to the next with Him.
But the truth is we can’t trust a person we do not know. If someone knocks at your door late at night and asks to come in, you don’t know him. You can’t trust him. But if it is a friend that you know very well you will certainly invite him in because you trust him. The same is true with Jesus. He knocks on the door of our heart and our life and asks to come in. The more you know Him, the more you trust Him. The more you know His love for you & that He only wants the best for you.
I close with the words spoken through Jeremiah, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”
January (19) 20, 2019
2nd Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm; Sun 8 am
Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Cor 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
Normally, Deacons in the Catholic Church can be married once and only once. I have been married 4 different times…don’t worry, all to the same woman! First civilly, then in the Church in the Sacrament of Marriage, then we were very blessed to renew our vows in Cana in Israel (where we heard about in today’s Gospel), then we renewed our vows on our 25th Wedding Anniversary here at Resurrection (in the old church by Fr. Ken). Overall we have been married for over 38 years which puts my wife on the path for sainthood for putting up with me all those years!
On this 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time the focus of our readings is on marriage as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people. Did you know that your marriage is supposed to be a symbol (a sign) of our relationship with God? Marriage is a covenant (not a contract) freely entered into between a man and a woman for life rooted in unconditional, sacrificial love… Vows during the Marriage Rite, “In good times and in bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and honor each other all the days of your life.” That is Christian marriage and that is the relationship God desires with His people: a covenant rooted in intimate, personal, faithful love, unconditional and sacrificial, for richer, for poorer, in good times and in bad, eternal & everlasting.
In the first reading from Isaiah we hear beautiful marriage imagery: “You shall be called My Delight and your land Espoused…As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” This is marriage talk directed at you and me from our God. This is the relationship of personal, intimate love that God wants with each one of us! *And it is Jesus Christ who came to reveal this love. In the Gospel from John we hear the 1st of the 7 signs (miracles) of Jesus that reveal who He is. In John signs point to something beyond themselves (a deeper meaning & revelation). This first sign is the “water into wine” at the Wedding at Cana. On the surface it looks like Jesus was showing compassion for the bridal couple and their family who had run short of wine which was a great embarrassment. And He was helping them out with more wine that was superior to the first wine that was served…but the deeper meaning is the revelation that Jesus is the visible sign of God’s love & compassion. He is the best saved for last, superior than any other. And He is the bridegroom for His bride (the Church) you & me.
At Cana Jesus changes 6 large water jars into the best wine. 6 large jars of wine would have been approximately 120 gallons of wine. That’s a lot of wine! Enough for several wedding parties. But again we look for the deeper meaning in John which is that Jesus is the abundance of God’s saving grace, the abundance of God’s mercy offered for us in love. A mercy and love that will never run out.
Another deeper meaning is that Jesus changes what he touches. Just as He touched the water (which was good) and changed it to something better, superior wine. In the same way, if we allow Him to, He touches us and changes us from something good into something better. He changes us from an ordinary person into His image and likeness. He changes hearts and minds into His. And He changes us into a sign of His Kingdom for all to see. He changes us from thinking only of ourselves to thinking of others. And He equips us with gifts of the Holy Spirit to be signs of the Kingdom revealing the Bridegroom that is calling all into relationship with Him. He equips each of us with gifts of the Spirit as we heard in the 2nd reading, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” Gifts and abilities are given to us not for our own good but to build up the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ (Church). Let your gifts uplift those around you inside and outside the Church. The gift of healing can be a simple hug or smile, visiting someone who is down or sick or in prison. The gift of teaching or preaching may be as simple as sharing your testimony (what God has done in your life) with someone or posting something inspirational & uplifting on social media. The gift of hospitality is as simple as giving someone a ride to church or the grocery store, or welcoming someone who is different than yourself. We all have been given gifts of time, talents and treasure. It is when we share our gifts is when we are signs of God’s love and of His Kingdom.
The greatest sign of love is the Cross of Christ. The Cross is revealed to us in the Eucharist at every Mass. Jesus changes what He touches. Through His Spirit the simple bread and wine are changed into His Body & Blood. And as we receive Him in the Eucharist and allow Him to touch us we are changed, we are transformed into the image of Christ. In the Eucharist we become one with Christ just as a man and a woman become one in the Sacrament of Marriage. Just as a man and woman in marriage have an intimate, physical, emotional and spiritual relationship with each other, Jesus desires this same relationship with each of us. It is through the Eucharist that we are changed and we draw in union as one with Him…Every Mass is a “wedding feast” with Jesus as our Bridegroom. And at every Mass we should renew our vows with Him, renew our covenant with Him.
To close, we go back to the miracle (sign) of the “water into wine” at the Wedding Feast at Cana”. Who witnessed it? The headwaiter, the servers, the bridegroom, the disciples and maybe a few more. Out of all the people who witnessed this first miracle how many do you think forgot about it, didn’t think much about it, who walked away unaffected? And how many whose lives were changed? The Gospel said, “Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory and His disciples began to believe in Him.” We have heard the Gospel message over and over, we have witnessed the miracle of the Eucharist at every Mass, we have seen His glory. Do we walk away unaffected Sunday after Sunday or are we being changed, being transformed?
To summarize, Jesus wants to be in covenant relationship with us: a covenant, freely entered into, rooted in intimate, personal love, unconditional and sacrificial, for richer, for poorer, in good health and in bad, eternal & everlasting. And He equips us with gifts to be a sign of His love to draw others in to relationship with Him.
Dec 16, 2018
3rd Sun of Advent
10 am & 4:30 pm
Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent, aka “Gaudete” Sunday, which is Latin for “Rejoice”. The rose colored vestments, prayers, readings, psalm & music set the tone of joyful anticipation for the Lord’s birth and for His 2nd coming at the end of time. And so in the spirit of rejoicing I tell you this story: (There was an elderly couple who had been married over 60 years who got in a car accident and they both died (don’t worry it gets better!) They had been in good health mainly due to the wife’s insistence on healthy food and exercise. When they reached the Pearly Gates St. Peter took them to their beautiful mansion. As they looked around in awe the old man asked St. Peter how much all this will cost. St. Peter said, “This is heaven. It’s free.” Next they went out back and were shown the championship-style golf course. The old man asked, “How much are the greens fee?” St. Peter replied, “This is heaven, it’s free.” And then they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch. The old man asked, “How much to eat?” St. Peter replied, “Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven, it’s free.” The old man asked, “Well then, where are the low fat & cholesterol-free tables?” St. Peter said, “That’s the best part about being in heaven. Here you can eat whatever you want and as much as you want and you’ll never get fat or sick.” At that, the old man went into a fit of anger, threw down his hat and stomped on it. The wife tried to calm him down & asked him what was wrong. He said, “This is all your fault. If it wasn’t for your low fat, low taste food I could have been here 10 years ago!!!”
My friends, joy and laughter are healthy for our souls. It has been said that, “Joy is the sign of the presence of God.” Fr. Fernando Suarez when he was here last made us laugh several times in his homily and said “if we do not laugh at least once a day we need to ask ourselves what is wrong?” And so on this Rejoice Sunday, as we rejoice because the Savior is near to us, we should take an inventory of our lives and ask ourselves, “Am I joyful?” Do people see me as joyful?”…I think most of us could use more joy in our lives, our lives that are filled with the stresses and strains of daily life. Not to mention the stress of these last few days before Christmas. To be joy-filled we must draw close to the source of joy, Jesus Christ. He is in our midst and will abide with us if we allow Him to. And He will fill us with His joy that’s not of this world. You see, we try to get our joy from things that will never satisfy us. We are all made with a “God-hole” that we try to stuff other things into to make us happy. But only God Himself can satisfy us and truly make us content. But He will never force Himself on us. He gives us free will to receive Him or reject Him. It’s our choice.
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Zephaniah it tells us to rejoice 6 different times. Why? Because the Lord is in our midst! And He has done great things for us. In the 2nd reading St. Paul repeats himself, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice!” Paul wants to make sure we get the point…But are we to rejoice always? Even in difficult times? Even when things aren’t going so well? How are we supposed to do that? St. Paul gives us the secret, the key, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul is saying even during difficult times we can have joy and peace. How? By prayer. There is a saying, “When you can’t stand it anymore, KNEEL!” By lifting our cares and concerns up to God in prayer we are placing our trust in Him. We are saying, “I don’t got this but you got this Lord.” Then in turn, even during difficult times, Jesus fills us with peace and joy because we know that He is in control and will work it out. When my wife and I are experiencing trials my wife always says, “I’m excited to see how God is going to work this one out!” And He always does! And because we trust that He will we have a consistent joy & peace that is supernatural.
Now we turn to the Gospel where 3 different sets of people, the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers all ask John the Baptist, “What should we do?” These are all ordinary, common people who had heard the message from John and ask, “Now what? How do we live the message?” And we as ordinary, common people after hearing the Gospel message should ask the same question, “What should we do? How do we live the message?” John tells us to live with integrity, to treat people the way you want to be treated, to give and to share in your day to day lives (at home, at church, at work, in the market place). As St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Your kindness should be known by all.” We are called not only to good deeds but to good deeds with joy & love. When we give, when we share, when we serve it is then that we experience true joy (Jesus-Others-You)…Live your every day with joy in your heart and a smile on your face. People who have experienced the joy of the Lord cannot keep it to themselves, it cannot be contained. It comes out for all to see. And when our joy is shown we are evangelizing because others will notice, even in difficult times, and they will want what we have. Let the joy in your heart be a witness for all to see!
In closing, happiness is one thing but joy is a completely different thing. Happiness is temporary. Things make us happy for a while but then it fades: (1) Christmas presents; (2) new car…But joy comes from the Lord who is the source of joy, true, eternal & supernatural, that doesn’t fade even in difficult times.
Joy & laughter are healthy for our soul, for our spirit, for our whole being. “Joy is the sign of the presence of God!”
May that sign be seen in us and through us for the glory of God. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!
November (17) 18, 2018
33rd Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 8 am
Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
You may or may not be aware that this is the 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church Year. And as always at this time of year going into the early part of Advent the focus is on the end of time, the 2nd Coming of Christ and the final judgement. The readings are ominous, even scary, as we heard today from the Prophet Daniel, “At that time…it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress.” And from Mark, “In those days after the tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Ominous indeed! But if a person is living a life in the will of God, a Christ-centered life they will have nothing to fear. If they are loving God and loving neighbor then there is nothing to worry about at all. But on the other hand, if a person is not, if a person is living a self-centered (it’s all about me) life, then that’s a different story. It’s like when you are driving on the freeway and you are going within 5 miles of the speed limit you have nothing to worry about right? But if you are flying way over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic then you are in danger of getting busted for a speeding ticket, you are endangering your own life as well as the life others. Again, if we are living a Christ-centered life we have nothing to fear, now or at the end.
If you think about it, we are all living on the edge of eternity. With each passing day, with each passing year we are all getting closer to our own personal end where we will leave this world and pass over to the next as per God’s design and plan. That’s reality. And as we contemplate this more and more it should motivate us to focus on what really matters. First, we should appreciate the precious gift of life and the limited time we have here on earth. And second, we should not value so much the things of this world, material things that are temporary. Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” In other words, everything on this earth is only temporary. Everything will rust, crumble and decay into dust. But the things and ways of God will last forever. Bishop Barron says, “Some people climb the ladder of success, trying to gain and obtain as many nice things as they possibly can (toys, houses, cars, bank account, portfolio). But when they get to the end of their life – they realize they were climbing the wrong ladder!” Don’t embrace the created things but embrace the Creator. Then we will be climbing the “stairway to heaven.”
In the Gospel, to help us climb the right ladder Jesus gives us the example of the fig tree. Our lives should mirror the fig tree. It feeds off of the nutrients and water given to it. It sprouts up, it blossoms and it bears fruit over & over. Then it withers and passes away. We as disciples of Christ should live our days here on earth feeding off of the spiritual nutrients & water offered to us (God’s love, His Word, the Sacraments), and we should sprout up and bear fruit over & over until we are called home. How do we do that? We bear fruit by living the Gospel putting it into action which is Stewardship. I whole-heartedly, 100% believe in the spirituality of Stewardship. It is living life with thanksgiving and with the “attitude of gratitude” realizing that all good things in our lives come from God. And because of our gratitude we joyfully share a portion of our God-given time, talent & treasure. We will always bear fruit and we will always be prepared for the end when we live the spirituality of Stewardship in love of God and love of neighbor. We share our God-given time: first of all in prayer. Then we share our time & our talents: in service to the community of faith, in ministry and in one-on-one acts of kindness. And we share our treasure from our first fruits, not our left overs or our crumbs. We don’t just tip God here and there but we as Christian stewards tithe with a prayed about, consistent amount to our parish and to different charities. Just like last week’s readings where the two widows gave from their heart, not from their surplus and it took their trust in God, we do the same. There are so many opportunities God provides for us to give back in gratitude trusting in him that He will always provide for us: tithing towards the weekly offering for the operations and upkeep of our parish, to our new Church fund and to outreach ministries. We can never out-give God!
Stewardship is not a 1- time thing, it is a way of life, every day of our lives. It has been said we can stop giving when God stops giving to us. He never stops giving to us and always provides us opportunities to trust in Him & to give back of our time, talents and treasure.
By living Stewardship we not only keep ourselves prepared for the end but we also “evangelize” to help others become prepared. In the Gospel it said that the “Son of Man…will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” Yes this will happen at the end of time but guess what? Jesus has already started to send out His angels to gather…His angels are you & me! When we live the Gospel by putting our faith into action we are evangelizing and we are gathering souls for the Kingdom. We are His angels by sharing our gifts with the other, by giving the hope of Christ to the hopeless and the distressed, by picking up those who have stumbled, by healing the broken with generosity, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Yes we are the angels who have been sent out to gather souls for now and for the end of time into eternity! The Prophet Daniel said of us who gather, “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
In closing, yes the end is scary and ominous but if we live our faith by putting it into action, in close relationship with the Son of God, trusting in Him & showing it by sharing our blessings, we have nothing to fear! We will be climbing the right ladder and be helping others to climb along with us.
October 21, 2018
29th Sun Ord Time
Sun 10am & 4:30 pm
Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
Today’s readings are comforting but also challenging, which is what the overall Gospel message is: it comforts us, gives us peace and hope but also challenges us to what is not always easy, to what seems to be the total opposite of the way the world thinks.
There’s a cartoon movie playing in the theatres called “Smallfoot”. It’s about a Yeti community, which are legendary big, hairy creatures similar to the Abominable Snowman or Bigfoot. In the movie one Yeti claims he has seen evidence of the “small foot” (a human’s boot print) and they all freak out! The movie turn’s our Bigfoot legend upside down and is total opposite of our way of thinking. (It looks good. I want to see it)…But similarly the way this movie is opposite of our thinking in the same way the Gospel is opposite of the world’s thinking. The Gospel turns the world’s thinking upside down…Jesus says in the Gospel, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant, whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” This is not what the world says at all! The world says if you want to be great you have power over everyone and they serve you. But Jesus says just the opposite. To be great in the eyes of God and in His Kingdom, His disciples must be the servants, just as Jesus who “did not come to be served but to serve.”
James and John didn’t get it! At least at first. Even after Jesus taught them 3 different times that He would have to suffer and die for the sake of others and that His disciples must do the same they still had the audacity to say to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you…Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” They wanted a place of honor and to be recognized as great. They didn’t get it! That is the world’s way of thinking not God’s. Jesus is saying if you really understand me and what I’m about, if you really want to be my disciple, if you really seek to be worthy of my name and want to be great in what really matters, you as my disciple, must see things differently. James and John didn’t get it. Do we get it?
To be an authentic disciple of Christ means to put ourselves in the humble role of servant to others, to intentionally seek the happiness and well-being of others regardless of the cost to ourselves. In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah it talks about the Suffering Servant (prophecy of the coming Christ) “giving His life as an offering”. As His disciples we too are to “offer” our lives at the service of others. The Gospel says that Jesus came to give His life as a “ransom” for many. The definition of ransom is something paid for the release of someone. As Christian disciples we are to give our lives as a “ransom” to set others free from their bondages and sin by showing them the servant Christ and the way to Christ by our service.
The distinguishing mark of a true Christian disciple, the most evident, outward sign of a disciple of Christ is the attitude of joyful service to others. But to be a servant like Christ takes humility. The definition of humility is “freedom from pride or arrogance”. It comes from the root word humus which means “from the ground.” But humility is not thinking of ourselves lower than low either, always walking around with our head bowed down, beating ourselves up. C.S Lewis said it best, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.” In other words, yes we are very valuable in the eyes of God, we are worth something but we are not to be puffed up with false pride and self-ego. By the way, the 3 letters of the word ego stands for “Edge-God-Out”.
So if humble service to others is an essential element of Christian discipleship. But in our daily lives what does it look like? It is joyful self-sacrifice for the good of the other in all situations. And in all situations it’s much easier to be a servant when we think of that other person as Christ. In the home within the family: the husband and wife serve each other as if they were serving Christ Himself. Little everyday things around the house without complaining. Going above and beyond without expecting anything in return. Rubbing the other’s back even though you are dead tired yourself. The kids & teens serve as if they are serving Christ Himself by doing chores with a smile not having to be asked 100 times to do it. Helping and serving their brothers & sisters without complaining about it or fighting with them. In our church family, offering your time and talents in a ministry or two with joy in your heart and a smile on your face. It could also be as simple as picking up a piece of trash inside or outside the church or helping someone in from the parking lot or welcoming a visitor or a new parishioner and showing them where things are. There are so many examples of service here at Resurrection. You know who you are and God knows who you are. We are all called to humble service in our lives: at home at work and school, in the marketplace and streets, and here within our parish community. When we serve others we serve Christ.
But again it’s not easy to be a servant is it?! Jesus knows it’s not easy. In our 2nd reading from Hebrews the writer tells us referring to Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who is similarly tested in every way, yet without sin.” In other words, Jesus, yes fully God but also fully human, knows how hard it is to serve the other. That’s why Hebrews tells us, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Meaning, because Jesus knows how hard it is to be a servant we can go to Him, ask Him to give us grace to be able to do what He calls us to do and He will help us though His Spirit. Without His help it’s me first, what’s in it for me. With His help it is how can I serve and where can I serve. With Him in our heart we want to serve and to give.
In closing, the Gospel message comforts us, gives us peace and hope but also challenges us to what is not always easy, to what seems to be the total opposite of the way the world thinks. The Gospel turns the world’s way of thinking upside down. But it is the way to true joy, to fulfillment and to eternal life by living life as Christ the servant. Do we get it? The answer is in the way we live our lives. It’s either all about “me” or all about Christ in the other. Amen.
September 16, 2018
24th Sun Ord Time
Sun 8 & 10 am
Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35
Most Sundays the readings and the Gospel are about peace and consolation. But once in a while the readings are a swift kick in the pants! This is one of those Sundays. So brace yourself!
The Gospel is from Mark Chapter 8 which is the turning point in the ministry of Jesus and in the faith of His disciples. Up to this point they had heard His message and witnessed His miracles (last Sunday – deaf, mute). But it is here at this point where Jesus wants to know exactly where they stood, exactly where their hearts were so He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” The scripture said He asked them this question in the villages of Caesarea Philippi which was an especially pagan region known for its worship of many different Greek gods (false idols). And in the same way, He asks each of us this day and every day, in this modern time in which many false idols are worshipped (power, pleasure, material, self), He asks us “Who do you say that I am?” You see He wants to know exactly where our hearts are, what our priorities are? Because the answer to that question determines if we are ready to live what He is about to tell us next, which is true discipleship.
A disciple is one who follows someone or something and continues to learn from them. Jesus calls each of us to true Christian discipleship, following Him in His example and learning from Him. In the Gospel He indicates what it will take to be His disciple, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected…” as was foretold by Isaiah in our 1st reading. Jesus is saying that if I must suffer and be rejected than my disciples must experience the same…Peter took Jesus aside and tried to talk some sense into Him. But Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.” In other words, Peter wasn’t getting it at first. He was thinking as the world does. Why did Jesus have to suffer? Why do we have to suffer?!! Now did Jesus back down and soften His stance? Not at all! The scripture said He summoned the crowd and His disciples and told them plainly (read my lips), “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” That’s the kick in the pants! That’s true discipleship which we are all called to. The call to embrace the cross, to embrace the not-so easy road for the sake of the Gospel and for the good of the other. Jesus is telling us that true discipleship is not about comfort, riches and pleasure. No, it’s about service and sacrifice and self-denial. Jesus challenges His followers to commitment through self-denial and sacrifice, even the sacrifice of life itself…Nike, the shoe company, has had a very successful add campaign for the last 30 years that you are probably familiar with, “Just Do It.” Well, they just dropped a new ad, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” As always we should see everything including this ad through the eyes of faith. We as Christians, as disciples of Christ, should take the Gospel message and the invitation to true discipleship so seriously that we use this motto as our own, but of course we Christianize it, “Believe in something, in the Lord Jesus Christ and His message, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Jesus is telling us that real discipleship means to “crucify” our own needs and comfort for the good of the other, to take on with humility the demanding role of servant, to intentionally seek the happiness of the other regardless of the cost to ourselves. This is not feel good religion or lukewarm Christianity. No, this is commitment and true discipleship that we are all called to.
But how do we know that we are true disciples in this context? We know by our works (deeds, actions). James tells us in the 2nd reading, “What good is it, my brothers & sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?...Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” In other words, someone can claim to be a Catholic Christian but if he or she does not show it by action, then there is a problem. There is a saying, “Just because you stand in the garage it doesn’t make you a car.” The same is true for Christian discipleship. James says, “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” This goes back to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” If we say that we are a Catholic Christian with Jesus as our personal Lord & Savior, if we say that we are His disciple then it will show by the way we live our lives, in our words and our deeds. It will guide our every action and reaction.
So if works are the proof of faith what do they look like? Any work in Christ takes self-denial & self-sacrifice: caring for a sick child or parent in the middle of the night when you need sleep for work the next day; sharing your time & talent in a ministry at church when you would rather be at home watching TV; sharing a portion of your hard-earned money on a consistent basis for the day-to-day operations of the parish and for special needs when you would rather spend it on pleasure or something you really don’t need. Works take self-denial, but done in Christ they take on a priceless value within the Kingdom of God and they give us a peace and a satisfaction that is not of this world.
Jesus calls us to be His disciples and to good works right where we are. He asks us to take up our crosses in the everyday joys and sorrows in our homes and in our community. He calls us to good works and self-denial in big things but also in everyday routine things. What about when you are at a stop light in a long row of cars and someone is trying to enter from the side. Do you let them in or pretend like you don’t see them?!! What about when you are in the grocery store and you have a full basket and the person behind you has a couple items. Do you not make eye contact with them or do you let them go ahead of you? And what about when you are heading into the restaurant from your car and someone else is heading in the same direction, do you speed up to beat them or let them go ahead of you? These are just a few ways of faith demonstrated by works in our daily lives. Faith without works is dead! Now that doesn’t mean we can’t ever enjoy ourselves or go on vacation, watch a movie or some football. Everything should be in balance and in moderation. God provides the time and resources we need for them all. We just need to prioritize.
My brothers and sisters, the Gospel is peace and consolation but is also a kick in the pants. Which means Go! Move! Do something for the Kingdom as true disciples of Christ: at home, in the parish and in the community. Your answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” makes all the difference in this world and the next. Go out and prove it. Faith with works is alive! Faith with works is true Christian discipleship. Just do it!
August 19, 2018
20th Sun Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
This is the 4th week in a row the Gospel is from John Chapter 6 “The Bread of Life Discourse”…So I ask you, If someone were to come up to you on the street and say, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood”, what would your reaction be? Shock, surprise, anger, confusion? You would think they were crazy right?!! Well, that’s exactly what Jesus told the people of His day and that’s exactly what He tells us today.
But can you blame the people of His day for not understanding? The scripture said, “The Jews quarreled among themselves saying ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Besides sounding crazy it was strictly forbidden in the Mosaic Law to drink blood yet Jesus is insisting that they eat His body & drink His blood! Did Jesus back down and say, “No, I really did not mean that. It was just figure of speech.” No, He did not! In fact, He emphatically repeated it over & over again! And He repeats it to us over and over again, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” Why is that? You see, life is in the blood (without blood you die). And so it is with eternal life is in the flesh and blood of Jesus, in the host & cup that we receive at Mass! Because as He says, “My flesh is true food and blood is true drink (Eucharist).”
But the opposite of being shocked is complacency and routine. Every time we approach the Table of the Lord at Mass and we receive the consecrated host and cup we should be in awe, we should be amazed that we are truly receiving Christ Himself. As St. Pope John Paul II said, “This is no metaphorical food.” In other words, St. JPII is saying Jesus literally meant what He said. But many people take it for granted, maybe not fully believing or understanding what exactly they are partaking in. They come forward at Mass not prepared spiritually. They come forward with their mind and hearts someplace else. They come forward as part of a routine and because everyone else is doing it. Every time we approach the Table of the Lord at Mass we should be awestruck, amazed and grateful. Fully realizing that we are being given God Himself! How blessed are we as Catholics!
And why does Jesus emphatically insist that we eat His Body and drink His blood? Besides life being in the blood, He wants to become 1 with us. That’s why the Eucharist is also called “Holy Communion”. In the Eucharist, in Communion we enter into “union” with Him. We take on His characteristics, His virtues and His mission. When we become one with Him in the Eucharist we are transforming more & more into Christ who gave of Himself for the salvation of the world. He invites us to take on His life of mercy, of forgiveness, of generosity and of service for the good of others. Jesus gave His best on the cross and He continues to give His best, Himself, on the altar in every Catholic Church in the world every single day. In union with Him we are also called to continually give of our best: our best and first of our time, talent and treasure. Not our leftovers but our best…When we become one with Christ in the Eucharist we become a sacrament (a sign) to all the world that Jesus is alive in us by our compassion, by our faith and by our love.
And also, we become one with each other, we become in union with all who receive Him in faith. Through the Eucharist we are in “communion” with the Church, with the Body of Christ, as a sacrament of unity, of peace and of reconciliation. Together in union with Christ and His Body, the Church, we can have a positive influence on the world and draw souls to the Kingdom which is His mission, which is our mission.
The Eucharist is food for the journey. Just as we feed our bodies with physical food…we feed our spirits and souls with the Eucharist. It is fuel for our spiritual engine to keep going on mission even when it gets difficult. It’s not easy to live a Christian life in the world today. Wouldn’t you agree? But this is nothing new. Way back in the 1st century St. Paul tells us in our 2nd reading, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If the days were evil back then and it was difficult to live a Christian life how much more difficult is it today? With all the temptations of this modern world! How much more do we need to become one with Christ with His food for the journey to stay on the right track?!!
But the world and all who think like the world do not and cannot understand these things: that the simple bread and wine by the power of the Spirit working through the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) becomes the true Body & Blood of Jesus. They cannot understand that by receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament we come in union with Him, empowered to change the world. It has been said, “To those who do not believe this is beyond understanding. To those in faith who do believe no explanation is necessary.” We cannot understand these things by the natural. It is only by the supernatural. We can only understand these things through the wisdom of God…In our 1st reading from the Book of Proverbs Lady Wisdom has prepared a great banquet and has sent out her invitation. But notice, she doesn’t invite the wise of the world who think they know it all and have all the answers. No, the scripture said, “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding come eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed.” The great banquet of course represents the Mass and the “simple” is not an insult but refers to those who seek wisdom and understanding. The simple are the humble who know they need God’s wisdom to understand these things…Yes all are invited to the banquet but many choose not to come. Many think about coming but have other priorities or get distracted or side-tracked. Then some do come but don’t really want to be here. They come grudgingly or out of routine and they do not fully enter into the Mass or the purpose of the Mass. They approach the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist not prepared or open to the graces offered…And this is a great tragidy because God offers us His very self in the Mass, especially in the Eucharist.
In closing, Jesus means what He says over & over: His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. Let us approach the Table of the Lord not out of routine or habit but in awe, in faith and in thanksgiving. Let us come in “union” with Him and with each other and take Him out to the world to make a difference, cooperating with the grace we have been given. Amen!
July (14) 15, 2018
Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 8 am
15th Sun Ord Time
Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13
In our readings this Sunday we hear about the “call” to be prophets to preach the Gospel and the response to the invitation to be sent out on mission. In the first reading Amos had heard the call of the Lord. He was only a shepherd of animals and he took care of sycamore trees. In other words he was just an ordinary guy with an ordinary occupation. Yet God called him to preach His message. The same is true for each one of us. I think it’s safe to say most of us are pretty ordinary people with ordinary lives: a job or school, family responsibilities, cars, homes, etc. Yet through our baptism, as St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, we are “chosen”, as he says, “In Him we are also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will.” Meaning, no matter who we are or how ordinary we are, no matter our occupation or our vocation in life (married, single, clergy or Religious, young or older) we are all chosen (called) to live according to the will of God. And what is that? To be holy and to preach the Gospel…The Vatican II document on the Church called Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations) tells us how in paragraph 31: “The Laity, by their very vocation (call in life) seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel, they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as leaven.” Just like the prophet Amos, we are all called (chosen) to preach the Gospel every single day: at home, at work or school, and out in the world (streets & freeways, in the market place, at the ball game, at the movies, at the mall, etc.) and here within our Resurrection community or if you are a visitor in within your parish community. Even though we are just ordinary people living ordinary lives we have been called to announce the Kingdom of God in every circumstance of our lives. You see, you go to places where others don’t go and they go to places where you don’t go: your job or your school, your home, your circle of friends or wherever. Wherever life takes you is your mission field. And it is there that God calls you to be His prophet.
But you might say, “I’m don’t know what to say. I’m not a preacher.” It’s great to be able to quote scripture and Church doctrine but everyone does not have that gift. How we can preach very effectively is just how we live our lives, how treat people and we conduct ourselves. These words are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Go out and preach the word of God to all people, and if necessary use words.” You can preach the Gospel by your positive attitude, by your joy that exudes from within you, by your generosity, and most of all by your smile. Preaching is not always with words but is with actions. But when opportunities do arise to use words…share your personal testimony. Share with all that you can what God has done in your life, how He has blessed you, how He has brought you through difficult times. Your testimony is very, very powerful and will touch peoples’ hearts.
But to take something out to someone you have to have it first. In the Gospel today the 12 heard the call, responded and went out. But they had something to take out. They had spent time with Jesus, getting close to Him, learning from Him, trusting in Him. The same is true for us. We must do the same. We must get close to Jesus, learn from Him and trust in Him. Then we will have something to take to our families and to the world. When we know the joy of the Lord in our hearts the Gospel message can’t help but come out.
In the Gospel Jesus summons (calls) the 12 then sends them out 2 by 2. Why 2 by 2? Because He knows the mission He calls us on is not easy and we can’t accomplish it alone. With each other and with the Church we are strengthened and encouraged when we get weak or when we stray or get lax or get lazy. With each other it is much easier than by ourselves. That is why Jesus established His Church, to be missionary in nature and to help each other in spreading the Gospel message.
Jesus gives the 12 strict instructions as He sends them out. These instructions are for us also as He sends us out. The scripture said, “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick- no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” Jesus is saying as you go out to travel light. Meaning, focus on the journey and the mission which has been entrusted to you. Don’t be so concerned with worldly things: wealth or status or material things, or looks or power. *Clear the “clutter” from your lives: things or even persons that would prevent you from being effective in your mission. Clear out the clutter…My wife and I recently moved from the house we owned and lived in for over17 years. You know how much clutter you can accumulate in 17 years?!! My garage was the worst! But we tried to get rid of as many things as we could before the move so we could “travel light”. The same is true in mission, travel light to be able to focus on what you have been called to. Traveling light with less “clutter” makes more room for what we really need out there: love, compassion, mercy and generosity. When we travel light we will be more able to “drive out demons” like the 12…demons of hate, of prejudice, of hopelessness and despair.
In closing, all of us baptized have been called (chosen) to be prophets of the Lord God and are sent out on mission trusting in the Lord for all things to preach the Gospel message in our everyday lives in our particular mission field. We are ordinary people chosen for extra-ordinary things (things of heaven). But to have something to take we must possess it within us. Get close to Jesus, learn from Him and His Church. We are not in this alone. We have each other and the Church sent out 2 by 2 to our particular mission field. Yes we may be met with resistance and rejection. That’s ok. So was Jesus as we heard in last week’s Gospel in His home town. Our responsibility is to preach the message by word and deed and leave the rest to God.
At the end of mass one of the choices for dismissal and the one I like to use is “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” When we do that in our everyday life we are prophets of the Lord God!
June (16) 17, 2018
11th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 8 & 10 am
Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34
Happy Father’s Day!
This is the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is a season of growth (Liturgical color green). And this Sunday we hear a lot about growth: trees and seeds and fruit and branches, planting and growing, farmers and birds and winged things. What does it all mean?
For background let’s look at the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel where were hear about the Lord taking from the topmost branches of the cedar tree a tender shoot. This tender shoot would be planted on a high and lofty mountain and it would bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. And birds of every kind and every winged thing would dwell in it…*The first cedar tree represents the nation of Israel long before the time of Christ (the Jewish people and their faith all the way back to Abraham). The tender shoot is Jesus the Christ who came from the lineage (family line) of King David. Jesus the Messiah would establish the Kingdom of God (which would become like the majestic cedar). The Catholic Catechism tells us “The Church is the seed and beginning of the Kingdom” (CCC 567). In other words the Kingdom of God was begun by Christ establishing His Church. The Kingdom of God is here & now but not yet fully realized. And the birds and every winged thing in the first reading represent people of every nation and race who would dwell in Christ’s Church (Universal Catholic Church) and this Church would bear fruit.
In the Gospel Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. He says, “It is like a mustard seed that is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” Like the mustard seed that grows into the largest of plants the Catholic Church started out very small with just a few members but has grown into the largest religion in the world…Here at Resurrection we can relate to this “mustard seed” concept. Our community started out 48 years ago first meeting in a school with just a few families. It grew and built the multi-purpose building which was its place of worship for many years. And now our community has built this magnificent worship space for now and for generations to come. We are like the mustard seed…And I just want to say if you have been away from the Church for a while or if it is your first time here…welcome home!
But magnificent as this building is, it is us the people of God who make up the Kingdom (Church). And we are all called to grow this Kingdom by bearing fruit. How do we do that as individuals and as community? How do we spread and increase the Kingdom of God? By ourselves we cannot do it. We must do it together! You see by ourselves we are all small, tiny like the mustard seed. But together with others in the Body of Christ we are large and have the power to effect and to make a difference. Not one individual or just a handful of people built that first multi-purpose building. And not one individual or a hand-full of people built this magnificent space. It took all of our little mustard seeds together that made it happen. And it will take all of our seeds together to pay off the remaining balance all for the glory of God and to bear fruit for His Kingdom…In the same way not one individual or just a few people can operate this parish. It takes all of our mustard seeds together to bear fruit. By offering our gifts and talents as individuals we come together as one Body in Christ which has a powerful effect on ministry (liturgical, service, outreach & education). When we all offer our gifts of time, talent and treasure for the good of the community and for the good of the Kingdom then we bear fruit and then we grow the Kingdom of God.
But why would we want to grow the Kingdom of God? From where do we get our motivation and inspiration? We get our inspiration from faith and from a confident hope that because we are an active, faith-filled member of the Kingdom we will receive all the promises of God. We know that we are only passing through this world, on pilgrimage towards our heavenly home where the Kingdom will be fulfilled. The late, great Billy Graham (who passed this year) used to say, “My home is in heaven. I’m just traveling through.” If we really believe that then we will have the faith as St. Paul says in our 2nd reading, “We are always courageous…we walk by faith not by sight.” In other words, we know who we are (members of the Kingdom) and we know where we are going (our heavenly home). And because we know this to be true we want our loves ones and all others to have this same confidence, this same faith and hope that we have found.
But like I mentioned, the Kingdom has already begun. And as members of the Kingdom we are called to show others what the Kingdom looks like. We are to be ambassadors for Christ, showing the world what it means to be a Christian, living the Kingdom right here and right now. We are called to plant the seeds of hope, compassion and love by our words and our actions…We may hardly ever see the fruits or results of our efforts. It may seem like all that we do doesn’t make a difference. Don’t worry about that. Just do your part and trust that God will do His part. Just like in the first part of today’s Gospel, “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” Just like the farmer scatters his seed and has faith that it will grow but doesn’t fully understand how or why – we do the same with the seeds of the Gospel. Scatter the seeds of faith and love and don’t worry about results. Leave that up to God.
In conclusion, the Kingdom of God is here and now yet not fully realized. It starts like a small mustard seed planted in the heart. And if it is watered and nurtured and is open to the graces offered it grows into something great. We are all called to grow this Kingdom by how we live, by how we act, by how we share, by how we give, by how we love…I once heard it said, “We are not here to count the days, we are here to make the days count.” Make your days count by living the Kingdom of God and by growing the Kingdom of God. With all our mustard seeds together we can have a powerful effect. At the end of the Dedication Mass a couple Thursdays ago Fr. Ken was giving his thanksgiving message to the community in both English and Spanish. He was saying we as a community have accomplished all this. And out of nowhere Bishop McElroy yelled out in Spanish, “Si se puede!” (Yes we can!) Yes we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit and all of us working together we can make a difference!...May we walk by faith not by sight and bear fruit in abundance through the way we live our lives. During this season of growth may we flourish like the majestic cedar and the mustard tree for all in the world to see for the glory of God. Si se puede! Yes we can!
May (19) 20, 2018
Sat 4:30, Sun 8 & 10am
Pentecost Year “B”
It’s not often the Liturgical color is red. When? On the feast days of the martyrs symbolizing the blood they shed for Jesus and His Kingdom; on Palm Sunday and Good Friday when we commemorate the Passion of the Lord (Martyr of martyrs); at the Sacrament of Confirmation, and today - Pentecost Sunday when we commemorate the gift of the Spirit of God coming down upon the believers.
Pentecost was originally a feast celebrated by the Jewish people years before Christ, celebrating a thanksgiving for the harvest and the end of Passover time. But after the Resurrection of Christ Pentecost not only concludes the Easter Season for Christians, it takes on a new meaning in Christ…On the first Pentecost of the New Covenant, the descent of the Holy Spirit was the birth of the Church, forming a body of believers, uniting them together as one. In Genesis (in the beginning) at the tower of Babel the people’s language was confused so that they did not understand each other and as a result were scattered or divided. But in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 at Pentecost the Spirit came down and allowed them to understand each other, unifying them as one. This reversed the dividing act at Babel and instituted the Church, united in Christ. Even though there are many different languages in the Universal Catholic Church, we are united by the same Spirit which makes us one no matter who we are or where we live…Here at Resurrection, even though we speak several different languages we are one community in Christ, in the one Spirit. It is the Spirit that unifies us. *Our new Church building is a great example of this unity as it took all of us together to get to this point. It will be all of us no matter who we are or which mass we go to who will be celebrating and worshipping in that magnificent space as one in the one Spirit. And it will take all of us united in the Spirit of Christ to complete the cost of the new building in the next few years to come. So keep those pledges coming!!
And it is the Spirit who gives different gifts to different individuals in the Body of Christ, which is the Church. *1 Cor 12 tells us, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord, there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” The Spirit of God gives different gifts to each of the baptized. Why? To build up the Body of Christ. Each of us has different gifts or talents which are given to us to benefit the Church. Are we using what we have been given for the benefit of others? And why doesn’t the Spirit give all the gifts to one person? Because then we wouldn’t need each other. Because each one has different gifts we need each other to be complete. As the scripture says, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” In other words, the human body has many parts, the eye, the hand, the leg. These parts working together make up a complete, fully functioning human body. In the same way, each member of the Church has been given different gifts and when each member uses their gifts the Church is a complete, fully functional, effective Body of Christ. Offer and use the gifts you have been given for the benefit of the Church: your talents, your time and your treasure…Just like the Jewish people would offer their first and their best in thanksgiving, we too are to offer our first and our best in thanksgiving for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father…He will guide you to all truth.” The Advocate, the Spirit of God, will guide us to all truth because He is truth. But we must seek Him, we must be open to Him and allow Him to guide us to the truth. The Spirit wants to be the tour guide through our life. But we must allow Him to be. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” In other words, if you want this Spirit of truth in your life more powerfully, if you are thirsty for Him and need Him then ask for Him and He will be given to you.
Who wouldn’t want the Spirit more powerfully in their life? He is called the “Advocate” which means “helper, counselor, comforter, one who protects and defends.” What does this Advocate help us with? He helps us in many ways. He helps us by giving us the peace of Jesus. He helps us by enabling us to trust in the Father in all situations which gives us peace that surpasses all understanding. He speaks to us even in the midst of chaos, helping us get through even the most difficult times…He helps us with decisions large or small. The Spirit brings us the words of Jesus which transforms our minds and our hearts into the mind and heart of Christ. …The Spirit empowers us to do things that we never thought we could whether it is in ministry, at your job or at school. Do you think I could be up here without the Spirit? No way! It is the Advocate working in us and through us to do mighty things…And it is the Spirit working in us that helps us get through the mundane things of everyday life: within our marriage, within the family and all the things we must do within the family like getting along with each other, like forgiving, like housework & yardwork, like shopping for weekly supplies…The Spirit helps us at work, driving the streets and the freeway back and forth, so on and so on. Just like we need the Advocate with us to do great and wonderful things we also need Him with us to get through our day to day lives.
And my brothers and sisters, the Advocate helps us in the battle between the Spirit and the flesh. St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Galatians, “For the flesh has desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, these are opposed to each other.” There is a constant battle raging within each of us: the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The battle between doing what God wants and what our sinful nature wants. Doing what God wants leads to the fruits of the Spirit and eternal life but doing what our flesh wants leads to sin and eternal death. The more we ask for the Spirit, the more we rely on the Spirit, the more we are open and seek the Spirit, the more we are able to win the battle between flesh and Spirit. It’s like that old cartoon with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Which one will you allow to influence you more? It’s a constant every day battle. It will rage on until the day we die. But with the Spirit of Jesus within us we can and will have the victory!
In closing, the Advocate, the Spirit of God, the 3rd Person of the Trinity is a tremendous gift we can’t live without. He is unifying, empowering, transforming, and He is Truth. He is the strong driving wind in our sails and the fire in our hearts. He bestows gifts upon us to be used for the benefit of others. It is only with and through the Spirit that we can live the life of holiness and stewardship we are all called to through our baptism as individuals and as Church. Call upon the Spirit of the Living God every day of your life and He will be with you no matter what you face in this world and you will have the victory!
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful & kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit & & they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.” Amen.
April 15, 2018
3rd Sunday of Easter
Sun 8, 10 & 4:30
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48
God’s Not Dead! I say it again…God’s Not Dead! You may or may not know but this is the name of some Christian movies that have come out over the last couple of years (the 3rd & latest this past Good Friday). Isn’t that what we are to proclaim as Catholic Christians all year long but especially during the Easter Season? That Jesus has risen and is alive?!! Yes it is! It’s not just a nice story or a myth. It’s a reality! And we are to proclaim it every day of our lives!
The Resurrection of Christ is to be proclaimed because it is the single most important event in the history of the world and in the history of salvation. St. Paul says (1 Cor 15) that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is null and void and we are the “most pitiable people of all.”…Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles) recently said that “If Jesus did not rise from the dead than all bishops and priests need to go out and get different job and all of us in the Church should leave immediately.” But the fact is Jesus has risen, He has conquered sin and death, and our faith is not null and void but because of the Resurrection our faith is fulfilled, powerful, life-giving and gives us hope!
In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles St. Peter proclaims it. This passage immediately follows the passage where a crippled man is healed through the power of the Risen Christ. The man shouts for joy and makes such a commotion that he draws a crowd. It is to this crowd that St. Peter proclaims that this Jesus, who they put to death, has risen. And that He has fulfilled the Scriptures and the prophets.
In the second reading from the 1st Letter of St. John we heard, “Jesus Christ is expiation for our sins.” In other words He took our sins on the Cross for us and conquered sin and death. So all who turn to the Risen Christ now have a way into eternal life when before there was no way. That’s what we are to proclaim! That’s the Good News!
The Gospel passage this Sunday immediately follows the story of the two on the road to Emmaus who were dejected because the one whom they placed their hope in was dead, hung on the Cross. The risen Jesus revealed Himself to these two disciples and the passage today picks up where they have come back to the others to proclaim that Jesus is alive…The disciples are behind locked doors terrified, troubled and afraid with doubt in their hearts but Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” Then He shows them His hands and His side. In other words Jesus is proving to them that yes He truly is alive…So the question is, do each of us truly believe that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again and is alive today? Because if we do then we would have His peace and the hope that He offers. We wouldn’t have questions arise in our hearts and be troubled about all our concerns, our stresses and our problems. If we truly believed that He is alive we would trust in Him for all things and in all situations. He offers peace to us, even in difficult times, by inviting us to come close to Him and to touch Him. When we draw close to the Risen Jesus it is then that we receive His peace that surpasses all human understanding.
In the Gospel, at first the disciples thought He was a ghost. But Jesus says, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones.” Just as Jesus appeared to the disciples in flesh and bone He appears to us today in flesh and bone. How? He appears to us in flesh and bone in our family members, in our friends, in the poor and less fortunate, and in the immigrant and in the refugee. Jesus appears in every person that we encounter whether in person face-to-face or from a distance. And He says the same to us today as He did in today’s Gospel, “Have you anything here to eat?” The Risen Lord is in the other person asking us to feed Him. How do we feed Him? By responding with love and compassion through the sharing of our time, our talent and our treasure. We feed Him by including the one who is left out or who seems to be an outcast. We feed Him by looking for and ministering to Christ in the needs of the other. What we do and what we share we are doing it to the Risen Christ who appears to us in flesh and bone in the other. Every time we reach out and touch someone with compassion we are touching the Risen Lord…And in turn, when we respond to His plea coming through the other we are appearing to them as the Risen Christ in flesh and bone. Jesus is alive in the other and in us!
In the Mass there are several powerful signs of the Risen Christ. Of course in the Eucharist and in the Word. But also, the Risen Christ is in the Sign of Peace. Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”. So when the deacon or priest announces “Let us offer each other a sign of peace” we turn to each other and shake hands or we hug or we wave or we flash a peace sign right? But what we are really doing? Because the Risen Christ is alive in us, we are giving Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to each other. Everything we do in mass we do for a reason, it has meaning and is important. When we offer peace to each other we are offering and receiving Christ Himself…But why do we do this? What is the fruit or the good that comes from it? First of all it builds community and makes us one, which prepares us to receive Holy Communion (one Bread, one Body). So while it is good to offer peace to your family and friends near you, also offer peace to the ones you do not know. Get out of your seat and look for someone you don’t know and give them a hand shake or hug from Jesus (keep it Christian though, LOL). What else does the Sign of Peace do? It brings about reconciliation also preparing us to receive Holy Communion…Jesus is alive in us. Share Him.
My brothers and sisters, God’s Not Dead, He is alive! It’s not just a story or a fable. It’s reality! It is the most important event in history! It is up to us to spread the Good News that Jesus has conquered sin and death by His Resurrection and that now there is a way into heaven, now there is hope. And it is our mission to proclaim it in this dark world. …In the latest God’s Not Dead movie “A Light in Darkness” one of the lines is, “It only takes a spark.” And they light their individual candles from each other. This is what we do at every Easter Vigil at every Catholic Church in the world. While the Church is still dark on that “Night of nights” one small candle is lit from the Paschal Candle which represents Christ. Then that little candle lights another and they pass the light around until the whole church is filled with the light of the Risen One. What a beautiful sight! As Catholics who have come close and touched the Risen Jesus, who have received His peace, it is us who have this spark inside of us and it is us who are called too proclaim it and spread it by the way we live our lives. And the Father looks down and sees the light spreading. What a beautiful sight!
The Lord is risen! Believe it, live it, spread the Good News! It only takes a spark…May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you!
April, 7, 2018
Acts 4:13-21, Ps 118, Mark 16:9-15
We are still with the Octave of Easter, the first 8 days celebrated as one great feast day. And so in the Gospel today we hear the events on the day of the Resurrection. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene who goes and tells the others that the Lord has risen. That is why she is known as the “apostle to the Apostles”. But they do not believe her…Then we hear about the disciples on the road to Emmaus who return to tell the others that they have seen the Risen Lord but they do not believe them either…Finally the Lord Himself appears to the disciples who finally believe.
We have been told over and over that Jesus has risen. The question is: do we truly believe in our heart that Jesus has really risen from the dead and lives even though we haven’t actually seen Him? That is called faith…But the reality is we have seen Him: in all of creation, in each other and especially in the Eucharist. Does He have to rebuke us for our hardness of heart like He did in the Gospel? Open our eyes of faith and we will see Him every day.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear how the disciples were brought before the religious authorities because they were testifying that they had seen and witnessed the Risen Lord. The scripture said, “They recognized them as companions of Jesus.” Do people recognize us as companions of Jesus? Can they tell we are followers of Christ by the way we live?
The religious authorities ordered the disciples to stop spreading the news about the Risen Lord. Peter and John’s response, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” May that be our response also. Let us fulfill and live Jesus’ commission, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” by the way we live our lives.
January 21, 2018
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Ok, first, I’m speaking to the married men. Out of all the verses of scripture you just heard (1st reading, Psalm, 2nd reading & the Gospel) there’s probably one verse in particular that you remember most: from the 2nd reading, “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them.” No, no, no, it doesn’t mean what you think it does!…We must read scripture within context. So what is the context? What is the theme & the message for us this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time?
In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians he starts out with, “The time is running out.” And he ends with, “For the world in its present form is passing away.” When we hear these 2 verses, then the statement, “let those having wives act as not having them” makes sense. Paul is NOT saying forget your responsibilities, he is NOT saying don’t worry about your relationships & your day-to-day affairs. No, we all know we need to take care of our daily business, our marriages, our family needs, work responsibilities, school and so on. The point St. Paul is making is the end will come sooner than you think so don’t be overly concerned with things of this world, things that will pass away. Be more concerned with things of heaven, eternal things. Put priority over the spiritual rather than the natural (material).
In the Gospel Jesus proclaims the same message. Today we heard from the first chapter from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is considered to be the oldest of the 4 Gospels so the words we hear from Jesus today are His first recorded words in scripture. And He doesn’t waste anytime but gets right to it, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Why does Paul and Jesus seem so urgent about this? Because there is so much at stake. Our eternal life is in the balance…The world tells us, “Don’t worry, live any way that you want, seize the moment, whatever makes you happy go with it. It’s alright.” But Jesus and the Church tell us the time is now! Before it’s too late repent and believe. That is the urgent message for us today to repent which means to change, to turn around, to live in a new way, to live in God’s way not what the world tells us. And believe means (from the original language) to trust and to totally rely upon. The time is now to change and to trust in the Lord.
The disciples in today’s Gospel showed that they repented and trusted by dropping everything (which symbolizes dropping worldly ways and thinking) and they followed Christ. They took the message to heart and they changed their way of living and thinking…In the first reading the people of Nineveh heard the message from Jonah and the scripture said they “believed God & they turned from their evil ways”. *We have heard the message over and over, at mass, from our parents, from other people, in Religious Education, at retreats. Do we believe it and take action? Do we take it to heart? Do we change our way of living and thinking? Not just for a short time but as a way of living day-in & day-out?
In the Gospel the scripture said they “dropped everything and followed Jesus.” How do we know that we are following Jesus? How do we know for sure that we have repented and believe? How do we know that we have heard and answered His call? We know and can be sure if we live different than the rest of the world. If we think and act more & more like Christ. We are more compassionate and kind, if we are more forgiving, & non-judgmental. If we are more giving in the sharing of our time, our talents and our treasure. If we are detached from material things where they are not so important anymore. If we are more Christ-centered rather than self-centered. And if we have a hunger to spend more time with Jesus at Mass, in His Word and in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers. These are some of the ways we know that we have answered the call of Jesus to follow Him.
And as disciples who have answered the call to repent and believe, to follow Jesus, disciples who have the hunger to spend time with Him and to be like Him, then what? Then, like Simon Peter and Andrew, like James and John in the Gospel; and like Jonah in the first reading we are called to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God by word and by deed…The story that we heard about Jonah is not the whole story. Before our reading picks up God asked Jonah a first time to preach the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh, the Capital city of Assyria. But Jonah refused. You see Nineveh and Assyria were the bitter enemy of Israel. They were known for their brutality and Israel hated them. Jonah didn’t think they deserved a chance to be forgiven and saved so he tried to flee on a ship. But we all know what happened. Jonah’s shipped was being torn apart by a violent storm and he was swallowed by huge fish (whale). He spent 3 days and nights inside the fish where he repented of his actions. The whale spit him out and then God gave him a second chance. This time Jonah did go to the people of Nineveh and he did announce the message of repentance…Are we like Jonah who has heard the call to spread the Good News but have not done it? Or are we like Jonah who thinks some people don’t deserve to be saved? Well like Jonah the Lord gives us another chance. But don’t wait until you are swallowed by a whale! The inside of the whale must have been pretty nasty. We don’t want to flee from God’s call and be put in a stinky, smelly situation. The time is now to spread the message of God’s love and mercy to all people no matter who they are.
So the message for us today is the time is now to repent and to believe. And to let everyone else know the time is now. Don’t be overly concerned with things of this world, things that will pass away. Don’t cling to things that seem so important right now but in the overall scheme of things they are really not. The Super Bowl is coming up in a couple weeks. Who remembers who won it last year or the year before? The college football championship was won a couple weeks ago in an epic game by Alabama over Georgia in overtime. But who is going to remember that 10 years from now? Not many. The point is all these things that seem so important right now (cell phones, our clothes, our cars, our looks, our youth) they are all fading away and will be forgotten. Be concerned with living the Gospel and spreading the Good News of the Kingdom which will not fade away. So I close with the words of St. Paul, “The time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away.” And the first recorded words of Jesus, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
My friends, God is calling us right now. God is great, don’t hesitate!
December (16) 17, 2017
3rd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
This Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Advent aka “Gaudete Sunday” in the Latin, and in English “Rejoice” hence the rose colored vestments. We rejoice because the celebration of the coming of the Christ-child is very near. But Advent is also a somewhat penitential Season. And so taking those two aspects into consideration (joy & penance) I tell you this story…
· The priest, who was the pastor, said to the deacon, “You had a good idea to replace the first 4 pews with plush theatre-type seats. It worked like a charm. The front of the church always fills first now.”
· The deacon nodded and the pastor continued, “And you told me adding a little more beat to the music would bring young people back to church, so I supported you when you brought in that Rock’n Roll Gospel Choir at the youth mass. Now that mass is consistently filled with young people.
· “All of these ideas have been good”, said the pastor, “But I’m afraid you have gone too far with the Drive-thru confessional.” “But Father,” said the deacon, “confessions & donations have nearly doubled since it began.”
· “Yes”, replied the pastor, “and I appreciate that, but the flashing neon sign on the roof has to go. I mean really, Toot’n Tell or Go to Hell?!!”
Rejoice my brothers & sisters! A Christian should be joyful because we have Reason for joy! Have you ever noticed a joy-filled person? They are always positive, they seem like they are glowing. Just before I came to know the Lord in my heart and in my life (in my mid-twenties) there were these guys at work who had something different. You could see it all over them. I came to find out that they were filled with the joy of the Lord. And I wanted it. Catholic Christians should be joy-filled! It should show all over us. And people should want what we have. On the other hand if we are a joyless Christian and it shows in our lives why would anyone want to be a part of that?!! Rejoice in the Lord and be a witness for Christ by your life.
Now there’s a difference between being happy and having joy. Happiness is superficial, it fades, it’s temporary. I’m sure you have seen that car commercial that comes out every year before Christmas where the guy looks outside the window and there’s a big red bow on top of a new car. That guy is happy! But I guarantee that the happiness fades after a while especially when the first payment is due! (Christmas presents, decorations). Happiness fades but joy is different. Joy is deep, it’s lasting, it’s real. Joy is the combination of the human senses along with the Spirit. It is the combination of the natural together with the supernatural. And the source of joy has a name. It is Jesus Christ!
In the first reading Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” As Catholic Christians can each of us say that? In our lives do we rejoice heartily in the Lord? Is Jesus really the joy of our soul? Or do we seek happiness elsewhere? In the world, in the material, or in whatever? Let Jesus be the joy of your soul!
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice always.” Is that really possible?! We know it’s easy to be joyful when things are going good but what about when they are not? What about when we experience difficult times, difficult situations in our lives? We are human beings and we get down at times (including myself). But when we have a relationship with the Lord God we trust in Him in good times and in bad. We have a firm hope. We know that somehow, someway He will provide a way out and that’s why we can rejoice always even in difficult times!…There’s a new Contemporary Christian song by Zach Williams that I love that goes along with this. It’s called “Old Church Choir” and the refrain goes like this:
“I got an old church choir singing in my soul,
I got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful,
I’ve got a heart overflowing cuz I’ve been restored,
There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy!”
When our heart is filled with Jesus, the source of joy, nothing that can happen can steal our joy. Sure we will get knocked down but with the joy of the Lord in our heart and soul we rise. When we have Jesus there ain’t nothing that can steal your joy!
St. Paul gives us the key to staying joyful always. Right after he says “Rejoice always”, he says, “Pray without ceasing and in all circumstances give thanks.” Pray at all times, in good times and in difficult times. Stay connected to Jesus, the source of joy. Just like we need to continually eat food and drink water for the nourishment of our bodies; just like we need to continually fill our vehicles with gasoline; in the same way we need to continually fill ourselves with the source of joy in His word, in prayer, in the Sacraments, and in fellowship. To stay joy-filled we must stay Christ-filled…And be thankful. To stay joyful we must be thankful. We must be positive. We must see the glass half-full instead of half-empty. A joy-filled person is thankful for everything in their lives. They don’t take anything for granted but fully realize that all good things are gifts from God…Sometimes we have to check ourselves on this. When the Lilac fire in Bonsall was raging they closed my normal route home from work from Camp Pendleton so I had to take the I-5 south to the 78 East FWY. I hate the 78! I try to void it after work like the plague. But there I was stuck in traffic on the 78 and I started to complain in my mind. But then I thought, what’s wrong with you?!! At least I have a home to go to! Some people lost their home and all their possessions. Forgive me Lord! Be thankful, see the positive, and you will be joy-filled.
Another way to rejoice always is to serve and to give. When we get, when we receive, we are happy…for a while. But when we serve and when we give we have true joy. When we serve and we give of our time, our talent and our treasure this what brings us joy. J-O-Y= Jesus, Others, You
In closing, when we live rejoicing always, connected to the source of joy and always thankful we are witnesses of the Good-News that we will be celebrating next week. Just as John the Baptist in today’s Gospel lived his life as a testimony pointing to the Christ, we are called to do the same by the way we live our lives. When we are joy-filled we do point others to Christ. They will want what we have because we have a Reason for our joy!
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.