August (17) 18, 2019

20th Sun in Ord Time

Sat 4:30pm & Sun 8am

 

Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53

 

            I think we would all agree, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”. Right? That’s one of His titles given to Him that describes who He is. At His birth the multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds in the field praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians says when we go to Jesus in prayer with thanksgiving in our hearts, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Yes, Jesus is the source of true peace yet in the Gospel there seems to be a contradiction as He Himself says to His disciples, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” What?!! What does that supposed to mean?

          Jesus is saying to His disciples, 2000 plus years ago and is telling us His disciples today, that if we take our Catholic Christian faith seriously, if we are His true follower, not somewhere in the middle but “all in”, than it’s not always going to be easy for us. The choices and decisions that we make when we live the Gospel will not always be popular to everyone, to those in our own families and those out in the world (human family). The Gospel lived will cause divisions between those who accept Jesus as Lord in their lives and those who do not. Living the Faith in this world can be very challenging at times. Jeremiah in the first reading experienced this as well as all of the prophets. Jesus experienced it. We as His followers will experience it also…So if you would rather spend time in things of God than in things of the world it will cause division with those around you. If you live following the saying WWJD (What would Jesus do?) in all situations and in all places it will cause division. If you are passionate about living Stewardship as a way of life sharing your time, talent & treasure it will cause division with those around you who are not. If you believe in and stand up for the teachings of the Church when the world is saying the complete opposite it will cause division. We must be aware that there is a spiritual battle out there that is raging. We see it all over the news, in our work places and maybe even in our homes.

          But as Christians why live this way if it is so difficult, so challenging, if it is so counter-cultural? Because it is so worth it! Because it is the truth! Because it leads to eternal life! And because it gives us the “peace that surpasses all understanding!”

And we live this way because God wants us to live this way because it puts us on the path to becoming a saint. Jesus wants us all to be saints. Yes each and every one of us! The word saint means “holy”, set apart, filled with the Holy One. Jesus says in the Gospel, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” The fire He is talking about is the fire of the Holy Spirit, a cleansing, purifying fire, a fire that transforms us into saints. A fire given to us not to make us comfortable but to refine us and purify us just as precious metals are refined by fire. The goldsmith or silversmith holds the precious metal over the hottest part of the flame to burn away all the impurities. But he never takes his eyes off of it because if he leaves it a moment too long it would be destroyed. But how does he know when the precious metal is fully refined? When he can see his image in it!  So if you are feeling the heat of the fire in your life, remember that you are precious to God and that He has His eyes on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you…That is a saint, purified by the Holy Fire, transformed, reflecting the image of Jesus for all to see…St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” If we are what God wills us to be (saints on fire, purified, refined, transformed) standing up for God’s truth and His ways then we will be able to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ even among the divisions we face. We will be the peace makers, we will be the healers of division.

But to persevere in living the Gospel, to sustain it day after day, week after week in the midst of division, opposition and persecution is not easy. How can we possibly sustain this way of life that God calls us to? In the 2nd reading the writer of Hebrews compares it to a race, “Persevere in running the race that lies before us.” This journey of faith, this pilgrimage through this life, is not a sprint but a marathon. A runner in a marathon has a goal (to get to the finish line). He or she knows what the goal is and keeps focus on it. Runners have short term goals and long term goals…My wife and I have been walking/running for the past several months. Our long term goal and reason we are doing this is for our health and stewardship of our bodies. But within the long term goal we have short term goals: exercise as many times per week as possible. And to break it down even further: during the run, just make it to that flag pole, make it to the next corner, and so on. And we encourage each other to keep on going, to persevere. It’s not easy but we try to keep focus on the big picture…The same is true in the marathon of living the faith. To persevere we must know and keep focus on the goal and why we are striving to live this way: for eternal life with Jesus. And within this long term goal there are short term goals: day –to-day peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, show the world the love of God, keep the fire of the Spirit inside of us…Just like a runner must continue to train and strengthen his or her body we must continue by feeding our spirits and our minds with things of God: prayer, His Word, the Sacraments…The writer of Hebrews tells us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” Just as a runner cannot successfully run carrying excess “stuff” with him, things that way him down, so it is with us. Obviously, we must rid ourselves of sinful things and ways. But also to run the marathon of faith we must even rid ourselves of going to certain places that will cause us to stumble. And if necessary we must separate ourselves from people who cause us to fall…But the good news is we are not alone in this faith marathon. Hebrews tells us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” the Prince of Peace & Perfecter of the faith. He is with us all the way if we allow Him to be. The scripture tells us, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Meaning we have the Saints in heaven who are praying for us & cheering us on. And we have each other, in Christian fellowship, to lift each other up and to encourage one another to persevere.

My brothers if we take our Catholic Christian faith seriously, if we are His true follower, not somewhere in the middle but “all in”, than it’s not always going to be easy. It’s a spiritual battle. But it is so worth it! Because it is the truth! Because it leads to eternal life! And because it gives us the “peace that surpasses all understanding!” And because it keeps us on the path to becoming a saint. Deeply embraced and lived, the Gospel way of life focused on Jesus and others will make us the saints we are called to be. As St. Catherine said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” And that is the will of God! That the whole world is blazing with the fire of the Holy Spirit, no matter what it takes!

         

                     

July 21, 2019

16th Sun Ord Time

10 am & 4:30 pm

 

Genesis 18:1-10a; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42

 

            There was a Catholic family that invited some guests over for dinner. So they prepared all week…They scurried around: bought the groceries, cleaned the house inside & out and on the day of the dinner they prepared the meal. It was finally time to eat but as all good Catholics they gathered around the table with their invited guests to say grace. The mom of the host family looked down at her 6 year old daughter and said, “Mary, why don’t you say the prayer.” Mary looked up and said, “Oh mommy, I wouldn’t know what to say.” Her mom said, “Just say what you hear mommy say.” So the little girl bowed her head and said, “Oh Lord, why on earth did we invite all these people to dinner?!!”

          Our readings today speak to us loud and clear about “hospitality”. Namely “Christian hospitality”. In the Gospel we hear about one of the most famous dinner parties ever thrown: Martha & Mary showing hospitality by hosting the Lord Jesus in their home. And in the first reading Abraham & Sarah show hospitality by hosting 3 unexpected visitors which some say represent the Holy Trinity or 3 angels.

          Hospitality is a hallmark, a characteristic of Christian discipleship and of living stewardship as a way of life. So what exactly is “hospitality”? The definition comes from the root word “hospitable” which means “to welcome, to be receptive, to treat guests with warmth and generosity”. But Christian hospitality takes it even further. Christian hospitality is welcoming others whether they are friend or stranger, whether you like them or not so much (why?) because we recognize Jesus within each person we encounter. Christian hospitality is making a person feel welcomed, wanted, valued and appreciated simply because they are God’s creation. When we show hospitality to the other no matter who they are we are showing hospitality to Jesus Himself as Abraham and Sarah did and as Martha and Mary did. That’s the difference between normal hospitality and Christian hospitality. We see and welcome Jesus in every person we encounter.

          So back to the sisters Martha and Mary. We all know the story. Martha met Jesus outside the house and scurried around inside to actively serve the Lord. While Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to Him speak. So…which one are you? Are you a Martha (busy, active, doing, doing)? Or are you a Mary (contemplative, quiet, reserved)? Well, in discipleship, stewardship and in spiritual terms both are essential. In discipleship we need to be like both Mary and Martha…But in the Gospel on the surface Jesus seems to indicate otherwise as He tells Martha who had been busy serving, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” Jesus seems to be indicating that Mary has it right. We only need to sit at His feet. But the key is the next verse, “Mary has chosen the better part.” Meaning discipleship and Christian hospitality have 2 parts: part 1 – (most important) sit at the Lord’s feet like Mary, part 2 – service (action) like Martha. To practice true, authentic Christian hospitality which we are all called to, first we must sit at the Lord’s feet. We must “welcome” Him every single day of our life: welcome Him in prayer & in His Word, at Sunday Mass and in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. And remember scripture said, “Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to Him speak.” In other words we need to SHUT UP sometimes and let Jesus get a word in…When we “welcome” Him into our lives, when we have a personal relationship with Him then we are propelled (empowered) to part 2 which is action, which is serving.

This is a continuation from last week’s Gospel, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, being, strength & mind (part 1) and your neighbor as yourself (part 2).” They cannot be separated but go hand-in-hand. Both are essential. Time with the Lord without service is pointless, it is incomplete…On the other hand service, doing, doing, doing without time before the Lord is doing with our own human power not God’s. We won’t last (burn-out). Time with the Lord empowers us to love our neighbor (every person we encounter) even those who are difficult to love & welcome.

Now hospitality not only means to invite someone over for dinner but means in all aspects of life. In means to make all feel welcome, to treat all kindly and with generosity in all places: in our homes (family - which may be the most difficult), at our jobs or school, in the market place and places of business and especially here at Church. Treat all with respect, with warmth, with love and kindness. Why? Because we see Jesus in each and every person and because we are discples of Christ and stewards of the Gospel.

          And when we practice true Christian hospitality, when we bless Jesus in the other person or in the Church community, He always blesses us back even more. In the 1st reading the scripture said Abraham & Sarah offered a “little food” to his guests. So he had his wife Sarah prepare fresh rolls from fine flour. He picked out a tender, choice steer and had his servant cook it. And he gave his guests curds and milk. Now that’s not a “little food!” That’s like if you had unexpected guests and you asked your wife to go make some homemade tortillas or tamales! Or go roll some lumpia! And you put some carne asada on the grill! *Abraham & Sarah gave of their best in Christian hospitality. And what did their guests promise them? “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah and Abraham who were childless were going to be blessed beyond their wildest dreams: a child for her who had been barren. My friends, we cannot out give God. When we give and offer our best in Christian hospitality whether it is to an individual, to a family or to our parish community in time, talent & treasure we will be blessed in some awesome way! God guarantees it!

          In closing, hospitality is a hallmark, a characteristic of Christian discipleship and of living stewardship as a way of life. As disciples of Christ we are all called to Christian hospitality in every aspect of our lives. But we must remember there are 2 parts (Martha & Mary). The first and most important part is to spend time daily siting at the Lord’s feet, welcoming Him into our heart and lives. Abraham & Sarah welcomed the 3 visitors (Holy Trinity) into their tent. Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their home. Our tent and our home first and foremost is our lives, is our heart and mind. When we welcome the Lord into our “tent” then we are propelled to Christian hospitality to each person we encounter because in them we see Christ Himself.

          I leave you with a saying I seen on a picture frame that I thought would close out this homily nicely, “Be my guest whether you come in to visit or just to rest. When you enter my home…may you be blessed.”  

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

Pentecost Sunday

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

Sat 8am

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! 

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