On Ash Wednesday we began the ascent on the holy mountain of Easter. Once again the Church is guiding us through the 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays) to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery. Once again the Church calls us to examine our faith lives and make adjustments by prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

This Sunday (and all of Lent) the readings call us back to the state of our baptism which is purity and holiness. In the 1st reading from Genesis God establishes a covenant with Noah and his descendants as He explains the great flood and His promises that go with it.

In the 2nd reading from the 1st Letter of St. Peter we are given the meaning of the flood as it pertains to the descendants of Noah (disciples of Christ), “The ark in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.”

And in the Gospel Jesus gives us what activates the graces of Baptism which we heard on Ash Wednesday as the mark of the cross was imposed on our foreheads, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

As disciples of Christ, let us take this opportunity during the Season of Lent, the season of grace, to allow the Spirit of God to help us to return to the original state of our baptism, purity and holiness.

 

Repent and believe in the Gospel!  

Feb (14) 15, 2015

Sat 4:30 pm

6th Sun Ord Time

 

Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

 

            Ready or not the Season of Lent starts this coming Wednesday. And the Church in her wisdom prepares us to enter into this season of grace with this Sunday’s readings.

          In the 1st reading from Leviticus, the Lord gives Moses and Aaron instruction on purity laws dealing with those who had any kind of skin disease, in particular leprosy. The person with the skin problem would have to wear their clothes a certain way, would have to shave their head and they would have to cover the lower portion of their face. In addition they would have to walk around shouting “Unclean, unclean!”  This was to protect the rest of the community in case the skin disease was contagious and also to keep the rest of the people ritually clean according to the Law. And because of this, the so-called “unclean” would have to live “outside the camp” or separated from the rest of the community.

          We see the connection between the 1st reading and the Gospel. A man with leprosy kneels before Jesus and begs Jesus to make him clean. All the people were watching to see what He would do because if He touched the man Jesus Himself would be deemed “unclean”. So what does Jesus do?  The scripture said He was, “Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand, touched him and said I do will it. Be made clean.” By touching the man with leprosy Jesus heals him making him clean according to the Law but in turn Jesus becomes “the unclean” and He must live outside the camp…This is exactly what He did for us on the cross. He took our place, He took on our uncleanliness on His holy body, in a sense becoming unclean. He was moved with pity for us, stretched out His hand and touched us, making us clean in the waters of Baptism. And it was He who took our place outside the camp (which was the cross on Calvary)!

          So in today’s readings we see the deeper meaning of leprosy which represents sin. In reality, after Baptism due to our sinful nature, we are all “lepers”, we all are unclean, stained by sin in our lives. And we all need to be touched by the healing power of Christ over and over. But we must acknowledge that we have fallen short, we must all acknowledge that in some way we have sinned, that we have missed the mark. Can you imagine if those of us who have sinned would have to walk around with our heads shaved, our faces covered and shout “Unclean, unclean”?!! There would be a lot of bald heads, covered faces and a lot of us shouting out! Right?! So the first step for us, especially as we prepare to enter the Season of Lent, is to acknowledge that we are sinners and realize that we need the healing power of Christ Jesus. When we do not acknowledge this we are like a car going around town so dirty someone has written on the back of our window “Wash me”. As Fr. Donald Calloway says when we do not acknowledge that we have sinned “We are like a toddler walking around with a dirty diaper who does not want to be changed.” The parent asks, “Is your diaper dirty?” The toddler says “No” and runs away! Don’t run from the Father with your dirty diaper! He wants to clean you up.

          Sin, if we allow it to fester and grow is so devastating and harmful because it separates. First it separates us from our relationship with God. It is not Him who separates from us but we who separate ourselves from Him. And second, sin separates us from the faith community. We are members of the Body of Christ. So if one member is sick then the whole Body suffers. And like leprosy, sin is contagious and dangerous within the community.

We must all look to the healing power of Christ especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has provided all that we need in the Church in the sacraments. It is up to us to seek them, to receive them and to be healed and strengthened by them. It is up to us to allow them to touch and to transform our inner selves. Pope Francis said in a recent homily, “I cannot be baptized multiple times, but I can go to confession. And when I do I am renewed in the grace of Baptism.” In other words, when we make a good confession with a contrite heart we are made clean again, pure as on the day we were baptized. We are spiritually “born again”, given a new start with a clean slate. And for that reason Confession should not be a dreadful experience but one of joy and peace. The Holy Father also said, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not like going to the dry cleaners just to remove a stain, but is a joyful encounter with our loving God.” And through the sacrament we receive the grace we need to continue on the journey.

And when we are healed and made clean through the sacrament, like the leper who was sent back into the community from outside the camp, we too are sent back in. As the leper could not contain himself about what Jesus had done for him, we too should not be able to contain ourselves. We should tell all who will listen to our testimony of what the healing power of God has done in our lives. Just like the leprosy of sin is contagious, when we live what we have experienced in Christ with joy and enthusiasm, this is also contagious! In this we will be helping to unite our faith community by living a life that draws others to God’s love and mercy and to each other. This is what brings glory to God as we heard from St. Paul, “Do everything for the glory of God.” It is by our testimonies and our enthusiasm that God will be glorified and the community will be united and healed.

St. Paul also tells us in today’s 2nd reading, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” What did Christ do in today’s Gospel? He showed pity and compassion for the other. When a brother in the community was hurting, He stretched out his hand and touched him. In other words He did not preach to him but took action and reached out. There is a time for preaching and teaching but there also is a time for action. In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that what we do is just as or even more important than what we say. When someone is hurting or troubled in our family or in our faith community, with the compassion of Christ, we can bring healing. We bring healing by just listening, by just being present and then by giving a helping hand in whatever way we can. We are the hands and the arms of Christ. Through us Jesus can reach out and touch so many just like He touched and healed the leper. When we live the Gospel in a concrete and manifested way we are imitating the saints and Christ Himself…And in our daily lives and within our faith community we imitate Christ by welcoming everyone. Jesus did not exclude anyone. When He touched the leper people were shocked! When He ate with tax collectors people were appalled. When we welcome all with the love of Christ we imitate Him. Through our loving, welcoming spirit they will feel God’s love and they will be more open to the healing they need and are crying out for. What they are crying out for, like the leper, is to be healed, but also to be loved, welcomed and included within the camp, the Body of Christ. Everyone has a basic need to feel welcome and included. As imitators of Christ we are to make them feel this way, we are to make them feel valued, and as a needed member of the faith community.

In closing, there is nothing that cannot be forgiven because of God’s great love for us. But He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He calls us, as His disciples, to imitate His Son in holiness. We must acknowledge that we need to be cleansed, then kneel before Him and He will reach out and touch us and say to us as Jesus told the leper, “I do will it be made clean.” And in turn, we are to show those who feel they are the lepers of this world the love and compassion that we have received…The greatest gift is God’s love, His mercy and compassion…Receive it, then share it…Amen.

 

 

On the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jesus the Christ is recognized as the one who speaks with complete authority. This follows last week’s Gospel where Jesus began His public ministry in the “time of fulfillment.”

In the 1st reading from the Book of Deuteronomy the Lord tells Moses, “I will raise up for the people a prophet like you from their kin, and I will put my words into his mouth.” Of course, the Church sees Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy. He is the one who teaches and speaks with authority because He is God, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity.

In the Gospel the people recognize His authority and even the unclean spirits realize who is speaking to them. The question is as disciples of Christ, do we truly recognize and submit to His authority in all things? As disciples we are to listen to Him and completely trust and submit to Him as God who has authority over all things. Every day of our lives we are to look to Him for guidance. We are to submit our will to do His will. Then we are to spread His message so others will recognize Him as Lord and God in their lives.

 

Disciples of Christ, let us always submit and trust in Jesus the Christ!

The Season of Ordinary Time started last week with the “call” of disciples as we heard about Samuel and the Apostles being summoned by God. Now this Sunday (3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) we are instructed as disciples on how we are to live as followers of Christ after we have heard and accepted the call.

In the first reading we hear Jonah asked to deliver the message of repentance to the great city of Nineveh. He reluctantly went (story of the whale) because Nineveh was an enemy of Israel. Yet he delivered the message and the people of Nineveh accepted the message.

In the second reading St. Paul tells us one of the stranger verses in scripture, “Let those having wives act as not having them.” Now this doesn’t mean for married people to live as singles! In the previous verse Paul tells the disciples that “the time is running out.” St. Paul is saying that after we have received the call we need to live our lives radically different and we need to think radically different than before because we are in the end times.

And in the Gospel from the first Chapter of Mark Jesus sums up the entire Gospel message, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” To repent means to totally change (in Greek metanoia). After we have accepted the call we are to change our whole way of living and thinking through and in Christ…And as we hear in the 2nd half of this Sunday’s Gospel, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”, we are called to invite others to live life radically different in Christ.

Jesus called regular fisherman, anointed and graced them to begin His Church. With whatever gifts we have been given He now calls us to continue to spread the message of repentance and to make disciples of all nations.

 

The Kingdom of God is at hand!   

The Church began Ordinary Time for this Liturgical Year on Monday January 12th. This Sunday we celebrate the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we begin this new season the message of this Sunday’s readings are appropriate which is “the Calling”.

In the first reading from 1 Samuel the young man Samuel is called 3 times but he does not recognize the voice that is calling him. Finally the elder Eli realizes that it is the Lord God who is calling Samuel’s name and he tells Samuel to respond to God the next time he is called. The Lord does call out to Samuel again and this time he responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

In the Gospel Jesus asks two disciples, “What are you looking for?” This is an invitation and a challenge to them to look deep inside and to realize what they are truly looking for in life. Jesus is calling out to them to follow Him who is the only one who can truly satisfy.

In baptism we are called by the Lord God to follow Him as His disciples in whatever vocation that He calls us to. It may be to the single life, to the ordained or consecrated life or to the married life. Whatever we are called to we are to answer as Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” We are to not only answer with words but with a way of life as St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Glorify God in your body.”

 

Jesus calls each of us and waits for our response. He has invited us and challenged us to look deep inside and to answer the question, “What are you looking for?” How do we respond?

The Feast of The Baptism of the Lord closes out the Season of Christmas. The question we may ask is why did Jesus, the Son of God, need to be baptized? He did not need to be baptized as we know that baptism is the 1st sacrament for the forgiveness of sin and He did not have sin. And that baptism makes a person a child of God which He already was. Jesus was baptized to show us the way in obedience by fulfilling the Law and through His baptism He made the waters of Baptism holy until the end of time.

All three readings on this Feast point to baptism. In the beautiful 1st reading from Isaiah the Israelite people are just about at the end of their time of exile. The message to them is one of hope and where to get this hope, “All you who are thirsty come to the water.” In other words, all of you who have a deep need to be satisfied (all of us) start out being satisfied in the waters of Baptism.

In the Gospel Jesus is baptized by John and coming up out of the water the Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon Him and the Father’s voice proclaims, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In our baptism the same happens to us!

And in the 2nd reading from the 1st Letter of St. John we hear, “This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ.” This points to the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross and points to the Sacrament of Baptism.

As disciples of Christ, let us never take our baptism for granted but always realize that through it we are cleansed from Original Sin, made children of God, filled with His Spirit and a are a temple of His Spirit, and are called and anointed to go out on mission to “Make disciples of all nations.”

 

Let us live our Baptism in stewardship of God’s grace given to us!

During the Christmas Season the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word Epiphany from the Greek means “manifestation.” What the Church is celebrating is the revelation that St. Paul proclaims in the 2nd reading “It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” This manifestation is monumental for us Gentiles (non-Jews) in the fact that salvation is offered to all peoples and that we are counted among the chosen people of God.

In the 1st reading the prophet Isaiah speaks God’s message to the Israelites who were in exile around 550 BC. He paints a picture for them about better days and unimaginable joy. Of course, we as Christians see the fulfillment of this promise in the coming of Christ that we celebrated last week. He is the Light that has come and the glory that shines on the people in darkness. He has brought better days and unimaginable joy!

And in the Gospel, as the wise men sought out the King of kings we as disciples need to seek Him out every day in prayer, in His Word and in worship. We too are to offer our gifts and talents for the sake of His Kingdom as grateful and thankful stewards of His grace.

The revelation has been made known…may we continue to make it known by our discipleship and stewardship in response to our loving God. Be filled with His light. Share His light!

 

 

The Sunday after Christmas Day is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the Gospel from Luke we see the obedience of the parents of Jesus as they fulfill the Law by presenting Him in the temple. At the presentation Simeon and Anna both praise God for the Christ child and they give prophesy about His future that will affect all peoples.

This is an important feast for all of us. We have all grown up in a family whether it was whole and traditional or broken and dysfunctional.  This example of Mary and Joseph shows us what a family is supposed to be like which is obedient to the ways and will of God. God’s will for the family is that they look to His love for strength and sustenance and then turn to each other with that same love. God’s love is unconditional. Our love within the family must also be unconditional.

 

It has been said and is true that the family that prays together stays together. The family that attends mass together and spends time with God together at Church and at home stays together. And the family that plays together stays together…The family is an important part of the foundation of the Church and of society. As disciples of Christ in the family of God let us promote, encourage and lift up the family. As the family goes so goes the Church and society!    

December 21, 2014

4th Sunday of Advent

10 am & 4:30 pm

 

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

 

            The 4th candle has been lit on the Advent wreathe and it’s just a few days before Christmas. There’s much excitement and anticipation out there in the last minute preparations and in all the scurrying around. But on this 4th Sunday of Advent the Church helps us to take a time out, to take a breath and to refocus on the true meaning of what we are getting ready to celebrate in just a few days.

          In the 1st reading we hear of King David’s desire and plan to build the Lord God a temple. At this time in salvation history the Ark of the Covenant and the dwelling of the presence of God on earth was in a tent. David wanted to build a permanent structure for the Ark but God said through the prophet Nathan that it wasn’t His will that David build the temple. It was His will that David’s son who would build it. David could not fully understand this but he trusted in God’s plan for his life…The Lord goes on to make a covenant with David that through David’s heir He would establish a house and a Kingdom that would endure forever.  

          Fast forward about 1000 years to the Gospel we heard today…We see the fulfillment of the covenant promise made possible through Mary’s “Fiat”, her “yes”. The angel Gabriel came to Mary, just a young teenage girl, and revealed God’s plan to her for her life if she would accept it. God’s will and plan for Mary’s life was for her to be the mother of the Son of the Living God for the sake of the world. She did not understand this at all but she gave her “Fiat”, her yes, and she trusted in God’s will. In accepting this she helped fulfill the covenant and promise God made to David 1000 years before. It was Mary’s “yes” that helped establish the House of God (Church) and the Kingdom that would last forever, the Kingdom of Christ Jesus the King of kings.  And it was Mary’s Yes that made her the living temple of the dwelling place of God.

          Fast forward again 2000 years to today, right here, right now. Now, each and every one of us are asked to bear Christ inside of us. We are asked to become a living temple and the dwelling place of God and to give His Son to the world. It is through us that the House of God, the Church, and His Kingdom will continue to endure. But each of us must decide what our answer will be every day of our lives. Will it be my will and my way or will it be His will and His way?

          We might ask, who am I that God would accomplish His will through me? Look at David who was just a simple shepherd boy. As we heard in the first reading it was God who raised him up to be the greatest king of Israel, it was God who was with him to give him strength and who gave him the victory in all his battles…Look at Mary, just a young simple girl from an obscure place called Nazareth. It was God who raised her up and it was God who accomplished the giving of the greatest gift ever given through her…Even though we might not fully understand God’s will for our lives, if we say yes to Him and if we trust in Him He will lead us and guide us and He will do great things through us. All we have to do is say Yes to Him and to trust in Him…When I first felt the call to be a deacon I said, “Are you talking to me? Are you sure you called the right number?” I didn’t fully understand what I was being asked to do but my wife and I both said yes and we trusted and we continue to trust in Him. And I can truly say that whatever good I have accomplished it is definitely God accomplishing it through me.  And whatever you are called to, whatever His plan is for your life, He will do great things through you if you say Yes. The saying is, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” He will raise you up! And as we heard in the Gospel, “Nothing will be impossible with God” for those who say yes and who trust in Him.

          How does all this happen? As the angel Gabriel told Mary when she did not understand we are told the same thing, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Spirit will do the same for us when we have the same response as Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”…And as individuals who are filled and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, who are disciples and servants of the Living God who are open to the will of God in our lives, we come together and form the House of God, the Church. The Church is the dwelling place of God, where we experience His love and His mercy. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical as Pope which was called Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), “In the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive His presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives.”  In other words, in the Church of Christ that He established, in the mass, and in the people of God is where the presence of God dwells on earth. And it is our responsibility, it is our calling, to take part in the sharing of the revelation of His love by offering ourselves as Mary did for the sake of others. Through us, the House of God, He can do great things if we allow Him to in big ways and in small ways as we offer ourselves. In just a few days we will be celebrating the Christmas Vigil and Christmas Day masses and the church will be packed to overflowing. A large number of the people attending Christmas Mass most likely do not come regularly. There’s a good chance that you will not be able to sit in your regular seat. But we are all called to be hospitality ministers and called to be welcoming to all even if it means giving up your seat. We are to show hospitality in this place not only on Christmas but every Sunday of the year. It is up to us to help everyone feel the presence of God among His people. You or me might be the reason someone chooses to come back or the reason they choose to stay away. When we offer ourselves for the sake of others and when we are welcoming and inviting to all we are revealing and sharing the presence of God.

          And when we experience the presence of God in His Church we are not to keep it here to ourselves. You have heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” I’m sure none of you ever used that expression, right?!! LOL…But it’s not supposed to be, “Whatever happens in Church stays in Church.” No! As disciples of Christ, overshadowed by the Spirit of God, we are not to keep it in Church, keep it amongst ourselves but we are to go out and spread the Good News to the world in love and in service. What did Mary do after she was over shadowed by the Spirit? She went out to minister to her cousin Elizabeth. She brought Jesus to her cousin and caused John to jump with joy in her womb. After we have felt the love of God amongst His people, after we have been strengthened by His Word and after we receive Him in the Eucharist we are to go outside of these walls and minister to others out in the world. We are to take Jesus to others and tell them what God has done for us and we are to invite them home to the House of God, the Holy Catholic Church and into the Kingdom.

 

          So, in closing, this is the true meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate in just a few days. God has made a covenant with His people through His Son Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world. As Mary was asked to share in this covenant by become a living temple and to take Jesus to others, we too are asked to share in this covenant by being “living temples” and givers of Christ. What will our answer be?

On the 3rd Sunday of Advent the 3rd candle (Rose) is lit meaning that the celebration of the coming of the light of Christ into the world is near. This Sunday is called “Rejoice” Sunday as we are now halfway through this penitential season.

Accordingly, the readings take on a tone of joy. In the first reading from Isaiah Chapter 61 we hear cause for the Israelite people to rejoice as they are returning from exile and slavery to their beloved homeland and to freedom.  The prophet speaks for Israel as one that is overjoyed in God who has set them free. But as Christians we see this reading as a foreshadow of Jesus the Christ who was to come and offer salvation to all nations: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because He has anointed me, He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners…so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” This is reason to rejoice, the Father sent the Savior to set us free!

In the second reading St. Paul encourages the disciples of Christ to “rejoice always” and to allow God to make us “perfectly holy in spirit, soul, and body, preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul is saying is to rejoice in Christ Jesus in all circumstances of our lives as we joyfully wait for His second coming. And also for us to live in holiness relying on the grace of God while we wait.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist joyfully and humbly gives testimony to Christ, the Light of the World. He points away from himself and toward Christ…We are also called to joyfully and humbly testify by our lives that Jesus is the Savior that has come into the world. We are to live our lives in the joy of the Spirit rejoicing in what God has done for us.

As disciples of the Light of the World we strive to live the words of St. Paul, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Let us rejoice always!

On the 2nd Sunday of Advent once again, like the 1st Sunday of Advent, we hear the Lord God speak to His people through the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. At this point in salvation history (Chapter 40) the people of Israel are about at the end of their exile in Babylon. The message is one of comfort and the forgiveness of sin. God is calling His people back to the Promise Land. The Old Testament writing looks forward to the Gospel as we hear, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

The Gospel passage is the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark. It does not start with the Nativity of Jesus like the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but starts with John the Baptist who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah of a voice crying out in the desert. John is the forerunner of the Christ who would bring comfort and expiation of sins. In humility John announced the Good News that one mightier than him would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

 

During Advent we are to realize that God is calling us back to the Promised Land of His love. We are to remember that Jesus is the one who offers us comfort and forgiveness. But as His disicples we are also to be forerunners for Christ in the world. We are to be a humble voice crying out in the wasteland of the world about the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

 

 

During this 2nd Week of Advent let us focus on the mercy and forgiveness of God who is calling us back to Himself and let us be mindful of those who need to hear this message of hope.

The readings on the 1st Sunday of Advent set the tone for this four-week season prior to Christmas. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival”. The Season of Advent is a time of preparation to get us ready to celebrate the first coming or arrival of our Savior at His Nativity but also to help us be prepared for the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of time.

In the first reading on this 1st Sunday of Advent we hear from the Prophet Isaiah who speaks at the end of the Babylonian exile. In this proclamation the people of Israel are pleading with God to reveal Himself to them. They feel He is absent from them during this time of trial as they acknowledge their sinfulness, “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people…for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.” The first step for us during this penitential season is to realize and acknowledge that yes we are also sinners who need the healing presence of God.

In the Gospel Jesus tells His disciples (you & me), “Be watchful and alert…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” In other words, as disciples wake up! Be always ready, live ready and be prepared by acknowledging our need for a Savior. Be alert and aware and not asleep like people of the world.

In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us as disciples of Christ we “Are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we strive to live alert and ready the Lord has equipped us with the graces and gifts we need to be prepared. We find these graces in and through the Church in her sacraments (Reconciliation and Eucharist.)

Advent is the beginning of a new Liturgical Year. Let it be a new beginning for us as disciples of Christ, pilgrims on the journey toward our heavenly home.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

 

 

The Liturgical Year closes this Sunday with the great feast of “Christ the King” proclaiming Jesus Christ as King of the Universe. This is a fitting end to the Church Year and all it’s different seasons.

In the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel the people of Israel are given hope of a future king that would be a shepherd king like King David. He would gather and guide his people, protect them and give them security. In the past the kings of Israel had failed to do this so the Lord God tells Israel through Ezekiel that He Himself would be their shepherd king.

In the Gospel we see Jesus fulfilling the prophecy from Ezekiel and all the other prophecies of the Old Testament. But in the Gospel this Sunday we see Christ the King as shepherd at the end of time at the final judgment separating sheep from goats. What determined if people are sent to the right or left is if they were united to the shepherd King in their lifetime and if they lived it by imitating Him in their care for others.

In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians we hear of the end when Christ the King will hand over His kingdom to the Father.

As disciples of Christ we are to, first of all, allow Him to be King of our hearts and of our lives. We are to be subject to Him in all things and look to Him to guide us, provide for us and protect us. But in union with Him we are to serve Him in others especially the poor and the less fortunate. When we serve others we are serving Christ. When we live the Gospel we have nothing to fear now or at the end of time.

Let us proclaim Christ the King in our personal lives and our lives in service as sheep of the shepherd King.

 

Cristo Rey!

November (15) 16, 2014

Sat 4:30 pm; Sun 8 & 10 am

33rd Sun in Ord Time

 

Prov 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matt 25:14-30

 

            An ornery old man wanted to be buried with all of his life’s savings. So he told his wife on his deathbed, “When I die, I want you to take all of my money and put it in my casket with me. I don’t want to leave a penny behind!” He even went as far as making her promise that she would fulfill his last wishes. On the day of his funeral, everyone watched as his wife put a shoe box in her husband’s coffin…As she turned, one of her good friends ran up to her and told her that everyone thought that it was a bad idea for her to bury all of their money with her husband. The wife explained to her friend that she was a devoted wife, a good Catholic mother and a woman of her word. So her friend asked, “How are you going to support yourself without any money?” To which she replied, “Oh, I think I will be just fine. I wrote him a check.” LOL

          The point is, we can’t take it with us…which brings us to our readings today on this 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church Year. As always, at this time of the Liturgical Year and into the first part of Advent our readings focus on the end of time and the final judgment. The next few Sundays the Church helps us to take a look at our lives (the way we are living), and helps us to realize that we all will be held accountable in the end for what we have been given in this life.

          In today’s Gospel we hear the Parable of the Talents where the owner of an estate, before going on a long journey, entrusts his possessions to 3 different servants. To one he gives 5 talents, to another two and to a third he gives 1. The first two invest and double what they had been given. But the scripture said the third servant “Went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.” Then the story continues, “After a long time the master came back and settled accounts with them.” As we are all familiar with the story, the master was overjoyed with the servants who invested and increased what they were given. But he was not happy at all with the one who buried his gifts…Of course the Master represents Christ; the long journey and return are His Ascension to heaven and His 2nd coming at the end of time; the settling of accounts is the final judgment; and the servants are you and me. A talent in Jesus’ time was a large sum of money but for us talents represent all gifts entrusted to us by God: everything we have been blessed with. The Lord blesses us with time, with abilities and with treasure but He expects us to invest them wisely and diligently for the good of the Kingdom until He takes us home or until He returns again…Each servant in the parable was given a different amount according to their abilities. The important thing is not how much we have been given but what we do with what we have been given. A steward is one who manages what belongs to another. How good of a steward are we with what has been entrusted to us? Do we invest our gifts, share them, increase them for the glory of God or do we bury them in the hole of selfishness, self-centeredness and apathy?

In the first reading from the Book of Proverbs we see a good example of investing one’s gifts for the good of the other. It is the advice from a mother to her son in what to look for in a “worthy wife, her value far beyond pearls.” No doubt a good wife is worth far beyond any material things, which I can surely attest to, and I’m sure all you husbands out there can say the same about your wives, right?? LOL…But we need to look deeper into the meaning of this 1st reading and see how it connects to today’s Gospel. In this reading from Proverbs we see the son is Jesus Christ, the wife is His bride – the Church (you and me and the entire Body of Christ). So this reading tells us what Jesus is looking for in His bride: one who brings Him good and not evil, works with loving hands, and reaches out to the poor and needy. In other words, Jesus wants His bride, the Church (you and me) to use our gifts of time, talents and resources that we have been given in service and for the benefit of others. He wants us to not bury our God-given gifts, to not keep them for ourselves, but to offer them and to increase them by sharing them…Fr. Robert Barron, one of the leaders in the New Evangelization, says in his homily this Sunday, “The world tells us to be go-getters but the Lord calls us to be go-givers.” Why does God ask us to give and share our gifts in order increase them? Because when we share we evangelize and when we evangelize we increase souls for the Kingdom. But not only that. When we share our gifts our faith increases and we are evangelized, we get closer to God and we become more like Him.

Now we have to fully realize that we all have gifts to share. Look at me, I have the gift of singing, LOL!! Ok maybe not, but I have other gifts. No one can say, “I don’t have any gifts.”  1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Some have more than others but we all have been blessed. We all are given 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, we all have been given abilities and we have been given treasure. So how do we not bury them but increase them? We are given so many opportunities to share, invest and increase our gifts out of our gratitude to God here at Resurrection or at whatever parish is your home. There are many different ministries we can serve in - according to the talents we have been given. There are liturgical ministries within mass. There are ministries and acts of charity outside of mass…There is the opportunity every Sunday to offer back in gratitude a portion of our resources in the Sunday offering. There is the opportunity to help build our new church, and there is the opportunity to bless the less fortunate. All we have to do is take a look in the bulletin or our website for the different ways to share our gifts…We also have numerous opportunities to share and invest our gifts in our families and out in the world for the good of the Kingdom…When you are presented with an opportunity that tugs at your heart or if someone personally asks you to share your gifts, know that most likely it is God Himself who is speaking to you!

In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians he says, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” In other words our personal end or the end of time will come suddenly when we least expect it. In order to be prepared for the final judgment we need to live our lives as good stewards of God’s many gifts. St. Paul tells us in today’s reading when we live our lives as Christian stewards we are “Not in darkness, for that day to overtake us like a thief. For you are children of the light and children of the day…let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” Children of the light and of the day live as good stewards of God’s gifts that have been entrusted to them and they are always ready, they are always prepared!

 

So the message this Sunday and into the beginning of Advent is for all of us to take a look at how we are living our lives and to realize that in the end we will all be held accountable for what we have been given. The message for us is to always be ready by living the Gospel as good Stewards of our God-given gifts every day of our lives in and through Christ…So we ask ourselves the question, “If Jesus returned today, what would we wish we would have changed in the way we lived our lives? The good news is we still have time to make those changes, no matter where we are right now on our spiritual journey. Because at the final judgment what we want to hear are Jesus’s words in today’s Gospel, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.”   Amen. 

On Sunday November 9, 2014 the Church celebrates the feast of The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This feast may seem unfamiliar because it is only celebrated on a Sunday every several years. It marks the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome on the land owned by the Lateran family by Pope St. Sylvester I in the year 324 A.D. This cathedral is the episcopal seat of the pope as bishop of Rome (not St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Pope Clement XII said this basilica is the “mother and head of all churches of Rome and the world” and it is a sign of unity for all Roman Catholic churches with the Chair of Peter (the pope).

In the 1st reading from the Prophet Ezekiel we hear a beautiful description of a future temple that the people could look forward to. At that time the temple in Jerusalem was in ruins due to the Babylonian exile and the Lord was revealing to the people hope for the future. In this magnificent temple the Lord God Himself would dwell and from it healing, life-giving water would flow. As Christians, we see fulfillment of this in the Catholic Church Jesus established where healing and life flow from it in the sacraments and all the graces it offers.

In the Gospel we hear the familiar story of Jesus, in holy anger and zeal for His Father’s house, overturn the table of the money-changers in the temple. The Jews question Him about this and He tells them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Of course He was speaking about the temple of His body. In this He also fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel when healing, life-giving water and blood flowed from His side on the cross. The water symbolized the Sacrament of Baptism and the blood symbolized the Eucharist.

In the 2nd reading St. Paul takes it even further when He asks all disciples of Christ, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In other words, through the life-giving sacraments and faith we are God’s temple!

So this Sunday we have two messages: (1) Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of establishing His dwelling place in His temple of the new covenant, the Church, where He is to be worshiped and glorified. It is to be adorned with the best because He is worthy of the best. (2) As disciples of Christ, through the Spirit infused in us WE are God’s temple called to bring healing and the life-giving message of the Gospel to the world…As disciples we must fill up with God’s graces as we gather to worship and take it to a world that desperately needs it’s grace.

 

Amen.

On Saturday November 1st the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and on Sunday November 2nd the Solemnity of All Souls.

All Saints, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was instituted by Pope Boniface IV in 615 and has been celebrated on November 1st since about A.D. 731 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of all saints especially those who have not been assigned a day in the Church Calendar.

All Souls Day is a day of solemn prayer for all the departed souls that was established by St. Odilo in A.D. 998. It was accepted by Rome in the 13th century.

These two great solemnities give us hope. In All Saints we honor all who have made it to heaven, those known and those unknown. We have the hope that if we also live as true disciples of Christ we too will be counted among the saints honored on this day. And it gives us hope knowing that we are not alone but we have those in heaven praying for us as we journey through this life as the pilgrim people of God.

All Souls gives us hope, the hope that by our prayers our loved ones, who may be in Purgatory, will be helped in their quest for heaven. And it gives us the hope that we too will be prayed for when we are in need.

As members of Christ’s Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we are reminded by these two great feasts that we are part of the entire body of Christ: the Church on Earth (Militant), the Church in Purgatory (Suffering), and the Church in heaven (Triumphant). As we journey through this life let us always remember that this life is only a passing through and that we are citizens of heaven!

 

Strive to be saints on earth so that we will someday be saints in heaven!

The Gospel on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time sums up the entire Jewish Law in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees, “Love God and love neighbor.” This statement sums up our entire faith also as Christian disciples. Nothing else really matters but the need for us to have a personal relationship with our God in Jesus Christ and allow that relationship to manifest in love for neighbor.

In the 1st reading from Exodus the Lord tells us how to love neighbor in practical terms: care for the widow & orphan, lend without terms and be compassionate of other’s needs.

And St Paul tells us in his Letter to the Thessalonians that when we put our love of God into action we imitate Christ Himself as well as the saints.

As disciples of Christ we need to stay connected to Him who is the source of love. When we are connected to Him we cannot help but to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we do these two things with the grace we are given we will make an impact in the world. And St. Paul will say of us as he did of the Thessalonians, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.”

 

Praise be to God!

October (18) 19, 2014

29th Sun Ord Time

Sat 4:30 pm & Sun 8 am

 

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thess 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21

 

            We hear in the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah, “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me.” The context of this reading is the Lord God talking to Cyrus the Great, founder & king of the great Persian Empire. God tells Cyrus, the pagan king, “Even though you do not know me, it is I who subdues nations before you, it is I who opens doors for you and it is I who makes you successful according to my will and purpose.” In other words, Cyrus may be known as “The Great” but it is the Lord God who is greater than all.

          This sets up the Gospel passage where the Pharisees and the Herodians try to trap Jesus by asking Him the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Now this passage has to be understood in relation to the 1st reading where we heard “I am the Lord and there is no other” and in relation to the supreme Jewish commandment to worship God and God alone…Jesus’ answer is, “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” In other words give to Caesar his due but give to God, who is over Caesar, His due.

          So, as disciples of Christ, followers of the one true and only God who is all powerful, creator and sustainer of all things, we must ask ourselves, “What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?”

          First we look at Caesar who represents the state or the government. What is due Caesar is our abiding by the law of the land: paying of taxes, obeying traffic laws, not endangering other citizens, basically paying and doing what we must to live in this world and under this form of government.

          What is due God? What belongs to God? Everything! God is all powerful and all loving, creator of all things and provider of all things. What is due to God is all praise and worship, all thanksgiving and gratitude. Really, what is due God is our whole life! We owe everything to Him. Whatever we have, whatever we have accomplished or whatever we will accomplish is because of the grace and the blessings of Almighty God. What the Lord wants is for us to believe in our hearts and our minds that there is no other God besides Him and to live our lives that way.

          But sometimes our beliefs and our actions do not coincide (and I am preaching to myself also). Sometimes, when we are off-track, we place false gods, false idols before the one true God such as material things, pleasure, even people. We place more importance on the created things than the Creator. How we spend our time and our money tells us a lot about what we really think is important. It is said that if we take a look at our calendar, at our check book and at our credit card statements we will find out what is really important to us. If our calendar and our expenses reflect the sharing of our time in service and the sharing of our resources for the good of the parish community and for the Kingdom of God then we have our priorities in the right order – God first. If they do not then we need to seriously think and pray about reprioritizing the use of our God-given time, talents and our treasure…In the Gospel Jesus called the Pharisees and the Herodians hypocrites. They were supposed to be the “super religious” but they professed one thing and did another. We do not want to be categorized with them do we? If not we need to live the way we say we believe.

          Now does God, who is to be worshipped alone, expect us to give all of our time and treasure to Him. No! That wouldn’t be realistic or practical. He knows that we have obligations living in this world: family obligations, work, school, the upkeep of our households and our vehicles, and so on. Even though He deserves all He only asks us for a portion. What He wants is for us to live in balance – but with Him on the top of the list first and foremost.

          We might ask the question, why does God want us to know that He is the Lord and there is no other? Is He a supreme egotistical dictator? No! He is a God of love who knows only in Him will we find true joy. Only in Him as first in our lives will we find true peace and contentment. When we put other things in front of Him, when we have other things above Him on our priority list, we will never find true joy, or peace or contentment.

          In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us how to live with God as our priority in his letter to the Thessalonians as he commends them for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we live what we say we believe we place our hope and our trust in Christ and we show that hope in faith and in love by giving to God what belongs to Him: our hearts and the sharing back in gratitude of ourselves and of our blessings. It is in giving of ourselves from what we have been blessed with to a God who deserves our very best, is where and how we will be the most fulfilled. The more we give, the more that will be given to us. That’s how God works. We cannot out give Him. My wife and I can testify to this in our lives, over and over again.

          And when we find this fulfillment, when we find this peace and contentment in putting God first in our lives we must tell others what we have found. We cannot hold on to it as a secret! Now let’s be truthful, you know we can’t normally hold on to a secret for very long, right? When someone tells us, “This is just between me and you” what is the first thing we do? We go to someone else and say, “This is just between me and you.” And then they go and do the same! We cannot hold on to a worldy secret, why do we hold on to the secret of the fulfillment we have found in putting God first in our lives?!! We must tell others what we have found which is called Evangelization, the telling of the Good News…Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, says, “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization.”  If we have experienced the love of God and we have discovered the contentment and blessing of putting Him first in our lives, then we must tell others in our own way from our own heart. We are called to not keep this treasure to ourselves but to go out and share it in our families and out in the world as what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples.”

          In closing, because we acknowledge there is no God besides our God, we give to Him what is due. He has given us life, family and friends, He has given us a means of making a living, He has given us 24 hours in a day and He has given each of us different talents. But most of all He has given us a way to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, His Spirit to assist us in living according to His will, and He continues to give Himself in the Eucharist…What do we owe God? Everything!   In a few minutes during the offertory the choir is going to sing a song with the refrain “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other god. Our God is healer, awesome in power.” Sing it with them, believe it, live it…Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but pay to God what belongs to God!

 

 

The readings on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about an invitation. But this is not just any invitation, it is the best, most important invitation we could ever get! It is an invitation to the banquet of the Lord!

In the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear how the Lord Himself will provide the best for His guests: rich food and choice wines. We also hear that He will destroy death forever, wipe away every tear and He will remove sin from His people.

In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the invitation from a king for guests to come to his son’s wedding feast. But the invited guests ignored the invitation and turned their back on the king. Of course the king in the story represents God, the son is Jesus Christ, and the guests are the people of all nations. All are invited to the banquet of the Lord where the best will be provided. The banquet is the Kingdom of God or more specifically for us Catholic Christians, it is the Mass. At the Supper of the Lord only the best is provided: the Lamb of God in the bread and the wine. All are invited but many ignore the invitation.

But as disciples of Christ, we need to take it further than just the normal understanding of the parable that all are invited but few respond. As disciples we have to realize that not only are we invited to the wedding feast (Mass) but that we have been given a divine invitation every day to come to spend time with our God. We are given an invitation to join the Lord in prayer, in His Word, to spend time with Him before the Blessed Sacrament and with Him among the poor…What invitations have we been ignoring?  

 

We have been given a divine invitation to be a privileged guest. It is up to us to RSVP…and then to show up with our wedding garments on. The King is waiting for us!

On the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear of the vineyard both in the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah and in the Gospel. 

The Lord tells us exactly what the vineyard is through Isaiah, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” In other words the vineyard is the people of God or the Kingdom of God.  He tells us through the prophet, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done...Then He looked for the crop of grapes but what it yielded was wild grapes.”  What the Lord is saying is that He cared for His people, He nurtured them, He protected them, He provided for them but they turned from Him.

In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard where God provided everything for His tenants but the tenants seized and killed His servants. They even killed His Son! The words spoken through Isaiah apply to this parable also, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” In other words God has provided everything for His people, even His own Son. However, people do not realize this, they do not acknowledge it or want it.

As disciples of Christ, we must never forget what God has done for us, how He provides for all of our needs and especially how He provided a Savior for us. We must not let the thorn bushes and the weeds of this world overtake the vineyard of our lives so that we fail to see what God has done for us and we turn from Him. We do not want to hear Jesus speak the last line of today’s Gospel passage to us, “Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

How we continue to acknowledge God’s blessings in our lives is by living a life of thanksgiving and gratitude, by living a life of Stewardship, by giving back from what we have been given. This is how we bear good fruit. St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and seen in me.” Paul tells us to imitate him who was faithful and thankful to the end.

Disciples of Christ, continue to bear good fruit and glorify the Lord by your life!

 

 

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