The last few Sundays of the Liturgical Year focus on the end time and our eternal destiny. On the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear in the Gospel about the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection or angels, try to undermine Jesus’ teaching on resurrection. They propose the story of the 7 brothers who all marry the same woman but all die childless. They ask, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?” Jesus reiterates His teaching on the resurrection once again, “He is not God of the dead but of the living.”
The first reading from 2 Maccabees is the powerful story of a mother and her 7 sons who refused break God’s law by adhering to man’s law. Their deep conviction and profession of faith lead to horrific torture and death. But they are willing to undergo this persecution because of their belief in life after death.
The question is as disciples of Christ do we have this same conviction? Would we be willing to die for our faith? That question can only truly be answered at the moment of decision. However the way we live our lives now will help us decide.
Many around the world in the Middle East and Africa, in the Latin countries and in the Philippines to name a few, are facing that decision today. It is something for us to think about. Do we have a deep enough conviction in faith? Do we really believe in life after death? If we do that is where we get our hope and our strength.
May the words from the 2nd Letter of St. Paul encourage us: “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who has loved us and given us encouragement and good hope through His grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”
Conviction in Christ and the resurrection is our hope!
The message from the readings on the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time is no doubt the patient mercy of God and that He invites all to turn from sin and to His loving embrace.
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we hear how great and grand God is and how small we are compared to Him. Yet the scripture says, “You have mercy on all, because you can do all things and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” Mercy is undeserved forgiveness. Our awesome God, creator of the universe, offers us this mercy. And He is overwhelmingly patient with us as the scripture says, “Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing.”
In the Gospel we hear the well known story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who was seeking to see who this Jesus whom he must have heard about. Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because they were considered traitors and thieves. And Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector! He was short in stature so he climbed a sycamore tree to get a look at this one who was changing people’s lives. When he responded to Jesus’ call to come down the scripture said, “He received him with joy.” Zacchaeus experienced the mercy of God that day and Jesus said about him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
As disciples of Christ we too must respond and accept the mercy of God and salvation every day of our lives. Like Zacchaeus we too are sinners who God patiently waits for to respond. And in turn we must spread the good news to the world about this mercy that is being offered.
The last line of the Gospel sums up this Sunday’s message, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” That is us, our families and the whole world.
October 29, 2016
Sat 8 am
Phil 1:18B-26; Psalm 42; Luke 14:1, 7-11
In the first reading St. Paul is writing to the Philippians from prison while awaiting his imminent death. But even though he knows what is going to happen to him he still rejoices because the Gospel of Christ is being proclaimed. He says, “With all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” The most important thing to Paul is that Jesus Christ is glorified through him.
St. Paul uses an interesting word “magnify”. To magnify means to make larger in size, to enlarge. I remember when my parents gave me a magnifying glass when I was a kid and we loved to look at bugs and plants and things. You could see every part very clearly…But St. Paul is saying that through his life, by the Spirit, Jesus is magnified or enlarged for all to see, He is made clear…As disciples of Christ we too are called to “magnify” the Lord in our lives so that all will see Christ through our words and our deeds so that He will be glorified.
One way to magnify Christ is through humility as we heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus tells the parable about not choosing the best places of honor for yourself but to choose the lower place. And He says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Humility in Christ is the opposite of pride. It is not thinking too highly of yourself while looking down on others. Humility in Christ puts the other first ahead of ourselves, it thinks of the others needs before our own. When we live in humility in the example of Jesus we magnify God for all to see.
Let St. Paul’s words be ours, “With all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” The most important thing to Paul was that Jesus Christ be glorified. May it be our priority also!
October 16, 2016
29th Sun Ord Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
*At a Catholic church down in Louisiana during the middle of the week there was an elderly lady who was kneeling in the front pew praying the Rosary. She was really working those beads, knocking out those Hail Mary’s. At that time the inside of the church was being repainted and there was scaffolding that reached all the way up to the ceiling. She did not know it but there was a painter on the top level of the scaffolding. And the painter decided to mess with her. He said, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up but didn’t see anybody so she continued with her Hail Mary’s knocking out those beads. Once again the painter yelled out, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up again but did not see anyone so she went back to her Hail Mary’s. This time the painter decided he would really mess with her so he yelled out, “It’s me Jesus!” To which the old lady responded, “Hush up! I’m talking to your momma!” (I don’t make them up, I just repeat them.) J
The readings this Sunday help us to focus on prayer, but not only prayer but specifically the necessity to be persistent in prayer. First of all we must define what prayer is. Prayer is simply communication with God. It is speaking to God whether it is in the form of set prayers like the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary” or the “Glory Be” or some other set prayer, or it’s just spontaneous words: whatever form it is it is true prayer if it is from the heart. But it is also listening to God, shutting up for a while and allowing Him to speak to us. It must be a two way conversation. Prayer is the lifeline in our relationship with God. Without it there is no way we can have a relationship with Him…But why does Jesus tell us in the Gospel about the necessity to pray always without becoming weary? Because He knows that sometimes our prayers and requests are not answered in the time that we want or in the way that we want. *One day while in deep prayer a young man looked up to heaven and asked the Lord, “God, how long is a million years to you?” The Lord answered, “My son, to me, a million years is like a minute.” Then the young man asked, “How much is a million dollars to you?” And God replied, “My son, to me, a million dollars is like a penny.” So the young man asked, “God, could you give me a penny?” And the Lord said, “In a minute.” J God’s time is not always our time. We want everything right now, our way. But Jesus tells us to be like the widow in the Gospel who did not give up but keep praying even when things seem to be taking too long or when nothing seems to be happening or when things are not turning out the way that we want. Why? Because when we continue to pray it builds our faith and our trust in the Father when we persevere. And that’s what God wants for His children, for us to have faith and trust in Him. Persistence in prayer builds our spiritual muscles like pumping iron builds our physical muscles. The more we consistently pray the stronger our faith will be.
Two weeks ago in the Gospel the apostles asked the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Prayer without becoming weary, without losing heart or giving up, increases our faith and helps us get through difficult times. It helps us to trust that the Father knows best. Yes prayer moves the heart of God like a child’s request moves their parent’s heart but most of all it helps us totally trust in God’s will for our lives…Jesus is our best example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was scourged and crucified. The scripture said He prayed so intensely that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) And we know what the answer to His pray was right? Was the cup of suffering taken away from Him? No! He was put on trial, mocked, scourged and crucified. He trusted that God the Father had a greater plan, the Resurrection and total victory! Jesus asks us to pray without losing heart, trust even when it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, trust that He has a greater plan for our good and for the good of those we pray for. And this increases our faith which is what is most important now and for eternity. Trust in the Father who wants the good for us even when it is hard to understand. We trust when we pray Jesus’ words as our own, “not my will but yours be done.”
Persistence in prayer, praying the same requests every single day in faith and in trust without giving up sometimes allows us to see results and sometimes not. Or it may take years before we see anything happen. St. Monica prayed for the soul and conversion of her husband for many years and finally seen the fruit of her prayers as her husband turned to the Lord just before he died. She prayed for her wayward son, lost out in the world, for many years when it seemed hopeless and he turned out to be one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church, theologian, bishop, and Doctor of the Church - St. Augustine…Sometimes we may pray for something or for someone but we will not see results in our lifetime but the fruit of our prayers may come to pass after we have gone home to the Lord. There are things I pray for every single day of my life waiting and trusting, confident that God hears me and will answer me in His time and in His way. And I continue to lift these requests to Him every single day as I pray the Rosary.
Now we turn to the first reading from the Book of Exodus where God’s people, through Moses, were told to engage the Amalekites (a fierce nomadic tribe) in battle. Amalek was one of the enemies of Israel and a real threat against them. The scripture said, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Moses with hands raised symbolizes prayer and goes along with our theme of persistent prayer. As long as his hands were raised in prayer he was winning the battle but when he let his hands rest he started to lose the battle. The same is true for us in our lives. When we continue to pray every day we will eventually win the battle against our enemies. But who are our spiritual enemies? What is a real threat to us, to our family, to our Church, to our salvation? There are basically 3 enemies: the evil one, the world and our own flesh. They manifest themselves in our personal lives in greed, selfishness, pride, jealousy, envy, lust for the flesh and for the material, indifference and complacency to name a few. They attack our spiritual and physical well-being, our marriages, our families and our souls. If we want to win the battle we must be persistent in prayer with our hands raised up like Moses. When we rest is when the enemy will start to take over. Prayer combined with the Word of God as we heard in the 2nd reading are our weapons to win the battle! But we must take advantage of them and utilize them daily. We must engage!
But the truth is we do get tired, we do get complacent, we do get discouraged at times. And that is why we need our Christian community, the Church (our brothers & sisters) to strengthen us, to pray with is and for us. The 1st reading said, “Moses’ hands grew tired…Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady…” We need the support of our brothers and sisters and we need to support them in return.
So, in closing, to be persistent in prayer does not mean endless repetition of long worded sessions but it is keeping our requests before our Loving God as we live for Him day by day always believing and trusting He will answer us in His time according to His will. And it is faith in prayer that keeps us going. Persistent prayer without becoming weary changes things, most importantly it changes us…So persist in prayer, do not lose heart, and trust that the Father knows best.
When we continue to lift our prayers to God, we have done our part, and the rest is up to Him. That gives us a peace that passes all understanding!
The readings on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time focus on the giving of thanks to God for His blessings. Thanksgiving is a key element in living stewardship as a disciple of Christ. One definition of stewardship is “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
In the first reading from 2 Kings Naaman a foreigner (non-Jew), an army commander and dignitary seeks healing from the horrific disease of leprosy. He hears about the man of God Elisha performing miracles so he and his whole entourage travel to seek his help. Elisha instructs Naaman to plunge himself into the Jordan River seven times (the waters of the Jordan symbolizing Baptism and the number 7 the perfect number in scripture). Naaman is indeed healed and returns to Elisha to offer a heartfelt thanksgiving. Even more important than Naaman’s physical healing is that he proclaims, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” This is a bold statement of faith for a pagan foreigner.
The first reading of course sets up the Gospel where 10 lepers were healed by Jesus. Besides suffering the physical effects of leprosy these 10 were also suffering as outcasts from the community, separated from all they loved. But only one of the ten returns to Jesus to give thanks, a non-Jew, a foreigner, a Samaritan. And Jesus tells him, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you.” Even more important than his physical healing is that he is promised salvation.
As disciples of Christ do we give thanks to God for all of His continuous blessings? Or are we like the other 9 who did not return but went on their merry way? We must thank God for the big things (prayers answered) but also for the everyday things we make take for granted: our spouses, families, a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, a vehicle or 2 or 3, gasoline for those vehicles, our jobs, our clothes, our food, our parish, etc., etc. And the proof or the fruit of our heartfelt thanks is sharing from those blessings in love of God and love of neighbor.
And because of our heartfelt thanksgiving may we hear the words of Jesus, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you.”
October 1, 2016
St Therese of Lisieux
Job 42;1-3, 5-6, 12-17; Ps 119; Luke 10:17-24
St. Therese of the Child Jesus (aka St Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower) is one of my favorite saints because of her humility and holy innocence. While still a young girl at age 15 with special permission she entered the Carmelite monastery where she lived a life of humility, simplicity and trust in God by word and example, while offering her life for the salvation of souls and the growth of the Church. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in September 1897. In her biography “The Story of a Soul” she urged all to follow “the little way” which is fidelity to God in the small things of every day life. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope St John Paul II on October 19, 1997. All though she never left the convent walls she is the patroness of missionaries, as well as patroness of florists and of France. She is also the patron saint of St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) who took her name at the taking of her own religious vows.
The first reading is from the last Chapter of the Book of Job. All week we have been hearing about the struggles of Job and finally in this last chapter he comes to the realization that God’s wisdom is far beyond mans’ as he says, “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” And he is finally content.
And in the Gospel the wisdom of God is revealed to the 72 disciples who had returned from mission rejoicing because the demons were subject to them. But Jesus tells them, “Rejoice not because they are subject to you rather because your names are written in heaven.” The disciples were thinking with the world’s wisdom of enjoying power. Jesus teaches them to think in heaven’s wisdom, what is really important.
Then Jesus praises the Father, “Although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” God reveals His wisdom to the childlike such as St Therese of Lisieux, to those who are humble, simple and who trust in Him. If we want to know the wisdom of God more fully in our lives, we must be the same.
St. Therese, pray for us, to follow “The Little Way” in the small things of everyday life.
The readings and message for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time are a continuation from the previous week’s readings and message. If you recall in last week’s first reading from the Prophet Amos the Lord was warning His people who were more interested in lining their own pockets not concerned at all with anyone else. And in last week’s Gospel Jesus pulled no punches as He said straight out, “No servant can serve two masters…You will either hate one and love the other.”
In this week’s first reading we again hear the Lord through Amos who warns those who are indifferent to those less fortunate. He is speaking to those who lay on beds of ivory, comfortable couches and who drink wine from bowls instead of a glass. The Lord says, “Yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.”
And in the Gospel Jesus tells the story to the Pharisees (upper class) of the rich man who ignored the needs of Lazarus who begged at his door yet he did not acknowledge him.
Are we told these stories to make us feel guilty? No. But we are reminded as disciples of Christ to be aware of social justice with Jesus as our example. The key word is “indifference” which means uninterested, apathetic or impartial. As disciples we cannot be indifferent, refusing to see.
We cannot take care of all the world’s poor but we can do something, we can do our part sharing a portion from the blessings we have been given. And we can strive to live as St. Paul exhorts Timothy and us in the second reading, “Pursue righteous, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness…keeping the commandment (love God & neighbor) without reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to the opposite of indifference which is awareness that leads to action. In this we will be a good stewards of what belongs to another, what has been loaned to us to manage. And we will not serve two masters but the only true master Jesus the Christ.
In the words of St. Paul, “To Him be honor and eternal power. Amen!”
Sept 17 & 18, 2016
25th Sun in Ord Time
Sat 4:30, Sun 8 & 10
Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
The readings on this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time challenge us to make a decision: whom will we serve, God or stuff? Jesus pulls no punches as He says in the Gospel, “No servant can serve two masters.”
And as usual, the 1st reading sets the stage for the Gospel. In the 1st reading the Lord God speaks through the Prophet Amos as He starts off, “Hear this.” Which means, if you know what’s good for you, listen up! In this passage God is shouting-out against His people who are self-serving, using material things only for themselves, ignoring the needs of others, as the scripture said, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and destroy the poor of the land.” They are even scheming up new ways to cheat, lie and steal so they can acquire more and more, as they say, “We will fix our scales for cheating.” You see if God is not in the picture, if He is not included in our human affairs, this is how the flesh reacts. It’s like that board game “Monopoly” where the object is to acquire as much as you can as fast as you can no matter what happens to everyone else. It is in our fallen nature. Just watch little kids. When one comes over to check out the other’s toy the one with the toy says, “Mine!” And pulls the toy to his or her chest. And even though he or she has plenty of toys they want more right?!! That’s how we are with “stuff” if God is not in the picture.
And that leads us into the Gospel where a rich man brings his steward before him accusing him of squandering his property. The steward was supposed to be the caretaker of the rich man’s belongings but did not do a good job of it. So the rich man takes away the man’s stewardship leaving him with nothing. Well, the man panics but he figures out a plan. He calls in his master’s debtors and settles for less than what they owe. And the scripture said, “The master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” In the story God is of course the master. So, is the Lord commending this dishonest steward, praising him?!! NO, not at all! There are two messages here. (1) Dishonesty is not being praised, but prudence, which is the virtue that helps us choose the right and helps us achieve it. Jesus is saying He wills for us His disciples to be prudent in choosing things of His Kingdom just as the world is in manipulating worldly things…(2) But the main message for today, which was set up by the Prophet Amos, is what Jesus says next, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What is Jesus telling us?!! Now we are really confused! Make friends with dishonest wealth so we can make it into heaven?!! We just heard in Amos how God shouted-out against those who cheated, stole and lied. Now He is telling us to make friends with dishonest wealth?!! First we must define what is meant by “dishonest wealth” which from the original language means worldly resources or worldly “stuff”: money, houses, cars, jewelry, clothes, shoes, cell phones, etc., etc. What Jesus means by “make friends” with these things is to NOT be enslaved by them, do NOT let them control you. Do not let them become your god, more important than the true God, do not worship created things instead of the Creator…There’s a saying, “What do you own and what owns you?” In other words, by “making friends” with material things they are not your master. We can take them or leave them. Material things are not evil in themselves, we make them evil when we allow them to possess us, when they have control over us.
We are given more insight in the next verses as Jesus says, “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? True wealth are things of heaven, the spiritual (faith, hope and love) which will last for eternity. Dishonest or worldly wealth will rot & fade away. Jesus goes on, “If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” This is the definition of a steward: one who takes care of something that belongs to another. What do we possess that belongs to another? Pretty much everything! Every good thing is a gift from God and we have been entrusted as stewards (caretakers) to be trustworthy with them, to manage them, but to always remember they are only on loan to us. This is everything: our own bodies, our spouses, our children, our parents, our homes, our cars, our jobs, our clothes, our time, our talent and our treasure, the environment and everything else in between. We must always be thankful for what we have been given and always share from what we have been blessed with because these things don’t really belong to us in the first place.
But really, does God need a portion of our money or our possessions? No He doesn’t. But He knows by guiding us and encouraging us to let go of “stuff” is for our own good. Stewardship of treasure is not about giving to a need, but rather it is about our need to give, a need to make sure that material possessions do not control our lives. Do you know that God thinks this is so important for us that about ½ of the parables of Jesus in the Gospels have to do with money or with material possessions? Half!!! Jesus teaches about it so much and so often because He knows that love of the material can actually keep us separated from Him. And He does not want that. He wants us close to Him. He wants us to trust in Him.
And as Bishop Robert Barron says, the secret to living Stewardship of Treasure is holy detachment. In other words, let go, bless and you will be blessed. Don’t hold on to anything too tight but give as God has given to you and continues to give to you. We can never out give God. Just try it…There is a worldly saying, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Wins what? A free pass to the eternal fire? The Gospel is always a 180, total opposite from the world so maybe the Christian saying should be “The one who dies with the least toys wins.” We were playing a card game on Labor Day Weekend in our back yard (no gambling though). The game was Phase 10, something like Rummy. The object is to build sets and runs and then discard all your cards, not getting caught with a bunch of points counting against you. The one with the least points at the end wins. This is a great analogy of the Stewardship of Treasure we are called to…holy detachment…the one with the least at the end wins. Look at the recently canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, aka Mother Teresa. She is a perfect example of this. Now she has won Sainthood in heaven…A few weeks ago the Gospel was about the narrow gate into heaven. If we try to get through the narrow gate with too much “stuff” we will not make it through.
And to practice Stewardship of Treasure for our own good the Lord God gives us plenty of opportunities: every Sunday as we come forward during mass to offer a prayed about portion of our treasure; here at Resurrection as we build our new church; ministries of charity here at Resurrection, and in the greater community like Interfaith, Father Joe’s Village, and Catholic Charities to name a few. God even provides opportunities for us with our family members and our neighbor in the community. When we give we are not giving to man or an institution we are giving to God when we offer a portion of our gifts. This is not a one or two time thing, this is a way of life. Why? Because it frees us from “slavery to stuff” and allows us to be close to our God. It teaches us to trust in Him. And it gives us a joy that things cannot give. We are all made with a God-hole that no material thing can satisfy. Only Jesus can truly satisfy us when we are free.
The 3 pillars of Stewardship are Time, Talent & Treasure. Today’s message is obviously Treasure. I know talking about money and material things makes us uncomfortable. But that’s what the Word of God and the Gospel is supposed to do…get us out of our comfort zone, stir us up, cause us to think, cause us to respond. And don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. It’s Jesus who is talking about it!
So hear this! The readings today challenge us to make a decision. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” What will our decision be? For today and for the rest of our lives? If we choose to live Stewardship of Treasure it will be for our good now and for eternity. And it will be good for the overall Kingdom of God.
Whom will we serve, God or stuff?? As for me and my wife, we choose God!
The readings on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of the mercy of God in the reconciliation between Him and His people. In the first reading Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Law and instructions for the people from the Lord God. But tired of waiting at the foot of the mount the people insisted on a god be provided for them. Aaron had them remove their gold and he molded a golden calf. At this the people celebrated in a drunken party. The Lord was ready to destroy them however through the intercession of Moses God had mercy on them and they were spared.
This leads into the Gospel where Jesus tells 3 parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (prodigal). In the previous verses to the first reading in Exodus the people celebrated at the molding of the golden calf. And after the lost were found in the 3 parables of the Gospel a great celebration commenced. This was opposite from the first reading as these were holy celebrations of the Lord. And in all three parables Jesus shows us the mercy of God which is undeserved pardon.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul gives his personal testimony as he shares how grateful he is that he, the worst of sinners, is shown mercy as he proclaims, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.”
As disciples of Christ, if we too admit that we are sinners, God will continue to show us mercy and we will be spared like the Israelites at Mount Sinai and St. Paul. In turn we must bring others to the knowledge of this mercy by directing them to Jesus and His Church by our word and deed.
Then we can truly celebrate!
Sept 3, 2016
St. Gregory the Great
1 Cor 4:6b-15; Ps 145:17-21; Luke 6:1-5
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church. He is considered one of the 4 great doctors of the Latin Church. St. Gregory was a true shepherd as he strengthened the faithful by writing extensively on moral and theological subjects, cared for the poor and instituted liturgical reforms and Gregorian chant. He is the patron saint of music. The Lord took St. Gregory home on March 12, 604.
In the first reading from 1 Corinthians St. Paul offers spiritual advice to the Corinthian church as well as us today. This community of believers had been blessed with many gifts (spiritual & material) and St. Paul is warning them to stay humble as he tells them, “None of you should be inflated with pride in favor of one person over another.” The word inflated from the original language is actually “puffed-up.” Like the type of fish in the ocean that inflates itself where it seems it will burst. Well, St. Paul is telling his readers then and now to not be “puffed-up” with pride like that fish. But rather stay humble and realize that all gifts are from God and not our own doing.
St. Paul goes on and tells them to imitate himself and the Apostles in humility as they are, “A spectacle to the world…fools for Christ…and the world’s rubbish.” St. Paul and the Apostles served the Lord Jesus in humility for the good of the Kingdom no matter what people thought of them or how they were treated and we should follow their example.
In the Gospel Jesus referring to Himself, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” He is saying to not worry so much about the letter of the Law but be in humility be more concerned with the Spirit of the Law – which is love of God and love of neighbor following His example.
So the message for us today is to not be “puffed-up” with pride but instead realize that all that we have, all that we have accomplished or will accomplish is a gift from God. When we realize this and remember it, it prevents us from being “puffed-up” with pride. It helps us to stay humble in imitation of Christ. It helps us to be good stewards of all of our gifts. And it helps us to be more concerned with the spirit of the Law of God, which is sincere, sacrificial love.
The unmistakable theme and message on the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time is humility. In the first reading the writer of Sirach (one of the Wisdom books) encourages his child to “conduct your affairs with humility.” He is instructing all including us to live all aspects of our lives in humility no matter what status we occupy in society. Why? The writer says, “You will find favor with God.”
This of course ties in to the Gospel where Jesus teaches, “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The whole Gospel message is a 180 degree opposite of the world’s thinking. The world says to take the highest seat and the most you can get but Jesus says take the lowest seat and give, serve and sacrifice. Jesus is our perfect example of humility as He left His glory in heaven for a time, lived in simplicity and gave His life for the benefit of the other. When we live in humility as Christ is when and how we find favor with God.
The last part of today’s Gospel passage from Luke 14 is humility put into action. Jesus says to not invite those who can repay you but extend the invitation to those who cannot. This is humility because we naturally want to invite our friends and those of higher stature in society but when we invite and welcome the less fortunate we humble ourselves and raise them up above us, counting them as important and significant. When we put humility in action Jesus tells us in the last verse of today’s Gospel, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I would have to say the Gospels must be considered as the ultimate Wisdom books!
August 21, 2016
21st Sun Ordinary Time
8 & 10 am
Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
One day, Father John paid a visit to the high school group after the Sunday evening Youth Mass and he asked one young man in front of the entire group, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The young man answered, “I do Father.” Then Father said, “Then stand over there against the wall.” Next, Father John asked a young lady, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The young lady replied enthusiastically, “Sure I do!” And Father again said, “Then stand over there against the wall.” Then Father John walked up to another young man and asked him, “Do you want to go to heaven?” His reply was, “No, I don’t!” Father exclaimed, “I don’t believe this…You mean to tell me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?!!” The young man replied, “Oh, when I die, yes. But I thought you were getting a group together to go right now!”
Our main goal in life, what we strive for most, what we are most concerned with should be salvation (eternal life) for ourselves, our spouses, our children, our parents, our family members and for all people. This life on earth is just a few short years, but life after this is forever. Salvation is the end result, the fruit of a life lived in love of God and love of neighbor through Jesus Christ and His Church…And our readings today speak to us about this salvation that is offered to all peoples.
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah the Lord gives us a vision of salvation that extends to the ends of the earth. This reading is from the last chapter of the book of Isaiah where the nation of Israel had returned from years of exile. They had been taken away from their homes and their land and now finally some had returned. And this vision was that God would send some of these that had returned back-out as missionaries to call all back to Jerusalem, the holy city, and to Himself. But the surprising, shocking piece of this message was that not only the Jews were called back to Jerusalem and to God but that all nations were being called to Him. Salvation is offered and extended to all people! The scripture said about these missionaries, “They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and camels, to my holy mountain.” In other words, these missionaries were to use any and all means to bring souls from every nation to salvation…And we as God’s chosen people through Baptism, are sent out as missionaries in our everyday lives to use any and all means to announce and to proclaim the glory of God and His salvation that is offered to all.
But in the Gospel someone asked Jesus, Lord, will only a few people be saved?” What was His answer? He didn’t plainly say yes and He didn’t say no. What He did say was, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” In other words, Jesus is saying that all are invited but many will not be strong enough (spiritually) to enter. In another scripture Jesus says the road to damnation is easy and wide and many travel it. But the road to heaven is narrow and difficult and many do not make it. Yes, the invitation to salvation is offered to all peoples but it requires a response (either yes or no). And if the response is yes to the invitation than the narrow road must be traveled which is not easy at times, which is very difficult at times, but leads to eternal life.
And Jesus goes on in today’s Gospel with a stern warning (a wake-up call) to all of us in the Church. He gives the example of those who will not be allowed to enter. He says, “You will stand outside knocking and saying, Lord open the door for us…And He will say to you in reply, I do not know where you are from…And you will say, We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets…Then He will say to you, I do not know where you are from…Depart from me, all you evil doers.” Wow! That is a clear and chilling warning to all in the Church to not just presume salvation, to not just go through the motions, put our time in once a week (punch the clock for an hour every Sunday) and expect to be all right in the end. “We ate and drank in your company” really sounds like the mass doesn’t it?!! Yet to some in the Church He will say, “Depart from me.” This is a very tough message but one we need to hear…And the Church confirmed it with its Vatican II document (Lumen Gentium, The Light of Nations), “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity (love of God & love of neighbor). He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in bodily manner and not in his heart. All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.” A stern warning to all of us in the Church to not presume salvation, to not just go through the motions.
So how do we know if we are on the narrow road to the narrow gate of salvation? How do we know if we are on the right track on the way to eternal life? This is not something to gamble with or to take for granted. As Jesus told us in the Gospels and the Vatican II document confirms, “persevere in charity (love of God and love of neighbor).” (1) We will know we are on the right road if we put God first in our life, if He has top priority over all things material or otherwise, and if we know Him in a personal way through His Son Jesus Christ. We are on the right track if we allow Him to be our Lord and our master, to guide us in all things large and small, and if we worship Him as He deserves. We know if we are on the right track if we serve Him in the Church and in all aspects of our lives not because we have to but because we want to out of thanksgiving for all that He has blessed us with. We know we are on the right track if we joyfully share a portion of our God-given time, talent and treasure not because we have to, doing it grudgingly, but because we want to out of sincere gratitude. (2) And we know we are on the right track if we selflessly love the other, putting the other’s needs before our own. We are on the right track if we truly care about our brother and our sister whether near or far and we do what we can to help them, to strengthen them, to lift them up. We know we are on the right track if we forgive the other as we have been forgiven, if we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. We know we are on the right track if we see Christ in every human being. These are just a few ways we can tell if we are on the narrow road to the narrow gate.
And just a brief word on the 2nd reading from the Letter to the Hebrews which ties into today’s message and gives us some insight into suffering and hardship. The scripture said, “Endure trials as discipline. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” God does not cause difficulties and hardship in our lives but allows them in order to help us to turn to Him and to trust in Him. Why? Because He cares more about the salvation of our soul then our comfort.
In closing, the offer of salvation extends to the ends of the earth, to all peoples, to all nations, and to all individuals. But that invitation requires an everyday response. When we say yes by accepting Jesus, who is Salvation (the way, the Truth and the Life), the reservation in heaven has been made for us. But just like one shows up to a dinner reservation by traveling a certain road we must get to the reservation of heaven by the narrow road that leads through the narrow gate. This road is not easy at times, is very difficult. We can only travel this road successfully by cooperating with the grace that has been given to us and to persevere in charity (love of God and love of neighbor). We can never earn our way into heaven but get there only with and through Jesus Christ. Salvation is the end result, the fruit of a life lived in love of God and love of neighbor through Jesus Christ and His Church.
If you were once on the narrow road and are just returning or if you want to start on the narrow road for the first time, the time is now!
So as the high school teens were asked we are also asked, “Do you want to go to heaven?” If our answer is yes our main goal in life, what we strive for most, what we are most concerned with, should be salvation (eternal life) for ourselves and for all people. And our yes should affect every thought, word & deed.
August 6, 2016
Feast of the Transfiguration
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28b-36
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. You can tell it is an important feast as we have a second reading besides the 1st reading and the Gospel and our vestments are white and gold. In this feast we see Jesus’ kingship, His dominion and His glory.
In the first reading the prophet Daniel is given a vision and sees “One like the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Son of man was a term used in the Hebrew Scriptures which had a double meaning. It referred to a human being but also referred to an exalted heavenly one. Daniel says, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.” We as Catholic Christians of course see the fulfillment of this vision in the Kingship of Jesus Christ who often referred to Himself as “Son of Man” both God and man.
In the 2nd reading the writer of 2 Peter testifies that they were eyewitness to this fulfillment in Christ Jesus and to His majesty, “We ourselves heard the voice come from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
The holy mountain he is talking about is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus where His “face changed appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.” Peter, James and John were privileged to see the glory of the Savior with their very eyes.
The message for us today is to also be “eyewitnesses” to the kingship, glory and majesty of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, not just once but over and over. We are eyewitness when we experience Jesus on the holy mountain of prayer (alone and in community during mass). When we are eyewitness of His glory, when we have a personal encounter with Him we cannot help but to be transfigured also into His image. When we experience Jesus for ourselves we are transfigured into one like Him who came not to be served but to serve. We are changed into one who like Jesus gives of himself for the sake of others and for the Kingdom.
When we are transfigured into Christ the voice of heaven rings out about us, “This is my beloved son, this my beloved daughter with whom I am well pleased.”
The readings on the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time remind us as disciples of Christ what should be our priority in life, which is opposite of what the world holds as important. The 1st reading from Ecclesiastes sets the tone for this Sunday’s message, “Vanity of vanities! All things vanity! Here is the one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave property.” In other words, all that we work for, all that we attain materially in this life, we cannot take with us when we die. It will all eventually be left for someone else…There is a saying, “You never see a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse.” Which is very true.
The Gospel picks up this message with the words of Jesus, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Jesus is pointing out to be aware of the love for material things. He is warning his disciples to not be ruled by things or the love of things. There is a saying in the concept of Christian Stewardship, “What do you own and what owns you?” In other words, who has control us or the material?
And St. Paul ties it all together in the 2nd reading as he often does, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
As disciples of the Risen Lord, our priorities must be the things of heaven: prayer leading to service by the sharing of our time, talent and treasure. These are the things we can and will take with us into heaven in our “spiritual U-Haul”!
In the words of Jesus, “Be rich in what matters to God.”
The readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about prayer, particularly persistent prayer.
In the 1st reading from Genesis Chapter 18 Abraham is pleading with God on behalf of the innocent few in Sodom and Gomorrah. First this shows intercessory prayer not for our own good but for the good of the other. Abraham is persistent in his prayer and God hears him and answers Him with mercy. Abraham speaks to God so boldly yet respectfully because of his close relationship with the Almighty Father.
In the Gospel one of the disciples of Jesus asks Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches them the perfect prayer “The Our Father”. But this Sunday is not so much about the Our Father prayer as it is about being persistent in prayer. Jesus goes on with the example about a person being persistent, not giving up. And so it is with us, as Jesus tells us to continue to “ask…seek…knock” while trusting in the good, good Father who will give us what is best for us.
To be persistent in prayer and to trust in the Father that way takes a close relationship with Him as Abraham and as Jesus had. St. Paul in the 2nd reading tells us the source of this relationship: faith and baptism. He says, “You were buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the power of God.”
As disciples of Christ Jesus, let us be persistent in prayer in faith, for ourselves and for others, ask…seek…knock, and trust in the Father who knows best!
July 17 (16), 2016
16th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm
Genesis 18:1-10a; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42
Christian Stewardship is simply a disciple in action. It’s the way we live out our faith. The 4 Pillars of Stewardship are (1) Prayer, (2) Hospitality, (3) Formation, & (4) Service. Today our readings speak loud and clear about the meaning and importance of Hospitality however the other 3 Pillars of Stewardship are intertwined in today’s message as they all 4 go hand-in-hand.
In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham & Sarah show us the perfect example of Hospitality. The scripture started out the “Lord appeared to Abraham…as he sat at the entrance of his tent.” Then the scripture continues, “Looking up, Abraham saw 3 men standing nearby.” So which is it? Did Abraham see the Lord or 3 men? The scripture indicates they are one in the same…that Abraham was welcoming God Himself in those 3. This was a divine experience…So hospitality is the welcoming of friends and also strangers. But by us welcoming the friend or the stranger, we like Abraham, are welcoming God Himself. Jesus comes to us through one another whether we realize it or not. Hospitality is a divine experience.
Our first reading goes on…Abraham offers his guests water to wash their feet and shade to rest. He and Sarah prepare food from their very best: bread from their finest flour and a tender choice steer. This of course reminds us as Stewards the blessing of our guests and the blessing back to God should be from our very best not from our left overs. You don’t invite someone to dinner then serve them left overs do you?!! I hope not! In Christian hospitality and stewardship we bless our guests and the Church not from our left overs but from our very best, from our first fruits.
Then Abraham does the most important thing, “he waited on them under the tree while they ate.” In other words, after he fed them he spent time with them. Think about it…if someone invited you to dinner, welcomed you into their home, sat you down and fed you a great meal – then left you alone the rest of the evening…how would that feel? That wouldn’t be right. That would be messed up as they say! As important as it is to provide for someone it is even more important to spend quality time with them. This is hospitality.
And this sets up the Gospel where we heard the familiar story of the sisters Martha and Mary. Martha welcomes the Lord and she is the busy one, scurrying around, serving, doing, doing, doing. While Mary sits still at the Lord’s feet. What does Jesus tell Martha after she complains about her sister just sitting there? Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.” Is Jesus saying pray only and do not serve, do not welcome, do not show hospitality? No! He is saying we need both. We need to be like both Martha and Mary: pray, spend time at the feet of the Lord first then serve, then welcome, then show hospitality. Because time spent at the feet of Jesus fuels us and enables us to show true and sincere hospitality. To show authentic hospitality in love - the source must be Jesus.
So to live authentic hospitality, to welcome the friend and to welcome the stranger first we must welcome Jesus in our hearts, daily. The scripture said “Abraham welcomed the Lord at the entrance of his tent.” The entrance of his tent represents the entrance of his heart, soul and mind. To truly live hospitality we must welcome Jesus at the entrance of our tents (our hearts and minds) not just once but every single day. We must listen to Him in His word and in prayer. We must sit at His feet as Mary…Then fueled by prayer and the Word we can offer Christian Hospitality as Martha. We need to have balance. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything. God gives us time to pray and He gives us time to serve. We have to be careful not to just pray and no action. Or all action and no prayer. We need both, prayer fueling our action. Because when we welcome Jesus it makes it easy to welcome others, to serve others.
Today’s Gospel from Luke comes directly after last week’s Gospel passage: Jesus’ teaching about the Good Samaritan and to love God and to love neighbor. The Gospel today about Martha and Mary is a practical example of loving God and loving neighbor in that order. Remember last week the scholar of the law asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer was “love God with all your heart, being and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” The story of Martha and Mary shows us how to do this, love God then love neighbor.
So after we welcome Jesus at the entrance of our tent (our heart), how do we welcome others? What are some practical ways to live hospitality in our lives? (1) First, we must live it in our homes. How do we welcome our family members when they come home after being away at work or school? What is our attitude and how is the tone of our voices? I used to work with a guy who said, “When I get home from work I toss my hat in through the front door. If it doesn’t get shredded up then I know it’s safe to go in!” That shouldn’t be our experience when we are the greeter or the one being greeted in the home. Hospitality starts at home. How are we showing hospitality to our family members, to our spouses?…(2) We should show hospitality at school or at work. By being welcoming, by being Christ to someone especially if they are new or kind of alone can make a huge difference in someone’s life. When we first moved to Escondido my son was starting Middle School and he didn’t know anyone. Middle School is difficult anyway and if you are the new kid…! Well after about two weeks of eating alone some kids came over to his table and included him in their conversations. They became good friends, remain friends to this day and a couple were even in his wedding. One of them even helped him and his wife move a couple weekends ago. You know that’s a real friend right?!! Welcoming the stranger can make a huge difference in someone’s life, including your own…(3) And we must show hospitality in the Church. We must be welcoming to all who come through our doors. We are all hospitality ministers, not just the ones with the little badges on. We should all have that welcoming spirit to those we know but especially to those we don’t know. By welcoming all who come through our doors we are being Christ to them, opening His arms and His house to them. Don’t ignore everyone around you until the sign of peace! Greet each other before mass. It’s ok to greet each other before mass as long it is done not too loud and in a respectful manner. Smile! This a place of joy and a home open to all. Make everyone feel that way and they will keep coming back because they feel welcome. And you will have taken part in Evangelization…(3b) All who are participating in the building of our new church are showing Hospitality for the future. Because we know that when that awesome building goes up and is filled with the beautiful furnishings it will attract many to the Lord’s house. By participating in its building we are banking Hospitality for the future. And that’s a good investment! That’s an eternal investment!
St. Paul said in the 2nd reading, “I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me…” Like Paul, we are all called to be stewardship ministers practicing hospitality. Hospitality is not so much about doing but dying. It is dying to our own needs and being available to listen and respond to the other’s needs. Jesus comes to us through one another whether we realize it or not. Hospitality is a divine experience. It is one of the pillars of Stewardship as a way of life. It is a disciple in action!
July 9, 2016
Isaiah 6:1-8; Ps 93; Matthew 10: 24-33
We hear in the first reading the call of the Prophet Isaiah in the year 742 B.C. Isaiah is given a majestic vision of the Lord with the seraphim (angelic beings) all around Him. And the scripture said the seraphim cried one to another, “Holy, holy, holy (3 times – importance) is the Lord of hosts (angels)! At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke (holy smoke)”…So Isaiah is given this amazing vision but he is afraid now because it was believed at that time that if one seen God they were doomed to die because of their unworthiness. But the scripture said, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, See now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” At this, Isaiah was ready and willing to answer the call as prophet.
Just like Isaiah, we as Catholic Christians are called to be prophets. A prophet speaks for the Lord God by word and deed. But each of us, like Isaiah, is unworthy for this calling. But if we are open to Him, God makes us worthy. In other words like Isaiah, God touches our lips, purges us from sin and makes us worthy to be His prophets, to speak for Him…How does the Lord God make us worthy? By the sacraments: cleansed from original and personal sin in Baptism, filled and strengthened with the Spirit at Baptism & Confirmation, made clean once again in Reconciliation, and as the Eucharist touches our lips we are purged and strengthened. This is how we are made worthy to be His prophets. By God Himself touching us.
But if we accept this call to be prophets of the Lord we will most certainly find resistance and persecution just as all the Old Testament prophets did and as Jesus Himself did. But Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Jesus and His prophets found resistance and so will we but He is with us every step of the way. Almighty God is with us! How can we be afraid?!!
In closing and to summarize, as unworthy as we are, God makes us worthy if we allow Him to. We are all called to evangelize, bring the Good News to the world by word and deed, in season & out of season, day in and day out…God asks us the same question He asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? May our answer be the same as Isaiah’s, “Here I am, send me!”
The readings for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of the no-nonsense requirements of Christian discipleship. In the first reading the call of discipleship and ministry is passed on from the great prophet Elijah to Elisha. When Elisha was approached he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen which meant he was from a family of means. After Elisha says goodbye to his parents he promptly sacrifices his oxen and plowing equipment which symbolizes total commitment to discipleship and ministry.
In the Gospel Jesus is approached by a person who offers to follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus’ reply, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” Jesus is telling this person and all of us that discipleship will not be easy if you are to truly follow Him…To another Jesus says, “Follow me.” This person asks to first bury his father. Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” And yet another pledges to follow Jesus but asks to say farewell to his family first but unlike the first reading, Jesus says, “No one sets a hand on a plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
What is Jesus saying, forget family and family matters altogether? No not all. What He is saying is that to be His disciple we must put Him and His Kingdom as top priority, a no- nonsense requirement. He knows that this will not be easy but it is the way it is if we want to be His disciple. What He asks of us is total commitment while still maintaining proper balance in our lives concerning family, friends and obligations.
And in the second reading St. Paul sums it all up, “Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” Only filled with the Spirit of God can we live as true, committed disciples of Christ as we are all called.
The call of discipleship and ministry has been passed on to us…let us carry the baton of faith and pass it on, and on, and on!
June 25, 2016
Sat 8 am
Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19; Ps 74; Matthew 8:5-17
If we stopped at the beginning of the first reading this morning we would have no hope at all. This book of the Bible that we heard from is just what it is named “Lamentations” which is exactly what Israel was doing at the time it was written in the 6th century B.C. They were lamenting or mourning because their beloved temple had been destroyed, their leaders taken away into exile, and Jerusalem had fallen. Everything looked bleak. But within this poem was a glimmer of hope and the answer to their woes as we heard, “Cry out to the Lord…Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night…Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” In other words, even though they had sinned and turned their backs to God, the writer is encouraging them to turn their hearts and lives back to the merciful God who will hear their cries and answer them.
This brings us to the Gospel where we see this merciful God revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus has mercy and heals those who cry out to Him: the servant of the centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law, and all who were brought to Him including those possessed and the sick.
The message for us this morning and for all people is even though we stray from God at times, even though things may look bleak, if we turn to our merciful God in Jesus, He will hear us and answer us…With this knowledge we will always have hope no matter what happens in our lives. Our merciful God will always hear us and be there for us if we cry out to Him as in the words from Lamentations, “Cry out to the Lord…Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night…Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” What He wants from us is to pour out our whole heart to Him so He can rescue us. He is our hope!
June 19, 2016
12th Sun Ord Time
Sun 8 & 10 am
Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1; Galatians 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24
On this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear in the Gospel Jesus’ first prediction of His passion. And as is usually the case the 1st reading sets the scene for the Gospel. In the 1st reading the Prophet Zechariah prophesies or foretells of the Messiah, the Savior that would come. The Book of Zechariah was written about 500 years before Christ walked the earth and this is just one of the many Messianic prophecies found in the Hebrew scriptures. The Lord said through Zechariah, “I will pour out on the house of David…a spirit of grace and petition, and they shall look on him whom they have pierced…” Of course this prophecy is looking forward in time to the cross of the Messiah from which all graces would flow as the Lord said through Zechariah, “On that day there shall open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” This prophecy refers to the waters of the Sacrament of Baptism from which it gets its power from the cross of Christ. But more about Baptism a little later.
We turn now to today’s Gospel from Luke which picks up just after “The Feeding of the Five Thousand.” Jesus is alone with His disciples and He asks them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Jesus is really more interested in the answer of His disciples than what the crowds think. So He asks them straight out, “But who do you say that I am?” And so it is with us His disciples today, He is interested more in what our response is to this question than the rest of the world. Yes, He loves all in the world but what He really wants to know is who do we, His disciples, say that He is? Who do we in the Church, us who are in the pews every Sunday, say that He is in our hearts and in our lives?” That’s what He really wants to know!…What is Peter’s reply to this question? Peter answers, “You are the Christ of God.” Does Jesus say, “Right on Peter, give me a high five, you nailed it!” No, the scripture said Jesus rebuked him and directed them all not to tell anyone. Why not?!! Because Peter was only half right with his answer. Yes, Jesus is the Christ of God. The word Christ is from the Greek and in the Hebrew it is Messiah which means Savior, the Anointed One. Yes Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, who fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures. But the answer “Christ of God” is not complete because Peter and the others meant the “Christ” in the tradition of King David, a conquering king who would free them from their enemies (Romans). Jesus immediately gives them the other half of the answer about who He is, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected…and be killed and on the third day be raised.” This had to be a shock to the disciples who were looking for a military king like David…Jesus then explains to them the true meaning of being His disciple, the true meaning of what it means to be His follower, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he or she must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” Now this was a shocker to the disciples back then and is a shocker to some in the Church today.
It may be a surprise to some that to be a true disciple of Christ it must also include dying-to-self and carrying of their cross daily. When each of us were Baptized we went under the purifying waters that Zechariah spoke about and under the waters we were united to the cross and to the death of Christ. In baptism we were configured to Christ and to His cross which means as He died-to-self we also must die-to-self for His sake and the sake of the Gospel. But Baptism needs faith to bring it to its full power as we heard in our 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, “Through faith you are children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” In other words, through the waters of Baptism combined with a personal and intimate faith in Jesus we “put on Christ”…we become one with Him. And when we have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus, when we put on Christ, then we can answer the question Jesus seeks here in the Church, “Who do you say that I am?” And our answer will be “You are my Savior, my Lord & my God, who calls me to imitate you in denying myself and to carry my cross daily for the good of others and for the good of the Kingdom.” That’s the answer He is looking for from us!
So that’s the first question…Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” But there’s another question…actually it’s the same question but this time we are the ones asking everyone else, we are the ones asking the question to the world, “Who do you say that I am?” You see, when we profess to be Catholic Christians, when we take on the name of Christ at Baptism, we walk around daily with the question written all over us directed to the world, “Who do you say that I am?” What do people see when they observe you? The way you act and the way you speak, the way you treat people? We are a walking billboard. What is the message we are portraying? Is it a message of self-centeredness, selfishness, greed, complaining, with a negative attitude? Or is our message Christ-like, Christ centered, one of humility and service, with a positive attitude and full of joy?...Who do people say that you are? Hopefully the answer is “a true Christian”, a follower of Christ with a positive, joyful attitude who willingly lets go daily of self-centered concerns, takes up the cross of compassionate service and follows where Christ leads.
And who are the people who are reading our message, who are the ones reading the message of our lives? First they are the ones in our own families. Our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings. Then, our co-workers, those on the road in traffic and those in the market-place and out in public, and those within our parish community. What message are we giving with our words and our deeds? Maybe people can’t really tell what our message is. They are not sure. There is a story that you may have heard before but it really illustrates this point. “After mass one Sunday the priest (pastor) was shaking hands and blessing the people as they left. From a distance he seen a gentleman whom he recognized but was not familiar with. So when the gentleman came up to shake the Father’s hand Father held on to it tightly and said, “Brother, you need to join the Army of the Lord!” The man said, “Father, I’m already in the Army of the Lord.” The priest said, “Then why don’t I see you around Church serving?” To which the man replied, “That’s because I’m in the Secret Service.” We cannot send a mixed message of who we are or no message at all. Jesus tells us in the Gospels, “You should not light a lamp then put it under a bushel basket.” No, we need to send a clear message of who we are in Christ. That message is seen when we are compassionate and merciful and forgiving. It is seen when we perform random acts of kindness not expecting anything in return. It is seen when we treat all people as Christ even in pressure and difficult situations such as at home and at the work place. It is seen when we offer ourselves in humble service at home and in the parish by sharing our time, talent and treasure with a grateful heart…These are just a few examples of portraying the message of who we are in Christ through imitating Him in denying ourselves and carrying our cross daily for the good of others and for the good of the Kingdom.
So the answer to Jesus’ question to us, “Who do you say that I am?” directly affects the answers of all who see us and who we ask “Who do you say that I am?” Because if our answer to Jesus is from our heart is that He is our personal Savior, our refuge and our shield, He is our Lord and our God in whom we trust and obey then people will see us as a true follower of Christ as we live out our Baptism, denying ourselves, carrying our cross daily for the good of others and for the good of the Kingdom…This is what Jesus meant when He said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ, let us put on Christ daily, and let Him shine through us for all to see in our words and in our deeds for the glory of God, for our own good and for the good of the Kingdom.
June 4, 2016
Sat 8 am
Immaculate Heart of Mary
2 Tim 4:1-8; Psalm 71; Luke 2:41-51
Yesterday the Church celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus and today we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Let’s take a close look at the two words Immaculate & Heart…From the dictionary immaculate means “free from sin, stain or fault, pure, impeccably clean.” And from the Catholic Encyclopedia which states, “from the Hebrew and from the scriptures heart stands for the higher part of the soul, intellect and will.” So we celebrate today the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Heart, we honor her interior fullness of grace, the perfection of her soul…As she was created pure from the moment of her conception, kept from the stain of sin.
The scriptures help us to reflect on this. In the Gospel Mary and Joseph lose track of the boy Jesus and circle back to look for Him with great anxiety. Once they find Him Jesus tells them why He was in the temple in the midst of the teachers. Even though Mary did not fully understand at the time the scripture said, “She kept all these things in her heart.” – In her Immaculate Heart.
Mary of course is the model and example for us as individuals and for the Church. Today’s psalm proclaimed her hope in God her Savior and it should be ours also, “I will always hope and praise you ever more. My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation.” As Mary placed her hope in her God, we must do the same. And as Mary was obedient to the will of the Father even though she did not fully understand, we also must strive to be obedient even though we don’t fully understand at times. As Mary trusted in God even though things were not always easy, we must also trust in God during good times and especially during times of trial and difficulties.
The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is our model. As Catholic Christians we called to strive to attain an immaculate heart…even though we will not fully attain it…we are called to strive to an interior that is free from sin, pure, and impeccably clean with the graces we are given.
On the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) the Church celebrates the real presence in the Eucharistic bread and wine. This feast was first celebrated in 1246 and was extended to the universal Church in 1264 by Pope Urban IV.
We as Catholics believe that during the Eucharistic Liturgy when the priest prays over the bread and wine the Spirit of God descends upon them making them into the Body & Blood of Jesus Christ. This is “transubstantiation” or the changing of substance.
In the first reading from Genesis we see a foreshadow of the Eucharist as the priest Melchizedek brings blessed bread and wine to Abraham. In the second reading St. Paul recalls the first Eucharist at the Last Supper. And in the Gospel Luke tells the story of Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves representing what He would do at every single mass celebrated.
In this solemnity we as disciples of Christ celebrate the real presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist. By receiving it in faith and offering our “Amen” we are proclaiming that we believe that this is truly Jesus and that we agree to live in His new covenant in all that it requires. Let us allow the Eucharist to satisfy us completely and strengthen us to live as disciples of the Risen Christ.
On the Sunday after Pentecost the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, 3 persons in 1 God, is the central mystery of the Christian faith. While this is the central mystery of our faith, it is a mystery that we cannot fully understand: how can 3 equal and distinct persons be one? Did you ever notice that we say in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit and we don’t say in the names of the Father, Son and Spirit? That’s because we worship 1 God not 3…While we cannot fully understand this mystery we can understand that within the Trinity and what flows from the Most Holy Trinity is perfect love. Father, Son and Spirit, 3 persons in 1 God, loves us without measure. He is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity. He does not care so much where we have been but cares more where we are going.
In the first reading from the Book of Proverbs we hear about the Wisdom of God who was there before anything ever existed. In our Catholic tradition we see Wisdom representing both Christ and the Holy Spirit who have always existed with the Father.
In the second reading from the Letter to the Romans St. Paul mentions we have peace with God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ His Son and their love for us has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
And in the Gospel Jesus tells us He and the Father are one and that the Spirit is given to us to guide us to all truth.
As heirs to the Kingdom loved without measure by the Most Holy Trinity I leave you with the priestly prayer from the beginning of Mass, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Amen.
May 15, 2016
Sun 10am & 4:30 pm
Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:8-17; John 14:15-16, 23b-26
Today the Church celebrates the great Solemnity of Pentecost. The word Pentecost is taken from the Greek which means “The 50th Day” as it is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday and officially closes the Easter Season. Pentecost is known as the “Birthday of the Church” when the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity descended upon the disciples. So Church, happy birthday to you! Did you know you are over 2000 years old?!
To reflect on the importance of the gift of the Holy Spirit and its effects we will start with today’s Gospel from John chapter 14. In this passage Jesus is with His disciples at the Last Supper the night before He was crucified. He was preparing them for His departure as He told them, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” If the Father was going to send another Advocate obviously there had to be a first one which was Jesus Himself. Jesus was the first and the Spirit would be the second.
So we must ask what is an advocate? It is one who supports, one who defends, one who pleads on behalf of another. So, by telling the disciples on the night before His passion that He would send another after Him to be their Advocate was comforting and a message of hope. It was Jesus reassuring them that this is how He would be with them always to the end of the age as He promised. We as disciples of Christ are also comforted with the words of Jesus that we also have 2 Advocates, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, to be with us always, to support us, to defend us and to plead on our behalf. (In other words, as the kids would say, Jesus and the Spirit both have our backs.)
In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 we see the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus to the disciples for another Advocate. This passage picks up just a few days after Jesus ascended up into heaven which we celebrated last Sunday. The disciples were in one place together most likely for safety because they were afraid and unsure. But the scripture said, “Suddenly there came from the sky (meaning from God above) a noise like a strong driving wind…and tongues as of fire which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” This was the birth of the Church, a new creation. This was God doing something new. This was foreshadowed in the very beginning in the Book of Genesis as the strong driving wind (the Holy Spirit) swept over the waters at creation…In the same way, at Pentecost the strong driving wind (the Holy Spirit) “filled the entire house in which they were” creating something new. In the beginning God breathed into Adam the breath of life…and at Pentecost God breathed the breath of life into His disciples with His Spirit…The scripture said they were able to understand each other meaning that even if the disciples were of different race and languages the Church is one in unity in the one Spirit. It doesn’t matter what language is spoken or the color of skin within the Church - we are united as brothers and sisters in the one Spirit.
So besides the birth of the Church and making us one why else is the Spirit given? We find the answer in last week’s 1st reading just before Jesus ascended into heaven as He told the disciples then and tells us now, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” You (us) will receive power – supernatural power….to do what? First of all power to live the Christian life as we are called as disciples of the Risen Lord. It’s not easy to live as a disciple and opposite of the world. St. Paul in the 2nd reading describes it as the “flesh” vs the “spirit”. Only filled by the Spirit of God can we overcome the flesh (which is drawn to excessive worldly living, giving in to temptations and overindulgence). In other words living in the flesh is all about me, doing whatever I want, whenever I want. Living in the flesh is not controlling our wants and desires, living without moderation or control. It is giving into temptations and letting our flesh and the world control us. St. Paul says, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” At Baptism we were infused, filled with the Holy Spirit. At Confirmation we were sealed with the Spirit. And in the Eucharist we are fed through the Spirit. It is only through the Spirit of God that we can live a life of holiness as we are called. Holiness is being filled with the Holy One, the Spirit of Jesus, who enables us to live as His disciples.
And it is through the Spirit that we are given gifts, supernatural gifts to be His witnesses…to carry on the mission of Christ. Jesus ascended but He is with us in the Spirit to work through us to proclaim the Gospel in our lives. Each of us are given gifts to be used for the good. We are not all given the same gifts because we are the Body of Christ (Church). Just as the human body has different parts for different reasons (eye, hand, the foot, etc.) and they work together each contributing to the good of the body…so it is with the Body of Christ. In the Church (us) we have all been given different gifts of the Spirit to contribute to the good of the Church. But it is up to us to discern our gifts and use them or to keep them to ourselves and hide them and let them go to waste. It is up to each of us to choose to be witnesses for Christ by sharing the gifts that we have been given for the salvation of souls. St. Pope John Paul II said in a homily, “The Holy Spirit is a gift of light and power, light to proclaim the Gospel truth and power to infuse each of us with courage of witnessing to the faith.”
The Spirit of God dwelling in us enables us to do things that we never thought we could because it is by His power that we can do them. Growing up I was very shy in school and especially in front of a crowd. It is only with and through the Holy Spirit that I am up here today. It is only by the Spirit that I even have anything to say to you right now. It is through the Spirit that we can do things that the world says we can’t or we don’t think we can: through the Spirit we can trust in God when things are very difficult or confusing; it is through the Spirit that we can excel at work and at school; it is through the Spirit that we can live chaste lives until marriage, then live faithful to one person in body and in mind as husband and wife in the Sacrament of Marriage; it is through the Spirit that we can live in truth avoiding any kind of dishonesty; it is through the Spirit that we don’t give in to peer pressure when supposedly everyone else is doing it; we can treat everyone with the dignity they deserve while standing up for the truth of Church teaching; we can forgive; we can love those who are difficult to love; and it is through the Spirit that we can live as the Catholic men and women we are called to be…the list goes on and on. With the Spirit of God dwelling in us we are given the power and yes we can (Si, se puede)! But it is up to us to receive the Spirit, to be open to Him and to allow Him to dwell within us. He will not force Himself upon us…He waits to be invited. We must invite Him every day. We must feed the fire of the Spirit within us just like a fire in the fireplace is fed by adding more wood for fuel. We must feed the fire of the Spirit within us by constantly adding more spiritual fuel.
So on the great Solemnity of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of God the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the 3rd person of the Trinity, who teaches us, guides us and comforts us; we celebrate the birth of the Church which unites us into one Body; and we celebrate the gifts He has empowered us with to be His witnesses in our daily lives and to do things that we never thought we could…Let us be open to Him and allow Him to make us new and breathe new life into us every day. Let us live in the fire of the Spirit of Pentecost always for the glory of God!
With & through the Spirit – Si, se puede! Yes, you can!
The Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven marks the end of His work on earth. His earthly ministry began with His Incarnation in the Blessed Mother and ended with His Ascension. Likewise the Paschal Mystery of His passion, death and resurrection concludes with the Ascension.
In the Gospel we hear from the very last chapter and verse from Luke where Jesus gives His last instructions to the disciples before He ascends. He reminds them of His mission and why He came and that His name was to be preached to all nations. He then promises them that He will send them the Spirit but to wait until the Spirit “clothes them with power from on high.” In the coming of the Holy Spirit Jesus would not be abandoning them but would be with them until the end of time.
The first reading from Acts Chapter 1 picks up where Luke left off in his Gospel account. Luke retells the story of salvation recapping the earthly ministry, the Resurrection and the post-Resurrection appearances of the Christ up to His Ascension. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus commissioned His disciples that after they received “power from on high” that they were to be His witness to “the ends of the earth.”
In the reading from Acts, after Jesus’ Ascension, the disciples were told by two men dressed in white garments (angels), “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” And so, we as disciples of the Risen, Ascended Christ, are told the same thing. Jesus has ascended, He has clothed us with power from on high. Why are we standing there? As disciples of Jesus we are to not stand still but to go out and be witnesses for the Christ with our lives. We are to spread the Gospel message of salvation by word and deed at home, at work and out in the world. The mission of Jesus continues in us!
On the 6th Sunday of Easter we continue to hear from the Acts of the Apostles the development of the early Church led by the Holy Spirit. We see the authority of the Catholic Church guiding the faithful in matters of faith and morals. After prayer and discussion the Church elders send out representatives to administer the decision that arose about circumcision of the Gentile converts. The Church from the very beginning to the present, led by the Spirit, guides with pastoral sensitivity while adhering to the Law (Canon).
In the 2nd reading from the Book of Revelation St. John shares the vision given to him that was to comfort a people whose beloved city and temple had been destroyed (Jerusalem). They were severely persecuted even some losing their lives and they very much were in need of comfort. St. John’s vision was of a new, eternal city with the Lord Jesus as the Temple who would provide light for the people. This gave them hope, a hope they desperately needed.
And in the Gospel Jesus also speaks of a temple however this temple is you and me, believers in the Risen Lord. This temple are the ones who love the Lord Jesus and who are obedient to His Word. This temple are the ones filled with the Spirit of God, the Advocate, who comforts us and guides us. We who are obedient to Jesus and who love Him will receive His peace, a peace that the world cannot give.
As discples of the Risen Lord let us be guided by His Church and let us receive comfort and peace from the Spirit who speaks to us today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” This is hope for us now and for the future. Alleluia, alleluia!
April 30, 2016
Pope Pius V
Acts 16:1-10; John: 15:18-21
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Pope Pius V who implemented the reforms of the Council of Trent, promoted the spread of the faith and renewed divine worship. He promulgated the Roman Catechism and the Roman Missal. Pope Pius V went home to the Lord on May 1, 1572 and was canonized May 22, 1712.
In our first reading this morning we hear the beginning of St. Paul’s 2nd missionary journey. Now we have to stop and reflect: remember all the hardships St. Paul experienced on his 1st missionary journey (days and nights at sea, hunger and thirst, opposition to the message including physical attacks)? Now if Paul went through all of this on his 1st missionary journey, why in the world would he go and do it again?!! Because he believed in his heart to be true and that it must be done for the sake of souls.
So Paul, recruits the young Timothy who the scripture said, “The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him.” In other words Timothy was a true disciple of the Risen Christ reflected by his life and Paul wanted him to accompany him in the Lord’s work. So the scripture said they went where the Spirit led them, no doubt experiencing joys as well as heart aches and persecution.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us as His disciples we also, like Paul, would no doubt go through trials and persecutions, “And they will do all of these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” Living the Christian life as disciples is not easy. And when we truly live it for people to notice, no doubt we will be persecuted. So why in the world would we live the Christian life? Why not just go with the flow? Why not just go along with the world’s (backwards) view on things? Because we, like St. Paul, and St. Pope Pius V, and all holy Catholic Christians, believe in our hearts the Gospel message to be true and that it must proclaimed by word and deed for the sake of souls. We are sent out like Paul & Timothy on mission – the mission of our daily lives. We will experience some joy but also some rejection and disappointment. The key is to stay strong in Christ and His Church, and be led by the Holy Spirit and we will be doing God’s work as we witness to the Gospel with our lives.
On the 5th Sunday of Easter the readings strengthen and encourage us to live the Good News of the Resurrection. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of St. Paul and Barnabas on their final leg of their 1st missionary journey and the hardships they experienced. It is staggering the territory they traveled and the miles they logged. Also it is staggering the hardships they endured: days and nights at sea, hunger & thirst, the elements as well as opposition and hostilities towards them because of the Gospel they preached. Why would someone go through this?!! Because it is true! Because they believed it will all of their heart and soul. And because they want everyone possible to experience it also.
The second reading from the Book of Revelation is from the second to the last chapter of the bible. This chapter tells us what we can look forward to by enduring hardships for the Gospel: a new haven and a new earth where God Himself will dwell with His people and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. This is what we as disciples of Christ have to look forward to but also what we can experience now. This scripture was written to comfort the persecuted 1st century Christians but also comforts us today.
And in the Gospel Jesus tells us as His disciples how we are to obtain His comfort and how we are to be ministers of the Resurrection like Paul and Barnabas, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
For disciples of Christ love is the key. With God’s love dwelling within us we will preach the Gospel on our own missionary journeys (our life) and we will endure hardships because of that love. True love is wanting the good for the other. It is dying to self for the sake of the other. As disciples of Christ we are to imitate Him in love no matter what we need to go through. Why would someone go through this? Because we believe it will all of our heart and soul and because we want everyone possible to experience it also!
April 17, 2016
4th Sunday of Easter
(Good Shepherd Sun 8 & 10)
Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30
On this 4th Sunday of Easter we hear in our readings once again about the risen Christ, the Son of God, one with the Father, who is the “Good Shepherd.” Our focus is the Good Shepherd who welcomes all into His fold, Jew as well as Gentile…In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear about St. Paul’s first missionary journey where he & Barnabas are spreading the Good News of the Risen Christ. Some of the Jewish people joyfully accepted the Gospel message but others rejected it as the scripture said, “filled with jealousy and with violent abuse they contradicted what Paul said.” So Paul and Barnabas take the Gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The scripture said, “The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord.” This is all part of God’s “plan of salvation” where the Kingdom and salvation would be offered and open to all. And we, my brothers and sisters, are counted among the Gentiles who the Gospel is offered to…now that deserves a double Alleluia!
The second reading from the Book of Revelation also speaks of the Good Shepherd and His sheep. This book was written to comfort the Christians who were suffering severe persecution under the Roman Emperor around the year 90 A.D. This letter speaks of the vision St. John had as the scripture said, “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue…These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This second reading confirms that the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God who laid down His life for His sheep and rose again, welcomes all people but that the road to salvation will not be easy and only those who persevere to the end will survive. We are comforted as were the Christians in the 1st century by the words of Revelation, “For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The Good Shepherd will comfort those who trust in Him especially in time of trial and persecution. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, now and in the future…I know many of you are hurting, suffering heavy trials right now. I encourage you to turn to the loving, Good Shepherd and trust in Him. He will comfort you, place His arms around you, bring you close to His Sacred Heart, and wipe every tear from your eyes. His word guarantees it!
And in the Gospel Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” This is the KEY…to be welcomed into the sheepfold (the Kingdom), to be comforted, and to persevere to the end we must KNOW the Good Shepherd and we must FOLLOW Him. The ones who know Him and follow Him are those whose hearts and minds are open to Him, open to Him in His Word, and those who trust in Him for safety, for salvation, and for all things. Those who know and follow the Good Shepherd live a life of ongoing conversion throughout their faith life as they get to know the Good Shepherd more and more intimately in prayer, in his Word and in the Sacraments. Conversion is an everyday, life-long process for all of us. It doesn’t matter if we were baptized as infants or sometime later. It doesn’t matter if we are in mass every Sunday or if we are just returning to the Church or just entering the Church. What matters is wherever we are right now on our faith journey, that we come to know and follow the Good Shepherd more and more closely every day by an on-going conversion.
Speaking about the shepherd and sheep, often times we act like real sheep. How is that? Let’s see if this sounds familiar. Real sheep: are anxious and nervous types, they run in packs, they are not real smart sometimes, they go astray and get themselves in trouble either with each other or by themselves, they are difficult to manage, they smell, and they need to be rescued over and over…sound familiar?!! Yes, we are like real sheep but we are also precious in the Good Shepherd’s eyes just as sheep are precious in their shepherd’s eyes. You see, there is a special relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. He knows each by name and each one knows his voice and totally trusts him. The shepherd provides all of their needs and protects them from harm with his own body if he has to. And so it is with the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Christ, who gave His body (life) for His sheep, He provides all of the needs for those who trust in Him, for those who know His voice.
As the Gospel said, “I know them and they follow me.” Those who know the Good Shepherd allow Him to lead them as faithful followers willing to go where He calls them and sends them. Where does the Good shepherd send us? He tells each and every one of us who know Him exactly what He told Paul and Barnabas in our first reading, “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” In other words, as His faithful followers, as sheep in His fold, Jesus our leader and guide, sends us out into the world to be a light and an instrument of salvation. He sends us out to invite others to come to know the Good Shepherd. In the darkness, light leads, guides and shows the way. The followers of Christ, filled with His light, show the way to the Good Shepherd. A musical instrument is used by someone to produce beautiful music. The instrument is used by another to accomplish good. It is an awesome thing that we are used as instruments by Jesus Christ to accomplish something very good – the salvation of souls. We are only the vessel, we are only the instrument. It is God who fills us with light and who does the work through us. But if we are willing, we will be a light to the nations and an instrument of salvation. This is no small matter. This is an awesome privilege and responsibility!
In the Catholic Church, God provides shepherds for us. The Holy Father, the Pope, is the chief shepherd, Vicar of Christ on earth to lead and to guide the flock of Jesus (Last week’s Gospel – “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep”). Then there are the bishops who are the shepherds of their diocese (shepherds staff). And within each parish of the diocese there is are pastors (priests). Pastor in Latin and Spanish means shepherd. God provides all of our needs within the Church. He guides us and feeds us through His shepherds in the Church by word and the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist). We are part of this flock. We need each other in the Church to survive. We cannot be lone rangers, me & God. No, we are part of a community of support and of love. Community grows and thrives by our care for each other. We are all called to be shepherds within the Church and in our daily lives, to lead, to guide, and to feed. How is that? By living Stewardship (faith in action), the sharing of our time, talent and treasure for the good of the other sheep. This is through ministry in service and through the sharing of our resources. Even in the participation in the building of our new church we are shepherds providing for all the people (sheep) who will come…We are called to be shepherds in our homes, in our marriages and with our children, at our work place, and in the community. We are called, with the Good Shepherd dwelling within us, to shepherd others with the gifts that we have been given.
So in closing and to summarize, Jesus, the Risen Lord, is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. He welcomes us into His fold and calls us by name into a life-long, personal relationship to persevere until the end. He provides all of our needs (spiritual and physical) for those who trust in Him. And He calls us to be shepherds of light and instruments of salvation to lead and guide every race, nation, people & tongue to Him. This is God’s great plan of salvation open & offered to all…So, get closer to the Good Shepherd, be a good shepherd. Alleluia, alleluia! Amen.
The 2nd Sunday of Easter has been delegated as “Divine Mercy” Sunday by St. Pope John Paul II. Mercy is pardon and kindness to one who does not deserve it. Mercy is the Gospel message summed up and mercy is the Paschal Mystery that we just celebrated during the Triduum.
In the readings this Sunday we see mercy as the common thread…In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of signs and wonders performed through the Apostles. God was showing His mercy by healings and miracles, “the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits were all cured.” St. Peter and the Apostles were ministers of the Lord’s mercy.
In the second reading from the Book of Revelation St. John gives testimony of his vision of the “Face of Mercy” the Risen Christ, “One like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe (Christ the High Priest), with a gold sash around his chest (Christ the King).” The Book of Revelation was written in mercy for those who were suffering severe persecution and trials.
In the Gospel Jesus has mercy on His disciples by calming their fears, “Peace be with you.” And He breathes the Holy Spirit on them sending them out as ministers of mercy.
As disciples of the Risen Christ, the Face of Mercy, we are breathed on by the Holy Spirit also to calm our fears and for us to go out to be ministers of mercy. When we receive peace and mercy we can give peace and mercy.
Receive mercy…Be mercy!
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord begins Holy Week, the highlight of the whole Liturgical Year. On Palm Sunday the Church recalls the entrance of Christ the Lord into Jerusalem to accomplish His Paschal Mystery. Vestments are red and the color red is throughout the sanctuary as a vivid sign of the Martyr of all martyrs.
At the beginning of mass, outside of the church, the Gospel passage is read before the procession of the account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a colt while the people spread palm branches and shout “Hosanna!”
In the 1st reading the Prophet Isaiah foretells of the promised Messiah and the one who would enter the city who would suffer for His people, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells of the Savior who humbled Himself for the love of His people.
And in the Gospel we hear the passion account according to Luke.
As disciples of this Messiah, we must look at our own lives and recognize the times we hailed Jesus and the times when we have failed Him. We can then turn to Him who is love and be forgiven and strengthened to live as His disciples. In this Year of Mercy the merciful Father is waiting for us to return to Him with our whole heart.
At the start of this Holy Week let us enter into the Paschal Mystery as it is made present to us in a mystical and real way. Let us experience the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior and be reminded of all that He has done for us so that we may sincerely proclaim in our lives, “Hosanna in the highest!”
On the 5th Sunday of Lent we are fast approaching Holy Week and the Triduum. This Sunday we hear of a “new thing” that the Lord God is doing among His people.
In the first reading from Isaiah the Lord, through the prophet, reminds His people of how He worked mighty miracles ahead of them to set them free from slavery in Egypt. But He also tells them, “I am doing something new. Now it springs forth, do you perceive it?” In other words, God had been with them and blessed them in the past but He was encouraging them to look to the future in which He would be doing something even greater. And of course we as Catholic Christians see the something new as the coming of the Christ who would set all people who turn to Him free from the slavery of sin. This reading was a remembrance of the first Exodus from Egypt but a foreshadow of the Exodus to come in Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel Jesus is the fulfillment of the new things promised by the Father as proven by His actions. Instead of adhering to the Law that said to stone a woman caught in adultery He forgives her of her sins. This was unheard of until the coming of Christ.
And in the 2nd reading St. Paul states with conviction, “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
Like St. Paul, as disciples of Christ, let us remember and be thankful for what God has done for us in the past, namely the sending of His Son as Savior. But also let us look to the future to the great things He will do for us and through us. Now it springs forth. Can you perceive it?!!
March (5) 6, 2016
Sat 4:30; Sun 8 & 4:30
4th Sun of Lent “Rejoice”
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
This is the 4th Sunday of Lent aka “Rejoice Sunday” as you can tell by the cool “rose” vestments. It’s “Rejoice Sunday” for 2 reasons: (1) Because we are now past the 1/2 way point of Lent. The readings and the music have a joyful tone as we get closer to the celebration of Easter. (2) But also, we rejoice because we celebrate God the Father’s great gift of mercy.
If you have been paying attention lately, you would have noticed that there has been a lot of talk about mercy. The Holy Father Pope Francis has designated this year “The Year of Mercy” and he has been preaching on it in many of his homilies and addresses. The Lenten Reflections in English and in Spanish here at Resurrection on Tuesday evenings have been called “God’s Life-Changing Mercy.” The Women of Resurrection’s Retreat was called “The Face of Mercy.” And the theme of the LA Religious Education Congress was “Boundless Mercy.” All this focus on mercy…you think God is trying to tell us something?!!
And the message in the readings this Sunday is “rejoice in God’s mercy”. In the 1st reading from the Book of Joshua the Israelite people rejoice because God has led them back home to the Promised Land. They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience and their lack of trust. But the Lord said, “Today I have removed the reproach (shame, disgrace) from you.” In other words the Lord God had mercy on His people even though they did not really deserve it. That’s what mercy is: being forgiven, being let off the hook, pardoned even though one may not really deserve it. And that is exactly what our God offers us. St. Paul explains it in the 2nd reading, “God reconciled us to Himself through the cross of Christ, not counting our trespasses (sins) against us.” Every one of us, no matter who we are, are in need of God’s loving, compassionate mercy. And if we are open to His mercy He does not count our trespasses against us! That is the best news ever!
Today’s Gospel is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus: The “Prodigal Son.” But many have suggested this story be called the loving, forgiving, merciful Father. This parable has been told and retold over the centuries so that whoever listens to it with their heart will experience the profound gift of mercy the Father offers to all of us: to those who think they can never deserve it & to those who think they do not need it. We all know the story…a man had two sons. The younger asks for and gets his share of his inheritance and wastes it on wine, women and song. Then the scripture said, “He came to his senses” swallowed his pride and headed back home to ask for forgiveness, not really expecting to get it. You see, according to custom the father could have disowned his son for disgracing the family name. But what does the father do? He runs out to his son, embraces him and kisses him. He put the finest robe on him (high honor), he put a ring on his finger (unlimited buying power and authority), and he put sandals on his feet (slaves or hired servants did not have shoes). So instead of disowning his son, the father ran to him, forgave him and blessed him beyond anything he could have imagined. The younger son represents those who might think that they can never deserve God’s mercy…This is the unthinkable mercy our heavenly Father has for us even though we really don’t deserve it or think that He will give it to us. No matter what we have done in our lives, all we have to do is come to our senses, acknowledge (admit) that we need His mercy, return home to Him and he will remove the shame of sin from us just like he did for the Israelite people in the desert and just like He did for this prodigal son. All we have to do is take one step toward God the Father in repentance and He will run to us, and embrace us with loving compassionate mercy. That is cause to rejoice!
But then there is the older son, prodigal in his own way. He did not leave home or his father but when he heard what the father did for his brother he became bitter, angry and jealous. He says, “All these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders, yet you did not do any of this for me…When your son who wasted everything comes home you throw him a big party?!!” The older son represents those who do not think they need God’s mercy. Or those who do not accept it.
So which one are you and I? Are we more like the younger son who thinks what we have done in our past will prevent us from ever being truly forgiven? Or are we more like the older son who thinks, “I’m a good person. I always do what is right. I don’t need forgiveness or mercy. Other people may but not me.” The truth, is every single person from the Pope on down to you and me needs God’s mercy in some way. And every person who asks for it and is open to it will receive it.
And when we do receive it, when we do experience God’s mercy in a personal, intimate way – it is life-changing! It is life-changing because when we return home to the Father it transforms us in the way we think and in the way we act. When we experience the gift of mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it gives us a new start in life, a new beginning as St. Paul said in our 2nd reading, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” It gives us a positive, thankful attitude. What has been done for us we want to do for others. When we realize that we have sinned and are forgiven and that we are so blessed then we live our lives wanting to bless. When we realize we have been given the priceless gift of mercy won for us on the Cross we desire to live a life of giving in imitation of Christ. God has been so generous with us how can we not be generous?!! God has been so merciful with us how can we not be merciful?!!…And when we live this life of gratitude we become as St. Paul says, “an Ambassador for Christ.” In St. Paul’s time an ambassador was one who represented a ruler or a king in the king’s affairs. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, representing Him in His affairs here on earth by living a life of blessing others with our positive, thankful, generous way of life. If the mercy of God has truly affected our lives than it will be life-changing. It will affect the way we think and the way we act.
So on this 4th Sunday of Lent we rejoice in the great gift of the mercy of God. We celebrate the forgiving love of the Father manifested in Jesus. It is offered to each and every one of us whether we think we need it or not, whether we think we can attain it or not. But it takes two to tango (as they say). You see, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son came home to his father who was waiting with open arms. The younger son sought after and accepted the mercy of the father. Now the older son…did he receive the father’s mercy? We don’t know. The scripture said, “He refused to enter the house.” His father came out to him to offer him mercy but did he accept it? And so it is with us, the Heavenly Father waits for us to seek His mercy by our own free will. He waits for us to return home and when we take that first step He will run out to us, embrace us, kiss us and bless us with what is worth more than money can buy: His peace and His joy. When we return home to God the Father through Christ Jesus with our whole heart He says, “Let us celebrate with a feast, because my son or daughter of mine was dead, and has come back to life again, he or she was lost, and has been found.” And that is what Lent is about…to return home to the Father’s merciful embrace.
And so on this 4th Sunday of Lent aka “Rejoice Sunday” we rejoice not only because we are past the ½ way point of Lent but mainly because we celebrate God the Father’s great gift of mercy…Receive mercy, be mercy!
February 21, 2016
2nd Sunday of Lent
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Genesis 15:5-12; Phil 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
A story from down south in Louisiana, near New Orleans, called “Boudreux and Lent”:
o Every Friday night Boudreaux would fire up his grill and cook a big, juicy steak.
o But all of Boudreaux’s neighbors were Catholic and this would kill them during Lent because they themselves could not eat meat on Fridays.
o It got so bad that they couldn’t take it anymore so they went and talked to their priest.
o The priest paid a visit to Boudreaux and suggested that he become a Catholic. After months of RCIA classes Boudreaux was finally ready to become Catholic.
o During the Easter Vigil Mass the priest poured Holy Water over him and baptized him “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
o Then the priest said to Boudreaux, “You were born a Baptist, and raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic!”
o Boudreaux’s neighbors were greatly relieved.
o That is – until the following Lent. On the 1st Friday of Lent, the wonderful aroma of grilled steak filled the neighborhood.
The priest was called immediately!
o As he rushed into Boudreaux’s back yard preparing to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement.
o There stood Boudreaux, clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted, “You wuz born a cow, you was raised a cow, but now you is a fish!” (I don’t make them up, I just repeat them – Fr. Tony Ricard).
And believe it or not this ties into our readings…Every year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent we hear the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus up on the mountain. This, as we heard, is when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain to pray and the scripture said, “His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.” Now why do you think we hear this account every single year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent? Because every year during Lent we are called to transfiguration ourselves. You see, the word transfiguration is made-up of two Latin words: trans which means “across” and figura which means “form or shape”. These two words put together mean a change of form or appearance. So at the beginning of each Lent we are called to transfiguration, we are called to change, to transform more into the likeness of Christ. So Lent is not so much about giving up chocolate, or not eating meat on Fridays. Yes, these things are part of it. But Lent is about changing ourselves from the inside out, transforming into a better version of ourselves (Matthew Kelly).
But how do we do this? How do we transform ourselves more and more into the likeness of Christ as we are called to do? As always, we look to the readings, we look to the scriptures for the answers…In the verses just before our 1st reading Abram, later named Abraham, reminds God that He promised him he would have a son of his own, an heir to all that he owned. God then tells Abram, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, shall your descendants be.” And the scripture said, “Abram put his faith in the Lord.” Even though Abraham had been waiting and waiting for a long time for God’s promise to be fulfilled, he believed and had faith that his God was real and that his God was true to His word. So conversion for us begins also as it did for Abraham. Conversion begins with faith in God, trust and belief that He is, and that He is powerful, He is faithful and He is in charge!…Faith is trusting when things don’t work out the way we think they should or as fast as we want but we continue to trust in God. There is a great song called “Trust in You” by a young lady named Lauren Daigle that illustrates this beautifully:“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!” Faith is trust that leads to conversion and transformation when the knowledge of God goes from our head down into our heart.
And to deepen our faith and conversion we must spend time with our God in constant communication - which is “prayer.” Prayer is simply an “encounter” with God. In the 1st reading Abraham encounters God by speaking to Him and by listening to His words. Speaking to God and listening to Him is prayer…In the Gospel Jesus took Peter, John and James up the mountain. The mountain in the scriptures symbolizes an experience with God. Peter, John and James encountered Jesus and seen Him as He really is: shining in dazzling white. They heard the voice of the Father, “This is my chosen Son, listen to Him.” After this encounter of prayer they came down the mountain different than when they went up. And so it is with us…every time we go up the mountain of prayer we encounter the Lord God and we are different than we were before. We are transformed more and more into Christ.
Faith and prayer are essential if we are to be transfigured or changed. But sometimes we get in a rut, our faith and prayer life become stagnant or non-existence. And that is why we are given the gift of Lent every year, to shake us out of our rut, to shake us out of our routine, to wake up our faith and bring it back to life! But in order for this to happen we need “game changers.” If a football team is not getting anywhere during a game. The offense is not moving the ball (3 & out). The coach needs a “game changer”, something different that will spark his team. So he puts in a something different, a special play or a new scheme that wakes his team up. The same is true for us. During Lent we need “game changers” in our faith. We need to do something different, out of our routine. Maybe read a paragraph of scripture every day, or go to mass during the week, spend time in Eucharistic Adoration, go to Reconciliation, attend Stations of the Cross, or faithfully attend the Tuesday night Lenten reflections. Dynamic Catholic (Matthew Kelly) or Word on Fire (Bishop Barron)…For conversion in our faith life we need “game changers.” They are there, offered by the Church. We just need to take advantage of them and seize the opportunities for growth and transformation. We need “game changers” as individuals and as families.
The gift of the Season of Lent is an invitation to transformation, to change, to transfigure more and more into the likeness of Christ. And the formula is faith, prayer and “game changers.” Lent is about changing from the inside out, transforming into a better version of ourselves. When we are transfigured more into Christ it benefits our families, our parish community and the world. And this is evangelization…the spreading of the dazzling light of Christ…This is why we are called to “transfiguration”. To impact the world for Christ!
The 1st Sunday of Lent is at the beginning of the climb of the holy mountain towards Easter. The first reading for this Sunday is from the Book of Deuteronomy which is the second telling of the Israelite story of salvation centuries after the original events. The people were to remember the great things God had done for them as well as teach them to all generations. The same is true for us as Catholic Christians. We also “retell” our story of salvation year after year during the different cycles of the Liturgical Year and we are to teach them to all generations.
In the reading from Deuteronomy the people are told how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and because of gratitude are to offer “firstfruits” placed in front of the altar of the Lord. This is the same thing we do as Catholics. During the offertory at mass we bring our “firstfruits” to the altar in thanksgiving and gratitude because of all the Lord has done for us.
In the Gospel we hear the very familiar passage of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. He is the one who won for us our salvation by conquering the temptations of the devil: the offering of pleasure, riches and power. It is He who has brought us out of the slavery of sin by His Cross and Resurrection.
How do we attain this salvation? St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
As disciples of Christ, we are called during this Lent to renew our hope in Christ, to renew our gratitude for our salvation and all of our blessings, and to tell all generations that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
February 6, 2016
St Paul Miki & Companions, Martyrs
1 Kings 3:4-13; Ps 119:9-14; Mark 6:30-34
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Paul Miki and 25 Companions, Martyrs in Nagasaki, Japan in 1597 who were crucified for the faith. These men of great faith were canonized in 1862 by Pope Pius IX. And they are now counted among the saints of the Church.
In the 1st reading we hear the familiar story of King Solomon who at the time was just a young man. The scripture said “Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings.” Wow! A thousand offerings. That’s a lot even for a king! The scripture says he loved the Lord and he showed it by such a generous offering in gratitude…And what happened that night? The Lord spoke to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Now think for a minute, what would your answer be? Solomon, instead of asking for riches, for personal gain or for revenge, from his heart asked for wisdom. And because of that humility and selfless request the Lord did answer his prayer for wisdom but also blessed him beyond measure with riches and glory as the scripture said.
The lesson for us in this 1st reading is that when we offer ourselves, and when we offer a portion of our treasure with gratitude and when we seek God’s will not for our gain but for the other…we will be blessed beyond measure also in many different ways. Not saying we will become rich in material things but we will become rich in things more valuable than material – peace, joy and contentment, things that are priceless.
And in the Gospel Jesus shows us what self-giving is. Even though He and the Apostles were tired and needed rest, they ministered to the people with compassion…Seek God’s will in your life in every aspect, offer yourself as gift and offer your treasure and you will be blessed beyond measure with the priceless.
Jesus says to all of us, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What will you ask of Him?
On the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time the common theme throughout the readings is that being a disciple of Christ and a messenger of the Gospel is met with opposition, back in biblical times as well as today.
In the first reading the Prophet Jeremiah, known as the man of sorrows because of the opposition against him, is told by the Lord God that “They will fight against you but not prevail over you.” The Lord God knew that the truth would be meet resistance so He told Jeremiah, “Gird your loins…I this day made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” In other words, God is with him and made him strong for the battle.
In the Gospel, Jesus, also known as a Man of Sorrows, is met with resistance. After preaching the truth the scripture said, “When the people heard this they were filled with fury.”
As disciples of Christ, preaching the truth by word and by deed will be met with opposition today as it was in the days of Jeremiah and Jesus. But it is Jesus who fortifies us for the battle and who makes us strong to continue in perseverance. St. Paul in the 2nd reading gives us the key to continue in the face of opposition: faith, hope and love. In these three virtues, we will prevail!
On the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear the readings the Word proclaimed and the Word fulfilled.
The first reading from the Book of Nehemiah was written during the period of time when the Israelite people had been set free from exile and many were back in their home country. The city buildings had to be rebuilt as well as the community. At the proper time Ezra the priest stood before the people of God, opened the scroll, and proclaimed from the book of the law. The scripture said “All the people listened attentively…for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.” In other words, the Word was proclaimed and received. The word touched hearts and minds so deeply that the people were profoundly affected by it. It was through the Word of God that the community was built back up.
In the Gospel, from the first chapter of Luke, we hear of the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. It is through this Word that the Christian community is built up. Luke tells of Jesus, the Word of God, unrolling the scroll in the temple and proclaiming from Isaiah the fulfillment of the Word of God in Himself and why He came, “To bring glad tidings to the poor, to set the captives free, and recovery of sight to the blind.”
In the second reading from St. Paul’s 1 Letter to the Corinthians, we hear that when we receive this Word we are all part of one body in Christ and have been given gifts for the benefit of the Body.
The Word of God is power. But it is most effective when listened to attentively and put into practice. As disciples of the Christ, let us listen and act upon the Word of God, proclaimed at mass and in our own private devotions. Let it profoundly affect us and enable us. When we receive and act upon the Word, the Body is built up in Christ.
When we do this we experience the last verse of today’s Gospel, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The scripture is fulfilled in Christ and in His disciples – us!
January 9, 2016
1 John 5:14-21; Ps 149; John 3:22-30
If you noticed in the 1st reading from 1 John the word “know” K-N-O-W was mentioned several different times. The dictionary describes the word know “to believe to be true; to be confident in; to believe as fact.” In Christian terms, the word know means to believe that the Gospel and Jesus Christ are totally true and that we are sure and confident about them.
The 1st know mentioned: “We know that He hears us in regard to whatever we ask.” In other words, as Catholic Christians, we are confident that there is no doubt that the Lord God does hear our prayers.
The 2nd know mentioned: “We know that we belong to God.” We are confident that through Baptism in and through Christ, we are children of the Father, heirs to the Kingdom.
The 3rd know mentioned: “We also know that the Son of God has come.” As we have just celebrated in the Christmas Season which concludes tomorrow, we are confident and believe to be true that the Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ came 2000 plus years ago for the forgiveness of sin.
The 4th know mentioned: “The Son of God has given us discernment to know the one true God.” In other words, Jesus has revealed the Father to us and helps us to know Him in intimate relationship.
In and through Christ, we know that we know that these things are true. It’s not so much head knowledge as it is heart knowledge. The knowing of God starts out and continues first with an openness to the Savior Jesus Christ and remains strong by continuing to seek Him.
In the Gospel as John the Baptist knew that the focus should not be on himself, the best man, but should be on Jesus the bridegroom as he said, He must increase, I must decrease.”…The more we know Jesus and place our confidence in Him, the more we will want the focus on Him.
In Christian terms, the word know means to believe in your heart that the Gospel and Jesus Christ are totally true and we live our lives as testimony to this knowledge in love of God and love of neighbor.
This Sunday within the Season of Christmas the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word epiphany means manifestation or revelation. There are several manifestations of the Lord including: the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding at Cana.
Today our focus is on the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the Savior of the world was revealed to the nations (non-Jews). It is an extremely important feast for us as Gentiles because with the Epiphany we as non-Jews are counted among the “chosen people of God.”
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah looks forward to the day when the Light of all lights would be revealed to the world and people from all nations would bow before Him to worship Him and offer gifts to Him.
In the second reading St. Paul proclaims with the revelation of the Messiah, Christ the Lord, “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” In other words through the Good News of Jesus Christ the Kingdom is open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
And in the Gospel passage when the magi found the King of kings they worshiped Him and offered their gifts. What an example for us as stewards of God’s gifts to offer a portion back to Him in worship and in thanksgiving of our time, our talents and our treasure.
As disciples of Christ, the Light of the world revealed to the nations, we rejoice in the words of Isaiah that have come to pass, “Rise up in splendor, your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you!”
The old saying is, “Wise men and women still seek Him.” Seek the Light and spread the Light as stewards of God’s grace.