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.
The Sunday after Christmas Day is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the Gospel from Luke we see that even the Holy Family did not have it smooth all the time. The passage said when Jesus was about 12 years old they could not find Him until three days of searching for Him. But after that the scripture said, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He was obedient to them.” Family life is not always easy and is sometimes very difficult. But we as Christian families are to strive for holiness in the example of the Holy Family. We are to live in respect for each other and live selflessly for the good of the other.
The Feast of the Holy Family is an important feast for us. We have all grown up in a family whether it was whole and traditional or broken and dysfunctional. This example of Mary and Joseph shows us what a family is supposed to be like which is obedient to the ways and will of God. God’s will for the family is that they look to Him for love, strength and sustenance and then turn to each other with that same love. God’s love is unconditional. Our love within the family must also be unconditional lifting each other up in prayer and charity.
It has been said and is true that the family that prays together stays together. The family that attends mass together and spends time with God together at Church and at home stays together. And just as important, the family that plays together stays together… The family is a sacrament (a sign) of the Trinity which is perfect relationship. The family is an important part of the foundation of the Church and of society. As disciples of Christ in the family of God let us promote, encourage and lift up the family… because as the family goes so goes the Church and society.
December 20, 2015
4th Sunday of Advent
Sun 10am & 4:30pm
Micah 5:1-4a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
The new highly anticipated Star Wars movie came out this weekend. People all over the country are excited about it. But we as Catholic Christians have something infinitely more to be excited about: the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!
On this 4th and final Sunday of Advent, just a few days before Christmas we are asked to stop and to fully realize what we will be celebrating. In other words we need to put on the brakes, take a time out, as they say “Take a “chill pill”, or as Fr. Ken says in Spanish, “calma, calma.”
So as we get ready to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity becoming man, we must take a pause to fully realize the “ultimate gift” we have been offered and how truly blessed we are if we accept this gift…In the first reading the Prophet Micah lifted the spirits of the people of Israel who were in exile, who had been taken away from their homes into slavery. Micah foretold of the coming Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, who would be their Deliverer and their Shepherd. He would give them peace in the midst of chaos, a peace that they had not ever experienced before. In other words, the message of the coming Messiah gave them hope for a brighter future.
In the second reading from Hebrews we hear of the fulfillment of the coming of the Messiah in Jesus and why He came: to offer His holy body as the final sacrifice necessary for the salvation of souls, fulfilling the will of the Father. The scripture said, “By this will we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” By this “ultimate gift” of the coming of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, and by the acceptance of this gift we are blessed beyond measure: entrance into the Kingdom of God. Through Christ we are children of the Father and heirs to the Kingdom! This is the greatest gift ever given. In it is the greatest blessing ever bestowed.
In the Gospel, we are taken to “The Visitation” (2nd Joyful Mystery of the Rosary) in which the newly pregnant Mary travels to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant, in her 6th month. The scripture said when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting she was “Filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice…How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth was so thankful and felt so blessed that Jesus the Savior was brought to her that she was overwhelmed with joy…When we truly realize the gift that we are given, the gift that we will be celebrating in just a few days, we should also be filled with a joy that cannot be contained….And another side effect of the gift of Christ besides joy is peace. (Have you ever seen the commercials where they advertise their product, maybe a medication that will cure you of some symptom but the side effects are way worse than the symptoms?!! Nausea, dizziness, bleeding through the ears, possibility you might go blind!)
Well, the side effects in accepting the gift of Christ are all good…When we accept this gift of the Savior personally in our hearts and in our lives we receive His peace among the chaos of our lives. Like Micah foretold, with Jesus and because of Jesus, we experience a peace that we have not ever experienced before, a peace that passes all understanding. In other words, the Savior gives us hope for a brighter present and a brighter future…Now this doesn’t mean that everything will always be “smooth sailing” but there is a saying I have adopted from Catholic Radio, “Too blessed to be stressed.” In other words, with Jesus, the greatest gift ever given, we are too blessed to worry too much about anything. With Him we don’t have to stress out because with Him by our side and dwelling inside of us we can get through any difficult time in our lives. With Him we are positive thinkers. With Him we see the glass ½ full…because we are so blessed!...When people ask me how I am I respond “Too blessed to be stressed.” But it is one thing to say it but another to mean it and believe it!
We are not only blessed with our salvation (if we continue in Him) and with joy and peace but we are also blessed in our everyday lives. Do we fully realize this? Do we know how blessed we are?...Think about this:
· If you woke up this morning with more health than illness…you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
· If you can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death (like many in the world today)…you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.
· If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes in your closet, a roof over your head & a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of the world.
· If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet, and spare change somewhere…you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
How blessed are we?!!
Let’s really put it in perspective…let’s take a personal and a home inventory (me included): Think…
· Pairs of shoes? Number of pairs of jeans?
· Smart Phone? Computer? Laptop? I-Pad? I-Pod? Kindle?
· Number of TVs in house?
The point is, is that we are SOOO BLESSED in Christ. Even if we think we don’t have a lot, there are always others who have even less than we do. We must realize that we are blessed beyond measure in Christ and everything that He provides for us…And when we do realize this, we will be filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We will be so thankful that it will automatically give us the desire to give of ourselves and to share our blessings…Look at Mary in the Gospel. After she received the message from the angel Gabriel, she traveled a long distance in rough terrain to the hill country to give of herself by helping her cousin Elizabeth. The scripture said, “Mary remained with her about 3 months.” So even though Mary was pregnant herself, because she felt so blessed by God, she desired to serve her cousin with joy. Who is your Elizabeth? There are plenty of them out there. They are right in your own family, they are here at church, they are in the poor and the less fortunate. Like Mary, when we know we are so blessed we will joyfully come to the aid of our neighbor to: feed the hungry (with food as well as satisfy their hunger for companionship and friendship); we will welcome the stranger (the one who seems alone or not welcomed by others); we will clothe the naked (with the sharing of our blessings); and we will visit those in prison (the ones who seem isolated and confined) Matt 25…As in the Stewardship prayer we recite at the beginning of every mass, “God my Creator, you made me all that I am and gave me all that I have. Help me show my gratitude by using these gifts to serve others in your name.” Gratitude is the key…when we are thankful for how blessed we are, we automatically desire to give of ourselves and to share our blessings in the name of Christ Jesus.
So on this 4th and final Sunday of Advent, just a few days before Christmas we stop to fully realize what we will be celebrating which is the greatest gift ever given, the greatest blessing ever bestowed…If we accept this gift of Jesus Christ and remain in Him, we will be “Too blessed to be stressed!” Because with Him we have a bright present as well as hope for a bright future. Receive that hope, share that hope!
And I leave you with a twist on the Star Wars saying, “May the Force of Christ’s Spirit be with you!
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Gaudete Sunday” which is Latin for Rejoice. We rejoice because we are past the half way mark of Advent, closer to the great celebration of the Nativity of Christ the Lord.
In the 1st reading the Prophet Zephaniah exhorts the people of Israel to rejoice even though they are in a time of trial and distress. And the same message is for us today, “Shout for joy! Sing joyfully! The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst!”
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice!” Even if we are in a time of distress we have reason to rejoice at all times because we have the Lord with us.
And in the Gospel John the Baptist points us to our source of joy, “The one mightier than I.”
As disciples of Christ the Lord, even though things may not always be easy, we always have cause to rejoice because of Jesus the Christ. As disciples let us fill ourselves with the source of true joy as we draw ever closer to Christmas. And let us spread that joy to all we meet.
“Shout for joy! Sing joyfully! The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst!”
Sunday November 29th 2015 is the 1st Sunday of Advent. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival”. The Season of Advent is a time of preparation to get us ready to celebrate the first coming or arrival of our Savior at His Nativity but also to help us be prepared for the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of time.
Advent is a Season of hope. In the 1st reading from the Prophet Jeremiah we hear of the hope of the first coming of the Messiah. Jeremiah was proclaiming this message of hope to a people under a very real threat of a conquering nation (Babylon). The prophet guides the people to look to their God who they can trust as He tells them Himself, “In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; He shall do what is right and just in the land.” Of course, we as Catholic Christians believe this promise was and is fulfilled by Jesus the Christ, the just and righteous one.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus prophecy of His 2nd coming at the end as He instructs us to be aware of the signs of the times, “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is telling His disciples no matter what happens place your hope in me. I will not fail you or abandon you. But He also tells us it will not be easy and that we will need stay in prayer and be vigilant.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells the disciples of Christ how we are to live while waiting for the 2nd coming, “Increase and abound in love for one another and for all…to be blameless in holiness…at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Living prepared to celebrate His 1st coming as well as living prepared for His 2nd coming is living in Christian love and holiness united to the Savior Jesus Christ.
Advent is the beginning of a new Liturgical Year. Let it be a new beginning for us as disciples of Christ, pilgrims on the journey toward our heavenly home. Let Advent prepare us for our coming Savior, in whom we place our hope and trust.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
The Liturgical Year closes with the great feast of “Christ the King” proclaiming Jesus Christ as King of the Universe! This is a fitting end to the Church Year and all its different seasons.
In the first reading the prophet Daniel foresees the coming of the Son of Man, the Messiah. This Son of Man would receive dominion, glory, and His Kingship would last forever.
In the opening chapter from the Book of Revelation St. John tells us of the one who fulfilled this vision of Daniel. He tells us of Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, firstborn of the dead (resurrection) and ruler of all the kings of the earth, past, current and future. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
And in the Gospel Pilate and Jesus have a verbal exchange with the result of Jesus revealing that His Kingdom is not of this world but of the next. Jesus proclaims that He came into the world to reveal the truth and “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to His voice.”
As disciples of Christ we are to listen to the voice of our King. We are to allow Him to be King of our hearts and of our lives. We are to be subject to Him in all things and look to Him to guide us, provide for us and protect us. But in union with Him we are to serve Him in others especially the poor and the less fortunate. When we serve others we are serving Christ. When we live the Gospel we have nothing to fear now or at the end of time.
Let us proclaim Christ the King in our personal lives and our lives in service as sheep of the shepherd King.
November 15, 2015
33rd Sun Ord Time
Sun 8am & 10am
Daniel 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
This is the 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church Year, and as always at this time of year the Church has us focus on the 2nd Coming of Jesus and the end of time. The ominous first reading from the Prophet Daniel said, “At that time will be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nations began.” And in the Gospel Jesus said, “In those days after that tribulation…they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”…So on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being highest) how often do you think about the end of time? Not at all or not very often? Sometimes? All the time? The end is not something we should stress out about but it is definitely something we should think about and be concerned with because the end of time as we know it, as well as the end of our own time will eventually come. Sometimes sooner than we think like the victims in the tragic attacks in Paris a few days ago…All of us in world have an expiration date because we were not made for this world.
I’m sure you have heard the term “bucket list” right? A bucket list is a list you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket”. Let me share with you 3 items from my bucket list (no particular order): (1) I want to catch a foul ball at a professional baseball game. I have been to a lot of games but have never caught a baseball. Once we had tickets right behind home plate. I didn’t drink anything so I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom. But in the 7th inning I couldn’t hold it any longer. Sure enough the ball flew right over my seat! (2) I’m a big Notre Dame Football fan. I want to walk in to Notre Dame Stadium and see “Touchdown Jesus” from the stadium.
(3) I would like my wife and I to take a cruise to Alaska, to see all the beauty of the Northwest…These are just a few items on my bucket list. But these are temporal, these are things that will pass away with the end of time. They will vanish in thin air just like all the other material things that we accumulate. *What’s infinitely more important is the “spiritual bucket list” which I will call the “eternity list”. This is the list that will go with us into eternity. These are the things that will cross over to the other side with us. This is the list we should be concerned about and focused on, these are the things that really matter. By living the “eternity list” we will always be ready for the end of time whenever it comes sooner or later
So what is on the “eternity list”? This list is like a 3 legged stool that needs all 3 legs to stand. Only with all 3 legs will we live ready, will we live prepared. (1) The 1st leg that our eternity stands on is prayer. A life living prepared starts with an initial encounter with Christ and then a continual relationship with Him. Allow Jesus into your heart and mind daily through planned, scheduled, prayer as well as spontaneous prayer. Come to know Him more and more by meditating on His holy Word and allow Him to speak to you in the silence of your heart. Pray as an individual, pray as a married couple and pray within the family. Pray with the Church in Liturgy and in community. This is where a life living prepared starts and is sustained: constant communication with our God. Prayer enables us to live the other two legs of the stool. (2) The 2nd leg is service. Christian service is using our gifts of time and talent. It is self-offering as Jesus offered Himself on the cross of Calvary. It is following Christ as His disciple as He came “not to be served but to serve.” Service is being Christ by thinking of and doing for others as He did. Jesus, at the Last Supper, put the apron around His waist and proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. He did this to show us what He expects of us as His disciples. At Baptism we were configured to Christ as servant. Self-sacrificing service takes the focus off of ourselves and places it on the other. It is in service that we receive more than the one we are serving. In some grace-filled way it is we who receive authentic joy, peace and contentment in Christian service. (3) The 3rd leg that our eternity stands on is giving, the giving or sharing of our treasure. This is a difficult one for a lot of people. And that is why Jesus teaches on it over and over again in the scriptures. Because He knows that if we hold on too tight to our treasure it is not we who own it but it is it that owns us! If it owns us we are slaves to it. Jesus calls us to share a prayed about portion of our blessings to set us free from this slavery. It is not that He needs us to give (He owns everything, He has no need of our treasure). He asks us to share because it is us who have the need to give, to set us free… When we offer our first fruits to God (not our left overs) it is a form of worship. Just as the Israelites were instructed to offer their first fruits from their harvest or from their livestock, to offer from their unblemished best, it was in worship to God. The same is true for us. When we willingly and joyfully offer from our best, from our first, it is in worship to our God, it is spiritual, it is holy, it is Eucharistic. Giving is not a one-time thing or a sometime thing, it is a way of life. As God continues to give and bless, we continue to give and bless, every Sunday after Sunday as we bring our worship offerings forward to the altar. /As I mentioned, God doesn’t really need our treasure. But by giving a portion of it we learn to trust in Him, that He will provide all of our needs like the two poor widows in last week’s readings. In reference to our new Church building: you know God could touch a billionaire to finance the whole thing (he could write a check on the spot!). Why doesn’t He do this? Because He allows us as a community to come together, to offer our blessings as one body, which in turn teaches us to trust in Him and it also binds us closer together as family in Christ. And it allows us to take pride in our community here at Resurrection, what we will accomplish together. Like some of you, my wife and I have been actively pledging since 2006. With God’s grace we increased our initial pledge, finished that off, now we have started a new one. Giving is a way of life, a form of worship, it is spiritual, it is holy, it sets us free and teaches us to trust in God who provides all things. Giving is for our own good.
These are the 3 legs of the “eternity list”: prayer, service and giving. It needs all 3 legs to stand. It will not stand if it does not have all 3. But the key to living all 3 is gratitude. Our level of gratitude will always determine our level of generosity and how we live the “eternity list”. It depends on how much we realize and are grateful for what God has done for us and is doing for us. In the 2nd reading from Hebrews we heard of the one true sacrifice for our sins by the cross of Christ. When we are truly thankful for this priceless gift of salvation offered to us, it is then that we will live the eternity list with joyful enthusiasm. When we fully realize and are thankful for all that God provides for us every day of our lives, it is then that we will desire to live prayer, service and giving.
So the question is, “If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?” You see, there are two different outcomes. In the 1st reading from Daniel it said about the end, “Some shall live forever…shining brightly like the stars forever…but some shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” And Jesus said in the Gospel, The Son of Man (Jesus) will send out the angels and gather His elect” (referring to the ones who live prepared). How we live the “spiritual bucket list” the “eternity list” will determine the outcome.
When will the end come? Jesus said in the Gospel, “Of that day or hour, no one knows.” If we pray, serve and give, we will be ready!
On Sunday November 1st the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and on Monday November 2nd the Solemnity of All Souls.
All Saints, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was instituted by Pope Boniface IV in 615 and has been celebrated on November 1st since about A.D. 731 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of all saints especially those who have not been assigned a day in the Church Calendar.
All Souls Day is a day of solemn prayer for all the departed souls that was established by St. Odilo in A.D. 998. It was accepted by Rome in the 13th century.
These two great solemnities give us hope. In All Saints we honor all who have made it to heaven, those known and those unknown. We have the hope that if we also live as true disciples of Christ we too will be counted among the saints honored on this day. And it gives us hope knowing that we are not alone but we have those in heaven praying for us as we journey through this life as the pilgrim people of God.
All Souls gives us hope, the hope that by our prayers our loved ones, who may be in Purgatory, will be helped in their quest for heaven. And it gives us the hope that we too will be prayed for when we are in need.
As members of Christ’s Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we are reminded by these two great feasts that we are part of the entire body of Christ: the Church on Earth (Militant), the Church in Purgatory (Suffering), and the Church in heaven (Triumphant). As we journey through this life let us always remember that this life is only a passing through and that we are citizens of heaven!
Strive to be saints on earth so that we will someday be saints in heaven!
October 31, 2015
Romans 11:1-2A, 11-12, 25-29; Psalm 94; Luke 14:1, 7-11
Our readings this morning once again teach us a lesson in humility. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear about how the chosen people of Israel rejected the offer of salvation and how it is now offered to the Gentiles (non-Jews). This is known as the plan of salvation, that all people be given a chance to accept eternal life. The lesson of humility is in the scripture from our 1st reading, “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you will not become wise in your own estimation.” In other words, we as Gentiles must always remember that the Jews were 1st then the Gentiles. We must always remember we are very, very fortunate that the offer of salvation comes to us after the Jews, through Christ, that we are “grafted” into the chosen people of God. When we remember this it will help keep us humble, “not wise in our own estimation.”
And in the Gospel the lesson in humility continues. Jesus tells the parable of the invited guests at a wedding banquet who “choose the places of honor at the table.” The wedding banquet in the scriptures represents the Kingdom of God which we are all invited to. Jesus warns us to stay humble in the Kingdom by not always wanting to be first. He teaches us to not think of ourselves better than anyone else, anyone in our own parish, or in any other church in the world. This is in imitation of Himself who lowered Himself before all.
It has been said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” In other words, true humility is not walking around with your head lowered saying “Woe is me, look at me I’m humble” No, true humility is knowing that it is God who has accomplished everything through us and it is God who has raised us up.
And the way we stay humble is living a life of gratitude, knowing that all blessings are from God and thanking Him every day for those blessings. When we live a life of gratitude we will remain humble in our thoughts, words and deeds.
So I close with the words of Jesus at the end of today’s Gospel, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Oct (17) 18, 2015
29th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30, Sun 4:30
Isaiah 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
This Sunday’s readings and message are about Christian service & Christian sacrifice…There’s a story of a man leaving mass one Sunday as the priest was standing at the door greeting everyone and shaking hands. As the gentleman came by, the priest grabbed his hand and said to him, “You need to join the army of the Lord!” To which the gentleman replied, “I’m already in the army of the Lord.” The priest looked puzzled and said, “Then how come I don’t see you around Church serving?” The man replied, “Because I’m in the Secret Service.” We are all called to Christian service. Diaconia is the Greek word for service, which we get the word “deacon.” But not only deacons, all the Baptized are called as servants as followers of Christ.
The first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah Chapter 53, which is part of the section known as “The Suffering Servant.” In this reading we hear about an individual, called a servant, who according to the Lord’s will, would suffer and take on the guilt or the sins of many. This was written about 700 years before the birth of Christ but we as Catholic Christians see this as a prophecy that Jesus would fulfill when He took all sin on His holy body upon the cross. He accepted suffering and death as a servant of God for the good of others.
In the second reading from Hebrews we hear about Jesus, the Son of God, serving as the high priest. In Old Testament times once a year the high priest alone would go into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, and offer sacrifice on behalf of the people’s sins. He would offer the blood of bulls or goats. But the high priest would have to do this year after year, over and over. The scripture said Jesus is the great high priest meaning that He is the final, the last high priest ever needed. After His sacrifice on the cross no other blood sacrifice would be necessary. Because the blood that He offered was His own precious blood.
This is the gift of all gifts, the priceless, immeasurable gift, offered by Christ the servant High Priest. Jesus took our sins on His holy body so we would have an opportunity for eternal life! He took our place on the cross, He took our shame and our guilt. But this priceless, tremendous gift requires a response…We are all offered this gift and we all have a choice: to accept it or to reject it. Jesus will not force Himself on us…If we reject His offer He will let us walk away, He will respect our free will. But if we choose to accept it, if we choose life, then we also choose to be His disciple. And as His disciple we are called to be a servant for the good of others just as He was. In Baptism we are configured to Christ in the common priesthood (to offer sacrifices as a priest), configured to Christ as a prophet (who spreads the Gospel by word and by deed), and as king (servant king as Christ was servant King).
But this call to be servant and sacrifice was not easy for the disciples in the time of Jesus as it is not easy for us today. It is not easy because it is opposite of what the world thinks. The world tells us you are great if others serve you. But Jesus tells us true greatness is found when we serve others. In the Gospel Jesus had just finished teaching the disciples for the third time that His followers were called to imitate Him in service and in sacrifice but James and John request, “Grant that we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus’ response is, “You do not know what you are asking.” In other words, “I just told you that service and sacrifice are required of my disciples and you want places of honor!” When Jesus hung upon the cross in ultimate self-gift, what was to the right and to the left of Him? Crosses just like His! You see, just like the disciples in the Gospel, many people today do not get this concept and calling of true, authentic discipleship that includes servanthood and sacrifice. When we are baptized we are signed on the forehead with the sign of the cross, marking us for service in Christ. People wear a crucifix around their neck. Do they know what it stands for? That it means that I am a disciple of Christ, a servant for the good of others, dying to myself. This is what it means to be an authentic disciple of Christ.
When we come into relationship with the servant high priest, Jesus Christ, when we accept His gift on the cross daily we will naturally choose to serve as He served. Service is a sign in our lives of our love and thanksgiving for Him. We will look for opportunities to serve. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received gifts, use them to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” With Christ the Servant dwelling in us we will use our gifts, talents and blessings in service for the sake of others and for the Kingdom…A recent example: Last Saturday night the Knights of Columbus put on a very successful Columbus Day Spaghetti & Meatball dinner with over 300 people in attendance. This dinner didn’t just happen…it took planning meetings, and volunteers to serve as set-up, as cooks, as cashiers, as servers, and as clean-up. My brother Knights, their wives and children joyfully shared their time as servants for the good of others. All the proceeds are going to our new Church building and to Knights of Columbus charities. And the fellowship and community building was invaluable. This is one example of service in and through Christ bearing good fruit…In our everyday lives, as disciples of Christ, we should look for opportunities to serve as He served, in our homes, at work, and in our parish. At home we can treat our family members as if we are doing it for Jesus. We do things, little things, not expecting anything back in return. Maybe we clean up after others without complaining. Maybe we do chores that normally are done by the other. Maybe we do things out of the ordinary for the other as a pleasant surprise and as a blessing. My wife doesn’t ask me, but I make sure her car is clean and gets its regular maintenance, I fill her tank with gas (I don’t even think she knows she has a gas gauge). I do this because the love Jesus has placed inside of me for her comes out in loving service. The same is when we love our God, it will be manifested in loving service unto Him and His Church...At work we can show them the servant Christ by doing little things for people, by assisting them and blessing them in whatever way we can, all without being asked…And in our parish community we serve as Christ in ministry, we give of our time and talents inside mass and outside mass. Not because we have to or are forced to, but because we want to as Christ did. Configured to Christ as priests, we here at Resurrection offer a portion of our treasure in sacrifice to keep the daily needs of the Church provided for. And we offer a portion of our treasure in sacrifice for our new church building knowing that our sacrifice is helping build up the people of God, that it will draw more and more souls to God and to His Kingdom as a form of evangelization. Not all of us can give the same. We are not asked to. It is not equal giving but equal sacrifice…Guidance in Giving has been telling a story at the campaign receptions that illustrates this perfectly. On a previous campaign at another church there was a family that pledged some odd amount of $34.33 a month. This was so odd that they had to ask the family why this uneven amount? They said that they discussed it together and they prayed about it and that they would sacrifice their cable TV for 3 years and $34.33 was what their cable bill was every month. That amount means just a much in the eyes of God as someone who can afford to give $200 a month! Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice.
When I see people serving in our parish in one way or another I always tell them what I seen on a Christian tee-shirt years ago, “Serving the Lord doesn’t pay much, but the pension plan is out of this world!” That’s true, we are serving not for this life but for the next…But that saying also is NOT true in a sense…We DO get paid a lot when we offer our lives in service and sacrifice: we receive joy only Jesus can give, we receive His peace that passes all understanding, and we receive contentment that can only be found in self-gift for the sake of others. Remember last week’s Gospel in reference to sacrifice, “You will receive a hundred times more now in this present age.” We do get blessed much in this life and still we have a pension plan that is out of this world!
Service is not always convenient and sometimes we just don’t feel like doing it. That’s when we need to call on the Lord for His grace and He will provide it.
And so in closing, we have been offered the priceless, unthinkable gift of eternal life won for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, the servant High Priest. If we choose to accept it, if we choose life, then we also choose to be His disciple. And as His disciple, configured to Him in Baptism, we are called to be servants for the good of others just as Christ who told us in the Gospel today, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” We are called to do no less. We are called to be not in the Secret Service, but servants for all the world to see for the glory of God!
The readings on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about the wisdom of God. In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which was not written by but attributed to King Solomon, we hear him pray for and choose wisdom over health, good looks and wealth.
In the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews we hear from where wisdom can be found, “Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
And in the Gospel, the rich man turns away from the wisdom of Jesus because His teaching is difficult.
The wisdom of God is offered to us, through His word and through His Church. The question for us is, “Will we turn away from it or will we whole heartedly accept it and live it?” The wisdom of God does not make sense to the rest of the world but for us who seek it and accept it, in it we find the way to eternal life.
The scripture says “seek and you shall find.” If we seek God’s wisdom it will be given to us. It just depends on how much we desire it. Disciples of Christ, seek it, it is priceless!
The readings on the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time are about the covenant relationship of the Sacrament of Marriage. In the first reading from Genesis, which means “in the beginning”, we hear that God created marriage from the very beginning as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman. This relationship was to be between two equals as companions for life.
In the Gospel Jesus raises this relationship to a sacrament, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” This covenant relationship is between the man and the woman but it has one more, God Himself. The marriage covenant is between three in the form of a triangle: God at the top point with the husband and wife on the bottom points as equals. The closer the husband and wife come to God the closer they move up the triangle to each other and their covenant relationship grows stronger.
The Gospel naturally flows into the subject of children. Marriage is for two reasons as per the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1601,”The matrimonial covenant…is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring…”Marriage is to be open to children, blessings from the Lord.
The 2nd reading from Hebrews ties it all together, “Jesus, for a little while, was made lower than the angels, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Jesus is our example in all things and also in the Sacrament of Marriage, which is the sacrament of commitment but also of service. In marriage the husband and wife are to be Christ to each other, to “lower” themselves in loving service, to die to self. In this they become a sacrament, a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
Traditional marriage today is under severe attack. The best way we can defend and promote traditional marriage is by living holy, sacramental marriages. God created it from the beginning then raised it to sacrament. Defend it, promote it, live it!
October 3, 2015
Sat 8 am
Bar 4:5-12, 27-29; Ps 69:33-37; Lk 10:17-24
Our first reading is from the Book of Baruch, who was the well-known secretary of the Prophet Jeremiah. Our reading is taken from the 4th Chapter of the book and the chapter is entitled “Jerusalem bewails and consoles her captive children.” This reflects on when the chosen people of God were held captive in exile in Babylon. Jerusalem is seen as the “mother of all the exiles” who mourns over her children. It was believed the people were in this predicament because of what we heard in the reading, “For you provoked your maker with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods. You forsook the Eternal God who nourished you.”
We as Christians see a parallel in the Blessed Mother or the Church that bewails over her children who have forsaken the one true God for false idols. All of us at times may fall into this category. But the Blessed Mother and the Church tells us the same that was told to the people in exile in Babylon, “Fear not, my children; call out to God! Turn now ten times the more to seek Him.” This is a message of hope! It’s a message we hear during Advent and Lent, but it is good to hear, good to be reminded any time of the year: that we must continually repent, turn away from false gods, turn our hearts back to the one true God who will always receive us with open arms!
The Psalm continues this message in the refrain, “The Lord listens to the poor.” - The poor in spirit, who totally turn to and cry out to the Lord God. The Psalm said, “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive!” Those who seek and humble themselves before the Lord, those who turn to Him for mercy will be re-born again and again, will be made new!
And in the Gospel Jesus tells the 72 disciples who returned from mission, “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In other words, God will do mighty things through those who are filled with His Spirit. But don’t rejoice in the works, rejoice because of His mercy that we are counted among His people.
God has revealed these things not to the wised of this world but to the childlike: the ones who are as innocent as a little child. As Jesus told the disciples He tells us, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Rejoice because we have seen salvation in Jesus Christ! We have experienced His love and mercy! So we continue to turn our hearts back to Him as the scripture said, “Ten times the more!”
September 20, 2015
25th Sun Ordinary Time
Sunday 8am, 10am & 4:30pm
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom which was written only about a ½ century before the birth of Christ. It describes the thoughts and feelings of the people in the world at that time who were not living their faith and how they felt about the ones who did. We heard, “The wicked say: Let us beset (to attack or harass) the just one, because he is obnoxious to us…With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test…Let us condemn him to a shameful death.” We as Catholic Christians see this reading from Wisdom as a foreshadow or a prophecy of what was to be done to Jesus, the Just One, by the wicked or the unbelievers. In the Gospel, for the 2nd Sunday in a row, Jesus predicts His passion and death that would fulfill this prophecy in Wisdom, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill Him.”
But as always, as on every Sunday, we need to look deeper into the readings to reflect on what the message is for us today in our lives here in 2015. *The first reading from Wisdom portrays the world’s or earthly thinking versus heavenly or Godly thinking. And as always, the first reading prepares us for the Gospel. In today’s Gospel passage, right after Jesus taught the disciples for the 2nd time that He would be handed over, tortured and killed for the sake of others He finds them thinking and talking about earthly, selfish things. He asks them, “What were you arguing about?...They had been discussing among themselves who was the greatest.” You see, the disciples had been walking closely with Jesus as He taught them about heavenly things yet they were still thinking as the world or as unbelievers. They were arguing about who was better than who and who was higher than who. They failed to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. They failed to connect being a disciple of Christ with suffering (as we heard in last week’s readings), servanthood, and self-denial following in His example. Jesus is teaching them about the necessity of self-denial and service and all they can think about is power and prestige (what’s in it for me)…*You can almost see Jesus stop in His tracks and rub His forehead thinking to Himself “These guys are not ready to be my disciples and to preach the Gospel!” He stops them right then and there and explains very plainly to them the basic principle of true Christian discipleship, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” *His point to them and to us is: greatness in the Kingdom of God is found in self-gift, and in humble service to others and to the Church. This is totally opposite of worldly thinking which is: more power, wealth, pleasure, more for me, live for the moment, move up the ladder. While, on the other hand, discipleship is humbly submitting to the will of God, it’s about service for the sake of others, it is about giving up status, it is about moving down the ladder as Christ showed us.
Bishop Robert Barron who was just ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has a great example about climbing the ladder of success. He says “Some people work hard at climbing the ladder, striving after worldly success and material things, pleasure and comfort, thinking only of themselves. At the end they turn and see a different ladder, and they realize in horror that all of their life they were climbing the wrong ladder!” They were climbing the one that was temporary, finite, the one that would pass away. They failed to climb the one that leads to eternal life, the only one that matters.
So we ask ourselves, which ladder are we climbing? Do we think more like the world with selfish ambitions and desires as James talks about in the 2nd reading or is our thinking in line with Christ and His will?...Basically there are 3 types of people: (1) the unbeliever who denies the existence of God or who doesn’t care that He exists; (2) the true disciple who lives their life in the will of God, using their blessings of time, talent and treasure in service for others and the Kingdom; (3) the lukewarm, neither hot or cold, who have one foot on one side and the other foot on the other side, sometimes living as a believer but sometimes not…There’s a very good Christian movie that came out a few weeks ago called “War Room” (I highly encourage you to see it – homework!) About 40 of us from Resurrection went to see it on opening night. (Spoiler alert) – In the movie a young woman, who is a wife and a mother, and who is a real estate agent comes over to an elderly lady’s home who wants to sell her house. The elderly lady, whose name is Miss Clara, first wants to get to know the young woman so she bluntly asks her if she goes to Church. The young woman answers “Well yeah, most of the time.” Miss Clara raises her eyebrows then continues to probe about the young lady’s faith making her squirm in her chair. Then Miss Clara asks her if she would like a cup of coffee. The young lady says yes, so Miss Clara brings over a tray with 2 cups. She hands her guest a cup who takes a sip and almost spits it out and says, “This is lukewarm! It’s not hot at all. Is this how you like your coffee?!!” Miss Clara chuckles a little and says, “Mine is hot.” Then she quotes the scripture in Revelation, “The Lord says, I know your works, I know that you are neither cold nor hot…So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” *This is what we in the Church must be fully aware of, that we must NOT be only lukewarm, going through the motions, one foot in the world and one foot in the Church. We must be all-in for the Kingdom, in the way we think and in the way we live! We are called to live our lives to the best of our abilities with the grace we are given in humble service in the example of Christ. In Baptism we are made one with Christ who came to serve and not to be served. Each of us is challenged to respond to Jesus’ call by a life of discipleship in service, using our unique gifts and talents in the circumstances of our lives.
A true disciple, climbing the ladder that leads to eternal life lives life not with the thinking of the world but with the mind of Christ and the attitude of Christ. Three examples of worldly thinking vs heavenly thinking: (1) Worldly Thinking - My time is my time. I will spend it how I want, when I want, doing what I feel like doing, it’s my time…Godly thinking – God has blessed me with life itself and with each day. In joyful gratitude I offer a portion of my time to Him in prayer, in service in ministry, in helping where I can and volunteering. A great example of this is the 600 plus stewards (volunteers) that signed up to help with the Capital Campaign just recently. And also all the stewards who have given and continue to give of their time in all of the ministries in our faith community. (2) Worldly thinking – I know I have talents but I’ll just keep them to myself…Godly thinking – I will offer my God-given talents to use for His glory in whatever way I can. (3) Worldly thinking – I work hard for my money. My money is my money! Song by rapper Snoop Dog – “Laid back with my mind on my money and my money on my mind”...Godly thinking – The Lord has blessed me with everything I have and has given me my job and the ability to earn a living. In gratitude I joyfully offer a prayed about portion of my earnings each and every Sunday at the collection, I help the less-fortunate, and I offer my monthly pledge for the new Church, all for His glory and for the good of my brothers and sisters now and for the future. I know I can’t out give God. I trust in Him who provides all of my needs.
But how do we possibly do this in our humanness, when we have desires and passions that are selfish and self-serving, and when we want to be first and recognized by the world? Jesus tells us the secret in the Gospel: the innocence of a child. In other words, come to the Father who waits with open arms. Come to Him as an innocent child, who trusts in their father to provide their every need. Come to the Father and through His Spirit He will give you the mind and the attitude of Christ.
In closing, which ladder are we climbing? That depends on our way of thinking. Is it worldly thinking (Bishop Brom calls “stinkin thinkin”) or is it Godly thinking?...*Jesus stops us right now in our tracks and explains very plainly to us the basic principle of true Christian discipleship, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last and the servant of all.” This is complete opposite what the world tells us but it is the way to true greatness and to eternal life!
So His message for us this Sunday is: greatness is found in self-gift, and in humble service which is Godly, heavenly thinking, which is all-in for the Kingdom of God.
I got my mind on Jesus and Jesus on my mind!
Sept 12, 2015
Sat 8 am
Most Holy Name of Mary
1 Tim 1:15-17; Ps 113:1-7; Lk 6:43-49
Today the Church celebrates the Most Holy Name of Mary. God the Father raised Mary in His plan of salvation and has given her name honor, a holy name, a maternal name. We worship the name of Jesus but we honor the name of Mary in her many titles.
In our readings this morning we hear the simple but powerful proclamation of the Gospel and how we are to live once we have accepted it…In the 1st reading St. Paul gives it to us straight and direct, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” It’s as simple as that! That’s why the Father sent His Son, because without Him there was or is no way to be saved from eternal damnation…St. Paul goes on to admit that he was the worst of sinners and through the mercy of God he has been redeemed. And that must be our first step, to admit that we are sinners and that we need the mercy of God received only through Jesus Christ.
And once we have admitted our sinfulness and have received the mercy of God we live our lives proclaiming today’s Psalm, “Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and forever.” Once we have received his mercy, we live a life that glorifies God with joy in every aspect, everywhere we go: in our homes, at work, in our faith communities and out in the world. People should know there is something different about us. They should recognize it and when they do, they will want it.
When people know that we are Catholic Christians, redeemed by the Savior, they are watching us. We are an ambassador for Christ and for the Gospel. That’s why Jesus said in today’s Gospel passage, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” That’s why we must always bear good fruit, in every situation in our lives. The only way we can do that is what Jesus told us this morning, “Build your house on the rock foundation of Christ, listen to His words and act on them.” In other words, stay connected to Jesus, the source of our faith, the strength that we need to be His ambassadors. Keep connected to Him in prayer, His Word, the sacraments and fellowship with other believers. If we do this we will be equipped to live a life proclaiming, “Blessed be the name of the Lord forever!”
Mary, Queen of Heaven and earth, pray for us…
On the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah at a time when Israel was about to be invaded by the powerful and warlike empire of Assyria around 700 BC. As you can imagine the people of Israel were very frightened. But Isaiah proclaims, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes to save you…The eyes of the blind will be opened…streams will burst forth in the desert.” In other words, don’t be afraid, trust in God, He will come to you, He will be with you and He will bless you.
In the Gospel we see Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy. God does come, in Jesus, and He is with His people and He does open the eyes and ears of those who trust in Him.
The Gospel said Jesus entered the “district of the Decapolis” which was a Gentile (non-Jew) area. This marks a dramatic shift in Jesus’ public ministry. Up to this point He had ministered only to the people of Israel. Here He turns toward the Gentiles. This is highlighted in the 2nd reading from James, “Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith.” In other words, the Kingdom of God and all its blessings are open and available to all!
As disciples of this Jesus who came and still comes to all who are frightened, to all who need healing and comfort, we need to trust in Him, not be afraid and believe that He is with us in all our situations of life. And we need to bring others to Him as it said in today’s Gospel passage, “And people brought to Him a deaf man…and begged Him to lay His hand on him.”
Be strong (in Him), fear not because He is with you!
On the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy God speak through Moses to the people just before He was to enter into covenant with them through the giving of the Law.
In the Gospel Jesus chastises the scribes and Pharisees for being more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of the law quoting the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
The reading from James makes sense out of both readings, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”
As disciples of Christ Jesus, we are not only to hear His words but we are to believe them, trust in them and then act on them. We are to remember that it is not so important to keep every little letter of the law but more important to keep its spirit. We do that by allowing the Word of God and teaching of the Church to guide us in our thinking and in our everyday actions. A true disciple puts the law into practice by loving God and loving neighbor in stewardship of His many gifts. A true disciple honors God not only with empty words but with actions coming from the heart.
Be doers of the word!
Aug 22, 2015
Sat 8 am
Queenship of Mary
Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11, 4:13-17; Psalm 128:1-5; Matt 23:1-12
Today the Church celebrates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven & Earth. Last Saturday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary and now on the Octave of that feast we celebrate her Queenship…Pope Pius XII established this feast in 1954 proclaiming in his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, “Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.”…But even though Mary is Queen of Heaven & Earth, she is always for us a model of humility. This leads in perfectly to our readings this morning.
In the 1st reading Ruth, a Gentile (non-Jew), after her Jewish husband dies, could have left her mother-in-law Naomi. But in humility, Ruth stays with Naomi and serves her. The scripture says about Ruth, “She is worth more than seven sons!” Wow, this is quite a statement! And through Ruth, God does something great, He blesses Ruth with a son who is the father of Jesse, the father of David, and eventually Jesus, the Savior.
In the Gospel Jesus shows us the opposite of humility in the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus says, “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Then He says, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
For us, Jesus the “King of kings” and Mary the “Queen of Heaven” are our models to follow in humility. Because they were humble in word and action the Father raised them up to do great things. The same is true for the saints throughout Church history. God did great things through those who submitted to His will. And He will do great things through us if we humble ourselves before Him.
The refrain from the Responsorial Psalm today was “See how the Lord blesses those who fear Him.” Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Spirit, meaning wonder and awe. Fear of the Lord is humbling ourselves before Him in reverence. Through Fear of the Lord in humility God will do great things through us, He will exalt us for His glory!
August 16, 2015
20th Sun Ordinary Time
10 am & 4:30 pm
Proverbs 9:1-6; Eph 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
This is the 4th Sunday in a row the Gospel has been proclaimed from John Chapter 6, the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus as the Bread that came down from heaven.
And to lead into the Gospel today we hear in the first reading from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom who sends out an urgent invitation to come to her banquet where she sets out fine meat and fancy choice wine…The readings today talk a lot about eating, one of my favorite past times. So let me ask you, what is your favorite food? For me, that’s difficult to answer. I’m part Hispanic and part Filipino. On my Mexican side I love carne asada tacos with guacamole, chicken enchiladas, and posole. Then on my Filipino side I love lumpia, poncit, and chicken adobo. And being American, a good burger, a juicy steak or some BBQ baby-backs. Now that you are all starving, after mass you can buy some good food downstairs! These foods are all great, some not so great for you, but they are very tasty. These foods satisfy our physical needs. But the first reading is talking about a banquet with fine meat and choice wine which is symbolic for the best food that there is, heavenly food, Jesus in the Eucharist as the Bread of Life, the food that satisfies our souls. Jesus came down from heaven to die on the cross for us and He continues to be present at every mass in the Eucharist, in the appearance of bread and wine.
As Catholics we are obliged to believe that at the prayer of consecration the Spirit of God transforms the simple bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The sad thing is, is that many do not believe that the Eucharist is truly the flesh and blood of Christ, even some in the Church. We heard in the Gospel, The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ Can you blame them for doubting? This man, as they called Him, was asking them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! To them this was scandalous! They were shocked! Wouldn’t you be? But Jesus didn’t back down or change what He said. He started out “Amen, amen.” Whenever Jesus throws out a double amen or a truly, truly…you know He’s serious! He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” And He still doesn’t back down today from that statement. The Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, is Christ Himself. There’s a saying that goes, “For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. But for those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.”
That’s because it is through faith that we as Catholics believe we are truly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, that it’s not just a symbol. And to help our faith throughout the centuries God has provided us with Eucharistic miracles, tangible, physical proof that this is what He says it is. These are miracles that have been thoroughly investigated and approved by the Church, sometimes taking hundreds of years before they come out with an official declaration. Consecrated hosts have bled, hosts have turned into human flesh and the consecrated wine has turned into goblets of human blood…We even witness undocumented miracles (personal revelations, not investigated or approved by the Church. Take or leave). At the Resurrection High School Winter Retreat about 3 years ago Jesus in the monstrance did a little dance for us. Nobody moved the table or the monstrance. You should have seen the eyes of all who were present!...When Fr. Fernando was here for a healing mass, more hosts came back after Communion (after everyone had received) then were sent out. When someone told Fr. Fernando he wasn’t surprised. He said this has happened before at other healing masses of his…What really strengthens my faith in the Eucharist is what happens every year at the Steubenville San Diego Youth Conference during the Saturday night Eucharistic procession. I have been privileged to be the deacon in the Eucharistic procession that goes through the 5,000 high school teens and the 500 18 to 23 year olds at the USD Jenny Craig Arena. Before the procession starts the place is rocking! 5500 young people who come from all over the western United States screaming at the top of their lungs. The energy in there is amazing! But when the Blessed Sacrament enters, the whole arena goes silent with total respect and reverence. You can hear a pin drop. The spot light is on the monstrance as it is carried up and down the aisles. And I am truly touched and my faith is strengthened so much as I see the faces of all the young people in the spotlight, tears in their eyes, on their knees reaching out to Jesus in worship. Some crying, some sobbing, some even faint in the Spirit. If this isn’t Jesus, why would these young people (teenagers & young adults) act this way?
As Catholics we must fully realize that we are rich and blessed beyond measure! We have the Sacred Word, we have Sacred Apostolic Tradition, and we have the Body and Blood of Christ! God Himself, present at every mass, present in the monstrance for adoration, and present in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Why would anybody leave the Catholic Church? Because they do not realize what they have! Why would anybody say mass is boring? Because they do not fully realize what is happening during mass, that God Himself is speaking to us in His Word and God Himself is made present to us in the Eucharist.
So after receiving Jesus, the Son of God in holy Communion, after becoming one with Him and strengthened by Him…what are we to do next, keep Him to ourselves? No! St. Paul tells us in our 2nd reading, “Make the most of the opportunities.” In other words, take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you to bring Jesus to others by offering your God-given time, talent and treasure. Be aware and alert for these opportunities, looking for them in your daily life. We have many opportunities in our personal lives to share Jesus in thanksgiving and gratitude (at home, in school, at work), as well as here in our faith community (in ministry, in the love offering each week at mass, and in the building of our new church). God has given all of us here in this faith community at this point in time the opportunity to be part of something great – the building of our new church! The Eucharist binds us together as the Body of Christ. We are all in this together. We are so close! But it is going to take every member of this community to offer our time, talent and treasure to complete this great opportunity provided for us by the Lord. The Eucharist binds us together in love and together we can do it for the glory of God!
And we do all this with joyful and thankful hearts because of all that God has done for us, especially His self-giving in the Eucharist. As Jesus continues to give Himself at every mass, we do not give just one time and we are done. We also continue to give over and over in imitation of Christ as a way of life. It has been said, when God stops giving to you, then you can stop giving. Guess what? God never stops giving to us. So you know what that means?!! And God always provides all of our needs because when we bless we get blessed even more.
So in closing, as I started out at the beginning, Lady Wisdom sends out an urgent invitation to the banquet of all banquets, the food of all foods, the Table of the Lord. It is a choice to accept this invitation. But not only to accept it but to believe what it really is…the true Body and Blood of Christ Himself. And after we receive Him, go out with Him and live as Him in your words and in your actions. Because in receiving Him in faith, you are the Body of Christ, you are a walking, talking tabernacle that is connected to the rest of the Body, which is the Church.
Jesus is the living Bread that came down from heaven and He continues to be made present to us most significantly in the Eucharist to dwell in you and in me!...If you believe that let me hear an Amen! If you really believe that on 3 let me hear a double Amen…1, 2, 3…Amen! Amen! Now I know you are serious!!
On the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time the Bread of Life discourse continues from John Chapter 6.
The first reading from the First Book of Kings points us to the Gospel. Elijah had just finished battling with the false prophets and is on the run from King Ahab and his foreign wife Jezebel. He is afraid for his life and is at the end of his rope when he prays to the Lord, “That is enough, O Lord! Take my life!” He is at a moment of weakness and feels like he cannot go on any further…Don’t we feel like this at times? When we are tired and weak from the battle and at the end of our rope? Do we perhaps feel like giving up? But the Lord sends an angel to Elijah to provide heavenly food to strengthen him to continue on. He does the same for us…
This of course leads us to the Gospel where Jesus proclaims, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” As disciples of Christ, we must receive this living bread, the Eucharist, so that we will be strengthened for the journey and for the battle. Without it we will be too weak to continue and we may be over taken by the enemy and by the world.
St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Be imitators of God and live in love as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering.” Strengthened by the Eucharist we will be equipped to live as Christ in self-sacrifice in good stewardship of our gifts for the sake of the Kingdom.
Jesus is the Bread of Life, the heavenly food provided for us. Let us partake in Him as often and as worthily as we can, for our good and for the good of the world.
The Gospel for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time picks up in John Chapter 6 where last week’s Gospel left off. On the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time we heard the beginning of John Chapter 6 (Multiplication of the Loaves). Starting this Sunday and for the next three Sundays we will hear from John’s “Bread of Life Discourse” which will take us through the end of John Chapter 6.
In the first reading from Exodus the people of Israel had been set free from slavery and were now in the desert where they start to complain and grumble. How soon they forgot the mighty acts of God which they had witnessed! But God hears their cry and provides food from heaven. In this heavenly food we see a foreshadow of Christ Himself who would come down from heaven.
In the Gospel Jesus says about Himself, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the heavenly food in Exodus, He is the very Bread of Life!
We also are like the Israelites at times. We forget the mighty acts of God that we have witnessed and we complain and grumble like those who live in the world. St. Paul calls us to conversion and a new way of thinking in the 2nd reading, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds…put away the old self of your former way of life…and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
As disciples of Christ, we must never forget all the mighty things God has done for us and the things we have witnessed large and small, and the way He provides for our every need. And most importantly, how He provides the Bread from Heaven at every mass, Jesus in the Eucharist, the heavenly food that sustains us.
As disciples let us live in thanksgiving because we trust in Jesus’ words, “I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus truly satisfies!
July 19, 2015
16th Sun in Ord Time
Sun 8 & 10 am
Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
When the 1st reading starts with the word “Woe” look out! The Lord says, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.” The kings in ancient Israel were thought of as shepherds for the people in political as well as religious matters. They were falling short in this obligation. But Jeremiah prophecies of a “Good Shepherd”, a true shepherd, who will come and who will care for those entrusted to Him. The Lord says, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock…and bring them back to their meadow; there they will increase and multiply.”
In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians we see the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Christ Himself. St. Paul proclaims, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” It is Jesus who is the Good Shepherd who gathers His people as the true shepherd, who guides and protects His flock. And unlike the Israelite kings and leaders who were only concerned for themselves, Jesus gave His life for His sheep in self-sacrifice.
The Gospel continues from last week where Jesus had sent the 12 out 2 by 2 into ministry and mission. In this week’s Gospel the 12 have returned and we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd in two ways: (1st) He tries to take the 12 to a deserted place to rest, to refresh them and care for them. And (2nd) the people find them and the scripture says, “Jesus’ heart was moved with pity, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
Jesus sacrifices His own needs for the needs of others. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who guides and protects those entrusted to Him in His care. He provides every need for them for their good and for their well-being. *And we as disciples of Christ, configured to Him in Baptism, we are called to imitate Him and to serve as shepherds for those entrusted to us in our care. In other words we are to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us. A steward is one who manages and cares for something belonging to another. Everything belongs to God but He has entrusted them to us to be His steward in caring for these things.
So the question is: What has been entrusted to us and how are we to shepherd them in imitation of Christ? First, what has been entrusted to our care is ourselves, particularly our body and more importantly, our soul. Our very being is a gift from God and it has been entrusted to us to care for it. We care for our body because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We care for our body by trying to eat healthy and exercise and we try to get enough rest. Our body is important but it is finite. It has an expiration date. Our soul is even more important because it will last forever. We care for our soul by feeding it spiritually healthy things: the Word of God, prayer and worship, the sacraments, and fellowship with other believers. In care for our body and our soul we must have balance. There’s a great quote by St. Augustine, “Take care of your body as if you will live forever, take care of your soul as if you will die tomorrow.” Great advice!
What else has been entrusted to us? Our vocation, our calling has been entrusted to us…All are called to at least 1 of 3 vocations: First, some are called to the vocation of single life. Nurture this vocation, serve God in it to the best of your ability with the grace of God and with the gifts He has entrusted to you. Second, some men are called to the vocation of Holy Orders and some men and women are called to Religious Consecrated life. Hear and answer that call (young people). Serve God in it with the strength of Christ. Nurture this vocation as a precious gift to yourselves and to the Church. And third, most are called to the vocation of Marriage. Care for your marriage as your highest priority on this earth. Care for your Marriage in the shape of a triangle with God at the top point and the husband and wife on an equal plane at the two bottom points. If both spouses put God first in their lives they will move up the triangle closer to God and as a result they will move closer to each other. Care for your marriage by praying together, by serving each other, communicate with each other and respect and lift up each other. And have fun, laugh together and go on dates! Most importantly, help each other be holy and help each other get to heaven. The union of one man and one woman in the Sacrament of Marriage is a holy sign of Christ’s love for His Church. And it has been entrusted to married couples to show case for the world.
Our children are entrusted to us in our care, they belong to God but are on loan to us. They are a gift from God. I know, sometimes you may feel like giving back those gifts (LOL). But seriously, they are a gift entrusted to your stewardship, to bring them up in faith and morals. When you brought your child to the Church for baptism you were asked, “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith…Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” And you answered “I do.” You made a vow to God that you would raise your child in the faith. The Church teaches that, “Parents are the first and foremost teachers of the faith.” Teach them by word and by your example to love God and love neighbor. Teach them by word and example to be good stewards of all of God’s gifts by sharing them with others. Teach them right from wrong in the truth of the Gospel and Church teaching, and to respect everyone and to treat everyone the way they would like to be treated. Pray with them and play with them. The family that prays & plays together stays together…Our main responsibility as parents is to keep our children on the path that leads to salvation. Both parents are important in the shepherding of their children but the father’s role in the family is vital. It is a proven fact that if the father takes the leadership role in the faith and morals of his children, they have a much greater chance at success in living a well-rounded, productive, Christian life. That’s one of the main reasons we started the Men of The Resurrection Spiritual Group, because the man is the key. Where the man leads the family will follow.
Your faith community has been entrusted to your care…God has entrusted into your care the stewardship of your parish. He wants you to take ownership of it. Make it your own. When you rent a car, you really don’t care how dirty it gets or if the tires wear down. You don’t own it. You will be giving it back in a few days anyway. But when you own your car, especially when it’s new, you care for it, you make sure it’s clean, you park it a mile away so no one will come close to it, you make sure the tires are rotated and it gets regular maintenance. You care for it because it’s yours! In the same way God has entrusted your parish to you. Take ownership of it. Do whatever you can for its success and well-being by supporting it financially and by serving it in ministry by offering your time and your talents. That goes for all of us no matter how long we have been here, whether you are a new parishioner or if you have been here for a while. The success of this faith community has been entrusted to our care.
And lastly, we have been entrusted with the care of this planet, the environment, as highlighted in the new encyclical by Pope Francis called “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home.”
These are just a few examples of what has been entrusted to our care as shepherds: our body and soul, our vocation, our children, our faith community and our environment. But to be effective shepherds we must intimately know the Good Shepherd, Jesus. To be self-sacrificing and to show concern for the flock as Christ, we must get strength, guidance and wisdom from Him. There’s a saying, “When you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd.” We must know the Good, Shepherd to be a good shepherd.
And so I close with the 1st verse from today’s reading from Jeremiah written to the leaders of Israel and also to us, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.”
When the 1st reading starts with “Woe” look out!
July 11, 2015
Sat 8 am
Gen 49:29-32, 50:15-26a; Ps 105:1-7; Matt 10:24-33
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot and
founder of the Benedictines, and who is considered to be the “Patriarch of Western Monasticism”. St. Benedict went home to the Lord in the year 547…St. Benedict is one of my favorite saints because of the Benedictine Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside where my diaconate class made a retreat just before we entered formation. It is truly a place of peace up on the hill. I also try to live by and teach the Benedictine rule of “balance, moderation and obedience” in all things. Just before my class was ordained we were presented with a beautiful Benedictine black crucifix which I will always cherish.
In the readings this week we have been hearing about Joseph, the son of Jacob, and how Joseph and his brothers were reconciled. Today we hear in the 1st reading from the end of the Book of Genesis that the great Patriarch Jacob dies, the father of Joseph and his brothers. And with the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers become fearful as the scripture said, “Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for the wrong we did him!” But Joseph tells them he does not hold a grudge and has fully forgiven them. With this the relationship of Joseph and his brothers is fully healed and they find peace.
In the Gospel Jesus says, “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher.” Jesus is our teacher and we are his disciples. So if we are to be like Him how is that? As Joseph in the Old Testament, who is a prototype of Jesus, forgave, Jesus also forgives. He forgives those who put Him on the cross, bringing reconciliation and peace to all who accept it. So if we as disciples are to be like our teacher and master, we like Jesus must seek to bring reconciliation through forgiveness to those who have hurt us…This is easier said than done.
We can truly forgive only with the grace of God working in us. In the flesh it is the hardest thing to forgive but with the Spirit’s help we can do it. And when we forgive we will find peace and healing, in relationship and within ourselves.
At the end of today’s Gospel passage Jesus says, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” One way of acknowledging Jesus is by living as His disciple in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
St. Benedict – Pray for us!
On the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear that it is not easy to be God’s messenger of the Gospel.
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel the people of Israel were in exile in Babylonia in part due to their rebellion and indifference towards the Lord their God. The scripture said they were, “Hard of face and obstinate of heart.” It was to these people who the Lord called Ezekiel to preach His message. The Lord told Ezekiel to preach His message “Whether they heed or resist.” In other words preach it no matter if they accept it or not.
In the second reading St. Paul tells us to preach God’s message even in times of trial and persecution, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ.”
And in the Gospel even Jesus met opposition from those who knew of Him from their home town, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
As disciples of Christ, configured to Him by virtue of our Baptism as priest and prophet, we are called also to preach the Gospel message whether it is easy or not so easy by word and by deed. We must continue to be a prophet in our world no matter what opposition we meet, out in the world and maybe even within our own family. We must always remember that it shouldn’t matter to us so much if they accept it or not, it is between them and the Lord God. It is our calling and our obligation to keep putting the message out there in our everyday lives in every situation possible.
It’s not always easy to do but as the Lord told St. Paul He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Rely on His power and on His grace!
June (20) 21, 2015
12th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 & Sun 10 am
Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
In honor of Father’s Day there’s a (funny) story about a deacon’s 5 year old daughter who noticed that every time her dad was about to preach he would pause for a few seconds and bow his head before he started. She finally asked her dad about it who was happy and impressed that she noticed. He told her, “Oh, that’s because I stop and pray that the Lord would help me to give a good homily.” The little girl with a confused look asked her deacon dad, “Then why doesn’t He answer you?” LOL
Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from Heaven above,
With wisdom, power and love, our God is an awesome God! (song by Rich Mullins).
It’s true! Our God is awesome, all-powerful and all-mighty. We see this expressed in our first reading from the Book of Job. We all know the story of Job, who was a man of great means, but also a faithful and righteous man who goes through terrible trials and sufferings, and he loses everything. Job yearns for a message or at least a sign from God and finally God answers as the scripture says, “The Lord answered Job out of the storm.” But the Lord’s answer is not what Job expects. He doesn’t explain to Job why he is suffering but asks him instead, “Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb?” In others words, the Lord is saying, “I am all-powerful, even greater than the mighty ocean. I am the creator of all things and master of all.”
So the question for us is “Do we really believe this?” Do we really and truly believe that God is all-powerful and all-mighty? Even when the storms of life hit us?...In the Gospel Jesus was asleep in the boat with the disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. The scripture said, “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up…and Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.” *Doesn’t it seem like that in our lives sometimes? That we are getting hit by a violent storm, the waves are breaking over us and we are praying and pleading, yet it seems that Jesus is totally asleep! But, if we truly believe that God is all-mighty and all-powerful, we will not panic and stress out in the squalls that hit us. We will have faith and trust that Jesus has the power to calm the storm. No matter what happens in life, we can trust that our God is with us and He has the power to prevail. He is the same God who created the universe, He is the same God who separated the Red Sea so His people could cross on dry land, and He is the same God, revealed in Jesus Christ who calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. And He is the same all-powerful God who is with us in our lives - if we allow Him to be. The thing is He is not an intruding or a forceful God but waits to be invited. In the Gospel it said that the disciples, “Took Jesus with them in the boat.” He waits for us to invite Him, to take Him onto our boat (our life), not just during stressful times but every day of our lives. He waits for us to invite Him into our hearts, into our marriages and into our families. When we invite Him along our journey through life every day He will be with us during good times and during hard, difficult times as well.
And when we invite Him, when we trust in His mighty power we (know that we know) that somehow, someway He will work it out for us in His time and in His way. And in the midst of the trial, because of this faith and trust, believe it or not, we can rejoice! In the Old Testament there was a prophet named Habakkuk whose situation was desperate, his world was falling apart and things seemed destitute. And it was during this time in his life that he said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab 3:17-18). *Habakkuk knew what to do especially when things seemed hopeless. He rejoiced and praised God in spite of everything. He knew that his God was bigger than his problems and concerns, and he knew that his God already had a way to calm the storm of his circumstances. Habakkuk was looking beyond his problems to what God could do and would do in his life…When we believe and trust that God is bigger than any storm or situation in our lives we too can rejoice and look forward to what God will do. When trials hit me and my wife, even though we are concerned, we say, “Praise God, we’re excited to see how God will work this one out!!” And He always does! There is a saying that I like that relates to this, “When the doors are closed, praise God in the hallway!” In other words, keep praising Him as you wait for Him to act, knowing and rejoicing that He will act…Whatever situation you find yourself in right now or even in the future, whether it be financial difficulties, health issues, problems with children, kids away from God and the Church, stress at school or work: praise God and know that He is bigger than any situation that the world can throw at you. Don’t give up, even if it seems Jesus is asleep. He is with you and in control…But what about when things don’t turn out the way we would like or hope for? We must believe and know that God loves us more than anything and wants what’s best for us even if it does not make sense to us. He gives us the same answer as He gave Job, “I am all-powerful, I am the creator of all things and master of all. Trust in me.” We can see only part of the picture while God sees the whole thing. Fr. Robert Barron explains it like a beautiful painting, a work of art. Life for us is as if we are looking at the painting from 2” away. We cannot make out what it is and how beautiful it is. But God’s view is back where He sees the whole picture clearly. Even if we can’t understand why, trust in the one who sees the whole picture…Trust in Him as a young child grasps his or her father’s hand as they cross a busy street. The child holds on tightly and does not doubt that their dad will get them safely across to the other side. Trust and hold on tight to the Heavenly Father who will get you safe to the other side.
And when we fully realize that the all-powerful God is with us and He loves us in Christ who died and rose again for our sake, we respond as to what we heard in the 2nd reading, “The love of Christ impels us…so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” With full knowledge of God in His love and His power we are impelled, we are thrust forward to live “no longer for ourselves but for Him” in a life of gratitude in discipleship and in stewardship. Knowing that God is with us, provides for us and cares for us with a Father’s love we joyfully follow the example of Christ in self-sacrificing, loving service to others and to the Church. We are impelled with gratitude to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure as Christ did for the sake of others. St. Paul tells us at the end of the 2nd reading, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.” In other words when we have a personal and intimate knowledge of the all-powerful, all-loving God in Christ, we are made new and we experience life in a new way. We see things differently than the rest of the world. We see Christ in every situation and in every person. We seek not to be served but to serve. We seek not to be given but to give, because we are confident in our God and we have hope and peace now and for eternity.
At the beginning I recited the refrain to the song, “Our God is an awesome.” If you believe that our God is an awesome God, bigger than any problem or concern that the world can throw at us- sing that refrain from your heart with me…The words are:
Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from Heaven above,
With wisdom, power and love, our God is an awesome God!
Ready, sing it on 3: 1, 2, 3… (Awesome!)
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.
In Cycle B’s readings the focus for this feast is on the theme of “covenant”. In the first reading from Exodus Moses ratifies the covenant between God and Israel by offering sacrifices of young bulls. He sprinkles blood from the animals on the altar and on the people. This is a foreshadow of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross.
In the second reading the writer from Hebrews compares the Old Covenant sacrifices to the once and for all sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, “For if the blood of goats and bulls can sanctify those who are defiled how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Jesus, with the final perfect sacrifice, ratified the covenant between God and His people as the writer says, “For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant.”
And in the Gospel Jesus celebrates the Passover of the new covenant in which He is about to become the Passover Lamb who’s blood would be poured out as the final sacrifice offered for many. This final sacrifice is made present to us in the Eucharistic celebration of the mass in the transubstantiated bread and wine into the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
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. And He provides for our every need. But this tremendous love requires a response…What will our response be? The response He is looking for is discipleship in service stemming from our gratitude to Him.
In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy Moses tells us, “You must know and fix in your heart that the Lord is God and that there is no other.” And he tells us, “You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today that you and your children may prosper.” We are called to know, love and serve this God of love and in a life of discipleship we and our family will be blessed beyond measure.
In the second reading from Romans St. Paul tells us that through Baptism we are adopted children of God and as adopted children we have the right to call God “Abba, Father.” And as His children we are heirs to His Kingdom!
And in the Gospel the Lord Jesus gives us as His disciples the great commission to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the response He is looking for, out of love for Him, to serve Him and bring more disciples to Him so that they may also know Him as His children.
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.
The Season of Easter concludes with Pentecost Sunday, the great celebration of the coming of the promised Spirit of God and the birth of His Church.
Pentecost had been celebrated for hundreds of years by ancient Israel remembering the giving of the Law, marking the beginning of the people of God, separating them from other nations and commissioning them to reveal God to the world.
Pentecost is celebrated by Christians as the giving of the Spirit to the new covenant people after the Ascension of the Lord marking the beginning of the Church, separating it from the world, and commissioning it to reveal Jesus the Savior.
In the first reading from the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke describes the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples as a “strong driving wind” and as “tongues of fire.” The strong wind is the same Spirit that hovered over the waters in the Book of Genesis at the beginning. The fire symbolizes transformation enabling the disciples to go from fear to fearless in proclaiming the Good News.
In the second reading from the 1st Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us that there are different gifts but only one Spirit. And that these different gifts given to different believers are for the benefit of the entire body of Christ.
And in the Gospel from John Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” With the Spirit He sends out the disciples to transform the world.
Through Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation we have received the Holy Spirit which enables us to go from fear to fearless in proclaiming the Good News. It is the Spirit that equips us with gifts enabling us to witness for Christ. As disciples of the Risen Lord let us go out transformed by the fire of the Spirit with this strong driving wind behind us to help us and to lead us in the New Evangelization as we reveal Christ Jesus to all the nations.
May 17, 2015
Feast of the Ascension
Sunday 8 am & 4:30 pm
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20
As we get close to the end of the Easter Season we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven 40 days after His resurrection from the dead. This is a feast of hope of what we as Christians look forward to but it is also a very important feast of what we as Catholic Christians are called to in our lives following the Ascension of Christ until He comes again.
St. Luke starts out the Acts of the Apostles addressing a person named Theophilus. But there is debate if this was actually a person because in the Greek “Theo” means “God” and “Phile” means “loved” or “beloved”. In other words this letter is addressed directly to the “loved by God”, which is us His children…In this 1st chapter of Acts just before Jesus is “taken up” He gives instructions to the chosen ones that, through the Holy Spirit they are to receive, they are to be His “witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Jesus is saying His ministry on earth is complete but that we His chosen ones are to carry on His work with the help of the Spirit. The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ ministry but is a new chapter in salvation history, a chapter in which we are now living.
Jesus says in the last chapter of Mark, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” This is our call to evangelization, our call through our Baptism, to spread the Good News of the Gospel. This is a call to discipleship participating in the world-wide mission of the Church…Jesus says “Go!” It’s not a suggestion it’s a command. He doesn’t say go if you want to or go if you feel like it. He plainly and clearly commissions us to go out into the world and to be His witnesses. In the military when the Commanding Officer gives an order it is immediately carried out no questions asked. Jesus is our Commanding Officer who has given the order to “Go”!…In the reading from Acts, just after Jesus is taken up, two angels appear to the disciples and say to them, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In others words, they were frozen like a deer in headlights. The angels were telling them “What are you waiting for? Get going!” Sometimes we are like a deer caught in head lights, just standing there frozen in our own little world. What are we waiting for?
But how do we do that? How are we to spread the Good News as His witnesses? Generally speaking, Catholics are not very good at evangelizing, at sharing their faith. There are some exceptions like our Resurrection St. Paul’s Street Evangelization Ministry made up of on-fire Catholic young adults and adults. They set up at public places and lovingly share their Catholic faith with anyone who will stop and listen. They don’t force anything on anyone but they offer free water, rosaries, books and prayer cards. During “Cruising Grand” on Friday nights here in Escondido they are set up in front of St. John Paul the Great University from 5 pm – 8 pm. You should stop by and give them an encouraging word or maybe even join them for a while. I admire these young people who have the courage to do this. But for most of us we can live out the command to be His witnesses in our everyday lives. As Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” We are all challenged to evangelize!To share something we need to have it first. We can’t give something we don’t have. And when we do have it, it doesn’t take special training. All we have to do is share from what’s in our heart, share our own testimony of what God has done in our lives. The key is to experience the love of Jesus Christ personally and intimately then share what we have experienced every opportunity we have in our own way.
St. Paul in the 2nd reading tells us how. He says, “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.” In other words, we are witnesses for Christ out in the world by the way we live our lives, by the way we carry ourselves, by the way we treat people and the way we talk and act. As it is said, we may be the only Gospel some people may ever encounter. St. Paul says to be Christ-like always, in every situation, imitating Jesus in humility, gentleness and patience. How we act when we are away from Church is what really matters. At home, at school, at work, and out in public, do we blow up at people, treat them rude and mean or do we treat them Christ-like with gentleness and patience and kindness? People who rub us the wrong way, who get under our skin, who bug the heck out of us – do we return the favor or maybe just simply ignore them? Or do we live in a manner worthy of the call of our Baptism and as St. Paul says, “Bearing with one another through love?” Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church says these type of people in our lives are like “holy sandpaper”. By rubbing against us they make us smooth and shiny, more into the image of Christ, as they test our patience and our will…But this is how we evangelize when we are always a living, walking, talking Gospel filled with joy and love in our everyday lives in every situation whether it is easy or not so easy. We may be the only Christ people will see and they will take notice…This includes social media. It is so important how we portray ourselves on whatever we are on – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Whatever we are on, use it to evangelize, to raise up not tear down, to give testimony and to glorify God. Social media is a powerful tool. Use it for the good, the good of the Gospel, for the good of souls.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” As His witnesses Jesus is saying we should be doing these things wherever we go. But I don’t know about you but I haven’t driven out any demons lately! I haven’t spoken new languages (I can barely speak English). I haven’t cured the sick…Or have we? Think about it…through the Spirit of God, with the gifts we have been given, when we take the time to help someone with their problems, when we assist someone to fight off temptations, we are driving out demons! When we take time to speak to someone to offer advice and an encouraging word, we are speaking a new language (God’s language of love)! When we care for someone who is ill physically, spiritually or emotionally, we are curing the sick. When we share from our treasure with the Church and with the less fortunate we are raising the dead! As witnesses for Christ these are the signs He is talking about that should follow us wherever we go. Wherever we go that place should be better than before we got there. We as witnesses for Christ should make a positive difference.
To summarize, everything we have been talking about today is meant directly for us, as Theophilus (young and not so young, the beloved of God). And the message is that Jesus has ascended into heaven, His ministry on earth is complete but that we His chosen ones are to carry on His work with the help of the Holy Spirit and the gifts that He has given us. His work is to spread His life-giving message as His witnesses wherever we go with signs of Christ’s loving presence in word and in deed. His work is for us to build up the Body of Christ, which is the Church…So, as Jesus commands us, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” What are we waiting for?!!
On the 5th Sunday of Easter the readings encourage us and instruct us as disciples of the Risen Lord. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of Saul (Paul) and his early missionary work shortly after his conversion. St. Paul experienced the Risen Christ and was now spreading the Good News as his disciple.
In the 2nd reading from 1 John we are told how to live as disciples and as St. Paul did, “Let us love not in word and speech but in deed and truth.” In other words, as disciples of Christ we are not only to say we believe but put that belief into practice.
And in the Gospel we hear Jesus proclaim, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” As disciples we are called to put our faith into action and to bear much fruit through love of neighbor. But Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. We (branches) must stay connected to Him (vine) or our good works are meaningless.
This Gospel verse has great value to me as it is the verse I placed on my prayer card to hand out after my ordination. This is the scripture passage I base my diaconate ministry on. As disciples this verse should have great value to all of us as we should all base our Christian lives on it so that connected to Christ we will bear much fruit. Without Him we can do nothing. But with Him we can do great things!
3rd Sunday of Easter
April (18) 19, 2015
Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 10 am
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48
It’s fitting on this 3rd Sunday of Easter that in the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear the sermon of St. Peter to the crowd shortly after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Peter was speaking to some in the crowd who actually participated in the crucifixion of Christ. He told them, “You denied the Holy and Righteous one. The author of life you put to death.” To relate this to us, every time we sin, we also take part in nailing Jesus to the cross. Now there is no greater sin than killing the Son of God yet St. Peter says, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” Now this is good news, NO this is great news! In other words, no matter what we have done, no matter how bad we have failed in our life, no matter how we have fallen, our sins may be wiped away through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who St. John says in the 2nd reading “is the expiation for our sins.” But there is a response required on our part to receive this unthinkable mercy. As St. Peter said 2000 plus years ago he says to us today, you must “Repent and be converted.” Repentance and conversion means to make the choice to turn a 180 away from darkness and turn towards the light, to change more and more into the image of Christ and into a life of holiness that we are all called to. No matter where we are right now on our spiritual journey we are all called to repentance and conversion which means to turn away from the things opposite to the Gospel and opposite to the teachings of the Church, to turn away from the things that take us away from God and turn to God and to His love and His mercy. It is a choice and it can only be done by being open to and receiving the Holy and Righteous One, the Risen One, into our hearts and into our minds. It can only be done by turning to Him and surrendering our lives and our will over to Him.
And when we choose to turn to Jesus in repentance and conversion He gives us His peace that passes all understanding. In the Gospel today we hear of the last appearance of the Risen Christ in Luke’s account. While the disciples were still confused and frightened at all that happened during Holy Week and not sure if the same thing would happen to them, the Resurrected Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” This was no ordinary greeting. He knew that they were terrified and they doubted so He asked them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?”…We are asked also, “Do you have doubts? Do you have fears, concerns, and questions? Are you terrified at times about certain situations in your life?” Jesus stands in our midst and tells us the same thing, “Peace be with you…Do not be afraid.” When we turn to Him and commit our lives to Him we give Him all of our fears, our troubles, and our questions, and in return He gives us peace of mind and heart that only He can give. When we spend time with Him in His Word and before Him in prayer especially before the Blessed Sacrament, it is then that we will receive the peace and comfort He wants to give us, and we learn to trust in Him. He doesn’t promise everything will go totally smooth all the time in our lives but He does promise He will be with us and will help us every step of the way - on smooth paths as well as on the rough ones. Even though we may go through difficult times, those who turn to Jesus have a peace that passes all understanding. They know in their heart of hearts that everything will work out according to His will and His purpose. They trust in Him.
And so, if we have experienced the unthinkable mercy and forgiveness through repentance and conversion through the Resurrected Jesus Christ, if we have received His peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, what are we to do about it?...Recently I seen a movie in the theatre with about 37 of us from Resurrection on one of our movie nights called “Do You Believe?” This is a great faith based movie I highly recommend that will really move your heart. In the beginning of the movie there is a man walking on the streets with a big wooden cross. He is telling anyone who will listen about the Cross of Christ and what it did for them. He comes up to a man’s car who happened to be a pastor and the man with the cross asks him very bluntly, “Do you believe in the power of the Cross?” The man in the car says, “Well yeah, I’m a pastor I would have to say yes I believe.” Then the man carrying the cross says, “Well then, what are you going to do about it?” This really gets the pastor thinking, as he said it “rocked his world”, it changes his whole outlook on his life and his ministry…So, if you believe in the power of the cross and the resurrection, if you have received undeserved mercy, if you have received peace and joy from Christ, what are you going to do about it?...First, like the disciples with great joy and amazement, we are to spread the good news! This is too good to keep to ourselves. What happens when you see a great movie, go to a good restaurant, or see a great ball game? You enthusiastically tell people about it. How much more should we tell people the good news that forgiveness and mercy, eternal life and the peace that passes all understanding are available to all who are open to it because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ?!! In the old days when a king would win a victory on the battlefield he would send a person called an evangelizer home to his people to tell the good news of the great victory. Jesus, the King of kings, has won the Victory of all victories over sin and death and he sends us as evangelizers to the people to spread the good news. The way we do this is by living life with joy and contentment because we know we have the victory in Christ. Live life with a positive attitude, with a smile on our face and a confidence in Christ that shows we are redeemed. When we are a joyful witness for Jesus in our everyday lives people notice.
There is a saying that goes, “Live and speak in such a way that those who know you, but don’t know God, will come to know God, because they know you.” We are all called to be a walking, living Gospel for the world to see and hear. This is evangelization, this is spreading the good news…And second, in response to our question “what are we going to do about it?” – We are to touch the wounds of Jesus. In last week’s Gospel from John we heard about Jesus telling Thomas to touch His wounds. In today’s Gospel from Luke we again hear Jesus tell the disciples to reach out and touch Him. We too are His disciples and we are asked to touch Him. How do we do that? By recognizing the real presence of Christ and His wounds in those around us, in our families, in our faith community and in the world. Jesus tells us when we do for the least of His brethren we are doing it for Him and to Him. When we touch the wounds of those hurting around us we are touching and doing for Christ Himself. When we support, comfort, provide-for, and serve others we are doing it for Christ. When we share our blessings with others and the Church we are sharing them with Christ. This is touching Jesus and this is evangelization for Christ and His Kingdom of Light.
In closing, we are an Easter people, offered redemption and salvation by the cross and resurrection of Jesus, offered the peace and joy that surpasses all understanding. This should rock our world, it should change and affect our whole outlook on life. If we truly BELIEVE this Good News, no this Great News – what are we going to do about it?!!
On the 2nd Sunday of Easter the theme and common thread of the readings is “faith.” The Lord is risen – do we truly believe it?
In the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see the forming of the early Church under the leadership of the Apostles (the first bishops). In faith in the Risen Lord and because of Him “the community of believers was of one heart and mind.”
In the 2nd reading from the First Letter of Saint John we hear, “Everyone who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Christ (the Savior) is begotten by God.” And we hear, “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Son of God?” Through faith in the Risen One we belong to God and have the victory!
And in the Gospel we hear the account of Doubting Thomas. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and BELIEVED.” He is talking about us…those who have not seen the Risen Lord as the first disciples yet through faith we believe.
As disciples of the Risen Lord let us truly believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again. Let us increase our faith in Him daily as we seek Him more and more in our lives. And let us live our lives through the faith we have in Jesus the Christ for all the world to see.
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 Mark.
As disciples of this Messiah, we must look at our own lives and recognize the times we hailed Jesus and the times when we have failed Him. We can then turn to Him who is love and be forgiven and strengthened to live as His disciples.
At the start of this Holy Week let us enter into the Paschal Mystery as it is made present to us in a mystical and real way. Let us experience the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior and be reminded of all that He has done for us so that we may sincerely proclaim in our lives, “Hosanna in the highest!”
March 22, 2015
5th Sunday of Lent
Sun 10am & 4:30 pm
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33
There was a university professor who went searching for the meaning of life. After several years and many miles, he came to the hut of a particularly holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man invited his visitor into his humble dwelling and began to serve him a cup of tea. He filled the professor’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon spilling onto the floor. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “Stop! It’s full. No more will go in.” The hermit said, “Like this cup, you are full of your self, your own ways and ideas. How can you learn the meaning of life unless you first empty your cup?”…This story is really what the Season of Lent is all about, as well as the whole of Christian life and calling. As disciples of Christ we are called to empty ourselves of self and fill up with Christ. This is “dying to self” and is for the good of our own spiritual lives and souls, as well as for the good of the Kingdom of God.
On this 5th Sunday of Lent, one week from Holy Week, the Church gives us readings that help us understand the concept of “dying to self.” The passage in the 1st reading from the Prophet Jeremiah was written at a very dark time in the history of Israel. It was believed because of the disobedience of the people against the Law of God, Babylon was destroying the southern kingdom of Judah and the people were being taken away in exile. But the Lord spoke through Jeremiah with words of hope about a new covenant He would offer His people. He said that this new covenant would not be written on stone tablets like the 10 Commandments but it would be written on their hearts. This new covenant spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled in the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the Paschal Mystery). Through Christ we are offered this new covenant - we are offered new life with a new beginning and an opportunity to know God personally and intimately.
But to accept this new covenant between us and God means we are called to follow and serve Jesus in imitation of His life. The scripture said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” Where did Jesus go? He went to the cross! In other words, we are called as disciples of Christ to lay down our lives for the sake of others and for the sake of the Kingdom. This is “dying to self” as Christ did. He explains this further in the Gospel, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.” In other words, if we refuse to die to self but choose to remain selfish (it’s all about me) then we can bear no fruit. And remember what happened when Jesus came upon the fig tree that had no fruit? He cursed it! But when we do die to self, God can use us and we can bear much fruit which is good works for the Kingdom of God.
So what does dying to self as Christ did really mean? Instead of putting myself first, my wants and my desires, I put others first as Jesus did. It is submitting our will to Him, emptying our “self of self” and seeking to serve Him by serving others. The best way to do this is to live the spirituality of Stewardship as a way of life. In a life of stewardship we share our gifts and talents for the good of others. Instead of holding on tightly and selfishly to our treasure, to our time and to our talents, we share them for the good of others and for the Kingdom. When we share our God-given gifts we free ourselves from their reign over us and we bear good fruit in the many ways that they are used and multiplied. A life of stewardship is key to dying to self and is key to living our call to imitate Christ.
Dying to self is exemplified in the life of the Christian martyrs. A Christian martyr is one who gives their life for the covenant they made with Jesus. It is one who is willing to die instead of deny Christ. It is one who pays the price for holding true to the Gospel. The other day on Catholic radio I heard the true story about “the 40 martyrs” back in 325 A.D. They were soldiers that were brought before the authorities because they were Christians. They stripped them and put them out on a frozen pond at night in the dead of winter. At a close distance the guards built a nice warm bath. If any of the 40 denied Christ they would be able to come to the bath to warm themselves. Through the night they remained strong in faith except one. That one left the others and went over and got into the warm bath. But when he did he immediately killed over and died. One of the guards looked out at the 39 and seen a vision of the Spirit coming down upon them. The guard was at that moment instantaneously converted and he went and took the place of the deserter to complete the 40…In the morning the dead and the ones who were still alive were ordered to be loaded on a carriage and taken to be burned. The youngest of the 40 was barely alive. His mother came to him, lifted him up on the carriage and said, “Go on son, proceed to the end of this happy journey with your companions that you may not be the last of them that shall present themselves before God.” This is dying to self for Christ and for the Kingdom. You might say “Yes, but that was a long time ago.” It was, but Christians have been martyred all through Church history up to today as we see what is brutally happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, like the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded. Their last words were, Lord Jesus Christ.
Most likely we will not be called to martyrdom in this way, we pray. But we are all called to be martyrs in the Spirit, to die to self for the good of others. We are called to pay the price for holding true to the Gospel. We are martyrs when we lay down our lives and put others first such as when a parent gets up several times a night to tend to a baby or to a sick child. A martyr is one who takes an elderly parent into their home and cares for their every need. A martyr is a young person who babysits their siblings when they really want to be out with their friends or does not join in things that they know are wrong. A martyr is one who stands firm in their faith even though they are made fun of, ridiculed and persecuted…We are all called to die to self as martyrs for Christ in our everyday life in many different ways, in our homes, at work, at school, and in our faith community.
In closing, we are all offered the opportunity to enter into or to renew this new covenant fulfilled in Christ that offers us a new beginning and new life. But in acceptance of this covenant we are required to follow in the footsteps and example of Christ who laid down His life for the sake of others. This is not easy. The Gospel is not for the faint-hearted. We heard in the 2nd reading from Hebrews, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” Even Jesus in His humanness suffered. But in His suffering He became the source of life. By us dying to self and filling with Christ we too can be a source of life like the grain of wheat in the Gospel…And like the story about the tea cup, we must empty our self of self, die to self, to be filled and used by Jesus as a source of life. This is our calling as His disciples. This is our calling in the new covenant. This is the real meaning and purpose of life.
And to help us remember it’s not about me it’s about Jesus we will borrow the tune from Meghan Trainor but we will Christianize it. It goes like this “Because you know, I’m all about that Jesus, bout that Jesus, bout that Jesus…no Devil.”
On the 3rd Sunday of Lent in the 1st reading from the Book of Exodus we hear the giving of the Ten Commandments. The first three deal with our relationship with God. The remaining seven deal with our relationship with each other. The Law was given to be adhered to but also to reveal to us that we cannot comply to them on our own.
In the 2nd reading from the first Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us that it is by Christ how we are to live the life we are called to, Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.
And in the Gospel Jesus over turns the table of the money changers as they are abusing the Law for their advantage.
The message for us this 3rd Sunday of Lent is, as disciples of Christ, we are to not live so much by the letter of the law but more by the spirit of the law. As disciples we must be aware of our motives of why we do what we do and that we are to do them with love. In this we are living the spirit of God’s law. In this we are adhering to His law.
We continue in the season of grace on the 2nd Sunday of Lent with readings that point to the Savior that God would provide for us. We are all called to turn to Him in repentance and in faith.
In the 1st reading from Genesis we hear the well-known story of how Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his only, long awaited son Isaac. Not fully understanding and in great sadness Abraham is obedient and trusts in God as he prepares to sacrifice his beloved son. At the last minute Abraham hears the Lord’s messenger tell him to stop and he notices a ram that God had provided in place of Isaac. The ram represents Christ, a foreshadow of how God would provide a sacrifice for us all.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul confirms this as he says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son.”
And in the Gospel we hear the story of the Transfiguration. Before the disciples Jesus appears in dazzling white. This is God revealing Him as the final sacrifice that He would provide in place of us all, His only begotten Son. With Him were Moses who represented the Law and Elijah who represented the prophets. This Savior, Jesus the Christ, fulfilled the Law and the prophets and is the light of the world.
As disciples of Jesus during this season of grace, we are called to turn to Him in repentance and in faith. We are called to realize that we all need a Savior and we are called to allow His light to permeate our lives as we take His light into the world.
On Ash Wednesday we began the ascent on the holy mountain of Easter. Once again the Church is guiding us through the 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays) to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery. Once again the Church calls us to examine our faith lives and make adjustments by prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
This Sunday (and all of Lent) the readings call us back to the state of our baptism which is purity and holiness. In the 1st reading from Genesis God establishes a covenant with Noah and his descendants as He explains the great flood and His promises that go with it.
In the 2nd reading from the 1st Letter of St. Peter we are given the meaning of the flood as it pertains to the descendants of Noah (disciples of Christ), “The ark in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.”
And in the Gospel Jesus gives us what activates the graces of Baptism which we heard on Ash Wednesday as the mark of the cross was imposed on our foreheads, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
As disciples of Christ, let us take this opportunity during the Season of Lent, the season of grace, to allow the Spirit of God to help us to return to the original state of our baptism, purity and holiness.
Repent and believe in the Gospel!
Feb (14) 15, 2015
Sat 4:30 pm
6th Sun Ord Time
Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
Ready or not the Season of Lent starts this coming Wednesday. And the Church in her wisdom prepares us to enter into this season of grace with this Sunday’s readings.
In the 1st reading from Leviticus, the Lord gives Moses and Aaron instruction on purity laws dealing with those who had any kind of skin disease, in particular leprosy. The person with the skin problem would have to wear their clothes a certain way, would have to shave their head and they would have to cover the lower portion of their face. In addition they would have to walk around shouting “Unclean, unclean!” This was to protect the rest of the community in case the skin disease was contagious and also to keep the rest of the people ritually clean according to the Law. And because of this, the so-called “unclean” would have to live “outside the camp” or separated from the rest of the community.
We see the connection between the 1st reading and the Gospel. A man with leprosy kneels before Jesus and begs Jesus to make him clean. All the people were watching to see what He would do because if He touched the man Jesus Himself would be deemed “unclean”. So what does Jesus do? The scripture said He was, “Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand, touched him and said I do will it. Be made clean.” By touching the man with leprosy Jesus heals him making him clean according to the Law but in turn Jesus becomes “the unclean” and He must live outside the camp…This is exactly what He did for us on the cross. He took our place, He took on our uncleanliness on His holy body, in a sense becoming unclean. He was moved with pity for us, stretched out His hand and touched us, making us clean in the waters of Baptism. And it was He who took our place outside the camp (which was the cross on Calvary)!
So in today’s readings we see the deeper meaning of leprosy which represents sin. In reality, after Baptism due to our sinful nature, we are all “lepers”, we all are unclean, stained by sin in our lives. And we all need to be touched by the healing power of Christ over and over. But we must acknowledge that we have fallen short, we must all acknowledge that in some way we have sinned, that we have missed the mark. Can you imagine if those of us who have sinned would have to walk around with our heads shaved, our faces covered and shout “Unclean, unclean”?!! There would be a lot of bald heads, covered faces and a lot of us shouting out! Right?! So the first step for us, especially as we prepare to enter the Season of Lent, is to acknowledge that we are sinners and realize that we need the healing power of Christ Jesus. When we do not acknowledge this we are like a car going around town so dirty someone has written on the back of our window “Wash me”. As Fr. Donald Calloway says when we do not acknowledge that we have sinned “We are like a toddler walking around with a dirty diaper who does not want to be changed.” The parent asks, “Is your diaper dirty?” The toddler says “No” and runs away! Don’t run from the Father with your dirty diaper! He wants to clean you up.
Sin, if we allow it to fester and grow is so devastating and harmful because it separates. First it separates us from our relationship with God. It is not Him who separates from us but we who separate ourselves from Him. And second, sin separates us from the faith community. We are members of the Body of Christ. So if one member is sick then the whole Body suffers. And like leprosy, sin is contagious and dangerous within the community.
We must all look to the healing power of Christ especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has provided all that we need in the Church in the sacraments. It is up to us to seek them, to receive them and to be healed and strengthened by them. It is up to us to allow them to touch and to transform our inner selves. Pope Francis said in a recent homily, “I cannot be baptized multiple times, but I can go to confession. And when I do I am renewed in the grace of Baptism.” In other words, when we make a good confession with a contrite heart we are made clean again, pure as on the day we were baptized. We are spiritually “born again”, given a new start with a clean slate. And for that reason Confession should not be a dreadful experience but one of joy and peace. The Holy Father also said, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not like going to the dry cleaners just to remove a stain, but is a joyful encounter with our loving God.” And through the sacrament we receive the grace we need to continue on the journey.
And when we are healed and made clean through the sacrament, like the leper who was sent back into the community from outside the camp, we too are sent back in. As the leper could not contain himself about what Jesus had done for him, we too should not be able to contain ourselves. We should tell all who will listen to our testimony of what the healing power of God has done in our lives. Just like the leprosy of sin is contagious, when we live what we have experienced in Christ with joy and enthusiasm, this is also contagious! In this we will be helping to unite our faith community by living a life that draws others to God’s love and mercy and to each other. This is what brings glory to God as we heard from St. Paul, “Do everything for the glory of God.” It is by our testimonies and our enthusiasm that God will be glorified and the community will be united and healed.
St. Paul also tells us in today’s 2nd reading, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” What did Christ do in today’s Gospel? He showed pity and compassion for the other. When a brother in the community was hurting, He stretched out his hand and touched him. In other words He did not preach to him but took action and reached out. There is a time for preaching and teaching but there also is a time for action. In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that what we do is just as or even more important than what we say. When someone is hurting or troubled in our family or in our faith community, with the compassion of Christ, we can bring healing. We bring healing by just listening, by just being present and then by giving a helping hand in whatever way we can. We are the hands and the arms of Christ. Through us Jesus can reach out and touch so many just like He touched and healed the leper. When we live the Gospel in a concrete and manifested way we are imitating the saints and Christ Himself…And in our daily lives and within our faith community we imitate Christ by welcoming everyone. Jesus did not exclude anyone. When He touched the leper people were shocked! When He ate with tax collectors people were appalled. When we welcome all with the love of Christ we imitate Him. Through our loving, welcoming spirit they will feel God’s love and they will be more open to the healing they need and are crying out for. What they are crying out for, like the leper, is to be healed, but also to be loved, welcomed and included within the camp, the Body of Christ. Everyone has a basic need to feel welcome and included. As imitators of Christ we are to make them feel this way, we are to make them feel valued, and as a needed member of the faith community.
In closing, there is nothing that cannot be forgiven because of God’s great love for us. But He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He calls us, as His disciples, to imitate His Son in holiness. We must acknowledge that we need to be cleansed, then kneel before Him and He will reach out and touch us and say to us as Jesus told the leper, “I do will it be made clean.” And in turn, we are to show those who feel they are the lepers of this world the love and compassion that we have received…The greatest gift is God’s love, His mercy and compassion…Receive it, then share it…Amen.