The MOST HOLY TRINITY [B]

                                 The MOST HOLY TRINITY [B]

                      Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

There is a story about a man who was suspected of being out of his mind, climbed a tree. Many were worried about this. So they shouted at him to go down from the tree but he did not. 

They called the captain of the fire department to convince him to go down but he was not convinced. They called the mayor but it’s hopeless. Finally, they called the old parish priest of that place.

So the old parish priest went to the place and they asked him to make a blessing if in case he will fall down and die. So the priest made the Sign of the Cross. After a while the man went down from the tree and the people were surprised why it happened that way.

They asked the priest how he was able to convince the man to come down by making the Sign of the Cross. The priest told them: “No, I did not convince the person to come down. 

I just said, ‘If you will not go down (tracing a vertical line), I will cut this tree (tracing a horizontal line in the air). After that he came down.”

Today we encounter the mystery of all mysteries, the mystery that underlines our faith and our entire spiritual lives. 

It is a mystery, too great for many people to accept. Many people prefer having a God whom they can understand.

This celebration of the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity had started since the 10th century. The idea of the Trinity is not explicitly stated as a doctrine in the Sacred Scriptures. But implicitly it is stated many times.

We believe the Blessed Trinity through faith and nothing more. This faith has to be realized, embodied and materialized in our concrete lives. 

And what is that, that makes the life of a Christian so important.

All prayers in the Church begin in the Name of the Holy Trinity and end glorifying the Trinity.

All Sacraments are administered (we are baptized, confirmed, anointed, our sins are forgiven and our marriage blessed, our Bishops, priests and deacons ordained) in the name of the Holy Trinity.

Church bells ring thrice daily, reminding us to pray to the Holy Trinity.

We Bless ourselves, and the priest blesses us, in the name of the Holy Trinity.

Let me try to give you some Biblical proofs: There are only vague and hidden references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. But the New Testament gives clear teachings on the Holy Trinity.

At the Annunciation, God the Father sends His angel to Mary, God the Holy Spirit overshadows her and God the Son becomes incarnate in her womb.

At the baptism of Jesus, when the Son receives baptism from John the Baptist, the Father’s Voice is heard and the Holy Spirit appears as a Dove.

At the Ascension, Jesus gives the missionary command to his disciples to baptize those who believe, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In John, chapters 15-18, we have a detailed account of Jesus’ teaching of the role of each Person of the Holy Trinity:

1) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures.

2) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God.

3) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, teaches us and guides us to God.

Today is Trinity Sunday. Our Catholic faith teaches us that there is only One God but Three Divine Persons – God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit or Three in One! But why it happens this way, One God but Three divine Persons?

To tell you the truth, this mystery of the Blessed Trinity is very difficult to explain. But we can explain this in our own experiential way. By trying to explain this, our own explanation and answer will become another question and that is a mystery!

There was once a story of a Pope who wanted a portrait of God. So he called all the artisans of Rome. He told them that whoever could perfectly portray God on canvas would receive a papal Award.

The artisans gathered inside the Vatican workroom and each one started to paint a portrait of God. They worked on their masterpieces for several months except for one painter named Guiseppe. 

Being old, Guiseppe would fall asleep in front of his canvas while thinking how he would paint God.

Finally, the time came when the Pope would judge their paintings. His Holiness toured the large gallery and looked at each painting beside its artist. 

God was represented in many ways: an Old Loving Man, a Shepherd, a King on a Throne, a Crucified, a Dove and several other ways.

Yet to the surprise of all, the Pope was not satisfied with any of the portrait. While the Pope rested, on a corner he heard Guiseppe snoring in front of his canvas. He went to the old painter and saw the empty canvas in front of him.

“This is it!” the Pope exclaimed, ‘this is the perfect portrayal of God.” The cardinals, bishops and all the artisans gathered around His Holiness holding the canvas with nothing painted on it.

“Your holiness, the canvas is empty and it has no portrait of God,” the cardinals told him.

“Exactly,” the Pope said, “that is how God looks like – Indescribable!”

Trinity Sunday is a good opportunity to pay special attention to what we do and pray every Sunday at Mass so that we realize more deeply that every Sunday is Trinity Sunday.

The early Christians discovered later that they simply could not speak of God without speaking of the three ways in which He had revealed Himself to them. This does not mean that there are three Gods. 

It means that there is only One God who has shown Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thomas Edison, the inventor, once remarked: “We don’t know what water is. We don’t know what light is. We don’t know what electricity is. We don’t know what heat is. We have a lot of hypotheses about these things, but that is all.

But we don’t let our ignorance about these things deprive us of their use.” The truth of that statement is real. 

Most of us do not know how an electric light works, how a telephone or a TV works, but this does not prevent us from using them. Let us try to apply the same common sense to our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Let me end by saying that the doctrine of the Trinity does not attempt to explain God. It only explains to us in a very elemental way what God has revealed to us about himself so far. 

To describe the tip of the iceberg above the water is not to describe the entire iceberg.

So we Christians affirm the Trinity, not as an explanation of God, but simply as a way of describing what we know about Him. Let us have the firm conviction that the Trinitarian God abides in us, that He is the Source of our hope, courage and strength and that He is our final destination.

Let us practice the Trinitarian relationship of love and unity in the family relationships of father, mother and children because by Baptism we become children of God and members of God’s Trinitarian family. 

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

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Pentecost Sunday Year B

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

A priest was once asked by a doctor why he preached the existence of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. The doctor again asked: “Do you ever see the Holy Spirit? Do you ever hear the Holy Spirit?” The priest answered, “No”.

The doctor continued: “Do you ever taste the Holy Spirit? Do you ever smell the Holy Spirit? To all of these questions, the doctor received a ‘No” answer. But when the doctor asked: “Do you ever feel the Holy Spirit?”

The priest replied: “Yes, indeed.” “Well,” said the doctor, “There are four of the five senses against you, Father. So, I doubt that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then it was the turn of the priest to ask. “You are a Doctor of Medicine,” “It is your business to treat pains.

Did you ever see, hear, taste or smell a pain?” asked the priest. “No,” answered the doctor. “Do you feel the pain,” followed the priest. “Yes, I did,” said the doctor. “There are four senses against you. Yet you know, and I know that there is pain. By the same proof, I know that the Holy Spirit exists,” continued the priest.

For each one of us who are here we do believe that the Holy Spirit exists because we feel His presence in us. Even if we do not see, hear, taste or smell the Holy Spirit, we do believe His existence.

It is because “for those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible,”

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Pentecost. Pentecost is the day where we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Since today is the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit to apostles and to us too, let us talk about the Holy Spirit in order to have a better understanding of this Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.

First, the Holy Spirit is Holy; of course, He is God like the Father and the Son. The Third Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity sent to the world by the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit now guides the church and continues the works and teachings of Jesus without changing them. He is the Sanctifier of the church. Second, the Holy Spirit comes to us first at the moment of our baptism, more fully at our confirmation.

He infuses in us together with sanctifying grace and the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love. He gave to us His seven gifts of: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

Also, this Holy Spirit gave to us the twelve fruits of these seven gifts, namely: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, forbearance, meekness, fidelity, modesty, continence and chastity (Gal.5:16-25).

Without the Holy Spirit, nobody can believe or hope, and nobody can repent of his/her sins. Third, the Holy Spirit is Love made Person. We know that all love comes from God.

We also need to know the role of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives. The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life: As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples (ICor.3:16).

As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by transparent Christian lives. As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the sacraments:

He makes us children of God and heirs of heaven through Baptism. He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of faith, through Confirmation. He enables us to be reconciled to God by pardoning our sins through Reconciliation.

He gives us spiritual nourishment via the Holy Eucharist by converting bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood.

As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible.

As a giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms. Anyone who has ever looked into a grave will know how logical it is to see it as a dead end the extinction of all hope, the end of the story.

But our faith is deeper than logic and it looks into the empty tomb of Christ with joy, seeing it as the beginning of hope, not the end of hope. It is the beginning not the end of the story. Because of the empty tomb there are no dead ends for a Christian.

The disciples had locked themselves in “for fear of the Jews.” They had gathered themselves into a kind of tomb. Perhaps they thought that their future would be just this: to recall and cherish their memories of Jesus within this little circle.

But suddenly Jesus appeared among them. He went down into their tomb, as the story says he descended into Hades to release the dead from their past and to bring them out into the light of the Resurrection.

He would not let these disciples enter an early Hades. He empowered them with the Spirit. Now Jesus breathed the Spirit into these disciples as God breathed into Adam the breath of life, so, making them a new people.

In the power of the Spirit they left their narrow dungeon and preached the good news of Jesus to “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia …” (Acts 2:9-11); in other words, they preached to the whole world.

What is the life message for us today? We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives: May be by constantly remembering His holy presence and behaving well or may be by praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and control our evil tendencies, evil habits and addictions.

May be by asking His daily assistance to pray, listening to God through meditative Bible reading and talking to Him or may be by asking the help of the Holy Spirit to do good for others and to be reconciled to God and others every day.

As Saint Paul exhorts us, “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25). Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascension of the Lord, Year B – 18

                                Ascension of the Lord, Year B – 18

                           Acts.1:1-11 / Eph.1:17-23 / Mk.16:15-20

 Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers. Years ago, on a hot summer day in south Florida a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went.

 He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His mother in the house was looking out the window saw the two as they got closer and closer together.

 In utter fear, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could. Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother. It was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.

 From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. There began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go.

 A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.

 Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

 The newspaper reporter, who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms.

 I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go.” Mothers may not know it, but they are often responsible for the faith development of their children more than many preachers put together.

 The meaning of an old Jewish proverb that says, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Today we acknowledge it and we say, “God bless you Mothers.”

 Now let us go to the Ascension of the Lord. It is an important feast day because it points to one important aspect of our faith – Jesus has gone up to heaven to prepare a place for us so that where He is we too shall be.

 At His Resurrection, He conquered sin and death and raised us to life. In the Ascension, this life takes on a clearer and more profound aspect- eternal life in heaven with Jesus.

 That should make us set our hearts on things of above and not of things of earth. But does that mean that we don’t bother about anything and do nothing about our life here on earth?

Of course, it is needless to answer that question. But at the same time, we also need to understand that our life on earth is a preparation for the eternal life of heaven.

 So, what must we do on earth then? What Jesus said to the Eleven, He also says to us: Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.

 Jesus also gave a list of signs that will be associated with believers: they will cast out devils, have the gift of tongues, pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.

 All that seems rather lofty and maybe even unbelievable. Can we do all that? Have we done all that?

 But before we discourage ourselves with a barrage of “No” to what Jesus said, we need to find out what is the sign that Jesus wants us to be.

 And this is where we need to go back to the 1st reading when Jesus also said that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us, and then we will be witnesses reaching out to the ends of the earth.

 So as Jesus ascends into heaven, He wants us to prepare the descent of the Holy Spirit, who will empower us to be witnesses and to be signs.

 So as much as we set our hearts to the things of above, may we also be witnesses and signs to the people of the earth.

 We must be living signs to point them to heaven. Because that’s where we are going, and we want them to go along with us.  

 At the end let us reflect these words on witnessing coming from John White. He said: “A good witness isn’t like a salesman the emphasis is on a person rather than a product. A good witness is like a signpost.

 It doesn’t matter whether it is old, young, pretty, ugly; it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are witnesses to Christ, we point to him.” This is witness. This is transforming. This is what God wants us to do.

 We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. We preach with words, but we proclaim with our lives.  

 Let us ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Jesus by our transparent Christian lives.

 Be Blessed and be a Blessing. Amen.

 

6th Sunday Easter Year B

                                     6th Sunday Easter Year B

         Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 John 4:7-10 / John 15:9-17

A young man got married and he asked his wife if they could go, as part of their honeymoon, to a certain country where his best friend lived as he wanted her to meet him.

On meeting the friend he introduced him to his wife with the words. “Here is the man you need to thank for my being alive today”. He is what I call a true friend.

Apparently when they were in high school together the young married man found out that he had had a very severe kidney complaint, with both kidneys in a very serious condition.

Even though he had been good friends always with the other young man, he realized then what it was to have a true friend.

His friend, on hearing of his possible death due to his serious kidney condition offered him one of his own kidneys. Luckily the kidneys matched and the gift of the kidney saved his life.

I suppose not everyone would risk his own life to do this.

In the gospel today Jesus says to his disciples that ‘a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends’ which he himself did in giving his life on the cross.

He assures them that in the gospel he wants to call them, and us too, his friends. His relationship with them and us is not to be that of a servant.

A servant is someone who does what his master commands as an obligation or because he is paid to do so. Jesus is emphasizing that his relationship with us is to be that of true friendship.

The game of tennis is a quite popular game. People follow the game, watch the game on tv (which can last for a few hours) and of course some play the game. But tennis is certainly more than just a play-play kind of game.

Because top professional tennis players can become millionaires, and the top names are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, etc. And these top players play in top tournaments like Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, etc.

But for all the big names and the big money, the game of tennis is actually quite a simple game. All you have to do is to hit the ball back into your opponent’s court. That’s all you need to do to win the game. It’s as simple as that; but it requires a lot of skill to do that.

And you know what it is said about life and tennis? Life is like a game of tennis. The player who can hit every ball across seldom loses.

So the simple logic about tennis is that when the ball comes to you, you don’t keep the ball. You always return the ball, so to speak.

And that is also the simple logic about life and love. In life whenever love comes to us, we don’t keep it for ourselves. We have to return it. So in a way, life is like a game of tennis – we return the love, just as we return the ball.

And that is what Jesus is telling us in the gospel – As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. For Jesus, love is not for keeps. The love that He received from His Father, He gives to us. And the love we receive from Jesus, we in turn must give to others.

And Jesus even makes a commandant out of it – Love one another as I have loved you. In other words, as Jesus has loved us, so must we love one another. It’s a commandment; it’s not a suggestion, nor is it an option.

We often hear of this phrase “love offering”. It is often written on boxes in church events and it is a way of asking for donations to offset the cost of holding the events.

It gives us the notion that we can give whatever we wish and we are not obliged to give a large sum nor are we required to give all we have.

But for God, when it comes to a love offering, it is nothing less than all. As we heard in the 2nd reading, God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son so that we can have life through Him.

So it is not our love for God, but God’s love for us when He sent His only Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. Yes, love is a sacrifice, and a love offering is a total offering because God’s love for us is a total sacrifice.

Therefore, John says today, “Wherever there is love, there is God”. He does not say, “Wherever there are Christians, there is God” or “Wherever there is a Christian church, there is God”.

But, wherever there is a person filled with real agape-love for others, God is there. That is the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

He was called “good” not because he was a religious person but because he reached out in compassionate love for someone who was supposed to be his enemy.

So we can find love, and therefore God at work, in a Protestant, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim. Maybe that person has no religious faith at all. He or she may be an agnostic, an atheist, a communist.

Wherever in the world there is truth, compassion, justice, true freedom and peace, God is certainly there.

The love that Jesus speaks about is very different from the love of the pop songs on MTV, or much of the love on TV and the movies. Sometimes when we love, we will be very happy.

But sometimes loving the poor, the sick, the criminal will not be very easy. If we have to look after a relative who is close to dying, it can be a very painful experience, especially if that patient is difficult or unresponsive to our attentions. But that is love.

Love is not a question of keeping rules and commandments. Love is a way of life. It is an internal attitude which influences every single thing we do and say and think.

The love of a Christian needs to be unconditional. Sometimes people will love us back; sometimes they will not. Sometimes, even though we want to love people, they may reject us.

If they do reject us, we need not necessarily think that we have done wrong. When people cannot return genuine love, it is they who have the problem. Sad to say, not everyone is capable of loving.

All the more reason why we need to reach out to them. People often learn to love by being loved.

The most important thing is not that I am very clever, very successful, very rich, very famous… The most important thing is that I am someone who really loves.

When I genuinely love others, there will always be some who cannot love me back but there will be others who will really respond in love. And it may be that my love has empowered them to be loving too.

To be able to reach out in love and to experience being loved is God’s greatest grace.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

5th Sunday of Easter Year – B

                                5th Sunday of Easter Year – B

                         Acts 9:26-31, 1.Jn.3:18-24, Jn.15:1-8

THE STORY is told about a mother who said: “My married life has been like the mysteries of the rosary. When we were newly married, it was joyful. 

When my husband’s vices came out, it was sorrowful. When he died, it was glorious. And now I am single again, it is light and luminous!”

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells His disciples, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” This is the secret of perseverance and endurance: To remain in God, no matter what. 

Whatever “mysteries” we go through in life, if we hold on to the Lord, we will continue to live, grow and, yes, bear fruit.

It is easy to hold on to the Lord in joyful, glorious, and light moments, but all the more we should hold on to Him on our sorrowful moments. In fact, there’s only the Lord to really hold on to at such moments. 

Instead of letting go of God, we must hold on to Him and not succumb to misery, despair and hopelessness.

It is not enough to just exist. We must grow, and persist. Somebody once compared a Christian to a basketball player.

“To be a good player,” he said, “it’s not enough that you know how to dribble or avoid getting fouls. What matters most is to be able to shoot, to make points and to be productive.”

Yes, we must remain in God and bear fruit. We must not just be living branches. We must be fruit-bearing branches. For those who are still alive, and who perhaps are living abundant lives, the question remains: 

Am I living a fruitful life? Have others benefited from my life? Ask anyone who has been “pruned,” and he/she will tell you how difficult it is to accept it in the beginning.

“Why?” “Why me?” “Why now?” These are the questions that are usually raised, and many times, there are no answers. Right away, anyway. 

And so, one can put up a fight and say “Unfair!” or one can stay still and say, “OK, Lord, I trust you. Prune me!” The sooner we say the latter, the sooner the healing and the moving on.

“Why me? I am a good person? Why do I receive these trials and sufferings?” Perhaps the answer to this age-old question can be answered by Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel:

“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

Last Sunday, we heard of the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd. Today, we hear another image of Jesus, that is, the vine. 

The Old Testament literature often speaks of the people of Israel as God’s vineyard producing sour grapes because of their infidelity. (Is.5; Jer.2:21; Ez.15)

When Jesus applies this as his personal image, he contrasts Himself to Israel’s infidelity; he affirms his faithfulness in bearing the fruit of God’s work. God finds true fidelity in Jesus a fidelity which culminated in his self-donation on the Cross.

Let us try to reflect on what this image of the vine can help us in living out the Christian life that is expected of us. First, the image of vine-branches demonstrates what the Church should be. 

As a Body of Christ, the members should remain united with their head who is Christ. The Christian’s union with Christ should be seen as something “personal”.

Second, the fruit of the vine-branches relationship is intimacy. Intimacy is something we can gain in this kind of relationship. 

Intimacy suggests knowledge about the “other,” so much so that one can speak on behalf of the “other.” We also have heard this in last week’s gospel wherein Christ said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

Intimacy demands a quantity of time, as well as a “quality time.” We can only be intimate with Christ if we search for him regularly, and likewise, if we seriously spend time with him in prayer and in reading the word of God.

Third, if we reflect further, the word “abiding” is significant to our reflections. Abiding is “dwelling” or “living” in the other. 

We can find this in the life of the Trinitarian God, in which one person dwells in the other. For instance, Jesus once said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”

In the same way, our relationship with Christ asks for indwelling. We should live in Christ and, equally, Christ should live in us. The second reading gives us a form of indwelling: love.  

When we show love to our brothers and sisters, God can be seen in us because of the fact that God is love.

This vine-branches relationship that we have reflected so far can be applied to marital relationship. The man and wife are called to live as one. 

A key to its fulfillment is, first, to live in intimacy which brings knowledge for each other. As years go by, each spouse should have known each other more deeply. 

If a wife comments this way, “Actually, my husband remains a mystery to me,” this shows that intimacy is not in a picture.

But if she says, “I don’t react that much because I know that in five minutes he would calm down,” that is an index of intimacy. Moreover, husbands and wives should “dwell” in each other so that they could live as one. 

This takes a long process though. When both husband and wife have already lived with “one mind and one heart”, there the intimacy and indwelling happens.

Even a well-pruned branch cannot bear grapes unless it abides in the vine, drawing water and minerals from the main trunk and transporting food prepared in the leaves to the main trunk and to the roots.  

Jesus reminds us that we cannot bear fruit either, unless we abide in him just as he abides in us. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

What Jesus means is that by abiding in him we will bear much fruit, and that apart from him we can do nothing. Abiding in Christ means that God has to be inside us and we have to be inside God. 

We abide in Christ by drawing near to God and by experiencing His being near to us, or by living every moment as he has commanded us to do, with the radiant presence of Christ all around us.

This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the Liturgy. 

Those of us who do not abide in Jesus will wither and be thrown away, just as withered branches are thrown into the fire to be burned. Fruit-bearing in Christian life is not just of our own making. It is the sign that Christ is working in us and through us.

Let us abide in Christ and let Christ abide in us: The four Gospels teach us how to become true disciples of Jesus and how to abide in him as braches abide in the main trunk of the vine and draw their life from the vine.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen. 

 

 

4th Sunday of Easter Year B

                                    4th Sunday of Easter Year

                            Acts 4:8- 2, 1 Jn.3:1-2, Jn.10:11-18

A soldier dying on a Korean battle field asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” 

The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied.

“The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.

As we continue to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection, the 4th Easter Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We celebrate the risen Lord as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

The priest in charge of a parish is called pastor because pastor means shepherd of Christ’s sheep. As a shepherd, he leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects Christ’s sheep in the parish. 

The image of God as Shepherd has its precedence in the Old Testament literature.

God has been depicted as a Shepherd in the book of Genesis (49:24), and in the book of Psalms (23, 74, 80). In our gospel today, Jesus shows us that he is the Good Shepherd. By saying so, he becomes the fulfillment of the Old Testament. 

As the gospel shows, Jesus has three characteristics of a good Shepherd: caring, compassionate, and guiding.

First, he is a Shepherd who cares for his flock. His caring can be seen in his great love for his sheep. He loves his sheep so much that he is willing to lay down his life for them. 

Here, Jesus contrasts himself from a “hired man” who abandons the sheep when the wolves come. He is different from a hired man because Jesus has concern for his sheep.

Second, he is a Shepherd who feels compassion for his sheep. Sheep are powerless in the face of wolves. He shows compassion for them by protecting them from harm. His compassion likewise goes beyond the flock that he is called to care.

Third, he is a Shepherd who guides his sheep. Sheep cannot graze on barren land, but someone must lead them to pasture, to water, and to shelter. 

They must be sought out when they are separated from the flock because they will never find a way back themselves. This is how he guides his flock.

Introducing himself as the shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes four claims in today’s gospel.

1) He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice: Just as the Palestinian shepherds knew each sheep of their flock by name, and the sheep knew their shepherd and his voice, even so Jesus knows each one of us, our needs, our merits and our faults. 

Of course the knowledge talked of here is not mere intellectual knowing but knowledge that comes from love and leads to care and concern for the other. 

He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to receive and return his love by keeping his words. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, family and friends and through the events of our lives. 

2) He gives eternal life to his sheep by receiving us into his sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us his Holy Spirit in Confirmation. 

He supplies food for our souls by the Holy Eucharist and by the divine words of the holy Bible. He makes our society holy by the sacraments of matrimony and the priesthood.

3) He protects his sheep by placing them in the loving hands of his mighty Father. Without him to guide us and protect us, we are easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world: that includes Satan, as well as the seven deadly sins of pride, avarice, envy, gluttony, anger, lust and sloth.

In the first part of chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the good shepherd. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. 

Jesus heals the wounds of our souls by the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

4) Jesus dies for his sheep:  Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people. 

In the final part of this gospel Jesus invites those who are touched and saved by the love of the Shepherd, to shepherd and care for others.

“There are other sheep that are not of this fold and these I have to lead as well.” Though he cares for his own, he does not discriminate and ultimately dies because he cares for all peoples.

The 4th Sunday of Easter is also called “Vocation Sunday”. Jesus the Good Shepherd calls out to us. And if we are His sheep, we will be listening to Him and we will also follow Him. 

Yet the call of Jesus also goes further and deeper to those for whom He has a particular calling. Vocation Sunday focuses on the call to the priesthood and religious life.

Pope Francis in his Chrism Mass homily (a few years back) has this to say to those who are shepherds or preparing to be shepherds of God’s flock. 

He said that the priests are to have the smile of the Father and the smell of the sheep. He said that the priests are to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to be close to the oppressed.

So humbly I ask you, my dear people of God, to pray for us priests that we will lead you to hear the voice of Jesus and to follow Him to the green pastures of eternal life. 

Yes, pray for us priests and pray for those who are preparing for the priesthood and for those who are thinking about the priesthood. 

May I request you to thank God for me and to pray for me as I am completing 23 years of my Priesthood on next Saturday 28th April.

May we lead you to believe this, which is taken from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Yes, with the Lord as our shepherd, there is indeed nothing we shall ever want. All we want is to listen to Him and follow Him.

Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more holy and Spirit-filled shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community. 

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen. 

2nd Sunday of Easter

                                                 2nd Sunday of Easter

                                  Acts 4:32-35, 1Jn.5:1-6, Jn.20:19-31

The second Sunday of Easter is called Divine Mercy Sunday. Why do we celebrate a feast for God’s mercy? Because, God is so merciful and mercy is His second name. He is merciful to the sinners and saints alike.

So, let us celebrate this feast of mercy by being overly generous with compassion – even to people who don’t deserve it. The “Eighth day” Easter had a powerful significance from the earliest days of Christianity.

This Sunday was designated as Dominica in albis – the church in white albs – referring to the presence of the newly baptized individuals in white albs in the church. 

This was the day once again the believers came together, and John’s account of the risen Lord’s appearance to the eleven was always proclaimed.  

Poor Thomas always gets bad press the Sunday after Easter. We are always focusing in on his doubts. We often think that he was the only one who did not believe that the Lord had risen from the dead.

The fact is that most of the disciples doubted the Lord’s resurrection until they experienced His presence. Only the apostle John, the Beloved Disciple, appears to have believed the Lord had risen before he ever encountered the Risen Lord.

If you remember, after Mary Magdalene reported what she had seen that Easter Sunday morning, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John outran Peter, but waited and let Peter go in first. 

When John went in, the Gospel says, “He saw, and He believed.” Peter, still, did not know what to think.

Like Peter, the other disciples did not know if they should believe Mary and John. Peter reported that the tomb was empty. Perhaps in some macabre act, someone had stolen the Lord’s body.

Certainly, there appeared to be no limit to the despicable activity of the chief priests and Pharisees when it came to the Lord. So, they all doubted initially. 

Later that day Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples, except for Thomas who was not present.

When Jesus appeared that day He came to the disciples in the same Upper Room where they had celebrated the Passover the Thursday before. The door was locked. Why? The disciples were afraid, frightened to be exact.  

Jesus had not just been killed; he had suffered one of the most horrible deaths known to mankind. Would the same thing happen to them?  

They were frightened. In their fear, they began doubting the Lord. Maybe He was just a wonderful, powerful prophet, but nothing more. And then He appeared to them.  

That’s when they realized that this was more than just a new message, a new prophecy. Jesus Himself was the message. He was the Son of God. His Gospel had power, the Power of God.

Thomas was not there. He doubted the other disciples’ story. He even doubted the word of the Lord, who had said He’d rise again. 

When he saw Jesus, Thomas’ reaction was the same of the other disciples, best expressed in his statement, “My Lord and My God.”

Jesus Christ is Lord and God. There is no need to be afraid. This is true also for us. We are often afraid. This is normal, part of our human condition. Beneath the fear there is doubt.

Will God really take care of me and my family? Does He really care? Does He really exist?  Where is He now that I need Him so much?

We go through periods of joy and periods of stress. Sometimes we say, “Life is good. I love what I am doing. I have people I love. And I am loved by others.” Or you might say, “I have a great marriage.  

The children are at work, but I can’t stop smiling when I think about them, even when they are driving me crazy.” Or for our younger people, “I really like school. I have friends. I have activities that are fun. Life is good.”  

That is how we feel sometimes. And then there are times that we seem to go from one crisis to the next. We are confronted with death, sickness, unemployment, actions of others that disappoint us, and our own actions that upset us.

There is stress in relationships. And we wonder about God. “Where is He?” we ask. And, yes, like Thomas and the others, there are still times that we are afraid, that we question, that we doubt. Our Loving Lord knows and understands.  

He was one of us. Jesus knows what it is like to be afraid. He was afraid in the Garden of Olives.  He sweat blood. But He also trusted in the Power of His Father and our Father and did not let these fears change His determination to do the will of the Father.  

He sees us when we are afraid. He understands. He also gives us the ability to get up from our fears and do the right thing. 

This is Divine Mercy Sunday. The rays that come from the heart of Jesus remind us of the blood and water that came from His heart.  

The blood destroys the power that evil has over us. The water revives us through baptism. He sees, He knows, He understands. Yes, it is human to be afraid. And it is human to doubt. Perhaps we feel horrible for doubting Him.  

His mercy and compassion are stronger than our doubts. No matter what we are facing in life today, or will face tomorrow, joy or challenge, we look to Jesus; we remember His mercy and compassion, and we join Thomas in saying, “My Lord and My God.”

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.