25th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

25th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

Is.55:6-9; Phil.20-24, 27; Matt.20:1-16

I read a story long time ago that one day a great crowd gathered outside the gates of heaven. There was a great anticipation and restlessness as to what would happen next. St. Peter was seen whispering something to Jesus. After some tensed moments, St. Peter came out with an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a predicament here. If we go by the record, none of you will qualify for heaven. But God is good and generous.

On behalf of the Blessed Trinity, I hereby declare general amnesty! Open the gates and let the heavenly feast begin. There was tremendous applause and rejoicing as the gates of heaven were partly opened. Then St. Peter took the microphone again. Everyone was quiet. “There will be final test though, but the general amnesty still stands!” With that, the gates were thrown wide open and everybody started coming in.

There was a group that refused to come in. The group’s members went to St. Peter with a complaint: “We sacrificed much and worked hard on earth. We followed your Ten Commandments. We prayed regularly. We went to Mass every day. Some of us were catechists, lay cooperators, Eucharistic ministers and church workers. How come we get the same reward as the others who lived dirty and useless lives? That’s unfair!” And they refused to enter heaven.

In fact they organized a protest rally and pitched their tents outside the gates of heaven. “Well, that was the final test,’ St. Peter said. They were forever barred from heaven, why? It is because they were still selfish, arrogant and proud. They were thinking of their merits instead of rejoicing in God’s generosity. Such will be the case of people who are selfish, envious and self-righteous.

Today’s readings are all about the sense of justice and the extravagant grace of a merciful God. While God is both just and merciful, God’s mercy often overrides His justice and, hence, God pardons us unconditionally and rewards us generously by opening Heaven for the Gentiles and the Jews.

One of the things I like about this parable is that it makes me angry or at least get a strong reaction out of me. You and I are supposed to get angry at some of the conclusions of the parables, and then only we pause to reflect on why we are angry. It is then that we get the meaning of “God’s grand reversal.”

A fresh apple pie fills the kitchen with its tantalizing aroma. The expectations are high as the family gathers around and the Grandma cuts the pie into equal pieces. Even little Jimmy gets a big slice. Hey! He didn’t even help to make the pie. Why should he get that much!” complains his sister, who helped Grandma slice the apples. The other siblings join in with similar complaints, but the Grandma only smiles and hands Jimmy a fork. “We are all part of the family,” Grandma replies. “Why don’t you all just enjoy what you have got? It is plenty!”

God’s rewards are not earned. They are gifts. As someone said: Rule number one is, God is gracious. Rule number two is, leaning rule number one.” God’s ways are not our ways. And this takes us to the first reading in which the prophet Isaiah reminds the exiles in Babylon that their God is more merciful than they are, and more forgiving. He is ready to pardon their infidelity which has resulted in their exile. Their merciful God will bless them with material and spiritual blessings.

In the second reading, Paul offers himself as an example of total submission to God’s grace. He is ready to live continuing his mission if that is God’s will. At the same time he is ready to die and join the Lord if that is God’s will. Paul was a latecomer in God’s vineyard, preaching the Gospel. But he worked with zeal and interest to spread God’s News of Redemption and Salvation for all. Paul is an example of how grace operates. Being a Christian means accepting God’s word without explanation or justification.

Today’s Gospel is known as “the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard” or “the Parable of the Generous Landlord.” This remarkable and rather startling parable is found only in Matthew. A priest in New Orleans after Katrina saw a child with one shoe. He asked where she had lost the other. The girl replied, “I didn’t. I found this one.” God tells us through this parable: “Don’t cut me down to your size. You fashion God to your image, but I am an original.” This may be the most puzzling of the forty parables of Jesus.

The aim of the parable is a warning to the disciples. Jesus teaches his disciples not to claim any special honor or any special place because they are closely associated with him or because they are the first members of his Church. All the people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God. Similarly, long-time Church members should expect no special preference over recent members.

It may be a definite warning to the Jews. As the chosen people of God, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles. Jesus warns them that the Gentiles who put their faith in God will have the same reward a good Jew may expect. Matthew, by retelling this parable, may well desire to give the same warning to the members of his Judeo-Christian community who considered the Gentile Christians as second-class Christians.

It may be an explanation by Jesus of His love for the publicans and sinners. Through this parable, Jesus describes the loving concern, generosity and mercy of God his Father for all His children, which Jesus reflects in his life.

The parable suggests that we can’t work our way into heaven because by our own strength we can never do enough good in this life to earn our everlasting reward. That is why God expects us to cooperate with His grace for doing good and avoiding evil. Salvation comes to us by God’s grace and our cooperation with it. It is a blend of faith and works. Amen

 

Extra example:

Let us reflect this reflection entitled, “Funny, Isn’t It?” by an unknown author. It runs this way:

It is Funny how a $100 bill looks so big when you take it to church, but so small when you take it to the mall. Funny how long it takes to serve God for an hour, but how quickly a team plays 60 minutes of basketball. Funny how long a couple of hours spent at church are, but how short they are when watching a movie.

Funny how we can’t think of anything to say when we pray, but don’t have difficulty thinking of things to talk about to a friend. Funny how we get thrilled when a baseball game goes into extra innings, but we complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time.

Funny how hard it is to read a chapter in the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a best-selling novel. Funny how people want to get a front seat at any game or concert, but scramble to get a backseat at church services.

Funny how we need 2 or 3 weeks advance notice to fit a church event into our schedule, but can adjust our schedule for a last minute party. Funny how hard it is for people to learn a simple gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is for the same people to understand and repeat gossip.

Funny how we believe what the newspaper says, but question what the Bible says. Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided they do not have to believe, or think, or say, or do anything.

Funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending message how many on your list are not receiving it because you are not sure they believe in anything.

FUNNY, ISN’T IT? Spread the WORD and give thanks to the LORD for HE is GOOD! Amen.

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24th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

24th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Sir.27:30—28:7, Rom.14:7-9, Matt.18:21-35

The great British convert and apologist G. K. Chesterton once said, “Forgiving means to pardon the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.” By contrast, you and I often are willing only to forgive if we deem someone’s sins not too serious or offensive.

Today Jesus challenges us to go further in being instruments of His mercy. One way to realize to what extent we ought to extend mercy to others is to turn the table. We ought each day to consider how much God Himself has blessed us in showing us His mercy.

We ought to reflect on how each day we act sinfully, in a way that calls for God’s mercy. All of us long to find a place where we are at home, where we are trusted. But even more importantly, we long to find a place where we can be forgiven, for we know that there are times when we fail to live up to the trust that people place in us.

We might ask ourselves, “Which is more important to me: trust or forgiveness?” If we look to our own experience, it’s easy to answer these questions. If we consider the workplace, we can hope that our employers or supervisors might be patient and help us when we have trouble with a task.

But if we were to imagine our worst Monday, a day in which hour after hour produced nothing but terrible results, and finally ends in a major blunder or misjudgment, we would naturally expect to receive a pink slip instead of forgiveness.

Businesses have to trust people, or they wouldn’t have any employees. But they do not have to forgive endlessly. They can only tolerate a certain amount of error. After that, the relationship is over.

All of us long to find a place where we feel at home, which first and foremost means a place where we know we can experience forgiveness. Home is not simply where the heart is, but where the forgiving heart is.

The home in which we find the deepest sort of forgiveness, a selfless and generous forgiveness that seeks to build up the one who has transgressed: this is our truest home. The Church, in which we share in the Body of Christ, is our truest home.

By right, we should feel most at home there, before its altar, because it is there that we revel in the source of all forgiveness. When the priest speaks those words that Christ spoke at the Last Supper, we are taken into that home where forgiveness was first given by the God-man, when he said,

“This is the Cup of My Blood. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven….”

But in our home here, we find not only forgiveness.

In our home, the Church, when we share in the Eucharist, we give thanks not only for the forgiveness wrought by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. We also give thanks for the fact that when we share fully in this sacrament, we receive not only a share in Christ’s forgiveness.

We receive a share in the life of Christ himself. We receive not only the Forgiver’s forgiveness. We receive the Forgiver. To receive forgiveness is to be restored to our former self. But to receive the Forgiver:

This means not simply that we’re restored to our former self, but that we’re raised from our state of sinfulness even beyond our old self, to a share in the life of the Forgiver’s Self.

We share in the life of Christ, and so are asked to offer forgiveness to others as Christ does: to all persons, in all circumstances, forever. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.

There is the story of a man named George Wilson who in 1830 killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. He was tried and condemned to death by hanging. But the then President of the United States, Andrew Jackson granted him executive pardon.

George Wilson, however, refused to accept the pardon. The Department of Corrections did not know what to do. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Marshall ruled that “a pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned.

If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.” And hanged he was. Even if we are opposed to the death penalty, we still cannot but agree with the principle that pardon granted has to be accepted to become effective.

This is the point of today’s gospel. When God forgives us, we must accept God’s forgiveness. But then the gospel goes on to indicate that the way to accept God’s forgiveness is not just to say “Amen, so be it!” but to go out and forgive somebody.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant raises the frightening prospect that pardon already granted by God could be revoked. The king who forgave his servant his debt meant it. But when the servant went out and failed to forgive somebody, the king revoked the pardon.

By his action the servant had shown that he did not appreciate and therefore was unworthy of the pardon he had been given. Is this a good analogy of how God deals with us? That seems to be the point of the parable.

“So, my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matt.18:35). In other words, when God gives us His word of forgiveness, everything is not over yet.

The deal is finally concluded only when we are able to go out and forgive those who sin against us. The free grace of God’s forgiveness needs our response of forgiving our neighbor to be finally ratified.

Isn’t that a frightening thought? “Forgive your neighbors the wrong they have done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sirach 28:2).

Why do we find it hard to forgive others even though that is the only way to anchor God’s forgiveness? I think the reason is because we fail to appreciate and celebrate our own forgiveness.

Like the ungrateful servant in the parable, we focus on the 100 denarii our neighbor owes us rather than the 10,000 talents we owe to God, which God has graciously cancelled.

But God in his infinite mercy sent his own Son to die on the cross and take away our sins. And all He asks of us is to be grateful; to realize that He has done for us so much more than we could ever be required to do for our neighbor.

If we find ourselves in the club of those who find it so hard to forgive other people, chances are that we have not come to appreciate and celebrate enough the immeasurable forgiveness that we ourselves have received from God.

So, let us pray today for a deeper appreciation of the amazing love that God has shown us in Christ. It is this awareness that will make it easier for us to let others off the hook for their relatively minor offences against us.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

23rd Sunday Year – A – 14

23rd Sunday Year – A – 14

Eze.33:7-9; Rom.13:8-10; Matt.18:15-20

There was an 85 year-old lady who found her husband in bed with another woman. She was so enraged that she dragged him to the balcony of their Miami high-rise and pushed him off, and he fell to his death. She was arrested, of course, and when she appeared before the judge he asked her if she had anything to say in her defense. “Well, your honor,” she said, “I figured if he were able to be unfaithful to his wife at age 92, he surely would be able to fly.”

We’ve all had times when we were angry enough to throw someone off a high building, but that’s not the way Jesus tells us to deal with the sin of another person. The common theme of today’s readings is our responsibility towards the salvation of others in our community because they are God’s children and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are, therefore, the “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all others in our Faith community. This individual responsibility in a Christian society includes, as today’s readings remind us, our responsibility for each other. Perhaps the most painful obligations of watchful love are fraternal correction and generosity in forgiving and forgetting injuries.

In the First Reading, we heard of the mission of Ezekiel to be a “watchman” for the house of Israel. The role of the watchman is not to become a busybody, but rather to live with a wide-eyed awareness to what is good and right and life-giving. Watchmen, because they have a sense of what is good, also are able to sense danger. Watchmen would sense what is dangerous for the individual and for the community.

Watchmen can then sound the alarm; they can sound the call to action, and the prophetic call to change. A world which emphasizes privacy and independence may not have any room for watchmen. Thus, to be a watchman may not be popular today. But let us remember that we are brothers and sisters to each other. As such, we must be responsible for each other; we must be keepers to each other.

Our concern for each other would call us to be a watchman to the community where we belong. However, some world leaders found out that they could not afford to be independent. We have observed that some world leaders have bonded themselves to protect the world from danger, from terrorism. When they see an imminent danger, they would do something to prevent it from happening. They have become watchmen of the world.

In the Second Reading, St Paul exhorted the Romans to “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” So, we do not only show our concern to the other, but we should also love the other. Love and concern are very much related. Only those people who love can show concern to the person. Loving does not show what could be considered “comfortable” by the person.

If we truly love the person, we always tell what we want to say and to do, even if this appears a discomfort to the other. Even if it offers discomfort and pain to the other, we have to take note that “love does no evil to the neighbor.”

Our gospel today is taken from the fourth major discourse called the social Discourse where Jesus teaches us how he expects his followers to treat others. Our gospel introduces one of the topics Jesus spoke on in the Social Discourse with these words: “If your brother sins against you…” Two of the oldest and best Greek manuscripts do not have the words “against you.” They say simply “if your brother sins.” Most commentators hold that the words “against you” were not part of the original gospel.

In the gospel, Jesus gives an exhortation on fraternal correction. He says that if a person sins against you, the next thing you should do is “to go and tell his fault between you and him alone.” This does not happen always though. When a person has done something wrong against us, we usually create a wall between him and us. We do not want to talk to that person. What we want is that this person instead should be the one to come, and say sorry to us.

But what if the person does not know that he has already hurt you? What we should do? For Jesus, even if we are hurting, we should go to the person and tell him that he has done wrong to us. It may be difficult because it would mean getting rid of our pride.  The work of correcting our erring brothers or sisters is not easy. It gives us discomfort. It can be embarrassing. And it can be risky too because it might lose a long established friendship. Some people prefer silence, not to say any word to erring brother, sister or friend, lest that he or she may be hurt.

Again, all of us are responsible for the salvation of others. We cannot afford to think only of ourselves. We are all brothers and sisters and therefore must always show our concern and love for each other. We must remain a watchman for others, we must love others, and lastly, we must correct others when they have done wrong. This is difficult to do, but if we have the heart, that is, love and concern, for them, then we must do everything for them.

Modern believers tend to think that they have no right to intervene in the private lives of their fellow believers. Others evade the issue saying, “As a sinner, I don’t have the moral courage or the right to correct anyone.” But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have the serious obligation to correct others. Have we offered advice and encouragement to our friends and neighbors and coworkers when it was needed, and loving correction in private for a personal offense where that was possible?

Today’s readings remind us of the good we can do together, and of how we can do it. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If any group of us gather, work, and act with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we will become much more than simply the collective number of people we are. Today, Jesus makes it clear how important we are, one to another.

Let us admit the fact that a great degree of indifference to religion shown by our young men and women is due to lack of parental and fraternal control, training and example. Let us with love and concern; correct our own children and our brothers and sisters with whom we live in this world. Let God be praised. Amen.

 

 

 

21st Sunday, O T Year A – 17

21st Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Is.22:19-23/ Rom.11:33-36/ Matt.16:13-20

We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday,” because the main theme is the handing over of the “Keys” which open and shut, representing authority in the Church and in the Kingdom.

The keys also symbolize the beginning of a new era, the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit guiding the destiny of every human being on the earth.

To give keys means “to bestow authority”. The apostles are given authority to become the stewards of the kingdom of heaven upon the earth “the authority to lead, to instruct, to teach, to heal, to exorcise and to guide the people to God.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles exercised their authority “the doors were opened to three thousand people, later to the gentiles.

The metaphor of ‘binding and loosing.’ This image is used by the Scribes, Rabbis and the teachers of the Law to assert their legislative authority in interpreting the Law.

It also has its significance with regard to doctrinal and judicial decisions; for example, in permitting certain things to do or forbidding them. It also suggests pardoning a sinner and if he does not listen to the elders, considering him as an outsider or foreigner.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to know him personally and to serve him and love him as Lord, and he wants from each one of us our total, single-hearted response. So, the question is: Who is God for you? This question is one way of exploring the individual experiences of God.

The answers may vary. Some would biblically describe God as their Savior, Father, Creator, or Judge, while others give “personal” experiences which suggest intimacy, like, Brother, Friend, or Counselor.

Faith and knowledge are intimately related. No person who professes his belief in Christ, at the same time, would say that he does not know Christ. If we believe in Him, we must also have known Him.

St. John equates believing with knowing. In his writings, we can find the phrase, “I have come to know and believe….” Thus, faith is about knowing God; faith is knowledge of God.

The gospel passage leads us to this relationship. Believing in Jesus constitutes knowledge about Him. Let us turn to the two important questions of Jesus. The first is, “Who do people say that I am?” and the second, “Who do you say that I am?”

To the first question, the disciples responded: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” People, in other words, perceived Christ as a prophet.

By asking the disciples what do people perceive about Him, Jesus suggests that other people can be a true source of our knowledge of God. In fact, this is our experience. When we were kids, the sources of our knowledge about God were our parents, catechists, and teachers.

All of them are our teachers of the faith. What they say or teach about God has been instrumental in the formation of our fledging faith. However, they are only one of the sources. What they say may not be sufficient.

In fact, when Jesus heard from his disciples the people’s perception about Him, he did not even say a word of approval or confirmation. Certainly, there is truth in what people said about Him, but not satisfactory.

Jesus must have seen the truth about it, but he knows that He is greater than John, Elijah, Jeremiah, and other prophets. He is more than the prophets! This could be the reason why He asked the second question: “But who do you say that I am?”

It could be understandable that people may have insufficient view about Jesus because they have not journeyed with Him. But the disciples have. So, Jesus must have expected a more sufficient and deeper answer from them because of their “being with” Him.

True enough, Peter was able to give a satisfactory answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And here, Jesus has a different reaction. He agreed to it, he confirmed it, and he was satisfied by it.

As we grow in age, we are also expected to grow in faith, and more specifically, in the knowledge of God. But some of us are inclined to be satisfied with what we hear about God from other people.

I mean, we seem to be already satisfied with the knowledge we received from our parents or catechists. Seldom we spend time in communing ourselves with God in order to have a deeper knowledge of Him.

The second question of Jesus will always confront us. From time to time, we need to ask ourselves, “Who is God for me?” or “Who is Christ for me?” The answer to this question cannot be simply taken from what people say or teach to us.

Peter was able to have the sufficient answer because of the moments he had been with Christ. The time he spent with Christ was an opportunity for knowing Him more deeply. In the same way, we can only have a good answer to this question if we also spend more time with God.

Prayer is the key to this knowledge. Reading the Bible regularly is also a key to this knowledge. Thus, growing in the knowledge of God depends on the time we spend for and with Him. The grace of God the Father and the Spirit work in these moments.

To attain knowledge about God from other people is already good. But it is better that we complement it with our own experience of God which can be had through persistent prayers and personal studies or reading of the Word of God.

Jesus is not merely the founder of a new religion, or a revolutionary Jewish reformer, or one of the great teachers. For Christians, he is the Son of God and our personal Savior. This means that we have to see Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Savior, and the Redeemer.

He is our beloved friend, closer to us than our dear ones and a living experience, who walks with us, loves us, forges us, helps us and transforms our lives and outlook. We have to give all areas of our lives to him.

Amen.

20th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

20th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Is.56:1, 6-7/ Rom.11:13-15, 29-32/ Matt.15:21-28

In last Sunday’s gospel reading, Peter’s prayer was condensed into three words, “Lord, save me!”  In today’s reading the Canaanite woman’s prayer is exactly the same.

Peter was the Lord’s chief disciple, the Canaanite woman was a pagan; but their prayer was the same, and the Lord responded to both.

Much has been said about the topic of prayer, and much more can be said and will be said about the topic of prayer. Well, the least we can say about prayer is that we are here to pray to God and to ask Him to answer our needs and petitions.

And what do others have to say about prayer? Mother Teresa has this to say: Prayer is not about asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts.

So, for Mother Teresa, prayer is total surrender to God’s call and letting Him do whatever He wants to do for us. Another quote, although not from a religious figure is this: Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one (Bruce Lee 1940-1973).

Oh yes, life is difficult and we have to handle it with prayer. There is this story of a man who bought a lottery ticket and he prayed: Lord, if I strike, I will give the Church 10% of the winnings. He did not strike.

He bought another lottery ticket and he prayed: Lord, if I strike, I’ll give the Church 25%. Again, he did not strike. He bought another ticket and he prayed: Ok, Lord, ok. This time it will be 50-50. (So, will he strike?)

As we all know by now, the purpose of prayer is not to change God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. That being said about prayer, today’s gospel passage presents to us a unique scenario and also a unique encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman.

Jesus and His disciples had gone outside of Jewish territory into the region of Tyre and Sidon. When you are not on home ground, it is best that you keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. And that’s what Jesus and His disciples were doing.

Then out came this Canaanite woman shouting for Him, calling Him “Son of David” and to take pity on her for her daughter was tormented by the devil. We can imagine what a scene it was, and we can also imagine the disciples squirming at this embarrassing situation.

So desperate were they that they had to tell Jesus to give her what she wanted, probably because people were starting to look at them and wonder what was happening. And surprisingly, Jesus was silent.

It was like as if He didn’t care. It was so unlike Him. And when He finally said something, it was some puzzling thing about being sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Again, it was so unlike Jesus, and we ourselves may begin to start wondering.

And then with the woman kneeling at His feet and pleading “Lord, help me” He seemed to be insulting the woman by saying that it was not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs.

At this point, the woman could have stood up and cursed and swore at Jesus. If He was not going to help her, then there was no need to be rude and insulting.

It is said that God gives three types of answers to prayers. He says YES and gives us whatever we want. He says NO and gives us something better. Or He says wait and gives us the best. That Canaanite woman came before Jesus to intercede for her daughter.

She didn’t have to go through all that pleading and kneeling, if not for the fact that she took on her daughter’s need and made it her need. And she was prepared to wait through thick and thin to have the need addressed.

This unique encounter and unique exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman highlights the vital element in interceding for others – and that is the power of intervention. To intervene is to involve oneself in a situation so as to alter an action or development.

The Canaanite woman interceded for her daughter and in doing so she also intervened between Jesus and her daughter. She stood between Jesus and her daughter. And in the end her daughter was healed and Jesus also affirmed her of her faith.

We have come for Mass to worship and to pray. Yes, we pray for ourselves, but more importantly we pray as the Church community, and as the Church we pray for others. And this is expressed in the Intercessory Prayers or the Prayers of the Faithful.

Because like the daughter of the Canaanite woman who was unable to help herself, there are people who are quite unable to pray for themselves. And we are called to intercede for them and to intervene for them before the Lord.

We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence. Although the essential parts of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving, the prayer of petition plays a big part in our daily lives.

Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the “great Faith” we need to receive what Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests.

We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather, God gives us what He knows we really need, what He wants for us and what is really best for us.

As Christians, we also know that our particular request may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying.

But if the prayer is sincere and persevering we will always get an answer – one which is better than what we asked for.

The salvation of many depends on the prayer and sacrifice of a few. We may be few, but we have the power of intercession and to make a prayer intervention.

May we have the faith of that unnamed Canaanite woman to persevere in prayer and may we too experience the power of our prayer intervention. Amen.

Assumption of the BVM, – 17

Assumption of the BVM, – 17

Rev.11:19; 12:1-6. 10 / 1Cor.15:20-26 / Lk.1:39-56

When Jesus was hanging on the cross and just before He gave up His spirit, He turned to His mother and the disciple He loved standing near her, and He said to His mother, “Woman, this is your son.” (Jn.19:26)

Then to the disciple He said, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. After this Jesus knew that everything had now been completed. (Jn.19:27-28)

This beloved disciple, often identified as St. John, later took Mary to his home in Ephesus. From extra biblical sources, Mary lived there for many years before she died and was buried in a tomb.

But it didn’t just end there. These extra biblical sources also related that one of the Apostles, St. Thomas, was absent when Mary died and was buried because he was in India doing his ministry.

When he came to Ephesus and wanting to pay his respect, he asked to see her body. But upon opening the tomb, Mary’s body was not there. Instead, there were sweet smelling flowers growing at where her body laid.

The rest of the Apostles attested that the tomb was not opened ever since Mary’s body was laid in it, and hence they concluded that God must have assumed her body into heaven along with her soul.

And since they had witnessed the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, they concluded that the same thing happened to Mary.

And since Mary was conceived without sin, sin had not touched or defiled her soul, then God would not allow her body to turn to dust, but rather assumed her body to heaven to share in the glory of the Risen Christ.

Since then till now, it was the common belief in the Church that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. But it was only in 1950, 15th August, that Pope Pius XII officially declared Mary’s Assumption as an article of faith.

In other words, the Church has boldly declared that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, a declaration that is definite and irreversible. It was a declaration not just on the authority of the Church but also under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

With this declaration, our faith in the saving power of God is reinforced. Mary is the first to be saved by the saving work of Jesus, and the first to enter heaven body and soul, hence assuring us that we too will join her one day.

At the same time, our faith in Mary’s intercession is also reinforced, because from heaven she continues to pray for us as our Heavenly Mother, a mission that she received at the foot of the cross and that she continues even in heaven.

As Mary’s Assumption was a reward for a holy life, this feast invites us to keep our bodies pure and holy.  Paul gives three additional reasons: a) our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

  1. b) our body parts are the members of Christ’s Body, and c) our bodies are to be glorified on the day of the Last Judgment.

We are given an assurance of hope in our resurrection and a source of inspiration during moments of despair and temptations.

So, like the beloved disciple, let us make for Mary a place in the home of our hearts. Let us offer her our prayers and ask for her intercession.

And let us also pray with her for the salvation of all peoples. That’s what her Assumption means. That’s what being disciples of Jesus is all about. Amen.

19th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

19th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

1 Kg.19:9, 11-13/ Rom.9:1-5/ Matt.14:22-33

A Jewish rabbi and his friend a Catholic priest were traveling together in a train and it being a long journey they started to talk. Rabbi: So, what’s your next move, padre? Priest: Well, if I’m lucky I might get a parish of my own.

Rabbi: And then? Priest: Well perhaps I’ll be made a Monsignor and maybe even a Bishop! Rabbi: And after that? Priest: Well I suppose, it’s just possible that I could become a Cardinal. Rabbi: Yes, and what after that?

Priest: Well, it’s ridiculous to think about it. But I suppose I could become Pope! Rabbi: And then? Priest: Well that’s it, Pope! There’s only God after that. Rabbi: Well, you never know, after all one of our Jewish boys from Nazareth, made it!

It is not a joke about me. For me if not Sacred Heart, may be St. Mary’s or may be St. Antony or may be St. Joseph, or may be St. Michael…

This is the way the world is whether it is politics or the world. I could go on and on but won’t. We know we’re burdened and our hearts are heavy. We know we are carrying heave burdens. “Where is God in the midst of all of this?” some ask.

Today’s first reading presents us with the Old Testament prophet Elijah likewise in a state of despondency. Three days prior to the episode we just now heard in today’s first reading he was so miserable that he was asking God to let him die.

We find him here in this reading hiding in a cave, seeking shelter in solid rock. But just as he finds shelter in a cave along comes an earthquake and then a hurricane of a storm that smashes the rocks and cliffs of the mountains, threatening to drown him in chaos.

“Where is God in all of this?” he was asking. What is God saying to me in all of these events? Elijah, however, couldn’t figure anything out until he was able to hear the voice of God in a tiny little whisper.

The voice of God came to him in the most unexpected of ways. And so, it is with us. The disciples and Peter found themselves to be in similar circumstances, only this time out in an open boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm.

“Where is God in all of this?” they wondered. Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, if it’s really you over there tell me to come to you across the water.” Peter, we see, had his doubts.

We find our own lives these days surrounded by chaos. The floodwaters of social change along with the cultural earthquakes of our times, globalization, terrorism, and the energy crisis severely threaten us.

Only one in four of our nation’s households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together in the same home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, traditional homes.

Indeed, the very definition of the so-called normal family is at issue. Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable economy, job loss, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the storms and floodwaters that threaten us.

Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex, violence, and lust for money assault the moral characters of our youngsters, the solid ground of normalcy.

Teenage suicide is frequently reported; teen gangs and drug gangs roam our city streets at will. “Where is God in all of this?” we cry. Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today.

Confidence. Confidence comes from a Latin word; it means, “to believe with”. We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s an Other near us, the Other that is God.

And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of times. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you if only you keep up your contact with God.

No prayer? No confidence. Stop coming to Mass? No confidence. Not sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you will sink.

Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds in or world that shake the very foundations of your life.

And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, we, like Peter, will either be blown away or drown. Is your life getting out of control? Is your faith slipping away from you? Are you experiencing more and more powerlessness in the chaos that surrounds you?

If so, here’s what you do. Find a place of solitude and silence. Go to your room, shut your door and gather around you as much silence and solitude as you possibly can. Then kneel down by your bedside and in that silence and in that solitude, say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

If you do that, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Elijah was. Look into the eyes of Jesus, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Peter was.

Never forget, after all was said and done, God restored Elijah in power, and eventually swept him up into heaven. And after all was said and done God in Christ saved Peter, saved him even from himself.

And God will do no less for us, if and only if we give our confidence to Christ and remain faith-full to our Father in Him. The real question, you see is not “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?”

May we be filled with that confidence.