16th, Sunday, O T Year A – 17

16th, Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Wis.12:13, 16-19, Rom.8:26-27, Matt.13:24-43

A man was suffering from a serious attack of appendicitis. He hated going to the doctor, but his wife would not let him suffer. Finally, she got him to a doctor who arranged for an operation.

Still in pain and still protesting the idea of an operation, he said to the doctor, “When God gave people an appendix, there must have been a reason for putting it in our bodies.” “Oh, there was,” said the doctor. “God gave you that appendix so I could put my children through college.”

People of faith tend to believe that God has a reason for everything, even if that reason is not obvious. Sometimes people can’t figure out God’s plans.

They give up trying to understand and decide either God doesn’t have any plans or God doesn’t have any control or simply they decide there is no God. Most atheists have come to belief that there is no God because of the problem of evil in the world.

Their argument is if there is a good God, then God would not allow all the evil we see. He would stop it, but since there is so much evil, there must not be a good God. Their argument ignores all the good things we see in our world, which far outweigh the evil.

Our first reading from the book of Wisdom and Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the weeds gives us one way to help us understand the problem of evil. It is that God is patient while waiting and urging the evil doers to change their ways.

We’ve all gotten impatient with God at times, thinking God is too patient. In the end, aren’t we grateful that God is patient for we’re all sinners and we have failed at times. We all try to be the good element (the wheat) in God’s kingdom. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

In the course of our lives, if we’re honest, we know we haven’t been perfect all the time. Thankfully, God is patient and God is merciful. God wishes none to perish as he tells us in the parable of the lost sheep.

Jesus’ parable last week, the three today, and the three-next week are about one of his favorite topics – the kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom is the “good news” that Jesus preached.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable that also dwells on the mystery of evil. Good seeds were sown in the field. Then an enemy came and sowed weeds in the field.

So, the cause of evil is zeroed in on this “enemy”. But who is this enemy? And where is this enemy? It would be convenient to assume that the enemy is somewhere out there lurking in the dark.

Or better still, we can even identify the enemy as the devil, and for the evil that is happening, we can blame it on him. In a way that is quite true. Even the gospel parable seems to put it like that.

Yet there is another enemy – the enemy that is within! The following story may illustrate what is meant by the enemy within.

The Great Wall of China was and still is a massive structure. It was also built at a massive cost, especially in terms of human lives. (It has been estimated that more than a million Chinese died over the centuries that it took to build the Wall)

It was built to keep out and to prevent the barbarians from invading the country. When it was completed, it was thought to be impregnable. Until one day it was broken into, and broken into quite easily.

Along the walls, there are also many gates for the troops to move in and out. The enemy simply bribed one of the gate-keepers, and when everyone was asleep, he opened the gates for the enemy.

The irony was that the Great Wall which was built at the cost of many lives, was breached not by the enemy from without but by the enemy from within.

And that brings up the point about the enemy in today’s gospel. The enemy that sowed the weeds may not be from without or from somewhere out there. The enemy may be from within. In other words, there is no greater enemy than ourselves.

In fact, if the enemy is from without, it would make us more united. But it is the enemy from within that will cause the most extensive damage because it begins with internal damage.

And internal damage begins with evil thoughts which will lead to evil desires and evil actions. At the heart of it all is none other than the heart itself. Our hearts are created by God and created to be pure and holy.

When we choose to walk on the dark side, we shut God out of our hearts and consequently we let the devil sow his weeds of evil into our hearts. But even if we choose to walk on the dark and evil side, there is the wheat of goodness in the hearts.

All the evil cannot take away the goodness in our hearts, because it is a goodness that is sown by God Himself. So, let us come back to the light and walk in the love of the Lord and bear a harvest of goodness.

There cannot be a perfect humanity having only good people. Good and bad, like the wheat and the weeds of today’s Gospel passage, will always coexist till the end of the world.

Good and evil will always be found together among persons and in the communities. God respects both and is patient with them. He gives sunshine and showers of rain to both just and unjust, to both good and bad people.

Secondly God knows that as wheat will survive in spite of the presence of weeds, so good people can grow in God’s ways even if the people with evil intentions attack them.

Besides it is not easy to distinguish the good from the evil just as it is not easy to distinguish the wheat from the weeds. So, we need to be patient. It is God and God alone can separate the good from the evil at the end time.

One should not forget that the kingdom of God is a mixture of true and false people. God allows weeds to grow among the wheat, but at the harvest time the weeds are gathered and destroyed. Similarly, in the world and in the society, there will always be evil people as well as good people. Just as God is patient with those who are evil and gives them chances to avoid their evil ways and time to return to them, we too must be patient to the evil doers and help them to repent and be converted. It is a life-long task.

The good will have to suffer at the hands of the evil ones but Jesus had taught us how to deal with them, “Love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you”. Your reward will be great in heaven.

The same time every good and holy person, knowing that they are weak, ought to be watchful not to be led astray by the evil one.

Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to Heaven, especially by our good example, encouragement and our fervent prayer for their conversion.

Let us remember that most of us have been “weeds” in God’s field more than once, and God has showed us mercy. God is so merciful that He allows evil to exist in order that what is good may grow.

He allows evil to exist also because He can turn it into good. Through the power of the Spirit, God can change even the ugliest thorn into a blossom of Faith. In God’s field, we have responsibilities.

Our acts of charity, kindness, mercy, encouragement, loving correction and selfless service can prompt the “weeds” in our society to reassess their lives, modify them and become useful members of society.

Let us grow in grace to share His Word and His love with others. Amen.

15th Sunday O T – Year – A – 17

15th Sunday O T – Year – A – 17

Is.55:10-11, Rom.8:18-23, Matt.13:1-23

It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words. But words can never say it all, because if words can say it all, then there is no need to paint anything at all. But as much as a picture paints a thousand words, yet a few words can also change the story of the picture.

The great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, was quoted as saying: Without knowing the power of words, it is impossible to know anything at all. And as much as words can tell a story, words can also change the story.

There is a story of an old farmer who wanted to plough his field to grow crops, but his son who would have helped him was in jail.

So, he wrote to his son to lament: I am helpless this year because you are not here to plough the field, so I can’t grow any crops. A couple of days later, the old farmer was surprised to receive a post-card from his son and it read: Papa, please don’t dig the field.

I have buried my weapons there. Then the next morning, a group of policemen can along with tractors and dug up the whole field but no weapons were found.

The old farmer was confused and wrote back to his son and told him what had happened. A couple of days later, he got a reply from his son: Papa, now you can go ahead to plant your crops.

This sounds like an incredible story. Yet as much as it sounds incredible, there is an underlying truth in it. And the truth is that words have the power to paint a picture and to create a story. Yes, words can make something happen, and cause a reaction.

The parable that Jesus told in the gospel also sounds rather incredible. Any sensible sower would sow the seeds on fertile soil. He would sow the seeds where they will produce a harvest. But the sower in the parable seemed to be a rather careless sower.

Because some seeds fells on the edge of the path and were eaten up by birds. Some fell on patches of rock and others fell among thorns. That is futile sowing, not fertile sowing. But of course, some fell on rich soil and produced their crops, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

And Jesus ended off this astonishing parable with this statement: Listen, anyone who has ears. And even as we listen, we may be wondering if that sower was wasting his time and effort and the seeds. Why sow seeds that will end up as bird food?

Why sow seeds that won’t germinate or that will eventually die? But the lesson in life that we must keep learning is that nothing is wasted, because every action has a reaction.

The reaction may be delayed, may be obstructed by resistance and opposition, but nonetheless there will be a reaction. One profound aspect of this action and reaction is in the usage of words.

Words are not cheap, neither are they ineffective. If anything, they are packed with the power to ignite an explosion. And more so with God’s Word.

As we heard in the 1st reading, God’s Word does not return to Him empty without carrying out His will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

Yes, God speaks and we seem to have some difficulty hearing Him. By and large, we are practicing Catholics. If practice makes perfect, then are we anywhere near perfect? We come for Mass every week, we hear three scripture readings, but is there anything happening in us?

We may resonate with this story of a man who said to his wife: I am going to stop going for Mass! I listen to the readings, I hear the priests preach, but I can’t remember anything. It is doing me no good. So, I am going to stop going for Mass.

The wife thought for a while and replied: Then I am going to stop cooking for you! Because you can’t remember what you ate yesterday, you are getting fat and it’s not doing you any good. So, I am going to stop cooking for you.

Maybe that is also the story of our lives. We don’t think that anything is happening to us, even as we try to listen. But God will not stop speaking. A picture may paint a thousand words, but a few words will change the story of the picture.

More so when it is God’s Word. It will never return to Him empty without carrying out His will and succeeding in what it was sent to do. The good spiritual yield in life depends on how much a person willingly accepts and responds to the word of the Lord.

In his parable of the sower, Jesus uses four different soil-types to represent four separate responses people can give to God’s saving word. In fact, each one of us may display all four different types of soil at various time in our personal lives.

1) The soil along the path. This soil is too hard to absorb the seed. Soon the birds eat it up or passers-by trample it under foot. Jesus explains that this soil is like the person who hears the word of God without letting it sink in.

The seed/word is then replaced by worldly concerns. This type of soil represents people whose hearts and/or minds are closed because of laziness, prejudice, fear, pride or immoral living.

2) The soil on flat circular pieces of limestone. This soil-type represents emotional people who are always looking for novelties but never take a permanent interest in anything.

Jesus explains that this kind of person is at first impressed by the message but quickly loses interest because of the effort needed to keep the word alive.

We have the example of a group of disciples who followed Jesus for a long time until the day he announced that he was the “bread of life.” They found that teaching “too hard to accept” and just drifted away.

3) The soil filled with weeds: This soil represents people addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy, fear and greed. They are interested only in acquiring money by any means and in enjoying life in any way possible.

Jesus explains that these people are filled with worldly interests that undermine them. The classic example is Judas who follows Jesus for a long time, but in the end, it seems, cannot let go of his worldly interests and so exchanges his Lord for earthly silver.

4) The good soil. This soil-type represents the people who hear the word of God and diligently keep it. They have open hearts filled with holiness and humility. They are eager to hear the word and ready to put it into practice.

They are attentive to the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, the Gospel is filled with people who have accepted the Lord’s message and whose lives have been changed. Jesus’ words, in spite of obstacles and barriers, will produce the Kingdom.

Although the seed may seem scattered at random, it will nevertheless produce amazing results: thirty-fold, sixty-fold – even a hundred-fold, an enormous yield with modern farming methods, let alone with those of first century Palestine.

All we need is to keep listening, and God will change the story of our lives. It may sound incredible, but that is the truth of the power of God’s Word. We have the ears, so may we listen to God’s Word and produce a harvest. Amen.

14th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

14th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

Zec.9:9-10, Rom.8:9, 11-13, Matt.11:25-30

On July fourth, we probably heard all or part of the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…. Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed to me.”

Today’s readings, especially the Gospel, give the same message in a more powerful way: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah consoles the Jews living in Palestine under Greek rule, promising them a “meek” Messianic King of peace riding on a donkey, who will give them rest and liberty.

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 145) praises and thanks a kind and compassionate God Who “raises up those who are bowed down,” under heavy burdens. In the second reading, Paul tells the first-century Roman Christian community about two yokes, namely, the “flesh” and the “Spirit.”

He challenges them to reject the heavy and fatal yoke of the flesh and to accept the light yoke of the Spirit of Jesus. Christian spirituality, according to Paul, proceeds from the initiative of the Holy Spirit and means living in the realm of the “Spirit” as opposed to the “flesh.”

Matthew’s Gospel lists three invitations from Jesus that we his followers need to listen to attentively, since they can help to lift the air of discouragement and weariness that often pervades some parts of our communities.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”

This is the first invitation. It’s directed toward all those who live their religion as a heavy burden. Not a few Christians live beaten down by their conscience. They aren’t great sinners.

They simply have been taught to have their sin always before them and they don’t know the joy of God’s continuous forgiveness. If they meet Jesus, they will find themselves relieved. There are also Christians who are weary of living their religion as a worn-out tradition.

If they personally meet Jesus, they will learn to be alive, trusting in God as Father. They will discover an inner joy that they don’t know yet. They will follow Jesus, not out of obligation, but out of attraction.

“Shoulder my yoke… it is easy, and my burden is light.”

That is the second invitation. Living in the presence of Jesus doesn’t weigh anyone down. On the contrary, he frees up what’s best in us, since he proposes that we live our lives making them more human, worthy, whole.

It’s not easy to find a more passionate way of living. Jesus frees us from fear and pressure, he doesn’t bring them in; he makes our liberty grow, not our slavery; he awakens in us trust, never sadness; he draws us to love, not toward laws and precepts. He invites us to live by doing good.

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

That is the third invitation. We need to learn from Jesus how to live like him. Jesus doesn’t complicate our life. He makes it clearer and simpler, humbler, more whole. He offers rest.

He never puts onto his followers something that he hasn’t lived himself. He invites us to follow him on the same path that he has walked. That’s why he can understand our difficulties and our struggles, he can forgive our stupidities and our faults, always encouraging us to get up again.

Jesus does not mean that the burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid on us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light.

When we remember the love of God, when we know that our burden is to love, both directly and by loving men, the God Who loves us, then the burden becomes easy. Jesus is returning to the simplicity of God’s original Covenant and Law, giving people what they need to guide them on their path easily.

By following Jesus, a man will find peace, rest, and refreshment. Although we are not overburdened by the Jewish laws, we are burdened by many other things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age and a thousand other things.

Jesus’ concern for our burdens is as real as his concern for the law-burdened Jews of his day. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Jesus still gives us rest!

Is Jesus calling on those who are carrying heavy loads to come and add a yoke to their burden? Doesn’t that sound like adding affliction to the afflicted? No! Jesus is asking us to cast away our burdens and take on his yoke.

This is because, unlike the burdens we bear, his yoke is easy and his burden light. The yoke of Jesus is the love of God. By telling us: “Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest” Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way.

When we center in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens. And so, we need to unload our burdens before the Lord.

One of the effects of Worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass.

But whether we are in Church, alone in our quiet spot where we come before God each day, in our homes or in the homes of our friends and neighbors, we find that prayer and Christian fellowship bring us the rest and refreshment that we all need so much.

There is nothing quite like coming to the Lord and setting aside our burdens for a while – nothing quite like having our batteries recharged, our radiators cooled down and our spirits lifted.

Jesus promises rest from the burdens that we carry – rest from the burdens of sins, legalism and judgment, from the weight of anxiety and worry, from the yoke of unrewarding labor and from the endless labor for that which cannot satisfy.

The absolution and forgiveness, which we receive as repentant sinners, take away our spiritual burden and enable us to share the joy of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

13th Sunday, O T, Year A – 17

13th Sunday, O T, Year A – 17

2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42

A farmer, who went to a big city to see the sights, asked the hotel’s clerk about the time of meals. “Breakfast is served from 7 to 11, dinner from 12 to 3, and supper from 6 to 8” explained the clerk. “Look here,” inquired the farmer in surprise, “when am I going to get time to see the city?”

The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him.

In our first reading, we see, in Elijah’s welcome by a childless woman who lived in Shunem, a radical illustration of all four works. The woman recognized the holiness of Elisha.

She showed him reverence and hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by setting aside and furnishing an upper room of her house for the prophet to occupy whenever he should come to town.

In grateful response, Elisha promised her, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” The promise was fulfilled by God.

The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, reminds the Roman Christians, and us, that by Baptism we have been baptized into Jesus’ death, buried with him, and now look forward to resurrection with him (Rom 6:5).

Today’s Gospel lesson concludes Jesus’ great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs his twelve disciples on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me….” These words may sound a bit extreme, since family comes first for most of us.

1) What Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God. The wants of any person or any group of people (e.g. a family), cannot be met by trampling on or denying the rights and needs of others.

If members of one’s family act unjustly, one must, in conscience, separate oneself from them. In other words, one cannot condone immoral practices even by members of one’s family. Jesus clearly is not attacking family life.

He is giving a warning to his disciples of the conflicts and misunderstandings they will experience through their living out the word and thus becoming prophets, proclaiming God’s Will and living presence among His people through their own lives.

2) These words of Jesus can have another meaning. All those who become followers of Jesus belong to a new family. It is a family where every single person, including relatives, friends and even strangers are truly my brothers and sisters.

We become part of a larger family to whom we also have responsibilities.

Jesus means that there will be times when we will have to give more love and compassion to the hungry, the sick, those in prison, the social outcasts, the unemployed or the unemployable, the handicapped, and the lonely than to the members of our own family.

In other words, Jesus is not speaking against the family, but rather reminding us that we are part of a larger family of our fellow Christians.

The readings in today’s Mass are about what’s first in our lives, or what should be first, namely our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have in our lives.

Our relationship with God is the most important thing we can lose in our lives. God offers Himself to us, we respond. If we don’t respond, we’re telling God that His offer has no value for us and that His offer doesn’t mean anything to us.

Whether or not our immortal souls live in eternal life in heaven depends on our relationship with God here on earth. Our lives are filled with “busy-ness”; there are so many things we need to do and so many things we consider to be important. But what about God? Where is He in our lives?

What sort of attention do we give to God? We need to ask that question from time to time and today’s readings challenge us to do just that not only today, or on Sundays, but each and every day of our lives.

There are two big points to draw from today’s readings; the first being the question of how important God is to us in our lives. The second has to do with God’s messengers. God uses messengers, intermediaries, to relate to us. How important are they to us?

We live in a sort of “do it yourself” world. We like to take care of things all by ourselves. But we really can’t live that way, can we? We all need to depend on others in one way or another.

That’s true when it comes to the way God reaches us. The woman in the first reading and the businesswoman named Lydia paid a lot of attention to God’s messengers. As a result, God reached her and changed her life.

Are we open to God’s messengers in our lives? God cares for you, He loves you, and He wants your attention and love. We all need to make more room for Him in our lives, our hearts, and our thoughts. If we don’t, our souls are in peril.

Summertime is upon us, a time when our busy-ness is not so demanding. It’s a time of recreation and a time during which we can be reflective. What about reading some good books, especially books and things to read that turn our thoughts toward God.

What about some quiet time spent in reflection about God’s presence in our lives? Pick up some spiritual reading now so you can have it over your summertime. Spend some thoughtful, quiet, and reflective time during which you can pay attention to God and what He has to say to you.

Spend some time asking yourself what’s important in your life and how important God is to you in your life. After all, He made you to know Him, love Him and serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

What, after all, is your life really all about?

12th Sunday O T Year A – 17

12th Sunday O T Year A – 17

Jer.20:10-13; Rom.5:12-15; Matt.10:26-33

Sparrows are the most common and the most plentiful of all birds. This being so, they are not valued very highly at all. If as a species they were becoming extinct you can safely bet, however, that committees and campaigns would spring up to save them.

But what about human life? There are over seven billion human beings alive on this earth today. In this century, more than in any other century in human history, human life is less and less valued.

In the midst of all this we hear our Church proclaim today’s gospel message throughout the world: “Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.

As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so, do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.” “Do not be afraid.” How good it is for someone who is worried to hear those words from Jesus.

Jesus knew we needed to hear those words. “Do not be afraid.” Jesus, who was human as well as divine, knew that some of us need to be reminded again and again not to worry. So many times, in the Gospels we hear Jesus asking us not to worry.

Three times in today’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid.” The reason why Jesus tells us these words is that the Heavenly Father has great concern for us all. He knows us well, our person, our well-being, our needs.

Prophet Jeremiah tells us to expel from our mind all fear and worry because God is with us and he will protect us from all evil. He invites us therefore to commit our cause to God. At the same time St Paul tells us that the grace of God is great and it is a free gift given to us in and through Jesus.

That is the reason why we do not have any reason to worry or fear. Hence the central theme of today’s reading is that we should expel all fear and anxiety from our minds by cherishing an unshakable confidence in the never-failing providence of God.

The reading from the Gospel of Matthew advises us not to be afraid of human persons. Jesus repeatedly asks the twelve disciples not to be afraid. As disciples, we stand with Jesus entrusting ourselves to him.

Jesus reassures us of our value in God’s eyes and promises us that he will protect us as he does with the birds of the air and entire creation. If you are afraid, you are not alone because in the United States of America there are 13 million of different cases of fears happened.

If these fears will not be healed, a person will have nervous breakdown, tension, stress and shamefulness. If a person is ashamed, he is afraid. If there are millions of fears, I would like to share with you five types of fears, as mentioned by someone.

First is fear of rejection. It is because others’ reputation is destroyed and broken. If we will not do this or that, they might reject us and we will be in the limelight.

Second is fear of being hurt again. We don’t want to be hurt again. We may get hurt because we are overlooked, unappreciated or misunderstood. It may even compel us to close ourselves from any involvement for fear of being hurt again.

I experienced this myself. It’s very painful if you are misunderstood even though if what you are doing is right. What I did and said was being misunderstood. I came to a point that I have to be indifferent.

In the beginning, this experience depressed me a lot. But I realized at the end that none of these should diminish my spirit to continue doing well. My heart should be too big enough to allow such hurts to keep me from reaching out to people who may be worse off and hurting more than I am.

Jesus said: “Do not fear who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Third is fear of anticipation of what might happen. The most prevalent statement by us is: “What if…” “I will do this or not do that, what will happen to me?” The person who asks these types of questions are afraid of.

Fourth is fear to take responsibility and act on it. We want to be blest by God and yet we are afraid of the demands that the blessing will ask us for from all of us. We want to go and have reconciled with our enemy and yet we hesitate to do so.

We like so much to give comments and evaluations but we don’t want to be subjects of criticisms and evaluations.

Fifth is fear to tell the truth. That is why there are so many things happened that up to now are unresolved because we are afraid to tell the truth. We are denial kings and denial queens.

But Jesus says: “Do not be afraid…” for three times. He gives us an assurance that if we are rejected or being hurt or afraid of what will happen to us or ready to take responsibility or ready to tell the truth, He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven.

Jesus delicately tells his disciples not to be worried of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. The history of the church is filled with examples where people have stood for Jesus and sacrificed their lives.

A prominent example was when Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned down in the middle of celebrating Mass by the military rulers of El Salvador, to be followed some years later by the brutal and sadistic murder of six Jesuit priests dragged from their beds in the middle of the night.

All that these men did was to draw attention to the many injustices being perpetrated against the poor and powerless in their society. There are many others who have died silently and are known to Jesus alone.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we do have a responsibility to stand up and be counted. And, thank God, many are still doing so. “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of others, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.

The greatest fear is not that we may be killed but that we may be seduced into betraying those values on which our integrity as human persons depends.

To save our “bodies” at the expense of Truth, at the expense of Love, at the expense of Justice, at the expense of Freedom, at the expense of Human Solidarity – this is the real danger. That is the real death.

Jesus therefore provides the remedy to overcome worry and distress. Having faith in his heavenly Father and sharing the cause of his worry in prayer with the Father. We see a transformation in Jesus during his prayer.

He began praying, “My soul is sorrowful even to death” (Matt 26:38) but when he concluded he prayed, “Your will be done!” (Matt 26:42) That is what happens to us when we have faith in God and bring our anxieties to God in prayer.

We should be transformed during prayer and receive strength from God to face what lies ahead. So, when there are problems, have faith and pray! Amen.

Corpus Christi, Year A – 17

Corpus Christi, Year A – 17

Dt.8:2-3,14b-16a; ICor.10:16-17, Jn.6:51-58

What is the most precious gift that Jesus Christ gave to his church? I do not mean the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have in mind things that we can see and touch. Many people will say, “the Bible.”

The Bible is indeed an invaluable gift of God, but Jesus did not write a Bible for the church nor did he commission his disciples to write one. The most precious gift that Jesus gave to his church is that which we celebrate today, the gift of his own body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

When we go to a football game, a baseball game, or any other sports event we go to watch it being played. We watch television shows; we watch and listen to concerts. We watch so many events in our lives. But when we come to Mass, we should participate.

The Church wants us to fully, actively, and consciously offer the Mass with the priest, not simply watch the priest and ministers offer Mass for us while we remain passive observers.

When we hear the term “Corpus Christi” we may tend to think of its meaning only in terms of Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. That is an unworthy notion.

In reality, in the Eucharist we receive not only Christ in His Body and Blood but Christ in His entirety, an entirety that encompasses His activity, His project among us, His mission and purpose in engaging us and in engaging the world in which we live, move, and have our being.

God our Father has sent His Son into our world with a mission. In Christ, we too are sent by God into our world, not to condemn it but to save it.

Often, we think of the Body of Christ as the Eucharist, as Holy Communion, and as the Blessed Sacrament. Each of those terms has overlapping meanings with the others; all of them are a part of the meaning of Corpus Christi.

What is central is the sacramentality of Christ’s presence among us. Each of the seven great Sacraments of the Church are particular expressions of the One Sacrament, namely Christ incarnate among us.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is something that is encouraged by our Church. Spending holy hours in adoration, spending time with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is wonderful; it is a form of worship; it is sanctifying.

At the same time, however, we are there in adoration not simply to receive; we are there to be energized so that we might give.

In Baptism and Confirmation, God’s Holy Spirit consecrates the recipient and makes him or her at the same time a living member of the mystical Body of Christ, a participant in the mission of witnessing to his love and in bringing His light to our surrounding world.

The Body of Christ takes us into Jesus’ entire life, a life given over to God in every way at every moment. His death on the cross was the culmination of His life among us as Jesus of Nazareth.

God calls us to Himself not in some remote and distant heaven, but here on earth. His call is to us now; His call is present. Our response is not some future response; our response is now, here on earth. The bread and wine we offer at Mass symbolize the sacrifices of ourselves.

Our giving thanks in the Eucharistic Prayer is our surrendering ourselves to God in Christ’s surrendering of Himself to His Father. We should never simply “get” or “receive” Holy Communion.

When we enter into Holy Communion; we enter into the totality of Christ’s incarnate life among us. There is an intrinsic interconnection between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which we call Eucharist), Holy Communion, and the Blessed Sacrament.

In this sense, “receiving Holy Communion” is a dynamic reality: we receive Christ and in so doing, Christ receives us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit presents us to the Father.

All of this, however, is not just for our own sake, for our own salvation. All of this is so that we can bring that dynamic purpose of Christ to the world around us, a world into which we are called to bring the saving presence of Christ.

In today’s Old Testament reading, Moses’ first word is “Remember,” which he repeats a few verses later with the negative phrase, “Do not forget.” The saving acts of God on behalf of his people were not to be taken lightly.

The Passover and many other festivals were meant precisely to keep the memory of them alive. Jesus did not want to be forgotten. So, he “left us a memorial,” as we heard in the opening prayer of today’s Mass.

The memorial Jesus left us is unique, because it doesn’t point only to the past. It’s much more than a reminder. In it we believe that he is actually present among us. We believe that he gives himself to us, truly, as food and drink.

As St. Paul reminds us, “The cup of blessing that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a participation in the body of Christ.”

“Do this in memory of me.” These are the words that conclude the Consecration of the Bread and Wine, taken from St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s accounts of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. They are a command, but they can also be taken as a plea, a solemn request, that we never forget him.

On the eve of his death, he gave us something to remember him by. He wanted to be remembered for his gift of self. So, we come to Mass to remember Him and to join ourselves into Christ in His Mystical Body and into His mission among us.

The purpose of Mass is not to be seen as an action wherein the priest simply consecrates hosts; some people think their participation in the Eucharistic Prayer is all about watching the priest and then receiving Holy Communion.

Truly it is much more. By our Holy Communion we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, but our incorporation is not something that we simply receive. We are taken up rather into the totality of what Jesus Christ is all about.

May the Lord, who is present in the Eucharist, continue to sustain us through the giving of His Body and Blood, that we, who receive Him worthily into our being, may be strengthened by His Presence.

And may all of us grow ever more faithful and ever more devoted, that we, the Temple of His Holy Presence, will be deemed worthy of eternal glory with Him forever.

May we fully, actively, and intentionally participate in that reality, a reality summed up in the dynamism of Corpus Christi.

May the Lord bless us all. Amen.

 

The Most Holy Trinity, Year A – 17

The Most Holy Trinity, Year A – 17

Ex.34:4-6, 8-9; 2Cor.13:11-13; Jn.3:16-18

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 your marriage blessed, our Bishops, we, 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 the Gospel of 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.

Now, another way to think about the Trinity is the way that St. John described it in one of his letters. He said very simply, “God is Love.” And the theologians and saints have helped us to see, that in his innermost heart – God is a communion of three divine Persons in love.

Remember, the human person is created in the image of God. That means that you and me, every one of us are created in the image of the Most Holy Trinity. In the image of the God who is Love.

So, the Trinity tells us the meaning of our lives. It tells us that we are made to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity. We are made to live a divine life in this world. As children of God. As temples of the Holy Spirit.

This is the basic reality of our Christian lives. Jesus said that if we love him and keep his commandments, that God will come, the Trinity, to make his home within us.

St. Paul used to say, we are the temples of the living God. That’s the truth. God is dwelling in each of us by his grace! But are we aware of it? Are we living this truth? So, this great feast today challenges us to examine ourselves.

This feast calls us to really believe this and to really live with a greater awareness of this beautiful reality, of the Blessed Trinity’s presence with us.

The last words we heard from Jesus in our Gospel last Sunday are: “Behold! I am with you always.” This isn’t just a happy thought. It’s another way of expressing the beautiful spiritual reality of our lives. As we all remember, when Jesus was born, they called him Emmanuel.

And as we know, that name means, “God with us.” The mystery of the Trinity means that we have access to God – all the time.

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. Amen.