8th Sunday in O T Year: A

8th Sunday in O T Year: A – 14

Is.49:14-15; 1 Cor.4: 1-5; Matt.6:24-34

Story: Two business executives meet for lunch. Gene asks Ed: “How’s your health?” Ed said, “I feel great! My ulcers are gone. I feel great!” Gene says, “How did that happen?” Ed said, “Well, you know my doctor told me my ulcers were caused from worrying. So, I hired myself a professional worrier. Whenever something worrisome comes up, I turn it over to him, and he does all my worrying for me!” Gene says, “Wow, I’d like to hire someone like that! How much does he charge?” Ed says, “One hundred thousand dollars!” Gene asked, “How in the world can you afford $100,000?” Ed says, “I don’t know. I let him worry about that!”

Today’s readings give us an invitation to avoid unnecessary worries by putting our trust in the love and providence of a merciful God. Most of us worry about too many things. What are you worried about this morning? Are you worried about Money, Job, Future, a personal problem, your marriage, Health, a problem with friends, a problem in the family, a problem in the school or work place?

Whatever it is, worry seems to be an epidemic in the world today. Many experts say that coping with stress is one of the health priorities of our day. But we have to know that less than one “problem” in every ten that we worry about is a real concern. All the others are things that we can learn to see differently or eliminate. God does not wish for us to spend our days worrying.

Today’s first reading is one of the most touching expressions of God’s love in the Bible. Through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord God asks the rhetorical question:  “Can a mother forget her infant?” and gives His solemn pledge “I will never forget you!”

Today’s responsorial psalm also invites us to hope and rest in the strength and providence of a loving God. In the second reading, St. Paul asserts his authority as an Apostle and warns the Corinthians not to worry about who brought them to the Christian faith and not to judge him or other preachers. It is only God who has the right to judge.

In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the impossibility of serving two opposing masters, namely God and riches. Man’s ultimate goal and Master is God and not material possessions.

Worrying about the future hampers your efforts today. Worrying is more harmful than helpful. God does not ignore those who depend on him. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of war, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world. If you can attend church meetings without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion in the world.

Worrying shows a lack of faith and understanding of god. When it comes to faith, conquering our worrying, we need to have a child-like faith. A child does not worry all day long whether his house will be there when he gets home from school, or whether his parents will have made dinner. In the same way, Christians should trust God to supply what is best for us. We need to refocus our faith.

Living one day at a time (Remember the beautiful song “One day at a time”) keeps us from being consumed with worry. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. It does no good to worry about tomorrow. We may not have a tomorrow. If you are worrying about the problems of tomorrow, you will miss out on the blessings of today. So let us restrict our thoughts.

Jesus faced many challenges, but never let anxiety get the better of him. He simply put everything into his Father’s hands. We can do the same. Take a minute right now to identify the situations that trouble you the most. Then hand them over to the One who can handle them perfectly.

Jesus exhorts his disciples to avoid unnecessary worries. Worry is a pagan or an irreligious attitude of those who don’t believe in a loving and providing God.

We need to avoid worry: a) By trusting in the providing care of a loving God. b) By acquiring the art of living one day at a time in God’s presence. c) By seeking God’s kingdom, doing His will every day and living a righteous life, serving others as best as we can.

Today, Jesus reminds us who follow Him that we are more important than flowers, than the grass, than swallows. His promise to us is that He will take care of us even more than He does of the plants and birds.

This teaching of Jesus reminds us that we are called to a distinct way of life, not a worldly way but a spiritual way. We are called to trust in God who knows what we need and to believe that God will give it to us. Blessed is he who places his trust in the Lord Jesus!

This week my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray for each other, that we may receive the gift of faith that is necessary to trust in Divine Providence so we may not worry about tomorrow. Amen.

7th Sunday in O T Year: A

7th Sunday in O T Year: A 

Lev.19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor.3:16-23; Mt.5:38-48

Story: Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument; and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: “Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?” The friend replied “when someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”

We all like our friends and we want to remember their birthdays and other special occasions. If they need our help, we are glad to be able to lend a hand, offer a listening ear, share our time or give some useful advice.

In contrast, we are not quite so kind to the people we dislike. If we really dislike them, to the point of hatred, then we may be tempted to treat them unjustly or, at least, damage their character by slandering them and gossiping about them. For Christian, this type of behavior is unthinkable, precisely because Jesus explicitly forbade it.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded his audience about the Old Law before taking them forward to the perfection of the New Law: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’(Mt 5:43-44).

Today’s readings explain the basis of Jewish and Christian morality, namely, the holiness of the loving, merciful and compassionate God. God’s chosen people were, and are, expected to be holy people, sharing God’s holiness by embodying His love, mercy and forgiveness.

The first reading, from the book of Leviticus, gives the holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The reading further instructs us that when we refuse to take revenge or bear a grudge against another we trying to imitate the holiness of God. The responsorial psalm challenges us to be like our God, kind and merciful and forgiving.

In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God lives in us. The indwelling Holy Spirit helps us by His gifts, fruits and charismas to live the very life of Christ.

In the Gospel passages taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns even the mild form of the “Law of the Talion” the tribal law of retaliation. Instead of the restricted retaliation allowed by Moses, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, although graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength, discipline of character as well as strengthening by God’s grace.

The second part of today’s Gospel passage is the central part of the Sermon on the Mount, giving us the Christian ethic of personal relationships: love one’s neighbors and forgive one’s enemies. It tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it. We have to love our enemies with agape love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them.

Jesus gives us a goal today. “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Some will say: “Well, what kind of a goal is that? Nobody can be equal to God anyway. So what’s the point?” How can we, mere mortals that we are with all of our faults and failures, be as perfect as God is perfect? Good point. It’s sort of like telling a child who has just learned simple arithmetic to solve a problem requiring calculus.

We need, of course, to look deeper into the words of Jesus. He uses an Aramaic word (the language He spoke) that carries the idea of completeness in the word “perfect.”  Be ye complete as your Heavenly father is complete, is what Jesus is saying. Love completely as God loves completely. Be ye mature and grown up as your heavenly Father is fully mature in His love and fully mature in the way He treats others. He loves completely, without boundaries.

Moses instructed the Israelites to follow tit-for-tat retaliation, rather than to wreak total destruction upon their enemies. That is, instead of mutilating or murdering all the members of the offender’s family or tribe, they should discover the offender and only punish him/her with an equal mutilation or harm. Later, a milder version of this law was substituted. It demanded monetary compensation as decided by a judge in place of physical punishment.

By advising, “Turn to him the other cheek,” Jesus instructs his followers to forgive an insult gracefully and convert the offender. He commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us to prove that we are children of a merciful heavenly Father. The meaning of “turn the other cheek” is “don’t return insult for insult.” The message of Jesus is, “Don’t retaliate.” Instead, we are to win over the aggressor with tough, wise love, so that we may win people to Christ and transform human society into the Kingdom of God.

We need to love our neighbors and our enemies too: The Greek word used for loving enemies is not Storge (natural love towards family members), or Philia (love of close friends), or Eros (passionate love between a young man and woman), but Agápe which is the invincible benevolence or good will for another’s highest good.

Since Agápe is not natural, practicing it is possible only with God’s help. Agápe love is a choice more than a feeling. We choose to love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them.  We have in the Acts of the Apostles the example of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were putting him to death.

We need to have a forgiving heart: Jesus demands that we should forgive, pardon and be generous whether or not our offenders deserve it, and even if we are not loved in return. He also tells us to pray for those who willfully cause us suffering, hardship and unhappiness.

We are to try to be perfect, to be like God: We become perfect when we fulfill God’s purpose in creating us, i.e., when we become Godlike by cooperating with His grace. We become perfect when we try to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives and to show unconditional good will and universal benevolence as God does.



6th Sunday in O T – Year: A

6th Sunday in O T – Year: A

Sir.15:15-20; 1 Cor.2:6-10; Mt.5:17-37

Little Johnny had a quarrel with his younger brother, Willy. Before he said his night prayers, Johnny’s mother said to him, “Now I want you to forgive your brother.” But Johnny was not in a forgiving mood. “No, I won’t forgive him,” he said. Mother tried persuasions of every motherly variety, but nothing worked. Finally, she said, “What if your brother were to die tonight? How would you feel if you knew you hadn’t forgiven him?” Johnny gave in, or so it seemed. “All right, I forgive him,” he said, “but if he’s alive in the morning, I’ll get even with him.”

When a pre-schooler touches something hot, he learns that it burns. If he climbs on a chair or up the stairs, he learns that he can fall down. Most children do fall and bump their little head. In child development, the child progressively learns by natural instinct how to use logic to ensure that his basic needs of life are met.

Those needs consist of eating and drinking, sleeping when tired, dressing up or taking shelter to protect him from the heat of the sun or the cold, seeking mom and dad’s security, etc… The pre-schooler even learns to be safety minded by not trying to chase and catch in his hand those nice looking yellow bumble bees. It should be the other way around, the bee chasing him.

But what about when we become adults? Is our learning process completed? Many seem to think so! Being an adult, they consider themselves mature! But, are we really mature in the whole of our being according to the teachings of the Bible?

True maturity does not only consist of going through the phases of child development, getting a job and finally settling down with a family. That is worldly maturity. Today’s readings speak of spiritual maturity that begins when the individual is spiritually enlightened by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity has to do with learning spiritual virtues that will benefit the holiness of the soul.

Jesus continues his sermon on the mount. Today’s portion of the sermon contains twenty long verses. Jesus speaks about what has been heard in the past and what is to be listened to now. Jesus is not changing the law and the traditions passed on through the prophets. He is applying a proper spirit to what had become too legalistic. He explains, the dictates of the “law” were for the head to guide the five senses. The spirit of Jesus is to form the heart as well as the mind.

Today’s First Reading tells us that the Lord God placed before us fire and water and He tells us to stretch out our hand to take which ever we choose. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are witnesses to each other that we have stretched out our hand and chosen water. But how many choose the second gift of God with joy, the fire?


The spiritually mature Christian knows what God meant by those words. Today’s Second Reading refers to understanding God’s wisdom, what is sacred and hidden, what God decreed before the ages for the glory of all. In Genesis 1:26, we read that God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” The last words were, “to our likeness”, referring to God’s characteristics. God decreed that His children would be in His likeness, having His Divine characteristics.

A woman bought a very expensive dress and when she went home her husband said to her, “When you were trying it on why didn’t you say, ‘Get behind me Satan?’” She said, “I did say ‘Get behind me Satan,’ and when I looked at it from behind in the mirror it was just as nice!”

There is a battle going on in the lives of each of us, a battle going on for the lives of each of us, a battle between good and evil. At the end of that battle in the next life we will either hear Jesus say, “You are mine” or hear Satan say, “You are mine.” Through his cross Jesus has won the battle but it is up to us now to accept his grace and live as those redeemed by Jesus. There are manifestations of grace and manifestations of evil all around us but we can take the side of Jesus in the battle for our lives by overcoming sin and temptation.

How do we overcome sin and temptation? In our Gospel Jesus said, “if your hand should cause you to sin cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go to hell…if your foot…if you eye…(Mark 9:43,45,47) Of course we do not cut off our hands or feet or pluck out our eyes. Jesus was speaking metaphorically.

In Palestine at that time it was common to speak in this exaggerated way to make a point (hyperbole). But if something is leading us into temptation and sin then we avoid that. We call this avoiding occasions of sin. When Jesus says to cut off our hand or foot or pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin he is asking us to avoid whatever it is that leads us on to commit sin.

Apart from avoiding occasions of sin we can also strengthen ourselves against evil in many ways. We can pray to overcome evil. The greatest prayer is the Mass. During one of his Wednesday audiences in 1983 Pope John Paul said, “Every Eucharistic Celebration is stronger than all the evil in the Universe. It means real, concrete accomplishment of redemption and even deeper reconciliation of sinful man with God in prospect of a better world.”

We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother.

The next set of commandments instructs us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another’s spouse. Our obedience to these laws must be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings.

We need to forgive, forget and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4: 26). When we keep anger in our mind, we are inviting physical illnesses like hypertension and mental illnesses like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, give it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us to see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes.

Finally, we need to be true to God, to ourselves and to others. Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and hearts and to form our consciences, making us men and women of integrity. Amen.









5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Is. 58:6-10; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Mt. 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world”

A young woman asked for an appointment with her priest to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she met him, she said, “Father, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?” The pastor replied, “Mary, that’s not a sin, that’s just a mistake!”

The common theme of all three readings today is our mission to the world as salt and light. A teacher asked a boy to define salt. The boy hesitated. Finally he stammered, “Salt is what makes French Fries taste good when you sprinkle it on.”

That little salt shaker sitting today on every kitchen table was unknown in the Middle East of the time of Christ. Only the very wealthy could afford refined salt. Ordinary people had a “salt bag.” The salt with all its impurities was placed in the bag, and then used in soup or other liquids for flavoring. Eventually all the salt was gone, leaving only impurities, or the “dregs.” This is what is meant in the gospel when our Lord asks, “what if the salt goes flat?”

Salt is a good symbol for the gift of baptismal integrity given to us by Christ, as a white garment to be kept clean and radiant. Salt itself cannot go flat; it is used up and what remains in the salt bag, the “dregs” does not suffice for flavoring food, leaving all it touches “flat.” One either has salt, or the taste of salt, or one doesn’t. We are either dead in our sins or alive in Christ. Once the salt is gone, a person must return to the source of the salt in order to replace it; nothing else will suffice. If one is to have life, one must go to its Divine source.

In the ancient world salt was highly valued. The Greeks called salt divine and the Romans said, “There is nothing more useful than sun and salt.” The English word ‘salary’ literally means ‘salt money’. In the time of Jesus, salt was connected in people’s minds with three special qualities.

(i) Salt was connected with purity because it was white and it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. (ii) Salt was the commonest of all preservatives in the ancient world when people did not have fridges and freezers. (iii) Salt lends flavor to food items.

Salt was the most primitive of all offerings to the gods.  Jewish sacrifices were offered with salt.  The Orientals made their oaths with salt to ratify them. They believed that it was the salt that kept the seas pure. As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity, exercising absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought. God calls His children to preserve and purify. The Church is to preserve modesty, morality, honesty and integrity.

The white garments of our baptism and the lighting of a candle are signs of the gift of grace we receive from Christ, as we read in the Catechism. The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has “put on Christ,” (Gal 3:27) has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the baptized are ‘the light of the world.'” (Mt 5:14) (CCC 1243)

Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world. He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.” The metaphor of light is often used in the Bible. The Jews spoke of Jerusalem as “a light to the Gentiles.” But Jerusalem does not produce its own light. It is God who lights the lamp of Israel.  Moreover, Jerusalem cannot hide its light.

When Jesus commanded his followers to be the light of the world, he demanded nothing less than that they should be like him, the One who claimed to be the Light of the world. “As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (Jn.9:5). Christ is the “true” or “original” Light (Jn.8:12).  Citizens of the kingdom are simply “luminaries” reflecting the One True Light, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun (2 Co 4:6).

Christians are to be torch-bearers in a dark world. We should not try to hide the light which God has lit in our lives. Rather, we should let it shine so that others may see our good deeds and praise God. A light is something which is meant to be seen.

(The lamp in Palestine was like a sauce-boat full of oil with a wick floating in it. When people went out, for safety’s sake, they took the lamp from its stand, and put it under an earthen bushel measure, so that it might burn without risk until they came back). Christians must be visible like a “city” on a hilltop and a lamp on a “lamp stand.” Jesus therefore expects His followers to be seen by the world.

A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way.  So then, a Christian must make the way clear to others. That is to say, a Christian must be an example. A light can often be a warning light. A light is often the warning which tells us to halt when there is danger ahead. It is sometimes the Christian’s duty to bring to his fellowmen a necessary warning. If our warnings are given, not in anger, not in irritation, not in criticism, not in condemnation, but in love, they will be effective.

Light exposes everything hidden by darkness. When our teens, baptized and confirmed, get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population – when our marriages end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society – when we cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on our spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians – something is wrong.

Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves whether we are the light which can be seen, the light which warns, and the light which guides: these are the lights which the Christian must be. We need to live our short lives as traces of salt and candles of light: It only takes a sprinkling of salt to transform a dull and tasteless piece of meat.  Just a little salt transforms everything.  Just a pinch of soul-salt will add flavor to the lives of hundreds, or even thousands.

Just a little light empties the world of darkness, with a little faith and love we can light up a big social area. Salt is a hidden but powerful influence. Light is a visible and revealing influence.  Jesus tells us that we are not only to be the salt of the earth but also the light of the world.  We are called to make a visible impact on the world around us.

The conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer (The Doxology) of the Mass is an expression of the deepest truth of Christian faith: “Through him and with him and in him …. forever and ever.” Jesus is saying to you and me: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Amen.