Homily for Respect Life Sunday

Homily for Respect Life Sunday

Hb.1:2-3; 2:2-4; II Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

Since this is Respect Life Sunday, and the beginning of Respect Life month, I would like to talk about the respect for Life. “Each of us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation”, says Pope Francis. Pope Francis is a masterpiece of God’s Creation.

What Catholics most clearly offer the rest of the world is our inherent and deep belief that every human being is a masterpiece of God, from womb to tomb. We hear these words all the time and they are powerful. What is even more powerful is when these words become our own.

Then we become walking billboards of this inherent dignity message to the world. How do you become this walking billboard? By the transformation of your heart by God. That’s how a transformed heart changes your views on everything. A transformed heart changes your views not just on somethings, but on all things.

The horrifying truth is this: we live now in a culture that not only does not respect life, but discards it like trash — not only at the beginning of life, but also at the end, and every place in between. What has happened to us?

Life has become disposable. I like to give you some facts. The number of unborn children slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers in the last 25 years is 1200 million in the world and 37 million in the U.S.A. (4400 per day in the U.S.).

“Planned Parenthood” in the U. S. does 327653 abortions a year or 900 abortions per day. Almost half of the women in the US over the age of 40 have undergone an abortion, with or without the consent of the baby’s father.

Hundreds of old or terminally ill people are killed in advanced countries under the names “mercy-killing” or euthanasia. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all U.S. men. It took the lives of 30,622 people in U.S.A. in 2001.

It is the third leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old youngsters (19 adolescents each day) and only 5% of suicides are attributed to mental illness. There are also Embryo-destruction for scientific experiments.

Why should we respect life? The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and, hence, we have to respect it from womb to tomb. Abortion attempts to destroy a work of God. Based on the word of God, the Church teaches that an unborn child from the moment of its conception in its mother’s womb is precious because he or she carries an immortal soul.

It is God’s commandment that we shall not kill. Ex.20:13: “You shall not kill.” The circumstances of how the baby was conceived do not change the evil of abortion: it is still a baby who is killed.

Every tiny human embryo can grow into a child, and modern medical technology can enable the unborn child to survive outside its mother’s womb after five and one-half months. At two weeks’ pregnancy, the baby can move alone. The baby’s heart starts beating from the 25th day and the baby’s brain starts functioning on the 40th day.

International Law forbids the killing of innocent, defenseless people. Abortion is the killing of a defenseless child in his or her safest abode, the womb, by his or her own mother, mostly for selfish motives. Abortion harms women physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. 93% of the abortions in America are for convenience.

The mother’s health is an issue only 3% of the time, and the baby’s health is an issue 3% of the time. Rape and incest are issues only 1% of the time. Ninety-three percent of all abortions in America are performed because of selfishness, just because someone doesn’t want a child!

Advocates of pro-choice follow a dangerous principle of far-reaching consequences in the society. If it is justifiable to kill unwanted children by abortion, then the old, the sick, the handicapped, the mentally ill, and the retarded can also be killed. It is all against the 6th commandment.

Pope Francis, who has captivated the world by his own beautiful heart said, “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect”

In reference to pregnant women, the term “with child” occurs twenty-six times in the Bible. The term “with fetus” never occurs. The Bible never uses anything less than human terms to describe the unborn (Exodus 21:22-23).

In Luke chapter one, verses 36 and 41, we are told that Elizabeth conceived a “son” and that the “babe” leaped in her womb. God does not say that a “fetus” leaped in her womb! Elizabeth greets Mary (in her early pregnancy) as “my Lord’s mother.”

If God allows a child to be conceived, then God obviously has a plan for unborn children (Jer.1:5; Lk.1:13-17; Gen.4:25; Jud.13:3-5), and so to abort an unborn child is to stop a plan of God:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you… Psalm 139:13: You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!”

We need to respect and protect all forms of human life from conception to natural death; we need to work and pray vigorously to end the culture of death. We need to speak and act against abortion in private and public forums.

Protecting human life is no more a sectarian creed than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian document. Because all rights depend on life, the right to life is the most fundamental issue of all; if that is eliminated, the rest will follow.

We need to work to have the government enact anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia and anti-Physician- assisted suicide laws; these killings violate justice, and therefore the command of God to love one another.

We need to give real care, support and assistance to mothers with unwanted pregnancies, contemplating abortion. Helping a woman choose life affirms and empowers her. We need to teach the Church’s doctrines on abortion.

The Church cares about the women who have had abortions, forgives them, heals them, brings them peace with God, with their lost children and with themselves. The Church promises any woman who has had an abortion that if she truly repents of her sin, she will find welcome and forgiveness.

However, she has to understand the fact that abortion is a mortal sin, and it brings an automatic excommunication upon those who procure it, perform it, or cooperate in it.

Prayer to End Abortion: Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life, and for the lives of all my brothers and sisters. I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, Yet, I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son.

I am ready to do my part in ending abortion. Today I commit myself never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn.

I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, and never to stop defending life until all my brothers and sisters are protected, and our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

26th Sunday O T Year C – 16

26th Sunday O T Year C – 16

Amos 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

A man died and arrived before the Judgment Seat of God. The divine Judge went through the Book of Life and did not find the man’s name. So he announced to the man that his place is in hell. The man protested, “But what did I do? I have done nothing!” “Precisely,” replied God, “that is why you are going to hell because you did nothing.”

This story reminds us of today’s readings. They speak to us about the danger of wealth and power. It must be said immediately that Jesus is not against money. He knows we need it to live. What he is speaking very powerfully about is the danger of money if it is not used properly and so can enslave us.

Amos, in the 1st reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money on themselves alone. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God.

The Psalm praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In the 2nd reading, Paul admonishes us to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness” – noble goals in an age of disillusionment – rather than riches.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.

A lot of people say “money is the root of all evil” thinking they are quoting the Bible. But what the Bible actually says in 1Tim.6:10, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Jesus never condemned the wealthy for having wealth.

He condemned them for letting their wealth make them forget God who had blessed them generously. Jesus in the gospel continues the same theme. He is speaking directly to the Pharisees whom he knows to be lovers of money.

Money can blind us to the needs of the poor. The readings invite us to change our way of seeing things. With money there is the danger of thinking we can buy anything we want as well as forgetting the poor.

What Jesus is saying is that if we don’t put our trust in God, then no amount of wealth can save us or substitute for God. Here lies the danger that the gospel warns us about. The sin of the rich man is not in his accumulation of wealth but his unconcern for the poor and suffering.

He is so caught up in his rich and comfortable lifestyle that he can become very self-centered and turned in on his own needs and enjoyment. As one scripture scholar puts it, ‘the sin of the rich man was not that he did wrong but that he did nothing’.

Don’t we say in the mass when we ask God for pardon: “What I have failed to do”? The gospel story is more than a denouncing of riches and how wealth can keep us isolated and even contemptuous of the poor and needy who might be right outside our door.

What is the sin of the rich man? He did not order his men that Lazarus be removed from the gate of his house. He did not make any objection to his receiving the leftover that fell from his table. He did not kick him. He was not cruel with him. He is too well mannered.

The sin of the rich man was that he never noticed Lazarus who represents a fact of life: the poor, the sick, and the unfortunate who are always around us. He indulged in his wealth to excess and lost sight of God and the treasure of heaven.

He was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material things. He served wealth rather than God. He cares no one but only himself. At the end, he was very poor because he didn’t have God in him. The rich man could not see beyond his material treasure.

Just like the rich people mentioned by Amos in the first reading by which they enjoy their riches without any thought of anyone else. They are not at all bothered by the fact that their nation is on the way to ruin because of its selfishness and lack of faith.

The rich man also treated Lazarus with contempt and indifference until he found his fortunes reversed in the next life when both of them died. Lazarus went to heaven not because he is a poor man or that God likes poverty as an entrance to heaven, not at all and the rich man went to hell not because he was rich materially.

He did no wrong, but he did nothing. In the Catholic teaching, that is the sin of omission or not doing what is supposed to do. We too easily excuse sins of omission by claiming we do not do anything wrong. That’s the problem with us we do not do anything.

And so we are called to be stewards of time, talent, and treasure (3Ts) and called to share our 3Ts especially that today we have so many Lazarus that roaming around in this world. How do we share our time, talent, and treasure?

One way is helping in the programs and ministries in our parish and diocese and in service opportunities. There are organizations that feed the poor and so provide them with groceries, provide counseling and medical help and specialize with the needs of children and expectant mothers.

We do not need special training to help, only the desire to assist someone in need. In the larger community, there are many opportunities to help those in need. There is a place that fits our unique talents and skills provided we should have the time.

If our time is heavily involved in raising a family, we can help others as a family and teach them love for others in need. And so we have time, talents and treasures and they are not ours to keep but to share. If we have a good family, then, we are blessed and rich.

We are rich because we have Jesus in us especially His presence that makes us different from the rest. Because of Jesus, we are rich with true friends, hope and meaning of life. Let us not allow ourselves and our family to be destroyed because of material things.

If you see yourself as one of those fairly blessed by God with the good things of life, open your door and see. Probably there is a Lazarus lying at your gates and you have not taken notice. Somebody said, “It is nice to be important but it is important to be nice.”

Where do you and I stand in all this? Where is my real trust – in God or in money and power only? I can still be poor and desire these and if I succeed I can become equally seduced by them. The Good News of course is that Jesus is giving us a ‘wake-up’ call.

Wake-up call before it is too late so that we do not suffer the same fate as the rich man. Perhaps we need to examine ourselves regarding our attitude to money and power and see whether the more we have leads us to think we need God less and less.

“Lord Jesus, open our eyes to the many ways we can be seduced by wealth. Free us from any wrong reliance on it that prevents us trusting more and more in you and sharing with the poor. Amen”.


25th Sunday O T Year C – 16

25th Sunday O T Year C – 16

Am 8:4-7; I Tm 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13

One stormy night many years ago an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk explained that because there were three conventions in town, the hotel was filled. He added, “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at 1 o’clock in the morning. Would you be willing to sleep in my room?”

The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he told the clerk, “You’re the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”

The clerk smiled, amused by the older man’s little joke.” A few years passed. Then one day the clerk received a letter from the elderly man recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York for a visit. A round-trip ticket was enclosed.

When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where a grand new building stood. “That,” explained the elderly man, “is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.”

“You must be joking,” the clerk said. “I most assuredly am not,” came the reply. “Who- who are you?” stammered the clerk. The man answered, “My name is William Waldorf Astor.” That hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria, one of the most magnificent hotels in New York.

The young clerk who became its first manager was George C. Bold. The story reinforces today’s Gospel message about the prudent use of the earthly treasures and resources we have been given by God. If we use God’s loving gifts to us to love others and help them in their need, He will be our reward in Heaven.

Today’s readings remind us that we are God’s stewards and that God expects faithful and prudent stewardship from us. They challenge us to use our God-given talents and blessings wisely to attain Heavenly bliss.

Condemning the crooked business practices of the 8th century BC Jewish merchants of Judea, today’s lesson from the prophet Amos reminds the Israelites and us to be faithful to our Covenant with Yahweh by practicing justice and mercy as God’s faithful stewards.

He warns us also against making the goal of our life the gaining of money, whatever the means. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the Gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “Good News” to the pagans and by including them in intercessory prayers, too.

Today’s Gospel story tells us about the crooked but resourceful manager and challenges us to use our blessings — time, talents, health and wealth – wisely and justly so that they will serve for our good in eternity.

We use our earthly wealth wisely when we spend it for our own needs in moderation and when we love and help the needy around us, for those are the purposes for which He has entrusted all these things to us.

The Gospel passage we’ve just heard is a part of a series of parables dealing with spiritual crises that are generated when we misuse our possessions, when we end up being possessed by our possessions.

Last Sunday’s Gospel was about the Prodigal Son who demanded his share of his father’s estate and then went out and squandered it all. Next Sunday’s Gospel will be all about the rich man eating a sumptuous meal at his table while poor Lazarus sat starving at the rich man’s gate.

The lesson today involves, as you all know, the devious and clever wicked steward who doctors the accounts of his master’s books in order to win friends, friends who will care for him after he faces his impending firing.

Today’s parable needs to be understood with the realization that it was against Jewish law to charge interest on loans of money. Instead of bankers, the Jews earned interest by lending out produce instead of money.

Here in this particular case the rich man was probably an absentee landlord who loaned olive oil and wheat to his debtors expecting to receive more of each commodity in return than what he had loaned them, the difference being the equivalent of interest charges on his loans.

It was understood that the master’s steward would also earn his commission out of the differential amount, the amount between what was borrowed and the amount of the payback. The religious understanding of the Pharisees was a very meticulous spiritual bookkeeping exercise.

Everyone had to pray, pay, and obey. Anyone who didn’t was considered to be a law-breaker and was cast out. Everything had its price and everyone had their value in that spiritual economy. Jesus had a different understanding of our value in God’s eyes.

What must have scandalized the Pharisees was the realization that the foresightful steward in today’s parable was being praised by Jesus precisely for his prudent vision of what lay ahead of him, not because he was a cheat but because he was a sinner who dared to hope for redemption.

Jesus is not commending the steward’s dishonesty. The steward’s dishonesty had been discovered and was obvious to everyone. Jesus didn’t concern himself with the obvious. The prodigal son squandered his money and the steward squandered his master’s property.

Both, however, took the necessary steps to secure their futures, just as did the characters presented in similar parables that Jesus used. What Jesus is concerned with is the lack of spiritual foresight on the part of His followers.

The point Jesus making is that we all ought to be as foresightful and prudent in planning ahead for our spiritual futures as the worldly-wise are in planning ahead for their financial and material futures.

Jesus was presenting His followers with the example of the zealous fore­sightfulness of the wicked steward and wishing that His own followers would be at least as enterprising in caring for the future of their souls.

And so the immediate question confronting you and me is: How zealous are we in providing for our spiritual futures? Do we assume that God is a sort of Sugar Daddy in the Sky who is going to take care of us no matter what we do?

Is it my unspoken assumption that what I do or what I don’t do in this life really doesn’t matter in the long run because a loving and infinitely merciful God will provide for me anyway? That insults God.

The world we live in is filled with distractions, distractions that come to us in all of our electronic devices both visual and audial. At times we get so busy that we wonder what we are accomplishing and where we are going.

There are consequences that flow from our decisions and there are consequences that flow from our non-decisions and neglect. When you stop and think about it, not to decide is in itself a decision, a neglectful decision that can have bad consequences for us. This is particularly so when it comes to our spiritual lives.

We all have a destiny; a destiny God has given us. God didn’t give you and me a life to be lived only until we die. God gave us a life that He wants to share with us for all eternity, an eternal life to be lived in love, in a love relationship between you and Him.

That, it seems to me, is the point for today’s parable and why Jesus was commending this foresightful steward to our attention.

Let us remember Saint John Chrysostom’s warning, “Faithfulness in little things is a big thing,” and reminder of St. Theresa of Calcutta “Do little things with great love.” Amen.