2nd Sunday of Easter

                                                 2nd Sunday of Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen. 

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Easter Sunday

                                                         Easter Sunday

             Acts10:34a, 37-43, Col.3:1-4 or 1Cor 5:6b-8, Jn.20:1-9

Wish you all a Happy Easter! May the Risen Lord Bless you all!

Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. 

It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial. I wonder if someone pulled him aside and said, “Joseph that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. 

Why on earth did you give it to someone to be buried in?” “Why not?” Joseph may have answered. He only needed it for the weekend.”

Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons:

1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles – it proves that Jesus is God. 

That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (ICor.15: 14, 17 & 20). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and faith is a sham. But if he really did rise from the dead, his message is true!

Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end. People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. 

All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection. “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the Kerygma (or “preaching”), of the apostles.

2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn.11: 25-26). 

Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (C.C.C. #1002, #1003).

3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. 

It is our belief in the Real Presence of the risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers.

Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears. The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”

Easter reminds us of an empty tomb! Today’s gospel does not present us with risen Jesus. Instead, it presents us with the empty tomb! In the Gospel the angel says: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” (Lk.24:5-6) 

This empty tomb means that Jesus is risen and is living among us and we should not look for Him among the dead.

Unfortunately, you and I look for life in things that have no life in them. We turn to money, war, power and using things such as alcohol and drugs. 

We never find love, joy and peace in these things – instead we become spiritually empty tombs! Yet we continue trying these things in the hope that they will give comfort and peace.

Easter breaks that feverish human cycle of searching for life in things that are dead. Easter calls us to shed the old life and accept new life. Easter calls us to get out of the tomb of selfishness, greed, prejudice, addiction and hostility. 

Easter invites us to get out of pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust and to accept a new heart, new birth and a new person. You and I get a new life after each Easter.  

Try it for yourself as you leave here today. Believe in the “new life” shed the old. Start with yourself, now spread this joy to your family, to your friend, to your workplace, and to the world.

Easter, the feast of the resurrection, gives us also the joyful message that we are a “resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions. 

It gives us the good news that no tomb can hold us down anymore – not the tomb of despair, discouragement or doubt, nor that of death.

Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps. 118:24). Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his resurrection.

Each time we display our love of others, we share in the resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the resurrection of Jesus. 

Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection nor death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him.

We need to seek our peace and joy in the Risen Jesus:  The living presence of the Risen Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy in the face of the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. 

“Peace be with you!” was His salutation to His disciples at all post-Resurrection appearances.  For the true Christian, every day must be an Easter Day, lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord. 

Be Blessed and be a Blessing. Amen.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Is.50:4-7/ Phil.2:6-11/ Mk.14:1-15, 47

You might have heard of a story about a husband and a wife who had quarreled. It had been a high-pitched quarrel, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions ran high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city, both were nursing their hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “Yes, by marriage!” In modern communication, the ass is a symbol for awkwardness, dumbness, blundering ineptness, non-sophistication. Yet, an ass plays a key role in the drama of Palm Sunday at which we’re looking today.

Today’s Mass began with a festive and a celebrative kind of mood. Yes today is called Palm Sunday, and at the beginning there was the procession with palms to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

The celebrative procession with palms gave way to a solemn mood where we heard of betrayal and denial, agony and pain. Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday. In short, we can say that the mood in today’s Mass went from “palm to pain”.

And with that, we also enter into Holy Week and we can also say that “the pain is increasing” until it reaches its climax on Good Friday in a painful death on the cross. Yes, from this Sunday to the next Sunday, we will be confronted with a mixture of emotions – of joy and sorrow; glorious entry and humiliating exit; life and death.

Yes, we move from palm to pain. Yet it does not stop just there. Because pain and suffering and death do not have the last say and neither do they determine the final outcome. The final outcome is always in the hands of God who will be victorious, and in Jesus Christ who has conquered sin and death.

It is in the humble palm branch that we see the unfolding of pain and suffering and death. Yet it is also a sign of the victory and glory to come. As it is, this palm branch will slowly dry up in the days to come. It will turn from green to a brownish color. In the end, it will just be a dried up stiff branch.

Yet in the future, this palm branch together with the other palm branches will be collected and burnt and made into ashes for Ash Wednesday’s imposition of ashes. So what was thought to be dead and useless will be given a new purpose and a new meaning. Yes the ashes take on a new meaning and a new purpose and they become a sign of our repentance and conversion.

The same way life is like a cycle of ups and downs. And as it is always said, what goes up must come down, and what goes down must come up. Hence, we can say that nothing stays up always, and nothing stays down always. Today’s liturgy has two opposite and contrasting moods.

We began the liturgy with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds spread their garments on the road and shouted: Hosanna in the highest!  (Praise God and his Messiah, we are saved) As we recalled that gospel scene, we too waved the palm branches in remembrance of that glorious moment when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.

But as we move on into the liturgy, the mood begins to swing drastically. From “Hosanna in the highest”, we hear of human drama in the darkest and lowest. We hear of betrayal, desertion, abandonment and crucifixion. Within a span of an hour, we hear of glory tumbling down into agony.

And in that cycle of glory and agony, we are invited to see our lives in that one week of the life of Jesus. We too had our days of glory when we walk with sunshine confidence and everything seems to be going right and under control. But within a week, or even a day, or even in a matter of hours, things start crumbling and tumbling down.

And this is where we are invited to share in that moment of glory-to-agony experience of Jesus. The readings prepare us for what is to come on Good Friday.  At the same time, the readings also prepare us for our own Good Fridays when we feel the agony of a sudden serious illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a friendship, failure and disappointment, heartaches and distress.

Yes, in a short time and maybe even overnight, we plunge from glory to agony, and fall into the darkness of the tomb. The gospel also ended with Jesus buried in the tomb. But with Jesus we wait. Because what goes down must come up. Agony will be turned into glory. But we must wait. With faith and hope in the power and love of God, we wait till the agony of darkness will give way to the glory of light. Amen.

4th Sunday of Lent Year – B

4th Sunday of Lent Year – B
2 Chr.36:14-16, 19-23; Eph.2:4-10; Jn.3:14-21

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven.

You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, and loved her deep in my heart.” “That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth two points!” “Only two points?” the man says.

“Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithes and service.” “Terrific!” says St. Peter.

“That’s certainly worth a point.” “One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and also worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” St. Peter says. “Two points!?!!”

Exasperated, the man cries, “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.” ‘Bingo! 100 points ! Come on in!’

Today is the first day of the fourth week of Lent. Today is “Rejoice Sunday” too. So, three weeks done is 21 days, and there are 19 days left until the Easter Triduum.

We are halfway through! I hope these days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have been fruitful. We should not stop or slow down.

When a runner reaches the halfway point of a race, they rejoice, but they keep running. So we too should rejoice but keep running this race.

Why does the Church invite us in the middle of the penitential season of Lent to rejoice? It is because, “God so loved the world so much that he gave his only son.”

These forty days provide an opportunity for God, and he is always going to take advantage of an opportunity to save us. We are trying to listen to him.

We are trying to love ourselves less and our neighbors more. We are trying to be perfect, and he, who wants us to be perfect, is using this effort to effect real change in our souls.

It is not we who are accomplishing this change, lest we should boast. But God cannot accomplish the change unless we are trying to be perfect. We try, and he accomplishes.

God built the road; we are just driving on it. We are not saved by our works, for our works are insufficient, but they are necessary.

Just as a car does not move because I push my foot on a gas pedal slightly: it moves because of the gas and the engine and the design, but until I do press down slightly, the car will not go anywhere, so too we do not actually accomplish our salvation by means of the little works we do, the fasting and the praying and the almsgiving, but without them we are not saved.

So what is the one big difference between God and us? God gives and forgives! We get and forget! God loved the world so much that He gave.

We love the world so much that we forget that He gave. So it is correct to say that this Lent we are saving ourselves because we are finally making use of the grace of God.

The goal of all this effort is to believe in Jesus. God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

If you are looking for something to believe or someone to believe in, I can recommend Jesus, but it is not easy to believe in Jesus.

Believing in Jesus must mean something other than going to Mass on Sunday and something other than saying the right words and even something other than a particular feeling of faith, for wicked people often appear to lack nothing of these normal religious attributes.

If I believe in Jesus, I believe that he will not fail me; I believe that his commands are true and good, and I believe that my happiness comes from him and nowhere else.

If I have faith in Jesus I am making a statement about how my whole life will be structured. It is this kind of faith that has the power to save.

If I believe in God, this faith has to change my whole life. The ancient Israelites forgot how important God was. They thought that he would not mind if they sinned.

He sent them prophets to warn them, but they ignored the prophets, so he sent a different kind of messenger: the King Nebuchadnezzar, who came and destroyed Jerusalem, and carried the Israelites back as slaves.

We should not imagine that the situation is any different now. God does not expect less of us. He expects more from us because we have been given more grace.

If he was not willing to preserve Jerusalem, his holy city, when the inhabitants had given themselves over to sin, he will not have any special protection for our country or any other country.

The citizens of Jerusalem thought they were safe because of their allies and their strong walls and their other defenses, but an empire arose from nowhere and conquered them easily.

We are being confronted by some difficult decisions: do we believe in our country or do we believe in Jesus?

This does not have to be a contradiction, but it slowly is becoming one. Our country has risen, and someday it will fall, but Jesus is forever.

Do we believe in the general opinion of society or do we believe in Jesus? There are a lot of voices that call traditional morality “extreme”.

And then there is a constant buzz that says that Jesus cannot be trusted, that we have to make certain allowances, certain indulgences, certain reasonable adaptations.

We call it “updating” Christianity, but that is only because we live in a culture obsessed with have everything up-to-date. There has always been a voice opposed to Christianity. Do we believe in that voice, or do we believe in Jesus?

Believing in Jesus includes three elements: 1) the belief that God is our loving Father,

2) the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, tells us the truth about God and life, and

3) the belief that we must give unquestioning obedience to Jesus. “I believe” means I put my trust in Jesus and I seek to obey Him.

We must do “good works” if we have been truly saved. In other words, if we are saved by our Faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, good works will follow as our acts of thanksgiving.

This favor from God is constantly being offered, and our challenge is to respond to it gratefully by leading a good life.

Thus, we will receive from God eternal life, the very life of God Himself. Then we will experience peace with God, peace with men, peace with life and peace with ourselves.

Believing in Jesus is not easy. It is a decision we make and a decision we fight for every day. In every action we say what we believe in and we decide what we will believe in.

So we need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. Let us try, with His help, to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities as we share our love with others during Lent.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd Sunday of Lent Year – B

3rd Sunday of Lent Year – B
Ex 20: 1-17; I Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Two friends, Bill and Tom, were drinking coffee at an all-night café. They got into a discussion about the difference between irritation, anger, and rage.

At about 1 A.M., Bill said, “Look, Tom, I’ll show you an example of irritation.” He went to the pay telephone, put in a coin, and dialed a number at random. The phone rang and rang and rang.

Finally, when a sleepy voice at the other end answered, Bill said, “I’d like to speak to Jones.”

“There’s no one here named Jones,” the disgruntled man replied as he hung up. “That,” Bill said to Tom, “is a man who is irritated.” An hour later, at 2 A.M., Bill said, “Now I’ll show you a man who is angry.”

He went to the phone, dialed the same number, and let it ring. Eventually, the same sleepy voice answered the phone.

Bill asked, “May I please speak with Jones?” “There’s no one here named Jones,” came the angry reply, this time louder. The man slammed down the receiver.

An hour later, at 3 A.M., Bill said, “Now I’ll show you an example of rage.” He went to the phone, dialed the same number, and let it ring.

When the sleepy man finally answered, Bill said, “Hi, this is Jones. Have there been any calls for me?”

That kind of gets to you, doesn’t it? Have you ever said, “Don’t make me angry? Most of us, probably, don’t like to be angry. But, when you do get angry… Aristotle has written, “It is easy to become angry.

Anyone can do it. But to become angry at the right moment, to the right degree, for the right purpose, in the right manner, that is difficult.

Only the wise person can accomplish it.” What is implied in Aristotle’s words is the realization that there are different kinds of anger.

There is a destructive anger, which is unfocused, irrational and wasteful. But there is also a constructive anger that is precise, appropriate and useful.

Aristotle believed that constructive anger is valuable. So did Jesus.
In today’s gospel we see Jesus using constructive anger to motivate himself in the dramatic action in the temple.

Now we are not completely sure what Jesus was angry at. He was not angry at the temple itself, for as a good Jew the temple was the center of his religious life, and he prayed in the temple often.

He could not be angry at the fact that people were selling animals, because animals were required by Jewish law for sacrifice.

Perhaps he was angry at where the animals were being sold or how they were being sold. Perhaps they were sold in an unfair way that discriminated against the poor.

Whatever the reason was, it is clear that Jesus perceived in the action of selling some injustice, and his response to that injustice was anger.

Anger motivated Jesus to act against what he believed was wrong. The example of Jesus reminds us that, as children of God, we are required to do more than pray quietly and promote a peaceful inner disposition.

Constructive anger is a virtue when it is exercised on behalf of the kingdom. Now this can surprise us, because some of us were taught that anger is a sin.

But only destructive anger is sinful. Constructive anger is not a sin. It is a positive and valuable part of human life.

Look at your own life over the past year. If you cannot think of any time when you were angry, that is not necessarily a good thing.

Never being angry does not make us holy; in fact, it might indicate that we are indifferent, indifferent to the injustice and evils that are a part of our world.

If, on the other hand, you look over the past year and realize that you are always angry, that is not a good thing either.

When we suddenly burst into rage at the slightest comment, when we explode without any reason, when we discover that we are living constantly with an internal tension, that is an indication that there are unresolved issues in our life that need to be faced.

That is a sign that destructive anger controls us. And destructive anger needs to be eliminated. But contrary to never being angry or always being angry, constructive anger is healthy.

It helps us identify what is wrong, and it motivates us to work against it. If you recognize in your life a growing tendency toward self-indulgence and self-centeredness, constructive anger can motivate you to act, to turn things around.

If you realize that you are experiencing abuse or manipulation in a relationship, constructive anger can force you to demand a change or to abandon the relationship altogether.

There is no doubt that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. But he is also the Lord of Justice. Jesus did not sit meekly by when he saw evil being imposed on others. Jesus was not afraid of constructive anger.

He used it to build the kingdom. So should we. “When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.” – St. Francis de Sales.

Once upon a time the sun and the wind got into an argument about who was stronger. They decided to settle things with a test. “Let us see who can force that man over there to take off his coat”, said the wind.

The sun agreed. So the wind blew with all its strength, but the harder the wind blew, the more the man held on to his coat. Then it was the sun’s turn. He shone down strong and soon it was very warm and the man removed his coat.

It is not enough that we have the zeal. Anyway the violence is not convincing. Jesus knew that if he suffered and died for my sins, I could not resist loving him.

This is how the weakness of God is greater than the strength of the human. I do not need God to force me to keep his commandments, though I do need him to help me.

If someone tried to violently force me to follow a religion, I would resist, but since someone loved me so much that he was willing to die to save me, I am very interested in learning more about that love.

Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain.

We are not supposed to think of God as a vending machine into which we put our sacrifices and good deeds to get back His blessings.

Be Blessed Be Blessing. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Sunday of Lent Year – B

       2nd Sunday of Lent Year – B
Gen.22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom.8:31b-34; Mk.9:2-10

The old farmer from the countryside who was visiting a big city for the first time with his son, stood speechless before the elevator of a big hotel, watching in wonder, as an old woman got into the elevator and, within minutes, a beautiful young woman came out.

He called out to his son who was registering at the reception. “Son, put your mother into that miracle machine immediately. It will transform her into a beautiful young lady.”

Abraham loved God so much that he was willing to give his most precious, the son that he loved, to the Lord.

I could preach about how wonderful it is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and how we need to be willing to give everything to God, and then someone will go home and sacrifice their children.

We all would consider them a monster, but they could say, and rightly so, “I wanted to give God everything.” That is not what happened in the reading today.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is full of high drama. The demand that Isaac be sacrificed seemed to utterly contradict God’s promise that the boy would pass on Abraham’s line into the distant future.

It was a radical trial of faith, and no greater test of obedience could be set.

If someone ever tells you that there is any virtue in killing your children as a human sacrifice because you love God so very much, do not believe them. If you think that God is asking you to kill someone to please him, stop and get medical care.

So what was going on in that reading? Abraham knew that God was going to stop him. That story is about faith. Abraham had a promise from God: Isaac will give you grandchildren.

Isaac had not yet had any children. So Abraham knew that even if he took Isaac up on the mountain, God would save him.

Even if Abraham stabbed Isaac through the heart, God would save him. Even if Abraham killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead.

Abraham knew, as he walked up the mountain with Isaac, that Isaac would yet have children. He believed the promise. He had no doubt, and, therefore, he had no fear.

We could see the faith of Abraham when the boy asked the innocent question, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering? With all faith in God, Abraham answered “God will provide.”

The position that Abraham is in with respect to God, is the position that Isaac is in with respect to Abraham. Consider that time period. There was no government.

There was no social structure other than the family. Isaac did not go to school. There was no such thing as a book. Isaac learned everything he knew from his father and mother.

For all he knew that he had to go with his father to the mountain. What was going through Isaac’s mind? I imagine that he thought that his father was performing a secret ritual, something symbolic.

He trusted that his father was not going to kill him. He knew that his father loved him.

This is also Abraham’s position with God. How did he make sense of all these messages from God? We do not know. He only has a voice which speaks to him and makes promises.

He had learned to trust these promises completely. So Isaac goes up the mountain not knowing exactly what will happen on the top but trusting that his father loves him and will not harm him.

Abraham goes up the mountain not knowing exactly what will happen on the top but trusting that God would never break his promise to provide children through Isaac.

God demanded that Abraham take Isaac up that mountain knowing what would happen at the top.

Usually the story of the sacrifice of Isaac is considered as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus. Isaac carried the wood on his back; Jesus carried the Cross on his.

Isaac was a beloved son; Jesus was the Beloved Son. Abraham said to Isaac that God would provide the sacrifice; Jesus was the sacrifice that God provided.

However, as the Church shows us today by this choice of readings, that story also foreshadows the Transfiguration. In the Gospel today, Jesus climbs a mountain with Peter, James, and John.

On the top of each mountain, a glorification occurs. The voice speaks from heaven. To Abraham the voice said, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants like the stars of the sky and the sands on the seashore.”

Abraham goes up the mountain as just another man, but comes down the mountain as our father in faith. To Jesus, or rather, to his disciples, the voice said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

God made a promise to Abraham, but about Jesus he merely stated a fact and gave a command. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

When Abraham took his son up that mountain, he was declaring himself to be for God 100%. He was a servant of God.

He was devoted. He trusted God and believed his promises. God said, “March your son up a mountain” so Abraham got up early the next morning and set out.

Likewise, when God sent his Son into the world, he was declaring himself to be for us 100%. Yes, if God is for us, who can be against us? Since he did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all, will he not give us everything else along with him?

You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores.

He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk: you just add water, and you get milk.

Then I saw powdered orange juice: you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country!’”

Yes he is just joking but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation—that people change instantly at salvation.

Some denominations make Christianity so simple: accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, confess your sins to him, you are instantly saved and born again. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal.

Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it, most traditions expect some quick fix to sin.

We go to Church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and you get disciples!

Unfortunately, there is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.

The transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength. In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar are changed into the crucified and risen, living body and blood of Jesus.

Just as Jesus’ transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of heavenly strength against temptations, and our renewal during Lent.

In addition, our Holy Communion with the living Jesus should be the source of our daily “transfiguration,” transforming our minds and hearts to will of God so that we may be addressed by God as His beloved sons and daughters.

Be Blessed and Be Blessing. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st Sunday of Lent Year – B

1st Sunday of Lent Year – B
Gen. 9:8-15; 1Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

A long line of men stood at one of Heaven’s gates, waiting to be admitted. There was a sign over the gate which read, “For men who were dominated by their wives while on earth.”

The line extended as far as the eye could see. At another of Heaven’s gates, only one man was standing. Over this gate there was a sign that read, “For men who were not dominated by their wives.”

St. Peter approached the lone man standing there and asked, “What are you doing here?” The man replied, “I don’t really know. My wife told me to stand here.” It could be the other way too.

This is the temptation to dominate. Today is the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends before the celebration of the Paschal Triduum excluding Sundays.

‘Forty’ is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences. God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Gen. 7:12).

The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex.34:28) and Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (1Kgs 19:8).

Today’s gospel passage, St. Mark narrates that Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and after fasting for forty days and forty nights, He is tempted by the devil in the desert.

But Jesus is able to resist the temptation because of His determination to be faithful to the mission entrusted to Him by His Father.

Then He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” This cry of Jesus summarizes the challenge for all Christians during this season of Lent.

And so on this First Sunday of Lent, we are invited to reflect on the urgency of the call for repentance.

The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration recalling Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to “repentance.” It is a type of conversion – the reordering of our priorities and the changing of our values, ideals and ambitions – through fasting, prayer and mortification.

Temptation is a struggle, strife, a contest, a dispute, and an argument. It is a physiological, political, psychological, spiritual crisis in the church, in the Parish, in society, in organizations, in persons and in individuals.

Temptations are so strong especially when we feel depressed, deprived and frustrated because we don’t know what to do and we are in a state of emotional instability.

Temptations are always there because there is God and there is the devil; body and soul; spirit and flesh; love and perverted sex; good and bad angels; good and evil; virtue and vice; sacred and profane; Christ and anti-Christ.

So it is good for us to begin this First Sunday of Lent by remembering, who are the enemies that declared war against us and against whom we declared war too.

In the question and answer portion of a Miss Universe contest, a candidate was asked: “If you are to choose a man for a husband, what kind of man would you prefer, a smart man, a wealthy man or a powerful man?”

She replied, “I would choose a smart man because if he is a smart man, he would also become wealthy and powerful.”

Her answer appeared witty and she got a high score from the judges. And yet we wonder, can a smart man guarantee her happiness in life?

If being smart is the end-all of everything, why is it that Christ did not give in to the temptation and yet it was the easiest way for His mission?

If being wealthy is the key to happiness, why Christ was born to a poor family? He can be born to a royal family?

That is why the church gives us some form of discipline for the purpose of strengthening ourselves. A reflective way of looking at life is to see it as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness.

Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin and try to live by the grace of God.

Lent is a personal journey in which we follow Christ to His death and then experience the greatest of all hope in His Resurrection.

During Lent, instead of adding more items to our already busy schedule, why not just live normally and become more conscious of how we are doing things and improve on them?

Ask the questions: “How would Christ do this? How would Christ say this?” And then do it as Christ would. Wouldn’t it be great if we did improve our lives during Lent and were still improving by Lent in 2019?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had grown closer to Jesus by Easter through seeing what it means to be a real Christian? Let’s all pray for the grace to be more like Christ.

Let us make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer. Lent should be a time for personal reflection on where we stand as Christians accepting the Gospel challenges in thought, word and deed.

It is also a time to assess our relationships with our family, friends, working colleagues and the other people we come in contact with, especially in our parish.

Let us convert Lent into a time for spiritual growth and Christian maturity.

Let us use Lent to fight daily against the evil within us and around us by practicing self-control relying on the power of prayer and Scripture.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.