16th Sunday O T Year B – 18

16th Sunday, O T, Year B

Jer.23:1-6/ Eph.2:13-18/ Mk.6:30-34

I am sure we know what the initials “RIP” stand for. We see these initials on tombstones and on niches – and of course we know it stands for “Rest in Peace”. (Not Rise if Possible!)

It seems that only for those who have passed, those who have died, only they are entitled to “rest in peace”.

But for the living (and that means us!), we can go around wearing T-shirts with the big letters RIP – and they would stand for “Rest if Possible”.

Well, in a modern society like America, we are plagued with nothing less than busyness. In fact, we can be so busy that RIP can also mean “ripped into pieces”.

Maybe that is why we like to go overseas or out of states for holidays. We want to get away from it all, to have some rest and some peace. (As if it is possible!)

Even when we are in the restroom, we still cannot rest in peace. Because someone will come along and knock on the door and say things like: You are still in there? Can you hurry up?

And we can also forget about Sunday being a day of rest. Sundays can be so filled with busyness, that we need to recuperate from Monday to Saturday.

But whatever day it might be, we are always busy, we are always “on the go”. But where are we going?

We heard in the gospel that Jesus had sent his disciples “on the go”, to go on the mission of preaching repentance and deliverance and healing.

They had been busy, and no doubt they liked it because they saw how the authority of Jesus worked in them – people repented, evil spirits were cast out, the sick were cured.

And also, there was so much more to do that the disciples didn’t even have time to eat. But they were high, and they wanted to go on for more.

And that’s when Jesus jammed the brakes and told them to come away to a lonely place and rest.

Yet, the irony was that it was Jesus Himself who ended up “on the go” – He set Himself to teach the crowds. In other words, Jesus ended up being busy.

And the so-called “rest” that He wanted for His disciples was certainly short-lived, if ever there was any at all. So, what is it that Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel today?

Is it that, there will be no rest and peace all the days of our lives, until we are over and done with life? Come to think of it, rest and peace is so elusive, isn’t it?

For example, parents will never rest from their responsibilities and they will always worry about their grown-up children. Married couples would long for some peace between each other.

Those who are sick would long for a good night’s rest without pain. Those who have done something wrong would long for peace and reconciliation.

So, we may be longing for a good rest, but we better not say we are dying to rest. (Because we might just end up in eternal rest!)

But just like that short amount of respite that Jesus and His disciples had in the boat before they reached the other side, God will also give us just enough of rest so that our hearts will have just enough of peace.

Because our God who gives us rest is also restless. Because He cares for those who are like sheep without a shepherd.

As we heard in the gospel, when Jesus stepped ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.

In doing so, Jesus taught His disciples a profound lesson.

The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who learn to live with things that are less than perfect, and to have compassion on others.

There is a story of group of graduates, highly established in their careers, who got together to visit their old university professor.

Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the simple and cheap ones.

While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.

In most cases, it is just the quality of the cup and in some cases even hides what we drink.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. Then you began eyeing each other’s cups.”

The point of the story is that Life is like the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.

They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

Compassion is like good coffee. We are like the earthenware cups that contain the good coffee of God’s compassion.

Those who are tired and wearied by the troubles of life would long for the aroma and thirst for a drink of the coffee of God’s compassion.

No matter what kind of cup we think we are, we can always offer others a drink of God’s compassion.

God’s compassion will offer rest to the weary and peace to the troubled.

May we be the cups that will contain God’s compassion and may we ourselves find rest and peace in God.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing.Amen.

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16th Sunday O T Year B

16th Sunday O T Year B

Jer.23:1-6, Eph.2:13-18, Mk.6:30-34

A pastor is called to attend to his dying parishioner, a notorious criminal who couldn’t care less about the things of God or his spiritual life.

The pastor arrives and is surprised to see the dying man frantically turning the pages of a big Bible. Supposing he could be of help, he asked, “What are you searching for?” And the dying man coldly replies, “Loopholes.”

Today’s gospel is a good one for those who read the Bible looking for loopholes. It gives us two apparently contradictory images of Jesus.

First we have the image of Jesus as a man of firm, uncompromising, and even insensitive personality who turns his back on a needy and helpless crowd of people who need his help and takes off on a break once it was time for a break.

Then we have the image of Jesus as a caring, empathetic and compassionate Jesus who calls off his well-deserved rest to attend to a noisy crowd of clients when they should not.

The average reader of the Bible faced with this dilemma is likely to see in Jesus the character that best suits his or her own personality.

Today’s readings explain how God, like a good shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them.

They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the Church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah, thunders against Israel’s careless leaders – the king, some priests and some court prophets because they have shown no concern for the poor.

The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David. Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps.23) affirms David’s faith and trust in God, the “Good Shepherd.”

The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both the Jews and the Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering himself on the cross.

Paul also speaks about another reconciliation between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus who has accepted both into the same Christian brotherhood.

Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his apostles to a desolate place for some rest.

Jesus had sent his apostles on their first mission, which was one of healing, teaching and preaching. When they returned, they were no doubt excited by the experience. They had witnessed at first hand, the power of God’s Word.

Nonetheless, they were hungry, exhausted, and in need of rest, both physical and spiritual. In fact, Jesus was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences.

But Jesus, too, was in need of a break from the crowds who were constantly pressing on him, demanding his attention and healing. Hence, he led the Apostles by boat to a “deserted place” on the other side of the Lake for a period of rest and sharing.

Now what does it mean: “Sheep without shepherd.” When Jesus and the apostles came ashore there was a large crowd waiting for them.

Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for those people who were “sheep without a shepherd.” Here the reference to the shepherd was probably to religious leaders, because at this time the Jews were an occupied people and the real political power was in the hands of the Romans.

This brief description, “sheep without a shepherd,” is also dense with Biblical allusions. Like the people of Israel, the crowds were in the desert where they would receive not only miraculous food (next Sunday’s Gospel), but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah had been given in the desert of Sinai.

“Sheep without shepherd” will perish because: First, they cannot find their way and will probably end up eaten by a wolf or other carnivores.

Second, they cannot find pasture and food and the third, they have no defense against the dangers which threaten them. Jesus’ first acts with this shepherd-less sheep was to teach them. [v.34]

And then to feed them [vv.35-40] and finally to protect his closest disciples who were also His sheep from the storm [vv. 45-52].

This text affirms Jesus’ extraordinary availability and his compassion for the needy. It teaches us that a Christian should be ready to sacrifice his time and even his rest in the service of the Gospel.

A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for lonely and unwanted people, the “sheep without a shepherd,” who, while materially well-off, are sometimes “the poorest of the poor.”

On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly.

As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her.

When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them.

But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a get-well card, this never happens.” Jesus invites us, in today’s Gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.

We, Christians must be people of prayer and action. The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again.

Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us. We also do not know how to “be still and to listen.”

Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. In addition, we do not set aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God.

How can we shoulder life’s burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life? How can we do God’s work unless we rely on God’s strength?

And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to him individually, in the family and as a parish community in the Church and receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the Sacraments?

However, we must never seek God’s fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men but always in order to prepare for it.

From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve people more effectively in the market place.

The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding. People today find it difficult to balance those two aspects of the Christian life.

Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world. Others seem to believe that the Church’s major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick.

The Church’s duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the Gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel.

Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. But that is only half of the story. So let us be good Christian in the secret place and in the market place.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

14th Sunday, O T Year B

14th Sunday, O T Year B

Eze.2:2-5/ 2Cor.12: 7-10/ Mk.6:1-6

There was a feud between the Pastor and the Choir Director of a Church. The first hint of trouble came when the Pastor preached on Dedicating oneself to service and the Choir Director chose to sing: “I Shall Not Be Moved”. Trying to believe it was a coincidence, the Pastor put the incident behind him.

The next Sunday he preached on Giving. Afterwards, the choir sang as the director led them in the hymn: “Jesus Paid It All” By this time, the Pastor was losing his temper. Sunday morning attendance swelled as the tension between the two began public. A large crowd showed up the next week to hear his sermon on the Sin of Gossiping.

Would you believe the Choir Director selected: “I Love To Tell the Story”? There was no turning back. The following Sunday the Pastor told the congregation that unless something changed he was considering resignation.

The entire church gasped when the Choir Director led them in: “Why Not Tonight?” Truthfully, no one was surprised when the Pastor resigned a week later, explaining that Jesus had led him there and Jesus was leading him away. The Choir Director could not resist singing: “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage.

The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, tells us about his call from God to be a prophet. Yahweh warns Ezekiel that he is being sent to obstinate and rebellious Israelites in exile in Babylon. Hence, as God’s prophet, he will have to face rejection and persecution for giving God’s message.

The reading gives us the warning that as Christians who accept the call of Jesus and seek to follow him, we also may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection.

In the second reading, St. Paul gives us the same warning from his experience that not only the prophets, but the apostles and missionaries also will have to encounter hardships and rejection in their preaching mission.

Paul confesses that God has given him a share in Christ’s suffering – a chronic illness which gave him pain, a “thorn in the flesh,” so that he might rely on God’s grace and might glory in the power of a strengthening God.

The apostle invites us to rise above our own weakness and disability, cooperate with the grace of God and preach the word of God by word and example as Paul did.

Today’s Gospel passage shows us that many people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth did not accept him as a prophet because they knew him and his family too well. They knew that he was a carpenter with no schooling in Mosaic Law.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus went back to His hometown of Nazareth. He already had a reputation: that He taught with authority and He worked miracles. With such a reputation, we would expect the people of His hometown to cheer and clap for Him. Yet they questioned His wisdom and His miracles.

So what is the problem? Or where is the problem? Or who is the problem? Well, Jesus pointed out the problem. Yes, He made a name for Himself. But that name is not winner, not hero, or champion. That name is prophet! And Jesus pointed out a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations, and in his own house.

Yes, Jesus went back to His hometown as a prophet but He did not bring any profits for the people. Anyway, prophets and profits do not mix! So, when the people saw that there was nothing to gain from Jesus, that there was nothing they would benefit from Him, they just rejected Him.

If Jesus had multiplied their food, their crops, their livestock, their wealth, and then perhaps they would have welcomed Him. But in their minds, carpenters are not supposed to preach. And certainly, Jesus had preached about things that they didn’t want to hear.

Things like faithfulness to God, forgiving enemies, praying for those who wrong them, helping the poor and needy, honesty and humility.

Even we ourselves would not be very excited about hearing those kinds of things. Yet, these are divine truths, and divine truths are also the truths of life. Jesus preached to His people those divine truths but He was like a thorn in the flesh for them.

And those truths He taught only increased the pain for them. So, the most convenient thing to do was to label Him a carpenter and reject Him. Case closed.

Jesus would have certainly felt the pain of their rejection, so much so that He could work no miracle there. To say that He was amazed by their lack of faith may be an understatement.

The rejection was painful and it was like a thorn in the flesh for Him. We also heard in the 2nd reading of St Paul complaining about his “thorn in the flesh”.

What was it? we are not told, but like Jesus, St Paul also faced rejection in his ministry. He even pleaded with the Lord, three times, to remove this “thorn in the flesh”, but he was told:

“My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness”. And with that, St Paul continued to face the insults, hardships, persecutions and agonies for the sake of Christ.

Year ago, there was an article on the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. It was about his beatification. He is recognized for his heroic Christian virtues. In fact, he was the forerunner of TV evangelization back in the 1950s and his talks are very inspiring and his books are still widely read.

Yet, there is something we must know about Fulton Sheen. When he was in college, he was told by his college debate coach: You are the worst speaker I ever heard. That must have been a deep thorn in his flesh and caused him much pain.

How he managed to overcome that pain and rejection, nobody knows but he certainly believed in those words: “My grace is enough for you, my power is at its best in weakness”.

In life, we will be hurt with many painful thorns of rejection and criticism. Some may think that we are of no use or of no benefit to them.

And then there are the thorns of failure, defeat, humiliation, and also the thorns of pride and sin. But as St Paul had taught us and this indeed is a divine truth: those thorns in the flesh are to stop us from getting too proud.

Yet at the same time, Jesus tells us: My grace is enough for you, my power is at its best in weakness. Yes, it is when we are weak that we are strong.

Let us deepen our faith in Jesus, our healer and Savior. Even with the thorns in our flesh, we can still be His prophets, powerfully proclaiming the wonders that God works in us.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

13th Sunday OT Year – B

13th Sunday O T Year B

Wis.1:13-15, 2:23-24/ 2Cor.8, 7, 9, 13-15/ Mk.5:21-43

“A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Pro.17:22). Laughter exercises the face, shoulders, and abdomen. When the breathing deepens, the heart rate rises, and the blood takes up and transports more oxygen.

When we laugh, others laugh too. Laughter is a contagious, highly effective, non-prescription medicine. It has no side effects, and no one is allergic to it.

Have we had our dose of laughter today? We can use the tool of humor to induce laughter for our health, healing and general sense of well-being.

We can even spend time in daily practicing our laughing out loud – maybe by smiling first, then leaning into a giggle, and then in outright belly.

A deaf man, a blind man and a disabled man heard a rumor that God had come down to a Church in the village to heal the sick. They all went to find out if it was true.

God signed to the deaf man, “Can I help you, son?” The man signed back that he would be so happy if he could hear again.

God touched the man and suddenly he could hear. God then touched the blind man and he was able to see. The third man was sitting in his wheelchair with his mouth wide open in amazement.

God looked at the man and asked him what he wanted. The man drew back and yelled, “Don’t lay one finger on me! I’m on disability!”

Today’s readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us. They urge and challenge us to be grateful for our health in body and soul and to use God’s gifts of life and health responsibly.

The first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, tells us that God gave us life and health and that it was the jealousy of Satan which produced illness and death.

The reading also suggests that the goal of our lives on earth is to know, to love and to serve God here with perfect health in body and soul, and to share God’s immortal life forever.

In the second reading, St. Paul asks the Corinthian Christian community to show to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, who were living in poverty and sickness, the kindness and compassion which Jesus expressed in his healing ministry.

Paul asked the Corinthians to be generous in their contributions to a fund being collected for their suffering brothers and sisters.

The generosity of Jesus is the central theme here also, because Paul describes Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection as “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today’s Gospel describes two of our Lord’s miracles, the healing of a woman who suffered from a chronic bleeding disease and the returning of the dead daughter of Jairus to life.

These healings teach us that Jesus wills life, and wills full life, for all God’s children. The two healings also reveal Jesus as a generous, kind and compassionate God who wills that men should live their wholesome lives fully.

In today’s Gospel we have what is often called a “Markan sandwich”. One story is encased or sandwiched between the beginning and end of another.

Here, we have an unusual combination of two miracle stories, one contained within the other – a healing, and a restoration of life.

The story of the woman with the flow of blood interrupts and is sandwiched in between the two parts of the account of Jairus and his daughter.

These miracles were worked by Jesus as rewards for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage.

Though the ruler may have trusted Jesus out of desperation and the woman’s Faith may have been a bit superstitious, even their perhaps defective Faith was amply rewarded.

The stories have several common features. One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years. Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing.

The girl’s father is encouraged to have Faith, and the older woman is praised for her Faith.

The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death. In each healing, Jesus shows his marvelous generosity by giving the recipients life and salvation in addition to physical healing.

We just heard a story in the gospel that is two thousand-years-old! For two thousand years this story has been told and retold. What is its attraction?

The outline of the story is very simple. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, beseeches Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

Jesus agrees to come to this important man’s house – but on the way, he is interrupted by an unimportant woman who doesn’t even have a name. When Jesus was irritatingly interrupted he does some unexpected actions, from which we learn five things.

First: Jesus has preference for the unimportant. Jesus showed a preferential option for the poor. Jairus, the important man, can wait while Jesus deals with the unimportant woman. Jesus will pause for us as well.

Second: Jesus has time for losers. Jesus senses that here is a woman with losses. She has lost a lot of blood, a lot of life. Having been given up by her doctors, she is a loser easily relegated to life’s sidelines.

And precisely because she is sidelined, she catches his attention. That raises the hope that he will notice me as well: that he, in fact has noticed me several times.

Third: Jesus has time for affirmation. So far, this woman has been identified only by her bleeding. But Jesus takes time to see her. He calls her “daughter”. And furthermore he affirms her by giving her credit.

“Your faith has made you well.” This raises the hope that he will see me not as a face in the crowd but as who I am, and call me by my name.

Fourth: Jesus ignores the ‘no’ sayers. I can hear the complaints at his demand to know who touched him, “No, Jesus, we cannot dawdle here. We have job to do. Let us go.”

How can you ask this crowd who touched you? Let us move on.” This raises the hope that the people who put me down, who are always negative toward me, who laugh at me and see me alive and not dead as they think.

Fifth: The story reminds us of a deep truth that Jesus came to raise the sick and the dead. In the stories of Jairus and hemorrhaging woman, nobody does anything except cry out in face of death and sickness.

The only qualification for the gift of healing is to be sick or dead and cry out to him.

We need to accept God’s call to health, wholeness and holiness. Jesus accepts us as we are. Hence, let us bring before him our bodily illnesses and spiritual wounds and ask for his healing touch.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus continues to heal us through his instruments in the medical profession like doctors, nurses and medical technicians.

Hence, when we go to a doctor, we need to offer a prayer to Christ the Divine Healer, that we may choose the right doctor, and that he or she will make the correct diagnosis, prescribe the correct treatment and give us the right medicine.

Let us not forget the truth, that Christ still works wonders of healing. Let us also thank God for the great gift of health and use it for helping those who are sick.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

                        The Nativity of St. John the Baptist – 18

                       Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80

 Mother Teresa relates this incident from her life. Once a man came to the home for the dying in India, and just walked straight into the ward. Mother Teresa was sitting there. 

A while later the man came to Mother and said to her, “I came here with so much hate in my heart; hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty and embittered.

 John the Baptist, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah was the voice that was making the way straight for the Lord. He facilitated the coming of Jesus. He paved the way for Christ’s coming by his austere life, preaching and death.

 We celebrate the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist this Sunday instead of the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time because of John’s prominent role in the history of salvation as the forerunner of the Messiah.  

 Some might wonder why the birth of Saint John the Baptist is such a big feast-day, and why it is celebrated on just this date in June.

 The date for the feast is quite easy to explain. Just three months ago, on March 25th, we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation, when Mary, our Blessed Mother, conceived the child Jesus in response to the word of God.

 That same day she also heard about the pregnancy of her elderly cousin Elizabeth, and quickly set out to visit, so as to be of help to Elizabeth at that special time. 

Having stayed for about three months in the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, that is, until John was safely born, Mary returned to her own home in Nazareth.

 The joyful importance of John’s birthday can be linked to the meaning of his name in Hebrew. “Yeho-hanan,” means “the Lord is gracious”. 

And as Luke’s account underlines, in sending John the Baptist God had shown great favor, not just to the childless couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, but to the whole of humanity.

 Before the Baptist came on the scene, the prophetic voice in Israel has been silent for 400 years. When John came into the desert near the river Jordan, he breathed fire and preached repentance and renewal.

 All four Gospels agree that it was he who prepared the way for Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God. So, the whole Christian traditions honors John the Baptist as the precursor, the one who ran ahead as herald of the graciousness from God which came through Jesus, filled with grace and truth.

 There is an apt comparison of John’s birth with that of Jesus in this text from St. Augustine:

“John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John.

 So, he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.

 You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him.

 These are divine matters and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

 Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and locked up?

 It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ.

 If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born — for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the desert.

 John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.”

 Now do you remember the person I was referring in the beginning who came to see Mother Teresa’s convent. That man said to Mother Teresa.

 “And now I am going back because I saw a Sister giving her wholehearted attention to that patient there and realized that God still lives. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and he loves us still.”

 That sister paved the way for God in that embittered man’s life. As the Baptist pointed the right way for his people, each of us in quiet ways can do for people in our time. We can help tell our neighbors about the graciousness and the favor of God.

 The name John means God is gracious, or God shows favor. We too have a significant name, for being Christians implies that we are sharing in the mission of Jesus. It means that we are to be like other Christs to the world.

 May we be blessed with the grace of God, to fulfil our mission as faithfully as John did his.

Be Blessed and be a blessing. Amen.  

 

Corpus Christi – Year B

                                Corpus Christi Sunday, Year B

               Ex.24:3-8 / Heb.9:11-15 / Mk.14:12-16, 22-26

One of the greatest threats to Europe during the 5th Century came from Eastern Asia.

The Huns led by Attila had swept through Asia and in the year 452 was on the verge of invading Italy. 

The Huns were savage and barbaric in every aspect, killing men, women and children, plundering, sacking and destroying.

Attila the Hun was especially and utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering and famous for ripping apart his enemies and drinking their blood.

Rome which was then the seat of the crumbling Roman empire waited in helpless terror for utter destruction.

The pope at that time, Pope Leo knew he had to defend his flock and so he decided to go and meet Attila the Hun at the risk of his life and try to negotiate for peace.

Before he set off, Pope Leo celebrated the Eucharist.

As he ate and drank the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought to himself: If Attila were to rip me apart and drink my blood, then he would also be drinking the blood of Christ and that might convert him.

So with that, the venerable and simple old man went forth to meet the merciless young destroyer who only knew how to kill and plunder.

It was a tense meeting as the Pope pleaded with Attila to stop the bloodshed and spare Rome and the innocent people, and at the same time wondering when he was going to lose his life.

Then in a spectacular and surprising turn of events, Attila ordered his army to stop attacking and return to their base camp.

Many speculations were offered for this sudden and unexpected change in Attila the Hun.

It would be that a sum of money was given to him to stop him from attacking.

Or that his army was short of supplies and worn out, and there was a famine and plague in Italy at that time.

But another story has it that when Attila’s servants asked him why he suddenly changed his mind, he told them this:

While the Pope was talking to him, there appeared above the Pope’s head, two figures with drawn swords, and they seemed to threaten Attila unless he consented to do as Pope Leo had requested. Those two figures were said to be St. Peter and St. Paul.

Well, the fact was that Attila and his savage hordes turned back and Rome was saved at the mitigation of Pope Leo.

The interesting point in all this is that although Pope Leo knew that he could lose his life, he also believed in the power of the Eucharist.

He believed that Christ was in him and that the Blood of Christ flowed in his veins.

This is also what St Augustine taught us: the Eucharist is the only food that changes us to become like what we eat. We partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, and we become like Christ.

Indeed, Jesus the Lord gives us His Body and Blood so that He can live in us and we in Him.

Today, we the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is not just about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ after it is consecrated.

It is also about us who receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion.

Yes, it is Holy Communion. We are receiving something very sacred. We are receiving Christ the Risen Lord.

And that’s why we must prepare ourselves worthy to receive Christ.

There is that mandatory Eucharistic fast before receiving Holy Communion. We should know that.

There is also the necessity to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have committed serious sins.

Because St Paul teaches in 1 Cor 11:29, that we must receive the Lord Jesus worthily, otherwise we eat and drink to our own judgment.

To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is desecration; it’s one serious sin upon another serious sin.

The sacred and the sinful cannot co-exist in us.

When we receive Holy Communion worthily, Christ abides in us and makes us His Body, and His Blood flows in us, giving us life.

We become a holy and consecrated people. That is His covenant with us.

We become His people; He will protect us just as He protected Pope Leo from the ruthless and blood-thirsty Attila the Hun.

And all this is happening at the Eucharist, at the Mass. And it is happening every day, and happening all over the world, because there is not just Sunday Mass but there is also weekday Mass. Yes, there is Mass every day.

And if we really believe what is happening at Mass, and if we really believe that we are receiving what Jesus is giving us, His Body and Blood, then we would be coming for Mass, not just on Sunday, but every day.

The following true story was related to Sr. M. Veronica Murphy by an elderly nun who hear from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus SS.CC. (The Order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary)

In a little town in Luxembourg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. 

The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The Captain was amused at the conversation which ensued between the poor woman and the butcher:

“Only a little meat,” the elderly woman pleaded. “But how much are you going to give me?” the butcher asked her.

“I am sorry,” the woman responded, “I have no money but I will hear Mass for you.” Both the butcher and the Captain were very indifferent about religion, so they at once began to scoff at the old woman’s answer. 

“All right then,” said the butcher, “you go and hear Mass for me and when you come back I’ll give you as much meat as the Mass is worth.” The woman left the shop and returned an hour later. 

She approached the counter and the butcher, seeing her, said, “All right, then, now we will see.” 

He took a slip of paper and wrote on it “I heard a Mass for you.” He then placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side but nothing happened. Next, he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone, but still the paper proved heavier. 

The Captain, who had decided to stay on at the shop to see how the small drama would end, looked at the butcher. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery. 

The butcher placed a large piece of meat on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales, but found they were all right. Placing an extremely large piece of meat on the scale, it still favored the weight of the paper. 

Removing both items, he again checked the mechanism of the scale and then weighted several other items, and the scale proved to be exactly accurate. 

Exasperated, the butcher said kindly to the woman, “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of the goat?” 

At this he placed the leg of the goat on the balance, but the paper outweighed the meat. An even larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. 

This impressed the butcher so much that he converted, and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat. He kept his promise and the business flourished more than it ever had before. 

As for the Captain, he left the shop a changed man, and became an ardent lover of daily Mass. Because of that incident, he became a daily attendant at Mass and his children were trained to follow his example. 

Peace and happiness in the home increased as the love of God grew in the family. Two of his sons became priests, one a Jesuit and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart. 

Later when his sons became priests, the Captain advised them to say Mass well every day and never miss the Sacrifice of the Mass through any fault of their own. 

Father Stanislaus finished by saying “I am the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the Captain was my father.”

This story is often called “The weight of the Mass”. And indeed what we receive at Mass outweighs anything that we can ever have or achieve on our own.

Pope Leo believed in the power of the Mass and that outweighed the terror of Attila the Hun.

Our faith in the Mass and in the Body and Blood of Christ will certainly outweigh all challenges and difficulties that we will ever face.

We just need to believe that we receive Christ and that He lives in us.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen. 

The MOST HOLY TRINITY [B]

                                 The MOST HOLY TRINITY [B]

                      Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

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 our marriage blessed, our Bishops, 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 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.

Today is Trinity Sunday. Our Catholic faith teaches us that there is only One God but Three Divine Persons – God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit or Three in One! But why it happens this way, One God but Three divine Persons?

To tell you the truth, this mystery of the Blessed Trinity is very difficult to explain. But we can explain this in our own experiential way. By trying to explain this, our own explanation and answer will become another question and that is a mystery!

There was once a story of a Pope who wanted a portrait of God. So he called all the artisans of Rome. He told them that whoever could perfectly portray God on canvas would receive a papal Award.

The artisans gathered inside the Vatican workroom and each one started to paint a portrait of God. They worked on their masterpieces for several months except for one painter named Guiseppe. 

Being old, Guiseppe would fall asleep in front of his canvas while thinking how he would paint God.

Finally, the time came when the Pope would judge their paintings. His Holiness toured the large gallery and looked at each painting beside its artist. 

God was represented in many ways: an Old Loving Man, a Shepherd, a King on a Throne, a Crucified, a Dove and several other ways.

Yet to the surprise of all, the Pope was not satisfied with any of the portrait. While the Pope rested, on a corner he heard Guiseppe snoring in front of his canvas. He went to the old painter and saw the empty canvas in front of him.

“This is it!” the Pope exclaimed, ‘this is the perfect portrayal of God.” The cardinals, bishops and all the artisans gathered around His Holiness holding the canvas with nothing painted on it.

“Your holiness, the canvas is empty and it has no portrait of God,” the cardinals told him.

“Exactly,” the Pope said, “that is how God looks like – Indescribable!”

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. 

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.