Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 3, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jer 20:7-9 / Ps 63 / Rom 12:1-2 / Mt 16:21-27
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class. They got to the fourth station where Jesus, on the road to Calvary, meets His mother. The nun explained that even though they could not talk to each other, the mother and son spoke to each other just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils. The class gave many answers. One said that Mary said, “This isn’t fair.” Another said that she said, “Why me?” Finally, a sick little girl raised her thin hand, got up, and said, “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to Him, ‘Keep on going, Jesus.’ Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion, to keep on going? Because she understood the Christian principle of no cross, no crown.”
The image of Jesus Christ crucified is so important for our liturgical life that the Church requires that the crucifix be on or close to the altar at every Mass. It should be the focal point of the Christian life. All three of today’s scripture readings, with their emphasis on suffering and sacrifice, help us regain a proper appreciation of the crucified Christ and of the place of the cross in our Christian lives.
Jesus Christ proves to us how much God loves us by suffering and dying on the cross, that we may have eternal life. The greatest expression of Christ’s love is the laying down of His life on the cross. The very center of His mission is His death and resurrection for the life of the world. We can recall that St. Paul declared, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Gal 6:14).”
Peter, James, and John have just left the sweet, reassuring, hallowed experience of the Transfiguration. How thrilling religion can be! How comforting for the heart. Just when the apostles are wallowing in pleasant religious feelings, Jesus grows stern and tells them about His forthcoming cross. Peter will have none of it and tells Jesus that this is for others, not Him and them. Jesus, without missing a beat, cuts Peter with quickness by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
Peter needed divine intervention to know that Jesus was divine at Caesarea Philippi. Now he needs divine illumination again to understand that the nice feelings at Tabor are only bought with the dreadful feelings of Calvary. You can sense the fire in Jesus’ heart as He speaks in glowing terms about the cost of following Him. Of course, He knows where everything is heading: Jerusalem and Golgotha, the grave and beyond. His disciples are not as clear about the direction they are headed, but not for lack of hearing about it. Peter actually takes Jesus aside and tells Him that this talk of suffering and death is inappropriate. This should be the hour of victory, but Jesus insists on making the opportunity in front of them strangely grim.
Following Jesus is not a walk in the park. It will not lead to a comfortable position sitting on His right or His left, but rather a taste of the cup from which He is to drink. If we believe in Jesus and are willing to risk a love like His, then we have to be prepared for what the world does to truth-speakers like Him.
Perhaps, like Peter, we may be losing sight of our purpose in life. It is not to live totally for pleasure and avoid as many crosses as possible. Rather, it is to live it in such a way so as to merit the reward of eternal life. It is about living our few years in this life in a way that will reap for us the reward of eternal life in the next life. More concretely, it is about picking up our crosses daily and accepting them in the same spirit that Jesus accepted His own cross. The remarkable part is that once we begin living as Jesus taught us to live, everything will turn upside down. Suddenly, what seemed to be an enormous cross, will turn out to be, in the light of this world and the next world, an enormous blessing.
Suffering then, is not an end in itself. It is a pathway to glory. Jesus has taken on the full weight of human suffering and has transformed it, giving it life-giving value. This is why we willingly display the crucifix instead of rejecting it. While we try to alleviate suffering through legitimate means, at the same time we strive to see it from God’s perspective to find its deeper meaning. When we look at a crucifix, we are reminded that God does not see suffering as something to be avoided at all costs. He knows how to bring good out of suffering.
St. Paul knows that the idea of sacrifice, which is voluntary suffering, does not fit the world’s way of thinking. We are no longer to think as the world does or judge by the world’s standards. Rather, we are called to be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we may discern what is the will of God: what is good, pleasing, and perfect.
To be able to do this, we need to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ or the crucified Christ. He is risen, but His cross and His passion are our strength. The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. Living by God’s will, no matter what form the cross may take in our lives, is what leads to our glory with Him.KEEP READING
May 28, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104 / 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 / Jn 20:19-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Here is a true story that illustrates the need to intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into your life and to intentionally surrender control to Him when He needs to use you to help someone else.
A good Catholic man, who knew the scriptures and his Catholic faith, shared a story of praying outside an abortion clinic. He spoke to a woman who was headed in, but despite his faith and his spiritual learning, he couldn’t speak anything of meaning to her, and she proceeded to the door of the clinic and grabbed the door handle. The man tossed up a five-second prayer, “I’m so sorry Lord. I don’t know what to say. Help me, Holy Spirit!” Suddenly he spoke the most eloquent words to her; no, he blurted out two words, “hair bows!”
The woman stopped, let go of the door handle and walked back toward him, tears in her eyes. She asked, “What did you just say?” He said, “Hair bows. I just thought you would enjoy putting bows in the baby’s hair if it is a girl.” Turns out the woman had a strong memory of her mom and hair bows, strong enough to penetrate the darkness and despair she was in and to displace it with Christ’s light and truth. Those two little words awakened in her a love for her unborn child and for motherhood. The Holy Spirit came through in a surprising way. You might even say the Spirit enabled the man to speak in tongues, for the words he spoke were understood by that woman in a way that saved her soul and her baby’s life. That’s how the Holy Spirit rolls!
Happy Pentecost everyone. Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). Pentecost in Greek means “fiftieth.” The Jews celebrated Pentecost fifty days after Passover, which is a celebration of deliverance from bondage in Egypt and of God coming down upon Mount Sinai in fire, shaking the mountain. This prefigured the new Pentecost, which we celebrate every year, fifty days after the new Passover, which we now call Easter (Pitre).
You may have picked up on how the Christian Pentecost is similar to the Jewish one in its remembrance of that day at Mount Sinai. Listen again. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” But in the new Pentecost something dramatically different, something astounding happens that did not happen at Mount Sinai. Fire came down, yes, but “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).”
In this homily I hope to expand your awareness of the Holy Spirit and of His supernatural gifts that may be untapped in your life. I also hope to help you make your family life, school life, work life, prayer life, and sacramental life more intentionally focused on the Holy Spirit as that is what is best for you, your loved ones, the Church, and the world.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to “teach [us] everything and remind [us] of all that [He] told us.” (Jn 14:26). Jesus also said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish that it were already blazing (Lk 12:49).” Fire, like in the tongues of fire, refers to the Holy Spirit. What does fire do? It transfigures that which is burning into itself. In our case, the Holy Spirit restores our divine nature, makes us holy, and equips us with supernatural gifts. Why? The Psalmist wrote the answer, so that “you [can] renew the face of the earth (Ps 104:30).”
What supernatural gifts does the Holy Spirit equip us with? Sanctifying gifts and Charismatic gifts. The seven sanctifying gifts are listed in Isaiah 11:1-3 and are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Catholic theologian Mary Healy points out that Isaiah was describing the Messiah upon whom the Spirit would rest. Therefore, we receive the seven sanctifying gifts through baptism and confirmation, since we receive the Holy Spirit in those sacraments, and He forms us in the character of Christ (CCC 1831 / Healy 29-30).
What are Charismatic gifts? They are supernatural gifts meant for the service of others (1 Cor 12:1-7 / Healy 24). Again, drawing from Dr. Healy, the term charismatic comes from the Greek word charisma, which is based on the word for grace, charis. Therefore, a charism is a “tangible expression of God’s grace in a person’s life (Healy 24).” Every one of us was created by God with a specific role to play in building up the Church. The way God qualifies us to fulfill our unique role is with these many graces called charisms (CCC 798).
In Romans 13, St. Paul lists charisms for the building up of the Church, “serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy.” And in a slight twist, St. Paul lists roles in the Church that the Holy Spirit anoints people for. They include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph 4:8-11/ Healy 28). The Holy Spirit even desires to supernaturally enhance or elevate our natural gifts or aptitudes such as music, art, crafts, teaching, administration, etc., making them more efficacious than we can do on our own (Healy 24). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your gifts and to help you grow them and to put them at the service of the Church.
The longest single list of charismatic gifts is in 1 Cor 12. They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. To learn more about these gifts, I recommend reading Dr. Healy’s book, “The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build up the Kingdom of God.”
How is living life in the Holy Spirit best for you? Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Dave Pivonka both answered that question with the same metaphor. Living your life in the Spirit is like sailing, where the wind does most of the work. When you live in the Spirit, you may have a sense that you are moving through life’s challenges with less resistance. But like the wind, with the Holy Spirit, you never know for certain what He will do or where He will take you, and you have to wait for Him. Bishop Barron echoes this in his reflection on the third Glorious Mystery. He says we don’t make the Holy Spirit show up. We call and we wait like the disciples and Mary were waiting in the upper room when He came.
What characteristics will a person have who does so? St. Paul listed them as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). That is a great list to take to prayer and to use as an examination of the soul. It can help us see where we need to grow more like Christ by intentionally inviting the Holy Spirit into our life and following His promptings, even if they seem silly like, “blurting out hair bows” in a desperate situation.
We are blessed to be Catholic, for we experience the Holy Spirit’s power in the sacraments. We are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, who made us His temple. In Confession, your sins are forgiven by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the priest who, in the prayer of absolution, says that “God the Father of Mercies sent the Holy Spirit into the world for the forgiveness of sins.” Today’s gospel, by the way, is the strongest biblical proof that Jesus gave His priests His power to forgive sins.
In the prayers during Anointing of the Sick the priest calls on the Holy Spirit as the consoler.” In the Eucharistic Prayer we hear Father pray, “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them as a dewfall.” You can’t miss it. The Deacon kneels as Father prays those words, and the altar server rings the bells. Finally, in Confirmation and Holy Orders the bishop lays his hands on the faithful’s head, imparting the Holy Spirit.
Despite all the ways we receive the Holy Spirit, you are not alone if you struggle with identifying with Him. Theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson summarized this well, writing, “While the Son has appeared in human form and while we can at least make a mental image of the Father, the Spirit is not graphic and remains theologically the most mysterious of the three divine persons.” (DANIEL P. HORAN OFM in National Catholic Reporter, January 12, 2023). That is one of the reasons God gives us signs.
Healings are one of those signs He gives us to make the Holy Spirit’s presence and power manifest. Some of you may remember former Holy Name of Mary parish Deacon, Ray Roderique, the father of several of Holy Name’s parishioners. He and his wife, Kathy, were very active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. Deacon Ray was particularly known for the gift of healing. Our former priest, Fr. Steve McNally, shared that, while on a trip with Deacon Ray, he was having a good bit of pain from a kidney stone. Ray prayed over him, and he was cured. I reached out to a couple of Ray’s adult children for their thoughts on the Holy Spirit.
His son, parishioner Paul Roderique, shared Sr. Johnson’s quote. One of his sisters, former parishioner, Colleen Crist, had this to say:
“The Holy Spirit is the single most important relationship a person can have if they desire to be as close to Jesus as possible! The Holy Spirit transforms, elevates, and increases every aspect of a person’s prayer life (“hair bows”). The Holy Spirit takes the fear out of it. He helps you realize that it’s not about you, but rather you are a team, and He’s doing the heavy lifting (Remember the wind moves the boat easier than our paddling). He gives you the courage, and the ability, and the wisdom, and the words to do the praying. We are simply allowing Him to use us. All it takes is being open, trusting, and malleable. When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and extend the invitation sincerely, then He can get to work. He will never force himself on us. To receive Him, simply extend the invitation. Invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to transform your life. Ask Him to teach you how to pray.”
Let’s do that right now and close with a favorite prayer of Colleen’s, an invitation to the Holy Spirit from St Augustine. Imagine yourself as that sailboat on the lake. Ready the sails, which are your faith. Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly and let’s see where the Father’s Holy Breath takes us. “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me then, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.” Amen.
Mary Healy & Randy Clark. The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom of God. Chosen Books 2018.
Bishop Barron. The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Hallow app.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 29, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 / Ps 146 / 1 Cor 1:26-31 / Mt 5:1-12a
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A newspaper in England once asked this question of its readers: Who are the happiest people on earth? The four prize-winning answers were: a little child building sandcastles; a craftsman or artist with a job well done; a mother bathing her baby after a busy day; and a doctor who has finished a difficult and dangerous operation to save a human life.
The editors of the newspaper were surprised to find that virtually no one submitted kings, emperors, millionaires, or others of wealth and rank as the happiest people on earth. Even W. Béran Wolfe, a psychiatrist and author, said, “If you observe a really happy man, and you find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert, he will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under a radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living twenty-four crowded hours of the day.”
In our gospel today according to St. Matthew, Jesus is talking about this popular heavenly constitution – the Beatitudes. In Greek, the word beatitude is makarios, which means happiness. So the meaning of the word “blessed,” as Jesus told it, is that this is happiness. All that Jesus wants is for us to be happy, not according to the understand of the world of what happiness is all about, but according to what God meant by this word.
“Happiness is that which all men seek,” so says the great philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle also observed that everything people do twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is what they believe will bring them happiness in one form or another. But the problem is that what people think will bring them happiness does not, in fact, always bring them true and lasting happiness.
Think of the drunkard who believes that happiness is found in a beer bottle – one bottle too much and he is driving home, runs the red light, hits a car, and wakes up the following morning in a hospital with plaster and stitches all over his body. Then it begins to dawn on him that the happiness promised by alcohol may be too short lived.
Or take the man who frequents the casinos to deal with excitement – by the end of the month he finds that his account is in the red, and that he can no longer pay his mortgage. Creditors go after him until he loses his house and his car. Then it dawns on him that the happiness promised by the casino is fake.
So, Aristotle says that the ethical person is the person who knows and does what can truly bring them not just excitement or pleasure, but true and lasting happiness.
Another word for true and lasting happiness is blessedness, or beatitude. In today’s gospel, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, shows that He wants His followers to have true and lasting happiness – the happiness that the world and everything in it cannot give. This is the state of blessedness that Jesus calls being in the Kingdom of God or being in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The beatitudes that we have in today’s gospel constitute a road map for anyone who seeks to obtain the happiness of the Kingdom. So why does Jesus deem it necessary to establish this guidepost to the Kingdom from the very first teaching that he gives the disciples? It is because of the importance of this teaching. Everyone seeks happiness, but often we look for it in all the wrong places.
Ask people around you what makes them happy and compare the answers you get with the answers Jesus gave. We see that the values prescribed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are in fact countercultural. We cannot accept these teachings of Jesus and at the same time accept all the values of the society in which we live.
Of course, Jesus does not demand that we abandon the world, but He does demand that we put God first in our lives, because only God can guarantee the true happiness and peace that our hearts long for. Nothing in the world can give this peace, and nothing in the world can take it away. Our God wills us to be happy.
It is interesting to note that the first miracle of Jesus happened in the wedding party at Cana, where everyone was enjoying the occasion, the wine, and the food. He chose such an occasion of joy to make His first miracle in order to show that He was a happy person who could love and enjoy Himself. He wanted to show that each of us has a right to happiness.
Happiness is not wrong or a sin. Since joy is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, a happy person does not fall into sin very easily. Satan stays away from happy and joyful people; they are too hard to tempt.
The eight beatitudes do not describe eight different people such that we need to ask which of the eight suits us personally. No, they are eight different snapshots taken from different angles of the same godly person. The question for us today, therefore, is this – do we live our lives following the values of the world as a way of obtaining happiness or do we live by the teachings of Jesus?
If we live by the teachings of Jesus, then we may rejoice and be glad, for the reward in Heaven is great.
The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Nm 6:22-27 / Ps 67 / Gal 4:4-7 / Lk 2:16-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
During the Christmas season, the image of the Most Holy Virgin Mary with her child comes readily to mind. We see this image in all Nativity things, right in front of us, and in many other places, on many Christmas cards or postcards that we receive from our families or friends. It should also be in our hearts.
We have come together here today as a family of God on this first day of the New Year. We celebrate the maternity of Mary, the event around which this feast is celebrated. As we start the New Year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, thus reminding us of our other mother: of course, Mother Mary.
When a child is in danger, it will instinctively call out, “Mom” or “Mama.” That’s because the essence of being a mother is care, love, help, support, and concern for her children. As a Jewish proverb puts it succinctly, “God cannot be everywhere, so he created mothers.”
As we commemorate this solemn feast, the Church has for us these brief reminders. In the year 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus, an ecumenical council of bishops of the Catholic Church, settled whether Mary was to be called “Mother of Christ” – Christotokos, implying Jesus is merely human, or “Mother of God” – Theotokos. The Council decided on the title Theotokos, Mother of God, for Mary. The Council said that Mary is rightfully the Mother of God, therefore affirming the divinity of Christ.
In the Bible, the very first person to refer to Mary as the Mother of God is her own cousin, Elizabeth, who said in a loud voice, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” There is nothing wrong with invoking Mary with the title “Mother of God.”
So what do we mean when we invoke Mary as the Mother of God? When we say Mary is the Mother of God, we do not mean that from all eternity, our God took His Godship from Mary, or that Mary is the source of the Godship of Jesus. As the Catholic Church teaches us, Jesus Christ was eternally begotten by God, Light from Light, True God from True God, eternally begotten by the Father. It means that Mary did not give Jesus Christ His Godship; Mary only gave birth to the humanity of Jesus Christ.
However, right from the moment of conception, the baby in the womb of Mary was truly God and truly man at the same time. Therefore, the baby born from the womb of Mary is God and man. Mary gave birth to God and man. When we say Mary is the Mother of God, it does not mean that she gave Godship to Jesus; it only means that Jesus was God right from her womb.
Saint Thomas added to this by asking, “Do mothers beget bodies or persons?” As one priest asked, “Do our mothers merely give birth to our bodies, or to ourselves as persons?” As people, of course. Thus, Mary conceived in her womb the Son of God, not just His human nature, but His divine nature as well.
If we look at the attitude of the mother, it is very beautiful. At the start, when she still bears the child in her womb, she must take care of herself, in order that the child is not in danger. She can’t sleep at night, because she watches the child sleep. As the child goes to school, she’s the one preparing the provisions.
But on the other hand, the womb of the mother becomes a battlefield or war zone, the worst enemy of the unborn, defenseless child. The enemies of the unborn child are many: abortion, artificial birth control, cigarette smoking, drinking hard liquor, and many more. That is why the child, while still in the womb of the mother, experiences rejection, insecurity, human rights violations, and lack of love from the parents. This is not so of Mary, who follows God’s will to be the mother of Jesus, even though she is in danger of being punished through stoning.
There was a teacher who had just given her primary grade class a lesson on magnets. In the follow-up test, one question read My name starts with M, has six letters and I pick up things. What am I? She was surprised to find half of the class answered the question with the word mother. Of course, the answer was supposed to be magnet.
People especially need their mothers in times of need, of uncertainty, or insecurity. We need our mothers to pick us up. Perhaps even more so for those of us who are already old, not necessarily physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
So as we begin another year, with all the uncertainties that it may bring us, the Church is telling us that we need our Blessed Mother Mary. May we all be like Mary with our total trust and faith in the Lord.
Let us not put our hopes in someone or something that may only give us false and ephemeral hope in the end. Instead, we place our entire lives in the loving and caring presence of our God who is always there for us. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” With Mary, we pray that the Lord will bless us this new year, and all the days of our lives.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 11:1-10 / Ps 72 / Rom 15:4-9 / Mt 3:1-12
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
When big events are approaching, people start to worry about a lot of things and how to prepare for them, not the least of which is what they will wear. Many of us are already engrossed in the preparation for Christmas; a good number have sent out their Christmas cards; and Christmas shopping is already in full swing. Malls are filled with Christmas stuff. Others are engrossed in deciding what gifts to give, while children are busy deciding what they want to get from their parents or from Santa.
Many of us are excited as we look forward to the big day. The trouble, it seems, is that our modern society has commercialized Christmas, so that we have mistaken the icing for the cake. Somebody once made this strange proposal: Christmas should be abolished because it only makes the poor suffer more. The season only dramatizes the sharp contrast between those who can go on shopping sprees and those who have virtually nothing. We should not, however, be too strict about brushing aside the external trappings – the decorations, gifts, food and drinks – if we brush them out, the spirit surrounding Christmas would be lost.
But let us remain aware that there is always the danger of losing the right perspective. Hence, we need to constantly remind ourselves to keep Christ in Christmas.
Another truth is that Christmas is a religious event. We are celebrating the birth of our Savior who came down centuries ago. Think about it: The child whose birth we are all celebrating and rejoicing in came as the least of men. Poor and simple. He would never be able to afford our glittery and incredibly extravagant celebrations. In this case, we overlook, in the flurry of preparations, the internal preparations in our heart. Let us be ready to share some of our blessings this Christmas that would cheer somehow, or somehow alleviate the harsh condition of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
That is why in today’s gospel it instructs us to prepare in the true spirit — that is, inwardly – by which John the Baptist beautifully announces, “Reform your lives; for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Christmas carol Joy to the World puts it beautifully: “Let every heart prepare Him room.”
This is a big event, the coming of God’s Kingdom. Indeed, it is a big event in world history. But John does not worry about his outfit, or what he will eat, or even his popularity with the leaders of the Jews. John does not worry at all. He simply gets ready for the coming of the Lord, and, as God’s messenger, he wants the rest of the people to get ready, too. He wants them to prepare for the very Son of God who will enter human history, not dressed in silken clothes nor sleeping in an air-conditioned or heated room, nor sleeping on a mattress, but dressed in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Advent is a time for preparation. It is also a season of conversion and repentance, a time to live out the message that John proclaims: “Reform your lives, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
The kingdom does not appear out of the blue. It will not come automatically. God will bring about the realization of this via people. This will come only when certain conditions are met: where people are converted to a new style of life; where they are willing to commit to banish injustice, either personal or societal; and ready to stand for one another. In this, the kingdom is at hand. But whether it will materialize depends on each one of us. Our Church reminds us that repentance and conversion will not only happen during Advent. It should be forever, but the question is: “In what way?”
It is by begging pardon for our sins, because sin is like a poison in the body, which it slowly kills. Penance is the way to detoxify our souls. Many of us collect sins and, before we know it, our souls are cluttered, like attics filled with junk. To prepare for God’s coming, we need to do some housecleaning. We must make room for Him by getting rid of sin. Sacramental confession is a great help. We are not only looking for Christ, but we are looking for His coming at the end of time. We are so very thankful for His continual presence in us. But He can only enter a heart that is contrite and pure: a changed heart.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Change your hearts. Unless we change our hearts, we are not converted.” The Greek word metanoia means “change of heart.” Metanoia is a biblical term for repentance or “complete change of heart.” It turns one away from sin, to serve the living God. In the Old Testament, the prophets called for a conversion that would turn the people away from idolatry, and from a merely superficial practice of religion to live in fidelity to God’s law and their social responsibilities.
In the gospel of today, John the Baptist, and then later Jesus, preach a radical change of heart, as demanded by the coming of God’s kingdom. That is why the baptism of St. John the Baptist is a baptism for repentance. During apostolic times, in the name of Jesus, the apostles invited people to be converted and baptized, and so begin a new life in the spirit. So today let us reform and repent. Let us turn away from sin and say we are sorry. And we must do it now, for tomorrow may be too late. Now is the acceptable time because the kingdom of God is at hand.KEEP READING
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 9, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 / Ps 98 / 2 Tm 2:8-13 / Lk 17:11-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A story is told about a magical horse owned by a priest. The horse would run only if the phrase, “Thanks be to God,” was uttered, and the horse would stop when it heard, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” One day, a Protestant man borrowed the horse, and he was instructed in the magic words that were needed to make it run or stop. The man said, “Thanks be to God,” and sure enough, the horse started to run, and when it was about to bump a tree, he said, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and the horse stopped abruptly. Then he let it run again, by saying, “Thanks be to God.” He was enjoying the ride until he came near a cliff. Unfortunately, he forgot the magic words to stop the horse. He tried, “Our Father” – it did not stop. “Amazing Grace” – the horse continued to gallop. When the horse was almost to the edge of the cliff, he suddenly remembered the words, and cried out, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” The horse stopped just in time. The man sighed in relief, “Thanks be to God.”
Whatever happened to the other nine? The nine lepers were cured and did not return to thank the Lord. Leprosy was a terrible disease; terrible not only because it destroyed the body, but also because its victims were separated from their families and society. There were very strict laws that prohibited lepers from mixing with healthy people. Imagine the sufferings of the lepers. I bet the cured lepers ran home to their families. They must have been thrilled beyond description. There must have been some grand celebrations.
But why did only one return? I’m sure all intended to return and thank the Lord. Perhaps we can understand if we put it in modern day language, so here it goes. Mary had to return home and clean the house; there were only men living there and the place was a mess. Aaron arrived home just in time to save the harvest; he worked day and night. Martha had to catch up on her favorite TV series. David found his business in crisis and dedicated himself to getting it in order. Amos returned to find his wife had remarried and moved away; he drank his pain away. Peter lost his old job and was looking for a new one. Anna headed back to thank the Lord but could not resist that sale sign in the shopping mall. And so on.
So, there you go, brothers and sisters – excuses, excuses, excuses, all except Simon the Samaritan. Jesus had given the sick the gift of life, and like any gift, it cannot be complete without a thank you. Yes, we teach our children to say thank you. We celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a national holiday. We have a need to say thanks.
We celebrate the Eucharist each week, and the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. A gift requires a thank you, not so much for the giver, but for the receiver. The poet George Herbert wrote, “Oh God, you have given us so much. Give us one more thing – a grateful heart.” We see miracles all the time. We have seen how many times people have been cured of diseases, sometimes with no logical medical explanation. When people are sick or dying, they take their relationship with the Lord seriously. Many return to the sacraments and change their priorities in life. But when the crisis is over, some of them are never seen again in the church.
If we examine our lives, we can see God’s hand in so many instances and close calls. We all have been touched by Jesus. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves, “Have our lives changed as a result of the encounter?” Are we like one of the nine, superficial in our relationship with Christ, except when we think we really need Him? Or have we responded like the Samaritan? Today we are reminded to be grateful for everything. Gratitude is something that we cannot ignore at the expense of our decency and integrity.
The first reading, according the Second Book of Kings and the gospel of today, presents to us an attitude of gratitude. Naaman after being cured of leprosy and the Samaritan after being healed by Jesus. Why is an attitude of gratitude to God crucial to the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit? Apparently, to be made well, we must add thanksgiving to our faith. The person who makes such acknowledgement experiences a salvation that goes beyond the merely physical cure. It is a reorientation of the inner life.
How is our impulse to thank others related to our impulse to thank God? What does gratitude contribute to our being made well in body, mind, and soul? Why is it so important that Jesus would chastise those who didn’t value it? Gratitude keeps us connected to the giver of the gift. It helps us recognize the source of a gift. Furthermore, it keeps us grounded in the value of the gift as we take it into new pursuits and places. All good gifts come from God.
The attitude of gratitude keeps us focused on the source of life, love, and each new day. Maybe when we acknowledge the source of love, we are more likely to share it with others. Maybe that is why it is important enough for Jesus to lament its lack from the other nine. So, brothers and sisters, we will not forget to thank the Lord for all the blessings that we have received in our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 31, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ecc 1:2, 2:21-23 / Ps 90 / Col 3:1-5, 9-11 / Lk 12:13-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp. He picked it up, and a genie appeared. “Because you have freed me,” the genie said, “I will grant you a wish.” The man thought for a moment, and then responded, “My brother and I had a fight thirty years ago, and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I wish that he would finally forgive me.” There was a thunderclap, and the genie declared, “Your wish has been granted.” The genie continued, “You know, most men would ask for wealth or fame, but you only wanted the love of your brother. Is it because you are old and dying?” “No way!” the man cried, “But my brother is, and he’s worth about sixty million dollars.”
Brothers and sisters, in the gospel, a man asks Jesus to interfere and to help settle a problem in the family concerning the division of ancestral property. He says, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” In Jewish culture, as well as in many other cultures, to be chosen as mediator is something honorable. Normally, people would ask someone to mediate because of the person’s good standing in the community. Jesus appears to decline the invitation and gives the reason for His refusal when He says, “Take care to guard against all greed. For though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” The Lord suspects that this conflict about the inheritance is driven by greed, and He does not want to take part in it.
Brothers and sisters, up through today, many family feuds are caused by a selfish interest in inheritance. Because of a piece of land or property, siblings give silent treatment to one another, file civil lawsuits against each other, and in some situations, harm or even kill one another.
To show his disgust with greediness, the Lord tells the parable of the man with the bumper crop, the man who built bigger barns to store up his harvest and secure his comfortable future. He is called a fool by God. Why? What did this farmer do to displease God? There is no sign that the man is dishonest or that he cheats others in order to gain more.
However, if we read between the lines of the parable, we can tell that the farmer is wrong on at least two counts. Number one, he celebrates bountiful harvests without being grateful. He believes that he is successful in farming because of his own efforts. Thus, he does not feel beholden to anybody, not even to God. And second, he depends solely on material possessions for his security and happiness. He believes that by becoming wealthy, his future is guaranteed. The farmer in the parable is a fool, because he forgets that all of creation is from God.
There is nothing that we can claim as our own in this world. Even personal achievements cannot come without God’s grace. We should remain grateful to God, because He is the reason for all our being and becoming. The person who thinks he succeeds through his own effort only tends to become proud and selfish, while he who recognizes that every blessing comes from God tends to become humble and generous.
Moreover, the farmer is foolish to think that his wealth alone would make him happy. The experience of so many lonely, rich people is proof that possessions do not guarantee life and happiness. In fact, there’s more to life than money and material things. Love, friendship, intimacy, and other Christian values are essential for joyful and meaningful living.
In the days of King Solomon, there lived two brothers who reaped wheat in the fields of Zion. One night, in the dark of the moon, the elder brother gathered several sheaves of his harvest and left them in his brother’s field, saying to himself, “My brother has seven children. With so many mouths to feed, he could use some of my bounty.” And then he went home. A short time later, the younger brother slipped out of his house, gathered several sheaves of his wheat and carried it into his brother’s field, saying to himself, “My brother is all alone, with no one to help him harvest, so I’ll share some of my wheat with him.” When the sun rose, each brother was amazed to find that he had just as much wheat as before.
The next night they paid each other the same kindness, and they awoke and found their stores still full. But on the third night, they met each other as they carried their gifts into each other’s field. Each threw his arms around the other and shed tears of joy for his goodness. And when King Solomon heard of their love, he built the temple of Israel there on the place of brotherhood.
Brothers and sisters, what does it matter if you have all the riches in the world, but have no real friends? What does it profit if you manage to get the bigger share of an inheritance, but lose a brother or a sister in the process? Would not love and intimacy in the family be more important than a piece of property?
In the first reading, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that all things are vanity. When death comes, all of our human achievements, including material possessions and honorific titles, will be left behind. St. Paul, in the second reading, wisely admonishes that it is better to set our hearts on what pertains to higher realms and not on things of Earth. What are these higher things that St. Paul is talking about? What else, but the virtues that Christ our Lord would like us to have, such as love, compassion, generosity, mercy, and forgiveness. These virtues will accompany us to Heaven, not our earthly honors or possessions.KEEP READING
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Jer 17:5-8 / Ps 1 / 1 Cor 15:12, 16-29 / Lk 6:17, 20-26
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
There are only two kinds of people – those with loaded guns and those who dig. That’s a line from Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Here’s another one – those who nibble corn on the cob in a circle, and those who nibble corn on the cob in a line. And my favorite, there are only two kinds of people in this world – those who load the toilet paper to pull from the back, and those who properly load it to go over the top. The whole idea is “us and them.” (more…)KEEP READING
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 24, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jer 31:7-9 / Ps 126 / Heb 5:1-6 / Mk 10:46-52
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Jesus performed miracles two thousand years ago and is still doing so today. Today, may we leave this church with a renewed faith in Jesus’ power to heal us and to truly help us when we are in need, and to heal and help others through our prayer.
In today’s gospel, the setting is important. Jesus is walking from Jericho to Jerusalem. Said another way, Jesus is walking from the site of the opening of the Promised Land through Joshua’s obedience to God, to the site of the opening of the gates to our final Promised Land through Jesus’ obedience to His Father. (more…)KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 25, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Acts 4:8-12 / Ps 118 / 1 Jn 3:1-2 / Jn 10:11-18
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
At this morning’s first Mass, baby Theodora, whom I baptized a few months ago, was a little uneasy during the liturgy. Her Mom, as all mothers do, knew exactly what to do to calm her down. She knew what she wanted every time she was uncomfortable. It is such a privilege, if you are in the company of someone who knows you like a mother knows her baby. (more…)KEEP READING