The Resurrection of the Lord
April 9, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
Today’s gospel has a great theme, in this season that introduces death to life, light to darkness, good and evil. It goes back to the two great dimensions of what God gives us, and I think I’d like to leave you with the same homework assignment that I left with the folks at the Easter Vigil last night.
These two dimensions of God that we focus on, that come front and center when we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism, are the dimension of God as creator and God as redeemer. We call these the Two Orders – the order of creation and the order of redemption.
At the Vigil Mass, we begin a long series of readings beginning with the creation account from the very first pages of the Book of Genesis. God creates the world, the sky on Day One, the seas and the waters on Day Two, the earth on Day Three, and on Days Four, Five, and Six what fills the sky, the birds and the flying things, what fills the waters, the fish and the sea monsters, and what fills the earth – all that creeps and crawls and all the animals, and at the crown of creation, the human person. That is the six days of creation.
And of course, the seventh day is what we do today. That’s why the commitment is so important to us, because it keeps a rhythm of time that we have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath, remembering that in a sense every Sunday is Easter. We have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath with God – the day without work, they day you pray and play, the day to renew relationships, the day for a foretaste of Heaven.
So God has ordered that for us when we speak of the order of creation. Everyone does not realize that there is an order, a nature of things. We can explore and learn; it’s not like we are cast adrift and have to find our own meaning for everything. There’s a meaning already there.
I learned it as a kid growing up in post-war America. Like many kids, we were not that far removed from the immigrant experience, as all my grandparents were immigrants. You get roughed up a little bit as an immigrant. I remember those stories, especially when you add Catholic into that. But I also remember very early on being given that sense of where I fit in, because the first question in the Catechism class every year was, “Who made you?” And the answer that you had memorized and had drilled into your head was “God made me.” Well, that’s not a bad start.
Think of how many people today haven’t been baptized, haven’t been given that greatest gift, “God made me,” that I’m not a meaningless cipher. I’m not just happening to be there and not knowing if there’s any reason for this. We say that you can tell your friends, “I don’t always act like it and I don’t always think right and part of me rebels against God, and part of me wants God, but He created me in His image and likeness.”
That’s true of all my brothers and sisters, and that’s true of the people I like and the people I don’t like. He created us in His image and likeness, so that the closest you’ll come to God today is the next human being you’ll look at.
And so, there’s an order of creation. That’s what allowed the Church to be the first ones in the West to explore science, because of the belief that God has created an ordered universe and invites us to study that. Therefore, all that does is reveal more of Him. Many of the great Church leaders going back into history have been great scientists – the founder of genetics, the founder of the Big Bang Theory (a priest from Belgium.) There’s an order to things, and the human person has a place. Now, how marvelous is that?
There are so many who have no idea where they fit in, thinking they are on this big map, but there’s no X saying, “You are here.” If you come across folks in those moments, you can begin to say, “You know, I may have something for you.” We believe that we are created for a purpose. It takes a lifetime to find it out and not everything goes right, but there’s a deep joy. That’s the order of creation.
Then of course, we have the order of redemption. Because what you know about yourself, and what you know about every other person who was ever conceived, is that somehow there’s a flaw in there. There’s something that’s begging to be redressed or redeemed, to be purchased back by God. There’s a distance that’s crept in between us and God; we are not living in the human nature for which we were originally designed. We are living in the human condition, after that separation from God came in which we all inherit. We know that about ourselves.
One thing I like about that is that when I know I’m not perfect, I don’t have to kill myself. It’s true of all of us; we all suffer. But we finally discover a beautiful thing, that God did not wait for me to be perfect to love me.
That’s something you may be able to pass onto someone who may be suffering. Put it in your own words; illustrate it with your own story. Get familiar with using these words because this is exactly what happened after the Resurrection. They were pretty clueless; they didn’t understand, but they began to put those words together and gradually took those words to the ends of the earth.
Now, as we are often surrounded by folks who haven’t been baptized, we have an opportunity to speak of the order of redemption. The older folks will remember saving your Green Stamps, putting them in the book, and then redeeming them for a spoon or a Corning Ware dish. This is more sophisticated, but redeem still means “bought back.”
If you’re wondering about your self-esteem, or if you’re wondering if you have any worth or not, or if you’re worth working on, you can say, “I have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Savior.” We are not designed in the blueprint to be able to make it on our own. I like to think He’s designed us with limits so we will need others, and that we will need Him, because that’s the way we’re meant to be.
So this season, I think we have a good story to tell, with all our imperfections and all the ways we miss a mark here and there, to say you know, that order of creation, to meet my maker, to thank Him for the order with which He made things, to thank Him for making me and the order of redemption, to thank Him for putting me back on the right track and offering through the Church the whole toolbox of what it takes to bring me to His feet, to bring me before His face.
I’d like to think that once we begin again as they did in that early century, once we begin to speak those words confidently and humbly again, the first century happens again and then people will say, “You know, I want some of what you have. I like the way you live. Let me explore this life of which you speak.”KEEP READING
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
December 25, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 52:5-10 / Ps 98 / Heb 1:1-6 / Jn 1:1-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There was an inquisitive 4-year-old who happened to be rooted strongly to the “why” and “tell me” stage of life. The little boy was helping to sort out ornaments and said, “Daddy, what does ‘ignore’ mean?” The father explained, “Ignore means not to pay attention to people when they talk to you.”
Immediately, the little boy looked up at his father and said, “I don’t think we should ignore Jesus.” Puzzled, the father knelt closer to his animated son and replied, “I don’t think we should ignore Jesus either, son. I think we should give Him our full attention. So why do you say that we ignore Him?” “But daddy, that’s what the Christmas carol says: O come let us ignore Him.”
Kids sure say the darnedest things sometimes. But you know, brothers and sisters, often we actually get so caught up in the frenzy of preparations — parties, shopping, and decorating — that we appear to ignore the true meaning of Christmas and fail to prepare a place in our hearts to come and adore Him.
Let us adore the baby Jesus in the manger. A baby easily wins the heart and love of anyone with human feelings, but how much more does this baby win our heart and love? Imagine Jesus, the son of God and our savior, born in a stable and placed in a manger instead of a crib. When God comes, He usually comes in humility, silently and peacefully, without causing a great disturbance.
God’s humble coming in Jesus would not surprise us if we knew God better, but of course we will never know God sufficiently to understand. So, no matter how much we try to understand God becoming human in Jesus, we will not be able to comprehend. It will remain a mystery. The best reaction is that of the shepherds, simply to praise God.
So let us praise God now in our own words. As we look at the baby Jesus, we think of the mystery of God’s love for us, and ask ourselves: Why did God, who is almighty and all powerful, become small and powerless as a baby? Quite simply out of love for us. God became human so that we might become more like God. If Jesus had not come as a human like us, we might have had difficulty in believing God really loved us, but now we know for sure.
John the Evangelist says this is the revelation of God’s love for us: that God sent His only son into the world that we might have life through Him. This Christmas, brothers and sisters, let us thank God for revealing His love for us in Jesus, that He who is so big and powerful became so small and weak for us, that He became one of us to help us be more like Him, to have life through Him.
So, as we see baby Jesus in the manger, we reflect on God’s way being a way of gentleness and tenderness. God’s way is not one of violence, but gentleness. There’s a lot of goodness and love in the world but God is always tender and loving. As we look at baby Jesus in the manger, we see that He is the answer to today’s problems.
Instead of violence, in baby Jesus in the manger we see gentleness. Instead of hatred, in baby Jesus in the manger we see tenderness. Instead of selfishness, in baby Jesus in the manger we see love for us. So let us ask baby Jesus to help us to be gentle, tender, and loving with those around us, as He was in the manger.
Jesus in the manger gave us hope. In the darkness of our world His light has shone. His coming in gentleness encourages us to hold out the hand of reconciliation, to help one another, to work for peace. And we remember the message of the angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace!KEEP READING
June 5, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104 / Rom 8:8-17 / Jn 20:19-23
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about a young boy who went to the store on his bicycle to buy something, but there was no place to park his bicycle. He decided to go to a nearby church and make a request to the parish priest and, of course, the priest granted his request without any hesitation.
The boy asked, “Father, is it safe here?” He needed to ask, because he was concerned that someone might steal his bicycle. The priest replied, “Of course. The Holy Spirit will keep watch over your bike. But first, let us go inside the church and pray.” They knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and the boy said, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son. Amen.” The priest interrupted him, “My son, you forgot the last part ‘and of the Holy Spirit.’” The boy said, “We should not disturb the Holy Spirit, Father. He is watching over my bike.”
The Holy Spirit does not keep watch solely over bicycles. Rather, He keeps watch over everything and everyone, especially over the disciples, including ourselves, whom Jesus leaves behind as He returns to the Father. At the Last Supper Jesus tells them that He will send a gift from the Father, the greatest of all gifts, and that is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures tell us that fifty days after the Exodus, Moses received the ten commandments from Yahweh at Mount Sinai. Yahweh presented them to His people, and the people pledged faithfulness to all that Yahweh expected of them.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. It is the feast day of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church, for Jesus sent His spirit over the disciples to empower them to live by His word. That is why we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Pentecost today, the giving and coming of the Holy Spirit as a gift from the risen Lord. Pentecost, in Greek, means the fiftieth day, that is, the fiftieth day after Easter, or the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Actually, the Holy Spirit had already been given to the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the Resurrection. He breathed the Holy Spirit on them by saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid.” But still, they remained sad, and afraid that what happened to Jesus Christ might also happen to them. It was only after fifty days that the apostles finally realized that the Holy Spirit had descended upon them and they became courageous.
We, too, receive the Holy Spirit during our Baptism and Confirmation. But why doesn’t it change our lives as it changed those of the apostles? Why do we behave, in many ways, like those that are unbaptized, or pagans, as if we never received the Holy Spirit? I guess the answer is because the Holy Spirit inspires us to do good things, but in the long run it is up to us to accept, ignore, or reject His promptings.
So now the question is, who is the Holy Spirit? We know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. He’s the love of the Father and the Son, present within God the Father and God the Son throughout all eternity. When we want to describe Him, however, we have difficulties, for we cannot see Him.
The original word in Greek, can express the idea of breath, wind, or spirit. Before the world was created, a strong wind blew over the water. There was no life yet on earth. Nevertheless, the earth was covered by God’s presence. Even though we do not see the Holy Spirit, we are all aware that He is at work in our lives. We cannot see the wind, and we do not know where it comes from or where it is going, but we see its effects. The leaves on the trees rustle in the breeze. Trees are toppled by its fury. The wind gives speed to a sailboat and produces sound when blown into a musical instrument.
Our Church reminds us today that Pentecost represents God’s gracious, enabling presence at work among His people. This presence enables them to live their lives according to His teachings. It is also a day to celebrate hope: a hope that suggests that a knowledge of God, through the Holy Spirit, is working among His people.
The event also celebrates a newness, a renewal of purpose through the Holy Spirit and a mission and calling as God’s people. Most of all, the day is a celebration of God’s ongoing work in the world which emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit and provides a tremendous opportunity for churches to use this sacred sign to call for a renewal through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
In closing, please join me in praying this prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth your spirit and they shall be created
and You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.
The Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2022 – Year C
Readings: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 / Ps 29 / Acts 10:34-38 / Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
by Deacon Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. It’s a big day. Sometimes that feast seems to get lost, as we’re coming out of the huge feast of Christmas, but it really is a very, very big day. Secular (or non-religious) historians say that this is one of two events that happened with certainty with respect to Jesus. One of those events is the crucifixion of Jesus; historians are pretty certain that that took place. The other is the Baptism of the Lord. Secular historians use this event as the basis for their study of the life of Jesus. So it’s a pretty significant event. Hallelujah! (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
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 8, 2021 — Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8 / Ps 34 / Eph 4:30 – 5:2 / Jn 6:41-51
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story I heard when I was in the Philippines: A young boy from a very remote province went to a city to look for a job. One day he posted a picture on Facebook. He was leaning on a very expensive car, a Lamborghini. His mother saw the picture and posted a comment, “Oh, son, I’m glad that you were finally able to get a job, and that you got such an expensive car.” But the son sent a private message to his mom, “Mom, I have to lean on the car or else I’ll pass out, because I have not eaten in days.” (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
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jer 31:31-34 / Ps 51 / Heb 5:7-9 / Jn 12:20-33
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
All of us who have attended funerals in the past where there is a eulogy know that the friends and members of the bereaved family will always say all of the good things that the deceased has done. If ever the person being eulogized has done something wrong, all those things are forgiven and forgotten. But of course it is unfortunate that most people only do this to the dead and very seldom to the living. The great news for all of us is that we have a God who forgives and forgets. (more…)KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Dt 18:15-20 / Ps 95 / 1 Cor 7:32-35 / Mk 1:21-28
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
At the present time, we are all aware that many people are experiencing some sort of anxiety. They ask questions like: “When will this pandemic finally end?” “When can we all get the vaccine?” “Will it really work?” “Can we ever go back to our normal life, or will the so-called ‘new normal’ go on forever?”
Being anxious about the uncertainty of the future is a matter of course for a good number of people nowadays. Yet, St. Paul is telling us, through his First Letter to the Corinthians, that he wants us to be free of anxieties. (more…)KEEP READING
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 17, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Ps 87 / Acts 1:12-14 / Jn 19:25-34
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Not too long ago, Christina Simos and her 18-month-old baby were caught between a rock and a hard place at their third-story apartment, when it was on fire. To save her child, she wrapped him in her arms and jumped from the third floor of the building. Although Simos severely injured her back, her baby, Camron, had only a few scratches. This is one of the many stories that tells us what a mother would do to save her child from danger. (more…)KEEP READING