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
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 / Ps 119 / Rom 8:28-30 / Mt 13:44-52
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A while ago, I read an article about a college athlete who was training to make the school’s football team. He got up every morning at five a.m. to train. He would run and lift weights for two hours straight. Then he would go back to the dorm, shower, eat breakfast, and go off to his classes. After his classes, he would go back to the athletic facility and work for three more hours with his teammates, learning the playbook, running plays, more weights, etc. The next morning at five a.m., he started the same routine all over again.
Obviously, he had very little, if any, social life. When a reporter asked him why he followed such a difficult schedule, the young man said, “My only goal right now is to be the best football player I can be and to help my team win a championship. If going to parties or anything else, for that matter, prevents me from accomplishing my goal, then why go? The more I train, the better. You see, sacrifice is the thing.”
Brothers and sisters, I was wondering, if Jesus was living now instead of two thousand years ago, if in today’s gospel, He might have used a different story or two. Rather than speak about a pearl merchant who sacrificed everything to buy his dream pearl, or a tenant farmer who sold everything he owned to buy a field with a treasure in it, Jesus may have spoken about a young man who sacrificed a lot to be the best football player that he could be.
What’s the connection between a pearl merchant, a treasure hunter, and this young football player? What do they have in common? What they have in common is this: They have a total commitment to their dream. All of them are willing to sacrifice everything for the goal they have set for themselves. In one case, it is to own the perfect pearl. In the second case, it’s to obtain a great treasure. In the third case, it is to help make his team into a champion.
That’s precisely Jesus’ point in today’s gospel: To be a true follower of God requires total commitment on our part. Citizenship in God’s kingdom requires us to give one hundred percent all of the time, not just when we feel like it. God’s kingdom must be the top priority of our life. We cannot be a true follower of Jesus only part of the time, sort of like a hobby. We cannot be only admirers of Him.
Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a pearl merchant. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a treasure seeker. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a football player. It involves total dedication and commitment.
But there is one difference – a big difference between a true disciple of Jesus and our pearl merchant, treasure hunter, and football player. You see, those three people are striving for rewards that will not last, rewards that are transitory. Earthly rewards, while a follower of Jesus is striving for eternal, permanent rewards.
When the pearl merchant dies, his pearl will no longer be of any value to him. When the treasure seeker dies, his treasure will be as useless to him as snowshoes are to somebody in July. When the football player dies, his trophies will be just another keepsake for his family.
But when a true disciple of Jesus dies, a true Christian, the whole kingdom of God rejoices, because it will now shine brighter and brighter. All of God’s people will be edified eternally when a Christian dies.
Money and influence, in and of themselves, are neutral. Money is good when it is used to help others, not when it is only spent on ourselves. Influence and power can be great, even holy, when used to lift up those who have been beaten down by life’s brutality.
At the moment just before our death, I doubt very much if any of us will look back on our lives and wish we spent more hours at the office or made more money or played another round of golf. I do think, however, that we will look back on our lives and wish that we had spent more time with our families and loved ones. More time helping other people and doing good.
You see, then, on our deathbeds we will realize that there is only one thing in life that really counts, and it’s not whether in life we acquired a prize pearl or a rare treasure or won a sport championship. The only thing that will truly matter is what we have become, what we are in God’s eyes while we traveled our paths through life.
Think about this: If our pearl merchant and treasure seeker and football player were willing to sacrifice so much for a prize that will never last, how much more should we be willing to sacrifice for a prize that will last forever? Earthly prizes can be good and even satisfying for a time, but eternal prizes are the best, the very best. So don’t bet on the wrong horse, as they say.
If we are given the choice, what do we prefer: gold, glory, or God? It is easy to say that we prefer God in our lives, but sadly, this is not what we see in people’s priorities today. Often the desire for wealth and honor would push people to spend their precious time for work and business only. The prevailing culture suggests that, to be happy, one must have more and achieve more.
Hence, people are willing to sacrifice their time with the family in order to earn more money. Many are also ready to surrender their Christian principles and values just to keep their fame and glory.
The well-known story of Solomon in our first reading should inspire us all. In a dream, God offered to give him one thing that he wanted. Being young, Solomon could have asked for wealth or glory or long life. But realizing the great task ahead of him, Solomon thought that what he really needed was the wisdom to rule his people well in the ways of God.
Wisdom, or God’s inspiration, is what Solomon asked for, and God was so pleased with Solomon, that He promised him more than the gift of wisdom, including riches, glory, and long life. That’s why the song that we sang several weeks ago is right: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all good things shall be added unto you.”
Mother Teresa of Kolkata and John Paul II both died leaving no property, for they had not accumulated treasures on earth. They found their treasure in a life given totally to the service of God and of the Church.
The parables are true. Those who discover the treasure of the Kingdom will be happy to let go of everything to follow and be close to Jesus.
May Jesus Christ be praised.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a / Ps 89 / Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 / Mt 10:37-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There was once a catechist who asked the students in her Confirmation class, “Which part of the liturgy or Mass is the most important?” She was not prepared for the answer she received from one of her students. The youth said, “The most important part of the Mass is the Dismissal Rite.” After the class laughter subsided, the catechist asked, “Why did you say that?” The youth said, “The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the Word of the Lord and the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth and bear witness to the Lord and to bring the Kingdom of God into existence.” The student continued, “The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite. In a sense, it begins with it. We must go forth and proclaim to the world what the disciples of Emmaus did. We must proclaim that Jesus is raised from the dead. We must proclaim that Jesus lives on.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus gives His disciples an extended teaching on mission, or ministry. In the first part of the of the gospel, Jesus describes a missionary, or minister, who is worthy of the name “Christian.” He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:37-38)
Why would Jesus say such a thing? Before we can answer this question, we must deal with a more fundamental one. Why do we love? What is it that motivates us to love another person?
It is good that we perceive the person. A man loves a woman because he finds something good in her: her compassion, her joy, her patience, her kindness. The fact is, however, that everything that is truly good comes from almighty God. As we are told at the end of Eucharistic Prayer III, “All good things have their source in the Lord, even those good things which come to us through other people.” So, yes, a man loves a woman because of her compassion, joy, patience, and kindness, but the only reason a woman is compassionate, joyful, patient and kind is because God has given her the grace to be that way. This is what Bishop Fulton Sheen was getting at when he said, “It’s only because we are loved by God that we are lovable.” God, who is love, places some of His love inside of us and that grace is what makes us attractive to others.
Consequently, it makes perfect sense for Jesus to tell us in today’s gospel that our love for Him must be primary. We are to love Him with all our heart, because if it were not for Him, there would be nothing lovable in us or in anyone else. In fact, if it were not for Jesus, we would not even exist. As Saint Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians, “In Christ Jesus everything in heaven and on earth was created, and in Him everything continues in being.” (Col 1:16)
It also means that a minister or a missionary must be willing to accept and carry the cross or sacrifice, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In other words, a missionary or a minister of Christ must be someone who is in love with Christ in such a way that love of parents, children, spouses, and even oneself, assumes secondary importance. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is a sign of one’s death, since the way to the cross leads to Calvary and the crucifixion. The only worthy missionary or minister of Christ is the person who has found a reason to live and to die, and that reason is Jesus Christ Himself.
A case in point is the story of the young Spanish Jesuit by the name of Alfredo Perez Lobato, who was killed in December 1973 in Chad, Africa, at the height of the civil war. While he was helping refugees, a stray bullet hit him. The story of his short life is featured in the book, A Community in Blood, along with those of other Jesuits killed in different third world countries. When asked by superiors why he volunteered to join the mission in Chad, Alfredo replied, “Why do I want to go to this poor country? It is simple. Because it is difficult. I believe that I am called to the difficult and the demanding.”
It is natural for us to dream of a life of comfort, luxury, and pleasure. If we are honest about it, most of our prayers are directed towards alleviating our suffering. In short, we want a life free from trials and sacrifices. Perhaps this is the reason why we attach our lives to the pervading values of the modern world so life can be easy and convenient. In the book, Crossing on the Crossroad, it is said that the reason why people are frustrated is their failure to accept the crosses in their lives. The moment we try to escape suffering, we encounter suffering ten times more.
Thomas Merton said, “The truth that many people never understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because the smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
To conclude His teaching, Jesus encourages the people to be generous with His messengers. Let us take these words of Jesus to heart and act on them to the best of our ability. Remember, we do not need to give gold or silver. A cup of cold water is enough.
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10: 41-42)
Jesus has entrusted us with the ongoing work of the Kingdom. It is a work that does not allow any human attachment to frustrate the reign of God. The work of the Kingdom transforms our average hearts into hearts which will forever sing the goodness of the Lord.KEEP READING
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 25, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jer 20:10-13 / Ps 69 / Rom 5:12-15 / Mt 10:26-33
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
In case you missed it, on June 16 we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day after that, the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This past Thursday we celebrated the Memorial of St. Thomas More, and just yesterday, the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. I see in that sequence of celebrations the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart burning in Mary’s, Thomas More’s, and John’s hearts, enabling their great victories. We receive His Sacred Heart at every Mass in the Eucharist! Keep this truth and these spiritual heroes in mind during this homily on trusting in God’s grace when the world persecutes us for witnessing to His truth and love.
The LA Dodgers major league baseball organization recently held a public event in their stadium to give a “Community Hero Award” to a group of men who dress as nuns and mock the Catholic Church, which is to say they mock Christ (CNA). Now pray today’s Psalm 69 again, “For your sake I bear insult…I have become an outcast to my brothers…the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.”
Washington Nationals pitcher and Catholic, Trevor Williams, responded to the Dodgers’ celebration of mockery by becoming the first major league player to denounce the Dodgers’ award ceremony for an organization the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called “blasphemous (CNA).” His Twitter comments denouncing this attack on the Catholic faith have been retweeted thousands of times. He has been criticized, yes, but Williams said he wanted to show his four children that if they are ever tested, it is ok to stand up for their faith. By the way, Trevor’s own faith took off after going to Adoration as a teenager.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah is lamenting how those “who WERE [his] friends” denounce him, watching for “any misstep” so they can trap and “take vengeance on him (Jer 20:10).” However, Jeremiah doesn’t worry about being “canceled” for his faith in God. He defiantly writes, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. (Jer 20:11-13)!”
St. Thomas More can relate to Jeremiah’s lamenting about friends turning on him. More was King Henry VIII’s chancellor, and the King wanted More to sanction his illegitimate second marriage in addition to his self-proclaimed position of head of the Catholic Church in England. More refused to sanction either, and King Henry VIII began to cancel More’s job, his status, money, and reputation. But More’s faith did not break. The King was frustrated and finally ordered More’s beheading.
More’s last words exemplify Jesus’ exhortation in today’s gospel. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Mt 10:28).” Likewise, More said, “I die his majesty’s good servant, but God’s first.” This is called holy fear, which Bishop Barron describes as fearing “losing intimacy and friendship with God (Barron 72).”
St. Paul, in the second reading, wrote to the Roman Church, “But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” Living the hope of these words in prison before his execution, Thomas More wrote, “His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.” In doing so, More also echoed today’s Psalm “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not (Ps 69:33).”
Like the baseball player Trevor Williams, More also wanted to teach his child through his actions. In his letter from prison to his daughter, Margaret he wrote, “Do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.”
What of the people who mock the Church and try to teach our children to do the same? Jeremiah called the mockers “evildoers” and spoke of God “putting them to shame.” These strong words can be difficult for us, because as Christ’s followers, we look at our persecutors like the first deacon, Stephen. As he was being stoned to death for sharing his faith, he said in imitation of Jesus on the Cross, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
When we read the Bible, it is important that we read it in light of the gospels which rightly order our thoughts. To better understand this difficult challenge, it is illuminating to look at Jeremiah’s words through the lens of today’s gospel reading. Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one…And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Mt 10:28).” What is Jesus doing here? He is, in His perfect love, “casting out all fear (Jn 4:18)!!” What causes the cycle of accusations, mockery, and violence? Fear. However, if my heart is fed by and enfolded in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then I fear no one, nowhere. Free from fear, I can respond with Christ’s love and break the chains of conflict and discord. I can even pray for God to forgive those men mocking our Lord, “to not hold their sin against them.”
Sound unreasonable or naive? Thomas More, like all the great saints, shows us the way. In his letter to Margaret, he did not mock Henry VIII, nor point out his sin of adultery. He, with an eye on eternity instead of the here and now, wrote this about Henry: “His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest.” Like the bold hymn, Faith of our Fathers, More was “chained in prison dark, but was still in heart and conscience free.”
Is there no justice or accountability, then, for those who persecute and mock us? Do we just let them walk all over us? A wise priest once told an angry man, “You cannot do worse to that person than God will.” Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father (Mt 10:33).” That is a polite way of saying not everyone goes to heaven. God commands us to forgive our enemies. Justice is His domain.
Do not be afraid to speak the truth. Remember that there is no love without it. It is a spiritual oxymoron to say I want someone to be happy while suppressing the truth when I am with them. Could speaking the truth cause me pain and suffering? Yes. No doubt some of you have experienced this in your own families and at work and school. So, I ask myself a question: Do I fear the Lord who can cast body and soul into Gehenna, as much as I fear acknowledging Him when it might cause me discomfort? We must keep an eternal perspective of our life. Psalm 85 says, “Salvation is near for those who fear Him.” But take heart! God does not abandon us when we testify to His truth, love, and good news. Remember Jeremiah’s words, “My persecutors will stumble; they will not triumph.”
We see this truth in the rest of the story of the heroes we just heard about. Trevor Williams says many players and stadium employees have secretly thanked him. And on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Trevor Williams was given the honor of leading the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for tens of thousands on the Hallow app. As for the British Catholic Church, seemingly taken over by Henry VIII, it is now the leading religion in Thomas More’s beloved London. John the Baptist was beheaded, but Jesus called him the greatest born of woman, and the Church honors his birth two thousand years later with its highest-ranking feast, a Solemnity!
And what about our awesome mother, Mary? She stayed at her son’s side, throughout His persecution and Crucifixion, despite extraordinary personal pain, her Immaculate Heart enfolded in His Sacred Heart. For her fidelity was she abandoned by God to poverty and loneliness with no husband and no son? No. Jesus, with one of His last seven utterances on the Cross, gave her a new son who went on to write of her victorious coronation as Queen of Heaven (Rev 12:1).
Let’s close with God’s word, which gives us hope and helps us to be bold in the Spirit despite our failings, inadequacies, and fears. The next time you need to proclaim His truth “from the housetops,” remember these words exchanged between Jesus and St. Paul. Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul responded, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).” Amen.
Bishop Robert Barron. The Word on Fire Bible-The Gospels. Word on Fire Ministries 2020.
Filip Mazurczak. Is a re-Catholicization of Britain underway? The Catholic World Report, July 14, 2020.
Peter Pinedo. Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams speaks out on Dodgers controversy. Catholic News Agency (CNA), June 14, 2023.KEEP READING
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 18, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 19:2-6a / Ps 100 / Rom 5:6-11 / Mt 9:36-10:8
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Brothers and sisters, fatherhood is a God-given mission. It is not just an obligation, neither is it just a human aspiration, nor just a personal passion. It is a commitment to become a real shepherd and to become a worker disciple in the Lord’s vineyard. The call on every father is to focus not so much on the worldly commission, but on the divine mission. This is also the message in our readings today.
The gospel message from Matthew gives us the account of Jesus commissioning the twelve men whom He has chosen, giving them the charge to continue the work He has begun here on Earth. Matthew tells us that these were the first people who were authorized to spread the good news to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus charges the twelve to go out and cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. Just imagine yourself lucky enough to be selected by Jesus himself to be one of the twelve. But then you are given the assignment to go and cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons.
Did Jesus really mean for them to actually do all these things? How could these twelve men – fishermen, tradesmen, common folks including a tax collector and even the one who would betray Jesus – be capable of accepting these assignments?
Down through history, Jesus has chosen unlikely people to do seemingly impossible tasks. We can pick up the book, The Lives of the Saints, and find numerous examples of ordinary people who responded to God’s call. The Church, throughout its history, has had regular, ordinary people performing what might be considered impossible tasks, simply because they have responded to Christ and His teachings. People like Saint John Vianney, Saint Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Maximilian Kolbe, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are just a few examples of people who responded when they were called to spread the good news to others.
Jesus is now calling us. We are just like the twelve whom He chooses. We now have the responsibility to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. We accepted this call, this responsibility, at our baptism, but the question we immediately ask ourselves is how in the world do we cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons?
Can we cure the sick? Yes, we can help cure those who are sick. We can help to provide for physical, psychological, or spiritual ailments. We can be caregivers by assisting those in need. It could be simple things like making an appointment with a physician or providing transportation to a physician’s office. Perhaps it could involve something more complicated by administering care at your home or the home of the individual that is ill. We might be required from time to time to provide simple one-on-one counseling to someone who is depressed, so that the person may find inner strength that he or she needs to make a decision enabling them to help themselves and to return to their daily activities.
How can we raise the dead? Taken literally, we know this is impossible, but sometimes people are dead in their faith. We can provide spiritual assistance to those who are dead in their faith experience. Perhaps it is someone who has fallen away from the faith because of a simple misunderstanding. We can be instruments of hope to those who might think returning to God is hopeless. Sometimes it is as simple as answering a question about the faith, providing information that will help heal the person of their spiritual illness. Perhaps the person is dead spiritually because they were involved in a marriage that ended in a divorce. We can provide information to help them understand their rights as a divorced person, and if they are in need of an annulment, we can provide resources for them to begin the annulment process.
Can we cleanse lepers? The question we have to answer is who are the lepers in our lives? It could be the individual at work that constantly is getting under our skin. It could be the neighbor up the street who seemingly forever has knocked our children or has constantly criticized us because they don’t like our dog. It could be a brother-in-law who has been on our case from the first day we met. What can we do? Sometimes the best way to handle people like this is to kill them with kindness. We can simply smile or offer help to them with a project. Perhaps we could send some greeting card or surprise them in some way that causes them to think or to ask why this person is being so kind to me. We can present ourselves to these people as true followers of Christ, someone who is willing to clear the air, make amends, and try to begin a new relationship.
Can we drive out demons? The answer is yes – sometimes those demons are in us and all about us. They are the things that prevent us from being the best person we can be. It could be those inner feelings that constantly cause us to see the negative side of life. Perhaps we are constantly seeing the glass as half empty instead of always half full. The demons could be feelings that can cause us to fall into various states of depression. What can we do? Obviously, we can seek professional counseling. We can confide in family and friends. However, because we are members of the Church, baptized into faith, we can many times rely on the gift of faith to help us through those difficult times. Many times, prayer is a good way to rid ourselves of those demons. Through prayer, we can seek the intercession of our patron saint, or call upon St. Joseph, or ask the Blessed Virgin to intercede for us with her Son to help us overcome times of negativism and the states of negative thought.
Discipleship is not so much doing but being. Go down the list of the twelve apostles, and you’ll notice that nothing was said to describe what they did, except Matthew the tax collector and Judas who betrayed Him. Perhaps that should lead to deeper appreciation of our personhood rather than of our so-called achievements, not so much of what we carry in our hands but what we carry in our hearts.
Christ is calling us to do his work now on Earth. The beautiful thing that we have going for us as members of the Church on earth is our diversity. We all have different talents and different abilities to accomplish the work our Lord has entrusted to us. Jesus, whether we realize it or not, sends us out to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers. and drive out demons.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday of Divine Mercy
April 16, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 2:42-47 / Ps 118 / 1 Pt 1:3-9 / Jn 20:19-31
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
Last Sunday’s gospel describes the first hint of the apostles’ understanding of the Resurrection. The women went to the tomb to anoint the Body and thought that somebody had taken the Body away. Then when Mary Magdalene went there, she asked a person who she thought was the gardener (but was in fact Jesus), who had taken away the Body of Jesus away.
But the other apostles were skeptical. Remember the story of the two disciples who were walking a couple miles distant from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus, and they were discussing all the things that had happened. Jesus walks along and begins to explain all the scriptures, why this had happened. Those two disciples invite Jesus to have supper with them, because it was the end of the day. But those disciples didn’t know it was Him. It was not until Jesus took the bread and blessed it.
What became of the apostles? All except John, the youngest apostle, were martyred. After the crucifixion, John the apostle took the Blessed Virgin Mary into his home as his mother, as Jesus commended him from the cross. Everywhere around the Mediterranean that John went to preach, she accompanied him, and we believe she died in Ephesus, Turkey.
Two apostles were both named James: James the Less and James the Greater, based on their respective ages. One James missioned himself after the Resurrection to the Roman province of Santiago, Spain, and he preached there and did wonderful work, calling people to the Faith, explaining all about Jesus, and then preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. Eventually, he was martyred by the Romans in Spain. His remains are believed to be there in Santiago today.
The other James became bishop of Jerusalem. He also was martyred.
Thomas figures in our scripture today. He kind of gets a bum rap: Doubting Thomas, as if he did something wrong. Thanks be to God that he had that doubt, because he expresses what we have in our own lives today: the doubts about things in our own life. Are my prayers being heard? Why doesn’t God answer me? Why is my son or daughter not following the example I give? These doubts as to whether we have the attention of God and His coming into our lives.
So thanks be to God that we have Thomas saying, I’m going to want to see this in action. When he realizes and touches the Body of Jesus, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” After which, Jesus asks for something to eat, to further confirm that He is not a ghost by eating baked fish or other food. When we have the elevation of the sacred Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, you can also say, “My Lord and my God!”
After the Resurrection of the Lord and His Ascension into heaven, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles spread out among the Middle Eastern countries. Thomas gathered some others and went to present-day Jordan and into Syria, and began to teach about Jesus Christ, and to bring the Faith to the people in the northwestern part of Syria, where they developed an Eastern form of the Mass.
Thomas then learns about India and people there who yearned for the Faith. So Thomas made the very long trek to the south of India, to the modern state of Kerala. He preached the Gospel there and formed a liturgy for them, too, based on the Syriac liturgy and vestments. These Christians were the Malabar people. To this day, we have Syro-Malabar Catholics, even in the United States, using the liturgy that St. Thomas developed for them.
Thomas apparently went to other areas in the south of India and met people who were not in favor of what he was teaching to the people of Kerala, and he was eventually martyred.
So thanks be to St. Thomas, who helps us in our faith, even in our doubts.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 58:7-10 / Ps 112 / 1 Cor 2:1-5 / Mt 5:13-16
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Pierre Charles, the son of St. Ignatius of Loyola once asked, “How can I see Christ if I do not see Him in Christians?”
Also, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, once wrote, “If Christians wish us to believe in their Redeemer, why don’t they look a little more redeemed?”
What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in our country? This is a question that is bound to elicit a variety of answers, depending on whom you ask. Possible answers might include mass media, popular culture, materialism, bad government policies, other religions, etc.
Jesus said to us in today’s gospel, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” Both salt and light are indispensable in our daily lives. Without them, we have major problems. We use salt to prepare delicious meals, and we rely on light to go about our normal activities. These two, salt and light, symbolize how we act and live as Christians in the world, to others, and also to ourselves.
Jesus did not say, “You should be…” or “You have to be like…” He said, “You are.” This is already the nature and the characteristic of a Christian. That is, to give good examples to somebody, so that, as the gospel says, “They may see your goodness.” They will see the goodness in your acts and they will give praise to your Heavenly Father, and not to your own self.
That is why, when I say something nice, or I say I appreciate someone, they respond to me, “Praise be to God, Father.” That really humbles me. Yes, we are so proud if someone praises us, and that is normal, but let these praises lead us to pray, praise, and thank God, who is the giver and author of all real talents and abilities.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says to His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) But elsewhere in John 8:12, Jesus says of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” So, who, then, is the light of the world, Jesus or His followers? This apparent contradiction can be solved by another passage in John 9:5, where Jesus modifies His statement about Himself. He said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
This shows that Jesus is talking about the flesh and blood as the embodiment of the light. As long as He is physically present in the world, He is the light of the world. But when He is no longer physically present, His followers will assume the role of being the light of the world.
The role of the Christian can be defined with two words in today’s gospel: salt and light. Now, what do these mean? Do you know that the word “sugar” never occurs in the Bible? In ancient times, salt was the ultimate seasoning that gave taste to food. Without salt, food would be tasteless. Jesus is saying that as salt is to food, so are Christians to the world. Christians are in the world to make it a better place.
How can we make the world a better place? We find the answer in the parallel passage in Mark that says, “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50) As salt, we are called to be good disciples, friendly and kind, living at peace with everybody. As light, we are called to show the way. Without light, we bump into each other and fall into the ditch. But light says, “Here is the road: take it. Here is the danger: avoid it.” Without light and salt, the world would be in very bad shape, uninteresting, and impossible to live in. With light and salt, the world becomes a safer and better place. It is our duty as Christians to make the world a better place.
The Church tells us today how to do it: the same way that salt and light do it. First, salt must be different from the food before it can be of use. If salt loses its taste, it is useless, and can no longer make a difference. Light must be different from darkness in order to be of help. A flashlight with a dead battery is no good for someone in the dark. Being the salt and the light of the world means being different from the world. If believers have nothing that distinguishes them from the nonbelievers, then they are like salt that has lost its saltiness, and therefore cannot make a difference.
And what distinguishes us from nonbelievers should not be so much what we claim to be, or the badges and pins we wear, but the lives we live. As Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.” Love is the distinctive mark by which you can tell the true Christian from the false.
Secondly, both salt and light operate by associating with the thing they want to change. Salt cannot improve the food unless it goes into the food and changes it from within. Light cannot show the way unless it encounters darkness.
Sometimes Christians think that the way to go is to keep away from getting involved with society and popular culture. But by shying away from the realities of our society and our world, we might indeed be hiding our lamp underneath a bushel basket. To make a difference, we must get up and get involved.
Today’s gospel is frightening. It says, in effect, that if there is so much darkness and bitterness in the world today, it is because we, as Christians, have failed in our job to be salt and light in the world. But we can decide to make a difference starting from today. We can decide to light a candle, rather than curse the darkness. Even the smallest candle helps in a world of darkness. This is our task; this is our challenge; this is our mission; and this is our goal.KEEP READING
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 8:23-9:3 / Ps 27 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Mt 12-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Pope Francis declared that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the Word of God. He went on to say that this will be a fitting time for added focus on strengthening our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity (Ordo pg 47). We will circle back to the last two in a bit, but let’s first dive into the scripture.
When you go bird watching, you are always looking with anticipation that you might see something special. It is no different with scripture. The more you know about it, the more you want to see it and the more you start looking for something special to appear.
Applying the bird watching analogy to scripture, it helps to know what to look for. Look for two senses, the literal and the spiritual. The literal is what the human author intended for his audience in that time and place. The spiritual is what the Holy Spirit wove into it. The spiritual sense has three parts: 1) The allegorical – Where is Jesus in this? 2) The anagogical – What does this say about the end of time? and 3) the moral – What does this passage mean for me?
If you have been listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year podcast, you understand how much the Church cherishes the scriptures. In that podcast, he read paragraph 103 from the Catechism which states that, “…the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body (CCC 103 / Dei Verbum 21).” The catechism was quoting the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation called Dei Verbum. Dei Verbum is Latin for “Word of God.”
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has rotated through the three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in annual cycles. It also added Old Testament readings to the Sunday missal. Before Vatican II, Sunday readings were all New Testament, except for the Easter vigil and Pentecost, the feast of the Epiphany and a few other times. These additional scripture readings were intended to help us become more familiar with the Bible. This Church year is Cycle A, which follow’s Matthew’s gospel (Matthew, by the way, is one of my favorite characters in The Chosen series).
Speaking of series, you know how when you haven’t watched your Netflix or Prime series or “The Chosen” in a while, you watch the opening summary of past episodes. It gets you ready to enter fully into the next episode, understanding what is going on. Let’s do that with today’s gospel.
Here is the opening summary. We are in chapter 4 of Matthew’s gospel. It is helpful to know that chapters 3-7 of Matthew focus on the Announcement of the Kingdom (Cavins 2). At the end of chapter 3 earlier this year, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. At the beginning of chapter 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit to fast in the desert for forty days and then is tempted by Satan. Last Sunday we heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus is the “lamb of God” and the “Son of God.” Now, today’s gospel starts with these words, “Jesus heard that John [the Baptist] had been arrested.” You can just feel it. Today’s episode is going to be a big one.
Jesus, lamb of God and Son of God, goes to Capernaum by the sea, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy from today’s first reading. “Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way to the sea…the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light…in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen (Mt 4: 15-16).” Capernaum, a town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, is in the vicinity of where Zebulun and Naphtali were. Dr. Ed Sri points out that the Israelites in this area were the “first to experience the darkness of conquest and exile and now have become the first to see the light of God’s goodness in the Messiah (Sri 79).” And what does Jesus say to them? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).”
In this episode of Matthew, Jesus then goes to the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and they leave their jobs and family and follow Him (Mt 4:18-22). He then starts teaching in synagogues and “curing every disease and illness among the people.” The cliff hanger for today’s episode comes in the verses right after today’s gospel, which state that “His fame spread” and that He cured those “racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics” and that “great crowds came from all over (Mt 4:23-25).”
When an episode ends, they show the trailer for the next one. In this case, next Sunday’s episode is Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus proclaims to those “great crowds” the good news of the kingdom of heaven in the iconic Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5).” He will do so in an unprecedented way in human history. Not Buddha, not Confucius, and not Mohammed spoke the way Jesus did. The people listening were astounded because “…He taught as one who had authority (Mt 7: 29).” Fr. Mike Schmitz points out in the Catechism in a Year podcast that Jesus did not just quote the prophets. Pay attention to all the times Jesus says, “You have heard it said, but I say…” The next four Sundays between now and Ash Wednesday are all from the Sermon on the Mount.
Now let’s reflect on Pope Francis’s request to focus on our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. Regarding our bond with the Jewish people, Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus fulfilled in today’s gospel is one of over three hundred Old Testament prophecies that He and only He fulfilled (Kreeft). God announced the coming of His Son through the Jewish people in the scriptures that we call the Old Testament. Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish family and frequented the synagogue as a devout Jew. Our Catholic faith has many symbols and traditions that reflect the Jewish tradition our founder, Jesus Christ, knew well. Examples include the church seasons, candles, singing Psalms, incense, and the Tabernacle accompanied by an ever-burning candle.
The Second Vatican Council fathers summed up well how we should view our Jewish brothers and sisters. They wrote, “The apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made (NA 4; Rom 11: 28-29).” “Remembering then, its common heritage with the Jews and moved…by Christian charity, [the Church] deplores all hatreds, persecutions, and displays of antisemitism levelled at any time or from any source against the Jews (NA 4).” Sadly, these things are on the rise in our country, so keep our Jewish brothers and sisters in your prayers and defend them in word and deed when needed.
Regarding praying for Christian unity, remember what St. Paul said in the second reading. “I urge you…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind… (1 Cor 1:10-13).” What mind? The mind of Jesus. Here is a way to respond to Paul’s exhortation. Our Christian brothers and sisters share the same twenty-seven books of the New Testament with us. Many recite the Nicene Creed and sing some of the same hymns we do. We work shoulder to shoulder with them at various charities in Bedford and Moneta, and in solidarity with them we share a love of God, family, and country. What we have in common is substantial. When divisive scripture and tradition debates pop up, humbly, patiently, and lovingly try to steer the conversation to what we have in common.
If they ask you if you have personal relationship with Jesus Christ, say yes, but that you also have a communal relationship with Him as a member of the Body of Christ. Add that your relationship is not just personal or communal, but that it is intimate. For through the priest, it is Jesus who baptizes (Mt 3:11; Acts 2:38), forgives sins (Jn 20: 22-23; 2 Cor 5 17-20), feeds us His Body (Lk 22:17-19; 1 Cor 10:16), confirms us in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17;19: 5-6), makes us one flesh in marriage (Mt 19:5-6), heals us through anointing (Mk 6:12-13; Jam 5:14-15), and sets apart men as deacons, priests, and bishops (Jn 20:22; I Tim 3:2 (Bishops); Acts 20:28; 2 Tim 1:6 (priests); Acts 6:6; I Tim 3:8 (deacons)). By the way, if you look at Holy Name of Mary’s website in two weeks you can look at this homily and see the scripture verses for these.
If they ask you if you have been saved, say yes. Jesus placed His Spirit in you at your baptism (Acts 2:38). That is the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead and so too will raise you from the dead (Rom 8:11). But then steer the conversation back to our shared beliefs and values: the Ten Commandments, the New Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the commandment to love God and neighbor, the love of scripture and the need for Jesus our Savior. And maybe remind them who our shared enemies are; our sin and the evil falsehoods the lost try to teach others to believe. All Christians are united most especially by our Lord, but also by our shared values and beliefs, and our shared enemies.
If you do not remember anything else from this homily, remember what I am about to say. Remember the lesson of bird watchers? They learn about the characteristics and names of birds and then look around them with the expectation that something special might appear. If you read scripture daily, in prayer, God will occasionally speak to you in a special way. And what He says will change your life for the better. How does He do this?
He does so in an infinite number of ways, always suited to your specific needs. Here are a couple I have experienced. Sometimes a verse will seem to light up on the page, just stand out in some way. Sometimes you will read a verse and the meaning will be very different than what you know it should be, but when you read it again, that peculiar meaning is still there. When these things happen, stop. Write down those words and pray over and reflect upon them for several days until you understand how God wants you to respond. Seek spiritual direction if you are not sure.
Here is a closing image. We have a dad that we were separated from long ago. And we want to know more about Him so we can know more about ourselves and make sense of our lives and this world. Turns out, He has written us a book that tells us how much and why He loves us. In that book, He helps us make sense of our behaviors that confound us, pointing out our strengths and weaknesses. He shares His wisdom on how to live our lives. He tells us what makes Him proud of us. And He shares good news. He has built a home for us and in His book, He has given us a map that shows us The Way. Amen.
Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.
Diocese of Richmond. Ordo- Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist 2023.
Jeff Cavins. Matthew-The King and His Kingdom Great Adventure Bible Study. Ascension Press 2011.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
The Catholic Church. Nostra Atate: The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
The Catholic Church. Dei Verbum: The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.KEEP READING
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Mal 3:19-20a / Ps 98 / 2 Thes 3:7-12 / Lk 21:5-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Thomas Alva Edison, the great inventor, used to say, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” He conducted about eighteen thousand experiments before he perfected what we now call “the ordinary light bulb.” He became great through untiring work and utmost endurance.
For some of us nowadays, we are inclined to reverse Edison’s slogan by our longing for instant things. Thus, instead of ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, we would rather reverse that and have one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.
Yet Jesus, in today’s gospel, exhorts us, “By your perseverance you will gain your lives.” This statement highlights two important things. First, the need to endure. Secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first, to endure, is absolutely necessary in order to have the second, salvation of the soul.
Why is it absolutely necessary to persevere in order to be saved? Perseverance is an active rather than a passive virtue for us Christians. Perseverance is built up against temptation to sin and apathy through a life of regular prayer, such as the rosary, our devotions to saints, meditation upon scripture, Sunday liturgy and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the graces given in Baptism and strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
Today’s readings teach us the importance of perseverance. In the first reading we heard of the necessity to persevere in righteousness, because evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. But those who receive the Most High, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them, and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. The safe place is heaven, where the Lord rules forever.
In the second reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our imitation of the saints. We heard St. Paul’s harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints. He told them that, if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat.
Why were some unwilling to work? Some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His kingdom. As such, why work? This is wrong because, according to St. Paul, living in idleness, they occupied their time with small talk, rumors, hearsay, slander, with all of these things leading to disharmony and division. So every Christian, when he’s able to, must support himself and his brothers and sisters and not live off the income or wealth of others.
St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us three characteristics of saints. First, they are human beings like us; they are made in the image and likeness of God. They have body and soul; they are made of flesh and blood. They need things all other human beings need. Second, like you and me, they are also tempted. They can be tempted to do evil and be indifferent in their commitment to God. Third, which makes them different from us, the saints cling to God at all times. The saints rely on the power of God and not their own power.
In the gospel reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our living faith. We heard Jesus’ discourse around 30 A.D. on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth, since the temple was associated with God’s presence. So if the temple were to be destroyed, it would mean the end of the world. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D. saw the completion of Jesus’ prophecy.
Our gospel today reminds us that, while waiting for the great moment to come, which is the end of times where God will reign as Lord, we must adjust to a long period of waiting. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did, so that we too may arrive into our eternal glory. As St. Paul said, we must not be idle, waiting for things that will not come to pass in the present time. We must move on with our lives and be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will precede Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.
The question is, are we ready to suffer and to shed our blood, if necessary, for our faith? Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake, and He calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means “witness.” The Book of Revelation says that Jesus was the faithful witness who freed us from our sins by His blood.
Tertullian, the second century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church.” Why is this the case? The martyrs witness the joy and truth and freedom of the Gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood.
Brothers and sisters, some of us may not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. We must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end, that they not be counted among those who have renounced their faith and their salvation in Jesus Christ.
We will be well prepared, too, if we try every day to live our Christian life well and full; if we do our best to build that part of the kingdom which God expects from us in the here and now, a kingdom of peace and justice; if we daily water the seed of love that Jesus has already planted; if we pass onto others the light of faith that He has already lit; if we act as yeast that Jesus has already put in the dough, in order to ferment the world with the Gospel values; and if we serve the world as its salt, which He called us to be, to preserve the world from every corruption. All this means that we cannot sit down, doing nothing, just waiting for the end time. It means that we need to keep ourselves always busy in order to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom.
So, brothers and sisters, as we go home today, let us persevere in our living faith until the end of times, through righteousness and the imitation of the saints. Let us also pray for one another, that we all endure until the end, so we will gain our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21 / Ps 117 / Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 / Lk 13:22-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text, was warning his congregation about eternal damnation. He said, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look, preacher, I’ve got no teeth.” “Never mind,” the evangelist said. “The teeth will be provided.”
Brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” We can hear in the gospel that Jesus would not give the number of those who would be saved. He did not even really answer the man’s question. He just said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” In other words, He’s answering a more important question: How can I be saved?
There are questions that have a special appeal to the mass media and to popular imagination. For example, when will the world come to an end? When is Armageddon coming? Who is the antichrist? What is 666? Is it the mark of the antichrist? What about the three days of darkness? These are questions that Jesus does not want to answer. I’m sure of that.
Today I invite you to reflect on this gospel, which is about salvation in Jesus Christ and therefore, entering God’s kingdom. Many of our problems in life come from our bad practice of asking the wrong questions. We ask the wrong questions; therefore, we also get the wrong answers.
The first wrong question is: How many will be saved? It is like the question of the person in the gospel. It is wrong to ask this question, because the right question is: How will we be saved? The Lord does not give us numbers of those who will be saved. The Lord shows us the way. We will be saved by entering through the narrow gate.
For us Catholics, the possession of our baptismal certificate and regular Mass attendance do not guarantee our salvation. We must go through, like Jesus said, the narrow gate. So now the question is, what exactly is the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is every moral decision that we make. Do we choose for God, or do we choose against God?
The second reading tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are not signs of the absence of God, but they are signs of His presence. It tells us that God is allowing challenges to come into our lives, so that we can grow closer to Him. In other words, following Christ is not an easy way.
The second wrong question is: Where is the gate? It is wrong to ask this question because the question is not where is the gate. There is no gate. The proper question to ask is not where is the gate, but who is the gate. The gate is not a place; the gate is a person. Jesus Christ Himself is the gate.
The last wrong question is: What must I do? It is wrong to ask this question because the Lord wants us to ask: What must I continue doing? It is because we are people who are good at the start of an activity but sometimes fail to sustain it through and through. Sometimes we are good at the beginning, but when it comes to sustaining it, that is where we falter.
So let us not ask how many will be saved, but rather how will we be saved. Let us not ask where is the gate, but rather who is the gate? Let us not ask what must I do, but rather what must I continue doing?
Brothers and sisters, what are the questions in our hearts right now that remain unanswered? Maybe the source of our pain is that we are asking the wrong question in life.
There was a very well-known and wealthy man who visited a nursing home. He was welcomed by everyone except by an old man in a corner, sitting in his wheelchair. The visitor stopped and asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” The old man just stared at him. For the second time he asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” This time the old man looked at him and said, “No, but you can ask the nurses. They have a file on each one of us.”
The narrow door, besides being the making of correct moral decisions, is patient endurance of all the difficult things that confront us in our lives. Jesus will be there with us all of the way. He invites us to walk the same road that He walked. He strengthens us for this journey with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He invites us to make our own way to Jerusalem, there to pass through the narrow door to Calvary. But we must remember: beyond Calvary is the resurrection and the joy of eternal life with God.
Make the correct choice. If you do, you will not be disappointed when you meet Jesus face to face. Guaranteed. In the end, it is not who we think we are or who others think we are, but who we are to God that truly matters. He has the final say; He has the final file on each one of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING