February 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2 / Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Our gospel today reminds us of the three traditional gestures, or balances, so that we can enter into the spirit of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This also helps us to prepare for the suffering and death and resurrection of Our Lord, who is the source of our salvation.
Today the Church asks us also to fast and abstain. Fasting is a form of penance that imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food and drink. This is applicable to ages fifteen to fifty-nine. Abstinence refers to refraining from certain kinds of food or drink, like meat or those cravings or those foods that we like to eat every day. This applies to ages fourteen and above.
Why, brothers and sisters, does the Church ask us to fast and eat only one full meal today and on Good Friday? (Fasting is only for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.) We don’t fast in order to save money or to lessen our expenses.
First, we fast so that what we gather or what we collect we can share with the hungry. Sanctifying ourselves has to do with tenderness and compassion for the poor and the needy. Our penance has a social dimension, so that we can be in solidarity with others who are hungry.
Second, we fast because we are hoping that we experience physical hunger, so that it will awaken in us a deeper level of hunger. What is that deeper hunger? It is the hunger for God, hunger and thirst for God.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters observe fasting, which they call Ramadan. It is said that, when they are at the height of their hunger because of long fasting, that is the time when they read the Koran, their holy book. They believe that, when the body is very hungry, it is open to receive God.
The same thing with us. When we feel hunger, it awakens the deeper hunger that we have: our hunger for God. This hunger of ours for the Lord will bring us to our brothers and sisters who are hungry because of poverty.
In our first reading, the prophet Joel tells us that God, the Lord, is gracious and merciful. In our second reading, Paul reminds us that we are God’s coworkers, and he urges us not to receive God’s grace in vain. Connecting the meaning of the two readings, they tell us that the mercy that the Lord has given us, we will need to share with others.
How can we keep our penance and our compassion from making us sad people, because doing our penance or showing an act of compassion can be a very challenging thing?
Fasting is not only for food but also for our bad habits. Yes, it is true that every one of us here has our favorite food, but we also have our favorite sins. During the season of Lent, we’re invited to avoid these sins by denying ourselves, by controlling our desires and cravings.
Going back to the question, how can we keep a happy heart even if we deny ourselves? A spiritual writer said: “We can be happy even with our sacrifices and self-denial if we put emphasis on what we say ‘yes’ to, not to what we say ‘no’ to.” If we focus more on what we say ‘yes’ to, that makes us happy.
If we want to be happy in all our sacrifices, we need to focus on the reasons why we say ‘yes.’ For example, as parents, your ‘yes’ to your children is “I want my children to be successful, and that’s my commitment, that’s my ‘yes.’ But that ‘yes’ has a payment. It involves a lot of sacrifices. That’s why, in order for my children to succeed, I must work hard. Sometimes I work overtime. When I get my salary, I will take good care of it, and I will not waste it on my vices.”
That’s a big sacrifice on the part of the parents. They work so hard, even if they are tired. They continue to work overtime because of their love for their children, because they have that vision, they have that ‘yes’ that “I want a good future for my children. That’s a big sacrifice and it is meaningful for me, as a parent, and that’s what makes my heart joyful.”
So, brothers and sisters, we focus our commitment on saying ‘yes,’ because if we do that, we can be closer to the Lord. Our penance, every time we celebrate the season of Lent, is to be closer to the Lord and closer to the poor and those who need our help.
Saint John Paul II said, “The deepest fulfillment of every human person is in the giving of self.” Who can do this? Who can give their selves to others? Only those people who are hungry and thirsty for God.KEEP READING
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 10, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Dt 30:10-14 / Ps 69 / Col:15-20 / Lk 10:25-37
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today I would like to share my take on Bishop Robert Barron’s take of one interpretation of The Good Samaritan parable.
A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. What is Jerusalem, and what does it represent? Jerusalem is the holy city. It’s where the temple is, and where God resides. It represents our eternal home: the New Jerusalem. It also represents communion with God. Paradise. Heaven.
A man was going down from Paradise to Jericho. What is Jericho? Jericho historically is an immoral, pagan city. It’s decadent and selfish, separation from God.
What happens on this trip from Jerusalem to Jericho? There is a fall. The man falls, because Satan, in the form of robbers, robs this man of his innocence, strips man naked. Instigated by Satan, sin is introduced, and man is near death, wounded, beaten, lifeless.
Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? Paradise, bad choice, fall from communion with God, instigated by Satan. It sounds a lot like the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, doesn’t it? Adam and Eve’s choice of sin cast all mankind on this path.
What comes after the Fall? What happens next? The man is lying there, paralyzed by sin. A priest comes along. He represents the law. The priests give sacrifices and holocausts. But abiding by laws is impossible for us. We can never be perfect for those laws. We will always come up short.
Next a Levite comes by. He represents the prophets, who call out man’s moral decay, greed, worshipping of false gods, falling further from the law in both the spirit of the law and the word of the law. But man doesn’t listen to prophets. His heart is hardened. Prophets, you remember are often ignored and sometimes killed.
So we have man fallen. The law and the prophets pass by and then, along comes the Good Samaritan. I propose that the Good Samaritan represents Jesus, the true hero of this story. Like Samaritans of that time, Jesus was hated and despised and rejected. Jews hated Samaritans. And yet, He is moved by compassion for fallen man. He approached the victim. That’s precisely what God does in the incarnation. He enters His creation. He approached man by becoming man, becoming one of us in order to heal what was broken.
The Samaritan poured oil and wine over the wounds and bandaged them. He gave man the Sacraments: Oil of Catechumens to cleanse and heal from sin in preparation for Baptism, Chrism Oil that strengthens us in the Holy Spirit, and the Oil of Anointing to heal our bodies and souls. Also wine, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant at every Mass.
What happens next? The Good Samaritan lifts up the fallen man and brings him into an inn and cares for him there. What is the inn? It’s the Church. That’s where we all come to be made whole, to heal our wounds. That’s why we’re here, to heal.
Man is lifted up, brought to the inn, cared for, and then Jesus pays the bill. Jesus pays the bill for man, stripped bare, fallen and injured from sin. Jesus takes our place, and He is stripped bare, falls three times, is injured and beaten and left for dead. There’s nothing man can do. There’s nothing man can pay to save himself. It’s Jesus who pays what we owe—on the cross. That’s why we have a crucifix prominently displayed on the altar, one turned toward the priest to remind him and us that He became the victim. The victim offered on this altar is the same that was offered on the cross, to free us from the captivity and injury of sin. He took man’s place and until He returns, He leaves his bride, the Church, over which the gates of hell will never prevail. Here generations continue to be healed and continue to give Him praise, worship, thanksgiving, and love for removing our debt, a debt impossible for us to pay.
We love you, Lord Jesus. We thank you, Lord Jesus. Heal us, Lord Jesus.
Sometimes when you’re trying something new, barriers arise, especially if you want to do something good and follow Jesus. Stumbling blocks occur and sometimes we make mistakes on our way. We get discouraged in this new path that we’ve taken. Frequently we revert back to whatever we were doing before. Whatever we used to do is easier and more comfortable.
That’s exactly what the disciples in today’s gospel were doing. Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” That’s what Peter had done his whole life before he started this three-year ministry with Jesus. All of the things that happened in Jerusalem—Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion—were just too much for Peter and the other disciples to take. They decided to go all the way back home and go fishing. Did they catch any fish? No. They fished all night long in the dark and did not even catch one fish, until someone came along to help them. Who was that? Jesus.
They left this life with Jesus to go back to fishing, but Jesus didn’t leave them alone to figure things out for themselves. He pursued them. He followed them to where they were. Remember, after Jesus was crucified, everyone ran away, because they were frightened. Peter, the leader of them all, denied Jesus three times. Afterwards, when they are afraid and locked in a room, Jesus appeared in spite of the locked door. He didn’t leave them alone. “Peace be with you,” He said.
But Thomas wasn’t present at that time, so the next week, Jesus came back again and said to him, “Thomas, look at my wounds. Feel my side and believe.”
Now they’ve left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee, walking a distance of one hundred miles. Jesus followed them there and found them fishing. Jesus found them, not in the dark, but in the morning light. Jesus was constantly pursuing them. Jesus is constantly pursuing us. He wants us to turn and follow Him. He had asked the disciples to follow Him when He first met them. They dropped all their nets, got out of their boats and followed Him. Then in today’s gospel, He’s asked them again. His final words are, “Follow me.”
There is a children’s book called “Runaway Bunny,” that was very well-loved in my own household. There is a little young bunny in the story, who decides he’s going to run away. His mother tells him if he runs away, she will run after him, “for you are my little bunny.” The little bunny comes up with all of these ways in which he plans to avoid his mother. For example, he says, “If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream.” But the mother says, “Then I’ll become a fisherman and catch you.” Then he says, “If you become a fisherman, then I will become a rock, high on a mountain.” The mother says, “Then I’ll become a mountain climber and climb up to you.” Another example is when the little one says, “I’m going to become a crocus in a hidden garden.” Mother replies that she will become a gardener and live there as well. Finally, the little bunny says, “Shucks! I might as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” And the mother says, “Have a carrot.”
Why am I telling this story? I’m just going to say this line: “And Jesus said, ‘Have some fish. And bread.’” Perhaps the disciples said, “We might as well stay with You and be Your disciples.” Jesus is constantly pursuing, just like mother bunny.
Jesus found the disciples fishing in the morning. Once they recognized Him, they left their lives that they had gone back to and gathered around Jesus for a meal. We also have come out of our normal lives and have gathered around Jesus for a very special meal. We are going to have bread also, which will be transformed into His body. Do we recognize Him? Remember, the disciples did not recognize Him at first either.
In the gospel today, the words, “charcoal fire,” are used. There are only two times in all of the scriptures where these words appear. One of them is when Peter was denying Christ three times. The slaves in the courtyard were warming themselves by a charcoal fire. The second time is in today’s gospel, when Peter is affirming his love for Christ three times. We are grateful that Peter returned to being a disciple, since he became our first pope. Through him, our Church has come through hundreds and hundreds of years to today.
Even now, Jesus’ mercy and love are going to be passed on to everyone here. In Communion, He feeds us. When we eat this transformed bread, that transformed bread transforms us. We become a temple of Jesus Christ.
When you come forward for Communion, think of Peter at that beachside barbecue, being asked, “Do you love me?” In your “Amen,” think of Peter’s response and answer, “Yes, I love You.”KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 3, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 43:16-21 / Ps 126 / Phil 3:8-14 / Jn 8:1-11
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a little-known sidelight to the story of the woman taken in adultery. After the Pharisees dragged her before Jesus for sentencing, and Jesus says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” a stone comes flying from the crowd. Jesus looks up, frowns slightly, smiles a little and says, “If you don’t mind, mother, I am only trying to make a point here.”
In one way, this is a good joke because it shows the natural tendency of good people like the Pharisees and the Scribes to throw stones at those they consider sinners. In other ways it is a bad joke because it tries to paint sinless Mary in the colors of sinful humanity. The last person who would want to throw a stone at the woman caught in adultery would be the Blessed Virgin Mary, God’s most favored one. According to the joke, Jesus says He’s trying to make a point here. So now the question is: What is the point that Jesus is trying to make? Why would the Church give us this story for our spiritual nourishment on the last Sunday before Holy Week, when we commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus on our behalf?
The story of the woman caught in adultery had a very curious history in the early Church. Many ancient Bibles do not have it. Some have it as part of a different chapter in the Gospel of John. Still others have it as part of the Gospel of Luke. Some scholars think that originally this story could have been part of Luke’s Gospel. Why? Because it reflects themes that are dear to Luke, such as concern for sinners, interest in women, and the compassion of Jesus.
The fact that it is missing in some early Bibles and found in different locations in others suggest that some early Christian communities had removed this story from the Bible. When later Christians tried to put it back into the Bible, they were no longer sure of its original location.
So why would anyone want to remove this story from the Bible? There are people who cannot understand why Jesus would sympathize with a convicted adulterer. After all, it is decreed in the Bible that such offenders should be put to death. (Lv 20:10)
Does this not seem like an obstruction of justice? What do you think? Perhaps you remember the case of Karla Faye Tucker, a self-confessed repentant murderer who was executed in Texas in February 1998. Many Christian organizations, including the Vatican, pleaded for her pardon, yet her execution was carried out. Supporters of the death penalty argued that no one should interfere with the course of justice. Well, Jesus just did in our gospel today.
There are people who think that compassion and leniency are a sign of weakness. These are probably the kind of Christians who tried to suppress the story by removing it from the Church’s Bible. How could Christians read this marvelous story of Jesus’ compassion and still take a hardline stand with regard to correctional services?
The answer lies in how one reads the story. Some people identify themselves with the Pharisees when they read it. Their interest is in how to deal with other people who break the law. Their answer is usually that justice should be allowed to run its due course.
Now you can begin to understand, in the history of the Church, why the medieval Church did not see anything wrong with burning at the stake convicted witches like Joan of Arc. Didn’t the Bible say that no one who practices sorcery should be allowed to live? That is the law; that is justice. Our only duty is to implement it.
But when we read this story, identifying ourselves, not with the Pharisees, but with the woman herself, then we begin to see the story for the good news that it really is. Like the woman, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Like her, we all deserve death. Why? Because the scripture says “the wages of sin is death.” But when Jesus comes into the picture, He overturns our death sentence. He sets us free with His words of absolution: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more. “
The story shows how Jesus stands up for sinners before the law. In doing so, he draws upon Himself the hostility of the hardline officers, who will eventually arrest Him and give Him a taste of their justice. The Church puts this story before us today, so that we can see ourselves in the sinner woman, whom Jesus saves from sure death, at the risk of attracting death to Himself.
This season of Lent urges us not to be judgmental of others. We are all sinners and in need of God’s mercy and grace. Only God has the right to judge people, because He alone is perfect.
Somebody said that God Himself does not propose to judge a person until he’s dead. So why should we judge him?
Sometimes people ask me, “Father, is it wrong to judge?” Of course, the answer is: It depends on how you deal with judgment.
There are two ways of judging people: with compassion or without mercy. If we judge the person with compassion, just like Jesus did, then we are doing the right thing. If we judge the person without mercy, without compassion, then we end up like the Scribes and the Pharisees in our gospel today. They want the woman to be stoned to death. Or we end up being like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He could not accept his brother for having squandered his parents’ money and property.
Someone asked me yesterday, “Father, what if I tell my children, “Don’t go with a drug addict.’ Am I judging the drug addict?”
Of course, that is a different story. Your intention is not to judge the drug addict, but to keep your children away from drugs.
Or how about Putin, who killed all these innocent people? Are we not going to judge him? Judge him with mercy. That is what Jesus wants us to do. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us of this when she said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
So perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is this: When do you judge and act like the Pharisees and the Scribes? Are there times when you judge others because of your biases and prejudices? Are there times when you judge others even though you only know a little about the person?
If you are a person who judges others, try reflecting on these pieces of advice:
1) Never judge someone without knowing the whole story. You may think you understand, but you don’t.
2) Never judge someone by the opinion of others. Often, we are victims of this kind of judgment. We easily listen, especially when the person telling us the judgment or the criticism is someone we trust, or someone who is close to us.
3) Every single person on the planet has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them. The truth might surprise you. Sometimes it is very easy to judge a person by their face, especially if the person’s face is ugly or he looks like a madman. But we may end up realizing that the person leads a very saintly life. And there are people who look like saints, but the way they lead their life is the other way around.
4) Don’t judge a person without fully understanding them. Just because you and the person don’t agree doesn’t mean you’re right.
We must be conscious that the way we judge things is limited. Our minds, our intellect, is just limited. That’s why, in philosophy, only God is an unlimited being. He’s the only perfect being. We, created beings, are all limited beings. Even our thinking is limited; the way we say things; the way we understand things; the way we hear things is limited, and prone to mistakes. If we are aware of that from the very beginning, then we end up realizing that we are not supposed to judge others right away. Jesus is telling us in our gospel today to judge others with compassion, with mercy, so that we won’t end up to be condemning.
We may be hounded by remorse for our past sins we have committed, like stealing, giving or accepting bribes, committing abortion, gossiping, making intrigues, or infidelity to one’s spouse. We feel we must do something more in order to make a balance of our spiritual account sheet. In short, make reparations.
So, this story is a fitting preparation for Holy Week. We see Jesus making the ultimate sacrifice to grant us clemency; we who are already sentenced to death by our sins.
As we prepare for Holy Week, let us thank Jesus for His mercy and love. And let us promise him that we shall commit ourselves to doing exactly as He tells us: To go and sin no more.KEEP READING
First Sunday of Advent
November 28, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Jer 33:14-16 / Ps 25 / 1 Thes 3:12-4:2 / Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the first day of Advent and also the first day of the liturgical calendar of the Church. That’s why some would say it’s the New Year for the Church.
Every time we hear the word Advent, what comes to our mind? Perhaps we would say, “Christmas is near.” Yes, Christmas is near, but it’s not yet Christmas.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival.’ In this season of Advent, the Church invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord into our lives. The Church teaches us there are three ways in which the Lord comes into our lives. (more…)KEEP READING
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Is 35:4-7a / Ps 146 / Jas 2:1-5 / Mk 7:31-37
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Once there was a little old man. His eyes blinked, and his hands trembled. When he ate, he clattered the silverware distressingly; missed his mouth with the spoon as often as not; and dribbled a bit of his food on the tablecloth.
He lived with his married son, having nowhere else to live, and his son’s wife didn’t like the arrangement. “I can’t have this,” she said. “It interferes with my right to happiness.” (more…)KEEP READING
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 6, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Ez 33:7-9 / Ps 95 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Yesterday we had one of the biggest, if not the biggest, attendance we’ve ever had at a First Saturday Mass here at Holy Name of Mary. Part of the reason is because we had some visitors from other states who came to worship with us.
After the Mass, I had a chance to talk to a family who had driven several hours, so they could be with their elderly parents here in Bedford County. Their children had been looking forward to this for months: the opportunity to see their grandpa and grandma. So thankfully this trip, in spite of the pandemic, was not out of the question. As you know, it is not easy to travel these days, but love was a powerful motivator for them to make this kind of sacrifice. (more…)KEEP READING
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Is 55:1-3 / Ps 145 / Rom 8:35, 37-39 / Mt 14:13-21
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Last Friday, Gia Fuda, an 18-year-old girl from Washington state, went missing. Her car was found on a highway, out of gas, after more than a week of searching. Inquiries yielded negative results, but yesterday they found her alive in the heavily wooded Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. After being brought to the hospital, the girl could not coherently explain what really happened to her, or why she ended up in that deserted area in the first place. (more…)KEEP READING
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 29, 2019 – Year A
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-21 / Mt 2:13-15, 19-23
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Today is a special day. Not only are we still within the octave of Christmas, but we are celebrating a big feast, one that each and every one of us is a part of.
Children are God’s gifts. Those of you who have lived in this world long enough may say that there are even greater gifts, and they are grandchildren. It is beyond doubt that, for grandchildren, their grandparents are the greatest and the most wonderful people in the whole world. This is usually their first experience of an extended family. (more…)KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2019 – Year A
Readings: Is 11:1-10 / Ps 72 / Rom 15:4-9 / Mt 3:1-12
by Father Louis Benoit, Guest Celebrant
We heard in the gospel about John the Baptist in the desert – wearing weird clothes and eating weird food. He’s attracting quite a crowd, calling people to repent. His baptism is a baptism of repentance. Repentance basically means to make a 180-degree turn – to turn away from a sinful life to a life of the Lord.
Of course, for Jesus to be born in our hearts, we have to repent. I suggest that repentance is not a once-and-for-all thing: one time you’re here and then suddenly you’ve done a 180. It’s a life-long process. We have to spend a life turning away from sin and evil and turning toward what Jesus wants for us. We have to keep working on it. (more…)KEEP READING
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 29, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Am 6:1A, 4-7 / Ps 146 / 1 Tm 6:11-16 / Lk 16:19-31
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
A story is told about David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank traveling through South America. A group of bank officials of the government of Uruguay invited him for lunch, hoping for a sizable loan. The affair was held at a club that was famous locally for its magnificent appetizer buffet. Rockefeller passed through the buffet line first, and thinking that this was the entire meal, served himself generously. When seated, he noticed that others had taken skimpier portions. He said to the President of Banco Central, “I have so much and you have so little.” The host responded, “I am glad you mentioned that, Mr. Rockefeller, because that is exactly what we want to talk to you about.” (more…)KEEP READING