Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 21, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10 / Ps 25 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mk 1:14-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about a despondent man who came to his mother and said, “Mom, I’ve stopped going to church, for two reasons. First, I don’t like the people and second, the people don’t like me.” And the mother looked at him and said, “My son, you should go back to church for two reasons. First, you are already fifty-nine years old and second, you are the pastor!”
But, brothers and sisters, as we reflect on the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are invited to ponder the profound concept of Divine Calling. In the gospel, we witnessed the pivotal moment when Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to become fishers of men. This summons, with its immediacy and simplicity, carries timeless significance for each of us. The gospel narrative unfolds with a sense of urgency, mirroring the immediacy of Jesus’ call.
In our own lives, we may hear the echoes of that same call, urging us to respond promptly and wholeheartedly to the divine invitation. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, to follow Him with courage and conviction. Simon, Andrew, James, and John provide us with inspiring models of immediate obedience. Without hesitation they leave their nets and professions in order to follow Jesus. Their response challenges us to examine our own readiness to abandon whatever may be holding us back from fully embracing our calling.
The metaphor of fishers of men calls us to engage actively in the mission of spreading God’s love and compassion. We are called not merely to catch fish, but to cultivate relationships, to cast the net of love and inclusion. This mission beckons us to be present in our communities, reaching out to those who may be lost or in need of hope and help.
A story was told about a pious Christian lady who had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her to read, and it helped her to relax. One day she was sitting next to a man who didn’t believe in God. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while, he turned to her and asked, “Do you really believe all the stuff in there?” The lady replied, “Of course I do. It’s the Bible – the Word of God.” The man said, “Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?” She replied, “Oh. Jonah. Yes, I believe that. The Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it, and if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too.” The man laughed and asked, “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?” The lady answered, “Well, I don’t really know, but I guess when I get to heaven, I will ask him.” “What if he is not in heaven?” the man asked sarcastically. “Then you can ask him when you reach hell,” the lady replied.
Brothers and sisters, in the first reading, we encountered Jonah’s mission to Ninevah. Here, too, we witnessed the transformative power of responding to God’s call. The people of Ninevah heed Jonah’s warning and repent. This reminds us that our response to God’s call can have a profound impact, not only on our lives, but on the lives of those around us.
In fact, the entire readings of today’s liturgy emphasize the absolute need for total repentance and our immediate need for a quick and prompt response to God’s invitation to repentance. Whereby, we face God’s wrath of perpetual destruction in hellfire should we ever play down the entire content of divine revelation, seeking our redress as portrayed in the funny response of the pious traveler to the atheist in the story.
In the second reading, St. Paul orders the Corinthian Church to waste no time in embracing the message of the Good News and in renewing their lives with repentance. Whereas, the gospel reading describes the summary of Jesus’ preaching, “Repent, and believe in the Good News.” It also describes how Jesus called His first set of disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John, which portrays how we sinners need to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life.
Today’s readings are all rather extraordinary. Each of them shows an immediate and wonderful response. First Jonah preaches, and the Ninevites surprisingly repent and change immediately. Then Paul calls upon everyone to live in the immediate moment, for the day of the Lord is imminent. Then Jesus calls His disciples, and they leave immediately.
Jesus’ call is offering a whole new world, a new vision and a new set of relationships. The values of the Gospel are revealed in their fullness. If the disciples had paused and thought about what they were doing, they could have dreamed up heaps of reasons why they should not go – their business, their insecurities, and so on. They did not let these things get in the way.
Thank goodness they responded to the call straightaway. This is not encouraging recklessness, because surely Jesus called people after a lot of prayer and discernment, and He called disciples whom He had observed were already living in the way that showed their longing for the value of the Kingdom to be established in its fullness. Along comes Jesus and He says, “The time has arrived. Come, follow me.” And they do – immediately. It is what they had been waiting for.
In our lives, brothers and sisters, Jesus calls each one of us in big and small ways. In the daily events of life, in our words, actions, and priorities, let us respond immediately and with trust. As we reflect on the readings today, let us prayerfully consider the nature of God’s call in our lives. Are we attuned to His voice? Are we ready to leave behind our nets and respond with unwavering trust? May the example of the first disciples inspire us to embrace our calling with joy and purpose, recognizing that in our response lies the potential for transformation, both for ourselves and for the world.KEEP READING
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 45:1, 4-6 / Ps 96 / 1 Thes 1:1-5b / Mt 22:15-21
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
The Church has done her usual wonderful job of choosing a collection of readings that help us enter into the gospel with the right frame of mind. Isaiah tells us God is Lord and “there is no other” (Is 45:5). In Psalm 96, King David, fresh from bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, writes, “Declare His glory among the nations.…The Lord reigns” (Ps 96:3,10). In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “He has chosen you; for our gospel came to you in power and in the Holy Spirit…” (1 Thes 1:4). So the right frame of mind is that Jesus, who is God, is the King of the Universe and we are His people, made so by the Holy Spirit.
King David points out God’s kingship in today’s Psalm, declaring that He reigns. Where is God’s throne? It is in heaven, yes, but Jesus also reigns in our very bodies. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, says God made our bodies into a temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Paul can say to the Thessalonians that they received the Gospel in the Holy Spirit. That Jesus made our bodies into temples is a key to today’s gospel.
Let’s use our imaginations and enter into this gospel by composing the scene. Return to this scene whenever your mind starts to wander. Jesus is in the great Temple of Jerusalem, the greatest religious structure in the kingdom of Rome. Its area would cover 35 football fields and it is several stories tall. The stone walls are thick, with some stones weighing several hundred tons. “Its appearance is radiant with polished marble and gold adornments.” (Mitch/Sri, 302) Jews, Gentiles, and priests are bustling about. The air is filled with many voices and other sounds, and the smell of smoke and incense. You are there, taking a seat to listen to the famous rabbi, Jesus, speak.
If you recall, the next thing we need to do before we unpack the gospel, is to ask Jesus for the grace we desire to receive from this encounter with Him. And today, Jesus tells us, through the lips of his enemies, what that grace is. The disciples of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Tell us, then, what You think” (Mt 22:7). In other words, we want the grace of interior knowledge of Jesus’ mind and heart; knowledge not written in the book but given to us by grace through the Holy Spirit.
Now, we play out the scene. Jesus is standing at the top of some steps. We are sitting at the front of the crowd at the base of the steps, eager to hear what He has to say. We have heard of His time in the temple, verbally jousting with the priests and elders. He has really started to stir things up. Knowing that, we are not surprised when some disciples of the Pharisees arrive, pushing their way through the crowd, brushing by you, and walking up a few of the stairs, but staying lower than Jesus.
What does surprise us is that they are accompanied by Herodians, traitors who have consorted with the Romans! The Pharisees’ disciples start lavishing praise on Jesus, but you can tell by the look on their faces, it is not sincere. “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men” (Mt 22:16). You have to admit, though, that what they said really is how you see Jesus. But then comes their trap, which in your opinion, is so predictable of that group. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Oh no. You want to yell out to Jesus, “Do not answer that question. It is a trap.”
You know that if He says do not pay the taxes, the Herodians will have him arrested and tortured for instigating a tax revolt (Mitch/Sri, 285.) If He says pay the tax, He will look like a Roman sympathizer, discrediting Himself in the eyes of the Jews. (Ibid.) But then you recall how He has handled Himself before today, and you get a knowing grin on your face. This is going to be good.
Jesus asks the Pharisees’ disciples for a coin that pays the tax, and they give him a Roman denarius. Hypocrites, you think to yourself. They carry coins for taxes like everyone else! Those coins have an image of Caesar with the blasphemous words, “Son of the divine Augustus” on one side and “high priest” on the other. (Mitch/Sri, 286) Sure enough, Jesus says, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites” (Mt 22: 18)? And then He sets their heads spinning. After they tell Him the image on the coin is Caesar’s, He tells them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:20-21).
His adversaries leave in stunned silence, brushing by you on their way out. While triumphantly smirking at them, you suddenly remember the grace you asked for and get up the courage to raise your hand and to ask Jesus a question. “Lord, I get that paying our taxes does not compromise our duty to God, but tell us what it means to repay to God what belongs to God?” (Mitch/Sri, 286)
Jesus begins to explain, and you and the crowd grow silent again, glad that Jesus sent the hypocrites packing. He looks at you with fondness and His gaze fills you with warmth and joy. He says, “The Roman denarius bears Caesar’s image, so it belongs to him and should be returned to him.” But, looking at you, He asks, “What is it that belongs to God? Hmm?” You kind of freeze up and your mind goes blank. You can feel the crowd staring at you. Jesus does not want you to feel embarrassed, because He sincerely loves you. He loves that you pushed your way to the front row. He loves you for not falling for the lies and games of the hypocrites.
To help you, Jesus asks you another question. “Who did God make in His image?” You smile, look around smugly at the crowd and answer, “Me! And all of us” (Gn 1: 26). Jesus smiles with a chuckle, and says, “You have answered well.” Someone behind you gives you a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. But then you notice Jesus staring at you looking for more. And it hits you and you shout, “Since our body bears God’s image, we must return it to Him. He is our King, and we owe Him all that we are and have! (Mitch/Sri, 286) Jesus opens His arms and makes an emphatic, “Yes!” And then you realize that He has given you the grace we asked for, “Tell us what You think.”
To quote my boss, how do we put blue jeans on this? In other words, how do we simplify putting into practice returning to God our very self? First, we must examine our life and ask ourselves, “Where am I holding back giving myself to God because of my lack of faith?” If you are not sure, then look for where you have fears or concerns or worries or anxieties or insecurities or, if you have none of these, then pride.
These are often revealed by your self-talk or inner voice saying, “I am too young. I am too old. I am too poor. I am too busy. I am too tired. I am not smart enough. I am not holy enough. I am too sinful. I am good right here.” Notice all these statements have something in common. They all use the words “I am.” A lack of faith can cause us to try to bear our burdens or to perform good works without God who is the great “I Am” (Ex 3:14).
If we flip these words around, we will see how silly our lack of faith is:
Too young for I Am? We have teenage saints. David was around fifteen years old when God anointed him to be a king.
Too old for I Am? Simeon, ready to die of old age, announced Jesus as the Messiah.
Too poor for I Am? Mary and Joseph were poor. Jesus was born in a barn!
Too busy for I Am? He keeps the universe in motion. He is the Lord of time and will help you find more.
Too tired for I Am? He does not sleep. He spoke to me about this gospel before the sun rose.
Not smart enough for I Am? He makes the simple wise. St. Peter, a fisherman, in his first attempt at preaching brought three thousand to the Lord.
Not holy enough for I Am? He freed Mary Magdalene from seven demons and the sinful behaviors caused by that, and she went on to proclaim His resurrection to the twelve apostles.
Too sinful for I Am? St. Augustine wrote one of the world’s first autobiographies, candidly sharing his sins of fornication and careerism in his book, Confessions. Today, he is quoted throughout the Catechism and studied by Catholics and Protestants alike.
Our King protects us, guides us, and strengthens us. He loves when you return to God what is God’s by rendering your children to I Am in Baptism, your sins to I Am in Confession, your body, heart, and soul to I Am in Holy Communion, bowing your head to I Am in Confirmation for impartation of the Holy Spirit, rendering your tired and sick body to I Am in Holy Anointing of the Sick, rendering your best friend to I Am for His blessing of your Marriage, and rendering your sons and husbands to I Am in Holy Orders!
What more does I Am need to do for us to trust Him enough to render to Him what is His…which is you and me? Give Him yourself, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your husband, your wife, your children, your classes, your job, your retirement, your virtues and your vices. This is how we render to God what is God’s. We give Him our good and our not so good.
Oh Great I Am, you are King of the Universe, and we render to you our very selves and ask that you reign in our bodies, your temple. Amen!
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. Ascension Publishing 2018.
Curtis Mitch & Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.KEEP READING
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ez 33:7-9 / Ps 95 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Sometimes in the Bible we come across certain passages that are as relevant and practical in our lives today as they were a thousand years ago when they were first written. Today’s readings are good examples of such passages. Together they remind us that, as faithful Christians, it is our responsibility to reach out to our not-so-faithful brothers and sisters and bring them back into the fold. They even go on to recommend practical steps for how to go about doing this.
A young woman, Lydia, strayed from the church as a teenager. After nine years of experimenting with atheism, spiritism, and New Age, she found her way back again to the Church, by the grace of God. Relating her story, Lydia said that what hurt her most was that, in all her years of spiritual exile, nobody in the Church missed her. Nobody ever phoned or visited to find out what was wrong. “I got the impression that the Church did not want me,” she said.
Of course, the Church wants her, but what are we doing to help the many men and women in her situation to find their way back into full communion with the Church? Today’s readings invite us to review our “I don’t care” attitude toward fallen and lapsed members of the Church, reminding us that, yes, it should be our business to reach out to them.
Why should it be our business whether somebody else decides to serve God or not? As members of the Church, we are not just priestly people who offer a sacrifice. We are also a prophetic people, meaning that we are God’s spokespersons.
Today’s first reading is, in fact, a compact job description that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel on what it means to be a prophetic person. The first reading is a passage in the new phase of the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel, and it occurs in the context of an invasion of Palestine by a hostile army. Just as a watchman who warns the people of impending danger is not to be blamed if they do not listen, so Ezekiel is not to be blamed if the people to whom he preaches do not reform their lives. But if he fails to preach to them, then he must accept the blame.
St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds everyone that love is the key to obeying each of the commandments. Real love is love that looks out for the interest of other people. For a person who really loves, other people come first. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus gives an instruction in how to handle a refractory disciple. The instruction describes a formal procedure in three steps:
Step One: private confrontation. If there is no success, then the next step is recommended.
Step Two: the use of one or two additional formal witnesses. Failure here leads to a final step.
Step Three: Resort to the community, such as the local church. If there is no success here, the disciple is to be placed outside the communion of believers, as we say ‘excommunicated’.
Members of the Church who view church membership as being the same as citizenship in a civil government should think twice after hearing today’s reading. In a civil society, objection about fundamental policy is not only at times permitted; disagreement is at times required in order to be loyal to God.
But the Church in its fundamental teachings lives at a level much more profound. The leaders of the Church are invested with the authority of God, which means that they have to move within the bounds indicated to them by God, such as by being attentive to the scripture and tradition, the two sources of revelation.
Leaders of the Church in fundamental matters cannot do whatever they feel like. They are responsible to God for the flock entrusted to them. If they neglect to proclaim the message entrusted to them, God will hold them responsible. They are invested with the authority of God. But this authority is designed to help them and all of the Church’s members listen to God’s voice in the profoundly important matters of life, involving principles of moral and religious actions.
The Church can function as it should only if all of its members — leaders and non-leaders alike — obey the fundamental call of Jesus to love. But precisely because love is the fundamental law of the Church’s existence, decisive action with Church leaders is at times necessary, if they are to remain true to their calling by God.
God clearly wants everybody to be saved. He does not desire the death of a sinner. “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked?” says the Lord God. “Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live? (Ez 18:23).” That is why Jesus teaches us in the gospel about fraternal correction; how to correct an erring brother and bring him back to the path of salvation.
Underlying the whole thing should be genuine love or charity. For St. Paul says in the second reading, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” God’s law of love asks all of us to be vigilant, not only for outside dangers, but also to keep watch within. Keep guard and watch over our hearts to ensure that we love as God loves, and our hearts do not harden into legalism, lack of compassion and mercy, or apathy. We’re all sentinels, watchpersons, vigilant for any discord, hatred, or inconsistency with the Gospel, and vigilant within ourselves for resentment, jealousy. Desire begins in the heart.
We now see the rapid and unrelenting spread of evil and immorality and sin in our world. Shall we continue being passive and impervious to all this? Unless we do something now, we may find ourselves the next on defense. As the famous quotation from Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Let the gospel this Sunday inspire and empower us to proclaim the truth courageously, to denounce evil and sin resolutely, and to correct wrongdoers in truth and charity. The essence of discipleship and faithfulness to God is love. This is a love that is formed from within by God’s grace. It fosters loving watchfulness inside and out, and it softens the heart and saves us from ourselves. It turns us back toward each other and creates understanding, healing, and reconciliation. For us Christians, goodwill and kindness are not things we may choose to do or not to do. It is a debt we owe to each and every one.KEEP READING
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a / Ps 85 / Rom 9:1-5 / Mt 14:22-33
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Visitors to the Holy Land like to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, the sea that Jesus walked. A certain tourist wanted such a ride, and the boatman told him that the fare was $150.
“One hundred fifty dollars!” exclaimed the tourist. “That’s why Jesus just walked.”
If we go deeper into the gospel passage for today, this story of Jesus’ walking on the sea teaches us a lot about who Jesus is, about the Church and her journey through the world, and about the life of faith of individual believers.
First is the lesson about Jesus. The miracle of Jesus’ walking on the sea shows that Jesus is Lord and has authority over all forces, natural and supernatural. The Jews believed that the sea is the domain of supernatural demonic forces. A rough and stormy sea is regarded as the work of these hostile spirits. By walking on the raging waves and calming the storm, Jesus is showing Himself to be One who has power and control over these hostile spiritual powers.
There are Christians who have surrendered their lives to the Lord but still live in constant fear of evil spirits, sorcery, witchcraft, potions, and curses. There are many of us who go to fortune tellers and ask them, “What is ahead of us?” Many of us, too, read horoscopes to know what will happen to us during the day. Today’s gospel readings bring us the good news that these powers of darkness stand no chance at all when Jesus is present and active in our lives and affairs.
The second lesson is about the Church. The boat on the sea is one of the earliest Christian symbols for the Church in her journey through the world. Just as the boat is tossed about by the waves, so is the Church pounded from all sides by worldly and spiritual forces hostile to the kingdom of God. In the midst of crisis, Jesus comes to strengthen the faith of the Church. He assures us that no matter how strong the storm of life is at the moment, He is always to remain with His Church, and He keeps His promise always.
Some of our priests and bishops in the past have felt the persecution of the Roman emperors, the threat of the Anti-Christ, and heresies. The sexual conduct of some priests has cracked the Church. But the Church still exists and will continue to exist in the future, because Christ is with His Church.
The third lesson is about the individual believer. The first rule I learned regarding driving a motor vehicle is: Keep your eyes on the road always. And not on the steering wheel, not on the clutch or the accelerator, because if we do that we will certainly crash. The sight of Jesus walking on the sea, especially the involvement of Peter in the story, is a lesson for us who are tempted to take our eyes off of Jesus and to take more notice of the threatening circumstances around us.
Peter had said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Mt 14:28). Jesus gives him the command, “Come” (Mt 14:29). But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink (Mt 14:30).
The strong wind in our lives could be sickness, death, poverty, family problems, inability to correct unjust conditions, difficulty in finding decent work, apathy, impatience, the urge to give up in despair, and many more. Why did Peter sink? When Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he walked upon water well enough. But when he took notice of the danger he was in and focused on the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. So, today’s gospel reading holds the spiritual message for each one of us to focus our eyes on God at all times, and to fulfill His will.
Keeping our eyes focused on Jesus could be difficult. The gospels suggest three ways to us on how to do it. First, let us recognize that we cannot save ourselves. Like Peter, we have to face the fact that he could not save himself as he was slowly sinking. Some of us may have trouble admitting that we can’t make it through life on our own, but we can’t. We really can’t. It is not weakness to admit that we need God. It is foolish to think we don’t.
Second, reach out to Jesus. After we admit that we cannot save ourselves, reach out to Jesus like Peter did, and cry out to the Lord when we slip, “Save me!” But how?
One way could be by going to Confession. Reach out to Jesus in the Eucharist, and then reach out by seeking the help of Christian friends who will support us in our efforts to keep our eyes on Him. In other words, the three C’s of reaching out to Jesus are Confession, Communion, and Community.
Third, keep your grip on Jesus strong, like Peter did. He held onto Jesus for dear life. That is why he eventually made it back to the boat safely. How do we keep our grip on Jesus strong? That is through prayer, studying our faith in His words, and by making the daily effort to put our faith into practice. If we take prayer seriously, and not just make a few formal prayers to satisfy our consciences, if we study our faith diligently, and if we make the effort to live it out there in the world, then our grip on the Lord will not loosen.
If we lose our grip and fall into serious sin and suffering, then let us go back to Step One and start all over again. As long as we make Christ our vision, our point of arrival, and the center of our lives, we can survive. We believe that when big storms come our way, God is always there to help, and rescue us. We have to trust Him.
May the Lord increase our little faith, so that through all the storms of life, we should have our eyes and our trust constantly fixed on Jesus and His power and not on ourselves and our weaknesses.
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
August 6, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 / Ps 97 / 2 Pt 1:16-19 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story of a young man who thought he was a worm. He would hide under the bed whenever he saw a chicken, because chickens eat worms. One day he was hiding under the bed, because he saw a chicken roaming around. His best friend decided to help him overcome his problem. He went under the bed with him and told him to repeat after him, “I am a man, not a worm.” After a few repetitions, his best friend urged him to come out and prove himself a man. He came out and walked around confidently until he saw a chicken and then immediately hid under the bed again. His best friend went under the bed and asked him, “Why don’t you believe you are a man, not a worm?” The young man replied, “I do believe I am a man, not a worm, but does the chicken believe that?”
Jesus believed that He was the beloved Son of the Father. Even in His most painful and despairing moments, He believed that. The disciples also believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but the moment the trials and persecutions came along, they ran and hid under the bed. Later on, however, they truly believed and laid down their lives for Jesus.
The Feast of the Transfiguration reminds us of who Jesus is and also reminds us of who we are. Today we are celebrating this feast. The word, transfiguration, is derived from the Latin word, transfigurare, or the Greek word, metamorphosis, which means change in form or appearance. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, a special trio in the twelve, up the high mountain of Tabor where the glory of His destiny is revealed to them. This glory belongs to Him as God’s beloved Son. Transfiguration is the foretaste of heaven. This is signified by His dazzling white clothes.
Peter wants to preserve this moment by erecting tents. He’s overwhelmed and terrified by the experience, and yet he doesn’t want it to end. Moses and Elijah are seen talking to Jesus about His death which He is to suffer in Jerusalem. This is seen by the three apostles. The three are wondrously delighted with this vision and Peter calls out to Christ, “Lord it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Then they hear the voice of the Father saying, “This is My Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”
This moment, not a permanent state of bliss, is given to them to help them realize the true identity of Jesus, that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of the living God. This conversation of Jesus with Elijah and Moses shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. (Moses represents the law, and Elijah represents the prophets.) His mission is not to destroy the ways in which the Father has already revealed Himself, but to bring this revelation to completion.
The vision that we are given today on this great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord shows us that we are called to something far beyond anything we could have imagined.
Our first reading from the book of Daniel gives us a tiny glimpse into the awesome glory of Heaven, where the Father reigns with His Son. We get the sense that Daniel can barely find the words to describe the wonder of what he has seen. Everything is bright white, glowing as if on fire, seemingly blinding in its brilliance. Myriads of people from every nation are worshipping God. This vision already fills us with great hope. We want to be invited into this place where we can experience the glory of God and be counted among those who are privileged to stand before Him and worship Him.
The gospel, however, encourages us to hope for still more. Peter, James, and John are shown the same glory of God shining out through the very humanity of Jesus. They begin to understand that God is not content merely to have us join Him in heaven so that we can witness His glory. He wants to transform us so that we shine with that very same glory. The Transfiguration shows us more deeply who Jesus is. It also shows us who we are called to be in God’s plan.
St. Peter assures us, in the second reading, that this is not just some cleverly devised story. He himself was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration. He speaks of what he saw and heard. He declares that this promise of God is altogether reliable and exhorts us to be attentive to it.
Another possible reason for this display was that Jesus wanted to strengthen these three apostles for the trials of faith that they would have to face and endure at Mount Calvary when Jesus would not be on Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, but on Mount Calvary, the mountain of the cross.
God sometimes gives us moments of consolation and joy. We want such moments to never end, but that is not our lot here on earth. Before enjoying glory, we must first undergo suffering. These moments of consolation will help us to go on, to persevere in spite of difficulties. God invites us to see the many little transfiguration experiences that we have in our daily lives, such as changes of nature, the gradual opening of a flower, the blooming of trees, transformation of people, the growing of children, the cycle of birth and death, the realization that God is there.
Through the eyes of faith, we realize that it is a continuous process of seeing, not the flower, but the blooming, not the people but their talents, not the sun but its rising, not the miracle but God.
Every time that we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, we also experience a moment of transfiguration where our Lord Jesus Christ is transfigured before our very own eyes. The bread and wine are transfigured and become His body and blood, thus our spiritual food for life in our journey toward eternal life. May we slowly come out of our fears, weaknesses, and sinfulness, and show others what we really believe in and who we are called to be—the people of God.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
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / Ps 66 / 1 Pt 3:15-18 / Jn 14:15-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Someone once said that man is an able creature, but he has made 32,647,389 laws and hasn’t yet improved on the Ten Commandments.
In our gospel today, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) Jesus is telling us that the reason we follow God’s commandments is that we love Him. That is why it is wrong to say that we follow God’s commandments because we are afraid of Hell, or that we follow God’s commandments because we are expecting something. We go to Mass not because we are afraid of committing mortal sins. We help the poor and needy, we try to be good, we try to please God simply because we love Him. That should be our motive in doing good and in loving God.
So, what are God’s commandments? There are only two: Love your God and love your neighbor. When Jesus says to keep these commandments, He is telling us that love is not a mere word, but an action. The question is how to make God’s love concrete and possible in our lives.
In psychologist Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, he suggests ways to make love concrete and possible. First, love must have discipline. Discipline means doing something hard because it is right. We are usually not very disciplined people. Why? Because we tend to avoid the difficult to take the easy way out. Sometimes in following God’s commandments and loving God, we want the easy way out. Even in our prayer, when we get very busy, we sometimes say that God will understand, and I will pray tomorrow. But sometimes when we talk to God, we say, “Lord, you are the most important person in my life.” Is that really true? If God is truly important in our lives, why do we keep suspending our prayer life? Why do we keep delaying our prayer life, or making excuses in terms of our relationship with Him?
We often do not do what is right because it involves sacrifice, even in our dealings with one another. That is why we sometimes try to have that kind of culture where we silence the right in order not to hurt the wrong. Or in other words, we try not to speak the truth, so that we won’t be rude to evil. That’s why we try not to speak about anything that is immoral, especially if the person who is doing it is a family member or close friend of ours. We don’t tell them that a man loving another man or a woman loving another woman is wrong and sinful. We don’t say that because we don’t want to appear to be rude. We don’t want to make that sacrifice.
Again, let us not forget what St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “There can be no real love without sacrifice.” Sometimes when we love, especially with our children, or with other people we love, we need to speak the truth, and we need to make that sacrifice. Love is hard.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. The love of a mother for her children is a classic example. This reminds me of a story of a mother named Patricia, who donated part of her liver to her son, Carlos, who underwent a liver transplant surgery because of a congenital liver disease. When the mother was interviewed, she said, “If God will allow, maybe I will have another child like Carlos. I will continue to donate any part of my body to make sure my child will live.” That’s the heart of a mother, willing to sacrifice for her children.
During World War II, in France, an officer was walking with his soldiers. They noticed that a bush was moving, so the officer asked one of the soldiers to check the bush. The soldier found a starving mother with her two sons. The officer took a loaf of bread and gave it to the mother. The mother broke the bread in two pieces and gave it to her two sons. The soldier asked the officer, “Sir, is she not hungry? I thought she was starving.” The officer replied, ‘No, it is because she is the mother.”
That’s the heart of a mother – willing to sacrifice herself for her children. That’s why today on Mother’s Day, children, always remember to love your parents, especially your mother. Yes, it’s good that you send greetings to your mother, but always remember to show her that you love her and be respectful towards her. You cannot just be kind and loving in your words, but also show it in your actions. Sacrifice.
Second, Erich Fromm says that we must have patience. Love is not something that comes abruptly. We have to work at it and let it grow. A person with patience knows how to wait. That is why we must be patient with ourselves and with others. Patience is also very important in our desire to love God and our neighbor.
A story is told of Abraham, who one evening was standing outside his tent, and there was an old man walking on the street, around eighty years old, and this man was cursing God. Because Abraham was a good servant of God, he invited the man into his tent. He washed his feet and then fed him. While the man was eating, the man continued to curse God. Abraham was infuriated and grabbed the man and threw him out of his tent. That very evening, God spoke to Abraham in a dream, and God asked, “Abraham, where is that old man?” Abraham replied, “Lord, I threw him out of my tent because he does not worship You and he kept cursing You.” God said, “Abraham, Abraham, for eighty years that man has disowned me. He has kept cursing me, but I continued to give my love, my grace, and my patience to that man so that he will come back to me. But you cannot give your patience and love to that man.” And Abraham woke up crying. Patience.
Third, Erich Fromm tells us that love must have humility. Brothers and sisters, the biggest obstacle to love is pride. Sometimes it is very difficult to say I’m sorry. Let us not forget what St. Augustine once said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils. It is humility that makes men as angels.” True. Pride can ruin our lives, can ruin our morality, can destroy our desire to love God and our neighbor. Humility is the foundation of real love.
President Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer a certain regiment. When the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said and he replied, “If Stanton said I am a fool, then I must be, for he’s nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake and without hesitation, he withdrew it.
Unlike the story of King Herod and John the Baptist: When Herod gave the word that John the Baptist should be beheaded, even though he knew that what he said was wrong, he did not take it back. That was pride. So, humility is very important in our desire to fulfill the commandments of God, which is to love him and our neighbor.
Fourth, love must have faith. Faith means that we believe even if we do not have any evidence whatsoever of our beliefs. The deadliest enemy of love is lack of trust and faith.
Lastly, love must have courage. In many ways, it is the most important of them all, because we have to reach out and touch other people. How often, we do not reach out because we are afraid of rejection. It takes a lot of courage to love.
So loving is what life is all about. But it takes discipline and patience. It needs faith and trust, humility and courage in order to make it concrete and possible. To remain in love with God every day, we must remind ourselves that our most important appointment of the day is our appointment with God, and that our most important agenda is to love Him and our neighbor.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7 / Ps 33 / 1 Pt 2:4-9 / Jn 14:1-12
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
“Amen, amen, I say to you.” Why do we hear this repetitiveness? It’s kind of Jewish prose, if you will. A way of speaking, a way of writing even.
As a youngster, attending Holy Mass when it was celebrated in Latin. Maybe I was only in fourth grade or so. I was captivated by some of the repetitions that I would hear. When the priest would read the gospel, it would be read in Latin, and then it would be read in English. And the priest would say, “Amen, amen, dico vobis.” So when I came home from Mass, I would say to Dad, “Amen, amen, dico vobis.” It was such a familiar thing to me, I actually knew what I was saying, because he gave it to us in English too. But that sort of rhythm was something that captivated me. It was also part of the Hebrew heritage of the repetitiveness, for calling attention: “Amen, amen I say to you.”
The other thing I want to call your attention to is the fact that we have in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles the naming and the calling of the first deacons. They chose seven men filled with the Holy Spirit. The first deacons: Stephen, filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Timon, Parmenas, Nicanor, Nicholas of Antioch, a convert. They presented these men to the apostles.
We’re anticipating, coming in just a few weeks, the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. And I’m wondering when’s the first time that I ever thought seriously about the Holy Spirit. It was when I was to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. You’re going to receive the Holy Spirit when the bishop comes in. He’ll be wearing that tall hat called a mitre, and he will walk down the aisle and then he will face you. You will come forward, and he will anoint you and put hands on your head and confirm you in the Faith. And you will be Soldiers of Christ. It meant you had the courage and the strength to defend your faith in Jesus Christ.
Now what about those men selected to be deacons? What is this role of deacon about? They don’t collect any salary. What they do is serve in their parishes. There you have a little summary of the diaconate, much of which you may have already known.
I’m going to turn now to the gospel. It’s the Last Supper, and the apostle John is remembering all this. Jesus is talking to the apostles, if you remember. They ask Him, “Where are You going?” And He has to explain. Jesus knows that He’s about to die. He also knows that He will be spending the night in agony in the garden. So He’s trying to explain to His apostles at the Last Supper how they must have strength and must have courage.
Soon we will have the feast of Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit comes down upon the apostles. Not only the apostles, but others too, including the Blessed Virgin Mary. But He knows that they need to have strength. He will be arrested. And the next day He will be on trial. They’re going to see some terrible things happening to their leader, and they’ll remember His healings, His raising of the dead, Lazarus and others, and His driving the devil out and of those who were possessed by the devil.
On that night, He also gives His commandment to love one another. As Jesus washed the feet of His apostles what did Peter say? Oh, you’re not going to wash my feet. And Jesus answered, Peter, if you don’t let me wash your feet how can you enter into the Kingdom with me then? What else did Peter say? Wash my head. Wash me all over, if that’s what it takes.
So why did Jesus wash the apostles’ feet? Because the washing of feet was done in a household by the lowest slave. And Jesus Himself takes that role of a lowest servant in a household and puts on an apron and washes the feet of His disciples. By doing so, He reminds them that that’s what they need to be doing.
The path to death does not end with death. And that is what we can recall too. Whenever illness, great illness affects us or loved ones in this life we have this great confidence and hope in life eternal. God bless us all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.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