Mothers are Like Jesus

May 12, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Evangelization, Family, Father Nixon, Love, Mission

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 12, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Acts 1:1-11 / Ps 47 / Eph 1:17-23 / Mk 16:15-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A story is told about a priest, who in talking about heaven in his homily said, “We bring nothing with us when we die; there is no money in heaven. People in heaven have no money.” The whole congregation was quiet until a little girl whispered to her mother loud enough for all to hear, “Mama, Mama, we’re already in heaven!”

As we come together to celebrate the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension, coinciding with Mother’s Day, we are presented with a unique opportunity to reflect on the profound love and sacrifice embodied in both events. Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, entrusting His disciples with the mission to spread the Gospel. mothers exemplify selfless love and nurturing care in guiding their children towards their purpose in life.

In the passage from Acts, we witness the disciples gazing upward as Jesus ascends into Heaven, leaving them with a profound sense of awe and wonder. Similarly, mothers often look upon their children with a sense of awe, marveling at their growth and potential. Just as Jesus entrusted His disciples with the mission to spread the Gospel, mothers nurture and empower their children to fulfill their God-given potential, instilling in them values of love, compassion, and faith.

In the letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Eph 1:17-23), we are reminded of the immeasurable power of God at work within us. Through the ascension of Christ, He is exalted above all things and His authority transcends earthly limitations. Mothers, too, embody a divine strength and resilience as they navigate the challenges of motherhood, drawing upon faith and inner grace to guide their children towards the path of righteousness. The prayer of Saint Paul echoes our longing for spiritual enlightenment and wisdom. Reflecting the aspirations of mothers, they impart wisdom and guidance to their children as they embark on their journey of faith.

The gospel reading from Mark encapsulates the Great Commission, in which Jesus instructs His disciples to go forth and proclaim the Gospel to all creation. This was not merely a suggestion, but a mandate for all believers to actively participate in the mission of evangelization. Similarly, mothers play a vital role in nurturing the faith of their children, serving as primary witnesses and teachers of God’s love and truth in the home.

What is the command of Jesus for us today? The first is that we should preach. What are those things that we should preach to others? The good news of salvation, that we are loved by God. Even if we are sinners, that we are brothers and sisters to each other, that life has dignity and meaning, and we too have dignity. That is the only way to eternal life. That is why all of us are called in order to preach and to teach. Busy people are not exempted from this mission. Let us not be afraid to tell the truth. Preaching is not only to be done within the church, but also in the office, in the workplace, in homes and many more.

Let me share with you a story about Radell Norris. He was a conscientious young man, but he was also a shy young man. He found it hard just to talk to people, much less to discuss religion with them. Then one day he got an idea. Radell did a lot of reading, and he was aware of the many pamphlets about the Catholic faith. So, he decided to set aside part of his weekly allowance to buy pamphlets. Radell placed his pamphlets in places where he thought people would pick them up and read them. For example, he placed them in waiting rooms and in reception areas.

One day, a young woman who was a friend of his family told his parents how she became a convert and how her husband returned to the Church. It all started with a pamphlet. She said, “I found it in the hospital waiting room.” You can imagine the boy’s excitement when he learned of the impact of just one of his pamphlets.

The story of Radell Norris points to an important point about proclaiming the Good News; there are many ways to do it. We can proclaim it directly as Radell did. Today, many people use the new technology of the internet, Facebook, websites, and cell phones to spread the Good News. Or we can proclaim it less directly. For example, by praying and giving financial support to the missionary activity of the Church.

The second is, we should heal. All of us are called to become healers. Not only as physical healers, but also as psychological and spiritual healers. Not tomorrow, but today.

Lastly, we should be witnesses, not just in words, but also most especially in action. As Saint Augustine had said, “Believe what you preach, teach what you believe, and live it.”

Brothers and sisters, as we reflect on the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension and celebrate Mother’s Day, let us express gratitude for the mothers in our lives who have guided us with unwavering love and sacrifice. May we honor their legacy, embracing our mission with courage and zeal, knowing that Christ’s Ascension marks the beginning of a new chapter in salvation history. Just as mothers selflessly devote themselves to the well-being of their children, let us strive to live in accordance with God, guided by the wisdom and grace bestowed upon us through Christ’s exaltation.

As we continue to celebrate our Mass today, may we ascend towards our true purpose, united with Christ in mission and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be instruments of His peace and love in the world.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Love Without Condition

May 5, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Family, Father Nixon, Generosity, Holy Spirit, Love, Service

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / Ps 98 / 1 Jn 4:7-10 / Jn 15:9-17
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There is a story told about a devastating famine in Russia that had brought great misery.  A beggar had become weak and emaciated and almost starved to death.  He approached the novelist Leo Tolstoy and asked him for assistance.

Tolstoy searched his pockets for money but discovered that he didn’t even have as much as a single coin.  However, he took the beggar’s worn hand between his own and said, “Don’t be angry with me, my brother.  I have nothing with me.”

The thin, lined face of the beggar lit up as if from some inner light.  The beggar whispered in reply, “But sir, you called me ‘brother.’  That was the greatest gift that you could give me.”

Jesus said in our gospel today, “This is my commandment:  Love one another as I have loved you.”

As we gather on this Sixth Sunday of Easter, the readings invite us into a deeper understanding of love, unity, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Easter season is drawing to a close, yet the spirit of renewal and hope remains vibrant within us.  This Sunday offers a moment for reflection on the journey we’ve undertaken since Easter Sunday and the profound teachings shared during this sacred time.

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we witness the radical inclusivity of God’s love, as Peter proclaims to Cornelius and his household that God shows no partiality.  This passage challenges us to expand our understanding of community and embrace the diversity of God’s creation.  It reminds us that the love of God knows no boundaries, and extends to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or background.

The passage from the First Letter of John reinforces this message of love, emphasizing that love is not merely a human emotion, but the very essence of God’s being.  As beloved children of God, we are called to love one another for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  This love is not based on merit or worthiness but is freely given to all who open their hearts to receive it.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to His disciples about the profound nature of love, and the call to abide in His love.  He reminds them that they are not merely servants but friends, chosen and appointed to bear fruit that will last.  This passage challenges us to deepen our relationship with Christ and to live lives rooted in love, compassion, and service to others.

The gospel also brings us into the intimate discourse between Jesus and His disciples, a conversation rich with profound meaning and enduring relevance.  In these verses, Jesus speaks of love, friendship, and the essence of discipleship.

Jesus begins by commanding His disciples to abide in His love, just as He abides in the love of the Father.  This call to abide in love is not passive; it requires an active commitment to remain connected to the source of all love, which is God.  Through this connection, we find our strength, our purpose, and our identity as followers of Christ.

The depth of Jesus’ love for us is revealed in His willingness to lay down His life for our sins, a sacrifice that exemplifies the greatest expression of love.  In this act of selflessness, we see the true nature of love – love that is sacrificial, unconditional, and boundless.

As Jesus continues, He invites His disciples into a deeper relationship with Him, calling them friends, rather than servants.  This shift in language underscores the intimacy of their connection and the trust that exists between them.  It is a relationship built, not on fear or obligation, but on mutual love and respect.

Central to Jesus’ message is the commandment to love one another as He has loved us.  This commandment is not merely a suggestion or a request; it is a mandate that lies at the heart of Christian discipleship.  To love as Jesus loves is to embody the very essence of His teachings, to extend compassion, forgiveness, and grace to all those we encounter.

There was a story about two little boys who were brothers and went to school for enrollment.  The teacher asked these little brothers about their age and birthdays, so she could place them in the registration form.

The older of the two replied, “We’re both seven.  My birthday is April 8 and my brother’s birthday is April 20.”  The teacher replied, “But that’s not possible, boys.”

The quieter brother spoke up.  “No, it’s true.  One of us is adopted.”

“Oh!” said the teacher, “Which one is adopted?”

The two brothers looked at each other and smiled.  The older brother said, “We asked Dad that same question a while ago, but he just looked at us and said he loved us both equally and he couldn’t remember anymore which one of us is adopted.”  What a wonderful analogy of God’s love for us.  It is a love without condition; it does not discriminate.

Finally, Jesus reminds His disciples that they did not choose Him, but He chose them, and appointed them to go and bear fruit that will last.  This commissioning is both a privilege and a responsibility, calling us to live lives that reflect the love and grace we have received.

As we reflect on these words of Jesus, may we be inspired to abide in His love, to embrace our identity as His friends and disciples, and bear fruit that will bring glory to God.

May we strive to love one another with the same selfless love that Jesus has shown us, and may our lives be a testament to the transformative power of God’s love at work in the world.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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He Lays Down His Life

April 21, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Comfort, Discipleship, Father Nixon, Obedience, Service, Trust, Vocations

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 21, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Acts 4:8-12 / Ps 118 / 1 Jn 3:1-2 / Jn 10:11-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Perhaps you are already very familiar with Psalm 23, the most popular psalm, on the Good Shepherd. Jesus, in our gospel today, tells us that He came precisely so that we may live with that life, peace, and happiness described in Psalm 23. Part of it I will read to you:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures He gives me repose.
Beside restful waters He leads me.
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil.
For You are at my side with Your rod and Your staff that give me courage.”

As we ponder upon our readings this Sunday, our hearts are drawn to the profound imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In this beautiful passage from the Gospel of St. John, we are reminded of the tender care and unwavering love that Jesus, our Shepherd, extends to each of us.

As we reflect on this imagery, we are invited to contemplate our relationship with Jesus. Just as a shepherd knows his sheep by name and lays down his life for them, Jesus knows each of us intimately, and selflessly offers Himself for our salvation. It’s a comforting thought, knowing that amidst life’s uncertainties and challenges, we have a shepherd who guides, protects, and sustains us.

This middle Sunday of Easter season is traditionally celebrated as Good Shepherd Sunday. We lift up the particular image of Jesus and the way of thinking about God’s care for us. We hear the deeply comforting words of Psalm 23. We are reminded that Jesus not only protects us in our darkest hour, but that He freely laid down His life for us. What greater love can be imagined?

This image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one that is well-known, and so it should be. When we think of Him in this image, it brings to our mind all kinds of images which recall the ways in which Our Lord cares for us. As stated in Psalm 23, God Himself is depicted in lovely ways as the shepherd of His people.

Perhaps most significantly are the promises that God makes through His prophets that, since no one else is worthy or able to assume the responsibility, He will Himself come and be His people’s shepherd. In His care, people will be safe, and they will be content.

With this in mind, we hear Jesus’ claim, and we cannot help but be struck by the significance of it. His claim is that He is God, come to His people as promised, to be their shepherd. He is the fulfiller of the long hopes of God’s people.

Why did Jesus use this image of the Good Shepherd? In Palestine, the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheepfold every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening or door where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night, the shepherd slept in that opening or door all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body, which meant they would not get out at all during the night.

Jesus is the gate, and anyone who enters through Him will be safe and will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. Others steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

The Church calls us to reflect on our role as sheep in Jesus’ flock. Do we listen attentively to His voice, trusting in His guidance, even when the path ahead seems unclear? Do we allow ourselves to be led to the green pastures of spiritual nourishment and the still waters of His peace? Or do we wander off, entangled in the destructions and temptations of the world?

Moreover, the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd challenges us to consider our own role as shepherds to others. How do we extend Christ’s love and compassion to those around us, especially to those who are lost, vulnerable, or in need of care? Are we willing to emulate Jesus’ sacrificial love, laying down our lives for the sake of others?

This Sunday is also known as Vocation Sunday, and vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are highlighted. There is something that we are asking of the Lord. There is something that we want of the Lord. We are asking the Lord to send more men and women to serve in His vineyard and especially more men to serve as shepherds as priests and deacons in the Church. Yet the fact is that many are called, but few have responded.

So let us ask the Lord to open the hearts of those He has called, so that they will follow the Good Shepherd in laying down their lives to serve God and His people. On our part, let us pray, and let us also encourage those who are discerning the call of the Lord, that may the Eternal Shepherd send us good shepherds who will serve with love and lead the people of God to green pastures and peaceful waters as well as through the valleys of darkness and distress.

In the vales of the world, often fraught with division and uncertainty, the image of the Good Shepherd offers us hope and reassurance. It reminds us that we are never alone, that we are cherished and protected by a Shepherd who will never abandon us. As we journey through life, let us strive to follow the voice of our Shepherd, trusting His guidance, and seeking to share His love with all whom we encounter.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Can I Get a Witness?

April 14, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Discipleship, Evangelization, Faith, Guest Celebrants, Trust

Third Sunday of Easter
April 14, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / Ps 4 / 1 Jn 2:1-5a / Lk 24:35-48
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant

Some of your fellow parishioners are away on a Cursillo weekend.  If you are not familiar with that word, it’s a Spanish word which means “a short course.”  In Christianity, it began almost a hundred years ago as a way of revitalizing the Faith among lay people.

And so, this is a women’s Cursillo going on this weekend, and like all Catholic stuff, there’s a specific order to it.  There’s reason behind it.  It’s ordered so it exposes the core elements of the Faith in an ordered way, but it’s also very personal.  There’s a lot of witnessing to people’s own experiences.  One of the things that happens is what they call the Emmaus Walk.

What we begin the gospel with today is the end of that walk.  Two discouraged disciples encounter Christ on the way to Jerusalem, on the road.  They are so discouraged and heartsick.  They think that everything they hope for is gone.  They meet the risen Christ, but they don’t recognize Him, and He explains it all.  He lays it all out to them – this is how it had to happen.  And then at the end, when did they recognize Him?  This is the breaking of the bread; that’s when they recognize Him.

The women on Cursillo this weekend are from as far Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Roanoke, this whole part of the state.  On this Emmaus Walk, two participants are paired with each other; they go out and walk for half an hour.  They are a couple of days into this experience already, and it’s probably begun to shake up their hearts a little bit.  This is the time when they’re saying, “This is the time; what’s going on in there?”  They get a chance to talk; and they know they won’t be judged.  They probably don’t know the other person to start with.  But they know that God is at work, and it’s a good opportunity to put their faith into words.

At the core of our Faith is the capacity to take into the world, sort of like charity.  It begins at home, but it doesn’t end there.  The giving of witness, a testimony is a way of doing that.  Telling the stories begins at home, but it doesn’t end there.  The allusions to witnessing are strong.  If you believe you have a gift to give, a gift around which you can organize your whole life, a gift that echoes through the ages, that gift can be shared with simple people, complicated people, rich people, poor people, educated, not educated people.  We can give that gift to our children by telling them here’s where you are, you’re a member of this family, you belong here, you’re not just some piece adrift in the universe.  As you’re at this table, you’re part of a great family, and it goes way, way back in time and every place on Earth.

Think about Peter in the Acts of the Apostles.  He says the author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead.  Of this we are witnesses.  That’s what the apostles were doing – being witnesses and giving a testimony.  And then of course in the gospel, it is Jesus himself.  Thus, is it written – He’s laying out what you can do with your children and tell them the stories that say that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead.  So, you don’t have to panic or run away.  No – He said this was going to happen and that repentance for the forgiveness would be preached in his name.  Where?  To all the nations.  And you are witnesses of these things.

In the summer of 1983, I had completed my seminary studies but had declined ordination in 1972.  I went into the business world, enjoyed the heck out of it, and thought I’d be married with a family by 1982.  But it didn’t happen, and I began to consider ordination.  People asked if it was the hand of God, and I said no, I think it was the foot!  He was nagging me.  I thought I had a better idea, but long story short, I was in Boston at the time, and happened to meet the bishop; he asked if I wanted to go to school.  I said no, I need to decide if I have enough faith for something like this, and I don’t know if I’d be any good at it.  I needed to know if people would think I was any good at it.  I said I don’t know what I think; you’ll have to throw me in the pool.  So, he did; I started off at six months at St. Vincent DePaul by the shipyard in Newport News.  That was a special blessing because it was way ahead of its time in a lot of ways.  It was a very integrated parish.  I sang with the folk group and a gospel choir both.

When summer came, I knew this would be a real test because I worked up at what was then called Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  I liked it, because it was a combination of the hospitals I had known in Boston, a little of Mass General, and a little bit of Boston City Hospitals – Mass General being the high-end teaching place for all the exotic stuff, and Boston City being a tough hospital in the inner city.  MCV (now VCU Medical Center) was both.  I spent ten weeks there in the summer of ’83.  And I was a wreck at the end of it – we were on call two nights a week and saw all that comes in in the course of a night.  My special unit was the burn unit in which people come from all over.  I also had general surgery which included a lot of gunshot and knife wounds. These are tough places to be.  I wondered if I could bring faith to this whole world, not just to Catholics.  It was awful at the time, but it did the trick, and I decided that I could go on.

At the same time, I realized that I was going to benefit from being there.  Broad Street in Richmond is a great dividing line between white and black neighborhoods.  And there I was on campus at VCU staying in one of the dorms.  And somebody recommended that I visit a Baptist Church right near here – Cedar Street Baptist.  So, I would go to Mass at St. Peter’s (the original Cathedral for our diocese) near the state capital, and then I’d go to Cedar Street Baptist, and there I experienced my introduction into this brilliant black culture, where the whole idea of witnessing is very important.  The gospel choir and the preaching are very important, and they would say that it’s not even a prayer until you break a sweat.  There’s an energy to it; ours is beautiful but much more modest.  There are so many beautiful ways to pray.  So, we’d be singing and then there was a quiet, beautiful ritual to it.  As it warmed up, you’d hear the Amen Corner.

We have our own Amen Corner; we have the back and forth which is a core of our worship.  “The Lord be with you.”  “And with your spirit.”  “Lift up your hearts.”  “We lift them up unto the Lord.”  We do that throughout the whole liturgy.  The antiphon is the back-and-forth prayer.  In the black churches, there was a time when the church was the only place they could legally meet.  The church was where everyone was at home, and as the preacher would warm up, people would say, “Come on now, preach!” to encourage.  At some point, he would ask, “Can I get a witness?”  They recognized the depth.  Of course, this is a witness that’s gone through things that you can’t imagine.  This is a witness that goes back how many generations?  A witness where the only one was God; the only one was Christ.

What a lesson.  You know, the centrality of the witness that would tell the story and break out into a testimony.  I had an event this past week in Lexington where there were a lot of college kids.  There was free pizza – what’s not to love?  The program was on loss and joy and included a bunch of kids from W&L and VMI and also parishioners.  I told them that I look at them differently than their professors do, because I look at you and I say, I want you to be ready to be able to your 3-year-old seven years from now, to be able to give a witness to your 10-year-old, to your 16-year-old, to put the story of your faith on your own lips, and learn how to do it with great confidence.  I want to say that you want to have children, that you are not afraid, and I have the big story of our Faith to tell them, and the personal stories that go with it – the personal stories that illumine the big story.  And I said that’s what I like to see.  Of course, giving a witness is a little bit like dancing – you’re scared stiff because you move one foot and you don’t know what the other is going to do yet.

But what a beautiful gift to give – it’s how the faith gets spread to the corners of the earth.  Our way of looking at things, telling the big story, as those women are doing on their Cursillo this weekend, telling their stories as well.  It becomes an enormous gift, because I know that whatever happens to my child, in success or in moments of difficulties, Christ will be there.  I’ll have words on my lips to say that we don’t have to run from anyone.

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How to Have Happiness and Life

March 28, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Eternal Life, Eucharist, Father Nixon, Humility, Life, Service

Holy Thursday
March 28, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 / Ps 116 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Jn 13:1-15
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

In Jesus’ ministry, what is the first miracle that He performed? I’m sure that many of you, especially those who pray the rosary, know the answer. The first miracle that Jesus did is the second mystery of the Mysteries of Light: the wedding at Cana, where Jesus transformed the water into wine. And after Jesus transformed water into wine, everybody in that wedding party remained happy. They were joyful, continuing to drink.

The second question I would like to ask is: What is the last miracle that Jesus did before He died? This also has something to do with wine. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the wine and transformed it into His own blood, which brought life to the world.

So two miracles that Jesus did, at the very beginning and at the end. First, when Jesus performed that miracle, He turned the water into wine and brought happiness to the people. Then Jesus turned the wine into His body, which brought life to the world. Happiness and life. That’s what the Lord wants us to have as we follow Him. He wants us to have happiness and to have life.

Brothers and sisters, let us try to reflect on this, because not all happiness will lead us or will bring us to life or everlasting life. There are happinesses that lead us to death. There are happinesses that kill.  For example, drinking too much alcohol will make the drunkard happy, but along the way, it will harm his health, and in the end, it will ruin his life.

Or cheating. Cheating makes the cheater happy. But it kills, not only the relationship with the family, but also the love, the trust, of the husband or wife and the children, because they are being betrayed. It kills relationships; it kills trust; it kills love.

Or perhaps gambling. Gambling makes the gambler happy, but in the end, it drains the pockets, and it leads to death. Death in the relationship or death in many other things.

Or perhaps drugs, the same thing. It makes the drug addict, the user, the pusher happy, but we know that, in the end, it kills life. It ruins life.

That is why, brothers and sisters, on this evening of Holy Thursday, the Lord wants to remind us of the two things that will give us happiness and life – happiness and life everlasting. What are these two things?

First is service: serving one another. In our gospel today, we hear that Jesus washed the apostles’ feet. He set them an example on how to serve. That’s why He said: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the Master and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14-15).”

Here in our gospel today, Jesus gives us an example of true service. He serves with humility and out of love. That’s the kind of service that Jesus is teaching not only His disciples, but all of us who desire to experience true happiness and true life. If we want to be happy and to gain eternal life, we need to serve with humility and love.

If we follow this instruction of Jesus, to serve others with humility and love, then we will surely experience happiness, not only within ourselves, but also, we experience happiness in our family and in our community. But if we do not follow the instruction of Jesus, if a person is proud and not willing to serve, then it causes a lot of suffering and pain in the community, the family, and within ourselves.

That is why, brothers and sisters, if the world wants to experience that happiness and life eternal, then it needs to shift from exploitation to service. It needs to shift from arrogance to humility, and from selfish cruelty to compassion.

What is the second thing that the Lord gave us in order for us to attain happiness and life? The second is the Eucharist. On the night before Jesus suffered, He took bread and a cup filled with wine, and He said to His disciples: Eat this. Drink this. This is my body. And do this in memory of me.

This is very important. This is a very important commandment that Jesus left for all of us. Before He died, He said, “Do this in memory of me.” That is why the Church is built, first and foremost so that we can remember those last words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when He said, “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus is telling us He wants us to attend Mass always and to receive Him in the Eucharist. That’s why Jesus said in Jn 6:54, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Attending Mass is very important, because we remember the sacrifice of Jesus. That is why the Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, which He instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross.

That is our faith. Every time we attend Mass, we remember the sacrifices that Jesus did for each one of us. Every time you attend Mass, you have that big crucifix there, and that small crucifix on the altar is for the priest, so that we also are reminded that, every time we say Mass, we are reminded the kind of sacrifice that Jesus did for each one of us.

Brothers and sisters, perhaps the next question is: Do we really want to experience happiness and life everlasting? If we do, we need to do these two things: service and the Eucharist. Serve and go to church every Sunday or every day.

We cannot do only one. You cannot say, I only want to serve and not go to Mass. Or, I’d just rather go to Mass and not serve. Both must go together. That is what Jesus is showing us in our gospel today. The importance of service and His command to remember Him every time we celebrate the Eucharist. We need to serve and go to Mass at the same time, because we cannot say, I only serve and not go to Mass, because our service will have no meaning if we don’t receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

Going to Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is also our guide; we will be encouraged, and we will be enlightened to serve as Jesus serves: with love and with humility. Going to Mass will strengthen the grace we receive from the Lord. The Holy Spirit will continue to guide us in our service for His Church and for others. Without God, we will not be able to serve Him with all our heart and with pure intentions and no concern for motives.  Every time we go to Mass, we are reminded that every time we serve, we need to serve with humility and love, like that of Jesus.

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Who Is This Man?

March 24, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Discipleship, Faith, Father Nixon, Lent, Obedience, Sin

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
March 24, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Is 50:4-7 / Ps 22 / Phil 2:6-11 / Mk 14:1-15:47
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Today we embark on a profound journey that encapsulates the contrasting emotions of jubilation and solemnity, celebration and sacrifice.  As we wave palm branches and chant “Hosanna,” we join the crowd in welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem, acknowledging Him as our King and Savior.  Yet, intertwined with this triumphant entry, is the shadow of the cross looming over Him.

Today, the Church begins Holy Week with Palm or Passion Sunday.  What is the correct title?  Is it Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday?  Well, actually, it is both. At the beginning of the Mass today, there is the blessing of the palm branches, and then there is the long gospel narrative of the suffering and death of Jesus.  What does all of this mean as we begin Holy Week, going on to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter?

With Palm Sunday, we begin the yearly journey, a journey not so much toward a destination, but a journey into a sacred time.  We follow Jesus as He accomplishes His Paschal Mystery, which is His suffering, death, and resurrection, or in simple terms, the saving mission of Jesus.  Jesus wants to save us from our sins and bring us closer to God.  The readings of Palm Sunday invite us to reflect deeply on the mysteries of Christ’s Passion, inviting us to walk alongside Him in His final moments.

In the gospel narrative, we witness the fickleness of human nature as the same crowd that hailed Jesus with hosannas later cries out for His crucifixion.  This stark comparison challenges us to examine our own commitment to Christ.  Are we truly devoted to Him, or do we falter when faced with adversity or societal pressure?  From the depths of human weakness and sinfulness, Jesus wants to lift us up to God and to living a life of holiness, a life for which God has created us to live.  As we walk with Jesus through St. Mark’s account of the Passion, we are challenged to answer, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps for the hundredth time, the Jesus question:  Who is this man that died on the cross and what does His death have to do with me?

The painfully detailed description of Jesus’ sufferings will bear no fruit in us unless we face this question and offer our personal answer.  Our answer may start us on a lifelong commitment to Christ, or it may deepen a commitment we made long ago.  We may struggle with darkness and with many more questions and find ourselves on our knees at the foot of the cross, but we cannot walk away from the Passion without an answer.

There is so much to ponder as we read the account of the plot to kill Jesus, the anointing at Bethany, the treachery of Judas, the Passover preparations, Jesus’ prophecy of His betrayal, His institution of the Eucharist, His agony in Gethsemane, His betrayal, arrest, and trial, Peter’s denial, the judgement of Pilate, Jesus’ humiliation and torture, His crucifixion, death, and burial.  We could spend a lifetime mining the depths of the Passion narrative and this would be a fruitful way to spend a lifetime.

The urgent issue, however is that we truly encounter Jesus through this story.  We do not know how long our lifetime will be.  We cannot wait.  We cannot put off our answer until a tomorrow that may never come for us.  The Passion narrative invites us to contemplate Christ’s unwavering obedience to the Father’s will, even in the face of immense suffering.  Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane reveals the depth of His humanity as He grapples with the impending ordeal, but His prayer, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me.  Still, not my will, but yours be done,” embodies the epitome of submission and trust in God’s plan.

As we meditate on Christ’s journey to Calvary, we are confronted with the harsh realities of sin and its consequences.  The betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, and the abandonment by His disciples, serve as poignant reminders of human frailty and the prevalence of moral weakness.  Yet, amidst these betrayals, Jesus extends forgiveness and compassion, exemplifying divine mercy in the face of human sinfulness.

At the heart of Palm Sunday lies the profound mystery of redemption, the sacrificial love of Christ poured out for our salvation.  Jesus willingly embraces the cross, bearing the weight of our sins so that we may be reconciled with God.  His cry of abandonment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” echoes through the ages, encapsulating the depths of His solidarity with humanity in its darkest hour.

Palm Sunday beckons us to journey alongside Christ embracing the paradox of the cross, the instrument of suffering transformed into a symbol of victory and redemption.  May we, like the faithful centurion who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, profess with conviction, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  May our hearts be stirred with gratitude for the immense sacrifice of love offered for our salvation, and may we respond with renewed dedication to follow Christ faithfully, even to the foot of the cross.

As we enter into Holy Week, no matter how many times we have walked the way of the cross with Jesus, watched Him die, attended His burial, and dwelt in darkness at the tomb waiting for the light, it is a time for us to face right now the central question, Who is this this man who died on the cross and what does His death have to do with me?

 

 

 

 

 

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Ascend the Mountain of Prayer

February 25, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Baptism, Commitment, Discipleship, Father Nixon, Lent, Obedience, Prayer, Trust

Second Sunday of Lent
February 25, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 / Ps 116 / Rom 8:31b-34 / Mk 9:2-10
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

As we journey through the Lenten season, the readings invite us to pause, reflect, and deepen our commitment to spiritual growth and transformation. This Sunday’s scriptures call us to embrace the call of discipleship, acknowledging the challenges and joys that come with following Christ.

The first reading, from the book of Genesis, recounts the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, demonstrating profound obedience and trust in God’s providence. Abraham’s faith challenges us to examine our own willingness to surrender our desires and plans to God, even when it requires great sacrifice. Like Abraham, we are called to trust that God will provide and to step out in faith, knowing that His promises are faithful and true.

In the second reading, from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, we are reminded of the power of God’s grace to transform us from within. Paul writes of the assurance we have as heirs with Christ, heirs who are called to share in His suffering and glory. This passage invites us to reflect on the ways in which we are called to die to self and to live for Christ, allowing His grace to shape and mold us into His likeness.

The gospel reading from Mark recounts the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, where Peter, James, and John witness His divine glory. This extraordinary moment reminds us of the importance of encountering God in prayer and contemplation. Like the disciples, we are called to ascend the mountain of prayer, to seek moments of intimacy with God, and to be transformed by His presence. In these sacred encounters, we are reminded of our identity as beloved children of God and are empowered to live out our faith with courage and conviction.

There is a story of a young shepherd named David, who lived in a small village nestled between towering mountains. David was known throughout the village for his unwavering faith and his deep connection to the land. One day, as David led his flock to graze in the lush meadows, he felt a strange pull toward a distant mountain peak. Despite the warnings of his elders, David felt compelled to climb higher and higher, drawn by an inexplicable force.

As he ascended the rugged terrain, David encountered trials and obstacles along the way, but with each step he felt a sense of peace and purpose guiding him forward. Finally, after a long journey, David reached the summit of the mountain and there, in a breathtaking moment of revelation, he beheld a sight that filled him with wonder and awe. The sky seemed to open up, and a radiant light enveloped everything around him. In that divine moment, David experienced a profound connection to something greater than himself: a glimpse of the glory of God. It was a great mountaintop experience.

As he descended the mountain on the return to his village, David knew that he had been forever changed by his encounter with the divine. Though he could not fully describe the experience, he carried within him a newfound sense of purpose and clarity. From that day forward, David lived his life with a renewed sense of faith and devotion, sharing his story with all who would listen. And though some doubted his tale, those who truly listened could sense the truth in his words, a truth that transcended the limitations of human understanding.

In the gospel of St. Mark, Jesus’ disciples have been following Him and watching what He does. What they were seeing was the human side of Jesus, who was mostly healing people and telling them not to tell anyone, because He didn’t want to become known just as a healer. In earlier passages Jesus had healed a blind man and told him not to return to his village. He told the deaf man that he healed to tell no one. And He told the leper that He cured to tell no one anything.

In a previous passage in Mark, Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer greatly, be killed, and rise after three days. What kind of human leader could this be? So, to help His followers see more than His human side, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop to reveal His divine side. Even after that experience, Jesus wanted it to be a secret until after He had risen from the dead, because only then would His followers be able to understand that He was the Son of God.

The deeper meaning of Mark’s narrative for us during Lent is that, even after moments of transcendence and transformation, we must come back to earth, continue to hear the voice of Jesus, and follow Him on the way to the cross.

After the Transfiguration, Jesus’ followers had to leave their mountaintop experience and descend down the mountain to continue to follow Jesus and to do the more mundane things of building up the Kingdom. We too cannot continue to live on a mountaintop, but we have to come down to help build up the Kingdom. Like Peter, James, and John, we cannot remain there, but we have to come down to wherever we spend most of our regular life.

Jesus’ disciples did their part two thousand years ago. We must do ours in our home, school, place of work, in the parish, and wherever we connect with God’s people.

At Baptism, our ears were blessed to hear the Word of God, and our mouth was blessed to proclaim the Word of God. So, how is our proclamation going? Are we telling people about the way to salvation, or do we need to seek a mountaintop experience to set ourselves in motion? Just as Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, so too can we experience moments of profound transformation, when we open our hearts to the mystery and wonder of God’s presence in our life.

So, as we reflect on the readings today, may we be inspired to deepen our commitment to discipleship, to embrace the challenges and joys of the journey, and to trust in God’s unfailing love and providence. May we ascend the mountain of prayer, encounter Christ in His glory, and be transformed by His grace, so that we may shine as lights in the world, bearing witness to the love and mercy of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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The True Mission

February 4, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Evangelization, Father Nixon, Healing, Mission, St. Paul, Uncategorized

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7 / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mk 1:29-39
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

The word “apostle” comes from two Greek words that together mean: one who is sent.  Each Christian has an apostolate to follow.  We have been called to evangelize, to be sent out like St. Paul and the twelve apostles, to announce the Good News of the love that God has for us all.

Today in our gospel reading, St. Mark continues his story about the first days of Jesus’ public life.  Mark tells us that Jesus preached in the synagogues, and that upon leaving the synagogues, He drove out many demons.  One day after preaching in a synagogue in Capernaum, the town in which Simon Peter and Andrew lived, Jesus decided to visit their home, together with James and John.  When He arrived, Jesus was told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever.

Jesus immediately decided to cure her.  That was how Jesus’ miracles occurred.  He saw the plight of the people that wanted to be cured, and He cured them.  Jesus approached Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, grasped her hand, and she was cured.  She immediately got out of bed and began to serve Jesus.  This was the way she showed that she was thankful for being cured.

After learning of this occurrence, the townspeople spread the news of the Lord’s miracle.  The news went from home to home, and soon the entire population of the town crowded around the door of the house.  From the surrounding area, people brought all who were sick or possessed by demons.  Jesus cured those who came to Him in faith.  The next day before dawn, Jesus went off to a certain place where He prayed.  Jesus was praying when the apostles arrived to tell Him that everyone was looking for Him.  People who wanted to be cured continued to arrive, but instead of returning to town, Jesus said to the apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”  Our Lord’s true mission was to evangelize, to announce to all humanity the Good News of the love that God has for all human beings.

The gospel reading for this Sunday presents a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry, for He not only preached, but also engaged in acts of healing and compassion.  After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and numerous others, Jesus retreated to pray, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a deep connection with the Father.  He then expressed His mission to preach the Gospel to other towns, underlining the purpose of His coming.  Jesus came to preach.  He came to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God, to invite all humankind to let God reign as king in their hearts and in their lives, to reconcile us with God and with one another.

Much of the sickness, poverty, and suffering that exists in our world is traceable to the disharmony or sin that separates us from God and from one another.  By healing this root cause of all of our problems, we find ourselves in a position to receive God’s abundant blessings in all areas of our lives:  spiritual as well as physical, moral as well as material, social as well as psychological.  But to try to seek physical healing and material well-being without first making peace with God is to miss the point.

In reflecting on the gospel passage, we are invited to consider our own response to the call of discipleship.  Like Jesus, we are called not only to receive His healing and grace, but also to actively participate in the mission of sharing the Good News.  Our faith is not meant to be passive, but dynamic, influencing our actions and interactions with others.

St. Paul invites us in the second reading to follow the example of the Lord to evangelize.  The true mission of all Christians is to proclaim the gospel to a world that needs to hear the word of God.  Our second reading reminds us of what St. Paul said to the Christians of Corinth, that for him, preaching was an obligation.  He did not do it for his own glory or to become rich.  He did not even start to do it on his own initiative.  He had been given a task to do:  to be a missionary of the Word of God, to become all things to all, so that he could save at least some.

St. Paul did not do this without problems, but despite the difficulties, he continued to announce the gospel.  He continued on the mission that he had been given.  If we want to do the same, we have to do as St. Paul did.  Our mission does not end when we walk out of the doors of this church after Sunday Mass.  It continues.

At Baptism, all Christians receive the same mission:  to evangelize within the boundaries of our own lives, every day, whether at school, at work, or in the home, in our words, our example and our way of life.  We are obliged to show that we are Christians, that we follow Christ, and that because we follow Christ, we constantly fight against evil and injustice in this world.  As Jesus’ message spreads to other communities, those people, too, receive His message and consolidate it, nurture it, and allow it to become part of them, abiding deep within them.  The Holy Spirit builds on it, in and through the people who hear and respond to it.

There is so much to be done, so much we can do, so little time to do it.  There are never enough hours in the day, days in the year. We do what we can and keep our eyes on the big picture. We draw strength, inspiration and vision from our prayerful “time-outs” with God to focus our energy, direct our choices, and lead us mindfully through the busy-ness of our days comprised of so many different possibilities and needs.  We can’t do everything.  We are all too aware of our limitations, so we ask the Lord to help us do what we can do, well, with focus, clear priorities, and above all, with love and compassion.

As we continue to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, let us reflect on the ways we actively participate in the mission of Jesus.  Are we open to being instruments of healing, compassion, and reconciliation in our communities?  Do we recognize the urgency of sharing the Good News in a world that thirsts for hope and meaning?

May we, like Jesus and St. Paul, respond to the call of discipleship with enthusiasm, trusting that God’s grace will empower us to fulfill our mission in the world.  Let us also ask the Virgin Mary to help us to be faithful to the mission that God has given us, just as she was.  And let us thank God for having called us to carry it out.

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The Ultimate Authority

January 28, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Discipleship, Father Nixon, Mission, Obedience, Scripture, Trust

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 28, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Dt 18:15-20 / Ps 95 / 1 Cor 7:32-35 / Mk 1:21-28
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Once, a government surveyor brought his equipment to a farm, called on the farmer, and asked permission to go into one of the fields and take readings.  The farmer vigorously objected, fearing that the survey was the first step toward the construction of a highway through his land. “I will not give permission to go into my fields,” said the angry farmer. Whereupon the surveyor produced an official government document that authorized him to do the survey. “I have the authority,” he said, “to enter into any field in the entire country and take necessary readings.”

Faced with such authority, the farmer opened the gate and allowed the surveyor to enter the field. The farmer then went to the far end of the field and opened another gate, through which one of his fiercest bulls came charging. Seeing the raging bull, the surveyor dropped his equipment and ran for his life.  The farmer shouted after him, “Show him the paper! Show him your authority!”   Yes, the unfortunate surveyor has the authority, but the farmer’s bull has more convincing power.

Brothers and sisters, the same can be said about the gospel we preach and teach. The people of Capernaum received sacred instruction in their synagogue every Sabbath.  One Sabbath they had a different teacher, Jesus.  What Jesus taught them that day, as well as the way He presented and demonstrated His message, simply astonished them. Why?  It is because He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Jesus’ teaching contrasted sharply with that of the scribes. In one word: Jesus taught with authority. The scribes did not.

Jesus astonished the people around Him for three big reasons. First, the teaching of Jesus is from the heart and not just from the head. He teaches with absolute conviction in his message, because He knows that His message is in accordance with the mind of God.  As He says in the gospel of St. John, when trying to persuade His unbelieving audience, “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, yet you do not receive our testimony.” His preaching is a personal testimony of His intimate relationship with God, His Father, unlike the scribes. They got their knowledge, not from their personal communion with God, but from their long and intricate commentaries on the law. As a result, most of their teaching is from the head and not from the heart.

If we claim to have faith in Christ, it is essential that we must listen to Him. We need to open ourselves to His wisdom and authority. The bottom line is not to take His teachings on the level of theories and ideas. Rather we must situate it into our faith life experience. For faith, devoid of practical action, is empty.  Theology without praxis is nothing. Knowledge waning in application is useless.

Second, it focuses on the spirit, and not on the letter of the law.  The scribe seeks to apply the prescription of the law to the letter. Jesus goes deeper, to find out the spirit, the original intent of the law, like for example, the law of the Sabbath observance. The scribes would busy themselves trying to determine precisely when the Sabbath begins and ends, and what constitutes work and what does not. Jesus would rather seek the mind of God, who gave the law to His people as an expression of His fatherly care and love.  His conclusion is that the Sabbath is a day we keep away from our work in order to serve God and do God’s work.

Lastly, it inspires a positive change of heart in the hearers, and not just to make the people feel bad. Like, for example, the man born blind.  The scribe seeks to explain why he is blind: whether it was he who sinned, or his parents. Jesus, on the other hand, is only interested in curing the blindness. For this reason, Jesus performed healings and exorcisms together with His teachings to show that His primary concern is to change the human situation and not just to explain it.

These are the three big reasons why people get astonished with Jesus: He teaches from the heart and not just from the head. He focuses on the spirit and not on the letter of the law. And he inspires a positive change of heart in the hearers.

There was an Indian prince who was a lover of knowledge. He had collected thousands of books in his large library. It happened that he was appointed the right hand of the king.  This position demanded that he travel almost always, in the kingdom’s vast territory and neighboring kingdoms, to represent the king. He brought along with him his books; thirty camels were needed to carry them.

Realizing the impracticality of loading all the books, he said to his chancellor, “Read all the books and then give to me the only book that is most important for my journey.”  After some time, the chancellor gave to the prince the book that summarized all the wisdom of the world. It was the Bible.  The prince asked, “What authority does this book have for it to be the only one that I should carry with me? Whereupon the chancellor replied, “It is the authority of the Son of God.” Shortly afterwards, the prince was baptized.

Brothers and sisters, we witness Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue with a profound authority that astounds the people. The crowd is amazed, not just by His words, but by the power with which He speaks. His authority is not like that of the scribes but comes from a deeper source. It is the authority of the Son of God, the Word Made Flesh.

As we reflect on this gospel passage, we are invited to examine our own lives and consider who or what holds authority over us. Do we recognize Jesus as the ultimate authority in our life, or are we swayed by the many competing voices in the world?

Jesus’ authority is not oppressive, but liberating. It brings healing, freedom, and a deeper understanding of God’s love.

In our daily lives, we may encounter challenges and struggles that test our faith. The authority of Jesus is a source of strength and hope during these times. When we submit to His authority, we open ourselves to the transformative power of His love and mercy.

So, as we continue to celebrate the Holy Mass, may we take a moment to reflect on the authority we recognize and submit to.  Let us renew our commitment to follow Jesus, allowing His authority to shape our thoughts, words, and deeds. In doing so, we embrace the freedom and joy that come from being in communion with the One who has authority over all creation.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Answer the Call

January 21, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Courage, Discipleship, Father Nixon, Mission, Obedience, Uncategorized

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.

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