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
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 / Ps 119 / Rom 8:28-30 / Mt 13:44-52
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A while ago, I read an article about a college athlete who was training to make the school’s football team. He got up every morning at five a.m. to train. He would run and lift weights for two hours straight. Then he would go back to the dorm, shower, eat breakfast, and go off to his classes. After his classes, he would go back to the athletic facility and work for three more hours with his teammates, learning the playbook, running plays, more weights, etc. The next morning at five a.m., he started the same routine all over again.
Obviously, he had very little, if any, social life. When a reporter asked him why he followed such a difficult schedule, the young man said, “My only goal right now is to be the best football player I can be and to help my team win a championship. If going to parties or anything else, for that matter, prevents me from accomplishing my goal, then why go? The more I train, the better. You see, sacrifice is the thing.”
Brothers and sisters, I was wondering, if Jesus was living now instead of two thousand years ago, if in today’s gospel, He might have used a different story or two. Rather than speak about a pearl merchant who sacrificed everything to buy his dream pearl, or a tenant farmer who sold everything he owned to buy a field with a treasure in it, Jesus may have spoken about a young man who sacrificed a lot to be the best football player that he could be.
What’s the connection between a pearl merchant, a treasure hunter, and this young football player? What do they have in common? What they have in common is this: They have a total commitment to their dream. All of them are willing to sacrifice everything for the goal they have set for themselves. In one case, it is to own the perfect pearl. In the second case, it’s to obtain a great treasure. In the third case, it is to help make his team into a champion.
That’s precisely Jesus’ point in today’s gospel: To be a true follower of God requires total commitment on our part. Citizenship in God’s kingdom requires us to give one hundred percent all of the time, not just when we feel like it. God’s kingdom must be the top priority of our life. We cannot be a true follower of Jesus only part of the time, sort of like a hobby. We cannot be only admirers of Him.
Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a pearl merchant. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a treasure seeker. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a football player. It involves total dedication and commitment.
But there is one difference – a big difference between a true disciple of Jesus and our pearl merchant, treasure hunter, and football player. You see, those three people are striving for rewards that will not last, rewards that are transitory. Earthly rewards, while a follower of Jesus is striving for eternal, permanent rewards.
When the pearl merchant dies, his pearl will no longer be of any value to him. When the treasure seeker dies, his treasure will be as useless to him as snowshoes are to somebody in July. When the football player dies, his trophies will be just another keepsake for his family.
But when a true disciple of Jesus dies, a true Christian, the whole kingdom of God rejoices, because it will now shine brighter and brighter. All of God’s people will be edified eternally when a Christian dies.
Money and influence, in and of themselves, are neutral. Money is good when it is used to help others, not when it is only spent on ourselves. Influence and power can be great, even holy, when used to lift up those who have been beaten down by life’s brutality.
At the moment just before our death, I doubt very much if any of us will look back on our lives and wish we spent more hours at the office or made more money or played another round of golf. I do think, however, that we will look back on our lives and wish that we had spent more time with our families and loved ones. More time helping other people and doing good.
You see, then, on our deathbeds we will realize that there is only one thing in life that really counts, and it’s not whether in life we acquired a prize pearl or a rare treasure or won a sport championship. The only thing that will truly matter is what we have become, what we are in God’s eyes while we traveled our paths through life.
Think about this: If our pearl merchant and treasure seeker and football player were willing to sacrifice so much for a prize that will never last, how much more should we be willing to sacrifice for a prize that will last forever? Earthly prizes can be good and even satisfying for a time, but eternal prizes are the best, the very best. So don’t bet on the wrong horse, as they say.
If we are given the choice, what do we prefer: gold, glory, or God? It is easy to say that we prefer God in our lives, but sadly, this is not what we see in people’s priorities today. Often the desire for wealth and honor would push people to spend their precious time for work and business only. The prevailing culture suggests that, to be happy, one must have more and achieve more.
Hence, people are willing to sacrifice their time with the family in order to earn more money. Many are also ready to surrender their Christian principles and values just to keep their fame and glory.
The well-known story of Solomon in our first reading should inspire us all. In a dream, God offered to give him one thing that he wanted. Being young, Solomon could have asked for wealth or glory or long life. But realizing the great task ahead of him, Solomon thought that what he really needed was the wisdom to rule his people well in the ways of God.
Wisdom, or God’s inspiration, is what Solomon asked for, and God was so pleased with Solomon, that He promised him more than the gift of wisdom, including riches, glory, and long life. That’s why the song that we sang several weeks ago is right: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all good things shall be added unto you.”
Mother Teresa of Kolkata and John Paul II both died leaving no property, for they had not accumulated treasures on earth. They found their treasure in a life given totally to the service of God and of the Church.
The parables are true. Those who discover the treasure of the Kingdom will be happy to let go of everything to follow and be close to Jesus.
May Jesus Christ be praised.
Third Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 17:3-7 / Ps 95 / Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 / Jn 4:5-42
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
For a few moments I’d like for you to put yourself in the place of the woman at the well in today’s story. Imagine you’re her and you’re there. It’s dusty and it’s hot, even in the shade. The dust and the wind are hot, and they’re sticking to you because you’re sweaty. You’re a long walk from the village. You’re alone. The jars are heavy even when empty.
I am the woman at the well, and I swim in dirty waters. I exist and I swim in the waters of this world, this culture. It can be a cesspool really. The world doesn’t love me; it doesn’t care about me. Society, the culture, they wish for my power as their own. I’m worth what I produce for it. My dignity is ambiguous, my morality is ambiguous, dependent on what others might see in me or gain from me, so I behave the same. This culture that corrupts me by bombarding me with its messages: consume, it’s your truth, love whomever you’d like, if it feels good do it, the baby is not a person, the old man is a burden. This culture that has shaped me is the same that will condemn me, shun me, ignore me, separate me whenever it seems helpful to it. Governments, business, academics, art, media, these can’t save me. I am the woman at the well, and I swim in dirty waters.
I am the woman at the well, and I am a cast away, rejected, shunned, alone with my sin and my pain. There’s a reason I’m at the well far outside of town, alone with the sun at its peak and the heat. I am a cast away. That’s because no one will be there, no one carries heavy containers of water in the heat of the day; they go in the early morning or the late evening when it’s cool. But me, I go when no one will be there, no one to deride me, no one to judge me, no one to make me feel worse about myself than I already do. No one can help me, no one cares, no one loves me. Do I even deserve love anyway? I just need to exist. I just need to get by. I am the woman at the well and I am a cast away.
I am the woman at the well and I doubt Him. Why talk to me? Why care about me? I am a woman, I am from Samaria, I’m a pagan. You don’t know me; You can’t know me. Everything about me is the antithesis of what someone like You would value. I float in sin. I doubt You can help me. You don’t even have a vessel, a container for the water, and my darkness is deep, too deep for You to reach. How could You sustain me for even a few moments, let alone eternally? No, this doesn’t make sense, this must be some trick. You must want something from me or wish to gain something by this encounter. I am the woman at the well and I doubt Him.
I am the woman at the well and I accept Him. Wait, He does know me. He really, truly, knows me. He knows my heart, hardened and despairing as it is. I’ve never met Him, and yet He softly identifies everything about my darkness. He dips deeply into my well of shame and loathing and somehow accepts it, accepts me. He accepts who I am. His grace is bigger than my past, much bigger. He’s met me in the dark and barren places of my heart where I am and offered me His love without requiring anything. And yet, I feel I want to return to Him somehow. I want to acknowledge this immense gift. I welcome His gift. It’s what I’ve unknowingly been seeking. He has risen me to pure living water. I’m unsinkable. I live. I am the woman at the well and I accept Him.
I am the woman at the well and I know Him. I’m not even going to haul the water back or the containers. I’m lighter than air now. I’m restored. My burdens lifted. My guilt and shame washed away. I’m floating. But what about the others? They don’t know, they can’t know. They swim in dirty waters. They are castaways. They doubt love. If they knew Him, they might be light. I must share. I must let them know, because even me, and all my darkness and brokenness and doubt, even me He loves and wants to save. You’ve got to meet Him. There’s nothing greater, nothing more important, nothing more beautiful. He is the living water, salvation, the Christ. I am the woman at the well and I want you to know Him.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 12:1-4a / Ps 33 / 2 Tm 1:8b-10 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Our gospel today talks about the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, or Mount Hebron. Since the fifth century, every August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Second Sunday of Lent each year is also called Transfiguration Sunday.
Because the gospel talks about this great event in the life of Jesus Christ, and His three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were witnesses to it, we can say the main purpose of Christ’s Transfiguration was to prepare the apostles for the events of Holy Week, when Jesus Christ sacrificed, died, and was nailed on the cross because of His great love for each one of us. In other words, He prepared them for His upcoming suffering.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the Transfiguration, they get a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
And like them, we, too, get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people. We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives, and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now. We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a chord in our hearts. We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Transfiguration, coming early in Lent, encourages us to continue our Lenten penances, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.
When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Of course, they didn’t know what He meant. Unknown to them was that the glory of Jesus’ Transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. They would understand this only afterwards when looking back.
Brothers and Sisters, the good times take us through the bad times. So, when our cross is heavy, or we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us His consolation. Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us. Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us. Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.
In our first reading, we heard Abram being called by God to leave his present place and go to a new country. He was seventy-five when called to leave his old country but had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born, so that the promise of future descendants could be fulfilled. That was a long wait. It was a long time for him to be continually looking beyond the present to the promise of God. With faith, we can see what we cannot see with our eyes.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw His future risen glory. Let us look beyond and see that God is really with us. God has not left us on our own. God is with us.
The Transfiguration of Jesus in our gospel was not just about Jesus. It was a vision of the glorious future to which we are all called. We encounter problems and negativities, and we get hurt going through life. Then we have the choice either to say negative things, or we can choose to remember who we really are: brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of God since Baptism, and that the glory of the Transfigured Jesus awaits each of us.
We can choose to think in negative ways, or to remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture. In his first letter, John writes, “We are already children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed. All we know is that, when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He really is. We shall be like Him.”
The glory of the Transfigured Jesus is awaiting each of us, thanks to our Baptism. So then for one who believes, there is no room for negative thinking. We will be tempted to think negatively because of the events that occur to us, but let us not forget our dignity, no matter what happens, and no matter what others think of us or say to us.
The second reading today also gives us an insight into what God has destined for us. It says, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design, and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.…” God’s grace was granted to us before the beginning of time. Imagine: Since the beginning of time, God had you in His plan and had His grace planned for you. Since the beginning of time, God planned to transform us through His son, Jesus.
The disciples who experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality, but they remembered the Transfiguration. Like them, we live in normality, but we believe, and know, that God has destined great things for us. We say the Transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross. Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead. In our worst moments of pain, may we not think negatively, but remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture, and that God has destined the glory of the Transfiguration for each of us in the next life.KEEP READING
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 2:1-5 / Ps 122 / Rom 13:11-14 / Mt 24:37-44
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
According to Tryon Edwards, an American theologian, “Death has nothing terrible that life has not made so. A faithful Christian life in this world is the best preparation for life in the next.” This statement of Mr. Edwards has something to do with preparation for our death. It also has to do with the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives, especially now that we are in the season of Advent.
During the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the new liturgical year in the Church, there is an invitation for Christians to stay spiritually awake and to prepare for the Lord’s coming. Advent, which means, “coming,” is a time of preparation for Christmas, but it is more than that. Today’s gospel speaks of the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age. In this sense, Advent then also points to the unknown time that will mark the end of human history.
According to Father R. H. Lesser, an English priest and author, in his book entitled Like Honey in the Rock, Jesus Christ has six comings. We have to get ready for Him by decorating our house, preparing sweets, and perhaps buying a new dress. The first coming of Jesus happened in a village in a remote province of the Roman Empire. In this sense, God is kind and merciful, since He sent us a savior, His son, to give us salvation. This mercy of God cannot be stopped even by man’s stupidity and malice. He saves us because He loves us.
The second coming, as I already mentioned is the mercy and kindness of God. The third coming, referred to by the fathers of the Church as the parousia, will be a different matter. As Saint Matthew said, “When the Son of Man comes as king, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His royal throne and the people of all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will proceed to judgment.” Our main sins, most of them least remembered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are sins of omission, especially disobeying the positive commandment of the New Testament, the commandment to love.
The fourth coming of Jesus is in the sacraments. The Lord comes in four different ways in the Eucharist: through the meeting of the people of God, through the priest who in a special way represents Christ, through the Word of God, and through the Eucharistic species. His real presence in the Eucharist is a real coming. Of this Eucharistic presence, most people are aware. We tend to neglect and forget the fact that He comes really and truly in every other Sacrament as well. For example, we can really and intimately meet Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as a forgiving God. Why not take advantage of this Sacrament?
The fifth coming is through the wind, the cries of children, the song of the birds, the rain. The problem is that our eyes are not open to see Him. Our ears are not alert to hear Him.
The sixth coming is an even more intimate one, mentioned by the Lord Himself when He said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments. My Father will love you, and we will come and make our permanent home within you.” Most of us know something about this internal coming, but do we actually experience it? If we have to prepare for the glorious coming of the Lord, then we must live our life in the spirit of the Lord, to actively involve ourselves in human interactions, to see in the face of everyone the face of a loving God, to believe that God is Emmanuel, God is with us, a God who is a father, friend, and companion. This is what it means to be spiritually awake.
As we begin today a new cycle of the Church year of grace, let us resolve to shun doomsday paranoia, on the one hand, and reckless complacency on the other. Let us resolve to be always awake in the Spirit by living a life of faith and love in service to the Lord, so that whenever He comes, we shall be ready to follow Him into the glory of eternity.
Christ continues to be present in the Church and in the world. His presence will remain until the end of time, but His presence is not fully manifested. There are still many people in the world who have not heard the Gospel message and have not met Jesus Christ. The world has not been fully reconciled with the Father yet. It is true that everything has been reconciled in Christ, but the grace of reconciliation has not been received by everyone. It is important for us to have this longing for the Lord’s return, but in His fullness. Therefore, we continue to pray constantly saying, “Your kingdom come.”
Not only at Christmastime, but in every celebration of this Eucharistic banquet, the joyful mystery of the coming and presence of Christ among us is made visible. This is the reason to repeat and insist over and over the need to experience Jesus’ coming. It is through this persistent waiting and continuous experience year after year that this image of God in which we were created by love in Jesus Christ will come to full maturity. He comes in so many ways to meet us. Let us go to meet Him.KEEP READING
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 6, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14 / Ps 17 / 2 Thes 2:16-3:5 / Lk 20:27-38
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Many years ago, in a different parish, I gathered with a handful of adults to talk about the creed. That was the first time I learned that some people mistakenly think the “resurrection of the body” that we profess at the end of the Apostle’s creed is Jesus’. In fact, we are professing that our bodies will be raised on the last day.
Bishop Barron was reflecting on this miracle in his book, To Light a Fire on the Earth, and he referenced C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis dedicated a book to miracles, and in it he argued that of all the world’s great religions, only Christianity depended on miracles for its authenticity. He wrote, “The mind that asks for a non-miraculous Christianity is a mind in the process of relapsing from Christianity into mere religion (Barron 138).” Preeminent among all those miracles was Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection of our bodies is at the heart of today’s readings.
In today’s gospel Jesus is countering the Sadducees’ disbelief in this. The Sadducees try to show that this belief is comical by asking which of the widow’s seven husbands is her husband in the afterlife (Lk 20:33). Jesus, by the Sadducees’ admission, gave a solid answer. First, He points out that after our resurrection, things will be different. We will no longer need to marry or to be married. In Moses’ time, a brother was to marry his dead brother’s wife to ensure she had children, and his brother’s name would carry on. But in heaven, there is no need for having children and therefore no need for marriage (Gadenz 340). Second, Jesus quotes from the book of Exodus, because it is one of the five books the Sadducees consider inspired by God. (He meets them where they are and then tries to build a bridge from there to the fullness of the truth.) He points out that Moses called God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive (Lk 20: 37-38).”
Some things don’t change, and four hundred years later St. Augustine wrote, “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body (CCC 996).” And as for today, many believe they will live on spiritually, but regarding our mortal bodies coming back to life too, maybe not so much. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one such example. However, bodily resurrection is a core teaching of our faith, and we need to believe it and be able to share it with non-believers.
Let’s start with God’s word “which is useful for teaching (2 Tim 3:16).” In the first reading from 2nd Maccabees, a mother and her seven sons refuse to violate God’s law even when threatened with death, not even after watching how painfully the others died before the executioner got around to them. Why did they endure such suffering? The second brother said this, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever,” and the third brother added that he hoped to receive his hands again from God (2 Mac 7: 9, 11).” Clearly, they believed that this life is fleeting, but there will be another and it is eternal, with their body, and without any suffering (Rev 21:4).
Peter Kreeft, in his personal reflection on today’s readings, points out that in the second reading, St. Paul articulates how the eight martyrs in Maccabees could find the courage and strength to do what they did (Kreeft 632). Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through His grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word (2 Thes 2:16).” It was in “good hope and through [God’s] grace” that the seven brothers and their mother were able to stay faithful to the end. Sounds good, but what is the “good hope” Paul mentions that we receive through grace?
The “good hope” is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817).” In other words, we hope in the resurrection from the dead, of which Christ was the first (1 Cor 15:12-14). And here is the good news. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you (Rom 8:11).”
Some of you may be wondering then, what happens immediately after death? Here is what the Church teaches. “In death, [which is] the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in His almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection (CCC 997).”
Sacred scripture and sacred tradition speak so often of our bodily resurrection that, if we are not careful, we nod in agreement but fail to stop and, like Mary, ponder it in our heart (Lk 2:19). Obviously, the author of 2nd Maccabees pondered it, and six hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Ezekiel did. His words on the resurrection are prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life… (Ez 37: 13-14).” God placed His Spirit in us at baptism. Thus, the hope of our bodily resurrection is solemnly symbolized by the white pall we place on the casket, reminding us of a loved one placing a white garment on our body when we were baptized.
A friend and Holy Name of Mary parishioner named John, experienced in a powerful way this past week this connection between baptism, death, and resurrection. Ten minutes after receiving Holy Communion, John felt a pain in his chest which then traveled up to his shoulder and down his arm. His arm went limp, and his hand clenched involuntarily. They took him to the ER. A nurse walked in and said, “They call me Princess and I’m here to get you started on your way.” This was very unsettling to John because he is fond of calling himself “Prince John” in light of becoming a brother of our most high king through baptism. John said he had this discomforting awareness during all this that his soul was up there and his body down here. Our priests anointed him and prayed for him. The tests were all negative and John walked out of the hospital feeling greatly moved by all this. He said, “I cannot stop thinking about it.” In other words, John was pondering it in his heart. God has called him to a deeper awareness of the mystery of the resurrection and through John’s story all of us too.
Here are a few closing thoughts. Our bodies are sacred. They are not disposable shells for our immortal soul. This is very evident at a Mass of Christian burial. We reverence the deceased’s body, either in a casket or an urn, by praying at their side, and if in a casket, kissing their forehead. Once the casket is closed, we place a radiant white pall over it, sprinkling holy water upon the urn or casket, moving the casket or urn to the foot of the altar and placing the paschal candle near them just as it was at their baptism. We incense the casket or urn in the sign of the cross, tenderly placing our hand upon the casket, or putting our hand on our heart while looking at the urn, as we come forward for Holy Communion.
From birth to death our bodies smile, laugh, cry, sing, hug, kiss, learn, sin, love, forgive, bring new life into the world, and are anointed with oil and blessed. It stands to reason that all this beauty and wonder of our body, that God took on in Jesus, would be just as immortal as the soul that animates it. For, as Jesus said, “I am the life and the resurrection…In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. (Jn 11:25; 14:2-3).” Amen.
Citations for Further Study
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 17:8-13 / Ps 121 / 2 Tm 3:14-4:2 / Lk 18:1-8
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Something that I learned this week I found pretty interesting: That is, from a really early age, some studies say that, as early as three years old, children exhibit an understanding and a sense of fairness, of justice. At the age of three! They’re barely able to walk and talk, and yet they understand fairness.
How many have heard this: “That’s not fair!” “He got more ice cream that I got!” [Invites those watching the livestream to post comments about what’s not fair.] It’s not fair that both Virginia Tech and UVA have horrible football teams at the same time. ONE should be good, right?
Here’s a secret also, because just a few years later, at the age of around eight, children begin to understand something that many of us, if not all of us, in this room already know all too well: Life’s not fair. At the age of eight, just five years after they figured out fairness and justice, they’re learning that life isn’t fair.
And when has life ever been fair? Throughout all of history, pride and power and politics, war, wealth, sickness, accidents, natural disasters, school, work, play, taxes, death. Life isn’t fair. It’s just not.
But we learn, we adapt. We deal with it, but sometimes this unfairness, this lack of justice just builds up and beats us down. It seeds discouragement; we lose heart. We become weary. It’s just not fair.
In this parable that we hear from Jesus, He talks about this judge. This is not a good guy. This judge is about as far away from fairness and goodness as you can get. We hear from Jesus that we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourself. And yet, this judge even repeats himself, “I do not fear God nor respect any human being.” He’s pretty much the opposite of good and just. He’s only out for himself. He’s corrupt. He couldn’t care less about justice. If someone of influence or means, or had a good bribe, or someone who’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, someone that could do him a favor, that’s where his decision is going to be swayed. That isn’t fair.
What about this widow that we hear about? Jesus chose this character of a widow very carefully and wisely, because a widow in that society was about the lowest status that you could possibly be. With the loss of her husband, she had zero status. In fact, all of the inheritance that was owned by her husband would have been claimed by his family. If there were children involved, they would have to go to court, and we just heard about the judge. In that society, life is completely and totally against a widow. In fact, she shouldn’t really even be speaking to a civil authority. She isn’t worthy enough in that society for that. Talk about unfair. That isn’t fair.
So what’s the point? This is an unusual situation with parables that Jesus gives, because Jesus tells us what the point of the parable is before He tells us the story of the parable. He told us that it is about the necessity to pray always, without becoming weary.
We can get confused about this parable. Jesus isn’t saying that if we nag God long enough, hard enough, often enough, we’ll eventually get Him to do exactly what we want Him to do. No way.
He’s contrasting God with this judge. He’s talking about how God is different. If an unrighteous and unjust judge with limited power would give in to persistent petitions, how much more so would a righteous judge and just judge with limitless power hear the cries of those who call to Him?
The point, Jesus is telling us, is to pray always and not get weary. But Jesus is also teaching us something that goes a little deeper. Typical Jesus. There’s something a little bit deeper: Life’s not fair, and it never will be until Jesus, the just judge, returns. Jesus, Son of the Creator, who came to be with us and one with us. He lived, suffered, died, and rose, and He ascended, justifying us for our salvation, even though we aren’t worthy of that. He cleared the path for us to live with Him in love eternally, and He promised He would come again in glory. He promised, and He will do it. That’s the point.
All of our prayer, like the widow, our relentless prayer and petitions, in spite of discouragement, in spite of weariness, in spite of setbacks and trials and burdens in our life, the prayer of the chosen ones is to bring us justice, to bring us to the world that is to come. To bring us to the kingdom that is to come, forever and ever. That’s the prayer that will come speedily and when we least expect it. That’s the prayer we long for. That’s the prayer we want to pray for incessantly. That’s the point.
That’s not to say that we don’t want to pray for a cure to cancer, or world peace, or to be appreciated and loved, or health for ourselves and for our family members and for our loved ones, strength and wisdom to our leaders, and a good parking spot at the mall. Of course, we want to pray for these things, and of course our loving God hears these prayers.
But the point of this story, this parable, is an eschatological one. That means it’s of the kingdom to come. It’s for life everlasting. It’s for a just God bringing about a just end and a just life everlasting, just as He promised. That’s the point.
But…When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7 / Ps 113 / 1 Tm 2:1-8 / Lk 16:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about an angel who appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that he had come to reward him for his years of devoted service. The dean is asked to choose one of three blessings: infinite wealth, infinite fame, or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the dean asked for infinite wisdom. “You’ve got it,” the angel said and disappeared. All heads turned toward the dean, who sat glowing in the aura of infinite wisdom. Finally, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something.” The dean looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”
Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd, as we see in today’s gospel parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself. One can be smart and use one’s smartness to do mean things. We know for a fact that many con artists and terrorists are smart people who use their smartness to create unhappiness in the world.
Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions. Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service. We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. Why did the master, who had made up his mind to fire the manager, now commend him? Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine, and lifeless manner, devoid of creativity and imagination. As a result, the business was failing, so the master decided it was time to fire him. He said, “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”
The manager is facing the real danger of being dismissed from service. He knows the seriousness of the situation. He knows exactly how helpless he is. That is why he says to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (Luke 16:3) He is in a very difficult and precarious situation. He scratches his head and comes up with this ingenious plan to safeguard his future. The master praises him, because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business, he would have been a much more successful manager rather than a failure.
The parable challenges all of us to be smart managers. Yes, we are all called to be managers. God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers. Jesus Christ, in addition, entrusts the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our hands as His managers. World peace and harmony and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually. Jesus calls it the Kingdom of God.
Our business as followers of Christ, ordained and unordained believers, is to help bring about the Kingdom of God, starting with our own selves. We have all been given the necessary resources to do this. We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, and we have been given time. Sooner or later, we shall be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources.
There is a story about a very rich woman who died and went to heaven. Saint Peter escorted her down a magnificent street on which each house was beautifully made like a palace. The wealthy woman saw one house that was particularly beautiful and asked who lived there. “That,” Saint Peter answered, “is the home of your servant.” “Well,” the woman said, smiling, “If my servant gets a house like that, I certainly look forward to seeing a palatial home for myself.” Soon they came to a narrow alley where the houses were small and cramped. “You will live in that house,” said Saint Peter, pointing with his finger. “Me? Live in a shanty? That’s an insult,” retorted the wealthy woman. “This is the best we can do for you,” Peter said. “You must understand that we only build your home up here with the materials you send ahead while you are still on earth.”
The Church reminds us today that it is now the time to send materials ahead of us in the afterlife, in order to build our homes in heaven. These materials are not construction materials that we can buy in a construction supply company. These materials are not just prayers and acts of charity but doing the day-to-day ordinary work in an extraordinary way. It means consciously performing your duties well, whether you are a lawyer, a government official, a teacher, a student, a policeman, or an ordinary citizen.
We don’t have to wait, like the dishonest servant, for the last-minute display of smartness to fix our eternal concerns. The time to be smart is now. The smart manager used what he could not give to get what he needed so badly: friendship with his business associates. We should likewise invest all of our temporal and spiritual resources to gain the only thing that matters in the end: the Kingdom of God.KEEP READING
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21 / Ps 117 / Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 / Lk 13:22-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text, was warning his congregation about eternal damnation. He said, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look, preacher, I’ve got no teeth.” “Never mind,” the evangelist said. “The teeth will be provided.”
Brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” We can hear in the gospel that Jesus would not give the number of those who would be saved. He did not even really answer the man’s question. He just said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” In other words, He’s answering a more important question: How can I be saved?
There are questions that have a special appeal to the mass media and to popular imagination. For example, when will the world come to an end? When is Armageddon coming? Who is the antichrist? What is 666? Is it the mark of the antichrist? What about the three days of darkness? These are questions that Jesus does not want to answer. I’m sure of that.
Today I invite you to reflect on this gospel, which is about salvation in Jesus Christ and therefore, entering God’s kingdom. Many of our problems in life come from our bad practice of asking the wrong questions. We ask the wrong questions; therefore, we also get the wrong answers.
The first wrong question is: How many will be saved? It is like the question of the person in the gospel. It is wrong to ask this question, because the right question is: How will we be saved? The Lord does not give us numbers of those who will be saved. The Lord shows us the way. We will be saved by entering through the narrow gate.
For us Catholics, the possession of our baptismal certificate and regular Mass attendance do not guarantee our salvation. We must go through, like Jesus said, the narrow gate. So now the question is, what exactly is the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is every moral decision that we make. Do we choose for God, or do we choose against God?
The second reading tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are not signs of the absence of God, but they are signs of His presence. It tells us that God is allowing challenges to come into our lives, so that we can grow closer to Him. In other words, following Christ is not an easy way.
The second wrong question is: Where is the gate? It is wrong to ask this question because the question is not where is the gate. There is no gate. The proper question to ask is not where is the gate, but who is the gate. The gate is not a place; the gate is a person. Jesus Christ Himself is the gate.
The last wrong question is: What must I do? It is wrong to ask this question because the Lord wants us to ask: What must I continue doing? It is because we are people who are good at the start of an activity but sometimes fail to sustain it through and through. Sometimes we are good at the beginning, but when it comes to sustaining it, that is where we falter.
So let us not ask how many will be saved, but rather how will we be saved. Let us not ask where is the gate, but rather who is the gate? Let us not ask what must I do, but rather what must I continue doing?
Brothers and sisters, what are the questions in our hearts right now that remain unanswered? Maybe the source of our pain is that we are asking the wrong question in life.
There was a very well-known and wealthy man who visited a nursing home. He was welcomed by everyone except by an old man in a corner, sitting in his wheelchair. The visitor stopped and asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” The old man just stared at him. For the second time he asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” This time the old man looked at him and said, “No, but you can ask the nurses. They have a file on each one of us.”
The narrow door, besides being the making of correct moral decisions, is patient endurance of all the difficult things that confront us in our lives. Jesus will be there with us all of the way. He invites us to walk the same road that He walked. He strengthens us for this journey with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He invites us to make our own way to Jerusalem, there to pass through the narrow door to Calvary. But we must remember: beyond Calvary is the resurrection and the joy of eternal life with God.
Make the correct choice. If you do, you will not be disappointed when you meet Jesus face to face. Guaranteed. In the end, it is not who we think we are or who others think we are, but who we are to God that truly matters. He has the final say; He has the final file on each one of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Wis 18:6-9 / Ps 33 / Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 / Lk 12:32-48
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
One day in 1780, the state of Connecticut was enveloped by a mysterious darkness. The same thought came to all: The Last Day had arrived. In the House of Representatives, members were heard asking for an adjournment, so that they could go home and wait for the Lord’s coming together with their families. The chairman, Abraham Davenport, made a short speech. “Either it is the day of judgment or not. If not, there is no need for adjournment. If it were the day of judgment, I would rather be found doing my duty. I wish candles to be brought.”
Brothers and sisters, the parable of today’s gospel focuses on the unpredictable return of Jesus and our need to be prepared for His return. He is saying to us, Ready or not, here I come.
Normally, when we think of being ready, we usually think of being prepared for the worst that could happen. Locks on the doors in case of thieves. Life jackets in the event of a boat accident.
Isn’t it interesting that most of us believe in preparation for many uncertainties, but not for the most important event of our lives? We carry a spare tire in our car as a preparation for a flat tire. We have insurance in preparation for our death. Fire truck in preparation for a fire. Airline stewards provide pre-flight instruction in preparation for turbulent weather. And we seek education in preparation for a good job.
Preparation, in our society, is a sign of wisdom. But think about this: Of all the preparations that we make for the things I just mentioned, not a single one is a certainty. Yet we feel compelled to prepare ourselves for them.
The return of Jesus is a certainty. We can never know precisely when He will return or when we will die, but His return is certain. We must constantly watch, being always faithful and ready, so that we may be found worthy to share in the heavenly banquet He has prepared for us.
The question of the parable is not whether or not Christ is coming again, or when He’s coming, or even how He’s coming. The point is being prepared for His coming and ready to receive Him whenever He comes, now or later.
When a family was vacationing in Europe, they found that they needed to drive three days continuously, day and night, to get to Germany. They all got into the car: Mom, Dad, and their three-year-old daughter. The little daughter had never traveled at night before. She was scared the first night in the car, seeing only the deep darkness outside the window.
“Where are we going, Daddy?”
“To your uncle’s house in Germany.”
“Have you been to his house before?”
“Then do you know the way?”
“Maybe we can read the map.”
“Do you know how to read the map?”
“Yes, we will get there safely.”
“Where are we going to eat, if we get hungry before arriving?”
“We can stop at restaurants if we are hungry,” the Dad replied.
“Do you know if there are restaurants on the way?”
“Yes, there are.”
“Do you know where?”
“No, but we’ll be able to find some.”
The same dialog was repeated several times during the first night and also the second night, but on the third night, his daughter was quiet. The Dad thought that she might have fallen asleep, but when he looked into the mirror, he saw that she was awake and was just looking around calmly. He couldn’t help wondering why she was not asking questions anymore.
“Dear, do you know where we are going?”
“Germany, uncle’s home.”
“Do you know how we are getting there?”
“Then why aren’t you asking anymore?”
“Because Daddy is driving.”
Because Daddy is driving. Yes, brothers and sisters, our Father is driving. We may not know the destination, and sometimes we may just know it as the child knew it – Germany — without understanding what or where it really is. In the road of life that we follow, there are many uncertainties and distractions. We do not know where the road will take us. We do not know when it will end. But one thing is certain: At the end of life’s journey, Our Lord will be there to meet us, to welcome us into the heavenly kingdom, if we have prepared ourselves.
Preparation cannot be a “sometime” thing but living each moment of our life for Jesus. If we can do that, we will be prepared to greet our Master whenever He comes.
How can one be prepared in this matter? If you can still remember when Jesus talks about the Last Judgment, He makes it clear that this preparation or preparedness would be measured by our readiness to serve the people we meet. He said, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do this unto me.” We have to complete the task entrusted to us every day and be at peace with, and at the service of, our neighbor now, to be ready for His Second Coming.
Another way is to be faithful to the life and mission of Jesus, as we await the end time, His Second Coming. Despite criticisms, rejection, pain, and suffering, let us remain faithful to the love of the Father, as Jesus did. Let us fulfill the mission entrusted to us, that is, to proclaim God’s reign to all.
God loves faithfulness and rewards those who are faithful to Him. What is faithfulness? It means keeping one’s word or promise, and commitment, no matter how tough or difficult it gets. Faithfulness is a character trait of God and one that He expects of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING