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
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 11, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / Jn 6:51-58
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I believe. Help my unbelief.
You heard all the talk and all the witnesses about this amazing man from Nazareth. Their healings, teachings with wisdom and authority. I’ve even heard He’s performed miracles. He’s going to be in the area for a big talk. Lots of folks plan to go there and hear Him, to see Him. I’ve got to see this. Could He be the one?
I get there and wow, there are a ton of people, hundreds, maybe thousands. What a great day. His words, so inspiring, so deep and meaningful. It gets late. Everybody is hungry. He’s praying over a small basket of bread, and now they’re beginning to share it down front. That’s not going to last long. It’ll all be gone soon. My belly growls. They’re still passing around and there are baskets now. And the folks, they seem to all be getting plenty. Finally, the basket gets to me and it’s full, completely full of fresh bread and it smells amazing. I can’t believe it.
Where did Jesus go? He disappeared somewhere. Nobody’s sure where He went. I really would like to see Him again. I think we’re going to head into town, into Capernaum. I hear He’s been hanging out a lot there. Maybe He’ll be there, maybe I’ll see Him again.
There He is. I found Him, and He’s talking again. I can’t wait to hear what He’s saying now, and it’d be great if I got some more of that bread.
You’re here for more food, more bread. Not because of My signs. You need food that endures for eternal life. Not manna like Moses, but true bread from Heaven. I am the bread of life. Come to Me, and you will never die.
All I’ve got to do is come to Jesus. All I’ve got to do is follow Him and He’ll feed me bread all that I want. That bread was the best, oh boy. Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors had manna but died. This bread you eat and do not die. I am the living bread, the bread I give is My flesh for the life of the world.
Wait a minute. What did He just say? That’s weird. Did He say flesh? That’s right, that’s what I just said. Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.
OK, I’m not sure about this. I don’t think I like where this is going. It’s really getting disturbing. I can tell you’re not understanding; you’re not getting it. I’m talking about eating My flesh. Gnawing. Chewing. Really, truly eating My flesh. Then I will remain in you. If you feed on My flesh, you will have life. This is the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will not die.
All right, guys, it doesn’t look like we’re getting any real food here. Let’s pack it up. Grab your stuff, we’re getting out of here. I think we ought to get into town before the crowd comes. Everyone is leaving.
What would you have done? If you were there, what would you have done? Better question is what will you do now? Will you walk away and put some distance between you and Jesus and this hard teaching, spiritually and physically? Or will you believe and follow?
My friends, my dear friends, when the priest in the person of Christ calls upon the Holy Spirit during the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Epiclesis, when you see him put both his hands over the gifts and the Deacon drop to his knees behind the altar, it’s a spiritual sonic boom. The fabric of space and time is shattered, and Jesus Christ Himself entirely body and blood, soul and divinity, becomes substantially present in the bread. He said it Himself, folks. What God says, becomes.
In this bread of life discourse which is only a part of Chapter 6 of John, Jesus refers to Himself as bread eleven times. He says to eat and then later escalates that to the word for gnaw on his flesh seven times. He says to drink His blood four times. It’s frank, it’s repetitive, it’s urgent, and it is insistent. Jesus is not messing around; He’s not mincing words. He really, truly, really, really means it.
And get this, He doesn’t go chasing after the crowd who’s leaving and say, wait, everybody. I didn’t really mean it. I meant to say eating is like eating my flesh, that eating the bread and drinking the blood is like. He didn’t say it’s a metaphor or it’s another one of My parables.
They went, and there He was, remaining with just the few. And did He say to them, it’s a shame they’re all leaving, guys? Because I was just kidding. No, He did not say that. He says, so are you leaving too? Are you going to leave too, because I’m not changing anything I said.
Where are we to go? For You have the words of everlasting life, was their answer. What is our answer? What is our prayer? Our prayer is, I believe that You, Jesus Christ, our God, omnipotent and all powerful. And for you, nothing is impossible. Jesus, if You can take the waters of that baptismal font on this young baby, or on me as a 41-year old adult and wash away my sins completely, then by God, You can become fully, substantially present in the Eucharist.
For our salvation. For eternal life. I wasn’t there when the thousands were fed. But I’m here now and You’re here now. I believe. Help my unbelief.KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33 / Ps 16 / 1 Pt 1:17-21 / Lk 24:13-35
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
[Parish children received their first Eucharist today. The first part of the homily is directed toward them.]
The Eucharist makes us like Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12).” Therefore, when you receive Holy Communion, you become a light in the world. This is why St. Paul wrote that you are meant to “shine like stars in the world (Phil 2:15).” So, it is right that you all decorated candles and put them on the windowsills. Candles are a sign of Jesus, our light. There are candles by the ambo to signify Jesus, the light as the Word of God, and by the altar, Jesus, the light as the body and blood of God. Jesus wants us to be a light in the world. How?
Jesus told us how. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34).” So be kind to everyone, especially those that others are mean to or make fun of or ignore. Be loving to everyone in your home. Obey your parents; remember that Jesus was made perfect in His obedience (Heb 5:8-10). Spend time with Grandma and Grandpa; you are their joy, and the time you spend with them is a great treasure for them. Ask them to tell you stories from their life and you will learn much. Pray; God loves it when you talk with Him. He becomes a good friend when you spend time talking to Him every day. And by the way, if someone tells you the bread is only a symbol, you say: “That is heresy (Fr. Dan Beamon homily).”
[Rest of Homily]
As the youth are receiving First Holy Communion in our two parishes this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the mechanics of receiving. Please do not think I am judging your technique when you come forward. What I want to do is reduce the number of times Jesus’ precious body falls to the floor and to remove some of the anxiousness of the priest, deacon, and extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. Here is a refresher.
Now let’s open up God’s word a bit. Have you ever wondered what Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Oh, to have been there and hear Jesus, the Word made flesh, teach scripture! In the gospel Luke wrote, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures (Lk 24:27).” Fr. Pablo Gadenz, in his commentary of the Gospel of Luke, suggests that we could be hearing what Jesus taught them when we read what is said by His followers in the Book of Acts (395).
We just heard an example of that in the first reading from Acts. Peter interprets to them what referred to Jesus in the scriptures. Peter said, “For David says of [Jesus]: I saw the Lord before me…My flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld (Acts 2: 25-27).” He was quoting King David’s Psalm 16, which we sang a few minutes ago.
I think Fr. Gadenz is on to something here, and it is exciting. It makes me want to read Acts again with the mindset that when Peter and Stephen speak, they are sharing what Jesus taught on the road to Emmaus! (By the way, the Hallow app has a daily podcast for the Easter season where Jonathan Roumie reads one chapter from Acts each day and Dr. Scott Hahn explains it.)
In this Road-to-Emmaus gospel passage, there is another important point. Jesus explains the scriptures and then He blesses and breaks the bread. This is what we do at every Mass. Why did Jesus not simply get straight to the Eucharist and then talk about scripture? Was the order important or simply coincidental?
In Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Bible, he points out, as does Fr. Gadenz, it is the “divine purpose” to use scripture to gradually prepare our hearts and minds and to stir up our faith, but it is not until we see the Eucharist that we truly see Christ (Barron 445). This makes sense. Those two disciples were sad and agitated and downcast. Once they heard the Word of God and heard it explained, their hearts were “burning within them (Lk 24:32).” Then their “eyes were opened” and they were ready to see Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24: 31).
This is why it is so important to get our families to Mass. A mountain hike, a walk at sunset on the lake shore, holding hands with that special someone on the porch, gazing at the moon on a starry night, etc., reveal God to us Who is in all things, but ONLY at Mass do we hear Him clearly in the Word and see Him clearly in the Eucharist.
Bishop Barron says of Jesus in the Eucharist that He is “breaking his heart open in compassion.” What images does this bring to your mind? One is the priest breaking the consecrated bread and placing a piece in the chalice of blood and water. This is evocative of the blood and water that poured forth from His side on the cross, which is the like the image we celebrated last week on Divine Mercy Sunday with red and blue rays coming from His heart. And then I think of the Eucharistic miracles posted in the hallway of Holy Name of Mary, where the Eucharist became flesh. Scientists who were asked to analyze the tissue, without knowing where it came from, said that the tissue is that of a heart. Do you see a recurring image here? It is the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
No one knew Jesus’ heart more intimately than his mother, Mary. St. Pope John Paul II wrote about this, “And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled Him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)?” John Paul is describing the Third Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary, the Nativity, and is tying it to the Fifth Luminous Mystery, that he gave us, which is the Institution of the Eucharist. Imagine Mary looking at her Son’s heart in her hand at her first Holy Communion and her mind flashing back to holding Him in her arms at Bethlehem.
Mary, pray for us that every time we receive your Son in Holy Communion, we will see Him with your eyes and love Him with your Immaculate Heart. Amen.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Bishop Robert Barron. The Word on Fire Bible_The Gospels. Word on Fire Ministries 2020.
Fr. Pablo T. Gadenz. Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture. The Gospel of Luke. Baker Academic, 2018.
Katie Yoder. 15 Quotes from St. John Paul II on his love for the Eucharist. Catholic News Agency (CNA) Oct 22, 2022.KEEP READING
The Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 72 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
At 8:22 PM on November 23, 1949, a bright light appeared in the Blue Ridge. It flickered on and off for a few seconds, just before lighting up for good. There were two hundred twenty-five mayors from all the surrounding areas who traveled from afar to watch and witness this spectacle, along with many locals and media. Originally meant to be just a seasonal Christmas decoration, it has become a symbol of the region and one of the most recognized icons in Virginia, as well as one of the most photographed. I’m talking about the Roanoke star. It attracts visitors from all over to walk beneath its paths and to relax while enjoying the incredible view.
My family moved back to the area in 1994. I have to confess that even though this star is so attractive and draws so many visitors from all over, I had not gone up to see the Roanoke star until 2015, some twenty-one years later. What drew me there then was a high school graduation party we had for our oldest son. We thought it would be a great place for our out-of-town guests to come and get an iconic view of what it is like here. They were coming from New Jersey, New York, Richmond, and numerous other places.
It’s funny how we tend to take things for granted, like the incredible gifts available to enjoy right in our own backyards, like the Roanoke star, the Peaks of Otter, and from where I grew up, the mighty New River, Smith Mountain Lake, D-Day Memorial, Appomattox Courthouse and many others. Very often, it takes out-of-town guests, outsiders, to illuminate this beauty and joy. Outsiders, coming from afar, like the Magi in the Epiphany story we’re celebrating today, help us recognize the gifts around us every day.
We can become a little like the chief priests and scribes in the gospel today, because they had this beautiful thing occurring, but they had become complacent. They had become bland and comfortable in their situation there in Jerusalem with their own things to do, their own busy-ness. Herod probably didn’t care a whole lot about the Jewish religion and prophecies, but those around him were steeped in Hebrew scriptures, especially of the prophets, and Herod had access to that. They all would have known the prophecy of the coming Messiah. They knew that Bethlehem was to be the location of this future ruler. They knew of the glory and joy about to come in this future leader, a savior, the Messiah.
This knowledge, however, wasn’t urgent or important. The scribes knew about Jesus, but they did not seek Him. It took out-of-town visitors, out-of-town guests talking about a rising star, to illuminate for them this new beauty and joy to be given to the world. These Magi, astrologers, wise men gazing at the stars, looking at their charts, sought Jesus without really knowing, like the scribes did, who He was. The scribes missed Him entirely. They took Him for granted, even eventually becoming critical and working against the Messiah.
We, too, can become complacent and comfortable, even to the point of ignoring and criticizing lots of great things in our lives. When guests come around, however, we see things anew. That’s human nature. It happens to all of us. We become complacent and self-satisfied, missing what is important, even when it’s right in front of our eyes.
This happens with our faith life, in our church, with our faith, our doctrines, and in our own parish. Sometimes it takes outsiders coming in, guests coming to visit, or people interested in RCIA, to bring out the noble and humble welcoming parish that we want to be.
We notice, then, that sometimes we don’t see what is important. We can get to where we argue, complain, or just go about our busy-ness, forgetting Who is here, Who has come and why. When a visitor comes asking questions, seeking illumination, then our light begins to stutter and flicker. Then our love of Christ, His Church, and this parish begin glowing and we begin to brag about her, like we do of our children. We forget about our dislikes and disagreements. In a parish that could be disagreements about decorations, music, homilies, etc. Instead, we beam with the honor of serving such a wonderful and loving king as our Jesus is and we are happy to share our love of Him and His Church, and our parish. We forget about her human flaws, and we see more clearly her mission.
No matter where you are, visiting anywhere in the world, your parish is home, where the important thing, the reason the Church exists, the reason we are all here, comes. We are here for an encounter with Him, our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Every time we are at Mass and participate in the Eucharist and any of the sacraments, we have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. That encounter is attractive, effective, beautiful, and joyful every single time. We want to cherish it, savor it, and make it last.
The Epiphany story gives us a subtle clue of what life is like once you have this encounter with Jesus, once you truly let yourself go and let sink in the significance of that encounter. It becomes your own Epiphany. Afterwards, nothing is the same. You find that your journey has been altered. The journey of the Magi was altered as well. After their encounter with the baby Jesus, they departed for their country in a completely different way. Life was different. Their trajectory, your trajectory, is different. Everything is different. Your new path is illuminated now by Jesus. You are carrying with you a light to shine upon others. (“Shine upon” is an ancient meaning of the word, epiphany.). You are carrying a light to shine upon others. You are the epiphany.KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 7:10-14 / Ps 24 / Rom 1:1-7 / Mt 1:18-24
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Mary and Joseph have finally arrived on the Advent stage. Before we talk about them, though, let us take a moment to appreciate the history regarding the selection of the scriptures we have heard from the First Sunday of Advent on November 27 to now. I want us all to be more aware of the thought and prayer that went into selecting the readings, so that we can be more thankful for the gift of the Catholic Church, which selected them.
In compiling the lectionary readings for Advent, researchers prayerfully studied lectionaries covering a period of 1,500 years! They selected only the best and most traditional readings from ancient Rome, Old Spanish, Gallican or French, and other western churches. How blessed we are to be family members of such a Spirit-led Christian tradition. Within this tradition, every Advent Sunday to Advent Sunday there is a progression of theme to prepare us for Christmas. “Christ will come again (1st Sunday), Christ does come today (2nd and 3rd Sundays), and Christ has come (4th Sunday) (Wallace, 47).”
Today is the (Vigil or) 4th Sunday of Advent, and fittingly St. Matthew writes, “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about (Mt 1: 18).” And he quotes the prophet Isaiah, writing that He shall be called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” With Jesus’ arriving, note that John the Baptist has exited the stage of God’s great play or, as Bishop Barron calls it, “theo-drama,” having played his role of “preparing the way of the Lord (Mt 3:3).” Joseph and Mary now take the stage, but today the stage spotlight is really on Joseph. Mary will take the starring role at Christmas.
In the commentary book on the gospel of Matthew by Dr. Ed Sri and Curtis Mitch, today’s gospel passage is entitled the “Annunciation to Joseph (Sri, 42).” This makes so much sense. Like Mary’s annunciation, an “angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and told him Mary’s baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20). For the record, though, Joseph’s annunciation differed from Mary’s in two ways. First, the archangel, Gabriel, spoke to her in person, not in a dream, and second, Joseph’s annunciation comes after the fact; Mary is already with child.
Prior to the angel’s arrival, Joseph had been discerning what he should do about the fact that his new wife was already pregnant, even though they had not consummated their marriage. Being a “righteous man,” he decided he would divorce her as required by Jewish law (Dt 22: 20-21). Jewish law required stoning as punishment, but with Israel under Roman rule in Joseph’s day, Roman law was in play. It prescribed a public trial in place of a stoning. However, Joseph chose to keep the divorce private so as not to shame her (Mt 1:19).
Joseph was being exceptionally merciful here. Can you imagine how much he hurt inside thinking his wife had been with another man while he had been waiting to consummate the marriage according to Jewish custom? Pain causes most of us to lash out in anger, wanting to cause pain in the one who caused it in us. Surely Joseph was not just a caretaker chosen by God to care for Mary and Jesus. No, no, no, he loved Mary so much that his love triumphed over the pain of the perceived betrayal.
Nevertheless, being a follower of the law, he has chosen to divorce her quietly, but then God sends him an angel to give him new direction. I bet the angel’s arrival was in response to Joseph praying something like this, “Lord, I will divorce her according to your law, but not my will, but yours be done.” Maybe he even taught the second part of that prayer to his future son.
Note that as God so often does when He is giving us a new direction for our life, He directed the angel to first remove Joseph’s fear: “Joseph…do not be afraid (Mt 1:20).” After reassuring him, he gave Joseph a new path, “…take Mary your wife into your home…it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived…. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus (Mt 1: 20-25).” Joseph knew this message was an answer to his prayers, not just a crazy dream. Accordingly, he surrenders to God’s will, takes Mary into his home and names the baby Jesus. And by the way, to name a child is to make it your own and thereby, since Joseph is in the line of King David, Jesus, through Joseph, becomes a part of that line as the prophets foretold.
The names Jesus and Emmanuel are important. Jesus is derived from the Old Testament name Joshua which means “Yahweh is salvation (Sri 45).” We need to be saved. To be saved is to be freed. Sin is what we need freedom from, not political powers, not our guilt, and not a lack of acceptance by others of our behaviors. Sin can destroy both the body and the soul; it is the greatest threat we face. It causes us so much confusion, pain, and suffering. And if we do not seek God’s forgiveness for it, that pain and suffering become eternal after we die. How can Jesus, a man, save us from a threat of eternal consequence?
This is how. Matthew says the baby Jesus is the “Emmanuel” prophesied in today’s first reading from Isaiah. In other words, Matthew is telling us that God Himself is present in Jesus (Sri 47). The message that Jesus is God present with us is so important that Matthew’s gospel mentions it in the first chapter that I just proclaimed and in the last when Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, until the close of the age (Mt 28:20).”
I am going to digress a minute to mention a heresy that still exist among Christians related to today’s gospel. The next verse after the last one in today’s gospel is, “He had no relations with her until she bore a son… (Mt 1:25).” I bring it up because this verse has been used by some as an argument that Mary did not remain a virgin as has been taught for two thousand years. They think the word “until” means Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born. That is heresy and it has been around since the 300s. In the year 383, St. Jerome shot down this heresy with numerous quotations from scripture including Jesus saying, “I am with you until the close of the age (Mt 28:20).” Referring to Jesus’ words, St. Jerome sarcastically asked the heretic, Helvidius, “if he thought the Lord would then forsake His disciples after the close of the age (Hahn, 106).”
Now back to the homily…When reading and listening to reflections on the 4th Sunday of Advent, a common reflection emerges. Dr. Ed Sri, Fulton Sheen, Peter Kreeft and others point out that Christianity differs from mere religion in that it is not so much about people seeking God, but about God seeking us (Sri 47). Dr. Sri points out that after Adam and Eve sinned, “they hid themselves from the presence of God (Gn 3:8), and ever since, God has been seeking to bring us back into an intimate relationship with Him (Sri 47). He wants to be wedded to us, and Jesus fulfilled His Father’s desire in His very personhood. Jesus IS the marriage of humanity and divinity (Barron on Hallow app). And He consummates that marriage at every Mass, giving us His body at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). God came to us to bring us into His Holy Family; that is Christmas.
Mary had THE Annunciation. Joseph had his annunciation, the shepherds outside Jerusalem had theirs. And you and me and every humble Catholic around the world has their own annunciation at every Mass. For the priest and deacon hold up the sacred bread and declare to you what it really is, not a symbol, but the Body of Christ. We just might as well say, “This is Jesus whom Mary conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid, but take Him under your roof, for He is your savior (Mt 8:8).” This is the bread of which Jesus said at least four times, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6: 50, 51, 54, 58).” These are Jesus’ words to us. Jesus is God, and what He says is. And at the moment we receive this bread of angels we, like Mary, give our fiat, Amen. “May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38).”
CatholicIreland.net: Origins and development of Advent. November 30, 1999
Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.
James A. Wallace. Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart; The Homily on the Feasts and within the Rites. The Liturgical Press 2002.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
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 9, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 / Ps 98 / 2 Tm 2:8-13 / Lk 17:11-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A story is told about a magical horse owned by a priest. The horse would run only if the phrase, “Thanks be to God,” was uttered, and the horse would stop when it heard, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” One day, a Protestant man borrowed the horse, and he was instructed in the magic words that were needed to make it run or stop. The man said, “Thanks be to God,” and sure enough, the horse started to run, and when it was about to bump a tree, he said, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and the horse stopped abruptly. Then he let it run again, by saying, “Thanks be to God.” He was enjoying the ride until he came near a cliff. Unfortunately, he forgot the magic words to stop the horse. He tried, “Our Father” – it did not stop. “Amazing Grace” – the horse continued to gallop. When the horse was almost to the edge of the cliff, he suddenly remembered the words, and cried out, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” The horse stopped just in time. The man sighed in relief, “Thanks be to God.”
Whatever happened to the other nine? The nine lepers were cured and did not return to thank the Lord. Leprosy was a terrible disease; terrible not only because it destroyed the body, but also because its victims were separated from their families and society. There were very strict laws that prohibited lepers from mixing with healthy people. Imagine the sufferings of the lepers. I bet the cured lepers ran home to their families. They must have been thrilled beyond description. There must have been some grand celebrations.
But why did only one return? I’m sure all intended to return and thank the Lord. Perhaps we can understand if we put it in modern day language, so here it goes. Mary had to return home and clean the house; there were only men living there and the place was a mess. Aaron arrived home just in time to save the harvest; he worked day and night. Martha had to catch up on her favorite TV series. David found his business in crisis and dedicated himself to getting it in order. Amos returned to find his wife had remarried and moved away; he drank his pain away. Peter lost his old job and was looking for a new one. Anna headed back to thank the Lord but could not resist that sale sign in the shopping mall. And so on.
So, there you go, brothers and sisters – excuses, excuses, excuses, all except Simon the Samaritan. Jesus had given the sick the gift of life, and like any gift, it cannot be complete without a thank you. Yes, we teach our children to say thank you. We celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a national holiday. We have a need to say thanks.
We celebrate the Eucharist each week, and the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. A gift requires a thank you, not so much for the giver, but for the receiver. The poet George Herbert wrote, “Oh God, you have given us so much. Give us one more thing – a grateful heart.” We see miracles all the time. We have seen how many times people have been cured of diseases, sometimes with no logical medical explanation. When people are sick or dying, they take their relationship with the Lord seriously. Many return to the sacraments and change their priorities in life. But when the crisis is over, some of them are never seen again in the church.
If we examine our lives, we can see God’s hand in so many instances and close calls. We all have been touched by Jesus. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves, “Have our lives changed as a result of the encounter?” Are we like one of the nine, superficial in our relationship with Christ, except when we think we really need Him? Or have we responded like the Samaritan? Today we are reminded to be grateful for everything. Gratitude is something that we cannot ignore at the expense of our decency and integrity.
The first reading, according the Second Book of Kings and the gospel of today, presents to us an attitude of gratitude. Naaman after being cured of leprosy and the Samaritan after being healed by Jesus. Why is an attitude of gratitude to God crucial to the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit? Apparently, to be made well, we must add thanksgiving to our faith. The person who makes such acknowledgement experiences a salvation that goes beyond the merely physical cure. It is a reorientation of the inner life.
How is our impulse to thank others related to our impulse to thank God? What does gratitude contribute to our being made well in body, mind, and soul? Why is it so important that Jesus would chastise those who didn’t value it? Gratitude keeps us connected to the giver of the gift. It helps us recognize the source of a gift. Furthermore, it keeps us grounded in the value of the gift as we take it into new pursuits and places. All good gifts come from God.
The attitude of gratitude keeps us focused on the source of life, love, and each new day. Maybe when we acknowledge the source of love, we are more likely to share it with others. Maybe that is why it is important enough for Jesus to lament its lack from the other nine. So, brothers and sisters, we will not forget to thank the Lord for all the blessings that we have received in our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21 / Ps 117 / Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 / Lk 13:22-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text, was warning his congregation about eternal damnation. He said, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look, preacher, I’ve got no teeth.” “Never mind,” the evangelist said. “The teeth will be provided.”
Brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” We can hear in the gospel that Jesus would not give the number of those who would be saved. He did not even really answer the man’s question. He just said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” In other words, He’s answering a more important question: How can I be saved?
There are questions that have a special appeal to the mass media and to popular imagination. For example, when will the world come to an end? When is Armageddon coming? Who is the antichrist? What is 666? Is it the mark of the antichrist? What about the three days of darkness? These are questions that Jesus does not want to answer. I’m sure of that.
Today I invite you to reflect on this gospel, which is about salvation in Jesus Christ and therefore, entering God’s kingdom. Many of our problems in life come from our bad practice of asking the wrong questions. We ask the wrong questions; therefore, we also get the wrong answers.
The first wrong question is: How many will be saved? It is like the question of the person in the gospel. It is wrong to ask this question, because the right question is: How will we be saved? The Lord does not give us numbers of those who will be saved. The Lord shows us the way. We will be saved by entering through the narrow gate.
For us Catholics, the possession of our baptismal certificate and regular Mass attendance do not guarantee our salvation. We must go through, like Jesus said, the narrow gate. So now the question is, what exactly is the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is every moral decision that we make. Do we choose for God, or do we choose against God?
The second reading tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are not signs of the absence of God, but they are signs of His presence. It tells us that God is allowing challenges to come into our lives, so that we can grow closer to Him. In other words, following Christ is not an easy way.
The second wrong question is: Where is the gate? It is wrong to ask this question because the question is not where is the gate. There is no gate. The proper question to ask is not where is the gate, but who is the gate. The gate is not a place; the gate is a person. Jesus Christ Himself is the gate.
The last wrong question is: What must I do? It is wrong to ask this question because the Lord wants us to ask: What must I continue doing? It is because we are people who are good at the start of an activity but sometimes fail to sustain it through and through. Sometimes we are good at the beginning, but when it comes to sustaining it, that is where we falter.
So let us not ask how many will be saved, but rather how will we be saved. Let us not ask where is the gate, but rather who is the gate? Let us not ask what must I do, but rather what must I continue doing?
Brothers and sisters, what are the questions in our hearts right now that remain unanswered? Maybe the source of our pain is that we are asking the wrong question in life.
There was a very well-known and wealthy man who visited a nursing home. He was welcomed by everyone except by an old man in a corner, sitting in his wheelchair. The visitor stopped and asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” The old man just stared at him. For the second time he asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” This time the old man looked at him and said, “No, but you can ask the nurses. They have a file on each one of us.”
The narrow door, besides being the making of correct moral decisions, is patient endurance of all the difficult things that confront us in our lives. Jesus will be there with us all of the way. He invites us to walk the same road that He walked. He strengthens us for this journey with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He invites us to make our own way to Jerusalem, there to pass through the narrow door to Calvary. But we must remember: beyond Calvary is the resurrection and the joy of eternal life with God.
Make the correct choice. If you do, you will not be disappointed when you meet Jesus face to face. Guaranteed. In the end, it is not who we think we are or who others think we are, but who we are to God that truly matters. He has the final say; He has the final file on each one of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 14:18-20 / Ps 110 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Lk 9:11b-17
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
I read this story told by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: that, during China’s 1911 republican revolution, in response to the earlier Boxer Rebellion, anti-Catholic militants seized a Catholic parish. They confined the parish priest to house arrest, so from his rectory window, he witnessed the desecration of the church. He knew that there had been thirty-two consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle.
An eleven-year-old girl was praying at the back of the church, and the guards either did not see her or else paid no attention to her. She returned to the church that night and made a holy hour and then consumed one of the sacred Hosts, bending down to receive Jesus on her tongue.
She continued to return every night, making a nightly holy hour and consuming one sacred Host. On the last night, the thirty-second night, unfortunately a guard was awakened. After she consumed the sacred Host, he chased her, grabbed her, and beat her to death with his rifle.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen became aware of her martyrdom while he was a seminarian. He was so inspired by her sacrifice that he promised to pray a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament each day for the rest of his life.
Brothers and sisters, the eleven-year-old girl could have had no idea how she would influence a future bishop, who would in turn influence millions of people and promote Eucharistic adoration. We also have no idea how our witness and sacrifices influence other people.
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This feast reminds us that Jesus gives His very own body and blood, so that we might live in our faith and alive in our deeds. If we do not live in our faith and alive in our deeds, this is because the Body and Blood of Jesus are not part of our food. So let us not deprive ourselves of this most important ingredient of our earthly life.
When Catholic converts are asked to talk about the reason why they converted to the Catholic faith, for most of them, one of the main reasons is their discovery of the truth about the Holy Eucharist. When they learn that the Eucharist is not merely a symbol, but Jesus Christ Himself, given to us in the form of bread and wine, they begin to experience a deep spiritual hunger and longing for it. Our Catholic faith taught us that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself.
Through the Eucharist, Christ becomes physically present in the church, keeping His promise that He would always be with us, until the end of the world. And, because the Eucharist is preserved in the tabernacle, we can be with Him any time we want, just like the eleven-year-old little girl in the story that I heard.
Whatever our spiritual condition may be, today’s feast of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest banquet of all. The greatest sacrifice of all. The very source and summit of our whole Christian life. This is the feast of us all, because Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and He is the Eucharist Himself, awaiting us all.
He is here for the child who receives his or her First Holy Communion, for Catholic converts, and for the lifelong believers like us Catholics. He is here for those who cannot receive him sacramentally: the little children, for the non-Catholics who are mysteriously drawn to the Eucharistic banquet. Some people or friends we know who are in the catechumenate program show love for the Eucharist and continue to attend Mass every week, even if they cannot receive Holy Communion, and they continue to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
He is here for the sick people who cannot join us in this Eucharistic celebration because of their situation. That is why the Church reserves consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so that the Eucharist can be brought to the sick and the faithful who can worship the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
So now the question is: How can be apply this belief of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist into our lives? There are so many suggested ways how, like Eucharistic devotion and participation in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as our thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition to Christ, present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We can also spend a few minutes after receiving the Eucharist in silent thanksgiving. We can visit our Lord preserved in the tabernacle. There, we can silently speak with Him about anything we please.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up Eucharistic devotion in the words of Saint John Paul II: “Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation, full of faith and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
So Brothers and Sisters, in a few moments, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, let us try to remember our faith, not only in the Real Presence in the Host, but also Jesus’ real presence in us. That is why we are here, and that is why Jesus nourishes us, so that we can also nourish others.
At the end, let us remember this: If we celebrate the Eucharist with faith, we shall be transformed into what we eat. We shall become Christlike and be true to our name, “Christians.”
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27 / Ps 145 / Rev 21:1-5a / Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Each Sunday after Easter, God’s messages through the readings help us in living our everyday lives. The main theme of today’s readings is that Jesus’ disciples are recognized by the people around Him because they follow His commandment of love.
There are four elements through which Jesus wants to make His presence among His disciples during His lifetime and after His resurrection. These four elements are: the cross, prayer, Eucharist, and love.
The first element is the cross. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:38, Lk 14:27) Crucifixion was a form of Roman punishment during Jesus’ time, especially for criminals and rebels. When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die, to the place of execution.
For us, to carry the cross is a figurative expression which means that we must endure whatever is burdensome, trying, or is considered disgraceful in following our Lord, Jesus Christ. The cross is the symbol of doing our Christian duty, even at the cost of the most painful death, just like Jesus Christ, who obeyed God and carried out His work for the salvation of all, though it required Him to die upon the cross in order to do it.
The second element is prayer. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) The best secret to unanswered prayer for whatever we need, is asking it in Jesus’ name, and not in the name of revenge, of consolation or pleasure, of an easy way out, of fame or shame, of good works or recompense for charitable donations.
First and foremost, our prayer must never be selfish. Selfish prayer cannot find an answer. We are not meant to pray only for our own needs, thinking of nothing and no one but ourselves. We are meant to pray as members of a Christian community. When prayer is unselfish, it is always answered. Let us always remember that the answer to our prayers is not according to our wish, but the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. That is why we should not separate ourselves from His Son.
The third element is the Eucharist. Matthew 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is My body.’” At the Last Supper, Jesus eats a Passover meal with His disciples in view of His passion, death, and resurrection. The bread now is Jesus’ body, being broken and given to His disciples and to all of us. The wine is now Jesus’ blood, poured out for the redemption of the world. At Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Jesus. The bread that we eat is not a symbol of Christ’s body, but really is His body.
The last element is love. Jesus says in today’s gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus gives us this new commandment that we should love one another because He loves us. This teaching of Jesus about loving one another takes different forms.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) Ordinarily, for Jewish people, a neighbor is only a fellow Jew. But for Jesus, the term neighbor includes any individual who is in need of help. That is what we understand in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Every person in need, whether he lives next door or a town away, whether she is beautiful or ugly, is a neighbor.
Jesus asks His disciples to use as a measure in loving other people, the love they have for themselves. They are to treat another person as their own flesh and bone. That is not an easy thing to do. We normally have different standards for ourselves as compared to others. The natural tendency is to give ourselves first priority or utmost care and to provide others with less or even no attention. By asking us to love a neighbor as our own self, the Lord simply is helping us overcome what we call narcissistic tendencies. We all belong to the one body of Christ, and we need to behave like we really are part of one another.
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents an even more demanding version of the commandment to love. He says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34-35) The Lord teaches His disciples to use as their standard for loving, not only their love for themselves, but His love for them. He knows that our way of loving can easily be tainted with selfish motivations. Hence, He challenges us to love one another according to the way He has loved us.
But the question is, what is this Christ-like love? It is a love that is agape. A love in spite of and not “love if” or “love because.” Agape is unconditional love: a love that is not motivated by how lovable the other person is. It does not say, I’ll love you if you become valedictorian of your class, or very successful. Or I’ll love you if you can afford to buy me a beautiful car, etc. It is love for even the unlovable, including the poor and one’s enemies. His love is self-sacrificing, unselfish, unselective. The love of Jesus is also not merited love which is bestowed on those who possess adorable qualities. It never says: I love you because you are considerate. I love you because you are faithful.
We are all called by Jesus to do the same thing: to love each one not because he or she is lovable, but in spite of the fact that he or she may not be lovable. We are to love even our enemies and sinners also.
There was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became a shy and introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother took her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful, and she became a normal and happy person. Not long after, she had a boyfriend. After several years, they decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. As she embraced her, she noticed something strange, something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear. She cried and said, “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
I recently received a text message from a friend that will make us reflect about life and love. It says, “LIFE is a four-letter word that is very meaningful. L stands for love. I stands for inspiration. F stands for forgiveness. E stands for everlasting. No matter who, what, where, and when you found life, always remember, only God can satisfy your life.”KEEP READING