Finding Our Way Back

June 9, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Comfort, Family, Father Nixon, Forgiveness, Healing, Hope, Reconciliation, Sin

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 9, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Gn 3:9-15 / Ps 130 / 2 Cor 4:13-5:1 / Mk 3:20-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Reflecting on our readings today, we recognize a profound journey that mirrors our own spiritual lives.  We start with the awareness of our brokenness and sin, much like Adam and Eve hiding from God.  Yet, even in our deepest despair, we cry out for God’s mercy, trusting in His unfailing love.

In our first reading, we encounter the aftermath of the fall.  Adam and Eve have eaten from the forbidden tree, and God is seeking them out.  Adam admits his fear and shame, having realized his nakedness.  God then pronounces judgement upon the serpent, promising enmity between the serpent and the woman’s offspring, hinting at the future defeat of evil.

The first reading introduces the theme of human frailty and the resulting consequences of sin.  Adam and Eve’s disobedience leads to a rupture in the relationship with God, marked by fear and shame.  Yet, amid the judgement, there is a promise of redemption.  The offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head.

St. Paul, in our second reading, reflects on the trials and tribulations faced by the apostles, yet emphasizes the spirit of faith that sustains them.  Despite the suffering and decay of their outer bodies, they are renewed inwardly.  All this speaks of the eternal glory that far outweighs their temporary struggles, focusing on the unseen, eternal life promised by God.  It also connects to today’s theme by highlighting the transient nature of suffering and the promise of eternal reward.  Paul’s message emphasizes that, although we experience hardship and our bodies waste away, our spirits are being renewed daily.  This reflects the ongoing journey from sin and suffering towards redemption and glory.

Today, we witness a powerful narrative that brings to light themes of misunderstanding, accusations, and ultimately the redefinition of what it means to be part of the family of God.  Jesus finds Himself surrounded by crowds so large that He and His disciples cannot even eat.  Amidst this, His family comes to take charge of Him, convinced that He is out of His mind.  The scribes from Jerusalem, witnessing His miraculous works, accuse Him of being possessed by Beelzebul, and driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons.

Jesus’ response is both profound and instructive.  He challenges the logic of the scribes by pointing out the absurdity of Satan casting out Satan.  He uses parables to illustrate that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  Furthermore, He emphasizes that those who do the will of God are His true family.

Let me share a story about a man named Thomas.  Thomas was known throughout the village for his hardened heart and bitter disposition.  Life had not been kind to him, and he had grown cynical and distrustful of others.  He felt abandoned by God and believed that his life was beyond redemption.

One day, an elderly priest named Father Michael visited Thomas, asking for help repairing the church.  Reluctantly, Thomas agreed.  Over the next few weeks, as Thomas worked at the church, Father Michael shared stories of faith and redemption, particularly the story of Peter, who found forgiveness after denying Jesus three times but was forgiven and went on to lead the early Church.  Peter’s story, Father Michael said, is a testament to God’s boundless mercy and the power of redemption.

These stories stirred something in Thomas, and he began to see a glimmer of hope.  One stormy night, the church’s roof was damaged, and Father Michael called on Thomas for help.  Despite the treacherous weather, Thomas rushed to the church.  While repairing the roof, Thomas slipped and injured his leg.  Father Michael tended to him and prayed for his recovery.  As Thomas lay there, he felt an overwhelming sense of peace wash over him.  For the first time in years, he prayed.  He asked God for forgiveness and thanked Him for sending Father Michael into his life.  From then on, Thomas’s life changed.  He attended Mass, helped others, and became an integral part of the community, and treated them as his family.

Years later, as Thomas stood in the church he’d helped restore, he reflected on his journey.  He realized that God had never abandoned him.  Rather, He had been gently guiding him back to the path of redemption.

Just as in the readings, Thomas’s life parallels our own spiritual journey.  We may feel broken and beyond hope, much like Adam and Eve after the fall, or the psalmist crying out from the depths.  However, through faith and the loving actions of others, much like Father Michael’s gentle guidance, we can find our way back to God.

Thomas’s transformation echoes Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians about inner renewal despite outward suffering and exemplifies the redefinition of family and community through faith, as Jesus teaches in Mark’s gospel.  This story reminds us that no matter how lost we feel, God’s mercy is always within reach, leading us to redemption and new life.  Paul’s words also remind us that our sufferings are temporary and serve greater purpose in God’s eternal plan.  They encourage us to look beyond our present struggles to the unseen glory that awaits us, renewing our spirits daily through faith.

Finally, Jesus’ teaching in Mark challenges us to redefine our understanding of family and belonging.  It invites us to find our true kinship in those who do the will of God, creating a community bound, not by blood, but by shared faith and obedience to God’s will.  The gospel presents Jesus’ redefining family ties, just as Genesis shows the destruction of the original family due to sin.  Jesus reestablishes a new family bond based on a spiritual kinship with those who do the will of God.  This redefinition aligns with the promise of redemption, highlighting the true faith and obedience to God.  We become part of God’s family.  Our Church offers a powerful message of hope and redemption.  Jesus calls us to acknowledge our sins, seek God’s mercy, endure our trials with faith, and embrace our true identity as members of God’s family.  In this journey, we find assurance in God’s promise that, though we may face suffering and misunderstanding, His eternal glory and redemption await us.

So, brothers and sisters, as we continue our Mass today, let us strengthen our faith as we endure life’s trials, renewing us inwardly day by day.  Let us pray for our Lord to help us see our struggles in light of the eternal glory He has prepared for us.  And may we live as true members of God’s family, doing His will and reflecting His love.

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The Light of Christ’s Resurrection

March 31, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Easter, Father Nixon, Healing, Hope, Joy, Life, Resurrection

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord
March 31, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Easter Sunday, the summit of the liturgical calendar, invites us into the heart of the Christian faith:  the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the readings for this glorious day, we encounter the profound truths that death has been conquered, sin has been defeated, and life eternal has been won for all who believe.  As we journey through the scriptures today, let us reflect on the transformative power of Christ’s resurrection and how it continues to shape our lives and our faith.

The Gospel of John paints a clear picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.  In today’s gospel, we witness the profound encounter at the empty tomb, where sorrow turns to astonishment and despair gives way to hope.  Let us delve into this powerful passage and reflect on its timeless message of resurrection and redemption.

As the first light of dawn breaks, Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb where Jesus had been laid.  To her shock and dismay, she finds the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty.  In her distress, she runs to Peter and the beloved disciple, bearing the weight of grief and uncertainty.  This moment captures the raw emotion of loss and confusion that often accompanies profound encounters with the divine.

Peter and the beloved disciple rush to the tomb, driven by Mary’s urgent plea.  Racing against one another, they look over into the empty tomb.  Grappling with disbelief and wonder, what they find defies all expectations.  The linen burial cloths lie neatly folded, devoid of the body they once enshrouded.  In this moment of profound mystery, the disciples confront the reality of Christ’s absence and the presence of His resurrection.

Upon entering the tomb, the beloved disciple experiences a revelation that transcends the physical realm.  He beholds the evidence of Christ’s resurrection—the empty tomb and the discarded burial garments—and believes.  This act of faith marks a pivotal moment in the narrative, as the disciple grasps the truth of Jesus’ triumph over death.  His new-found conviction becomes a beacon of hope in a world shrouded in darkness.

After Peter and the beloved disciple depart, Mary remains at the tomb, weeping in sorrow.  In her anguish, she encounters two angels who inquire about her distress.  But it is not until Jesus himself appears to her, calling her by name, that her tears are turned to joy.  In this intimate moment of recognition, Mary becomes the first witness to the resurrection, commissioned to proclaim the good news to the disciples.

There is a story of a certain kindergarten teacher who was telling her students the story of Jesus.  In her class was a little boy who came from a non-Christian family.  He was paying very close attention to the story because it was all new to him.  As the teacher told how Jesus was condemned and nailed to the cross to die, the boy’s countenance fell and he murmured, “No, that’s too bad.”  The teacher then went on to tell about how, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and came back to life.  The boy’s eyes lit up with delight and he exclaimed, “Totally awesome!”

On Good Friday, we heard the story of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Like the little boy, many of us felt like, “No, that’s too bad.”  Today we hear the rest of the story and, again, with the little boy, we can now exclaim, “Yes, it’s totally awesome!”  Today we can again sing the Alleluia that we have not sung all through Lent.  As our Psalm says, “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad.”

Why do we rejoice today?  We rejoice because our faith in Christ has been vindicated.  Truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice, and tragedy has turned into comedy.  It is like watching an episode of one of the superhero movies.  First you see an innocent and helpless victim being attacked, robbed, kidnapped, assaulted, and tortured by a wicked assailant.  We feel so bad seeing the triumph of the bad guy.  Then, almost at the point where the victim has given up hope and is at the point of death, down from the skies, comes the hero to the rescue.  He battles and defeats the bad guy and rescues the innocent victim, and we feel happy inside at the triumph of justice.

The story of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday is the story of the triumph of falsity over truth, of injustice over justice, of evil over goodness.  Jesus was falsely charged with crimes He did not commit and then unjustly sentenced to a death He did not deserve.  His good friend betrayed Him, His trusted friends deserted Him, and His number one man denied Him.  The people He loved demanded His crucifixion and chose to have the bandit, Barabbas, released in place of Him.  It is a story of betrayal and lies, dishonesty, and meanness, unfaithfulness and wicked violence directed against an innocent and apparently helpless victim.

All this comes to a head on Good Friday, when we see Jesus scourged, mocked, led on a death march, and nailed to the cross, where He dies after a few hours and is hastily buried in a tomb.  If that were the end of the story, that would be a very bad story, a tragedy.  But Glory be to God, it is not.

Our readings today invite us to ponder the profound mystery of Christ’s resurrection, and its transformative impact on our lives.  Like Mary Magdalene and the kindergarten student, we may find ourselves confronted with moments of doubt, despair, and uncertainty.  Yet, in the midst of our darkest hours, the light of Christ’s resurrection shines forth, offering hope, healing and redemption.  The empty tomb is not merely a symbol of absence, but a testament to the power of God to overcome even the bonds of death.  It is a sign of promise, reminding us that the new life emerges from the depths of despair, and that hope springs eternal in the heart of God.

As we journey through life’s trials and tribulations, may we fix our eyes on the risen Christ – the source of our salvation, and the embodiment of God’s unfailing love.  As we celebrate Easter Sunday, let us embrace the promise of resurrection with hearts full of gratitude and joy.  Let us live as Easter people, bearing witness to the reality of Christ’s victory over sin and death in our words and actions.  May the radiance of the resurrection shine brightly in our lives, drawing others into the eternal light of God’s love.  Let us carry the light of Christ’s resurrection into the world, illuminating the darkness with the hope and joy of new life.  May the reality of the resurrection inspire us to live with faith, courage, and love, knowing that Christ is truly risen and that, in Him, we, too, shall rise to share in His glory.

 

 

 

 

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Spiritual Blindness

March 10, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Faith, Father Nixon, Healing, Hope, Joy, Lent, Trust

Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 10, 2024 — Year B  (Readings for Scrutiny Year A)
Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a / Ps 23 / Eph 5:8-14 / Jn 9:1-41
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Most Catholics know that the third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, the day on which our excitement for the coming of the Lord is heightened, because the Church assures us that it will soon be upon us.  Less known is Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Both days refer to happiness.  In fact, the word Laetare means “rejoice” in Latin.  Gaudete means “joyful.”  The connection is obvious, as they are both days of joyous anticipation in the midst of what might seem like darkness.  In fact, Easter is exactly twenty-one days from Laetare Sunday.

As we journey through the Lenten season, the fourth Sunday of Lent offers us a profound opportunity for introspection and spiritual renewal.  This Sunday invites us to rejoice amidst our penitential practices, for we are reminded of the boundless mercy and love of God.

The gospel reading for this Sunday tells us the story of the man born blind, whom Jesus heals.  This miraculous healing serves as a powerful metaphor for the spiritual blindness that afflicts humanity.  Like the scribes in the story, we, too, can be blinded by our own pride, prejudice, and self-righteousness.  We may fail to recognize God working in our midst, and the transformative power of His love.

Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight.”  Helen Keller replied, “Yes, but what a pity so many have sight but cannot see.”

Jesus, toward the end of the gospel, says, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see.  And those who do see may become blind.”  In other words, this gospel passage concentrates on the distinction between physical and spiritual blindness.

The early Christians saw physical blindness as a metaphor for the spiritual blindness that prevents people from recognizing Jesus.  This story of healing of the man born blind testifies to the power of Jesus to heal not only physical blindness, but above all, the spiritual blindness of the heart.

How many blind men do you think are in our gospel today?  I’m sure most answers will be “one,” because there is only one identified blind person.  But I would rather say that there are four cases of blindness in this story.  The first blind ones are the apostles themselves, because they ask, “Who sinned, the parents or the blind man himself?” instead of helping the person.  The Jews believed that a person got sick because he was being punished for his sin or his parents’ sin.

The second blind ones are his parents, relatives, and neighbors.  Even though they witness that it is Jesus who heals the blind man, they refuse to say it.  They refuse to witness because of their fear that they would be expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees.

The third blind ones are the Pharisees, because they refuse to acknowledge that Jesus had performed the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man.  They suspend their belief because of their biases against Him.  Instead, they call Jesus a sinner because He violated the law of the Sabbath.  They are blind to the truth already in their eyes.

The fourth blind one is, of course, the blind man himself.  A source said that eighty percent of our work depends on our eyes.  Eighty percent is rather a big chunk of activities.  It means that totally blind people have an output of only twenty percent with regard to work.  But based on experience by most blind people, even if they cannot see with their own physical eyes, God finds means by sharpening their other senses in order to go on with life.

This could be the case with the blind man.  He could not see with his physical eyes, but he could see and sense with his heart.  This could be the reason why he easily feels the accepting and healing attitude of Jesus toward him.  But Jesus cures him because of his faith and trust in Him.  Though he was blind physically, he could see with his heart.  The other three groups could see with their eyes, but not with their hearts, as fear, cowardice, prejudices, biases, and their own selfish interests blind them.

Today’s gospel gives us hope because Jesus Christ performs miracles for us.  He cures us of our sickness and feeds us with His Word, Body, and Blood.  But above all, He died for us and then rose from the dead and brings us to eternal life.

Like Jesus who is our light, and shows us the light of truth in our path, let us all, too, show the light and be a light while we are still alive.

There is a story about two soldiers who found themselves recovering in the same hospital room during World War II.  Every day, the one beside the window of the room would describe the outside world to the other soldier, who was paralyzed from the neck down.  Not only did he share many beautiful and exciting stories about the outside world, he also continued to give cheer and hope to his disabled comrade.

Then, one morning, the soldier beside the window died.  On that same morning, the disabled soldier was transferred to that other soldier’s bed upon his request, near the window.  He found out that there was nothing beautiful outside the window.  There was just a wall.  His friend who had just died was blind.

Our readings today challenge us to examine our own spiritual blindness and to seek the healing touch of Christ.  They call us to open our eyes to the marginalized and oppressed, to see the humanity in every person, and to respond with compassion and love.  Just as Jesus restored physical sight to the blind man, He invites us to open our hearts to His light, allowing it to illuminate the darkness within us and guide us on the path of righteousness.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us embrace the message of hope and joy that Laetare Sunday brings.  Let us rejoice in the mercy of God, who calls us to repentance and offers us forgiveness and redemption.  May we open our eyes to see His presence in our lives and in the world around us.  And may we respond with gratitude and love.

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The Transformative Power of Knowing Jesus

March 3, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Evangelization, Faith, Father Nixon, Forgiveness, Healing, Hope, Humility, Mission, Sin, Uncategorized

Third Sunday of Lent
March 3, 2024 — Year B  (Readings for Scrutiny Year A)
Readings: Ex 17:3-7 / Ps 95 / Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 / Jn 4:5-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

In our readings today, we have one of the most profound encounters recorded in the Bible, the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well.  This passage is rich with lessons on faith, identity, and the transformative power of encountering Jesus.

At the outset, we find Jesus breaking social norms by engaging in conversation with a Samaritan woman, crossing boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and religion.  This interaction challenges us to examine our own prejudices and preconceptions about who is worthy of God’s grace and love.  Jesus shows us that His message is for all people, regardless of their background or status in society.  We also notice that the Samaritan woman has many excuses at the start of her encounter with Jesus.  In their dialogue, the woman’s responses are evasive.  Jesus is asking her to fetch her husband.  The woman says, “I do not have a husband,” instead of telling Jesus the truth that she has had six husbands.

This reminds me of the story of four high school students who decided to cut classes one morning and did not go to school until noon.  They told the teacher that they had a flat tire on the way to school and that was why they were late.  They were very relieved when they saw the teacher smile and heard her say, “Ok.  I understand, boys.  You missed a test, but you can make it up right now.”  She had them sit in the four corners of the room away from one another.  “Now,” the teacher said, “You will answer just one question.  Which tire was flat?”

Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries.  They had no dealings with one another, avoiding all social contact, even trade and intermarriage.  If their paths crossed, that meant that hostility would result.  When Jesus passed through Samaria, He did the unthinkable.  He conversed with a Samaritan woman, risking ritual impurity and scorn from His fellow Jews.  He also did something no strict rabbi would dare to do in public without losing his reputation.  He greeted a woman and spoke openly with her.  A rabbi during this time would not even talk to his own wife in public.  Not only was this person a woman, but a notorious adulteress as well.  No decent Jew would think of being seen with such a woman.

These are the interesting details of the process of the transformation or conversion of the woman.  Jesus guides the woman gradually to enlightenment.  Jesus talks back and forth with this woman seven times, more than with any other person in the gospels.  First, she started by calling Him, “Jew,” or outsider for Samaritans.  Second, “Sir.”  Third, “Give me this water.”  Fourth, “I do not have a husband.”  Fifth, “You are a prophet.”  Sixth, eventually, “Messiah.”  Seventh, leading the whole village to proclaim Him as savior of the world.

At the beginning, the woman was arrogant and proud, but one by one, Jesus broke down her defenses.  Jesus told the woman, “You are right because you have had five husbands, and the man with whom you are living is not your husband.”  In other words, her life was a mess.  But Jesus did not condemn her.  Neither did He excuse her and allow her to continue as she was.  At the end of their conversation, she was changed. Why was she changed?  Because she opened her heart.  She did not hold onto pride, rationalizations, and traditions that kept her from realizing and accepting the truth.  In other words, she let go, she surrendered, and just let Jesus take over her life.

But what is the point of Jesus’ exchange with the woman about water?  Water in this arid land was scarce.  Jacob’s well was located in a strategic fork in the road between Samaria and Galilee.  One can live without food for several days, but not without water.  Water is an absolute necessity of life.  We drink it, cook with it, and use it for keeping clean.  Water, too, is a source of life and growth for all living things.

The kind of water which Jesus spoke about in today’s gospel was living and running water.  Living water was a symbol for the Jew of the soul’s thirst for God.  As the conversation unfolded, Jesus revealed Himself to the woman as the source of living water, offering a deeper spiritual nourishment that transcends physical thirst.

In this encounter, we see the thirst of the human soul for something greater than worldly fulfillment.  Jesus satisfied this thirst by offering Himself as the true fulfillment of our deepest longings. The water Jesus spoke of symbolized the Holy Spirit and His work of recreating us in God’s image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God.  The life which the Holy Spirit produces in us makes us a new creation in Jesus Christ.  The woman’s response is one of faith and openness.  She recognizes Jesus as a prophet and is willing to engage in dialogue with Him.  Her willingness to listen and learn, despite her past, demonstrates the transformative power of encountering Jesus.

Like the Samaritan woman, we are called to approach Jesus with humility and openness, allowing Him to reveal Himself to us and transform our lives.  As the passage concludes, we see the woman’s newfound faith leading to action.  She becomes an evangelist, sharing her encounter with Jesus with others in her community.  Her testimony serves as a powerful reminder that encountering Jesus leads to a mission of sharing His love and truth with others.

In reflecting on today’s readings, we are invited to examine our own encounters with Jesus.  Have we allowed Him to break down the barriers in our lives and reveal Himself to us?  Are we willing to respond in faith and allow His transformative power to shape our lives and actions?  Are we actively sharing the good news of Jesus with those around us?  May we, like the Samaritan woman, encounter Jesus anew and be transformed to live as His faithful disciples in the world.

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Flawed and Beautiful

February 11, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Compassion, Father Nixon, Healing, Life, Reconciliation

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 11, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Lv 13:1-2, 44-46 / Ps 32 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

The readings for today invite us to reflect on the call to holiness and the transformative power of God’s love in our lives.

In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we encounter the intricate laws given to Moses by God for the purification and healing of those afflicted with leprosy.  Leprosy, a symbol of sin and impurity, isolates individuals from their communities, casting them into the margins of society.  Yet through the compassion of God and the actions of the priest, those suffering from leprosy are offered a path of restoration and reconciliation.  This narrative reminds us that God’s love knows no bounds and extends even to the most marginalized and excluded members of society.  It challenges us to examine our own attitudes toward those who are different from us, and to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human being.

In the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection.  We strive for flawless appearances, impeccable achievements and seamless performances.  Yet, amidst this relentless pursuit of perfection, we often overlook the inherent beauty found in imperfection.

Once in a distant village nestled among rolling hills, there lived a potter, renowned for his exquisite craftsmanship.  His creations were flawless, each vessel bearing the mark of his skill and dedication.  People from far and wide sought his pottery, believing it to be the epitome of perfection.

One day a traveler passing through the village stopped by the potter’s humble workshop.  Intrigued by the tales of the potter’s mastery, the traveler watched intently as the potter skillfully molded clay into elegant shapes.  However, amidst the display of precision, the traveler noticed something peculiar:  a small crack on the surface of a seemingly flawless vase.

Curious, the traveler inquired about the imperfection.  With a serene smile, the potter replied, “Ah, my friend, perfection is an illusion.  It is in the imperfections that true beauty resides.”  He then proceeded to explain that the crack in the vase was not a flaw to be concealed, but a unique feature that added character and depth to the piece.

The potter’s wisdom speaks volumes about our own lives.  We often strive for flawlessness, believing it to be the ultimate measure of success and happiness.  Yet, in our relentless pursuit of perfection, we overlook the beauty found in our imperfections, the cracks and blemishes that make us uniquely human.  Just as the cracked vase held a beauty beyond its flawless counterparts, so, too, do our imperfections enrich our lives.  It is through our struggles, failures, and vulnerabilities that we learn, grow, and connect with others on a deeper level.  Our imperfections are not signs of weakness, but signs of our resilience and capacity for growth.  We just need to offer them to God and allow Him to heal and cleanse us from our blemishes.

In our gospel today, we encounter a powerful demonstration of Jesus’ compassion and healing ministry.  This passage tells the story of a leper who approaches Jesus with humility and faith, seeking to be cleansed of his affliction.  The encounter between Jesus and the leper reveals profound truths about the nature of God’s love and the transformative power of compassion.

The leper, marginalized and shunned by society due to his condition, takes a bold step in approaching Jesus.  Despite the social stigma surrounding leprosy, he approaches Jesus with unwavering faith, believing in His power to heal.  His plea, “If you wish you can make me clean,” reflects both humility and trust in Jesus’ authority.

Moved by compassion, Jesus responds with a gesture that speaks volumes.  He reaches out and touches the leper.  In this simple yet profound act, Jesus not only demonstrates His willingness to heal, but also breaks down the barriers of social and religious exclusion.  By touching the leper, Jesus communicates a message of solidarity and acceptance, affirming the leper’s dignity and worth as a beloved child of God.

The healing of the leper is not merely physical, but also spiritual and emotional.  Through Jesus’ compassionate touch, the leper experiences not only physical restoration, but also reconciliation with God and the community.  He is no longer an outcast, but a restored member of society, free to fully participate in the life of the community once again.

As we reflect on this passage, we are reminded of the profound truth that lies at the heart of Jesus’ ministry:  the transformative power of compassion.  No matter how imperfect we are, no matter how simple we are, Jesus still reaches out to us with compassion and empathy.  He’s ready to make us clean if we reach out to Him.  As He said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”

Jesus’ compassionate response to the leper also challenges us to examine our own attitudes and actions toward those who are marginalized or excluded in our community.  Do we, like Jesus, reach out to those in need with compassion and empathy?  Do we challenge the social and religious barriers that exclude others and perpetuate injustice?  Are we willing to extend a healing touch, both literal and metaphorical, to those who are hurting and in need of restoration?

So, as we journey through life, may the parable of the potter encourage us to embrace our imperfections with grace and gratitude.  Let us recognize that it is our flaws that make us beautiful, that our scars tell stories of trial over adversity, and that our brokenness is a testament to our strength and resilience.  And may we find solace in the knowledge that, in the eyes of God, we are perfectly imperfect, cherished just as we are.

May the story of Jesus’ encounter with the leper inspire us to embody His compassion in our own lives.  May we reach out to those who are marginalized or excluded, affirming their dignity and worth as beloved children of God.  And may we be agents of healing and reconciliation, in a world that is longing for the transformative power of compassion.

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The True Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seventy Times Seven

September 17, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Family, Father Nixon, Forgiveness, Healing, Humility, Love, Obedience, Reconciliation

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Sir 27:30-28:7 / Ps 103 / Rom 14:7-9 / Mt 18:21-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A 99-year-old woman, pushing on in years, boasted to her pastor that she didn’t have an enemy in the world. He was very impressed. What a wonderful thing to be able to say after all those years! And then she added, “I have outlived them all!” If we live long enough, we’ll also be able to make the same statement.

“What goes around comes around” is a common expression. Its familiarity springs from the truth. When we offer words of kindness and love to others, that invites words of kindness and love in return. On the other hand, isn’t it true that words of anger only produce more anger on each side? The harsh judgement we pass on others easily could apply to us as well. In the final analysis, we will be judged by how we treat others, not how they may have treated us.

So what is it that we want to go around and come around? The reply that we offer should not be merely words, but also deeds. The wise man Sirach in our first reading says, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” These words in many ways echo the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We have indicated that we want the same treatment as we give others.

The problem is, if we treat others in an unkind manner, we are asking that God treat us the same way. For example; if the young people here do not cooperate with their elders by loving them and obeying them, it means that they are saying to God: My parents shouldn’t love me and shouldn’t respond to my wishes. Jesus is saying that if we treat others poorly, then it’s only natural that they will treat us the same way. You are in command. Treat others well, including parents, and they will treat you well.

There is a story of a six-year-old, John. During night prayer he paused before his brother’s name and said to his mother, “I will not ask God to bless Paul. He gave me a big blow on the nose today.” The mother said to John, “But Jesus asked you to forgive your enemies.” Little John responded, “That’s the main problem. Paul is not my enemy, and that’s the reason I cannot forgive him.”

The reaction of little John tells us that forgiveness is hard, and that forgiving family and friends is even tougher. Forgiveness and reconciliation are twin virtues that hold a relationship whether it is an interpersonal or interethnic or interreligious relationship.

One of the hardest things to do is to forgive those who are mean to us. To forgive those who have done or said terrible things against us, or even to forgive those who contribute, or those who continue to put us down and those who hate us with disdain.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it was difficult to forgive someone who offended you? Yes, forgiveness can be very hard in certain situations, and for this reason it takes such a long time before we train ourselves to forgive our offenders, especially when they are people we trusted so much.

The first step towards forgiveness is the ability to say, Yes, I forgive. It really takes a lot of courage to forgive. The second step is to ask for the help of God by admitting, God, I really want to forgive, but I do not know how to forgive. Help me to forgive totally and completely from the depth of my heart.

Too often we wait for others to make the first move. We hesitate because we might face rejection, or we don’t want to seem too weak or eager for reconciliation. That’s not how Jesus treated us. He made the first move. He loves us so much that He died for us. We can show the same love by having His courage to treat our family and our friends in the same loving manner, not waiting for them to display their love but to offer our love first. Each of us must be Christ-like: We must take the initiative.

Our Lord gives this gospel as a warning that we must be constantly on our guard. God has forgiven us for things we could not possibly hope to repay. And we are duty bound in gratitude and compassion to share the graciousness, forgiveness, and charity that God gives to us and others around us.

In the gospel, Peter is asking about the limits of forgiveness. Isn’t it true that if we just grant forgiveness to someone who’s treated us in an unloving manner that they will continue to take advantage of us? Jesus says, “No, don’t forgive friends or members of your family seven times, but seven times seventy times.” Unlimited.

Jesus willingly gave His life for us because He loves us. We show our love in the same manner and, if we do, that love will be returned, whether it be from our child, our parents, our friend, or even from someone we don’t like. We do it not because we are weak, but because Jesus has asked us to do it, and He has promised we will be blessed for our actions.

Also, we must learn to forgive ourselves. Imagine you’re responsible for something very serious; you are driving a car while under the influence of alcohol, there is an accident and a young person is killed. That life cannot be brought back. For more and more people, there is something in their background, some skeleton in the closet, as we say. A broken marriage, an abortion, a pregnancy outside marriage, a broken relationship, or a serious mistake. And for many of us we do not believe that there is another chance, much less seven times seventy chances.

This is not the teaching of Jesus. God doesn’t just give us another chance, but every time we close a door, He opens another one for us. The Lord challenges us not to make serious, damaging mistakes. But He also tells us that our mistakes are not forever. They are not even for a lifetime, and time and grace wash us clean. Nothing is irrevocable.

The words of Sirach in the first reading say it all. “Think of the commandments. Hate not your families and friends, remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.” And so, as each of us takes a few minutes coming to Communion, think of what we can do for our families, our children, our siblings, and all of our friends so that we will love one another as Jesus has loved us. Let us continue to promote that awareness that we are all in communion with one another and with the one God. What we do to others we are taken as doing to God himself. May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Persevering and Humble Faith

August 20, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Charity, Faith, Father Nixon, Healing, Humility, Trust, Uncategorized

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 20, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7 / Ps 67 / Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 / Mt 15:21-28
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A man was walking close to a steep cliff, lost his footing, and plunged over the side.  As he was falling, he grabbed the branch of a tree that was sticking out about halfway down the cliff.  He managed to hang onto the weak limb with both hands.  He looked up and saw that the cliff was almost perfectly straight and that he was a long way from the top.  He looked down and it was a long, long way down to the rock bottom.  At this point, the man decided that it was time to pray.

He yelled out, “God, if you are there, help me.”  About that time, he heard a deep voice coming from high up above that said, “I’m here, my son, have no fear.”  The man was a little startled at first by God’s voice, but he pleaded, “Can you help me?”  God replied, “Yes, I can, my son, but you have to have faith.  Do you trust me?”  The man answered, “Yes, Lord, I trust you.”  God said, “Do you really trust me?”  The man, who was trying to hold on, replied, “Yes, Lord, I really trust you.”

Then God said, “This is what I want you to do.  Let go of the limb.  Trust me; everything will be all right.”  The man looked down at the rocks below, then he looked up at the steep cliff above him and yelled, “Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”

Brothers and sisters, in last Sunday’s gospel, we heard that Jesus chastised Peter for having so little faith.  In today’s gospel, he honors a pagan woman for having great faith.  The comparison between Peter and the woman gives us a valuable instruction.  We naturally assume that Peter, a Jewish man and close follower of Jesus, must have a great advantage over a Gentile woman who had never even seen the Lord.

Peter was one of the children of Israel; he belonged at the table.  He had never eaten anything profane or unclean in his whole life, and that can be found in Acts 10:14.  The woman was an outsider.  She was looked down on by the Jews as unclean and unworthy, one of the dogs.  She had no business claiming some right to the Lord’s favor.  However, the woman outshines Peter in the one thing that truly matters: faith – a strong, persevering, humble faith.

The Israelites, Abraham and his descendants, were given a unique privilege.  They were the first people to whom the Lord chose to reveal himself.  As Moses told the people when they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, “You are a people sacred to the Lord God.  He has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people particularly his own” (Dt 7:6).

The idea sometimes arose among the chosen people that, since they were specially chosen by God, other peoples were excluded from His love.  They misunderstood the favor of God as a kind of ethnic superiority.  They thought that being a physical descendant of Abraham was more important than living by Abraham’s faith.  The prophets thought otherwise.

As we see in today’s first reading, Isaiah clearly proclaims that foreigners too, if they joined themselves to the Lord and followed the covenant, would find a place with the Jews in the house of the Lord.  Indeed, the Lord reveals that His plan includes everyone.  “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

The Canaanite woman in the Gospel shows that this prophecy came to be fulfilled.  If she had gone to the temple in Jerusalem, she would have been strictly forbidden to enter.  However, now that Jesus had come into her neighborhood, there was no need for her to go elsewhere in order to be counted among God’s people.  She found salvation by putting her faith in Jesus.  She honored Him as the Messiah, crying out to Him, “Lord, son of David.”

In order to benefit from the beautiful example of this woman of faith, we must first identify and overcome the sin of prejudice in our hearts.  How easily we fall into an attitude of superiority over others.  Prejudice prevents us from seeing the goodness of other people, simply because they fall outside of our narrow criteria of goodness.  The problem is on display in the scornful attitude of the disciples.  When the Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter, their prejudice came spilling out in their words, “Send her away.”  They would not put up with being pestered by a “dog.”

Brothers and sisters, whenever we let this sort of attitude take hold of us, whenever we are saying or thinking about anyone, “Send her away” or “Send him away,” we shut ourselves in a small box, where we breathe only the stale air of our own opinions.  Prejudice is an offense against the dignity of others, but it is also a self-imposed limitation on our love.  Ultimately, it is a rejection of the love of God.

This is not what we have learned from Jesus Christ.  He fills us with His spirit of love, so that we may be free from slavery to sin.  Jesus’ own attitude toward the Canaanite woman is revealed to us only gradually.  He never closes His heart to her, of course, but He does subject her faith to a series of tests.  At first, He is simply silent, then He tells her that His mission is to the Jews.  When she persists, falling before Him and pleading for His help, He tells her that it is not fitting to throw the food of the children to the dogs.

This sort of language is jarring to us.  It sounds like an intolerable insult, like a slap in the face.  In fact, in the context of the times, it would have not sounded nearly so harsh.  Jesus’ point is to distinguish between the Jews and the Gentiles.

The Jews are the first to be fed with the message of salvation.  The word “dogs” here refers not to street dogs, but to little domestic pets.  They live in the household, but they are not children of the family.  However, Jesus’ statement may have struck her in a remarkable way.  The woman gently turns his own words against him.  The insult suddenly becomes an argument in her favor.

With no hint of offense or discouragement and with no attitude of entitlement, she makes a claim based on her strong faith.  The banquet of the Lord is so great that even to receive a few crumbs falling from the table will be enough to heal her daughter.  The Lord finds this declaration irresistible.  He immediately proclaims what He had in mind all along, that this woman is not a dog.  She is an admirable woman of great faith.  His harsh treatment of her has brought out the best in her.

This wonderful episode shows us what great faith really looks like in practice.  It is not a matter of belonging to the right social class. It does not depend on mastering all the properly religious words and rituals. It does not seek to prove to anyone that we are holy or deserving of divine favor.  Great faith is persevering and humble.

Sometimes the Lord is silent and does not say a word in answer to us.  Sometimes He reminds us of our insignificance or our weakness or our unworthiness.  None of these are obstacles to us if we have faith.  They simply purify us of all self-importance and make us more ready to receive the Lord’s favor.  Nothing is impossible for us when we have great faith, because nothing is impossible for the Lord in whom we trust.

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Performing Our Miracles

June 18, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Courage, Discipleship, Evangelization, Family, Father Nixon, Healing, Mission

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 18, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 19:2-6a / Ps 100 / Rom 5:6-11 / Mt 9:36-10:8
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Brothers and sisters, fatherhood is a God-given mission.   It is not just an obligation, neither is it just a human aspiration, nor just a personal passion.  It is a commitment to become a real shepherd and to become a worker disciple in the Lord’s vineyard.   The call on every father is to focus not so much on the worldly commission, but on the divine mission.   This is also the message in our readings today.

The gospel message from Matthew gives us the account of Jesus commissioning the twelve men whom He has chosen, giving them the charge to continue the work He has begun here on Earth.   Matthew tells us that these were the first people who were authorized to spread the good news to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.   Jesus charges the twelve to go out and cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons.  Just imagine yourself lucky enough to be selected by Jesus himself to be one of the twelve.   But then you are given the assignment to go and cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons.

Did Jesus really mean for them to actually do all these things?   How could these twelve men – fishermen, tradesmen, common folks including a tax collector and even the one who would betray Jesus – be capable of accepting these assignments?

Down through history, Jesus has chosen unlikely people to do seemingly impossible tasks.  We can pick up the book, The Lives of the Saints, and find numerous examples of ordinary people who responded to God’s call.   The Church, throughout its history, has had regular, ordinary people performing what might be considered impossible tasks, simply because they have responded to Christ and His teachings. People like Saint John Vianney, Saint Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Maximilian Kolbe, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are just a few examples of people who responded when they were called to spread the good news to others.

Jesus is now calling us.   We are just like the twelve whom He chooses.  We now have the responsibility to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons.   We accepted this call, this responsibility, at our baptism, but the question we immediately ask ourselves is how in the world do we cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons?

Can we cure the sick?   Yes, we can help cure those who are sick.   We can help to provide for physical, psychological, or spiritual ailments.   We can be caregivers by assisting those in need.   It could be simple things like making an appointment with a physician or providing transportation to a physician’s office.   Perhaps it could involve something more complicated by administering care at your home or the home of the individual that is ill.  We might be required from time to time to provide simple one-on-one counseling to someone who is depressed, so that the person may find inner strength that he or she needs to make a decision enabling them to help themselves and to return to their daily activities.

How can we raise the dead? Taken literally, we know this is impossible, but sometimes people are dead in their faith.  We can provide spiritual assistance to those who are dead in their faith experience.   Perhaps it is someone who has fallen away from the faith because of a simple misunderstanding.  We can be instruments of hope to those who might think returning to God is hopeless.   Sometimes it is as simple as answering a question about the faith, providing information that will help heal the person of their spiritual illness.   Perhaps the person is dead spiritually because they were involved in a marriage that ended in a divorce.  We can provide information to help them understand their rights as a divorced person, and if they are in need of an annulment, we can provide resources for them to begin the annulment process.

Can we cleanse lepers?  The question we have to answer is who are the lepers in our lives?   It could be the individual at work that constantly is getting under our skin.  It could be the neighbor up the street who seemingly forever has knocked our children or has constantly criticized us because they don’t like our dog.  It could be a brother-in-law who has been on our case from the first day we met.   What can we do?  Sometimes the best way to handle people like this is to kill them with kindness.   We can simply smile or offer help to them with a project.  Perhaps we could send some greeting card or surprise them in some way that causes them to think or to ask why this person is being so kind to me.   We can present ourselves to these people as true followers of Christ, someone who is willing to clear the air, make amends, and try to begin a new relationship.

Can we drive out demons?   The answer is yes – sometimes those demons are in us and all about us. They are the things that prevent us from being the best person we can be. It could be those inner feelings that constantly cause us to see the negative side of life.  Perhaps we are constantly seeing the glass as half empty instead of always half full.  The demons could be feelings that can cause us to fall into various states of depression.  What can we do?   Obviously, we can seek professional counseling.  We can confide in family and friends.  However, because we are members of the Church, baptized into faith, we can many times rely on the gift of faith to help us through those difficult times.  Many times, prayer is a good way to rid ourselves of those demons.  Through prayer, we can seek the intercession of our patron saint, or call upon St. Joseph, or ask the Blessed Virgin to intercede for us with her Son to help us overcome times of negativism and the states of negative thought.

Discipleship is not so much doing but being.  Go down the list of the twelve apostles, and you’ll notice that nothing was said to describe what they did, except Matthew the tax collector and Judas who betrayed Him.   Perhaps that should lead to deeper appreciation of our personhood rather than of our so-called achievements, not so much of what we carry in our hands but what we carry in our hearts.

Christ is calling us to do his work now on Earth.   The beautiful thing that we have going for us as members of the Church on earth is our diversity.   We all have different talents and different abilities to accomplish the work our Lord has entrusted to us.  Jesus, whether we realize it or not, sends us out to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers. and drive out demons.

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The Power of the Holy Spirit

May 28, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Blessings, Deacon Mark, Healing, Holy Spirit, Pentecost, Sacraments

Pentecost Sunday
May 28, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104 / 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 / Jn 20:19-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon

Here is a true story that illustrates the need to intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into your life and to intentionally surrender control to Him when He needs to use you to help someone else.

A good Catholic man, who knew the scriptures and his Catholic faith, shared a story of praying outside an abortion clinic. He spoke to a woman who was headed in, but despite his faith and his spiritual learning, he couldn’t speak anything of meaning to her, and she proceeded to the door of the clinic and grabbed the door handle. The man tossed up a five-second prayer, “I’m so sorry Lord. I don’t know what to say. Help me, Holy Spirit!” Suddenly he spoke the most eloquent words to her; no, he blurted out two words, “hair bows!”

The woman stopped, let go of the door handle and walked back toward him, tears in her eyes. She asked, “What did you just say?”  He said, “Hair bows. I just thought you would enjoy putting bows in the baby’s hair if it is a girl.” Turns out the woman had a strong memory of her mom and hair bows, strong enough to penetrate the darkness and despair she was in and to displace it with Christ’s light and truth. Those two little words awakened in her a love for her unborn child and for motherhood. The Holy Spirit came through in a surprising way. You might even say the Spirit enabled the man to speak in tongues, for the words he spoke were understood by that woman in a way that saved her soul and her baby’s life. That’s how the Holy Spirit rolls!

Happy Pentecost everyone. Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). Pentecost in Greek means “fiftieth.”   The Jews celebrated Pentecost fifty days after Passover, which is a celebration of deliverance from bondage in Egypt and of God coming down upon Mount Sinai in fire, shaking the mountain. This prefigured the new Pentecost, which we celebrate every year, fifty days after the new Passover, which we now call Easter (Pitre).

You may have picked up on how the Christian Pentecost is similar to the Jewish one in its remembrance of that day at Mount Sinai.  Listen again.  “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” But in the new Pentecost something dramatically different, something astounding happens that did not happen at Mount Sinai. Fire came down, yes, but “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).”

In this homily I hope to expand your awareness of the Holy Spirit and of His supernatural gifts that may be untapped in your life.  I also hope to help you make your family life, school life, work life, prayer life, and sacramental life more intentionally focused on the Holy Spirit as that is what is best for you, your loved ones, the Church, and the world.

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to “teach [us] everything and remind [us] of all that [He] told us.” (Jn 14:26).  Jesus also said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish that it were already blazing (Lk 12:49).”  Fire, like in the tongues of fire, refers to the Holy Spirit. What does fire do? It transfigures that which is burning into itself. In our case, the Holy Spirit restores our divine nature, makes us holy, and equips us with supernatural gifts. Why?  The Psalmist wrote the answer, so that “you [can] renew the face of the earth (Ps 104:30).”

What supernatural gifts does the Holy Spirit equip us with? Sanctifying gifts and Charismatic gifts. The seven sanctifying gifts are listed in Isaiah 11:1-3 and are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Catholic theologian Mary Healy points out that Isaiah was describing the Messiah upon whom the Spirit would rest. Therefore, we receive the seven sanctifying gifts through baptism and confirmation, since we receive the Holy Spirit in those sacraments, and He forms us in the character of Christ (CCC 1831 / Healy 29-30).

What are Charismatic gifts? They are supernatural gifts meant for the service of others (1 Cor 12:1-7 / Healy 24). Again, drawing from Dr.  Healy, the term charismatic comes from the Greek word charisma, which is based on the word for grace, charis. Therefore, a charism is a “tangible expression of God’s grace in a person’s life (Healy 24).” Every one of us was created by God with a specific role to play in building up the Church. The way God qualifies us to fulfill our unique role is with these many graces called charisms (CCC 798).

In Romans 13, St. Paul lists charisms for the building up of the Church, “serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy.” And in a slight twist, St. Paul lists roles in the Church that the Holy Spirit anoints people for. They include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph 4:8-11/ Healy 28).  The Holy Spirit even desires to supernaturally enhance or elevate our natural gifts or aptitudes such as music, art, crafts, teaching, administration, etc., making them more efficacious than we can do on our own (Healy 24). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your gifts and to help you grow them and to put them at the service of the Church.

The longest single list of charismatic gifts is in 1 Cor 12. They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. To learn more about these gifts, I recommend reading Dr. Healy’s book, “The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build up the Kingdom of God.”

How is living life in the Holy Spirit best for you? Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Dave Pivonka both answered that question with the same metaphor. Living your life in the Spirit is like sailing, where the wind does most of the work. When you live in the Spirit, you may have a sense that you are moving through life’s challenges with less resistance. But like the wind, with the Holy Spirit, you never know for certain what He will do or where He will take you, and you have to wait for Him. Bishop Barron echoes this in his reflection on the third Glorious Mystery. He says we don’t make the Holy Spirit show up. We call and we wait like the disciples and Mary were waiting in the upper room when He came.

What characteristics will a person have who does so? St. Paul listed them as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). That is a great list to take to prayer and to use as an examination of the soul. It can help us see where we need to grow more like Christ by intentionally inviting the Holy Spirit into our life and following His promptings, even if they seem silly like, “blurting out hair bows” in a desperate situation.

We are blessed to be Catholic, for we experience the Holy Spirit’s power in the sacraments. We are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, who made us His temple. In Confession, your sins are forgiven by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the priest who, in the prayer of absolution, says that “God the Father of Mercies sent the Holy Spirit into the world for the forgiveness of sins.” Today’s gospel, by the way, is the strongest biblical proof that Jesus gave His priests His power to forgive sins.

In the prayers during Anointing of the Sick the priest calls on the Holy Spirit as the consoler.” In the Eucharistic Prayer we hear Father pray, “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them as a dewfall.” You can’t miss it. The Deacon kneels as Father prays those words, and the altar server rings the bells. Finally, in Confirmation and Holy Orders the bishop lays his hands on the faithful’s head, imparting the Holy Spirit.

Despite all the ways we receive the Holy Spirit, you are not alone if you struggle with identifying with Him. Theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson summarized this well, writing, “While the Son has appeared in human form and while we can at least make a mental image of the Father, the Spirit is not graphic and remains theologically the most mysterious of the three divine persons.” (DANIEL P. HORAN OFM in National Catholic Reporter, January 12, 2023). That is one of the reasons God gives us signs.

Healings are one of those signs He gives us to make the Holy Spirit’s presence and power manifest. Some of you may remember former Holy Name of Mary parish Deacon, Ray Roderique, the father of several of Holy Name’s parishioners. He and his wife, Kathy, were very active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement.  Deacon Ray was particularly known for the gift of healing. Our former priest, Fr. Steve McNally, shared that, while on a trip with Deacon Ray, he was having a good bit of pain from a kidney stone. Ray prayed over him, and he was cured. I reached out to a couple of Ray’s adult children for their thoughts on the Holy Spirit.

His son, parishioner Paul Roderique, shared Sr. Johnson’s quote. One of his sisters, former parishioner, Colleen Crist, had this to say:

“The Holy Spirit is the single most important relationship a person can have if they desire to be as close to Jesus as possible!  The Holy Spirit transforms, elevates, and increases every aspect of a person’s prayer life (“hair bows”). The Holy Spirit takes the fear out of it. He helps you realize that it’s not about you, but rather you are a team, and He’s doing the heavy lifting (Remember the wind moves the boat easier than our paddling). He gives you the courage, and the ability, and the wisdom, and the words to do the praying. We are simply allowing Him to use us. All it takes is being open, trusting, and malleable. When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and extend the invitation sincerely, then He can get to work. He will never force himself on us. To receive Him, simply extend the invitation. Invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to transform your life. Ask Him to teach you how to pray.”

Let’s do that right now and close with a favorite prayer of Colleen’s, an invitation to the Holy Spirit from St Augustine. Imagine yourself as that sailboat on the lake. Ready the sails, which are your faith. Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly and let’s see where the Father’s Holy Breath takes us. “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me then, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.” Amen.

 

Citations

Mary Healy & Randy Clark. The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom of God.  Chosen Books 2018.

Bishop Barron. The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Hallow app.

 

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