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
The Resurrection of the Lord
April 9, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
Today’s gospel has a great theme, in this season that introduces death to life, light to darkness, good and evil. It goes back to the two great dimensions of what God gives us, and I think I’d like to leave you with the same homework assignment that I left with the folks at the Easter Vigil last night.
These two dimensions of God that we focus on, that come front and center when we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism, are the dimension of God as creator and God as redeemer. We call these the Two Orders – the order of creation and the order of redemption.
At the Vigil Mass, we begin a long series of readings beginning with the creation account from the very first pages of the Book of Genesis. God creates the world, the sky on Day One, the seas and the waters on Day Two, the earth on Day Three, and on Days Four, Five, and Six what fills the sky, the birds and the flying things, what fills the waters, the fish and the sea monsters, and what fills the earth – all that creeps and crawls and all the animals, and at the crown of creation, the human person. That is the six days of creation.
And of course, the seventh day is what we do today. That’s why the commitment is so important to us, because it keeps a rhythm of time that we have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath, remembering that in a sense every Sunday is Easter. We have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath with God – the day without work, they day you pray and play, the day to renew relationships, the day for a foretaste of Heaven.
So God has ordered that for us when we speak of the order of creation. Everyone does not realize that there is an order, a nature of things. We can explore and learn; it’s not like we are cast adrift and have to find our own meaning for everything. There’s a meaning already there.
I learned it as a kid growing up in post-war America. Like many kids, we were not that far removed from the immigrant experience, as all my grandparents were immigrants. You get roughed up a little bit as an immigrant. I remember those stories, especially when you add Catholic into that. But I also remember very early on being given that sense of where I fit in, because the first question in the Catechism class every year was, “Who made you?” And the answer that you had memorized and had drilled into your head was “God made me.” Well, that’s not a bad start.
Think of how many people today haven’t been baptized, haven’t been given that greatest gift, “God made me,” that I’m not a meaningless cipher. I’m not just happening to be there and not knowing if there’s any reason for this. We say that you can tell your friends, “I don’t always act like it and I don’t always think right and part of me rebels against God, and part of me wants God, but He created me in His image and likeness.”
That’s true of all my brothers and sisters, and that’s true of the people I like and the people I don’t like. He created us in His image and likeness, so that the closest you’ll come to God today is the next human being you’ll look at.
And so, there’s an order of creation. That’s what allowed the Church to be the first ones in the West to explore science, because of the belief that God has created an ordered universe and invites us to study that. Therefore, all that does is reveal more of Him. Many of the great Church leaders going back into history have been great scientists – the founder of genetics, the founder of the Big Bang Theory (a priest from Belgium.) There’s an order to things, and the human person has a place. Now, how marvelous is that?
There are so many who have no idea where they fit in, thinking they are on this big map, but there’s no X saying, “You are here.” If you come across folks in those moments, you can begin to say, “You know, I may have something for you.” We believe that we are created for a purpose. It takes a lifetime to find it out and not everything goes right, but there’s a deep joy. That’s the order of creation.
Then of course, we have the order of redemption. Because what you know about yourself, and what you know about every other person who was ever conceived, is that somehow there’s a flaw in there. There’s something that’s begging to be redressed or redeemed, to be purchased back by God. There’s a distance that’s crept in between us and God; we are not living in the human nature for which we were originally designed. We are living in the human condition, after that separation from God came in which we all inherit. We know that about ourselves.
One thing I like about that is that when I know I’m not perfect, I don’t have to kill myself. It’s true of all of us; we all suffer. But we finally discover a beautiful thing, that God did not wait for me to be perfect to love me.
That’s something you may be able to pass onto someone who may be suffering. Put it in your own words; illustrate it with your own story. Get familiar with using these words because this is exactly what happened after the Resurrection. They were pretty clueless; they didn’t understand, but they began to put those words together and gradually took those words to the ends of the earth.
Now, as we are often surrounded by folks who haven’t been baptized, we have an opportunity to speak of the order of redemption. The older folks will remember saving your Green Stamps, putting them in the book, and then redeeming them for a spoon or a Corning Ware dish. This is more sophisticated, but redeem still means “bought back.”
If you’re wondering about your self-esteem, or if you’re wondering if you have any worth or not, or if you’re worth working on, you can say, “I have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Savior.” We are not designed in the blueprint to be able to make it on our own. I like to think He’s designed us with limits so we will need others, and that we will need Him, because that’s the way we’re meant to be.
So this season, I think we have a good story to tell, with all our imperfections and all the ways we miss a mark here and there, to say you know, that order of creation, to meet my maker, to thank Him for the order with which He made things, to thank Him for making me and the order of redemption, to thank Him for putting me back on the right track and offering through the Church the whole toolbox of what it takes to bring me to His feet, to bring me before His face.
I’d like to think that once we begin again as they did in that early century, once we begin to speak those words confidently and humbly again, the first century happens again and then people will say, “You know, I want some of what you have. I like the way you live. Let me explore this life of which you speak.”KEEP READING
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Mal 3:19-20a / Ps 98 / 2 Thes 3:7-12 / Lk 21:5-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Thomas Alva Edison, the great inventor, used to say, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” He conducted about eighteen thousand experiments before he perfected what we now call “the ordinary light bulb.” He became great through untiring work and utmost endurance.
For some of us nowadays, we are inclined to reverse Edison’s slogan by our longing for instant things. Thus, instead of ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, we would rather reverse that and have one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.
Yet Jesus, in today’s gospel, exhorts us, “By your perseverance you will gain your lives.” This statement highlights two important things. First, the need to endure. Secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first, to endure, is absolutely necessary in order to have the second, salvation of the soul.
Why is it absolutely necessary to persevere in order to be saved? Perseverance is an active rather than a passive virtue for us Christians. Perseverance is built up against temptation to sin and apathy through a life of regular prayer, such as the rosary, our devotions to saints, meditation upon scripture, Sunday liturgy and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the graces given in Baptism and strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
Today’s readings teach us the importance of perseverance. In the first reading we heard of the necessity to persevere in righteousness, because evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. But those who receive the Most High, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them, and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. The safe place is heaven, where the Lord rules forever.
In the second reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our imitation of the saints. We heard St. Paul’s harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints. He told them that, if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat.
Why were some unwilling to work? Some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His kingdom. As such, why work? This is wrong because, according to St. Paul, living in idleness, they occupied their time with small talk, rumors, hearsay, slander, with all of these things leading to disharmony and division. So every Christian, when he’s able to, must support himself and his brothers and sisters and not live off the income or wealth of others.
St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us three characteristics of saints. First, they are human beings like us; they are made in the image and likeness of God. They have body and soul; they are made of flesh and blood. They need things all other human beings need. Second, like you and me, they are also tempted. They can be tempted to do evil and be indifferent in their commitment to God. Third, which makes them different from us, the saints cling to God at all times. The saints rely on the power of God and not their own power.
In the gospel reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our living faith. We heard Jesus’ discourse around 30 A.D. on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth, since the temple was associated with God’s presence. So if the temple were to be destroyed, it would mean the end of the world. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D. saw the completion of Jesus’ prophecy.
Our gospel today reminds us that, while waiting for the great moment to come, which is the end of times where God will reign as Lord, we must adjust to a long period of waiting. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did, so that we too may arrive into our eternal glory. As St. Paul said, we must not be idle, waiting for things that will not come to pass in the present time. We must move on with our lives and be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will precede Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.
The question is, are we ready to suffer and to shed our blood, if necessary, for our faith? Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake, and He calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means “witness.” The Book of Revelation says that Jesus was the faithful witness who freed us from our sins by His blood.
Tertullian, the second century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church.” Why is this the case? The martyrs witness the joy and truth and freedom of the Gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood.
Brothers and sisters, some of us may not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. We must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end, that they not be counted among those who have renounced their faith and their salvation in Jesus Christ.
We will be well prepared, too, if we try every day to live our Christian life well and full; if we do our best to build that part of the kingdom which God expects from us in the here and now, a kingdom of peace and justice; if we daily water the seed of love that Jesus has already planted; if we pass onto others the light of faith that He has already lit; if we act as yeast that Jesus has already put in the dough, in order to ferment the world with the Gospel values; and if we serve the world as its salt, which He called us to be, to preserve the world from every corruption. All this means that we cannot sit down, doing nothing, just waiting for the end time. It means that we need to keep ourselves always busy in order to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom.
So, brothers and sisters, as we go home today, let us persevere in our living faith until the end of times, through righteousness and the imitation of the saints. Let us also pray for one another, that we all endure until the end, so we will gain our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 15:5-12, 17-18 / Ps 27 / Phil 3:17 – 4:1 / Lk 9:28b-36
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I happened upon a YouTube video of an old bluegrass gospel song called Angel Band. It reminded me of my dad, Buddy. Buddy died a couple of years ago. It’s a great song, but I think it’s the memory and really the presence of my dad that sparked my emotions while I was listening to it.
Oh come, angel band,
Come and around me stand.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
I just wanted to make sure you know the song and what it meant. We’re from Southwest Virginia.
Later that morning, on my drive to the church at Resurrection where I work, I called my mom, which I do pretty regularly on my drive, just to catch up and see how she’s doing and how she’s feeling. I told her about the song, and she knew it really well and remembered that my dad liked it.
It’s been over two years, and yet that morning she was cleaning out the drawer to the nightstand. She experienced a flood of memories sparked by the items that he had stored there – lapel pins, watches, belt buckles, and his pocketknives – things that he had thought enough of to keep. I told her that I would love to have a pocketknife, but I don’t want one of the ones that’s still in the cellophane like a showcase pocketknife: I want one that he carried in his pocket and used and loved.
Later on, I arrived at the church, grabbed a glass of water and a protein bar, plugged in my laptop, and headed for the comfy chair in the corner of my office. I noticed that behind that chair was Buddy’s guitar. It’s a guitar that I gave him at my wedding in 1994, and now it has been returned to me. A guitar, a simple song, a pocketknife – there’s nothing particularly special about any of them, in and of themselves. And yet, they contain so much power, so much meaning for me. I ask myself, why is that? Why do these objects have so much meaning?
I believe that each one of us possesses a spiritual power, an essence, a soul, and when someone occupies space in this realm, in this world, on this Earth in our lives, they leave little bits of that on things that they touch, things that they love. That’s one reason that we find it so hard to go through their stuff when they’re gone. The room, the car, the bed, and the clothes – it’s almost like they’re still there. We can smell them, we can feel them; we can feel their essence, and we desire so strongly that they return and occupy this space again. But if that happened, wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t in heart failure, if they didn’t have cancer, or diabetes, or pain in their knees and hips, and their memory was intact?
Well, brothers and sisters, that is the promise. That is our hope. That is the result of the new and eternal covenant – not ratified by offerings of bulls and goats, and rams and birds, but by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is the pathway generated by His suffering, death, and resurrection.
But the apostles didn’t know that yet. They had rallied around this amazing man; they had followed Him and witnessed His power to heal and drive out demons, even to raise one from the dead. And the Jews had been in this covenantal relationship with God for centuries, thousands of years, but they never could quite hold up their end of the agreement. So, they ended up at various times in slavery, and in exile, and occupied by foreign powers.
The apostles were pretty sure that Jesus is the Messiah and that He was going to end all that, but what they were not so sure about was His methods. He had just told them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and on the third day raised. He also told them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Yeah, that’s great, Jesus, but how are you going to defeat the Romans? They were still arguing about who was to sit at His right hand when the Kingdom came. Jesus very patiently was teaching and demonstrating, trying to prepare them for the strife and the difficulty that lay ahead, but they just didn’t comprehend His meaning. So, before turning south for that final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus decided to give them some encouragement, give them some hope, something that they could draw on when the times turned darkest. He wanted to give them a real glimpse of the glory that awaits on the other side.
He took His closest friends, and He went up a mountain. Remember that in scriptures, whenever we go up a mountain, we are getting closer to God. He went up a mountain and when He got up there, the first thing He did was pray. He prayed. Jesus always prayed before something big was about to happen. That is a good example for us. While He was praying, His body was transfigured, became glowing and brilliant white, and in order to accentuate the supernatural impact of this event, He was in conversation with the two great heroes of the Jews, Moses and Elijah, also in their glory – Moses representing the law, Elijah representing the prophets, and Jesus the realization and fulfillment of them both.
Peter, James, and John did not have our hindsight on the Resurrection. They didn’t understand, and they wanted to put up tents. They wanted to remain on the mountaintop; they wanted to remain in that glorious moment. Don’t we all? But Jesus knew there was still a lot of hard work to be done to accomplish His exodus in Jerusalem. He will lead an exodus that takes us away from our slavery and to sin and death and to the new promised land – an eternal Heaven with Him.
A couple of days before Buddy died, he and I had a phone conversation about his ailments. He liked to talk about his ailments. And then somehow, we got to talking about Heaven. He was not Catholic and didn’t really understand our faith too deeply, but I told him about our Catholic faith regarding our bodies, and that our Apostles Creed ends with the belief in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. And he said (this was the last time I got to talk to him), “I believe that too, Barry.” Well, I’ll hold onto your pocketknife, Buddy.KEEP READING
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 14, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Dn 12:1-3 / Ps 16 / Heb 10:11-14, 18 / Mk 13:24-32
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a beautiful Cherokee proverb that says: “When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that, when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice.”
Our gospel today talks about the end of time. For many years, people have speculated about the end of time, because people love to speculate, especially about when the world might come to an end. That is why writers and filmmakers make money by imagining how it might end. (more…)KEEP READING
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Rv 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab / Ps 45 / 1 Cor 15:20-27 / Lk 1:39-56
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is an old story about a workman on scaffolding high above the nave of a cathedral. He looked down and saw a woman praying before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a joke, the workman whispered, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman ignored him.
So the workman whispered again more loudly, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman still ignored him.
Finally, he said aloud, “Woman, don’t you hear me? This is Jesus.”
At this point the woman looked at the crucifix and said, “Be still now, Jesus; I’m talking to your mother.” (more…)KEEP READING
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 16, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Acts 1:1-11 / Ps 47 / Eph 1:17-23 / Mk 16:15-20
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
About five hundred years before our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there was a philosopher in ancient Greece by the name of Heraclitus, who said that the only permanence in life is change. Heraclitus was stating the obvious. Every single moment there is a change in the world within us and around us, whether we are aware of this or not. We are no longer the same persons compared to yesterday. We change physically, mentally, and even spiritually. (more…)KEEP READING
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 11, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10A / Ps 23 / Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 / Mt 22:1-14
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today’s gospel comes from the twenty-second chapter of Matthew. Just a little bit earlier, in chapter twenty-one, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and promptly cleanses the temple. What follows is a series of confrontations with the Jewish leaders. Today, in a parable, Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet. (more…)KEEP READING
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 12, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34A, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we always proclaim the mystery of our faith. As we know, our life in this world is in itself already a mystery. Nobody in this world can understand himself or herself completely. For example, even the best medical scientists don’t fully understand the full nature of coronavirus, and that is why they are still not able to find a way to cure those who are afflicted by it.
But the good news is that, even without the aid of a vaccine, which is still nonexistent as we speak, there are now more than four hundred thousand people all over the world who have recovered from COVID-19. (more…)KEEP READING
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 26, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Is 8:23-9:3 / Ps 27 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Mt 4:12-23
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Not too long ago, I was waiting in the lobby of Norfolk General Hospital with former parishioners who were the family of a patient who requested the Sacrament of the Sick. A member of the clergy who was wearing clerical attire exactly as I was wearing that day, passed by. They asked, “Father, do you know that priest?” I said, “No, and I am about 95% sure that he is not a Catholic priest.” They asked, “Why would you say that?” I answered, “Because he is carrying a really big Bible, on the way to visit a patient in the hospital.” (more…)KEEP READING