First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 2:1-5 / Ps 122 / Rom 13:11-14 / Mt 24:37-44
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
According to Tryon Edwards, an American theologian, “Death has nothing terrible that life has not made so. A faithful Christian life in this world is the best preparation for life in the next.” This statement of Mr. Edwards has something to do with preparation for our death. It also has to do with the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives, especially now that we are in the season of Advent.
During the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the new liturgical year in the Church, there is an invitation for Christians to stay spiritually awake and to prepare for the Lord’s coming. Advent, which means, “coming,” is a time of preparation for Christmas, but it is more than that. Today’s gospel speaks of the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age. In this sense, Advent then also points to the unknown time that will mark the end of human history.
According to Father R. H. Lesser, an English priest and author, in his book entitled Like Honey in the Rock, Jesus Christ has six comings. We have to get ready for Him by decorating our house, preparing sweets, and perhaps buying a new dress. The first coming of Jesus happened in a village in a remote province of the Roman Empire. In this sense, God is kind and merciful, since He sent us a savior, His son, to give us salvation. This mercy of God cannot be stopped even by man’s stupidity and malice. He saves us because He loves us.
The second coming, as I already mentioned is the mercy and kindness of God. The third coming, referred to by the fathers of the Church as the parousia, will be a different matter. As Saint Matthew said, “When the Son of Man comes as king, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His royal throne and the people of all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will proceed to judgment.” Our main sins, most of them least remembered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are sins of omission, especially disobeying the positive commandment of the New Testament, the commandment to love.
The fourth coming of Jesus is in the sacraments. The Lord comes in four different ways in the Eucharist: through the meeting of the people of God, through the priest who in a special way represents Christ, through the Word of God, and through the Eucharistic species. His real presence in the Eucharist is a real coming. Of this Eucharistic presence, most people are aware. We tend to neglect and forget the fact that He comes really and truly in every other Sacrament as well. For example, we can really and intimately meet Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as a forgiving God. Why not take advantage of this Sacrament?
The fifth coming is through the wind, the cries of children, the song of the birds, the rain. The problem is that our eyes are not open to see Him. Our ears are not alert to hear Him.
The sixth coming is an even more intimate one, mentioned by the Lord Himself when He said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments. My Father will love you, and we will come and make our permanent home within you.” Most of us know something about this internal coming, but do we actually experience it? If we have to prepare for the glorious coming of the Lord, then we must live our life in the spirit of the Lord, to actively involve ourselves in human interactions, to see in the face of everyone the face of a loving God, to believe that God is Emmanuel, God is with us, a God who is a father, friend, and companion. This is what it means to be spiritually awake.
As we begin today a new cycle of the Church year of grace, let us resolve to shun doomsday paranoia, on the one hand, and reckless complacency on the other. Let us resolve to be always awake in the Spirit by living a life of faith and love in service to the Lord, so that whenever He comes, we shall be ready to follow Him into the glory of eternity.
Christ continues to be present in the Church and in the world. His presence will remain until the end of time, but His presence is not fully manifested. There are still many people in the world who have not heard the Gospel message and have not met Jesus Christ. The world has not been fully reconciled with the Father yet. It is true that everything has been reconciled in Christ, but the grace of reconciliation has not been received by everyone. It is important for us to have this longing for the Lord’s return, but in His fullness. Therefore, we continue to pray constantly saying, “Your kingdom come.”
Not only at Christmastime, but in every celebration of this Eucharistic banquet, the joyful mystery of the coming and presence of Christ among us is made visible. This is the reason to repeat and insist over and over the need to experience Jesus’ coming. It is through this persistent waiting and continuous experience year after year that this image of God in which we were created by love in Jesus Christ will come to full maturity. He comes in so many ways to meet us. Let us go to meet Him.KEEP READING
Thirty-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
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 30, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Wis 11:22-12:2 / Ps 145 / 2 Thes 1:11-2:2 / Lk 19:1-10
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, inventor, political philosopher. Before I could get my citizenship, I had to study a little bit about the history of the United States of America. He helped draft and signed the Declaration of Independence and was the first postmaster of the US.
One day Benjamin Franklin met a lady walking along with her young son. She asked him, “Why is it that the riches of the world bring unhappiness?” He didn’t answer her. Instead, he got an apple from a basket and gave it to the boy. The little boy was very happy and ate the apple immediately. Franklin gave him another, and then another one, until both of the boy’s hands had three apples. Since he couldn’t hold them all, an apple eventually fell to the ground. The boy cried loudly.
Franklin then said to the mother, “You see, when the boy had two apples, which he could comfortably carry, he was happy. But look, when he had too many to carry, and one of them dropped, he started crying. So also with wealth.”
Zacchaeus was a wealthy man, but he was lonely. He had everything, but he was not happy. He was at the top of his profession, but he was despised by his fellow men.
His parents named him “Zacchaeus.” Jewish names have meanings that correspond to one’s personality, just like when we give names to our children. For example, Gabriel means “man of God.” Dominic means “belonging to the Lord.” Irene means “peace.” Ann means “grace,” Corazon means “heart.” The name Zacchaeus means “just” or “clean.” Yet, when the people of Jericho heard the name “Zacchaeus,” they did not think of a just man or a “Mr. Clean” guy, but a detestable and dishonest man.
Tax collectors were despised and considered outcasts, traitors, puppets of the Romans, no doubt because they accumulated great wealth at the expense of others. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and was much hated by all the people. Beyond collecting his quota that he turned into the state, he surcharged the poor and pocketed the extra money that he collected.
The chances of Zacchaeus entering God’s Kingdom were minimal. No self-respecting Jew would endorse his application. Even Jesus Christ pointed out that a rich person would find it very difficult to enter the Kingdom. The rich young man who actually led a clean life was not able to follow; how much more difficult for Zacchaeus, who had sold his soul for money?
Yet Jesus, in today’s gospel, singled out Zacchaeus for the honor of staying at his home. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Zacchaeus, hurry down, for I must stay at your house today.” Imagine that Jesus said to you, “I must stay at your house today.” How would you react to such an invitation? Would you be excited or embarrassed? Would your home be ready? Would you be personally ready to welcome Jesus into your home?
Why would Jesus single him out? It is because Zacchaeus needed God’s merciful love and forgiveness. In his encounter with Jesus, he found more than he imagined possible. He shows the depth of his repentance by deciding to give up half of his goods to the poor, and to use the other half for making restitution for fraud. This shows how radical his conversion was, coupled with restitution. Just like in the sacrament of Reconciliation, after we have confessed all our sins to the priest, the priest will advise us to return what we have taken, restore the dignity of others that we have destroyed, and more. Then he gives penitential works to restore what we have destroyed.
We have another reason why Jesus singled out Zacchaeus. It is because in Zacchaeus’s entire life, he was always looking down for money and business. His focus is on profit and worldly pleasure. But he was asked to rise up and see that the love and forgiveness of God is vast, and that he has the opportunity to change himself for the better.
When he was at the top of the sycamore tree, Jesus asked him to go down. It means that we should not always be at the top and seeing heaven, but to go down and continue doing the mission that Jesus has given us.
There are people who keep their distance from Jesus. They call themselves Christians, but they do not get involved. They are in the tree observing all that is going on in the Church. They are liberal with their comments, generous with their recommendations, and always ready with advice. But they will stay there at a safe distance, looking down from a sheltered observation point.
Today’s gospel ends with a beautiful saying of Jesus: The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus Christ is telling us that He seeks the sinners and the lost in order to offer them, and us, salvation. Such is the great love of God. The sinners have an important place in His plan of salvation. But seeking God does not mean that we need to wait until He finds us. Choosing to hide ourselves from Him never helps us in the process. Life is, and should be, a constant search for God.
So, answering the call of Jesus means to come down from our position as observer. We cannot be spectators. We have to join the community and participate in its activities. We have to let Jesus enter the inner sanctuary of our personal lives.
As we continue the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for those who do not have the Lord God dwelling in their homes. Let us ask the Lord to reach out to these souls so that they, too, may partake in the universal salvation plan of God.KEEP READING
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 9, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 / Ps 98 / 2 Tm 2:8-13 / Lk 17:11-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A story is told about a magical horse owned by a priest. The horse would run only if the phrase, “Thanks be to God,” was uttered, and the horse would stop when it heard, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” One day, a Protestant man borrowed the horse, and he was instructed in the magic words that were needed to make it run or stop. The man said, “Thanks be to God,” and sure enough, the horse started to run, and when it was about to bump a tree, he said, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and the horse stopped abruptly. Then he let it run again, by saying, “Thanks be to God.” He was enjoying the ride until he came near a cliff. Unfortunately, he forgot the magic words to stop the horse. He tried, “Our Father” – it did not stop. “Amazing Grace” – the horse continued to gallop. When the horse was almost to the edge of the cliff, he suddenly remembered the words, and cried out, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” The horse stopped just in time. The man sighed in relief, “Thanks be to God.”
Whatever happened to the other nine? The nine lepers were cured and did not return to thank the Lord. Leprosy was a terrible disease; terrible not only because it destroyed the body, but also because its victims were separated from their families and society. There were very strict laws that prohibited lepers from mixing with healthy people. Imagine the sufferings of the lepers. I bet the cured lepers ran home to their families. They must have been thrilled beyond description. There must have been some grand celebrations.
But why did only one return? I’m sure all intended to return and thank the Lord. Perhaps we can understand if we put it in modern day language, so here it goes. Mary had to return home and clean the house; there were only men living there and the place was a mess. Aaron arrived home just in time to save the harvest; he worked day and night. Martha had to catch up on her favorite TV series. David found his business in crisis and dedicated himself to getting it in order. Amos returned to find his wife had remarried and moved away; he drank his pain away. Peter lost his old job and was looking for a new one. Anna headed back to thank the Lord but could not resist that sale sign in the shopping mall. And so on.
So, there you go, brothers and sisters – excuses, excuses, excuses, all except Simon the Samaritan. Jesus had given the sick the gift of life, and like any gift, it cannot be complete without a thank you. Yes, we teach our children to say thank you. We celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a national holiday. We have a need to say thanks.
We celebrate the Eucharist each week, and the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. A gift requires a thank you, not so much for the giver, but for the receiver. The poet George Herbert wrote, “Oh God, you have given us so much. Give us one more thing – a grateful heart.” We see miracles all the time. We have seen how many times people have been cured of diseases, sometimes with no logical medical explanation. When people are sick or dying, they take their relationship with the Lord seriously. Many return to the sacraments and change their priorities in life. But when the crisis is over, some of them are never seen again in the church.
If we examine our lives, we can see God’s hand in so many instances and close calls. We all have been touched by Jesus. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves, “Have our lives changed as a result of the encounter?” Are we like one of the nine, superficial in our relationship with Christ, except when we think we really need Him? Or have we responded like the Samaritan? Today we are reminded to be grateful for everything. Gratitude is something that we cannot ignore at the expense of our decency and integrity.
The first reading, according the Second Book of Kings and the gospel of today, presents to us an attitude of gratitude. Naaman after being cured of leprosy and the Samaritan after being healed by Jesus. Why is an attitude of gratitude to God crucial to the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit? Apparently, to be made well, we must add thanksgiving to our faith. The person who makes such acknowledgement experiences a salvation that goes beyond the merely physical cure. It is a reorientation of the inner life.
How is our impulse to thank others related to our impulse to thank God? What does gratitude contribute to our being made well in body, mind, and soul? Why is it so important that Jesus would chastise those who didn’t value it? Gratitude keeps us connected to the giver of the gift. It helps us recognize the source of a gift. Furthermore, it keeps us grounded in the value of the gift as we take it into new pursuits and places. All good gifts come from God.
The attitude of gratitude keeps us focused on the source of life, love, and each new day. Maybe when we acknowledge the source of love, we are more likely to share it with others. Maybe that is why it is important enough for Jesus to lament its lack from the other nine. So, brothers and sisters, we will not forget to thank the Lord for all the blessings that we have received in our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / Ps 95 / 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14 / Lk 17:5-10
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An elderly woman lived in one half of a duplex apartment. She was extremely poor but was a good woman. She prayed a great deal. In the other half of the duplex lived the owner. He was a man of no faith, no prayer, no religion. He often made fun of the old lady’s trust in God. One day, this woman was praying quite loudly, telling the Lord that she had no food in the house. The godless one heard her and decided that he would play a trick on the old lady. He took a loaf of bread, laid it at her front door, rang the bell, and hurried back to his apartment to hear through the wall her cry of delight: Thank you Lord. I just knew that You wouldn’t fail me! With a devilish grin, the man came back to her front door and told her, “You silly old woman! You think God answered your prayers? I’m the one who brought that loaf of bread.” Without any dismay, the old woman exclaimed, “Praise the Lord! He always helps me in my needs, even if He has to use the devil to answer my prayers.”
The readings this Sunday teach us lessons about faith and trust in God. In the first reading, the prophet Habukkuk complains to God: How long, O Lord? I cry for help but You do not listen. The prophet is asking whether or not God cares for His people. There is war and violence, misery and death all around their place. The powerful Babylonians are about to demolish the people of Israel. How can God allow things like this to happen?
Habukkuk is trying to question the loving presence of God, perhaps like many of us when we are confronted with so many problems and so much pain. Remarkably, God appears not to be displeased with Habukkuk, since He answers him with gentle and reassuring words. It sounds as if He’s telling the prophet, “Be patient. I have a plan. I will intervene when it is time. What I ask of you now is faith and if you have it, you will live.”
What kind of faith does God ask of Habukkuk? The prophet believes in God’s existence. In fact, he is already imploring for divine intervention. Yet God wants Habukkuk to develop a kind of faith that is trustful and steadfast in the face of trials and difficulties. God would like Habukkuk to keep believing that God will not abandon His people, and that He will save them in His own time.
In today’s gospel, the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. The Apostles themselves realize their need for a more solid kind of believing in order to persevere in following the Lord. Real faith is necessary, considering the fact that it is not easy to understand the radical teachings of Jesus, like leaving homes and families, daily carrying the cross, forgiving one another, and loving one’s enemies. It is even more difficult to follow the Lord’s way of life, like living simply, serving the poor, teaching the ignorant, exorcising demons, touching lepers, and challenging authorities.
The Lord says in reply, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Jesus compares faith with a tiny mustard seed whose power does not depend on its size, but on its great potential hidden within itself. Faith, even when it’s little, has the capacity to do unbelievable things in the life of individuals and communities.
The use of the image of the mustard seed also suggests that the quality of faith is more important than its quantity. We might think that the more we know theology, the more prayers we recite, the more religious organizations we join, the stronger our faith becomes. Such is not necessarily true. In the Gospel of John, the Lord says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in Me is doing His works. Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Or else believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do.” (John 14:10-12)
Somehow these words can help us understand the kind of faith that we need to develop in our lives. Faith is our unqualified acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of humankind. Our faith is genuine if we believe in the person of Jesus, His salvific words and actions, and if we trust in His absolute power over darkness and sin. The believer would manifest this faith meaningfully by participating in the saving works of Jesus.
There is a story of a small boy, a passenger on a luxury ship. The ship was nearly sinking because of a very strong typhoon. Everyone was in panic, grabbing lifeboats and life jackets from each other. This little boy was sitting in a chair as if nothing was happening. One adult passenger approached him and asked, “Boy, it seems that you don’t mind what is happening. Don’t you know that in a few minutes, we are going to sink?” The boy answered, “Excuse me, sir, the captain of the ship is my father. Because he is my father, I trust him. Why would I be afraid?” The captain of our lives is none other than God Himself.
Saint Paul writes from prison to encourage Timothy to keep the faith. His words to Timothy remind us that we have all received a special gift from God, a gift which is more than enough to enable us to remain strong in faith. That is the Holy Spirit: the spirit of power, the spirit of love and self-control.
So today, let us ask God to increase our faith. As we try to face with courage our own problems in life, let us not forget that our difficulties can never equal the sacrifice of Jesus which He offered for our sake. When we pray to the Lord, “Lord, increase our faith,” we are opening ourselves to be moved more and more by the power of His spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, we can stir into flame the gift of faith. We become capable of guarding this rich trust and of witnessing to our faith before others.KEEP READING
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7 / Ps 113 / 1 Tm 2:1-8 / Lk 16:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about an angel who appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that he had come to reward him for his years of devoted service. The dean is asked to choose one of three blessings: infinite wealth, infinite fame, or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the dean asked for infinite wisdom. “You’ve got it,” the angel said and disappeared. All heads turned toward the dean, who sat glowing in the aura of infinite wisdom. Finally, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something.” The dean looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”
Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd, as we see in today’s gospel parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself. One can be smart and use one’s smartness to do mean things. We know for a fact that many con artists and terrorists are smart people who use their smartness to create unhappiness in the world.
Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions. Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service. We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. Why did the master, who had made up his mind to fire the manager, now commend him? Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine, and lifeless manner, devoid of creativity and imagination. As a result, the business was failing, so the master decided it was time to fire him. He said, “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”
The manager is facing the real danger of being dismissed from service. He knows the seriousness of the situation. He knows exactly how helpless he is. That is why he says to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (Luke 16:3) He is in a very difficult and precarious situation. He scratches his head and comes up with this ingenious plan to safeguard his future. The master praises him, because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business, he would have been a much more successful manager rather than a failure.
The parable challenges all of us to be smart managers. Yes, we are all called to be managers. God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers. Jesus Christ, in addition, entrusts the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our hands as His managers. World peace and harmony and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually. Jesus calls it the Kingdom of God.
Our business as followers of Christ, ordained and unordained believers, is to help bring about the Kingdom of God, starting with our own selves. We have all been given the necessary resources to do this. We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, and we have been given time. Sooner or later, we shall be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources.
There is a story about a very rich woman who died and went to heaven. Saint Peter escorted her down a magnificent street on which each house was beautifully made like a palace. The wealthy woman saw one house that was particularly beautiful and asked who lived there. “That,” Saint Peter answered, “is the home of your servant.” “Well,” the woman said, smiling, “If my servant gets a house like that, I certainly look forward to seeing a palatial home for myself.” Soon they came to a narrow alley where the houses were small and cramped. “You will live in that house,” said Saint Peter, pointing with his finger. “Me? Live in a shanty? That’s an insult,” retorted the wealthy woman. “This is the best we can do for you,” Peter said. “You must understand that we only build your home up here with the materials you send ahead while you are still on earth.”
The Church reminds us today that it is now the time to send materials ahead of us in the afterlife, in order to build our homes in heaven. These materials are not construction materials that we can buy in a construction supply company. These materials are not just prayers and acts of charity but doing the day-to-day ordinary work in an extraordinary way. It means consciously performing your duties well, whether you are a lawyer, a government official, a teacher, a student, a policeman, or an ordinary citizen.
We don’t have to wait, like the dishonest servant, for the last-minute display of smartness to fix our eternal concerns. The time to be smart is now. The smart manager used what he could not give to get what he needed so badly: friendship with his business associates. We should likewise invest all of our temporal and spiritual resources to gain the only thing that matters in the end: the Kingdom of God.KEEP READING
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 / Ps 51 / 1 Tm 1:12-17 / Lk 15:1-32
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today’s readings from the Holy Scriptures teach us about the overflowing mercy and forgiveness of God. They also talk about sin and repentance, confession, and communion, courtesy of the prodigal son and his father.
We heard in the First Reading that when Moses was on Mount Sinai, the chosen people were acting perversely. They had cast for themselves an image of a cow, were worshipping and making sacrifices to it, and giving credit to the idol for bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt. With that, the Lord became very upset. God was prepared to destroy them all. But Moses implored God to have mercy and forgiveness for the sinful people. Hearing the plea of Moses, God changed His mind and decided not to destroy the people as He had originally planned.
In the Second Reading, we also heard how the mercy and forgiveness of God sanctified St. Paul, because he had sincerity of heart. By the mercy of God, St. Paul, formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence, was made an example to those who would come to believe in Jesus for eternal life.
Today’s gospel also speaks of the mercy and forgiveness of God. In this case, three parables are given to declare the magnitude of the mercy of God. These are the parables of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the Prodigal Son. Many tax collectors and sinners came to Jesus, and this drew criticism on the part of the Pharisees and the Scribes. They grumbled because Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them.
Brothers and Sisters, let us meditate on the parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable begins with a request. The prodigal son says to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that should come to me.” Here we are given our first insight concerning sin: Sin always involves the misuse of something good.
For example, sins of the tongue, like gossip, slander, swearing, and lying, all involve the misuse of something good: namely, the God-given gift of speech. Sins of the flesh are committed when people misuse the good gift of sexuality, which the Lord intends for marriage only.
Notice that in the story, the younger son requested the share of the estate that was coming to him. He was not making an improper request. He was not asking for something evil. He was requesting something good, which his father was planning to give him anyway. His sin came when he misused the good gift and squandered his inheritance on what the gospel calls “dissolute living,” a life of dissipation.
The next interesting point is that he does all this squandering in a distant land. I don’t think that was a coincidence. When people commit sins that they intend to repent of, they desperately try to run away from the Heavenly Father, just like this boy tried to run away from his father. Those of us who commit sins make every effort to keep them secret, so that nobody knows about them. But that is a very big mistake because, eventually, all sins catch up with us, as the boy’s sins eventually caught up with him. In the parable we are told that he spent all his money, and then a famine broke out, and he found himself with nothing to eat. He ended up dining with pigs.
There we have another insight concerning sin: Sin turns us into slaves. This is something that people who have an addiction know a great deal about. A recovering alcoholic will tell you that when he started to drink excessively, he was acting in total freedom. But eventually it came to the point where he could not stop. He had become a slave to his sinful behavior.
Finally, praise God, the prodigal son wakes up and comes to his senses. He repents, but notices that his repentance is rather superficial. He has what the Church would call “imperfect contrition.” Imperfect contrition is when we are sorry for our sins because we fear the consequences, especially Hell. Perfect contrition is when we are sorry for the best possible reason: because we have offended our Heavenly Father, whom we love above all things. But notice that his father still forgives him. The Church teaches us that our Father will do the same for us. He will forgive us our serious sins if we go to Confession with at least imperfect contrition in our hearts.
Once the prodigal son is forgiven, he is able to share once again in the family meal. For us, that is symbolic of the Eucharist. That is why the Church teaches us that, if we have mortal sin, we cannot receive the Eucharist again until we have gone to Confession and confessed our sin.
The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, has a beautiful description of sin: Sin is before all else an offense against God and a rupture in our communion with Him. At the same time, it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Mother Theresa had advice for living a good life. She said:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of having selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
So, as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let us pray for those who have fallen away from the grace of God, so that divine mercy and forgiveness may reach out to them before it’s too late. May their ears be open so that they will hear that Jesus is welcoming them back home.KEEP READING
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21 / Ps 117 / Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 / Lk 13:22-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text, was warning his congregation about eternal damnation. He said, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look, preacher, I’ve got no teeth.” “Never mind,” the evangelist said. “The teeth will be provided.”
Brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” We can hear in the gospel that Jesus would not give the number of those who would be saved. He did not even really answer the man’s question. He just said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” In other words, He’s answering a more important question: How can I be saved?
There are questions that have a special appeal to the mass media and to popular imagination. For example, when will the world come to an end? When is Armageddon coming? Who is the antichrist? What is 666? Is it the mark of the antichrist? What about the three days of darkness? These are questions that Jesus does not want to answer. I’m sure of that.
Today I invite you to reflect on this gospel, which is about salvation in Jesus Christ and therefore, entering God’s kingdom. Many of our problems in life come from our bad practice of asking the wrong questions. We ask the wrong questions; therefore, we also get the wrong answers.
The first wrong question is: How many will be saved? It is like the question of the person in the gospel. It is wrong to ask this question, because the right question is: How will we be saved? The Lord does not give us numbers of those who will be saved. The Lord shows us the way. We will be saved by entering through the narrow gate.
For us Catholics, the possession of our baptismal certificate and regular Mass attendance do not guarantee our salvation. We must go through, like Jesus said, the narrow gate. So now the question is, what exactly is the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is every moral decision that we make. Do we choose for God, or do we choose against God?
The second reading tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are not signs of the absence of God, but they are signs of His presence. It tells us that God is allowing challenges to come into our lives, so that we can grow closer to Him. In other words, following Christ is not an easy way.
The second wrong question is: Where is the gate? It is wrong to ask this question because the question is not where is the gate. There is no gate. The proper question to ask is not where is the gate, but who is the gate. The gate is not a place; the gate is a person. Jesus Christ Himself is the gate.
The last wrong question is: What must I do? It is wrong to ask this question because the Lord wants us to ask: What must I continue doing? It is because we are people who are good at the start of an activity but sometimes fail to sustain it through and through. Sometimes we are good at the beginning, but when it comes to sustaining it, that is where we falter.
So let us not ask how many will be saved, but rather how will we be saved. Let us not ask where is the gate, but rather who is the gate? Let us not ask what must I do, but rather what must I continue doing?
Brothers and sisters, what are the questions in our hearts right now that remain unanswered? Maybe the source of our pain is that we are asking the wrong question in life.
There was a very well-known and wealthy man who visited a nursing home. He was welcomed by everyone except by an old man in a corner, sitting in his wheelchair. The visitor stopped and asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” The old man just stared at him. For the second time he asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” This time the old man looked at him and said, “No, but you can ask the nurses. They have a file on each one of us.”
The narrow door, besides being the making of correct moral decisions, is patient endurance of all the difficult things that confront us in our lives. Jesus will be there with us all of the way. He invites us to walk the same road that He walked. He strengthens us for this journey with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He invites us to make our own way to Jerusalem, there to pass through the narrow door to Calvary. But we must remember: beyond Calvary is the resurrection and the joy of eternal life with God.
Make the correct choice. If you do, you will not be disappointed when you meet Jesus face to face. Guaranteed. In the end, it is not who we think we are or who others think we are, but who we are to God that truly matters. He has the final say; He has the final file on each one of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Wis 18:6-9 / Ps 33 / Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 / Lk 12:32-48
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
One day in 1780, the state of Connecticut was enveloped by a mysterious darkness. The same thought came to all: The Last Day had arrived. In the House of Representatives, members were heard asking for an adjournment, so that they could go home and wait for the Lord’s coming together with their families. The chairman, Abraham Davenport, made a short speech. “Either it is the day of judgment or not. If not, there is no need for adjournment. If it were the day of judgment, I would rather be found doing my duty. I wish candles to be brought.”
Brothers and sisters, the parable of today’s gospel focuses on the unpredictable return of Jesus and our need to be prepared for His return. He is saying to us, Ready or not, here I come.
Normally, when we think of being ready, we usually think of being prepared for the worst that could happen. Locks on the doors in case of thieves. Life jackets in the event of a boat accident.
Isn’t it interesting that most of us believe in preparation for many uncertainties, but not for the most important event of our lives? We carry a spare tire in our car as a preparation for a flat tire. We have insurance in preparation for our death. Fire truck in preparation for a fire. Airline stewards provide pre-flight instruction in preparation for turbulent weather. And we seek education in preparation for a good job.
Preparation, in our society, is a sign of wisdom. But think about this: Of all the preparations that we make for the things I just mentioned, not a single one is a certainty. Yet we feel compelled to prepare ourselves for them.
The return of Jesus is a certainty. We can never know precisely when He will return or when we will die, but His return is certain. We must constantly watch, being always faithful and ready, so that we may be found worthy to share in the heavenly banquet He has prepared for us.
The question of the parable is not whether or not Christ is coming again, or when He’s coming, or even how He’s coming. The point is being prepared for His coming and ready to receive Him whenever He comes, now or later.
When a family was vacationing in Europe, they found that they needed to drive three days continuously, day and night, to get to Germany. They all got into the car: Mom, Dad, and their three-year-old daughter. The little daughter had never traveled at night before. She was scared the first night in the car, seeing only the deep darkness outside the window.
“Where are we going, Daddy?”
“To your uncle’s house in Germany.”
“Have you been to his house before?”
“Then do you know the way?”
“Maybe we can read the map.”
“Do you know how to read the map?”
“Yes, we will get there safely.”
“Where are we going to eat, if we get hungry before arriving?”
“We can stop at restaurants if we are hungry,” the Dad replied.
“Do you know if there are restaurants on the way?”
“Yes, there are.”
“Do you know where?”
“No, but we’ll be able to find some.”
The same dialog was repeated several times during the first night and also the second night, but on the third night, his daughter was quiet. The Dad thought that she might have fallen asleep, but when he looked into the mirror, he saw that she was awake and was just looking around calmly. He couldn’t help wondering why she was not asking questions anymore.
“Dear, do you know where we are going?”
“Germany, uncle’s home.”
“Do you know how we are getting there?”
“Then why aren’t you asking anymore?”
“Because Daddy is driving.”
Because Daddy is driving. Yes, brothers and sisters, our Father is driving. We may not know the destination, and sometimes we may just know it as the child knew it – Germany — without understanding what or where it really is. In the road of life that we follow, there are many uncertainties and distractions. We do not know where the road will take us. We do not know when it will end. But one thing is certain: At the end of life’s journey, Our Lord will be there to meet us, to welcome us into the heavenly kingdom, if we have prepared ourselves.
Preparation cannot be a “sometime” thing but living each moment of our life for Jesus. If we can do that, we will be prepared to greet our Master whenever He comes.
How can one be prepared in this matter? If you can still remember when Jesus talks about the Last Judgment, He makes it clear that this preparation or preparedness would be measured by our readiness to serve the people we meet. He said, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do this unto me.” We have to complete the task entrusted to us every day and be at peace with, and at the service of, our neighbor now, to be ready for His Second Coming.
Another way is to be faithful to the life and mission of Jesus, as we await the end time, His Second Coming. Despite criticisms, rejection, pain, and suffering, let us remain faithful to the love of the Father, as Jesus did. Let us fulfill the mission entrusted to us, that is, to proclaim God’s reign to all.
God loves faithfulness and rewards those who are faithful to Him. What is faithfulness? It means keeping one’s word or promise, and commitment, no matter how tough or difficult it gets. Faithfulness is a character trait of God and one that He expects of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 31, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ecc 1:2, 2:21-23 / Ps 90 / Col 3:1-5, 9-11 / Lk 12:13-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp. He picked it up, and a genie appeared. “Because you have freed me,” the genie said, “I will grant you a wish.” The man thought for a moment, and then responded, “My brother and I had a fight thirty years ago, and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I wish that he would finally forgive me.” There was a thunderclap, and the genie declared, “Your wish has been granted.” The genie continued, “You know, most men would ask for wealth or fame, but you only wanted the love of your brother. Is it because you are old and dying?” “No way!” the man cried, “But my brother is, and he’s worth about sixty million dollars.”
Brothers and sisters, in the gospel, a man asks Jesus to interfere and to help settle a problem in the family concerning the division of ancestral property. He says, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” In Jewish culture, as well as in many other cultures, to be chosen as mediator is something honorable. Normally, people would ask someone to mediate because of the person’s good standing in the community. Jesus appears to decline the invitation and gives the reason for His refusal when He says, “Take care to guard against all greed. For though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” The Lord suspects that this conflict about the inheritance is driven by greed, and He does not want to take part in it.
Brothers and sisters, up through today, many family feuds are caused by a selfish interest in inheritance. Because of a piece of land or property, siblings give silent treatment to one another, file civil lawsuits against each other, and in some situations, harm or even kill one another.
To show his disgust with greediness, the Lord tells the parable of the man with the bumper crop, the man who built bigger barns to store up his harvest and secure his comfortable future. He is called a fool by God. Why? What did this farmer do to displease God? There is no sign that the man is dishonest or that he cheats others in order to gain more.
However, if we read between the lines of the parable, we can tell that the farmer is wrong on at least two counts. Number one, he celebrates bountiful harvests without being grateful. He believes that he is successful in farming because of his own efforts. Thus, he does not feel beholden to anybody, not even to God. And second, he depends solely on material possessions for his security and happiness. He believes that by becoming wealthy, his future is guaranteed. The farmer in the parable is a fool, because he forgets that all of creation is from God.
There is nothing that we can claim as our own in this world. Even personal achievements cannot come without God’s grace. We should remain grateful to God, because He is the reason for all our being and becoming. The person who thinks he succeeds through his own effort only tends to become proud and selfish, while he who recognizes that every blessing comes from God tends to become humble and generous.
Moreover, the farmer is foolish to think that his wealth alone would make him happy. The experience of so many lonely, rich people is proof that possessions do not guarantee life and happiness. In fact, there’s more to life than money and material things. Love, friendship, intimacy, and other Christian values are essential for joyful and meaningful living.
In the days of King Solomon, there lived two brothers who reaped wheat in the fields of Zion. One night, in the dark of the moon, the elder brother gathered several sheaves of his harvest and left them in his brother’s field, saying to himself, “My brother has seven children. With so many mouths to feed, he could use some of my bounty.” And then he went home. A short time later, the younger brother slipped out of his house, gathered several sheaves of his wheat and carried it into his brother’s field, saying to himself, “My brother is all alone, with no one to help him harvest, so I’ll share some of my wheat with him.” When the sun rose, each brother was amazed to find that he had just as much wheat as before.
The next night they paid each other the same kindness, and they awoke and found their stores still full. But on the third night, they met each other as they carried their gifts into each other’s field. Each threw his arms around the other and shed tears of joy for his goodness. And when King Solomon heard of their love, he built the temple of Israel there on the place of brotherhood.
Brothers and sisters, what does it matter if you have all the riches in the world, but have no real friends? What does it profit if you manage to get the bigger share of an inheritance, but lose a brother or a sister in the process? Would not love and intimacy in the family be more important than a piece of property?
In the first reading, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that all things are vanity. When death comes, all of our human achievements, including material possessions and honorific titles, will be left behind. St. Paul, in the second reading, wisely admonishes that it is better to set our hearts on what pertains to higher realms and not on things of Earth. What are these higher things that St. Paul is talking about? What else, but the virtues that Christ our Lord would like us to have, such as love, compassion, generosity, mercy, and forgiveness. These virtues will accompany us to Heaven, not our earthly honors or possessions.KEEP READING