Fraternal Correction

September 10, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Discipleship, Evangelization, Father Nixon, Love, Mission

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ez 33:7-9 / Ps 95 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Sometimes in the Bible we come across certain passages that are as relevant and practical in our lives today as they were a thousand years ago when they were first written.  Today’s readings are good examples of such passages. Together they remind us that, as faithful Christians, it is our responsibility to reach out to our not-so-faithful brothers and sisters and bring them back into the fold.  They even go on to recommend practical steps for how to go about doing this.

A young woman, Lydia, strayed from the church as a teenager.  After nine years of experimenting with atheism, spiritism, and New Age, she found her way back again to the Church, by the grace of God.  Relating her story, Lydia said that what hurt her most was that, in all her years of spiritual exile, nobody in the Church missed her.  Nobody ever phoned or visited to find out what was wrong.  “I got the impression that the Church did not want me,” she said.

Of course, the Church wants her, but what are we doing to help the many men and women in her situation to find their way back into full communion with the Church?  Today’s readings invite us to review our “I don’t care” attitude toward fallen and lapsed members of the Church, reminding us that, yes, it should be our business to reach out to them.

Why should it be our business whether somebody else decides to serve God or not?  As members of the Church, we are not just priestly people who offer a sacrifice.  We are also a prophetic people, meaning that we are God’s spokespersons.

Today’s first reading is, in fact, a compact job description that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel on what it means to be a prophetic person.  The first reading is a passage in the new phase of the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel, and it occurs in the context of an invasion of Palestine by a hostile army.  Just as a watchman who warns the people of impending danger is not to be blamed if they do not listen, so Ezekiel is not to be blamed if the people to whom he preaches do not reform their lives.  But if he fails to preach to them, then he must accept the blame.

St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds everyone that love is the key to obeying each of the commandments.  Real love is love that looks out for the interest of other people.  For a person who really loves, other people come first.  In the passage from Matthew, Jesus gives an instruction in how to handle a refractory disciple.  The instruction describes a formal procedure in three steps:

Step One:  private confrontation.  If there is no success, then the next step is recommended.

Step Two:  the use of one or two additional formal witnesses.  Failure here leads to a final step.

Step Three:  Resort to the community, such as the local church.  If there is no success here, the disciple is to be placed outside the communion of believers, as we say ‘excommunicated’.

Members of the Church who view church membership as being the same as citizenship in a civil government should think twice after hearing today’s reading.  In a civil society, objection about fundamental policy is not only at times permitted; disagreement is at times required in order to be loyal to God.

But the Church in its fundamental teachings lives at a level much more profound.  The leaders of the Church are invested with the authority of God, which means that they have to move within the bounds indicated to them by God, such as by being attentive to the scripture and tradition, the two sources of revelation.

Leaders of the Church in fundamental matters cannot do whatever they feel like.  They are responsible to God for the flock entrusted to them.  If they neglect to proclaim the message entrusted to them, God will hold them responsible.  They are invested with the authority of God.  But this authority is designed to help them and all of the Church’s members listen to God’s voice in the profoundly important matters of life, involving principles of moral and religious actions.

The Church can function as it should only if all of its members — leaders and non-leaders alike — obey the fundamental call of Jesus to love.  But precisely because love is the fundamental law of the Church’s existence, decisive action with Church leaders is at times necessary, if they are to remain true to their calling by God.

God clearly wants everybody to be saved.  He does not desire the death of a sinner.  “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked?” says the Lord God.  “Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live?  (Ez 18:23).”  That is why Jesus teaches us in the gospel about fraternal correction; how to correct an erring brother and bring him back to the path of salvation.

Underlying the whole thing should be genuine love or charity.  For St. Paul says in the second reading, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.”  God’s law of love asks all of us to be vigilant, not only for outside dangers, but also to keep watch within.  Keep guard and watch over our hearts to ensure that we love as God loves, and our hearts do not harden into legalism, lack of compassion and mercy, or apathy.  We’re all sentinels, watchpersons, vigilant for any discord, hatred, or inconsistency with the Gospel, and vigilant within ourselves for resentment, jealousy.  Desire begins in the heart.

We now see the rapid and unrelenting spread of evil and immorality and sin in our world.  Shall we continue being passive and impervious to all this?  Unless we do something now, we may find ourselves the next on defense.  As the famous quotation from Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Let the gospel this Sunday inspire and empower us to proclaim the truth courageously, to denounce evil and sin resolutely, and to correct wrongdoers in truth and charity.  The essence of discipleship and faithfulness to God is love.  This is a love that is formed from within by God’s grace.  It fosters loving watchfulness inside and out, and it softens the heart and saves us from ourselves.  It turns us back toward each other and creates understanding, healing, and reconciliation.  For us Christians, goodwill and kindness are not things we may choose to do or not to do.  It is a debt we owe to each and every one.

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No Cross, No Crown

September 3, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Blessings, Commitment, Discipleship, Father Nixon, Obedience, St. Paul, Strength, Trust

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 3, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jer 20:7-9 / Ps 63 / Rom 12:1-2 / Mt 16:21-27
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class.  They got to the fourth station where Jesus, on the road to Calvary, meets His mother.  The nun explained that even though they could not talk to each other, the mother and son spoke to each other just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils.  The class gave many answers.  One said that Mary said, “This isn’t fair.”  Another said that she said, “Why me?”  Finally, a sick little girl raised her thin hand, got up, and said, “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus.  She said to Him, ‘Keep on going, Jesus.’  Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion, to keep on going?  Because she understood the Christian principle of no cross, no crown.”

The image of Jesus Christ crucified is so important for our liturgical life that the Church requires that the crucifix be on or close to the altar at every Mass.  It should be the focal point of the Christian life.  All three of today’s scripture readings, with their emphasis on suffering and sacrifice, help us regain a proper appreciation of the crucified Christ and of the place of the cross in our Christian lives.

Jesus Christ proves to us how much God loves us by suffering and dying on the cross, that we may have eternal life.  The greatest expression of Christ’s love is the laying down of His life on the cross.  The very center of His mission is His death and resurrection for the life of the world.  We can recall that St. Paul declared, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Gal 6:14).”

Peter, James, and John have just left the sweet, reassuring, hallowed experience of the Transfiguration.  How thrilling religion can be!  How comforting for the heart.  Just when the apostles are wallowing in pleasant religious feelings, Jesus grows stern and tells them about His forthcoming cross.  Peter will have none of it and tells Jesus that this is for others, not Him and them.  Jesus, without missing a beat, cuts Peter with quickness by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!”

Peter needed divine intervention to know that Jesus was divine at Caesarea Philippi.  Now he needs divine illumination again to understand that the nice feelings at Tabor are only bought with the dreadful feelings of Calvary.  You can sense the fire in Jesus’ heart as He speaks in glowing terms about the cost of following Him.  Of course, He knows where everything is heading:  Jerusalem and Golgotha, the grave and beyond.  His disciples are not as clear about the direction they are headed, but not for lack of hearing about it.  Peter actually takes Jesus aside and tells Him that this talk of suffering and death is inappropriate.  This should be the hour of victory, but Jesus insists on making the opportunity in front of them strangely grim.

Following Jesus is not a walk in the park.  It will not lead to a comfortable position sitting on His right or His left, but rather a taste of the cup from which He is to drink.  If we believe in Jesus and are willing to risk a love like His, then we have to be prepared for what the world does to truth-speakers like Him.

Perhaps, like Peter, we may be losing sight of our purpose in life. It is not to live totally for pleasure and avoid as many crosses as possible.  Rather, it is to live it in such a way so as to merit the reward of eternal life.  It is about living our few years in this life in a way that will reap for us the reward of eternal life in the next life.  More concretely, it is about picking up our crosses daily and accepting them in the same spirit that Jesus accepted His own cross.  The remarkable part is that once we begin living as Jesus taught us to live, everything will turn upside down.  Suddenly, what seemed to be an enormous cross, will turn out to be, in the light of this world and the next world, an enormous blessing.

Suffering then, is not an end in itself.  It is a pathway to glory.  Jesus has taken on the full weight of human suffering and has transformed it, giving it life-giving value.  This is why we willingly display the crucifix instead of rejecting it.  While we try to alleviate suffering through legitimate means, at the same time we strive to see it from God’s perspective to find its deeper meaning.  When we look at a crucifix, we are reminded that God does not see suffering as something to be avoided at all costs.  He knows how to bring good out of suffering.

St. Paul knows that the idea of sacrifice, which is voluntary suffering, does not fit the world’s way of thinking.  We are no longer to think as the world does or judge by the world’s standards.  Rather, we are called to be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we may discern what is the will of God: what is good, pleasing, and perfect.

To be able to do this, we need to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ or the crucified Christ.  He is risen, but His cross and His passion are our strength.  The way of perfection passes by way of the cross.  Living by God’s will, no matter what form the cross may take in our lives, is what leads to our glory with Him.

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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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Eyes Fixed on Jesus

August 13, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Faith, Father Nixon, Strength, Trust

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a / Ps 85 / Rom 9:1-5 / Mt 14:22-33
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Visitors to the Holy Land like to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, the sea that Jesus walked.  A certain tourist wanted such a ride, and the boatman told him that the fare was $150.

“One hundred fifty dollars!” exclaimed the tourist.  “That’s why Jesus just walked.”

If we go deeper into the gospel passage for today, this story of Jesus’ walking on the sea teaches us a lot about who Jesus is, about the Church and her journey through the world, and about the life of faith of individual believers.

First is the lesson about Jesus.  The miracle of Jesus’ walking on the sea shows that Jesus is Lord and has authority over all forces, natural and supernatural.  The Jews believed that the sea is the domain of supernatural demonic forces.  A rough and stormy sea is regarded as the work of these hostile spirits.  By walking on the raging waves and calming the storm, Jesus is showing Himself to be One who has power and control over these hostile spiritual powers.

There are Christians who have surrendered their lives to the Lord but still live in constant fear of evil spirits, sorcery, witchcraft, potions, and curses.  There are many of us who go to fortune tellers and ask them, “What is ahead of us?”  Many of us, too, read horoscopes to know what will happen to us during the day.  Today’s gospel readings bring us the good news that these powers of darkness stand no chance at all when Jesus is present and active in our lives and affairs.

The second lesson is about the Church.  The boat on the sea is one of the earliest Christian symbols for the Church in her journey through the world.  Just as the boat is tossed about by the waves, so is the Church pounded from all sides by worldly and spiritual forces hostile to the kingdom of God.  In the midst of crisis, Jesus comes to strengthen the faith of the Church.  He assures us that no matter how strong the storm of life is at the moment, He is always to remain with His Church, and He keeps His promise always.

Some of our priests and bishops in the past have felt the persecution of the Roman emperors, the threat of the Anti-Christ, and heresies.  The sexual conduct of some priests has cracked the Church.  But the Church still exists and will continue to exist in the future, because Christ is with His Church.

The third lesson is about the individual believer.  The first rule I learned regarding driving a motor vehicle is: Keep your eyes on the road always.  And not on the steering wheel, not on the clutch or the accelerator, because if we do that we will certainly crash.  The sight of Jesus walking on the sea, especially the involvement of Peter in the story, is a lesson for us who are tempted to take our eyes off of Jesus and to take more notice of the threatening circumstances around us.

Peter had said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Mt 14:28). Jesus gives him the command, “Come” (Mt 14:29).  But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink (Mt 14:30).

The strong wind in our lives could be sickness, death, poverty, family problems, inability to correct unjust conditions, difficulty in finding decent work, apathy, impatience, the urge to give up in despair, and many more.  Why did Peter sink?  When Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he walked upon water well enough.  But when he took notice of the danger he was in and focused on the waves, he became afraid and began to sink.  So, today’s gospel reading holds the spiritual message for each one of us to focus our eyes on God at all times, and to fulfill His will.

Keeping our eyes focused on Jesus could be difficult.  The gospels suggest three ways to us on how to do it.  First, let us recognize that we cannot save ourselves.  Like Peter, we have to face the fact that he could not save himself as he was slowly sinking.  Some of us may have trouble admitting that we can’t make it through life on our own, but we can’t.  We really can’t.  It is not weakness to admit that we need God.  It is foolish to think we don’t.

Second, reach out to Jesus.  After we admit that we cannot save ourselves, reach out to Jesus like Peter did, and cry out to the Lord when we slip, “Save me!”  But how?

One way could be by going to Confession.  Reach out to Jesus in the Eucharist, and then reach out by seeking the help of Christian friends who will support us in our efforts to keep our eyes on Him.  In other words, the three C’s of reaching out to Jesus are Confession, Communion, and Community.

Third, keep your grip on Jesus strong, like Peter did. He held onto Jesus for dear life.  That is why he eventually made it back to the boat safely.  How do we keep our grip on Jesus strong?  That is through prayer, studying our faith in His words, and by making the daily effort to put our faith into practice.  If we take prayer seriously, and not just make a few formal prayers to satisfy our consciences, if we study our faith diligently, and if we make the effort to live it out there in the world, then our grip on the Lord will not loosen.

If we lose our grip and fall into serious sin and suffering, then let us go back to Step One and start all over again.  As long as we make Christ our vision, our point of arrival, and the center of our lives, we can survive.  We believe that when big storms come our way, God is always there to help, and rescue us.  We have to trust Him.

May the Lord increase our little faith, so that through all the storms of life, we should have our eyes and our trust constantly fixed on Jesus and His power and not on ourselves and our weaknesses.

 

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Moments of Transfiguration

August 6, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Discipleship, Eternal Life, Eucharist, Father Nixon, Heaven, Light, Scripture

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.

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A Prize That Will Last Forever

July 30, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Discipleship, Eternal Life, Father Nixon, Life, Mission, Wisdom

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 / Ps 119 / Rom 8:28-30 / Mt 13:44-52
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A while ago, I read an article about a college athlete who was training to make the school’s football team. He got up every morning at five a.m. to train. He would run and lift weights for two hours straight. Then he would go back to the dorm, shower, eat breakfast, and go off to his classes. After his classes, he would go back to the athletic facility and work for three more hours with his teammates, learning the playbook, running plays, more weights, etc. The next morning at five a.m., he started the same routine all over again.

Obviously, he had very little, if any, social life. When a reporter asked him why he followed such a difficult schedule, the young man said, “My only goal right now is to be the best football player I can be and to help my team win a championship. If going to parties or anything else, for that matter, prevents me from accomplishing my goal, then why go?  The more I train, the better. You see, sacrifice is the thing.”

Brothers and sisters, I was wondering, if Jesus was living now instead of two thousand years ago, if in today’s gospel, He might have used a different story or two. Rather than speak about a pearl merchant who sacrificed everything to buy his dream pearl, or a tenant farmer who sold everything he owned to buy a field with a treasure in it, Jesus may have spoken about a young man who sacrificed a lot to be the best football player that he could be.

What’s the connection between a pearl merchant, a treasure hunter, and this young football player? What do they have in common? What they have in common is this: They have a total commitment to their dream. All of them are willing to sacrifice everything for the goal they have set for themselves. In one case, it is to own the perfect pearl. In the second case, it’s to obtain a great treasure. In the third case, it is to help make his team into a champion.

That’s precisely Jesus’ point in today’s gospel: To be a true follower of God requires total commitment on our part. Citizenship in God’s kingdom requires us to give one hundred percent all of the time, not just when we feel like it. God’s kingdom must be the top priority of our life. We cannot be a true follower of Jesus only part of the time, sort of like a hobby. We cannot be only admirers of Him.

Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a pearl merchant. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a treasure seeker. Being a true disciple of Jesus is like being a football player. It involves total dedication and commitment.

But there is one difference – a big difference between a true disciple of Jesus and our pearl merchant, treasure hunter, and football player.  You see, those three people are striving for rewards that will not last, rewards that are transitory. Earthly rewards, while a follower of Jesus is striving for eternal, permanent rewards.

When the pearl merchant dies, his pearl will no longer be of any value to him. When the treasure seeker dies, his treasure will be as useless to him as snowshoes are to somebody in July. When the football player dies, his trophies will be just another keepsake for his family.

But when a true disciple of Jesus dies, a true Christian, the whole kingdom of God rejoices, because it will now shine brighter and brighter. All of God’s people will be edified eternally when a Christian dies.

Money and influence, in and of themselves, are neutral. Money is good when it is used to help others, not when it is only spent on ourselves. Influence and power can be great, even holy, when used to lift up those who have been beaten down by life’s brutality.

At the moment just before our death, I doubt very much if any of us will look back on our lives and wish we spent more hours at the office or made more money or played another round of golf. I do think, however, that we will look back on our lives and wish that we had spent more time with our families and loved ones. More time helping other people and doing good.

You see, then, on our deathbeds we will realize that there is only one thing in life that really counts, and it’s not whether in life we acquired a prize pearl or a rare treasure or won a sport championship. The only thing that will truly matter is what we have become, what we are in God’s eyes while we traveled our paths through life.

Think about this: If our pearl merchant and treasure seeker and football player were willing to sacrifice so much for a prize that will never last, how much more should we be willing to sacrifice for a prize that will last forever? Earthly prizes can be good and even satisfying for a time, but eternal prizes are the best, the very best. So don’t bet on the wrong horse, as they say.

If we are given the choice, what do we prefer: gold, glory, or God? It is easy to say that we prefer God in our lives, but sadly, this is not what we see in people’s priorities today. Often the desire for wealth and honor would push people to spend their precious time for work and business only. The prevailing culture suggests that, to be happy, one must have more and achieve more.

Hence, people are willing to sacrifice their time with the family in order to earn more money. Many are also ready to surrender their Christian principles and values just to keep their fame and glory.

The well-known story of Solomon in our first reading should inspire us all. In a dream, God offered to give him one thing that he wanted. Being young, Solomon could have asked for wealth or glory or long life. But realizing the great task ahead of him, Solomon thought that what he really needed was the wisdom to rule his people well in the ways of God.

Wisdom, or God’s inspiration, is what Solomon asked for, and God was so pleased with Solomon, that He promised him more than the gift of wisdom, including riches, glory, and long life. That’s why the song that we sang several weeks ago is right: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all good things shall be added unto you.”

Mother Teresa of Kolkata and John Paul II both died leaving no property, for they had not accumulated treasures on earth. They found their treasure in a life given totally to the service of God and of the Church.

The parables are true. Those who discover the treasure of the Kingdom will be happy to let go of everything to follow and be close to Jesus.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

 

 

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Sow Your Minutes on Rich Soil

July 16, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Family, Father Nixon, Life, Prayer, Scripture, Self-Reflection

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 16, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11 / Ps 65 / Rom 8:18-23 / Mt 13:1-23
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

A story is told of a young man named Eric, who was giving testimony regarding the turnaround in his life.  Two years before, he confessed, he had no appetite for the Word of God.  On Sundays he would shop around the neighborhood churches for the priest that gave the shortest homilies.  So, his idea of a good church service was one that took as little time as possible; the shorter the better.  After the big change in his life, he could sit down and listen to the preaching of God’s word without thinking about the time.

Our disposition for the Word of God is a good indication of our relationship with the Lord.  Today’s gospel is an opportunity to reveal our attitude to the Word of God.

Often, as we listen to the readings each weekend, we may have the feeling that they don’t apply to our lives.  Today’s gospel could be one of those instances.  Jesus talks about sowing seeds, but what do we know about seeds?  Perhaps if you mention supermarkets, restaurants, or McDonald’s, we might have paid attention to it.  Most of us don’t scatter seeds to obtain our food, and we probably don’t know much about the growth process of most of the crops from which we get our daily sustenance.  But if we reflect upon it, is there anything else that we sow, that we spread, that does have an effect upon our lives?

What about our time?  Yes, we do scatter the minutes of our day just in the way that a farmer would scatter seed in the field.  We scatter 60 seconds each minute, and 60 minutes each hour, for about 16 hours each day.  That’s about 57,000 seconds that we scatter throughout our daily routine.  And that’s a lot of seeds.

So how does this apply to the words that Jesus spoke to His followers?  He said that if the farmer scatters his seeds in certain ways, he will not create a bountiful harvest.  His message to each one of us today is the same.

Jesus mentioned the seeds sown on the ground that is so hard that nothing can take root.  That is like sowing grass seed on our driveway – nothing will grow.  If we are sowing minutes each day on hard ground, pursuing money, power, or influence, we are making the same mistake the farmer made.   If we have no time for prayer, no time for our families, no time for helping others, our minutes will not bear fruit.  We will not store up an abundance of grace or of charity.

We, too, can spread our minutes on rocky ground.  We can spend hours at the office or on the golf course.  We can attend luncheons or bridge parties, and, like the seed that fell on rocky ground, we will have no roots.  We will not have time to attend Mass during the week, or will be forced to pray the rosary while driving our cars.  So, therefore, our minutes will not bear fruit.

Jesus said, “Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew and choked it.”  If anyone sows their seed in the thorns of drugs, alcohol, and sins against the Sixth Commandment, Jesus warns us that our lives will be choked out.  Some here are probably familiar with friends who sowed their seeds among the thorns and did not find the fulfillment of a rich harvest, but the agony of tragedy.  Think of them as you listen to the words of Jesus this morning.  There is a better way.

Is Jesus saying we shouldn’t work hard in order to support our families?  Or that we should never relax and enjoy ourselves, or engage in wholesome entertainment with our friends?  Not at all.

Jesus died so that we could be happy, so that our lives could be full, and so that we could have an eternal future with Him.  However, for that to happen we must make a decision.  We must recognize that He’s been talking about seed, but He’s talking about how we spend our minutes:  whether or not we are making the same mistake the farmer made.

Going back to Eric’s story, prior to his conversion…  Eric did not relish the preaching of the Word of God.  Many young people today, and many who are not so young, are in a similar situation.  The responsibility for this attitude toward God’s Word could be shared between those who communicate it and those who receive the message.

Some preachers often take pride in saying it just as it is.  The fact that Jesus uses stories and parables to teach tells us that it is not enough to say it just as it is.  How the Word is communicated is important, but the parable focuses more on how it is received.  The parable today is a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is a mystery.  It is something that we cannot fully understand with our minds, but we can understand it with our hearts if we are willing to believe and obey the Word of God.

Often, we read the Gospels and dismiss them as ancient history.  In a way they are, because in the world in which we live we must be much more vigilant than those who lived in Jesus’ time.  Look around us, and consider the challenges we face.  Turn on the television or attend movies, and you will see graphic depictions of people living lives that were condemned by all in the time of Jesus.

In order to counteract the immoral society, Jesus is telling us to sow our minutes on the rich soil.  Sow them in such a way that we can find happiness and fulfillment.  But the question is:  Where is the rich soil?  It is right here; here in this church this day.  We are all spreading our seeds, our minutes, in an atmosphere that allows us to grow, not in a worldly fashion, but in a way that ensures us of real life, a life of fulfillment in Jesus’ word.

What is real happiness?  We find it in being charitable, prayerful, loving our children, loving and helping our parents.  We find real happiness in honesty, chastity, sobriety, and freedom from drugs.  We find happiness in the words of Jesus, when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” or “Love one another as I love you.”

Jesus has promised that we will reap a huge harvest by following His teaching.  By following His commandments, by loving others as we love ourselves, by using our minutes to help those less fortunate, by spending time each day in prayer, and by realizing that His words guide us to true happiness, we can reap the harvest He has promised.  Jesus has promised all this to us:  we can have everything by spending our minutes wisely, both in His service and in following His commandments.  He points the way to true happiness.

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Our Primary Love

July 2, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Commitment, Discipleship, Family, Father Nixon, Love, Mission

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a / Ps 89 / Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 / Mt 10:37-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There was once a catechist who asked the students in her Confirmation class, “Which part of the liturgy or Mass is the most important?”  She was not prepared for the answer she received from one of her students.  The youth said, “The most important part of the Mass is the Dismissal Rite.”  After the class laughter subsided, the catechist asked, “Why did you say that?”  The youth said, “The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the Word of the Lord and the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth and bear witness to the Lord and to bring the Kingdom of God into existence.”  The student continued, “The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite.  In a sense, it begins with it.  We must go forth and proclaim to the world what the disciples of Emmaus did.  We must proclaim that Jesus is raised from the dead.  We must proclaim that Jesus lives on.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives His disciples an extended teaching on mission, or ministry.  In the first part of the of the gospel, Jesus describes a missionary, or minister, who is worthy of the name “Christian.”  He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:37-38)

Why would Jesus say such a thing?  Before we can answer this question, we must deal with a more fundamental one.  Why do we love?  What is it that motivates us to love another person?

It is good that we perceive the person.  A man loves a woman because he finds something good in her:  her compassion, her joy, her patience, her kindness.  The fact is, however, that everything that is truly good comes from almighty God.  As we are told at the end of Eucharistic Prayer III, “All good things have their source in the Lord, even those good things which come to us through other people.”  So, yes, a man loves a woman because of her compassion, joy, patience, and kindness, but the only reason a woman is compassionate, joyful, patient and kind is because God has given her the grace to be that way.  This is what Bishop Fulton Sheen was getting at when he said, “It’s only because we are loved by God that we are lovable.”  God, who is love, places some of His love inside of us and that grace is what makes us attractive to others.

Consequently, it makes perfect sense for Jesus to tell us in today’s gospel that our love for Him must be primary.  We are to love Him with all our heart, because if it were not for Him, there would be nothing lovable in us or in anyone else.  In fact, if it were not for Jesus, we would not even exist.  As Saint Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians, “In Christ Jesus everything in heaven and on earth was created, and in Him everything continues in being.” (Col 1:16)

It also means that a minister or a missionary must be willing to accept and carry the cross or sacrifice, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  In other words, a missionary or a minister of Christ must be someone who is in love with Christ in such a way that love of parents, children, spouses, and even oneself, assumes secondary importance.  To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is a sign of one’s death, since the way to the cross leads to Calvary and the crucifixion.  The only worthy missionary or minister of Christ is the person who has found a reason to live and to die, and that reason is Jesus Christ Himself.

A case in point is the story of the young Spanish Jesuit by the name of Alfredo Perez Lobato, who was killed in December 1973 in Chad, Africa, at the height of the civil war.  While he was helping refugees, a stray bullet hit him.  The story of his short life is featured in the book, A Community in Blood, along with those of other Jesuits killed in different third world countries.  When asked by superiors why he volunteered to join the mission in Chad, Alfredo replied, “Why do I want to go to this poor country?  It is simple.  Because it is difficult.  I believe that I am called to the difficult and the demanding.”

It is natural for us to dream of a life of comfort, luxury, and pleasure.  If we are honest about it, most of our prayers are directed towards alleviating our suffering.  In short, we want a life free from trials and sacrifices.  Perhaps this is the reason why we attach our lives to the pervading values of the modern world so life can be easy and convenient.  In the book, Crossing on the Crossroad, it is said that the reason why people are frustrated is their failure to accept the crosses in their lives.  The moment we try to escape suffering, we encounter suffering ten times more.

Thomas Merton said, “The truth that many people never understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because the smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”

To conclude His teaching, Jesus encourages the people to be generous with His messengers.  Let us take these words of Jesus to heart and act on them to the best of our ability.  Remember, we do not need to give gold or silver.  A cup of cold water is enough.

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.   And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10: 41-42)

Jesus has entrusted us with the ongoing work of the Kingdom.  It is a work that does not allow any human attachment to frustrate the reign of God.  The work of the Kingdom transforms our average hearts into hearts which will forever sing the goodness of the Lord.

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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 Mystery of God

June 4, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Faith, Father Nixon, Holy Spirit, Trinity

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 4, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9 / Dn 3: 52-56 / 2 Cor 13:11-13 / Jn 3:16-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There was once a story of a pope who wanted a portrait of God, so he called in all of the artisans of Rome.  He told them that whoever could perfectly portray God on canvas would receive a papal award.  So the artisans gathered in the Vatican work room, and each one started to paint a portrait of God.  They worked on their masterpieces for several months, except for one painter named Giuseppe.  Being old, Giuseppe would fall asleep in front of his canvas while thinking about how he would paint God.

Finally, the time came when the pope would judge their paintings.  His Holiness toured the large gallery and looked at each painting beside its artist.  God was represented in many ways:  an old loving man; a shepherd; a king on a throne; a crucified; a dove; and in several other ways.  Yet to the surprise of all, the pope was not satisfied with any of the portraits.

When the pope glanced into the corner, he heard Giuseppe snoring in front of his canvas.  He went to the old painter and saw the empty canvas in front of him.

“This is it!” the pope exclaimed.  “This is the perfect portrayal of God.”  The cardinals, bishops, and all the artisans gathered around His Holiness, holding the canvas with nothing painted on it.

“Your Holiness, the canvas is empty.  It has no portrait of God,” the cardinals told him.

“Exactly,” the pope said.  “That is what God looks like – indescribable.”

A joke, and at the same time, true.

Brothers and sisters, today is Trinity Sunday.  Our Catholic faith teaches us that there is only one God, but three divine persons:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, or Three in One.

I remember a friend of mine who encountered an atheist who said that we Catholics have so many gods:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  We express it in the Sign of the Cross.  This atheist continued to say that the Bible teaches us to worship God alone, and no other god.

My friend told the atheist that in our Bible, the mathematics formula that we can find is not addition, but multiplication.   And he said, (and he quoted from Genesis, but he changed some words) “Go out into the world and multiply.”  He did not say, “Go out into the world and minus.  So,” my friend continued, “1 x 1 x 1 = 1.  That is why we have only one God, but three divine persons.”

Anyway, this is not the way to explain the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.  But we can use this way to explain the mystery in a simple and direct way.  The name Trinity means “three in one.”  “Three in one” because there are three divine persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  They are not three gods, but one God.

But none of the readings we heard today talked directly about the Trinity or used the word, Trinity.  Yet the Most Holy Trinity, which is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is the central mystery of the Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God.  It is, therefore, the source of all other mysteries of faith.

St. Paul came closest in talking about the Trinity.  What he said sounds familiar to all of us; we just heard it in the Second Reading.  He speaks of the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 13:13)   This is the greeting of the priest at the beginning of the Mass, after making the Sign of the Cross.

Maybe at this time we are still a little bit confused, and we wonder: Are we worshipping three gods or one God? Let us bear in mind this thought from St. Augustine:  Trinity is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.  I will try to explain this on two levels:  doctrinal and practical.

On the doctrinal level, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph numbers 253 – 255, summarizes this doctrine in three parts.

First:  That the Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three divine persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.”  The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, by nature, one God.”

Second:  The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.”  “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son He who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit He who is the Father or the Son.”  They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”

Third:  The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons, the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.”   “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.”

So now on the practical level, how does the mystery fit into our day-to-day life as Christians?  To ponder this mystery more deeply, what comes out is community.  If there are three persons in one God, then there has to be a community; a unity among the three.

Brothers and sisters, we are made in the image and likeness of God.  That being so, we ought to mirror our various communities; for example, families, religious congregations, offices, workplaces, and others in the image of the Holy Trinity.  These communities should bear the fruit of unity:  understanding, love, peace, and harmony.  It is good that these will be the fruits in us.  We are the icons of the Blessed Trinity, and so let us make the Blessed Trinity concrete in our lives.

All that and more is the meaning of God as Trinity.  It is this God as Trinity whom we need most, especially these days when we are experiencing a crisis, political, economic, sociocultural, religious, moral, and especially our relationships with one another.  But if we can only allow our trinified God to cure the woundedness in our own hearts, we may yet learn to really love one another as He loves us.

May our every home be filled with the trinitarian atmosphere of love, peace, unity, sharing, and let us also overflow this in our homes to our neighbors’ homes, offices, businesses, and work.

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