Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 17, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 18:1-10a / Ps 15 / Col 1:24-28 / Lk 10:38-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about three prisoners on death row, who were asked for their last wish. The first one wished for pizza. It was given to him, and then he was executed. The second one asked for a steak. It was given to him, and then he was executed. The third one asked for cherries. When the guard told him that cherries were not yet in season, he replied, “Well, that’s all right, I can wait.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us about the value of waiting, and the ways of waiting. Martha was the one waiting on the Lord, while Mary was the one who waited and listened at the Lord’s feet. Martha was busy and anxious serving the Lord, while Mary was still and calm, listening to the Lord. And in the end, Jesus tells us that Mary has chosen the better part.
There are a Martha and a Mary in each one of us. In prayer, may we be given the wisdom to know who we really are and what we should be, as we follow and serve the Lord. Mary sat beside the Lord at His feet, listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”
The gospel also introduces us to two women: Martha, the perfect host, and Mary, the perfect disciple. They are both eager to serve Jesus, but they go about it in different ways.
Martha is the perfect host. She prepares the house for Jesus and His disciples. She cooks the food and serves everyone because she thinks they are tired and hungry. She has no idea that Jesus comes, not to be served, but to serve.
That is why Martha is so upset, so preoccupied with preparing nice food. She becomes anxious and even snaps at Jesus for allowing Mary not to help her in the household chores. But Jesus gently rebukes her. “Martha, Martha, you fret and worry about so many things, but just one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best portion.” Mary listens to Him, learns from Him, experiences His presence, and occupies a place that only men should have – sitting at the foot of her master – in order to learn and be taught.
Actually, Brothers and Sisters, we also experience this. When we invite someone to our house, after we greet them and welcome them, sometimes we leave them alone for some time while we continue to prepare their food. For example, we may give them photo albums to look at, or give them magazines to read, or the remote control for them to watch television. Like Jesus, our visitors didn’t come for a free meal; they came to be with friends. They came to be with us.
On the other hand, Mary is the perfect disciple. She sits beside the Lord at His feet, listening to His instructions and teachings. She seems to know instinctively that there is need for only one thing: to listen to the good news that Jesus brings.
This might be the reason that God created us with two eyes and two ears, but only one tongue. He wants us to speak less, but see and listen more, especially in our hearts. God cannot speak to a noisy heart. Second, the heart must be obedient and submissive. God cannot speak to a heart that denies, rationalizes, or postpones. Third, the heart must be open, so that all the deepest concerns and chambers can be reached and cleaned. In the same way, God cannot clean and heal a heart that is closed tight.
It does not mean that Jesus did not appreciate Martha’s hospitality, but He chided her for being so anxious and upset about many things. She forgot a very important element in her relationship with Jesus. That is, to allow time to listen to a friend, a beloved, and most of all, to her Lord and Savior.
Brothers and Sisters, we can discern from the action and reaction of Martha and Mary in serving the Lord their different forms of spirituality. With Martha, we have an active form of spirituality, while for Mary we have the contemplative spirituality. It is a combination of prayer and action and reflection which we need in our lives as Christians. Action and contemplation are not viewed as opposing forms, but complementary.
We are drawn to the danger of too much activity; we work and work as if there is no tomorrow. We are so involved in our apostolic activity, outreach programs, and looking for money, but we miss giving attention to enlivening our relationship with God, family, and friends, and listening to them.
If we have given so much time to work, we must also in the same manner, have time for prayer, meditation, reading scripture, and the Eucharist. All of us are a bit of Martha and Mary. We are both body and soul, and we must keep both in balance. We must give each of them its due. Jesus does not need people who work for Him; He needs people who do His work.
Lastly, let us pray that the Lord may teach us the value of being prayerful, hopeful, and joyful in waiting.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 14:18-20 / Ps 110 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Lk 9:11b-17
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
I read this story told by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: that, during China’s 1911 republican revolution, in response to the earlier Boxer Rebellion, anti-Catholic militants seized a Catholic parish. They confined the parish priest to house arrest, so from his rectory window, he witnessed the desecration of the church. He knew that there had been thirty-two consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle.
An eleven-year-old girl was praying at the back of the church, and the guards either did not see her or else paid no attention to her. She returned to the church that night and made a holy hour and then consumed one of the sacred Hosts, bending down to receive Jesus on her tongue.
She continued to return every night, making a nightly holy hour and consuming one sacred Host. On the last night, the thirty-second night, unfortunately a guard was awakened. After she consumed the sacred Host, he chased her, grabbed her, and beat her to death with his rifle.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen became aware of her martyrdom while he was a seminarian. He was so inspired by her sacrifice that he promised to pray a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament each day for the rest of his life.
Brothers and sisters, the eleven-year-old girl could have had no idea how she would influence a future bishop, who would in turn influence millions of people and promote Eucharistic adoration. We also have no idea how our witness and sacrifices influence other people.
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This feast reminds us that Jesus gives His very own body and blood, so that we might live in our faith and alive in our deeds. If we do not live in our faith and alive in our deeds, this is because the Body and Blood of Jesus are not part of our food. So let us not deprive ourselves of this most important ingredient of our earthly life.
When Catholic converts are asked to talk about the reason why they converted to the Catholic faith, for most of them, one of the main reasons is their discovery of the truth about the Holy Eucharist. When they learn that the Eucharist is not merely a symbol, but Jesus Christ Himself, given to us in the form of bread and wine, they begin to experience a deep spiritual hunger and longing for it. Our Catholic faith taught us that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself.
Through the Eucharist, Christ becomes physically present in the church, keeping His promise that He would always be with us, until the end of the world. And, because the Eucharist is preserved in the tabernacle, we can be with Him any time we want, just like the eleven-year-old little girl in the story that I heard.
Whatever our spiritual condition may be, today’s feast of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest banquet of all. The greatest sacrifice of all. The very source and summit of our whole Christian life. This is the feast of us all, because Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and He is the Eucharist Himself, awaiting us all.
He is here for the child who receives his or her First Holy Communion, for Catholic converts, and for the lifelong believers like us Catholics. He is here for those who cannot receive him sacramentally: the little children, for the non-Catholics who are mysteriously drawn to the Eucharistic banquet. Some people or friends we know who are in the catechumenate program show love for the Eucharist and continue to attend Mass every week, even if they cannot receive Holy Communion, and they continue to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
He is here for the sick people who cannot join us in this Eucharistic celebration because of their situation. That is why the Church reserves consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so that the Eucharist can be brought to the sick and the faithful who can worship the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
So now the question is: How can be apply this belief of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist into our lives? There are so many suggested ways how, like Eucharistic devotion and participation in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as our thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition to Christ, present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We can also spend a few minutes after receiving the Eucharist in silent thanksgiving. We can visit our Lord preserved in the tabernacle. There, we can silently speak with Him about anything we please.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up Eucharistic devotion in the words of Saint John Paul II: “Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation, full of faith and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
So Brothers and Sisters, in a few moments, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, let us try to remember our faith, not only in the Real Presence in the Host, but also Jesus’ real presence in us. That is why we are here, and that is why Jesus nourishes us, so that we can also nourish others.
At the end, let us remember this: If we celebrate the Eucharist with faith, we shall be transformed into what we eat. We shall become Christlike and be true to our name, “Christians.”
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
The Ascension of the Lord
May 29, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 1:1-11 / Ps 47 / Eph 1:17-23 / Lk 24:46-53
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The four gospels contain many parables of a master who sets out on a long journey and gives his servants charge of his estate until his return. In the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, this parable becomes a reality. As we have heard in the gospel, Jesus departs to His Heavenly Father and leaves His disciples in charge of the affairs of His kingdom until His return in glory.
Each of the gospels ends with a scene in which Jesus finally takes leave of His disciples. These parallel scenes focus, not on describing the event in detail, but on the last words that Jesus leaves with His disciples. In fact, the very fact of a bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven is described only by Saint Luke.
It is Luke who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, from which we got our first reading today. A later ending of Mark also includes the Ascension. There are important similarities and differences between Luke and Acts, on the one hand, and Matthew and Mark, on the other, regarding the details of His farewell scene.
For example, in Luke/Acts, the ascension takes place in Jerusalem, whereas in Matthew and Mark, it takes place in Galilee. Both traditions, however, agree that it took place on a mountain.
In Luke/Acts, the ascension happens forty days after the Resurrection, during which period Jesus appears repeatedly to His followers. In Matthew and Mark, there is no indication of a time period between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Rather, the first appearance of Jesus to His disciples after His Resurrection is also the last.
So the gospel writers apparently were not aiming at accuracy in historical details. They were more concerned with transmitting a message. So now, the question is: What is the message? What is the charge that Jesus gives His disciples as he physically takes leave of them?
The message, if we look at the different gospels, is phrased differently in the Acts and also in the gospels. Let’s first look at the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:8). It says: “But you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In Matthew (Mt 28:19-20), it says: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The gospel of Mark (Mk 16:15-18) says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name, they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So, brothers and sisters, these are the last words of Jesus, as recorded differently in the Acts of the Apostles, and in Matthew and Mark. But all of them are in agreement that Jesus gave His disciples a mission, a task to engage in until His return in glory. Second, He assured them of divine assistance in carrying out this mission.
The mission is to be a witness to the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, to go into all nations of the world, and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The universal reach of this mission is very clear. The message of Jesus is meant to be good news in the ears of all humankind, irrespective of nationality or culture.
Given the fact that, today, many nations have embraced other religions in preference to the Gospel, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves: Are these people rejecting the message of Jesus, or are they rejecting the messengers and the way they represented it? The air of superiority and triumphalism assumed by many Christian missionaries is a disservice to the Gospel and not part of the good news. Have we perhaps despoiled a good story in the telling?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, some mission-minded Christians started a periodical and called it “The Christian Century.” That title was an expression of their triumphalist belief that, by the end of the century, the whole world would have been Christianized. Today, we have hopefully grown wiser and humbler, as we realize that, in the twentieth century, not only did we fail to Christianize the whole world, but rather that we added two world wars to our record of “accomplishments.” To this day, there is still war and ongoing threats of war in other parts of the world.
Spreading the good news to all nations is not a goal that can be attained by dint of human mind and craft. That is why Jesus promises to empower His messengers from on high by His abiding presence, and of course, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The challenge of sharing the good news with all humankind should, therefore, begin on our knees, as we confess that we have often taken matters into our own selfish human hands, and promise to give the Holy Spirit a chance.
There is a story told about a small town in Germany that was severely blasted during the last war. Some years later the buildings were restored. One of the buildings was the town’s cathedral. When the renovation was completed, it was noticed that the large figure of Christ the King, which stood in front of the cathedral, was still unrepaired, when both hands had been blown off in the explosion.
When there was no sign of its being repaired, some parishioners went to their pastor to inquire if he had any plans to repair the statue. He surprised them all by saying that, no, he was going to leave the statue exactly as it was. He explained that, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He took His body with Him. He asked us to provide the body, which is the Church, and His Spirit would provide everything else. He would not replace the hands on the statue, to remind people that Jesus has no other hands but ours when it comes to continuing the building of His kingdom here on earth.
Let me end by quoting what Saint Teresa of Avila once said: “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world. You are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands; yours are the feet; yours are the eyes. You are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27 / Ps 145 / Rev 21:1-5a / Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Each Sunday after Easter, God’s messages through the readings help us in living our everyday lives. The main theme of today’s readings is that Jesus’ disciples are recognized by the people around Him because they follow His commandment of love.
There are four elements through which Jesus wants to make His presence among His disciples during His lifetime and after His resurrection. These four elements are: the cross, prayer, Eucharist, and love.
The first element is the cross. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:38, Lk 14:27) Crucifixion was a form of Roman punishment during Jesus’ time, especially for criminals and rebels. When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die, to the place of execution.
For us, to carry the cross is a figurative expression which means that we must endure whatever is burdensome, trying, or is considered disgraceful in following our Lord, Jesus Christ. The cross is the symbol of doing our Christian duty, even at the cost of the most painful death, just like Jesus Christ, who obeyed God and carried out His work for the salvation of all, though it required Him to die upon the cross in order to do it.
The second element is prayer. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) The best secret to unanswered prayer for whatever we need, is asking it in Jesus’ name, and not in the name of revenge, of consolation or pleasure, of an easy way out, of fame or shame, of good works or recompense for charitable donations.
First and foremost, our prayer must never be selfish. Selfish prayer cannot find an answer. We are not meant to pray only for our own needs, thinking of nothing and no one but ourselves. We are meant to pray as members of a Christian community. When prayer is unselfish, it is always answered. Let us always remember that the answer to our prayers is not according to our wish, but the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. That is why we should not separate ourselves from His Son.
The third element is the Eucharist. Matthew 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is My body.’” At the Last Supper, Jesus eats a Passover meal with His disciples in view of His passion, death, and resurrection. The bread now is Jesus’ body, being broken and given to His disciples and to all of us. The wine is now Jesus’ blood, poured out for the redemption of the world. At Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Jesus. The bread that we eat is not a symbol of Christ’s body, but really is His body.
The last element is love. Jesus says in today’s gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus gives us this new commandment that we should love one another because He loves us. This teaching of Jesus about loving one another takes different forms.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) Ordinarily, for Jewish people, a neighbor is only a fellow Jew. But for Jesus, the term neighbor includes any individual who is in need of help. That is what we understand in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Every person in need, whether he lives next door or a town away, whether she is beautiful or ugly, is a neighbor.
Jesus asks His disciples to use as a measure in loving other people, the love they have for themselves. They are to treat another person as their own flesh and bone. That is not an easy thing to do. We normally have different standards for ourselves as compared to others. The natural tendency is to give ourselves first priority or utmost care and to provide others with less or even no attention. By asking us to love a neighbor as our own self, the Lord simply is helping us overcome what we call narcissistic tendencies. We all belong to the one body of Christ, and we need to behave like we really are part of one another.
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents an even more demanding version of the commandment to love. He says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34-35) The Lord teaches His disciples to use as their standard for loving, not only their love for themselves, but His love for them. He knows that our way of loving can easily be tainted with selfish motivations. Hence, He challenges us to love one another according to the way He has loved us.
But the question is, what is this Christ-like love? It is a love that is agape. A love in spite of and not “love if” or “love because.” Agape is unconditional love: a love that is not motivated by how lovable the other person is. It does not say, I’ll love you if you become valedictorian of your class, or very successful. Or I’ll love you if you can afford to buy me a beautiful car, etc. It is love for even the unlovable, including the poor and one’s enemies. His love is self-sacrificing, unselfish, unselective. The love of Jesus is also not merited love which is bestowed on those who possess adorable qualities. It never says: I love you because you are considerate. I love you because you are faithful.
We are all called by Jesus to do the same thing: to love each one not because he or she is lovable, but in spite of the fact that he or she may not be lovable. We are to love even our enemies and sinners also.
There was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became a shy and introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother took her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful, and she became a normal and happy person. Not long after, she had a boyfriend. After several years, they decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. As she embraced her, she noticed something strange, something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear. She cried and said, “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
I recently received a text message from a friend that will make us reflect about life and love. It says, “LIFE is a four-letter word that is very meaningful. L stands for love. I stands for inspiration. F stands for forgiveness. E stands for everlasting. No matter who, what, where, and when you found life, always remember, only God can satisfy your life.”KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52 / Ps 100 / Rev 7:9, 14b-17 / Jn 10:27-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Four clergymen, taking a short break from their heavy schedules, were on a park bench chatting and enjoying an early Spring day.
“You know, since all of us are such good friends,” said one, “this might be a good time to discuss personal problems.” They all agreed.
“Well, I would like to share with you the fact that I drink to excess,” said one. There was a gasp from the other three.
Then another spoke up. “Since you were so honest, I’d like to say that my big problem is gambling. It’s terrible, I know, but I can’t quit. I’ve even been tempted to take money from the collection plate.” Another gasp was heard.
The third clergyman spoke. “I’m really troubled, brothers, because I’m growing fond of a woman in my church, a married woman.” More gasps.
But the fourth remained silent. After a few minutes, the others coaxed him to open up. “The fact is that I just don’t know how to tell you about my problem.”
“It’s all right, brother, your secret is safe with us,” said the others.
“Well, it’s this way,” he said, “You see, I’m an incurable gossip.”
Brothers and Sisters, jokes like this have shaped our view of priests, as if there is no difference between the life and work of a priest and that of other Christians. That is true only up to a point. We see another dimension to the life and work of priests when we consider it from the aspect of vocations, or the Call of God. This is the aspect that the Church wants us to dwell on today, as we observe the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Today the Church invites us to reflect on the meaning of God’s call, and to pray for an increase in vocations.
To help us reflect on the meaning of the priestly vocation, let us not only pray for religious vocations, but also encourage and support young men and women who have the inclination to walk the less-travelled road. If you feel you are called, or have the desire, to serve God and His people in a more meaningful way, and without having a family, a wife or children, then you are called to become a priest and to grab that opportunity given by God. You should inquire further and discern God’s will. You can consult me or some other priest regarding your desire, or call our Vocation Director.
One way of showing our love for God, especially for parents, is by supporting and encouraging our children to enter the priesthood. The family is the seedbed of vocations; a fertile ground for more vocations. Parents can demonstrate their faith in the way they encourage their children.
In last Sunday’s gospel, we heard Jesus three times give Peter the charge to “feed my sheep.” In that way, He made Peter a shepherd, a pastor, a priest. In today’s gospel, the Church presents to us the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Our Lord continues His work of shepherding His people through Peter and his co-workers, the apostles and the disciples, and through their successors, the Pope, the bishops, priests, deacons, catechists, laypeople, and others.
Today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us what a good shepherd is. A good shepherd is present, knows, directs, tends, and protects the sheep.
We who are in involved in shepherding others in one way or another, would do well to ask ourselves today if we are good or bad shepherds or shepherdesses, in the light of today’s gospel.
First of all, a shepherd must be present to the sheep. How can the sheep hear someone who is absent, or is not accessible, or is hard to reach? We can say anything we want, or put up numerous excuses and reasons, but being present and being with the sheep are very basic and important.
Second, a good shepherd knows the sheep, or at least takes time and gives effort to get to know the sheep. We want shepherds who are genuinely interested and who genuinely care. A text message says it beautifully: People don’t care about what you know, as long as they know you care.
Third, a good shepherd leads and directs the sheep. He or she must have an idea, a direction, of where to lead the sheep. The good shepherd or shepherdess must have a clear vision and a strong sense of mission for the sheep.
Fourth, a good shepherd gives. He or she must have a sense of sacrifice. We need shepherds and shepherdesses who can also give us our sense of dignity, freedom, respect, and personhood.
Finally, a good shepherd protects the sheep. He or she must be aware and must protect us from all that would harm us. When push comes to shove, he or she must be ready to sacrifice life and limb for the good of the sheep.
So, Brothers and Sisters, on Good Shepherd Sunday, let us pray for more good shepherds of the church. Let us also pray for a better understanding and appreciation of the life and work of ordained ministers, so that more and more people avail themselves of the grace which God makes available through them. Let us also pray that more young people will be drawn to follow in their footsteps and generously answer the call of God.KEEP READING
Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord
April 17, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
In the old Jewish culture, women were considered to be unreliable in what they said, and therefore, they were not accepted as witnesses in a court or tribunal. So we can suppose that no Jew ever expected a woman to be the first witness of the risen Lord. But Jesus, always on the side of the oppressed, chose Mary Magdalene to preach the good news of His resurrection.
Some would say that the Lord intended a woman to be the first to become aware of His resurrection, so that the news could be spread easily to the people. But the seventh century theologian, Isidore of Seville, observed that just as a woman (Eve) first tasted death, so a woman (Mary Magdalene) first saw life. Just as a woman is responsible for the fall of man, so a woman is the first to witness the dawn of salvation. Beautiful!
But because of the magnitude of the mystery of the resurrection, Christ revealed it in a gradual way. First, the stone at the door of the tomb was seen rolled away. Second, they saw the remaining linen cloths. And third, the women were addressed by two angels, before the resurrected Lord was actually seen by the disciples.
One thing we can be sure of, if Christ had not been resurrected, we would not have heard of the apostles. We learn that when Christ was crucified on the cross, the disciples went into hiding, fearing that they would suffer the same death on the cross. The mystery of the Resurrection and nothing else motivated the apostles to come out again and boldly preach about Christ and the Gospel to all people.
The Resurrection of the Lord is the foundation of our faith. As St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is vain. If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is just made up and you still remain in darkness and sin. But this is the truth – that Christ is risen from the dead and is the first fruits of them that slept.” (1 Cor 15:14, 17, 20)
The resurrection of Christ also guarantees our own resurrection. At Lazarus’s tomb, Christ assured Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live.” (Jn 11:25-26) At the end of time, Christ will raise us from the dead. Even now, we who believe in Him are already beginning to share real life with the Lord.
So, what is the challenge of the mystery of the Resurrection to us today? The great mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection calls us to live as Easter people. But how can we do this? First, we will live happily, confidently, and full of hope. The Resurrection of Christ should give us strength and encouragement to face all the problems, pain, and suffering of the world. As He said to the women on the way to the tomb, we are now told, “Fear not.” The problems and pain of this life will remain, but we who have faith will also remain confident in God’s help.
Let us always remember that there is Easter after Good Friday. There is life and peace after the storms of life. We believe, with a vision of the life to come after this world.
St. Paul is the first to encourage us, “Since you were raised up with Christ, seek the things in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Think of the things that are heavenly, not the things that are earthly.” And the things of Heaven are none other than the virtues of the Gospel: love, peace, truth, justice, and fairness. These must be our desire, because they belong to God and will give us true happiness, not material things and not physical feelings.KEEP READING
April 14, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 / Ps 116 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Jn 13:1-15
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a meaningful quotation from an unknown author that says: “It is not the number of servants you have that matters to God, but the number of people you serve.”
This evening’s Mass includes the washing of the feet. I will remove my outer vestment, the chasuble, before I perform the washing of the feet. This is also what Christ did before washing the feet of the twelve apostles. This gesture of Our Lord Jesus Christ, removing His outer garments, has a deeper meaning, not just removing it to make it more comfortable.
The outer garment is a symbol of our titles, our rank, our position in the community. It can be that you are a bishop, a priest, governor, mayor, doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, etc. But the question is, are we ready to remove that in order to serve? Jesus removed His outer garment in order to wash the disciples’ feet. In order for Him to serve, He forgets that He is the Son of God, the King of the Universe, the owner of everything, the all-powerful, the Creator.
That’s a great act of humility that Jesus did for all of us. That’s why, in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6), he said: “Though He was God, He did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped at. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges. He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
So Jesus took off His outer garment, His mantle of privileges, and put on an apron of service. That’s what Jesus did as an example of service for us. He forgets His titles, His privileges, and humbles Himself in order to become a servant.
During Jesus’ time, the people who washed feet were only those who were slaves or servants. That is why we can understand in our gospel why Peter refused to have his feet washed by Jesus. Peter could not say he treated Jesus as his master, teacher and savior, and then allow Him to wash his feet. Peter could not take it; that’s why he refused to let Jesus wash his feet.
Just imagine the Creator who kneels down before His creatures in order to serve them. That’s something very humiliating in the eyes of the world, in human eyes. Our Creator kneels down before His creatures in order to wash their feet. It’s something that’s incomprehensible for us. Perhaps the only explanation for us to understand the act of Jesus, is because of God’s great love for us. Only love can do that. And Jesus chose to do it in order to show us the example of how to serve and to be humble.
Perhaps, I can imagine, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, God the Father was looking at Jesus and was filled with so much joy and pride. Perhaps He said, “Here is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Sometimes it’s very important for us to forget our positions in order to humbly serve others. This reminds me of my former parishioner when I was still at Our Lady of Nazareth. The parishioner was a doctor, a pediatrician. One day a mother brought her child for a checkup, and it happened that, when they reached the clinic, her car broke down; she had a flat tire. When the doctor learned that she had a flat tire, he checked the child first, and after the checkup, he went to change the tire of his patient. He even accompanied the mother to bring the bad tire to the shop to be fixed. An act of service, an act of humility, forgetting oneself in order to serve others.
In the last verse of our gospel today, it tells us: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example to imitate.” This is the command of Jesus, especially today. That’s why Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” is from the Latin word mandatus, which means “commanded.” Jesus is giving us commands this evening.
The first command is to serve one another. Wash each other’s feet. We are all asked to serve one another, not only in times of crisis and trouble, but every day of our lives. I’m sure, every time we serve with humility, the Lord is pleased, seeing us helping and serving each other.
Also, Jesus’ command to His disciples to serve one another happened on the same night on which Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. After He gave the instruction of serving each other, He also instructed them to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, when He said, “Do this in memory of me.”
Jesus is giving us two commands: to serve one another and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Holy Thursday is the first holy Mass that happened in the Catholic Church. The Holy Eucharist is a living memory when Christ gave Himself, Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of our sins. This is an expression of God’s great love for us. We are mandated to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, but let us also remember that Christ also commanded us to serve one another, to wash each other’s feet.
These two commands of Jesus are interconnected. They cannot be separated, simply because every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, it gives us the strength and the courage to serve, and then our service will make the Eucharist meaningful for us.
That is why going to church every Sunday without serving is not good, because we fail to follow what Christ tells us to do.
To serve without going to church is also not good. Why? Because our motive for service is not for God, but for ourselves. That’s why the two must go together. Going to church, prayer, and service must go together. We cannot say, I don’t have to attend Mass; as long as I do good works, I’ll be fine. No, Jesus made that command, that instruction, for us to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him.
This reminds of the story of a sacristan who served the Church for a very long time, and one day she got ill. The priest visited the woman, and the woman looked worried. So the priest told the woman, “Don’t be afraid. Is there something you’re worried about?” And the woman said, “Father, I’m worried that, on the day I meet God, what I will tell Him.” The priest smiled and said, “What you need to do is just show Jesus your hands and your knees, and that will be enough.”
In this Mass we pray that, when the time comes for us to meet our Lord and Creator, our Judge, that our knees reveal our being prayerful, and our hands show we are merciful and helpful to those people who need our help.
Let us not forget: It is not the number of servants you have that is important to God, but the number of people you serve.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 3, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 43:16-21 / Ps 126 / Phil 3:8-14 / Jn 8:1-11
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a little-known sidelight to the story of the woman taken in adultery. After the Pharisees dragged her before Jesus for sentencing, and Jesus says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” a stone comes flying from the crowd. Jesus looks up, frowns slightly, smiles a little and says, “If you don’t mind, mother, I am only trying to make a point here.”
In one way, this is a good joke because it shows the natural tendency of good people like the Pharisees and the Scribes to throw stones at those they consider sinners. In other ways it is a bad joke because it tries to paint sinless Mary in the colors of sinful humanity. The last person who would want to throw a stone at the woman caught in adultery would be the Blessed Virgin Mary, God’s most favored one. According to the joke, Jesus says He’s trying to make a point here. So now the question is: What is the point that Jesus is trying to make? Why would the Church give us this story for our spiritual nourishment on the last Sunday before Holy Week, when we commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus on our behalf?
The story of the woman caught in adultery had a very curious history in the early Church. Many ancient Bibles do not have it. Some have it as part of a different chapter in the Gospel of John. Still others have it as part of the Gospel of Luke. Some scholars think that originally this story could have been part of Luke’s Gospel. Why? Because it reflects themes that are dear to Luke, such as concern for sinners, interest in women, and the compassion of Jesus.
The fact that it is missing in some early Bibles and found in different locations in others suggest that some early Christian communities had removed this story from the Bible. When later Christians tried to put it back into the Bible, they were no longer sure of its original location.
So why would anyone want to remove this story from the Bible? There are people who cannot understand why Jesus would sympathize with a convicted adulterer. After all, it is decreed in the Bible that such offenders should be put to death. (Lv 20:10)
Does this not seem like an obstruction of justice? What do you think? Perhaps you remember the case of Karla Faye Tucker, a self-confessed repentant murderer who was executed in Texas in February 1998. Many Christian organizations, including the Vatican, pleaded for her pardon, yet her execution was carried out. Supporters of the death penalty argued that no one should interfere with the course of justice. Well, Jesus just did in our gospel today.
There are people who think that compassion and leniency are a sign of weakness. These are probably the kind of Christians who tried to suppress the story by removing it from the Church’s Bible. How could Christians read this marvelous story of Jesus’ compassion and still take a hardline stand with regard to correctional services?
The answer lies in how one reads the story. Some people identify themselves with the Pharisees when they read it. Their interest is in how to deal with other people who break the law. Their answer is usually that justice should be allowed to run its due course.
Now you can begin to understand, in the history of the Church, why the medieval Church did not see anything wrong with burning at the stake convicted witches like Joan of Arc. Didn’t the Bible say that no one who practices sorcery should be allowed to live? That is the law; that is justice. Our only duty is to implement it.
But when we read this story, identifying ourselves, not with the Pharisees, but with the woman herself, then we begin to see the story for the good news that it really is. Like the woman, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Like her, we all deserve death. Why? Because the scripture says “the wages of sin is death.” But when Jesus comes into the picture, He overturns our death sentence. He sets us free with His words of absolution: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more. “
The story shows how Jesus stands up for sinners before the law. In doing so, he draws upon Himself the hostility of the hardline officers, who will eventually arrest Him and give Him a taste of their justice. The Church puts this story before us today, so that we can see ourselves in the sinner woman, whom Jesus saves from sure death, at the risk of attracting death to Himself.
This season of Lent urges us not to be judgmental of others. We are all sinners and in need of God’s mercy and grace. Only God has the right to judge people, because He alone is perfect.
Somebody said that God Himself does not propose to judge a person until he’s dead. So why should we judge him?
Sometimes people ask me, “Father, is it wrong to judge?” Of course, the answer is: It depends on how you deal with judgment.
There are two ways of judging people: with compassion or without mercy. If we judge the person with compassion, just like Jesus did, then we are doing the right thing. If we judge the person without mercy, without compassion, then we end up like the Scribes and the Pharisees in our gospel today. They want the woman to be stoned to death. Or we end up being like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He could not accept his brother for having squandered his parents’ money and property.
Someone asked me yesterday, “Father, what if I tell my children, “Don’t go with a drug addict.’ Am I judging the drug addict?”
Of course, that is a different story. Your intention is not to judge the drug addict, but to keep your children away from drugs.
Or how about Putin, who killed all these innocent people? Are we not going to judge him? Judge him with mercy. That is what Jesus wants us to do. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us of this when she said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
So perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is this: When do you judge and act like the Pharisees and the Scribes? Are there times when you judge others because of your biases and prejudices? Are there times when you judge others even though you only know a little about the person?
If you are a person who judges others, try reflecting on these pieces of advice:
1) Never judge someone without knowing the whole story. You may think you understand, but you don’t.
2) Never judge someone by the opinion of others. Often, we are victims of this kind of judgment. We easily listen, especially when the person telling us the judgment or the criticism is someone we trust, or someone who is close to us.
3) Every single person on the planet has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them. The truth might surprise you. Sometimes it is very easy to judge a person by their face, especially if the person’s face is ugly or he looks like a madman. But we may end up realizing that the person leads a very saintly life. And there are people who look like saints, but the way they lead their life is the other way around.
4) Don’t judge a person without fully understanding them. Just because you and the person don’t agree doesn’t mean you’re right.
We must be conscious that the way we judge things is limited. Our minds, our intellect, is just limited. That’s why, in philosophy, only God is an unlimited being. He’s the only perfect being. We, created beings, are all limited beings. Even our thinking is limited; the way we say things; the way we understand things; the way we hear things is limited, and prone to mistakes. If we are aware of that from the very beginning, then we end up realizing that we are not supposed to judge others right away. Jesus is telling us in our gospel today to judge others with compassion, with mercy, so that we won’t end up to be condemning.
We may be hounded by remorse for our past sins we have committed, like stealing, giving or accepting bribes, committing abortion, gossiping, making intrigues, or infidelity to one’s spouse. We feel we must do something more in order to make a balance of our spiritual account sheet. In short, make reparations.
So, this story is a fitting preparation for Holy Week. We see Jesus making the ultimate sacrifice to grant us clemency; we who are already sentenced to death by our sins.
As we prepare for Holy Week, let us thank Jesus for His mercy and love. And let us promise him that we shall commit ourselves to doing exactly as He tells us: To go and sin no more.KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Lent
March 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 / Lk 13:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Third Sunday of Lent. The season of Lent is a wakeup call for all of us, a time to be brutally honest with ourselves, so that we come to know how deeply we depend on God’s mercy and providence. We know that the God we worship and believe in has proven to be loving, forgiving, and saving throughout the history of our Faith.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells about a fig tree that never bears fruit. So, like any sensible farmer, the owner thinks it’s probably time to get rid of it, simply because it does not bear fruit. But the man who works in the field has a better idea: I’ll give it a big dose of loving care, then we’ll hope to see its branches bend under the weight of juicy figs.
That is exactly what Jesus does for us. He feeds us, not with fertilizer, but with His Own Body and Blood. He invites us to stop boasting and be humble and let Him gently point out what we are doing wrong.
A story is told of an eight-year-old boy named Jimmy, who was acting up. He refused to do what he was told to do and did everything he was told not to do. In desperation, his father finally sent him to bed before dessert was served. Just then, a neighbor dropped in. He always liked Jimmy, and after a while he asked the parents if he could talk to the boy.
With a prayer in his heart, he reminded the lad that his disobedience displeased his parents and made them sad. It especially displeased God. The boy began to cry. “What can I do?” The visitor called his parents, who listened with tears in their eyes, as Jimmy told them he was sorry.
What the visitor did for Jimmy, Jesus does for every one of us. That is the meaning of the story Our Lord tells us in our gospel today. The man who planted the fig tree is God the Father. The fig tree means the chosen people of God: you and me. And the vinedresser or the worker in the vineyard is Jesus.
In justice, God the Father decides to cut down the fruitless trees. Christ intercedes. He pleads and prays that we be given more time, that we be given another chance. For the sake of His Son, the Heavenly Father gives us another chance.
This is the story of our life with Christ. We have not borne fruit. We have not done what we were created to do. We have even done what God told us not to do. We have disobeyed His ten commandments. We have not produced. You can’t blame God for being dissatisfied.
He decides to remove us, but Christ intercedes. He intervenes. Christ steps between us and God and asks for another chance. Pleading for us is one of the principal tasks of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He asks for mercy for us. He gets us another chance. Not only does He beg His Father for forgiveness, Jesus begs for all the good things we need.
That is one reason why every official prayer of the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, ends with a plea: “Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” or some variation of this thought.
There is a rather famous painting that shows a young man playing chess with the devil. They are playing for possession of the young man’s soul. The painting portrays the devil as having just made a brilliant move. Chess players who studied the arrangement of the chess pieces in the painting feel immediate sympathy for the young man. He has been put in a hopeless situation. He has been led down a blind alley with no exit.
Paul Charles Morphy, a former world class chess player, became intrigued by the painting. One day, while studying the arrangement of the chess pieces, he saw something that no one else did. Excitedly, he cried out to the young man in the painting, “Don’t give up! You still have an excellent move left.” There is still hope.
The story fits in beautifully with the point Jesus makes in the parable of the fig tree today. Like the young man in the painting, the fig tree seems lost, then suddenly a ray of hope breaks through. Like the young man in the painting, the tree is not doomed after all; it gets a last minute reprieve. It gets a last minute second chance.
This is an important message for all of us. Because of Jesus, we are never doomed, no matter how bad things seem. Because of Jesus, there is still hope for us, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Because of Jesus, there is always one more move left to make, no matter how late in the game it is.
This brings us to the most important point of all. How does all this apply to our lives in a very practical way? All of us, to some extent, are like the young man in the painting and like the fig tree in Jesus’ parable. All of us, at one time or another, have arrived at a point in life when it seemed that we were in a no-win situation. Perhaps some of us are at such a point in our lives right now. Perhaps some situation threatens to engulf us and overwhelm us. Perhaps some relationship threatens to destroy everything we believe in. Perhaps some problem has led us down a blind alley that seems to be a dead end.
It’s right here that today’s gospel has an important message for all of us. Because of Jesus Christ, we are never doomed, no matter how bad things seem. Because of Jesus, we always have one more move left. Because of Jesus, there is still hope for us, no matter what the situation.
This is the lesson that’s contained in today’s scripture. This is the good news that we celebrate in today’s liturgy. And this is the message that God wants us to carry back into our world to share with others.KEEP READING
First Sunday of Lent
March 6, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Dt 26:4-10 / Ps 91 / Rom 10:8-13 / Lk 4:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a beautiful quotation from Franklin Jones, a journalist. He said, “What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.” Another anonymous quotation goes, “Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch.” Also, before he was fully converted, Saint Augustine’s prayer was, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet.”
Seriously, however, we must ask ourselves, how often are we tempted in life? Each day, how often do we experience being driven to do something wrong? Or tempted to think ill of another person? Or tempted to ignore a neighbor in need? All these temptations come from the evil one. God will never tempt us. He can only test us.
In fact, in the letter of Saint James, it is said that God tempts no one. The devil enjoys tempting us, because he wants us to be on his side, not on God’s side. That’s why someone once said that Satan never rests. Just as he tempted Adam and Eve, just as he tempted Jesus, he is tempting us today. The only difference between now and Biblical times is that the devil has updated his tactics. Even the devil (not just Apple) knows the need for updating.
If you look at the beginning of creation, how was the devil described? As a snake. In Mark’s Gospel which parallels the gospel we heard today from Luke, the devil is described as the wild beast. Today, the devil is a good-looking one. The devil can be very sexy. The devil can be something that is very delicious to eat or luscious to drink. The devil can be in the form of something that will attract us away from the grace of God.
There is a story about Lucifer that tells how one day he got very angry because he noticed that the people of the world had started to read the Bible. People believed in Jesus and His teachings. Lucifer found it hard to tempt them. He called for an emergency meeting with his top four advisers. The topic to be discussed was what to do to tempt people away from following Christ.
The first adviser said, “Master, we will tell the people that God does not exist, so that they can do evil things.” Lucifer said, “I am not convinced. People will not believe that there is no God, because every time they see creation, they will wonder who created the birds, trees, people, etc. Of course they will think God created all of the things in the world.”
The second adviser said, “Master, we will convince the people that there is no heaven, so there is no need for them to do good. They can do anything they want since there is no reward of heaven.” Lucifer said, “No, when people love each other, it is like heaven. When they help others, they feel joy and joy is a heavenly feeling.”
The third adviser said, “Master, we will tell the people that there is heaven, but there is no hell, so they will not be afraid to sin.” Lucifer said, “Even on earth, people experience hell. When a spouse is unfaithful, that is hell for them. When government is corrupt, that is hell for them. When there is war, that is hell for them.”
The fourth adviser said, “Master, we will tell the people that there is God, so do good. There is heaven, so strive to be good. There is hell, so strive to avoid sin.” Lucifer said, “What? Are you trying to make them good people?” The fourth adviser said, “No. We will tell them that there is God, heaven, and hell, but don’t rush. Don’t hurry—you have enough time.” Lucifer said, “That’s a good tactic. Let’s go with that idea.”
The devil’s tactic is effective. We know that there is God, heaven, and hell, but the problem is that we are not in a hurry. We follow the devil’s advice to take our time. That’s why we go worldly first. Go enjoy and party. Go for vacation and neglect to attend Mass. Go spend so much time working and save no time for prayer. Go to church when you’re old and weak, but let’s enjoy life while we are young. Get active in the church after retirement. We don’t rush. By not rushing, by not seeing the urgency to follow Jesus, we believe what the devil says—that we have enough time.
I hope we will not actually be tempted by the devil’s tactic. There are many people who fall into the trap of thinking that they have plenty of time. Then death comes unexpectedly. That’s why, during the season of Lent, especially, this first Sunday of Lent, we are always invited to enter into our desert. Desert can mean many things. We need to enter into the silence of our hearts and learn to know and recognize the devil’s temptation and then defeat it.
Do not try to trust your own strength to fight against temptation. Be humble and accept that we cannot conquer evil by ourselves. We always need God’s grace and guidance. As we face the devil or temptation, we need to have the spirit of Jesus. Let us remember that only Jesus has conquered the devil.
In the letter to the Hebrews, Paul says, “Because Christ Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Christ will help us because He understands our situation. May God’s love and grace give us the strength to choose Him and not the devil. His message to us is: Leave your sins. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Let us always remember what makes temptation difficult for many people is that they don’t want to discourage it completely.KEEP READING