Second Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 12:1-4a / Ps 33 / 2 Tm 1:8b-10 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Our gospel today talks about the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, or Mount Hebron. Since the fifth century, every August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Second Sunday of Lent each year is also called Transfiguration Sunday.
Because the gospel talks about this great event in the life of Jesus Christ, and His three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were witnesses to it, we can say the main purpose of Christ’s Transfiguration was to prepare the apostles for the events of Holy Week, when Jesus Christ sacrificed, died, and was nailed on the cross because of His great love for each one of us. In other words, He prepared them for His upcoming suffering.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the Transfiguration, they get a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
And like them, we, too, get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people. We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives, and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now. We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a chord in our hearts. We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Transfiguration, coming early in Lent, encourages us to continue our Lenten penances, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.
When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Of course, they didn’t know what He meant. Unknown to them was that the glory of Jesus’ Transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. They would understand this only afterwards when looking back.
Brothers and Sisters, the good times take us through the bad times. So, when our cross is heavy, or we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us His consolation. Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us. Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us. Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.
In our first reading, we heard Abram being called by God to leave his present place and go to a new country. He was seventy-five when called to leave his old country but had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born, so that the promise of future descendants could be fulfilled. That was a long wait. It was a long time for him to be continually looking beyond the present to the promise of God. With faith, we can see what we cannot see with our eyes.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw His future risen glory. Let us look beyond and see that God is really with us. God has not left us on our own. God is with us.
The Transfiguration of Jesus in our gospel was not just about Jesus. It was a vision of the glorious future to which we are all called. We encounter problems and negativities, and we get hurt going through life. Then we have the choice either to say negative things, or we can choose to remember who we really are: brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of God since Baptism, and that the glory of the Transfigured Jesus awaits each of us.
We can choose to think in negative ways, or to remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture. In his first letter, John writes, “We are already children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed. All we know is that, when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He really is. We shall be like Him.”
The glory of the Transfigured Jesus is awaiting each of us, thanks to our Baptism. So then for one who believes, there is no room for negative thinking. We will be tempted to think negatively because of the events that occur to us, but let us not forget our dignity, no matter what happens, and no matter what others think of us or say to us.
The second reading today also gives us an insight into what God has destined for us. It says, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design, and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.…” God’s grace was granted to us before the beginning of time. Imagine: Since the beginning of time, God had you in His plan and had His grace planned for you. Since the beginning of time, God planned to transform us through His son, Jesus.
The disciples who experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality, but they remembered the Transfiguration. Like them, we live in normality, but we believe, and know, that God has destined great things for us. We say the Transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross. Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead. In our worst moments of pain, may we not think negatively, but remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture, and that God has destined the glory of the Transfiguration for each of us in the next life.KEEP READING
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 8:23-9:3 / Ps 27 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Mt 12-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Pope Francis declared that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the Word of God. He went on to say that this will be a fitting time for added focus on strengthening our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity (Ordo pg 47). We will circle back to the last two in a bit, but let’s first dive into the scripture.
When you go bird watching, you are always looking with anticipation that you might see something special. It is no different with scripture. The more you know about it, the more you want to see it and the more you start looking for something special to appear.
Applying the bird watching analogy to scripture, it helps to know what to look for. Look for two senses, the literal and the spiritual. The literal is what the human author intended for his audience in that time and place. The spiritual is what the Holy Spirit wove into it. The spiritual sense has three parts: 1) The allegorical – Where is Jesus in this? 2) The anagogical – What does this say about the end of time? and 3) the moral – What does this passage mean for me?
If you have been listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year podcast, you understand how much the Church cherishes the scriptures. In that podcast, he read paragraph 103 from the Catechism which states that, “…the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body (CCC 103 / Dei Verbum 21).” The catechism was quoting the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation called Dei Verbum. Dei Verbum is Latin for “Word of God.”
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has rotated through the three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in annual cycles. It also added Old Testament readings to the Sunday missal. Before Vatican II, Sunday readings were all New Testament, except for the Easter vigil and Pentecost, the feast of the Epiphany and a few other times. These additional scripture readings were intended to help us become more familiar with the Bible. This Church year is Cycle A, which follow’s Matthew’s gospel (Matthew, by the way, is one of my favorite characters in The Chosen series).
Speaking of series, you know how when you haven’t watched your Netflix or Prime series or “The Chosen” in a while, you watch the opening summary of past episodes. It gets you ready to enter fully into the next episode, understanding what is going on. Let’s do that with today’s gospel.
Here is the opening summary. We are in chapter 4 of Matthew’s gospel. It is helpful to know that chapters 3-7 of Matthew focus on the Announcement of the Kingdom (Cavins 2). At the end of chapter 3 earlier this year, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. At the beginning of chapter 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit to fast in the desert for forty days and then is tempted by Satan. Last Sunday we heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus is the “lamb of God” and the “Son of God.” Now, today’s gospel starts with these words, “Jesus heard that John [the Baptist] had been arrested.” You can just feel it. Today’s episode is going to be a big one.
Jesus, lamb of God and Son of God, goes to Capernaum by the sea, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy from today’s first reading. “Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way to the sea…the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light…in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen (Mt 4: 15-16).” Capernaum, a town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, is in the vicinity of where Zebulun and Naphtali were. Dr. Ed Sri points out that the Israelites in this area were the “first to experience the darkness of conquest and exile and now have become the first to see the light of God’s goodness in the Messiah (Sri 79).” And what does Jesus say to them? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).”
In this episode of Matthew, Jesus then goes to the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and they leave their jobs and family and follow Him (Mt 4:18-22). He then starts teaching in synagogues and “curing every disease and illness among the people.” The cliff hanger for today’s episode comes in the verses right after today’s gospel, which state that “His fame spread” and that He cured those “racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics” and that “great crowds came from all over (Mt 4:23-25).”
When an episode ends, they show the trailer for the next one. In this case, next Sunday’s episode is Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus proclaims to those “great crowds” the good news of the kingdom of heaven in the iconic Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5).” He will do so in an unprecedented way in human history. Not Buddha, not Confucius, and not Mohammed spoke the way Jesus did. The people listening were astounded because “…He taught as one who had authority (Mt 7: 29).” Fr. Mike Schmitz points out in the Catechism in a Year podcast that Jesus did not just quote the prophets. Pay attention to all the times Jesus says, “You have heard it said, but I say…” The next four Sundays between now and Ash Wednesday are all from the Sermon on the Mount.
Now let’s reflect on Pope Francis’s request to focus on our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. Regarding our bond with the Jewish people, Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus fulfilled in today’s gospel is one of over three hundred Old Testament prophecies that He and only He fulfilled (Kreeft). God announced the coming of His Son through the Jewish people in the scriptures that we call the Old Testament. Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish family and frequented the synagogue as a devout Jew. Our Catholic faith has many symbols and traditions that reflect the Jewish tradition our founder, Jesus Christ, knew well. Examples include the church seasons, candles, singing Psalms, incense, and the Tabernacle accompanied by an ever-burning candle.
The Second Vatican Council fathers summed up well how we should view our Jewish brothers and sisters. They wrote, “The apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made (NA 4; Rom 11: 28-29).” “Remembering then, its common heritage with the Jews and moved…by Christian charity, [the Church] deplores all hatreds, persecutions, and displays of antisemitism levelled at any time or from any source against the Jews (NA 4).” Sadly, these things are on the rise in our country, so keep our Jewish brothers and sisters in your prayers and defend them in word and deed when needed.
Regarding praying for Christian unity, remember what St. Paul said in the second reading. “I urge you…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind… (1 Cor 1:10-13).” What mind? The mind of Jesus. Here is a way to respond to Paul’s exhortation. Our Christian brothers and sisters share the same twenty-seven books of the New Testament with us. Many recite the Nicene Creed and sing some of the same hymns we do. We work shoulder to shoulder with them at various charities in Bedford and Moneta, and in solidarity with them we share a love of God, family, and country. What we have in common is substantial. When divisive scripture and tradition debates pop up, humbly, patiently, and lovingly try to steer the conversation to what we have in common.
If they ask you if you have personal relationship with Jesus Christ, say yes, but that you also have a communal relationship with Him as a member of the Body of Christ. Add that your relationship is not just personal or communal, but that it is intimate. For through the priest, it is Jesus who baptizes (Mt 3:11; Acts 2:38), forgives sins (Jn 20: 22-23; 2 Cor 5 17-20), feeds us His Body (Lk 22:17-19; 1 Cor 10:16), confirms us in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17;19: 5-6), makes us one flesh in marriage (Mt 19:5-6), heals us through anointing (Mk 6:12-13; Jam 5:14-15), and sets apart men as deacons, priests, and bishops (Jn 20:22; I Tim 3:2 (Bishops); Acts 20:28; 2 Tim 1:6 (priests); Acts 6:6; I Tim 3:8 (deacons)). By the way, if you look at Holy Name of Mary’s website in two weeks you can look at this homily and see the scripture verses for these.
If they ask you if you have been saved, say yes. Jesus placed His Spirit in you at your baptism (Acts 2:38). That is the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead and so too will raise you from the dead (Rom 8:11). But then steer the conversation back to our shared beliefs and values: the Ten Commandments, the New Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the commandment to love God and neighbor, the love of scripture and the need for Jesus our Savior. And maybe remind them who our shared enemies are; our sin and the evil falsehoods the lost try to teach others to believe. All Christians are united most especially by our Lord, but also by our shared values and beliefs, and our shared enemies.
If you do not remember anything else from this homily, remember what I am about to say. Remember the lesson of bird watchers? They learn about the characteristics and names of birds and then look around them with the expectation that something special might appear. If you read scripture daily, in prayer, God will occasionally speak to you in a special way. And what He says will change your life for the better. How does He do this?
He does so in an infinite number of ways, always suited to your specific needs. Here are a couple I have experienced. Sometimes a verse will seem to light up on the page, just stand out in some way. Sometimes you will read a verse and the meaning will be very different than what you know it should be, but when you read it again, that peculiar meaning is still there. When these things happen, stop. Write down those words and pray over and reflect upon them for several days until you understand how God wants you to respond. Seek spiritual direction if you are not sure.
Here is a closing image. We have a dad that we were separated from long ago. And we want to know more about Him so we can know more about ourselves and make sense of our lives and this world. Turns out, He has written us a book that tells us how much and why He loves us. In that book, He helps us make sense of our behaviors that confound us, pointing out our strengths and weaknesses. He shares His wisdom on how to live our lives. He tells us what makes Him proud of us. And He shares good news. He has built a home for us and in His book, He has given us a map that shows us The Way. Amen.
Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.
Diocese of Richmond. Ordo- Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist 2023.
Jeff Cavins. Matthew-The King and His Kingdom Great Adventure Bible Study. Ascension Press 2011.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
The Catholic Church. Nostra Atate: The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
The Catholic Church. Dei Verbum: The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.KEEP READING
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
December 25, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 52:5-10 / Ps 98 / Heb 1:1-6 / Jn 1:1-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There was an inquisitive 4-year-old who happened to be rooted strongly to the “why” and “tell me” stage of life. The little boy was helping to sort out ornaments and said, “Daddy, what does ‘ignore’ mean?” The father explained, “Ignore means not to pay attention to people when they talk to you.”
Immediately, the little boy looked up at his father and said, “I don’t think we should ignore Jesus.” Puzzled, the father knelt closer to his animated son and replied, “I don’t think we should ignore Jesus either, son. I think we should give Him our full attention. So why do you say that we ignore Him?” “But daddy, that’s what the Christmas carol says: O come let us ignore Him.”
Kids sure say the darnedest things sometimes. But you know, brothers and sisters, often we actually get so caught up in the frenzy of preparations — parties, shopping, and decorating — that we appear to ignore the true meaning of Christmas and fail to prepare a place in our hearts to come and adore Him.
Let us adore the baby Jesus in the manger. A baby easily wins the heart and love of anyone with human feelings, but how much more does this baby win our heart and love? Imagine Jesus, the son of God and our savior, born in a stable and placed in a manger instead of a crib. When God comes, He usually comes in humility, silently and peacefully, without causing a great disturbance.
God’s humble coming in Jesus would not surprise us if we knew God better, but of course we will never know God sufficiently to understand. So, no matter how much we try to understand God becoming human in Jesus, we will not be able to comprehend. It will remain a mystery. The best reaction is that of the shepherds, simply to praise God.
So let us praise God now in our own words. As we look at the baby Jesus, we think of the mystery of God’s love for us, and ask ourselves: Why did God, who is almighty and all powerful, become small and powerless as a baby? Quite simply out of love for us. God became human so that we might become more like God. If Jesus had not come as a human like us, we might have had difficulty in believing God really loved us, but now we know for sure.
John the Evangelist says this is the revelation of God’s love for us: that God sent His only son into the world that we might have life through Him. This Christmas, brothers and sisters, let us thank God for revealing His love for us in Jesus, that He who is so big and powerful became so small and weak for us, that He became one of us to help us be more like Him, to have life through Him.
So, as we see baby Jesus in the manger, we reflect on God’s way being a way of gentleness and tenderness. God’s way is not one of violence, but gentleness. There’s a lot of goodness and love in the world but God is always tender and loving. As we look at baby Jesus in the manger, we see that He is the answer to today’s problems.
Instead of violence, in baby Jesus in the manger we see gentleness. Instead of hatred, in baby Jesus in the manger we see tenderness. Instead of selfishness, in baby Jesus in the manger we see love for us. So let us ask baby Jesus to help us to be gentle, tender, and loving with those around us, as He was in the manger.
Jesus in the manger gave us hope. In the darkness of our world His light has shone. His coming in gentleness encourages us to hold out the hand of reconciliation, to help one another, to work for peace. And we remember the message of the angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace!KEEP READING
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3 / Ps 122 / Col 1:12-20 / Lk 23:35-43
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Why is this Feast Day of Christ the King placed at the end of the liturgical season? Today we finish with the Liturgical Year C, reading from the Gospel of Luke. We begin Year A next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent and will switch to the Gospel of Matthew. Why Christ the King today?
Some background thoughts on the reasons for and need for this Feast:
Godless, atheistic nations and states rising in power, threatening their neighbors. God and Jesus forced out of the public forum and leadership, forced out of politics. Society and culture diminishing God. It’s not safe in some places to talk about Jesus. He’s kept in a small box at church or in your living room.
I’m not talking about society and the world today. I’m talking about 1925. In 1925, Pope Pius XI was looking out over the world in a post-World War I environment, and these are the evils that he saw. He, along with the Church, decided to create a Feast, a Feast to remind the faithful and the world where true power resides, where to place our allegiance and devotion. As we’re ending this cycle, this Liturgical Year, we’re punctuating this ending and transition time with this Feast of Christ the King.
But why not Christ the Risen or Christ Ascended or Christ the Shepherd? Christ the King is what the Church chose. It makes the point Pope Pius wanted to precisely make. Jesus is Christ the King, and He supersedes all worldly views of power and influence.
But He doesn’t look like a king. Imagine this scene from the gospels. There are people gathered around. Rulers were there, as were soldiers. Jesus was hanging there on the cross with criminals. The inscription above His head was, “This is the King of the Jews.” Almost all of these people were deriding Him, poking fun at Him. They were taunting Him with, “If you are the Christ, if you are the Chosen One, if you are the King of the Jews.” These three taunts mirror the three temptations that the devil gave to Jesus in the desert. (“If you are the Son of God, save yourself by turning these stones into bread, etc.”).
Remember also that the people of the Roman government of that day thought their methods were good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair. Jesus didn’t look like a king. He was a criminal, actually a slave. At that time, if you were not a Roman citizen and you did something against the state, you became a slave. He had no rights. Convicted slaves, for a crime that warranted it, were subject to the painful and humiliating death by crucifixion. (On the other hand, Roman citizens like the Apostle Paul were given a more humane sentence of beheading.)
Jesus was there on the cross as a slave with the criminals. He was poor, beaten, humiliated, crushed. He did not look like a king. He did not act like a king either.
We know that God is all-powerful. We know that Jesus is God. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians that we heard today, he describes Jesus: “He is…the firstborn of all creation. For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
Do you think He was scared to death of Pilate? Do you think He worried at all about what the emperor of that day might do? He is all powerful. Everything that exists, exists because of Him. He could care less about the emperor, or the governor, or the president, or the czar, as these are merely a speck of dust in time.
Jesus had and has infinite power. He could have annihilated everything in existence in the flick of a second while He was there on that cross. He could have called a host of angels to save Him and everyone that was hanging there. But He chose not to exercise that power. We think that kings portray force, power, superiority, dominance, and violence. But Jesus didn’t choose to lord power over us.
Even His closest disciple, Peter, did not comprehend what was going to happen. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem, going to suffer and die, going to rise again. Peter pulled Him aside and started to rebuke Him, saying that he would allow no such thing to happen. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking as humans do, not as God does.”
Jesus did not choose power, but rather mercy. He allowed Himself to become powerless, to become a slave. He allowed Himself to become the sacrificial lamb. Why? To atone for our sins and to save all of us. His mercy is unbounded. The good thief, the one who recognized what was happening, only asked to be remembered: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” In His unbounded mercy, Jesus granted that thief eternal paradise with Him right then. His mercy is far beyond anything that we could comprehend.
Jesus did not act like any other ruler or king. But He’s the king I choose to follow: a king that loved me so much that He gave up everything. He suffered for me. He took all those insults and humiliation for me. He died, just for me and for you. That is my king and yours. Live that. Be His living example in a fallen world. Our society, our governments, think they are good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair, just like the Roman empire did. They are far from it, and they need our help.
Go in peace, glorifying God by your life. Serve our King in this world. Our baptism demands it. Jesus won’t be kept in a box, or here at church, or just in our living room. As if He could be. He can’t be contained.
This is the end of the Liturgical Year. I am here on Pope Pius’s behalf, to give an annual reminder that Jesus Christ is King. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.KEEP READING
June 5, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104 / Rom 8:8-17 / Jn 20:19-23
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about a young boy who went to the store on his bicycle to buy something, but there was no place to park his bicycle. He decided to go to a nearby church and make a request to the parish priest and, of course, the priest granted his request without any hesitation.
The boy asked, “Father, is it safe here?” He needed to ask, because he was concerned that someone might steal his bicycle. The priest replied, “Of course. The Holy Spirit will keep watch over your bike. But first, let us go inside the church and pray.” They knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and the boy said, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son. Amen.” The priest interrupted him, “My son, you forgot the last part ‘and of the Holy Spirit.’” The boy said, “We should not disturb the Holy Spirit, Father. He is watching over my bike.”
The Holy Spirit does not keep watch solely over bicycles. Rather, He keeps watch over everything and everyone, especially over the disciples, including ourselves, whom Jesus leaves behind as He returns to the Father. At the Last Supper Jesus tells them that He will send a gift from the Father, the greatest of all gifts, and that is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures tell us that fifty days after the Exodus, Moses received the ten commandments from Yahweh at Mount Sinai. Yahweh presented them to His people, and the people pledged faithfulness to all that Yahweh expected of them.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. It is the feast day of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church, for Jesus sent His spirit over the disciples to empower them to live by His word. That is why we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Pentecost today, the giving and coming of the Holy Spirit as a gift from the risen Lord. Pentecost, in Greek, means the fiftieth day, that is, the fiftieth day after Easter, or the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Actually, the Holy Spirit had already been given to the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the Resurrection. He breathed the Holy Spirit on them by saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid.” But still, they remained sad, and afraid that what happened to Jesus Christ might also happen to them. It was only after fifty days that the apostles finally realized that the Holy Spirit had descended upon them and they became courageous.
We, too, receive the Holy Spirit during our Baptism and Confirmation. But why doesn’t it change our lives as it changed those of the apostles? Why do we behave, in many ways, like those that are unbaptized, or pagans, as if we never received the Holy Spirit? I guess the answer is because the Holy Spirit inspires us to do good things, but in the long run it is up to us to accept, ignore, or reject His promptings.
So now the question is, who is the Holy Spirit? We know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. He’s the love of the Father and the Son, present within God the Father and God the Son throughout all eternity. When we want to describe Him, however, we have difficulties, for we cannot see Him.
The original word in Greek, can express the idea of breath, wind, or spirit. Before the world was created, a strong wind blew over the water. There was no life yet on earth. Nevertheless, the earth was covered by God’s presence. Even though we do not see the Holy Spirit, we are all aware that He is at work in our lives. We cannot see the wind, and we do not know where it comes from or where it is going, but we see its effects. The leaves on the trees rustle in the breeze. Trees are toppled by its fury. The wind gives speed to a sailboat and produces sound when blown into a musical instrument.
Our Church reminds us today that Pentecost represents God’s gracious, enabling presence at work among His people. This presence enables them to live their lives according to His teachings. It is also a day to celebrate hope: a hope that suggests that a knowledge of God, through the Holy Spirit, is working among His people.
The event also celebrates a newness, a renewal of purpose through the Holy Spirit and a mission and calling as God’s people. Most of all, the day is a celebration of God’s ongoing work in the world which emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit and provides a tremendous opportunity for churches to use this sacred sign to call for a renewal through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
In closing, please join me in praying this prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth your spirit and they shall be created
and You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.
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
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
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 8, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Ps 98 / Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 / Lk 1:26-38
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to heaven by Mary.”
It is a nice coincidence, as we prepare to commemorate the birth of Jesus with the Advent season, that we also have this season to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the womb of her holy mother, Saint Anne, the wife of Joachim. The feast we celebrate today, the Immaculate Conception, is that of Mary being conceived by her mother, Saint Anne, not Jesus conceived by Mary. (more…)KEEP READING
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 24, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jer 31:7-9 / Ps 126 / Heb 5:1-6 / Mk 10:46-52
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Jesus performed miracles two thousand years ago and is still doing so today. Today, may we leave this church with a renewed faith in Jesus’ power to heal us and to truly help us when we are in need, and to heal and help others through our prayer.
In today’s gospel, the setting is important. Jesus is walking from Jericho to Jerusalem. Said another way, Jesus is walking from the site of the opening of the Promised Land through Joshua’s obedience to God, to the site of the opening of the gates to our final Promised Land through Jesus’ obedience to His Father. (more…)KEEP READING
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Rv 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab / Ps 45 / 1 Cor 15:20-27 / Lk 1:39-56
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is an old story about a workman on scaffolding high above the nave of a cathedral. He looked down and saw a woman praying before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a joke, the workman whispered, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman ignored him.
So the workman whispered again more loudly, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman still ignored him.
Finally, he said aloud, “Woman, don’t you hear me? This is Jesus.”
At this point the woman looked at the crucifix and said, “Be still now, Jesus; I’m talking to your mother.” (more…)KEEP READING