Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 31, 2023 — Year B
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-21 / Lk 2:22-40
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Our readings today from Sirach, Colossians, and Luke present a harmonious theme that revolves around the dynamics of family, relationships, and the virtues that foster a harmonious and godly life.
In Sirach, we are reminded of the honor and respect due to parents. The call to honor your father and mother is not just a cultural or societal norm but is deeply embedded in the divine order. It reflects a recognition of the role parents play in our lives and the wisdom they can impart. The passage also emphasizes the importance of kindness, which extends beyond familial relationships to the broader community.
The letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians provides a practical guide for Christian living within the context of family and community. The virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness are highlighted as essential for maintaining the unity and peace of the Christian community. Above all, the apostle Paul underscores the central role of love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. The passage challenges us to live out our faith not only in public worship, but also in the intimate spaces of our homes and relationships.
The gospel reading from Luke introduces the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the devout figures of Simeon and Anna. Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise and a light for all nations. Anna the prophetess adds her voice to the praise and thanksgiving. This encounter in the temple symbolizes the dedication of the Holy Family to God’s plan and the broader significance of Jesus’ mission for all people.
As we continue our journey through Christmas season, this feast of the Holy Family is an important celebration straight after the feast of the Nativity of the Lord and within the octave of Christmas.
There is a story of a man who tried to follow in the footsteps of Santa Claus by giving out gifts to strangers every Christmas. When asked why he wanted to be like Santa, he said, “I grew up in an orphanage. Every Christmas I visit homes and hand out gifts to children and adults alike with the hope that I would eventually find my parents, meet my family, or at least touch the hearts of other families.”
At this time of the year, we give sincere thanks for the love, nurturing, and support that our family can give us, and the love, example, and intersection that the Holy Family gives us on our journey through life. We think of our parents’ and family’s countless acts of kindness, love, and sacrifices. When we were young, we probably didn’t appreciate the scale of it all. When we get older and have our own families or watch with admiration our brothers and sisters and friends raising their own families, we start to appreciate what our parents must have given and sacrificed out of love, and we are truly grateful for this.
We are also very mindful of people whose family life has been extremely difficult, and who did not have that support that others take for granted. That is, not everyone in this world has been blessed with an unconditionally loving and accepting family who support one another.
We give thanks to mentors and all people who have been good role models and sources of care and protection for the young. These people have been family to others, beyond the ties of blood. We keep in mind currently families worldwide who’ve had it really tough this year, perhaps due to illness, distance, separation, financial hardship, and worries.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the patron saints supporting each other and sticking together when everything is going wrong around them. For example, when we look closely at the very first Christmas, we quickly see that life for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was anything but smooth sailing.
The joy and hope of this celebration comes from the fact that God came into our world and made a home with us when everything was going badly for the world. The first Christmas came at a time of incredible unrest for the people of Israel who were suffering under the foreign domination of a pagan empire. They had values quite opposed to and different from many of the sacred religious values of the Jewish people.
Mary and Joseph are forced to take a terribly difficult trip to Bethlehem when Mary is imminently due to give birth. This would have been a difficult trip at the best of times, but it must have been extremely difficult for an expectant mother at the end of her term. They arrive at their ancestral hometown, and there is nowhere to stay. They are forced to sleep in a barn, and Mary gives birth to a baby surrounded by animals. The baby is placed in a food trough where the animals normally eat. The shepherds, some of the poorest and lowest outcasts in society, are the first to hear about the birth and come to pay their respects.
Mary and Joseph also had countless incidents when they had just to trust in what God was doing and all the while were plunged into confusion about what it all meant. They trusted in God and supported each other especially when things were unclear and did not make any sense to them, and this made all the difference.
The celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph offers a poignant moment to reflect on the significance of family life and the virtues exemplified by the Holy Family. In contemplating the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we find a model for love, unity, and faithfulness that resonates across the ages. At the heart of the Holy Family is a profound sense of love and sacrificial service.
Joseph’s unwavering commitment to Mary and Jesus, even in the face of uncertainty and challenges, speaks to the strength that comes from selfless love. In Mary, we see a mother who treasured and pondered the mysteries of her son’s life, embodying the qualities of contemplation and deep faith. Jesus, the son of God, chose to enter the human experience, growing up within the embrace of a human family.
This feast invites us to consider the sacredness of our own families and the responsibilities that come with it. In a world that sometimes seems to devalue the institution of the family, the Holy Family stands as a beacon of hope, and a reminder of the importance of cultivating love, respect, and unity within our own home.
As we reflect on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph we are called to strengthen the bonds of love within our families, to prioritize faith in the face of challenges, and to embrace the sacredness of the family unit. Whether our families are nuclear or extended, biological or spiritual, the virtues embodied by the Holy Family of love, trust, and faithfulness, serve as a timeless guide for building strong and resilient families that reflect the love of God in our world.
May the Holy Family inspire us to cultivate holiness within our homes and to be a source of light and love for others. In a world often marked by division and discord, these readings offer a counter narrative of unity, love, and mutual support within the family and the Christian community. They challenge us to embody the virtues of Christ in our daily interactions, extending compassion and forgiveness to those closest to us and to the wider circle of humanity. As we celebrate the Holy Family, we strive to emulate their virtues, creating homes and communities that reflect the love and harmony of God’s Kingdom. The Holy Family is our inspiration and prayerful support.
At this fifth day within the Christmas season, we give sincere and heartfelt thanks for family, and the support and strength we can give each other along life’s long journey with all these joys and sorrows, graces, and temptations. Holy Family of Jesus and Mary and Joseph, pray for us. May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 / Ps 23 / 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 / Mt 25:31-46
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Here, on the doorstep of the season of Advent, we pause and meditate on the solemnity of “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” He has absolute sovereignty over all creation, for He created it. And yet, in four weeks we enter the mystery of His becoming man, born in a stable, no crib for a bed, His dad a blue-collar worker and His mom a teenage girl. From now until Christmas, we walk from today’s discomfort at the foot of His judgment seat to the joy and peace of His manger in Bethlehem. These are the poles of our spiritual journey and the religious road between them is called Advent.
I encourage you to make a resolution for Advent that will be your gift for Jesus at Christmas. Consider making a different holy resolution each day or week of Advent. One I recommend is to find a quiet time to listen to St. Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on YouTube and ponder it in prayer. Hearing the voice of a great saint is a precious gift.
I listened to her speech early one morning, and it cast a familiar Bible verse in a different light for me. In morning prayer that day, I read this beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).” I always interpreted this as meaning something along the lines of, “If you live a holy life with Jesus, you will go to heaven and see God.” In her speech Mother Teresa shared stories of the poor in an intimate and tender way, and as I listened, that beatitude led me from the foot of Jesus’ judgment seat to the side of His manger. You might say I had an epiphany.
We will come back to Mother Teresa’s speech in a bit, but now let’s meditate on the scriptures. Just as there is a dichotomy between Christ King of the Universe and Christ in a manger, there is one between the Old Testament readings where Jesus is a good shepherd and the last two where He is a king and judge (Kreeft 778). How are they connected? As our shepherd, He leads us in how to live for the day we will be judged.
In Ezekiel 34, God says, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep…I will seek the lost, bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak (Ez 34:16).” Jesus is judge, but He does not sit back and wait for us to succeed or to fail, relishing the day He will judge us. On the contrary, in Psalm 23 He says He will “lead [us] in paths of righteousness (3).” Why? In the verse before that He says He desires to “lead [us] beside still waters, [to] restore [our] soul (Ps 23:2).” One could say that He leads us in how to do good things that restore our soul for our day of judgment, but how is that related to still waters?
Ever look at a pond or lake in the stillness of the early morning, when the water is perfectly flat? It acts as a mirror, reflecting the trees and the sky, and somehow that reflection is more beautiful to us than if we simply looked directly at the trees and sky. So it is when He “restores our soul.” When we take up our cross and follow Him, loving our neighbor, we are at peace, and He restores our soul. It is then that our restored soul becomes like still waters, reflecting Jesus’ love. Others can read about His love directly, but it is more impactful when they see it reflected in us.
Leaving the comfort of the first reading and psalm, we move to the discomfort of the second reading: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power…until He has put all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:24-25).” Who is under His feet? His enemies, yes, but in today’s gospel we are; everyone is.
In the gospel He is sitting up high on His throne which is also the judgment seat (Mt 25:31-32). He moves one hand and many are moved to His left. He moves His other hand and some are moved to His right (Mt 15:33). Those on the right to eternal life in the kingdom prepared for them and those on the left to eternal punishment (Mt 15:34, 46).
How will He judge us? If there is a judge, then there must be a law to judge by. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment; love one another (Jn 13:34).” May God have mercy on those who say we do not need works to get into heaven and then cherry pick verses, out of context, to support their wishful thinking. St. Paul called Jesus’ new commandment a law writing “…love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom 13:8).” Jesus gives us the consequences of breaking that law. In Matthew 7 He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (21-23).”
Those words made some uncomfortable, so they tried to negotiate with the King of the Universe. Here is how that went. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name? Did we not drive out demons in Your name? Did we not do mighty deeds (miracles) in Your name?” Jesus responded, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers (Mt 7:22-23).” Prophecies, exorcisms, and miracles are all good things, and God allows even sinners to perform them, for they are good for His people. But if one does those things without love for their neighbor, then doing those things does not fulfill the law.
That leads us to today’s gospel, which is the conclusion of several Sundays of warnings from Jesus about the end of time. The last two weeks we heard about the virgins running out oil for their lamps and being locked out of the wedding banquet. And about the servant who did not give his master a return on his talents and so was cast out into darkness weeping (Mt 25:1-30). Jesus saved the most disturbing warning for last. Disturbing, because He spells it out for us today. He clarifies what the symbolism was for the oil in the virgins’ lamps and the servants’ talents. He points out those ever so serious sins that lie hidden in our conscience like a copperhead snake amidst some leaves.
The sins I speak of lead us to another good Advent resolution. Examine our conscience for sins of omission, those acts of love we failed to do. Jesus gives us an examination of conscience in today’s gospel. “When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you (Mt 25:38-39)?” And the King of the Universe replied, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (40).”
A good examination of conscience is free of excuses. Excuses did not work well for the miracle workers who were without love. Here are some questions you can turn into Advent resolutions. Have I introduced myself to a new parishioner or to a new neighbor and welcomed them? Have I gathered up the extra coats, shoes, and clothes in my home and given them away? Have I helped feed the hungry? Is prison ministry on my heart, and if so, how can I act on it? Could you bring your children or a friend to visit a nursing home? Is there someone who is sick that you can go and pray with or help with their chores that are going undone?
If you are still feeling comfortable because judgment day sounds so far off, then listen to these somber words from the Church.
“The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in His second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul—a destiny which can be different for some and for others (CCC 1021).”
“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ [King of the Universe]: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation (CCC 1022).”
So when will you die? I have been surprised at how many of my high school classmates I have outlived. They were so much healthier than me. Our particular judgment can come at any time. In the first verse of the gospel next week, Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come (Mk 13:33).”
Now we are in the proper frame of mind to turn to Mother Teresa for guidance and hope. In her Nobel prize acceptance speech, her stories of seeing extraordinary goodness in the poor shed new light on Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” What does “pure of heart” mean? St. Angela Merci kept the answer simple, “Charity does not sin.” When, with love, I welcome the stranger and visit the sick, my heart is pure in that moment. It is free of sin.
My epiphany while listening to Mother Teresa’s stories of the poor was that, when I am lovingly caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, I am pure of heart and I…see…God. I see the person, but in them the King of the Universe is looking back at me. And in that sacred moment, I travel the Advent road from Jesus’ judgment seat in heaven to the manger in Bethlehem where our King joins us in all our suffering.
Have mercy on us, oh King of the Universe, and send us Your Spirit to lead us from the fear of Your judgment seat to the hope of Your manger. Amen.
Kreeft, Peter. “Food for the Soul; Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle A.” Word on Fire 2022.
Mother Teresa. Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. YouTube.
Catholic Church. “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” 2nd ed., Our Sunday Visitor, 2000.KEEP READING
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 22:20-26 / Ps 18 / 1 Thes 1:5c-10 / Mt 22:34-40
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
We have this great commandment to love from Jesus. At first it seems that there’s two commandments here, but in reality, there are three. The second one has two parts. The first says to love the Lord with your whole heart and soul, and the second says to love your neighbor as yourself. So, there’s the commandment to love the neighbor but also a commandment to love yourself.
These three commandments are very much interdependent with one another. They’re like a tripod. A tripod has three legs; if you remove one of the legs then the other two fall. That’s the way it is with these commandments; they are interdependent. They’re all intertwined with one another.
Think about the commandment for loving yourself, having a healthy self-love: Why shouldn’t you? God created you in love, and you were conceived in love. A healthy self-love is very important, because if you don’t have a healthy self-love, and you’re looking down on yourself, how can you really have a good relationship with other people? If you don’t love others, you can’t very well love God. Saint John, in his first letter, asks, how can say you love the God you can’t see if you don’t love the neighbor you can see? And of course, if we don’t love others, we probably have a dim image of ourselves without the proper image of love of God.
Those are very important and of course, the love of God is all encompassing. In the love of God there is a commandment to love God and all of God’s creation and all of God’s people. That’s important, because if we don’t have that overarching love of God, then our love of ourselves and our neighbors is too exclusive. It’s not broad enough if we don’t have that love of God.
Seeing God reflected in all of creation, in all people, leaving none of them out, and realizing also that the love is not always easy. It’s not always easy to love your neighbor – some of them aren’t very lovable, let’s be honest. Of course, there are things to get in the way, like grudges that last for generations. Yes, it’s not always easy to love our neighbors, but it is our call to do that. The overarching love of all creation calls us to love everyone and everybody – we don’t leave anyone or any groups of people out.
For love to be love it has to be active. When there’s no activity, there is no love, and so our love has to be very active and involved. If we don’t take time to treasure love ourselves, then everything’s going to falter. Loving others meets an active love, going out of our way to love them.
Who’s the neighbor? The neighbor is anyone God puts in your path. That’s the neighbor, whether it’s your immediate family, your extended family, your workplace, your neighborhood, your church, people you meet in the street, anyone God puts in your path is your neighbor. The thing is that God makes the choice – we don’t always have a choice about who our neighbor is. We probably wish we did, but that’s whoever God manages to put in our path. Sometimes that can be very difficult if you’ve got other agendas going and this person steps into your life and is demanding your attention right now, it’s not always easy. But it’s a call to love your neighbor as yourself, whoever that neighbor may be.
Then this is really big today – loving God and all of God’s creation and all of God’s people. We cannot exclude any groups of people, and there’s too much of that in the world today, and too much of that in our history. We’ve excluded the Blacks and the Native Americans. In the love of all creation, we’re not doing too good a job of loving all creation. We are destroying creation, and this is important as to whether or not we’re going to live, and not just for us but for the generations that come after us.
Loving God and all people and all creation – the Church is really calling us to this. Eight years ago, Pope Francis put out an encyclical on the environment, calling us to honesty and calling us to respect the environment as God’s precious creation. And in the last couple months he added an addendum to that where he’s bringing the process even further along. I’d like to say this is important; this is whether or not we’re going to survive.
Love God with your whole heart and soul, and see God reflected in all people and in all creation. That’s a pretty serious obligation. One thing that I thought of being connected with this was an American Indian way of ending a prayer. We say “amen,” but many of them say “all my relations.” That doesn’t mean all their relatives; it means a relationship with all people and all creation – all my relations. And the significance of that is that if you’re not in all creation, there’s something dishonest about your prayer. That’s pretty profound; that you can’t pray worthily unless you’re a in a relationship with all people and all creation. All my relations – could we honestly say that at the end of a prayer instead of amen?
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 24, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 55:6-9 / Ps 145 / Phil 1:20c-24, 27a / Mt 20:1-16a
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Today’s readings give us a message of hope in God’s love and mercy. No matter how badly or how often we choose sin, He is always, to quote King David (who wrote today’s Psalm 145), “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness” (Ps 145:8-9). However, today’s scripture passages are also a challenge. I’m going to focus on Jesus’ challenge to accept God’s justice and to reject envy when it seems unfair to us.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah encourages the “scoundrel and the wicked” to turn to God, for He is “generous and forgiving” (Is 55:7). Isaiah lived at a time when Israel earned what it was getting, which was a collapse of its culture and exile under Babylonia. Nevertheless, he encouraged his people to repent and return to God. Why was he kind to them? For the same reason we all should be kind to the lost, because he had a similar experience to the one we can have at every Mass if we remain spiritually awake.
Around the year 740 BC, Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne.…Seraphs were in attendance above him…And they called [out], ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord’” (Is 6:1-3). Isaiah said, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! Then one of the seraphs flew to [him] holding a live coal [from the altar] …and touched his mouth with it, saying as he did so, ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed, and your sin is blotted out’” (Is 1:5-7).
Isaiah had experienced God’s unmerited grace from the heavenly altar while still a sinner. The hot coal that touched his mouth was a foreshadowing of Jesus in the Eucharist which we, too, receive from an altar that heaven touches. And like Isaiah, we know our uncleanness, but we trust that our sin is forgiven. Isaiah prayed, “Woe is me” in his conversion moment. We pray, “Lord I am not worthy…” Isaiah’s experience formed him in humility and in awe of God’s kindness and mercy; so too, should our Holy Communion. Isaiah’s conversion awakened compassion within him, helping him to accept God’s generosity and justice. Keep his experience in mind as well as your experience at Holy Communion, as we meditate on the gospel.
Recall St. Ignatius’s way of drawing near to God in scripture. You start by composing the place to center your mind, so it does not wander. Just prior to Jesus’ parable today, Matthew tells us that Jesus “left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan” and that “great crowds followed Him, and he cured them there” (Mt 19: 1-2). To the twelve apostles and this crowd he tells today’s parable. Place yourself in this scene, caught up in the excitement of the crowd that hangs on this miracle worker’s every word.
Step two in this Ignatian exercise is to name the grace you want to receive from this encounter with God in the gospel. Maybe the grace we could ask for today is for Jesus to reveal where our heart and mind need further conversion.
Step three is to play out the scene. Jesus is telling a parable for the “kingdom of heaven,” saying it is like a landowner who went out to hire workers for his vineyard. Imagine you are a hard-working laborer and devout Jew listening to him.
We are intrigued by the story, wondering what Jesus is going to teach us by this parable. He says that the landowner went out about every three hours, from dawn until 5 PM, hiring laborers. As an ancient Jew, you know that a day’s wage is one denarius. So, when the landowner tells the laborers he hired at 9 o’clock, “I will give you a just wage” (Mt 20:4), you expected they would get less than those hired at earlier in the day.
However, the first paid were those hired at 5 o’clock, one hour before quitting time, and they received one denarius! Good for them, you think! You are excited to hear what the landowner is going to pay those who were hired at dawn. You are all for higher pay for laborers. But then you find yourself angry and aggravated that they also received one denarius. What the what?! You side with the laborer who complains how he worked all day and bore the heat, but still was paid the same as those hired late in the day. This is, in our eyes, an injustice. How quickly we forget Isaiah’s words that God’s ways are “so high” above ours.
Sitting there among the crowd, listening to Jesus, we recall the grace we prayed for when He began to preach, “Jesus, reveal where my heart and mind need further conversion.” Jesus continues his parable telling us how the landowner gently chastises the grumbling laborer. “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Are you envious because I am generous” (Mt 20: 13-16)?
Ah, there it is. Jesus gives us the grace we asked for. He suggests we are envious. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. Does it lurk anywhere in my heart and mind? What is envy? The catechism shares that St. Augustine called envy “the diabolical sin…from it are born hatred, detraction (gossiping about someone’s serious sin), calumny (making false statements about someone), joy caused by the misfortune of neighbor, and displeasure caused by their prosperity.” (CCC 2539)
Let’s do an examination of conscience around envy. When a recent convert or revert surpasses us in his pursuit of Jesus or seems to gain a higher position in the parish to which we have belonged much longer, are we envious? If so, confess it. When a political figure or celebrity, co-worker, or classmate that we cannot stand falls from grace, do we enjoy that and share their misfortune or sin in gossip with others? If so, confess it.
Now, with social media there are many opportunities to fall into the sin of envy. Sin harms us and envy is no exception. It robs us of happiness and can cause us to become depressed or anxious. A youth counselor said when parents request she treat their child for anxiety or depression, before she will treat them, she has them put down the cell phone for six months. She says the majority of their anxiety is healed simply from doing that. So, with social media in mind, are we envious of someone else’s home or popularity or beauty or talent or career or spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? If so, confess it.
The catechism reminds us that “the 10th commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart.” (CCC 2538) So how can we combat it or “banish it from our heart?” We strive for humility. St John Chrysostom gave us one description of this, preaching, “Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God.” (CCC 2540)
Whether we are average in every way and daydream about being amazing, or we are brilliant and talented and think we must do remarkable things to earn love and respect, we are in the same trap. This trap tempts us to the sin of envy, which at its root, is a desire to be great in the eyes of others, or as Deacon Barry said, “To be somebody.”
So, how do we think of ourselves as little, yet do so in a way in which, while we are smaller, we are stronger? In which we do not need the love and adulation of others, yet feel more loved and affirmed? Spoiler alert on the answer. There is no Harry Potter magic spell that makes this happen instantly. Healing our ego by shrinking it is a paradox that takes time living in faith, hope, and charity to achieve. But the peace and joy and freedom we gain are worth the effort!
Here are some ways to banish envy. Build up others every chance you get, especially in those ways a person does well, but probably has not thought about: “Good job getting your family to Mass every Sunday.” “I appreciate the questions you ask in class.” “You are so good with the elderly, or you are so generous with your smile.” “Thank you for working for our family today, even though you were exhausted.” “Dad, thank you for taking care of Mom even though she can no longer return your love.” “I love how even though you just came into the church this past Easter, you are finding ways to participate in our parish!”
Spiritually, we combat envy with regular prayer, all the better if coupled with meditation on scripture. Here are a couple of verses that remind you that you are somebody. From Isaiah 43, “I have called you by name…you are precious in my eyes,” and from Psalm 139, “I praise you because I am wonderfully made.”
If those are too sugary for you, enter into the scene of Jesus on the cross and ponder and talk to Him about one of his last seven utterances. In your browser type, “Last Seven Words on Hallow” and you get a wonderful meditation on them. Here are a couple of His last seven. To all us sinners, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and to the good thief who comes to “work in the vineyard” at the very end of his life, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
From the cross, Jesus, who is paradox incarnate, makes the small feel big and the big feel small. In doing so, he banishes envy from our heart. Do beggars envy other beggars? If not, can fellow beggars of God’s love and grace envy one another? When our hearts are full of gratitude and our spiritual fuel tank is filled, there is no room for envy or any other sin.
Our Lady was free from envy because she was full of grace, so let’s seek her intercession:
Mary, you were a poor teenager in a small town, a humble handmaid, friend of the elderly neighbor, a wife and then a widow, a mother who lost her son, and our mother. By your Son’s gift, you were “full of grace,” leaving no room for envy. Pray for us lowly ones here that we may see our greatness through your Son’s eyes so that we are free to rejoice in others’ blessings. Amen!
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. Ascension Publishing 2018.
Curtis Mitch & Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.KEEP READING
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Sir 27:30-28:7 / Ps 103 / Rom 14:7-9 / Mt 18:21-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A 99-year-old woman, pushing on in years, boasted to her pastor that she didn’t have an enemy in the world. He was very impressed. What a wonderful thing to be able to say after all those years! And then she added, “I have outlived them all!” If we live long enough, we’ll also be able to make the same statement.
“What goes around comes around” is a common expression. Its familiarity springs from the truth. When we offer words of kindness and love to others, that invites words of kindness and love in return. On the other hand, isn’t it true that words of anger only produce more anger on each side? The harsh judgement we pass on others easily could apply to us as well. In the final analysis, we will be judged by how we treat others, not how they may have treated us.
So what is it that we want to go around and come around? The reply that we offer should not be merely words, but also deeds. The wise man Sirach in our first reading says, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” These words in many ways echo the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We have indicated that we want the same treatment as we give others.
The problem is, if we treat others in an unkind manner, we are asking that God treat us the same way. For example; if the young people here do not cooperate with their elders by loving them and obeying them, it means that they are saying to God: My parents shouldn’t love me and shouldn’t respond to my wishes. Jesus is saying that if we treat others poorly, then it’s only natural that they will treat us the same way. You are in command. Treat others well, including parents, and they will treat you well.
There is a story of a six-year-old, John. During night prayer he paused before his brother’s name and said to his mother, “I will not ask God to bless Paul. He gave me a big blow on the nose today.” The mother said to John, “But Jesus asked you to forgive your enemies.” Little John responded, “That’s the main problem. Paul is not my enemy, and that’s the reason I cannot forgive him.”
The reaction of little John tells us that forgiveness is hard, and that forgiving family and friends is even tougher. Forgiveness and reconciliation are twin virtues that hold a relationship whether it is an interpersonal or interethnic or interreligious relationship.
One of the hardest things to do is to forgive those who are mean to us. To forgive those who have done or said terrible things against us, or even to forgive those who contribute, or those who continue to put us down and those who hate us with disdain.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it was difficult to forgive someone who offended you? Yes, forgiveness can be very hard in certain situations, and for this reason it takes such a long time before we train ourselves to forgive our offenders, especially when they are people we trusted so much.
The first step towards forgiveness is the ability to say, Yes, I forgive. It really takes a lot of courage to forgive. The second step is to ask for the help of God by admitting, God, I really want to forgive, but I do not know how to forgive. Help me to forgive totally and completely from the depth of my heart.
Too often we wait for others to make the first move. We hesitate because we might face rejection, or we don’t want to seem too weak or eager for reconciliation. That’s not how Jesus treated us. He made the first move. He loves us so much that He died for us. We can show the same love by having His courage to treat our family and our friends in the same loving manner, not waiting for them to display their love but to offer our love first. Each of us must be Christ-like: We must take the initiative.
Our Lord gives this gospel as a warning that we must be constantly on our guard. God has forgiven us for things we could not possibly hope to repay. And we are duty bound in gratitude and compassion to share the graciousness, forgiveness, and charity that God gives to us and others around us.
In the gospel, Peter is asking about the limits of forgiveness. Isn’t it true that if we just grant forgiveness to someone who’s treated us in an unloving manner that they will continue to take advantage of us? Jesus says, “No, don’t forgive friends or members of your family seven times, but seven times seventy times.” Unlimited.
Jesus willingly gave His life for us because He loves us. We show our love in the same manner and, if we do, that love will be returned, whether it be from our child, our parents, our friend, or even from someone we don’t like. We do it not because we are weak, but because Jesus has asked us to do it, and He has promised we will be blessed for our actions.
Also, we must learn to forgive ourselves. Imagine you’re responsible for something very serious; you are driving a car while under the influence of alcohol, there is an accident and a young person is killed. That life cannot be brought back. For more and more people, there is something in their background, some skeleton in the closet, as we say. A broken marriage, an abortion, a pregnancy outside marriage, a broken relationship, or a serious mistake. And for many of us we do not believe that there is another chance, much less seven times seventy chances.
This is not the teaching of Jesus. God doesn’t just give us another chance, but every time we close a door, He opens another one for us. The Lord challenges us not to make serious, damaging mistakes. But He also tells us that our mistakes are not forever. They are not even for a lifetime, and time and grace wash us clean. Nothing is irrevocable.
The words of Sirach in the first reading say it all. “Think of the commandments. Hate not your families and friends, remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.” And so, as each of us takes a few minutes coming to Communion, think of what we can do for our families, our children, our siblings, and all of our friends so that we will love one another as Jesus has loved us. Let us continue to promote that awareness that we are all in communion with one another and with the one God. What we do to others we are taken as doing to God himself. May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ez 33:7-9 / Ps 95 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Sometimes in the Bible we come across certain passages that are as relevant and practical in our lives today as they were a thousand years ago when they were first written. Today’s readings are good examples of such passages. Together they remind us that, as faithful Christians, it is our responsibility to reach out to our not-so-faithful brothers and sisters and bring them back into the fold. They even go on to recommend practical steps for how to go about doing this.
A young woman, Lydia, strayed from the church as a teenager. After nine years of experimenting with atheism, spiritism, and New Age, she found her way back again to the Church, by the grace of God. Relating her story, Lydia said that what hurt her most was that, in all her years of spiritual exile, nobody in the Church missed her. Nobody ever phoned or visited to find out what was wrong. “I got the impression that the Church did not want me,” she said.
Of course, the Church wants her, but what are we doing to help the many men and women in her situation to find their way back into full communion with the Church? Today’s readings invite us to review our “I don’t care” attitude toward fallen and lapsed members of the Church, reminding us that, yes, it should be our business to reach out to them.
Why should it be our business whether somebody else decides to serve God or not? As members of the Church, we are not just priestly people who offer a sacrifice. We are also a prophetic people, meaning that we are God’s spokespersons.
Today’s first reading is, in fact, a compact job description that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel on what it means to be a prophetic person. The first reading is a passage in the new phase of the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel, and it occurs in the context of an invasion of Palestine by a hostile army. Just as a watchman who warns the people of impending danger is not to be blamed if they do not listen, so Ezekiel is not to be blamed if the people to whom he preaches do not reform their lives. But if he fails to preach to them, then he must accept the blame.
St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds everyone that love is the key to obeying each of the commandments. Real love is love that looks out for the interest of other people. For a person who really loves, other people come first. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus gives an instruction in how to handle a refractory disciple. The instruction describes a formal procedure in three steps:
Step One: private confrontation. If there is no success, then the next step is recommended.
Step Two: the use of one or two additional formal witnesses. Failure here leads to a final step.
Step Three: Resort to the community, such as the local church. If there is no success here, the disciple is to be placed outside the communion of believers, as we say ‘excommunicated’.
Members of the Church who view church membership as being the same as citizenship in a civil government should think twice after hearing today’s reading. In a civil society, objection about fundamental policy is not only at times permitted; disagreement is at times required in order to be loyal to God.
But the Church in its fundamental teachings lives at a level much more profound. The leaders of the Church are invested with the authority of God, which means that they have to move within the bounds indicated to them by God, such as by being attentive to the scripture and tradition, the two sources of revelation.
Leaders of the Church in fundamental matters cannot do whatever they feel like. They are responsible to God for the flock entrusted to them. If they neglect to proclaim the message entrusted to them, God will hold them responsible. They are invested with the authority of God. But this authority is designed to help them and all of the Church’s members listen to God’s voice in the profoundly important matters of life, involving principles of moral and religious actions.
The Church can function as it should only if all of its members — leaders and non-leaders alike — obey the fundamental call of Jesus to love. But precisely because love is the fundamental law of the Church’s existence, decisive action with Church leaders is at times necessary, if they are to remain true to their calling by God.
God clearly wants everybody to be saved. He does not desire the death of a sinner. “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked?” says the Lord God. “Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live? (Ez 18:23).” That is why Jesus teaches us in the gospel about fraternal correction; how to correct an erring brother and bring him back to the path of salvation.
Underlying the whole thing should be genuine love or charity. For St. Paul says in the second reading, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” God’s law of love asks all of us to be vigilant, not only for outside dangers, but also to keep watch within. Keep guard and watch over our hearts to ensure that we love as God loves, and our hearts do not harden into legalism, lack of compassion and mercy, or apathy. We’re all sentinels, watchpersons, vigilant for any discord, hatred, or inconsistency with the Gospel, and vigilant within ourselves for resentment, jealousy. Desire begins in the heart.
We now see the rapid and unrelenting spread of evil and immorality and sin in our world. Shall we continue being passive and impervious to all this? Unless we do something now, we may find ourselves the next on defense. As the famous quotation from Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Let the gospel this Sunday inspire and empower us to proclaim the truth courageously, to denounce evil and sin resolutely, and to correct wrongdoers in truth and charity. The essence of discipleship and faithfulness to God is love. This is a love that is formed from within by God’s grace. It fosters loving watchfulness inside and out, and it softens the heart and saves us from ourselves. It turns us back toward each other and creates understanding, healing, and reconciliation. For us Christians, goodwill and kindness are not things we may choose to do or not to do. It is a debt we owe to each and every one.KEEP READING
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 9, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Zec 9:9-10 / Ps 145 / Rom 8:9, 11-13 / Mt 11:25-30
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
“You was my brother, Charley. You should have looked out for me just a little bit. You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum.” Anybody recognize that? It’s Marlon Brando, the actor, and he’s portraying Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, a movie from 1954. If you haven’t seen that film, why not?
Terry is striving to be somebody. And his route is boxing. Fighting. Winning. His goals: money, fame, respect, accolades, honor. Maybe he could have been a contender. Maybe he could have gotten that title fight. But we know that he put his faith in these goals, the money, the fame, accolades. And he put his faith in those people wrapped up in that world, including his brother Charley.
I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, if by some miracle you haven’t seen it. But his faith in these goals? Well, they let him down. The enticements. The allure. They became false burdens on his soul. And their contradictions labored his moral sense. He hitched himself to glory, and the weight took him down.
You’ll have to watch or rewatch it to learn of Terry’s redemption, but for now, I could have been somebody. I want to be somebody. Deacon Barry, I want to be somebody. All of us want to be somebody. It’s in our nature. And so we strive and we work. And we work and we push, and we push and we learn, and we learn more, then we strive again. Progress, progress, progress. If we’re not doing it, if we’re not progressing, we’re going backward.
And for what? The end game is money. The recognition. To reach the top or the pinnacle. To get all the accolades, the attaboys. That’s what our culture wants. Our culture affirms these as our primary goals. Our culture wants us to become a contender, at the very least. And our stories are how we are becoming somebody or how we became somebody.
But I’m telling you now, today, right here in this homily: You are somebody. You’re absolutely somebody. You are somebody because Jesus loves you, and He wants you to be with Him. He knew you before you were stitched in your mother’s womb. In last week’s gospel, we heard that even all the hairs on your head are counted. Do not be afraid.
You and I, we have a terribly difficult time realizing just how “somebody” we are to Jesus. And even at times when we realize it, we forget it. And we hitch ourselves right back onto Charley and the glory and the things of this world in our rise to be a contender. And that carries a heavy, heavy burden. In last week’s gospel, we also heard: Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up his cross.
That sounds hard. I want to say, Oh Jesus, please take me, but without a cross. Give me a mission or project. A goal, something I can strive and push and push and learn and strive again to achieve. But not a cross. That sounds like a burden.
But this week in the gospel we hear: The burden is light. His yoke – His cross – is light. That is not a burden. My burden is light. What a relief. My burden is light. How liberating is that? We don’t need to reach; we don’t need to strive to become somebody. Really, it’s the closer we get to nobody, the more we become who we’re truly meant to be: this somebody that Jesus knows and loves and wants to be with. When we stop trying so hard to become somebody, that’s when we become who we truly are.
Letting go of pride. Letting go of ego. Let go of the striving and make room. Create some space for Jesus to enter and pick up the weight with His yoke and remove the burden.
Who is Jesus talking to? Who’s this message for? He says we have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and yet revealed them to the little ones. Of course, His message is for every human who ever existed. Everyone. But we are so full of ourselves. So caught up in this worldly striving for power and honors, the message is hidden, it’s out of reach. We’re like know-it-alls, not open to the spiritual and mystical and the unseen.
But the little ones, the little ones are his disciples, those that have chosen to follow Jesus, those that are childlike. Seeking wonder and open to the amazing. Low and humble in their hearts. Let go. Surrender to His will and make ourselves low. Jesus did it. God on Earth did it. The creator of everything became the servant to everyone. And He’s our example. He said meek and humble of heart. Die to self, become nobody. Strive to become nobody, and as we approach “nobody,” we gain everything. And recognize deeply that we are somebody.
The paradox, let go and let God. Let go and let God. Then life becomes a miracle. Everything, every day, every person becomes a miracle. My burden is light. I am the light of the world. Light from Light, true God from true God. Take heart, dear friends, for you are somebody. When you empty room for Jesus and you are more than a contender, so much more than a contender, for the victory is already won by Him who conquered death.
Faith in Him, faith in Jesus Christ. That is the victory. That is the victory that overcomes the burden and labors of the world. Amen.KEEP READING
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a / Ps 89 / Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 / Mt 10:37-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There was once a catechist who asked the students in her Confirmation class, “Which part of the liturgy or Mass is the most important?” She was not prepared for the answer she received from one of her students. The youth said, “The most important part of the Mass is the Dismissal Rite.” After the class laughter subsided, the catechist asked, “Why did you say that?” The youth said, “The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the Word of the Lord and the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth and bear witness to the Lord and to bring the Kingdom of God into existence.” The student continued, “The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite. In a sense, it begins with it. We must go forth and proclaim to the world what the disciples of Emmaus did. We must proclaim that Jesus is raised from the dead. We must proclaim that Jesus lives on.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus gives His disciples an extended teaching on mission, or ministry. In the first part of the of the gospel, Jesus describes a missionary, or minister, who is worthy of the name “Christian.” He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:37-38)
Why would Jesus say such a thing? Before we can answer this question, we must deal with a more fundamental one. Why do we love? What is it that motivates us to love another person?
It is good that we perceive the person. A man loves a woman because he finds something good in her: her compassion, her joy, her patience, her kindness. The fact is, however, that everything that is truly good comes from almighty God. As we are told at the end of Eucharistic Prayer III, “All good things have their source in the Lord, even those good things which come to us through other people.” So, yes, a man loves a woman because of her compassion, joy, patience, and kindness, but the only reason a woman is compassionate, joyful, patient and kind is because God has given her the grace to be that way. This is what Bishop Fulton Sheen was getting at when he said, “It’s only because we are loved by God that we are lovable.” God, who is love, places some of His love inside of us and that grace is what makes us attractive to others.
Consequently, it makes perfect sense for Jesus to tell us in today’s gospel that our love for Him must be primary. We are to love Him with all our heart, because if it were not for Him, there would be nothing lovable in us or in anyone else. In fact, if it were not for Jesus, we would not even exist. As Saint Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians, “In Christ Jesus everything in heaven and on earth was created, and in Him everything continues in being.” (Col 1:16)
It also means that a minister or a missionary must be willing to accept and carry the cross or sacrifice, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In other words, a missionary or a minister of Christ must be someone who is in love with Christ in such a way that love of parents, children, spouses, and even oneself, assumes secondary importance. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is a sign of one’s death, since the way to the cross leads to Calvary and the crucifixion. The only worthy missionary or minister of Christ is the person who has found a reason to live and to die, and that reason is Jesus Christ Himself.
A case in point is the story of the young Spanish Jesuit by the name of Alfredo Perez Lobato, who was killed in December 1973 in Chad, Africa, at the height of the civil war. While he was helping refugees, a stray bullet hit him. The story of his short life is featured in the book, A Community in Blood, along with those of other Jesuits killed in different third world countries. When asked by superiors why he volunteered to join the mission in Chad, Alfredo replied, “Why do I want to go to this poor country? It is simple. Because it is difficult. I believe that I am called to the difficult and the demanding.”
It is natural for us to dream of a life of comfort, luxury, and pleasure. If we are honest about it, most of our prayers are directed towards alleviating our suffering. In short, we want a life free from trials and sacrifices. Perhaps this is the reason why we attach our lives to the pervading values of the modern world so life can be easy and convenient. In the book, Crossing on the Crossroad, it is said that the reason why people are frustrated is their failure to accept the crosses in their lives. The moment we try to escape suffering, we encounter suffering ten times more.
Thomas Merton said, “The truth that many people never understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because the smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
To conclude His teaching, Jesus encourages the people to be generous with His messengers. Let us take these words of Jesus to heart and act on them to the best of our ability. Remember, we do not need to give gold or silver. A cup of cold water is enough.
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10: 41-42)
Jesus has entrusted us with the ongoing work of the Kingdom. It is a work that does not allow any human attachment to frustrate the reign of God. The work of the Kingdom transforms our average hearts into hearts which will forever sing the goodness of the Lord.KEEP READING
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / Ps 66 / 1 Pt 3:15-18 / Jn 14:15-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Someone once said that man is an able creature, but he has made 32,647,389 laws and hasn’t yet improved on the Ten Commandments.
In our gospel today, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) Jesus is telling us that the reason we follow God’s commandments is that we love Him. That is why it is wrong to say that we follow God’s commandments because we are afraid of Hell, or that we follow God’s commandments because we are expecting something. We go to Mass not because we are afraid of committing mortal sins. We help the poor and needy, we try to be good, we try to please God simply because we love Him. That should be our motive in doing good and in loving God.
So, what are God’s commandments? There are only two: Love your God and love your neighbor. When Jesus says to keep these commandments, He is telling us that love is not a mere word, but an action. The question is how to make God’s love concrete and possible in our lives.
In psychologist Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, he suggests ways to make love concrete and possible. First, love must have discipline. Discipline means doing something hard because it is right. We are usually not very disciplined people. Why? Because we tend to avoid the difficult to take the easy way out. Sometimes in following God’s commandments and loving God, we want the easy way out. Even in our prayer, when we get very busy, we sometimes say that God will understand, and I will pray tomorrow. But sometimes when we talk to God, we say, “Lord, you are the most important person in my life.” Is that really true? If God is truly important in our lives, why do we keep suspending our prayer life? Why do we keep delaying our prayer life, or making excuses in terms of our relationship with Him?
We often do not do what is right because it involves sacrifice, even in our dealings with one another. That is why we sometimes try to have that kind of culture where we silence the right in order not to hurt the wrong. Or in other words, we try not to speak the truth, so that we won’t be rude to evil. That’s why we try not to speak about anything that is immoral, especially if the person who is doing it is a family member or close friend of ours. We don’t tell them that a man loving another man or a woman loving another woman is wrong and sinful. We don’t say that because we don’t want to appear to be rude. We don’t want to make that sacrifice.
Again, let us not forget what St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “There can be no real love without sacrifice.” Sometimes when we love, especially with our children, or with other people we love, we need to speak the truth, and we need to make that sacrifice. Love is hard.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. The love of a mother for her children is a classic example. This reminds me of a story of a mother named Patricia, who donated part of her liver to her son, Carlos, who underwent a liver transplant surgery because of a congenital liver disease. When the mother was interviewed, she said, “If God will allow, maybe I will have another child like Carlos. I will continue to donate any part of my body to make sure my child will live.” That’s the heart of a mother, willing to sacrifice for her children.
During World War II, in France, an officer was walking with his soldiers. They noticed that a bush was moving, so the officer asked one of the soldiers to check the bush. The soldier found a starving mother with her two sons. The officer took a loaf of bread and gave it to the mother. The mother broke the bread in two pieces and gave it to her two sons. The soldier asked the officer, “Sir, is she not hungry? I thought she was starving.” The officer replied, ‘No, it is because she is the mother.”
That’s the heart of a mother – willing to sacrifice herself for her children. That’s why today on Mother’s Day, children, always remember to love your parents, especially your mother. Yes, it’s good that you send greetings to your mother, but always remember to show her that you love her and be respectful towards her. You cannot just be kind and loving in your words, but also show it in your actions. Sacrifice.
Second, Erich Fromm says that we must have patience. Love is not something that comes abruptly. We have to work at it and let it grow. A person with patience knows how to wait. That is why we must be patient with ourselves and with others. Patience is also very important in our desire to love God and our neighbor.
A story is told of Abraham, who one evening was standing outside his tent, and there was an old man walking on the street, around eighty years old, and this man was cursing God. Because Abraham was a good servant of God, he invited the man into his tent. He washed his feet and then fed him. While the man was eating, the man continued to curse God. Abraham was infuriated and grabbed the man and threw him out of his tent. That very evening, God spoke to Abraham in a dream, and God asked, “Abraham, where is that old man?” Abraham replied, “Lord, I threw him out of my tent because he does not worship You and he kept cursing You.” God said, “Abraham, Abraham, for eighty years that man has disowned me. He has kept cursing me, but I continued to give my love, my grace, and my patience to that man so that he will come back to me. But you cannot give your patience and love to that man.” And Abraham woke up crying. Patience.
Third, Erich Fromm tells us that love must have humility. Brothers and sisters, the biggest obstacle to love is pride. Sometimes it is very difficult to say I’m sorry. Let us not forget what St. Augustine once said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils. It is humility that makes men as angels.” True. Pride can ruin our lives, can ruin our morality, can destroy our desire to love God and our neighbor. Humility is the foundation of real love.
President Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer a certain regiment. When the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said and he replied, “If Stanton said I am a fool, then I must be, for he’s nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake and without hesitation, he withdrew it.
Unlike the story of King Herod and John the Baptist: When Herod gave the word that John the Baptist should be beheaded, even though he knew that what he said was wrong, he did not take it back. That was pride. So, humility is very important in our desire to fulfill the commandments of God, which is to love him and our neighbor.
Fourth, love must have faith. Faith means that we believe even if we do not have any evidence whatsoever of our beliefs. The deadliest enemy of love is lack of trust and faith.
Lastly, love must have courage. In many ways, it is the most important of them all, because we have to reach out and touch other people. How often, we do not reach out because we are afraid of rejection. It takes a lot of courage to love.
So loving is what life is all about. But it takes discipline and patience. It needs faith and trust, humility and courage in order to make it concrete and possible. To remain in love with God every day, we must remind ourselves that our most important appointment of the day is our appointment with God, and that our most important agenda is to love Him and our neighbor.KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33 / Ps 16 / 1 Pt 1:17-21 / Lk 24:13-35
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
[Parish children received their first Eucharist today. The first part of the homily is directed toward them.]
The Eucharist makes us like Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12).” Therefore, when you receive Holy Communion, you become a light in the world. This is why St. Paul wrote that you are meant to “shine like stars in the world (Phil 2:15).” So, it is right that you all decorated candles and put them on the windowsills. Candles are a sign of Jesus, our light. There are candles by the ambo to signify Jesus, the light as the Word of God, and by the altar, Jesus, the light as the body and blood of God. Jesus wants us to be a light in the world. How?
Jesus told us how. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34).” So be kind to everyone, especially those that others are mean to or make fun of or ignore. Be loving to everyone in your home. Obey your parents; remember that Jesus was made perfect in His obedience (Heb 5:8-10). Spend time with Grandma and Grandpa; you are their joy, and the time you spend with them is a great treasure for them. Ask them to tell you stories from their life and you will learn much. Pray; God loves it when you talk with Him. He becomes a good friend when you spend time talking to Him every day. And by the way, if someone tells you the bread is only a symbol, you say: “That is heresy (Fr. Dan Beamon homily).”
[Rest of Homily]
As the youth are receiving First Holy Communion in our two parishes this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the mechanics of receiving. Please do not think I am judging your technique when you come forward. What I want to do is reduce the number of times Jesus’ precious body falls to the floor and to remove some of the anxiousness of the priest, deacon, and extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. Here is a refresher.
Now let’s open up God’s word a bit. Have you ever wondered what Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Oh, to have been there and hear Jesus, the Word made flesh, teach scripture! In the gospel Luke wrote, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures (Lk 24:27).” Fr. Pablo Gadenz, in his commentary of the Gospel of Luke, suggests that we could be hearing what Jesus taught them when we read what is said by His followers in the Book of Acts (395).
We just heard an example of that in the first reading from Acts. Peter interprets to them what referred to Jesus in the scriptures. Peter said, “For David says of [Jesus]: I saw the Lord before me…My flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld (Acts 2: 25-27).” He was quoting King David’s Psalm 16, which we sang a few minutes ago.
I think Fr. Gadenz is on to something here, and it is exciting. It makes me want to read Acts again with the mindset that when Peter and Stephen speak, they are sharing what Jesus taught on the road to Emmaus! (By the way, the Hallow app has a daily podcast for the Easter season where Jonathan Roumie reads one chapter from Acts each day and Dr. Scott Hahn explains it.)
In this Road-to-Emmaus gospel passage, there is another important point. Jesus explains the scriptures and then He blesses and breaks the bread. This is what we do at every Mass. Why did Jesus not simply get straight to the Eucharist and then talk about scripture? Was the order important or simply coincidental?
In Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Bible, he points out, as does Fr. Gadenz, it is the “divine purpose” to use scripture to gradually prepare our hearts and minds and to stir up our faith, but it is not until we see the Eucharist that we truly see Christ (Barron 445). This makes sense. Those two disciples were sad and agitated and downcast. Once they heard the Word of God and heard it explained, their hearts were “burning within them (Lk 24:32).” Then their “eyes were opened” and they were ready to see Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24: 31).
This is why it is so important to get our families to Mass. A mountain hike, a walk at sunset on the lake shore, holding hands with that special someone on the porch, gazing at the moon on a starry night, etc., reveal God to us Who is in all things, but ONLY at Mass do we hear Him clearly in the Word and see Him clearly in the Eucharist.
Bishop Barron says of Jesus in the Eucharist that He is “breaking his heart open in compassion.” What images does this bring to your mind? One is the priest breaking the consecrated bread and placing a piece in the chalice of blood and water. This is evocative of the blood and water that poured forth from His side on the cross, which is the like the image we celebrated last week on Divine Mercy Sunday with red and blue rays coming from His heart. And then I think of the Eucharistic miracles posted in the hallway of Holy Name of Mary, where the Eucharist became flesh. Scientists who were asked to analyze the tissue, without knowing where it came from, said that the tissue is that of a heart. Do you see a recurring image here? It is the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
No one knew Jesus’ heart more intimately than his mother, Mary. St. Pope John Paul II wrote about this, “And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled Him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)?” John Paul is describing the Third Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary, the Nativity, and is tying it to the Fifth Luminous Mystery, that he gave us, which is the Institution of the Eucharist. Imagine Mary looking at her Son’s heart in her hand at her first Holy Communion and her mind flashing back to holding Him in her arms at Bethlehem.
Mary, pray for us that every time we receive your Son in Holy Communion, we will see Him with your eyes and love Him with your Immaculate Heart. Amen.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Bishop Robert Barron. The Word on Fire Bible_The Gospels. Word on Fire Ministries 2020.
Fr. Pablo T. Gadenz. Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture. The Gospel of Luke. Baker Academic, 2018.
Katie Yoder. 15 Quotes from St. John Paul II on his love for the Eucharist. Catholic News Agency (CNA) Oct 22, 2022.KEEP READING