Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday of Divine Mercy
April 16, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 2:42-47 / Ps 118 / 1 Pt 1:3-9 / Jn 20:19-31
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
Last Sunday’s gospel describes the first hint of the apostles’ understanding of the Resurrection. The women went to the tomb to anoint the Body and thought that somebody had taken the Body away. Then when Mary Magdalene went there, she asked a person who she thought was the gardener (but was in fact Jesus), who had taken away the Body of Jesus away.
But the other apostles were skeptical. Remember the story of the two disciples who were walking a couple miles distant from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus, and they were discussing all the things that had happened. Jesus walks along and begins to explain all the scriptures, why this had happened. Those two disciples invite Jesus to have supper with them, because it was the end of the day. But those disciples didn’t know it was Him. It was not until Jesus took the bread and blessed it.
What became of the apostles? All except John, the youngest apostle, were martyred. After the crucifixion, John the apostle took the Blessed Virgin Mary into his home as his mother, as Jesus commended him from the cross. Everywhere around the Mediterranean that John went to preach, she accompanied him, and we believe she died in Ephesus, Turkey.
Two apostles were both named James: James the Less and James the Greater, based on their respective ages. One James missioned himself after the Resurrection to the Roman province of Santiago, Spain, and he preached there and did wonderful work, calling people to the Faith, explaining all about Jesus, and then preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. Eventually, he was martyred by the Romans in Spain. His remains are believed to be there in Santiago today.
The other James became bishop of Jerusalem. He also was martyred.
Thomas figures in our scripture today. He kind of gets a bum rap: Doubting Thomas, as if he did something wrong. Thanks be to God that he had that doubt, because he expresses what we have in our own lives today: the doubts about things in our own life. Are my prayers being heard? Why doesn’t God answer me? Why is my son or daughter not following the example I give? These doubts as to whether we have the attention of God and His coming into our lives.
So thanks be to God that we have Thomas saying, I’m going to want to see this in action. When he realizes and touches the Body of Jesus, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” After which, Jesus asks for something to eat, to further confirm that He is not a ghost by eating baked fish or other food. When we have the elevation of the sacred Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, you can also say, “My Lord and my God!”
After the Resurrection of the Lord and His Ascension into heaven, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles spread out among the Middle Eastern countries. Thomas gathered some others and went to present-day Jordan and into Syria, and began to teach about Jesus Christ, and to bring the Faith to the people in the northwestern part of Syria, where they developed an Eastern form of the Mass.
Thomas then learns about India and people there who yearned for the Faith. So Thomas made the very long trek to the south of India, to the modern state of Kerala. He preached the Gospel there and formed a liturgy for them, too, based on the Syriac liturgy and vestments. These Christians were the Malabar people. To this day, we have Syro-Malabar Catholics, even in the United States, using the liturgy that St. Thomas developed for them.
Thomas apparently went to other areas in the south of India and met people who were not in favor of what he was teaching to the people of Kerala, and he was eventually martyred.
So thanks be to St. Thomas, who helps us in our faith, even in our doubts.KEEP READING
The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Nm 6:22-27 / Ps 67 / Gal 4:4-7 / Lk 2:16-21
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
During the Christmas season, the image of the Most Holy Virgin Mary with her child comes readily to mind. We see this image in all Nativity things, right in front of us, and in many other places, on many Christmas cards or postcards that we receive from our families or friends. It should also be in our hearts.
We have come together here today as a family of God on this first day of the New Year. We celebrate the maternity of Mary, the event around which this feast is celebrated. As we start the New Year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, thus reminding us of our other mother: of course, Mother Mary.
When a child is in danger, it will instinctively call out, “Mom” or “Mama.” That’s because the essence of being a mother is care, love, help, support, and concern for her children. As a Jewish proverb puts it succinctly, “God cannot be everywhere, so he created mothers.”
As we commemorate this solemn feast, the Church has for us these brief reminders. In the year 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus, an ecumenical council of bishops of the Catholic Church, settled whether Mary was to be called “Mother of Christ” – Christotokos, implying Jesus is merely human, or “Mother of God” – Theotokos. The Council decided on the title Theotokos, Mother of God, for Mary. The Council said that Mary is rightfully the Mother of God, therefore affirming the divinity of Christ.
In the Bible, the very first person to refer to Mary as the Mother of God is her own cousin, Elizabeth, who said in a loud voice, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” There is nothing wrong with invoking Mary with the title “Mother of God.”
So what do we mean when we invoke Mary as the Mother of God? When we say Mary is the Mother of God, we do not mean that from all eternity, our God took His Godship from Mary, or that Mary is the source of the Godship of Jesus. As the Catholic Church teaches us, Jesus Christ was eternally begotten by God, Light from Light, True God from True God, eternally begotten by the Father. It means that Mary did not give Jesus Christ His Godship; Mary only gave birth to the humanity of Jesus Christ.
However, right from the moment of conception, the baby in the womb of Mary was truly God and truly man at the same time. Therefore, the baby born from the womb of Mary is God and man. Mary gave birth to God and man. When we say Mary is the Mother of God, it does not mean that she gave Godship to Jesus; it only means that Jesus was God right from her womb.
Saint Thomas added to this by asking, “Do mothers beget bodies or persons?” As one priest asked, “Do our mothers merely give birth to our bodies, or to ourselves as persons?” As people, of course. Thus, Mary conceived in her womb the Son of God, not just His human nature, but His divine nature as well.
If we look at the attitude of the mother, it is very beautiful. At the start, when she still bears the child in her womb, she must take care of herself, in order that the child is not in danger. She can’t sleep at night, because she watches the child sleep. As the child goes to school, she’s the one preparing the provisions.
But on the other hand, the womb of the mother becomes a battlefield or war zone, the worst enemy of the unborn, defenseless child. The enemies of the unborn child are many: abortion, artificial birth control, cigarette smoking, drinking hard liquor, and many more. That is why the child, while still in the womb of the mother, experiences rejection, insecurity, human rights violations, and lack of love from the parents. This is not so of Mary, who follows God’s will to be the mother of Jesus, even though she is in danger of being punished through stoning.
There was a teacher who had just given her primary grade class a lesson on magnets. In the follow-up test, one question read My name starts with M, has six letters and I pick up things. What am I? She was surprised to find half of the class answered the question with the word mother. Of course, the answer was supposed to be magnet.
People especially need their mothers in times of need, of uncertainty, or insecurity. We need our mothers to pick us up. Perhaps even more so for those of us who are already old, not necessarily physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
So as we begin another year, with all the uncertainties that it may bring us, the Church is telling us that we need our Blessed Mother Mary. May we all be like Mary with our total trust and faith in the Lord.
Let us not put our hopes in someone or something that may only give us false and ephemeral hope in the end. Instead, we place our entire lives in the loving and caring presence of our God who is always there for us. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” With Mary, we pray that the Lord will bless us this new year, and all the days of our lives.KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 7:10-14 / Ps 24 / Rom 1:1-7 / Mt 1:18-24
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Mary and Joseph have finally arrived on the Advent stage. Before we talk about them, though, let us take a moment to appreciate the history regarding the selection of the scriptures we have heard from the First Sunday of Advent on November 27 to now. I want us all to be more aware of the thought and prayer that went into selecting the readings, so that we can be more thankful for the gift of the Catholic Church, which selected them.
In compiling the lectionary readings for Advent, researchers prayerfully studied lectionaries covering a period of 1,500 years! They selected only the best and most traditional readings from ancient Rome, Old Spanish, Gallican or French, and other western churches. How blessed we are to be family members of such a Spirit-led Christian tradition. Within this tradition, every Advent Sunday to Advent Sunday there is a progression of theme to prepare us for Christmas. “Christ will come again (1st Sunday), Christ does come today (2nd and 3rd Sundays), and Christ has come (4th Sunday) (Wallace, 47).”
Today is the (Vigil or) 4th Sunday of Advent, and fittingly St. Matthew writes, “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about (Mt 1: 18).” And he quotes the prophet Isaiah, writing that He shall be called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” With Jesus’ arriving, note that John the Baptist has exited the stage of God’s great play or, as Bishop Barron calls it, “theo-drama,” having played his role of “preparing the way of the Lord (Mt 3:3).” Joseph and Mary now take the stage, but today the stage spotlight is really on Joseph. Mary will take the starring role at Christmas.
In the commentary book on the gospel of Matthew by Dr. Ed Sri and Curtis Mitch, today’s gospel passage is entitled the “Annunciation to Joseph (Sri, 42).” This makes so much sense. Like Mary’s annunciation, an “angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and told him Mary’s baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20). For the record, though, Joseph’s annunciation differed from Mary’s in two ways. First, the archangel, Gabriel, spoke to her in person, not in a dream, and second, Joseph’s annunciation comes after the fact; Mary is already with child.
Prior to the angel’s arrival, Joseph had been discerning what he should do about the fact that his new wife was already pregnant, even though they had not consummated their marriage. Being a “righteous man,” he decided he would divorce her as required by Jewish law (Dt 22: 20-21). Jewish law required stoning as punishment, but with Israel under Roman rule in Joseph’s day, Roman law was in play. It prescribed a public trial in place of a stoning. However, Joseph chose to keep the divorce private so as not to shame her (Mt 1:19).
Joseph was being exceptionally merciful here. Can you imagine how much he hurt inside thinking his wife had been with another man while he had been waiting to consummate the marriage according to Jewish custom? Pain causes most of us to lash out in anger, wanting to cause pain in the one who caused it in us. Surely Joseph was not just a caretaker chosen by God to care for Mary and Jesus. No, no, no, he loved Mary so much that his love triumphed over the pain of the perceived betrayal.
Nevertheless, being a follower of the law, he has chosen to divorce her quietly, but then God sends him an angel to give him new direction. I bet the angel’s arrival was in response to Joseph praying something like this, “Lord, I will divorce her according to your law, but not my will, but yours be done.” Maybe he even taught the second part of that prayer to his future son.
Note that as God so often does when He is giving us a new direction for our life, He directed the angel to first remove Joseph’s fear: “Joseph…do not be afraid (Mt 1:20).” After reassuring him, he gave Joseph a new path, “…take Mary your wife into your home…it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived…. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus (Mt 1: 20-25).” Joseph knew this message was an answer to his prayers, not just a crazy dream. Accordingly, he surrenders to God’s will, takes Mary into his home and names the baby Jesus. And by the way, to name a child is to make it your own and thereby, since Joseph is in the line of King David, Jesus, through Joseph, becomes a part of that line as the prophets foretold.
The names Jesus and Emmanuel are important. Jesus is derived from the Old Testament name Joshua which means “Yahweh is salvation (Sri 45).” We need to be saved. To be saved is to be freed. Sin is what we need freedom from, not political powers, not our guilt, and not a lack of acceptance by others of our behaviors. Sin can destroy both the body and the soul; it is the greatest threat we face. It causes us so much confusion, pain, and suffering. And if we do not seek God’s forgiveness for it, that pain and suffering become eternal after we die. How can Jesus, a man, save us from a threat of eternal consequence?
This is how. Matthew says the baby Jesus is the “Emmanuel” prophesied in today’s first reading from Isaiah. In other words, Matthew is telling us that God Himself is present in Jesus (Sri 47). The message that Jesus is God present with us is so important that Matthew’s gospel mentions it in the first chapter that I just proclaimed and in the last when Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, until the close of the age (Mt 28:20).”
I am going to digress a minute to mention a heresy that still exist among Christians related to today’s gospel. The next verse after the last one in today’s gospel is, “He had no relations with her until she bore a son… (Mt 1:25).” I bring it up because this verse has been used by some as an argument that Mary did not remain a virgin as has been taught for two thousand years. They think the word “until” means Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born. That is heresy and it has been around since the 300s. In the year 383, St. Jerome shot down this heresy with numerous quotations from scripture including Jesus saying, “I am with you until the close of the age (Mt 28:20).” Referring to Jesus’ words, St. Jerome sarcastically asked the heretic, Helvidius, “if he thought the Lord would then forsake His disciples after the close of the age (Hahn, 106).”
Now back to the homily…When reading and listening to reflections on the 4th Sunday of Advent, a common reflection emerges. Dr. Ed Sri, Fulton Sheen, Peter Kreeft and others point out that Christianity differs from mere religion in that it is not so much about people seeking God, but about God seeking us (Sri 47). Dr. Sri points out that after Adam and Eve sinned, “they hid themselves from the presence of God (Gn 3:8), and ever since, God has been seeking to bring us back into an intimate relationship with Him (Sri 47). He wants to be wedded to us, and Jesus fulfilled His Father’s desire in His very personhood. Jesus IS the marriage of humanity and divinity (Barron on Hallow app). And He consummates that marriage at every Mass, giving us His body at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). God came to us to bring us into His Holy Family; that is Christmas.
Mary had THE Annunciation. Joseph had his annunciation, the shepherds outside Jerusalem had theirs. And you and me and every humble Catholic around the world has their own annunciation at every Mass. For the priest and deacon hold up the sacred bread and declare to you what it really is, not a symbol, but the Body of Christ. We just might as well say, “This is Jesus whom Mary conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid, but take Him under your roof, for He is your savior (Mt 8:8).” This is the bread of which Jesus said at least four times, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6: 50, 51, 54, 58).” These are Jesus’ words to us. Jesus is God, and what He says is. And at the moment we receive this bread of angels we, like Mary, give our fiat, Amen. “May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38).”
CatholicIreland.net: Origins and development of Advent. November 30, 1999
Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.
James A. Wallace. Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart; The Homily on the Feasts and within the Rites. The Liturgical Press 2002.KEEP READING
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 28, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 / Ps 68 / Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a / Lk 14:1, 7-14
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
This week, Jesus emphasizes the virtue of humility and next week, detachment. The world sees these two virtues very differently than Christians do. Humility is seen as weakness, and detachment is seen as a lack of drive. For Christians, however, these two virtues are powerful. They help us shrink our ego and fleshly desires so that we can fit through the “narrow gate” Jesus spoke of last Sunday when answering the question about how many will be saved. When our ego and fleshly desires shrink, then our souls can grow.
What is humility? The Christian definition is knowing who you are, and who God is, and not confusing the two. A good role model of humility will help us understand it, especially someone from everyday life. Around 2009, there was an unassuming, elderly usher named Jack at Holy Name of Mary parish. He would greet everyone with a smile while opening the door to the nave for them. Come to find out, he lived alone in my neighborhood. One Christmas I learned that he, a widower, was going to be alone over the holiday, so my wife and I invited him to our home for Christmas dinner.
That night he absolutely glowed while telling us how amazing his wife was, and how successful his children and grandchildren were. He also listened intently to and took joy in hearing our family’s stories. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned that he was a great man, a Top Gun-type fighter pilot, highly decorated across two wars. He earned a graduate degree from MIT and is recognized as one of the fathers of the GPS. May God exalt you, Jack, for teaching us about humility.
Now let’s look at humility in the scriptures. In today’s first reading from Sirach, a book of wisdom, we hear, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Jesus fulfilled these words perfectly. St. Paul best articulated this truth when he wrote that Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of man, and obediently accepting even death on the Cross (Phil 2: 6-11). Humility has power. Jesus’ humility is infinitely powerful, and it paid our infinite debt so that we can be with Him in Heaven.
Peter Kreeft had a good take on the second reading from Hebrews, where he contrasts two mountains associated with God’s old law and old covenant and the new law and the new covenant. These are Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. In the reading from Hebrews, it talks about approaching Mount Zion, where the heavenly Jerusalem is. This heavenly Jerusalem is seen by John in the book of Revelation, descending from heaven. It was a vision of the Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ. In the Old Testament, if the Jews touched Mount Sinai, which was enveloped by thunder and lightning while God spoke with Moses, they would die. They trembled and stayed back. In contrast, when we approach Mount Zion and the new Jerusalem, the Church…we live (Kreeft 551).
God, in the greatest act of humility that can ever be, came down in Christ Jesus that we could touch Him…as we do at Holy Communion. Humility enables us to learn from the Jews at Mount Sinai and remember Jesus is God when we approach Him. This keeps us from losing our sense of humble awe in Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and His presence in others, especially the baptized.
You might say that the messages in Sirach and Hebrews set the table for today’s gospel. Jesus is dining at the home of a “leading Pharisee.” To put it in perspective, imagine you are at a gala dinner hosted by a famous or powerful person. It’s not hard to imagine people trying to impress the host, jockeying for a prominent place to sit. At the Pharisee’s dinner, Jesus tells a parable that seems to be teaching these social climbers how to fake humility that they may “enjoy the esteem of their companions.” We know Jesus would not do that. So what was He doing?
What Jesus did is a powerful lesson in humility for us, especially how it helps us draw others closer to God. Peter Kreeft says that Jesus was meeting the Pharisee where he was spiritually (Kreeft 552). St. Paul in Romans 15 describes how to do this. “We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak…Each should please his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit (Rom 15: 1-2).” St. Monica, whose life is celebrated today, helped save her son, St Augustine, whose feast day is tomorrow, by being patient with his “weak faith and scruples” (an understatement), and praying for him until he discovered friendship with Jesus.
In doing so, St. Monica, like any devoted mom, emulated Jesus who “came not to condemn us, but that we might have everlasting life (Jn 3:16-17).” He came down to the Pharisee’s level to show him the path to a higher level, that he might be saved. We know this, because Jesus then shared that path with the Pharisee, saying, “…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” The path to heaven that Jesus was showing the Pharisee was the path of humility lived out in service and love.
The Catechism says, “the baptized person should train himself to live in humility (CCC 2540).” Why? Because the deadliest sin is pride, and humility cures us of it. Along those lines, St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” How do we train ourselves in the virtue of humility?
In Romans 12, St. Paul describes a way that aligns well with Jesus’ message in today’s gospel. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep….do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly (Rom 12:15-16)”. By doing these things, we not only combat pride but also its close cousin, the deadly sin of envy. I encourage you to read and reflect upon all of Romans 12 this week; it is filled with guidance on living life with genuine humility. Then pick one go-do from it and use it to train on living in humility.
Here are three more ways, from the Catechism, to train in humility so that our ego will fit through the narrow gate: pray, confess, and adore. Humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to freely accept the gift of prayer (CCC 2559). And when we confess our sins in prayer and in the Sacrament of Confession, we show “trusting humility.” The humility of confession is a “prerequisite for the Eucharistic liturgy (CCC 2631)”. In Adoration we acknowledge that we are a creature while adoring our Creator. In Adoration, humility is blended with love (CCC 2628).
By the way, Jesus waits for you in Confession each Wednesday evening at HNM starting at 5:30 and each Thursday after the 11 AM Mass at Resurrection. For you teens and twenty-somethings who like all-nighters with a friend, sign up for an hour with your best friend, Jesus, late at night next time all-night Adoration comes around. By doing so, you not only benefit yourself, but you help ensure others can benefit from Adoration by filling those difficult-to-fill slots so that it is not canceled.
Here are some closing thoughts. Humility is a gift that frees us from ego and pride. We must be free if we are to love God and others, for love only exist as an act of our free will. St. Mother Teresa said it this way, “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted, and ardent.” Jesus was infinitely humble, real, devoted, and ardent on the Cross. He had a humble dad who did without question whatever God asked of him. He had a Mother who humbled herself and, just as Jesus said in the gospel, He exalted her. Thus, she wears a crown of humility as the “handmaid of the Lord” and a crown of queenship as the Mother of Christ the King (Lk 1:38; Rev 12:1).”
Mother Mary, our Queen, ask your Son to help us train ourselves in humility this week that we may ardently love Him and others and enter His Kingdom through the narrow gate. Amen.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 24, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 18:20-32 / Ps 138 / Col 2:12-14 / Lk 11:1-13
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
In this homily we will look to Mary and Jesus to give us examples of how to pray.
In the year 1450, an Italian Dominican friar named Fra Angelico painted a fresco of Mary and the angel Gabriel at the top of a staircase in a convent in Florence. There is a nearby window that allows the sun to shine on the fresco in the early morning hours, enlivening its colors. Interestingly, the effect is most pronounced around March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. Well done, Fra Angelico. What does Fra Angelico’s fresco of the Annunciation have to do with prayer?
While reflecting on this fresco in a papal audience, St. Pope John Paul II said that Mary represents the model of the Church in prayer. He said she was probably praying when Gabriel came to her home in Nazareth. Being immersed in prayer enabled her to receive Gabriel’s message and to say yes to God’s plan. John Paul II went on to say that “Mary represents the model of every expression of our prayer life. In particular, she teaches Christians how to turn to God to ask for his help and support in the various circumstances of life” (General Audience, Sept. 10, 1977). How so?
In the Annunciation, Mary models for us the form of prayer known as Lectio Divina, which means divine reading. If you only hear silence when you pray and just feel like you are talking to yourself, Lectio Divina would be a great way to turn that prayer monologue into a dialogue with our Heavenly Father.
There are five steps to Lectio Divina prayer: 1) Read a passage from scripture; 2) Reflect or meditate on it; 3) Pray; ask God what that passage means for you; 4) Rest and be quiet, listening for His response; 5) Act on what God placed on your heart. Let’s look at how Mary models Lectio Divina during the Annunciation event.
In the Annunciation, step one of Lectio Divina occurs when Gabriel, God’s messenger, speaks to Mary. This is like our hearing God speak to us while we read scripture. Mary then “ponders what sort of greeting this might be.” That is step 2, reflecting on God’s word. In step 3, Pray, she speaks to Gabriel, asking “How can this be, since I have no husband?” After speaking, she listens to Gabriel, which is step 4, being quiet and contemplating. It is only while listening that Mary hears Gabriel tell her God’s plan for her life. Finally, in step 5, she acts on what God placed on her heart, going in “haste” to help her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist.
Mary is a model of prayer and indeed the last time we see her in scripture, she is at prayer with the newly formed Church (Acts). She and Joseph taught Jesus how to pray, and we best learn from His example (CCC 2598-2622). It starts with His frequenting the synagogue, where He focused on the word of God, and in the temple, where He focused on the Holy Sacrifice (CCC 2599). In both cases He did so in community with other believers. What He did in the synagogue and the temple is perfected and fully experienced by us at every Mass. To pray like Jesus then, we should go to Mass frequently.
In today’s gospel, notice that, after seeing Jesus pray, His disciples ask Him to teach them how to do so (Luke 11:1). Regarding this passage, the Catechism says, “By contemplating and hearing the Son, the master of prayer, the children learn to pray to the Father” (CCC 2601). How did Jesus pray?
The Catechism tells us that Jesus prayed before decisive moments in His life, including before His baptism, before His passion and death, and before choosing the Twelve apostles (CCC 2600). To pray, He sought solitude, often at night, and often after caring for many people, such as feeding the 5,000 and healing “many who were sick” (CCC 2602 Lk 5:16, Mk 1:35; 6:46).
Wouldn’t you have loved to be able to listen in while Jesus was praying? Fortunately, He let us do so on a few occasions. In two of them, He began by thanking God, acknowledging Him as Father and Lord (CCC 2603; Mt 11:25; Lk 10: 21-23).
I’ll share one of those. Before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus says, “Father, I thank you for having heard me” (Lk11:41). This teaches us that God hears our prayers, and we can and should thank Him in faith before we receive what we asked for (CCC 2604). King David expresses this truth well in today’s psalm, “On the day I cried out, you answered” (Ps 138:3). In that same prayer before raising Lazarus, Jesus added, “I know that you always hear me,” which implies that Jesus prayed often (Lk 11:41).
To help us remember what Jesus taught us to pray and in what order, there is an acronym, ACTS. The “A” stands for Acclamation or Adoration. The “C” stands for Confession of your sins. The “T” stands for Thanksgiving, and the “S” stands for Supplication, which is asking for what you and others need.
Like the Lord’s Prayer in the gospel, ACTS starts with Acclaiming or Adoring God, “Hallowed be thy name.” This is important for two reasons. One, we were created for praising God and are most at peace when we are doing so. And two, it grows our humility to acknowledge God is almighty, and we are not. Confessing our sins also grows our humility and opens us up for Him to heal us. Thanksgiving helps us remember the grace and gifts we have received. This in turn strengthens our faith that God has heard and answered our prayers before and will do so again. With our faith strengthened, we can confidently enter into Supplication.
Here is an example of prayer from my life. This was fifteen or so years ago. My lung disease was flaring up, it was around midnight, and I was coughing, trying to clear my airways. Suddenly, the stuff in my airways lodged, and I could only take very short breaths. I was scared and called the emergency line for the pulmonology clinic, which I had never done before and have not done since. The doctor told me to go to the ER. I fell on my knees in the dark and started to cry in my tiredness and fear and prayed to Jesus to help me. I then got up and started to dress to go to the ER when the blockage unexpectedly broke free.
The blockage turned out to be what is called an airway cast. It was a perfect mold of the inside of my airway, about an inch long and solid. It’s a miracle that it broke loose. Coincidence? There is more. The next day I was symptom free, no fever and no congestion. Normally I need an antibiotic to recover after an infection like that. Jesus didn’t just clear my airway as I asked, He healed the infection too.
What was notable about that prayer? I completely surrendered to Christ. There was not a shred of pride between me and Him; I was helpless. I prayed with all my heart, fully aware of how dependent upon Him I was. 1 Cor 12 comes to mind, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Psalm 116 also comes to mind, “I was helpless, but He saved me.” Jesus heard me, and He cared, and He healed me. He is that way with everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks.
We can’t have an intimate and fulfilling relationship with our spouse without regular, undivided attention and conversation, so too with God. And just as regular and meaningful conversation with our spouse is an act of love and brings happiness and joy and gives us strength to meet the challenges of life, so too conversation with God in prayer builds our relationship with Him. You may think you are too busy for conversations with God like that between Mary and Gabriel, but when you make time for prayer you will start noticing that everything else works out just fine.
I’m going to let the member of the Holy Family who never spoke have the last word. The scripture says Joseph was righteous, meaning he was aligned with God’s will. And not once, and once would have been impressive, but twice, God speaks to Joseph in his dreams. Surely these things are the result of Joseph having a rich prayer life. He didn’t just pray, though. After God spoke to him in his dreams, immediately after waking up, Joseph did what God asked of him. In doing so, he saved those he loved.
Mary and Joseph, pray for us. Jesus, thank you for hearing us and perfecting our prayer before your Father. Heavenly Father, thank you for caring. Amen.KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 19, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Mi 5:1-4a / Ps 80 / Heb 10:5-10 / Lk 1:39-45
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the last Sunday of Advent. This season is about to end, and we are closer to the Christmas holidays.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord took flesh in the Virgin Mary, and He remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament. And every Christmas we commemorate His birth.
During these four weeks of Advent, we have been listening to and meditating on the readings from the Holy Scriptures that remind us of the need that we all have to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. (more…)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
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
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / Ps 98 / 1 Jn 4:7-10 / Jn 15:9-17
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Most of you who know me know also that my wife is a middle school music teacher. She normally teaches Chorus and Music Appreciation, but this year it has been exclusively Music Appreciation. She teaches 6th graders, so you can imagine that some of them don’t have the best attitude going into it. (more…)KEEP READING
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 17, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Ps 87 / Acts 1:12-14 / Jn 19:25-34
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Not too long ago, Christina Simos and her 18-month-old baby were caught between a rock and a hard place at their third-story apartment, when it was on fire. To save her child, she wrapped him in her arms and jumped from the third floor of the building. Although Simos severely injured her back, her baby, Camron, had only a few scratches. This is one of the many stories that tells us what a mother would do to save her child from danger. (more…)KEEP READING