Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 16, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11 / Ps 65 / Rom 8:18-23 / Mt 13:1-23
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A story is told of a young man named Eric, who was giving testimony regarding the turnaround in his life. Two years before, he confessed, he had no appetite for the Word of God. On Sundays he would shop around the neighborhood churches for the priest that gave the shortest homilies. So, his idea of a good church service was one that took as little time as possible; the shorter the better. After the big change in his life, he could sit down and listen to the preaching of God’s word without thinking about the time.
Our disposition for the Word of God is a good indication of our relationship with the Lord. Today’s gospel is an opportunity to reveal our attitude to the Word of God.
Often, as we listen to the readings each weekend, we may have the feeling that they don’t apply to our lives. Today’s gospel could be one of those instances. Jesus talks about sowing seeds, but what do we know about seeds? Perhaps if you mention supermarkets, restaurants, or McDonald’s, we might have paid attention to it. Most of us don’t scatter seeds to obtain our food, and we probably don’t know much about the growth process of most of the crops from which we get our daily sustenance. But if we reflect upon it, is there anything else that we sow, that we spread, that does have an effect upon our lives?
What about our time? Yes, we do scatter the minutes of our day just in the way that a farmer would scatter seed in the field. We scatter 60 seconds each minute, and 60 minutes each hour, for about 16 hours each day. That’s about 57,000 seconds that we scatter throughout our daily routine. And that’s a lot of seeds.
So how does this apply to the words that Jesus spoke to His followers? He said that if the farmer scatters his seeds in certain ways, he will not create a bountiful harvest. His message to each one of us today is the same.
Jesus mentioned the seeds sown on the ground that is so hard that nothing can take root. That is like sowing grass seed on our driveway – nothing will grow. If we are sowing minutes each day on hard ground, pursuing money, power, or influence, we are making the same mistake the farmer made. If we have no time for prayer, no time for our families, no time for helping others, our minutes will not bear fruit. We will not store up an abundance of grace or of charity.
We, too, can spread our minutes on rocky ground. We can spend hours at the office or on the golf course. We can attend luncheons or bridge parties, and, like the seed that fell on rocky ground, we will have no roots. We will not have time to attend Mass during the week, or will be forced to pray the rosary while driving our cars. So, therefore, our minutes will not bear fruit.
Jesus said, “Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew and choked it.” If anyone sows their seed in the thorns of drugs, alcohol, and sins against the Sixth Commandment, Jesus warns us that our lives will be choked out. Some here are probably familiar with friends who sowed their seeds among the thorns and did not find the fulfillment of a rich harvest, but the agony of tragedy. Think of them as you listen to the words of Jesus this morning. There is a better way.
Is Jesus saying we shouldn’t work hard in order to support our families? Or that we should never relax and enjoy ourselves, or engage in wholesome entertainment with our friends? Not at all.
Jesus died so that we could be happy, so that our lives could be full, and so that we could have an eternal future with Him. However, for that to happen we must make a decision. We must recognize that He’s been talking about seed, but He’s talking about how we spend our minutes: whether or not we are making the same mistake the farmer made.
Going back to Eric’s story, prior to his conversion… Eric did not relish the preaching of the Word of God. Many young people today, and many who are not so young, are in a similar situation. The responsibility for this attitude toward God’s Word could be shared between those who communicate it and those who receive the message.
Some preachers often take pride in saying it just as it is. The fact that Jesus uses stories and parables to teach tells us that it is not enough to say it just as it is. How the Word is communicated is important, but the parable focuses more on how it is received. The parable today is a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is a mystery. It is something that we cannot fully understand with our minds, but we can understand it with our hearts if we are willing to believe and obey the Word of God.
Often, we read the Gospels and dismiss them as ancient history. In a way they are, because in the world in which we live we must be much more vigilant than those who lived in Jesus’ time. Look around us, and consider the challenges we face. Turn on the television or attend movies, and you will see graphic depictions of people living lives that were condemned by all in the time of Jesus.
In order to counteract the immoral society, Jesus is telling us to sow our minutes on the rich soil. Sow them in such a way that we can find happiness and fulfillment. But the question is: Where is the rich soil? It is right here; here in this church this day. We are all spreading our seeds, our minutes, in an atmosphere that allows us to grow, not in a worldly fashion, but in a way that ensures us of real life, a life of fulfillment in Jesus’ word.
What is real happiness? We find it in being charitable, prayerful, loving our children, loving and helping our parents. We find real happiness in honesty, chastity, sobriety, and freedom from drugs. We find happiness in the words of Jesus, when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” or “Love one another as I love you.”
Jesus has promised that we will reap a huge harvest by following His teaching. By following His commandments, by loving others as we love ourselves, by using our minutes to help those less fortunate, by spending time each day in prayer, and by realizing that His words guide us to true happiness, we can reap the harvest He has promised. Jesus has promised all this to us: we can have everything by spending our minutes wisely, both in His service and in following His commandments. He points the way to true happiness.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
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41 / Ps 23 / 1 Pt 2:20b-25 / Jn 10:1-10
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
The theme of the Good Shepherd often refers to the shepherds of the Church, and there have been some times of suffering they’ve had in that regard. But I’ve gotten a pretty good sense over the years that Catholics (and I don’t think it’s just Catholics, either) want a shepherd’s voice. They want a voice they can trust.
To me, the most important shepherds are parents. There are those who would like to take children and put them in the care of the state. We’re beginning to see that more and more clearly. But in our experience – and I speak for two or three thousand years of experience — in every corner of the world, and every conceivable government, Mom, Dad, and the kids is the way to go. That’s the core of a society; the state cannot replace that. Whatever the state or the empire offers in our vision needs to be a partnership with Mom and Dad, and part of the challenge is restoring Mom and Dad. It is not giving up on marriage but redoubling our prayer and our efforts.
This is the central mystery of how we socialize one another, how we become human. I see a lot of kids today – I know you see them in school – they’re not evil but they are feral. There’s a feral quality to them. They’re supposed to be socializing, but they haven’t been given the benefit of learning how to socialize.
I used to spend a lot of time in prisons. The parishioners said about the prisoners, “They’re all trying to con you.” They said, “But they need to be rehabbed.” And I said, “No, they need to be habbed, because they were never habbed to start with.” So, for us, the way that takes place is the shepherding; the shepherding of the mother and father.
Think of that voice – that voice of God. I know many people were praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet before 8:00 Mass this morning. They were praying the Rosary at Resurrection in Smith Mountain Lake yesterday afternoon. We had a devotion at Lexington to the Eucharistic Miracles, and that devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. How many have heard in those moments of still and quiet, not the focus on each Hail Mary, but letting the beads slip through the fingers, creating a spirit of tranquility, a spirit of quiet order, a spirit where life is restored and recentered, and that, I suspect, is that voice, the voice of the shepherd that the sheep hear?
It’s helpful to begin with the assumption that all of us are sheep and shepherd. Because I’m the sheep, too. I’m the one who gets lost and is stubborn and doesn’t want to hear it. And so, I’m that, too. It’s helpful to not think of yourself as one or the other. We’re all both.
When a baby’s been around Mom since the beginning, it knows that voice. Think of it, kids, and I think Mothers can probably tell you. Sometimes Dad, too, but I think Mom has a special place here for many.
Maybe the first time after you were born that Mom and Dad went out on a date – finally got out a little bit – but as far as you were concerned, you couldn’t put it into words as we often can’t. You couldn’t put it into words, but your world as you knew it was coming to an end. Total disorder; total chaos; now what? Where do I go from here? Then, maybe the babysitter had some nice sweets and cooing, and some music. But at some point, that began to wear off, and your cry started to rise. It may well have been that only when you heard your mother’s voice again did the world begin to be a friendly place again, a place where you could count on a certain order, where you could count on a certain tranquility, because you knew you were in a safe place. There was a place you were protected.
The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd has a second element. Did you hear that part of the gospel that said, “I am the gate for the sheep”? Well, you say, how could you be the shepherd and the gate? How can you be both?
I learned about a sheepfold, as they called it in those days. Imagine a stone wall in the shape of a circle, with one entrance. They would put thorns and bristles and shrubs and bushes on top of the wall, so that basically no predator could jump over and attack the flock. Where did the shepherd sleep? Right in the doorway – the one entrance. So, I suppose the way we would put it, the shepherd’s making a statement. “If you’re coming in here, you’re coming in over my dead body.”
When I sort-of retired, I wanted to go to a campus town. Many of you know I live in Lexington with Washington & Lee and VMI. Part of my reason was that I’d seen a lot of kids in college begin to lose faith. And I began to ask myself the question, “What’s going on here?” It seems to happen sort of quietly, drip by drip by drip. And all of a sudden, what was there isn’t there anymore. So, what’s going on here? What’s wrong with this picture?
Part of me said, I don’t want them to lose the gift that’s most precious. This gift is most precious of all: the work of Christ, and how it touches us; our vision of the human person; our vision of who we were from the moment of our conception, and our great human dignity from the moment of our conception and all through life. I don’t want them losing that. So, I was focusing on college. I want to give them the words so they know how to recognize when something’s wrong with the picture, and they know what words to use. They know what to say.
Of course, as Covid came on, many of us have had sort of a rude awakening: That it isn’t just college kids. It drips on down, in multiple respects, and it’s fair enough if there are those who think the state does a better job than parents. They have a right to think that. I don’t have an obligation to believe it: I think it’s dead wrong. It’s incumbent upon us to be that protector, to be that voice of the shepherd, to learn the words ourselves. It can’t just be a feeling. We have to learn the words and say, “This is why it’s wrong.” So my kids can go to school and, when they hear things, they have a response.
Looking back, I feel that we haven’t protected them, largely out of ignorance, maybe some laziness. Because to learn the words of the Faith, to learn the depth of it, takes work. To develop that vocabulary, to be able to challenge the vocabulary that they get, that takes work.
But it’s a protection, I believe, worth offering. Ours is the greatest story. We need not fear other stories, but we have to take the time to study them, and then to respond to them and to say, “No, we’ve got something better.”
As we contemplate – Moms and Dads, and certainly priests and religious –It’s a tough place to begin for most of you, I think, maybe saying to yourself, “I wouldn’t know where to begin putting the words to this thing; I’m clueless.” Well, I say some of the same words. But you know something? I think clueless is the best place to start. Because God – we need Him. Because now it’s not just a pleasant thing on a Sunday – now we need Him.
And then we offer ourselves and just say, “Do with me what You want and, just, Lord, one thing: Don’t let me get in Your way. Don’t let me get in Your way. I give You permission to do what you want with me. And to sit and see how You, like in every generation, have set things right.”KEEP READING
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 8:23-9:3 / Ps 27 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Mt 12-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Pope Francis declared that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the Word of God. He went on to say that this will be a fitting time for added focus on strengthening our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity (Ordo pg 47). We will circle back to the last two in a bit, but let’s first dive into the scripture.
When you go bird watching, you are always looking with anticipation that you might see something special. It is no different with scripture. The more you know about it, the more you want to see it and the more you start looking for something special to appear.
Applying the bird watching analogy to scripture, it helps to know what to look for. Look for two senses, the literal and the spiritual. The literal is what the human author intended for his audience in that time and place. The spiritual is what the Holy Spirit wove into it. The spiritual sense has three parts: 1) The allegorical – Where is Jesus in this? 2) The anagogical – What does this say about the end of time? and 3) the moral – What does this passage mean for me?
If you have been listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year podcast, you understand how much the Church cherishes the scriptures. In that podcast, he read paragraph 103 from the Catechism which states that, “…the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body (CCC 103 / Dei Verbum 21).” The catechism was quoting the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation called Dei Verbum. Dei Verbum is Latin for “Word of God.”
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has rotated through the three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in annual cycles. It also added Old Testament readings to the Sunday missal. Before Vatican II, Sunday readings were all New Testament, except for the Easter vigil and Pentecost, the feast of the Epiphany and a few other times. These additional scripture readings were intended to help us become more familiar with the Bible. This Church year is Cycle A, which follow’s Matthew’s gospel (Matthew, by the way, is one of my favorite characters in The Chosen series).
Speaking of series, you know how when you haven’t watched your Netflix or Prime series or “The Chosen” in a while, you watch the opening summary of past episodes. It gets you ready to enter fully into the next episode, understanding what is going on. Let’s do that with today’s gospel.
Here is the opening summary. We are in chapter 4 of Matthew’s gospel. It is helpful to know that chapters 3-7 of Matthew focus on the Announcement of the Kingdom (Cavins 2). At the end of chapter 3 earlier this year, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. At the beginning of chapter 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit to fast in the desert for forty days and then is tempted by Satan. Last Sunday we heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus is the “lamb of God” and the “Son of God.” Now, today’s gospel starts with these words, “Jesus heard that John [the Baptist] had been arrested.” You can just feel it. Today’s episode is going to be a big one.
Jesus, lamb of God and Son of God, goes to Capernaum by the sea, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy from today’s first reading. “Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way to the sea…the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light…in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen (Mt 4: 15-16).” Capernaum, a town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, is in the vicinity of where Zebulun and Naphtali were. Dr. Ed Sri points out that the Israelites in this area were the “first to experience the darkness of conquest and exile and now have become the first to see the light of God’s goodness in the Messiah (Sri 79).” And what does Jesus say to them? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).”
In this episode of Matthew, Jesus then goes to the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and they leave their jobs and family and follow Him (Mt 4:18-22). He then starts teaching in synagogues and “curing every disease and illness among the people.” The cliff hanger for today’s episode comes in the verses right after today’s gospel, which state that “His fame spread” and that He cured those “racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics” and that “great crowds came from all over (Mt 4:23-25).”
When an episode ends, they show the trailer for the next one. In this case, next Sunday’s episode is Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus proclaims to those “great crowds” the good news of the kingdom of heaven in the iconic Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5).” He will do so in an unprecedented way in human history. Not Buddha, not Confucius, and not Mohammed spoke the way Jesus did. The people listening were astounded because “…He taught as one who had authority (Mt 7: 29).” Fr. Mike Schmitz points out in the Catechism in a Year podcast that Jesus did not just quote the prophets. Pay attention to all the times Jesus says, “You have heard it said, but I say…” The next four Sundays between now and Ash Wednesday are all from the Sermon on the Mount.
Now let’s reflect on Pope Francis’s request to focus on our bond with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. Regarding our bond with the Jewish people, Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus fulfilled in today’s gospel is one of over three hundred Old Testament prophecies that He and only He fulfilled (Kreeft). God announced the coming of His Son through the Jewish people in the scriptures that we call the Old Testament. Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish family and frequented the synagogue as a devout Jew. Our Catholic faith has many symbols and traditions that reflect the Jewish tradition our founder, Jesus Christ, knew well. Examples include the church seasons, candles, singing Psalms, incense, and the Tabernacle accompanied by an ever-burning candle.
The Second Vatican Council fathers summed up well how we should view our Jewish brothers and sisters. They wrote, “The apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made (NA 4; Rom 11: 28-29).” “Remembering then, its common heritage with the Jews and moved…by Christian charity, [the Church] deplores all hatreds, persecutions, and displays of antisemitism levelled at any time or from any source against the Jews (NA 4).” Sadly, these things are on the rise in our country, so keep our Jewish brothers and sisters in your prayers and defend them in word and deed when needed.
Regarding praying for Christian unity, remember what St. Paul said in the second reading. “I urge you…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind… (1 Cor 1:10-13).” What mind? The mind of Jesus. Here is a way to respond to Paul’s exhortation. Our Christian brothers and sisters share the same twenty-seven books of the New Testament with us. Many recite the Nicene Creed and sing some of the same hymns we do. We work shoulder to shoulder with them at various charities in Bedford and Moneta, and in solidarity with them we share a love of God, family, and country. What we have in common is substantial. When divisive scripture and tradition debates pop up, humbly, patiently, and lovingly try to steer the conversation to what we have in common.
If they ask you if you have personal relationship with Jesus Christ, say yes, but that you also have a communal relationship with Him as a member of the Body of Christ. Add that your relationship is not just personal or communal, but that it is intimate. For through the priest, it is Jesus who baptizes (Mt 3:11; Acts 2:38), forgives sins (Jn 20: 22-23; 2 Cor 5 17-20), feeds us His Body (Lk 22:17-19; 1 Cor 10:16), confirms us in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17;19: 5-6), makes us one flesh in marriage (Mt 19:5-6), heals us through anointing (Mk 6:12-13; Jam 5:14-15), and sets apart men as deacons, priests, and bishops (Jn 20:22; I Tim 3:2 (Bishops); Acts 20:28; 2 Tim 1:6 (priests); Acts 6:6; I Tim 3:8 (deacons)). By the way, if you look at Holy Name of Mary’s website in two weeks you can look at this homily and see the scripture verses for these.
If they ask you if you have been saved, say yes. Jesus placed His Spirit in you at your baptism (Acts 2:38). That is the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead and so too will raise you from the dead (Rom 8:11). But then steer the conversation back to our shared beliefs and values: the Ten Commandments, the New Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the commandment to love God and neighbor, the love of scripture and the need for Jesus our Savior. And maybe remind them who our shared enemies are; our sin and the evil falsehoods the lost try to teach others to believe. All Christians are united most especially by our Lord, but also by our shared values and beliefs, and our shared enemies.
If you do not remember anything else from this homily, remember what I am about to say. Remember the lesson of bird watchers? They learn about the characteristics and names of birds and then look around them with the expectation that something special might appear. If you read scripture daily, in prayer, God will occasionally speak to you in a special way. And what He says will change your life for the better. How does He do this?
He does so in an infinite number of ways, always suited to your specific needs. Here are a couple I have experienced. Sometimes a verse will seem to light up on the page, just stand out in some way. Sometimes you will read a verse and the meaning will be very different than what you know it should be, but when you read it again, that peculiar meaning is still there. When these things happen, stop. Write down those words and pray over and reflect upon them for several days until you understand how God wants you to respond. Seek spiritual direction if you are not sure.
Here is a closing image. We have a dad that we were separated from long ago. And we want to know more about Him so we can know more about ourselves and make sense of our lives and this world. Turns out, He has written us a book that tells us how much and why He loves us. In that book, He helps us make sense of our behaviors that confound us, pointing out our strengths and weaknesses. He shares His wisdom on how to live our lives. He tells us what makes Him proud of us. And He shares good news. He has built a home for us and in His book, He has given us a map that shows us The Way. Amen.
Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew. Baker Academic 2010.
Diocese of Richmond. Ordo- Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist 2023.
Jeff Cavins. Matthew-The King and His Kingdom Great Adventure Bible Study. Ascension Press 2011.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
The Catholic Church. Nostra Atate: The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
The Catholic Church. Dei Verbum: The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.KEEP READING
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Mal 3:19-20a / Ps 98 / 2 Thes 3:7-12 / Lk 21:5-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Thomas Alva Edison, the great inventor, used to say, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” He conducted about eighteen thousand experiments before he perfected what we now call “the ordinary light bulb.” He became great through untiring work and utmost endurance.
For some of us nowadays, we are inclined to reverse Edison’s slogan by our longing for instant things. Thus, instead of ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, we would rather reverse that and have one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.
Yet Jesus, in today’s gospel, exhorts us, “By your perseverance you will gain your lives.” This statement highlights two important things. First, the need to endure. Secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first, to endure, is absolutely necessary in order to have the second, salvation of the soul.
Why is it absolutely necessary to persevere in order to be saved? Perseverance is an active rather than a passive virtue for us Christians. Perseverance is built up against temptation to sin and apathy through a life of regular prayer, such as the rosary, our devotions to saints, meditation upon scripture, Sunday liturgy and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the graces given in Baptism and strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
Today’s readings teach us the importance of perseverance. In the first reading we heard of the necessity to persevere in righteousness, because evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. But those who receive the Most High, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them, and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. The safe place is heaven, where the Lord rules forever.
In the second reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our imitation of the saints. We heard St. Paul’s harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints. He told them that, if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat.
Why were some unwilling to work? Some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His kingdom. As such, why work? This is wrong because, according to St. Paul, living in idleness, they occupied their time with small talk, rumors, hearsay, slander, with all of these things leading to disharmony and division. So every Christian, when he’s able to, must support himself and his brothers and sisters and not live off the income or wealth of others.
St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us three characteristics of saints. First, they are human beings like us; they are made in the image and likeness of God. They have body and soul; they are made of flesh and blood. They need things all other human beings need. Second, like you and me, they are also tempted. They can be tempted to do evil and be indifferent in their commitment to God. Third, which makes them different from us, the saints cling to God at all times. The saints rely on the power of God and not their own power.
In the gospel reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our living faith. We heard Jesus’ discourse around 30 A.D. on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth, since the temple was associated with God’s presence. So if the temple were to be destroyed, it would mean the end of the world. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D. saw the completion of Jesus’ prophecy.
Our gospel today reminds us that, while waiting for the great moment to come, which is the end of times where God will reign as Lord, we must adjust to a long period of waiting. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did, so that we too may arrive into our eternal glory. As St. Paul said, we must not be idle, waiting for things that will not come to pass in the present time. We must move on with our lives and be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will precede Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.
The question is, are we ready to suffer and to shed our blood, if necessary, for our faith? Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake, and He calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means “witness.” The Book of Revelation says that Jesus was the faithful witness who freed us from our sins by His blood.
Tertullian, the second century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church.” Why is this the case? The martyrs witness the joy and truth and freedom of the Gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood.
Brothers and sisters, some of us may not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. We must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end, that they not be counted among those who have renounced their faith and their salvation in Jesus Christ.
We will be well prepared, too, if we try every day to live our Christian life well and full; if we do our best to build that part of the kingdom which God expects from us in the here and now, a kingdom of peace and justice; if we daily water the seed of love that Jesus has already planted; if we pass onto others the light of faith that He has already lit; if we act as yeast that Jesus has already put in the dough, in order to ferment the world with the Gospel values; and if we serve the world as its salt, which He called us to be, to preserve the world from every corruption. All this means that we cannot sit down, doing nothing, just waiting for the end time. It means that we need to keep ourselves always busy in order to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom.
So, brothers and sisters, as we go home today, let us persevere in our living faith until the end of times, through righteousness and the imitation of the saints. Let us also pray for one another, that we all endure until the end, so we will gain our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18 / Ps 34 / 2 Tm 4: 6-8,16-18 / Lk 18: 9-14
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Has frustration or doubt crept into your prayer life? Two weeks in a row, the Church’s readings have emphasized prayer. The theme last week was perseverance in prayer, illustrated by that great scene with Moses having to hold up his arms for the Israelites to win the battle (Ex 17: 8-13). The battle went on so long that two others had to hold up Moses’ arms for him, and so the battle was won. Jesus assured us in last week’s gospel that God will “speedily” answer our prayers (Lk 18).
This week’s theme for prayer is, “God is a good-good Father.” In the gospel, we meet the sinful tax collector praying, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner (Lk 18:13).” He was justified, Bible-speak for “made right with God.” St. Francis de Sales reflected on this and wrote, “Alas! Since the goodness of God is so immense that one moment suffices to obtain and receive His grace, what assurance can we have that he who was yesterday a sinner is not a saint today (Barron 408/Introduction to a Devout Life)?” May we share in God’s goodness and make the apologizing other person right with us as speedily as God did the tax collector!
The reading from Sirach describes God’s goodness. He is just, “knows no favorites,” listens to the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow (Sir 35: 12-15). Let’s put these Bible words into American English. For oppressed, think beat down or abused or unfairly treated at work. For orphan, think orphan and those rejected by or cast out of their family. And for widow, think widow for sure, but I would add widower and people abandoned by their spouse against their will. In all these downtrodden states of life, we long for goodness.
That longing wisely and often takes the form of prayer. The author of Sirach writes that our prayers reach heaven when we “serve Him and are lowly (Sir 35: 16).” That describes St. Paul in the second reading, in his letter to Timothy, which Paul was writing as God’s servant and as a lowly prisoner. Paul said his friends abandoned him. But then, echoing Sirach, he writes, “but the Lord stood by me and gave me strength (2 Tim 4:16).” In this stressful situation, St. Paul is able to see God’s grace and goodness.
King David, who wrote today’s 34th Psalm, obviously had a similar distressing life experience to Paul’s proclaiming, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves (Ps 34: 18).” I have heard many sad life stories over the years. However, as the song says, we have a “good, good Father,” and He answers all prayers.
I’ll share one such story of prayers answered. At this past summer’s mission trip to the mountainous, southwest corner of Virginia, near the UVA Wise campus, I met a man named David. Our group of teenagers and chaperones went to his home in the middle of the mountains on Father’s Day. Our mission was to rebuild his deck and to add a wheelchair ramp to it, all in God’s name. David only had one leg. He had almost died three times, including a motorcycle and a car accident, as well as in surgery. He had been a rough and tumble coal mine worker. He told me he used to relish a good fight, but in his own words, he would get dangerously violent and couldn’t stop himself.
We invited him to pray with us each day when we arrived, when we did our lunch scripture reflection, and before we left each day, and he always participated. He often joked and laughed with the youth, who affectionately called him Big Dave. One time, while the others worked, He and I had a deep spiritual conversation. When I asked him if he thought God made good come from the loss of his leg to rescue his soul, the only way God could get through to such a rough and tough son of a gun, David teared up, looked off into the distance, and just nodded yes. For a few minutes, David was too choked up to speak.
At the end of the week, his deck was fully restored, complete with a safe ramp for his wheelchair. At our week’s ending banquet, David took the microphone and told all the priests and seminarians, chaperones, Deacons, and youth that when those teenagers showed up at his house on Father’s Day, it was the best Father’s Day he had ever had. He wiped away tears while giving each of the teens and us chaperones a hug before saying goodbye. All of this was an answer to someone’s prayer. David knows his good, good Father who visited him on Father’s Day, rebuilt his deck, made him laugh and cry, and affirmed his dignity.
King David, Paul, the tax collector, and Big Dave all had been made lowly by a checkered past and all experienced God’s grace born by the winds of someone’s prayer. But prayer doesn’t just transform the lives of those prayed for, but also of those who pray for them. And that brings us to the all-important question at this point in every Mass, “How do I respond to today’s readings, this homily, and the sacramental grace we are about to receive?”
Here is something to try this week. You know how an athlete will warm up and get their mind focused before competing? Fr. Thomas Dubay suggests we approach prayer in a similar fashion (Dubay Prayer Primer). Here’s one way to do that. Start your prayer by telling God that He is a good, good Father who answers every prayer and sends grace wherever it is needed. Follow that with a prayer of recollection, recalling the times in your life He cared for you. Recalling those times will cheer your heart and strengthen your faith so that you can finish your prayer in confidence that it is being answered. Remember that Jesus said that even a tiny bit of faith can move a mountain (Mt 17:20-21).
Here are a few gems of wisdom for amping up your prayer. St. Theresa of Avila said, “…it is impossible to speak to [God] and to the world at the same time,” so give Him your undivided attention. To get centered on God like that, Bishop Barron prays the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He suggests breathing in on the first part and out on the second part. Father Dubay says we need to go to Mass; the liturgy has sacramental power that nourishes our prayer. He adds that while praying, don’t think much, but love much. And St. Augustine, putting a different spin on today’s reading from Sirach, reminds us that, “To pray well, one must live well.”
I’ll close by sharing some wisdom from my spiritual director, Carrie McKeown. She noticed that I prayed a lot for healing of my lung disease and for help overcoming it so I could be a good husband, father, Deacon and manager. So, she asked me a simple question, “Do you believe God takes care of you?” This is one of those questions that is tempting to answer quickly but bears more fruit if we examine our life in light of it. It’s ok to pray for your own needs, but my prayer was leading to aggravation with God, not restfulness in His goodness.
St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who developed the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus) said it this way: “Keep your heart in peace and let nothing trouble you…for God’s dwelling is in peace.” Padre Pio and other saints have said similar things. If I’m stressing instead of seeing God’s grace like St. Paul did in prison, do I always believe God takes care of me? Since that time a couple of years ago, I mostly pray for others and sure enough, God has taken care of me. This is a key to being a wounded prayer warrior, knowing deep down God is good and cares for you. Let’s make Chris Tomlin’s lyrics our prayer this week. Lord, “You are a good good Father. It’s who you are, it is who you are…And I’m loved by you. It’s who I am, it’s who I am.” Amen.
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 17:8-13 / Ps 121 / 2 Tm 3:14-4:2 / Lk 18:1-8
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Something that I learned this week I found pretty interesting: That is, from a really early age, some studies say that, as early as three years old, children exhibit an understanding and a sense of fairness, of justice. At the age of three! They’re barely able to walk and talk, and yet they understand fairness.
How many have heard this: “That’s not fair!” “He got more ice cream that I got!” [Invites those watching the livestream to post comments about what’s not fair.] It’s not fair that both Virginia Tech and UVA have horrible football teams at the same time. ONE should be good, right?
Here’s a secret also, because just a few years later, at the age of around eight, children begin to understand something that many of us, if not all of us, in this room already know all too well: Life’s not fair. At the age of eight, just five years after they figured out fairness and justice, they’re learning that life isn’t fair.
And when has life ever been fair? Throughout all of history, pride and power and politics, war, wealth, sickness, accidents, natural disasters, school, work, play, taxes, death. Life isn’t fair. It’s just not.
But we learn, we adapt. We deal with it, but sometimes this unfairness, this lack of justice just builds up and beats us down. It seeds discouragement; we lose heart. We become weary. It’s just not fair.
In this parable that we hear from Jesus, He talks about this judge. This is not a good guy. This judge is about as far away from fairness and goodness as you can get. We hear from Jesus that we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourself. And yet, this judge even repeats himself, “I do not fear God nor respect any human being.” He’s pretty much the opposite of good and just. He’s only out for himself. He’s corrupt. He couldn’t care less about justice. If someone of influence or means, or had a good bribe, or someone who’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, someone that could do him a favor, that’s where his decision is going to be swayed. That isn’t fair.
What about this widow that we hear about? Jesus chose this character of a widow very carefully and wisely, because a widow in that society was about the lowest status that you could possibly be. With the loss of her husband, she had zero status. In fact, all of the inheritance that was owned by her husband would have been claimed by his family. If there were children involved, they would have to go to court, and we just heard about the judge. In that society, life is completely and totally against a widow. In fact, she shouldn’t really even be speaking to a civil authority. She isn’t worthy enough in that society for that. Talk about unfair. That isn’t fair.
So what’s the point? This is an unusual situation with parables that Jesus gives, because Jesus tells us what the point of the parable is before He tells us the story of the parable. He told us that it is about the necessity to pray always, without becoming weary.
We can get confused about this parable. Jesus isn’t saying that if we nag God long enough, hard enough, often enough, we’ll eventually get Him to do exactly what we want Him to do. No way.
He’s contrasting God with this judge. He’s talking about how God is different. If an unrighteous and unjust judge with limited power would give in to persistent petitions, how much more so would a righteous judge and just judge with limitless power hear the cries of those who call to Him?
The point, Jesus is telling us, is to pray always and not get weary. But Jesus is also teaching us something that goes a little deeper. Typical Jesus. There’s something a little bit deeper: Life’s not fair, and it never will be until Jesus, the just judge, returns. Jesus, Son of the Creator, who came to be with us and one with us. He lived, suffered, died, and rose, and He ascended, justifying us for our salvation, even though we aren’t worthy of that. He cleared the path for us to live with Him in love eternally, and He promised He would come again in glory. He promised, and He will do it. That’s the point.
All of our prayer, like the widow, our relentless prayer and petitions, in spite of discouragement, in spite of weariness, in spite of setbacks and trials and burdens in our life, the prayer of the chosen ones is to bring us justice, to bring us to the world that is to come. To bring us to the kingdom that is to come, forever and ever. That’s the prayer that will come speedily and when we least expect it. That’s the prayer we long for. That’s the prayer we want to pray for incessantly. That’s the point.
That’s not to say that we don’t want to pray for a cure to cancer, or world peace, or to be appreciated and loved, or health for ourselves and for our family members and for our loved ones, strength and wisdom to our leaders, and a good parking spot at the mall. Of course, we want to pray for these things, and of course our loving God hears these prayers.
But the point of this story, this parable, is an eschatological one. That means it’s of the kingdom to come. It’s for life everlasting. It’s for a just God bringing about a just end and a just life everlasting, just as He promised. That’s the point.
But…When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?
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
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 17, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 18:1-10a / Ps 15 / Col 1:24-28 / Lk 10:38-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about three prisoners on death row, who were asked for their last wish. The first one wished for pizza. It was given to him, and then he was executed. The second one asked for a steak. It was given to him, and then he was executed. The third one asked for cherries. When the guard told him that cherries were not yet in season, he replied, “Well, that’s all right, I can wait.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us about the value of waiting, and the ways of waiting. Martha was the one waiting on the Lord, while Mary was the one who waited and listened at the Lord’s feet. Martha was busy and anxious serving the Lord, while Mary was still and calm, listening to the Lord. And in the end, Jesus tells us that Mary has chosen the better part.
There are a Martha and a Mary in each one of us. In prayer, may we be given the wisdom to know who we really are and what we should be, as we follow and serve the Lord. Mary sat beside the Lord at His feet, listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”
The gospel also introduces us to two women: Martha, the perfect host, and Mary, the perfect disciple. They are both eager to serve Jesus, but they go about it in different ways.
Martha is the perfect host. She prepares the house for Jesus and His disciples. She cooks the food and serves everyone because she thinks they are tired and hungry. She has no idea that Jesus comes, not to be served, but to serve.
That is why Martha is so upset, so preoccupied with preparing nice food. She becomes anxious and even snaps at Jesus for allowing Mary not to help her in the household chores. But Jesus gently rebukes her. “Martha, Martha, you fret and worry about so many things, but just one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best portion.” Mary listens to Him, learns from Him, experiences His presence, and occupies a place that only men should have – sitting at the foot of her master – in order to learn and be taught.
Actually, Brothers and Sisters, we also experience this. When we invite someone to our house, after we greet them and welcome them, sometimes we leave them alone for some time while we continue to prepare their food. For example, we may give them photo albums to look at, or give them magazines to read, or the remote control for them to watch television. Like Jesus, our visitors didn’t come for a free meal; they came to be with friends. They came to be with us.
On the other hand, Mary is the perfect disciple. She sits beside the Lord at His feet, listening to His instructions and teachings. She seems to know instinctively that there is need for only one thing: to listen to the good news that Jesus brings.
This might be the reason that God created us with two eyes and two ears, but only one tongue. He wants us to speak less, but see and listen more, especially in our hearts. God cannot speak to a noisy heart. Second, the heart must be obedient and submissive. God cannot speak to a heart that denies, rationalizes, or postpones. Third, the heart must be open, so that all the deepest concerns and chambers can be reached and cleaned. In the same way, God cannot clean and heal a heart that is closed tight.
It does not mean that Jesus did not appreciate Martha’s hospitality, but He chided her for being so anxious and upset about many things. She forgot a very important element in her relationship with Jesus. That is, to allow time to listen to a friend, a beloved, and most of all, to her Lord and Savior.
Brothers and Sisters, we can discern from the action and reaction of Martha and Mary in serving the Lord their different forms of spirituality. With Martha, we have an active form of spirituality, while for Mary we have the contemplative spirituality. It is a combination of prayer and action and reflection which we need in our lives as Christians. Action and contemplation are not viewed as opposing forms, but complementary.
We are drawn to the danger of too much activity; we work and work as if there is no tomorrow. We are so involved in our apostolic activity, outreach programs, and looking for money, but we miss giving attention to enlivening our relationship with God, family, and friends, and listening to them.
If we have given so much time to work, we must also in the same manner, have time for prayer, meditation, reading scripture, and the Eucharist. All of us are a bit of Martha and Mary. We are both body and soul, and we must keep both in balance. We must give each of them its due. Jesus does not need people who work for Him; He needs people who do His work.
Lastly, let us pray that the Lord may teach us the value of being prayerful, hopeful, and joyful in waiting.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 14:18-20 / Ps 110 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Lk 9:11b-17
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
I read this story told by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: that, during China’s 1911 republican revolution, in response to the earlier Boxer Rebellion, anti-Catholic militants seized a Catholic parish. They confined the parish priest to house arrest, so from his rectory window, he witnessed the desecration of the church. He knew that there had been thirty-two consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle.
An eleven-year-old girl was praying at the back of the church, and the guards either did not see her or else paid no attention to her. She returned to the church that night and made a holy hour and then consumed one of the sacred Hosts, bending down to receive Jesus on her tongue.
She continued to return every night, making a nightly holy hour and consuming one sacred Host. On the last night, the thirty-second night, unfortunately a guard was awakened. After she consumed the sacred Host, he chased her, grabbed her, and beat her to death with his rifle.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen became aware of her martyrdom while he was a seminarian. He was so inspired by her sacrifice that he promised to pray a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament each day for the rest of his life.
Brothers and sisters, the eleven-year-old girl could have had no idea how she would influence a future bishop, who would in turn influence millions of people and promote Eucharistic adoration. We also have no idea how our witness and sacrifices influence other people.
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This feast reminds us that Jesus gives His very own body and blood, so that we might live in our faith and alive in our deeds. If we do not live in our faith and alive in our deeds, this is because the Body and Blood of Jesus are not part of our food. So let us not deprive ourselves of this most important ingredient of our earthly life.
When Catholic converts are asked to talk about the reason why they converted to the Catholic faith, for most of them, one of the main reasons is their discovery of the truth about the Holy Eucharist. When they learn that the Eucharist is not merely a symbol, but Jesus Christ Himself, given to us in the form of bread and wine, they begin to experience a deep spiritual hunger and longing for it. Our Catholic faith taught us that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself.
Through the Eucharist, Christ becomes physically present in the church, keeping His promise that He would always be with us, until the end of the world. And, because the Eucharist is preserved in the tabernacle, we can be with Him any time we want, just like the eleven-year-old little girl in the story that I heard.
Whatever our spiritual condition may be, today’s feast of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest banquet of all. The greatest sacrifice of all. The very source and summit of our whole Christian life. This is the feast of us all, because Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and He is the Eucharist Himself, awaiting us all.
He is here for the child who receives his or her First Holy Communion, for Catholic converts, and for the lifelong believers like us Catholics. He is here for those who cannot receive him sacramentally: the little children, for the non-Catholics who are mysteriously drawn to the Eucharistic banquet. Some people or friends we know who are in the catechumenate program show love for the Eucharist and continue to attend Mass every week, even if they cannot receive Holy Communion, and they continue to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
He is here for the sick people who cannot join us in this Eucharistic celebration because of their situation. That is why the Church reserves consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so that the Eucharist can be brought to the sick and the faithful who can worship the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
So now the question is: How can be apply this belief of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist into our lives? There are so many suggested ways how, like Eucharistic devotion and participation in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as our thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition to Christ, present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We can also spend a few minutes after receiving the Eucharist in silent thanksgiving. We can visit our Lord preserved in the tabernacle. There, we can silently speak with Him about anything we please.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up Eucharistic devotion in the words of Saint John Paul II: “Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation, full of faith and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
So Brothers and Sisters, in a few moments, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, let us try to remember our faith, not only in the Real Presence in the Host, but also Jesus’ real presence in us. That is why we are here, and that is why Jesus nourishes us, so that we can also nourish others.
At the end, let us remember this: If we celebrate the Eucharist with faith, we shall be transformed into what we eat. We shall become Christlike and be true to our name, “Christians.”
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING