Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 28, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Dt 18:15-20 / Ps 95 / 1 Cor 7:32-35 / Mk 1:21-28
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Once, a government surveyor brought his equipment to a farm, called on the farmer, and asked permission to go into one of the fields and take readings. The farmer vigorously objected, fearing that the survey was the first step toward the construction of a highway through his land. “I will not give permission to go into my fields,” said the angry farmer. Whereupon the surveyor produced an official government document that authorized him to do the survey. “I have the authority,” he said, “to enter into any field in the entire country and take necessary readings.”
Faced with such authority, the farmer opened the gate and allowed the surveyor to enter the field. The farmer then went to the far end of the field and opened another gate, through which one of his fiercest bulls came charging. Seeing the raging bull, the surveyor dropped his equipment and ran for his life. The farmer shouted after him, “Show him the paper! Show him your authority!” Yes, the unfortunate surveyor has the authority, but the farmer’s bull has more convincing power.
Brothers and sisters, the same can be said about the gospel we preach and teach. The people of Capernaum received sacred instruction in their synagogue every Sabbath. One Sabbath they had a different teacher, Jesus. What Jesus taught them that day, as well as the way He presented and demonstrated His message, simply astonished them. Why? It is because He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Jesus’ teaching contrasted sharply with that of the scribes. In one word: Jesus taught with authority. The scribes did not.
Jesus astonished the people around Him for three big reasons. First, the teaching of Jesus is from the heart and not just from the head. He teaches with absolute conviction in his message, because He knows that His message is in accordance with the mind of God. As He says in the gospel of St. John, when trying to persuade His unbelieving audience, “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, yet you do not receive our testimony.” His preaching is a personal testimony of His intimate relationship with God, His Father, unlike the scribes. They got their knowledge, not from their personal communion with God, but from their long and intricate commentaries on the law. As a result, most of their teaching is from the head and not from the heart.
If we claim to have faith in Christ, it is essential that we must listen to Him. We need to open ourselves to His wisdom and authority. The bottom line is not to take His teachings on the level of theories and ideas. Rather we must situate it into our faith life experience. For faith, devoid of practical action, is empty. Theology without praxis is nothing. Knowledge waning in application is useless.
Second, it focuses on the spirit, and not on the letter of the law. The scribe seeks to apply the prescription of the law to the letter. Jesus goes deeper, to find out the spirit, the original intent of the law, like for example, the law of the Sabbath observance. The scribes would busy themselves trying to determine precisely when the Sabbath begins and ends, and what constitutes work and what does not. Jesus would rather seek the mind of God, who gave the law to His people as an expression of His fatherly care and love. His conclusion is that the Sabbath is a day we keep away from our work in order to serve God and do God’s work.
Lastly, it inspires a positive change of heart in the hearers, and not just to make the people feel bad. Like, for example, the man born blind. The scribe seeks to explain why he is blind: whether it was he who sinned, or his parents. Jesus, on the other hand, is only interested in curing the blindness. For this reason, Jesus performed healings and exorcisms together with His teachings to show that His primary concern is to change the human situation and not just to explain it.
These are the three big reasons why people get astonished with Jesus: He teaches from the heart and not just from the head. He focuses on the spirit and not on the letter of the law. And he inspires a positive change of heart in the hearers.
There was an Indian prince who was a lover of knowledge. He had collected thousands of books in his large library. It happened that he was appointed the right hand of the king. This position demanded that he travel almost always, in the kingdom’s vast territory and neighboring kingdoms, to represent the king. He brought along with him his books; thirty camels were needed to carry them.
Realizing the impracticality of loading all the books, he said to his chancellor, “Read all the books and then give to me the only book that is most important for my journey.” After some time, the chancellor gave to the prince the book that summarized all the wisdom of the world. It was the Bible. The prince asked, “What authority does this book have for it to be the only one that I should carry with me? Whereupon the chancellor replied, “It is the authority of the Son of God.” Shortly afterwards, the prince was baptized.
Brothers and sisters, we witness Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue with a profound authority that astounds the people. The crowd is amazed, not just by His words, but by the power with which He speaks. His authority is not like that of the scribes but comes from a deeper source. It is the authority of the Son of God, the Word Made Flesh.
As we reflect on this gospel passage, we are invited to examine our own lives and consider who or what holds authority over us. Do we recognize Jesus as the ultimate authority in our life, or are we swayed by the many competing voices in the world?
Jesus’ authority is not oppressive, but liberating. It brings healing, freedom, and a deeper understanding of God’s love.
In our daily lives, we may encounter challenges and struggles that test our faith. The authority of Jesus is a source of strength and hope during these times. When we submit to His authority, we open ourselves to the transformative power of His love and mercy.
So, as we continue to celebrate the Holy Mass, may we take a moment to reflect on the authority we recognize and submit to. Let us renew our commitment to follow Jesus, allowing His authority to shape our thoughts, words, and deeds. In doing so, we embrace the freedom and joy that come from being in communion with the One who has authority over all creation.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
The Epiphany of the Lord
January 7, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 72 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
In the first reading that we heard today, we heard Isaiah say “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem. Your light has come.” This is really important to us on this feast of Epiphany. “See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” We can also see that too, in the turmoil we find on earth today: the wars, the sadness, the destruction, even in our own country where there is intolerance and all kinds of violence, breaking into stores and wreaking all kinds of havoc. But we find in that first reading, “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes,” Isaiah tells us, “And look about; they all gather and come to you.”
This first reading is a sign of hope for us, and there are other signs of hope that we have. I’m going to remind you of some things that I don’t think the children have ever heard.
When I was a youngster, growing up in a certain town, there was a planetarium. This particular planetarium was in a science museum, called the Franklin Institute, and that was the Fels Planetarium. My mom and dad took all five of us sons (we had no sisters) when I was just a young lad.
The first thing that we saw when we went into the Franklin Institute was a huge ball, hanging from a cable rising five stories high to the dome at the top. That ball was slowly moving back and forth in slow circles. It was a pendulum. There were little pegs all around a circle set up at the bottom of this huge ball, which probably weighed close to a ton. At the bottom of the ball there was a little peg, like a little spike, hanging down, and that ball would swing over and knock down the pegs. It would knock down a peg twenty-four times; every hour it would strike down another one until twenty-four hours had gone by. Early in the morning, workmen had to come out there where all the pegs had been knocked down. They had to stop that ball – Maybe it took four men to grab hold of it and slowly stop it. They would set up new pegs, and then let it go. Thus it marked the hours of the day and the rotation of our earth on its axis. It was a wonderful visual sight to see, and as a child, I was utterly amazed.
Now I’m going to move you on in that same Franklin Institute to another place. There was a huge theater, and this theater was domelike, larger than our church, and it had seating all around it, with a projector. That projector would shine onto the ceiling above, and form sights in the sky. The astronomers and technicians could display anything that they wanted to show. So, you went in there and took your seats, and everyone was chatting, just like we do coming into the church, chatting in the foyer. And then we get into church, and then we’re quiet because we’re meditating. And then the lights start to go dim. The lights in the enormous dome would continue to get dimmer until it got so black you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face. Those experiences were meant to draw attention to something special. One of the announcers would say, “You can’t see your hands. It’s like nothingness.” So, you might wonder what the universe was like.
We were visiting the planetarium in that season between Christmas and the Epiphany. They had decided to put up the sky as it might have appeared when those first pilgrims from other countries – the three Magi – were following a star. They began to explain that, and then you would see the stars appear within this dome, with one star moving very slowly. They would recount the events as described in the Bible, and it brought home to us, not only the enormity of the universe, but also a fact of our own faith that we are living by.
We know who those three pilgrims, those Magi or kings or philosophers were. They might have been studying all kinds of things. They came from other countries; we don’t know where they came from, as the Bible doesn’t tell us that. But sometimes our Nativity scenes may show one from Ethiopia, another from Persia, and another from Arabia. We don’t know all that, but they did not work together until they met on a similar type of pilgrimage. They were all seeing this star moving that they had not seen before. After all, they were astronomers; they were philosophers, and they knew what they were looking for.
Later on (not found in the Bible), names were given to them: Balthazar, Melchior, and Casper. They went to King Herod, who was in charge of that whole area, because they wanted to find out if he knew anything. They had heard that there was a new king to be born, and they were following his star. As we read in Holy Scripture today, they were overjoyed at seeing the star and stopped at the place where the child was. Herod said, “Oh, this is wonderful news. Go and find out where he is and come back and report to me so that I may go and worship him, too.”
King Herod was not a good man; he was a very evil king. He was jealous, he was threatened that there was another child to be born who might be king of all this land. Why are we celebrating the feast of the Epiphany? You might think that, next to Christmas, it couldn’t be too important. Epiphany is like we heard from Isaiah in the first reading today: The light will shine down upon you.
They went and found the child, and it is said they prostrated themselves before the child. Now, if we look at our manger scene, we see the three kings. We see the scene there, but we don’t see them prostrated. We know what “prostration” is. Prostration is when you lie down flat on your stomach, head down, feet down. The only time we see a prostration in our liturgy in the Catholic Church is on Good Friday, when the Passion is being read. The priest comes in, and, if there’s a deacon with him, the deacon will join him. And the priest will prostrate, lay flat down, on Good Friday before the Passion is read, and meditate for a few moments. It’s quite a dramatic, silent scene.
So, we have this story and the image that we have from today. They arrived in Jerusalem, but then were warned in a dream, as we heard in the gospel, not to return to Herod. What did Herod do? You know, after Christmas, we have two feast days, days of martyrs. The first day after Christmas is the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. And then the next is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Because what Herod did was, when the Three Magi didn’t return to him, he ordered his soldiers to go and kill (terrible thought!) every baby boy two years of age or younger. I don’t want to bring horror to you. I want you to know what evil is; what the killing of the innocents is. The Church even helps us to meditate upon that, and we read about that in Scripture. There must have been a wailing throughout that area of mothers and fathers as soldiers went through, taking these baby boys. Why? Because Herod did not want a king to come in his place.
We celebrate that the infant king Jesus survived. God sent the archangel Gabriel to help with this. We have four archangels. You remember three of them: Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, and the fourth one, who didn’t turn out so well: Lucifer. It is Lucifer who was driving the madness of King Herod.
Gabriel is the one who appeared to Mary many months before the birth of her child and said, “You are going to have a child.” Mary is only engaged. She’s planning on her marriage to Joseph. She says, “How can this be, because I don’t yet have a husband?” Joseph was going to quietly divorce her, so that there wouldn’t be any scandal. But then, during his sleep, the angel Gabriel, a very busy archangel, woke up Joseph and said, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take this child into your home to be your wife, because the child is a gift of God, a creation of God, the Holy Spirit.”
Later on, a child is born, and then Herod is letting out the order to kill all these baby boys less than two years of age. The angel Gabriel comes to Joseph again, the father of that family – foster father – and says, “Quick, take the baby and his mother and go to Egypt, a distant country. Go to Egypt and stay there until I tell you to come back.”
We know approximately when Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus left Egypt and returned on this long, long trek back to Nazareth. They had left Nazareth, gone to Bethlehem so that Joseph could register and pay his tax, and that’s where the baby was born. Then they went further away from Nazareth and Bethlehem to Egypt. Do you know when they came back? It was seven years. How do we know that? A lot of research was done many years ago, and it was seven years simply because that’s when the threat was gone: Herod died.
We know, unfortunately, that Herod’s death is not the end of the evil that happens, but it’s the starting of a new life. Joseph, Mary and their young son now about seven years of age, started their long trek all the way back from Egypt, trekking back through Bethlehem, passing by Jerusalem, and the other sixty-five or seventy miles more to get up to Nazareth, to live out their lives, where Jesus would learn by going to synagogue.
When I was young, my father and mother took us to that planetarium. Later on, I became interested in joining the Boy Scouts, but there was no scouting in the parish where I lived in the city. My good friend, says, “You could come and join the Sea Scouts.” Well, I knew very well there were Sea Scouts around. They were not as plentiful as the Boy Scouts. But after all, at that time my brother was in the Navy, my father had been in the Navy in the First World War, and so, I said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea!” I went up there and, on the Delaware River, there were about thirteen – we called them “ships,” and they were the bunkhouses for each group of boys who were in the Sea Scouts. We learned all kinds of things nautical. Once a month Rabbi came and gave us wonderful readings from the Scriptures, from the Bible, and gave us animated talks that young boys would really need growing up: how to behave, how to have fun, how to be good sons to your parents and good brothers to your brothers and sisters.
So, those were some experiences that I had growing up, and it all started with a memory of a father and mother who wanted to take their children to this particular museum, years ago when I was still a little pup, amazed at the pendulum, and amazed at the sky shown in that theater on a feast of the Epiphany.KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Advent
December 17, 2023 — Year B
Readings: Is 61:1-2A, 10-11 / Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 / 1 Thes 5:16-24 / Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The Third Sunday of Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. The readings for this Sunday focus on the theme of joy. Isaiah proclaims a message of good news and glad tidings. Our second reading encourages us to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. Then John in the gospel tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Advent is a time during which we prepare for the coming of the Lord. He is coming to us sacramentally at Christmas. He is coming to us individually at the end of our lives. He is coming to us collectively at the end of time.
Now suppose we are told that the Christ whom we are waiting for is already here in our midst as one of us. What difference would it make? Here is a story of the enormous difference that the awareness of the presence of Christ among us could make in our lives as individuals and as communities.
A certain monastery discovered that it was going through a crisis. Some of the monks left, no new candidates joined them, and people were no longer coming for prayer and consultation as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old, depressed, and bitter in their relationship with one another.
The abbot heard about a holy man, a hermit living alone in the woods, and decided to consult him. He told the hermit how the monastery had dwindled and diminished and looked like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the abbot that he had a secret for him. The secret was that one of the monks presently living at the monastery was actually the Messiah, but that He was living in such a way that no one could recognize Him.
With this revelation, the abbot returned to the monastery, summoned a community meeting and recounted what the hermit had told him. The aging monks looked at each other in disbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ. Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time? But he has this holier-than-thou attitude toward others. Could it be Brother Joseph who is always ready to help? But he’s always eating and drinking and cannot fast.
The abbot reminded them that the Messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of camouflaging His true identity. This only made them more confused and they could not make any headway in figuring out who was the Christ among them. At the end of the meeting, what each one of the monks knew for sure was that any of the monks, excepting himself, could be the Christ.
From that day on, however, the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could be the very Christ. They began to show more love for one another. Their common life became more brotherly and their common prayer more fervent. Slowly, people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread, and soon candidates began to show up. The monastery began to grow again in number as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. All of this came about because a man of God drew their attention to the truth that Christ was living in their midst as one of them.
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist tries to announce the same powerful message to the Jews of his time who were anxiously waiting for the coming of the Messiah. John tells them, “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”
The reason why today we would not be able to recognize Jesus as our Lord and Messiah is because, like the Jews in Jesus’ time, we have definite ideas about how the Messiah is going to come. For the Jews, the Messiah would suddenly descend from heaven in His divine power and majesty and establish His reign by destroying the enemies of Israel. No one would know where He came from, humanly speaking, because He came from God (John 7:27). When finally, Jesus came, born of a woman like every other person, they could not recognize Him. He was too ordinary and unimpressive.
Since then, God has continually reached out toward us, but we resist His coming by hiding in layers of distractions. Christ wants to speak to us in the silence of prayer, but we drown His voice with noise from televisions and cell phones. Christ wants to talk to us through His words. Hearing God’s word on Sundays is not like listening to a TV recording being played. When God’s word is proclaimed, it enlightens our minds on what to do. It challenges us and tests our wills and moves and inspires our hearts.
He comes in the sacraments, especially in those of the Eucharist and Confession. As Christians, we may recognize the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Eucharist and the other sacraments. We may also recognize Him in our fellow human beings, especially among the poor, the marginalized, those who have no voice in society. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you did this to Me.”
There are other ways in which God comes to our lives. The list includes events, both good and bad, people we encounter daily, the beauty of nature, books, plays, and movies that have cultural and Christian values. The season of Advent is a time for us to get in tune with all of the ways in which Christ comes, so that when He comes at Christmas, we will be ready to recognize Him, regardless of the form in which He chooses to appear.
As Angelus Silesius said, “Do not seek God in outer space. Your heart is the only place in which to meet Him face to face.” This Sunday we are called to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. We can do this by living in joy, by praying without ceasing, and by reflecting on the mystery of the incarnation. As we prepare for the Lord, let us also remember those who are in need. We can show our love for our neighbors by reaching out to those who are suffering and by working to create a more just and compassionate world.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2023 — Year B
Readings: Is 40:1-5, 9-11 / Ps 85 / 2 Pt 3:8-14 / Mk 1:1-8
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
In the gentle glow of the second Advent candle, we find ourselves journeying through the scriptures of the Second Sunday of Advent. The readings, like a compass, guide us through the wilderness of anticipation, urging us to prepare the way for the Lord. The image of John the Baptist emerges prominently – a voice crying out in the wilderness, urging us to make straight the path for the arrival of the Messiah. It is a powerful metaphor, reminding us that the preparation for Christ’s coming often occurs in the rugged terrains of our lives, the places we may overlook or avoid.
A story is told about a school principal who called the house of one of his teachers to find out why he was not at school. He was greeted by a small child who whispered, “Hello?”
“Is your daddy home?” asked the principal.
“Yes,” answered the whispering child.
“May I talk with him?” the man asked.
“No,” replied the small voice.
“Is your mommy there?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the answer.
“May I talk with her?”
Again, the small voice whispered, “No.”
“All right,” said the man. “Is there anyone there besides you?”
“Yes,” whispered the child, “a policeman.”
“A policeman? Well, may I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy,” whispered the child.
“Busy doing what?” asked the principal.
“Talking to daddy and mommy and the fireman,” came the child’s answer.
“The fireman? Has there been a fire in the house or something?” asked the worried man.
“No,” whispered the child.
“Then what are the police and the fireman doing there?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a soft giggle, “They are looking for me.”
Poor fireman and policeman.
It would be pretty hard for rescuers to find this child as long as the child keeps hiding from them. In today’s gospel we see John the Baptist in the desert, calling the people of Judea to come out into the open desert and let God find them. You can liken it to the fireman calling out to the lost child. The child has to leave his hiding place and come out into the open for the fireman to find him.
To go into the desert is to leave behind the normal props of life on which we tend to depend. Such life props we often find in our jobs, in our relationships, and in our routine religious practices. God can’t do much with us as long as we hope and trust in these things as the first things that give meaning to our lives. When the heart is full, no one can come into it, not even God. You have first to let go of what your heart is holding onto before you can embrace God.
In today’s reading from Peter, we hear that Jesus’ second coming is still being delayed because He does not want to lose any of us. He is giving us more time to repent and prepare. He’s calling us to metanoia, to a complete change in our lives.
All of us have experienced someone telling us how to change our lives. Most likely it was our parents. This call to change our lives may be the only one that some of us have ever heard. Someone may announce, discuss, and invite people to think about a new way of life saying, “I want you to do what I told you to do.”
But then there was Jesus’ approach. Jesus comes along and doesn’t simply discuss it. He is it. Jesus is the experience of the transformation that we all need.
In today’s readings, we also notice that Mark is the only evangelist who introduces the word gospel in his opening statement, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word gospel means people – God’s people as they manifest the glad tidings of the Lord’s presence in their midst, or as they become the instruments of God’s redemptive presence toward others.
Advent is given to us in order that Jesus may be manifest in our midst. We are to become the heralds of glad tidings, which is the gospel.
The gospel is Jesus Christ. John the Baptist in the message today is preparing the way for Jesus’ presence in our midst. Jesus is the gospel. Perhaps a more correct translation would be: The Beginning of the Gospel which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Gospel is people, manifesting God as Savior, intervening as God’s instrument in the work of salvation toward others.
In the gospel message today, John the Baptist tells us that Jesus is coming, and when He comes, He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Each of us is called to be the beginning of the gospel for others, to tell the good news in a way that makes us a messenger for the One who is coming. As Christians, we have the role of preparing the way of the Lord, and John the Baptist is our model. Mark’s gospel is but the beginning of a story that continues down to our time. It started with John the Baptist. Today it continues with us. He prepared others for the coming of the Lord. We must do the same.
Before we help to prepare others, we must acknowledge our own sins and seek forgiveness. We must be renewed so that nothing impedes our walk with Jesus. We must examine our inner sins, those that go beyond the ten commandments.
We must prepare as a people, because we tend to overly individualize our relationship with God. Advent is something we do together. We dream, repent, turn our faces toward God together. In the season of Advent, the church extends to us the call of John the Baptist to repent and confess our sins in preparation for the One who is to come. It is an opportunity to re-discover our total dependence on God. God has made us for himself, as Saint Augustine confessed, and our hearts are restless until they rest in God. When we realize this and make room for God in our lives, then we are on our way to true repentance, after the example of John the Baptist.
As we continue our Advent journey, may the light of the candles guide us through the darkness, reminding us that our preparation and anticipation are not in vain. The lessons of Advent are not confined to a season. They are a timeless call to keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts, ready to shine brightly, even in the unexpected moments that await us.KEEP READING
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
August 6, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 / Ps 97 / 2 Pt 1:16-19 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story of a young man who thought he was a worm. He would hide under the bed whenever he saw a chicken, because chickens eat worms. One day he was hiding under the bed, because he saw a chicken roaming around. His best friend decided to help him overcome his problem. He went under the bed with him and told him to repeat after him, “I am a man, not a worm.” After a few repetitions, his best friend urged him to come out and prove himself a man. He came out and walked around confidently until he saw a chicken and then immediately hid under the bed again. His best friend went under the bed and asked him, “Why don’t you believe you are a man, not a worm?” The young man replied, “I do believe I am a man, not a worm, but does the chicken believe that?”
Jesus believed that He was the beloved Son of the Father. Even in His most painful and despairing moments, He believed that. The disciples also believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but the moment the trials and persecutions came along, they ran and hid under the bed. Later on, however, they truly believed and laid down their lives for Jesus.
The Feast of the Transfiguration reminds us of who Jesus is and also reminds us of who we are. Today we are celebrating this feast. The word, transfiguration, is derived from the Latin word, transfigurare, or the Greek word, metamorphosis, which means change in form or appearance. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, a special trio in the twelve, up the high mountain of Tabor where the glory of His destiny is revealed to them. This glory belongs to Him as God’s beloved Son. Transfiguration is the foretaste of heaven. This is signified by His dazzling white clothes.
Peter wants to preserve this moment by erecting tents. He’s overwhelmed and terrified by the experience, and yet he doesn’t want it to end. Moses and Elijah are seen talking to Jesus about His death which He is to suffer in Jerusalem. This is seen by the three apostles. The three are wondrously delighted with this vision and Peter calls out to Christ, “Lord it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Then they hear the voice of the Father saying, “This is My Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”
This moment, not a permanent state of bliss, is given to them to help them realize the true identity of Jesus, that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of the living God. This conversation of Jesus with Elijah and Moses shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. (Moses represents the law, and Elijah represents the prophets.) His mission is not to destroy the ways in which the Father has already revealed Himself, but to bring this revelation to completion.
The vision that we are given today on this great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord shows us that we are called to something far beyond anything we could have imagined.
Our first reading from the book of Daniel gives us a tiny glimpse into the awesome glory of Heaven, where the Father reigns with His Son. We get the sense that Daniel can barely find the words to describe the wonder of what he has seen. Everything is bright white, glowing as if on fire, seemingly blinding in its brilliance. Myriads of people from every nation are worshipping God. This vision already fills us with great hope. We want to be invited into this place where we can experience the glory of God and be counted among those who are privileged to stand before Him and worship Him.
The gospel, however, encourages us to hope for still more. Peter, James, and John are shown the same glory of God shining out through the very humanity of Jesus. They begin to understand that God is not content merely to have us join Him in heaven so that we can witness His glory. He wants to transform us so that we shine with that very same glory. The Transfiguration shows us more deeply who Jesus is. It also shows us who we are called to be in God’s plan.
St. Peter assures us, in the second reading, that this is not just some cleverly devised story. He himself was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration. He speaks of what he saw and heard. He declares that this promise of God is altogether reliable and exhorts us to be attentive to it.
Another possible reason for this display was that Jesus wanted to strengthen these three apostles for the trials of faith that they would have to face and endure at Mount Calvary when Jesus would not be on Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, but on Mount Calvary, the mountain of the cross.
God sometimes gives us moments of consolation and joy. We want such moments to never end, but that is not our lot here on earth. Before enjoying glory, we must first undergo suffering. These moments of consolation will help us to go on, to persevere in spite of difficulties. God invites us to see the many little transfiguration experiences that we have in our daily lives, such as changes of nature, the gradual opening of a flower, the blooming of trees, transformation of people, the growing of children, the cycle of birth and death, the realization that God is there.
Through the eyes of faith, we realize that it is a continuous process of seeing, not the flower, but the blooming, not the people but their talents, not the sun but its rising, not the miracle but God.
Every time that we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, we also experience a moment of transfiguration where our Lord Jesus Christ is transfigured before our very own eyes. The bread and wine are transfigured and become His body and blood, thus our spiritual food for life in our journey toward eternal life. May we slowly come out of our fears, weaknesses, and sinfulness, and show others what we really believe in and who we are called to be—the people of God.KEEP READING
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
First Sunday of Lent
February 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 / Ps 51 / Rom 5:12-19 / Mt 4:1-11
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Lent can present us with seemingly impossible odds of success. Be transformed in holiness in forty days despite being surrounded by temptation, working or going to school or both, raising kids, fighting chronic illness or pain, being distant from God or lukewarm in our faith, and struggling with any number of vices or addictions. One might say that entering into Lent is like setting sail on a perilous voyage.
For this metaphor, the story of the intrepid British explorer, Ernest Shackleton, comes to mind. His famous voyage to Antarctica took place from 1915 to 1916. He and his crew were faced with nearly impossible odds of survival. His ship, the Endurance, was made of wood. The ice trapped it and then broke and sank it, leaving the crew in lifeboats. No one else knew they were in trouble, for they had no radio nor phone back then.
Death could snatch their lives in any number of ways including freezing, starving, or drowning. They ended up making their way to a tiny island off Antarctica. Shackleton and five others left the crew there to go get help. They sailed by the stars over eight hundred miles in an open lifeboat, to try to get to a remote, South Georgia whaling island. If they missed it, they would run out of supplies and die, as would their crew back in Antarctica. Each day their routines kept them alive and brought a little hope, but as the days dragged on, doubt crept back. And not just of surviving, but of being heroes and transformed men. We will finish their story later, but for now let’s apply their plight to our 2023 Lent.
There was a recruiting poster for Shackleton’s voyage that read more like something to run from than to sign up for. “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” Imagine if we had a recruiting poster for Lent. What would be on it?
It could read something like this, “Men and women wanted for a spiritual journey. No wages, facing your weaknesses, confessing your sins, long hours of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Returning unchanged…doubtful. Increased peace and holiness in event of success. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Maybe it is not as ominous as the Shackleton poster, but it is not exactly a picnic either.
And yet, just as Shackleton’s poster filled his ship with crew members, so too does Jesus’ Lenten invitation seem to fill Catholic churches on Ash Wednesdays. God made us to desire and seek out challenges that will transform us into a better person, so off we set sail on our Lenten voyage with an ashen cross on our foreheads.
Mondays through Saturdays during a good Lent can be rough at times. Knowing that where we are is not the best place we can be, no matter how good we may think it is, we go about our daily Lenten routine religiously. We pray extra with the daily Lenten readings on the USCCB website and with our Catholic apps like Hallow, iBreviary, and Laudate. We fast daily by practicing the virtue of temperance…no snacking between meals, less phone time, less gaming, less TV, less coffee… And we increase our acts of love using the grace from God’s word and the extra prayer and by making good use of the time freed up by abstaining from or minimizing non-essential things.
If you really go for it, if you really try to allow God to form you more into the person He created you to be, the person that will feel whole and at peace, then you will come to each Sunday needing healing and hope like Shackleton’s crew left behind on the island. Lenten Sundays are like repair and restocking islands along our Lenten voyage. Why? Because there is a good chance you will have a wounded ego, having stumbled in your Lenten promises. Good! Catholic author and scholar Mark Searle wrote, “Lenten penance may be more effective if we fail in our resolutions than if we succeed, for its purpose is not to confirm us in our virtue but to bring home to us our radical need for salvation (Ordo 68).”
In today’s gospel reading, we see Jesus, without using His divine power, overcome the same temptations with which Satan conquered Adam and Eve. Jesus uses God’s word and His faith in it. We can, too. The Church has set us up with the right scriptures. Read the daily readings daily. They prepare you to more fully receive the grace of the Sunday readings.
Here is what I am talking about. Next Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, possibly having stumbled, we will be encouraged by getting a sneak peek at the glory we are striving for in Lent, as we gaze upon Jesus’ glory in the Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. On the third Sunday, when our water rations are running low, we stop at a water well and listen in on the conversation between the lonely Samaritan woman and Jesus. Her encounter with Him restores her relationships in town, heals her interior wounds, and gives her life new purpose. The fourth Sunday, when we are losing our way in the dark and rough seas, we witness Jesus open the eyes of the man “blind from birth (Jn 9:1).” By the fifth Sunday, we are really wearing down and think we cannot go on. We start to lose hope of changing until we behold Jesus calling Lazarus to come out of his tomb, from death to new life.
These stories are like when Shackleton, dying of thirst and cold on his eight-hundred-mile lifeboat voyage, saw kelp and sea birds and realized that, though he could not see it, land and help were not far away. The sixth Sunday we see palm branches and know our journey is nearing its end; it is Palm Sunday, and the Resurrection is only a week away.
The daily readings the first few weeks of Lent are meant to remind us that we are sinners that need a savior. Mark Searle points out that in the second half of Lent the readings shift from a focus on our weakness to the power of Christ to heal and to renew our lives.
What is your destination this Lent? What is the conversion Jesus is calling you to this year? What ominous, threatening invitation was on your recruiting poster on Ash Wednesday?
In today’s first reading, Eve looked at that forbidden fruit and saw that it was “pleasing to the eyes and desirable (Gn 3:6).” What forbidden fruit have you given in to? Maybe Jesus is calling you to research the Church’s teaching on a moral issue with which you disagree or have given up on such as divorce, fidelity in marriage, pornography, abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, gender dysphoria, or schools teaching kids worldly morality? These are tough issues confronting all of us. Learn why the Church stands opposed to the world on these issues. She is our mother, and she has the wisdom of two thousand years of battling against sin under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
King David tried the forbidden fruit. Despite being his nation’s leader and above the law, when he committed the sins of adultery and murder, his life took a turn for the worse. David realized his sin because a friend pointed it out to him. His subsequent confession and recognition of God’s mercy is today’s Psalm 51.
A good daily Lenten routine would be to pray David’s words and make them your own, “My sin is before me always…Against you only have I sinned…A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Jesus answers that prayer through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, confession, and Holy Communion. In baptism and confirmation, He gave us a new heart and a steadfast spirit; His heart and His spirit. In confession and Holy Communion, He renews them within us.
What happened to Shackleton’s crew, left stranded on that tiny island off Antarctica? For their daily routine, to keep them from the despair of the seemingly impossible odds and to make sure they were ready when the time for rescue came, they broke camp every day and packed to be ready to board the rescue ship. However, days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. And 105 days later, when they were thinking the daily routine was a waste of time, their captain appeared on a rescue ship and called out, “Are you all well?” And the crew called back, “All safe, all well!” Not a single crew member died.
While struggling to survive and to avoid falling into despair, the crew was not aware of all their captain was going through to save them. They were not aware of what he would endure and overcome out of loyalty to them. He sailed across eight hundred miles of freezing ocean in an open boat. Climbed a frozen mountain despite suffering from frost bite, skin ravaged by constantly wet clothing, and a tongue swollen from a lack of fresh water. He climbed down a freezing waterfall and crawled across cracking ice on a frozen lake. And astoundingly, did not stop to rest when he found shelter, food, and water, but set sail the very next day to go get his crew. He had to make four attempts to get to them, turned back by ice and other obstacles three times. On the fourth try he returned and saved them.
You know where I am going with this. Shackleton was just a man and he saved his whole crew against seemingly impossible odds. Jesus is God, infinitely powerful. He is our captain. How much more so can He help us overcome our weaknesses this Lent?
Here is how you succeed. Imitate Shackleton’s crew. Keep your daily routine and when you fail, start it again the very next day. Have a crewmate or accountability partner and touch base daily. Use the daily readings and prayer to remind you what Jesus is doing while you struggle through Lent. He did not abandon us. He literally suffered, died, and went to hell and back for us. Our captain is with us every day as we pray, fast, and love. And when we fail even in sometimes shameful ways, He is shoulder to shoulder with us. He knows what temptation is like. He knows what feeling God-forsaken and lost is like.
He does not just show us the way to personal transformation. He IS the way. He IS our north star. The crucifix is our Lenten voyage compass, always pointing to heaven through our voluntary and involuntary suffering. Cajun priest, author, and spiritual director Fr. Mark Toups sums up Lent well and I am paraphrasing here. He wrote, “Remember that Lent is not about you. It is about Jesus. He is the one who wants this Lent to be transformational for you. Lent is not about what you are doing. It is about what God is doing with what you are doing for Lent. It is not so much about checking off a list of things you achieved during Lent, but about those things helping set you up for a life-changing, personal encounter with Jesus Christ like Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Lazarus in his tomb (13).”
This coming Easter Vigil when our Captain calls out, “Are you all well?” May we all be able to respond, “We are safe and well, my Lord.” Amen.
Diocese of Richmond. Ordo – Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist 2023. Paulist Press 2022.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Fr. Mark Toups. Lenten Companion, A Personal Encounter with the Power of the Gospel. Ascension Publishing 2023.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