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