The Invitation

January 14, 2024 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Evangelization, Father Nixon, Obedience, Service

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 14, 2024 — Year B
Readings: 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19 / Ps 40 / 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20 / Jn 1:35-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

As we gather on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the readings invite us to contemplate the significance of responding to God’s call and recognizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. The scriptures today beckon us to explore the depths of our own hearts considering how we, like the disciples of old, respond when God calls us. How often do we pause in the midst of our busy lives to discern God’s voice, to recognize His call amidst the noise of the world?

In the first reading Samuel hears the voice of God calling him in the night. Initially he mistakes the call for that of Eli, his mentor and priest. However, as he discerns the voice, Samuel realizes it is the Lord reaching out to him.

Just like in our lives, too, God’s call may sometimes be subtle, easily mistaken for the familiar voices around us. Samuel’s response echoes the sentiment of recognizing and responding to God’s call. Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.

The psalmist declares the simple, yet profound statement that encapsulates the essence of discipleship; a readiness to align our will with God’s will, a willingness to respond to His call with a resounding “yes.” It challenges us to examine our own hearts and ask if we are truly open to doing the will of God even when it diverges from our plans and desires in life.

In the gospel reading, we encountered the scene of Jesus being identified as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist. Two disciples, upon hearing this proclamation, decide to follow Jesus. When Jesus turns and asks them, “What are you looking for?” it prompts us to reflect on our own motivations for seeking Him. Are we following Jesus merely for personal gain, or are we sincerely seeking the transformative encounter that comes with recognizing him as the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sins of the world?

We are presented with a powerful narrative that invites us to reflect on the transformative nature of encountering Jesus and responding to His invitation. This passage unfolds with the testimony of John the Baptist, as he points out Jesus to his disciples, setting in motion a series of events that revealed the depth of discipleship.

“Rabbi where are you staying?” they asked Jesus. It’s a simple yet profound inquiry. In their question lies the recognition that Jesus is more than just a passing figure. He’s someone worth knowing intimately, understanding where He abides and by extension, where He invites them to dwell.

Jesus responds with an invitation that reverberates through the ages, “Come and you will see.” These words encapsulate the essence of discipleship. An invitation to experience, to witness, to dwell in the presence of the One who is the source of life and love. It is an invitation not just to observe from a distance, but to engage personally and intimately with the teacher.

The disciples accept the invitation, and what follows is a transformative encounter. They spend time with Jesus, learning from Him, experiencing His presence, and allowing their lives to be shaped by His teachings. One of the disciples, Andrew, is so moved by this encounter that he seeks out his brother Simon and declares, “We have found the Messiah!” It is a powerful passage.

We find an invitation echoed throughout the ages. Jesus is calling each of us to come and see, to experience His transformative presence. It prompts us to ask ourselves, have we, like the disciples, responded to the call to seek Jesus, to dwell in His presence, and to witness the depth of His teachings?

Moreover, the passage challenges us to be like Andrew, sharing the good news of our encounter with Jesus with others. In our daily lives, are we actively inviting those around us to come and see, to experience the life-changing presence of the Messiah?

Jesus calls us to the primary vocation of being servants and disciples of Christ in our daily lives and work. We achieve this by staying very close to Jesus in prayer, in scripture reflection, in reading about the teachings of Christ, in worshipping regularly, in union with the Christian community, and learning from the teachings of the Church. Christ must live in and with us as we with Him. It is a deep and wonderful connection that we are invited into. Each one of us today is called by Jesus and our response like Samuel’s is, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

Just as Jesus received opposition, misunderstanding, and rejection, so too, can we expect this for Christ’s Church, but we keep persisting in this life-giving message. Inspired by today’s second reading, we recognize that Christ and His Church have a rather powerful and different view of the human person and the human body than do some sectors of the world.

Saint Paul sums up this gospel understanding, “You know surely that your bodies are members making up the body of Christ. Anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, since you received Him from God. You are not your own property. You’ve been bought and paid for by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.”

At its essence, this is extremely positive and encouraging teaching. To put ourselves — mind, body and spirit — at the service of God and God’s vision, our lives are to be lived with intention, not so much rights, but responsibilities.

As we continue our Mass today, let us open our hearts to the invitation of Jesus. Let us respond with a sincere desire to dwell in His presence, to learn from Him, and to share the transformative power of encountering the Lamb of God with those around us. May this passage inspire us to be not just followers at a distance, but active participants in the journey of discipleship guided by the teachings of our Rabbi Jesus Christ. In the ordinary moments of our lives, may we find the extraordinary grace to recognize and respond to God’s call. Let us embrace the invitation to follow Jesus, the Lamb of God, with sincerity and openness, trusting that in doing so, we will discover the abundant life He promises to those who respond with faith and love. May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Charity Does Not Sin

November 26, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Advent, Charity, Christmas, Deacon Mark, Eternal Life, Love, Service

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 / Ps 23 / 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 / Mt 25:31-46
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon

Here, on the doorstep of the season of Advent, we pause and meditate on the solemnity of “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” He has absolute sovereignty over all creation, for He created it.  And yet, in four weeks we enter the mystery of His becoming man, born in a stable, no crib for a bed, His dad a blue-collar worker and His mom a teenage girl.  From now until Christmas, we walk from today’s discomfort at the foot of His judgment seat to the joy and peace of His manger in Bethlehem. These are the poles of our spiritual journey and the religious road between them is called Advent.

I encourage you to make a resolution for Advent that will be your gift for Jesus at Christmas. Consider making a different holy resolution each day or week of Advent.  One I recommend is to find a quiet time to listen to St. Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on YouTube and ponder it in prayer. Hearing the voice of a great saint is a precious gift.

I listened to her speech early one morning, and it cast a familiar Bible verse in a different light for me. In morning prayer that day, I read this beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).”  I always interpreted this as meaning something along the lines of, “If you live a holy life with Jesus, you will go to heaven and see God.” In her speech Mother Teresa shared stories of the poor in an intimate and tender way, and as I listened, that beatitude led me from the foot of Jesus’ judgment seat to the side of His manger. You might say I had an epiphany.

We will come back to Mother Teresa’s speech in a bit, but now let’s meditate on the scriptures.  Just as there is a dichotomy between Christ King of the Universe and Christ in a manger, there is one between the Old Testament readings where Jesus is a good shepherd and the last two where He is a king and judge (Kreeft 778).  How are they connected? As our shepherd, He leads us in how to live for the day we will be judged.

In Ezekiel 34, God says, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep…I will seek the lost, bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak (Ez 34:16).” Jesus is judge, but He does not sit back and wait for us to succeed or to fail, relishing the day He will judge us. On the contrary, in Psalm 23 He says He will “lead [us] in paths of righteousness (3).”  Why? In the verse before that He says He desires to “lead [us] beside still waters, [to] restore [our] soul (Ps 23:2).” One could say that He leads us in how to do good things that restore our soul for our day of judgment, but how is that related to still waters?

Ever look at a pond or lake in the stillness of the early morning, when the water is perfectly flat? It acts as a mirror, reflecting the trees and the sky, and somehow that reflection is more beautiful to us than if we simply looked directly at the trees and sky. So it is when He “restores our soul.” When we take up our cross and follow Him, loving our neighbor, we are at peace, and He restores our soul. It is then that our restored soul becomes like still waters, reflecting Jesus’ love. Others can read about His love directly, but it is more impactful when they see it reflected in us.

Leaving the comfort of the first reading and psalm, we move to the discomfort of the second reading: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power…until He has put all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:24-25).”  Who is under His feet?  His enemies, yes, but in today’s gospel we are; everyone is.

In the gospel He is sitting up high on His throne which is also the judgment seat (Mt 25:31-32).  He moves one hand and many are moved to His left. He moves His other hand and some are moved to His right (Mt 15:33).  Those on the right to eternal life in the kingdom prepared for them and those on the left to eternal punishment (Mt 15:34, 46).

How will He judge us? If there is a judge, then there must be a law to judge by. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment; love one another (Jn 13:34).”  May God have mercy on those who say we do not need works to get into heaven and then cherry pick verses, out of context, to support their wishful thinking. St. Paul called Jesus’ new commandment a law writing “…love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom 13:8).” Jesus gives us the consequences of breaking that law. In Matthew 7 He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (21-23).”

Those words made some uncomfortable, so they tried to negotiate with the King of the Universe. Here is how that went. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name? Did we not drive out demons in Your name? Did we not do mighty deeds (miracles) in Your name?” Jesus responded, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers (Mt 7:22-23).”  Prophecies, exorcisms, and miracles are all good things, and God allows even sinners to perform them, for they are good for His people. But if one does those things without love for their neighbor, then doing those things does not fulfill the law.

That leads us to today’s gospel, which is the conclusion of several Sundays of warnings from Jesus about the end of time. The last two weeks we heard about the virgins running out oil for their lamps and being locked out of the wedding banquet. And about the servant who did not give his master a return on his talents and so was cast out into darkness weeping (Mt 25:1-30).  Jesus saved the most disturbing warning for last. Disturbing, because He spells it out for us today. He clarifies what the symbolism was for the oil in the virgins’ lamps and the servants’ talents.  He points out those ever so serious sins that lie hidden in our conscience like a copperhead snake amidst some leaves.

The sins I speak of lead us to another good Advent resolution.  Examine our conscience for sins of omission, those acts of love we failed to do. Jesus gives us an examination of conscience in today’s gospel. “When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you (Mt 25:38-39)?”  And the King of the Universe replied, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (40).”

A good examination of conscience is free of excuses. Excuses did not work well for the miracle workers who were without love. Here are some questions you can turn into Advent resolutions. Have I introduced myself to a new parishioner or to a new neighbor and welcomed them? Have I gathered up the extra coats, shoes, and clothes in my home and given them away?  Have I helped feed the hungry? Is prison ministry on my heart, and if so, how can I act on it?  Could you bring your children or a friend to visit a nursing home?  Is there someone who is sick that you can go and pray with or help with their chores that are going undone?

If you are still feeling comfortable because judgment day sounds so far off, then listen to these somber words from the Church.

“The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in His second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul—a destiny which can be different for some and for others (CCC 1021).”

“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ [King of the Universe]: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation (CCC 1022).”

So when will you die? I have been surprised at how many of my high school classmates I have outlived. They were so much healthier than me. Our particular judgment can come at any time. In the first verse of the gospel next week, Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come (Mk 13:33).”

Now we are in the proper frame of mind to turn to Mother Teresa for guidance and hope. In her Nobel prize acceptance speech, her stories of seeing extraordinary goodness in the poor shed new light on Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”  What does “pure of heart” mean? St. Angela Merci kept the answer simple, “Charity does not sin.”  When, with love, I welcome the stranger and visit the sick, my heart is pure in that moment. It is free of sin.

My epiphany while listening to Mother Teresa’s stories of the poor was that, when I am lovingly caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, I am pure of heart and I…see…God.  I see the person, but in them the King of the Universe is looking back at me.  And in that sacred moment, I travel the Advent road from Jesus’ judgment seat in heaven to the manger in Bethlehem where our King joins us in all our suffering.

Have mercy on us, oh King of the Universe, and send us Your Spirit to lead us from the fear of Your judgment seat to the hope of Your manger. Amen.

 

CITATIONS

Kreeft, Peter. “Food for the Soul; Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle A.” Word on Fire 2022.

Mother Teresa. Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. YouTube.

Catholic Church. “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” 2nd ed., Our Sunday Visitor, 2000.

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Serve God With Your Gifts

November 19, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Blessings, Eternal Life, Faith, Father Nixon, Life, Mission, Service

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 19, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / Ps 128 / 1 Thes 5:1-6 / Mt 25:14-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There was a story of a Chinese boy who came from a very poor family in Hong Kong and never dreamed that he would go far. His parents left him behind to do some housekeeping and construction in Australia. Gifted with talents and skills for doing stunts and acrobatics, he developed and cashed in on this until he rose to become a famous movie actor, multimillionaire, and Asian superstar, that is Jackie Chan.

Brothers and sisters, we are given different talents by the Lord. For example, some of us are good at singing, dancing, and talking. Some are good at the arts, mathematics, sciences, and others. And sometimes our talents are very unique. All of us have talent. We cannot say, “I don’t have talent. I don’t know how to sing. I don’t know how to dance,” and so on and so forth.

The Church continues to reflect about the end of the world and the end of our lives. Last Sunday we were asked to reflect on the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, and we were taught to be ready to meet the Lord. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, which opens the last week of the liturgical year of the Church. Today’s gospel points out through the parable of the talents the difference between being ready and being unready when the Lord returns to settle accounts with us.

Jesus gives us a parable that the Kingdom of God is like a man traveling to a faraway land and calling his three servants to take care of some of his possessions. One servant has great ability, and so he gives this servant five talents. The second has average ability and he is given two talents, while the third has little ability because he was just given one talent. The first two servants immediately made their talents work and doubled the number of talents the master gave them, but the servant who received only one talent buried it because of the fear that he may lose it.

When the master returned, the first two servants who made their talents work reported what they did with the money, and the master was very happy with them, and he gave what the two servants earned to them. But when the last servant told him that he was afraid to lose the money and buried it, the master became angry. He gave the one talent to the servant who earned ten talents.

Brothers and sisters, most of us think of a talent as some kind of special ability, gift, or skill. In Jesus’ time a talent was a measure of money. We can understand the talents in today’s gospel as symbols of any of the gifts God has given to us, especially our faith, and we use these gifts to build His Kingdom.

Everyone has received something from God. Life itself is a talent. Time is a talent. Treasure is a talent. They are all talents we have to invest. Knowing that Jesus was describing servants being given huge amount of cash to invest helps us to understand just how generous the master was being and the opportunity each servant was given. The greatest gift God has given to us is the gift of Himself. The talents represent more than just the monetary resources God gives us.

Remember, this is a parable and all of Jesus’ parables are about a bit more than they seem. This parable is paired with the parable of the ten virgins who made the mistake of not having enough oil when the bridegroom arrives. It is also preceded by a story about a servant not using his position well while the master is away. All three stories are about being given something which must be used well and the consequences of neglecting or abusing it. In short, the talents represent what God has given us; our monetary resources, our callings to positions within the Church that can be found in Ephesians 4:11-16, our natural gifts. Each of these things and many others are given by God to use in ways that glorify Him and draw others toward Him.

There is a famous saying in the movie Chariots of Fire, where future Olympian Eric Liddell feels a tension between his chance to be an Olympic runner and his calling be a missionary in China. Eventually he tells his sister he will go to the Olympics and then to the mission field because both honor God. “God made me for a purpose, for China,” Liddell says, “but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give that up would be to hold Him in contempt.” In the end all talents are given by God to glorify Him.

The Bible makes it clear, there is no sacred versus secular world in the way we often think. Yes, there are official positions for certain church tasks; preaching, evangelizing, teaching, etc., and Christians should not be molded by worldly standards. However, all creation was made very good, and we must do all things to God’s glory. So, whatever we are doing, provided it is not a sinful activity, we serve God well by doing it well. As Dorothy Sayers put it in her essay, Why You Work: “If we follow God properly, all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage farming.”

The Bible makes it clear that we don’t really own our gifts. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God according to plans He laid out before we were born to glorify Him forever. The fact that the master owns the money he gave the servants, and he gets the results of their investments highlights who is in control.

We naturally want to believe we can use our gifts as we please. If we grew up in cultures where the individual is primary, we also tend to think we can live as we please. However, if we all want to be little gods of our own lives, serving ourselves, we miss our true place in life. We find our true joy and place in life when we serve God with our gifts. Jesus uses the parable of the talents to help us understand our calling as Christians and our responsibility to use what God has given us to bring Him glory and honor.

We have the most valuable gift of all, the Word of God and the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. This gift is for us to share with others through our words and actions. It is a great responsibility with great reward, as described in the parable of the talents. The parable of the talents should encourage us and challenge us to take what God has given us and invest in the Kingdom of God. There is a great reward waiting for those who steward well with what the Lord has given them. May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Servant Leaders

November 5, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Father Nixon, Generosity, Humility, Mission, Service

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10 / Ps 131 / 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13 / Mt 23:1-12
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

One of the criticisms directed at Catholics by our Protestant fundamentalist brethren, especially the born-again Christian groups, is about the address we give to the Pope as “Holy Father” and also to all priests as “Father.”  They say that this is against the teaching of Christ in the Bible.  They cite today’s gospel reading, especially verse nine that says, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.”

If we follow this kind of interpretation, it is an absurd one.  If taken literally, the word would forbid us to call our natural father, “father.”  How would a father feel if his children did not address him as Father, Dad, Papa, or Daddy?  Instead, his children would be forced to use his given name.  Would he agree to this?  Surely not.  He may even scold or get angry with them.  Along these same lines, how are we to address our schoolteachers if there is only one teacher?

What Christ wants to teach us is that our concern should not be for honors, worldly dignity, and a craving for first places in gatherings.  If we extend our helping hands to others in need, we should not be proud that it is coming from us, but rather, we should announce that it is coming from God.  We are just doing our job and should not expect any return.

In today’s gospel, Jesus affirms the Pharisees and scribes as legitimate leaders of people following Moses.  He tells His disciples to obey and respect them, but not to follow their example.  What they say is true, so follow them, but in practice, they are misusing their authority for the sake of their selfish advantage, so do not imitate their example.

Why does Jesus forbid His disciples to use the titles of “father” and “teacher”? Even Saint Paul referred to himself as the Father of the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 4:15. Is it because this can be abused and misused?  It is in the abuse sense that these titles are forbidden from being used.  Many use their titles, positions in organizations and government, and honors, to threaten, look down on, exploit, deprive, and oppress other people.

The message of today’s gospel is a clear warning to all who hold office and authority in God’s Church, whether as priests, bishops, or superiors.  This gospel also applies to all of us.  One such example is when parents use their authority as parents to justify what they are doing instead of listening to their child’s pleas.  For our government officials, corporate leaders, and to anyone that holds authority, many people say that authority is bad.  They say that power corrupts.  Every day we hear stories in the media about scandals among politicians, corporate heads, even in the Church, and among others who hold positions of authority.

Authority, however, is good because it comes from God.  God entrusts a share of His authority to men and women.  It is the abuse of authority that makes it a bad thing.  Just like money.  Money is good and is not the root of evil.  It becomes the root of evil when we begin to love it and make money our god.  Authority is entrusted to us by God, not to dominate and exploit others, but for service.  Leadership is service and should be by example.  It is service that matters.  If we want to become great human beings and outstanding Christians, then we must serve the rest.

Our service might take the form of meeting material and physical needs like washing or cooking meals for the family.  These are small things and often taken for granted, but in the eyes of God, the greatest performance we ever have.  Our service might take the form of caring for the emotional and psychological needs of others, like offering companionship and friendship when they are down, speaking words of hope and encouragement, showing acceptance and giving recognition.  Servanthood is not about position or skill.  It is about attitude.

We have undoubtedly met persons in service positions, like people in government organizations, church, and others, who have poor attitudes toward servanthood.  Just as we can sense when a worker doesn’t want to help people, we can just as easily detect when a leader has a servant’s heart.  The truth is that the best leaders desire to serve others, not themselves.

John C. Maxwell, in his book Leadership Promises for Every Day said, “The true servant leaders put others ahead of their own agenda, possess the confidence to serve, initiate service to others, are not position-conscious, and serve out of love.”  The call to leadership through service is not only addressed to clergy and to those who hold apostolic office in the Church and to those who hold positions.  All Christians are called to show leadership through service.

Those baptized people who do not seek to serve God and their fellow human beings cannot be Christians.  Each one of us has the responsibility to show the authenticity of the Christian message through our love and service.  For example, the best husband is the one who meets the needs of his wife most generously.  The good boss is the first one to do what he expects from his subordinates.  The concerned school principal who reports to school early, joins the teachers in being punctual for their duties.  The dedicated head of the office that attends to his tasks, inspires the other employees to work efficiently and effectively.  Thus the greatest among us must be the first to serve.

Even the Pope is reminded of this by his title, “Servant of Servants.”  If we know some Christian leaders who are as hypocritical as the scribes and Pharisees described in today’s gospel, the challenge for us would be to try to make a distinction between what they teach (which may be sound) and how they live (which may not be worthy of emulation.)  Those who distance themselves from the Church because they heard or saw unbecoming behavior of a Church leader may indeed be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  We must not do this.  Abuse of an office does not nullify the validity of the office itself.

The gospel ends up with a call of evangelical humility which is recognition that in the eyes of God, everyone is equal.  It is the recognition that those who evangelize or minister to others, are not below us, but are in fact equal to us in the eyes of God.  With this humility, preaching becomes not talking down to the people, but sharing with them our common struggle to understand and live God’s word.

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God, Neighbor, Self

October 29, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Generosity, Guest Celebrants, Love, Mission, Service

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 22:20-26 / Ps 18 / 1 Thes 1:5c-10 / Mt 22:34-40
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant

We have this great commandment to love from Jesus.  At first it seems that there’s two commandments here, but in reality, there are three.  The second one has two parts. The first says to love the Lord with your whole heart and soul, and the second says to love your neighbor as yourself.  So, there’s the commandment to love the neighbor but also a commandment to love yourself.

These three commandments are very much interdependent with one another.   They’re like a tripod.  A tripod has three legs; if you remove one of the legs then the other two fall.   That’s the way it is with these commandments; they are interdependent.  They’re all intertwined with one another.

Think about the commandment for loving yourself, having a healthy self-love: Why shouldn’t you?   God created you in love, and you were conceived in love.   A healthy self-love is very important, because if you don’t have a healthy self-love, and you’re looking down on yourself, how can you really have a good relationship with other people?   If you don’t love others, you can’t very well love God.  Saint John, in his first letter, asks, how can say you love the God you can’t see if you don’t love the neighbor you can see?   And of course, if we don’t love others, we probably have a dim image of ourselves without the proper image of love of God.

Those are very important and of course, the love of God is all encompassing.   In the love of God there is a commandment to love God and all of God’s creation and all of God’s people. That’s important, because if we don’t have that overarching love of God, then our love of ourselves and our neighbors is too exclusive.  It’s not broad enough if we don’t have that love of God.

Seeing God reflected in all of creation, in all people, leaving none of them out, and realizing also that the love is not always easy.  It’s not always easy to love your neighbor – some of them aren’t very lovable, let’s be honest.  Of course, there are things to get in the way, like grudges that last for generations. Yes, it’s not always easy to love our neighbors, but it is our call to do that.   The overarching love of all creation calls us to love everyone and everybody – we don’t leave anyone or any groups of people out.

For love to be love it has to be active.  When there’s no activity, there is no love, and so our love has to be very active and involved.  If we don’t take time to treasure love ourselves, then everything’s going to falter.  Loving others meets an active love, going out of our way to love them.

Who’s the neighbor?  The neighbor is anyone God puts in your path.  That’s the neighbor, whether it’s your immediate family, your extended family, your workplace, your neighborhood, your church, people you meet in the street, anyone God puts in your path is your neighbor.  The thing is that God makes the choice – we don’t always have a choice about who our neighbor is.  We probably wish we did, but that’s whoever God manages to put in our path.  Sometimes that can be very difficult if you’ve got other agendas going and this person steps into your life and is demanding your attention right now, it’s not always easy.   But it’s a call to love your neighbor as yourself, whoever that neighbor may be.

Then this is really big today – loving God and all of God’s creation and all of God’s people.  We cannot exclude any groups of people, and there’s too much of that in the world today, and too much of that in our history.  We’ve excluded the Blacks and the Native Americans.  In the love of all creation, we’re not doing too good a job of loving all creation. We are destroying creation, and this is important as to whether or not we’re going to live, and not just for us but for the generations that come after us.

Loving God and all people and all creation – the Church is really calling us to this.  Eight years ago, Pope Francis put out an encyclical on the environment, calling us to honesty and calling us to respect the environment as God’s precious creation.  And in the last couple months he added an addendum to that where he’s bringing the process even further along.  I’d like to say this is important; this is whether or not we’re going to survive.

Love God with your whole heart and soul, and see God reflected in all people and in all creation.  That’s a pretty serious obligation.  One thing that I thought of being connected with this was an American Indian way of ending a prayer.  We say “amen,” but many of them say “all my relations.”  That doesn’t mean all their relatives; it means a relationship with all people and all creation –  all my relations.  And the significance of that is that if you’re not in all creation, there’s something dishonest about your prayer.   That’s pretty profound; that you can’t pray worthily unless you’re a in a relationship with all people and all creation. All my relations – could we honestly say that at the end of a prayer instead of amen?

 

 

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Soldiers of Christ

May 7, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Guest Celebrants, Holy Spirit, Pentecost, Service, Strength, Vocations

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7 / Ps 33 / 1 Pt 2:4-9 / Jn 14:1-12
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant

“Amen, amen, I say to you.” Why do we hear this repetitiveness? It’s kind of Jewish prose, if you will. A way of speaking, a way of writing even.

As a youngster, attending Holy Mass when it was celebrated in Latin. Maybe I was only in fourth grade or so. I was captivated by some of the repetitions that I would hear. When the priest would read the gospel, it would be read in Latin, and then it would be read in English. And the priest would say, “Amen, amen, dico vobis.” So when I came home from Mass, I would say to Dad, “Amen, amen, dico vobis.” It was such a familiar thing to me, I actually knew what I was saying, because he gave it to us in English too. But that sort of rhythm was something that captivated me. It was also part of the Hebrew heritage of the repetitiveness, for calling attention: “Amen, amen I say to you.”

The other thing I want to call your attention to is the fact that we have in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles the naming and the calling of the first deacons. They chose seven men filled with the Holy Spirit. The first deacons: Stephen, filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Timon, Parmenas, Nicanor, Nicholas of Antioch, a convert. They presented these men to the apostles.

We’re anticipating, coming in just a few weeks, the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. And I’m wondering when’s the first time that I ever thought seriously about the Holy Spirit. It was when I was to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. You’re going to receive the Holy Spirit when the bishop comes in. He’ll be wearing that tall hat called a mitre, and he will walk down the aisle and then he will face you. You will come forward, and he will anoint you and put hands on your head and confirm you in the Faith. And you will be Soldiers of Christ. It meant you had the courage and the strength to defend your faith in Jesus Christ.

Now what about those men selected to be deacons? What is this role of deacon about? They don’t collect any salary. What they do is serve in their parishes. There you have a little summary of the diaconate, much of which you may have already known.

I’m going to turn now to the gospel. It’s the Last Supper, and the apostle John is remembering all this. Jesus is talking to the apostles, if you remember. They ask Him, “Where are You going?” And He has to explain. Jesus knows that He’s about to die. He also knows that He will be spending the night in agony in the garden. So He’s trying to explain to His apostles at the Last Supper how they must have strength and must have courage.

Soon we will have the feast of Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit comes down upon the apostles. Not only the apostles, but others too, including the Blessed Virgin Mary. But He knows that they need to have strength. He will be arrested. And the next day He will be on trial. They’re going to see some terrible things happening to their leader, and they’ll remember His healings, His raising of the dead, Lazarus and others, and His driving the devil out and of those who were possessed by the devil.

On that night, He also gives His commandment to love one another. As Jesus washed the feet of His apostles what did Peter say? Oh, you’re not going to wash my feet. And Jesus answered, Peter, if you don’t let me wash your feet how can you enter into the Kingdom with me then? What else did Peter say? Wash my head. Wash me all over, if that’s what it takes.

So why did Jesus wash the apostles’ feet? Because the washing of feet was done in a household by the lowest slave. And Jesus Himself takes that role of a lowest servant in a household and puts on an apron and washes the feet of His disciples. By doing so, He reminds them that that’s what they need to be doing.

The path to death does not end with death. And that is what we can recall too. Whenever illness, great illness affects us or loved ones in this life we have this great confidence and hope in life eternal. God bless us all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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The Smart Manager

September 18, 2022 |by N W | 0 Comments | Eternal Life, Father Nixon, Mission, Service, Wisdom

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7 / Ps 113 / 1 Tm 2:1-8 / Lk 16:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There is a story about an angel who appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that he had come to reward him for his years of devoted service.  The dean is asked to choose one of three blessings:  infinite wealth, infinite fame, or infinite wisdom.  Without hesitation, the dean asked for infinite wisdom.  “You’ve got it,” the angel said and disappeared.  All heads turned toward the dean, who sat glowing in the aura of infinite wisdom.  Finally, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something.”  The dean looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”

Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd, as we see in today’s gospel parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself.  One can be smart and use one’s smartness to do mean things.  We know for a fact that many con artists and terrorists are smart people who use their smartness to create unhappiness in the world.

Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions.  Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service.  We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty.

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.   Why did the master, who had made up his mind to fire the manager, now commend him?  Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine, and lifeless manner, devoid of creativity and imagination.  As a result, the business was failing, so the master decided it was time to fire him.  He said, “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”

The manager is facing the real danger of being dismissed from service.  He knows the seriousness of the situation.  He knows exactly how helpless he is.  That is why he says to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.  (Luke 16:3) He is in a very difficult and precarious situation.  He scratches his head and comes up with this ingenious plan to safeguard his future.  The master praises him, because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business, he would have been a much more successful manager rather than a failure.

The parable challenges all of us to be smart managers.  Yes, we are all called to be managers.  God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers.   Jesus Christ, in addition, entrusts the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our hands as His managers.  World peace and harmony and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually.  Jesus calls it the Kingdom of God.

Our business as followers of Christ, ordained and unordained believers, is to help bring about the Kingdom of God, starting with our own selves.  We have all been given the necessary resources to do this.  We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, and we have been given time.  Sooner or later, we shall be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources.

There is a story about a very rich woman who died and went to heaven.  Saint Peter escorted her down a magnificent street on which each house was beautifully made like a palace.  The wealthy woman saw one house that was particularly beautiful and asked who lived there.  “That,” Saint Peter answered, “is the home of your servant.”  “Well,” the woman said, smiling, “If my servant gets a house like that, I certainly look forward to seeing a palatial home for myself.”  Soon they came to a narrow alley where the houses were small and cramped.  “You will live in that house,” said Saint Peter, pointing with his finger.  “Me? Live in a shanty?  That’s an insult,” retorted the wealthy woman.  “This is the best we can do for you,” Peter said.  “You must understand that we only build your home up here with the materials you send ahead while you are still on earth.”

The Church reminds us today that it is now the time to send materials ahead of us in the afterlife, in order to build our homes in heaven.  These materials are not construction materials that we can buy in a construction supply company.  These materials are not just prayers and acts of charity but doing the day-to-day ordinary work in an extraordinary way.  It means consciously performing your duties well, whether you are a lawyer, a government official, a teacher, a student, a policeman, or an ordinary citizen.

We don’t have to wait, like the dishonest servant, for the last-minute display of smartness to fix our eternal concerns.  The time to be smart is now.  The smart manager used what he could not give to get what he needed so badly: friendship with his business associates. We should likewise invest all of our temporal and spiritual resources to gain the only thing that matters in the end:  the Kingdom of God.

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The Humble Shall Be Exalted

August 28, 2022 |by N W | 0 Comments | Deacon Mark, Humility, Mary, Sacraments, Service |

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 28, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 / Ps 68 / Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a / Lk 14:1, 7-14
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon

This week, Jesus emphasizes the virtue of humility and next week, detachment. The world sees these two virtues very differently than Christians do. Humility is seen as weakness, and detachment is seen as a lack of drive. For Christians, however, these two virtues are powerful. They help us shrink our ego and fleshly desires so that we can fit through the “narrow gate” Jesus spoke of last Sunday when answering the question about how many will be saved. When our ego and fleshly desires shrink, then our souls can grow.

What is humility? The Christian definition is knowing who you are, and who God is, and not confusing the two. A good role model of humility will help us understand it, especially someone from everyday life. Around 2009, there was an unassuming, elderly usher named Jack at Holy Name of Mary parish. He would greet everyone with a smile while opening the door to the nave for them. Come to find out, he lived alone in my neighborhood. One Christmas I learned that he, a widower, was going to be alone over the holiday, so my wife and I invited him to our home for Christmas dinner.

That night he absolutely glowed while telling us how amazing his wife was, and how successful his children and grandchildren were. He also listened intently to and took joy in hearing our family’s stories. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned that he was a great man, a Top Gun-type fighter pilot, highly decorated across two wars. He earned a graduate degree from MIT and is recognized as one of the fathers of the GPS. May God exalt you, Jack, for teaching us about humility.

Now let’s look at humility in the scriptures. In today’s first reading from Sirach, a book of wisdom, we hear, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Jesus fulfilled these words perfectly. St. Paul best articulated this truth when he wrote that Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of man, and obediently accepting even death on the Cross (Phil 2: 6-11). Humility has power. Jesus’ humility is infinitely powerful, and it paid our infinite debt so that we can be with Him in Heaven.

Peter Kreeft had a good take on the second reading from Hebrews, where he contrasts two mountains associated with God’s old law and old covenant and the new law and the new covenant. These are Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. In the reading from Hebrews, it talks about approaching Mount Zion, where the heavenly Jerusalem is. This heavenly Jerusalem is seen by John in the book of Revelation, descending from heaven. It was a vision of the Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ. In the Old Testament, if the Jews touched Mount Sinai, which was enveloped by thunder and lightning while God spoke with Moses, they would die. They trembled and stayed back. In contrast, when we approach Mount Zion and the new Jerusalem, the Church…we live (Kreeft 551).

God, in the greatest act of humility that can ever be, came down in Christ Jesus that we could touch Him…as we do at Holy Communion. Humility enables us to learn from the Jews at Mount Sinai and remember Jesus is God when we approach Him. This keeps us from losing our sense of humble awe in Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and His presence in others, especially the baptized.

You might say that the messages in Sirach and Hebrews set the table for today’s gospel. Jesus is dining at the home of a “leading Pharisee.”  To put it in perspective, imagine you are at a gala dinner hosted by a famous or powerful person. It’s not hard to imagine people trying to impress the host, jockeying for a prominent place to sit. At the Pharisee’s dinner, Jesus tells a parable that seems to be teaching these social climbers how to fake humility that they may “enjoy the esteem of their companions.” We know Jesus would not do that. So what was He doing?

What Jesus did is a powerful lesson in humility for us, especially how it helps us draw others closer to God. Peter Kreeft says that Jesus was meeting the Pharisee where he was spiritually (Kreeft 552).  St. Paul in Romans 15 describes how to do this. “We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak…Each should please his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit (Rom 15: 1-2).”  St. Monica, whose life is celebrated today, helped save her son, St Augustine, whose feast day is tomorrow, by being patient with his “weak faith and scruples” (an understatement), and praying for him until he discovered friendship with Jesus.

In doing so, St. Monica, like any devoted mom, emulated Jesus who “came not to condemn us, but that we might have everlasting life (Jn 3:16-17).” He came down to the Pharisee’s level to show him the path to a higher level, that he might be saved. We know this, because Jesus then shared that path with the Pharisee, saying, “…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  The path to heaven that Jesus was showing the Pharisee was the path of humility lived out in service and love.

The Catechism says, “the baptized person should train himself to live in humility (CCC 2540).” Why? Because the deadliest sin is pride, and humility cures us of it. Along those lines, St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” How do we train ourselves in the virtue of humility?

In Romans 12, St. Paul describes a way that aligns well with Jesus’ message in today’s gospel. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep….do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly (Rom 12:15-16)”.  By doing these things, we not only combat pride but also its close cousin, the deadly sin of envy.  I encourage you to read and reflect upon all of Romans 12 this week; it is filled with guidance on living life with genuine humility. Then pick one go-do from it and use it to train on living in humility.

Here are three more ways, from the Catechism, to train in humility so that our ego will fit through the narrow gate: pray, confess, and adore. Humility is the foundation of prayer.  Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to freely accept the gift of prayer (CCC 2559). And when we confess our sins in prayer and in the Sacrament of Confession, we show “trusting humility.” The humility of confession is a “prerequisite for the Eucharistic liturgy (CCC 2631)”.  In Adoration we acknowledge that we are a creature while adoring our Creator. In Adoration, humility is blended with love (CCC 2628).

By the way, Jesus waits for you in Confession each Wednesday evening at HNM starting at 5:30 and each Thursday after the 11 AM Mass at Resurrection. For you teens and twenty-somethings who like all-nighters with a friend, sign up for an hour with your best friend, Jesus, late at night next time all-night Adoration comes around.  By doing so, you not only benefit yourself, but you help ensure others can benefit from Adoration by filling those difficult-to-fill slots so that it is not canceled.

Here are some closing thoughts. Humility is a gift that frees us from ego and pride. We must be free if we are to love God and others, for love only exist as an act of our free will. St. Mother Teresa said it this way, “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted, and ardent.” Jesus was infinitely humble, real, devoted, and ardent on the Cross. He had a humble dad who did without question whatever God asked of him. He had a Mother who humbled herself and, just as Jesus said in the gospel, He exalted her. Thus, she wears a crown of humility as the “handmaid of the Lord” and a crown of queenship as the Mother of Christ the King (Lk 1:38; Rev 12:1).”

Mother Mary, our Queen, ask your Son to help us train ourselves in humility this week that we may ardently love Him and others and enter His Kingdom through the narrow gate. Amen.

Further Reading:

  1. Food for the Soul by Peter Kreeft. A book of reflections on the Mass readings for Cycle C, which primarily uses Luke’s gospel. Dr. Kreeft is knowledgeable, funny, and on fire for Jesus.
  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, online and in book form. It covers the Creed, the Sacraments, Life in Christ, and Prayer. Do a word search on humility or look it up in the index.
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Preparedness

August 7, 2022 |by N W | 0 Comments | Eternal Life, Father Nixon, Mission, Repentance, Service, Trust |

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Wis 18:6-9 / Ps 33 / Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 / Lk 12:32-48
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

One day in 1780, the state of Connecticut was enveloped by a mysterious darkness. The same thought came to all: The Last Day had arrived. In the House of Representatives, members were heard asking for an adjournment, so that they could go home and wait for the Lord’s coming together with their families. The chairman, Abraham Davenport, made a short speech. “Either it is the day of judgment or not. If not, there is no need for adjournment. If it were the day of judgment, I would rather be found doing my duty. I wish candles to be brought.”

Brothers and sisters, the parable of today’s gospel focuses on the unpredictable return of Jesus and our need to be prepared for His return. He is saying to us, Ready or not, here I come.

Normally, when we think of being ready, we usually think of being prepared for the worst that could happen. Locks on the doors in case of thieves. Life jackets in the event of a boat accident.

Isn’t it interesting that most of us believe in preparation for many uncertainties, but not for the most important event of our lives? We carry a spare tire in our car as a preparation for a flat tire. We have insurance in preparation for our death. Fire truck in preparation for a fire. Airline stewards provide pre-flight instruction in preparation for turbulent weather.  And we seek education in preparation for a good job.

Preparation, in our society, is a sign of wisdom. But think about this: Of all the preparations that we make for the things I just mentioned, not a single one is a certainty. Yet we feel compelled to prepare ourselves for them.

The return of Jesus is a certainty. We can never know precisely when He will return or when we will die, but His return is certain. We must constantly watch, being always faithful and ready, so that we may be found worthy to share in the heavenly banquet He has prepared for us.

The question of the parable is not whether or not Christ is coming again, or when He’s coming, or even how He’s coming. The point is being prepared for His coming and ready to receive Him whenever He comes, now or later.

When a family was vacationing in Europe, they found that they needed to drive three days continuously, day and night, to get to Germany. They all got into the car: Mom, Dad, and their three-year-old daughter. The little daughter had never traveled at night before. She was scared the first night in the car, seeing only the deep darkness outside the window.

“Where are we going, Daddy?”

“To your uncle’s house in Germany.”

“Have you been to his house before?”

“No.”

“Then do you know the way?”

“Maybe we can read the map.”

(Short pause.)

“Do you know how to read the map?”

“Yes, we will get there safely.”

(Another pause.)

“Where are we going to eat, if we get hungry before arriving?”

“We can stop at restaurants if we are hungry,” the Dad replied.

“Do you know if there are restaurants on the way?”

“Yes, there are.”

“Do you know where?”

“No, but we’ll be able to find some.”

The same dialog was repeated several times during the first night and also the second night, but on the third night, his daughter was quiet. The Dad thought that she might have fallen asleep, but when he looked into the mirror, he saw that she was awake and was just looking around calmly. He couldn’t help wondering why she was not asking questions anymore.

“Dear, do you know where we are going?”

“Germany, uncle’s home.”

“Do you know how we are getting there?”

“No.”

“Then why aren’t you asking anymore?”

“Because Daddy is driving.”

Because Daddy is driving. Yes, brothers and sisters, our Father is driving. We may not know the destination, and sometimes we may just know it as the child knew it – Germany — without understanding what or where it really is. In the road of life that we follow, there are many uncertainties and distractions. We do not know where the road will take us. We do not know when it will end. But one thing is certain: At the end of life’s journey, Our Lord will be there to meet us, to welcome us into the heavenly kingdom, if we have prepared ourselves.

Preparation cannot be a “sometime” thing but living each moment of our life for Jesus. If we can do that, we will be prepared to greet our Master whenever He comes.

How can one be prepared in this matter? If you can still remember when Jesus talks about the Last Judgment, He makes it clear that this preparation or preparedness would be measured by our readiness to serve the people we meet. He said, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do this unto me.” We have to complete the task entrusted to us every day and be at peace with, and at the service of, our neighbor now, to be ready for His Second Coming.

Another way is to be faithful to the life and mission of Jesus, as we await the end time, His Second Coming. Despite criticisms, rejection, pain, and suffering, let us remain faithful to the love of the Father, as Jesus did. Let us fulfill the mission entrusted to us, that is, to proclaim God’s reign to all.

God loves faithfulness and rewards those who are faithful to Him. What is faithfulness? It means keeping one’s word or promise, and commitment, no matter how tough or difficult it gets.  Faithfulness is a character trait of God and one that He expects of us.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Waiting on, Waiting for

July 17, 2022 |by N W | 0 Comments | Discipleship, Father Nixon, Generosity, Life, Prayer, Service

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 17, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 18:1-10a / Ps 15 / Col 1:24-28 / Lk 10:38-42
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There is a story about three prisoners on death row, who were asked for their last wish.  The first one wished for pizza.  It was given to him, and then he was executed.  The second one asked for a steak.  It was given to him, and then he was executed.  The third one asked for cherries.  When the guard told him that cherries were not yet in season, he replied, “Well, that’s all right, I can wait.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us about the value of waiting, and the ways of waiting.  Martha was the one waiting on the Lord, while Mary was the one who waited and listened at the Lord’s feet.  Martha was busy and anxious serving the Lord, while Mary was still and calm, listening to the Lord. And in the end, Jesus tells us that Mary has chosen the better part.  

There are a Martha and a Mary in each one of us.  In prayer, may we be given the wisdom to know who we really are and what we should be, as we follow and serve the Lord.  Mary sat beside the Lord at His feet, listening to Him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?” 

The gospel also introduces us to two women:  Martha, the perfect host, and Mary, the perfect disciple.  They are both eager to serve Jesus, but they go about it in different ways.  

Martha is the perfect host.  She prepares the house for Jesus and His disciples.  She cooks the food and serves everyone because she thinks they are tired and hungry.  She has no idea that Jesus comes, not to be served, but to serve. 

That is why Martha is so upset, so preoccupied with preparing nice food.  She becomes anxious and even snaps at Jesus for allowing Mary not to help her in the household chores.  But Jesus gently rebukes her.  “Martha, Martha, you fret and worry about so many things, but just one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen the best portion.”  Mary listens to Him, learns from Him, experiences His presence, and occupies a place that only men should have – sitting at the foot of her master – in order to learn and be taught. 

Actually, Brothers and Sisters, we also experience this.  When we invite someone to our house, after we greet them and welcome them, sometimes we leave them alone for some time while we continue to prepare their food.  For example, we may give them photo albums to look at, or give them magazines to read, or the remote control for them to watch television.  Like Jesus, our visitors didn’t come for a free meal; they came to be with friends.  They came to be with us. 

On the other hand, Mary is the perfect disciple.  She sits beside the Lord at His feet, listening to His instructions and teachings.  She seems to know instinctively that there is need for only one thing:  to listen to the good news that Jesus brings. 

This might be the reason that God created us with two eyes and two ears, but only one tongue.  He wants us to speak less, but see and listen more, especially in our hearts.  God cannot speak to a noisy heart.  Second, the heart must be obedient and submissive.  God cannot speak to a heart that denies, rationalizes, or postpones.  Third, the heart must be open, so that all the deepest concerns and chambers can be reached and cleaned.  In the same way, God cannot clean and heal a heart that is closed tight. 

It does not mean that Jesus did not appreciate Martha’s hospitality, but He chided her for being so anxious and upset about many things.  She forgot a very important element in her relationship with Jesus.  That is, to allow time to listen to a friend, a beloved, and most of all, to her Lord and Savior. 

Brothers and Sisters, we can discern from the action and reaction of Martha and Mary in serving the Lord their different forms of spirituality.  With Martha, we have an active form of spirituality, while for Mary we have the contemplative spirituality.  It is a combination of prayer and action and reflection which we need in our lives as Christians.  Action and contemplation are not viewed as opposing forms, but complementary. 

We are drawn to the danger of too much activity; we work and work as if there is no tomorrow.  We are so involved in our apostolic activity, outreach programs, and looking for money, but we miss giving attention to enlivening our relationship with God, family, and friends, and listening to them. 

If we have given so much time to work, we must also in the same manner, have time for prayer, meditation, reading scripture, and the Eucharist.  All of us are a bit of Martha and Mary.  We are both body and soul, and we must keep both in balance.   We must give each of them its due.  Jesus does not need people who work for Him; He needs people who do His work.

Lastly, let us pray that the Lord may teach us the value of being prayerful, hopeful, and joyful in waiting. 

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