Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 3, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jer 20:7-9 / Ps 63 / Rom 12:1-2 / Mt 16:21-27
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class. They got to the fourth station where Jesus, on the road to Calvary, meets His mother. The nun explained that even though they could not talk to each other, the mother and son spoke to each other just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils. The class gave many answers. One said that Mary said, “This isn’t fair.” Another said that she said, “Why me?” Finally, a sick little girl raised her thin hand, got up, and said, “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to Him, ‘Keep on going, Jesus.’ Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion, to keep on going? Because she understood the Christian principle of no cross, no crown.”
The image of Jesus Christ crucified is so important for our liturgical life that the Church requires that the crucifix be on or close to the altar at every Mass. It should be the focal point of the Christian life. All three of today’s scripture readings, with their emphasis on suffering and sacrifice, help us regain a proper appreciation of the crucified Christ and of the place of the cross in our Christian lives.
Jesus Christ proves to us how much God loves us by suffering and dying on the cross, that we may have eternal life. The greatest expression of Christ’s love is the laying down of His life on the cross. The very center of His mission is His death and resurrection for the life of the world. We can recall that St. Paul declared, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Gal 6:14).”
Peter, James, and John have just left the sweet, reassuring, hallowed experience of the Transfiguration. How thrilling religion can be! How comforting for the heart. Just when the apostles are wallowing in pleasant religious feelings, Jesus grows stern and tells them about His forthcoming cross. Peter will have none of it and tells Jesus that this is for others, not Him and them. Jesus, without missing a beat, cuts Peter with quickness by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
Peter needed divine intervention to know that Jesus was divine at Caesarea Philippi. Now he needs divine illumination again to understand that the nice feelings at Tabor are only bought with the dreadful feelings of Calvary. You can sense the fire in Jesus’ heart as He speaks in glowing terms about the cost of following Him. Of course, He knows where everything is heading: Jerusalem and Golgotha, the grave and beyond. His disciples are not as clear about the direction they are headed, but not for lack of hearing about it. Peter actually takes Jesus aside and tells Him that this talk of suffering and death is inappropriate. This should be the hour of victory, but Jesus insists on making the opportunity in front of them strangely grim.
Following Jesus is not a walk in the park. It will not lead to a comfortable position sitting on His right or His left, but rather a taste of the cup from which He is to drink. If we believe in Jesus and are willing to risk a love like His, then we have to be prepared for what the world does to truth-speakers like Him.
Perhaps, like Peter, we may be losing sight of our purpose in life. It is not to live totally for pleasure and avoid as many crosses as possible. Rather, it is to live it in such a way so as to merit the reward of eternal life. It is about living our few years in this life in a way that will reap for us the reward of eternal life in the next life. More concretely, it is about picking up our crosses daily and accepting them in the same spirit that Jesus accepted His own cross. The remarkable part is that once we begin living as Jesus taught us to live, everything will turn upside down. Suddenly, what seemed to be an enormous cross, will turn out to be, in the light of this world and the next world, an enormous blessing.
Suffering then, is not an end in itself. It is a pathway to glory. Jesus has taken on the full weight of human suffering and has transformed it, giving it life-giving value. This is why we willingly display the crucifix instead of rejecting it. While we try to alleviate suffering through legitimate means, at the same time we strive to see it from God’s perspective to find its deeper meaning. When we look at a crucifix, we are reminded that God does not see suffering as something to be avoided at all costs. He knows how to bring good out of suffering.
St. Paul knows that the idea of sacrifice, which is voluntary suffering, does not fit the world’s way of thinking. We are no longer to think as the world does or judge by the world’s standards. Rather, we are called to be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we may discern what is the will of God: what is good, pleasing, and perfect.
To be able to do this, we need to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ or the crucified Christ. He is risen, but His cross and His passion are our strength. The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. Living by God’s will, no matter what form the cross may take in our lives, is what leads to our glory with Him.KEEP READING
February 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2 / Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Our gospel today reminds us of the three traditional gestures, or balances, so that we can enter into the spirit of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This also helps us to prepare for the suffering and death and resurrection of Our Lord, who is the source of our salvation.
Today the Church asks us also to fast and abstain. Fasting is a form of penance that imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food and drink. This is applicable to ages fifteen to fifty-nine. Abstinence refers to refraining from certain kinds of food or drink, like meat or those cravings or those foods that we like to eat every day. This applies to ages fourteen and above.
Why, brothers and sisters, does the Church ask us to fast and eat only one full meal today and on Good Friday? (Fasting is only for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.) We don’t fast in order to save money or to lessen our expenses.
First, we fast so that what we gather or what we collect we can share with the hungry. Sanctifying ourselves has to do with tenderness and compassion for the poor and the needy. Our penance has a social dimension, so that we can be in solidarity with others who are hungry.
Second, we fast because we are hoping that we experience physical hunger, so that it will awaken in us a deeper level of hunger. What is that deeper hunger? It is the hunger for God, hunger and thirst for God.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters observe fasting, which they call Ramadan. It is said that, when they are at the height of their hunger because of long fasting, that is the time when they read the Koran, their holy book. They believe that, when the body is very hungry, it is open to receive God.
The same thing with us. When we feel hunger, it awakens the deeper hunger that we have: our hunger for God. This hunger of ours for the Lord will bring us to our brothers and sisters who are hungry because of poverty.
In our first reading, the prophet Joel tells us that God, the Lord, is gracious and merciful. In our second reading, Paul reminds us that we are God’s coworkers, and he urges us not to receive God’s grace in vain. Connecting the meaning of the two readings, they tell us that the mercy that the Lord has given us, we will need to share with others.
How can we keep our penance and our compassion from making us sad people, because doing our penance or showing an act of compassion can be a very challenging thing?
Fasting is not only for food but also for our bad habits. Yes, it is true that every one of us here has our favorite food, but we also have our favorite sins. During the season of Lent, we’re invited to avoid these sins by denying ourselves, by controlling our desires and cravings.
Going back to the question, how can we keep a happy heart even if we deny ourselves? A spiritual writer said: “We can be happy even with our sacrifices and self-denial if we put emphasis on what we say ‘yes’ to, not to what we say ‘no’ to.” If we focus more on what we say ‘yes’ to, that makes us happy.
If we want to be happy in all our sacrifices, we need to focus on the reasons why we say ‘yes.’ For example, as parents, your ‘yes’ to your children is “I want my children to be successful, and that’s my commitment, that’s my ‘yes.’ But that ‘yes’ has a payment. It involves a lot of sacrifices. That’s why, in order for my children to succeed, I must work hard. Sometimes I work overtime. When I get my salary, I will take good care of it, and I will not waste it on my vices.”
That’s a big sacrifice on the part of the parents. They work so hard, even if they are tired. They continue to work overtime because of their love for their children, because they have that vision, they have that ‘yes’ that “I want a good future for my children. That’s a big sacrifice and it is meaningful for me, as a parent, and that’s what makes my heart joyful.”
So, brothers and sisters, we focus our commitment on saying ‘yes,’ because if we do that, we can be closer to the Lord. Our penance, every time we celebrate the season of Lent, is to be closer to the Lord and closer to the poor and those who need our help.
Saint John Paul II said, “The deepest fulfillment of every human person is in the giving of self.” Who can do this? Who can give their selves to others? Only those people who are hungry and thirsty for God.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3 / Ps 122 / Col 1:12-20 / Lk 23:35-43
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Why is this Feast Day of Christ the King placed at the end of the liturgical season? Today we finish with the Liturgical Year C, reading from the Gospel of Luke. We begin Year A next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent and will switch to the Gospel of Matthew. Why Christ the King today?
Some background thoughts on the reasons for and need for this Feast:
Godless, atheistic nations and states rising in power, threatening their neighbors. God and Jesus forced out of the public forum and leadership, forced out of politics. Society and culture diminishing God. It’s not safe in some places to talk about Jesus. He’s kept in a small box at church or in your living room.
I’m not talking about society and the world today. I’m talking about 1925. In 1925, Pope Pius XI was looking out over the world in a post-World War I environment, and these are the evils that he saw. He, along with the Church, decided to create a Feast, a Feast to remind the faithful and the world where true power resides, where to place our allegiance and devotion. As we’re ending this cycle, this Liturgical Year, we’re punctuating this ending and transition time with this Feast of Christ the King.
But why not Christ the Risen or Christ Ascended or Christ the Shepherd? Christ the King is what the Church chose. It makes the point Pope Pius wanted to precisely make. Jesus is Christ the King, and He supersedes all worldly views of power and influence.
But He doesn’t look like a king. Imagine this scene from the gospels. There are people gathered around. Rulers were there, as were soldiers. Jesus was hanging there on the cross with criminals. The inscription above His head was, “This is the King of the Jews.” Almost all of these people were deriding Him, poking fun at Him. They were taunting Him with, “If you are the Christ, if you are the Chosen One, if you are the King of the Jews.” These three taunts mirror the three temptations that the devil gave to Jesus in the desert. (“If you are the Son of God, save yourself by turning these stones into bread, etc.”).
Remember also that the people of the Roman government of that day thought their methods were good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair. Jesus didn’t look like a king. He was a criminal, actually a slave. At that time, if you were not a Roman citizen and you did something against the state, you became a slave. He had no rights. Convicted slaves, for a crime that warranted it, were subject to the painful and humiliating death by crucifixion. (On the other hand, Roman citizens like the Apostle Paul were given a more humane sentence of beheading.)
Jesus was there on the cross as a slave with the criminals. He was poor, beaten, humiliated, crushed. He did not look like a king. He did not act like a king either.
We know that God is all-powerful. We know that Jesus is God. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians that we heard today, he describes Jesus: “He is…the firstborn of all creation. For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
Do you think He was scared to death of Pilate? Do you think He worried at all about what the emperor of that day might do? He is all powerful. Everything that exists, exists because of Him. He could care less about the emperor, or the governor, or the president, or the czar, as these are merely a speck of dust in time.
Jesus had and has infinite power. He could have annihilated everything in existence in the flick of a second while He was there on that cross. He could have called a host of angels to save Him and everyone that was hanging there. But He chose not to exercise that power. We think that kings portray force, power, superiority, dominance, and violence. But Jesus didn’t choose to lord power over us.
Even His closest disciple, Peter, did not comprehend what was going to happen. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem, going to suffer and die, going to rise again. Peter pulled Him aside and started to rebuke Him, saying that he would allow no such thing to happen. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking as humans do, not as God does.”
Jesus did not choose power, but rather mercy. He allowed Himself to become powerless, to become a slave. He allowed Himself to become the sacrificial lamb. Why? To atone for our sins and to save all of us. His mercy is unbounded. The good thief, the one who recognized what was happening, only asked to be remembered: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” In His unbounded mercy, Jesus granted that thief eternal paradise with Him right then. His mercy is far beyond anything that we could comprehend.
Jesus did not act like any other ruler or king. But He’s the king I choose to follow: a king that loved me so much that He gave up everything. He suffered for me. He took all those insults and humiliation for me. He died, just for me and for you. That is my king and yours. Live that. Be His living example in a fallen world. Our society, our governments, think they are good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair, just like the Roman empire did. They are far from it, and they need our help.
Go in peace, glorifying God by your life. Serve our King in this world. Our baptism demands it. Jesus won’t be kept in a box, or here at church, or just in our living room. As if He could be. He can’t be contained.
This is the end of the Liturgical Year. I am here on Pope Pius’s behalf, to give an annual reminder that Jesus Christ is King. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.KEEP READING
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Mal 3:19-20a / Ps 98 / 2 Thes 3:7-12 / Lk 21:5-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Thomas Alva Edison, the great inventor, used to say, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” He conducted about eighteen thousand experiments before he perfected what we now call “the ordinary light bulb.” He became great through untiring work and utmost endurance.
For some of us nowadays, we are inclined to reverse Edison’s slogan by our longing for instant things. Thus, instead of ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, we would rather reverse that and have one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.
Yet Jesus, in today’s gospel, exhorts us, “By your perseverance you will gain your lives.” This statement highlights two important things. First, the need to endure. Secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first, to endure, is absolutely necessary in order to have the second, salvation of the soul.
Why is it absolutely necessary to persevere in order to be saved? Perseverance is an active rather than a passive virtue for us Christians. Perseverance is built up against temptation to sin and apathy through a life of regular prayer, such as the rosary, our devotions to saints, meditation upon scripture, Sunday liturgy and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the graces given in Baptism and strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
Today’s readings teach us the importance of perseverance. In the first reading we heard of the necessity to persevere in righteousness, because evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. But those who receive the Most High, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them, and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. The safe place is heaven, where the Lord rules forever.
In the second reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our imitation of the saints. We heard St. Paul’s harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints. He told them that, if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat.
Why were some unwilling to work? Some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His kingdom. As such, why work? This is wrong because, according to St. Paul, living in idleness, they occupied their time with small talk, rumors, hearsay, slander, with all of these things leading to disharmony and division. So every Christian, when he’s able to, must support himself and his brothers and sisters and not live off the income or wealth of others.
St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us three characteristics of saints. First, they are human beings like us; they are made in the image and likeness of God. They have body and soul; they are made of flesh and blood. They need things all other human beings need. Second, like you and me, they are also tempted. They can be tempted to do evil and be indifferent in their commitment to God. Third, which makes them different from us, the saints cling to God at all times. The saints rely on the power of God and not their own power.
In the gospel reading, we heard of the necessity to persevere in our living faith. We heard Jesus’ discourse around 30 A.D. on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth, since the temple was associated with God’s presence. So if the temple were to be destroyed, it would mean the end of the world. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D. saw the completion of Jesus’ prophecy.
Our gospel today reminds us that, while waiting for the great moment to come, which is the end of times where God will reign as Lord, we must adjust to a long period of waiting. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did, so that we too may arrive into our eternal glory. As St. Paul said, we must not be idle, waiting for things that will not come to pass in the present time. We must move on with our lives and be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will precede Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.
The question is, are we ready to suffer and to shed our blood, if necessary, for our faith? Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake, and He calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means “witness.” The Book of Revelation says that Jesus was the faithful witness who freed us from our sins by His blood.
Tertullian, the second century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church.” Why is this the case? The martyrs witness the joy and truth and freedom of the Gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood.
Brothers and sisters, some of us may not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. We must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end, that they not be counted among those who have renounced their faith and their salvation in Jesus Christ.
We will be well prepared, too, if we try every day to live our Christian life well and full; if we do our best to build that part of the kingdom which God expects from us in the here and now, a kingdom of peace and justice; if we daily water the seed of love that Jesus has already planted; if we pass onto others the light of faith that He has already lit; if we act as yeast that Jesus has already put in the dough, in order to ferment the world with the Gospel values; and if we serve the world as its salt, which He called us to be, to preserve the world from every corruption. All this means that we cannot sit down, doing nothing, just waiting for the end time. It means that we need to keep ourselves always busy in order to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom.
So, brothers and sisters, as we go home today, let us persevere in our living faith until the end of times, through righteousness and the imitation of the saints. Let us also pray for one another, that we all endure until the end, so we will gain our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18 / Ps 34 / 2 Tm 4: 6-8,16-18 / Lk 18: 9-14
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Has frustration or doubt crept into your prayer life? Two weeks in a row, the Church’s readings have emphasized prayer. The theme last week was perseverance in prayer, illustrated by that great scene with Moses having to hold up his arms for the Israelites to win the battle (Ex 17: 8-13). The battle went on so long that two others had to hold up Moses’ arms for him, and so the battle was won. Jesus assured us in last week’s gospel that God will “speedily” answer our prayers (Lk 18).
This week’s theme for prayer is, “God is a good-good Father.” In the gospel, we meet the sinful tax collector praying, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner (Lk 18:13).” He was justified, Bible-speak for “made right with God.” St. Francis de Sales reflected on this and wrote, “Alas! Since the goodness of God is so immense that one moment suffices to obtain and receive His grace, what assurance can we have that he who was yesterday a sinner is not a saint today (Barron 408/Introduction to a Devout Life)?” May we share in God’s goodness and make the apologizing other person right with us as speedily as God did the tax collector!
The reading from Sirach describes God’s goodness. He is just, “knows no favorites,” listens to the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow (Sir 35: 12-15). Let’s put these Bible words into American English. For oppressed, think beat down or abused or unfairly treated at work. For orphan, think orphan and those rejected by or cast out of their family. And for widow, think widow for sure, but I would add widower and people abandoned by their spouse against their will. In all these downtrodden states of life, we long for goodness.
That longing wisely and often takes the form of prayer. The author of Sirach writes that our prayers reach heaven when we “serve Him and are lowly (Sir 35: 16).” That describes St. Paul in the second reading, in his letter to Timothy, which Paul was writing as God’s servant and as a lowly prisoner. Paul said his friends abandoned him. But then, echoing Sirach, he writes, “but the Lord stood by me and gave me strength (2 Tim 4:16).” In this stressful situation, St. Paul is able to see God’s grace and goodness.
King David, who wrote today’s 34th Psalm, obviously had a similar distressing life experience to Paul’s proclaiming, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves (Ps 34: 18).” I have heard many sad life stories over the years. However, as the song says, we have a “good, good Father,” and He answers all prayers.
I’ll share one such story of prayers answered. At this past summer’s mission trip to the mountainous, southwest corner of Virginia, near the UVA Wise campus, I met a man named David. Our group of teenagers and chaperones went to his home in the middle of the mountains on Father’s Day. Our mission was to rebuild his deck and to add a wheelchair ramp to it, all in God’s name. David only had one leg. He had almost died three times, including a motorcycle and a car accident, as well as in surgery. He had been a rough and tumble coal mine worker. He told me he used to relish a good fight, but in his own words, he would get dangerously violent and couldn’t stop himself.
We invited him to pray with us each day when we arrived, when we did our lunch scripture reflection, and before we left each day, and he always participated. He often joked and laughed with the youth, who affectionately called him Big Dave. One time, while the others worked, He and I had a deep spiritual conversation. When I asked him if he thought God made good come from the loss of his leg to rescue his soul, the only way God could get through to such a rough and tough son of a gun, David teared up, looked off into the distance, and just nodded yes. For a few minutes, David was too choked up to speak.
At the end of the week, his deck was fully restored, complete with a safe ramp for his wheelchair. At our week’s ending banquet, David took the microphone and told all the priests and seminarians, chaperones, Deacons, and youth that when those teenagers showed up at his house on Father’s Day, it was the best Father’s Day he had ever had. He wiped away tears while giving each of the teens and us chaperones a hug before saying goodbye. All of this was an answer to someone’s prayer. David knows his good, good Father who visited him on Father’s Day, rebuilt his deck, made him laugh and cry, and affirmed his dignity.
King David, Paul, the tax collector, and Big Dave all had been made lowly by a checkered past and all experienced God’s grace born by the winds of someone’s prayer. But prayer doesn’t just transform the lives of those prayed for, but also of those who pray for them. And that brings us to the all-important question at this point in every Mass, “How do I respond to today’s readings, this homily, and the sacramental grace we are about to receive?”
Here is something to try this week. You know how an athlete will warm up and get their mind focused before competing? Fr. Thomas Dubay suggests we approach prayer in a similar fashion (Dubay Prayer Primer). Here’s one way to do that. Start your prayer by telling God that He is a good, good Father who answers every prayer and sends grace wherever it is needed. Follow that with a prayer of recollection, recalling the times in your life He cared for you. Recalling those times will cheer your heart and strengthen your faith so that you can finish your prayer in confidence that it is being answered. Remember that Jesus said that even a tiny bit of faith can move a mountain (Mt 17:20-21).
Here are a few gems of wisdom for amping up your prayer. St. Theresa of Avila said, “…it is impossible to speak to [God] and to the world at the same time,” so give Him your undivided attention. To get centered on God like that, Bishop Barron prays the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He suggests breathing in on the first part and out on the second part. Father Dubay says we need to go to Mass; the liturgy has sacramental power that nourishes our prayer. He adds that while praying, don’t think much, but love much. And St. Augustine, putting a different spin on today’s reading from Sirach, reminds us that, “To pray well, one must live well.”
I’ll close by sharing some wisdom from my spiritual director, Carrie McKeown. She noticed that I prayed a lot for healing of my lung disease and for help overcoming it so I could be a good husband, father, Deacon and manager. So, she asked me a simple question, “Do you believe God takes care of you?” This is one of those questions that is tempting to answer quickly but bears more fruit if we examine our life in light of it. It’s ok to pray for your own needs, but my prayer was leading to aggravation with God, not restfulness in His goodness.
St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who developed the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus) said it this way: “Keep your heart in peace and let nothing trouble you…for God’s dwelling is in peace.” Padre Pio and other saints have said similar things. If I’m stressing instead of seeing God’s grace like St. Paul did in prison, do I always believe God takes care of me? Since that time a couple of years ago, I mostly pray for others and sure enough, God has taken care of me. This is a key to being a wounded prayer warrior, knowing deep down God is good and cares for you. Let’s make Chris Tomlin’s lyrics our prayer this week. Lord, “You are a good good Father. It’s who you are, it is who you are…And I’m loved by you. It’s who I am, it’s who I am.” Amen.
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 / Ps 51 / 1 Tm 1:12-17 / Lk 15:1-32
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today’s readings from the Holy Scriptures teach us about the overflowing mercy and forgiveness of God. They also talk about sin and repentance, confession, and communion, courtesy of the prodigal son and his father.
We heard in the First Reading that when Moses was on Mount Sinai, the chosen people were acting perversely. They had cast for themselves an image of a cow, were worshipping and making sacrifices to it, and giving credit to the idol for bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt. With that, the Lord became very upset. God was prepared to destroy them all. But Moses implored God to have mercy and forgiveness for the sinful people. Hearing the plea of Moses, God changed His mind and decided not to destroy the people as He had originally planned.
In the Second Reading, we also heard how the mercy and forgiveness of God sanctified St. Paul, because he had sincerity of heart. By the mercy of God, St. Paul, formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence, was made an example to those who would come to believe in Jesus for eternal life.
Today’s gospel also speaks of the mercy and forgiveness of God. In this case, three parables are given to declare the magnitude of the mercy of God. These are the parables of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the Prodigal Son. Many tax collectors and sinners came to Jesus, and this drew criticism on the part of the Pharisees and the Scribes. They grumbled because Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them.
Brothers and Sisters, let us meditate on the parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable begins with a request. The prodigal son says to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that should come to me.” Here we are given our first insight concerning sin: Sin always involves the misuse of something good.
For example, sins of the tongue, like gossip, slander, swearing, and lying, all involve the misuse of something good: namely, the God-given gift of speech. Sins of the flesh are committed when people misuse the good gift of sexuality, which the Lord intends for marriage only.
Notice that in the story, the younger son requested the share of the estate that was coming to him. He was not making an improper request. He was not asking for something evil. He was requesting something good, which his father was planning to give him anyway. His sin came when he misused the good gift and squandered his inheritance on what the gospel calls “dissolute living,” a life of dissipation.
The next interesting point is that he does all this squandering in a distant land. I don’t think that was a coincidence. When people commit sins that they intend to repent of, they desperately try to run away from the Heavenly Father, just like this boy tried to run away from his father. Those of us who commit sins make every effort to keep them secret, so that nobody knows about them. But that is a very big mistake because, eventually, all sins catch up with us, as the boy’s sins eventually caught up with him. In the parable we are told that he spent all his money, and then a famine broke out, and he found himself with nothing to eat. He ended up dining with pigs.
There we have another insight concerning sin: Sin turns us into slaves. This is something that people who have an addiction know a great deal about. A recovering alcoholic will tell you that when he started to drink excessively, he was acting in total freedom. But eventually it came to the point where he could not stop. He had become a slave to his sinful behavior.
Finally, praise God, the prodigal son wakes up and comes to his senses. He repents, but notices that his repentance is rather superficial. He has what the Church would call “imperfect contrition.” Imperfect contrition is when we are sorry for our sins because we fear the consequences, especially Hell. Perfect contrition is when we are sorry for the best possible reason: because we have offended our Heavenly Father, whom we love above all things. But notice that his father still forgives him. The Church teaches us that our Father will do the same for us. He will forgive us our serious sins if we go to Confession with at least imperfect contrition in our hearts.
Once the prodigal son is forgiven, he is able to share once again in the family meal. For us, that is symbolic of the Eucharist. That is why the Church teaches us that, if we have mortal sin, we cannot receive the Eucharist again until we have gone to Confession and confessed our sin.
The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, has a beautiful description of sin: Sin is before all else an offense against God and a rupture in our communion with Him. At the same time, it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Mother Theresa had advice for living a good life. She said:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of having selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
So, as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let us pray for those who have fallen away from the grace of God, so that divine mercy and forgiveness may reach out to them before it’s too late. May their ears be open so that they will hear that Jesus is welcoming them back home.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Advent
December 5, 2021 — Year C
Readings: Bar 5:1-9 / Ps 126 / Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 / Lk 3:1-6
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The season of Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. In our gospel today, on this second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist preparing the people for the coming of Jesus, a voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his path straight.” (Lk 3:4). We hear these familiar words of John the Baptist calling all people to conversion.
Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians in our second reading today, reminds us of three wonderful things. First, Saint Paul reminds us of the joy of the Lord. (more…)KEEP READING