Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7 / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mk 1:29-39
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The word “apostle” comes from two Greek words that together mean: one who is sent. Each Christian has an apostolate to follow. We have been called to evangelize, to be sent out like St. Paul and the twelve apostles, to announce the Good News of the love that God has for us all.
Today in our gospel reading, St. Mark continues his story about the first days of Jesus’ public life. Mark tells us that Jesus preached in the synagogues, and that upon leaving the synagogues, He drove out many demons. One day after preaching in a synagogue in Capernaum, the town in which Simon Peter and Andrew lived, Jesus decided to visit their home, together with James and John. When He arrived, Jesus was told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever.
Jesus immediately decided to cure her. That was how Jesus’ miracles occurred. He saw the plight of the people that wanted to be cured, and He cured them. Jesus approached Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, grasped her hand, and she was cured. She immediately got out of bed and began to serve Jesus. This was the way she showed that she was thankful for being cured.
After learning of this occurrence, the townspeople spread the news of the Lord’s miracle. The news went from home to home, and soon the entire population of the town crowded around the door of the house. From the surrounding area, people brought all who were sick or possessed by demons. Jesus cured those who came to Him in faith. The next day before dawn, Jesus went off to a certain place where He prayed. Jesus was praying when the apostles arrived to tell Him that everyone was looking for Him. People who wanted to be cured continued to arrive, but instead of returning to town, Jesus said to the apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Our Lord’s true mission was to evangelize, to announce to all humanity the Good News of the love that God has for all human beings.
The gospel reading for this Sunday presents a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry, for He not only preached, but also engaged in acts of healing and compassion. After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and numerous others, Jesus retreated to pray, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a deep connection with the Father. He then expressed His mission to preach the Gospel to other towns, underlining the purpose of His coming. Jesus came to preach. He came to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God, to invite all humankind to let God reign as king in their hearts and in their lives, to reconcile us with God and with one another.
Much of the sickness, poverty, and suffering that exists in our world is traceable to the disharmony or sin that separates us from God and from one another. By healing this root cause of all of our problems, we find ourselves in a position to receive God’s abundant blessings in all areas of our lives: spiritual as well as physical, moral as well as material, social as well as psychological. But to try to seek physical healing and material well-being without first making peace with God is to miss the point.
In reflecting on the gospel passage, we are invited to consider our own response to the call of discipleship. Like Jesus, we are called not only to receive His healing and grace, but also to actively participate in the mission of sharing the Good News. Our faith is not meant to be passive, but dynamic, influencing our actions and interactions with others.
St. Paul invites us in the second reading to follow the example of the Lord to evangelize. The true mission of all Christians is to proclaim the gospel to a world that needs to hear the word of God. Our second reading reminds us of what St. Paul said to the Christians of Corinth, that for him, preaching was an obligation. He did not do it for his own glory or to become rich. He did not even start to do it on his own initiative. He had been given a task to do: to be a missionary of the Word of God, to become all things to all, so that he could save at least some.
St. Paul did not do this without problems, but despite the difficulties, he continued to announce the gospel. He continued on the mission that he had been given. If we want to do the same, we have to do as St. Paul did. Our mission does not end when we walk out of the doors of this church after Sunday Mass. It continues.
At Baptism, all Christians receive the same mission: to evangelize within the boundaries of our own lives, every day, whether at school, at work, or in the home, in our words, our example and our way of life. We are obliged to show that we are Christians, that we follow Christ, and that because we follow Christ, we constantly fight against evil and injustice in this world. As Jesus’ message spreads to other communities, those people, too, receive His message and consolidate it, nurture it, and allow it to become part of them, abiding deep within them. The Holy Spirit builds on it, in and through the people who hear and respond to it.
There is so much to be done, so much we can do, so little time to do it. There are never enough hours in the day, days in the year. We do what we can and keep our eyes on the big picture. We draw strength, inspiration and vision from our prayerful “time-outs” with God to focus our energy, direct our choices, and lead us mindfully through the busy-ness of our days comprised of so many different possibilities and needs. We can’t do everything. We are all too aware of our limitations, so we ask the Lord to help us do what we can do, well, with focus, clear priorities, and above all, with love and compassion.
As we continue to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, let us reflect on the ways we actively participate in the mission of Jesus. Are we open to being instruments of healing, compassion, and reconciliation in our communities? Do we recognize the urgency of sharing the Good News in a world that thirsts for hope and meaning?
May we, like Jesus and St. Paul, respond to the call of discipleship with enthusiasm, trusting that God’s grace will empower us to fulfill our mission in the world. Let us also ask the Virgin Mary to help us to be faithful to the mission that God has given us, just as she was. And let us thank God for having called us to carry it out.KEEP READING
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 21, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10 / Ps 25 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mk 1:14-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about a despondent man who came to his mother and said, “Mom, I’ve stopped going to church, for two reasons. First, I don’t like the people and second, the people don’t like me.” And the mother looked at him and said, “My son, you should go back to church for two reasons. First, you are already fifty-nine years old and second, you are the pastor!”
But, brothers and sisters, as we reflect on the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are invited to ponder the profound concept of Divine Calling. In the gospel, we witnessed the pivotal moment when Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to become fishers of men. This summons, with its immediacy and simplicity, carries timeless significance for each of us. The gospel narrative unfolds with a sense of urgency, mirroring the immediacy of Jesus’ call.
In our own lives, we may hear the echoes of that same call, urging us to respond promptly and wholeheartedly to the divine invitation. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, to follow Him with courage and conviction. Simon, Andrew, James, and John provide us with inspiring models of immediate obedience. Without hesitation they leave their nets and professions in order to follow Jesus. Their response challenges us to examine our own readiness to abandon whatever may be holding us back from fully embracing our calling.
The metaphor of fishers of men calls us to engage actively in the mission of spreading God’s love and compassion. We are called not merely to catch fish, but to cultivate relationships, to cast the net of love and inclusion. This mission beckons us to be present in our communities, reaching out to those who may be lost or in need of hope and help.
A story was told about a pious Christian lady who had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her to read, and it helped her to relax. One day she was sitting next to a man who didn’t believe in God. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while, he turned to her and asked, “Do you really believe all the stuff in there?” The lady replied, “Of course I do. It’s the Bible – the Word of God.” The man said, “Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?” She replied, “Oh. Jonah. Yes, I believe that. The Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it, and if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too.” The man laughed and asked, “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?” The lady answered, “Well, I don’t really know, but I guess when I get to heaven, I will ask him.” “What if he is not in heaven?” the man asked sarcastically. “Then you can ask him when you reach hell,” the lady replied.
Brothers and sisters, in the first reading, we encountered Jonah’s mission to Ninevah. Here, too, we witnessed the transformative power of responding to God’s call. The people of Ninevah heed Jonah’s warning and repent. This reminds us that our response to God’s call can have a profound impact, not only on our lives, but on the lives of those around us.
In fact, the entire readings of today’s liturgy emphasize the absolute need for total repentance and our immediate need for a quick and prompt response to God’s invitation to repentance. Whereby, we face God’s wrath of perpetual destruction in hellfire should we ever play down the entire content of divine revelation, seeking our redress as portrayed in the funny response of the pious traveler to the atheist in the story.
In the second reading, St. Paul orders the Corinthian Church to waste no time in embracing the message of the Good News and in renewing their lives with repentance. Whereas, the gospel reading describes the summary of Jesus’ preaching, “Repent, and believe in the Good News.” It also describes how Jesus called His first set of disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John, which portrays how we sinners need to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life.
Today’s readings are all rather extraordinary. Each of them shows an immediate and wonderful response. First Jonah preaches, and the Ninevites surprisingly repent and change immediately. Then Paul calls upon everyone to live in the immediate moment, for the day of the Lord is imminent. Then Jesus calls His disciples, and they leave immediately.
Jesus’ call is offering a whole new world, a new vision and a new set of relationships. The values of the Gospel are revealed in their fullness. If the disciples had paused and thought about what they were doing, they could have dreamed up heaps of reasons why they should not go – their business, their insecurities, and so on. They did not let these things get in the way.
Thank goodness they responded to the call straightaway. This is not encouraging recklessness, because surely Jesus called people after a lot of prayer and discernment, and He called disciples whom He had observed were already living in the way that showed their longing for the value of the Kingdom to be established in its fullness. Along comes Jesus and He says, “The time has arrived. Come, follow me.” And they do – immediately. It is what they had been waiting for.
In our lives, brothers and sisters, Jesus calls each one of us in big and small ways. In the daily events of life, in our words, actions, and priorities, let us respond immediately and with trust. As we reflect on the readings today, let us prayerfully consider the nature of God’s call in our lives. Are we attuned to His voice? Are we ready to leave behind our nets and respond with unwavering trust? May the example of the first disciples inspire us to embrace our calling with joy and purpose, recognizing that in our response lies the potential for transformation, both for ourselves and for the world.KEEP READING
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 15, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10a / Ps 23 / Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 / Mt 22:1-14
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The world is full of opportunities knocking on our doors, just waiting for us to open them. It is full of opportunities for us to live life to the fullest. However, they are not always present. We must seize the opportunity while we still have the time and the opportunity, or else we will end up blaming ourselves, not others.
An invitation is an example of an opportunity knocking on our door, waiting to be opened. But rather than getting up to open the door, we sometimes whine about the noise.
There was a story of a young man who went away to other places in search of fortune. A few years later, he returned to his home with trucks loaded with riches. “Now I’m going to play a trick on my relatives and friends,” he said to himself. He donned some ragged clothes and went to see his cousin Mike first. “I’m your long lost cousin,” he said. “I’m back home after several years in other places. Just look at me, how miserable I am. May I stay with you for a while?” he said. Mike said, “I’m sorry, but there’s no room here for you.”
The man visited some more of his relatives and friends, but he was not accepted by any of them. So he decided to return to where he had left his riches, dressed himself in luxurious clothes, rode through this place with a large entourage of servants, purchased all the businesses about to close down, and began to build a majestic mansion. After only a few days, the news of his riches had spread all over the place.
“Who could have imagined it?” asked one of the relatives and friends who had rejected him. “If we had only known, we would have acted differently. But it is too late now; we’ve missed the riches.”
The readings today show us what joy there is in accepting God’s invitation and what sorrow there is in refusing. The word of God challenges us to examine our own response to His call. God extends to us the greatest invitation we will ever receive: Come to the feast. Come to the banquet of eternal life. Sooner or later, each of us has to give Him an answer. Our RSVP can either be “Yes, I’m coming,” or “No, I will not come.” The choice is ours and it has eternal consequences.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable directed to the chief priest and the elders. A king arranges a wedding banquet for his son, and sends out his servants to call the guests. Strangely, the invited guests flatly refuse to come. When the king tries again, those being invited treat the servants shamefully, even violently.
When we first read this, it may sound absurd. People simply don’t act that way when they are invited to a royal feast. Why would anyone respond so negatively when being invited to something so wonderful? But the parable is not about an earthly wedding feast. It is about the Kingdom of God. Jesus is exposing the disgraceful ways in which we respond to Him. Like the invited guests, sometimes we simply refuse for no logical reason. We do not want to be bothered. When we hear God’s call, His words, His commandments, His prompting in the heart, we reject it, without even considering it. Other times, we consider other things more important right now: our farm or business, or any number of high priority matters. God’s will is simply not that important to us.
Then there are times when we have an outrageous reaction to God’s invitation. We do not literally kill the messenger, but the word of truth can make us hostile and defensive. When we are called to repentance, we get angry. We act as if we have been imposed upon, or insulted, or threatened. Interiorly, we fight, complain, ridicule, resist. What at first seems to be a rather absurd reaction by some strange people in a parable becomes, upon closer inspection, a disconcerting reflection of our own hearts.
God truly is like a king who wants to fill His banquet hall with guests. The blessings He has in mind for us are symbolized by the glorious feast so beautifully described in the first reading. The prophet Isaiah foretells a feast of rich foods and choice wines, which the Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples.
There is more to this feast than good food. This is a prophecy of eternal life. God promises that He will destroy death forever. The veil of mourning that enshrouds all peoples and nations, the tears that are shed by every generation, the wave of death that ensnares every person will be destroyed.
What God is inviting us to is a victory celebration: a feast of everlasting rejoicing, a life without tears, or mourning, or death; everything we mean by the word Heaven.
In our Lord’s time, wedding invitations went out well in advance, and were accepted definitively. The final call just before the event occurred was a mere formality. It would be an unspeakable insult to decline when the final call arrived. They had already accepted and had made their firm commitment. And so the master in the parable sends out messengers to the highways and byways, that is, to everyone, respectable or not. All are invited. From now on the invitation is being made, not to a select and exclusive minority of privileged people, but to the wider public forum, to all people. All who respond are welcome. There is no special preference anymore. Sinners, outcasts, gentiles—and you—are all invited.
Those accepting the invitation are not any better than those who declined. It’s just that the poor and the outcasts, not having any other options and seeing what a rare gift this was, accepted and attended. Again, it reminds us not to be complacent or superior, as all of us are truly blessed to be invited.
This parable reminds us that this invitation is for all of us. But the invitation can be refused. The kingdom is open to all, but guaranteed to none. We don’t earn the kingdom, but we sadly can decline it, which would be madness.
One final thought: The waifs and strays enter the banquet, but then one gets kicked out for not wearing a wedding garment. It seems unfair at first glance. Consider, however, that although the invitation is for all, acceptance means a change of standards and values. These are symbolized by being clothed in the garment that resembles and represents the baptismal garment of goodness and Christ-like living. We must wear this robe with devotion and humility, keeping the Gospel values of Christ in our hearts, very central and very safe.KEEP READING
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 20, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7 / Ps 67 / Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 / Mt 15:21-28
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A man was walking close to a steep cliff, lost his footing, and plunged over the side. As he was falling, he grabbed the branch of a tree that was sticking out about halfway down the cliff. He managed to hang onto the weak limb with both hands. He looked up and saw that the cliff was almost perfectly straight and that he was a long way from the top. He looked down and it was a long, long way down to the rock bottom. At this point, the man decided that it was time to pray.
He yelled out, “God, if you are there, help me.” About that time, he heard a deep voice coming from high up above that said, “I’m here, my son, have no fear.” The man was a little startled at first by God’s voice, but he pleaded, “Can you help me?” God replied, “Yes, I can, my son, but you have to have faith. Do you trust me?” The man answered, “Yes, Lord, I trust you.” God said, “Do you really trust me?” The man, who was trying to hold on, replied, “Yes, Lord, I really trust you.”
Then God said, “This is what I want you to do. Let go of the limb. Trust me; everything will be all right.” The man looked down at the rocks below, then he looked up at the steep cliff above him and yelled, “Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”
Brothers and sisters, in last Sunday’s gospel, we heard that Jesus chastised Peter for having so little faith. In today’s gospel, he honors a pagan woman for having great faith. The comparison between Peter and the woman gives us a valuable instruction. We naturally assume that Peter, a Jewish man and close follower of Jesus, must have a great advantage over a Gentile woman who had never even seen the Lord.
Peter was one of the children of Israel; he belonged at the table. He had never eaten anything profane or unclean in his whole life, and that can be found in Acts 10:14. The woman was an outsider. She was looked down on by the Jews as unclean and unworthy, one of the dogs. She had no business claiming some right to the Lord’s favor. However, the woman outshines Peter in the one thing that truly matters: faith – a strong, persevering, humble faith.
The Israelites, Abraham and his descendants, were given a unique privilege. They were the first people to whom the Lord chose to reveal himself. As Moses told the people when they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, “You are a people sacred to the Lord God. He has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people particularly his own” (Dt 7:6).
The idea sometimes arose among the chosen people that, since they were specially chosen by God, other peoples were excluded from His love. They misunderstood the favor of God as a kind of ethnic superiority. They thought that being a physical descendant of Abraham was more important than living by Abraham’s faith. The prophets thought otherwise.
As we see in today’s first reading, Isaiah clearly proclaims that foreigners too, if they joined themselves to the Lord and followed the covenant, would find a place with the Jews in the house of the Lord. Indeed, the Lord reveals that His plan includes everyone. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
The Canaanite woman in the Gospel shows that this prophecy came to be fulfilled. If she had gone to the temple in Jerusalem, she would have been strictly forbidden to enter. However, now that Jesus had come into her neighborhood, there was no need for her to go elsewhere in order to be counted among God’s people. She found salvation by putting her faith in Jesus. She honored Him as the Messiah, crying out to Him, “Lord, son of David.”
In order to benefit from the beautiful example of this woman of faith, we must first identify and overcome the sin of prejudice in our hearts. How easily we fall into an attitude of superiority over others. Prejudice prevents us from seeing the goodness of other people, simply because they fall outside of our narrow criteria of goodness. The problem is on display in the scornful attitude of the disciples. When the Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter, their prejudice came spilling out in their words, “Send her away.” They would not put up with being pestered by a “dog.”
Brothers and sisters, whenever we let this sort of attitude take hold of us, whenever we are saying or thinking about anyone, “Send her away” or “Send him away,” we shut ourselves in a small box, where we breathe only the stale air of our own opinions. Prejudice is an offense against the dignity of others, but it is also a self-imposed limitation on our love. Ultimately, it is a rejection of the love of God.
This is not what we have learned from Jesus Christ. He fills us with His spirit of love, so that we may be free from slavery to sin. Jesus’ own attitude toward the Canaanite woman is revealed to us only gradually. He never closes His heart to her, of course, but He does subject her faith to a series of tests. At first, He is simply silent, then He tells her that His mission is to the Jews. When she persists, falling before Him and pleading for His help, He tells her that it is not fitting to throw the food of the children to the dogs.
This sort of language is jarring to us. It sounds like an intolerable insult, like a slap in the face. In fact, in the context of the times, it would have not sounded nearly so harsh. Jesus’ point is to distinguish between the Jews and the Gentiles.
The Jews are the first to be fed with the message of salvation. The word “dogs” here refers not to street dogs, but to little domestic pets. They live in the household, but they are not children of the family. However, Jesus’ statement may have struck her in a remarkable way. The woman gently turns his own words against him. The insult suddenly becomes an argument in her favor.
With no hint of offense or discouragement and with no attitude of entitlement, she makes a claim based on her strong faith. The banquet of the Lord is so great that even to receive a few crumbs falling from the table will be enough to heal her daughter. The Lord finds this declaration irresistible. He immediately proclaims what He had in mind all along, that this woman is not a dog. She is an admirable woman of great faith. His harsh treatment of her has brought out the best in her.
This wonderful episode shows us what great faith really looks like in practice. It is not a matter of belonging to the right social class. It does not depend on mastering all the properly religious words and rituals. It does not seek to prove to anyone that we are holy or deserving of divine favor. Great faith is persevering and humble.
Sometimes the Lord is silent and does not say a word in answer to us. Sometimes He reminds us of our insignificance or our weakness or our unworthiness. None of these are obstacles to us if we have faith. They simply purify us of all self-importance and make us more ready to receive the Lord’s favor. Nothing is impossible for us when we have great faith, because nothing is impossible for the Lord in whom we trust.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 37:12-14 / Ps 130 / Rom 8:8-11 / Jn 11:1-45
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
From today’s Psalm we hear, “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word (Ps 130: 5-6).” It is a good Lenten practice to ask ourselves, Do I trust God? Do I understand what is meant by divine providence? When my future is uncertain or I am experiencing suffering, darkness, death, or discord in my life, do I trust that He hears and answers my prayers? Today’s gospel clearly affirms that in God’s plan, “[S]uffering and death are not meaningless (Martin 200).”
On Hallow’s forty-day Lenten series, Jonathan Roumie shared a story that illustrates how God, in His providence makes good come from suffering. Fr. Walter Ciszek, a Polish-American Jesuit priest who was doing clandestine missionary work in the USSR, was imprisoned in a Soviet Union labor camp for twenty-three years. While in prison, he struggled with the seeming crushing of his dream to spread the faith. Despair came upon him, until he surrendered to God in the midst of his imprisonment, forced labor, and nutritional and spiritual deprivation.
How did Fr. Ciszek’s Catholic faith enable him to move from despair to helping the other prisoners “find God and attain eternal life (Hallow)?” A key insight was that he came to realize that “God is in all things.” He wrote, “To see His will in all things was to accept each circumstance and situation and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust. No danger could threaten me, no fear could shake me, except the fear of losing sight of Him. The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring.” This quote is from his autobiography, “He Leadeth Me,” which he wrote in peace and comfort in America. His autobiography is accomplishing his dream of spreading the faith much more effectively than if he had not suffered as he did.
Now let’s look at the gospel for a message on trust in divine providence. When Jesus receives word from Mary and Martha that Lazarus is ill, does He go and heal him as Mary and Martha expected their intercession to bring about? No. Listen to the oddness in these two verses. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was ill, He remained for two days in the place where He was (Jn 11:5-6).” Jesus, who is God, loves them and hears their prayer request to heal Lazarus, but does not do it. Why?
Jesus gives us a couple of reasons. After telling the disciples that Lazarus has died, He says, “I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe (Jn 11:15).” At Lazarus’s tomb, He tells His Father that He is praying out loud “that they may believe that you sent me (Jn 11:42).” Jesus delayed so that people would come to believe He was sent by God and has power even over the grave.
Dr. Brant Pitre shares the reflections of three saints on Jesus’ delay. They shine a light on divine providence that Mary and Martha, in the sorrow of the moment, could not see. St. Peter Chrysologus explained it this way: “For Christ, it was more important to conquer death than to cure disease. He showed His friend His love not by healing him but by calling him back from the grave. Instead of a remedy for his illness, He offered him the glory of rising from the dead (Sermon 63:1-2).”
My favorite of the three reflections Pitre shared may be from St. Andrew of Crete. He imagined Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb saying, “Lazarus, Come out!…As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you…Come out! Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection. Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb. Come out!…Come out of the tomb….(And here is the clincher….) Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment, when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead (Homily 8).” St. Andrew was alluding to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which tells of an angel blowing a trumpet when Jesus returns on the last day and the dead being raised at its sound. This spiritual truth is sung at the Easter Vigil in the Exultet, “Let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud the mighty King’s triumph!”
The third reflection was from St. John Chrysostom. He points out that, “Many are offended when they see any who are pleasing to God suffering anything terrible…They do not know that those who are especially dear to God have it as their lot to endure such things as is the case with Lazarus, who is a friend of Christ but was also sick (Homilies on John).”
God knows the big picture. We do not. Mary and Martha did not. While they just wanted their brother healed, Jesus wanted to draw more people to Himself by showing that He has power even over death. Through divine providence, Mary and Martha received a gift much greater than what they asked for.
The saints seem to get this, and so they do not fret over their suffering or impending death. St. Pope John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and the aforementioned St. John Chrysostom come to mind (Pitre). They could live lives of heroic virtue because they trusted that God’s providence would bring about a greater good out of their suffering and death.
In raising Lazarus from the dead, we see Jesus vastly exceed that for which Mary and Martha prayed. This teaches us to trust that God hears our prayers and sees our tears (remember He wept with them). We have been doing extra fasting, abstinence, prayer, and charity for five weeks, but do we trust that God is doing something with our efforts? If you have not noticed any change or transformation in yourself, it may be that like Mary and Martha you are focused on looking for what you asked for instead of looking for what God chose to do. Ask Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to reveal what the Father has done and is doing in you.
Here is another true story about providence, and this one is from a friend of mine named HV. He was a 16-year-old when his family had to flee their home country of Vietnam. HV remembers suffocating heat worsened by standing shoulder to shoulder on a boat with other refugees. People began to die around him as they had no water for three days. Ultimately, his family arrived in Virginia Beach. HV had no friends, could not speak English, and struggled with American culture.
Growing up, HV’s parents had prayed the rosary regularly with him and his siblings. His father had even taken him to a seminary to apply for the priesthood. (He was turned down.) Nevertheless, the awfulness of his family’s refugee experience led him to decide that God did not exist. Like Fr. Ciszek, though, HV came to see God in all these things.
His family survived the boat trip and were now living, in HV’s words, “in the greatest country on earth.” He ended up marrying, having children and becoming an engineering manager. He and his wife served the youth in their parish, and he served in the Knights of Columbus. And on September 25, 2021, the man who was turned down by that Vietnamese seminary, was ordained with me and is now a permanent deacon. And, by the way, his easy-going manner and sense of humor made him the class favorite and enviably, my family’s favorite as well. His parent’s prayers were heard, and God made a greater good come about for his family from the evil of war than if it had never happened.
My last sharing is from the Litany of Trust by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia of the Sisters of Life in New York. It was prayed in Hallow’s 40 Day Lenten challenge. She wrote that, “The Lord knows that we don’t have what it takes on our own. He comes to us with great love. He sustains us at all times, even when we are not aware of Him.”
Let’s close with part of the Litany so that you can continue to pray your own form of it these last days of Lent. I invite you to respond in your heart after each petition, Jesus, I trust in You. “That You are with me in my suffering…Jesus, I trust in You. That Your plan is better than anything else…Jesus, I trust in You. That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me…Jesus, I trust in You. That you give me all the strength I need for what is asked…Jesus I trust in You. That you can deliver me from resentment [and] excessive preoccupation with the past…Jesus, I trust in You. That my life is a gift…Jesus, I trust in You. That I am Your beloved one…Jesus, I trust in You.”
Brothers and sisters, make the saints’ trust in divine providence yours and, with God’s grace, move your Lent from doubt to confidence and from struggle to peacefulness. God is in all our experiences and so our future, no matter what it holds, is the best. Amen.
Hallow App. Lent #Pray40 Part 1: Imitation of Christ. Week 5 Tuesday and Wednesday reflections. March 2023.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Fr. Mark Toups. Lenten Companion, A Personal Encounter with the Power of the Gospel. Ascension Publishing 2023.
Fr. Francis Martin & William T. Wright IV. Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture. The Gospel of John. Baker Academic, 2015.KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27 / Ps 145 / Rev 21:1-5a / Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Each Sunday after Easter, God’s messages through the readings help us in living our everyday lives. The main theme of today’s readings is that Jesus’ disciples are recognized by the people around Him because they follow His commandment of love.
There are four elements through which Jesus wants to make His presence among His disciples during His lifetime and after His resurrection. These four elements are: the cross, prayer, Eucharist, and love.
The first element is the cross. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:38, Lk 14:27) Crucifixion was a form of Roman punishment during Jesus’ time, especially for criminals and rebels. When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die, to the place of execution.
For us, to carry the cross is a figurative expression which means that we must endure whatever is burdensome, trying, or is considered disgraceful in following our Lord, Jesus Christ. The cross is the symbol of doing our Christian duty, even at the cost of the most painful death, just like Jesus Christ, who obeyed God and carried out His work for the salvation of all, though it required Him to die upon the cross in order to do it.
The second element is prayer. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) The best secret to unanswered prayer for whatever we need, is asking it in Jesus’ name, and not in the name of revenge, of consolation or pleasure, of an easy way out, of fame or shame, of good works or recompense for charitable donations.
First and foremost, our prayer must never be selfish. Selfish prayer cannot find an answer. We are not meant to pray only for our own needs, thinking of nothing and no one but ourselves. We are meant to pray as members of a Christian community. When prayer is unselfish, it is always answered. Let us always remember that the answer to our prayers is not according to our wish, but the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. That is why we should not separate ourselves from His Son.
The third element is the Eucharist. Matthew 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is My body.’” At the Last Supper, Jesus eats a Passover meal with His disciples in view of His passion, death, and resurrection. The bread now is Jesus’ body, being broken and given to His disciples and to all of us. The wine is now Jesus’ blood, poured out for the redemption of the world. At Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Jesus. The bread that we eat is not a symbol of Christ’s body, but really is His body.
The last element is love. Jesus says in today’s gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus gives us this new commandment that we should love one another because He loves us. This teaching of Jesus about loving one another takes different forms.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) Ordinarily, for Jewish people, a neighbor is only a fellow Jew. But for Jesus, the term neighbor includes any individual who is in need of help. That is what we understand in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Every person in need, whether he lives next door or a town away, whether she is beautiful or ugly, is a neighbor.
Jesus asks His disciples to use as a measure in loving other people, the love they have for themselves. They are to treat another person as their own flesh and bone. That is not an easy thing to do. We normally have different standards for ourselves as compared to others. The natural tendency is to give ourselves first priority or utmost care and to provide others with less or even no attention. By asking us to love a neighbor as our own self, the Lord simply is helping us overcome what we call narcissistic tendencies. We all belong to the one body of Christ, and we need to behave like we really are part of one another.
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents an even more demanding version of the commandment to love. He says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34-35) The Lord teaches His disciples to use as their standard for loving, not only their love for themselves, but His love for them. He knows that our way of loving can easily be tainted with selfish motivations. Hence, He challenges us to love one another according to the way He has loved us.
But the question is, what is this Christ-like love? It is a love that is agape. A love in spite of and not “love if” or “love because.” Agape is unconditional love: a love that is not motivated by how lovable the other person is. It does not say, I’ll love you if you become valedictorian of your class, or very successful. Or I’ll love you if you can afford to buy me a beautiful car, etc. It is love for even the unlovable, including the poor and one’s enemies. His love is self-sacrificing, unselfish, unselective. The love of Jesus is also not merited love which is bestowed on those who possess adorable qualities. It never says: I love you because you are considerate. I love you because you are faithful.
We are all called by Jesus to do the same thing: to love each one not because he or she is lovable, but in spite of the fact that he or she may not be lovable. We are to love even our enemies and sinners also.
There was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became a shy and introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother took her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful, and she became a normal and happy person. Not long after, she had a boyfriend. After several years, they decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. As she embraced her, she noticed something strange, something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear. She cried and said, “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
I recently received a text message from a friend that will make us reflect about life and love. It says, “LIFE is a four-letter word that is very meaningful. L stands for love. I stands for inspiration. F stands for forgiveness. E stands for everlasting. No matter who, what, where, and when you found life, always remember, only God can satisfy your life.”KEEP READING
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 15:45-49 / Lk 6:27-38
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
His advisors, because of his being friendly even to his political enemies, criticized President Abraham Lincoln, and he quickly answered, “Am I not eliminating my enemies by making them my friends?”
Everyone here has, at one time or another, been wounded by someone, or at least we believe we have been hurt or offended. Every one of us carries the scars from just living and the way in which life can be cruel and hurtful at times. Because of this, we can accumulate a tremendous burden of resentments, grudges, hatred, and anger. We all know someone who has nursed a grudge for years, and who is consumed with their anger, justified or not. (more…)KEEP READING
[Following is the text of Bishop Knestout’s September 26 letter to the Diocese of Richmond]
Dear Faithful of the Diocese of Richmond,
Today we continue the celebration of the bicentennial jubilee of our local Church. This Mass commemorates St. Vincent de Paul, the patron of the Diocese of Richmond, and recognizes the Catholic presence in the Western Vicariate of our diocese. (more…)KEEP READING
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Vigil Mass, Dec. 7)
December 8, 2016 – Year A
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Psalm 98 / Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 / Lk 1:26-38
This morning, while the famous Holy Name of Mary Hymn Sing Ministry was singing Christmas carols at Oakwood Manor, one of the residents there whom everyone calls ‘Captain Jack’ reminded us of what happened on Dec. 7, 1941. Today is December 7, and, although I’m not much of a history person, I memorized this a long time ago because we were so close to where it happened: Exactly 75 years ago today, in a small island in the Pacific, the skies were aglow and there was ferocious activity, but it was not any type of celebration. The Japanese Imperial War Machine bombed Pearl Harbor. Twenty-four hours later, fires were still burning, men were being taken out of partially-submerged ships, and the shock of war had touched not only American soil, but that of all Allied countries – and that includes the country where I was born and raised: the Philippine Islands. (more…)KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2016 – Year C
Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 / Ps 71 / 1 Cor 12:31-13:13 / Lk 4:21-30
by Rev. Louis Benoit, Guest Celebrant
Jesus goes to his hometown and proclaims the Good News of healing and liberation, and the people are impressed. But then they begin to say, “Wait a minute! Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Isn’t he the carpenter’s boy? Where did he get all this? We know where he comes from.” They begin to question. Jesus points out to them that sometimes people outside Judaism have greater faith than these people inside Judaism. And this really gets the people riled up! They want to throw him over the edge of the hill where the town is built, but he goes through their midst and is gone…
Of course, the tragedy is that Jesus, God incarnate in a human person, is among them and they don’t see it. Their vision is too narrow, and they miss it. (more…)KEEP READING