Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21 / Ps 117 / Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 / Lk 13:22-30
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text, was warning his congregation about eternal damnation. He said, “There will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look, preacher, I’ve got no teeth.” “Never mind,” the evangelist said. “The teeth will be provided.”
Brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” We can hear in the gospel that Jesus would not give the number of those who would be saved. He did not even really answer the man’s question. He just said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” In other words, He’s answering a more important question: How can I be saved?
There are questions that have a special appeal to the mass media and to popular imagination. For example, when will the world come to an end? When is Armageddon coming? Who is the antichrist? What is 666? Is it the mark of the antichrist? What about the three days of darkness? These are questions that Jesus does not want to answer. I’m sure of that.
Today I invite you to reflect on this gospel, which is about salvation in Jesus Christ and therefore, entering God’s kingdom. Many of our problems in life come from our bad practice of asking the wrong questions. We ask the wrong questions; therefore, we also get the wrong answers.
The first wrong question is: How many will be saved? It is like the question of the person in the gospel. It is wrong to ask this question, because the right question is: How will we be saved? The Lord does not give us numbers of those who will be saved. The Lord shows us the way. We will be saved by entering through the narrow gate.
For us Catholics, the possession of our baptismal certificate and regular Mass attendance do not guarantee our salvation. We must go through, like Jesus said, the narrow gate. So now the question is, what exactly is the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is every moral decision that we make. Do we choose for God, or do we choose against God?
The second reading tells us that the trials and tribulations of life are not signs of the absence of God, but they are signs of His presence. It tells us that God is allowing challenges to come into our lives, so that we can grow closer to Him. In other words, following Christ is not an easy way.
The second wrong question is: Where is the gate? It is wrong to ask this question because the question is not where is the gate. There is no gate. The proper question to ask is not where is the gate, but who is the gate. The gate is not a place; the gate is a person. Jesus Christ Himself is the gate.
The last wrong question is: What must I do? It is wrong to ask this question because the Lord wants us to ask: What must I continue doing? It is because we are people who are good at the start of an activity but sometimes fail to sustain it through and through. Sometimes we are good at the beginning, but when it comes to sustaining it, that is where we falter.
So let us not ask how many will be saved, but rather how will we be saved. Let us not ask where is the gate, but rather who is the gate? Let us not ask what must I do, but rather what must I continue doing?
Brothers and sisters, what are the questions in our hearts right now that remain unanswered? Maybe the source of our pain is that we are asking the wrong question in life.
There was a very well-known and wealthy man who visited a nursing home. He was welcomed by everyone except by an old man in a corner, sitting in his wheelchair. The visitor stopped and asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” The old man just stared at him. For the second time he asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” This time the old man looked at him and said, “No, but you can ask the nurses. They have a file on each one of us.”
The narrow door, besides being the making of correct moral decisions, is patient endurance of all the difficult things that confront us in our lives. Jesus will be there with us all of the way. He invites us to walk the same road that He walked. He strengthens us for this journey with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He invites us to make our own way to Jerusalem, there to pass through the narrow door to Calvary. But we must remember: beyond Calvary is the resurrection and the joy of eternal life with God.
Make the correct choice. If you do, you will not be disappointed when you meet Jesus face to face. Guaranteed. In the end, it is not who we think we are or who others think we are, but who we are to God that truly matters. He has the final say; He has the final file on each one of us.
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
April 10, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Lk 19:28-40 / Is 50:4-7 / Ps 22 / Phil 2:6-11 / Lk 22:14 – 23:56
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. On this Palm Sunday, we gather together to join Jesus in His final journey toward His divine purpose. After five weeks in the desert of Lent, we are all joyful and relieved that Easter is coming, and Jesus is near.
Just a few moments ago, we gathered in the commons with our palms being blessed, anticipating Him of whom we’ve heard so much. There was a little excitement and a sense of community as we looked at others across the circle. You could feel a sense of purpose. Then we joined in that triumphant procession toward this holy place, our “temple,” just like the people in the gospel arriving in Jerusalem. We, like them, were marrying our hopes and aspirations to those of this simple teacher from Galilee.
In very short order, however, our joy and hopes were crushed, as we listened in horror to the gospel dialog of the Lord’s Passion. Thankfully, we know the outcome. We know the victory. We have the blessing to be on this side of history, looking back for our assurances. The people there, the disciples there that day, had an uncertain future. Their lives were so difficult in a brutal and occupied territory.
I’ve heard this Palm Sunday set of readings for years, and I read it quite a few times as I was preparing for preaching this weekend. There is one character in the story that I could not get out of my mind this past week. He’s a minor detail, really, easily brushed off and forgotten. I’m talking about the donkey.
Why did Jesus need a ride and why did He choose a donkey? Jesus had been walking all over Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, for three years. He walked everywhere and I would imagine that He was very fit and used to walking. He had set His mind on the journey to Jerusalem just a few weeks ago. He was making a beeline to Jerusalem, and yet He stopped just a mile or so from the destination, and decided to send two of His disciples to go get a donkey for this last little piece. Curious, isn’t it?
Every Jew in Jesus’ day and especially in His audience would have been very familiar with the prophesy of Zechariah about the king’s entry into Jerusalem. Zechariah 9: 9-10 says:
Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior’s bow will be banished, and he will proclaim peace to all the nations.
His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Jesus, choosing this donkey, verifies this prophecy.
What does it say to us, that He is riding in on a donkey? It says to us that Jesus is a king, and that the King is coming to you. To you and to me by name. It says Jesus is a just Savior. He wants to save you, to remove you from sin and death, to justify you, moving you from darkness to light. It says Jesus is humble. He is not riding a great stallion or being carried in an ornate wagon. He is gentle, caring, and arriving on a common donkey. It says Jesus is peaceful. He is not conquering with horse and chariot, and bow. No violence. Peacefully, He comes to you. He doesn’t force your heart. He asks. It says Jesus’ reign, His dominion, is universal from sea to sea. That tells us He’s coming for everyone, every single one of us. Are we open? Are we ready?
Another curious thing about the story is that in order to complete this divine mission, in getting the help of this common creature, we learn that the donkey was born for one purpose and one purpose only. The donkey had never been sat upon by anyone. The donkey’s purpose was to serve the Lord. But the donkey couldn’t come on his own. He was tethered and needed guidance. Luke makes so much of the fact that the donkey was tethered and needed to be untied.
I started thinking that maybe you and I are the donkey. Weren’t we all born for one purpose: to serve the Lord? Aren’t we also tied up, bound to so many other things? Take a moment and think about what ties you, what binds you, what holds you back and separates you from truly loving and truly serving Him? Jesus, in His wisdom and compassion, sent disciples to help us, to untie us and lead us to Him. The Church, her Sacraments, her clergy, and all her holy and prayerful people have all been around and are still here to help set our hearts free and guide us to the Master, whom we were born to serve.
What binds you? What is your tether? Is it pride, or fear, indifference, busy-ness, or shame? There is something in the world out there causing separation. Our tether has been expertly bound by sin. Satan works around the clock to keep those knots tight and secure. But this week, as we go through Holy Week, we learn how and by whom we are liberated.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Lent
March 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 / Lk 13:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Third Sunday of Lent. The season of Lent is a wakeup call for all of us, a time to be brutally honest with ourselves, so that we come to know how deeply we depend on God’s mercy and providence. We know that the God we worship and believe in has proven to be loving, forgiving, and saving throughout the history of our Faith.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells about a fig tree that never bears fruit. So, like any sensible farmer, the owner thinks it’s probably time to get rid of it, simply because it does not bear fruit. But the man who works in the field has a better idea: I’ll give it a big dose of loving care, then we’ll hope to see its branches bend under the weight of juicy figs.
That is exactly what Jesus does for us. He feeds us, not with fertilizer, but with His Own Body and Blood. He invites us to stop boasting and be humble and let Him gently point out what we are doing wrong.
A story is told of an eight-year-old boy named Jimmy, who was acting up. He refused to do what he was told to do and did everything he was told not to do. In desperation, his father finally sent him to bed before dessert was served. Just then, a neighbor dropped in. He always liked Jimmy, and after a while he asked the parents if he could talk to the boy.
With a prayer in his heart, he reminded the lad that his disobedience displeased his parents and made them sad. It especially displeased God. The boy began to cry. “What can I do?” The visitor called his parents, who listened with tears in their eyes, as Jimmy told them he was sorry.
What the visitor did for Jimmy, Jesus does for every one of us. That is the meaning of the story Our Lord tells us in our gospel today. The man who planted the fig tree is God the Father. The fig tree means the chosen people of God: you and me. And the vinedresser or the worker in the vineyard is Jesus.
In justice, God the Father decides to cut down the fruitless trees. Christ intercedes. He pleads and prays that we be given more time, that we be given another chance. For the sake of His Son, the Heavenly Father gives us another chance.
This is the story of our life with Christ. We have not borne fruit. We have not done what we were created to do. We have even done what God told us not to do. We have disobeyed His ten commandments. We have not produced. You can’t blame God for being dissatisfied.
He decides to remove us, but Christ intercedes. He intervenes. Christ steps between us and God and asks for another chance. Pleading for us is one of the principal tasks of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He asks for mercy for us. He gets us another chance. Not only does He beg His Father for forgiveness, Jesus begs for all the good things we need.
That is one reason why every official prayer of the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, ends with a plea: “Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” or some variation of this thought.
There is a rather famous painting that shows a young man playing chess with the devil. They are playing for possession of the young man’s soul. The painting portrays the devil as having just made a brilliant move. Chess players who studied the arrangement of the chess pieces in the painting feel immediate sympathy for the young man. He has been put in a hopeless situation. He has been led down a blind alley with no exit.
Paul Charles Morphy, a former world class chess player, became intrigued by the painting. One day, while studying the arrangement of the chess pieces, he saw something that no one else did. Excitedly, he cried out to the young man in the painting, “Don’t give up! You still have an excellent move left.” There is still hope.
The story fits in beautifully with the point Jesus makes in the parable of the fig tree today. Like the young man in the painting, the fig tree seems lost, then suddenly a ray of hope breaks through. Like the young man in the painting, the tree is not doomed after all; it gets a last minute reprieve. It gets a last minute second chance.
This is an important message for all of us. Because of Jesus, we are never doomed, no matter how bad things seem. Because of Jesus, there is still hope for us, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Because of Jesus, there is always one more move left to make, no matter how late in the game it is.
This brings us to the most important point of all. How does all this apply to our lives in a very practical way? All of us, to some extent, are like the young man in the painting and like the fig tree in Jesus’ parable. All of us, at one time or another, have arrived at a point in life when it seemed that we were in a no-win situation. Perhaps some of us are at such a point in our lives right now. Perhaps some situation threatens to engulf us and overwhelm us. Perhaps some relationship threatens to destroy everything we believe in. Perhaps some problem has led us down a blind alley that seems to be a dead end.
It’s right here that today’s gospel has an important message for all of us. Because of Jesus Christ, we are never doomed, no matter how bad things seem. Because of Jesus, we always have one more move left. Because of Jesus, there is still hope for us, no matter what the situation.
This is the lesson that’s contained in today’s scripture. This is the good news that we celebrate in today’s liturgy. And this is the message that God wants us to carry back into our world to share with others.KEEP READING