Focus on God or on our Problem?
- God revealing his Name, “I Am Who I Am”, to Moses at the burning bush [Ex 3:14]
- 17 A voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son” at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river [Mt 3:7]
- The presence of God at the mount of the Transfiguration. Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” [Mt 17:]
What is the common element in all these events?
All contain a “Theophany”. “Theophany is a Greek word which means “Manifestation of God”. Theophany is a true vision of God — it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period, often, but not always, in human form. Scholars use this term to describe a dramatic encounter with God involving a sensate manifestation of his power and presence.
The definition is consistent with the story before us today:
- Jesus walking on water toward the boat early morning. His disciples caught an eye on him and cried out in fear: “It is a ghost!” 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
In this last Theophany, the disciples came face-to-face with the divine glory in the person of Jesus. The veil shrouding the mystery of his true identity is briefly pulled back.
It is I, Jesus Said. “It is I”. They are words of reassurance for the disciples identifying the speaker as their Master and Rabbi. On another level however, they are words of revelation, for they can be translated accurately as “I AM”. Jesus’ declaration is nothing less than a claim to divinity using the familiar words of scriptural revelation “I AM”.
Peter’s request to Jesus reveals his faith but at the same time his inadequate trust: Peter wants to go to Christ but also want Christ to call him as a proof that it is truly he and not a phantom. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [Mt 14:28]. Jesus called him. Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. Every goes well. Peter’s steps are supported by a miracle of God. He is walking on water. But suddenly the situation changes. What happed then?
When Peter “saw” how strong the wind was, he let fear overpower his faith, and he began to sink into the water. Peter lost his focus on Jesus only to focus on the wind. HE REMOVED HIS LOOK FROM JESUS. Jesus was empowering Peterto do by grace what he could not do by (human) nature. Having turned his attention away from the Lord, Peter is left to rely on his own feeble power. Realizing this, all he could do, was to cry out, Lord save me!
No sooner did Peter’s voice pierce through the winds, that Jesus stretched out his hand to help him up. Jesus statement is one of correction rather than of condemnation. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus does not want to humiliate Peter for his failure, but to encourage him to a stronger faith.
Once Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat, the wind dies down. Jesus is acting as only God can act, doing what only God can do. And, the disciples noted it declaring: Truly, you are the Son of God. This is he first of three declaration of Jesus’s divine sonship in the Gospel of Matthew. (16:16 and 27:54).
Peter’s misadventure conveys A CRUCIAL LESSON OF DISCIPLESHIP:
“the need to always stand firm in our faith in the midst of life’s trials”
As in the event of Peter walking and then sinking on the water, sometimes we get consumed with worry and fear when we find ourselves in tough situations. We focus on our own desires, our problems, our short comings, and even become focused on other people‘s blessings instead of our own. We focus on everything and everyone else, instead of focusing on God, the one person who can actually help us.
If you remember the 2nd. Law of physics it says that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Your thoughts are objects too. You can’t see them, but thoughts exist. Try lifting you little finger and wiggling it………….See? That’s a thought. And thoughts have a mass of their own. Effectively they’ are objects. It is not possible to conceive two opposite thoughts at the same time. You and I cannot think positive and negative at the same time. Our brain does not work like that. Two thoughts cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You and I cannot think of failure and success at the same time.
You and I may have found ourselves in tough situations. You and I may be experiencing one right now. You and I may find ourselves in stormy situations in the future.
Most of us will have to go through struggles, frustrations, life-threatening events and family illnesses at some point during our life. It is normal to feel bad when these things occur. It is acceptable to conceive negative thoughts when our path bends the wrong way. To deny these feelings and thoughts simply would not be natural or healthy. Do not beat yourself up when negative feelings, thoughts, and words creep into your life. You have not done anything wrong. You are just being human. The challenge is to not let these feelings hold you back from moving forward with your life. In these situations, we prevail and grow stronger in our faith, and sometimes we falter. Times of testing and adversity can show us where we are in our spiritual development and where we need to improve if we are to grow to Christian maturity.
Jesus did not let Peter drown in the midst of a personal trial. That is encouraging. As with Peter, the Lord shows himself patient with us; Jesus will never abandon us in our struggles, allowing us to perish for our every mistake. Remember, Jesus’ name “Emmanuel” means God is with us. He has always been with us. He is always there with an outstretched hand, ready to lift us up again. The challenge is to learn from our mistakes, much as Jesus wanted Peter to learn that distraction and doubt were the reasons for his failure at sea.
A faithful person never allows the reality of the moment to stop them from seeing a better future, supported by God’s help. They accept the reality that is before them while never losing hope about tomorrow. The key is to embrace reality without losing hope.
Three suggestions to help us during tough times:
- Do not Depend on You. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding [Prov. 3:5].
- Cry out to God, surrendering to God begins with our lips and our thoughts. You and I need more than a commitment to depend on Him; you and I need to cry out to Him to show that dependence. We do it by Prayer.
- Put God First in Your Life.
And remember the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:I am with you always, to the close of the age.
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As always, today too we have a beautiful message that we read in the scriptures. In the gospel we have a well known story about Jesus who feeds the crowd. They were following him for many days; they were thirsty for His word, and looking for healing. That is why they came. They did not come because they felt a physical hunger, but a spiritual one.
1.- Whatever we see in the gospel is a sign and a light for all of us to be recognized. It is a sign of how we should look at the whole relationship with the Lord, and also it shows us the hierarchy; and what we should do to accept the gift from the Lord. First of all is the idea/plan to come to the Lord?
- To meet the Lord and eventually to be fed by him, first and foremost we need to come to HIM. This is what the people did in the gospel. They were physically present. To meet and to receive from the Lord His grace we need to be present physically. Christ feeds those who have courage to make an effort to come to Him. Only those who were present were fed by the Lord.
- The people who were there had the right intention of going to get enriched spiritually. They wanted to be with the Lord not to benefit from it in an earthly way. They looked for the truth in their lives. We as well need to have the right intention.
- I am not criticizing those who do not come to church on a regular basis. But this is what it is. Those who do not come will not be fed.
- We go to church because we want to meet the Lord. That is the right intention. The only intention we should have in our hearts should be this one – to be with the Lord.
2. Notice what is happening later. The gospel says that before Jesus multiplied the bread he did something. Looking at the people Jesus had compassion first, then he taught, cured the sick and finally fed them with bread.
- This is how Jesus takes care of his people. Before feeding them He takes care of their spiritual needs. He has compassion. He cures the sick. He cures those who need His healing touch. In other words He recognizes their spiritual needs and does something about it.
- Before inviting the people to the table of bread, He invited all those who needed to be healed to the table of health in terms of restoration or reconciliation.
- We all need healing. We all need the grace of the Lord. Notice what the gospel today is telling us; before receiving the Lord in the Eucharist the Lord invites us to being reconciled. It is a beautiful message. Before receiving communion we need to make sure that we are in the state of sanctifying grace which means without mortal sin. If we receive communion not in the state of grace, we are not receiving grace.
3.- What is happening in the sacrament of reconciliation?
- We receive healing, the root of every sin, which is pride, is blocked a little. We are liberated from the sins we confess. The relationship with the Lord is re-established. This is what sin does. It destroys the relationship with the Lord. By committing a sin we hurt somebody who loves us very much, and who died on the cross for us.
After doing all those things the Lord multiples bread and feeds the crowd. Everyone is satisfied. Moreover twelve baskets are left over. The Lord gives more than the human person can handle and satisfies us fully.
Mt 13, 44 – 52
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Today we have very rich scripture readings. Each of us can definitely find something that touches us personally. Not only that, but they highlight important points. Specifically, that it is not us who are central, but rather God himself, and it is to him that we need to pay homage.
1.- In the first reading the Lord speaks to Solomon telling him to ask God for whatever he would. The response of Solomon so pleased the Lord that He blessed him abundantly. The Lord said “Because you […] have not asked for yourself [for] long life or riches or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word”. Based on this sentence we can infer that if Solomon had asked for riches and long life, that is, if he asked in a selfish way, the Lord would not have answered his request.
In the second reading, the apostle tells us that we are to be brothers and sisters who work for good, for those who love God, that we are all one in the same faith, that we all have the same purpose, and that we are to live in the image of Christ. Those who live for Christ are justified and glorified.
In the gospel, the Lord tells us a story about treasure hidden in the fields that was found by a person, who later on went and sold everything he had, to buy this field. He likens this story to that of a merchant who found a pearl of great price and then did that very same thing to possess this pearl.
2.- In our world can be found contradictions to all those messages from today’s scriptures. First of all, we see the selfishness by which a great number of people are affected. We all desire power, we all want to succeed in our endeavours. And those things are not bad on their own. However, quite often people are willing to destroy others trying to get their own way. This can be seen in marriages that end in divorce. Those who once loved each other on their wedding day, often end up unable to speak to one another at all. They act not in the name of Christ and as a result, bring upon themselves even more suffering. Second, it can seem that, in our world, everything is about profit. Moreover, in this endless pursuit of profit, it does not seem to matter if the human person is destroyed or how much suffering is caused. It is profit that is of utmost important. Quite often we are not brothers and sisters to one another because the desire and thirst for money changes our approach towards everything.
3.- To fix this situation we need to find the real treasure. Christ is this treasure. Everything that needs to be changed can be changed only through the grace of God. We are unable to fix anything on our own. The only way the change can come is through the grace of God. And this is how it should always be: through the repentance and profound conversion of the human heart. Finding this treasure, we need to sell all those other things that prevent us from coming to Christ. We need to give up those things for the sake of Christ. If there is something in my heart that I want to keep for myself, that very thing prevents me from coming to Christ totally.
Many people have had a chance to meet Christ who is the real treasure. But many have also decided not to have anything to do with him. Life without God can seem easier. At the end however, as the gospel says today, the angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous.
Dear brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid to follow Christ no matter how much it costs, for where Christ is there is also life. Why do we struggle with all those actions against life in today’s world? We struggle, because there is no presence of Christ in the hearts of so very many people. We need to allow Christ to enter our hearts and lives, and with God’s grace, everything will be different.
16th. Sunday Ordinary Time
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
North Africa, Year 354 AD. Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, also known as Saint Augustine, was born. He was brought up in the Christian faith but without receiving baptism. An ambitious school-boy of brilliant talents and violent passions. Early in life, he lost both, his faith and his innocence. From his birth, Augustine knew the religious differences overwhelming the Roman Empire: his father was a pagan who honored the old Punic gods; his mother was a zealous Christian. But the adolescent Augustine was less interested in religion and learning, than in sex and high living. He indulged in pleasures, parties, and anything the world could then offered. As he grew up, he became an outstanding orator, so successful, at least in world’s eye, that he became the Orator to the Queen. He embraced different sects and became a fierce opponent to the Christian faith. He persisted in his irregular life until he was thirty-three. “A real piece of work”.
Saul was born in the city of Tarsus. His studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the greatest Rabbis in the city of Jerusalem. Saul’s life previous to his conversion was distinguished on account of great wickedness. He declared that he was a persecutor (1 Cor. 15:9), a blasphemer, an unbeliever, the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:12-15). He tried whatever was at reach to destroy the sect of the false messiah, Jesus, convinced that by doing this, he was doing God’s will. He witnessed and approved the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr. Martyrdom, something he would experience firsthand later in his ministry.
Simon – A fisherman in Galilee. Simon was personally chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve. Not only that, Jesus chose him to become the head of the then nascent Church. Jesus told him: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! 18 You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church [Mt 16:17]. Nevertheless, Peter was not perfect though. Even warned by Jesus himself, Peter denied Him not once, but three times at one of the most critical moments of Jesus’ life.
Judas Iscariot – One of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. He walked with Jesus for three years. He witnessed his miracles. He heard all his teachings and shared their same meals. However, tempted by the evil, “he chose”, yes, “he chose” to betray his Master for 30 pieces of silver.
Based on what you just heard, what would your thoughts be about these four men? You and I would classify them, in terms of today’s readings, as “WEEDS”, right? You are right!…..they would nothing but poisonous weeds.
When reflecting in the “Parable of the wheat and the weeds”, sometimes it seems that God should jump down upon earth and with his sickle cut down all the evil weeds in our society. You might have thought that it would seem to be a great blessing if God were to eliminate from our midst the abortionists, the child molesters, the drug lords, the gang leaders, the serial killers, the terrorists, the white-collar crooks, the bigots, and all who abuse human goodness and dignity. But it is not happening. Why not?
The Book of Wisdom tells us that God gives hope that he will permit repentance for sins. In other words, God is patient. God respects the greatest gift he gave us, our freedom, our free will. He considers freedom to be such a precious gift that he tolerates evil, at least until the day of judgment. God will not force anyone to avoid evil and do good, but he does want to give all of us enough time to repent and change our lives. We may be too quick to judge someone or something as so evil that in our view, tolerance is not acceptable.
The type of wheat used in ancient Palestine, was, in its early stages, indistinguishable from weeds like “darnel”, a poisonous plant. Only when it fully matures, it can be distinguished and separated from wheat. But there is still a caution. “Pulling up the weeds early could result in taking the wheat along with them.” Once the weeds are growing it could be too late or too early to act since the roots of weed and wheat are intertwined.
Let me continue with the rest of the stories of these four men:
St. Augustine of Hippo – Being then at Milan professing rhetoric, he tells us that the faith of his childhood had regained possession of his intellect, but that he could not as yet resolve to break the chains of evil habit. One day, however, stung to the heart by the account of some sudden conversions, he then withdrew into a garden, when a long and terrible conflict ensued. Suddenly a young fresh voice breaks in upon his strife with the words, “Take and read” The battle was won. He received baptism, returned home, and gave all to the poor.
At Hippo, where he settled, he was consecrated bishop in 395 AD. was a theologian and philosopher. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity. A renowned theologian and prolific writer, he was also a skilled preacher and rhetorician against the heretics of his days. He is one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and, in Roman Catholicism, is formally recognized as a doctor of the church.
St. Paul of Tarsus. As a result of his conversion we went from being the most dangerous persecutor to the strongest and most faithful evangelizer. His three missionary journeys ignited the spread of Christianity to the rest of the gentile world.
Simon – Certainly he denied his Master three times; however, he was humble enough to repent and ask for forgiveness. Jesus, after his resurrection, acknowledged this fact, confirming him as the prime leader of the Church.
Judas Iscariot – we know he betrayed Jesus. In Mt 26[:24] we read: 24b Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” [Mt 27:3a–4] When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and returned the thirty pieces of silver. 4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood”.
What was missing? He did not ask for forgiveness and therefore fell into despair.
How do the examples of these four men
could help us understand ourselves?
Abortion is grave evil, which the Vatican Council calls “an unspeakable crime.” And yet a woman who has had an abortion may have been so confused or so coerced that guilt is significantly diminished. Although our society has been poisoned by a plague which refuses to acknowledge responsibility and proposes excuses for every kind of wickedness, we do not have the right to condemn a person, we do not have the right to condemn a person, only the evil action. The reality of each person is complicated.
Even in the Church, which by definition is holy, we experience scandals. There are weeds in the fiber of the Church. We are distressed when we hear of scandals in the Church.
Such evil should not surprise us since among the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus, one was a traitor.
Jesus could have eliminated Judas while the act of treachery was still only an evil thought in his mind. He did not pull up the weed, Judas from among the wheat, the other apostles.
Why he didn’t?
I wonder if you are asking yourself this same question. Certainly, a political or military leader will eliminate an enemy as soon as he is aware of him. But not God.
God is above our mortal existence. Through Isaiah the Prophet, he said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord”. [Is 55:2]
- Who in this world is sinless or pure wheat with no admixture of weeds?
- Do we want God to take us away from this world to face him in judgment when the field of our lives still contains weeds?
Do we not realize that the invitation to receive Holy Communion is a sign of God’s patience with us?
I invite you to ponder that the invitation to receive Holy Communion is a sign of God’s patience with us.
God does not request us to be perfect before receiving the Body and Blood of his Son. Holy Communion, we should understand, is not a reward for having been good, but a means for becoming good. It is our spiritual nourishment.
God is patient with each one of us in our struggles, and he is patient with everyone in the world. God’s patience toward sin and evil in the world will last only until the Last Judgment. Only at the end of time will he tell his angels to collect and burn the weeds and to gather the wheat into his barn. [Mt 13:36–43] In the meantime, saints and sinners will continue side by side in the Church.
The Parable counsels patience and tolerance in the present, and encourage leaving the task of separating good and evil persons to God, at the Last Judgment. It is not our prerogative to judge the guilt of anyone. That right belongs to God alone.
15th Sunday OT
Is 55, 10 – 11 Rom 8; 18 – 23 Mt 13; 1 – 23
Today’s Scripture reading gives us a wonderful and at the same time a very rich message to reflect on. It talks about the power of the Word of God in our lives and asks us how we respond to it.
1.- The Word comes from God. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return until they have watered the earth, so the Word goes out from the mouth of God, the prophet says, and it does not return to him empty before accomplishing its task. According to the prophet the Lord is feeding us constantly with His word, but the question is how do we listen to this word and what fruits does it bring?.
2.- In the Gospel there are four groups categorized as how we listen to the Word of God. All of them have the same opportunity and the same access to the Word of God; however, their responses are very different. The sower who is God himself goes out to the field to sow, and as He sows, some seeds fall on the path and the birds come and eat them. This path represents the hearts of those who listen to the Word of God but do not understand it. They do not even try to understand it. Then, the evil one comes like a bird and snatches away whatever is sown in their hearts. I think there are lots of those. Many Catholics, in general, do not have a strong faith; because many of us did not develop a proper relationship with the Lord. Although we listen to the Word of God in Church, quite often we do not apply it to our lives; we treat faith as though it was created by a human person, not revealed by the Lord.
3.- Seeds were sowed on the Rocky ground. Rocky ground is the heart of a person who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. However, it does not take root in that person. They accept the Word of God quickly but it withers away fast. There are those who want to be received into the Church, to become members of the Catholic Church or the parish, not because they look for God but rather because they want to benefit from its membership in one way or another. They listen to the Word of God, they show that they are active, they accept the teaching agreeing to how wonderful it is; but as soon as they achieved what they desired, they disappear.
4.- Seeds among the thorns represent those who live in the noisy world. They listen to the Word of God when they have an opportunity, they accept it with open hearts, but do not bear any fruits because at the end they choose something else. They choose to go to the mall instead of to Church or are too busy to worship on Sundays. This is what I hear quite often from students in our schools when I ask them about the Sunday mass and why they did not attend. We are too busy!. If we are too busy to go to church on Sunday, it means that we are really too busy, and it means that we need to give something up for the sake of our own peace of heart. These people accept the Word of God, but choose “fun” instead of the intimate relationship with the Creator. Therefore, they bear no fruits.
5.- And finally there are those who listen to the Word of God and live it. Listening and living according to the Word of God bears fruits hundredfold in one, in another sixty and in another thirty. This is what is the most important: “to bear good fruits”. Loving God, gives us real peace of heart, real joy and real happiness. Moreover, it leads us to the place where all of us wish to go and wish to be forever, it leads us to heaven. This is our mission: to show Christ, who loves the world and most of all, the human person.
May the merciful Lord be always with us and give us His blessing now and always.
14th. Sun OT, “A”
The Yoke of Humbleness
In the Gospel of Matthew [Mt 5:17], Jesus said: 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Jesus came to bring the old law to its natural fulfilment in the new, while discarding what had become obsolete, like the sacrificial system at of animals the temple and the circumcision.
How is it that the Old Covenant based on the 10 commandments is fulfilled in the Law of the New Covenant?
The Law of New Covenant, as Jesus proclaimed on his Sermon of the Mount, is based on the 8 beatitudes.
- Blessed are the poor of spirit
- Blessed are those who mourn
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the pure in heart
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness
I want to focus on the first three (3):
- Blessed are the poor of spirit – Anything we have: our family, our money, our jobs, our possessions, our skills, even our own lives are gifts from God. We must recognize and accept this truth before us all the time. This is only possible when we are poor in spirit, when we are truly humble. Humility is the foundation of our life in earth. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is ours, except our sinfulness!
- Blessed are those who mourn, those, who like you and I, lament our sinfulness. The humble person always understands his or her brokenness.
- Blessed are the meek – who are the meek? Those who control their strength. The meek are those who have docility of spirit even in the face of adversity and hardship.
And I could have gone through each of the 8 beatitudes. However, what I want to emphasize is the common virtue in which each beatitude is rooted on. HUMILITY. If one is not poor in spirit, one is not humble, one cannot mourn, one cannot be meek, and so on with the rest of the beatitudes. Humility is its foundation.
Humility, properly understood as submissiveness before God, came to be regarded as a virtue, modelled on the example of Christ ‘who humbled himself and became obedient unto death’.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks states that in Judaism, humility is an appreciation of oneself, one’s talents, skills, and virtues. It is not a self-deprecatory thought. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received. In recognition of the mysteries and complexities of life, one should become humbled to the awesomeness of what one is and what one can achieve.
It is not in denial of our talents and gifts but to recognize them and live up to our worth and something greater. It is in the service to others that is the greatest form of humility.
How is Humility linked to today’s readings?
In our first reading, the prophet Zechariah [Zech 9:9–10], prophesied: 9bBehold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey. At the time of the OT, donkeys were used for peaceful purposes. In contrast, horses were mainly used for war. The donkey denoted humility. This king is meek, peaceful, gentle. We know this prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who came to bring us salvation.
In Psalm 145 [8-9, 14] we heard similar virtues whose foundation is humility.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.
9 The Lord is good to all, compassionate toward all your works.
14 The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
Finally, in the Gospel [Matthew 11:25–30], Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us. 28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do. The yoke is also used to balance their efforts and to share the same perspective.
Jesus, at his Passion literally took one side of the yoke upon his shoulders. Jesus is inviting you and I to take the other side of the yoke. Jesus is inviting you and I to join him in his suffering and death. Jesus is inviting us to imitate him. By sharing the same yoke, we can literally see what Jesus sees. He wants you and I to be meek and humble of heart. In this way, and only in this way, you and I will find rest and peace.
Be humble.28 “Come to me, all you who are burdened [by sin], and I will give you rest.
13th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
The gospel today gives us promises and rewards but also reminds us about the hierarchy of values in life and of our Christian journey.
- “Whoever loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me”
- “Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”
God must come first, because from Him we have received everything, including the people who are close to us.
Then the Gospel speaks about the rewards:
- “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me”
- “Whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward”
- “Whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous”
- Whoever gives a cup of water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple […] that person will not lose their reward.
For every gesture we do to others or share with the community of believers we will be receiving a reward. But based on these statements we can assume, that we will receive as much as we give!!!
Whoever does not take the cross and follows me is not worthy of me
Christians are those who know Christ as He is, as what the Bible tells us, and then accept and follow Him. There is a great need of a spiritual effort to discover, who Christ truly is. If we know Christ, choose Him, and follow Him, often we encounter a cross. It should not be a self-imposed cross, but a cross which is given to us. It might come from Christ, from the Community, from another person or a situation in which we find ourselves. We need to carry that cross.
The devotion of the Stations of the Cross, which we pray every Lent, represents the Christian life. If we freely choose to follow the Lord, then also freely we ought to accept the cross. As in the stations of the cross, in our lives we will meet people who are walking along side us on the way; we may assist others on their journey; sometimes we may fall; sometimes we will see people who have pity on us but are not walking with us, like the women of Jerusalem; sometimes we experience being nailed to the cross, and even while being on that cross, we are also being forgiven; sometimes we die with that cross, but the resurrection always comes at the end. As Christ was persecuted, so too will his followers be. Yet we know that the reward is great, and we are truly followers of the Master, when we follow His footsteps. We are being saved not by piety but by charity.
Acts of mercy can be seen as the cross we carry, but also as a gesture of love through which we truly share our Christian identity
- Spiritual acts of mercy
- Instruct the ignorant (Mt 16, 15-16)
- Counsel the doubtful (Jn 14, 27)
- Admonish sinners (Luke 15,7)
- Bear wrongs patiently (Luke 6, 27-28)
- Forgive offences willingly (Mt 6, 12)
- Comfort the afflicted (Mt 28)
- Pray for living and the dead (Jn 17,24)
- Corporal acts of mercy
- Feed the hungry (Mt 25,35)
- Give drink to the thirsty (Mt 25,35)
- Clothe the naked (Mt 25, 36)
- Shelter the homeless (Mt 25,35)
- Visit the sick (Mt 25, 36)
- Visit the imprisoned (Mt 25,35)
- Bury the dead (Mt 25, 40)
12th. Sunday Ordinary Time “A”
DO NOT BE AFRAID
A few years ago, “National Geographic” published an article about something extraordinary that happened after a massive fire in Yellowstone National Park. After the fire was extinguished and the damage assessment work began, a ranger walking through the park found a charred bird at the foot of a tree. It was in a rather strange position, because it did not seem that the bird had died trying to escape or had been trapped, she was simply with her wings closed around her body.
When the shocked ranger gently struck her with a stick, three live little chicks emerged from under her mother’s wings, who knowing that her children could not escape the fire, did not abandon them! Nor did she stay with them in the nest on the tree, where the smoke rises and the heat accumulates, but she took them, perhaps one by one, to the base of the tree and there she gave her life to save theirs.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SCENE?
The fire surrounding them, the frightened chicks and the very determined mother, instilling peace in her children, as if telling them: “Do not fear, come under my wings, nothing will happen to you.” So safe were they when they were there touching their feathers, isolated from the fire, that they had not even left there hours after the fire was extinguished. They were totally confident in their mother’s protection, and only when they felt the pounding, did they think they must come out.
Do you have someone to love like that?
Has someone like you, love you?
A well-known saying goes:
Whoever finds a reason why it is worth living,
find a reason why it is worth giving your life.
If you believe that nobody has loved you as that mother bird loved her chicks,
I invite you to think it again.
Psalm 91:4 reads: “HE will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge”. Who could it be? Today’s Psalm 59 give us more hints:
1 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched.
21 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
29 But I am lowly and in pain; let your salvation, O God, protect me.
By this time, I imagine you might know Who am I referring to: YES! GOD HIMSELF.
Almost everyone has heard: “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear”. God is the most perfect example of it. God loved “us” so much that He was not afraid to be humbled and die for you and I. Our means to thank Him for such immense love is by being his disciple.
Today’s Gospel, chapter 10, give us two basic requisites needed to be a disciple. Two verses before, in chapter 9 v.24, the Jewish leaders associate Jesus with Beelzebul, a name for Satan that literally means “Lord of the house”, with reference to Satan’s power in the world. The Pharisees will accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons”, and on the basis of this accusation will plot to kill him. If this is what they will do to Jesus, the true master of the house, those of his household, the disciples, should not expect better treatment. They too will be rejected and persecuted. Yet, Jesus warns them: you must not be afraid of your opponents. YOU MUST, AGAINST ALL ODDS, PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL.
Facing opposition, it would have been very tempting to stop preaching the Gospel or soften its message to make things easier and protect themselves from suffering.
How should a disciple act when he or she meets with opposition?
Today’s reading is an answer to that question.
The basic principle: DO NOT BE AFRAID!
When faced with “the choice” between dying for the sake of Christ or denying him to save one’s life, we must remember that the worst thing our enemies can do is kill the body but they cannot kill the soul. Men can impose suffering and death on the body but cannot force spiritual death on the soul.
Jesus uses this distinction between body and soul to contrast the relative value of earthly life with the absolute good of eternal life in heaven. We should fear God alone and not the devil for only God has the power over the body and soul. A holy fear of God is thus necessary to avoid sin and its consequences.
There is nothing to fear, because when we proclaim the teaching of Christ, we are making an act of confidence in the effectiveness of his work that is being revealed to others. We should have a heathy fear (respect) of the Lord because God alone can destroy both soul and body in [Hell] Gehenna.Christ, here, is very emphatic. WE, CHRISTIANS MUST CHOOSE!
What should we really be afraid of? God takes care of us; nothing happens that he does not will. He watches over his creatures, even the smallest birds of the air.
“Do not be afraid”, our first attitude toward life, is already an act of faith in Divine Providence. However, Jesus gave his disciples and is giving us, a second criterion: It must be accompanied by the readiness to confess the Lord; to acknowledge Him before others.
As Jesus said, in today’s terms: In the face of persecution, IF the disciple acknowledges Jesus before the world, before the culture of death, before the culture of indifferentism, Jesus will acknowledge him before his heavenly Father, so that even if his enemies harm his body, God will save his soul. But the disciple who rejects Christ to save his life here on earth cannot rely of Jesus to defend him on judgement day. Remember, Jesus said: whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
Like the bird that did not mind dying burned to protect its chicks, God did not mind leaving his throne, his greatness and majesty to come to this world in the form of a man (Lord Jesus) and thus take our place so that we don’t have to live enslaved in sin and to get rid of the eternal fire. God, today, lives and wants to make us feel loved, as only He can love. It will not cost us anything.
Then, what is the Gospel asking of You and I, every day as Christians?
1st. Do not be afraid of persecution for the sake of Christ and his Gospel.
2nd. A faithful confession of Jesus Christ to others, even before the great fire of our enemies.
Whoever finds a reason why it is worth living,
finds a reason why it is worth dying.
BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST [Corpus Christi]
June 13, 2020
Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, known in Latin as Dies Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Domini Iesu Christi, shorten as Corpus Christi. Today, the Church give us the opportunity to bring to mind what our Christian faith affirms about the Real Presence of Christ under the appearance of Eucharistic bread and wine. Today, The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is still an inexhaustible Mystery. A mystery, commonly understood, is something that escape our human comprehension. A mystery that the Church in all her wisdom will never be able to explain in words neither fully understand what it is.
Is Jesus Christ really present in the Eucharist? or….Is it only a symbol?
Jesus Christ, still today and for all eternity, has a human body; a resurrected and glorified Body. The same Body which was tortured, crucified and which raised on the Third day. However, He is not present under human appearance. He is with us in each and every Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine. This is known as the Eucharistic Body of christ. We have also learned that the Church is also Christ, the body of Christ, the body of His Mystical Body. We, baptized Christians are members of this mystical body. Both, the Eucharistic and The Mystical Bodies are intrinsically and inseparably linked. Christ, the Head, cannot be separated from his Body.
How then is Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist? Even without being conscious about it, our faith tells us that Jesus is present among us, in each Eucharistic Celebration, in at least four ways:
- In His Word. We believe that every time a Scripture reading is proclaimed, God himself is the One who is speaking. The Scriptures contains the written words of God. God speaks personally to you and to me every single time a reading is proclaimed. God’s Word is alive and its effects are different to every Christian. Whatever touches you, may not touch me, and vice versa. God speak to us, differently.
- In the Congregation – Jesus himself said: “when two or more are gathered together in my name, I am in their midst”.
- In the Priest – Christ is present in every Eucharist. He is the main celebrant. He is the High Priest ministering through the Priest’s body and actions. Christ is present to the Church precisely in and through the Priest; what is referred to, as Persona Christi Capitis.
- And, indeed, the most important manifestation of Christ in the Mass is under the species of bread and wine during and “after” the Consecration. Jesus, fully God and fully man, becomes the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Christ becomes wholly present. Notwithstanding being this the cornerstone of our faith, this belief has been attacked, diminished and undermined by many Christians, even Catholics themselves, throughout the history.
What is really sad, is that after two thousand years of Tradition, some Catholics today DO NOT believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Some believe, that the bread and wine are just a symbolic representation of what Jesus said at the Last Supper. Others believe, the consecrated host is indeed Jesus Christ but at the same time, they believe that once the Mass is over the Body and Blood returns to be simple bread and wine.
How is it then, that bread and wine are converted into Jesus’ Body and Blood?
Through an Act called Transubstantiation.
The bread and wine, presented by the Priest are made the Body and Blood of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. God reveals his Truth to us in ways that we understand. Christ gives himself to us in a form appropriate for human eating and drinking.
To have the whole Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, bread and wine cannot remain but must give way so that his Glorified Body & Blood may take their place. Bread ceases to be bread in substance; it becomes the Body of Christ. Wine ceases to be wine in substance; it becomes the Blood of Christ.
How can we ensure this fact? From the Gospel of Saint John chapter 6, what is known as the “Bread of Life discourse”, Jesus said to the disciples: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. [John 6:35]. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” [John 6:53–54] Then at the Last Supper, Jesus himself didn’t say: This bread is my Body or is a symbol or representation of my Body; He said THIS IS MY BODY. And likewise, with the wine. He said: THIS IS MY BLOOD.
Each small particle of the consecrated bread or every single drop of consecrated wine is the whole Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Faith in its article 1377 confirms: “Once the substance has really changed (consecrated), the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ “endures” as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. That’s why the remining Consecrated Hosts are reserved in the Tabernacle.
We can grasp this fact through the gift of faith and grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The work of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist is twofold:
- It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the risen Christ and his act of sacrifice becomes present. In the Eucharistic prayer, the priest asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the gifts of bread and wine to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ. This prayer to the Holy Spirit is called “The Epiclesis”.
- At the same time, the priest asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the assembly so that “those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit”.
It is through the Holy Spirit that the gift of the Eucharistic Body of Christ comes to us and through the Holy Spirit that we are united to Christ and each other as the Mystical Body. It is not me and Jesus. You and I are part of a community, members of the same body.
O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us Yourself in the Person of Jesus Christ, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The Mystery of the Holy Trinity reveals to us that the God we believe in is the communion of three persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. The Incarnate Son reveals the Father, and the Father confirms the authentic mission of the Son, and both sends the Holy Spirit who leads the community of believers. The Holy Spirit renews the faith of the believers in the Church, “the Spouse of Christ” , and chose 12 apostles, giving them the responsibility to pass the message of salvation on to every human being to find their spiritual home. This is what we read in the gospel, and this is what we try to live out.
Just as the Holy Trinity is one, the Church, that is the community of the baptized should be united and one. The Church must reflect the unity of the Holy Trinity. We know that this is doable only when we follow one leader Jesus Christ, we believe in the same truths, and we love God and others before we love ourselves. We can be united and one if we accept fully what Jesus gives us through the Church. Lack of acceptance of Christ’s teaching leads into division and finally to spiritual infidelity.
This call to fidelity is given to everyone beginning with the pope himself, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, religious brothers and sister, spouses, young and old, rich and poor. We are all called to be faithful in our faith and beliefs.
If we accept the teaching of Christ and live it fully, leaving our own interests and possible benefits aside, we will become one and united, just like the Holy Trinity, then together we will be able to change the world. Often, however, we as human beings do not want to know what Christ or the Church says, simply because we want to make our own sovereign decisions. Neither Christ nor the Church wants the people to lose this right to choose and be free. Yet we know that the role of the Church is to show us the way to heaven. What happens on the other side is totally in the hands of the individual person. The Lord waits for us to choose Him, yet does not and will not force anybody.
If we do not study our faith and/or try to learn, we stop at a certain moment on our journey and are not able to move ahead. Today’s solemnity encourages us to reflect on who we are and where we are going. It helps us to learn and know more about what the Lord is offering us, and to realize that without God we will never be fulfilled, united, nor satisfied.
May the Most Holy Trinity help us to renew our spirit and grow in faith, hope and charity, and with truthfulness of our conscience and courage we could be a witness of our Christian values in today’s world.
Easter Pentecost – Year A
Acts 2:1–11; John 20:19-23
Today we celebrate the third most important feast in the Church liturgical year. It is so important that the Church, in her wisdom, designated eleven possible readings for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is so important that the Altars and the Priests and Deacons wear red vestments, representing the color of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost. is one of three pilgrim feasts that even today required the adult men of Israel to travel to Jerusalem (Deut 16:16). In Hebrew this feast is known as Shavuot. Shavuot translated into Greek is what we know as Pentecost, which means fifty days.
The Jewish feast of Shavuot was originally a harvest festival celebrated fifty days after Passover. It was primarily a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest offered to the Lord (Lev 23:15–17), but later it was associated with a remembrance of the Law or Torah given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.
For Christians, Pentecost celebrates the new law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2), written on the hearts of believers (Jer 31:31–34), which surpasses the Law of Moses, inscribed on stone tablets (Ex 31:18). The feast is celebrated by the Church fifty days after Easter Sunday, the day of our Lord’s Resurrection. With the coming of the Spirit the liturgy brings the Easter season to a close.
In a nutshell what do this feast celebrates?
In our first reading, the author of the book of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–4), Luke, describes the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection while John, in his Gospel, speaks of the Spirit given on Easter evening when Jesus appeared to “the eleven” for the first time (Jn 20:19-23). Is there a contradiction between both narratives? Has John mixed all things up? Was any of the two Evangelists wrong about when the time the Holy Spirit came?
According to Bible scholars, John was trying to present the Paschal Mystery as a unitary whole. We could understand that Luke lays greater emphasis on the historical facts, while John is more concerned with the close connection between Calvary, the Resurrection, the various appearances, and the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost.
Some might even think that the Holy Spirit came to earth for the first time when these events happened. The Holy Spirit as we believe, had been, is and will be for all eternity one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. We also know that the Holy Spirit guided Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. Luke even has an anticipation of Pentecost as he speaks of the apostles as being chosen by Christ “through the Holy Spirit.” It seems more accurate to say that all these manifestations of the Holy Spirit, including today’s Gospel of John, were all a preparation for the definitive coming of the Spirit.
There is also the idea that the Church was born at Pentecost. This, no doubt, is oversimplifying it. After all, the Church was born from the side of Christ on Calvary, while the various appearances of Christ after his resurrection were stages in the formation of the Church. The Church was born on Calvary and was born of his resurrection, no less that she was born of the Spirit on Pentecost.
Jesus’ first appearance to the eleven disciples as a group, took place on Easter Sunday, as John describes: “On the evening of the first day of the week, Jesus passed through closed doors and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his hands and his side”. [Jn 20:19–20].
This gesture emphasizes how Jesus is raised not simply with a body, but with the same body with which he was crucified and died only a few days before. He carried these marks of his earthly sacrifice with him even when he ascended into heaven (Rev 5:6).
Peace be with you. Not an ordinary greeting! In John’s view, it is connected with the wounds, because peace, “True Peace” flows from the Passion and Resurrection witnessed in the wounds. This story stresses two dimensions: the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ resurrected body, passing through lock doors and the material dimension, by showing his wounds.
Why is this feast so important to our faith?
This feast celebrates the completion of Jesus’s saving work. As Saint Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria wrote: “After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit.”
When the Son completed the work with which the Father had entrusted him on earth, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to sanctify the Church unceasingly, and thus enable believers to have access to the Father through Christ in the one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water welling up to give eternal life. Through him the Father gives life to men, dead because of sin, until he raises up their mortal bodies in Christ. (Lumen Gentium § 4 or Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Promulgated by St. Pope Paul VI in Nov. 21, 1964)
The Spirit is the founding gift of the New Covenant and the soul that animates the body of the Christian community, the Church (1 Cor 12:12–13). The Spirit directs the missionary efforts of the Church (Acts 1:8; 13:2), guides her leadership into truth (Jn 16:13), and sanctifies her life through the Sacraments. It is the Holy Spirit who strengthens our faith and unity each time we receive the Eucharist.
The Spirit is the wind that is not seen, but who makes things move. The Spirit is known by his effects. The Spirit works in hundreds and thousand of ways, to be a gift to us and to help bring us to God. Just as the Father reveals the Father to us, the Spirit reveals Jesus to us. The Spirit is the agent of the fulfillment of God’s plan and work.
Let us pray today for greater openness to the Spirit.
The Ascension of the Lord
Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. After many years spent here on earth, three years of teaching and proclaiming the Good News, His passion, death and resurrection, Jesus, finally, goes back to the Father. From now on – He will not be physically present here on the earth. Needless to say, He will continue to take care of His disciples and followers till the end of time as He promised.
1.- The Acts of the Apostles say that after Jesus’ Ascension, the apostles returned to the upper room and gathered in prayer with Mary, and other disciples. It was a time of retreat for all of them. St. Luke states that Jesus wanted His disciples to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Many people inspired by the Holy Spirit were proclaiming the good news to those who did not believe, fulfilling what the Lord said in the gospel of Matthew: Go into the whole world and teach all the nations.
2.- Jesus was and still is acting through those people. Through them He saves the lost sheep, who cannot find their way home; He blesses those who look for the truth in their lives. In today’s gospel we hear the words of Jesus directed to His disciples. Those words constitute His last will “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always to the end of time”. These words are significant. They closely correspond to what we call a witness. Moreover, I would not be lying if I said that this is the last step of every vocation – to be a witness to the truth.
3.- Every vocation requires a time of study and preparation at the onset. Later the person using his or her abilities fulfills the mission received from the Lord. The words from today’s gospel are directed in a very certain way to priests, deacons, religious brothers, and sisters. These words were also present in my heart when I was making decision of leaving my home, my parents, friends, my country and going to a different place for the sake of the Gospel. True, Priests are responsible for preaching and celebrating Sacraments. However, every Christian is responsible for spreading of the Good News, no matter whether they are teachers, doctors, truck drivers, or police officers. Every one of us, because of our baptism are obligated to protect the human being, the value of life and to lay down our lives for the truth about God and His kingdom.
We must teach the truth only. We are not asked to give up truth for the sake of friendship or tranquility; and many of us do it for the sake of false tolerance. Tolerance of evil can lead to eternal condemnation.
4. – I know it is difficult, but if there is something, that we need to change in our lives we need to do it as soon as as possible. The Lord wants us to follow him 100% right now. Go and make disciples of all nations …He says it in the Gospel! To make disciples, first we need to be a disciple. To be a disciple means we first need to listen to the Word of God, to accept it, and finally to live it according to what the teacher said; and in our case, it would be according to the commandments.
If I am not a disciple of Christ, I will not make any disciples for Jesus.
I can make my own disciples who will follow me not Christ; but I did not die for the sins of the world; it was the Lord who did. If I teach something else, other than the Lord’s teaching or give my own personal interpretation which is different to what we have in the Gospel, I am taking on the responsibility for that person.
5. – In the first reading we read today “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem in all Judea and Samaria.” I think if I adjust this sentence it would read like this…. “you have received the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation, so you are my witnesses in Milton, Toronto, and Oakville.!!!
Be a witness of Jesus Christ and show others that Christ lives in you. Be a witness of Jesus Christ by being a mother, a father, a nurse, a taxi driver, a student… Be a witness because you are called to witness about Jesus the Redeemer, who is alive and present and who waits for us to freely choose Him.
Only proper witnesses make disciples.
Easter 6 A
Acts 8:5–8, 14–17 – 1 Peter 3:15–18 – John 14:15–21
What do the three readings share in common in this sixth week of Easter? Let us review each closely.
In the first reading, we heard how Phillip went into Samaria, a very uncommon place for a Jew to visit due to ancient racial and religious tensions between them, which could be traced back several centuries. Jesus Himself had already set the precedent for an outreach to the Samaritans. Phillip, however, went there led by the Holy Spirit, wherehe baptized many Samaritans.
We also heard that Peter and John arrived from Jerusalem with the purpose of “laying their hands” on the new converts. Why? Was Phillip’s baptism invalid or incomplete? Certainly not, in fact it was valid. This could be understood today as the Rite of Baptism.
Nonetheless, a distinction is made in the Book of Acts between Baptism, which confers the Spirit in an invisible way, and the laying on of hands, which calls down the Spirit to manifest his presence in a visible and charismatic way.
In the tradition of the Church, this deeper conferral of the Spirit through the imposition of hands is linked with Confirmation, a sacrament that follows Baptism and is integral to the process of Christian initiation. As in this episode, deacons like Philip can baptize, but it belongs to the bishops, Peter and John, to bestow a fuller measure of the Spirit on the baptized by the laying on of hands.
In the second reading, Peter exhorts the readers, “us”, to always be ready to give the reason of our faith. He emphasized though, speak the truth, yet do it with gentleness and love. How can we do this? It is the Holy Spirit living within us Who can strengthen us to do so.
In the Gospel, Jesus promised that he will not leave us alone. He promised the coming of another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, to be with us, forever. When Jesus withdraws his visible presence from the world, he does not withdraw his spiritual presence.
Christ is always present in his Church, especially in the liturgy, where he ministers through his priests, speaks through the Scriptures, and sanctifies us through the sacraments.
On that day, Jesus explained the manner of our indwelling in him through the sacrament of his body and blood when he said: I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. If it had been a matter of mere unity of will, why should he give us this explanation of the “steps” by which this is achieved? The order in which Jesus revealed these statements, is so important.
He is in the Father by reason of his divine nature, we are in Jesus by reason of his human birth, and he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. This, surely, is what Jesus wished us to believe; this is how he wanted us to understand the perfect unity that is achieved through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who lives in the Father while we live in him, and who, while living in the Father, lives also in us. This is how we attain to unity with the Father.
Christ is in truth inthe Father by his eternal generation; we are in very truth in Christ, and he likewise is in us. Christ himself bore witness to the reality of his unity when he said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him. No one will be in Christ unless Christ himself has been in him; Christ will take to himself only the flesh (our human bodies) of those who have received his flesh (The Eucharist).
Ultimately, what do the three readings have in common? They all reveal to us the indisputable presence of the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel, Jesus was anticipating the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost. This event indeed happened fifty days after his resurrection on Easter Sunday. An event that the Church look forward to celebrate next Sunday with great solemnity. At Pentecost, the Apostles received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
In the first reading, Phillip, one of the Deacons appointed by the Apostles, was ministering to the Gentiles thanks to the unquestionable power of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel and the first reading were events that happened in the past, in the beginning of the Church; however, the second reading, even though it was written by Peter around the same time, it still very applicable to this day.
By the Holy Spirit received at our Baptism and strengthened at our Confirmation, you and I are called, each in its own Christian role, to follow Phillip’s example: “To go until the ends of the world and spread the good news of the Kingdom”.
Easter 5 A
Acts 6:1-7 – 1 Peter 2: 4-9 – John 14, 1-12
A beautiful story is told in today’s gospel. Jesus calls himself “The Way, The Truth and The Life”. His words do not fit with what the world offers to the people of this century.
The world says something else; it says everything depends on us. You take care of your life the way you want to and do it because you have the right to do so! Isn’t that what we call relativism? Do whatever fits you and if something does not fit your desires feel free to give it up. From the external point of view, it is good. However, that is not the freedom which Christ offers. The world says today that we do not need Christ to be:
- The way, because you have your own way.
- The truth, because the truth is what you want.
- The life, because you have your own life.
The world does not believe in the words of Jesus, just as St Thomas did not believe and did not understand Jesus’s words either. But the Lord clearly directs His words to Thomas as well as to each one of us. The very same words: … “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
What does “Jesus is the Way” mean?
- Jesus is the way to the Kingdom
- The Way of life.
- If we follow this Way, we will find truth and happiness.
- The “Way” are the sacraments of the Church.
What does “Jesus is the Truth” mean?
- The most important verse in the Bible is “Look for the Truth and the truth will set you free”.
- Jesus is the foundation of the truth.
- He gives us the truth about His Father, about Himself, about His followers.
- He tells us who we truly are.
What does “Jesus is the Life” mean?
- He is the giver of life.
- He is God himself – Both the Bible & the Catechism tells us that He participated in creation.
- He gives Life to those who follow Him, Life not only in heaven but also here on earth.
- He gives us Life through the sacraments.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Jesus shows us this reality: ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. An idol cannot say such a thing. A rich person cannot say it either. They cannot say that they are the way, the truth and the life. No one can say such a thing. Only Jesus can. He does so by calling and inviting each one of us to His Kingdom. We can go there and be rewarded with the gift of salvation if we recognize Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Sheep always hear their own shepherd’s voice (John 10:1-10)
At one of my summer assignments, the Pastor assigned to preach every single Wednesday. There was a Holiday on Monday. The Pastor decided to celebrate a Mass followed by a social gathering. He asked me, since it was a holiday, if I was taking my day off. I replied: No, I am staying. He then said: good! tomorrow you preach!
He caught me by surprise since he knew I like to begin preparing my homilies one week in advance. In this case I would have only a couple of hours. Nonetheless, I wrote it down; it was ready for the next day. In the morning, while taking a shower, I got thoughts and ideas of what should I preach about at that Mass. I decided to put aside the homily I had prepared the night before and I preached from the ideas I got that morning. I didn’t know, then, that it was going to become a powerful testimony.
The Mass went as usual except for communion. A woman who does not live in the vicinity of the Parish and who was visiting, came to receive Holy Communion. Once she received, she was indecisive to consume the Consecrated Host. My Pastor was attentive to the fact that after receiving, she was not consuming It and requested her to do so. She finally consumed it hesitantly and went back to her pew. The Mass continued as usual.
When the Mass was over, I was on my way to the social event in the basement when suddenly the woman asked me to come over. I approached her, thinking that she was going to complain about my Pastor’s firmness at communion time. On the contrary; she began sharing her story.
She told me, she left the church 40 years ago; nothing, no more Masses, no more confessions. For this reason, she had hesitated to consume the host. She didn’t remember the rubrics and conditions regarding receiving the Eucharist: fasting and a state to grace. The only fact she was aware of was that she was going to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood, but felt unworthy. She then started sharing with me how, in the past few months, she has been experiencing some strange but pleasant feelings that have being attracting her back to the Church and the Mass.
She related how after gaining her Bachelor’s Degree she began to work for her dreams of wealth, power, pleasure and honor in the corporate world. She thought she was in control of her life. In fact, she got to the top of the corporate ladder. She completely walked away from the church and the community. This way of life worked for her for many years but she was not feeling fulfilled.
The homily I preached on that morning, described my former life in the corporate world before entering the seminary, where, like her, I had thought I was in control. Everything there was Me, Myself & I,…. my own trinity.
I compared and contrasted that earthly unsatisfied life with the life I am living now, in full communion with God, what I referred to as: “The Jesus Way”.
Then she shared with me that the homily had really touched her. She was so emotional that she kept crying during our conversation. She also shared with me that she had been experiencing occasional but exceptional feelings during the past months. I told her: these might have been what is known spiritually as “consolations from God”. She thought that the message of the homily the Lord had spoken through me, gave her the confidence that God was calling her back. She was so happy. She was sobbing out of joy; a joy of being called back to God.
How does this woman’s story relate to John’s Gospel chapter 10?
In chapter 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind. The Pharisees on their part, examined the healing event; there was a division among them. One group accused Jesus of performing the healing on the Sabbath, a holy day, therefore breaking the law. The other were saying: How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”.
The Pharisees questioned his parents about their son’s blindness, but they replied to question their own son. The Pharisees called the man back and declared to him: 24Give glory to God! We know that this man, [Jesus], is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
Regardless the pure evidence of the miracle, the Pharisees didn’t believe, or really were not willing to believe the man’s story because they themselves were the ones blind and deaf to the facts so they expelled the man from the temple. Jesus met the Pharisees again, and then he said: 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3b He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, 4b and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. Jesus used this figure of speech to affirm that the Pharisees were not of his own sheep since they did not recognize his voice; contrary to the promptness of the blind man who believed and worshiped Him.
This is precisely where the initial story of the woman came into play. For some time, she was deaf and blind to the Lord because was drawn and enslaved to earthly things: wealth, power, pleasure and honor. By the way, this was the same condition of the Pharisees on Jesus’ time.
God, in his infinite love, began to give her little tastes of his amazing grace. He was calling her back, so to speak, to His sheepfold. On this particular day, while listening to the homily, she realized and confirmed she was experiencing the frequent call of her shepherd, our Lord. That is precisely what this woman was experiencing as a result of being called by Jesus. She had been continually called to return to Him for the past few months.
The Lord had been filling her with “consolations” in order to awaken her interest and desire on him, the true Gate for the sheep. I believe the homily and our conversation after Mass, were simple confirmations that Jesus was calling her back to Him.
Provided that one’s heart is open to the Truth and willing to see with the eyes of faith, one can listen and see the continuing call of God, the True Shepherd. This could even happen in mysterious ways and by different means.
Here there are some interesting facts of the event.
- Even though it was my day off, I decided to stay.
- I was not originally scheduled to preach on that day.
- I changed my homily an hour before Mass
- The woman from out of town happened to be at the Parish on that particular day.
Are these facts the result of “a coincidence” or really of “God’s Providence”?
This testimony of real life, in the end, reveals two fundamental truths:
- It is never too late to hear and follow the Lord!
- Jesus does not give up on his lost sheep!
April 26th 2020
3rd Sunday of Easter A
Today in the gospel we hear the story of two disciples of Jesus who, on the way to Emmaus, recognized the risen Lord through the breaking of the bread. Both of them were returning to their old ways of living, leaving behind what they had encountered and experienced with the Lord and His mission. Why were they returning to their old life?
- Perhaps they were disappointed how the story of Jesus called the Christ ended up?
- Perhaps they lost their hope and realized that there is no need of any effort anymore, because their land is going to be occupied by Romans, and since their “Leader” was crucified, everything was lost?
- Perhaps from their perspective, the hope of liberty was over.
As the Gospel tells us, the Lord Himself joined them, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Then Jesus first, questioned their faith and later explained to them the scriptures. Finally, He revealed Himself to them through the breaking of the bread; He revealed Himself to them in the Eucharist. After such a great experience they returned to others testifying of the resurrection of their Master.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What we see in the gospel we encounter at certain moment in our lives. The road to Emmaus is also our road. Regardless of what happened and what experiences of God we have, we want to return to Emmaus at certain point of our lives for the very same reason: for lack of faith, hope and charity. Just as the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land wanted to return to Egypt simply because there they could satisfy their earthly hunger, so do we, even after encountering Christ and having a good relationship with Him we are tempted go back.
Like in the Gospel in those moments we are not able to recognize Jesus Christ being present. We worry about different things: job, material stability, health, wellbeing of our families, difficulties which we encounter in the upbringing of our children, lack of hope or sense of life or fulfillment in life, are reasons that we just want to give up and go back to where we were before. Our eyes are fixed on something else: on our own disappointment, hardness in the relationships with those who are supposed to be close to us, despair etc.
Often we leave the only true and living God and go into something else; something we created and believe in ourselves, some kind of false gods. Driven by power to control others or to be able to achieve everything we want in our lives; we lose the real sense of having a good and strong relationship with the Risen Christ. Sometimes we leave God and get into religious devotion and practices; and there are times we are so focused helping others, that in our own act of mercy we lose the source… God Himself.
And then, when we are on that road to our own Emmaus, Christ comes to meet us once again. He questions our faith saying how slow you are to believe in your hearts. He then explains scriptures, He warms our hearts up, He rebuilds once again our faith, hope, charity and confidence regardless of what happened before.
He is not only present, but He also walks with us, He suffers with us, He carries our own cross. He tries to explain that whatever we experience in our lives is not a punishment, but an opportunity and a purification which allow us to enter a deeper and stronger relationship with Him. He invites us to resurrect with Him, leaving the dark tomb of purely human desires of our past life behind and living to its fullness. And then He breaks the bread for us, and there we can recognize and see Him.
Dear Brothers and Sisters
We are being loved by our God and Lord regardless of whatever happens in our lives. That’s why He came to earth. Do we recognize His presence in our lives even now, when our churches are locked? Do we allow Him to join and change us while we are on our way? We ought to allow Him to touch our hearts so they can burn within us once again, especially when He opens our minds to understand the scriptures and breaks the bread!!!
Divine Mercy Sunday
Apr 19, 2020
2nd. Easter “A”
Divine Mercy! I am most certain that when you and I hear this expression we immediately think of the Second Sunday of Easter, also called Divine Mercy Sunday. Others might think about the Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska who lived in the first half of the 20th. Century. Her apparitions of Jesus Christ, over almost eight years, inspired the Roman Catholic devotion to the Divine Mercy. Even more, most of us might even believe that talking about mercy is a relatively new concept in the story of salvation. However, God’s Mercy or Divine Mercy is a far from being a recent concept.
Mercy, one of the attributes of God can be recognized since the very beginning of Creation. God created our first parents with the purpose of living with Him for ever. However, they disobeyed Him and sin entered the world. Death and corruption were the outcome of disobeying God. But God, who is Love, gave humankind a second chance, so to speak. He revealed us His Divine Mercy.
He set a plan to save us, a plan to redeem us. In Gen 3:15 God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” This is called the Proto-Evangelium or First Gospel. It is the first sign of Divine Mercy towards humankind. God could have gotten rid of Adam & Eve and started a new creation who would not disobeyed Him. However, he honored the freedom that was given to them at the time of their creation.
If we analyze the history of salvation from Creation, we can see that it contains hundreds of events where humanity disobeyed, rejected and betrayed the love of God for us. Each and every major character in the Old Testament, regardless of the responsibilities and blessings bestowed upon them, failed; none was perfect.
Just to name a few, we have: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, King David and even Solomon, the wisest man on earth. They all started out being righteous and faithful to God, but later in life, they distanced themselves from God and fell in idolatry and other serious sins.
What did God do? He showed them mercy, again and again. As a good and faithful parent, God disciplined them, but never withdrawn His love from them. By means of other events, nations or other characters like the Prophets, He showed them what they have done wrong but reiterating His love for each one.
Now we come to the time of the New Testament. God’s Mercy is clearer than ever. God incarnate Mercy itself by becoming a man like us in all senses but sin. In the second reading, we heard what St. Peter said: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, in other words, for each and everyone of us, believers. Christ’s Divine Mercy is the love that God has always had for mankind, despite our sins that separate us from Him.
How did Jesus manifest such love for us? His greatest act of mercy was non other that the Paschal Mystery: His Passion, Death and Resurrection”. “Jesus paid a debt that He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay”. Jesus, by His Resurrection brought us back to God the Father. Jesus’s love and mercy were so great that He even asked his Father to forgive his own executioners.
What does mercy mean or should it mean to us today? You may have heard the statement that says: There is no sin so serious that God will not forgive, if the sinner repents. When Jesus died on the cross, his sacrifice was enough to cover each person’s sins: past, present, and future, for those who would come to faith in him. However, Jesus once spoke of an unpardonable sin. He said, “Therefore, I tell you that all sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” Blasphemy against the Spirit is generally understood as that derived from the purposely rejection of Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life.”
Let me give you a simple example: We know two main antagonists at the Passion and Death of Christ, the disciples Peter and Judas. Both rejected, abandoned and betrayed Jesus, God incarnate. However, Peter wept once he realized what he has done, repented and asked for forgiveness. Peter was granted mercy and became the pillar of Jesus’ mystical body, the Church. The other, with the same opportunity to repent, fell in despair and hung himself. Jesus would have been merciful to both, yet only one asked for it.
Divine Mercy Sunday is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. This feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope Saint John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.
Divine Mercy Sunday marks the end of what the Church calls the Octave of Easter. The Octave or eighth day of Easter has always been considered special by Christians. Christ, after His Resurrection, revealed Himself to His disciples, but Saint Thomas was not with them. He declared that he would never believe that Christ had risen from the dead until he could see Him in the flesh and probe Christ’s wounds with his own hands. That is why he gained for himself the nickname of “Doubting Thomas.” A week after Christ rose from the dead, eight days after his resurrection and although the doors were shut, Jesus appeared once again to His disciples. This time Thomas was there. His doubt was satisfied and he professed His belief in Christ.
Tomas lacked faith in the Risen Lord, he demanded proofs. Why? Because faith is something not tangible. Faith is an abstract concept and sometimes difficult to understand. Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us. We cannot see or ascertain who has faith and who has not. Mercy, likewise, cannot be seen; it can only be experienced, either when God grants us mercy or when we extend mercy to our brothers and sisters.
An easy way to understand “faith” and “mercy” would by means of an analogy with “light”. One never really see it. Light makes all things visible “except itself”. It is part of everything we see but we scarcely notice it except perhaps when is not there! We perceive light indirectly while it is illuminating everything around us. If Christ is the Light of the world it is the same with Him. We don’t see him easily but He is there, all around us, all the time. If we believe in Christ, risen from the dead, then we have faith even if we don’t see Him. Likewise, with God. No man has ever seen Him. Faith give us the way of seeing and believing in him. God’s Mercy is as real as the light, even if we don’t see it. We perceive His mercy indirectly.
If there is one thing I would like you to remember about today’s Feast, it is that God’s Love, Faithfulness and Divine Mercy are always present, regardless of our response towards Him. We cannot do anything to earn them. These are pure gifts from God. Like the Father in the Parable of the prodigal son, God is always waiting for us, with his arms outstretched. God is always ready to grant us His mercy unconditionally.
However, there is one condition. We have to ask God for it.