Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mary, Mother of God (New Year)
1st January 2015: Num. 6:22-7; Gal. 4:4-7; Lk. 2:16-21

Today's Feast of  " Mary, Mother of God" is very appropriate to start a new year. A Child's life begins with the mother. In a sense, when a child is born a mother is born. 
When a child is born, its mother begins to be a mother. Even if she was already mother to other children this new child makes her a new mother; a new chapter in her mothering begins.  In the birth of the Son of God, Mary begins to be the Mother of God.  It is appropriate to have a mother to accompany our first steps in the new year. 
We base our faith in this dogma of Mary the Mother of God, on the words of Elizabeth who was the cousin of Mary and the words of Angel Gabriel that Mary’s Son will be called the Son of God. When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth said, "And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" [Lk. 1:43]. Through Elizabeth who was full of the Holy Spirit, it was acclaimed that Mary had been chosen to be the Mother of God. Since Jesus chose Mary to come to us, we need to go through Mary to Jesus.
In 431,Nestorius, the 5th-century archbishop of Constantinople – said that Christ was two persons: the man Jesus and the divine Son of God.  This view was rejected at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), which insisted that he was one person with two natures, divine and human.  The most emphatic way they could say this was to affirm that Mary was not just the mother of the man Jesus, but that she was the mother of God.  This is to say that Christ is one person, not two.
Mary's Motherhood began when the eternal God entered human history. And it continued to be one of her unconditional acceptance. She chose to be the mother of God, with her unconditional faith, submission and hope.
In today's Second Reading, St Paul reminds us that through God's grace we have all become brothers and sisters of Christ and, therefore, children of God. This is what happened at baptism. At that moment we were born again, supernaturally; God infused his divine DNA into our souls. The spiritual life consists of the gradual spread and development of that DNA, until each one of us becomes a mature, wise, and fruitful follower of Jesus Christ.
Today's Solemnity reminds us that if we have become Christ's spiritual brothers and sisters, we have also become spiritual children of Mary. She was his mother in the flesh, and she is our mother in grace.
And just as we learn from our natural mothers how to be good human beings, so we learn from Mary how to become mature Christians. She is the living school where we learn every virtue that leads to happiness and holiness. Mary’s habit of pondering on God’s action in her life was both a sign and a source of wisdom.
The Rosary is a power key letting us into Mary's heart, and letting Christ's light shine on the dark, cold corners of our mind and heart. Our culture has a tradition of making a New Year's Resolution. Why not make the resolution to spend this year learning from our spiritual mother how to let God put order, peace, and wisdom into our lives, by pondering on the gifts of God and saying the Rosary every day?
Most New Year’s resolutions are personal commitments to quit bad habits and set new good ones, new goals as spending more time with family or eating healthier or exercise more. They are also important and helpful to contribute to our Spiritual life as well. One spiritual master said: The devil wants you fat. Quoting John 10:10 he says: The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly". Satan has always used food to deceive people. It worked so well in the garden, why should he change?. So, it is important to stay out of the food trap of the enemy. Eating too much or too little because you are obsessive with your shape, is injurious to health. You are not glorifying God in your body, in both cases. Make a good resolution this day and remember not to be like a man named George. He said to a friend: "There's nothing like getting up at six in the morning, going for a run around the park, and taking a brisk shower before breakfast."

His friend Bob asked, "How long have you been doing this?"
George said: "I start tomorrow."
Whatever resolutions we take, be fervent enough to persevere to practice them. One Wife told her husband:  "I don't want to brag, but here it is February and I've kept every one of my New Year's resolutions. I've kept them in a manila folder in the back of my desk!"
As we begin our new year, let’s be thankful for all what we received from God in the past year, and be sorry for the graces we have abused. Being grateful, makes the heart of God open to you with more graces.
May Jesus bless all our efforts this year through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God.

Friday, December 26, 2014

December 28, 2014
Holy Family- Luke 2: 22-40 or Lk 2: 22& 39-40

On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The Feast of the Holy Family is connected to Christmas. At Christmas we commemorate the incarnation of Jesus, God becoming a human being to save us. But Jesus was fully divine as he was fully human. In his humanity he lived like us in all things but sin. He lived a perfect human life, a life dedicated to His Father, and obedient to his parents and helping them like any human child.
The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” and the second long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards. He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey, revere and show compassion to their father.
Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the dining table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table and set it off to the side of the dining hall so the grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day, the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 78th birthday on December 17. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added.
In an audience Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’
Today, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement.   They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.
Holy- means healthy. A family can grow healthy only on the key virtues of forgiveness and patience. "Put on... patience," St Paul writes, "bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do."
There is no way to create an atmosphere of forgiveness without being ready to ask for forgiveness. The best gift we can give our families is to make a commitment to always be the first one to say "I'm sorry" whenever there is the slightest need. That little phrase is like super-glue for family relationships. We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom.  A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins.  On the other hand, if the husband and the wife -- as in a confessional -- are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” 
A husband and a wife had a quarrel and they started silent treatment towards each other. When one wanted to communicate something to the other, they wrote the matter on a piece of paper and handed out to the other. One day the husband wanted to on a trip and he wanted to get up early morning at 4.30 to catch a train. He wrote a note to his wife to wake him up at 4.30. At 6.00 am he woke up and found out that it is late and he missed the train. He got angry with his wife when she showed him the piece of paper on which she wrote and kept on his bed. Hi, wake up it is 4.30. (He wrote on a piece of paper asking her to wake him up and she gave back to him on the same coin.) Silent treatments may be good for just a little bit of time, but don’t take it long. As Paul says: let not the sun set in your anger. Lack of communication is the primary cause of marriage break ups. There was a little lack of communication between Joseph and Mary when Jesus was lost in the temple. One thought the other had him and vice versa. But they did not accuse each other for that.

We need to live our daily lives with the awareness that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. May the Holy Family intercede for all families that they may remain one and united in the model of Holy Family of Nazareth. Let’s pray for the families that struggle and on the verge of break up that they give up stubbornness and be willing to follow the example of the Holy Family.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas: Mass during the day

Many years ago there was a serious coal mining accident in the Allegheny mountains. Many miners escaped, but three men were trapped somewhere deep in the earth. No one knew if they were alive or dead. As the hours passed, intense heat and noxious gases built up within the mine itself. Two days passed before a search expedition was allowed to enter the mine. The camera teams from the local news station interviewed the three-man rescue team as they prepared to enter what could be their grave. A reporter asked one of the men if he was aware of the noxious gases and the extreme danger of the mine. When the man said yes, the reporter asked, "Are you still going down?"

The man replied, "Those men may still be alive." Without another word of explanation, he put on his gas mask, climbed into the elevator, and descended into the mine.

"Are you still going down?" I wonder if a similar discussion didn't take place in heaven when Christ was still in his exalted position with the Father before he descended to earth to take human form and to die. Are you still going down into that world where darkness reigns: where might makes right and people value temporal things and ignore the eternal? Are you still going down when you know that only a few will listen and even fewer will heed your message of peace and good will? Are you still going down when you know that you will be despised, rejected and finally die a most cruel of death with nails in your hands and feet and a sword thrust into your side? Are you still going down?

We will never know what was said then, but we know the answer. It was yes. The result is that you and I are in this place today. He has come down. And the effect on this planet has been enormous.
The word became flesh and dwelt among us; so that He could help us get back to God. And there's only one religion in which mankind's effort to climb back up to heaven is met by the unimaginable event of God himself deciding to climb down into human nature. Christmas is one thing that makes Christianity entirely unique among all the world religions. Only we Christians have the privilege of saying, "The Word became flesh, and lived among us."
But as the evangelist says: He came to his own, but his own did not accept him. There are only 2 billion people who believe in Jesus out of the 7 billion people in the world. So the majority of the people have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. They turned down the lights and choose to sit in darkness.
There was a priest in a Midwestern city who wanted to help inner-city children. He wanted them to see something more than their own situations. He put them on a bus and took them to see some things of great beauty. They went to the art museum and saw paintings by the masters. They went to a symphony matinee and heard beautiful music. They went for a walk through a row of homes that were done over by a creative team of architects. That young priest showed those children the best and brightest things he knew. Then they climbed back on the bus and went home. That night one of those young boys set his apartment house on fire. They rescued the neighbors and family, but the place burned down. The priest was in tears when he visited the boy in a detention cell. "Why did you do it?" he asked.

"I saw all those beautiful things," said the boy, "and then I came home and saw how ugly my world was, and I hated the ugliness, so I wanted to burn it down." Shine some light in a dark place and there's no telling what will happen. When all you have ever seen is darkness, that is all you know. And when light comes, it makes for a contrast. In fact, it is possible for light to come into the world, and for somebody to say, "Turn out the lights!" Most of the opposition that we see in this world towards faith and morality are targeted by dark forces intended to turn out the light.
Christmas tells us that God came to live in us as light and salt to give light and flavor to our life. We are not alone to fight the sinfulness and hopelessness of our life. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations.  As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Holy Bible, in the praying community and in each believer, with the Holy Spirit Who is transforming us daily into the "Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Hence, each Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to others around us by loving others as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service.
Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give to, or receive from, others. May the Word made flesh, through whom God created everything and redeems everything, illumine our hearts and minds at this Christmas and the everyday of the New year.


God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-Man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures describe ten incarnations of God “to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.”  We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a baby today as good news because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection, and he atoned for our sins. So every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to him, allowing him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.
God sent Jesus as a little Child so that He could be accessible to everyone. Pretend something like this happened for a moment: The angel Gabriel got back to heaven and rushed up to God and said, "I've got good news, and I've got bad news."
And God said, "Well, give me the good news first."

"The good news is," said the angel, "mission accomplished. I've visited those people you told me to visit. I told them what you told me to tell them. And it's all accomplished."

God said, "So what's the bad news?"
"The bad news," the angel said, "is that those people down there on earth are terrified of you. Every time I visited someone I had to start it off with 'fear not,' because they got so frightened that you were coming close."

God said to the angel, "That's the reason I have to carry out the plan I've made."

"You see," God said to the angel, "I need to go to earth because my people are so frightened. They are so full of fear that I've got to bring the message that they no longer need to be afraid."

The angel said, "And how are you going to do that, since they're so fearful?"
God said, "There's one place on earth that people are not afraid: that one remaining place is a little baby. My people on earth are not afraid of a baby. When a baby is born they rejoice and give thanks without fear because that's the only place left in their lives where they're not afraid. So I will go to earth. I will become a little baby, and they will receive me with no fear at all, because that's the one place my people have no fear."

God acted in the only way God could act without overwhelming us and taking away our freedom. God became a tiny babe. In Christmas God acted in the only way God could have acted.
 “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into our neighborhood.” This is the remarkable truth we celebrate this night and during the Christmas season.
God could have come to us in any way at all, and he chose to do so quietly. As John the Baptist would later tell: among you stands one who was to come whom you do not recognize.  God chose to give us a "sign" by becoming an "infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger." Small, weak, and helpless - that is how our Lord comes to us. And who can resist the charm of a helpless little baby gurgling and smiling and waving its tiny little hands?
Wade Burton tells about a man who was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at a lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies' rest room carrying a tiny baby. She asked the man, "Will you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room." He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd.

The man couldn't believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but could not see her. What should he do? Put the baby down and run?

When calmness settled in he went to the Traveler's Aid booth and they soon found the real mother. The woman who had left him holding the baby was not the baby's mother. She had taken the child, perhaps to satisfy a motherly urge to hold a child. The man breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he to do with a baby?

In a way each of us is in the same situation as this gentleman. We are left with the question, "What will we do with the baby?" Have we really come to terms with the fact that this baby is not simply extraordinarily gifted, but that he is himself a gift from the heart of God? What are we going to do with the Child? God the Father has placed Him today into our hands. What are we choosing to do? Leave him down on the floor and run? Or take him home, nurture him and live with him everyday?

Today is born a savior…Christ the Lord.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent. IV.2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom. 16:25-27; Lk. 1:26-38 
The FBI agents conducted a raid in a psychiatric hospital in Santiago that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud.  After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents were terribly hungry.  The chief in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues. Here is the recorded text of the conversation.
Agent: Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda. Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered? Agent: We're over at the psychiatric hospital, and we are all FBI agents, and since we have locked the front door to help our operations, you will have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas. Pizza Man: A group of FBI agents calling from the psychiatric hospital that I should come with 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of sodas through the back door? Agent: That’s right, and it is very urgent. We've been here all day and we're starving. I have my F.B.I. checkbook right here. Will you show up soon? Pizza Man:  I don't think so. Agent: Why? Pizza Man:  Because last week it was President Obama who ordered pizzas from that psychiatric hospital for his White House staff! I shall ask your doctors to give you stronger medicines to ward off your F.B.I. hallucinations and to help you sleep well.  Bye.”
That's kind of what Mary was feeling as she listened to the angel spell out what God wanted of her: "Virgin birth?! Are you crazy? Who's going to believe that? I'll be stoned to death as soon as the neighbors see I'm pregnant! Dear God, what are you asking of me?"
The Angel told Mary two humanly impossible things: that she would conceive and bear a son; and that Elizabeth had conceived in her old age. When Mary expressed her doubts, the Angel reminded her that "nothing is impossible for God."
Then Mary remembered all the Old Testament  accounts of humanly impossible things that God had done for his people. In order to liberate the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt, God had performed many miracles.  Moses turned the water of the river into blood (Exodus 7:17). Moses smites all the borders of Egypt with frogs (Exodus 8:2). Moses sent darkness in all the land of Egypt for 3 days (Ex 10:22). The first born of the Egyptians were struck by God. Moses made the red sea divide into two and make a way for the Israelites to pass through. Even after they had settled in the Promised Land God continued his mighty deeds to protect his people. Every Israelite child grew up listening to the mighty works of God; and every Israelite child was taught that nothing is impossible for God.
Mary cannot understand how virginity and maternity can go together. So she asks: How can this be? (Lk 1:34. The Angel explains that virginity and maternity do not contradict each other; on the contrary, thanks to the Holy Spirit, they integrate perfectly together. Not that she understands it better now, but that is enough for her, for the prodigy will be God's will: “With God nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). Hence, she answered: Let it be done to me as you have said (Lk1:38). Total acceptance of God's Will, half groping, but unconditionally.
Like Mary there are people in every generation who believed in the impossible and did the impossible with God’s help. Jesus said: Without me you can do nothing.
Tony Melendez was born without arms. He was brought to the Los Angeles area from Nicaragua to be fitted with artificial arms. He wore them until he was ten, when he disposed of them. "I didn't feel comfortable," he explains, "I could use my feet so much more." 
His proficiency with his feet extended to more areas than just day-to-day care. He remembers, "At first, I started playing push-button organ. Then in high school I began playing around with the guitar and harmonica." He also began writing his own songs. Whether it was "playing around" with music or merely adjusting to a normal high school routine, Tony never let his handicap get in his way.
Tony has travelled across the United States and sixteen foreign countries, making countless television appearances. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Tony Melendez has one main message: with God, all things are possible. And he proves exactly that with unbelievable guitar playing ability, using nothing but his feet.  
British missionary William Carey’s famous quote is, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”. It is very meaningful to those who have received a special challenge or calling from God. Like Mary and Joseph, we may be called on at any time to walk a path for Him that has rarely, if ever, been walked before. It may come in the form of bearing great suffering for oneself and for others. We must teach our family not to fear “surprises from heaven,” but to face them faithfully and obediently. God desires not the skill of our hands but the love of our hearts.  
In this Mass, Jesus will prove once again that nothing is impossible for him. He will shatter the limits of time and space to become truly present in the Eucharist, nourishing us in Holy Communion with his holy body, blood, soul, and divinity. If we believe he can do that, then he can do anything. As we do the immediate preparations for Christmas, lets place ourselves before God like Mary and believe that with God nothing is impossible and accept God’s challenge to do the impossible.

Friday, December 12, 2014

ADVENT III [B] Is 61:1-2a, 10-11, I Thess 5:16-24, Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
There is a story told about a man from Louisville, Kentucky, who had to travel to St. Louis on business.  This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day.  For this man, "keeping the Sabbath," also meant not riding the trains on Sunday.  Thus, after he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over in St. Louis until the following Monday morning.  On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship.  The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: "Why have you recommended that particular church? It looks like a Catholic church.  There must be several churches nearby that you could have recommended."  The policeman smiled and replied: "I'm not a church man myself, but the people who come out of that church are the happiest looking church-people in St. Louis and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes.  I thought that would be the kind of church you would like to attend."  The Scripture for today reminds us that every Sunday in every Christian church must be a Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.”

The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” because the Mass for today begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper” --“Rejoice in the Lord always.” To remind ourselves that we are preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The common theme of the day’s Scripture readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings urge us to make the preparations required from us as we await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives.  
 The first reading tells us that we should rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming as our Savior to save us by liberating us from our bondages.  In today’s Responsorial Psalm, Mary exclaims:"My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior."  St. Paul, in the second reading, advises us to “rejoice always” by leading a blameless, holy and thankful life guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ is faithful in his promise that he will come again to reward us.  Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came as a witness who would testify to the Light, i.e., Jesus, and the coming of Jesus the Light into the world is the cause for our rejoicing because  he removes the darkness of sin from the world.  
John was able to rejoice because he was able to see himself clearly in the Light and was able to give a clear identity of himself to those who came to question him. When they question him John says that he is not the Christ, not Elijah, nor the prophet. Most pointedly, he declares, “I am not”. This is the gospel, which again and again has Jesus say, “I am”. John’s denials, his saying who he is not, is a kind of pointing to who Jesus is. Jesus would say I am the resurrection and the life, the Vine and the branches, good shepherd, the gate to the sheepfold, the Way the truth and the life and so on.
For us perhaps finding out who we are not, will help us to easily find out who we are. There's a story about a woman finding herself alone in an elevator with the famous and very handsome Robert Redford. As the elevator moved up the floors, the woman, like many of us might, found herself uncontrollably staring at the movie star. Finally, in her excitement and nervousness, she blurted out: "Are you the real Robert Redford?" To which Redford responded, "Only when I'm alone."
That story reveals that Robert Redford is not simply another pretty face, but he has grown into a wisdom that must serve him well. All the movie stars are not what they show themselves in the movie. Their real self is when they are alone. For like John the Baptist, he obviously knows who he is not.
The five year old nephew of the bride was chosen to be in charge of carrying the rings down the aisle. At the wedding rehearsal he was unusually unruly. He kept leaping out at people, baring his teeth at and then chasing the flower girls. He growled and snarled as he practiced going down the aisle. He brandished the pillow like a pistol. Finally his mother pulled him aside and demanded to know why he was behaving so badly.
“But Mom,” he explained, “I have to act fierce — I’m the ‘Ring Bear.’”
Like so many of us that little boy misunderstood just what role he was supposed to play. He thought he was called to be big, imposing, fearsome, large and in charge. He thought he was to BE the “star of the show.” He thought the spotlight was his.
But he wasn’t supposed to BE a bear, he was supposed to offer the supportive role of “ring bearer.” But the focus of the wedding ceremony was not on the ring bearer. The reason for the wedding celebration was not him. Like this “ring bear” we sometimes mistake our real role in life and end up playing the role of someone else. During this season of advent, like John the Baptism, we are called to play a subsidiary role for Christ and the Church. Let’s be the voice of Christ as John was, leading people to listen to Christ and his Church.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

ADVENT II-B: Is 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

John the Baptist always plays a big role in Advent. He was the last and greatest of a long line of Old Testament prophets. God sent those prophets to prepare Israel for the arrival of the Messiah, the anointed Savior and Redeemer of the world - Jesus.
Isaiah's prophecy in today's First Reading was made more than five hundred years before John the Baptist's prophecy, but their substance is very much the same: God has not forgotten his people, and in spite of their sufferings, sins, and failings, he will come and save them, shepherding them to a happiness beyond what they can imagine.
The consistency of the message throughout so long a period of time puts into context that fascinating line from the Second Reading, which is actually a quotation from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 90:4): "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day."  This reminded me of a boy who was praying and asked God, God, if you are there speak to me. To his surprise, God talked to him and said, yes, what do you want my son? He was happy that God appeared and so he just asked God, God how is a million years to you? God knew a young boy wouldn’t understand the concept of time very well, and so he said: A million years is like a second to me. Then the boy asked how is a million dollars to you then? God said: A million dollars is like a penny to me. Then the boy asked: God can you give me a penny please? God replied oh sure, wait a second. Most of us are like this boy, who do not understand the concept of time in our life and don’t make much use of it for investing for eternal time with God.
According to the prophet Isaiah, there are two things we can do to get ready to receive the blessings God brings in to our lives: to fill in every valley and to make low every mountain. The valleys stand for our sins of omission, the things we should be doing but aren't. For example, if we aren't spending quality time with our family, we need to fill in that valley. If we aren't spending at least a few minutes each day in prayer with God, we need to fill in that valley. If we aren't going regularly to confession to rejuvenate our souls with God's mercy, grace, and forgiveness, we need to fill in that valley.
The mountains are the selfish and sinful habits that we have built up; the sins of commission. If we like to gossip and spread criticism, we need to tear down that mountain. If we are leading a double life, indulging in hidden sins or lies that are poisoning our souls, we need to lay low that mountain. The mountains and valleys inhibit God's grace from traveling into our hearts; they are roadblocks that keep out God's mercy, peace, and wisdom. In our act of contrition at the beginning we said: I am sorry for what I have done and what I have failed to do..the mountains and valleys of life.
Advent is the season to smooth out and clear up the roads to our hearts. The best and easy way to clear up the road blocks is to repent of our evil ways. True repentance hates the sin, and not merely the penalty; and it hates the sin most of all because it has discovered and felt God's love.
Not too many years ago, newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who repented of his sins and chose Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. What made his story so remarkable was the fact that, as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because of the statute of limitations, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. But because of his complete and total change of heart, he not only confessed his crime but voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! That’s repentance – metanoia -- the radical change of heart demanded by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel.
Billy Graham, who has often played the 20th century role of John the Baptizer, had these comments about the disease running rampant in our world: "We're suffering from only one disease in the world. Our basic problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is not a poverty problem. Our basic problem is not a war problem. Our basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed, the heart transformed."

We are invited by the Church to prepare for Christmas. Christmas is the time for reflection and personal renewal in preparation for the coming of Jesus into our lives.   We want God's help and comfort, but we are not always prepared to change our ways to enhance genuine conversion. For God to come to us, we also need to go to Him. We need to let every day become Christmas and the “Day of the Lord” for each one of us.

Being aware that God often breaks into our lives in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, let’s straighten the paths for our Lord this Advent.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent-1 – Mark 13:24-37

Some years ago, the London Times ran a front-page story about an Englishman named Arthur Arch. He had just celebrated his 95th birthday, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. But the truly newsworthy thing about Mr. Arch was that for 42 years he had been precisely and consistently 20 minutes late for every meeting and appointment he had. According to his own time, he was always prompt. But according to everyone else's time, he was always late!

In 1922 in England they changed all of the clocks by 20 minutes. But Mr. Arch never accepted the change.
 he said: "Nobody is going to take 20 minutes off my life. So, I'll keep my watch at the old standard time. And some day I plan to die 20 minutes late just to prove that I was right!"

Now, Mr. Arch had an American counterpart, who was also a very stubborn man, a Kansas farmer, and an independent thinker if there ever was one. In the early 1940s, this Kansas farmer alleged that the worst thing that ever happened to the United States of America was the election of Franklin Roosevelt as President. And, he said, the worst thing Roosevelt ever did was to approve the order of Daylight Saving Time. As you know, the order went through, but the old farmer never changed his clocks, so he was always one hour off the time observed by everyone else. That farmer, like Arthur Arch, lived and died by the old time. And his defense, he felt, was theological. He said, "I will not exchange God's time for Roosevelt's time!"

Our scripture lesson today resounds with the same thought, that we are not to exchange God's time for anybody else’s time. We are to "take heed, watch, pray; for you do not know when the time is (Mark 13:33)." Our time may not have come, we may not be ready, but God’s time will inevitably come.
The season of Advent, which is the first period in the Year of Worship, reminds us to be prepared for the coming of Christ. The word "Advent" means "coming."
During advent we prepare for the three comings of Jesus in the world. On Christmas Day and during the 8 days of Christmas we remember the past coming of Jesus in history 2000 years ago. During advent however, we prepare for the final coming of Christ which will happen in the future and we also prepare for the present coming of Jesus in human life every day. Jesus comes every day into your and my life. So, we celebrate Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever,(past future and present) at advent and Christmas.
Jesus said to his disciples, "No man knows about that day and that hour. Be watchful, be wakeful and be praying, for you do not know when the time is."  Natural calamities and man-made disasters creep into human life unannounced, at the most unexpected time.  It is fact of daily experience that accidents, and medical problems like heart attack take away human life without any warning.  A faulty rhythm of heart-beats or a slightly prolonged halt between breaths is sufficient enough for the death-bell to resound.  Human life is as momentary as a shepherd's tent (Is. 38:12) that is pitched erect at every dusk and removed at dawn!" So, in this season the church reminds us of the need to be prepared.

One thing we don’t do very well in our society is wait. We get impatient. We get nervous and some even get angry. That’s because we see waiting as wasted time. It’s boring to sit and wait. It’s "down" time or "dead" time. We equate waiting time with being non-productive. “waiting is an attitude, an inclination to act. We wait because there is something worth having. We wait because the resources we need to survive and to grow are not in our own hands, but in the hands of God.”
Waiting is an opportunity to reflect or meditate. Nor do we have to fill our idle time with things to do. The more time we spend working the less time we get to spend with our families or attending to our souls. Our society has become so production focused that we have lost sight of the fact that we need time to think, relax or just wonder. We need time for introspection, for strengthening the family bond through family prayer and for cherishing the community life by active participation in the church activities.
 During the Second World War there was a young boy in a small town who had to go to the drugstore for his mother. As he arrived at the drugstore, he saw a poster on the front window that made a great impression upon him. It was the picture of an American soldier dressed in full battle uniform lying flat on his face, dead in the sands of a South Pacific island. He was lying there with the ocean cradling his body, and at the bottom of the poster was this question: "What have you done for your country today that's worth this soldier dying yesterday?" During advent we need to ask a similar question to ourselves:"What have you done for Christ today that's worth what He gave for you on Calvary?"
During the season of advent, let’s try to do something that would make Christ’s coming into the world worthwhile.

Advent is a time for us to go about our business of obeying God's directions for living, being found frequently in prayer and good works. St. Francis de Sales was asked one time by a nervous parishioner: "What will I do, what will I do?" St Francis replied, "Do the next loving thing."  Let’s watch out for that chance to find the next loving thing that we can do while waiting eagerly for the Lord to walk into our life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rev. John Ramsey tells how in one church a certain person provided him with a rose boutonniere for the lapel of his suit every Sunday. At first he really appreciated it but then it sort of became routine. Then one Sunday it became very special.
As he was leaving the Sunday Service a young boy walked up to him and said, "Sir, what are you going to do with your flower?" At first the preacher didn't know what the boy was talking about. When it sank in, he pointed to the rose on his lapel and asked the boy, "Do you mean this?"
The boy said, "Yes, sir. If you're just going to throw it away, I would like it."
The preacher smiled and told him he could have the flower and then casually asked what he was going to do with it. The boy, who was probably no more than 10 years old, looked up at the preacher and said, "Sir, I'm going to give it to my granny. My mother and father divorced last year. I was living with my mother, but she married again, and wanted me to live with my father. I lived with him for a while, but he said I couldn't stay, so he sent me to live with my grandmother. She is so good to me. She cooks for me and takes care of me. She has been so good to me that I wanted to give her that pretty flower for loving me."
When the little boy finished, the preacher could hardly speak. His eyes filled with tears and he knew he had been touched by God. He reached up and unpinned the rose. With the flower in his hand, he looked at the boy and said, "Son, that is the nicest thing that I've ever heard but you can't have this flower because it's not enough. If you'll look in front of the pulpit, you'll see a big bouquet of flowers. Different families buy them for the Church each week. Please take those flowers to your granny because she deserves the very best."
Then the boy made one last statement which Rev. Ramsey said he will always treasure. The boy said, "What a wonderful day! I asked for one flower but got a beautiful bouquet."
That's the thankful spirit. That's the gratitude attitude. And it's that attitude that should guide our giving and our lives. Like that boy's granny, God has blessed us so much. God has been so good to us that giving shouldn't even be a question. It should just flow from us naturally.
The most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Half their number dead, men without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God. Their gratitude was not for something but in something. It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher’s list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation struggled for survival.
Perhaps in your own life, right now, are in intense hardship. You are experiencing your own personal Great Depression. May be you are going through a great sickness, or financial strains, family struggle, whatever. Why should you be thankful this day then? There are three things why we should be thankful.
1. We must learn to be thankful or we become bitter.
2. We must learn to be thankful or we will become discouraged.
3. We must learn to be thankful or we will grow arrogant and self-satisfied.
During a harvest festival in India, an old widow arrived at her church with an extraordinarily large offering of rice - far more than the poor woman could be expected to afford. The itinerant pastor of the church did not know the widow well. But he did know that she was very poor and so he asked her if she were making the offering in gratitude for some unusual blessing. "Yes," replied the woman. "My son was sick and I promised a large gift to God if he got well." "And your son has recovered?" asked the pastor. The widow paused. "No," she said. "He died last week. But I know that he is in God's care; for that I am especially thankful."
If we are not thankful then we can become bitter. If we are not thankful, then it becomes too easy to sit around and ponder the question: why me?
We know a lot of people in our life who after losing one of their loved ones don’t show respect for God or come to Church, thinking God did that on purpose to punish them for something….and they remain bitter. I wish they read the book of Job and take some inspiration from there.
This is a day we count our blessings. For many of us, our focus will be on our material blessings. Our warm house, The comfortable car, The stylish clothes, A table bountifully spread. And yet, in the long run of things, these are the least important of all our blessings. The first thing to be thankful for is our faith we are given to believe in a loving God, whom we can trust in any challenging situation. Jesus warned the people who followed him for material things. He said: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. These blessings are generally trivial and transitory.
Be thankful for what you enjoy and the rest of the world can only dream: life, liberty, and a chance to pursue happiness. Think of the Christians and minorities in Syria or Iraq now fleeing for their life to live their faith and protect their lives.  Let’s develop an attitude of gratitude in any circumstances which will help us to develop a positive outlook on life and bring joy to dwell in our hearts.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CHRIST THE KING. Matthew 25:31-46
Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is king and he himself said: I am a king.  During the trial, Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "You have said it." (Luke 23:3). "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Shortly before His Passion Jesus exclaimed with joy,“In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world!” (Jn. 6. 33). This is the language well-suited to a King reassuring His followers that He’s so confident that already He has triumphed! Jesus spoke several parables about the kingdom of God.
St. Paul, defining the nature of Christ’s conquest wrote, “Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, and being in every way like a human being, He was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. And for this God raised Him high, and gave Him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus,”  (Phil. 2).  So we are called to accept Jesus as king, professing and kneeling before him.
However, Jesus Himself would have us know that words of respect, honor and praise trip effortlessly from tongues and fall lightly upon ears. So, he said, “It is not anyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord," who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mtt.7.21).
The Gospel reading pictures Christ the King as Judge of all mankind, separating the sheep from the goats, the good from the bad: and his judgment will be based on the commandment of love he gave to his disciples the night before he died. After he washed the feet of his disciples, he said: "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another's feet. I have just given you an example that as I have done, you also may do."
Now Jesus tells in today’s gospel how that behavior should be. Anonymously feeding the hungry, Clothing the naked, visiting the sick are some of the ways to serve the Lord. It is not serving the “humanity”, but in serving each little individual, that we are able to see God. That is why Mother Theresa once said, "I never look at the masses as my responsibility, I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. So you begin with one. If I didn't pick up that one person, I wouldn't have picked up 42,000. My whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less." So, caring for each individual is the basis of our attitude of serving Christ.
Once there was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it would be a long trip to where God lived, so he packed a suitcase full of Twinkies and cans of root beer (his two favorite foods) and set off on his journey. He had only gone a few blocks when he passed an older woman, sitting on a park bench and just staring at some pigeons. She looked sad and lonely, so the boy went over and sat down next to her. He opened his suitcase, took out a package of the Twinkies and offered it to her.
She gratefully took it and smiled at him. Her smile was so warm and wonderful that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a can of his root beer. Once again, she took it and smiled at him. The boy was delighted. They sat there all afternoon, eating the Twinkies, drinking the root beers and watching the pigeons, without saying a word to each other.
As it grew dark, the boy realized that he had better get started home and got up to leave. But before he had just a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the older woman and gave her a big hug. She gave him the biggest smile of all.
When the boy got home, his mother noticed how happy he seemed. So she asked him what he had done all day. He told her: "I had lunch with God. And you know what? She has the most beautiful smile that I've ever seen."
Meanwhile, the older woman had returned to her home. Her son also noticed how happy and contented she seemed so he asked her what she had done that had made her so happy. She said to him: "I sat in the park and ate Twinkies with God. You know, he's much younger than I expected." Both of them recognized God’s presence in each other’s presence. We are called to recognize Jesus’ face in each other’s faces, particularly those in need. Because Jesus lived on the generosity of others during his ministry.  As we honor Jesus the king, let’s ask for the grace to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, so that we may be able to sing all our life: the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

XXXIII.O.T. Matthew 25:14-30 -The Parable of the Talents
There is a psychologist at Harvard named Howard Gardner who is trying to revolutionize the study of intelligence. He says we have been studying I.Q. all wrong. On our intelligence tests we only measure one or two forms of intelligence. Gardner says that there are actually seven forms of intelligence. Some people are gifted with linguistic intelligence, he says. These are our writers and poets. Others have what he calls logical/mathematical intelligence. They make good accountants and scientists. Some people are gifted spatially. These are our artists and architects. Some are gifted kinesthetically. Their bodies are unusually graceful and coordinated. These are our athletes and dancers. Others are gifted interpersonally. They know instinctively how to get along well with the people around them. These are our sales persons, counselors, teachers. Some are gifted in their ability to look within. These are our philosophers ” our wise people. Some are gifted musically.

Here is the important point. Gardner claims that everyone he has ever tested has scored high on at least one of these seven forms of intelligence. All of us are gifted in our own way.
The parable tells us that God gave various talents to different people, but no one was left without anything. Everyone received a gift from God. They were to work with it and develop it. The servant who did not work with was punished. So, to say, everything we possess from God is making it a purely passive thing. In reality we know that nothing deep or 'inner' can ever be given to us without our effort. You would love to give your knowledge of, say, a foreign language to someone you love, but it cannot be done without their labor. How much more your understanding, your wisdom, your experience? Even God's gifts, poured out without measure, cannot really become mine unless I interiorize them myself. First of all I have to get that basic gift from God with which I was able to develop more. So, we say everything that we possess comes from God.
So, we all have some talents which we need to develop in our life. Some people discover their unusual talents accidentally. Richard Gonzales was a very famous tennis player. He accidentally discovered Tennis Talent. At the age of 12 Gonzales asked his mother for a bicycle. His mother was afraid that her son might hurt himself on the bike, so she bought him a tennis racket instead. Gonzales was not initially thrilled with his mother’s gift, but he decided to try his hand at tennis. Gonzales walked to a public tennis court a few blocks away and began hitting the ball. Gonzales wrote in his 1959 autobiography titled Man with a Racket. "In the days, months, and years that followed the challenge of hitting a white, fuzzy ball squarely on the strings of a racket grew and grew. Such is the strange hand of destiny,”
Mohd Ali at the age of 12, discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. Ali started working with Martin to learn how to box, and soon began his boxing career.
We are all gifted with some strength. The small size of the hummingbird, weighing only a tenth of an ounce, gives it the flexibility to perform complicated maneuvers, such as beating its wings 75 times a second. This enables the humming bird to drink nectar from flowers while hovering, but it cannot soar, glide or hop. The Ostrich, at 300 pounds, is the largest bird, but it can’t fly. However, its legs are so strong that it can run at up to 50 miles per hour, taking strides of12-15 feet. So, if you are strong in something, it is probable that you may be weak in one or several other things. But only by trying to develop what we have we can find out what is strong in us. We human beings are akin to the battery in a flashlight; unused it corrodes. What we do not use is wasted, what we do not share we cannot keep."

The parable tells us that the man who is punished is the man who would not try. The man with one talent did not lose it; but he simply did nothing with it. His complaint was his gift was too modest to be significant. Even if our talent is very small, we can make a strong difference with that in the community.
An elderly man is walking along the edge of the water and stops occasionally, picks up something, and then tosses it into the ocean. He then walks a few steps more, picks up something, and tosses it into the ocean. A young jogger is running along and has been watching the man. Finally his curiosity gets the best of him and he stops and goes over to the old gentleman and asks: "Excuse me, what are you doing?"
The man answered: Well, I am saving the life of these star fish. The storm washed them ashore last night, the sun will be up in thirty minutes, and then they will all die. I am throwing them back into the water to save their lives.
The jogger was a bit astounded. Old man, he said, don't you know that you have thirty miles of beach ahead of you and that millions of those star fish were washed ashore last night. What possible difference do you think that you are going to make. The old man took another step picked up a star fish, and with all his might hurled it into the ocean, then turned to the jogger and said: "Well, son, I guess I made a difference in that one's life."

Let us discover our special talents. It may be to sing, to dance, to draw, to write, to do farming, to sympathize with others, to be a good listener, to teach or to serve.  When we earnestly try to cultivate them and use them for the good of our brothers and sisters, God will tell us, “Well-done good and faithful servant, come and enter into the joy of your master.”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica : Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; I Cor 3:9-11, 16-17; Jn 2:13-22

A snake lived in a hole on a forest path leading to a famous Hindu temple in India.  Many pilgrims would walk along the path to the pilgrimage center, and the snake would often bite people with his poisonous bite if they walked over its residence.  One time a Hindu hermit was on his way to the temple and the snake jumped out to bite him, but before the snake could strike, the hermit put the snake into a trance and ordered him to stop biting people.  "It is not right to bite pilgrims with your poisonous bite," the hermit told him.  "From now on, you shall not bite anyone."  A few months later the hermit was passing that way again, and he noticed the snake lying in the grass beside the path.  The snake was all cut and bruised and was in an awful state.  "Whatever has happened to you, my friend?" the hermit asked.  "Since you have put your spell on me," the snake explained, “I have been unable to defend myself.  Give me back my bite."  "You foolish snake," the hermit answered.  "I told you not to bite anyone.  But I never said that you couldn't hiss and frighten trespassers!"
In today's Gospel reading we see an angry Jesus boiling with moral indignation. If Jesus did not bite in this episode, he surely hissed. He was very angry at the irreverence shown to His Father's House, and referred to Himself as a "temple" which would one day resurrect from the dead.
Today we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome on 9th November 324 AD by Pope St. Sylvester.  Every bishop has a cathedral, and the Pope’s official cathedral is the Basilica of St. Johns Lateran, not the Basilica of St. Peter. Hence it bears the title the mother of all the churches in the city and in the world – and their head. The Laterani palace was donated to Pope by Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. The Church built there was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist and so it was called the Basilica of St. Johns Lateran.
We may think what are we doing as we make a fuss about a church building in Rome?  We are thinking symbolically.  A church – any church – is a symbol of a believing community, just as a house is a symbol of the self.  We search for God there, and God searches for us.  This is not usually a peaceful process: God ransacks the house,  throwing aside one thing after another to find us.  This is what happened in Jerusalem temple. Jesus threw things aside, cleaning up the court of the Gentiles in the temple and helping them worship God there.
In fact, in John’s gospel, the emphasis here is not so much on the cleansing of the Temple, but on the replacement of the Temple.  The Temple in Jerusalem was the place where God made His Name or Glory to dwell.  With Jesus’ coming on the scene, the Temple was no longer important in Jewish life in John's view.  The Temple had ceased to be functional. Jesus' promise of a new Temple suggested that God's glory would be manifested, not in a building, but in a Person.   Jesus had replaced and superseded everything the Temple had formerly symbolized. By his prophetic actions in the Temple, Jesus made it clear that the God who gave the law on Sinai could not be bought by sacrifice or bribe. Now Jesus is the Temple through whom His followers come into contact with God.  Our faith is Person-centered and we are dealing with a relationship.   

Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, with no thought of loss or gain, but only of mutual love, respect and the common good.  Hence, fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation only out of fear of mortal sin and consequent eternal punishment (hence a loss), is a non-Christian approach.  In the same way, obeying the Commandments and doing acts of charity merely as prerequisites for Heavenly reward are acts urged by a profit motive, which Jesus would not approve from his followers.  
St Paul says in the Second Reading: "You are God's building!... the Spirit of God dwells in you." At baptism, that's what happened: God took up residence in our souls. It is in human heart that we worship God in spirit and truth, not in a building. We are expected to cleanse our hearts of pride, hatred, jealousy and all evil thoughts and desires so that God can make His dwelling in us.  Let us welcome Jesus into our hearts by repentance and the renewal of our lives.  Let’s drive out the wild animals that do not belong to the holy temple of our body, making a whip of cords by our fasting, penance and alms giving, not just during Lent but all year round, and by going top confession to receive God’s loving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And above all by moments of prayer life where God can speak to our hearts and we can hear God.

Friday, October 31, 2014

All Soul’s day.
Stewardship Commitment:
Tomorrow/today is All Souls’ day. But in our diocese it is stewardship Sunday as well, asking us to reflect how good a steward we are with the gifts God has granted us. Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly and being generous in giving of time, talent, and treasure, is an expression of our gratefulness and love for God and one another.
Four year old Morgan’s  Mom and Dad were just starting to teach her about giving. As the ushers came down the aisle with the offering plates, Morgan asked her mom what was happening. Mom told her, "They are taking up the offering, and when they get here you can put your quarter in the offering plate."

Morgan replied, "But this quarter is for Jesus." Mom explained how, by putting her quarter in the offering plate she was giving it to Jesus. And she told about all the ways in which her gift would be used for God's work. As the plate came down her pew, Morgan carefully put her quarter in the plate, then turned to her Mom, and loud enough for everyone in the whole congregation to hear, asked, "If that money is for Jesus, why wasn't there more in the plate?"

Morgan understood the purpose of stewardship. she understood that all that we give is for Jesus. The basic tenet of stewardship is that all that we have is from God and IS God's. We are simply the stewards, those put in charge of that which God has given us.

In my evaluation in 4 months, you all are pretty good stewards in the way you give to the parish. You are good in giving your time, talent and treasure, especially at the parish activities I observed. But we can be better. Last year’s financial statement showed $17,000.00 debt. So, we may need to push a little bit more this year to get to our goal. But I am sure you will do that. Otherwise we will have to do some more picnics, may be one every other month.  But remember to give with love. Don’t commit or give in the offering place if you really don’t love to give to God. I don’t think we want to use that kind of money in the parish.  St.John Paul II said: Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself.
Next Sunday you will be asked to fill in the commitment sheet. So, pray about it how much you are willing and able to give to the Lord, through the parish community, for the parish ministry.

Today the world's one billion Catholics are praying for the eternal rest of our brothers and sisters who died in friendship with Christ, but who hadn't yet reached spiritual maturity. God has taken them into his spiritual hospital, purgatory, where he is healing and purifying them from the wounds caused by their sins here on earth.
Purgatory is just inside heaven's gate, where God lovingly purifies and heals his children from the damage their sins inflicted on their souls while they were still on earth.
Through today's prayers, we are speeding up that painful process and hastening our departed brothers' and sisters' full entrance into heaven. The Church is a good mother, and she knows that it is a good thing to think of and pray for the dead, so she gives us All Souls' Day.
But not all Christians believe in purgatory and the value of praying for the dead. They say, among other things, that since the word purgatory doesn't appear in the Bible, it must have been invented by popes and bishops as a way to frighten and manipulate ignorant Christians during the Middle Ages.
Although the word itself doesn't appear in Scripture, there are various passages that have always been interpreted as referring to it. For example, in Matthew 12:32 Jesus points out that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only sin that will not be forgiven, "either in this world or in the next," implying that some purification from sin does take place after death.
He also speaks more than once about sinners being kept in prison until they have "paid the last penny" (Matthew 5:26, Luke 12:59), referring to a period of purification between earthly life and heaven.
One of the most explicit passages is when St Paul says that some people will be saved, but only "as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15), in other words, by being passively purified after death.
The Second Book of Maccabees (12:41-45) praises offering prayers for the dead. Second Maccabees 12:39-46 describes how Judas Maccabeus and members of his Jewish military forces collected the bodies of some fallen comrades who had been killed in battle. When they discovered these men were carrying “sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear” (v. 40), Judas and his companions discerned they had died as a punishment for sin. Therefore, Judas and his men “turned to prayer beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out . . . He also took up a collection . . . and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably . . . Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (42-43, 46). The protestant brethren do not have the book of Maccabees in their bible. So they refute the concept of Purgatory.
Common sense also tells there is a place between heaven and hell. In our court system when one is tried he may be judged a culprit and be punished or be innocent and be freed. But in some cases the person may be partially culpable, not fully involved in the crime. So such a  person gets a minor punishment, and will not be freed until that small punishment is suffered. This applies to heaven’s court as well. Scripture says nothing unclean goes to heaven, because God is all holy. So, if there is some impurity that has to be cleansed it may be done so.
Praying for the dead and offering Masses for them has been in practice since the beginning of the Church.
St Augustine's mother, in the 300s, asked him to "remember her at the altar" when she died - in other words, to pray for the repose of her soul, just as we are praying for the deceased today.

Later that same century, St John Chrysostom, wrote simply: "Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. Remembering this in every Mass we pray for the deceased. In our creed we say we believe in the communion of saints: which means we on earth and those in heaven are in communion with those in purgatory and we can help them with our prayers. As we remember all the departed souls today let’s make it a point to remember and pray for our dead so that they may reach their eternal home soon.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

XXX.O.T. EX 22:20-26; Thess 1:5-10; Mt 22:34-40
 In today’ Gospel Jesus gives us the message, to be truly religious is to love God and to love the man whom God created in his own image. The first reading from Exodus explains the second greatest commandment, namely, loving one’s neighbors, especially the underprivileged. The chosen people of Israel should remember that once they were aliens in the land of Egypt.  Just as God protected them and treated them kindly, so they are to protect others and treat them with kindness.  Thus, they should become a humane society rooted in the basic religious concept of loving God living in their neighbor.  
Arthur F. Sueltz told about a man he knew who bought a lovely house in the suburbs. On the day he moved in, the man's new neighbor came running across the yard in an obviously belligerent state. "Did you buy this house?" asked the neighbor. "Yes I did," was the reply. The neighbor continued, "Well, I want to tell you something. You bought a lawsuit. You see that fence of yours? It's at least seven feet over on my side of the line, and if it takes every dollar I've got, I intend to sue you and get that fence moved." The new homeowner said, "Well, neighbor, I'm sorry to hear this. I bought this house in good faith, but I believe you're telling the truth about this situation and I'll tell you what I'm going to do. First thing tomorrow morning, Ill have that fence moved back those seven feet." The neighbor was dumbfounded. "What did you say?" The new owner repeated, "I'm going to have that fence moved back seven feet." "No, you're not," was the response. "You leave it right where it is, and anything you need is yours for the asking."

We don't know what had happened between that angry man and his previous neighbor. All the man seemed to be asking for was to be treated with a little dignity and respect. That is what most people crave. Someone who does not accord dignity and respect to others does not know the Gospel.
There is no obedience to God which does not have to prove itself in the concrete situation of meeting one's neighbor. "Jesus does not separate love for God from love for man, since the latter flows from the former, and since without the latter the former is impossible." They both are like two sides of the same coin. But the first is always the first. Loving God has to be manifested in our life.
Pastor Jimmy D. Brown tells about the first girl who ever caught his eye. They were in second grade together. Up until this point he confesses that he just wanted to throw rocks at girls. But this girl was different. He didn’t want to throw rocks at her. Her name was Sherri and she was as cute as anything young Jimmy had ever seen. She had short little pigtails and wore the sweetest little dress with a great big teddy bear on it. She also had the prettiest smile, especially with that middle tooth missing. And she could jump out of a swing farther than any of them. In short, Sherri was great, in his estimation.
          He remembers one day this lovely child passed him a note during class and it read, “Do you love me?” Uh-oh, things are getting serious. He says he didn’t even know what love was, but he learned early that girls like to hear you say that you love them, so he checked, “Yes” on the note and passed it back.
At recess that day Sherri came up to him with a big smile on her face and said, “Say it.” By this time he had no idea what she was talking about.
“Say what?” he replied.
“Say that you love me,” she said. It kind of embarrassed him, but he went ahead and said, “I love you.”
          The next day Sherri came up to him and said, “Do you really love me?”
          “Yes,” he replied.
          “Do you mean it?” she asked seriously. “A lot of the boys tell me they love me, but some of them don’t mean it.”
          Even at the tender age of 7, says Brown, he knew the right answer to this question. “Of course I mean it.”
          He says that satisfied her for that day, but on the following day she came up to him again and said, “If you love me and you mean it, then why don’t you show it?”
          “Good grief,” he was thinking. “I let her have my special GI Joe eraser, I stopped pulling her pigtails, I even made Tommy and Billy stop calling her names. What more did she want?”
          “You’re supposed to hold my hand,” she said with a stern look on her face. “And play with me at recess. And sit next to me during free time . . . you’re supposed to show it.”
          “Almost twenty‑five years have passed since that day,” says Pastor Jimmy Brown. “It always makes me laugh when I think back to that second grade class. It also always amazes me how God can use the ordinary events of life, even that of a 7-year-old boy, to teach us about Him. For instance, God asks the same questions that the little girl asked me. ‘Do you love me?’ Quickly we check off the appropriate box, ‘Yes. Of course I love you, God.’
“‘Then, say it.’ He responds. ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.’ (Psalms 107:2)
“‘I love you, Lord,’ we say with a smile, particularly on Sunday mornings or during our daily prayers.
“‘Do you mean it?’ He asks. ‘Because a lot of people say that they love me, but some of them don’t mean it.’ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’ (Mark 7:6)
          “‘Of course, I mean it,’ we quickly answer.
          “‘Then show it.’ God concludes. ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). 
Concludes Jimmy Brown, “do you love God . . . Do you really love Him? If you do . . . SAY IT, MEAN IT, SHOW IT. Say it with your words, mean it in your heart and show it with your actions. After all, that’s what He did for you when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross.”
         The component of biblical love is not affection or a fussy feeling, but a commitment, a choice, a decision we make to place Him above all else.
Of course the most important way we show our love for God is by how we live our life. When we leave this place of worship, our friends and our family will know whether we’ve truly been in the presence of God by how we live.
Let’s pray that we may whole heartedly love God: love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and all being. And love our neighbor as ourselves.