Friday, February 21, 2014

VII.O.T. Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; I Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48

Every Sunday we come to Church to pray. Why do we come to church? Can’t we pray home? Do we need beautiful, magnificent buildings with stained glass windows to worship? What is the relevance of church building? In the early church, when the church was being persecuted they prayed in homes or the domestic churches. But as soon as the church got freedom, the first thing they made was to build churches. For one thing they could not be assembled in houses and most houses would not provide ideal conditions for celebration of Mass, devoid of distractions.
Temple or Church is the meeting place of God and man. God meets us not outside of ourselves, but in us. I meet God in my soul, in my heart. That is why Paul says: You are the temple of God. So primarily prayer is a personal encounter with God. That is why Jesus said: when you pray go into your room… close the door (of your senses) and pray to the Father who listens to you in secret. Yes, prayer is a personal relationship with God, and it is an individual experience, but it is far from a private experience!  When we become a Christian our faith is not dependent on anyone else—each of us is saved by our own trust in Jesus.  However, when a person becomes a believer in Christ he/she becomes part of the family of God—the church. We become a living stone in Paul’s language. Just as a baby is born into a family and grows and matures, so Christians are born into spiritual families that help believers grow and mature.  Although believers can pray and worship on their own, we are also told by Jesus to do these things together too. (When two or three are gathered together…)  An experience of encounter takes place when two meet. With one person there is no meeting. God is present everywhere. But for us to bring our presence, awareness we need suitable convenience. That is why we need suitable place and objects for worship.  
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...”    
Meeting together is important to our spiritual growth and encouragement.  We are to “spur one another on” to those things that will help us grow as believers. We learn, we share, we sing praises to God and pray in Christian gatherings. Have we ever sung a hymn when we prayed alone ?  
God does not save us as individuals. He saves us a community. He saves us together in one person- Jesus the head and we all are the members of his one body. In the end all will be subject to Christ and there will be only Christ and Christ will be subject to God and God will be ALL. And we profess that in the creed: we believe in the ONE Catholic Church. And that is why we have to come to Church on Sundays together, because I am not saved myself but saved with others.
The Church expresses this awareness - that our bodies really are temples of the Holy Spirit - in many ways. One of the most common ways is through the different postures we use during the Mass. The Mass is the perfect prayer, the perfect act of worship. We pray as ONE- through him with him and in him. And when we come to Mass, we come to pray, to adore God, to encounter him and be strengthened by him. We don't come to be entertained.
That's why we don't just sit in the pews during the whole Mass, as we do in a movie theatre, as just passive observers. But here, we are all members of the Body of Christ, and we are actively engaged in the supernatural events that go on in every Mass.
We stand when the priest and ministers enter the Church - because we are welcoming Christ himself, and we too are pilgrims on our way to the altar of heaven. We open the Mass with the sign of the cross, because our very bodies are holy and are part of our prayer. We stand again before the Gospel is read, to show our deep respect for the words and deeds of Christ, our Savior. And we consider the Gospel as the person of Christ, and that is why the Gospel is accompanied by candles. We stand when we pray the Creed, to show that our whole lives are committed to what we profess in that prayer. And during the holiest parts of the Mass, when God himself comes anew into our presence during the consecration, we kneel. Our bodies matter to God, because we matter to God, and the Church wants us never to forget that.
It is difficult to live in accordance with this truth, that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, in a world that tells us just the opposite, in a world that tells us that our bodies are just toys, or objects of material indulgence and pleasure.
Because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we can actually show God how much we love him by the way we treat our bodies. When we abuse our bodies we are saying to God: "I don't really believe that you dwell in my heart, that you are interested in my life, so I will just do whatever I feel like, whatever everybody else is doing." But when we take care of our bodies, motivated by faith and not by vanity, we are saying to him: "Lord, you have taken up residence in my heart, and I want to honor you by never forgetting that." This is why Christians should be healthy and balanced even in the basic things of life, like nutrition, exercise, and sleep. This is also why Christians will think twice before jumping on the bandwagon of the latest body-abusing trend, whether tattoos, piercing, cutting, immodesty, substance abuse, or sexual immorality. The world may consider those things wise, but, as St. Paul reminds us, “the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
Paul reminds us not to desecrate God’s temple, ie. we are. When Jerusalem temple was desecrated, Jesus got raged and drove them out of there. Is he happy with the temple that I am ?
When we treat ourselves with respect we learn to treat others also with true respect, the respect that is due to sons and daughters of God.
Today’s first and third readings are invitations from God to be holy as He is holy. God expects us to be holy people sharing God’s holiness by embodying His love, mercy and forgiveness. It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The responsorial psalm challenges us to be like our God –kind, merciful and forgiving.

The gospel tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it. That is the way to become perfect or whole or holy in the sight of God.
As we continue with this Mass, Jesus will remind us, powerfully, that our bodies really are his temple, that our lives really do matter to him. He will come to us not just spiritually, but sacramentally, physically, through the Eucharist.
When we receive him in Holy Communion, let's ask pardon for the times when we have abused our bodies, and let's beg him for the courage we need to honor him by caring for the temples that we are.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Deacons are preaching this weekend.

Friday, February 7, 2014

V. O.T. Is 58: 7-10; I Cor 2: 1-5; Mt 5: 13-16

 The common theme of the readings today is our mission to the world as salt and light.  In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us.  “Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.   Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58: 7, 10).   The Christian’s task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding flavor, giving meaning where there is no meaning and giving hope where there is no hope.  Every Christian needs to reflect the light borrowed from Christ and radiate that light in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service. 
In the ancient world salt was highly valued.  The Greeks called salt divine and the Romans said, "There is nothing more useful than sun and salt."  The English word 'salary' literally means 'salt money'.  In the time of Jesus, salt was connected in people's minds with three special qualities. (i) Salt was connected with purity because it was white and it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea.  Salt was the most primitive of all offerings to the gods.   The Orientals made their oaths with salt to ratify them.  They believed that it was the salt that kept the seas pure.  As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity, exercising absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought.  
 (ii) Salt was the commonest of all preservatives in the ancient world when people did not have fridges and freezers.  It was used to prevent putrefaction of meat, fish, fruits and pickles.  As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption and making it easier for others to be good.  Christians are to be a preserving influence to retard moral and spiritual spoilage in the world.  
 (iii) Salt lends flavor to food items. One of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and flavor.  This image reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been "seasoned" with the new life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom 6:4).  Christianity lends flavor to life, although people think the opposite about us.    To be the salt of society also means that we are deeply concerned with its well-being.  We have to preserve the cultural values and moral principles Jesus has given us, and in this way to make a contribution to the development of cultural and social life.  Thus, we will be adding flavor to the common life.
Are we insipid salt?  Jesus went on to say that, if salt became insipid, it was fit only to be thrown out and trodden on by men.  Usually salt does not lose its flavor and its saltiness.  But when mixed with impurities, salt can lose its ability to enhance flavor.  We, too, might lose our ability to be a "flavoring agent" for the world if we allow "impurities" into our lives (1 Co 15:33). Therefore, we need to keep ourselves free from sin (Ep 5:3-7). If a Christian is not fulfilling his purpose as a Christian, if he or she does not bring to life the purity, the antiseptic power and flavor of salt, then he or she invites disaster.
One of the Peanuts cartoons showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, "Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school and I got sent to the principal's office. It was your fault, Chuck."
He said, "My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?" She said, "You're my friend, aren't you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me."
If we are good salt and light on a lamp stand, we can save many Pattys from being called to the Principal’s office.
The word ‘divine’ comes from a Sanskrit root, ‘div’, which means ‘to shine’.  Christians must be visible like a "city" on a hilltop and a lamp on a "lamp stand."  Jesus therefore expects His followers to shine and be seen by the world (Jn 13:35; 17:21). In addition, they must radiate and give light.  "Let your light shine before men" (Matthew 5: 16).  By this metaphor Jesus means that our Christianity should be visible in the ordinary activities of the world, for example, in the way we treat a shop assistant across the counter, in the way we order a meal in a restaurant, in the way we treat our employees or serve our employer, in the way we play a game or drive or park a motor car, in the daily language we use, in the daily literature we read. 
The world needs its guiding lights.  There are people waiting and longing for a leader to take a stand and to do the thing which they do not dare by themselves.
Salt is a hidden but powerful influence.  Light is a visible and revealing influence.   We are called to make a visible impact like light and invisible impact like yeast and salt.  Does my life make a difference?  It should.    If I live for Him, it will! 
John Stott, from Great Britain and a leading Reformed theologian, has these challenging words to say to the church today:
You know what your own country is like. I'm a visitor, and I wouldn't presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, the diminishing respect for human life, and the increase in abortion.

Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That's what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, "Where is the light?"

If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, "Where is the salt?"

If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there's no sense in blaming society. That's what happens when fallen human society is left to itself and human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is "Where is the church?"
Where are we Church in this degrading culture and moral values ? Let’s wake up and get up on the lamp stand. Let’s be tasteful salt trying to penetrate every molecule of the meat loaf that is the world.