Saturday, December 9, 2017

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

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 – (in Gk.) the radical change of heart demanded by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel.

All three readings focus on the absolute necessity of our readying ourselves by repentance and reparation for Christ’s coming.  The Gospel tells us that the restoration of the fallen world has already begun, starting with the arrival of John the Baptist, the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah.
John's message calls us also to confront and confess our sins; to turn away from them in sincere repentance; to receive God's forgiveness; and most importantly, to look to Jesus. Do we need to receive God's forgiveness? There are basically two reasons why we fail to receive forgiveness. The first is that we fail to repent, and the second is that we fail to forgive. Jesus was very explicit about this second failure in Matthew 6:14-15. He says, "For if you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Is there someone we need to forgive today? Let us not allow what others have done to destroy our life. We can't be forgiven unless we forgive. Let us let go of that bitterness and allow God to work healing in our life.

John’s ministry was effective primarily because his life was his message:  he lived what he preached. He was a man from the desert. In its solitude, he had heard the voice of God, and, hence, he had the courage of his convictions. His camel’s hair garment and leather belt resembled those of Elijah and other great prophets of Israel. His food, too, was very simple:  wild locusts and honey. The Israelites had not had a prophet for four hundred years, and the people were waiting expectantly for one.  John’s message was effective also because he was completely humble.   His role was to serve Jesus and to serve the people. "He must increase, I must decrease," he says elsewhere (John 3:30). That is why he publicly confessed that he was not fit to be a slave before the Messiah.

We need to make use of Advent as a season of reflection and preparation. 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.  Through the section of his letter which we read today, St. Peter reminds us, on the one hand, of God's great desire to come into our lives and, on the other, of our need to be prepared for that event when it happens. 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. 2 Chronicles 15:2 says: The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.  

It was their stubborn pride and self-centeredness, which blinded the eyes of the Jews and kept them from recognizing Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. The same stubborn pride, the same exaggerated sense of our own dignity, blinds the intellects of many of us today who not only fail to accept Christ and his good tidings, but also prevent others from accepting him. Holiness is found in simple and humble things and acts of our daily lives.

Martin Buber tells the story about a rabbi's disciple who begged his master to teach him how to prepare his soul for the service of God. The holy man told him to go to Rabbi Abraham, who at the time, was still an innkeeper. The disciple did as instructed, and lived in the inn for several weeks without observing any vestige of holiness in the innkeeper, who, from Morning Prayer till night devoted himself to affairs of his business. Finally, the disciple approached him and asked him what he did all day. "My most important occupation" said Rabbi Abraham, "is to clean the dishes properly, so that not the slightest trace of food is left, and to clean and dry the pots and pans, so that they do not rust." When the disciple returned home and reported to his rabbi what he had seen and heard, the rabbi said to him, "Now you know the answer about how to prepare your soul for the service of God." The way to reach God is by doing everything wholeheartedly and genuinely; everything (and every act) is full of God's holiness -- so treat it accordingly with dignity and respect.


John the Baptist invites us to turn this Advent season into a real spiritual homecoming by making the necessary preparations for the arrival of the Savior and his entrance into our lives. Let’s do that by doing simple daily activities with perfection for the glory of God and with simplicity and humility like John the Baptist. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Advent I [B]: Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

Years ago, when 20th Century Fox advertised in the New York papers to fill a vacancy in its sales force, one applicant replied: "I am at present selling furniture at the address below. You may judge my ability as a salesman if you will stop in to see me at anytime, pretending that you are interested in buying furniture. When you come in, you can identify me by my red hair. And I should have no way of identifying you. Such salesmanship as I exhibit during your visit, therefore, will be no more than my usual workday approach and not a special effort to impress a prospective employer."
From among more than 1500 applicants, this guy got the job. Jesus wants us to be ready like that man. We don’t know when He’s coming back, so we should be prepared all the time.

The common theme of today’s readings is that vigilant service prepares us for the coming of Christ as our Savior during Christmas and as our judge and Lord at the end of the world. 
We wait for Christ in two ways. The early Sundays of Advent teach the end-of-the-world theme. In this context, we wait for Christ to “come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead”. The later Sundays of Advent celebrate a different theme: the coming of the Messiah in the flesh. The reason why the liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme is clear: if we have already embraced Jesus in his first coming, we will have no fear of his second coming.  Advent is the season of special preparation for and expectation of the coming of Christ.  It encourages us to examine our lives, to reflect on our need for God to enter our lives, and to prepare earnestly for, and eagerly await the coming of Christ. He will come to us in the celebration of the Incarnation, in His continual coming in our daily living and in His final coming as our Lord to judge us all and to renew the Father’s creation.  Using apocalyptic images, the Gospel urges the elect to be alert for the return of Christ because no one except the Father knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return.

Like the parents who trust their teenagers to look after the house while they are away, or like the teacher who leaves the classroom after giving her students plenty of work to do, Jesus trusts us to carry out his work until he returns.
The Lord first came in a way that nobody expected. Isaiah today was hoping the Lord would come and make mountains quake, but Our Lord was born a baby in a cave instead, hidden to most of the world.
A lot of knowledgeable people in the Lord’s time were clueless about the time and way in which he was coming. It reminds us that many times God is not someone we figure out, but Someone who reveals himself to us.

When Eisenhower was president of the United States, he once visited Denver. His attention was called to a letter in the local newspaper saying that a six-year- old boy dying with cancer expressed a wish to see the president. One Sunday morning a black limousine pulled up in front of the boy's house. Ike stepped out of his car and knocked on the front door. The father, Donald Haley, opened the door wearing faded jeans, an old shirt, and a day's old beard. Standing behind him was the boy. Ike said, "Paul, I understand you want to see me. Glad to see you." Then he took the boy to the limousine to show it to him, shook hands, and left. The family and neighbors talked about the President's visit for a long time with delight, but the father always remembered it with regret because of the way he had been dressed. He lamented, "What a way to meet the President of the United States." If we keep in fellowship with God through prayer, we will keep ourselves spiritually dressed for Christ's coming at any time.

Jesus specifically chose not to reveal the exact day and hour: "you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning."
Even so, throughout history many good Christians, and many heretical groups, have become obsessed with the details of how and when this will occur. We should never let ourselves or our loved ones be deceived by them. We should be grateful that Christ's own Church has preserved the true doctrine: that Christ will come again in glory, and that, like good servants, we should live every day with that in mind.


We need to be more spiritually wakeful and prepare for our eternal life because we can die any day, and that is the end of the world for us.  Advent is a time of personal preparation for Christmas. And we have to be prepared if we want to see God's work. We have to stay awake and be alert so that Christmas can be meaningful. We have to prepare our hearts as well as our homes. Let this Advent season be the time of such a preparation for us. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017


A number of years ago the late King Baudouin was reigning in Belgium. As the Constitutional Monarch, one of his duties was to "rubber stamp" all the bills passed by Parliament with his signature, thereby officially promulgating them as law. In 1990, the Belgian parliament passed a reprehensible bill that basically removed all legal sanctions against abortions. As a practicing and conscientious Catholic, King Baudouin objected to abortion vehemently, and so he could not and would not endorse the measure. But according to the Constitution, he did not have a choice - as figurehead Monarch, he had to ratify the bill, so by refusing to sign the bill into law, he was, in effect, attempting to veto the parliament, and putting his throne on the line! The parliament simply dethroned him for one day, promulgated the law on that day when there was no reigning monarch in Belgium, and then re-instated him on the next day. Earthly monarchs of this century are only titular heads and they do not have absolute power. Jesus the king is not limited in his power by any constitutions, but he is the absolute monarch.

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church because the people of the day had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives,” believing “these had no place in public affairs or in politics.”  The purpose of this feast was that the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

The first reading presents God as a Shepherd reminding us of Christ’s claim that he is the true shepherd.  In the second reading, St. Paul introduces Christ as the all-powerful ruler who raises the dead and to whom every other power and authority must eventually give way. Today’s Gospel presents Christ the King coming in Heavenly glory to judge us, based on how we have shared our love and blessings with others through genuine acts of charity in our lives. Matthew adds a new dimension to the risen Jesus’ presence in the Christian community in the parable of the Last Judgment.  Jesus is present to us now, not only as our good shepherd leading, feeding and healing his sheep, but also as dwelling in those for whom we care. 

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Prophet Micah announced the Messiah’s coming as King.  "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrata, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.." (Micah 5:1).  Daniel presents "one coming like a son of man ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 7: 13-14).  

In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1:32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and his Kingdom will never end.”  The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? ”   When Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus, in the course of their conversation, made his assertion, “You say that I am a King.  For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth.” (John 18:37).  Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.”

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels.  The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels.  Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom.  "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14). In Christ's Kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pt 2:9; see also Ex 19:6; Is 61:6). 

Jesus Christ still lives as King, in thousands of human hearts all over the world.  The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law.  His citizens need obey only one law: “Love others as I have loved you" (John 15:12).  His love is selfless, sacrificial, kind, compassionate, forgiving and unconditional.  That is why the preface in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ Kingdom as "a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace."  He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: to free mankind from all types of bondage so that we may live peacefully and happily on earth and inherit Eternal Life in Heaven. 

This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions and in the family to use it for Jesus.  Are we using our God-given authority so as to serve others with love and compassion as Jesus did?  Are we using it to build a more just society rather than   to boost our own egos?
Conclusion:  The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year.  It is also a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children.  Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us.

                                      


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THANKSGIVING DAY IN THE U.S. (2017)           
(Sirach 50:22-24; I Cor 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) told this story in an address given at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. “One evening several of our Sisters went out, and we picked up four people from the street. One of them was in a most terrible condition. So, I told the other Sisters, “You take care of the other three: I will take care of this one who looks the worst.” So, I did for the woman everything that my love could do. I cleaned her and put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hands and said two words in her language, Bengali: “Thank you.” Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience. I asked myself, “What would I say if I were in her place?” My answer was simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, “I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain.” But the woman gave me much more; she gave me grateful love, dying with a grateful smile on her face. It means that even those with nothing can give us the gift of thanks.” 

Thanksgiving is the most uniquely American of all our holidays. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, established Thanksgiving Day as a formal holiday on which we express our thanks to God for the many blessings He has provided.  Thanksgiving Day also has a profound religious meaning, because giving thanks is the very heart of our natural and spiritual life.  For us as Catholics, the central act of worship is called the Eucharist, a Greek word for Thanksgiving. In the Mass, we give thanks to God through Jesus, and share a sacred meal in which we acknowledge the fact that everything we have comes from God.  

There are basically two types of people in our world: the grateful and the ungrateful.  Today’s Gospel tells the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed.  Only one of them, a Samaritan - a Jew despised and held unclean for being in schism – returned to give Him thanks.  The other nine (who were “real” Jews), apparently considered their healing as something they had a right to, whereas the Samaritan took it as an undeserved gift from God.  This Gospel reminds us that God, too, desires our thanks. "Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks with pain.  (Confer also Is 1:3-5.)  That is why St. Paul admonishes us, "Always be thankful" (Col 3:17).  It is a Christian's duty as well as a privilege to be grateful for the blessings of God (Deuteronomy 8:10; Psalm 107:19, 21; Colossians 1:12-14; Philippians 1:3).  "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever" (1 Chronicles 16:34).  (Refer to Psalm 107:1, John 11:41, Eph. 5:20, and Col. 3:17 for Biblical prayers and expressions of thanksgiving.)  

Daniel Defoe gave us some good advice through his fictional character Robinson Crusoe. The first thing that Crusoe did when he found himself on a deserted island was to make out a list. On one side of the list he wrote down all his problems. On the other side of the list he wrote down all of his blessings. On one side he wrote: I do not have any clothes. On the other side he wrote: But it's warm and I don't really need any. On one side he wrote: All of the provisions were lost. On the other side he wrote: But there's plenty of fresh fruit and water on the island. And on down the list he went. In this fashion he discovered that for every negative aspect about his situation, there was a positive aspect, something to be thankful for. It is easy to find ourselves on an island of despair. Perhaps it is time that we sit down and take an inventory of our blessings.

The attitude of gratitude is important for several reasons:
Thankfulness acknowledges that God is our provider.
Thankfulness prevents a complaining spirit.
Thankfulness creates a positive outlook on life
Thankfulness invites joy to dwell in our hearts.
(Kent Crockett, Making Today Count for Eternity, pp. 161.)
  
Let me close with this Thanksgiving Day Prayer.

Oh, Heavenly Father,
We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others.
Amen



Saturday, November 18, 2017

XXXIII

Jesus once told a story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He called his three servants and divided his money between them, each according to their ability. To one servant he gave five talents, meaning a sum of money, to a second two, and to a third one.
Why is life like that? I don't know. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution. In an election our votes are all equal. But when it comes to our abilities, we are as different as different can be. God simply did not make us all the same. There are some people who can handle five talents; there are some who can handle only one. There are some persons who have great intellectual capabilities, and some who do not. There are some who have the ability to project and articulate their thoughts, and there are some who cannot. There are some who have physical prowess and attractive looks, and there are some who do not.
The important thing to remember is that each servant was given something. No one was left idle. You may not be a five-talent person, but you have some talent. We all do. And you know something. I think that there are a whole lot more one and two talent people in this world than there are five talent people. Oh, there are some people who seem to have it all. I won't deny that. But most of us are just one or two talent servants.

The parable of the talents challenges us to do something positive, constructive and life-affirming with our talents here and now.

God calls us to live in a world of abundance by taking risks and being generous. In addition to our homes and families, the best place to do this is in our parish.  This means that we should be always willing to share our abilities in creative worship in the Church and innovative educational events in the Sunday school.   We can fulfill needs we will find right in our parish: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick or the elderly, housing the homeless, and welcoming strangers in our midst.  We need to make the bold assumption that there’s going to be a demand for every one of our talents in our parish community.  We should step out, with confidence, believing that every God-given gift we have is going to be exceedingly useful and fruitful!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

O.T.  XXXII: Wis 6:12-16; I Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13 

There's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes, or they would leave without her. She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in. Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment, she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds. There are events in life, which have the power to transform the way we look at the world. Jesus' parable about the ten virgins offers one of these types of events, for the parable is about the Second Coming of Christ.

The universal meaning is that the five foolish virgins represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives.  What matters is not the occasional or the last-minute burst of spiritual fervor but habitual attention to responsibilities before God.  Spiritual readiness, preparation and growth do not just happen.  They come as a result of intentional habits built into one’s life.  We cannot depend on a Sunday morning service to provide all our spiritual needs.  We cannot depend on Christian fellowship to provide us with spiritual development. 

At the final judgment, there will be no depending upon the resources of others, no begging or borrowing of grace.  A good relationship with God and a good character cannot be obtained at the last minute. The parable implies that we should attend to duties of the present moment, preparing now rather than waiting until it is too late. 


Friday, November 10, 2017


O.T. XXXI: MAL 1:14- 2:2, 8-10; I THES 2:7-9, 13; Mt 23:1-12

Because of his great devotion and faithfulness to his king, a shepherd was promoted to the position of prime minister. The other ministers were angry that someone of such lowly origin should be so highly honored, and they tried to find some way to bring him into disfavor. But they couldn't find anything objectionable about him, except one curious thing: Once a week he'd enter a little room he kept locked and stay for about an hour. The nobles told the monarch about this and said they were certain he must be sneaking some of the wealth of the kingdom into that room. The king doubted it, but gave permission to break into the room and make a search. What they found was a small bundle containing a dilapidated pair of shoes and an old robe. The prime minister was brought before the king and asked about this curious bundle in the locked room. And he said, "I wore these things when I was a shepherd. I look at them regularly so that I won't forget what I once was and how unworthy I am of all the kindness and honor you've given to me."

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against those religious leaders of his day who have been more concerned with self-promotion than with giving loving service to others.  Christ-like leadership calls for integrity and honesty from all those in authority, whether priests, parents, teachers or politicians.  There should be no double standards in leaders. Rather, there should grow a deep sense of equality with, and mutual respect between, leaders and those they rule.
Jesus raises three objections to the Pharisees: they do not practice what they preach, they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and they seek public acknowledgment of their spiritual superiority.

Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of seeking the glory that rightly belongs to God.  The real goal of the Pharisees was to dress and act in such a way as to draw attention to themselves instead of glorifying God.  In their misguided zeal for religion, they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God.  They expressed their love of honor in several ways, thereby converting Judaism into a religion of ostentation.

A local church asked members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the building was easily subscribed. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won. Christian service that is worthy of Christ's name is for God's glory and not for personal gain.


According to the evangelist’s account, any religious stratification runs counter to Jesus' teachings.  Jesus condemns the coveting of titles, distinctive clothes, places of honor and marks of public respect.  Such demands on the part of leaders make it impossible for the community to truly experience Jesus.  "The greatest among you," he reminds his community, "must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."  What is implied in each of Jesus' statements about the Pharisees is that Christian leaders should do the opposite.





This is National vocation awareness week. The word Vocation means the call of God to a status of life; it could be to priesthood, religious life, marriage or single life. One has to recognize that call and live accordingly to live the best version of oneself. The Church in America is going through a shortage crisis on dedicated priests and religious leaders. It is not that God is not calling people to enter these states of life, but people ignore or delay the call like the young man in the gospel who said to Jesus, let me go first and bid farewell to my parents.
In some cases the young men of this generation don’t come back from bidding farewell, because the parents won’t allow him or her to leave them, telling we need grandchildren. They tend to be selfish rather than caring for the mission of the Church.
One young man was willing to follow Jesus but he was not willing to leave everything and follow Jesus, because he thought Jesus himself was not enough for him, he needed some financial social security too. Whatever be the case we need more vocations to priesthood and religious life as those we have now are not sufficient to take care of the sacramental and charitable needs of the Church. Our bishop has dedicated this coming year for the year of Vocations to priesthood. Banners and posters will appear in the churches for the whole next year at all Churches of the diocese. God does not call anyone in disembodied voice to join a seminary or convent. In this parish he has entrusted that to me and so during this year, I am going to personally approach some young men and women whom God inspires me to talk to on considering becoming priests or religious. It is to help them discern whether God has been calling them to these states of life. Today’s second collection is for seminarian collection. The diocese has 18 seminarians this year and so we need to support them, financially and by our regular prayers. Please consider promoting vocations to priesthood and religious life.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All Saints Day : Rev 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a

All Saints Day is a universal Christian feast honoring all Christian saints – known and unknown. One thing that strikes you first about the Saints is their diversity. It would be very difficult to find one pattern of holiness, one way of following Christ. There is Thomas Aquinas, the towering intellectual, and John Vianney (the CurĂ© d'Ars), who barely made it through the seminary. There is Vincent de Paul, a saint in the city, and there is Antony who found sanctity in the harshness and loneliness of the desert. There is Joan of Arc, leading armies into war, and there is Francis of Assisi, the peacenik who would never hurt an animal. There is the grave and serious Jerome, and there is Philip Neri, whose spirituality was based on laughter. How do we explain this diversity? God is an artist, and artists love to change their styles. The saints are God's masterpieces, and He never tires of painting them in different colors, different styles, and different compositions. What does this mean for us? It means we should not try to imitate any one Saint exactly. Look to them all, study their unique holiness, but then find that specific color God wants to bear through you. St. Catherine of Siena was right: "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."  (Fr. Robert Barren).
"What is it like to be a Christian saint?" "It is like being a Halloween pumpkin. God picks you from the field, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you. Then he cuts off the top and scoops out the yucky stuff. He removes the pulp of impurity and injustice and seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light of holiness inside you to shine for the entire world to see." This is the Christian idea behind the carved pumpkins during the Halloween season.

All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is a day on which we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. In fact, we celebrate the feast of each canonized saint on a particular day of the year. But there are countless other saints and martyrs, men, women and children united with God in Heavenly glory, whose feasts we do not celebrate. Among these would be our own parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters who were heroic women and men of Faith. All Saints Day is intended to honor their memory. Hence, today's feast can be called the feast of the Unknown Saint, in line with the tradition of the “Unknown Soldier.” Today, the Church reminds us that God's call for holiness is universal and that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. We show holiness when we live lives of integrity and truth, that is, wholesome and integrated lives in which we are close to others while being close to God.

In today’s Gospel, the Church reminds us that all the saints whose feasts we celebrate today walked the hard and narrow path of the Beatitudes to arrive at their Heavenly bliss. The Beatitudes are God’s commandments expressed in positive terms. They go far beyond what is required by the Ten Commandments, and they are a true and reliable recipe for sainthood.
Life messages: 1) On the feast of All Saints, the Church invites and challenges us to walk the walk of the saints and not just talk the talk: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven" (Mt 7:21). 2) The feast gives us an occasion to thank God for having invited so many of our ancestors to join the company of the saints. May our reflection on the heroic lives of the saints and the imitation of their lifestyle enable us to hear from our Lord the words of grand welcome to eternal bliss: "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joys of your master" (Mt 25:21). 3) Today is also a day for us to pray to the saints, both the canonized and the uncanonized, asking them to pray on our behalf that we may live our lives in faithfulness like theirs, and so receive the same reward.


Thomas Merton was one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the twentieth century. Shortly after he was converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking down the streets of New York with a friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Thomas what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know.” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Lax stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to be a saint?” Merton asked him. Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let him do it? All you have is to desire it.” Thomas Merton knew his friend was right. Do I want to be a saint? Let’s ask ourselves this challenging question. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

OT 30 [A]: Ex 22:20-26; I Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40  

The Constitution of the United States started off with only 7 articles and 21 sections that took up only four handwritten pages including signatures! 4 pages! But to that we added 27 amendments.
Today, the United States Code, which is all of the laws in this country, fills up around 80 volumes of books, nearly 800,000 pages, and this doesn’t even include the Federal Regulations.
But, let’s not think for a moment that we are the only ones to take something simple and make it complex. God gave the Israelites something simple to follow, the Ten Commandments. Just ten simple rules to follow. Nothing complex about it. But were the Israelites content with just ten commandments? Oh, no. They ended up making 613 separate commandments, 365 negative and 248 positive. Try following all those laws in order to be considered faithful and righteous, and you probably thought the original ten was hard enough.

For the lawyer and the Pharisees there was certainly a complex issue at stake. The Israelites were under assault from a man who claimed to be God, and who did God-like things. But this man was a Jew; he should have known better, no one is God, but God. Yet, he was a man who knew and quoted the Hebrew scripture, who knew the laws and commandments better than any religious leader.
The Pharisees had to put a stop to it, the situation was getting out of control, it was becoming too complex to let it go on much longer. This man must be stopped and the only way to stop him was to discredit him. And what better way to discredit Jesus, the Jew, than to ask him such a question, on a complex issue about the greatest commandment, that any answer he gave would spell defeat.

In answering their question, Jesus cited the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer: … “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5).  Then He added its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).  Finally, He declared that the “whole Law and the prophets” depended on the commands to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind” and to love “your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus actually combined the originally separate commandments and presented them as the essence of true religion.

The uniqueness of Jesus’ response consisted in the fact that he understood the two laws as having equal value or importance.  We are to love our neighbor and our self as a way to love God: God gives us our neighbors to love so that we may learn to love Him.  Thus, Jesus proclaims that true religion loves God both directly and as living in our 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."

A man once observed a young boy out in a field flying a kite. He noticed that there was something odd about the way the boy was standing and holding on to the string. He walked up to the boy and then learned that the boy was blind. He said, "Do you like flying kites?"
The boy said, "I sure do."
This piqued the man's curiosity and he asked, "How is that when you cannot see it?"
The boy answered, "I may not be able to see it but I can feel it tugging'!"
We may not always be able to identify the love of God in this world. Like the little boy, we may not be able to see love but it has a tug that lets us know it is there. Loving our neighbor may be like holding on to the string, while you get feel of the pull in your heart.

Lewis L. Austin, in This I Believe, wrote: "Our maker gave us two hands. One to hold onto him and one to reach out to his people. If our hands are full of struggling to get possessions, we can't hang onto God or to others very well. If, however, we hold onto God, who gave us our lives, then his love can flow through us and out to our neighbor."

Loving our neighbor as ourselves means looking at and treating others with the respect God gives them.  This love begins at home with one's parents.  It then extends to others. As the parable of the Good Samaritan explains, Love of neighbor extends beyond our family and friends to strangers, especially to the poor, the sick, and the sinner.  Love of neighbor knows no national borders or class distinctions or barriers of any kind, because God knows no such impediments.

Jesus underlines the principle that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves because both of us bear God’s image, and to honor God’s image is to honor Him.  Love for our neighbor is a matter, not of feelings, but of deeds by which we share with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. 

Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength means that we should place God’s will ahead of ours, seek the Lord's will in all things and make it paramount in our lives.  There are several means by which we can express our love for God and our gratitude to Him for His blessings, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. 
If we know how to love ourselves, the commandant to love our neighbor bids us to do all we can to bring our neighbor to love God. This is the worship of God; this is true religion; this is the right kind of devotion; this is the service which is owed to God alone.




Saturday, October 21, 2017


At some time every older sibling has pulled this on a little brother or sister who had a nickel they wanted.
"Okay," older child offers, "let's flip for it. Heads I win, tails you lose."
The little kids agree: "Sure!" Then when heads appears the older proclaims "Heads, I win!" Of course if tails comes up the declaration is "Tails, you lose."
At this point it suddenly dawns on the younger child that this is truly a no-win situation. Whatever way the coin lands it's going to land in their sibling's pocket.

In this week's gospel text the Pharisees think they've concocted the perfect no-win question to present before Jesus: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" If Jesus says yes, he'll alienate all those who continued to struggle against Roman rule and who ardently believed Israel must only be obedient to God and God's Torah. If, however, Jesus answers no, then he's immediately at odds with the entire Roman Empire and has identified himself as a dangerous, seditious opponent. Rome would deal swiftly with such a threat.

In the Gospel, Jesus escapes from the trap in the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” by stating, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” By this answer, Jesus reminds his questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord.
By birth we become the citizens of the country of our birth, and by Baptism we become the citizens of heaven.  In every age, Christians are faced with balancing the demands of Caesar with the commands of God. Jesus’ answer forms the guiding principle in solving the problems that arise from our dual citizenship, belonging to God and to our country.  As Christians, we are to obey the government, even when it is pagan and non-Christian.  A loyal Christian is always a loyal citizen.  Failure in good citizenship is also failure in Christian duty.  We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State, by paying all lawful taxes, and by contributing our share, whenever called on, toward the common good.  Both St. Peter (1 Pt 2:13-14), and St. Paul (Rom 13:1-7), stressed the obligation of the early Christians to be an example to all in their loyalty as citizens of the state.  As the famous martyr St. Thomas More said of himself: "I die the King's good servant, but God's first."  Cooperation with secular authority cannot interfere with our primary duty of "giving back to God" our whole selves, in whose image - like the stamp on the coin - we are made.  Consequently, we give taxes to the government but we give ourselves to God. A faithful Christian is a loyal citizen.

A young lady was soaking up the sun's rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" She was surprised by the question but she replied, "Why, yes, I do." Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?" Again, her answer was "Yes!" He then asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray every day?" Again she said, "Yes!" By now her curiosity was very much aroused. The little lad sighed with relief and said, "Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?" A faithful Christian is trustworthy member in a community.

We should be loyal to the state and the laws of the state, but when the state oversteps the mark and puts itself in the place of God, Christians are, as a last resort, absolved from obedience.  We must give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and not the things that are God's.  We must “obey God rather than human beings.” 

Since everything is God’s, we must give ourselves to Him 100%, not just 10% on Sundays.  We should be generous in fulfilling our Sunday obligations and find time every day for prayer and worship in the family, for the reading of the Bible and the proper training of our children in Faith and morals.  St. Augustine teaches that when we truly succeed in "giving to God what is God's," we are "doing justice to God."  Our contribution to the parish Church   should be an expression of our gratitude to God, giving back to God all that he has given us.  This will help us to combat the powerful influence of materialism in our lives and enable the Church to do God’s work.  

This Sunday we should do a thorough examination of how well do we give to God what is His due. Do we take what belongs to God and give to somebody else?



Friday, October 13, 2017


OT XXVIII [A]  Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14

At the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  The Russians arrived in their best formal wear -- military dress uniforms -- but their honored guest did not.  Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London.  He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate.  They didn’t.  They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes.  Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult.  Weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus demands and provides the wedding garment of righteousness from his followers.

Today’s Scripture gives us the strong warning that if we do not accept God’s love, if we reject His gift, we can have no place with Him. We have to stay prepared for the freely-offered Heavenly banquet and wearing the freely-given wedding garment of grace always. Our wedding garment is made of our grace-assisted works of justice, charity and holiness.  The parable warns us that membership in a Church alone does not guarantee our eternal salvation.

 This parable is obviously more than a story about a king and a banquet.  It is the story of Salvation History in which God sent prophets and Christian evangelists with Good News.  The first-invited are now rejected, but strangers are accepted.  In other words, the Gentiles have replaced the Jews who refused to respond to Yahweh's call.  This was the way that first-century Christians looked at the Jewish rejection of Jesus.

The “refusal of a king's invitation by the VIPs, without any valid reason suggested rebellion and insurrection” (The Interpreter’s Bible).  That is why the king sent soldiers to suppress the rebellion. The other invited guests challenge the king's honor directly by seizing his slaves who bring the invitation, beating, and killing them.  Clearly this action demands reprisal, and the King obliges.  Later, Christians tended to see the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as a similar judgment of God upon the people who had rejected the invitation by Christ to the eschatological banquet.


God’s invitation includes an offer of the correct dress for the feast, namely, the robe of Christ's righteousness. The invitation to the ordinary people from the byways tells us that God’s invitation to each one of us is purely an act of grace and not something that we deserve by our good works.  The parable also warns us that God will judge those who refuse His invitation.
In those days, participants in a banquet were expected to dress in clothes that were superior to those worn on ordinary days.  Guests who could afford it would wear white, but it was sufficient for ordinary people to wear garments as close to white as possible.  It was customary for the rich hosts to provide their guests with suitable apparel. For royal weddings, special outfits were given to any guests who could not afford to buy their own.  Hence, to appear in ordinary, soiled working clothes would show contempt for the occasion, a refusal to join in the King's rejoicing.

The Christian must be clothed in the spirit and teaching of Jesus.  Grace is a gift and a grave responsibility.  Hence, a Christian must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness.  In other words, while God, through the Church, opens wide His arms to the sinner, the sinner can only accept His invitation to this relationship of mutual love by loving Him back, and so by making some effort to repent and change his life. It is not enough for one simply to continue unabated in one’s sinful ways.  Although Jesus accepted the tax collectors and prostitutes, he demanded that they abandon their evil ways. 

We need to be grateful to Christ for the invitation to the Heavenly banquet: From the moment of our Baptism, we have been invited to the Heavenly banquet and provided with the wedding garment of sanctifying grace.  These great privileges and blessings are freely given to us by a loving God.  But the same obstacles which prevented the Pharisees from entering the Kingdom –- pride, love of this world, its wealth and its pleasures –- can impede us too.  Hence, we must be prepared to do violence to our ordinary inclinations and offer ourselves in love and service to Jesus and to his people.  That is how we will make our wedding garment clean and bright every day.  Receiving these gifts of God fully also demands that, instead of remaining marginal members of our parish community, we bear visible witness to our beliefs.  
Let us pray that we may keep our wedding garments pure and spotless and that we may become disciples who really practice the teachings of Jesus, rather than remaining mere Sunday Catholics.  Let us pray for a deeper Faith and love and a better spirit of responsibility to our community.


Let us examine whether we have fully accepted God’s invitation to the Messianic banquet and remember that banqueting implies friendship and intimacy, trust and reconciliation. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

OT XXVII [A]  Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43

Andrew Carnegie, a multimillionaire, left one million dollars to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie bitterly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut the relatives off with one million each. Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair.  Not one of them ever bothered to thank him. Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them.  When the king and his royal guests were seated, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king's table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, the beggar then left the room.  The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude.  The king replied, "That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God.  You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied.  Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him."  The parable in today’s Gospel is about the gross ingratitude of God’s chosen people who persecuted and killed all the prophets sent to them by God to correct them and finally crucified their long-awaited Messiah.

The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing fruit in the Christian life and the consequent punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude and wickedness.   Its importance is shown by its appearance in all the three Synoptic gospels. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us Christians that since we are the "new" Israel, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the Kingdom, that  is, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives.  
The parable reflects the frictions in tenant-landlord relations in Palestine.  Most of the vineyards were owned by rich, absentee landlords living in Jerusalem, Damascus or Rome who leased their lands to tenants and were interested only in collecting rent.  The country was seething with economic unrest.  The working people were discontented and rebellious, and the tenant farmers had picked up the revolutionary slogan, “land for the farmer.”  Hence, they often refused to pay the rent previously agreed upon and in some cases assaulted the landowner’s representatives.  It is natural, then, that Jesus’ parable should reflect the popular hatred of foreign domination and the monopolizing of agricultural land by a rich minority who supported Roman rule.
The Lord’s vineyard at present is the Church, and we Christians are the tenants from whom God expects fruits of righteousness.  The parable warns us that if we refuse to reform our lives, to become productive, we, too, could be replaced as the old Israel was replaced by the "new" Israel.  We cease being either God's vineyard or the tenants of God's vineyard when we stop relating to others as loving servants. In the parable, the rent the tenants refuse to pay stands for the relationship with God and with all the people of Israel, which the religious leaders refuse to cultivate. This means that before anything else, God checks on how well we are fulfilling our responsibilities to each other as children of God.  The parable teaches that instead of glorying in our privileges and Christian heritage, we are called to deeds of love, including bearing personal and corporate witness that invites others into God's kingdom.

Are we good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church?  Jesus has given us the Church, and through her everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing: i) The Bible to know the will of God.   ii) The Sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins.  iii) The Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food.  iv) The Sacrament of Confirmation for a dynamic life of Faith.  v) The Sacrament of Matrimony for the sharing of love in the family, the fundamental unit of the Church. vi) Role models in thousands of saints. We are expected to make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God.

What is our attitude toward everything God has given to us?  Are we grateful for everything God has given to us, or are we like the ungrateful tenants who acted as if they owned everything God had given them?  

Friday, September 22, 2017

OT XXV [A] Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a

An old “Family Circus” comic strip shows the two boys Jeff and Billy squabbling over the size of the slices of pie their mom has placed before them. “They aren’t the same,” Jeff pouts. Mom tries again, evening-up the slices. Still Jeff is upset. “They still aren’t the same!” he whines. This time Mom uses a ruler and absolutely proves that both slices of pie are the exact same size. “But Mom,” Jeff complains, “I want mine to be just like Billy’s . . . only bigger!”
We all tend to think we deserve a bigger slice of the pie. From the time we are little children, we are taught that doing more is worth more. If a five year old gets a dollar for picking up their toys and clothes; If an eight year old gets five dollars for feeding the dog, emptying the garbage, and vacuuming the living room; Then a twelve year old should get considerably more for mowing the lawn, doing some laundry, watching younger siblings, and cleaning the garage.
Chores and allowances teach children that in this world’s economy we have to do work in order to receive our “rewards.” We want our kids to learn and to live the adage, “Hard work pays off.”
That is why the parable in today’s gospel text is so unsettling. It is easy to identify with the grumbling guys who worked sunup to sundown, through the heat of the day, and then watched in amazement as some slackers who worked for one measly hour, in the cool of the approaching evening no less, got paid a full day’s wage. Of course the full day worker EXPECTS more and SHOULD get more. It is only fair. More work should equal more wages. ”Hard work pays off.” But it doesn’t. Not in Jesus’ story of the kingdom… Because it is not about fair or just payments. It is about God’s mercy and grace in human life.

A story is told of the lady who had a stranger appear at her door and simply handed her a $100 bill. She was dumbfounded! Then the same thing happened the next day….and the next…and the next. For thirty straight days this stranger gave her $100 without explanation. On the 31st day the lady was waiting at the door when she saw the man coming down the street. But then he passed her house and walked up to her neighbor’s house, and gave her a $100 bill! The first lady was indignant and yelled at the guy, "Hey, where’s my $100 bill?"

It’s easy to think that when life is going our way that somehow we deserve it. We come to expect it. We even plan for it. This parable is not so much about the injustice of workers getting paid the same for different amounts of work. It is about God and God’s mercy and grace. Sometimes it appears that some people are receiving more of God’s grace than others. But as Christians we live, not in a world of justice, but of grace.

In the first reading Isaiah says: The thoughts of God are not the thoughts of man. The ways of God are not the ways of man. As the heavens are higher than the earth, the ways of God are higher than the ways of man and the thoughts of God are higher than the thoughts of man. The way of God is beyond the understanding of the world; the ways of men are limited.

In Israel there were many great veteran warriors to fight with Goliath. But, God chose a young boy who was not even able to put on the armor to subdue Goliath. When God chose a simple maiden, Mary, to be the mother of Jesus, there were many young women of respectable genealogy, who were hoping to be called by God.  When Jesus called the illiterate fisher man Peter, in Israel there were many learned men who wished to follow Jesus. All these show that God chooses who He wants, and when he wants. And this call is a sheer act of mercy on God’s part.

God rewards us, not in the measure of what we do, but according to His good will. A full wage is offered to each of us, whether one has served him for a whole lifetime, or has turned to Him only at the eleventh hour. The story shows us how God looks at us, sees our needs and meets those needs. 

All the people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God. Similarly, long-time Church members should expect no special preference over recent members.  Jesus warns them that the Gentiles who put their Faith in God will have the same reward a good Jew may expect.  Matthew, by retelling this parable, may well desire to give the same warning to the members of his Judeo-Christian community who considered the Gentile Christians as second-class Christians.  Those who carry out the will of God with love and humility will be acceptable before the Lord. So, Jesus says, “The first will be the last and the last will be the first.”


Pope Francis says: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” The parable suggests that we can't work our way into Heaven because by our own unaided strength we can never do enough good in this life to earn our everlasting reward.


To God, we are more than just numbers on a payroll. All our talents and blessings are freely given by God. Hence, we should express our gratitude to God by avoiding sins, by rendering loving service to others, by sharing our blessings with the needy, and by constant prayer, listening and talking to God at all times.



      

Saturday, September 16, 2017

OT XXIV [A]: Sir 27:30--28:7; Rom 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35

Monday was September 11, a date that Americans consider one of the most significant in the nation’s history. It has become one of the epic historic events equivalent to the founding of the United States, the ending of the conflict between the North and the South, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the ending of World War II and the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  September 11, 2001 is a date that challenged both the freedom of a free people and the grace of forgiveness that Americans are told by our Lord Jesus Christ to offer, even to their enemies. But forgiveness is not an easy gift to give. Our readings for this Twenty-Fourth Sunday concern forgiving our offenders and being reconciled with them.   

It was the Rabbinic teaching that a man must forgive his brother three times. The Biblical proof for this was taken from the first and second chapters of Amos where we find a series of condemnations on the various nations for three transgressions (Am.1:3, 6, 9; Am.1:11, 13; Am.2:1, 4, 6). From this it was deduced that God's forgiveness extends to three offenses, and that He visits the sinner with punishment at the fourth. Also, seven was a holy number to Jewish people, symbolizing perfection, fullness, abundance, rest, and completion. Peter expected to be warmly commended.  But Jesus’ answer was that the Christian must forgive “seventy times seven times.” In other words, there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness.

A certain married couple had many sharp disagreements. Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected. One day her husband commented on his wife’s restraint. “When I get mad at you,” he said, “you never fight back. How do you control your anger?”
The wife said: “I work it off by cleaning the toilet.”
The husband asked: “How does that help?”
She said: “I use your toothbrush!”


We must forgive in order to be forgiven. Jesus explains this after teaching the prayer, Our Father, saying=, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt 6:14-15). The same theme is reflected in the first reading from Sirach today. James offers this warning in different words: "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy" (Jas 2:13). This means that Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand.
Francis of Assisi’s prayer is: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Our failure to offer pardon means that we have forgotten God’s goodness or have not fully appreciated the unconditional forgiveness we have received from Him.

Forgiveness involves more than absolution of guilt. It involves the reconciliation of our past and the healing of our brokenness. It involves intentional work to heal and be reconciled with another.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning evil. Neither in God nor in the Christian community, do forgiveness and reconciliation mean the indefinite tolerance of evil and unjust behavior. The king was perfectly ready to forgive the senior official. But how could reconciliation take place when the official later behaved in such an abominable way to a brother? God and the Church can forgive the repentant sinner, but they cannot condone un-repented behavior that is a source of real evil and suffering. God cannot be reconciled with the sinner who chooses to stay in sin, nor can the Christian community fully incorporate a member who refuses reconciliation and the healing of the behaviors that offend against truth and love. With God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, forgiveness is easily available to the individual Christian, but along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we must seek a mutual healing of wounds and a real change of mind and evil behavior.

We need to forgive the person who has wronged us before the hatred eats away at our ability to forgive. It will not be easy, but God is there to help us. We can do this by offering that individual to God, not sitting in judgment on him or her, but by simply saying, “Help so-and-so and me to mend our relationship.” Whatever the hurt, pain, disappointment, fear or anger that we may be feeling, we need to say, “God, I give this over to You. I can’t take care of it, but I know that You can. What would You have me to do?” And then listen. This isn’t merely being passive – or passing the buck to God. In fact it’s just the opposite. This kind of prayer and this kind of listening has to give birth to action, but it’s action that realistically acknowledges God’s Lordship, and trusts that, through God’s power, we can do all things, even the impossible . . . like forgiving. When we withhold forgiveness, we remain the victim. When we offer forgiveness, we are doing it also for our own well-being. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the pain, the resentment, and the anger. We always have a choice: to forgive or not to forgive. When we forgive we make the choice that heals.
Let’s say with full awareness the Lords’ prayer: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.


Friday, September 8, 2017


The common theme of today’s readings is that we are all  “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all the others in our Faith community. In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a "watchman for the house of Israel,” obliged to warn Israel of moral dangers.  If Ezekiel should refrain from speaking God’s word intended to convert the wicked, God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked. 

In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we should have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing the sinner.  Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian with correction and counsel for an erring brother or sister who has damaged the community by his or her public sin. Matthew expands a saying of Jesus, originally concerned primarily with forgiveness into a four-step procedure of confrontation, negotiation, adjudication and excommunication, dealing to finally mend a broken relationship within the Christian fellowship.

1.Confrontation:  The worst thing that we can do about a wrong done to us is to brood about it. Brooding can poison our whole mind and life, until we can think of nothing else but our sense of personal injury. We mustn’t gossip either, but should go to meet the offender in person, and point out lovingly, in all seriousness, the harm he has done.  This is to solve the issue between them.

2.Negotiation:  Suppose the first step does not resolve the situation and the person refuses to admit wrong, and continue in a bad behavior, the second step is to take one or two other members of the Church along with the wronged person to speak to the wrongdoer and to act as confirming witnesses. The taking of the witnesses is not meant to be a way of proving to a man that he has committed an offence, but for emphasizing and explaining calmly the gravity of the situation. 

3.Adjudication: If the negotiation step does not resolve the situation either, the third step is to have the whole Church or community of believers confront the wrongdoer. The Church provides an atmosphere of Christian prayer, Christian love and Christian fellowship in which personal relationships may be righted in the light of love and of the Gospel. Finally, in matters of honor and shame, the community is the final arbiter, for the community as a whole suffers from the wrong.

4) Excommunication: If the offender chooses to disregard the believing community's judgment, the consequence is “excommunication.” That is, the wrongdoer should be put out of the Church with the hope that temporary alienation alone may bring the erring person to repentance and change. But the excommunication should be carried out with genuine grief (1 Cor 5:2), not vindictive glee over another's "fall" or self-righteous pride.

In one of the popular Chicken Soup volumes, Dennis E. Mannering tells about an assignment he once gave to a class he teaches for adults. He gave them the assignment, "Go to someone you love, and tell them that you love them." At the beginning of the next class, one of the students began by saying, "I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I didn't feel I had anyone to say those words to. But as I began driving home my conscience started talking. Then I knew exactly who I needed to say ‘I love you’ to. Five years ago, my father and I had a vicious disagreement and never really resolved it. We avoided seeing each other unless we absolutely had to at family gatherings. We hardly spoke. So by the time I got home, I had convinced myself I was going to tell my father I loved him. Just making that decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. At 5:30, I was at my parents' house ringing the doorbell, praying that Dad would answer the door. I was afraid if Mom answered, I would chicken out and tell her instead. But as luck would have it, Dad did answer the door. I didn't waste any time. I took one step in the door and said, ‘Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.’ It was as if a transformation came over my dad. Before my eyes his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he began to cry. He reached out. But that's not even my point. Two days after that visit, my dad had a heart attack. So my message to all of you is this: Don't wait to do the things you know need to be done. What if I had waited to tell my dad? Take the time to do what you need to do and do it now!"

People hurt us, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without meaning to. But sometimes who is in the right and who is in the wrong is not as important as finding a common ground where the relationship can be maintained. Sometimes that means that we have to take the first step, even though we know that the other person is in the wrong. And the best time to take that step is today.


Friday, September 1, 2017

OT XXII [A] Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27  


Joseph Ton was pastor of a Baptist church in Rumania while that country was ruled by Communists. The authorities hated him because of his preaching. They arrested him, and threatened to kill him. Ton said to the arresting officer:
"Sir, your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Sir, you know my sermons are all over the country on tapes now. If you kill me, you will be sprinkling them with my blood. Whoever listens to them after that will say, 'You'd better listen. This man sealed it with his blood.' They will speak ten times louder than before. So, go on and kill me. Then I will win the supreme victory."
The officer sent him home. Ton then said, "For years I was a Christian who was cautious because I wanted to survive. I had accepted all the restrictions the authorities put on me because I wanted to live. Now I wanted to die, and they wouldn't oblige. Now I could do whatever I wanted in Rumania. For years I wanted to save my life, and I was losing it. Now that I wanted to lose it, I was winning it."


Today Jesus reveals a paradoxical truth. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.


Last week Our Lord was praising Peter’s faith; this week he is condemning his worldly outlook, scolding him telling get behind me Satan.  Jesus announces that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." After correcting Peter’s protest, Jesus announces the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Unless we constantly remind ourselves of the demands of this difficult vocation from God, we will fail to be the kind of disciples that Christ expects us to be.

Our Lord teaches us that the cross is a part of our life whether we want it or not, and what matters is how we face it and why we face it. He also encourages us to practice self-detachment and to remember that everything we have comes from God. The world tries to turn our minds away from the Cross, but the cross is the true path to life and fulfillment. When we accept and shoulder the crosses in our life, it renews our attitude toward the fleeting things of this world and what is truly important. No matter how often we try to accumulate things and ensure comfort, something prevents it from happening. Some people are wealthy, or healthy, or in charge of their lives, yet they feel something is missing.

Our Lord reminds us today that we can have the whole world, but not possess what is truly important: an enduring and fulfilled life. That enduring and fulfilled life doesn’t exist in this world, yet this world is the path to it. It depends on how we live in this world. The only way to achieve what we truly desire is to take up our cross for the sake of a higher cause: Jesus’ cause.


Remove the cross from our faith and it is a house of cards. It will crumble under the slightest weight.

When a bud goes through the pain of bursting, it is transformed into a beautiful flower.  When a pupa struggles out of a cocoon, it is transformed into a charming butterfly. When a chicken breaks the shell and comes out it becomes a lovely bird. A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.  When a seed bursts the pod and falls to the ground it begins to grow as a plant. When we undergo the suffering and pain of life we get strengthened.  St Paul wrote:  “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).”  Suffering is not the last thing in life. It leads us to something greater as long as we are ready to accept its challenges.  “A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn.”  


Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian life is the sacrificial life. When we practice little acts of kindness we are writing our name in the history of time. We will be remembered by many even after our departure from this world.

A true disciple asks, "Am I willing to sacrifice something for the Kingdom?" 

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us see our crosses not as burdens, but as opportunities to help construct a better world in his name. Through our crosses, in his service, we can achieve a better life for ourselves and others. Let us listen to the teaching of Jesus, “whoever wishes to keep his life safe, will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.” 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


We are all familiar with the term identity crisis. It is a modern phenomenon that man tries to find his own identity. Many today ask the question who they are?
In today’s Gospel Jesus confronts his disciples with a very difficult question. The opinion of people about him, and their personal opinion about him.
When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and Jeremiah they were paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place. Then came the most important question, “Who do you say I am?” With this question Jesus reminds us that our knowledge of Jesus must never be at second hand.  Christianity never consists in knowing about Jesus; it always consists in knowing Jesus. When this question was addressed to Peter, his answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It is evident that Jesus was well pleased with Peter’s answer. Jesus first pronounced a blessing upon Peter, the only disciple in the Gospels to receive a personal blessing. "Blessed are you, Simon son of John!" Next, Jesus confirmed Peter's insight as a special revelation from God. "No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father." Only those who have had received such a revelation from God can really live and die for Christ.

During the first three centuries, the Church boasts about eleven million martyrs who fertilized the tree of faith with their blood. The martyrs are the most intriguing and most beloved saints of Christianity. Our most popular and beloved saints, with innumerable churches dedicated to their names, are those who died for the faith, like St. George, St. Sebastian, St. Stephen, St. Catherine, St. Barbara, St.Polycarp and many more.

Neo-martyr Michael Paknanas was less than twenty years old, and he worked as a gardener in Athens in the 1800s. The Turks, who enslaved Greece at the time, were trying to convince him to give up his faith. When flattery and wealth failed to persuade him, they put to use some of their more convincing standard missionary work by torturing the teenager. When all the tortures proved to be futile, the executioner was preparing to behead the young man, but at the same time he was feeling some compassion for him. So he began cutting his neck slowly with the sword by administering very light blows, while asking the martyr to reconsider. The martyr's response? "I told you, I am a Christian. I refuse to give up my faith." The ax-man struck with another light blow to make some more blood flow, to possibly convince him. The martyr repeated, "I told you, I am a Christian. Strike with all your might, for the faith of Christ." This totally aggravated the executioner. He did exactly that, and St. Michael was sent to the heavenly mansions.

For the last 20 centuries this question: who do you say that I am, has been repeatedly addressed to a number of Christians; and their lives depended on the answer they found for this question. 
In his teens, C.S. Lewis was a professed agnostic. He was influenced in his conversion to Christianity by reading the book The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton and through the influence of two of his Christian friends. After his conversion, he wrote a number of books defending Christianity. During the Second World War, in his famous BBC radio talk, “Mere Christianity,” he said, “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” If we accept Jesus as a moral teacher, then we must necessarily accept Him as God, for great moral teachers do not tell lies.

Today, Jesus challenges us to know him personally and to serve him and love him as Lord, and he wants from each one of us our total, single-hearted response. Who do you say I am?