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.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


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.