Friday, August 10, 2018

OT XIX [B] I Kgs 19:4-8, Eph 4:30–5:2, Jn 6:41-51 

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke told of a hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, "We Sell Bread." He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, "I would like to buy some bread." The woman behind the counter replied, "We don’t sell bread." "The sign in the window says that you do," the hungry man said. The woman explained, "We make signs here like the one in the window that says ‘We Sell Bread.’" But, as Thielicke concludes, a hungry man can’t eat signs.
Life sometimes fools us too. Bread isn’t always found where it seems to be. Today’s Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last week in John 6. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus.
We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food.  In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, Jesus, proclaims himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.”  It is through Jesus, the bread of life, that we have access to the Divine life during our earthly pilgrimage to God.  
 Jesus makes a series of unique claims in today’s Gospel passage: 1) “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.”  2)”I am the Bread of Life.”  3) “The Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.”  Jesus’ Jewish listeners could hardly contain themselves when he claimed to be the “Bread of Life” (v. 35) who “came down from Heaven” (v. 38).  They thought they knew his father and mother (v. 42), and saw him as just another hometown boy – a carpenter by profession without any formal training in Mosaic Laws and Jewish Scriptures.  They could remember when he had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum with a band of unknown disciples, mostly fishermen.  
Jesus challenged the Jews who were upset about his claim of bread of life and his explanation, to take a journey of Faith by seeing him, not as the son of Joseph, but as the one who came down from Heaven.  By saying, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me …” Jesus told his listeners, that everyone who has become his follower has done so because God the Father has called him or her to Jesus. It is an act of God that has brought us to follow the way of Jesus.   Faith in Christ is God's gift; no one can conjure it up on their own in a chemistry lab. When we look at the small white Host, no scientific test can prove that Jesus Christ is truly present there, body, blood, soul, and divinity. And yet, we know that he is; we have been given the gift of faith. This is why the priest says, after the consecration at each Mass: "Let  us proclaim the mystery of faith."
 Jesus offered the ultimate reassurance to every one of us who believes when he said: “I will raise him up on the last day” ( vv.39, 40, 44, 54).  This persistent theme serves to remind us that only Jesus, the true Bread of Life, can impart the gift of eternal Life to the faithful.
Jesus himself is the "bread" of this eternal life, its source and sustenance. Without bread, without food, physical life perishes. Without Jesus, without his "flesh for the life of the world" in the Eucharist, our life of intimate communion with God will perish. It's that simple - and it's that crucial. Eleven times in this discourse Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life; he's really hoping that we'll get the message. The gift of faith gives us access to eternal life, and the Eucharist makes that life grow within us.

Jesus wants us to eat him because he IS Bread. “You are what you eat.” Jesus is Bread and he wants us to eat his Flesh. Thus, we bring him into the core of our being. The Fathers of the Church explain that, while ordinary food is assimilated into man, the very opposite takes place in Holy Communion. Here man is assimilated into the Bread of Life. He is ready to come into our lives, regardless of who we have been, or how unqualified we feel. Let us live the life of Faith … making changes so that He becomes the staple food of our spiritual life, not a side dish. Let us be people who recognize that Jesus, whom we consume, is actually God who assimilates us into His being. Then, from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus as he grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like him. Thus, we shall share in the joyous and challenging life of being the Body of Christ for the world – Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

OT XVIII [B]: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
In the depression years of the 1930’s millions of Americans were out of work and many thousands were hungry. In a number of cities, religious groups set up bread-lines to feed the hungry. One of these was the Franciscan monastery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every evening, the Friars, Brothers and lay volunteers prepared and gave a nourishing sandwich of bread and meat to hundreds of hungry men and women. It was interesting to note the reactions of the recipients. Many accepted the well-prepared and well-wrapped food with a smile and a thank you. Others, with heads hanging, snatched the food package and shuffled off. Some tore the bag at once and started eating as they hurried away. Most of them ate every last crumb after a silent prayer and put the wrapping into a nearby container, though some would eat only the meat and discard the bread on the roadside. A few discontented ones just opened the package and then threw the entire contents away in protest. The way those hungry unfortunates reacted to that little lunch is a lot like the way his listeners received the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Jesus presents an introduction to his famous discourse on the Holy Eucharist in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews who had gone around the Lake and come to Capernaum searching for him.  The people were looking for a repeat performance of their miraculous feeding.  In answer to their question about his arrival, Jesus told them that they looked for him for another free meal and that such meals would not satisfy them. Hence, he instructed them to labor for food that would give them eternal life. True Christians, understand that real fulfillment comes from more than just making a living; it comes from making a life.

In today’s first reading the Israelites wanted their bellies filled, and complained, and were even willing to return to slavery just to have a full stomach. Jesus reminds the Jews today that full stomachs didn’t enable those Israelites under Moses to live forever, even though the Lord provided them with manna to eat. 
Like the Israelites in the First Reading the people were still seeking signs, but now the moment had come for faith, a faith that lead to no longer living as the Gentiles did, just focused on immediate needs and concerns of this life and not seeing the bigger picture where this life is a pilgrimage toward eternal life. The Israelites who grumbled in the desert didn’t live to see the Promised Land due to their lack of trust in God; the people in today’s Gospel are being extended an opportunity to one day enter into the true Promised Land, but they have to trust the new Moses–Jesus–to lead them.

Although Jesus identifies himself as "the bread of life" (v. 35), he is not yet speaking about the Sacramental Eucharist in this part of his Eucharistic discourse. Here, the emphasis is placed on the Faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus states that he is nourishment, first of all, as one who offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives.
We must believe him to be the Messiah, sent with the message that God is a loving, holy, and forgiving Father, and not a punishing judge.  Belief in Jesus is not simple intellectual assent, but an authentic, total commitment to Him of loyalty and solidarity. There is no reference yet to eating His Body or drinking His Blood, which will come later. Here, we are reminded that only a believing reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus will bring us true life.

 In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist.  Unfortunately, many of us come to Mass every week only to present on the altar our earthly needs without accepting spiritual nourishment by properly receiving God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist.

When we pray: "give us this day our daily bread," let us remember that the Holy Eucharist is not simply a "snack," such as we might eat at a party or at lunch.   Jesus not only gives the Bread of Life (John 6:11, 27) -- He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48).  The Giver and the Gift are one and the same.  The Eucharist is not a mere "symbol" of Jesus; rather, it is a Sacramental sign of Jesus’ Real Bodily Presence in his glorified risen Body.   As we come up to receive him today let’s believe that we are going to receive a bread that never perishes, but leads to eternal Life.

Friday, July 27, 2018

OT XVII [B]: 2 Kings 4:42-44, Eph 4:1-6, John 6:1-15 

The multiplication of the loaves is the only miracle from Jesus’ public ministry narrated in all four Gospels that has Eucharistic overtones.   This is the only miracle, other than the Resurrection, that is told in all the Gospels, a fact that speaks of its importance to the early Church. John uses this story in his Gospel to introduce Jesus’ profound and extended reflection on the Eucharist and the Bread of Life.  The Cycle B lectionary has selected portions from John chapter 6 for the next four Sundays to remind us of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist.  The Eucharistic coloring of the multiplication of bread is clear in Jesus’ blessing, breaking, and giving the loaves. 

The story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes recalls a particular aspect of the Mass. In this miracle, Jesus transforms a young boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish. At every Mass God wants to take from our hands the fruit of our labor and work of our hands…as the offertory prayer stresses. The offertory collection really covers that aspect of the Mass. After his resurrection, at the sea of Tiberias Jesus appeared to the disciples and let them have a miraculous catch. And he asked them to bring some of the fish that they caught to add to the fish Jesus had already caught and was baking for their breakfast. Jesus could have performed the miracle of the multiplication of bread from scratch, from nothing. But he needed the 5 loaves of the boy. Jesus could have made wine from nothing. But he used water, the servants had to work to fill the jars with water. He always takes something that we worked on for his miracles.  Therefore no Eucharist is offered without the fruit of our labor. The Eucharist brings no meaning to us if we bring nothing to the Eucharist. God in turn transforms our gifts, making this bread and wine to be the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We also offer ourselves in this exchange, and we, too, are transformed by the Eucharist. This is what the celebrant says when he mixes water with wine: By this mingling of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Water symbolizes our humanity and Wine symbolizes Jesus’ divinity. The water is fully absorbed in to the wine. The wine doesn’t become water. The same way our humanity is fully covered in Jesus’ divinity. That is why the Mass is fully acceptable to God the Father.

The multiplication may have actually happened in the passing out of the bread from Jesus’ hands into the hands of the Apostles or to the hands of the people. Therefore the people might not have seen a large bulk of bread before them. Only later may they have realized actually what happened a little before. This is what happens at the Eucharist too. We don’t see the transubstantiation taking place, but we only hear the word, this is my body and my blood, which Jesus utters using the celebrant’s tongues. And Jesus does not make a bulk of bread and asks people to come and help themselves. Instead, he did as we do at the Mass, the priests or the Extra ordinary Ministers serve the congregation as Jesus did at the multiplication of the bread or at the last supper. Receiving means I am accepting a gift, not a right that I have that I can go and take or grab. That is the reason only the bishop or the priests who stand in place of Jesus at the Eucharist serves themselves and nobody else. None of us have a right to divine gift.

In all the accounts of the multiplication Jesus asks the Apostles to collect the left over fragments. It shows the abundance of food they had. Also that God wants no food to be wasted. That's exactly what we do with the hosts that remain after Communion; we gather them in the ciboria and reserve them in the tabernacle. All of this is no accident.
Jesus is not just giving the crowds a free lunch to show them God's generosity and concern; he is also getting them ready to understand his coming discourse about the Eucharist.

At the Eucharist every particle that has any bread quality is believed to have the presence of the Lord. Therefore one is to carefully handle each and every particle. Extra ordinary ministers who deal with the bread may feel any tiny particle stuck to their fingers when they feel the fingers together. Therefore it is advisable to rinse your fingers in the water kept in the bowl here.

This reading invites us to become humble instruments in God’s hands by sharing our blessings with our needy brothers and sisters. Miracles can happen through our hands, when we collect and distribute to the needy the food destined for all by our generous God. 

As we continue with this Mass, let's make an effort to live it deeply. And we can live it deeply, by paying attention to the sacred words of the liturgy, by stirring up sentiments of gratitude and faith in our hearts, and by remembering that we are not alone, that through this Mass we are connected to Catholics throughout the world and throughout history who have gathered around the same altar and received the same Holy Communion, obeying our Lords' command: "Do this in remembrance of me."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

OT XVI [B] Jer. 23:1-6, Eph 2:13-18, Mk 6:30-34

According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, "Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies."
The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, "If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it."
People are also like that. That's why we all need to take time to rest. Start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. You will be at your best for the Lord if you have taken time to loosen the bow.

Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his apostles to a desolate place for some rest.   Jesus had sent his apostles on their first mission, which was one of healing, teaching and preaching.  When they returned, they were no doubt exhilarated by the experience. They had witnessed at first hand the power of God’s Word.   Nonetheless, they were hungry, exhausted, and in need of rest, both physical and spiritual. In fact, Jesus was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences. But Jesus, too, was in need of a break from the crowds who were constantly pressing on him, demanding his attention and healing. Hence, he led the Apostles by boat to a “deserted place” on the other side of the Lake for a period of rest and sharing.

By stopping and taking breath we can gain more strength for our daily activities. That is why Jesus led the Apostles away to a deserted place. One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did."
"But you didn't notice," said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest."Taking time we need to sharpen our spiritual weapons to fight against the forces of evil in our life and the world.

In this day we have so many devices to save time. Yet, never before have we seen so many hurried and restless people! If the computer, the laptop, the cellular phone, and all of these other technological wonders are suppose to save us time, why do we have so little time for the things that matter?
Today's man is in constant danger of becoming enslaved by the very things that were supposed to make his life more convenient. No matter where he goes, his work goes with him. It seems that with all we've accomplished, about all we have really added is speed and noise. We get there faster, but we don't know where we are going. And when we get there, we're out of breath.
Once a man swallowed an egg whole. He was afraid to move because he was afraid it would break. But he was afraid to sit still because he was afraid it would hatch. There are a lot of people like that today--so frenetic, so pressured they don't know which way to go. It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way. Check if we are running faster, it means we have lost our way.

A story is told about some African workers who were hired to carry heavy equipment on their backs to a remote outpost. It was a place that couldn't be reached any other way but on foot. After several days of difficult travel, the workers refused to pick up their packs and go any further. They sat by the side of the trail ignoring the shouts of the leader of the expedition. Finally the leader asked why they wouldn't go on. One of the workers replied, "Sir, we are waiting for our souls to catch up with our bodies." We need to slack down and let our souls to catch up with our bodies that they are together back again. Our bodies may be running faster, but the soul which is not in a rush takes its time. So, slow down couple of times a day to get the soul catch up with you. Many of us do critically important work and find ourselves exhausted. Yet we don't rest.

The disciples have returned from their travels, but the pace has not slackened. As the Gospel reports, “Many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Does that scene sound familiar to us? Is our workplace like that? Is our home like that? Many are coming and going, and they have no leisure even to eat. Do we have some time to eat some spiritual food in an unhurried manner? Let’s accept the invitation of the Lord today, to come away to a deserted place and spend some time with him.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

OT XV [B] Am 7:12-15, Eph 1:3-14, Mk 6:7-13

George Sweeting, in his book The No-Guilt Guide for Witnessing, tells us of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him.  But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it.  Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future.  Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died.  Ten years went by.  Then a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated.  He was a free man.  Sweeting concluded that story by asking, “Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message—the most important in your life—and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?”  We who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin.  Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?

In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles for their first missionary journey. They are to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus.  Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most.

Jesus sends out the Apostles in pairs.  Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth.  Going two by two carries with it the authority of official witnesses. Jesus knew that when his disciples went to any place to evangelize, a family or house would take them in, welcome them and give them what they needed because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine.  By His stern instruction, Jesus seems to be saying, “If people refuse to listen to you or to show you hospitality, the only thing you can do is to treat them as an orthodox Jew would treat a Gentile or a pagan.”  The Rabbinic law stated that the dust of a Gentile country was defiled, so that when a Jew entered Palestine from another country, he had to shake off every particle of the unclean land’s dust from his clothing and sandals.

Jesus’ disciples were to preach the Good News that God is not a punishing judge, but rather a loving Father who wants to save men from their bondage to sin through Jesus His Son. As apostles, we are to evangelize the world.  We are called to share with others not just words, or ideas, or doctrines but an experience, our experience of God and His Son, Jesus. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the most influential religious thinkers of our time. In one of his writings, he said these startling words: “If there are no witnesses there is no God to be met…. For God to be present we have to be witnesses… There are no proofs for the existence of God; there are only witnesses.”  The English word “martyr” comes from a Greek word which simply means “to witness.” The word became associated with death because that was the end result of one’s witnessing during the first centuries of the Christian Era. This is not to suggest that God’s existence depends solely on our witnessing. The point here is that God’s reality for us, God’s relevance in our lives, God’s reality in the world, is dependent upon our witnessing to Him. So God should not be found at the end of a philosophical or theological argument, but in the midst of life.

We Catholics cannot avoid the demand of evangelization, of proclaiming the faith. Vatican II couldn’t be clearer on this score, seeing the Church itself as nothing but a vehicle for evangelization. According to Vatican II, it’s not so much the case that the Church has a mission, but rather that a mission has the Church. Bringing people to Christ is not one work among many; rather, it is the central work of the Church, that around which everything else we do revolves.

The fastest-growing "religious" group in the United States is the "nones"—that is, those who claim no religious affiliation? In the latest Pew Research Center survey, fully 25 percent of the country—80 million people—say that they have no formal religion. When we focus on young people, the picture is even more bleak. Almost 40 percent of those under thirty are nones, and among Catholics in that age group, the number rises to 50 percent. Of all the Catholic children baptized or confirmed these last thirty years, half no longer participate in the life of the Church.

A prison chaplain went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, “Do you really believe that?” “Of course, I do,” replied the chaplain. “Go on,” scoffed the prisoner. “If I believed that I would crawl hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don’t see you Christians making any big thing of it!” He had a point.

An important part of evangelism is the simple act of inviting a friend or family member to join us in worship. This is where reconciliation between persons and God is most likely to take place. We do not have to commit verbal assault on someone with our convictions. A simple invitation offered out of a loving and joyful heart is the most powerful evangelistic message of all. We will be starting our RCIA sessions in a few months. We need to personally invite someone who needs the message of the gospel in their life. A Christian who is not witnessing his faith is like the dead sea where there is no living being in it. In Israel, both the sea of Galilee and Dead sea are fed by river Jordan. But one is full of life but the other is totally dead. Because one lets out its water and the other doesn’t. If we don’t preach our faith, and keep our faith like the Dead sea, we are dead Christians.
Jesus is inviting us today to cooperate with him.  He wants us to be his instruments of liberation, to help others recover their freedom. We are meant to help people to cure their sicknesses – not only the bodily sicknesses but psychological and emotional illnesses as well.  More than just physical or emotional healing one needs Christ in his or her life for eternal life. Let’s resolve today to take the message of Gospel to someone and help his find Christ.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

OT XIV [B] Ez 2:2-5; II Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

One day a horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?" Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

Fr. Antony De Mello tells this story to open our eyes to see that what we often think as bad, may not be so. What we often think of good may not be so either. When suffering comes in our life none of us thinks it is a good time for us.

In the second reading, Paul fervently prayed to have the unidentified cause of great suffering removed but was given instead the reassurance that God's grace would be sufficient for his every need. This strange
passage raises two questions. First, what was this thorn? No one really knows, but scholars have many theories. It may have been a physical ailment of some
kind; or a particular temptation, like lust or greed; or the discouragement he constantly felt from being rejected by his Jewish confreres; or it may also have been his fiery temperament, which always seemed to get him into trouble. Whatever it was, it was a continual source of pain and irritation to Paul.

The second question is: why didn't God take this thorn away? St Paul tells us that it continually reminded him of his human weakness, inspiring him to depend more fully on God's grace. This is what he means when he writes: "when I am weak, then I am strong." And this should be a comforting thought for us. It means that our thorns, whatever they may be, are not signs of God's anger or displeasure, but signs that He is teaching us, as he taught St Paul, true wisdom, the wisdom of humility and trust in God.

Paul understood that suffering, accepted as God’s gift, produces patience, sensitivity and compassion and a genuine appreciation of life's blessings.

The ancient Fathers of the Church used to call Jesus the doctor of the soul. That's a comparison that can help us understand this idea. Sometimes doctors and dentists have to cause temporary discomfort or pain in order to bring about long-term health.  The cut of a surgeon's knife hurts, but it leads to healing and strength in the long run. Sometimes the medicine that a doctor  prescribes tastes bitter and harsh. And yet, that same medicine will cure the sickness that is much more dangerous.

The thorn that St. Paul mentions in this Reading is like the surgeon's knife or the bitter medicine.
As painful as it is, he recognizes that God is permitting it for a reason; to cure him of his tendency to arrogance and self-absorption. Likewise, when God allows difficulties to plague us, he is not absent from them, but at work through them, like a good doctor with a sharp scalpel.

Someone once asked Abraham Lincoln why he wouldn't replace a cabinet member who constantly opposed him. Lincoln told the story about the farmer who was trying to plow with a very old and decrepit horse. Lincoln noticed on the flank of the animal a big thistle caught in the animal's hair. Lincoln started to pull it off and the farmer said, "Don't remove that thistle, Abe! If it wasn't for the sticker, this old horse wouldn't move an inch!" That means, treat your problems as challenges. People who are difficult to work with, problems that seem insurmountable - notice how they keep you digging inside yourself for greater strength. In the end, you accomplish great feats, not in spite of, but because of your problems.

Our “suffering has redemptive power.” Pope John Paul II’s encyclical writes, “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.  “Suffering is not in itself redemptive and transformative. When we suffer an adversity, first we have to examine ourselves to see if there is sin in our life. Suffering can come as a result of my sins. For instance, I get cancer as a result of my being a heavy smoker. This suffering is a result of my own doing. But I can make it also redemptive if I repent of my doing and cease smoking and join my offering to that of Christ.

John Paul wrote, “Christ has raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (SD 19).  Paul says: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church” . We might ask the question, “what can possibly be lacking in Christ’s sufferings, Christ’s afflictions?” The answer is that all that is lacking is our part in them. When we think about our part in completing what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings, we can think it is very small, even miniscule compared to his. Yet, our sufferings are, as John Paul wrote, “a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s Redemption” (SD 27). The truth is, even if a small part, it has meaning when it is joined to Christ. It can be fruitful. We can participate with Christ in redeeming the world.

Accepting our limitations and the thorns that God permits in our lives is not easy for us either. We need God's help, which is always available through prayer and the sacraments. And we also need to exercise the virtue of humility. There are three ways we can do that almost every day. First, by not insisting on getting our own way all the time. Second, by listening to others more than talking about ourselves. And third, by doing acts of kindness for others instead of constantly expecting them to do acts of kindness for us.

During this Mass Jesus will renew his commitment to us through the sacrifice of the Eucharist. When he does, let's renew our commitment to him, and ask him to help us accept the thorns he allows in our lives, so that we can also experience the full transforming power of his love.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Ann Jillian, a three-time Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress and singer, is an American actress born to Roman Catholic Lithuanian immigrant parents. Since 1985, she has added motivational speaking to her impressive list of credits, addressing business, medical, professional and women's groups with her own unique blend of humor and inspiration. Her prowess extends from the world’s concert halls, to feature film and the Broadway stage.  She has starred in over 25 TV movies and made hundreds of other TV appearances. Her TV movie, The Ann Jillian Story, which recounts her victory over breast cancer, was the #1 film of that TV season, but, more important, it delivered Ann's message about the hopeful side of breast cancer to its millions of viewers.  It was in 1985 that the then 35-year-old actress made headlines when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  On her way to the hospital to check the nature of the growth which she had noticed, she stopped at St. Francis de Sales Church and read the inscription on the door. “The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.” She went into the Church and prayed for the strength to accept her ordeal.  The radiant trust in God and peace of mind she maintained before and after the surgery (double mastectomy), was big news in the media and a great inspiration for all cancer patients. She trusted in Jesus’ words given in today’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid; just have Faith.” 

Today’s Gospel describes two of our Lord's miracles and these healings teach us that Jesus wills life, full life, for all God’s children.  These miracles were worked by Jesus as reward for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage. Although the Faith of the ruler may have been defective, and the woman’s Faith may have been a bit superstitious, Jesus amply rewarded the Faith they had by granting them health and life. 
The stories have several common features.  One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years.  Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing.  The girl’s father is encouraged to have Faith, and the older woman is praised for her Faith.  The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death.  In each healing, Jesus shows his marvelous generosity by giving the recipients life and salvation in addition to physical healing.
As the ruler of the synagogue, Jairus was a well-respected man in the local Jewish community.  He was the administrative head of the synagogue, the president of the board of elders and the one responsible for the conduct of the services.  He probably shared in the Pharisees’ prejudice that Jesus was a heretic and a wandering preacher to be avoided.  If so, the urgency of his need and the helplessness of the situation prompted him to forget his position, to swallow his pride and prejudice and to seek help from Jesus the wandering wonder-worker.

The other account tells of a woman who came to Jesus with expectant Faith as a last resort, after trying every other cure known in her day.  The woman’s boldness in touching Jesus' garment -- which, according to the Law, made Jesus unclean -- could have angered him. Further, because her “chronic bleeding disease” rendered her ritually unclean, any contact she had with others in the crowd, made them also ritually unclean as well. That may be why she decided to try to touch the tassels of Jesus' garment secretly.   But her Faith in the healing power of Jesus was so strong that she risked breaking all the social rules to seek what she believed He could do for her.  In addition to healing, she gained a personal relationship with Jesus as a member of his family (3:35). He called her daughter. 
God always rewards faith. Sometimes he tests our faith. Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.

One Jesuit theologian Fr. Peter Arokiadoss was dying of cancer. On the eve of his death, when asked by a relative why God gave him a priest, such sickness, Arokiadoss replied: “No, God didn’t give me this sickness. All of us have cancer cells which are under control. Most likely because of my lifestyle or food or sleeping habits, I might have given cause for these cells to grow and destroy the good cells. God does not cause sickness, we cause it ourselves.” The opening words of today’s reading declare: “Death was not God’s doing.” We often feel that God is the cause of all births/deaths, but Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it in abundance.” Indeed, God is a God of Life and “death is not God’s doing.” It is, rather, we who cause death in myriad forms – through our sin, selfishness, pride, power-plays, greed and godlessness.

We may be committed and praying Christians, but do we think large enough thoughts about God? Do we really believe that God can do anything? A book has been written with the startling title, Your God Is Too Small. That title is a wake-up challenge to all of us. If we believe in an all-powerful God, it should be reflected in the confidence with which we turn to God in prayer. "Ask and you shall receive," Jesus urged. Yet we often wonder whether or not God can really help us. Wake up to the power which God possesses, power he has promised to use on our behalf.

Every day we should say a fervent prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of active Faith.  Let us keep in mind this wise piece of advice given by St. Ignatius of Loyola: “We must work as if everything depends on us, but we must pray as if everything depends on God.” 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist: Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80)

Mother Teresa relates an incident from her life. Once a man came to the home for the dying and just walked straight into the ward. Mother Teresa was sitting there. A while later the man came to Mother and said to her, “I came here with so much hate in my heart; hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty and embittered, and I saw a Sister giving her wholehearted attention to that patient there and realized that God still lives. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and he loves us still.”

That sister paved the way for God in that embittered man’s life. John the Baptist, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah was the voice that was making the way straight for the Lord. He facilitated the coming of Jesus. He paved the way for Christ’s coming by his austere life, preaching and death.
We celebrate the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist this Sunday instead of the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time because of John’s prominent role in the history of salvation as the forerunner of the Messiah.

John the Baptist is like a first draft for Jesus.  They were alike in some ways: they were cousins, almost the same age; both emerged from the desert, urging people to a different way of life; both announced that events were coming to a head.  Jesus had called John the greatest man that ever lived (Lk 7:28), and he queued up with the crowds to be baptized by him. Yet they were different.  Despite all his fire, John’s message in the end was rather conventional.  “Tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’   Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’” (Lk 3:12-14).  He was, you might say, a moralist.  Jesus is more than a moralist. His claims exceeded those of any moralist.  He claimed that he and the Father were one.  He alone was able to say, “The Kingdom (the Presence) of God is among you.”   This is much more powerful than all the moralism in the world. 

The birth of St John the Baptist is like a huge billboard that sums up the whole history of salvation and says: "God hasn't forgotten about us, and he never will forget about us!" He is so interested in our lives and so active in the world, that he cares about sinners and wants to save them.

St John the Baptist's whole life, from his birth to his martyr's death, was a billboard for this all-important truth, that God is active in the world. John's awareness of this truth spurred him on to show and remind people of God's interest in their lives, through his example, words, and actions. He was faithful to his life's mission, because he knew that God wanted to work through him to pave the way for Christ, to change people's lives for the better. His was a life of self-denial and mortification and he led a very difficult life and ministry. 

Every Christian is called to be a saint, another John the Baptist, to be a herald of God's wonderful action in the world. But we are not all called to do so in the same way. St John the Baptist gave his entire life for the cause of Christ's Kingdom -- to be a prophet and martyr, a full-time billboard for Christ. God asked him to leave aside the normal path of life in order to fulfill this special vocation. God is still calling young men and women to do the same thing -- to give him their lives as priests, missionaries, and consecrated religious. In fact, if today's world seems in greater need than ever of Christ's message, we can be sure that God is also calling more messengers than ever.
All of us can help that call be heard, and help those being called give a generous answer. We can do so with our prayers, praying every day for vocations.  We can also do so with our words, encouraging young men and women to give Christ the first shot at their hearts. And if you happen to be one of those people Christ is calling in a special way, do not be afraid!

Today the Church is renewing our awareness of the same truth. And so today, we can also renew our commitments to our life-missions.
It was God who gave St John the Baptist his mission, and it was God's grace that enabled him to fulfill it.  Today Jesus will come to us in Holy Communion, giving us that same grace, that very same strength that has worked wonders throughout salvation history. Let's receive it joyfully, and let's promise Jesus that we will put it to work, becoming living billboards that show God is still at work in the world.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us to stay faithful to Jesus Christ whatever persecutions it may bring us.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

OT XI (B): Ez 17:22-24; II Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34   

You probably don't recognize the name, Rita Antoinette Rizzo. Rita was born on April 20, 1923. She had a rough childhood which she spent mostly in poverty. When she was a young woman Rita decided to become a nun. At 21 she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order for women. She believed that God was calling her into television ministry. At the time she didn't know anything about television except how to turn one on. But she prayed about it and decided to go ahead with the project, believing that everything would fall into place. With only two hundred dollars and a handful of other Sisters, she became the only woman in religious broadcasting to own a network. She went on to found a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama, where the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), is headquartered. In 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. This sister, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, suffered a stroke in 2003 and was semi-paralyzed and unable to communicate from then until her death on March 27, 2016. But she is seen still by millions of people on her prerecorded twice-weekly program, "Mother Angelica Live." Her network, EWTN, is available 24 hours a day everywhere in the world. Visitors to the EWTN complex in Birmingham, Alabama cannot help but be impressed with what God has accomplished using this little nun - a monastery, network facilities complete with satellite dish, a print shop and a chapel.

Jesus’ “Kingdom parables” in today’s Gospel point to the Kingdom as a Divine act rather than a human accomplishment.
The example of the grain shows us that this requires cultivation, waiting for the right time to reap the spiritual harvest of our labors, but also that God does the heavy lifting. The growth that is quiet, slow, and unseen, at times even when we’re not doing anything, comes from him and his grace working in our souls and the souls of others. 
This seed grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the word of God, the Mass, the Sacraments and prayer.

We can all plant tiny seeds in the form of words of love, acts of encouragement, deeds of charity, mercy and forgiveness. Parents and teachers can plant a lot of seeds in the minds of their children and students. The Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of the recipients of these seeds sown by us and will effect growth of the Kingdom in their souls and lives. As the apostle Paul once said of his ministry, "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Last Month the nation celebrated Mothers’ day. And this weekend we honor the Fathers. A Christian father should become a role model for our children’s concept of God. When a four-year-old hears "Father;" the only father he knows anything about is the one that lives with him and says, "Pass the biscuits, please;" so he asks..."Is God like Daddy?" It is a heavy load! But a good load to consider on Fathers' Day.

In an article entitled "Fathering Fatherless America" Dr. Scott J. Larson reports: One in two children now grow up without a father in the United States, and in our inner cities only one in five children live with their father. A whole new mission field has developed in America: Fathering fatherless kids.
"Rising divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, according to a survey given in times magazine, shows that more than 40% of all children born between 1970 and 1984 are likely to spend much of their childhood living in single parent homes." And the impact of these fatherless homes on the children is significant, if not devastating.
Time goes on to say, "Studies of young criminals have found that more than 70% of all juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes.

A study of church attendance sometime back showed that if both Mom and Dad attended church regularly 72 percent of their children remain faithful to the church. If only Mom attended regularly, only 15 percent remained faithful. So the church is thankful for Christian fathers. And so are Christian mothers, needless to say.

The best way to love our children is to love and respect their mother.
The best gift we can give our children is a sense of safety and security as they grow up.
It’s more important to give them your time, not your money, it’s more important to be respected by them than to be liked by them, it’s more important to encourage them in their interests than to require them to share your interests.

The following is a quote from Robert Keeshan, better known to America as Captain Kangaroo.
A small child waits with impatience the arrival home of a parent. She wishes to relate some sandbox experience. She is excited to share the thrill that she has known that day. The time comes; the parent arrives. Beaten down by the stresses of the workplace the parent often replies: "Not know, honey, I'm busy, go watch television." The most often spoken words in the American household today are the words: go watch television. If not now, when? Later. But later never comes for many and the parent fails to communicate at the very earliest of ages. We give her designer clothes and computer toys, but we do not give her what she wants the most, which is our time. Now, she is fifteen and has a glassy look in her eyes. Honey, do we need to sit down and talk? Too late. Love has passed by.”

Therefore you and your time is more important for your children than your money. Of course money is needed to run the home. But, not at the expense of your availability for your children and spouse.

Fathers, your vocation is a huge call. But learn to balance duties in life. We honor your sacrifice for your family. Without you, your children would not have a balanced upbringing.

And because you are there, life goes smoothly. The car always runs, the bills get paid, and the lawn stayed mowed. Because you are there, the laughter is fresh and the future is secure. Because you are there the kids never get worried about things like income tax, savings accounts, monthly bills, or mortgages. You are not in the family picture, because we know you were behind the camera. Today you are honored. Ask God to help you to help your children know God the Father, by your life and sacrifices for them. Happy Fathers’ day.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

OT X (B)  Gen 3. 9:15; II Cor 4:13--5:1; Mk 3:20-35

Both the first reading and the gospel speak of devil and his works. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan had been the “ruler of this world.” Jesus said: “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” (Jn. 12:31). After creating the world God handed it to Man to take care of it and rule it. But Satan by trickery got that power from man.
With the arrival of Christ, we are faced with someone who repeatedly outmatches Satan. He casts out demons effortlessly, with a mere word or touch, and, above all, he forgives sin, freeing souls from the most dire of Satan’s entrapments.  

And they were so extraordinary, that the leaders in Jerusalem sent some representatives to investigate. And when they discovered the Lord’s amazing works, they had to offer some kind of explanation.  They could not, however, explain Jesus’ special powers as coming from God, since that would require them to accept his teaching as well.  But his teaching contradicted much of their own, and so to accept it would be to relinquish their status and influence.  
So they attributed his works to a pact made with the devil – one of whose names was “Beelzebub.”  Jesus calmly but clearly points out the absurdity of their claim.  His consistent reversal of the devil’s conquests shows that he is not only at odds with the ancient enemy, but also more powerful than him.  
 With Christ on our side, the devil can’t really harm us. But he still tries to – he tries to separate us from God and the protection of Christ, so that he can then lead us back into the slavery of his lies and deceptions. This is what St. Peter meant when he wrote in his First Letter to all Christians: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
And it will make all of us a little bit wiser if we understand the five different ways that the devil tries to upset the work of God in our souls and in the world.

The rarest and most dramatic way that the devil tries to disturb our relationship with God is through demonic possession. Possession is when a devil concentrates its activity within a person's body. The devil can never take over a person’s soul, or make a person sin - God protects our freedom from that kind of attack. This is why, during times of crisis, a possessed person can show extraordinary physical strength, or speak and understand languages that the person never learned, or exhibit other strange phenomena.
Almost always, cases of possession originate when a person gets involved with the occult, spiritism, or witchcraft. When someone does that, they open the door to the influence of evil spirits that are in rebellion against Jesus Christ.
The Church has a special ritual that is used to free someone from possession - it is called exorcism. Exorcism consists of a series of prayers and sacramentals, performed by a priest officially designated by the bishop. Fr.Bob Rottgers (at St.Philip’s) is the one in this diocese.

There are also some other extra-ordinary ways that the devil tries to interfere with our lives. Sometimes, the devil and his fallen angels cause frightening physical disturbances in certain places, or even to our own bodies. These can take the forms of loud or strange noises, slamming doors or windows, or even more alarming effects.
St. John Vianney, a holy parish priest who lived in 19th-century France, for example, was dragged around his room by the devil. One time the devil even set his bed on fire. Luckily, the saintly priest was hearing confessions at the time. Later, when he was told what happened, his only response was to say that since the devil couldn't catch the bird, he set the cage on fire! When these physical disturbances are concentrated in certain places, they are called infestations.

When they directly affect someone's body (not from within, as in possession, but from the outside) they are called demonic oppression.
When they bother someone's mind, they are called demonic obsession - this happens even to saints.
Many saints, towards the end of their lives, were assailed by blasphemous thoughts, for example. These thoughts appeared suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. But they battered the saints' minds intensely and repeatedly. That's what happens in demonic obsession. Therefore it is always advisable to help the dying with prayers. Even though they are not responsive they could be fighting temptation. The best prayer that could help at this time is Hail Mary, in which we ask Mary’s help to pray for us sinners NOW and at the hour of death. Pray this, surrounding the dying person.

Blessings, holy water, and other prayers and sacramentals are sturdy defenses against this kind of devilish attacks.
Possession, infestation, oppression, and obsession can frighten us, but they usually lead us to exercise our faith in order to get rid of them. Temptation, the devil’s favorite tactics, on the other hand, tries to lead us into sin - and only sin can really damage our souls and interfere with our friendship with God.
We have ingrained tendencies towards selfishness, greed, lust, depression, anger... (the theological word for these tendencies is “concupiscence”). These tendencies, when they are not curbed and formed by virtue, can get us into trouble. They can blind us to God's will, to what is right.
To counter this, the Church is constantly reminding us of: daily, heartfelt prayer, the sacraments, especially Communion and Confession, and a daily effort to follow Christ's teaching and example in our words, actions, and relationships.

But there's one other thing that is truly essential, and that we too often overlook. Temptation always begins in our minds, with a thought, an invitation to choose our will over God's will. And so, we need to form the habit of reflection, of interior silence, of discerning the origin of our different thoughts. None of us are impervious to temptation. Even Jesus had been tempted by Satan. But his 40 days of prayer and reflection in the wilderness helped him overcome the temptation successfully. Let’s also form a habit of prayer and deep reflection everyday so that we can be successful in our fight against the arch enemy, the Satan.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

(EX. 24:3-8, HEB. 9:11-15, MK: 14:12-16, 22-26)

Dominic Tang, the courageous Chinese archbishop, was imprisoned for twenty-one years for nothing more than his loyalty to Christ and Christ’s one true Church. After five years of solitary confinement in a windowless, damp cell, the Archbishop was told by his jailers that he could leave it for a few hours to do whatever he wanted. Five years of solitary confinement and he had a couple of hours to do what he wanted! What would it be? A hot shower? A change of clothes? Certainly, a long walk outside? A chance to call or write to family? What would it be, the jailer asked him.  “I would like to say Mass,” replied Archbishop Tang. [Msgr. Timothy M. Dolan, Priests of the Third Millennium (2000), p. 216].

The former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, loves to tell the story of the arrival of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity to open their house in the city. Poor Archbishop Quinn had gone to great efforts to make sure that their convent was, while hardly opulent, quite comfortable. He recalls how Mother Teresa arrived and immediately ordered the carpets removed, the telephones, except for one, pulled out of the wall, the beds, except for the mattresses taken away, and on and on. Explained Mother Teresa to the baffled archbishop, “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle” [Msgr. Timothy M. Dolan in Priests of the Third Millennium (2000), p. 218.]

On this annual feast of Corpus Christi, we focus on the Eucharist in the context of his Resurrection.
After the Holy Thursday liturgy, there is a Eucharistic procession (in this parish we do it to the School Library) that reminds us of the procession Jesus and his Apostles made to Gethsemane. After the Corpus Christi Mass, there is often a procession in which we bring the Eucharist out into the streets, reminding us of the Church's mission to bring the Good News to the whole world. Holy Thursday is the sorrowful celebration of the Eucharist, and Corpus Christi is the joyful celebration of the Eucharist.

The Corpus Christi is three feasts in one: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus. The sacrificial aspect of this feast emphasizes the theme of Covenant blood because the ancient peoples sealed covenants with the blood of ritually sacrificed animals, and Jesus sealed this New Covenant with his own Blood, shed on Calvary. The first reading describes how Moses, by sprinkling the blood of a sacrificed animal on the altar and on the people ratified the covenant. Since the altar symbolizes Yahweh’s presence, all the Covenant-makers now have blood splattered on them.  The Letter to the Hebrews explains the rituals of the Old Testament as foreshadowing and pointing to their fulfillment in Christ, in God-with-us.

Today’s Gospel details how Jesus converted this ancient ritual into a Sacrament and sacrifice.  Instead of the lamb’s blood, Jesus offered his own Divine/human Body and Blood and, instead of sprinkling us with blood, Jesus put it into our hands as food. Since it was his own, this Blood needed no further identification with God by splashing against an altar.  Mark recounts the institution of the Eucharist -- how Jesus said to his disciples, gathered for the Seder:  "Take, … eat … this is my Body" -- not "represents,” or "memorializes", but "IS"! 
Finally, the Blood was "to be poured out for you and for many (a Semitism for 'all')."  Thus, the new and perfect Paschal Lamb accomplished for people of every nation what Mosaic sacrifices only imperfectly achieved for the Jews.

Vatican II states that as a sacrifice "the Holy Eucharist is the center and culmination of Christian life" (L.G.11).  

The Eucharist is the symbol of God's presence.  St Maximilian Kolbe wrote, “God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar." It is the symbol of God's concern and God’s immeasurable love. St. Peter Julian Eymard expressed it as,”The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself."  

When we receive the Holy Communion we become the tabernacle where Jesus is present. So Maximilian Kolbe says, ' If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." Hence, it is binding on us that we should keep the tabernacle, ourselves, holy. 

St Francis de Sales preached to the people, "When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage, welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence." Blessed Damian dedicated his life for the service of the lepers. It was a hard choice. He said, "Blessed Sacrament is, indeed, the stimulus for me to forsake all worldly ambitions."

 As we celebrate this great feast of Faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth .”..... My Body ........ My Blood". Let us also repeat St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament:  "O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament Divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!" 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

HOLY     TRINITY [B]: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us. “There is one God, who has three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each Person is God, yet there is still only one God” (CCC #234, #253-256). Father, Son and Spirit are not parts of God, but One God. Easier said than understood!

All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity. We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, invoking the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”

The early Christians started talking about a Triune God. This wasn’t to make God more logical and understandable and acceptable to human ways of thinking. In fact, the idea of the Trinity intensified the Mystery and awesomeness of God. They observed that Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father and that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. Against all sorts of odds, against all human logic, and in the face of mounting opposition, the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, equal with the Father and the Son.

Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity.    Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."    Genesis 18:2 describes Yahweh visiting Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the “Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.” In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language. “These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the N.T. we get a clearer understanding of the Trinity.
 a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sent angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, would "come upon” her, that “the power the Most High will overshadow” her, that the Son would be made flesh in her womb: “Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
 b) During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:  16-17), the Holy Spirit was shown descending on Jesus in the form of a Dove, while the Voice of God the Father was heard from the clouds, saying, “You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Luke 4:22).
 c) John Chapters 15 & 18 present the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.  
 d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commanded them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19; John 10:30).

St. John of Damascus, a great Eastern theologian of the eighth century, said we should think “of the Father as a root, the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit, for the sustenance of these three is one.”    
A good illustration of the Trinity comes from world-renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity. Matter = mass + energy + motion. Space = length + height + breadth. Time = past + present + future. Thus the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God who made it (cf. Psalm 19:1).

Richard of St.Victor Said: For God to be truth he has to be one; for God to be love: He has to be two; for God to be Joy he has to be three.
It is a mystery and therefore it cannot be really understood. Therefore it is not necessary to understand it before we can believe it.
One parishioner said, “The Trinitarian God is a lot like our pastor. I don’t see him through the week and I don’t understand him on Sunday.”

Thomas Edison, the inventor, once remarked: "We don't know what water is. We don't know what light is. We don't know what electricity is. We don't know what heat is. We have a lot of hypotheses about these things, but that is all. But we don't let our ignorance about these things deprive us of their use." The truth of that statement is real. Most of us do not know how an electric light works, how a telephone or a TV works, but this does not prevent us from using them. Let us try to apply the same common sense to our Faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.

We are made in God’s image and likeness.  Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners.  The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God.  In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God.  “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and with other people.” 
St. Francis Xavier’s favorite prayer was: “Most Holy Trinity, who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You and I love You.”  Let the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever and ever. Amen.” 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost: Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23 

There are transitional moments in life that confirm something tremendous has taken place. One of those moments occurs in a teenager's life and in lives of the parents of that particular teenager, when a mom or a dad gives to him or her the keys to the car for the first time for a solo run. What a transitional moment this is! It's going to be a step of growth for you. It's a time when you release your child into an adult world. It's a change in your son or daughter's life from which they are never going to turn back. It's a moment in which you are giving your child an adult responsibility.
It is a transitional moment for the child also because the teenager recognizes that he/she has been given a great responsibility. It's an adult responsibility. He also realizes that this is something that he needs to take care with because great trust has been put in him/her. Teenagers need to prove to their parents that the validity of their faith in them is correct.

In the Scripture for today, Jesus does something very similar for His followers. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jesus is tossing the keys to the kingdom to His disciples. He is demonstrating that He is accepting them as His followers but He is also demonstrating to them that He is entrusting to them the message of the gospel. He is showing them that He believes in them.

The feast of Pentecost commemorates the official inauguration of the Christian Church by the apostolic preaching of St. Peter, which resulted in the conversion of 3000 Jews to the Christian Faith. Pentecost is, thus, the official birthday of the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens, enlightens, guides, and sanctifies the Church. The Psalm refrain for this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 104) says it so well: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”  We know Jesus through the Sacramental Mysteries of the Church, and Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Sacramental life of the Church.  Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are the Sacramental Mysteries through which people receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.  It would be impossible for us to receive Jesus in the Eucharist without the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy.  Even the forgiveness of sins comes through the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:21-23). 

At Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended, notice that the Spirit “filled the entire house”, and then the apostles were “all filled with the Holy Spirit”, and then they fill the streets of Jerusalem where, speaking in the languages of the known world, they signify that the Spirit fills the inhabited world with God’s blessings. On the day of Pentecost, those touched by the Holy Spirit were accused of being drunk, or maybe crazy. Today, believers are still considered to be weak, foolish, or emotionally unstable. But more and more studies are showing that religious believers are more emotionally and mentally stable than the average population. Religious faith is linked to lower blood pressure and lower rates of drug use, alcoholism, suicide, and mental disorders. Therefore remaining an active member in the community of believers is significant.

D.L. Moody once called on a leading citizen in Chicago to persuade him to accept Christ. They were seated in the man’s parlor. It was winter and coal was burning in the fireplace. The man objected that he could be just as good a Christian outside the church as in it. Moody said nothing, but stepped to the fireplace, took the tongs, picked a blazing coal from the fire and set it off by itself. In silence the two watched it smolder and go out. “I see,” said the man. The message was clear to him. Away from the active community of believers we cannot get the support to sustain ourselves in grace.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is something to be shared with others. If we are led by the Spirit, then, we shall have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” If we desire to these gifts of God, then we have to receive the Holy Spirit, and seek daily to “be directed by the Spirit.” As Pope Francis said recently: “Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

How beautiful is the thought that the Holy Spirit lives within us!  Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian community of this fact when he asks, "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (I Cor. 3:16).  It is the Holy Spirit who develops our intimacy with God.  "God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba!' ('Father!’)” (Gal 4:6).  "God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). "No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3).  Moreover, we know that it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us to pray (Rom.8:26).  

There was once an Eskimo who used to take his two dogs for a bet-fight in the town square. One was a black dog the other was white. The people gathered week after week to see the dogs fight and betted heavily. On some days, the black dog won and on others the white. No matter which dog won, the Eskimo made money. The secret behind duping the people was that he would feed well the dog which he wanted to win. Do we feed our spiritual self and keep it strengthened by the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to win over the carnal person? "

Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God's love.  Let us pray Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s favorite little prayer, “Come Holy Spirit:”
“Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love.  AMEN.”