Weekly Reflection

Experience God's Presence

Weekly Reflection

 

August 2, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“GOD'S LOVE AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE”

The central message for today's readings is the divine providence of a loving and merciful God who generously shares his riches with us, giving us his Son Jesus as our spiritual food, preparing us for the heavenly banquet, and challenging us to share our blessings with others.

After announcing the return of God's chosen people to their homeland from Babylonian captivity, the prophet Isaiah, in today's first reading, concludes his prophecies with God's invitation to the eschatological banquet. God's gracious invitation in the first reading is echoed by the Psalmist who asks the people to respond by praising and blessing God.

In the second reading, Paul argues that since God loves us, “nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus, in our Gospel reading, demonstrates God's love and divine providence by miraculously feeding a multitude of people in a remote, desolate village called Bethsaida Julius, where the River Jordan flows into the north end of the sea of Galilee. Jesus acts out of his great compassion for the crowds.

First he challenges his disciples to give what they have - five loaves and two fish. Then he performs the four-fold action that prefigures the Eucharist: He takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread and fish to the crowd, making of them a community of the Lord's banquet. Just as God supplies the needs of all living beings, so Jesus also heals the sick and feeds the hungry.

My brothers and sister in Christ, the Liturgy of the Word for today's Mass is reminding us that God really cares about his people and that there is enough and more than enough for everybody.

We all share responsibility for the fact that some people are still undernourished. It is necessary at this time to arouse a sense of responsibility in individuals, especially among those more blessed with material goods. It is too easy to blame God, too easy to blame the governments, too easy to see poverty, hunger and lack of jobs as other people's problems. They are also our problems.

That is the meaning of the Eucharist we celebrate here today. In other words, as Christians we have to commit ourselves to share and to work with God in communicating his love and compassion to all. God is a caring father, but he wants our cooperation. That is what the early Christians did, generously sharing what they had with the needy.

They were convinced that everything they needed to experience people around them. People of our time have to be encouraged to share their gifts and talents, even when they think they have nothing to offer. Whatever we offer through Jesus will have a life giving effect in those who receive it.

Our Gospel passage today shows us two attitudes: that of Philip and that of Andrew. Philip said, in effect: “The situation is hopeless; nothing can be done.” But Andrew's attitude was: “I will see what I can do, and I will trust Jesus to do the rest.” Like Andrew and the little boy, let us give what we have to God. For it is when we give what we have to God and ask him to bless it that miracles happen.
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


July 26, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“WE SHOULD LIVE EVERY MOMENT IN VIEW OF OUR PRECIOUS GOAL”

Jesus concludes a long series of parables about the reign of God in today's Gospel reading by praising those men and women who have listened carefully, understood, and responded to his message.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of God is something of extraordinary value like a hidden treasure or valuable gem, and that its possession calls for total commitment. According to Jesus in our Gospel reading, the kingdom of God is priceless. Its value is so great that one should be prepared to sell all of one's possessions in order to acquire it.

Last Sunday and the one before it, Jesus was a farmer, using the language of agriculture to describe the kingdom of heaven. Today, he is a businessman, a merchant, using the language of commerce to describe the same kingdom. When business people see a good deal, they are prepared to sell all their assets in order to clinch it. If the worth of their assets is not sufficient to seal the deal, they will even go and borrow money from the bank or credit company.

My dear friends in Christ, the kingdom of God is the best deal we can ever find. That is why we should be prepared to dispose of all our possessions in order to acquire it. What that means in concrete terms is that we should prefer the kingdom of heaven to all of our possessions, and all our possessions in this world are nothing compared to the kingdom of heaven. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status, or pleasure. Consequently, the really valuable treasure of sharing God's life here on earth and later in heaven is never found.

The kingdom of God is the reign of God in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. Only those who develop a searching mind and are willing to give up everything for the great treasure will be rewarded. So, if we owned the entire world, but do not have the kingdom of heaven with it, all our possessions would be worthless, “so much rubbish”, to use the words of St. Paul in Phil. 3:8.

My dear friends in Christ, there is nothing wrong with having earthly possessions. If we have them, we have done nothing wrong. They are blessings from God. We only must make sure that we acquire them through the right means and that we have the kingdom of heaven as well. We must make sure that our quest for earthly possessions does not come between us and our possession of the kingdom of God.

If we must sacrifice any of them, it must be our earthly possessions, and not the kingdom of heaven. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:26, “What then, will it profit anyone by winning the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue with this Mass, let us like Solomon ask God to give us the wisdom to always make right decisions, especially in matters concerning our salvation.
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


July 19, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“THE WHEAT AND THE WEEDS”

Today’s liturgy of the word talks about a very patient and compassionate God who is hopeful that sinners will be converted and warns that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate them from the church or society or from our families because of unwarranted and hasty judgment.

The first reading shows us a merciful and patient God rather than a strict and angry God. God’s delay in uprooting evil people is to provide them with the hope and opportunity of repentance. Just as every community is composed of good and evil, so it is with every individual. Our lives are a mixture of wheat and weed. The second reading reminds us, that the spirit of God goes on empowering us, even in our weakness.

Our Gospel reading tells us about a wise and patient God who allows the good and the evil to coexist in the world and blesses the evil ones for the little good they may have done, so that they may come to conversion before their time ends. In other words, God awaits repentant sinners, giving them the strength to acknowledge their weakness. He calmly recognizes that there is evil in the world, but he sees that evil as no excuse for the evil people not to do good with the grace he has given to them. Through the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today's Gospel reading, Jesus calls us to be patient with those who fail to meet the moral standard expected of a Christian.

We are expected to practice patience and show mercy by patiently and lovingly treating the “weeds” in the society as our brothers and sisters and do all in our power to put them back on the right path, especially by our good examples and our fervent prayer for their conversion. We need to do this knowing fully that we also have some “weeds” in us which need to be uprooted. The Psalmist says that if God should mark our guilt, nobody would survive.

My brothers and sisters in Christ let us grow up as healthy wheat in God's field. Our transparent and exemplary Christian lives will be a compelling challenge and a forceful invitation for evildoers to repent of their sinful lives and turn to a loving and forgiving God. Our acts of charity, kindness, mercy and selfless service can prompt evil people in our society to reassess their lives, modify them, and become useful members of the society.

As we continue with this Mass, let us ask God to bless each and every one of us and give us the graces we need to be among the wheat in his Vineyard and also to be supportive to our parish community.
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


July 12, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD”

Today’s readings are about the transforming power of the word of God. The parable of the sower challenges us to listen carefully to the word of God, to be open to it, and to allow our lives to be shaped by its power. It reminds us that our reception of God’s Word is de-termined by the condition of our heart.

In the first reading, Isaiah consoles the Jewish slaves in Babylon, assuring them that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God's word will accomplish its purpose, in this case by returning the exiles to their homes in peace as God promised. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that just as seeds must fall into the earth and die to produce abundant crop, the pain and sufferings God permits in our lives will help our redemption. St. Paul wants us to wait for our eternal reward, while we continue sowing the word of God diligently and suffering for the Lord, as he did.

Our Gospel reading teaches us that the word of God is the seed, and our hearts and minds are the soil. The fruitfulness of the Word of God sown in our life depends on how fully we willingly accept and re-spond to it. The yield arising from the positive re-sponse will be abundant beyond all imagining. The parable tells us to do our part by preparing fertile soil in our hearts in which the word of God can ger-minate, grow, and yield 30-, 60, or 100-fold.

My dear friends in Christ, we need to assess our use of the word of God. We need to read the word of God every day, starting with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of attentive reading and the ability and willingness to apply the message we receive to our daily living. When we listen to the word of God as read and preached in the Church during the Holy Mass, we need to pay full attention to the message given by God who uses the priest as his instrument. We also need to ask God’s special grace to remove all types of blocks, like laziness, anxiety, worries, and the burden of sins, any of which can prevent the word of God from influencing and transforming our lives.

We need to keep our spiritual soil fertile and prepared for the word of God. We need to keep our hearts open to the word of God instead of closing it with pride, prejudice, fear, or laziness. We have to remove from our hearts the weeds like evil habits and addictions, evil tendencies, hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed.

We should not allow the trials and tribulations of this world, the cares of this world, our ambi-tions, or our desires for worldly success and happiness to choke out the messages that God gives us through his word.
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


July 5, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“COME TO ME … SHOULDER MY YOKE”

Human nature is such that people always want to take the easy way out, if they can find it. If people can just make money, a lot of it, without working for it, they will be very happy. That is the reason behind all the dishonesty, fraud, outright theft that we find in every society all over the world.

A lot of people seem to be prepared to achieve the proverbial breakthrough, without breaking any sweat, success with minimal effort. What is even more mystifying is that some people believe they can achieve salvation merely by wishing it, or as they like to deceive themselves, merely by believing strongly that they have it already, no matter what kind of life they are living.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, all these fly in the face of the teachings of Jesus Christ. His teaching is that people must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him (Matt. 16:24). In other words, there is no free lunch in Christianity; no easy road to salvation. Indeed, no easy road to any good thing. That is what Jesus means by asking his disciples to shoulder his yoke, as we read in our Gospel reading today.

A lot of people find the teachings of Jesus to be tough and demanding. True enough, Christianity is a tough and demanding religion. It calls for self-denial and a great deal of personal sacrifice. Many people are not prepared to make such sacrifice. They would rather sidetrack the demands of Christianity and try to make it some other way, outside the structures of Christianity. They will lie, cheat, and defraud. They will seek out ministers, prophets and self-styled “men of God” who promise success without sweat. Christianity without the cross.

My dear friends in Christ, the truth that we may not discover, is that the demands of Christianity are not, after all, as tough as those of the other masters that some people have taken upon themselves. Christianity is far more liberating than they thought it was enslaving. It is the other things that people have subjected themselves to that are truly enslaving. And Christianity - true and authentic Christianity - is there to free us
from enslavement, if, but only if we are prepared to take on the yoke of Jesus that it entails. It is only in Christianity that we can find real and abiding rest for our souls as Jesus promises in today's Gospel passage.

There is a saying that: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” We may borrow a leaf from that, and say, “If you think Christianity is hard, try living without it.”
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


June 28, 2020

Pastor’s Perspective …

“WHOEVER RECEIVES YOU RECEIVES ME”

The common message of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their faith when they bear witness to him.

In our first reading, we see the welcome given to the prophet Elisha by an elderly, childless woman and her husband who lived in Shunem. The woman recognized the holiness of Elisha. She showed him reverence and hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by arranging an upper room of their house so that Elisha might stay with them when he visited the area. In response, Elisha promised her, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son." The promise was fulfilled by God.

The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, explains why those who care for the followers of Jesus are caring for Jesus himself, and those who show hospitality to any one of them are eligible for a reward. By our Baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and buried with him, and we look forward to our resurrection with him (Rom 6:5). Since Baptism marks our entrance into this new life, it makes us part of the Body of Christ, and Christ is truly present in us. That is why the one who welcomes us welcomes Christ and becomes eligible for a reward.

Jesus, in today's Gospel reading, tells the twelve apostles about the cost and the reward of the commitment required for being his disciples. In the first part Jesus details the behavior expected of his disciples, and in the second part he speaks of the behavior expected of others towards the disciples. Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be rewarded. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. Also, those who help his disciples will be amply rewarded.

My dear friends in Christ, we need to be hospitable and generous: Hospitality means acknowledging the presence of God in others and serving him in them, especially those in whom we least expect to find him. We, as individuals and as a community, are to look for opportunities to be hospitable--and, of course, there are plenty of ways of offering hospitality.

Hospitality can be offered through a kind word to a stranger — or even a smile. A kind smile or a “hello" to someone waiting with us in a grocery line may be the only kindness that person encounters for that day. We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves. More important than sending checks for charitable causes is giving of ourselves to people. First, in the way we think about them, for from that spring will flow the ways we speak to them and about them, forgive their failings, encourage them, show them respect, console them, and offer them help. Such kindness reflects warmth glowing from the very love of God.
Remain Blessed,
Father Tony


 

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