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.
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.”
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.
June 21, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“FEAR NO ONE”
Our Liturgy of the Word for today’s Mass challenges us to preach Christ through our words and actions without fear. The first reading tells us how the prophet Jeremiah trusted in the power of God when he faced opposition for his prophetic ministry. He was intimidated by attacks upon his character, but he was unafraid to speak out in the name of the Lord.
The psalmist in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 69) trusts in God when he was misunderstood and ill-treated even by his brothers and relatives. In our second reading St. Paul assures the Christians in Rome that they need not be afraid of opposition because they share in the death of Jesus and because they are united with Christ, the new Adam, in his Resurrection.
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the end of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples as he sends them forth to carry on his mission of preaching and healing. He asks them to live simple lives and to expect opposition and rejection. After having foretold future opposition and persecution, Jesus encourages his disciples to stand firm.
He tells them, "Do not fear!" "Do not be afraid!" Instead of shrinking from their task, they are to proclaim the Good News boldly because they will be protected just as Jeremiah was assured of God's protection. Hence, Jesus commands his disciples not to fear their persecutors. He presents before them the image of the sparrow to re-inforce the disciples’ trust and hope in God. The readings hint at the opposition we future Christians will encounter as we carry on the work of Jesus in the world, and they encourage us to persevere in doing the work of Je-sus. They assure us that we will be successful, despite the opposition we encounter.
We need not be afraid because our life is in the hands of a loving God. Sometimes we are afraid that we will make a wrong decision. At other times, we are afraid of what others will think when we speak up for Jesus. We are afraid of what the future will bring our children. We are also afraid of growing old. Sometimes we are afraid of what bad health will bring us. At the root of these fears is the fear of loss.
Every fear we have is grounded in the knowledge that we have something or someone to lose. I can lose my job, family, house, money, health and even life itself. Rejection and loss are the basis of our fears. But we forget one thing: our heavenly Father knows exactly what is happening. What a release from fear it is to know that God is on our side; that our life is in the hands of a loving God!
My dear friends in Christ, any time fear grips our life we need to remember that being faithful to Christ in this life is much more important than our fear of rejection and loss. Also, let us take a moment to recall some of the great promises of God. Let us remind ourselves that God cares – we are each a dear child of his, and he cares for each of us. "Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." The last verse of Psalm 27 sums it up nicely: "Trust in the Lord. Have Faith; do not despair. Trust in the Lord."
June 14, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“MY FLESH IS REAL FOOD…”
Food is a vital necessity for all living things: plants, animals and human beings. In the case of us human beings, food is the reason why we do a lot of things. It is a great part of the reason why we go to school. We want to get educated so that we can get a job that will fetch us money with which to feed ourselves and our dependents. Food is the reason why most people work. Again, they want to earn money with which to buy food for themselves and their dependents. The reason why food is important is obvious. Without food we cannot live; without food we die. It is the same thing with air and water.
It is obvious that we need food to sustain our physical life, to stay alive physically. But physical life is not the only kind of life we have. We also have spiritual life, the life of the soul. This is the kind of life we cannot sustain with physical food since it is simply not physical. There must be some other kind of food that will sustain it. It is just that kind of food that Jesus promised his disciples in today’s Gospel reading. He said that he would give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. Some of them understood him literally and many of them took offence at his statement. They asked: How could he give us his body to eat and his blood to drink? What does he take us for? Who wanted to eat his flesh and drink his blood? Are we cannibals?
What Jesus meant would become clear much later: On the eve of his Passion, during his Last Supper with his disciples. That was when he worked another of his many miracles, changing bread into his body and wine into his blood. It was in those forms that he gave his disciples his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. The bread that he gave them was his real flesh and the wine his real blood, no longer just bread and wine. That is the food of the soul that Jesus gave to his disciples. That is the food that would sustain their spiritual life.
This same miracle continues to take place at every Mass during consecration, the bread becomes the body of Jesus and the wine becomes the blood of Jesus. That is true because Jesus told his disciples to continue this sacrifice in remembrance of him.
If physical food is vital necessity for physical life, then the body and blood of Jesus, the Eucharist should be a vital necessity for spiritual life as well. Jesus said it in our Gospel reading today: “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”
If we are as concerned about sustaining our spiritual life as we are about sustaining our physical life, we would do all in our power to feed regularly on the Holy Eucharist.
June 7, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“LIKE GOD, LIKE WORSHIPPERS”
Easter celebration was essentially a celebration of Jesus Christ, the Second person of the Blessed Trinity. Pentecost was a celebration of the Holy Spirit, the third Person. After those two celebrations, today, Trinity Sunday, the Church celebrates all Three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are but one God. They are not three persons in one Person; nor are they three gods in one God.
The doctrine of the inner relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one, cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery.
If we expected today’s readings to give us clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God given reason to the revelation which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. He said that the Father had given him (the Son) all that he has, and that he in turn has given to the Holy Spirit all that he has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity.
In the story of salvation, we usually attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, they are distinct as persons; neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever exists or acts in isolation from the other two persons of the Godhead.
My brother and sisters in Christ, we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the god they worship. People who worship a warrior god tend to be warmongering; people who worship a god of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking; people who worship a god of wrath tend to be vengeful; and people who worship a god of love tend to be loving; like a god, so the worshippers.
Therefore, the more important question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we are worshipping and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?
As we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday today, may that love and unity which God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit share be established among us. Amen.