Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020
The prophet Jeremiah lived in Israel about 600 years before Christ. The Babylonian destruction of Israel was about to happen. The Babylonians came from present day Iraq. Their capital was located about 100 miles south of Bagdad. Jeremiah was warning the people that this could be avoided if they started living in accordance with God’s laws. In that society, most of God’s laws were ignored or violated. After almost three thousand years, does this sound like our modern world with the same old dynamic. Just like today, the people did not want to hear it. they decided to kill Jeremiah. His words to us today reflect the pain and suffering he experienced for being faithful to the mission that God had given to him. The prophet is a good lead in to the Gospel.
Jesus has just chosen the Twelve Apostles and he prepares them to go out as missionaries. He warns them that the message they are to proclaim will not always be well received and they will have to suffer and even die for it. Jesus tells them that they must witness to Jesus with courage and not be afraid.
As human beings we have the spontaneous reaction of fear built into our human nature. We feel fear when we perceive that something or someone is about to hurt us in some way. Fear enables us to survive. As we know fear can get out of hand and cause many problems. When Jesus tells us not to fear, he wants us to place our faith and trust in Him and his love for each one of us. St. Paul tells us that all things work for good for those who love God. St. john Paul II after being elected Pope and came out on the balcony and called out Do not be Afraid and he would echo Jesus’s words many times after that.
One thing that we are called to have is fear of the Lord which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are called to come before God in a spirit of wonder and awe. Jesus says: do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. In Old Testament times Gehenna was a place of pagan worship, human sacrifice and later became a garbage dump.
The fear that we are called to possess is a fear which would reject anything that is not of God, anything that would offend God’s love and goodness. Any sin that separates us from God must be avoided at all costs. In any case, a healthy fear of God will lead to a sense of wonder and respect for God and his great love for us. If we are a peace with God, the things of this world will not frighten us.
We live in a world that is hostile to the Christian way of life. We all have daily burdens and struggles. This time in history is a poster child for the hostilities. But Christ’s presence among us and in us and God’s overflowing graces give us strength and courage even when we do not think that we are very courageous in the face of our difficulties and challenges. God’s grace is there. He says I am with you always even unto the end of the world.
Despite the tone of today’s readings, their messages are positive because they lead us to place our trust in God in a dangerous and chaotic world and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is our hope and the same Jesus yesterday today and forever.
Today’s celebration of Pentecost is a celebration of the completion of Jesus’ saving work of salvation with his sending of the promised Holy Spirit and is the birthday of Church. We also come to realize the how many ways the Holy Spirit has and is acting in our daily lives starting from the creation when God the Father breathed the Holy Spirit over the waters. All through history, the Spirit is at work in the images of a dove, fire, and the wind. The effects are seen and experienced by God’s people.
The Spirit is present at the time of Baptism: Jesus says: no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
When we pray, the Holy Spirit is praying in us. The scriptures say that we could not even say the name of Jesus without the help of the Spirit. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well: the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for the Father wishes such as these to worship him. St. Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us.
When our sins are forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, the Spirit of God extends the mercy and love of God to us. On Easter Sunday night, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said: peace be with you. Then, he breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive will be forgiven them.
At Mass, the Spirit speaks to us in the Scriptures for Jesus said the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Jesus said to the disciples, when the Spirit comes He will remind you of everything I have said.
Again at Mass, the Spirit is called down upon the bread and the wine to change the elements into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus when the priest says to the Father, send down your Spirit like the dew-fall so that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed on the candidates that at all the different times in life they will have the benefit of the Spirit to guide them,and assist them with wisdom, knowledge understanding right judgment, courage, piety, and fear of the Lord.
During times of sickness and even at the last hours of life, the priest anoints the person and lays hands on them and he says: through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
At Ordination and Marriage, the Holy Spirit strengthens those receiving these Sacraments to live out their commitment that they have made before God and the community.
Most of our prayers at Mass and in our own devotions are addressed to the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
It is through the working of the Holy Spirit that we are brought to holiness. The Spirit gives so many gifts to each person to build up the Body of Christ the Church. And it is through the Spirit that we are able to produce good fruit in our lives such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control, and purity.
We sometimes pay so much attention to the Father and the Son, Jesus, that we tend to ignore the Holy Spirit.
On that first Pentecost, the Spirit transformed the disciples from fear filled followers to brave and fearless preachers of the Good News of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
May we be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit and give glory to God as temples of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit Come and renew the face of the earth.
*********************************************************************Seventh Sunday of Easter 2020
Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection during this past week. We celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. The readings for today address for us how Jesus’ departure from the earth and the severing of his physical connection to his followers can be understood As many of us have limited physical contacts with all those whom we love, those with whom we have worked, or those who attend school with us and every section of our life. We have found out how much we are social beings. Today we are reminded of the power of prayer on an individual level and prayer in community.
The first reading from Acts gives us the Apostles, some women and the Mother of Jesus and that they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. The disciples had already experienced the crisis of Jesus’ suffering and death on a cross. They had experienced the joy of seeing the Risen Lord, and now they contend with the fact that He has now ascended to heaven. Like so many of us, they are feeling loss now that Jesus has ascended. Prayer as we know is a great way to cope with the ups and downs of life. Just as Jesus’ followers had to cope and adjust their lives in their new reality so we have had to do the same through prayer.
All of the saints have given us so many examples of the power of prayer in their lives. St. Janes Frances de Chantel endured many losses in her life which included the death of her mother when she was a baby and the death of her husband and the deaths of three of her children and her spiritual director who was St. Frances de Sales. She lived in France during a severe plague in the 17th century. She founded a community of sisters who took care of the sick. She once said: Enter into your prayer by faith, remain in it in hope and do not abandon it except for that charity which serves and endures. Sometimes during this time of crisis, I have felt I am not going to endure but each day we do endure when we turn to the Lord in prayer.
The Gospel shows us at the Last Supper as Jesus prays to his Father in heaven. Jesus confesses that his hour has come, that his death is before him and it would lead to eternal life. His work on earth has given glory to the Father. Jesus prays for his followers then and for us now. That we will give glory to God and follow in his footsteps.
We have been given the example of Jesus on so many occasions where he would spend time with the Father in prayer, we have the example of the disciples and Mary in prayer as they await the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the example of the Saints and so many people in our lives who have prayed and taught us how to pray.
In view of all these examples, let us in a spirit of silence, let us ask ourselves there questions: Is making time for prayer in my life a priority in my faith journey? When prayers seem to go unanswered, how does that make you feel? Pain and suffering can strengthen faith, when had that happened to you?
Let us spend time each day praying for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for Pentecost. Let pray as if everything depends of God and work as if everything depends on us and we like Jesus will give glory to God and he will glorify us with eternal life.
Sixth Sunday of Easter 2020
St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles tells us how the Good News of Jesus began to spread through our the Mediterranean world starting at Jerusalem. The power behind this amazing progress was due to the presence of risen Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit. Last week, we experienced the institution of the Diaconate. This week, one of those Deacons was the first to announce the of Jesus’ resurrection to in Samaria. The Samaritans were hostile to the Jews and vice versa. As we know, two thousand years later, the Gospel goes beyond all boundaries and social barriers. There is no chaining the Word of God. That is why we are called Catholic or universal, open to all people and nations.
In Samaria, Peter and John went down and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit after they were baptized. They laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. We see in this event the Sacrament on Confirmation being celebrated by the Apostles. Our Bishops who are the successors of the Apostles lay hands on the faithful and anoint them and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us.
As Jesus, was saying good-bye to the Apostles at the Last Supper, he promises to send the Holy Spirit to them as their Advocate to be with them always. An advocate as we know is like a lawyer who accompanies us in court. Jesus is the first advocate on our behalf before the Father. The Holy Spirit, the second advocate is sent by the Father to dwell in the believer to remind us if all that Jesus said and did. The Holy Spirit guarantees the truth. The Holy Spirit inspires and strengthens the believer against the values of the world.
As followers of Jesus, we have to stand against the values of the world and the lies of the evil one. He has given us the best defense attorney who will assure us that we are forgiven, who will remind us of God’s love for us, who sees our sins ailings but he also sees our best selves and the desires of our heats. He never gives up on us.
As we approach the feast of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit, always remember that he is our defender when we start thinking that we are no good or that God has given up on us.
Every day of our lives, we should spend time listening for the Holy Spirit to
Speak, to convince us that we belong to God as his dear children. In the absence of physical contact and the celebration of the Sacraments, let trust that the Holy
Spirit will sustain us in our love of God and neighbor who are fruits of the Spirit. Come Holy Spirit and renew the face if the earth!
Fifth Sunday of Easter 2020
For those of you who have several children in your household or for those who have brought of their children, the youngest child complains about not being able to do what the older children can do. In turn, the older children complain that the youngest child is spoiled and gets away with murder. With the quarantine, maybe this is coming up more and more in the family. Some grown children will bring it up time and again at family holidays. In many ways, both are right. Sometimes parents tend to relax their parenting styles as the number of children increase.
Three weeks ago, we heard in the Acts of the Apostles how the early Christians were united in prayer and in sharing everything in common and were all taught by the Apostles. This sense of unity turned into disunity as the community of believers grew. On one occasion, 3,000 people turned to Christianity after St. Peter preach the Good News to them. The very first believers in Jesus as we know were Jews who spoke Aramaic. There is a part of the world that still speak that language. Soon, people from other countries came into the flock and they mainly spoke Greek. These people began to feel like second class citizens especially in the distribution of food to their widows. And so the Apostles instituted a new office called the Diaconate. In our modern Church, the Permanent Diaconate was restored. Deacon George Benson has served this parish in so many ways. Let pray for his health and for his consolation in the death of his wife Carmen.
The Last Supper is the setting for today’s Gospel. After Jesus, had washed the feet of the Apostles, he prepares them for what is to come in the next few days. He says: do not let our hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, you have faith in me. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself. So that where I am you also may be. Thomas did not know where he was going. Sometimes when we have to face difficulties in our lives, it seems God is asking too much of us and we cannot handle them on our own. It is then that we have to dig deeper into that faith we have been blessed with and we can survive and ultimately prosper. During times of crisis, I often wonder how people get through it all without faith and a relationship with Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Through this power that comes from our faith, Jesus assures us that we will do even greater things than He has done. One of the works that we do is to place our faith and hope in Him. He will not disappoint us.
As it was not easy for the early Christians who faced the challenges of community, martyrdom like Stephen, one of the first Deacons, or suffering of every kind. Today the sacrifices that we make and are offered in union with the cross of Jesus have eternal value and will show the great love that we have for God and our neighbor. Those are the things that we will take to heaven where there has been prepared a place for us in our Father’ house.
Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020
Someone said the other day that April felt like it was three months long and yet we are celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Easter. We will continue to celebrate Easter up to and including Pentecost. The background for the first reading is Pentecost. After the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles, they left the Upper Room and began to preach about Jesus. St. Peter with great courage and conviction preached the Good News to many different people who had gathered in Jerusalem. And our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is the conclusion of his preaching. He proclaims Jesus is the Lord and Christ which means Jesus is both divine and that as the Christ he is also the Messiah. As it states the reading, 3,000 people converted to Christianity. The saving mission of Jesus and so that all people might be brought back to God like lost sheep.
Today is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. The 23rd Psalm today sets the tone for this beautiful and comforting image of Jesus. It is no wonder that this Psalm is the most quoted psalm in all of salvation history. Jesus in the Good Shepherd but he also refers to himself as the sheep gate. The sheep gate keeps the sheep from wondering away and protects them from all kinds of dangers. It also had the function of letting the sheep out under the care of the shepherd where they would find grass to graze on and a stream where they would be able to drink.
By using this image of the sheep gate twice, he is telling us that he is that he protects and cares for us. And it is through him that the kingdom of heaven is open to us. We are saved in and only through Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Jesus says in the Gospel: I am the gate whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
In normal times, it is estimated that forty million people in the United States suffer from anxiety disorder. Can you imagine what that figure must be like after the last few weeks. During this time, we are experiencing insecurity, loss of our job or a disruption in our daily routine. One kid whished that he had his old teacher since his mother was more demanding! All of us are lonely by being separated from family, friends and fellow parishioners. After this is over, we are concerned what the “new normal” might be like. Every where we look, there seems to be a loss of some kind. On one occasion, Jesus looked out on the crowds of people gathered before Him and he felt pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. We feel this way as we are away from Mass and our daily routines. Many have shared that fact that they do not have any incentive to do anything. We thought we would have time to get a lot done. The Good Shepherd is with us. He had laid down his life for us so much does he love us. Sometimes we wonder away from him by sin or indifference or business but he is always calling us back to himself.
When this time in the desert is over and we are back to normal, let ask for the grace to see where Jesus has been leading us to green pastures and running waters, so that we and all whom we meet will have life and have it more abundantly. In the meantime let place our trust in Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Third Sunday of Easter 2020
At one time or another, we have enjoyed reading biographies of famous people and we have found out they reacted to certain life changing events in their lives.
In 1914, Thomas Edison experienced a fire that destroyed his laboratory. The damage exceed $2 million dollars and the building was insured for $250,000. The next morning, as he looked at the ruins, he declared: there is great value in disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew. Three weeks after the fire, Edison invented the first phonograph. Thomas Edison’s loss shows how tragedy and loss can be turned into victory. Our readings from Scripture have this same theme. In the Gospel, we have the road to Emmaus. On this journey, two disciples are walking along. It is amazing that we cannot find Emmaus on any ancient map and we do not know anything about Cleopas and even less about the other disciple. What is important is the message.
Jesus begins to walk with them and they do not recognize him. In all of the Easter appearances, his disciples do not recognize him at first. The Gospel writers are reminding us that Jesus had a new existence.
They begin to tell Jesus how they are so disappointed in the fact that they had hoped that Jesus would be the Messiah , the one who would overthrow the rule of the Romans and he would restore the dynasty of David. Israel would than become a respected nation in the world. With Jesus’ death, came the death of all their hopes and dreams. Jesus explains to his companions all that the Scriptures had said about him and how it was necessary that he should die. They like so many had only looked at the passages concerning the power and the glory of the Messiah, they had overlooked the suffering servant in Isaiah. Their disappointment turns to joy, when Jesus is finally recognized in the breaking to the bread.
In the ups and downs of life, St. Peter reminds us of the joy that David felt when he said; I saw that Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue had exulted; my flesh, too will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths to life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
In all situations, Jesus walks with us and we do not always see him or perceive his presence but he is always with us. His presence is most profoundly felt in the Scriptures, the Sacraments and at Mass but his presence is felt in the poor, he comes to us in a relative or a friend, he comes in times of suffering and challenge, he comes to us in the glory of creation. Whether we feel it or not it doesn’t matter. He is present. Jesus has won the victory for us and all we have to do is to claim that victory and walk with him each and every day. Let ask for the grace to see Jesus in all things and to come closer to him as he walks with us.
Second Sunday of Easter 2020
During this Easter season, we celebrate today, Divine Mercy Sunday. The focus for our celebration of the resurrection of the Lord which opened the floodgates of God’s mercy is based on Scriptures and the private revelation given to St. Faustina.
St. Peter says in the second reading: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
In establishing this Divine Mercy Sunday, St. John Paul wanted us to remember that each and every person not only receives and experiences God’s mercy but is also called to practice mercy towards others. Jesus says in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, we experience how God’s mercy is poured out on St. Thomas who was left in doubt and despair and Jesus came to him and strengthened his faith in the Resurrection. So that St. Thomas could say: my Lord and my God. In the Acts of the Apostles we also experience the Holy Spirit being poured out by God’s mercy in the community of the believers in four areas: being taught the Apostolic faith, the communal life of assisting one another, celebrating the breaking of the bread or as we call it the Holy Eucharist, and prayer. After these last few weeks, we are hungering for these areas in our lives and are missing them so profoundly. In these areas, we experience the mercy of God in a big way. Each one of us is more than just a name on our parish list. Each one of us is a member of the family of God and we are all brothers and sisters. Together, we celebrate the mercy that is extended to us.
St. Thomas’ story shows us that the mercy of God involves not only the forgiveness of sins which is huge but that his compassion for our weakness and his patience with our slow progress in our faith walk with him. His mercy is wide and it frees us from our doubts, our fears, and our guilt. Like St. Thomas and the other Apostles, his mercy allows us to experience the Risen Lord in a personal way so that we can follow him wherever he wants to lead us.
It is a great spiritual aid to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet daily especially at 3PM the hour of Divine Mercy. If this is not possible, then to stop for a moment and pray: Jesus, I trust in you.
God’s mercy has to be the foundation of our lives. It is a through mercy that the trials of life can bring us closer to God and eternal life.
Happy Easter! Christ is risen, He is truly risen Alleluia! Sin has been defeated, and death has lost its sting!
This is a joyful occasion as we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Or is it that for so many of us around the world. Many Christian people around the world are persecuted and can only practice the faith in the shadows of their society. Many are experiencing physical suffering and even death for their faith in so many places. For many of you, you have not be able to celebrate the Risen Lord either by celebrating the Holy Mass or the Sacraments. It has been and still is a desert experience. And so it was on the first Easter Sunday morning. As the women came to the empty tomb in order to anoint his body. Others of the disciples also came to witness the absence of the Lord’s body. There were many areas of loss also. They had hoped for a messiah and all their hopes for a better world had been crushed with his arrest and crucifixion.
The beginnings of that Easter 2,000 years ago was not a joyous one until Jesus began to appear to different ones of his disciples. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. He was alive. It was not just his spirit, like a ghost. He was present to them in his resurrected body. He showed them his wounded hands and feet. Than they went from fear, doubt and sorrow to joy, peace and renewed faith.
For us as we celebrate this the Holiest of Days, we are not able to experience the Risen Lord, in Holy Communion or in the other Sacraments but he has promised to be with us until the end of the age. In the future, we will be back together in our Churches and experience the Risen Lord. In your homes on this Easter Sunday ask Jesus the unseen guest at every meal to be present to you and your family. Make a resolution to come to worship Jesus and experience the resurrected Lord as so as is possible.
For now take solace in the fact that the Risen Lord suffered and died for you. He has opened the gates of heaven for you and all your loved ones. Take hold of the gift of faith that has been won for you. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Gather with your family in prayer and you will experience the promise Jesus made: where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.
On this most solemn and triumphal day of all days, may we renew our baptismal promises, may we renew our resolve to follow Jesus more closely and proclaim the message of salvation to all those we meet. Even if it is sex feet apart. We need to proclaim the Gospel that others might have joy and true peace.
Until we are able to come together again, celebrate the Risen Lord in your home which is a domestic church. Jesus is risen Alleluia, He is truly risen Alleluia, Alleluia!
Holy Thursday 2020
It is common knowledge that if you walk bear footed in public places, you risk picking up all sorts of microorganisms such E-coli, tetanus, and other fungus maybe even Covan19. These germs seem to consider the human foot to be a very welcoming environment.
Let us imagine for a moment how dirty people’s feet were in Jesus’ time. The apostles feet were probably tough, callused and dirty most of the time. It was the duty of a slave to wash the feet of the wealthy. Who then would wash the feet of the disciples who were just ordinary everyday people?
We can understand Peter’s shock when Jesus took over the job of washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus had to explain the importance of this gesture of humility.
The One through who the whole universe was created and the only Begotten Son of the Father and became man took the form of a slave so that we could be freed from the slavery to sin and even death itself.
The significance of this action has been called the gospel in miniature. Other have likened it to the Eucharist itself. Jesus loves us so much that He bends down at every Mass to teach us, to feed us and become present to us under the humble forms of bread and wine.
Jesus in obedience to the Father, came to serve and not to be served. He became one of us so that we could become one with God.
On this Holy Thursday, we are not able to perform the washing of the feet as Jesus did because you his disciples are each in your own home. But you are able to wash the feet of one another as Jesus commanded when He said: Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me Teacher, and Master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one an other’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
As his disciples of Jesus, are commanded to serve another as we would serve Jesus himself. Whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Him.
Jesus loves each one of us that He washes our feet and He feeds us with his own Body and Blood at this Sacred Meal. Let ask Jesus to show us what He wants to teach us in the events of this Sacred Triduum that we have begun.