33rd Sunday [B] (Nov 18) Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
Central theme: Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary uncertainty concerning the end time when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Each year at this time, the Church asks us to consider the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – as happening to ourselves.
Scripture lessons summarized: The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer.
2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion.
3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living.
The first reading, taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people persecuted by a cruel pagan king. It advises us to live wisely and justly in the present time, instead of worrying about the unknown future.
The author of the Hebrews in the second reading, challenges us to look to the future with hope and serenity because Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is the mediator who has secured the forgiveness of our sins and our sanctification through his sacrifice on the cross.
Today’s Gospel, taken from Mark (AD 69), offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, reminding them of Jesus’ words about his glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge to gather and reward his elect. Daniel and Mark continue to remind us that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns us all to read the “signs of the time,” reminding us that we must be ever prepared to give an account of our lives to Jesus when he comes in glory as our Judge, because we cannot know “either the day or the hour” of his Second Coming.
Life messages: 1) Let us recognize the “second coming” of Jesus in our daily lives through everyday occurrences, always remembering that Jesus comes without warning. But let us not get frightened at the thought of Christ’s Second Coming because he is with us every day in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible, and in our worshiping communities. We will be able to welcome him in his Second Coming as long as we faithfully do the will of God daily by serving our brothers and sisters, by recognizing Christ’s presence in them, and by being reconciled with God and with our brothers and sisters every day.
2) We need to “learn the lesson from the fig tree.” This means that we are to watch and wait in a state of readiness. Instead of worrying about the end time events, we are asked to live every day of our lives loving God living in others, by our committed service to them with sacrificial agape love.
(Nov 11) I Kgs 17:10 16; Heb.9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to live out a total commitment to serve God with a humble and generous heart, free from pride and prejudice.
Scripture lessons: The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others. In the first reading, taken from the First Book of Kings, a poor widow who has barely enough food for herself and her son welcomes the prophet Elijah as a man of God, shares her food with him and receives her reward in the form of a continuing daily supply of food. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts the external signs of honor sought by the scribes with the humble, sacrificial offering of a poor widow and declares that she has found true honor in God’s eyes. The poor widows in both the first reading and the Gospel gave away all that they possessed for the glory of God. The sacrificial self-giving of the widows in the first reading and the Gospel reflects God’s love in giving His Only Son for us, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross. The second reading tells us how Jesus, as the High Priest of the New Testament, surrendered His life to God His Father totally and unconditionally as a sacrificial offering for our sins – a sacrifice far beyond the sacrifices made by the poor widows.
Life messages: 1: We need to appreciate the widows of our parish: Even in seemingly prosperous societies, widows (and widowers), in addition to their deep grief, often suffer from economic loss, from the burden of rearing a family alone, and from a strange isolation from friends, which often sets in soon after protestations of support at their spouses’ funerals. Let us learn to appreciate the widows and widowers of our parish community. Their loneliness draws them closer to God and to stewardship in the parish. They are often active participants in all the liturgical celebrations, offering prayers for their families and for their parish family. Frequently, they are active in the parish organizations, as well as in visiting and serving the sick and the shut-ins. Hence, let us appreciate them, support them, encourage them and pray for them.
#2: We need to accept Christ’s criteria of judging people: We often judge people by what they possess. We give weight to their position in society, to their educational qualifications, or to their celebrity status. But Jesus measures us in a totally different way – based on our inner motives and the intentions hidden behind our actions. He evaluates us based on the sacrifices we make for others and on the degree of our surrender to His holy will. The offering God wants from us is not our material possessions, but our hearts and lives. What is hardest to give is ourselves in love and concern because that gift costs us more than reaching for our purses. Let us, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold. Let us stop dribbling out our stores of love, selflessness, sacrifice, and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our “whole life” into the love-starved coffers of this world.
Anecdote: # 1: Fanny Epps’ mite has might of love: Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So, she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities. Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She must catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays “Jingle Bell Rock,” while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children. Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps is 99 years old? Wasted time, twisted values? “I don’t want to act dead while I’m still alive,” she says. Fanny Epp’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love!
All Souls’ Day is a day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone for their eternal reward and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification.
Ancient belief supported by Church tradition: People of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul and have prayed for the dead:
1) The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release. The Jewish catechism Talmud states that prayers for the dead will help to bring greater rewards and blessings to them. Prayer for the souls of the departed is retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that he/she may be purified.
2) First century practice: Jesus and the apostles shared this belief and passed it on to the early Church. “Remember us who have gone before you, in your prayers,” is a petition often found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs (Lumen Gentium-50).
3) The liturgies of the Mass in various rites dating from the early centuries of the Church include “Prayers for the Dead.”
4) The early Fathers of the Church encouraged this practice. Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) wrote about the anniversary Masses for the dead, advising widows to pray for their husbands. St. Augustine remarked that he used to pray for his deceased mother, remembering her request: “When I die, bury me anywhere you like, but remember to pray for me at the altar”
5) The Synods of Nicaea, Florence and Trent encouraged the offering of prayers for the dead, citing Scriptural evidences to prove that there is a place or state of purification for those who die with venial sins on their souls.
Theological reasoning: According to Revelation 21:27: “nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.” Holy Scripture (Proverbs 24:16) also teaches that even “the just sin seven times a day.” Since it would be contrary to the mercy of God to punish such souls with venial sins in Hell, they are entering a place or state of purification, called Purgatory, which combines God’s justice with His mercy. This teaching is also contained in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
Biblical evidence: 1) II Maccabees, 12:46 is the main Biblical text incorporating the Jewish belief in the necessity of prayer and sacrifice for the dead. The passage (II Maccabees 12:39-46), describes how Judas, the military commander, “took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering” (II Mc 12:43). The narrator continues, “If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them.”
2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief. At the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: “May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day” (II Timothy: 1:18). Other pertinent Bible texts: Matthew 12:32, I Corinthians, 3:15, Zechariah 13:19, Sirach 7:33.
The Church’s teaching: The Church’s official teaching on Purgatory is plain and simple. There is a place or state of purification called Purgatory, where souls undergoing purification can be helped by the prayers of the faithful (Council of Trent). Some modern theologians suggest that the fire of Purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and his fire of love. They also speak of Purgatory as an “instant” purification immediately after death, varying in intensity from soul to soul, depending on the state of everyone.
How do we help the “holy souls”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends prayer for the dead in conjunction with the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and encourages “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC #1032). Let us not forget to pray for our dear departed, have Masses offered for them, visit their graves, and make daily sacrifices for them. God can foresee and apply the merits of our prayers, penances and works of charity, done even years after their death, for our departed dear ones, in favor of our deceased dear ones, now of their deaths.
Eternal Rest grant unto our dear ones who left us behind O Lord.
And let Perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of Rest in Peace! Amen
Dear readers, have you prayed for the repose of the souls of your loved ones? Pray for them and offer a Mass for them. They will be praying for you from heaven. May you be transformed through their Prayers.
The feast and its objectives: All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is intended to honor the memory of countless unknown and uncanonized saints who have no feast days. Today we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. This feast is observed to teach us to honor the saints, both by imitating their lives and by seeking their intercession for us before Christ, the only mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5). The Church reminds us today that God’s call for holiness is universal, that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. We grow in holiness when we live wholesome lives of integrity truth, justice, charity, mercy, and compassion, sharing our blessings with others.
Reasons why we honor the saints: 1- The saints put their trust in Christ and lived heroic lives of Faith. St. Paul asks us to serve and honor such noble souls. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, to Philip and to Timothy, he advises Christians to welcome, serve and honor those who have put their trust in Jesus. The saints enjoy Heavenly bliss as a reward for their Faith in Jesus. Hence, they deserve our veneration of them. 2- The saints are our role models. They teach us by their lives that Christ’s holy life of love, mercy and unconditional forgiveness can be lived by ordinary people from all walks of life and always.
3- The saints are our Heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us. (Jas 5:16-18, Ex 32:13, Jer. 15:1, Rv. 8:3-4). 4- The saints are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the staff of Moses (Ex), the bones of the prophet Elisha (2Kgs 13:21), the towel of Paul (Acts: 19:12) and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) to work miracles.
Life messages: 1) We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us: “Be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect” (Mt 5:48). St. Augustine asked: “If she and he can become saints, why can’t I?”
2) We can take the short cuts practiced by three Teresa’s: i) St. Teresa of Avila: Recharge your spiritual batteries every day by prayer, namely, listening to God and talking to Him ii) St. Therese of Lisieux: Convert every action into prayer by offering it to God for His glory and for the salvation of souls and by doing God’s will to the best of one’s ability. iii) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): Do ordinary things with great love.
Saints have reached their goal of sanctity and we have our hope that can lead us to attain that goal of perfection, sanctity and God’s Kingdom.
May all saints in heaven pray for us all in the world.
To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to go daily from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and to be blest forever. O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!
Ten Basic Statements about priestly ministry:
- The foundation of ministry is character.
- The nature of ministry is service.
- The motive for ministry is love.
- The measure of ministry is sacrifice.
- The authority of ministry is submission.
- The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.
- The tools of ministry are the Word and prayer.
- The privilege of ministry is growth.
- The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit.
- The model for ministry is Jesus Christ
A priest is today’s shepherd and fisherman – teaching, sanctifying and guiding the People of God through a life of ministerial service and leadership. The diocesan priest is called to serve the people of God, to bring them Christ’s healing love through prayer, the sacraments and by proclaiming the Word of God. He also has the great joy and privilege of making Christ present in the Eucharist. Usually he will do all this in a parish – the local Catholic community. St Teresa of Avila once said: “Christ has no body now but yours no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” That sums up the calling of the priest, to be always, another Christ – ‘alter Christus’. The primary meaning of the priesthood lies in its relationship to the Eucharist – as Reality, as Sacrament, as Sacrifice – and, among these three, primarily as Reality, made possible by priestly consecration. Priests are also essentially preachers of the word, or ministers of the Gospel, or organizers of Christian communities, or spokesmen of the poor, or defenders of the oppressed, or social leaders, or political catalysts, or academic scholars, or theological appraisers of the Faith of believers.
Priesthood is demanding; and, to quote the late Cardinal Hume, no one can ever be truly worthy to be a priest. But the Good News is that priesthood is not a human decision. It’s a calling from God, who gives His strength and His grace to those who serve Him. No priest can act fully for Christ without being sustained by his own prayer-relationship with God, rooted in Sacrament and Scripture.
“The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me” (Is. 61:1, Luke 4:18). In every priestly ordination ceremony, we hear this opening sentence of Jesus’ inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue. At ordination, we priests are anointed, so that we may anoint others; we are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others, and that grace is renewed every day through our ministry to those entrusted to our care. “The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church.” (CCC 1547). Another aspect of the ministerial priesthood is the priest’s mission: “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor.” “The ministerial priesthood confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching, Divine worship and pastoral governance.” (CCC 1592). The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ – Head of the Church – before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice. (CCC 1552).
It is this mystery and mission of the ministerial priesthood we priests try to live every day and which we embrace each day. We put our Faith in the One Who calls us, anoints us and sends us, and that gives meaning to the whole of our lives. Our time of prayer is the time when we explicitly engage in the relationship with the Lord who chooses us and sends us, and it is that time – which crucially includes our celebration of the Mass – that gives sense and direction to all the rest of our lives, especially to those moments when we are a bit lost, or overburdened, or unsure of the value of what we do or of the priorities we should pursue. Prayer yields new insight and new hope.
But this grace of the ministerial priesthood is given to weak human beings who carry this great Divine treasure as Bishop Sheen put it “in vessels of clay.” It explains why the Church was and is plagued by shocking scandals. Not only are the people and the world scandalized, but all of our good priests are equally scandalized. A clear majority of the priests are innocent, and we feel hurt, betrayed, sick, disgusted and repulsed that someone who has consecrated hands would do something so despicable. Our very lives and our vocations as Priests are being attacked by the very few who have done these things. But anger, shame and worry, however understandable, must give way to renewed determination that victims will find justice and healing; determination also that these instances of abuse must never, never again taint the Church and the Priesthood; and determination or conviction that our times call for nothing less than a great resurgence of priestly holiness and a profound appreciation of the gift that is ours as ministerial priests.
We all know that people generalize. They say, “Well, there’s one bad Priest, so all Priests are bad.” Hence it is good to have some statistics today, not to justify the fact that bad priests exist, but to state the facts. Even Jesus didn’t have perfect Priests. We read in the Gospel about Judas that “Satan entered into his heart” and he turned his Lord and Master over for a few silver coins. Thus, Jesus lost one out of His first twelve. There are roughly 45,000 Priests in the United States. Only 2,500 (1.8 %) have either been accused or found guilty of this horrendous evil, this sin. Of Christian marriages, 50 to 75% end in divorce. Further, the highest percentage of child abuse is by married men. It’s terrible! It’s usually a father, an uncle, a cousin or a grandfather! The Kinsey Reports reveals that “a full 10% of the American population had experienced some form of personal exposure to “homosexuality.” The percentage of Americans who have cohabited at one time or another is 50% and the percentage of cohabiting couples who go on to marry is only 50-60%.
Taken together, these facts strongly suggest that it is not the priesthood or priestly celibacy which causes the problem, but our current society, a society which hates God and hates all morality. Nevertheless, we, the faithful, hardworking priests who keep their promise of celibacy, who suffer being discounted and written off just because we are Roman Catholic Priests. Catholic priests are categorized in the media as gay, perverse, evil, disgusting – not worthy of people’s trust. We notice the media bias. If the culprit is a Protestant pastor, a Rabbi, a doctor, lawyer or teacher, it’s in the news for a split second and gone! Why? Because the rich, the powerful, the media want to destroy the morality that Catholic the Church teaches, and because unconsciously, unbelievers hold Catholics, and us as Catholic priests, to the highest standard and are scandalized and disappointed when we fail and fall. And people tend to generalize with priests, where they don’t in other cases: one bad president, bad lawyer, bad doctor, bad mother, bad father – doesn’t make them all bad. The same observation should apply to Priests.
On this Priests Sunday, let us think about all the good Priests in our lives that we have known. Then, let’s make one list of all the good priests, and another of bad priests of our experience. We will probably find that the vast majority of priests are good Priests who love the gift that Jesus has given to them and who would never want to do anything to disgrace that gift. The primary vocation of every Baptized Christian is to become a saint. This is particularly true of a priest. If we, any of us, are good that’s not good enough, Jesus wants all of us to become holy. If we are, by His grace and gift, holy, Jesus wants us to become saints, and if we are saints, Jesus wants us to become like the Father. As Jesus commands us all, “Be holy as my Father is holy.”
As the people of God, we are all challenged to make a commitment, a promise: A) We need to Pray for our Priests every day — not only for those we encounter, but for all Priests, because all Priests are our Priests. B) We need to reject and refuel to listen to idle gossip about our Priests! C) We need to support and love our Priests! There are few enough Priests as it is, and if we don’t support the priests we have, pray for them, we may lose them to discouragement, and may, in addition, discourage men from
considering ministerial priesthood as they discern their vocations, or from following the priestly vocation to which God is calling them In the meantime, we will constantly remember St. Paul’s words: “Christ emptied himself and humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. For all of us priests, and for laymen as well, recent events have been an emptying and humbling experience. May we enter upon this conversion, accept His purification and follow Him as His own – good priests, good people! God bless you. God love you!
Ways to Affirm Our Priests
- We need to PRAY – There is nothing stronger or more appreciated by our priests. Let us ask God to bless them, protect them and strengthen their faith, hope and love.
- We need to GIVE VERBAL APPRECIATION – Let us smile and greet our priests after Mass and tell them that we appreciate them and what they do When something specific strikes us in the homily as valuable, or true, let’s share our insight and delight with the priest; that will help to counteract the effect of the people who are not pleased and aren’t shy about saying so.
- WE need to DO IT IN WRITING a note or a card sometimes when we offer our thanks and appreciation. Often today, we forget the value of the written word or feel that we don’t have the time to sit down and write something. Our priests value what we have to say.
- We need to BE ENGAGED DURING LITURGY – We need to participate actively during the Mass, for our own soul’s sake primarily, but also as a response to our priests who are giving themselves to us in their words as well as in bringing our Eucharistic Lord to earth on our altar so that we can receive Him and enjoy this unprecedented union with the Lord our God. Our priests are the leaders of our prayer during the Mass. It is affirming to them to know that we in the pews are engaged in the Mystery and Miracle of Jesus, our Living Bread come down from Heaven for us and still here after 2000 years or so.
- We need to SHOW RESPECT DURING THE LITURGY. Celebration of the Eucharist is the most important part of every priest’s life and the most important part of every Catholic’s life, recognized as such or not. When we as congregation members come in late, leave early, dress inappropriately, chew gum, etc. we insult the Lord and declare that for us, the Eucharist is not important.
- We need to BE INVOLVED IN OUR PARISH – Contributing to the parish is more than just giving money, it is also offering the gift of our time and talents. There are so many ministries available to and crying out for what we lay folk must give: our talents can be used or developed in any number of ways.
- We can also REMEMBER THEIR BIRTHDAYS (if they have shared these with us), AND THE ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR ORDINATION (ditto). Some parishes publish these in the parish calendar. Our taking the time and trouble to remember our priests with a card or a note on their special days can be very important to them.
- We can INVITE THEM TO OUR HOME – Our priests appreciate getting to know the people of their flock on a more personal basis than just after Mass. Special occasions: Baptisms, First Communions, Anniversaries, Weddings, Wedding rehearsals, Holidays, Special birthdays give us an easy way to offer our invitation, but these are not essential. We can also invite them for no reason other than that we would like to get to know our priest and have our priest share a meal or event with us and our family. We needn’t assume that our priests wouldn’t be interested or are too busy. Our priests since they give up having their own family might enjoy being a be a part of our family.
- We can SEND THEM A GIFT – Gift cards to restaurants, books stores, department stores, and Gas Cards make wonderful appreciation gifts for our priests.
- We can also INVITE THEM ON AN OUTING – It may be as simple as going out for a meal or to the ballgame or a show.
- We need to BE CAREFUL OF HOW WE SPEAK IN FRONT OF OUR CHILDREN – That is we need to be respectful when speaking of and speaking to our priests. An off-hand comment by you can be taken as something more by your children.
- As good sheep, we need to KEEP OUR SHEPHERDS INFORMED OF OUR NEEDS – We need to let them know when we are anticipating surgery or entering the hospital. Our priests will be happy to anoint us and pray for us during this time. When we are experiencing difficulties or tragedies in our family, tell the Shepherds and ask for help. We must not depend on someone else’s thinking to inform our priest; most of us assume that it’s the family’s place to tell the priest and will not interfere!
Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done for others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s Kingdom.
Scripture lessons: The first reading is a Messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It tells how the promised Messiah will save mankind by sacrificing himself as the atonement for our sins. Jesus has done this sacrificial service of love for us as the Suffering Servant by giving his life on the cross as an offering for sin, interceding for us and taking our punishment on himself. The second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that, as a God-man and mediator-High Priest, Jesus has offered a fitting sacrifice to God his Father by offering himself as ransom to liberate us from the slavery of sin. In the time of Jesus, ransom was the price paid to free someone from slavery. Sometimes the ransomed offered himself as a substitute for the slave, as Jesus did. The reading also speaks of a high priest who can sympathize with us in our weakness because he has been tested in every way, though sinless, and so we can “confidently” hope for God’s mercy. Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus has accomplished his mission of saving mankind from the slavery of sin by becoming the “Suffering Servant.” Here, Jesus challenges his followers to become great by serving others with sacrificial agape love: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant.” Jesus commands us to liberate others as he has freed all of us, by giving ourselves to them in loving and humble service.
Life Messages: 1) We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. As Christians, we are all invited to serve others – and to serve with a smile! We are challenged to drink the cup of Jesus by laying down our lives in humble, sacrificial service for others, just as Jesus did. The best place to begin the process of service by “self-giving,” is in our own homes and workplaces. When parents sacrifice their time, talents, health and blessings for the welfare of others in the family, they are serving God. Service always involves suffering, because we can’t help another without some sacrifice on our part. We are rendering great service to others also when we present them and their needs before God daily in our prayers.
2) We are invited to servant leadership: To become an effective Christian community, we need lay leaders with the courage of Christian convictions to work for social justice. We need spiritual leaders who can break open the word for us, lead us in our prayer, offer us on the altar, and draw us together as sacrament.
In the first reading, the Lord said, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel…. I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land”. In the second reading, Saint Paul said that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Only those who are in the spirit can please God. If the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is in you, he will give life to your mortal body.
In the gospel, Jesus said, “If one walk during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he does stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After then, he proceeded to Judea and raised Lazarus from the dead. By so doing Jesus fulfilled the promise of God, to give life to the dead. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
At baptism we received the spirit of God that gives life to our bodies. Baptism makes us a new creation and children of God. By virtue of our baptism, we are to live the life of the spirit of God that was given to us during baptism. But unfortunately, we do not allow that spirit given to us during baptism to be active and grow in our lives. We are dead in the spirit and are in the graves like Lazarus. We need Jesus to raise us up from our graves. However, we cannot be brought back to life unless we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and life. We must believe that Jesus is the Lord and savior of the world.
Many people give all kinds of excuses for not believing, participating or coming to Church. Some say they stopped coming to Church because someone spoke or did something in a way they did not like. Some others stopped believing or coming to Church because the message from the pulpit was against their opinion. For some people, is because they do not like the music or the liturgy is not lively but boring for them. Some other people, it is because when they were sick or in difficulties, no one came to visit and help them. Other people will use the rain fall today as a reason not to come to church. Other reasons include wrong use of TV, social media, party, travels and so on. We give worldly things much of our time and little or no time to God, our creator. All of these have contributed in killing the spirit of God in us. We have become like dead bodies in the graves.
You got angry because of these reasons and you stopped participating in church activities. But you are receiving worse treatments at your work place but you did not stop going to work because you are afraid of losing your job and pay. When you are sick or having some issues that will prevent you from going to work, you will call in and report. You did not wait for your boss to call you and find out what happened to you. No one comes to visit you or gives extra money to solve that problem, yet you did not quit the job. If things are not done your way in church, you will revolt and stop participating. At school, you were offended by both teachers and students but you never stopped going to school. Some of us were bullied in school but we stayed until we graduated. You could not afford to miss your classes, but we can miss mass or church activities. We will never be late for work or appointment with immigration or IRS, but we can be late coming to church. Our appointments with God we can ignore.
Who are we deceiving? Who is going to judge us? When shall we grow up and be matured in our faith? Why can’t we be sincere with ourselves? When we behave that way, it means we are dead in spirit and we need to allow Jesus to raise us up from our graves. Please note that the church is not a social club or political party where things must be done to please you alone. There is a limit in which we can make changes in the church, because it is the church of Christ and he gave rules for his church. What have you done for the church? For example, if you think the choir is not singing well, why not join them to help improve it. Stop sitting down like a spectator and running commentaries without doing something to improve our parish communities. Come to church and contribute your quarter to make it be a better place and stop complaining. Please let us appreciate and support those making great sacrifices in order to keep our parish going.
Wake up from your grave and be an active member of this parish. Put your talents and resources into the service of God and God will bless you the more. The Lord has promised to settle us in the promised-land, but we must be in the spirit before we can reach there. If you are inactive or dead, you cannot reach your destiny. You must cooperate with the grace of God in order to get to your final destination/heaven. Please wake up from you graves and receive the spirit of God that will transform you into an active member of his kingdom.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
GOD HAS THE POWER TO BRING BACK THE DEAD FROM THE GRAVE TO LIFE
In the first reading, we heard how the people of Israel quarreled and tested the Lord and questioned if he was in their midst or not. This was because they were thirsty in the desert after leaving Egypt on their way to the promise Land. They blamed Moses for bringing them out of Egypt and suffer thirst in the desert. However, the Lord ordered Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water came out for the people to drink. The Psalm said that if today you hear his voice harden not your hearts. This is a call to obey God’s laws and worship him for he is our rock and salvation. In the second reading Saint Paul said that we have been justified by faith and we have received love and peace from Christ through the Holy Spirit. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. That is the greatest form of love for Jesus to die for us.
In the gospel, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus asked her for water to drink but she did not give him because he was a Jew. The Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Jews will not use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans used. These two parties despised one another to the extent that they do not interact for whatever reasons. But Jesus came and broke this negative behavior and asked for water from a Samaritan woman. When she refused he said to her, if only knew who asked you for water, you would have asked him to give you living water. The living water, if you drink, you will never be thirsty again. The woman was wondering how Jesus was going to get water since he did not have any bucket to get water from the well that was very deep. She did not understand the kind of water Jesus was referring to. Then Jesus explained to her saying, ‘’everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again because it gives eternal life.’’ Now the woman became interested in the living water so that she will not have to come back to the well to get water again.
In the cause of this conversation, Jesus told the woman about her past sins and how she was married to several men in the past. Then the women started sensing that Jesus was a divine person. Jesus encouraged the woman to worship the true God in truth and in spirit. He revealed to her that he was the true expected messiah. Then the woman ran to the town and called people to come see the messiah. As the people came, they saw and heard Jesus speak and they believed him. As a result, they asked him to stay for some days with them and he did.
We see a connection between the first reading and the gospel in the theme of water. God gave the people water from a rock in the desert to quench their thirst. While in the gospel Jesus gave living water that quenched our thirst forever. Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. By giving living water, he has fulfilled God plan for his people so that they will not be thirsty again. This symbolizes the love of God for his people. He does not want us to perish. He provides us with our needs and protects us from danger. Just like Saint Augustine would say, ‘’our hearts are restless until we find rest in the Lord.’’ We shall constantly be thirsty of water in our lives until we drink the living water from Jesus. We shall never be satisfied with worldly things until we accept Christ as our savior. Only Christ can satisfy our thirst and hunger for true peace and love. We shall never find meaning in our lives until we accept Christ and allow him to rule over us. It is the living water that is capable of washing us clean and empowering us to do great things for God and humanity.
Our society is full of vanity and emptiness, unless we allow Christ into our lives before we can have true love and peace. Many people think is by the amount of money or material things they have that they can become happy in this life. That is very wrong. Nothing in this world can give us true joy and peace unless we drink from the living water of Jesus. We can drink from this living water through reading the scripture, worshipping God in truth and in spirit, accepting the sacraments, detaching ourselves from worldly possessions and pleasures, sharing our resources with the need around us, and repentance of our sins. This period of lent offers us the opportunity to seek and receive this living water from Jesus. It is only Christ who can quench the thirst for companionship, love, peace, and joy. Many people are lonely, empty, depressed, sick, isolated, hopeless, and discouraged in life. All we need is Jesus in our lives in order to be revived again. Do not go anywhere else looking for happiness, comfort and peace, but go to Jesus and he will give you living water. When you believe in Jesus and follow his teaching, you will surely be nourished and strengthen by him and you will have peace and joy in your life.
In this gospel story Jesus destroyed the walls of hatred and discrimination between the Jews and the Samaritans. He introduced to them love and peaceful living as children of one father. In this story Jesus showed respect for the women and how to treat them fairly. In spite of her past sins, he did not judge nor condemned the woman but healed her and offered her love and forgiveness. Jesus cleansed of her sins and corrected her misconception about God and his religion. True worship is in truth and in spirit but not in a particular place. Today, we are called to repent of our sins and receive living water from Jesus. We are called to break down the walls of hatred, discrimination, racism, and division that separate us but build bridges of unity and love in our society. We are called to live the life of humility, mercy, love, and unity. We are called to give each other living water to quench our thirst and hunger for love, peace, and unity in our society. We are called to serve God and our neighbor in truth and in spirit.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
JESUS, THE SOURCE OF LIVING WATER
In the first reading, Abraham was asked by God to leave his pagan country and go to an unknown land in order to receive God’s blessings. Abraham obeyed and he was richly blessed by the Lord. And through Abraham many people are being blessed. Saint Paul in the second reading encouraged Timothy to be strong in bearing hardships as he witness to the gospel of Christ. The Gospel today is the story of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus at the mountain before three of his disciples. Jesus became transformed and he was shining brightly like the sun. Moses and Elijah appeared and the voice of God was heard from the clouds. Moses represented the law, Elijah represented the prophets, and Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
Shortly before going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Jesus took three of his disciples up the mountain to pray and be with God the father. At this time the disciples were doubtful of Jesus because he had said to them that he was going to suffer and die in the hands of the leaders of the Jews. The disciples could not understand why Jesus would suffer and die since he was the messiah. Therefore, Jesus took them up the mountain to encounter God and his glory. While at the mountain, they saw a glimpse of his glory and it was very beautiful. As a result Peter wanted to make some tents for them to stay back at the mountain and continue to enjoy the beautiful experience. This experience strengthens the faith of the disciples in Jesus as the real messiah. They also learn that his suffering and death were necessary for the salvation of the world. The voice of God confirmed to them that Jesus is his beloved son in whom he is well pleased.
The transfiguration of Jesus at the mountain prepared Jesus and his disciples for his suffering and death of in Jerusalem. It became clear to the disciples how important the suffering and death of Jesus on cross were to the salvation of the world. Therefore, as Christians, we must not only have faith in Jesus but we must also work hard for our salvation. Carrying the cross is part of our experiences as Christians. We must go out of our comfort zones and away from evil like Abraham did in order to receive God’s blessings. We must embark on a spiritual journey with faith carrying our crosses and following the footsteps of Jesus to a destination known by God. It is only through the cross that we can gain salvation. We must allow God to guide and mold us according to his will before we can be qualify to enter his kingdom.
As we continue with our Lenten observances: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, let us be encouraged to persevere against temptations and hardships. We are encouraged today never to give up our struggles against the devil. If we are faithful in our Lenten observances, we shall obtain the graces we need to overcome evil and experience the glory of God.
The mountain symbolizes a place of encounter with the Lord. Lent is a moment in which we encounter the Lord in our lives. The disciples of Jesus encounter God on the mountain and their faith was strengthened. This encounter prepared them for the suffering and death of Jesus in Jerusalem. They were also challenged to do greater things for God. The encounter of the transfiguration of Jesus teaches us the importance of the cross, suffering, and sacrifice in our lives as Christians. Without suffering and sacrifice no success and victory can be achieved. There are no short cuts or easy ways to success and the kingdom of God. We must be ready to endure hardships and tribulations before we can receive the crowd of glory.
In order to experience transformation in our lives, we need to get out of our comfort zones and work hard for it. To experience positive change in our lives, we must climb the mountain of transfiguration. To prolong the experience of a beautiful encounter with the Lord, we must build befitting tents for the Lord in your lives. To encounter divine power in our lives, we must open up our hearts and invite God into our lives. To be transformed in our lives, we must listen to and obey God’s instructions. To experience God’s glory we must avoid the life of sin but begin to live the life of holiness. To enjoy the glory of God, we must be ready to carry our crosses and journey with Jesus to Calvary. This season of lent gives us the opportunity to be united with Jesus in his suffering and death so that we can share in his resurrection and glory. We are called to pray, fast, detach from worldly pleasures, and be kind to one another during the season of lent. We are called to embrace the cross because it is the key to our salvation. If we choose sweet, easy, and pleasant ways of life, we shall all perish, but if we choose the tough, hard, and unpleasant way of life as suggested by Jesus, we shall survive and inherit the kingdom of God.
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
In the first reading we heard how the devil tempted Eve, the first woman God created from the rib of Adam, her husband. Eve fell into the temptation and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and gave some to her husband. The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom as the devil had told her. As soon as they ate the fruit of this tree, their eyes became opened and they realized they were naked. This means that they felt the sense of guilt. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans 5:12-19 made reference to this sin of Adam and Eve. He said that through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death. Since all men and women are descendants of Adam, they have inherited sin and death as well.
In the gospel of today, Jesus was tempted after his forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. However, he did not fall for the temptations of the devil. Jesus was tempted in three different areas of life. Namely: the devil asked him to turn stones into bread and eat if he is the son of God. To this temptation, Jesus answered thus, “man shall not live by bread alone but by the word of God’’. This was a test on self-control regarding eating and drinking. It also included the temptation to misuse power to get food and being selfish with food.
The second temptation was for Jesus to throw down himself from the top of the temple and that the Lord would protect him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You should not tempt the Lord your God”. This test is about seeking attention, praise, and approval from humans instead of God; It includes taking unnecessary risks in life, laziness, looking for short cuts or easy ways in life, and over dependence on others and God to provide us our needs. The third temptation was for Jesus to fall at the feet of the devil and worship him and all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor would be given to him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You shall worship only the Lord your God alone”. This test is about idol/Mormon worship, materialism, seeking worldly power, fame and authority.
The period of lent encourages us to work hard and overcome temptations like Jesus did. Just like we have inherited sin and death from the first Adam, we have also the opportunity to inherit the grace to overcome sin and death from the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Learn from Jesus how to over the devil during temptation. Jesus defeated the devil by using prayer, scripture and fasting. By praying more during lent, we shall be able to over the temptation of worshiping idols or Mormon and cultivate the habit of humility and service to one another. By fasting during lent, we shall be able to control our addition to food and drink and avoid gluttony and drunkenness. By giving alms during lent, we shall be able to control the spirit of materialism, greed, selfishness, and the desire for worldly powers and glories.
Temptation is real and inevitable in our lives as Christians. But through faithful observance of the Lenten season, we shall be empowered to win the battle against the devil. If we pray, fast, read scripture, and give alms to the poor, we shall overcome temptations. Remember that temptations are not obstacles to our progress in life. But they are opportunities to grow and become stronger on our journey and struggles toward perfection. No student will be given a certification of graduation from any school without being tested to evaluated on a certain strength and ability of the student in a giving field. In the same light, for us to become successful and perfect Christians, we must be tested and we must prove to be worthy of our status as children of God. The devil is the chief examination officer for Christians. However, the devil can only tempt us but cannot force us to do what he wants. We have the will power to reject his wishes and overcome his temptations just like Jesus did. Jesus did not succumb to his temptations because of his prayer, fasting, and use of scripture to counter the devil. Let us emulate Jesus during temptations.
We are being challenged every day of our lives by the devil to do one evil or the other. We must be strong in faith and use our knowledge of scripture to defend ourselves against the devil. Each time we decided to stand for God but against the devil, we are choosing life and the kingdom of God. But any time we yield to the devil’s temptation, we are choosing death in the kingdom of the evil one. Just like Eve saw the forbidden tree pleasing and good to eat, that is how devil’s temptation is to us. The devil presents to us very good looking and attractive things to tempt us. Therefore, we must be careful with very good looking and attractive things around us. They could be temptations from the devil. Do not be carried away by your desire for very attractive things. This is because you could fall into the devil’s temptation. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by so many temptations of pleasure, power, fame, wealth and beauty. The devil tempts us in the areas of our weakness. Make sure you are on guard and protect yourself from yielding to his tricks in those areas. We must be like Jesus and put God first above everything. Then use our faith and the scripture to assess anything that is attractive to us.
The period of lent is designed to help us practice how to avoid falling into the temptations of the devil. Therefore, learn to use prayer, fasting, alms giving, and the scriptures to overcome temptation in your life.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
OVERCOMIMG THE TEMPTATION OF THE DEVIL