Greetings in Christ,
There are three parables together in one Gospel this Sunday, talking about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two sons. Getting lost is a human foible, while the one doing all the finding is the symbol of God’s way – the saving action of God. There is a famous maxim “to err is human, to forgive divine”. I have seen a simplified version of this on one of the bulletin boards at our Holy Family Catholic Academy, “to make a mess is human, to clean it up divine”.
Whether we are forgiving or forgiven, our lives must reflect a deep desire to be merciful and compassionate. We learn to imitate the image of a loving God, who keeps inviting us to return to Him. This is both a challenge and an invitation for us, to welcome back and be welcomed to the heart of God. This is the spirit of our parish of Holy Family, that welcomes everyone to the heart of God in the person of Jesus through Joseph and Mary. Jesus calls and welcomes us by his love. The Holy Spirit forms us together into a communion of God’s love. God then sends us into the world, to our families and work places, to bring the light of Christ by being His witnesses and the disciples of God’s love.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
OT XXIV [C] (Sept 15) Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; I Tm 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to believe in a loving, patient, merciful, forgiving God. The Good News Jesus preached was that God is not a cruel, judging and punishing God. He is our loving and forgiving Heavenly Father who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus. He is always in search of His lost and straying children, as Jesus explains in the three parables of today’s Gospel.
Scripture lessons summarized: In today’s first reading, taken from Exodus, Moses is imploring a forgiving God to have mercy on the sinful people who have abandoned Him and turned to idol-worship. He reminds God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Today’s Responsorial Psalm, Ps 51 is the song of the sinful man returning to God to seek His mercy. In today’s second reading, Paul tells Timothy that, although he, Paul, had been the greatest of sinners as the former persecutor of the Church, God has shown great mercy towards him. Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel has been called “the Gospel within the Gospel,” because it is the distilled essence of the Good News about the mercy of our forgiving Heavenly Father. The whole chapter is essentially one distinct parable, the “Parable of the Lost and Found,” with three illustrations: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the lost son. These parables remind us that we have a God who welcomes sinners and forgives their sins whenever they return to Him with genuine contrition and resolution. The Hebrew term for repentance, teshuvá, means a return to God by a person who has already experienced God’s “goodness and compassion” (Ps.51).
Prodigal son’s prodigal father: He was a rebel, a college drop-out, a carouser, and a partier. He smoked, he drank Johnnie-Walker, he was a brawler, and he had more run-ins with the law than you would care to count. By his own admission, he was the quintessential prodigal son. But now, following the most respected, admired, and perhaps famous American of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham not only has a tremendous, benevolent ministry called The Samaritan Purse, from which he meets needs all over the world, but is preaching the Gospel just as his dad did, to thousands and thousands of people. He is where he is today because he had a father who made sure the door was always open for his prodigal son.
1) We need to live every day as our merciful God’s forgiven children: Let us begin every day offering all our actions for God’s glory and praying for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit so that we may obey God’s holy will by doing good and avoiding evil and try to live in God’s presence everywhere. Before we go to bed at night, let us examine our conscience and confess to God our sins and failures of the day, asking His pardon and forgiveness. Let us resolve to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have fallen into serious sins. Let us continue to ask for God’s forgiveness before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Thus, let us live a peaceful life as forgiven prodigal children, getting daily reconciled with God our merciful and forgiving Father.
2) Let us ask God for the courage and good will to extend His forgiveness to others: Let us realize the truth that our brothers and sisters deserve and expect from us the same compassion, kindness, and forgiveness which we receive from our merciful God. As forgiven prodigals, we must become forgiving people, for Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray also for God’s Divine mercy on all of us who have fallen away from God’s grace. Let us open our eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is welcoming us back home!
OT XXIII [C] (9/8/2019) Wis 9:13-18b; Phlm 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25–33
Central theme: Today’s readings challenge us to the true Christian discipleship of total commitment to the will of God, putting God first in our lives.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, instructs us to ask for the gifts of discernment and strength from the Holy Spirit so that we may do the will of God as His true disciples. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), instructs true disciples to lead holy lives by remaining constantly aware of the brevity and uncertainty of life.
The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, teaches us that detachment and renunciation are necessary for a true disciple of Christ. As a responsible Apostle and zealous disciple of Christ, Paul had to renounce the service of his new helper, Onesimus, and return him to his master. As a new disciple of Christ, Onesimus had to leave Paul, face his owner as a runaway slave and accept the consequences.
Today’s Gospel reminds us to count the cost of being a disciple and follower of Christ because the cost is high: true Christian discipleship requires one to “renounce” both earthly possessions and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships). In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out four conditions for true Christian discipleship. i) Renounce too much attachment to family, giving priority to God and His commandments. ii) Break off the excessive attachment to possessions by leading a detached life, willingly sharing one’s blessings with others. iii) Accept the hard consequences of discipleship which include daily sacrificial service done for others and even the giving one’s life for them. iv) Calculate the cost involved in following Jesus. Using the two parables of the tower-builder and the king defending his country, Jesus says: think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made.
Life messages: We need to accept the challenge of Christian discipleship with heroic commitment and practice it. We do so:
1) by daily recharging our spiritual batteries through prayer, i.e., by talking to God, and by listening to Him through the meditative reading and study of the Bible;
2) by sharing in God’s life through frequent and active participation in the Eucharistic celebration;
3) by practicing the spirit of detachment and the renunciation of evil habits;
4) by giving our time, talents and resources generously, for the Lord’s work in the Church universal, and especially in our parish community, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
5) by loving all God’s children, especially the less fortunate ones, through humble and selfless acts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and service;
6) by showing true commitment to the obligations and duties entrusted to us by our vocation in life and our profession, like fidelity in marriage and firm adherence to justice in our living and profession.
Greetings in Christ,
The 8th of September is usually celebrated as the birthday of Our Blessed Mother. We did that yesterday, Saturday, in advance, at the 5:30 p.m. Mass. Bishop Greg Kelly was the main celebrant, honoring Our Lady of Good Heath. This was coordinated as a parish-wide celebration by the Tamil Catholics of Holy Family. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the first, and called mother of all disciples, because she lived in the most excellent way God’s call for discipleship in the Gospel.
Jesus in this Sunday’s message reveals God’s strongest demands of His followers. The word “hate,” as used here by Jesus, does not carry our deep, modern psychological connotations. It means to prefer family commitments less; they must be subordinate to the claims Jesus has upon His disciples. Do not choose discipleship casually or lightly. The real challenge here is to realize that following Jesus requires that we steadfastly embrace His cross as well as His words. Renouncing all of one’s possessions means to give up self-centered reliance on what one has or what one controls, and to surrender to the control of God over us. The Blessed Mother has fully lived this by her “Yes” to the will of God.
Our catechetical classes begin this week, teaching our children to live God’s words, following the example of Mary.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
1st of September 2019
Greetings in Christ,
Jesus teaches authentic lessons for humility, in contrast to the society of his time’s rules of honor and shame. Jesus is at a Pharisee’s home for a banquet. Many attending are looking for seats of honor at the table. Jesus takes this opportunity teach true lessons in humility. He tells his fellow guests to choose the lowest seat to avoid being embarrassed if the host may have reserved the seat for a more respectable guest to occupy as a place of honor during the banquet. He then tells the host to give preferential treatment, when entertaining, to the poor and marginalized. Invite those who are unable to repay your hospitality because the repayment will be given at the resurrection of the righteous. This is a true act of charity.
The message of the Gospel today is a wonderful lesson for us; we should conduct our duties and obligations in the spirit of charity and love. Monday is Labor Day. We harvest the fruits of the hard work of this nation’s great founding fathers, especially those who gave their lives for the good of our present generation. On that day we pause for a while to contemplate with gratitude their sacrifice, thanking God and them. We reflect then on the beneficiaries of the fruits of our labors; what we leave behind will be enjoyed by the generations to come. Our good works will remain in the hearts and minds of younger generations, who live with faith in God and with grateful hearts.
The Blessed Mother is our perfect example of this, as we benefit from the fruits of her grace, and her “Yes” to doing God’s will. Bishop Greg Kelly will celebrate the feast of the Blessed Mother with us at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 7. Welcome everyone!
Fr. Albert B. Becher
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads to a generous and blessed sharing with the needy. The readings also warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of opening our hearts, our minds and our hands to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized people in our society – a personal responsibility for every authentic Christian. Today’s Gospel warns us against all forms of pride and self-glorification.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble, we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The second reading, taken from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God humbled Himself, taking on human flesh and living our lives that he might die to save us. He invites his followers to learn how to live from him because he is “meek and humble of heart. Paul reminds us that Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb 2:5-18), so we should be like him in order to be exalted with him at the resurrection of the righteous. Paul also seems to imply that we need to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationships with the less fortunate members of our society. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the practical benefits of humility, connecting it with the common wisdom about dining etiquette. Jesus advises the guests to go to the lowest place instead of seeking places of honor, so that the host may give them the place they really deserve. Jesus’ words concerning the seating of guests at a wedding banquet should prompt us to honor those whom others ignore, because if we are generous and just in our dealings with those in need, we can be confident of the Lord’s blessings.
Life Message: We need to practice humility in personal and social life:
Humility is based on the psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God and, therefore, I have no reason to elevate myself above others. On the contrary, I must use these God-given gifts to help others. True humility requires us neither to overestimate nor to underestimate our worth. We must admit the truths that we are sinners, that we do not know everything and that we do not always act properly.
Nevertheless, we must also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and that we are called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. We are of value, not because of those gifts, but because we are loved by God as His children, redeemed by the precious blood of His son Jesus.
The quality of humility that Jesus is talking about also has a sociological dimension because Jesus is inviting us to associate with the so-called “lower classes” of the society — even the outcasts. Jesus invites us to change our social patterns in such a way that we connect with and serve the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, and the impoverished — the “street people” of the world — with agápe love. (L/19)
OT XXI [C] (Aug 25) Is 66:18-21, Heb 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk 13:22-30
Introduction: As he continues his fateful journey to Jerusalem, Jesus answers the question as to how many will be saved by answering how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door. Instead of asking how many will be saved, Jesus wants us to ask the question, “Am I prepared to be saved, choosing the narrow gate of sacrificial love?”
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, Isaiah’s prophecy speaks to the future Babylonian exiles returning to Jerusalem after 47 years in captivity, telling them that salvation is not a Jewish monopoly and that is why Yahweh will welcome the pagans also into Judaism. The prophet’s great book ends as it began, with a vision of all the peoples of the world streaming toward Jerusalem, acknowledging and praising the God of Israel. In the second reading, exploring with his readers the consequences of Christian commitment, St. Paul explains that “the narrow gate” of Jesus means our accepting pain and suffering as the loving discipline God is giving His children. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 117) refrain, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News,” reflects the mission of God’s chosen people to be instruments of salvation to the whole world. In today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly explains that anyone who follows him through the narrow gate of sacrificial service and sharing love will be saved. Jesus also admonishes his followers to concentrate on their own salvation by self-discipline rather than to worry about the salvation of others.
Three surprises in Heaven: Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen tells us that we will have three surprises in Heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. St. John of the Cross gives the reason why they are not there: “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on how we have loved.” The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. That is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven! Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us, simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace. In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers the question, who will be saved, when and how.
The Non-Catholic doctrine on salvation: Once saved, you are always saved, in spite of your future sins and even apostasy. We are saved by the shed blood of Jesus when as teenager or adult we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, confess our sins and say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for sins.
Catholic teaching on salvation: Salvation is a past, present and future event. We were saved when we were baptized as children or adults. We are being saved at present, when we cooperate with God’s grace by loving others as Jesus did — by sharing our blessings with the needy and by getting reconciled with God daily, asking His forgiveness for our sins. We will be eternally saved when we hear the loving invitation from Jesus, the Judge, at the moment of our death and on the day of the Last Judgment, saying: “Good and faithful servant, you were faithful in little things, enter into the joy of your Master.”
Life messages: We need to cooperate with God’s grace daily given to us:
- By choosing the narrow way and the narrow gate of self-control and self-disciplining of our evil tendencies, evil habits, and addictions;
- By loving others, seeing the face of Jesus in them, and sharing our blessings with them sacrificially
- By obtaining the daily Divine strength to practice self-control and sharing love through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in daily prayer, in Bible reading, and in reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
Greetings in Christ,
The urgency and seriousness of this week’s Gospel message are just as imperative today. This means that there should be no postponement or waste of time in applying God’s word to our lives. Every word that comes from the mouth of Jesus is powerful in all seasons, and should never be put aside, even temporarily, for any reason. God’s word demands to be practiced right here and now. The narrow gate does not necessarily mean strict or limited access; it refers to the concentrated effort needed toward a zealous and disciplined approach to the door, leading us to be saved. Some might believe that desire would be enough – it is important but not enough. Desire is required, but must be focused by putting God’s word into action.
Those who heard God’s word but missed their opportunity to put it into practice found themselves outside the entrance gate. Their claims of familiarity and past encounters with Jesus counted for nothing. “Last will be first, and first will be last” refers to Jews to whom God’s kingdom had been promised, but they rejected both God’s message and His messenger. They were supposed to be first but ended up last. While the gentiles who accepted God’s message and messenger came late, they were first to enjoy God’s kingdom.
We must make use of every moment given to us to live God’s word, and to promote God’s love-in-action here and now.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
OT XX [C] (Aug 18) Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12: 49-53
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is that we should courageously live out our religious convictions and principles in our lives, as Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus did, even if doing so should result in our martyrdom and turn society upside down. If no one is ever offended by the quality of our commitment to Christ, then perhaps we are practicing “inoffensive Christianity.”
Scripture lessons summarized: Jeremiah, in our first reading, is presented as experiencing the consequences of the burning word of God within him. Jeremiah’s preaching divided the city and incited such opposition that people sought his death. He showed the courage of his prophetic conviction by telling the king that he had to surrender to the mighty army of Babylonian empire to save Israel. The result was that Jeremiah was thrown into a deep, muddy cistern to die for his “treason.” Standing in this prophetic tradition, Paul, in the second reading, challenges the Judeo-Christians to stand firm in their Faith in Jesus, ignoring the ostracism imposed on them by their own former Jewish community. In today’s Gospel, Jesus, too, preaches the word of God which continues to divide families, a word which, he knew, would lead ultimately to his death. The fire Jesus brings is the fire of love and the fire of hope. The disruption, division, and revolution, which Jesus and his true followers cause in society by the fire of sacrificial love and the fire of justice, are necessary to re-set what’s fractured, put right what’s dislocated and cleanse what’s infected. In other words, the curative pain caused by Jesus’ ideas and ideals is necessary for the establishment of real shalom of God. Even though Jesus brings a sword and causes division, he is the bringer of true and lasting peace. In pursuing his mission, Jesus brings division because some follow him, and others oppose him. We must decide to follow him or not, to share his “baptism” or not. This choice can result in division, even within families.
Courage to confront: In the 1920s, an English adventurer named Mallory led an expedition to conquer Mount Everest. His first, second and even his third attempt with an experienced team met with failure. Upon his return to England, the few who had survived held a banquet to salute Mallory and those who had perished. As he stood up to speak, he looked around he saw picture frames of himself and those who had died. Then he turned his back on the crowd and faced a large picture of Mount Everest looming large like an unbeatable giant. With tears streaming down his face, he spoke to the mountain on behalf of his dead friends. “I speak to you Mt. Everest, in the name of all brave men living, and those yet unborn. Mt. Everest, you defeated us once, you defeated us twice; you defeated us three times. But Mt. Everest, we shall someday defeat you, because you can’t get any bigger, but we can.” Today’s Scripture challenges us to confront the world with prophetic courage of our Christian convictions (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies).
#1: Let us learn to appreciate the contemporary prophets in the Church: The Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing about the role of prophecy in the modern Church communities in his book Models of the Church, remarks: “Christianity is not healthy unless there is room in it for prophetic protest against abuses of authority.” God continues to send such prophets to every parish community, and it is the duty of the bishop, pastor, and parish council to listen to the well-intended and constructive criticisms of such Jeremiahs.
# 2: We should have fire in our hearts: On the day of our Baptism, we received the light of Christ and were instructed to keep that torch burning brightly until the return of Christ Jesus. In addition, the Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts at Confirmation to help set us on fire. “He who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” So, as Christians on fire, we have to inflame people to care, to serve, and to bless one another with all the gifts of Faith. We should allow that fire to burn off the impurities in us and to bring out the purity of the gold and silver within us.
Greetings in Christ,
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the disciples “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” The baptism of fire that Jesus anticipates is the immersion into his passion, death and resurrection. His passing from death to life will set the fire blazing that purifies and separates, and that destroys and rebuilds new life in God.
God renews our life of faith and unity as a community. It is time for us to do something for Holy Family Parish after so many years of worshiping in our current surroundings. Around us we see the need for repairs and renewal. This Sunday we are starting a parish Capital Campaign which reflects God’s love and renewing spirit, “One Faith, One Family, One Parish.” This is our opportunity for communion in action, our chance “to set the earth on fire”! I invite each of you to prayerfully consider making a sacrificial offering to God, one that is meaningful for you and your family. The renewal of our worship space will enhance our faith – an adorned altar wall, better lighting and sound systems, new church pews and sacred art – setting ablaze our renewed love, our faith in God, and our unity as a community of believers, one Holy Family.
Fr. Albert B. Becher