Monthly Archives: May 2019
Greetings in Christ,
It is now the feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Everything that has happened to Jesus has been designed and guided by divine power. Nothing happens by chance. This is called divine necessity. Part of this, Jesus reminds his disciples to continue proclaiming his teachings to all nations. This means universality. It must begin from Jerusalem as symbol of the old world, and to Rome representing the new world at that time. From Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit will empower the disciples like a cloth from on high to move to all nations, sealed for fruitful missionary activities. This commissioning is shared to all of us now by witnessing the risen Christ in our daily life.
The Ascension of Jesus is described very briefly by Jesus blessing his disciples and is taken up into heaven. There is no sense of closure here. Moreover, the disciples are commissioned and empowered for more exiting ventures by putting the teachings and commandments of Jesus into practice. These apply to all of us baptized in Christ Jesus our risen Lord.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
Ascension of the Lord (June 2, 2019) : Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
Introduction: Today’s readings describe the Ascension of the Lord Jesus his Heavenly glory after promising to send the Apostles the Holy Spirit as the source of Heavenly power and commanding them to bear witness to Him through their lives and preaching throughout the world. But the ascended Jesus is still with us because of His promise, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” He is always with us and in all places, releasing a new energy upon the earth, the energy of the Holy Spirit.
The Unfinished Painting: Leonardo da Vinci had started to work on a large canvas in his studio. For a while he worked at it – choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying the colors, with his own inimitable genius. Then suddenly he stopped working on it. Summoning one of his talented students, the master invited him to complete the work. The horrified student protested that he was both unworthy and unable to complete the great painting which his master had begun. But da Vinci silenced him. “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?” Jesus our Master began to spread the Good News two thousand years ago by what he said and did, and supremely by what he suffered. Jesus illustrated his message and left us to finish the picture. Will Jesus’ life not inspire us to finish the picture? This is the message of the Ascension
The Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes the scene of Jesus’ Ascension, the promise of the Holy Spirit, instructions to the apostles to wait at Jerusalem for the power from above, and the missionary command to the apostles to bear witness to him. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 47), suggests that by his Ascension, the risen Lord “mounts his throne” in glory. In the second reading, Paul teaches us that God revealed His might in the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and in exalting Him over all angelic forces. Jesus remains accessible to us now in the life-giving Holy Spirit, assuring us that one day we, too, will be ascending to Heavenly glory, provided that, with His grace, we live out our Faith in Him through the mission of loving service He entrusts to us. Today’s Gospel tells us that, with his return to the Father, Jesus completes his mission on earth. But just before his Ascension, Jesus entrusted to the disciples the mission of preaching the Good News and evangelizing the whole world by bearing witness to him through their lives. It is in his Ascension that we see Jesus entering fully into the life and glory of God. In the descriptions of Christ after his Resurrection, we are given a hint of what life will be like in Heaven. The prospect of sharing that glory should be the driving force of our lives.
Life messages: 1) We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. We preach with words, but we proclaim with our lives. Let us ask the guidance of the Spirit of God to bear witness to Jesus by our transparent Christian lives. 2) We have a teaching mission: Jesus taught us lessons of Faith, Hope, Love, forgiveness, mercy and salvation by his life and preaching and gave us the same mission to teach others. Hence, let us learn about Jesus and his teachings through our daily study of the Bible and the teachings of the Church, experience Jesus in personal prayer, our reception of the Sacraments and our works of charity, and convey to others Jesus whom we experience with the help of the Holy Spirit. 3) We need Jesus as our source of strength and encouragement in doing His will: We will be able to overcome doubts about our Faith and baseless fears, anxiety and worries by meditating on Jesus’ Ascension and the lesson it teaches that we, too, are called to share his glory in Heaven.
19th of May 2019
Greetings in Christ,
In this fifth week of Easter, the good news of the risen Christ continues inspiring our hearts with joy. Our Lord is risen; he is victorious in all ways! Our broken union with God has been restored by Jesus. God’s mercy and forgiveness abound among us, from Jesus, through His Divine Mercy. Conquering all troubles, sin, death and conflicts, the glory and power of God triumph.
Jesus gives a new commandment that is to love one another as he loves us. This is for all disciples and us, because the love of God conquers all. This love is an act of the will – a decision to put oneself at the service of the other, like Jesus did in washing the feet of his disciples. This kind of service is carried to its ultimate degree when Jesus is crucified out of love for us. When we serve each other, this love brings us to ultimate equality – and everyone can see that we are disciples of Jesus.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
Easter V (May 19):
Acts 14:21-27; Rv. 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-35
Introduction: Today’s readings are about renewal and new things: The New Jerusalem, a new Heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment. Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes how the small Christian communities helped the work of renewal in their members by their agápe love, imitating the agápe love of Paul and Barnabas. The second reading, from the Book of Revelation, explains how God renews His Church, the New Jerusalem, by being present in her members and in their parish communities and liturgical celebrations. “See, I am making all things new.” Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practice of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by teaching us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us, with sacrificial, unconditional, agápe love. Hence, the renewal of Christian life means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values and new standards of relating to God, to other people and, indeed, to our whole environment.
“Little children love one another:” St. Jerome relates of the apostle John that when he became old, he used to be carried to the assembled Churches, everywhere repeating the words, “Little children, love one another.” His disciples, wearied by the constant repetition, asked him why he always said this. “Because,” he replied, “it is the Lord’s commandment, and if it only be fulfilled, it is enough.” John knew that the greatest truth was most apt to be forgotten because it was taken for granted. This is one of the greatest calamities in the Christian Church and the one that causes divisions.
Life messages: 1) Let us learn to love ourselves so that we may learn to love each other. The old commandment (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18) says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We cannot learn to cherish others and care for them if we have never learned to do the same for ourselves. We live in a world that denies our basic human worth. How do we reclaim our basic worth? We can become whole and holy only when we learn to love ourselves properly, acknowledging the fact that we are children of God and that the Triune God resides in our souls, making our bodies the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”
2) Let us love others in our daily lives: We are asked to love as Jesus loved, in the ordinary course of our lives. We love others by responding to their everyday needs with love and compassion. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss. We love others by serving others in every possible way no matter how small, seeing the face of Jesus in them. We love others by forgiving rather than condemning, by challenging rather than condoning. Finally, we love others by sacrificially sharing our time, talents and blessings with them.
3) Let us demonstrate our love for others in our gatherings and parish assemblies: When we are assembled as a religious or social community, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our love for one another. People must see Christians as people who interact with a love and concern for one another that reveals their strong love and appreciation for each other. They should see in us a quickness to appreciate and readiness to forgive, even as Christ has forgiven us.
MOTHER’S DAY REFLECTIONS – MAY 12, 2019
Introduction: Today we thank our mothers, pray for them and honor them by celebrating Mother’s Day and by offering our mothers on the altar of God.
The origin of “Mother’s Day.” Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), first suggested the national observance of an annual day honoring all mothers because she had loved her own mother so dearly. At a memorial service for her mother on May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis gave a carnation (her mother’s favorite flower), to each person who attended. Within the next few years, the idea of a day to honor mothers gained popularity, and Mother’s Day was observed in several large cities in the U.S. On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established the day as a time for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” By then it had become customary to wear white carnations to honor departed mothers and red to honor the living, a custom that continues to this day. Proverbs 31:10-31 presents us with God’s description and estimation of what a godly wife and mother looks like.
Mothers and motherly women in the Bible: Certainly, the Bible recognizes women in positions of power – women who have contributed to making the world a better place. There was Miriam who led the people in praising God after the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 15:21); Ruth who put God first and became the ancestress of King David (Ruth 1:16; 4:17); Deborah, a judge in Israel (Judges 5); Hannah who “gave to the Lord” the child of her prayers (1 Sam 1:28); Esther who took her life in her hands to plead for her doomed people (Esther C:14-30); the pagan widow whose obedience sustained the prophet Elijah (1Kings 17:9-16); a little captive Jewish maid who told Naaman’s wife of the man of God who could cure Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:2-4). The most important mother in the New Testament is Jesus’ Mother, Mary, whom Jesus, on the cross, gave to be Mother to John, his beloved friend, and in him to all of us for whom he was dying. Jesus praised the poor widow for her gift of two mites to the Temple (Mk 12:43
Ideal wife and mother in Proverbs: Prov 31:10-31 presents us with God’s description and estimation of what a godly wife and mother looks like. 1. She is a devoted wife (vv 11, 12, 23). She is one who has the confidence of her husband; she seeks his welfare and enhances his reputation. 2. She is a diligent partner (vv 13-17, 18b, 19, 22, 24). As a woman with God’s viewpoint, she is a willing worker, a wise shopper and a planner who is able to minister to her family because she keeps herself fit, spiritually and physically (cf. vv 18a, 25). 3. She is a dutiful servant to the needy and the poor (v 20). She has a vision for ministry not only to her family but also to her society. 4. She is a dependable mother (vv 15, 21, 27). She is devoted to the needs of her family. She is well-groomed, attractive, organized and disciplined; as such, she is a testimony to her children. 5. She is a doctrinally-oriented woman (v 26). She is a woman full of God’s wisdom. St. Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph 6:25). Husbands have the solemn duty to sacrifice themselves continually in their total love for their wives and their children. Each day provides numerous opportunities for husbands to live out their family life with many acts of patience, kindness and service. The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
The role of mothers in our lives: This is a day to admit gratefully the fact that none of us can return, in the same measure, all the love that our mothers have given us. Their influence on their children is so great that it affects the children throughout their lives. Our mothers not only gave us birth but nursed us, nurtured us, trained us in their religious beliefs and practices, taught us good manners and ideal behavior, disciplined us as best as they could and made us good citizens of our country, our Church and our society. There is a beautiful Spanish proverb: “An ounce of mother is better than a pound of clergy.” Hence, it is highly proper for us to express our love and gratitude to our mothers by our presence, gifts and prayers on Mother’s Day. We offer this Eucharistic celebration on Mother’s Day for all the mothers in our congregation, whether they are alive here or have gone for their eternal reward. The word “mom” is synonymous with sacrificial, agápe love in its purest form, as commanded by Jesus in his farewell speech: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Hence, let us lavish our love on our mothers and express our gratitude for them in the form of fervent prayers offered for them before God.
12th of May 2019
Greetings in Christ,
During this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we are reminded to honor our mothers. Happy Mother’s Day! We pray for all the intentions of our mothers – both the living, and those who are now rejoicing with our Risen Lord. We also thank God for giving us Mary as our spiritual Mother, interceding graces for us to do God’s will.
Today, Jesus is proclaimed as a Good Shepherd. With the love God has for us, Jesus leads us to abundance and fullness of life. Jesus builds relationships founded on God’s love. He leads us, his pilgrim people, to a perfect home as our destiny. This mission is accomplished by his rising from the dead. Jesus has brought us back in union with the Father’s love.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
Easter IV Sunday (May 12/19) Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rv 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
Introduction: The fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The Scripture lessons for this day concern the role of the shepherds of God’s flock in the Church. Each year on this Sunday, we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock. The title “pastor” means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to every Church leader. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream of the Good Shepherd who also wished to include the Gentiles as part of God’s flock.
Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him, and how, like their Master, they were rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the good news of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism. The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John’s vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him will share everlasting life with him. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of his Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors and lay people alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care.
“LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” On a recent highway trip, one bumper sticker grabbed my eye and caused me to consider its frank command: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today, Good Shepherd Sunday, proffer the same challenge to believers. Christianity admits of no mediocrity; the decision of Faith which discipleship demands requires a daily deliberateness and a constantly renewed certainty. Either Jesus and his way of life are accepted and followed, or they are rejected. There is no middle path; to live otherwise is to become an obstacle in the way of others. As Christians, each of us is called to be both a leader and a follower. Ultimately, as John points out in the Gospel, our leader is Jesus, the loving shepherd who calls us away from sin and self to union with him and one another. (Sanchez Files)
Life Messages: Let us become good shepherds and good sheep, good leaders and good followers.
(1) Let us become good shepherds: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, etc. are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.
(2) Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to
a) hear and follow the voice of their shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice;
b)receive the spiritual food their pastors provide by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments and by attending prayer services, renewal programs and missions;
c) cooperate with their pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly offering them constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties and by praying for them; and
d) cooperate in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations.
(3) Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more good shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community.
EASTER III [C] (Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Rv 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19)
Introduction: Today’s Gospel narrative shows us the rehabilitation of Peter, who denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of Caiaphas, repented, and then received Primacy in the Church from Jesus. The Gospel also shows us God in search of man, even when man tries to evade Him.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit transformed Peter, whom Jesus had appointed head of his Church, from a man fearful of powerful men into a brave witness to the Resurrection. Peter stands before the Jewish Supreme Court – the Sanhedrin — boldly announcing that he and the others must obey God rather than men. The second reading, taken from Revelation (the Apocalypse), presents John’s vision of the Risen Lord as the glorified “Lamb of God,” enthroned in Heaven. The whole of Revelation is an expression of Christian hope in the Risen Lord. Today’s Gospel tells the post-Resurrection story of our merciful Savior Who goes in search of His band of disappointed and dejected disciples. The incident proves that Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances were not mere hallucinations. In the first part of today’s Gospel, the risen Jesus appears to His disciples and gives them a symbol of their mission in a miraculous catch of fish followed by a grilled fish breakfast prepared by Jesus himself. The second part is a dialogue between Jesus and Simon where Simon is asked three times whether he loves Jesus, and he answers that he does, as if in reparation for his triple denial of Jesus. The two metaphors used in the story, namely fishing and shepherding, are the duties of the Church in her missionary work. Peter, as a forgiven sinner, is chosen for the quality of his love to serve as leader in a community of brothers and sisters. As his primary mission, Peter is given the care of the vulnerable lambs and sheep, and he is told that fidelity to this mission will lead him to martyrdom.
Interview for telegraph operator: Fr. Mark Link S.J. once told an incident that happened during the great depression (AD 1929-1939). Jobs were scarce, and when an opening was announced, dozens of applicants applied. On this occasion, they crowded into a waiting room, eager to be interviewed for the position of telegraph operator. But the noise of their conversation competed against a steady background of dots and dashes. Suddenly, the door opened and yet another applicant entered the room. After standing there quietly for a moment listening attentively to the dots and dashes, he walked to a door marked “Private” and knocked. The personnel director opened the door and announced to the others, “You may all go now; this applicant has the job.” Furious and frustrated, the others demanded an explanation. At that, the director said, “Listen!” When the room became quiet, all heard the dots and dashes, repeating over and over the same message, “If you hear this, come in; the job is yours.” This story reminds us that God is constantly speaking to us, but, like the crowd of applicants, we are not always listening. Today’s Gospel describes how the Risen Lord reveals himself to his listening and observant apostles through a miraculous catch of fish and then confers on Peter Primacy in the Church.
Life messages: We need to open our eyes, ears and hearts wide to see, hear, and experience the Risen Lord coming into our lives in various forms, circumstances and events:
1) The Risen Lord blesses us with success and achievements. We often fail to acknowledge the presence of the Risen Lord behind our unexpected successes, great achievements, promotions at work, miraculous healings, and success in relationships. He is right there in our parties, celebrations and occasions of rejoicing.
2) The Risen Lord is present in our pains and suffering: Acts 9:1-13 tells us how the Risen Lord transformed the life of Saul by pushing him down onto the Damascus road and making him temporarily blind. The same Jesus often visits us in the form of accidents, illnesses, the loss of dear ones, pain and suffering, and problems in relationships.
3) The Risen Lord visits us through our friends and well-wishers: He is present in those who visit us and encourage us in our sad and desperate moments. The Risen Lord visits us in the form of unexpected help from the least expected persons in our dire needs.
4) The Risen Lord is present in our Christian worship: He is present on our altars during the Holy Mass to share His life with us; He is present in the words of Holy Scripture; He is there in the Sacraments and He is there where two or three are gathered in his name (Matthew 18: 20).
5th of May 2019
Greetings in Christ,
We continue living the spirit and the message of the risen Christ. Like the apostles did after the resurrection of Jesus, who went back to their usual daily livelihood, we do too. After the Easter celebrations we keep the good news in our hearts about our risen Lord. He gives us hope, and is now our consolation in life’s trials.
Let us remember that the risen Christ appeared to his disciples many times in many ways to strengthen their faith. Jesus does the same thing for us too. The good news of the risen Christ is inspiring for us to keep in our hearts, while living in these troubled times. Jesus gave a new opportunity to Peter to affirm his love, after having denied the Lord three times. Peter is given the chance to follow Jesus as a deeply dedicated apostle. Jesus gives us this same gift, calling us to be more faithful witnesses to him than ever, as disciples in these modern times.
Fr. Albert B. Becher