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Second Sunday of Advent by Father Peter Chinnappan

ADVENT II [C] (Dec 9): Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6  (L/18)

Central theme: The Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to prepare a royal highway in our hearts for Jesus so that we may receive Him as our saving God during Christmas. We should also be prepared for Christ’s daily coming into our lives in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in the praying community. Finally, we are asked to be ready to meet Jesus as our Judge on His Second Coming, at the end of our lives and at the end of the world.

 

In the first reading, the prophet Baruch introduces Yahweh, the God of Israel, preparing the way for, and leading the Babylonian exiles to, Jerusalem. Hence, the prophet invites the weeping Jerusalem to rejoice and go to high places to watch the return of the exiles. Baruch’s prophecy announces the return of the whole human race to God. During this Advent season, we, too, are asked to return to the Lord from our slavery to sin. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 126) offers us a close-up of the exiles who had wept bitterly on leaving Jerusalem now returning home, rejoicing. In the second reading, Paul advises the Philippian community members to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming by practicing Christian love and by leading pure and blameless lives. John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, challenges the Jews to prepare their lives for receiving their long-awaited Messiah. They must prepare a highway in their hearts for their Messiah by leveling the mountains of pride and valleys of impurity and injustice and omissions and by straightening their crooked ways. They are to get ready by repenting of their sins, renewing their lives, and expressing their repentance by receiving the baptism of repentance in River Jordan.

 

Make ready the way of the Lord.” A blizzard hit the Kansas prairie. Two feet of snow drifted to five and six feet in places. The telephone rang in the doctor’s home. The time had come for John Lang’s wife to have her baby. But it was impossible for the doctor to get through those drifts. John Lang called his neighbors: Can you help the doc to get through? In no time, from all directions, came men and boys with plows and shovels. They labored with all their might almost for two hours until finally the old doc was able to make it, just in time to deliver the Lang boy. Today, to all of us comes a call from another Father, God the Father through His prophet Isaiah and repeated by Jesus’ own cousin John the Baptist: “Make ready the way of the Lord.” But we are called, not to remove piles of snow, but piles of sin, neglect, thoughtlessness, the things that make it difficult and often impossible for the divine child to be reborn to our hearts and lives

Life messages: #1: We need to prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus our Savior to be reborn in us during this Christmas time. We must fill in the “valleys” of our souls, formed from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our Faith.  We must straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship.  If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution.  If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris.  As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude.  And we all must level the “mountains” of our pride and ego-centrism by practicing the true humility of rendering humble service to others.

#2: We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and our fellow human beings: John’s message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We need to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God’s forgiveness.  Next, we need to forgive others who have offended us and ask forgiveness for our offenses.  Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14-15. He says, “For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

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Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception of BVM L/18 (Gn. 3:9-15, 20; Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38)

Mary’s prophecy, given in her Magnificat,Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four Dogmas of Faith about her: 1-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a Dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus. Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Evidences: (A) From Church tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration, and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a Feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved it in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (B) From Holy Scripture: 1) God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother (Jer. 1:5  –“Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”), and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth as John’s mother attests.  (Lk 1: 43-44 – “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For now, the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”) Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sins from the first moment of her origin. 2) The angel saluted Mary as full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. 3) Gen. 3:15: — “I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed shall crush your head.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin. (C) Argument from reason: 1-If we could select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So, did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life. “Deus potuit, decuit, fecit.” (Don Scotus).

Life messages: Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children. Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith and obedience. Let us respond to God’s grace by using it to do good to others.

The favorite name of explorers: In 1492, Columbus discovered America. He sailed in a ship called Santa Maria de Conceptio (St. Mary of the Conception). He named the first Island he landed San Salvador, in honor of our Savior. Columbus named the second island Conceptio in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The fearless French explorer Fr. Marquette who explored the 2300-mile length of the Mississippi River flowing through ten states, called it River of Mary Immaculate.  In fact, all the early American Catholics were so proud of the great truth we celebrate today that the American bishops in 1829 (25 years before the promulgation of the dogma, and the year before the Blessed Mother gave St. Catherine Laboure the design for the Miraculous Medal), chose Mary Conceived Without Sin as the patroness of the United States. Hence, in the U.S., this Holy Day is the feast of the country’s Heavenly patroness.

First Sunday of Advent by Fr. Peter Chinnappan

Advent I (December 2) Jer. 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12 – 4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Central theme: Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing Jesus to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time   for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives.  Besides his first coming at his birth, Jesus comes to our lives through the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through the Word of God, through the worshiping community, now of our death and, finally, in his Second Coming to judge the world.

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of King David who will bring security, peace and justice to God’s people.  Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus.  Jeremiah assures us that the Lord our justice will fulfill His promises, and, hence, we need not be afraid despite the frightening events and moral degradation all around.  The Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient, vigilant and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), asking Him to make known His ways to us, guide us, and teach us.  In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” We are advised to “strengthen our hearts in holiness” (3:13) and “abound in love for one another” (3:12). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his Second Coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.

Life messages:

1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed and to assess the ways in which we can do better.  Let us accept the challenge of Pope Alexander this Advent season: “What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?”

2) A message of warning and hope: The Church reminds us that we will be asked to give an account of our lives before Christ the Judge, both now of our deaths and at Jesus’ second coming.  Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives every night during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives and the setbacks in spiritual life, we must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again.

Christ the King by Fr. Chinnappan

Immaculate Conception of BVM L/18 (Gn. 3:9-15, 20; Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38)

Mary’s prophecy, given in her Magnificat,Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four Dogmas of Faith about her: 1-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a Dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus. Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Evidences: (A) From Church tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration, and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a Feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved it in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (B) From Holy Scripture: 1) God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother (Jer. 1:5  –“Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”), and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth as John’s mother attests.  (Lk 1: 43-44 – “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For now, the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”) Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sins from the first moment of her origin. 2) The angel saluted Mary as full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. 3) Gen. 3:15: — “I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed shall crush your head.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin. (C) Argument from reason: 1-If we could select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So, did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life. “Deus potuit, decuit, fecit.” (Don Scotus).

Life messages: Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children. Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith and obedience. Let us respond to God’s grace by using it to do good to others.

The favorite name of explorers: In 1492, Columbus discovered America. He sailed in a ship called Santa Maria de Conceptio (St. Mary of the Conception). He named the first Island he landed San Salvador, in honor of our Savior. Columbus named the second island Conceptio in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The fearless French explorer Fr. Marquette who explored the 2300-mile length of the Mississippi River flowing through ten states, called it River of Mary Immaculate.  In fact, all the early American Catholics were so proud of the great truth we celebrate today that the American bishops in 1829 (25 years before the promulgation of the dogma, and the year before the Blessed Mother gave St. Catherine Laboure the design for the Miraculous Medal), chose Mary Conceived Without Sin as the patroness of the United States. Hence, in the U.S., this Holy Day is the feast of the country’s Heavenly patroness.

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr Peter Chinnappan

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.

Thirty-Second Sunday by Fr. Peter Chinnappan

(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 (November 2, 2018) by Fr. Peter Chinnappan

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.

All Saints Day 2018 by Fr. Peter Chinnappan

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.

“Thou Art a Priest Forever” by Father Chinnappan

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:

  1. The foundation of ministry is character.
  2. The nature of ministry is service.
  3. The motive for ministry is love.
  4. The measure of ministry is sacrifice.
  5. The authority of ministry is submission.
  6. The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.
  7. The tools of ministry are the Word and prayer.
  8. The privilege of ministry is growth.
  9. The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit.
  10. 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

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. We can SEND THEM A GIFT – Gift cards to restaurants, books stores, department stores, and Gas Cards make wonderful appreciation gifts for our priests.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Peter Chinnippan

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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 himselfThe 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.