Sunday, September 3, 2017

Prayer

Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother’s womb with infinite care, and you watch over me tenderly. I hope you will embrace my soul at my death to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take my love in return. I humbly offer you all that I am.

 Lord Jesus, I ask you for the courage to continue to follow your call to holiness. Help me to know where it is you want me to become more like you, and give me the strength to form myself into the saint of which you have always dreamed. Mother Mary, I entrust my spiritual life into your maternal care.

Homily

"Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." [Mt. 6:10] Every time that we repeat the Sacred Words that Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer, we ask our Heavenly Father that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

What does it mean to ask that "The Lord's will be done?" [Acts 21:14] Does it mean that by some supernatural means, because we pray to God the Father, that He will change things for the better? Or, does the Lord's Prayer ask for Divine favour by the grace of the Lord and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, that we and those around us be transformed according to His Divine Will?

My brothers and sisters, nothing in this world will improve unless we change! Unless we change our thoughts, our words and our actions according to the Divine Will of God, nothing will improve. Prayers are fruitless when there is no sincerity of heart. As Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven." [Mt. 7:21]

"The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the Will of our God and Father." [Gal. 1:3-4] Accordingly, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect." [Rom. 12:2] "For the doubter, being doubled-minded and unstable in every way must not expect to receive anything from the Lord." [Jas. 1:8]

As Jesus said, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." [Mt. 26:41] Our new heart and creation that we received through the Sacrament of Baptism longs to do the Will of the Lord God in cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our new spiritual inclination is constantly battling against our old ways. At times, the battle between the spiritual and the worldly ways can be very difficuilt.

The evidence of the inner battle between our spiritual and worldly inclinations, often being out of control because we do not think before we speak and act, was mentioned in today's Gospel Reading when Jesus told His disciples that He must undergo great suffering and death. Embracing a worldly mind, Peter took Jesus aside and told Him, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." Consequently, Jesus rebuked Peter because he was thinking worldly, only seeking worldly comfort. By failing to think spiritually according to the will of God, Peter was not striving to see the spiritual benefits of the suffering and death of Christ for the salvation of mankind.

In today's First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we heard that the same thing happened again. The prophet Jeremiah was experiencing that inner battle between the spiritual and the worldly ways. Choosing to embrace the worldly way rather than the will of God, he made a fool of Himself. The Lord God was telling Jeremiah how to embrace the spiritual way, but Jeremiah would not listen.

From that same reading, there is something I would like to point out. Disobeying the will of God, Jeremiah said, "If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak anymore of his name,' then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot."

I would like to read you another similar passage from the Gospel of Luke. This passage refers to the experience of the disciples who had previously walked on the Road to Emmaus with Jesus. After Jesus left, they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road, while He was opening the Scriptures to us?" [Lk. 24:32]

In both instances, the hearts of these individuals were being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. In both instances, their minds were hearing the voice of God that was speaking in their hearts. In both instances, the action of the Holy Spirit was as a burning fire within them.

My brothers and sisters, having received the Sacrament of Baptism and the new creation of the godly seed, we have all experienced this burning hunger from time to time. It is because our spirits are starving for spiritual food. When God promised the New Covenant through the Blood of Christ, He said, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." [Ezek. 31:33]

Having God's law written on our hearts, the commandment of loving God first and then our neighbours, we cannot run away from God's burning fire. Our God is a consuming fire. [Heb. 12:29] "He is like a refiner's fire. With our cooperation, our free will, He will refine us like gold and silver until we present offerings to Him in righteousness." [Mal. 3:2-3] The One and only true Lord God is our God and He is speaking to us in our hearts. Will we respond or will we continue to choke His voice by remaining indifferent to His call? Are we going to dull our spiritual inclinations to the extent that we will no longer hear the voice of the Lord in our hearts?

The reason that God wrote His law in our hearts is for us to know Him, to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, which is our spiritual worship. "So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." [Eph. 5:17]

When we seek to live the ways of the world, we choke the voice of the Lord God. Alcoholism, drugs, dishonesty, adultery, common-law relationships, same sex relationships, hatred, slander, child neglect, all of these things choke the voice of the Lord God. Such worldly ways do not feed our spiritual lives. It dulls them. It leaves us as worldly souls that walk in the darkness, deprived of spiritual growth. It disqualifies us as children of God, taking away from us the promised salvation and inheritance of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

As Jesus said, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." [Mt. 26:41] Knowing so, then we should equip ourselves with weapons that will help us to walk our spiritual lives as living sacrifices. We should read the Word of God. We should seek the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Tabernacle. We should attend the services of the Holy Catholic Church. We should receive the Sacraments of the Church. We should enjoy the Church Sacramentals for pious devotions. For all of these holy actions are spiritual worships that please the Heavenly Father.

My brothers and sisters, today's message is, "Seek the Will of God in all things." When, by the grace of God, we feel that burning fire within our hearts, let us realize that God is calling us to be spiritual in thoughts, in words and in actions. Let us not continue to act in worldly ways, allowing our conscience to convict us of our sins. Let us turn our eyes towards the Lord. Let us acknowledge Him in love. Let us show repentance with a commitment. And finally, let us thank the Lord Jesus for speaking in our heart by glorifying His Most Holy Name.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Book of Jeremiah 20:7-9.
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; The word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day.
I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Psalms 63(62):2.3-4.5-6.8-9.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
for your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

You indeed are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.




Letter to the Romans 12:1-2.
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:21-27.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."
He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Homily for Today


How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! From today's readings, we perceive the depth of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God. We come to the realization that the judgments of God that were unsearchable and mysterious at the time of their occurrence were made known in time as they unravelled themselves.

Not knowing the mind of the Lord, no one can tell today how His progressive Divine Plan is unravelling itself. But looking back in history, at the unravelled prophetic words that are found in the Old and New Testaments, we can now perceive the greatness and glory of the Lord God.

In the days of Isaiah, Shebna was one of the court officials. Contrary to the Divine Will of God that was expressed through the great prophet Isaiah, Shebna tried to persuade Hezekiah to revolt against Assyria by sending for Egyptian support.

Consequently, God commanded Isaiah to relate a message to him. Through Isaiah, God told Shebna that he would be removed from his office. In his place, God's servant, Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, would take his place. All authority would be placed under him and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.

In the message to Shebna, God spoke of the key to the house of David. The words spoken by God, prophetic in nature, are very similar to the words that we heard Jesus speak to Peter in the reading of today's Gospel. What Eliakim shall open, no one shall shut; what he shall shut, no one shall open. The Lord will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honour to his ancestral house.

In this message, the key that is worn over the shoulder, represents the authority of its keeper to grant or deny admittance to the royal presence.

In those days, around 700 B.C., no one perceived the depthness of the mysteries of the Lord, that the Messiah would repeat those words seven centuries later. Nor was anyone in a position to associate the keys with the authority of Peter as the first apostolic leader of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Even today, the authority of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven still have a major impact in the Catholic Church. Whatever the Pope binds on earth in the name of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, it is bound in Heaven. And whatever is loosed on earth is made loose in Heaven.

Looking back in time, now we can perceive the prophetic mysteries of the Lord that were associated with this passage in the Book of Isaiah.

When we review today's Gospel, once more, we see the mysteries of God at work. Many of the people did not know who Jesus was. Some thought that He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or even a prophet. To ensure the fulfillment of the prophecies that were found in the Scriptures, the Heavenly Father hid the identity of Jesus as the Messiah from the eyes of many of the people until such time as Jesus had gloriously resurrected.

After the Resurrection, the Divine Plan unravelled itself so all who had a sincere heart could see that God had fulfilled His numerous promises of sending the Messiah to save His beloved people. 

Who would have believed in the days of Jesus that Peter, a simple fisherman, would become the leader of the greatest Church in the world, the Holy Catholic Church? Who would have believed that Jesus would pick Peter, knowing in advance that Peter would deny knowing Him on three different occasions?

In those days, this all seemed very mysterious. But looking back today, we see that God can achieve anything that He wants. We can see how He calls imperfect men as instruments of His Divine work. We can see how He calls the uneducated to display the glorious power of His Spirit. We can see the love and mercy of God at work. Now, we can testify that indeed, the Spirit of God was at work. Why? Because the mysteries have unravelled themselves like a blooming flower.

When Jesus ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah, surely, the disciples must have thought, "That is a strange command." In their minds, they must have thought, "If Jesus is the Messiah, what does He have to fear?" Little did they perceive at the time the mysterious ways of the Lord, that the Kingdom of God was not a physical Kingdom.

When Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, what could possibly have gone through His mind? Did he expect the Kingdom of Heaven to descend on earth as many still do today? Did he see himself as ruling over the coming Kingdom? What about Jesus, where would He be? If Jesus gave the keys to Peter, surely, that must have meant that Jesus would not be around. At the time, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven must have been intriguing to Peter.

It is only after the death and glorious Resurrection of Jesus that Peter understood his apostolic role in the Holy Catholic Church. After the Resurrection, Peter was able to perceive that he had been called to lead the Body of Christ alongside the other apostles. The keys were his authority as the first of hundreds of Popes who would follow in his apostolic succession.

My brothers and sisters, there is something to learn from today's message. Sometimes in life, we do not understand why things happen the way they do. But surely, God who is everywhere, knows all, sees all and is in control of all situations. Every event, although mysterious at the time of its occurence, serves a spiritual purpose for our individual spiritual growth and for the benefit of the Church as a whole.

Today, we may not understand why certain things are happening in our lives. The events may appear mysterious. But if we look 5 or 10 in our past, we may now perceive what appeared to be a mystery at that time. We may now be able to see how we have spiritually gained from our life experiences. Although the Heavenly Father was mysterious in His ways at the time, His Divine Will is now made known to us.

This week, let us take the time to reflect on our past. Let us take the time to reflect on the mysterious ways of the Lord that have led us to where we are today. Let us take the time to perceive what our Heavenly Father has done for us so we may grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And when our eyes are opened to the mysteries of the Lord, let us take a moment to thank Him for all that He has done for us, glorifying Him in His Most Holy Name.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Book of Isaiah 22:19-23.
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace: "I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family."

Psalms 138(137):1-2a.2bc-3.6.8.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.




Letter to the Romans 11:33-36.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
"For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?"
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:13-20.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Walking on Water

From our friends at Catholic Exchange,




One of the most famous stories of the New Testament is the one about Jesus walking on the water.  If there is any gospel story we never tire of hearing, this is it.
The lake is rough. Though several of the apostles spent most of their life in a boat, they’re still worried.  But when they see a phantom walking towards them on the whitecaps, they get really scared.  Then the figure speaks and they recognize a familiar voice–it is the Lord!
Remember the old saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tred?”  Well here goes Peter: “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you across the water.”  The Lord takes him up on it.  “Come!” he says.  So Peter gives it a try.  The first few steps go great and he’s pumped.  But funny thing–when the Lord told him to come, he neglected to calm the wind and the waves.  And as Peter, far from the security of the boat and the company of his buddies, finds himself buffeted by strong gusts and swirling waves, fear gets the best of him.  He begins to sink.  Remembering that Jesus is not too far off, he has the sense to cry out “Lord save me!”
The Lord fishes him out and then gently rebukes him.  Jesus doesn’t say that Peter has no faith.  After all, he had more faith than the other eleven—at least he stepped out of the boat.  But Jesus’ statement is telling: “how little faith you have!  Why did you falter?”
I think we love this story because we can so easily relate to it.  In various moments of pious enthusiasm, we surrender our lives, our will, and our future to God.  “Just tell me Lord, what you want me to do and I’ll obey.”  And then He surprises us a bit by taking us up on our offer.  Undaunted, we respond to the call.  It could be to the sacrament of matrimony which entails lifelong fidelity and generous openness to children.  It could be to priesthood and religious life which involve celibacy and obedience to a superior.  Or it could be to a degree program, or a tour of duty in the armed forces.  We often embark on our journey amidst fanfare and congratulations.  Then the harsh reality of the everyday grind sets in.  Next come unexpected road hazards.  No sooner is a child born with serious medical problems then you lose your job.  A model child turns into a rebellious teen who seems to reject all of your values, including your faith.
If we are honest, most of us notice butterflies flying inside our stomachs amidst such circumstances.
Does trust mean immunity from feelings of fear and discouragement?  No.  Jesus himself experienced anguish and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But notice that he was not deterred by it.  He did not hesitate or falter as Peter did and as we usually do.
“Little” faith means immature faith.  Faith, to be mature, must be tempered with courage, also known as fortitude.  Courage only is manifested in the face of danger.  If there is no danger, no threat, no trial, then there is no possibility of courage.  Mature faith means believing more in what you can’t see than in the terrifying things you can see.  It means keeping the eyes of your heart fixed on the master of the wind and waves even as you feel the spray in your face.
The most frequently repeated phrase in the gospels is “Do not be afraid!”  The Lord is not speaking to our emotions here, since you can’t command emotions.  He is speaking to our will.  We must make a conscious decision not to allow fear to paralyze us.  Peter sank because he stopped walking.  Faith means to keep walking even when your knees are knocking.
This is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 197h Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (1 Kgs 19:9, 11-13), Psalm 85, Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33).  It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Homily

Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ! How pleased the Lord must be to see so many of His children obeying the precept of the Church, to observe Sunday as a day of obligation.

Today's three readings share one common denominator. During the First Reading from the First Book of Kings, [1 Kings 19:9, 11-13] we heard that Elijah had gone to a cave at Horeb, the mount of God, where he stayed for 40 days. Why was Elijah at the cave? He was hiding there because Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, had sent a messenger to inform him of her intent to kill him.

During the Second Reading, [Rom. 9:1-5] we heard how Saint Paul was saddened by Israel's unbelief and rejection of the Lord. Expressing the great love that he had for his own countrymen, Paul was willing to undergo the worst possible fate, being cut off from Christ, if such could possibly save those that he loved.

During the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 14:22-33] we heard that when St. Peter started walking on the water towards Jesus, he became frightened and began to sink. Consequently, he called out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!" [Mt. 14:30] This is the common denominator! "Lord, save me!"

Elijah, fearing for his life, he called upon the Lord to save him. The Israelites, while they too wanted to be saved, they rejected Jesus and the only Mediator between God and man. And Peter, fearing for his life during a moment of human weakness, he too called upon the Lord to save him.

They all called upon the Lord to save them. Our forefathers called upon the Lord to save them. Our grandparents called upon the Lord to save them. Our parents called upon the Lord to save them. And most of us will call upon the Lord to save us if we have not done so as of yet.

In view of the fact that everybody is bound to call upon the Lord, the question is, "Will the Lord answer our call?" Allow me to elaborate on this subject.

Some time ago, a couple asked for my urgent prayers. I was told that, while both were fully employed, being in severe debts, they risked losing their homes, everything they had worked for. They needed a miracle, a quick fix for their problem. They did not believe that their prayer, "Lord, save me!" would obtain a miracle. And so they came to me to intercede on their behalf, hoping that the Lord would hear the prayer of a priest versus their personal prayer and that the Lord would have mercy on them.

We all prayed and the Lord answered their prayer intention. The Lord saved them, but not the way that they wanted to be saved. They only wanted the Lord to provide for their physical needs. Instead, the Lord provided for their spiritual needs. After losing everything, their house, their land, their vehicles, after having been humiliated before their family and friends, after having declared personal bankruptcy, after having put an end to their wasteful spending, their high class living and their endless partying, they rented reasonable accommodations, settled down to a normal life and finally found the Lord Jesus in their lives.

When they had everything, they did not need Jesus. They had the great "ME," the "My way Lord or no way!" They never prayed. They did not have time to worship. They never received the Sacraments of eternal life. They had three goals: fame, wealth and the flesh. What a good life! At least they thought so, until their worldly kingdom came grumbling down.

The Lord saved them! He opened their eyes. Once blind, now they could see. He made them realized that while they were abundantly blessed, they showed no appreciation whatsoever for it. They were walking on the wide road of perdition.

The fate of this couple is not uncommon. Many of the rich people have no time for God. They are too busy managing their wealth. How often do we hear today of parents complaining that their children are living common-law? They do not practice their faith. They are walking the wide path of life, living a life of mortal sin, partying, doing drugs, neglecting their children, many of the grandchildren are no longer baptized, and so on.

What we see today is the fruits of a society that lacks morals, a society that has placed employment and fame before the family life, a society that has remained silent to the immoralities that were breeding all around them. Now, the people are crying out, "Lord, save me!" Do we honestly believe that the Lord will save such a society? Is this the kind of life that the Kingdom of God is all about? Certainly not! To save this generation, the Lord must sanctify it! He must destroy this society in order to rebuilt it in His holy ways!

Yes, the couple that lost everything, it suffered for awhile. But in its suffering, it found life in Jesus Christ. Its suffering was a blessing in disguise! Suffering was the means towards salvation!

Sometime ago, I was reading a piece of prose that is called, "Secrets of the Cross." I would like to share it with you because I found it to be spiritually rich.

Secrets of the Cross

"An earthly day without its afflictions
Would surely appear to be a heavenly day.
Crosses come and go as showers and downpours,
Light and heavy, most abruptly and unforseen.
To the majority of the faithful believers,
Crosses appear to be ongoing nuisances,
Their existence not worthy of being present.
Yet, all what God has permitted serves a purpose!
Although often disguised during their occurrences,
Their intentions are subsequently revealed.
While your crosses may appear to be a burden,
Consider the spiritual benefits to your soul,
Ascertaining what you have gained from them.
If you are blind to the personal progress
That has been derived from your trials,
Then, you have failed to see the hand of God,
Silently and wisely guiding you in life,
Nurturing you as a parent teaches a child.
For every cross holds a secret behind it!"

What possible secret can a cross hold? What holy qualities can we gain from bearing a daily cross? Consider some of these virtues: charity, [pause] chastity, [pause] compassion, [pause between each one] decency, faith, fear, fortitude, friendship, generosity, honesty, hope, humility, justice, knowledge, love, modesty, obedience, patience, peace, piety, prudence, purity, respect, servitude, solitude, submission, temperance, trust, and wisdom.

Next time, when an affliction crosses our path, rather than saying, "Lord, save me!", we should consider saying, "Lord, what do you want me to learn from this cross?" Then, once we have learned the spiritual lesson that the Heavenly Father allowed to be placed before us, having understood why the finger of God has touched our lives, the affliction should go away. Having been strengthened in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be then able to continue in our spiritual growth. We will be ready to welcome the next affliction in order to learn the next lesson so we may all become great saints on earth as we will be in Heaven.

Prayer

Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. ...