Sunday, October 13, 2019

Homily for Today

A Homily from Catholic Moment;

Our God is a healing God. He is always ready to offer us the healing we desire. The readings today especially the first reading and the Gospel make us to understand that our healing lies only in God. And in the second reading, St. Paul affirms that God is not just our healer, but He is equally our salvation. Hence, every miracle is a manifestation of the salvific power of God made visible in Christ.
During the second half of the ninth century (around 852-841 B.C), Damascus spread its tentacles covering parts of Palestine and Syria. It is in this context that the story of Naaman was born. The pericope from which our reading today was extracted described him as the commander of the Aramean army (Damascus). He led a military raid in which the Arameans gained victory over the Israelites (not because they were stronger but because due to the infidelity of the Israelites God always subjected them to nations even smaller than them as a way of punishment). The Arameans could not claim sovereignty over Israel and that is why Israel still retained its kingdom and was never a colony of them.
The 2 Kings 5 presents Naaman as a powerful man but at the same time lacking wholeness because he suffered a virulent skin disease. Apart from Miriam the sister of Moses who suffered leprosy (Nb 12:10) and Gehazi the disciple of Elisha (2 Kgs 5:27), Naaman is always associated with leprosy in the Old Testament. Although in the text he represented the supremacy of Aram over Israel yet the irony is that his search for solution to his problem in Israel will eventually reveal the supremacy of Israel over Aram for so many reasons:
1. The little Israel slave girl: the girl was not just little, but she was a slave captured from Israel during the Aramean raid. Though she meant nothing but God revealed her “somethingness” since it was only through her that Naaman came to know about Elisha the great prophet of Israel.
2. Elisha: Elisha was presented in the reading as the symbol of the greatness of Israel. Certainly, there were prophets of Rimmon (v.18) and other gods in Aram, but they could not restore the health of Naaman; only the prophet of Israel did.
3. Jordan water: Elisha asked Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan (v.10). Even though Naaman claimed the supremacy of the rivers Abana and Parpar over the waters in Israel (v.12), yet he was only restored through the waters of Israel.
4. The God of Israel: After his healing, Naaman confessed the greatness of the God of Israel not just over the gods of Aram but over the whole earth (v.15). This is the core of the message of this passage. When Naaman found out that he was cured, he came back to offer gift to Elisha which he rejected (a reminder to Naaman that he was not healed by Elisha but by God, and that God’s healing is free). Naaman not only came back to appreciate God (a link with the Gospel..the samaritan came to thank Jesus) but he equally confessed the greatness of God. And from confessing the greatness of God, he carried him back to Aram: “I will not offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except the LORD” (v.17). Thus, the implantation of the presence of the God of Israel in Aram was symbolized by Naaman’s request of loads of earth (sand) from Israel. These post miraculous actions of Naaman reveal that every miracle is intended for the salvation of man. Hence, miracles are not end in themselves but means to a higher goal, salvation.
We detect that every aspect of the life of Naaman was really touched in the whole narrative. He came as a commander and with superior mindedness, but he left a humble person. How? As a warrior, he does not need the permission of anybody to carry any quantity of sand he wants from Israel. He would have done that without anybody’s concent; but this time, no. He rather pleaded with Elisha, “Please, let me, your servant have much earth as two mules may carry (v.16-17).

From the whole narrative, we learn that:

1. God is the only source of our restoration and completeness. Naaman was highly esteemed by his king and the people but he was incomplete until he encountered God. His defect was restored and his emptiness filled.

2. In order to encounter this God, we must make a move. Naaman refused to remain in Aram, but moved down to Israel. If we must have an extraordinary life-changing encounter with God, we must depart from our comfort zones and make a spiritual journey.

3. Obedience to the voice of God is the sure path to our healing. Even though Naaman hesitated at first, but the moment he obeyed the voice of God through Elisha, he was healed.

4. The miracle of God is sure and perfect. This is signified in the flesh of Naaman that turned to that of a little child (v.14-15).
No one who truly encountered God ever remained the same. Naaman was not only healed physically but spiritually. For this, he could not let go of God. He confessed him and carried him down to Aram.

5. Persons are gifts of God’s mediating power. Through the little girl and Elisha, Naaman was healed. We must learn to value others and never look down on them because of whatever we think we are. Even in his esteemed position, Naaman defeated his pride and never looked down on the slave girl nor belittle Elisha.

Paul writes the second letter to Timothy from prison, in Rome. He felt abandoned by many of his friends, and some even lined up against him (2 Tim 4:9-16). On the other hand, the pagans considered him an evildoer and to his Jewish counterparts, he was a betrayer of the tradition of their fathers. Can we now see that Paul was in no way different from Naaman and the ten lepers in the Gospel. The Gospel made him an enemy of the people and denied him freedom of association as he now lavish in prison (like lepers in camps away from the people). But the consolation Paul gets in this difficult moment is the fact that Christ also passed through the same sufferings and misunderstandings before entering into the Father’s glory! For this, he says to Timothy and to himself: “Remember Jesus Christ!” (v. 8). To arrive at salvation it is necessary to tread the same way. “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure with him, we shall reign with him” (vv. 11-12). For he does not abandon his own.

GOSPEL: LK 17:11-19
In the time of Jesus some categories of persons were viewed as accursed: “the poor, the leper, the blind and the childless.”
The term leprosy in its ancient usage could mean any kind of skin disease that produces scales including non-contagious types (Nb 12:10). This is why the illness of Naaman (2 Kgs 5) never prevented him from having contact with others in the society. It is only the contagious ones that were banished from the society after being examined by the priest (Nb. 13:15-17). The book of Leviticus gives a succinct description of the diagnostic process of leprosy and any other skin conditions (Lv. 13:2-28, 38-39); and of the hair (v 29-37); and of the scalp (v 40-44); the isolation of the untreatable (v 45-46) and the ritual cleansing and reinstallation of the ‘well again’ (14:1-32).
The prescriptions concerning the ritual for the healed leaper is divided into separate ceremonies: The first day (14:2-8), the seventh day (14:9), and the eighth day (14:10-32).
The first day ritual cleansing is performed by the priest outside the camp or city. Requirements for this ritual include two live birds that are clean. On the eight day, the victim is expected to bring to the sanctuary, a jar of oil, and a lamb for various ritual offerings. And being placed at the entrance to the Tent by the priest, a sacrifice of his gifts is offered to Yahweh as reparation. The concept of reparation here gives us the understanding of how virulent skin diseases were perceived. There were often seen as a consequence of one’s sin. This can be seen in the case of Miriam who criticised Moses and was struck with a virulent skin disease by Yahweh (Nb 12:1-10). She was eventually shut out of the camp for seven days (v.15).This entails that anyone with virulent skin disease is quarantined and suffers social segregation. He is expected to wear torn clothing and unkempt hair; cover his upper lips and cry aloud, “Unclean, unclean”. As long as the disease lasts, the person will remain unclean and must live alone outside the camp, (v. 45-46). There must not be any contact with the rest of the people, because any contact with the victim makes the other unclean (an excerpt of the book…”Hour of Hope. Sermons on the healing power of Jesus).
From here, we are easily connected with the Gospel of Luke today. The ten lepers were hidden from the rest of the community.
The number ten in the Bible has a symbolic value: it indicates the totality.Thus Luke presents the ten lepers as an image of the entire human race far away from God, wounded by sin and bearing on their body signs of death that only the word of Christ can cure.

1. The lepers met Jesus while he was on his way towards Jerusalem. Evidently, Luke placed the healing while Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he will be crucified. Thus the healing of this ten lepers that represented the totality of the world (in the image of Jews and gentiles) was a foretaste of the ultimate healing that the world will receive when Jesus will mount the wood of the Cross. For they will only be healed by his wound (Is. 53:5).

2. They stood at a distance and begged him to have mercy on them. The lepers acknowledged their unworthiness to associate with the rest of the world and in humility asked for mercy. This is Luke’s way of saying that sin viewed in the image of leprosy creates a distance between God and man. Thus the lepers serve as perfect image of fallen humanity, and whose misery has not ceased to meet the mercy of God.
3. “Go and show yourself to the priests” was Jesus’s instruction to the lepers. This is Luke’s way of affirming that Jesus was a true Jew who knew the Law Lv. 13:2-28, 38-39; 14:1-32). He equally affirmed Jesus as the perfect revelation of God, the giver of the Laws.

4. One of the lepers came back to thank Jesus. Here we are tempted to limit the message to a simple gratitude, but more importantly, Luke wish to communicate that the action of this leper shows that Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant. Therefore realizing that he has gained his healing, he did not see the need to present himself to any other person except Jesus who is the perfect priest on which every other priestly dignity depends. Certainly the other nine were obedient to the instruction of Jesus, but Jesus regretted their action not because they did not come back to thank him, but because they failed to see in him “The One and Perfect Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant.” They failed to understand that Jesus is the fulfilment of that particular Law. They were still stocked in the old order which has been completed in Jesus.

1. We must be aware of our condition of being a sinners: No one is excluded. we are all together in this “spiritual leprosy” called sin. It was the only thing that united the Jews and the Samaritan in the Gospel today. It silenced the voice of superiority. It rendered all of them helpless. They found themselves in this common disgrace and suffering needing the friendship and solidarity of one another.

2. “Miserere nobis” is a word of humility and of healing:
If one considers himself just and perfect, inevitably one raises the barriers against the mercy of God. If we realize ourselves as “lepers” then we will not be proud of anything. How often do we acknowledge that we are unworthy and humbly ask for God’s mercy.

3. Only His mercy can locate us:
The lepers by their condition were forced to live in a camp outside the community. Our sins hide us from God (symbol of living outside the community), yet God is not hidden from us (Luke says they saw Jesus).
Listen, the mercy of God cannot be exhausted. God is mercy himself, and to doubt his mercy is itself a sin. God is never tired of us. He does not condemn us ‘outside his camp’. We ourselves have willingly chosen to live outside him. Like the lepers, we must resolve to come to Jesus for a healing touch and we will hear him say; ‘I still accept you even in your broken life of sin. I cannot refuse you even if your sin has rendered you virulent. I am willing. And for your sake I am ready to pause my journey to Jerusalem until I restore you to normalcy.

4. Gratitude is in the heart of our Faith:
Only the Samaritan gave glory to God, that is, the only one who understood immediately that the salvation of God does not come to us from any other except from Christ.
Hear the cry of your people who are wounded by their human conditions and are bleeding in misery Oh Lord. And since it has pleased you to reveal to us your healing power today, draw us to yourself that we may be made whole again. Amen.

Meditation and Prayer

Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

"Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your loving kindness and mercy towards me. Fill my heart with compassion and thanksgiving, and free me from ingratitude and discontentment. Help me to count my blessings with a grateful heart and to give thanks in all circumstances."

Meditation is from Regnum Christi;

  1. Jesus Shows Pity: It is easy to forget at times what it meant to be a leper in Jesus’ time. Such a person had to separate himself from the community, live outside the town, and declare himself “unclean” when anybody started to approach him. Since illness was also equated with sin. According to the mentality of the time, God punished the sinner with physical illness. Thus, to have to shout “unclean” meant that one had to publicly declare he was a sinner. So, as miserable a state as leprosy was, worse still was the shame of it. From here we understand better the sense of desperation and urgency in the lepers’ petition: “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” There is such thing as spiritual leprosy too, but Jesus can heal the sickness in our soul within confession. As Christians we should look for this as ardently as the ten lepers looked to be healed of their bodily leprosy.
  1. The Lepers Were Cleansed: Jesus felt obliged to perform the miracle of curing these ten lepers; they truly believed he could do it. That is why Jesus so hastily tells them to go to the priest as prescribed by the law and have their return to health officially recognized; thus will end their banishment and disgrace. However, in their burst of joy nine of the cured ten forget to say, “thank you.” At first it seems strange to us that they would omit this, after being transformed in one moment from utter misery to a clean bill of health. However, we often do the same; we forget to say thanks in the joy of a moment when someone has really helped us or resolved a major problem for us.
  1. “Stand up and go.” It did occur to one leper, a foreigner, to come back and say “thank you”; it was the Samaritan leper. In Jesus’ time Samaritans and Jews normally despised each other, which probably makes his words of thanks to Jesus all the more remarkable. However, what really catches Jesus’ attention is the fact that only one person comes back to express his words of gratitude. Doesn’t this passage remind us of how rare is the virtue of gratitude in the human heart? The cured Samaritan’s faith has saved him, and it wouldn’t be rash of us to think that he used especially well the new gift of health the Lord had given him. Those who are really grateful for what they receive from God generally use more zealously and profitably the gifts they are given.
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I realize now how many things I might take for granted in life. May this meditation really be a renewal in looking for spiritual healing in you and in using well all the talents and gifts you have given me.
Resolution: I will make a special effort to thank anyone who has assisted or served me in any way today or just recently.

Sunday, October 13 Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2nd book of Kings 5,14-17.
Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.
He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant."
"As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it," Elisha replied; and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused.
Naaman said: "If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.

Psalms 98(97),1.2-3.4.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
Has remembered faithful love
toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Second Letter to Timothy 2,8-13.
Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel,
for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.
This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him;
if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 17,11-19.
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him
and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Homily for Today

From A Catholic Moment;

We recall that in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first Encyclical letter on “Love” which he titled, “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love…1 John 4:16). And in 2007, he wrote his second Encyclical letter on “Hope” which he titled, “Spe Salvi” ( Saved in Hope). So having written on Love and Hope, it is logical to expect another Encyclical letter on Faith. Certainly he began his third Encyclical letter on Faith before his sudden resignation in 2013. However, it was not for nothing that the first Encyclical letter of Pope Francis in 2013 was on Faith, “Lumen Fidei” (The Light of Faith). And in this Encyclical he said, “Benedict had almost completed a first draft of an Encyclical on Faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own.” This shows the progressive attention the Church gives to these three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love).
Thus, the liturgy of the word on this 27th Sunday calls us to reflect on Faith. The first reading shows that Faith must be patient and persevering even in the midst of troubles. The second reading is an invitation to set the Faith we have received on fire; the life of testimony by sharing in the passion of our Lord made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the question of the disciples, the Gospel makes us to understand that Jesus is the only source of our Faith. Thus, we must be bold enough to ask the Lord to increase our Faith like the disciples did.

FIRST READING: Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4
The prophet Habakkuk lived at a time of considerable turmoil for his people. He witnessed threats coming from other nations – specifically from the rise of the Babylonians, who were in fact going to capture Israel into exile in the early 6th century BCE – and he saw a breakdown of honest administration and social justice within his own society. The prophet made a prayer intervention on behalf of the people over the impending doom, but God did not respond immediately. In fact his relationship with God at this point serves as a basis of the theological question as to why God seems to be silent sometimes to the plight of his people.
This experience of the prophet is a copy of the experience that we have sometimes: praying to God for a particular favor and nothing happens! Waiting upon the Lord, and he seems to be far away! And this could be quite discouraging. But this long complaint and worry of the prophet would immediately receive a life changing message that should touch the core of our faith. The word of God says: “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”
Yes the God of communication finally spoke to Habakkuk to wait patiently. He made him to understand that He (God is not an automated machine that should respond “robbotically” whenever he is clicked on. Thus the message is to wait on God’s own time with Faith.
We must wait on God. The prophet Isaiah captures this message otherwise as: “Those who hope in Yahweh will regain their strength, they will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire” (40:31). Thus the operational work of Faith is the call for us to believe that there is a personal God who really cares about us and in whose hands the whole world is resting. It calls us to believe that God is not a dead deity but alive and active in our world. It equally calls us to believe that God loves each one of us personally and that he is involved in our lives in a personal way. This is not easy to believe especially when all we see around us is darkness, pains, sufferings, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, sickness, death especially of people so dear to us. And what more? Job faced these challenges and did not give up. Even when it was obvious that it is foolish to still believe in God, he broke the silence by affirming the certainty that his Redeemer lives (19:25).
The prophet Habbakuk saw doom coming and his faith quaked. But he did not wish to be silent. He disturbed God in prayers, until God responded in a way that shows that when we are troubled and complain in prayers, he takes note. So his silence does not imply indifference, but to see if we have the faithful trust in him. That is why he concludes in today’s message that what is required of every ‘righteous’ person (one who is faithful to the covenant) is faith: a persevering trust that He (God) will eventually intervene at last.

SECOND READING: II Tm 1:6-8,13-14
This is another pastoral letter of St. Paul written within the four walls of the prison. The tone of this letter is a one of encouragement. Many scholars were of the view that this letter was written shortly before the death of Paul. During his active pastoral ministry, Paul made sure that he groomed Timothy to succeed him in the ministry, not just as a bishop of Ephesus, but an excellent witness to the Gospel. But in this letter, Timothy seemed to be disillusioned by two things: (a) The lukewarmness of the Christian community and (b) The present status of Paul as a prisoner. Aware of his worries, Paul as his spiritual father did not hesitate encourage him to persevere, stressing the need for a living Faith. Thus, the Faith cannot be lived in silence. It must be lived in total witnessing to Christ. And it can never be complete until it passes through passion. Hence, Paul draws the attention of Timothy that his imprisonment (Paul) is for the sake of his active Faith…
However, Paul calls us on need to “fan (that small fire we have received on the day of our baptism) into a flame” and keep it blazing. This takes grace, vigilance and effort. There is no place in the life of Christ and his Church for “lukewarmness”. Our world today needs radicality of Faith. As the world is going crazy with its lifestyle, we must go “crazy with love for Christ.” That is how to give a counter witness. The Church does not need “A sit down and look” members. We must be on our feet…

GOSPEL: Lk 17:5-10
The Gospel summarizes the readings of today. Luke demonstrated through the question of the disciples of Jesus, “Lord increase our Faith” that Jesus is the source and end of our Faith.
Jesus had barely finished teaching his disciples in the previous verses (Lk 17:1-4), about the sin of scandal and the virtue of forgiveness when his disciples asked for the increase of their faith (v.5). This request could be understood in two ways: (1) The disciples needed Faith in order to live out the demands of Jesus (v.1-4). (2)Secondly, we must understand that this question was asked while they were with him during his final journey to Jerusalem for his imminent passion. Therefore, they needed Faith strong enough to live the passion experience.
The response of Jesus came in two ways: (1) Faith as a mustard seed: This implies that Faith is not measured by quantity but by quality. The mustard seed is too small to be compared with other seeds, yet it grows into a shrub when it is planted (Mat. 13: 32; Lk 13:19). It is only a “quality Faith” that can still act in an impossible situation. To command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted into a sea seems to be an exaggerated teaching of Jesus on Faith. But such is Faith. An active Faith is one that believes that nothing is impossible for God (Gen 18:14; Jer. 32: 17; Zec. 8:6; Mat. 19:26; Mk 14:36; Lk 1:37). Can he who made heaven and earth not manage what is in them?
(2). The second aspect of Jesus’ response is the teaching on Faith as service. A disciple is one who must wait upon the Lord in a devoted service. His service to God is not an extraordinary thing such as to expect gratitude. It is a duty due to his state as servant. This second response of Jesus touches the core of our Faith in God. What can we give in exchange for what God has given to us? What level of service can we render to God (also in the sense of serving our brothers and sisters especially the poor) that is too much? God is never indebted to us for our fidelity in doing what is all part of our duty. Sometimes, many of us go into prayer maybe in attempt to request some favours from God, we tend to remind him how we have served him; how we have never missed mass, our daily prayers, our tithes, etc as if God must grant us what we ask for as a reward of our faithfulness. Jesus calls us “useless servants”. This implies that: (1) No amount of our service to God can be enough, (2) Our life has no meaning if it is not dedicated wholly to the service of God.
What a beautiful catechesis in this last journey towards Jerusalem. Jesus will soon leave them, thus their Faith must grow and be active in total service to God.

1. We will surely look and see problems streaming down our ways (Habbakuk). Let us therefore hold firm and do not allow ourselves be defeated by them. Rather let our actice Faith defeat them.

2. God is never asleep. Our patient and persevering Faith will win us God’s answer (Habbakuk).

3. We’ve got unique gifts from a unique God. Let us therefore allow the Holy Spirit to inflame this gift by exposing ourselves to him.

4. Like Paul, we must be aware that we cannot be true followers of Christ if our Faith does not lead us into prison for his sake. We must be ready for troubles from the world. Unfortunately, our “Yes” to God does not diminish problems but rather increases them. But a faithful trust in him is the tool to conquer.

5. What type of Faith do we have? Maybe we have tried severally to get connected to God. We’ve prayed and we seem not to be growing in spirituality. Sometimes it appears as if we are totally disconnected from God. Listen, the disciples acknowledged that they were not sufficient enough and out of humility sought for increase in their Faith. Let tell Jesus as he walks towards the “Jerusalem” of our life today to increase our Faith.

6. Finally, let us be sure that our lives have no meaning if they are not consecrated to the service of God and our neighbours. And to serve God is not an option, it is a necessity.

Draw us nearer and closer to the living waters of Your Spirit oh Lord. For You alone and nothing else can satisfy our heart that cries out, ‘I thirst.’

An elderly lady was well-known for her faith and for her boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout “PRAISE THE LORD!” Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, “There ain’t no Lord!!”
Hard times set in on the elderly lady, and she prayed for GOD to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted “PRAISE THE LORD. GOD I NEED FOOD!! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!!” The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, “PRAISE THE LORD.”
The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, “Aha! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries, God didn’t.”
The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and said, “PRAISE THE LORD. He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them. Praise the Lord!”

Prayer and Meditation

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your consuming love and set my heart free to love generously and to serve selflessly. Fill me with gratitude for all you have done for me, and increase my faith and loyalty to you who are My All, My Strength, and My Life."
 Lord Jesus, you are the master of the universe, and yet you wish to listen to me and guide me. You know all things past, present and future, and yet you respect my freedom to choose you. Holy Trinity, you are completely happy and fulfilled on your own, and yet you have generously brought us into existence. You are our fulfillment. Thank you for the gift of yourself. I offer the littleness of myself in return, knowing you are pleased with what I have to give.

 Meditation from Regnum Christi
Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me the faith of an apostle. 
  1. Supersize it! We live a “supersize” mentality. Everything has to be big: our food orders at McDonalds, our houses, cars, etc. We need to “supersize” our faith in Jesus. He has the power of doing that for us if we request it with all sincerity and humility. At the same time, we need to exercise the faith we have, especially when the temptation to doubt God increases. Our faith deepens in the measure in which we apply it in all the different circumstances of our life.
  1. Believing: As Jesus states, we often want praise or thanks from others because we have done our duty. Yet, we were only doing what we ought to have done. No praise or thanks is needed, since we have done nothing more than what was expected. Rather than look for recognition, praise, or thanks, we should see ourselves as humble servants in search of greater faith every day.
  1. Worthless Slaves …Us? No one wants to feel worthless. We all seek to be valued and esteemed, to be needed in some way by others. We strive hard to achieve this esteem from family and friends. However, in our relationship with God our Father, things are often different. We do the minimum in order to get by spiritually. With God’s grace we need to strive to go beyond the minimum, giving ourselves with love and without reservation or fear. It is not that God will somehow value us more; in fact, he already loves us incredibly deeply. Our efforts in the spiritual life are simply a response to God’s love. Paradoxically, the more we humbly seek to respond to God’s love by doing his will in our lives, the more we experience the greatness of his love.
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, help me to place all my trust and faith in you. I don’t always trust, and this is when my fears and anxieties take over. I want to put these aside and place myself in your hands. In doing this I will be able to serve you better.
Resolution: Today I will put more effort in doing the ordinary things of the day in an extraordinary way, out of love for Jesus.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4

How long, O LORD?  I cry for help
 but you do not listen!
 I cry out to you, "Violence!"
 but you do not intervene.
 Why do you let me see ruin;
 why must I look at misery?
 Destruction and violence are before me;
 there is strife, and clamorous discord.
 Then the LORD answered me and said:
 Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
 so that one can read it readily.
 For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.
 The rash one has no integrity;
 but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
 let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
 let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
 let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
 and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
 "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
 as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
 they tested me though they had seen my works."
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.

Alleluia 1 Pt 1:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of the Lord remains forever.
This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
'Come here immediately and take your place at table'?
Would he not rather say to him,
'Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished'?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'"

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Weekly Prayer

 I receive a Weekly Prayer and decided to share with you. Please check this out at Living With Christ.

Week of Sunday, September 29, 2019

O God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity is long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace, no joy. My God, I need fear nothing but sin. For to lose You, my God, is to lose all. O God, help me to remember that to gain all I must leave all, that in loving You I have all good things: the infinite riches of Christ and his Church, the motherly protection of Mary, peace beyond understanding, joy unspeakable! Amen. 

~  St. Alphonsus Liguori

Homily for Today

 Homily is at A Catholic Moment;

The kingdom of God has to do with a struggle against human tendencies and the quest for the right way of living. And what is this right way of living? It does not consist only in the good one does but also in the good he fails to do. Thus the readings today call us to be attentive to the little things we neglect because they count much before God. The first reading presents Amos’ message of woe and a prophetic warning against sin of complacency and indifference. The second reading is St. Paul’s “conscientization” of the young bishop Timothy over the duty attached to his vocation: fidelity to God (through life of witnessing and sound teaching) and care of the flock. The Gospel serves as the foundation of the Church’s teaching on the sin of omission (neglecting the good we ought to do). However, it crowns the whole message of today by opening another horizon, the “eschatos” (the end); whereby the type of life lived here on earth will either attract reward or punishment.

FIRST READING: Amos 6:1, 4-7.
The prophet Amos grieved over the fraternal indifference existing between the people of his time. The message was directed both to the house of Judah (southern kingdom) and the house of Israel (samaria as capital in the northern kingdom). He spoke against an increased disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. Thus the prophesy of the indifference over the “collapse of Joseph” (in the sense of the little one, the poor one and the suffering) was a reminder to the rich that their attitude towards the poor depicts that of the heartlessness of their forefathers, the sons of Jacob, towards Joseph. They “ate bread” while their brother lay in the pit, and later sold him to Ishmaelites.
Because of the extravagant and luxurious lifestyle of the rich and leaders of the people, having no concern for the suffering of others (which was displeasing in the eyes of Yahweh), the prophet Amos predicted their ruin. Samaria the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel was overtaken by the Assyrians under Sargon II in 722 BC, whereas Jerusalem the capital of Judah was razed to the ground in 587 BC by the army of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The elites in these cities were led to a humiliating and punishing exile respectively thus fulfilling the prophesy made by Amos in 760-755 BC.

SECOND READING: 1 Timothy 6:11-16 
This pastoral letter was addressed personally to Timothy who at this time was the bishop of Ephesus. Paul who was much more older than him, and ofcourse a senior apostle reminded him of the duty imposed on him by his vocation. He called him to be faithful to the “yes” he said in the presence of many witnesses. What is this yes? To be faithful to the commandment of God, to uphold the doctrine undiluted and to look after the flock placed in his charge. It was indeed a call as an authority to learn to lead by example: concern for God and for the people.

GOSPEL: Luke 16:19-31: This is another parable of it’s kind recorded only by the evangelist Luke and the only parable whereby Jesus used a personal name (Lazarus) unlike others like good samaritan, a sower, a steward etc. For this, many have interpreted the parable to mean a live story told by Jesus rather than a mere parable. Be it as it may, this parable is found within the same pericope of Jesus’ teaching on the use of wealth as we saw last sunday. Specifically, today’s parable was told as a reaction to the Pharisees who loved money (Lk 16:14) that if the growth in material affluence in this life is not well managed and channelled, can pose a serious danger in the afterlife.
In the parable, we identify three major characters:
The rich man:
The name of this man was withheld in the whole narrative. Although the parable is sometimes called the parable of Dives and Lazarus, and this makes many to think that the name of the rich man was Dives. No, the traditional name Dives is not actually a name, but instead a word for “rich man” as was used in the text of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate.
The description given about him as one who often dressed in purple clothing and feasts magnificently depicts the lifestyle of the ancient wealthy Roman elites who had this appetite for luxurious and fashionable clothing. They go for expensive fabrics which were often coloured with costly tyrian purple (purple is an imperial colour associated with royalty and aristocracy) die.
What was the sin of the rich man? Certainly the parable did not condemn him for being rich. There was equally no mention of his express attitude of hostility towards Lazarus. Afterall he allowed him to lie close to his door and never drove him away. That is a good thing. Unfortunately, he was so much entangled in his personal life of material affluence that blocked him from attending to the need of Lazarus. Thus it is not enough to notice the presence of the other but to see their needs and to attend to them. Hence the sin of the rich man ( negligence and indifference). A sharp contrast to his attitude is that of the good samaritan. The samaritan figure was a rich man in his own way. Everything about him in the story suggests that he was rich (owing a means of transportation in that era, paying for a hospital bill and even promised to pay more on his way back. He did not just noticed a fellow, but he saw his need and attended to it.

As a derivative of the Hebrew word Eleazar, Lazarus means “God is my help.” The end of the parable satisfies the meaning. The parable described Lazarus as a poor man covered with sores and who used to lie at the gate. Apart from the fact that such description is an extreme contrast to the rich man, it equally showed that Lazarus had a triple situational problems. He was not just poor but he was equally a beggar and a sick man. He was in deep suffering, a wretch a destitute.
What was the righteousness of Lazarus? Certainly not because he was poor. Poverty has nothing to do with living a good life. Afterall in such a cultural setting his condition depicts malediction. On the contrary Lazarus was justified because he accepted his condition of life and did not allow it to make him lose focus on God. In other words, he suffered not for the sake of suffering but a suffering lived with serenity in God. How many poor people out there accept their condition. And some commit serious crimes in the quest to better their conditions.

The introduction of Abraham opens the second phase of the parable. His presence is Luke’s way of affirming the authenticity of the message and a way of calling the attention of his audience to aspire to be where their patriarch is; a place of righteousness gained through a righteous life. It could also be a way of contrasting the life of the rich man, that riches should not be an obstacle to a good life. Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold (Gen. 13:2) yet he lived a righteous life.
What was the role of Abraham?
As a father of all nation and the father of faith, Abraham mediated the relationship between the rich man and Lazarus who remained silent throughout the narrative. This shows that the poor are always voiceless but they have a God who is the voice of the voiceless (Prov. 31:8-9).

A Picture of the Afterlife
The use of Greek word Hades in the narrative is as a substitute for the Hebrew word for Sheol which is a place of darkness; a place where the dead await for judgments (1 Enoch 22…ancient Jewish apocalyptic text). But the picture we see in the rich man and Lazarus and Abraham is that of after judgment. Thus the rich man was already passing through gehenna (punishment meant for the wicked). The christian thinkers see the relationship between these two states as heaven and hell. But Luke told this parable as a contrary doctrine against the doctrine of the Saducees who neither believed in angels nor in the afterlife. It also stand as criticism against all philosophies of materialism and atomism that believe human life ends here. On the contrary, man is a creature of God and who is on a journey towards God and not a product of chance or cosmic evolution.

The irreversibilty of opportunities: The parable makes it clear that the opportunity to attend to the needs of the other will not last forever. It is either now or never. The rich man might have regretted his past and would have longed for a “replay of opportunity” or of life, but he was already caught up in this “eternal irreversibility.” This is a serious warning for us to do good with every single opportunity we have. Any good we neglect cannot be reversed, and God takes account of them all.

Still selfish over there: The parable equally reveals that the rich man was selfish even on the other side. He was not able to think beyond himself and those related to him. What was his second request to Abraham? ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ Even beyond, he was not able to think outside the box; no sense of universal brotherhood. Ofcourse he loved his family no doubt. But it could be the reason why he did not notice Lazarus who was not part of his family. And maybe he was also generous to the people of his rank. But this is not charity. It is just a natural thing to help those connected to us either by blood or by social status. Charity is charity when it becomes sacrificial. It makes meaning when it goes beyond the boundary of our families and people of same rank with us to affect the lives of strangers. Let us be careful when place much emphasis on our families and friends. It is good to love and cherish them. But we must ask ourselves today: does our love go beyond these persons? Do we really notice that “Lazarus” who does not belong to those we cherish? We will be judged on the basis of the “Lazaruses” we neglect. They are lying helpless, tattered, hungry and dejected in every corner of our societies.They may not belong to us, but they belong to God. Let’s change our style of approach to people and develop a sense of openness and universal brotherhood. Let’s pick up one Lazarus today and we will make a difference. Let’s pick up one Lazarus today and we will not need a drop of water to quench our taste after, for we will surely have it in abundance.
Lest I forget. The dogs were more observant and responsive to the plight of the poor Lazarus than the rich fellow. This shows he had a serious problem of insensitivity.

The eternal barrier: The parable equally teaches us that there is no cross-over in the after life. We cannot learn to be good there so as to be admitted. I believe that the gulf between the Hades and the Bosom of Abraham was not fixed because God is nursing a cosmic grudge against man. No, it is simply the gulf between the justice of God and the obstinacy and wickedness human heart. This explains the dangerous nature of sin. It is capable of creating a distance between man and God. But this distance can only be broken through repentance. It was too late for the rich man. He knew that he was in great suffering and he equally knew the beauty of the other side. Interestingly he was also aware that he did not qualify to cross over if not he wouldn’t have asked Abraham to send Lazarus. Oh what a wretch we will become if we pretend not to see the wounded face of “Lazarus” begging us for mercy.

We live in a world where millions of people sit like Lazarus outside the door. We seem to have grown used to seeing the poor. And some of us have adopted the popular saying, “we cannot help everybody”, “we cannot solve all the problems” as our motto. If one does not checkmate this mentality or tendency, it can lead to ignoring the needs of others, even when it is critical. Let’s open our “doors” (that’s our eyes and our hearts) to see if Lazarus whom we pretended not to have seen is still lying there. He does not only need our money. He could be depressed and heartbroken. He could be that orphan or that widow. He could be that fellow lying in the hospital needing presence more than medication. Please our smiles and words of peace and encouragement are our own riches. Let’s give them out to heal many wounds today. Let’s not sit and say what can I do? Even advocacy is a way out. We must be sure of this; our actions here will determine the kind of eternity we will have.

Thank you heavenly Father for putting us again on the right track to eternal life through your word today. Forgive us in those moments we have abandoned “Lazarus.” Open our hands, our eyes and our hearts today to take care of him since he is also meant for “Abraham’s bosom”. Amen.