Sunday, September 28, 2014

Homily

Welcome to today's celebration of the Holy Mass on the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. How please the Lord God must be to see the presence of some many of His faithful children. Why are we gathered here today? It is because we are spiritually hungry for the Word of God. In obedience to God's righteousness, we have chosen to attend the service of the Holy Mass so that we may participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and receive the richness of the knowledge and understanding that comes from the Word of God. May God bless us all abundantly for our spiritual perseverance.

During today's First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel, [Ezek. 18:25-8] we learned that those who turn away from their wickedness by doing what is lawful and right, they will be saved. At the same time, those who were previously saved and who have turned away from their righteousness to commit sins, they will die for it. This is a very powerful message. It opposes the belief of many... that as long as they have faith in Christ, they will be saved! "As a body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." [Jas. 2:26] So death will come upon all those who do not bear fruit, who do not shine in the world, who do not live their faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to point the fingers to others for the sake of arguing. It is easy for a person to accuse God of being unfair. Things do not go one's way and so God is blamed for it. The Lord God is unchanging in His ways. "His work is perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is He." [Deut. 32:4]

When God separated Himself from His chosen people during the days of the Old Testament, He did not break the Old Covenant of the Law. It was the people who broke it through their disobedience, by rejecting the Lord God and His righteous ways. In the same way, when God separates Himself today from His children who live in disobedience, He is not breaking His New Covenant of grace. It is His children who are rejecting His righteous ways through the purifying Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. God loves everyone - but He does not love their sins!

During today's Second Reading, [Phil. 2:1-11] we heard that when we are of one mind, having the same love as Christ, there is encouragement in Christ. We find consolation during our tribulations. We share in the Spirit. We have compassion and sympathy for others. Our joy is complete in Christ.

Being of one spiritual mind, we seek the Will of God in all things. When we are spiritually minded, we are free of selfish ambition or conceit. In complete humility, we regard others as better than we are. We do not seek our self-interest but rather the interest of the whole Church for the spiritual growth of each of its individual members.

The goal of every faithful Christian is to enjoy the same mind that was in Jesus Christ. Although the fullness of God dwelled in Him bodily, [Col. 1:19, 2:9], Jesus did not consider Himself equal to God when He came on earth. He took the exact human likeness of each and everyone of us, in soul, spirit and body. [1 Thes. 5:23] Just like you and I, Jesus had a physical body of flesh and blood.

Having taken human form in the image of man, He humbled Himself and obeyed His Heavenly Father until the end - even death on the cross. That my brothers and sisters is perfect obedience. That is perfect obedience to the Divine Will of God!

Having obeyed God the Father to the end, Jesus was raised above all and given the name that is above every name, the Name of Jesus. Because of the greatness of the mystery of God that is found in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, whenever His Name is mentioned, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth. Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Because of this specific Bible passage, [Phil. 2:10] many of the faithful insist that at the moment of the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the celebration of the Holy Mass, in reverence to the arrival of the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus, all should kneel in momentary adoration versus standing up.

"Whoever says, 'I have come to know Jesus,' but does not obey His commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: whoever says, 'I abide in Him,' ought to walk just as He walked." [1 Jn. 1:3-6]

During today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 21:28-32] we heard Jesus tell the story of the man who had two sons. The father asked one of his sons to go and work in the vineyard. His son said that he would not go but he changed his mind and he went. The second son said that he would go but he did not go. This holy reading from the Scriptures echoes the first reading that I just finished reviewing. Some turn away from their righteousness to do evil while some turn from their evil ways to do righteousness.

The son who promised to go and work in the vineyard, but he did not go, he broke his promise. He was no different than God's chosen people of the Old Testament who broke the Old Covenant. He was no different than the people within the Church today who break the new Covenant of God by turnings away from His righteous ways.

Jesus asked, "Which of the two did the will of his father?" Naturally, we all know that it is the one who obeyed. Do any of you know that some converts make better Catholics than Catholics who were admitted into the Church as infants? Do any of you want to know why? It is because, before they joined the Catholic faith, they studied and studied the Sacred Word of God that is found in the Holy Scriptures. They studied the writings of the early Church Fathers. They did years of research to prove to themselves beyond any doubt, that what the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church teaches, it is the One and only Truth. How many Catholics can we count that have made as much effort to learn about the Will of God and His true Church? Is it not true that many Catholics take their religious belief for granted, slacking off here and there?

How many Catholics literally take the Word of God? Let me tell you a true story that I read a few years ago about a man who had a real bad reputation. While in prison, he found the Lord Jesus in his life. Upon his release, he headed to his small town to settle down, got on his knees and apologized to his mother for all the wrong that he had done to her. Then, he found himself a good girlfriend and moved in with her.

On the following Sunday, he got up early in the morning so he could attend a Christian service. During the sermon, the preacher was kicking up a storm while speaking of the sin of fornication. Hearing the tone of the voice of the preacher, the new convert said to himself, "Boy, those dudes must be real bad sinners to have displeased the Lord God so much. I will never be a fornicator like them."

After the service, he went to introduce himself and congratulated the preacher for his excellent sermon. Having done so, he asked the preacher, "By the way, what is a fornicator?" Having been told that it is one who lives in a common-law relationship, the new convert rushed home, packed his girlfriend's baggages and literally threw her out of the house. He did not want to have to face God for having lived the life of a fornicator.

Now, I ask, how many of us would have done the same thing, especially knowing that common-law relationships are offensive to the eyes of God? Such a sin totally disregards the sacredness that God has placed within the marriage.

Jesus asked, "Which of the two did the will of his father?" I ask who is doing the will of the Father, "Is it the fornicator?" "Is it those who take birth control pills contrary to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church?" "Is it those who approve of abortions?" "Is it those who approve of same sex marriage?" "Is it those who approve of all the filth that is found on their television, allowing their children to watch sex, violence, foul language, day after day?" "Is it those who constantly use the Most Holy Name of Jesus in vain?" And I can continue with this list as you are all aware.

Now, what about those who years ago, consecrated their lives to the Sacred Heart of Jesus or to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and who have fallen from their righteousness since then? What about those who are rejecting the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, the Catechism and the Holy Bible on the matter of the Kingdom of God that has arrived on earth and that is to come? Are they going to continue to reject the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Tabernacle in hope of the Antichrist, a secular messianism? (Catechism # 676)

Do these souls expect to be rewarded for their sinful lives? Perfect obedience to the Divine Will of God is to give oneself completely, one hundred percent, without exception as Jesus gave Himself in perfect obedience to the Heavenly Father, to the point of death, even death on the cross.

My brothers and sisters, this week, let us take the time to reflect on all what has been mentioned. Let us ask ourselves, "Am I in complete obedience to the Will of God?"

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 ez 18:25-28

Thus says the LORD:
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Responsorial Psalm ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R/ (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R/ Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R/ Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R/ Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Reading 2 phil 2:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

or phil 2:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus.

Gospel mt 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
"What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

That Loving Knowledge of God

Although the Almighty is beyond the power of human understanding to grasp, Christians believe that knowing God’s Will is possible because Jesus, in his humanity offered for our sakes, has given us real access to God.
The kind of knowledge the Risen Lord gives us is different than the merely factual kind of knowing. Such factual knowledge is all about simply knowing what to do – how to make or fix something. There is nothing to be gained in approaching the Mystery of the Living God like a service manual.
ZurbaranStJohnoftheCrossKnowing God and his Holy Will is, instead, deeply personal. In this loving knowledge, St. John of the Cross explains, love (not naked reasoning) leads us forward into the Divine Mystery. What the intellect understands follows behind our love for the One who discloses Himself. The loving will knows the Loving Will of God and a union of wills, each given to the other, becomes possible. This love is a friendship love – it sees the goodness and beauty of God because it has loved Him and been loved by Him first. St. Paul calls this the Wisdom of God (see 1 Cor 6-13). Some theologians call this experimental or experiential knowledge of God. There really are not words to describe this kind of knowledge – yet those who know the Lord in this way really have something to say, something the world needs to hear, something we need in our lives.
With this kind of loving knowledge, a joy, peace and a dynamic self-possession grows in the heart. Every time someone acts in accord with this loving knowledge of God, these fruits increase — sometimes exponentially. This fruit, which St. Paul enumerates in his letter to the Galatians, is produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). When we choose to act in accord with the loving knowledge the Lord shares with us, it frees the Holy Spirit to be fruitful in our hearts.
It is possible to act against this knowledge, to act as if we were ignorant of God. St. Paul warns against living with our minds conformed to this age or like those whose minds are darkened (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:18). It is possible for those who believe in Christ to choose to live in the flesh – to allow the unconscious hidden drives of our nature to make our decisions for us, not only in big things, but especially in the little things we think no one knows and no one will be hurt by. This living in intentional ignorance is what keeps us immature spiritually – acting against what we know in our hearts.Teresa of Avila 22
There is no reason for discouragement if we suddenly realize that most of our lives we have chosen to live in ignorance. Teresa of Avila lived like this until she was almost forty years old. The Lord however would not let her continue – and when she was off her guard, He pierced her to the heart with His Love. Just as He touched her to the core, He can touch any one of us – it is something worth asking for, something worth enduring every kind of trial to obtain.
So the spiritual life really begins when we take up the struggle to make room in our lives for the loving knowledge of God that only Jesus gives. This is why Christians must make silent prayer a priority in their lives. It is a knowledge that comes from the Cross and doing all we can to gain this knowledge is worth it.

Being honest about our sin 'opens us to the Lord's caress'

 Pope Francis greets pilgrims during the Wednesday General Audience on Oct. 2, 2013. Credit: Marianne Medlin/CNA.
 
Pope Francis greets pilgrims during the Wednesday General Audience on Oct. 2, 2013. Credit: Marianne Medlin/CNA.

.- At daily Mass, Pope Francis drew from the Gospel reading of the woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears – noting God's tender response to those who have the humility to acknowledge their sin.
“...the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness,” the Pope said during his homily the morning of Sept. 18.
He reflected on the Gospel passage from the seventh chapter of Luke, recalling how Jesus was visiting the house of a prominent Pharisee – “a person of a certain level of culture.”
Although the Pharisee “wanted to listen to Jesus” on an intellectual level, he is baffled by the contrite woman who approaches Christ and washes his feet with her tears.
“He cannot understand the simple gesture: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother.”
“In his theories, his thoughts, his life of government – because perhaps he was a councilor of the Pharisees – he had forgotten the simple gestures of life, the very first things that we all, as newborns, received from our parents.”
The Pharisee “is not a bad man,” Pope Francis emphasized, but he simply “cannot understand the woman's actions.”
Far from shaming the Pharisee, however, Jesus responds to him “with humility and tenderness,” as  “his patience, his love, the desire to save everyone” compels him to explain the woman's action.
Amid the surprise of the surrounding guests, Christ says to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace, your faith has saved you!”
“He only says the word salvation – 'Your faith has saved you' – to the woman, who is a sinner. And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say 'I am a sinner,' and admit it to herself.”
“He doesn't say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners. Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes ... These were the sinners,” Pope Francis said.
“Jesus says this word – 'You are saved, you are safe – only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners,” he emphasized.
“Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins.”

Homily for Today


Brothers and sisters, today, during the reading of the Holy Scriptures, we heard of God's righteousness and mercy. We were told that we must seek righteousness in order to receive the mercy of God. We were told that the righteousness of man embraces living and dying for Christ. And, we were told how the righteousness of God may not appear to be fair at times.

During the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah that is found in the Old Testament, we heard of the Divine calling of the Lord God. Let the wicked forsake their way. Let the unrighteous forsake their thoughts. Return to the Lord! Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. [Is. 55:6]

How long must the love and patience of the Lord endure before His children will return to His holy ways? Why are some still refusing to return to the Lord? Is it because of the fear of not being forgiven? God is full of mercy! He will abundantly pardon the sincere repentant! "God is love." [1 Jn. 4:8, 16] "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." [1 Jn. 4:18]

The human mind will never be able to fully perceive the depth of the love of God! Some believe that they do not need a daily relationship with Jesus in their lives. They believe that as long as they live good lives, they will be saved. As long as they teach their children what is morally right and wrong, they think that they will be saved. As long as they respect their neighbours, they think that they will be saved. How wrong they are! It is not enough to live a good life! Claiming to be wise, they became fools." [Rom. 1:22] "For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." [1 Cor. 1:25]

The thoughts of God are not the thoughts of man. The ways of God are not the ways of man. As the heavens are higher than the earth, the ways of God are higher than the ways of man and the thoughts of God are higher than the thoughts of man. The way of God is spiritual; the way of man consist of being worldly minded. He is like the doubter. "The doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord." [Jas. 1:8]

During today's Second Reading, St. Paul spoke of the righteousness of man. It is to live and die for Christ. True righteousness is persevering in the profession of faith that one proclaimed during the Sacrament of Baptism. It is living with Christ, in Christ and through Christ, until one's last breath. Having done so, one will not be put to shame in any way because Christ will have been exalted in every actions, in life or in death.

When one has achieved by the grace of God the elevated state of spiritual growth that is most pleasing in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, then it can be said that such a person has walked with a spiritual mind. While still in the world, this person was detached from the world. At all times, he had Jesus on his mind. To him, it did not matter if he lived or died. Departing from this world would have been a preference in order to eternally be in the Divine presence of Jesus. But, for the sake of the others who still need to learn and grow in Christ, such a person accepted the Divine Will of God to remain in this world as a light, continuing to persevere for a little longer for the glory of the Lord.

Both, living and dying in Christ, is gain. If we live in Christ, we will receive the just reward that has been accredited to us for our charitable works by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor. 3:8] If we die for Christ, we will immediately rejoice in the Divine Presence of our Lord.

From today's reading of the Gospel of Matthew, we learned that God does not call everybody at the same time. Some are called early in life as the early labourers were called, having received their baptism as infants. Some were called as teenagers. Some were called during their married life and others, much later in life. And some are like the labourers who were called around five o'clock; their conversion took place at the hour.

Naturally, the ones who are called early in life as the early labourers have a lot more persevering to do than the ones who are called during their last hour as the labourers who were called at five o'clock. And that is okay! I am not saying it is okay because some have to persevere longer than others for their salvation. I am saying it is okay because the salvation of the late labourers means a beautiful united family in the eternal Kingdom of God. We should not be like the labourers and grumble. Rather, we should rejoice! Those who grumble, they have a worldly mind, demanding to be paid for every minute of their labour. Those who rejoice have a spiritual mind, seeking the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. That is the difference between those who grumble and those who do not. They are not of the same mind.

Truly, the righteousness of the Lord is not the righteousness of man. The Lord God gives to those that He pleases in the amount that He chooses. Is He not allowed to do what He wants with what belongs to Him?

The Lord God is just and fair in all His dealings with His children. No one will ever go unrewarded for his works that are accredited to him. While all become new creations of the godly seed during the Sacrament of Baptism, not all receive the bonuses that come from persevering in the faith. While all receive their salvation, those who gave their blood for Christ do not receive the same eternal reward as those who did not give their blood. Those who shined in spiritual works by the grace of God do not receive the same eternal reward as those who only go to Church once a year at Easter... if they will receive a reward.

In the Book of Daniel, we read, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." [Dan. 12:4] The greater the works, the greater the reward. No one shall go unpaid for their works in Christ.

The reward of the Blessed Virgin Mary cannot be equalled to the rewards of the greatest saints of the Church. Nor can the reward of the greatest saints of the Church we equalled to the reward of the lesser saints. Those who gave their lives in the ministry of the Word of God or those who became Popes of the Holy Catholic Church to lead the faithful, surely, their rewards shall be greater than many Catholics.

Our reward is according to our spiritual works by the grace of God. If we have a heart that is disposed to serve the Lord, He will find spiritual work for us to do for the glory of His Kingdom. Seek righteousness and receive the mercy of God.

Keeping in mind what has just been said, there is a lesson to learn from this. If we want to shine like stars forever and ever, we should not ask what the Church can do for us, but rather, what can we do for the Church. Jesus did not place His angels on earth to evangelize. He placed us here, that is you and me, as lights in the world so that His glory may be manifested through us.

This week, let us reflect upon our Divine calling to evangelize. Let us ask ourselves, "What am I doing for the Church?" "How can I help bring other to the Church in the Name of Jesus?" "How can I help the Church to flourish by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the Heavenly Father will be pleased with my actions?"

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 55:6-9

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Responsorial Psalm ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

R/ (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R/ The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R/ The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R/ The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Reading 2 phil 1:20c-24, 27a

Brothers and sisters:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
If I go on living in the flesh,
that means fruitful labor for me.
And I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two.
I long to depart this life and be with Christ,
for that is far better.
Yet that I remain in the flesh
is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Gospel mt 20:1-16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Weekly Prayer

Are you envious because I am generous?

Father, when I think about it,
I can easily be overwhelmed
by all your gifts to me.

When I look at the universe you are creating,
there is, in the vastness of space,
so much more nothing than something.
And of the something,
most is energy, or dark matter,
or clouds of gas and dust
that sometimes coalesce into
stars and galaxies,
moons and planets.
But to only a fraction of it all
do you give the gift of life,
and only a very small fraction of life,
are the complex animals,
and only a fraction of them are human.

Without having done
anything to deserve it,
I have somehow
won the cosmic lottery.
Given the odds,
what a miracle it is
that I exist at all!

And as if the gift of life
were not enough,
you loved us so much
that you sent your Son
to give us a share
in your divine life,
a life that never ends.

Father, help me to be conscious
of all your gifts as I gather
with your people
to give you praise and thanks
at Mass today.
Help me to allow the Spirit
to gather me up
with the whole community
into the body of your Son.
Help us to share more fully
in the divine life we receive
in the Eucharist by
becoming Eucharist ourselves
and living your life
of utter, loving generosity
in all that we do.

Help me, Father, to be generous
as you are generous.
Banish from my heart any envy
I might hold for the gifts
you have given to others.
And open my eyes to see
those weighed down by poverty,
those looking for work
they cannot find,
those juggling part-time jobs
to support their families,
those suffering from
neglect or illness or cruelty.

Open my eyes to them, Father;
give me the courage
to act as selflessly
and generously toward them
as the landowner acts in today’s parable;
as selflessly and generously
as you act toward us all;
as selflessly and generously
as your Son, who gave his life
for the life of the world;
as selflessly and generously
as the Holy Spirit who showers
your gifts upon us all.
Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sts John XXIII, John Paul II added to General Roman Calendar

Tapestries of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II hang from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica shortly before their canonizations. Credit: Lauren Cater/CNA.

.- The Congregation for Divine Worship on Thursday added Saints John XXIII and John Paul II to the universal calendar of the modern Roman rite, with both their feasts observed during October.

According to the Sept. 11 issue of the Vatican weekly L'Osservatore Romano, the decree naming the saints’ new feast days was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments following requests to do so from around the world.

While the feasts of both late Popes had already been available to some dioceses since they had been beatified, every diocese throughout the world is now free to commemorate these Popes liturgically. Both are given the rank of optional memorial, meaning they may be celebrated, but they do not have to be.

The optional memorial of St. John XXIII is observed on Oct. 11, the day he opened the Second Vatican Council. The second reading at the Office of Readings for his feast, published in the decree, is taken from “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,” as his speech on that occasion is known.

St. John Paul II's optional memorial is observed on Oct. 22, the day of his Inaugural Mass as Bishop of Rome.

The two late Popes were canonized together on April 27.

St. John XXIII was born in Sotto il Monte in Italy on Nov. 25, 1881, as fourth of 13 children. He was elected Roman Pontiff Oct. 28, 1958.

Known as “Good Pope John,” he is best remembered for his encyclical “Pacem in Terris” and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council.

St. John Paul II, who was from Poland, is remembered for his charismatic nature, love of youth, world travels, and role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy.

Homily for Today's Mass

Today commemorates the liturgical Feast of the "Triumph of the Cross." My brothers and sisters in Christ, permit me to give you a brief summary of this special Feast that originated in the 4 th century. In those days, on September 14 th, two Churches in Jerusalem were dedicated to the cross, that special event being remembered annually since that time. It was not until the 7 th century that Rome adopted this Feast, commemorating it as the "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross." More recently, the title of the Feast has been changed to the "Triumph of the Cross." Its purpose was to honour the work of Jesus Christ. And that is the reason as to why, on this date, we are united here in the Church of God.

Today's First Reading began with the words, "Though Christ Jesus was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited." [Phil. 2:6] In other words, while Jesus possessed Divine equality and the right to appear like the Heavenly Father in the fullness of His glory, he refrained from adopting such honour. Jesus did not treat His divinity as something to be exploited during His incarnation.

Instead, Jesus "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness." [Phil. 2:7] In accordance with the Divine Plan, as part of the humiliation that came with the incarnation, taking the status of a slave, Jesus set aside His Divine glory. He did not "empty" Himself of His divinity but of the status of glory to which He had a right until such time as His Divine glory would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8] It is said that Jesus did not "empty" Himself of His divinity because during His incarnation, "Jesus Christ possessed two natures, one Divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son. (C.C.C. # 481)

As the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians relates to us, "For (we) know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for (our) sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty (we) might become rich." [2 Cor. 8:9] "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered." [Heb. 5:8] Jesus made Himself a "slave" so eventually He would become the "Lord."

When it is said that Jesus assumed a human form, [Rom. 8:3] being "born of a woman," [Gal. 4:4] His outward appearance "in the days of His flesh" [Heb. 5:7] was that of a man. "And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross." [Phil. 2:8]

When Jesus died on the cross, His obedience was not an ordinary one. It was an heroic obedience, one expected of a "servant." [Col. 3:22; Heb. 5:8] For He knew that the lowest humiliation that He could endure was that of death on the cross, such a severe punishment being reserved for the worst of criminals.

In view of the sufferings that Jesus endured for us, "Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name." [Phil. 2:9] The Heavenly Father super-exalted Jesus, elevating Him to the highest honours, from the cross to exaltation. He gave Him the Most Holy of all names, a Name that passes all celestial beings, [Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come." [Eph. 1:21].

Why did the Heavenly Father give Jesus such great honours? It was "so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." [Phil. 2:10] To bend our knees in the Divine Presence of Jesus is an act of religious devotion, a display of total gratitude and respect to our Saviour.

And at that moment, when we will all bend our knee before the Lord Jesus, "every tongue (shall) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Phil. 2:11] By glorifying Jesus for His perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God, such honour redounds towards the Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son.

Every tongue shall confess that "Jesus Christ is Lord." These words are the basic confession of every Christian. They have been echoed by Christians since the foundation of the Holy Catholic Church by Jesus Christ. [1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6] "For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living." [Rom. 14:9]

During today's Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus say to Nicodemus, "No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." [Jn. 3:13] Some may claim to know of heavenly things and speak accordingly. But, no one can speak of heavenly things with "authority" unless He has come down from Heaven and ascended into Heaven as the Son of Man has done.

We also heard of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, this being a symbolic prophecy of the Son of Man Who was to be lifted up. The reason Moses lifted up the serpent is because when God's people set out by the way to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom; they became impatient on the way. They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.' Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents form us.' So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.' So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [Numb. 21:4-9]

According to the Wisdom of Solomon, the bronze serpent was a symbol of salvation. [Wis. 16:5-6] In that book, we read, "And they were being destroyed by the bites of writhing serpents, your wrath did not continue to the end; they were troubled for a little while as a warning, and received a symbol of deliverance, to remind them of your law's command."

In both cases, the lifting of the bronze serpent in the wilderness and the lifting of the Son of Man on the cross, salvation came through a "raising up." Through the raising of the Son of Man, the Spirit of salvation was given to man so that he may qualify to enter into the Heavenly Kingdom, this exalting our Lord Jesus Christ above all creations. For those who believe, [Jn. 1:12] through the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, life is in him. [Jn. 1:4]

Many reasons may be given to explain why we qualify to receive the gift of eternal life through the redemptive plan that was achieved in Christ. But there is only one reason. It is the incredible love of God for the world. God sent the Son into the world in order that it might be saved through Him. [Jn. 3:17]

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us remember that the Son of Man had to be lifted up so that we may obtain our salvation through Christ, Our Lord Jesus. Let us praise His Most Holy Name and always be grateful for the undeserved gift of life that we have received. Praise be the Lord Jesus!

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Reading 1 nm 21:4b-9

With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Responsorial Psalm ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

R. (see 7b) Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable,
I will utter mysteries from of old.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
While he slew them they sought him
and inquired after God again,
Remembering that God was their rock
and the Most High God, their redeemer.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues,
Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him,
nor were they faithful to his covenant.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
But he, being merciful, forgave their sin
and destroyed them not;
Often he turned back his anger
and let none of his wrath be roused.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Reading 2 phil 2:6-11

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel jn 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jesus brings us the 'new wine' of joy, Pope Francis says


Jesus brings us the 'new wine' of joy, Pope Francis says
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wed. general audience on April 16, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wed. general audience on April 16, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
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.- In his daily homily on Friday Pope Francis discussed how the Pharisees condemned Jesus' apostles for not fasting, saying that Jesus renews the old law and brings a new Gospel of joy.

“One cannot understand the mentality of these Doctors of the Law – for example – these Pharisaical 'teachers,'” the Pope told mass attendees gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse Sept. 5.

“The style of the Gospel is a different style, which brings the fullness of the Law, yes,  but in a new way: it is the new wine in new wineskins.”

Beginning by recounting how Jesus was criticized for the fact that his disciples did not fast and offer prayers like the Pharisees did, the Pope drew attention to Jesus’ response in using the parable of the new wineskins to illustrate what his coming signified.

“New wine, new wineskins: the ‘novelty’ of the Gospel – and what does the Gospel bring us? Joy and renewal,” the pontiff explained.

The Pharisees and scribes were all bound by their rules and commandments, he noted, saying that when St. Paul speaks to them he tells us “that before faith came – that is, Jesus – we were all kept in custody, as prisoners under the Law.”

Although this law was not a bad thing because the people were taken care of, the Bishop of Rome explained that there were still “prisoners, awaiting the advent of faith – that faith, which would be revealed in Christ, itself.”

Pope Francis went on to observe how the people of that time had both the Mosaic Law as well as numerous customs and small legal requirements which the scribes had prescribed. The rules cared for the people as prisoners, he said,  but left them waiting for the “ultimate liberty that God would give to His people through His son.”

“One of you might say to me: ‘But Father, don’t Christians have laws?’” the Pope asked,  saying  “Yes. Jesus said: ‘I do not come to (abolish the Law), but to fulfill it.’”

He also pointed to the Beatitudes, which he described as “the law of love – total love” and the fullness of the law.

“Jesus, when he reproves these Doctors of the Law, is taking them to task for not caring for the people with the Law, but making them slaves to so many little laws, so many little things that had to be done,” he continued.

The pontiff went on to describe how all of these little things had to be done without the freedom offered by Jesus Christ, who brings us a new law sealed with his blood. “This,” he said, “is precisely the ransom that the people were awaiting.”

Another important lesson we can learn from this passage is that the Lord doesn’t want us to be afraid to change things according to the law of the Gospel, the Pope observed.

“St. Paul clearly distinguishes the children of the law from the children of faith: new wine in new wineskins – and this is why the Church asks all of us to change certain things,” he explained.

“She asks us to let go of decadent structures – they are useless – and to take up new wineskins, those of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by reiterating that the Gospel brought by Jesus is something utterly new which brings joy, and can only be fully lived by a joyful and renewed heart.

He also prayed that God give everyone the grace to keep this new commandment of love, as well as the joy of the freedom that the Good News brings.

Homily for Today's Mass


Good morning everyone, members of our parish, their invited guests and all the other visitors who decided on their own to visit our Church. We always have an open door policy and as such, you are always welcomed.

The Summer holidays have finally come to a close and our youth has returned to school. For many young families, this means that their home environment will once more enjoy continuity.

During today's three reading from the Holy Scriptures, we heard that the Lord God gave us the responsibility to be our brothers' keepers. Therefore, the term, "It's none of my business." is not biblical, nor is it acceptable in the practice of the Christian life.

Such an expression echoes a passage that we are familiar with from the Book of Genesis where it states, "Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' Abel answered, 'I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?'" [Genesis 4:9]

As parents and caregivers, Christians are responsible and made accountable for the welfare of those under their care, be it their children, grandparents or even friends. Equally, lawyers are responsible and made accountable for their clients. Doctors are responsible and made accountable for their patients. Police Officers, Security Guards and Correctional Officers are responsible and made accountable for their actions of upholding the law. Even Bank Managers are responsible and made accountable for the money deposited by their clients. In each occupation, there is a responsibility and full accountability is required of the individuals.

The Words of God that we have heard today, they did not speak of worldly responsibility and accountability. They spoke of God's commanded spiritual responsibility and accountability that each and everyone of us has towards our neighbours. The meaning of the word "neighbour" in biblical sense has a greater meaning than just "fellow Jews" or the neighbour next door. It spoke of our responsibility of correcting our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in error. This obligation is nothing new. It has always existed in the Catholic Church, from the early days of the Christian community right up to the present time.

From the Book of Ezekiel, we heard God commanding us to speak on His behalf. As Christians and ministers of the Word of God, through the promise that we have made to God and the Church when we were baptized, we have a responsibility and we are obligated to warn the wicked to turn away from their sinful ways so that they may be saved from spiritual death. If the sinners ignore our pleas to repent, they will suffer eternal damnation. Their damnation will not be because of us; it will be because of their own free choice of having embraced their evil ways, of having rejected the grace of God that was at work through us when we warned them. But us, we have the assurance that we will receive our salvation for having faithfully obeyed and served the Lord God as His messengers.

Today's Sacred Words of God echo many Bible passages that are commonly known. [Mt. 12:28-34] The first passage from the Scriptures states, "For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." [Mt. 7:2] While this passage speaks of how some judge others without noticing the log in their own eyes, it holds another spiritual meaning. It speaks of tolerance, allowing freedom, being indifferent to the sins of others. The measure by which we give, we will receive. If we are indifferent to the sins of others, therefore giving approval of such sins, we are just as guilty of the sins of the sinners as if we had committed them ourselves. Our silence condemns us!

This attitude of tolerance echoes another passages that comes later in the Gospel of Matthew. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." [Mt. 12:30] Either we are Christians and we uphold the teachings of Jesus for the unity of the Holy Catholic Church or we are not true Christians, being indifferent to the teachings of our Lord Jesus. We cannot be both.

The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is like a large life giving tree that stretches all over the world. We are the branches that have been attached to the tree of life who is Jesus Christ. Through our actions, we "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit." [Mt. 12:33]

If we do not bear good fruits because of our indifference towards the sins of others, then the Lord Jesus shall come and prune the life giving tree, cutting us off as dead branches to be burned in the fire. "For by [our] words [we] will be justified, and by [our] words [we] will be condemned." [Mt. 12:37]

During the second reading, St. Paul summed up for man the New Dispensation of the whole Mosaic Law. [Deut. 5:17-21; Lev. 19:18] "Love your neighbor as yourself." Just before that, he had said, "Owe no one anything." Why should we owe no one anything? It is because if we do, it can be used as a bargaining tool to silence us. If someone owes us money, we dare not speak of their sin in fear of losing what is owed to us. If we borrowed from someone, we dare not speak of their sin because he might demand immediate repayment. Lending and borrowing are great tools of the evil one to silence those who would otherwise speak up.

But what about God's command? How will we account to Him for our silence when we tell Him, "I did not want to say anything because he owed me money!" Is the Word of God and our salvation of lesser importance than the wealth of this world that will pass away?

During today's Gospel reading, Jesus taught us how to proceed as responsible and accountable spiritual brothers and sisters who are genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of others.

First of all, we are obligated to privately approach the sinner so we will not publicly humiliate him or her. If the sinner has sincerely repented, praise God and maintain that privacy afterwards. No one else needs to know of the sins of others to avoid a chain reaction of gossip that will damage the spiritual life of all those who are involved.

If the sinner remains indifferent to his salvation, we have an obligation to meet again, but this time with two or three witnesses. If the individual refuses to listen to all, we are commanded to tell it to the church. And if the offender still refuses to listen, even to the church, let such a person be to us as a Gentile and a tax collector. To the Jewish people, the Gentiles were non-members of the Body of Christ, the tax collectors being disliked. They were avoided.

Why did Jesus say to disassociate from them? It is because when we put a bad fruit among good fruits, the bad fruit corrupts the others. The good fruits begin to take the same shape as the bad fruit. If everyone is indifferent to the sin of one person, that sin becomes acceptable to the extent that soon or later, all are committing the same sin as a norm of Christian life and society.

An example of such corruption has been witnessed over the years in the progressive acceptance of abortions. Allow me to read you a passage from the book, "Surprised by truth":
"I was shocked to learn that no Protestant denominations had permitted contraception until 1930, when at its Lambert Conference the Anglican Communion announced it no longer viewed it as sinful. Since then, every single Protestant denomination had followed suit. What ensued was the inevitable progression from allowing contraception to allowing abortion." (Ref: "Surprised By Truth" by Patrick Madrid, Basilica Press, page 247)
The same attitude of indifference and acceptance of sinful ways can be said about other sins that have gradually become acceptable within society by most of the people. These are the sins of divorce, common-law relationships, the practice of homosexuality, lesbianism, same sex marriage, the removal of prayer from the schools, the teaching of evolution in the schools, etc... All of these are perversions of the truth that lead away from God's Holiness and holy ways.

While some may be hesitant to speak up against the sins of others, saying, "It is none of my business.", or "They are protected under the Charter of Rights.", this is not so according to God. As a Christian, we have an obligation to make it our responsibility and we have an obligation to contact our representatives of the Government to ask that the Charter of Rights and the laws be changed to reflect the ways of God. Until such time as it is done, God will condemn us alongside those who live in sin!

This week, let us take some time to reflect on our responsibility towards God. Let us reflect on how we will account to God for the actions of those around us, be it our parents, our brothers or sisters, our children, our relatives, our neighbours, our co-workers, our peers, all of those who's life we touch. Let us do what we must do so that when we appear before God on Judgment Day, we will be able to repeat the words of Jesus, "Not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost." [Jn. 17:12]

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 ez 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

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 rom 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gospel mt 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

A Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, I come to you once again in prayer. Even though I cannot see you, my faith tells me that you are present. You are ready to listen and desire to speak with me. Your presence gives me hope, because you are the all-powerful God, the creator of heaven and earth. You are the source of all that is good in my life. Nothing happens to me without your knowing and permitting it. My hope leads me to love. I want to be one with you in mind and heart, identifying myself with your will and your standards.

SPIRITUAL PROTECTION of the HOME PRAYER:

[At this time of spiritual warfare and agitation in all aspects of life -- in the family, in the Church, in media, in society -- let us sta...