Sunday, March 22, 2015

What does the Pope want: ‘All I want is to go out for a pizza!’

I read this interview with the Holy Father and just loved it so I decided to share.

By  David Gibson, Religion News Service
  • March 16, 2015
The “Pope of the Interview” strikes again: Pope Francis has given a lengthy — and fascinating — interview to a Mexican television station, which broadcast it on March 13 to mark the second anniversary of his election.
Speaking to the program Noticieros Televisa, Francis displays his usual candour, dishing details about the secret conclave that elected him, talking about how he senses his papacy will be short, how the Church must get tough on sexual abuse, and how all he really wants “is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza.”
Here are some of the highlights based on Vatican Radio’s English translation and the original Spanish:
On whether he likes being Pope:
“I do not mind!”
On what he does not like about being Pope:
“The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza. … In Buenos Aires, I was a rover. I moved between parishes and certainly this habit has changed. … It has been hard work to change. But you get used to it. You find a way to get around: on the phone, or in other ways.”
On how long he thinks he will be Pope:
“I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief: four or five years; I do not know, even two or three. Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation. Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed, and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more. … But it is a feeling. That’s why I always leave the possibility open.”
On criticisms that he talks too much, and too spontaneously:
“I talk the way I talk, like a parish priest, because I like to talk that way. I’ve always spoken that way. Always. For some it’s a defect, I don’t know. But I think the people understand me.”
On how voting works in the conclave:
“The phenomenon of a conclave vote is interesting. There are very strong candidates. But many people do not know who to vote for. So six, seven, names are chosen that are a kind of depository, while people wait to see who to definitively vote for. This is how people vote when the group is large. I was not the recipient of definitive votes, but provisional ones, yes.”
On his surprise in being chosen on the second afternoon of voting:
“Something happened, I do not know what. In the room I saw some strange signs, but … they asked me about my health … and stuff. And when we came back in the afternoon (after lunch) the cake was already in the oven. In two votes it was all over. It was a surprise even for me.”
On the sense of peace that has never left him:
“During the vote I was praying the rosary — I usually pray three rosaries daily — and I felt great peace, almost to the point of not being aware of myself. It was the very same when everything was resolved, and for me this was a sign that God wanted it, great peace. From that day to this I have not lost it. It is ‘something inside,’ it is like a gift. I do not know what happened next. They made me stand up. They asked me if I agreed. I said yes. I do not know if they made me swear on something; I forget. I was at peace.”
On his predecessor, Benedict XVI, retiring:
“In general I think what Benedict so courageously did was to open the door to the (role of) pope emeritus. Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution. Maybe he will be the only one for a long time, maybe he will not be the only one. But an institutional door has been opened.”
On whether popes should retire at 80, as cardinals are required to do:
“I do not really like the idea of an age limit. Because I believe that the papacy is a kind of last instance. It is a special grace. For some theologians the papacy is a sacrament. … I do not think so, but I want to say that it is something special. To say that one is in charge up to 80 years, creates a sensation that the pontificate is at its end and that would not be a good thing. Predictability.”
On preventing sexual abuse by clergy:
“Just one priest abusing a child is enough to move all of the structures of the Church to confront the problem. Why? Because a priest has the obligation to help a child grow, in sanctity and in his or her encounter with Jesus. Whoever abuses destroys the encounter with Jesus. One must listen to those who have been abused. And I have listened to them here… The interior destruction they have suffered. They (the abusers) are cannibals. In other words, it’s as if they have eaten these children up. They destroy them, no? Even if it’s just one case, it’s enough for us to be ashamed and to do all that we can do. In this, we must go forward, we cannot take even one step back. To destroy a child is horrible; it’s horrible.”
On why he will not stop at the U.S-Mexico border on his September visit to the U.S:
“I thought about doing it, because I would like to enter the United States through the Mexican border. … But how could I go to Mexico without visiting the Virgin of Guadalupe (shrine)? Mexico needs a week to visit. I want to visit without rushing.”
On ‘disastrous’ homilies that drive Catholics away, often to evangelical churches:
“I do not know if they (bad sermons) are the majority — but they do not reach the heart. They are lessons in theology and are abstract or long, and this is why I devoted so much space to them in Evangelii Gaudium (his landmark statement from 2013). Typically evangelicals are close to the people; they aim for the heart and prepare their homilies really well. I think we have to have a conversion in this. The Protestant concept of the homily is much stronger than the Catholic. It’s almost a sacrament.”
On the reputation Argentines have for being proud:
“You know how an Argentine commits suicide? He climbs to the top of his ego and jumps!”

Homily for Today

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are entering the fifth week of Lent. Before long, Easter will be upon us. To remind us of the grace of God that was manifested in us through the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is celebrated on Easter Day, today's readings speak of the Lord drawing all people to Himself.

The First Reading was taken from the Book of Jeremiah. [Jer. 31:31- 34] From this Holy Book that is found in the Old Testament, we learn of God's promise of a New Covenant. We heard that God promised to write His laws in our hearts, that we will all know Him, that our sins would be forgiven and that our sins will never again be remembered by God.

As Christians, we all know that the New Covenant of grace was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. Sitting at the table with His disciples, Jesus took the cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, saying "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." [Mt. 26-27-8]

But what does it mean that God will write His laws in our hearts and that we will all know Him? What does it mean that we will no longer teach one another or say to each other, "Know the Lord." Some have interpreted this last question to mean that now, they only need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who inspires them in their heart. They no longer need the priests, the bishops, the pope or even the Catholic Church. When such a thought crosses the worldly mind, these individuals start their own new Church, alleging that the Holy Spirit inspired them to do so. But this is not what God was saying. To perceive the fullness of the spiritual meaning of God's Words, it is necessary to search the other Words of God within the Scriptures that are associated with the promise of a New Covenant.

Over and above the gift of a new heart, God promised to place within us a new human spirit. With the new heart and the new human spirit, we would become God's people and He would be our God. [Ezek. 11:19-20; 18:31] Over and above these free gifts, God also promised to place His indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to remain good, to obey His Holy ways. [Ezek. 36:26-7]

These gifts that are the fulfilment of God's promises are exactly what it means to be reborn. God literally placed a new heart and spirit within us when we received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Jesus Christ. [Jn. 3:3, 5, 7; 1 Jn. 4:7, 5:1, 4] Truly, we are not the same anymore; part of our creation has been changed.

This is the new agreement, the beautiful promise that God made with us as His people, that He would help us to become good by writing His laws in our hearts. [Jer. 31:33] Through this Divine manifestation, we as God's people will always know what is right and wrong, what makes God happy or sad. God's laws are always written in our hearts because, our Teacher, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We have become living Temples of the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor. 3:16] Through this manifestation, God once more lives with us as His people. [Jer. 31:33]

Contrary to the teaching of those who have misinterpreted the Holy Bible, God's dwelling with His people is not a physical dwelling, but rather a spiritual dwelling through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

So, what does it mean that we will no longer teach one another or say to each other, "Know the Lord."? It means that, through our faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we now know right from wrong, the righteousness of the Lord versus the evils of the prince of darkness. The indwelling Holy Spirit immediately convicts us of our sins when we disobey the holy ways of the Lord God.

The First Reading concluded by saying that our sins will be forgiven and never remembered again by God. [Jer. 31:34] What does that mean to us?

When Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation, that those who believe be baptised and saved, Jesus made faith an important part of Baptism (C.C.C. # 1226) along with the forgiveness of sin. [Mk. 16:15-6] (C.C.C. # 985)

As God's children, when we were born again through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, our past sins were forgiven up until the moment that we received the Sacrament of our new birth. To maintain our ongoing righteousness, we must continuously receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Having done so, now being in a state of grace, we are able to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, as our assurance of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Through the Sacrament of Confession, Conversion, Penance, Reconciliation, Forgiveness, whatever name you may choose to call it, your sins are forgiven and never remembered again by God. This holy Sacrament is the fulfillment of God's promise that is found in the Old Testament. Through this Sacrament, God is drawing us to Him in righteousness.

Today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews [Heb. 5:7-9] teaches us, through the example of our Lord Jesus, how we must respond to God's calling that draws us to Him.

During that reading, we heard that, in His human nature, Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered. Through suffering, Jesus was made perfect. Through perfection, He became the source of salvation for all who obey Him.

Reviewing this Bible passage that relates to Jesus in His human nature, we perceive from this reading that Jesus also had a fear of death. In His physical body, He was just as human as you and I. He ate, slept, cried when Lazarus died, got tired, and so on. Although He was God Himself, having lowered Himself to our humanity so we may learn from Him, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father. While He wished that the horrible death that awaited His physical body could pass away, He submitted Himself to the fullness of the Divine Will of God the Father.

From this perfect example of obedience and submission, we learn that through suffering, our souls are sanctified. When we endure hunger, we are spiritually enlightened to the needs of those who suffer hunger. When we suffer unemployment and have to set our pride aside to turn to social assistance, we learn in our hearts that we should not judge others who also are obligated to turn to social assistance because of their unfortunate circumstances. From every form of suffering, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned. Suffering sanctifies the soul so it may become more in the likeness of Christ who is perfect.

Jesus is the source of salvation for those who obey Him. Answering God's calling to be drawn to the Lord, we must always be thankful to the Lord for what He sends us, trusting in His infinite grace to sanctify us through His Spirit.

Today's Gospel Reading from the Gospel of John [Jn. 12:20-33] reaffirms what has just been said. In a parable, Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies; it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour."

What is this grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die? The grain of wheat is symbolic of the Sacrament of Baptism. When a person is baptised, his old sinful nature dies and is buried with Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] And, just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, through baptism, a new creation is raised from death to walk the new life that has been received through Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] (C.C.C. # 628)

The new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15] By being baptised in the Name of Christ, the convert becomes a new creation. (C.C.C. # 1265) Everything has become new. The old heart and spirit that were stained by the original sin, they have passed away. They are dead! [2 Cor. 5:17] Because there is no more trace of the original sin or any other sin in the new heart and spirit, they are pure in the eyes of God. They have become suitable as a Temple of the Holy Spirit for God to live in the Christian.

As a new creation of God, the convert who was baptised through faith in Christ, by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to bear much fruit so his soul may shine as a light in the world. To shine as a light in the world, he must hate his life.

Those who love their lives, they will lose it. This is because they choose to preoccupy their worldly minds with wealth, the flesh, desires, addictions, fames, etc... They are without any living hope. They have no eternal life awaiting them in the Kingdom of God because their lives are void of spirituality. They do not have the free gift of righteousness that comes from Christ, the gift that is necessary to be admitted into the Heavenly Kingdom of God.

But those who hate their lives, having chosen to live their living faith in Christ by embracing a spiritual life with heavenly thoughts, what is righteous, what is pious, what is according to the Divine Will of God, they will keep what they have. They will receive their salvation and inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God, the rewards that awaits all those who embrace a spiritual life through faith, hope and love towards others.

Jesus said, "Whoever serves me must follow me." Yes, we must follow Him! And those who follow Jesus, they have the assurance that God the Father will honour them.

To follow Jesus is not always easy. The human nature always seeks to avoid suffering. At the same time, our spiritual nature tells us to self-sacrifice ourselves for others. Both natures are constantly in conflict with one another. How I wish I could always do what I want to do instead of doing what I do not want to do!

But, through Christ, I will conquer because the ruler of this world is being driven out. The days of the ruler of this world are limited. As the number of newly baptized children of God increases, the number of those who walk in the darkness diminishes. While the Kingdom of God is increasing on earth, the kingdom of Satan is shrinking.

This is sufficient reason to glorify the name of God. Before our eyes, we see the manifestation of the grace of God. Before our eyes, we see the fulfillment of God drawing all the people to Himself as He promised He would do in the days of the Old Testament.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Jer 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Reading 2 Heb 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Verse Before the Gospel Jn 12:26

Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord;
and where I am, there will my servant be.

Gospel Jn 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered and said,
“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

At Lenten penance service, pope announces Holy Year of Mercy

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church's "mission to be a witness of mercy."

"No one can be excluded from God's mercy," the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter's Basilica.


Pope Francis is pictured during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS/Paul Haring)
"I frequently have thought about how the church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy," he said during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016.

The biblical theme of the year, he said, will be "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful," an admonition that applies "especially to confessors," the pope said with a smile.

Traditionally, every 25 years the popes proclaim a holy year, which features special celebrations and pilgrimages, strong calls for conversion and repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God's grace through the sacraments, especially confession. Extraordinary holy years, like the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent, but offer the same opportunities for spiritual growth.

The doors of the church "are wide open so that all those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness," Pope Francis said at the penance service, which featured individual confessions. It was part of a worldwide celebration of "24 Hours for the Lord," in which Catholic churches were staying open for prayer, eucharistic adoration and confession.

At each of the dozens of confessionals in St. Peter's Basilica, as well as in simple chairs scattered along the walls, priests welcomed people to the sacrament. The pope removed his liturgical vestments and went to confession before putting on a purple stole and hearing the confessions of others.

"God never ceases to demonstrate the richness of his mercy over the course of centuries," the pope said in his homily, which preceded the confessions. God touches people's hearts with his grace, filling them with repentance and a desire to "experience his love."

"Being touched by the tenderness of his hand," people should not be afraid to approach a priest and confess their sins, he said. In the confessional, one has "the certainty of being welcomed in the name of God and understood, despite our misery."

"The greater the sin, the greater the love, which the church must express toward those who convert," Pope Francis said.

The Gospel reading at the penance service was the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Every time one goes to confession, the pope said, "we feel the same compassionate gaze of Jesus" that she did.

Jesus' love, he said, allowed her to draw near, to demonstrate her repentance and to show her love for him. "Every gesture of this woman speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakable certainty in her life, that of having been forgiven."

"Love and forgiveness are simultaneous" in the story of each person, just as in the story of the sinful woman, he said. "God forgave her for much -- for everything -- because he loved her much."

Through Jesus, the pope said, God took the woman's sins and "threw them over his shoulder, he no longer remembers them."

Jesus' encounter with the woman took place in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Unlike the woman, the pope said, Simon "isn't able to find the path of love. He remains stopped at the threshold of formality. He is not able to take the next step to encounter Jesus, who brings salvation."

The Pharisee is concerned only with following God's law, with justice, which is a mistake, the pope said. "His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth and prevents him from understanding who his guest is."

Jesus scolds Simon, pointing out how the "sinful woman" has shown nothing but love and repentance, the pope said. "Jesus' rebuke pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when dealing with a person. We are called to look deeper, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity the personal is capable of."

Pope Francis said he asked the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to coordinate preparations for the Holy Year so that it would be "a new stage in the church's journey in fulfilling its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person."

Homily


My brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, our loving and merciful God has compassion for His people! During the First Reading from the Second Book of Chronicles [2 Chr. 36:14-17, 19-23] that is found in the Old Testament, we heard of the compassion and patience of the Lord God. The Lord God does not wish for any to perish because of their disobedience to His righteousness.

Having compassion on His people and love for His holy House that He consecrated in Jerusalem, the Lord God tolerated with patience the sins of His people. God communicated with His people by sending many prophets as messengers to them so they would turn away from their sins. In their wickedness, the people despised the Words of God and scoffed at His prophets. Finally, the wrath of God struck the people. God raised a great army through the king of the Chaldeans. Everything was destroyed, the House of God, the walls of Jerusalem, the palaces and its precious vessels. And those who escaped the sword, they were taken into exile in Babylon as servants to the king of the Chaldeans and his sons.

Considering the punishment that fell upon God's people who had turned away from Him, God did not abandon them. He only disciplined them for a little while to show them how helpless they were without His Divine intervention and protection.

When king Cyrus of Persia came into power, he was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to call the children of God to return to the holy city of Jerusalem to rebuilt the House of Yahweh. The punishment of God had come to its end.

In this Lenten Season, the First Reading holds a spiritual message for us. How often do we come to realize that are lives are void of the inner joy and peace of the Lord Jesus? Is it not because we too have set the Lord aside so we can keep our worldly minds busy with our fame, pleasures, wealth, possessions, entertainment, sports, television, and all the goodies of the world? How much time do we really dedicate towards our spiritual growth so that we may worship the Lord in spirit as we have been called to do?

If we turn away from the Lord, He will not abandon us. At the same time, He will let us go our own way to use that opportunity to discipline us so we may come to the realization that we too are helpless without His Divine Providence. And, when we wake up from our blindness, the Lord will be there to once more bless us with His inner joy and peace.

During these days when a dark cloud has set itself over our world, threatening to destroy millions of lives, can we associate this age of darkness to our failure of maintaining the righteousness of God? Is it not true that while many claim to be Catholics, even politicians, their morals leave much to be desired? Is it not true that their position on abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, divorce, etc... oppose the teachings of the Catholic Church? Is it not also true that many of our Church leaders have permitted themselves to fall to every kind of sins of the flesh, causing a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in many nations? Indeed, have we failed to maintain God's righteousness? Is God punishing the world because of the sins of His people who have become indifferent to true righteousness?

Just how much does the Lord God love us? During the Second Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, [Ephes. 2:4-10] we heard that God is rich in mercy. While mankind was dead through its trespasses by walking in the darkness of the worldly ways, He gave it life through Christ. Through His grace, those who believe have been saved.

God continuously showers His grace upon His people to show them His compassion. He knows that without Christ, there is no hope. Humans are helpless sheep before raging wolves.

If we are saved by the grace of God, it is not by our own doing. There is nothing that we can do to secure our salvation. While the scientists have unsuccessfully tried to create a youth formula to stop the aging process, they have yet to find a way to secure the eternal life of the soul in the Kingdom of God. How can one secure the new birth that is absolutely necessary for eternal life in the Kingdom of God when what is spiritual cannot be seen or touched? It is impossible! Those who experience spiritual death by rejecting the grace of God, they will inherit eternal damnation. Eternal life in the beatific vision of God can only come to us by the grace of God. To inherit God's gift of salvation, we do not need the scientists! We need the gift of the grace of God, faith in Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism!

Why is God giving us the free gift of salvation in His eternal Kingdom? It is because we have been created through Jesus to do good works by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is because we have been called to shine in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as holy children who are worthy of the grace of God.

During today's Gospel Reading, [Jn. 3:14-21] we heard of the moment when Jesus said to Nicodemus, 'Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.' [Jn. 3:14] In this Biblical passage, Jesus was referring to an event that occurred in the days of the Old Testament.

In the days of Moses, the people of God had lost their patience and spoke against God and Moses. They constantly complained, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food or water, and we detest this miserable food!" [Num. 21:5] To punish the ungrateful people for having spoken against Him, God sent poisonous snakes. Many Israelites were bitten and died. When the people repented and acknowledged that they had wrongly spoken again the Lord God and Moses, they asked Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the poisonous serpents. Following this, God instructed Moses to make a metal snake and to put it on a pole so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and be healed.

This event was prophetic in nature. It represented what was to come in the days of the ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth. The metal snake was an image of Christ. As the metal snake was raised and put on the pole, Jesus was also raised and nailed to the Holy Cross.

During the days of Moses, those who were bitten by the serpent, they died. Equally today, those who allow themselves to be bitten (seduced), by the serpent who is Satan, they shall also endure spiritual death by being eternally condemned into Hell. But, as those who looked up to the metal snake on the pole were healed, today, we also are healed when we set our eyes on Christ. Our living faith in the Lord Jesus is our assurance of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

In the next passage from today's Gospel Reading, Jesus said, "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

In other words, Jesus did not come to punish you - He came to save you through Him! He did not come to judge you - He came to save you through Him! Jesus came to show you the way, the truth and the life so you may walk in the Light.

Jesus is the Light. He is the only way! He is the only Truth! He is the only Life! There are none other but Jesus who can save us by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through our living faith in Christ, we have the assurance of salvation.

What is living faith in Christ? It is walking according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is walking according to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, teachings that have been divinely handed down to the Church through apostolic succession. When we walk according to the teachings of Christ and the Holy Catholic Church that He has instituted on earth, we are walking in the Light. If we oppose these teachings, we oppose the Light, Christ Himself. If we oppose these teachings, we are walking in the darkness. We cannot walk in both at the same time, the Light and the darkness; we must choose one way and reject the other.

During this time of Lent, let us review our hearts to determine where we stand. Are we walking in the Light of God? Are we walking in the darkness? Are we walking half and half, one foot in the Light and one foot in the darkness? Our eternal life and salvation depends entirely on our living faith that calls us to look up to Jesus on the Holy Cross. Our salvation and eternal happiness require that we give ourselves entirely to Christ, having both feet in the Light.

God has compassion on His people and does not want any of us to be lost. If we have not been completely faithful to the Light of Christ or if we have shipwrecked along our spiritual journey, let us sincerely repent from our sins. Let us receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation so we may once more receive the righteousness of God that we enjoyed when we received the Sacrament of Baptism. Then, let us receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, so we may have the inner joy and peace of Christ in our hearts.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Reading 12 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people 
added infidelity to infidelity, 
practicing all the abominations of the nations 
and polluting the LORD’s temple 
which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, 
send his messengers to them, 
for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.
But they mocked the messengers of God, 
despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, 
until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed 
that there was no remedy.
Their enemies burnt the house of God,
tore down the walls of Jerusalem, 
set all its palaces afire, 
and destroyed all its precious objects.
Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, 
where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons
until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.
All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: 
“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, 
during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest 
while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, 
in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, 
the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia 
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, 
both by word of mouth and in writing: 
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: 
All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, 
and he has also charged me to build him a house 
in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, 
let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Responsorial PsalmPS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
For there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

Reading 2EPH 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
God, who is rich in mercy, 
because of the great love he had for us, 
even when we were dead in our transgressions, 
brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —, 
raised us up with him, 
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 
that in the ages to come 
He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace 
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, 
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works 
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Verse Before The GospelJN 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

GospelJN 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“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.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, 
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, 
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world, 
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light, 
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, 
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Prayer for the Week

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”


Jesus, I am grateful
to have this gospel this Sunday.
It’s been a tough Lent so far.
You know how easily I get discouraged,
and the recent gospel readings--
especially the ones where you reveal
your very high expectations for your disciples--
can easily leave me discouraged.

That’s why it is so helpful
to peek ahead to the end of the story--
to see beyond struggle and dying
and to get a glimpse of the glory to come.

Thank you for taking me up the mountain
with Peter, James, and John.
Thank you for the vision
of the transfiguration
that will help me
keep my eyes on the goal.

But help me to remember as well,
that the path to that goal leads me
down all the dusty roads of my life,
and straight through all the large
and small ways I struggle
to live your life in my own.

And whether I am
on top of the mountain
or down in the valley,
help me to heed the
voice who calls to me,
“This is my beloved Son…
listen to him.”

And whether I am
on top of the mountain
or down in the valley,
let me listen and hear you say
what you say so often:
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Amen.

Homily


Twelve days having passed since we entered the Lenten Season, it is now a good time to review how our living faith and perseverance is leading us towards our eternal glory. Today's readings from the Holy Scriptures serve that specific purpose in our lives.

The First Reading from the Book of Genesis tells us that God tested Abraham. [Gen. 22:1] In other words, God tested his living faith. God wanted to see just how faithful Abraham would be in obedience and servitude.

In this particular Reading that speaks of Abraham and Isaac as father and son, we see a lot of images of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. When God called upon Abraham, he answered, "Here I am." The two words, "I am," echo the identity of both, God the Father and Jesus Christ. These two Words, prophetic in nature, implied the arrival of Jesus in the world as the promised Messiah.

After calling Abraham, God the Father commanded him to take his son Isaac whom he loved and to go to the land of Moriah to offer him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that will be shown to him.

As Genesis 22:3-8 tells us, Abraham obeyed God. Early in the morning, he set out towards the mountain. Genesis 22:6 tells us that "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac." This passage echoes Jesus carrying the wooden cross to Calvary. It echoes how God the Father put the weight of the sins of the world upon His Son Jesus Christ whom He loved very much."

When Abraham came to the place that God had shown him, he built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

The action of Abraham echoes perfect obedience to God. It echoes that living faith without actions (works) is dead. [Jas. 2:26] True faith is living faith that shines in actions.

When we heard that Isaac was bound and laid on top of the wood, we were reminded of Jesus who was bound and laid on the cross to be nailed in our place so we may receive our salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. [Gen. 22:10] The moment had arrived! What went through the mind of Abraham at that moment? It is obvious that the fear of God must have been great in Abraham. He had chosen to sacrifice his son versus opposing God's command. Abraham must have known that anything was possible to God. If it was the Divine Will of God, He would raise Isaac from the dead. And what went through the mind of his son? His obedience to God and to his father must have been great to allow himself to be slaughtered as a lamb at the burnt offering ceremony.

Just when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, the angel of the Lord called him from heaven and told him not to lay his hand on the boy or do anything to him. [Gen. 22:11-2] The faith of Abraham had been tested and God knew by his actions that he had a sincere heart. Abraham obeyed God to the end.

Something of interest that many of you may not have noticed or heard before. It is the reference to the angel of the Lord. In the Old Testament, there are frequent references to the angel of the Lord. [Gen. 16:7-13; Exo. 3:2, 32:22-32; Num. 22:22-8; Judges 2:1; Zech. 12:8, etc...] In those passages, the angel of the Lord is identified as Yahweh Himself.

Knowing that God the Father is formless, being the first mover among the Three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity, and believing in the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church that the first mover cannot be moved, these passages of the Old Testament reveal to us that the angel of the Lord was the Second Divine Presence of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Himself. These passages tell us that before the incarnation of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Word of God, Jesus manifested Himself visibly throughout the early history of the world in an angelic form.

After the angel of the Lord had stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, Abraham saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horn. He took the animal and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. [Gen. 22:13]

Later on, God called Abraham a second time. This time, God made a promise to Abraham, that because he did not withhold his son, he would be blessed. His offsprings would become as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.

Today, we can perceive what was meant by that promise of God. We know that Abraham was to become the spiritual father of mankind. [Rom. 4:17] He was the first of those to be saved by their living faith in God, first through the angel of God in the Old Testament and then through Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

The Lord concluded by saying that through the offspring of Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall gain blessings for themselves. [Gen. 22:18] Those word teach us that every nation of the world is privileged to have as some of its citizens the children of God who have received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the offspring of Abraham, blessings have been bestowed upon all the nations. Through the offspring of Abraham, the nations have learned the ways of God, the Christian faith, true righteousness, equal justice, human rights, all what is holy and pure, and pleasing to the Lord God.

Moving along to the Second Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, we perceive that perseverance moves alongside living faith. In the early days of the Church, there was much persecution and many of the converts feared losing their lives.

Addressing this issue, St. Paul told them, "If God is for us, who is against us? [Rom. 8:31] It is clear that God is on the side of the Christians. As such, there is nothing to fear. If God made the ultimate sacrifice of His only beloved Son, will He not alongside with Jesus provide the Christians with all their needs? Certainly He will!

Then, St. Paul asked two more questions. "Who will bring any charges against God's elect? Is it God who justifies? [Rom. 8:33] This affirms to us that the justification and salvation of the Christian is not a question of arbitration. In the days of Job, Satan travelled back and forth between Heaven and earth, seeking God's permission to shipwreck whoever would not persevere in the living God. [Job 1:6-12, 2:1-8] But those days are now over! Satan, the accuser of men, he who accused them day and night before our God, has been thrown down from Heaven. [Rev. 12:7-10] He can no longer bring charges against the children of God for Jesus is now our Mediator before God the Father. Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for our sins. For those who persevere in their living faith, Jesus atoned as the Lamb of God to secure their righteousness before the Heavenly Father.

Since we have Jesus on our side, who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, none of these things will separate us! For the love of Christ is eternal. While we may temporarily suffer in these physical bodies, our living hope in Christ is in the life to come as spiritual beings. Can the worldly ways that will come to an end separate us from our spiritual lives? No!

If we do suffer hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness or even death as Christian who live their faith in Christ, let us offer it to God. For in the end, a Heavenly reward awaits all those who persevere in their living faith. Hardship, persecution and death makes us conquerors through Jesus who loves us. Through Him we have assurance of our eternal life and salvation, having overcome the worldly ways of the flesh, of self-centredness, wealth, fame, etc...

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Mark gives us a glimpse at what awaits those who persevere in their living faith. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. His clothes became dazzling white such as no one on earth could bleach them.

White clothing is an image of glory. This is supported by numerous biblical passages. [Rev. 3:3-5, 3:18, 4:4, 6:11, 7:9, 12]

The presence of Elijah and Moses on the mountain is symbolic of the fulfillment of the prophets (through Elijah) and the Law (through Moses) that is found in the Old Testament. Their living presence is proof that God's children of the Old Testament who persevered in their living faith have inherited the Kingdom of God.

During that Reading, we heard when Peter offered to make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Peter wanted to eternalize his joy by building three tents as was done in the Feast of Tabernacles. [Hos. 12:9]

With everything that was happening, Peter was terrified. He was terrified in the sense that he was lost for words at the mystery of Christ. His fear was his great unworthiness of being in the presence of God incarnated.

To add to this overwhelming experience, a cloud overshadowed them and God the Father spoke, "This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!" The cloud is symbolic of the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament. [Ex. 16:10, 19:9 24:15-6; 32:9] The words, "my beloved son" is a repetition of the words of God that were spoken at the Baptism of Jesus. [Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11] The words, "listen to Him" is a command to heed to Jesus or face the consequences for rejecting the Word of God.

Overcome by the Divine presence of God, the disciples fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. [Mt. 17:6-8] Jesus went to them, touched them, told them to get up and not to be afraid. When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Coming down the mountain echoes a new Covenant. When Moses received the Covenant of the Law, he also descended the mountain while carrying the two tablets of the Covenant. [Ex. 32:15, 34:29] Now the new and everlasting Covenant of Grace was about to begin.

Jesus commanding the disciples to tell no one echoes when Daniel received a vision and was commanded to keep the words secret until the time of the end. [Dan. 12:4, 9] Today's Gospel ends by telling us that the disciples kept the matter to themselves, this echoing how Daniel also kept the vision of things to come secret to himself. [Dan. 7:28]

As was just explained to you, living faith and perseverance leads us to eternal glory. Your presence here today is a sign of your living faith. Your Christian behaviour in the world is a sign of your perseverance in your faith. Today, we are gathered here together so we can strengthen one another to persevere in our living faith in the hope of the eternal glory that awaits us at the end of this life.

Continuing with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to strengthen and preserve our living faith through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. This is especially important to us during the Lenten Season when we are reflecting upon our Christian lives in preparation for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that will be celebrated on Easter Sunday.

Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, 
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust 
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him, 
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven, 
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God, 
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about, 
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram 
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: 
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, 
that because you acted as you did 
in not withholding from me your beloved son, 
I will bless you abundantly 
and make your descendants as countless 
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; 
your descendants shall take possession 
of the gates of their enemies, 
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth
shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

R. (116:9) I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
I believed, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

Reading 2ROM 8:31B-34

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son 
but handed him over for us all, 
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?
Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised— 
who also is at the right hand of God, 
who indeed intercedes for us.

Verse Before The GospelCF. MT 17:5

From the shining cloud the Father's voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.

GospelMK 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John 
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them, 
and his clothes became dazzling white, 
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, 
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents: 
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; 
from the cloud came a voice, 
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves, 
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Prayer

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