"And who is my neighbour?" [Lk. 10;29] Today, the gist of my homily for the Fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time is, "who is my neighbour?"
The question to ask in our hearts is, "Towards who must I show love, care, compassion or forgiveness?" In others words, "Towards who must I show unconditional friendship?" To display unconditional friendship towards someone, we must stop dulling our senses. Rather than just seeing a potential act of charity towards others, we must be moved to act in words and actions.
As an unsigned cheque is of no value to us, charity without action towards our neighbours is also of no value. It does not accumulate treasures in Heaven.
Today, I would like to review some of our obligations towards our neighbours, obligations that demands our words and actions as a sign of our spiritual growth in the likeness of Christ.
1) The first thing that comes to my mind is the obligation of the parents and godparents to raise their children in the sound doctrines of the Catholic faith. Today, many Churches no longer enjoy the presence of children of all ages because the parents let their children decide for themselves what they want to do - go to Church or stay home. This attitude of spiritual freedom is a betrayal of God's gift of little souls to parents. When God entrusted the parents with the souls of newborns, it was with the expectation that the parents would teach their children to adore God on a daily basis, to desire to be in His presence, to learn right from wrong, etc... And when godparents stood in the presence of God and the Church on behalf of newborn children, they personally committed themselves to ensure that the children they sponsored would be raised in the Catholic faith. What happened to that commitment?
In some cases, not only are parents neglecting to raise their children in the Catholic faith, but they have also failed in their obligation as parents to have their children baptised. How often do we hear today that a 10 or 15 years-old child comes from a two parent Catholic family and he/she has not been baptised? What were the parents thinking? Are they not concerned for the salvation and eternal life of their children? If they do not attend to it, who will?
2) Let us consider the situation of the homeless. In some cities, they are found sleeping on the sidewalks, in back alleys, even in sewers. They have no place to wash themselves or their clothing and they eat whatever food they can gather in mice and rats infested slums.
Where are the Catholics who are reaching out to the homeless? How many of us take some of these people to our homes, allow them to wash themselves, do their laundry, give them extra clothing, or even a little food to sustain them for a few days?
3) What about those who are hungry? Are we reaching out to support anonymously the large families by providing them with a little extra food? Are we reaching out to those who have to turn to Food Banks because they do not know how to budget or they have no means of transportation to shop at grocery stores that have lower prices? How quick some are to judge minority groups that use Foods Banks. But do they understand the circumstances that lead to the creation of Food Banks?
4) How many of us are reaching out to immigrants and refugees who were forced to escape their homeland? Many shun the immigrants and are indifferent to the plight of those who have lived in Refugee Camps for years. Is this Catholic? Are we forgetting that they are human beings as we are? Are we forgetting all the children who go to bed hungry at night? Are we hardening our hearts to the point where the suffering of others has been excluded from our own personal little worlds?
5) With the growing number of seniors, do we as Christians perceive the loneliness that many elders are experiencing in their community? Some have been abandoned by their children who have moved to other cities. Others are unable to reach out and socialize because of their old age or their ill health. Trapped in solitude, they pray that someone would show care towards them, that someone would maybe take them out once in awhile to the park. What is our response to the need of these seniors? Is anyone offering to drive them to Church on Sundays so they can fulfill their Sunday obligation? Is anyone making the necessary arrangements so they can receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist if they are bedridden?
6) What about the issue of orphans and adoption? Many claim that there are no orphans available for adoption. Is this true? While there may not be many healthy babies with blue eyes and blond hair, there are many children with special needs who are available for adoption. Why do many of these children have special needs? It is because, over and over, they have been rejected by the adult world that wants to adopt well behaved "statues," not active little boys and girls. These children have special needs because few want to be part of their lives, just as few of us in this parish, if any of us, are part of their lives. What will become of these unloved children who may pass through twenty different group homes before they are released in the world as adults?
7) What about the persecuted? Do we speak up when we see a child bullied on the street? Do we speak up when we hear of prejudice against minority groups? Do we speak up when we see minors showing disrespect towards elders or when we are aware of ongoing spousal abuse, be it against the husband or the wife?
8) Who else are our neighbours? The prisoners! Yes, even if we do not want to hear about it, the prisoners are also our neighbours. That includes the murderers, the rapists and the child molesters. To exclude these Catholics as our neighbours, it is to be dishonest to ourselves by rejecting the message of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we neglect the salvation of these souls by refusing to share the Gospel of Christ with them, who will bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to them? Dare we appear before the Lord God for judgment after having closed our eyes to their spiritual needs?
9) What about those prostitutes on the street, some of them being so young that it is shameful to just think about it? Who is reaching out to these young girls? Are we ready to help those girls who have run away from home for whatever reason? How many of them were raped before they turned to prostitution? How many of them are selling their bodies because their pimps are providing them with food, shelter and false love? Is it so hard for us to reach out to them, to open our homes to them, to help them return to school so they can finish their education? What are we doing to help them?
10) At the service of all of us is the International Red Cross that helps the victims of disasters. Most of all, when asked to support the Red Cross, we gladly give a few dollars here and there. Should that be the end of our obligation? Are we not also obligated to go further to help our neighbours by volunteering with the agency? What good is money if there are no loving neighbours volunteering to help and support those who are experiencing a disaster? Money does not provide a shoulder to cry on. Nor does it provide manpower to dig for those who have been buried alive during earthquakes.
11) Are we helping our neighbours who are handicapped or sick? Are we not obligated through our Christian love, if necessary, to push our handicapped or our sick neighbours in their wheelchairs if they wish to go outside for awhile for fresh air? If they cannot do it on their own and we are not being neighbourly, who will do it?
12) How about the single parents and widows who must bear the burden alone of raising their children? Are we there for them as good samaritans? Are we offering our services as babysitters so they can get an hour off here and there? Are we offering assistance with cooking or house cleaning? If these parents hold a job, do we wholeheartedly offer our service to babysit their children who are absent from school because of illness? Or do we just say, "It is her/his problem."
13) What about all these young girls who are considering an abortion? Are we there for them? Are we there to help them through their pregnancy? Are we ready to commit ourselves to help them raise their child? Are we willing to walk that extra mile to save an unborn child and the soul of its mother?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, many are the needs of our neighbours. What I have mentioned is but a short list of neighbourly needs. Who is my neighbour? It is the one who needs my friendship, especially those who have not received it as of yet!
The Lord God commanded us to observe His commandments and decrees with all our heart and all our soul. That includes to loves our neighbours. That commandment of Jesus is not too hard. It is not out of our reach, in Heaven or beyond the sea. Our neighbours are all around us. Our obligations consist of raising our children in the faith, providing for the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping the refugees and the immigrants, tending to the seniors, adopting the orphans, defending those who are persecuted, bringing the Gospel to the prisoners, reaching out to the prostitutes, etc... These are our neighbours, my neighbours, your neighbours.
What we do for them, we do for the Lord Jesus. By reaching out to those in need, we reach out to Jesus. By refusing to extend our friendship to those in need, we are withholding our friendship from Jesus.
My brothers and sisters, this week, let each and everyone of us review the level of our spiritual relationship with our neighbours. Are we doing what Jesus wants us to do or are we doing what we want to do? By the grace of God, if the necessity is there, let us reach out to our neighbours in need by extending our friendship as children of God.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Greetings my brothers and sisters in Christ. Reviewing today's readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I perceived that they all had one common denominator. All three readings encourage us to bring God's reign into our world.
The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah began by saying that we should rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all of us who love her. We should rejoice with her in joy, all of us who mourn over her. [Is. 66:10] Based on these words, it appears that our joy should be for the physical City of Jerusalem. The verse that follows implies that Jerusalem is alive, being a life giving body. It states, "that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom." [Is. 66:11]
In actuality, these verses speak of the arrival of the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day. In those days, Jesus had ordered His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. [Acts 1:4] When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them." [Acts 2:1-3]
On Pentecost Day, the invisible Kingdom of God was officially established on earth as it had been established in Heaven on the Day of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus.
Yes, we should all rejoice for Jerusalem. For the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, came down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [Rev. 21:2] The new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God on earth, chose the physical City of Jerusalem as the location from which the work of God was called to prosper on earth through the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
See, the home of God is among mortal. He dwells with us as our God. [Rev. 21:3] Thought the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which is the visible reflection on earth of the invisible Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem has arrived on earth. And now, God dwells with us in the Blessed Tabernacle.
Through the mystical Body of Christ, we are nursed by God and His glorious Church. Through the Sacraments, our joy is fulfilled. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, we are made righteous and admitted into the Kingdom of God. We receive from God the undeserved indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a new heart and a new spirit. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the Lord. Through our living faith, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit in order to become in the likeness of Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Confession, our righteousness is continuously reinstated. Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we receive the Bread of Life that unites us with Christ so we may receive our salvation.
Through the fruits of the new Jerusalem, God reigns in our world, in our Church and within us through the Holy Spirit. As a mother comforts her child, so God promised to comfort us in Jerusalem. [Is. 66:13] Through the Sacraments of the Church, the new Jerusalem, God does comfort us, His children. In Jesus, we find the love, peace and joy that sets us apart from those who walk in the darkness. Through Jesus, the true Light of the world, we have become lights in the world, sent forward to bring the good news to all the nations.
Today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Galatians teaches us that in order to bring God's reign into our personal world, we must boast of nothing other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (The cross of the Lord means the whole Christ event.) For "it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" [1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 11:16-12:10] Personal boasting is a sign of self- reliance; boasting in the Lord is dependence on the grace and favour of God.
In the days of Saint Paul some boasted about circumcision or uncircumcision. Today, some may boast that they have a nice vehicle to drive them to Church or that they have nice clothing compared to others. Some may even boast that they are more involved in the Church than others who are paid employees. Saint Paul tells us that all these external worldly things mean nothing. [1 Cor. 7:19] Being a new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15] The most important thing in the Christian life is being born again, this being the first step towards one's transformation in Christlikeness. [Col. 3:10; Eph. 2:10, 4:24] Those who are transformed in Christ, having been crucified with Christ, [Rom. 6:6] having died with Christ, [Rom. 6:3] having been buried with Christ [Rom. 6:4] and having risen with Christ, [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] (C.C.C. # 628) they become a new "creature."
To bring God's reign into our lives, we must be counted among the spiritual children of God, the new offsprings of Abraham. For it is we who worship God in spirit and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. [Phil. 3:3]
During the Second Reading, we heard Saint Paul mentioning that he carried the marks of Jesus branded on his body. Some have interpreted this to mean that Saint Paul beared the stigma. When reviewing the word in its original text, the word "marks" does not translate to the word "stigmata" in English. What St. Paul was referring to was all the suffering that he had to endure for Christ. He endured illness, [4:13; 2 Cor. 12:7], flogging [Acts 16:22, 2 Cor. 11:25] and stoning [Acts 14:19] for Christ. These marks that he carried on his body were proof that he was a slave of Christ. [Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10] They were the marks that counted, the marks that he could boast about against those who would try to give glory to a mark on the flesh such as circumcision.
Equally today, those who have nice cars or nice clothing have nothing to boast about in view of the fact that many Catholics bear marks of suffering, torture and imprisonment as slaves of Christ. Through their suffering, they have brought God's reign into our world. They are living examples of Saints who are ready to suffer so the glory of God may be seen in the world.
Today's reading from the Gospel of Luke brings to our attention how and when the Kingdom of God in Heaven was prepared while awaiting the arrival of Christ in Heaven after His glorious Resurrection.
Jesus appointed seventy disciples and sent them on ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself intended to go. [Lk. 10:1] When the seventy returned with joy, they told Jesus that even the demons submitted themselves to them in the Name of Jesus.
To this, Jesus answered, "I watched Satan fall from Heaven like a flash of lightning." [Lk. 10:18] At this point during the ministry of Jesus on earth, a great battle was taking place in Heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." [Rev. 12:7-9]
Consequently Satan, the adversary who argued before the Heavenly Throne as a prosecuting attorney against the people of God [Job 2:1-6; Zech. 3:1] could no longer bring charges against those who belong to the Body of Christ.
In view of this, the following is known:1) When the seventy two disciples announced that "the Kingdom of God has come near to you," [Lk. 10:9] Satan was casted out of Heaven. [Lk. 10:18]
2) When Jesus resurrected and ascended to Heaven, He took possession of the Heavenly Kingdom. He was "the firstborn within a large family." [Rom. 8:29] He was the first fruits of those who have died. [1 Cor 15:20] He was the firstfruit of all creation. [Col. 1:15] He was the first to resurrect and to enter the Kingdom of God as the King of kings.
3) When the day of Pentecost had come and the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, [Acts 2:1-3] the invisible Kingdom of God arrived on earth as it is in Heaven.By understanding these truths, by the grace of God, our eyes have been opened and we are now able to bring God's reign into our world. While some may continue to wait for what has already come, the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth, we rejoice in knowing that it has arrived. Now, we can "worship the Father in spirit and truth" [Jn. 4:23] in the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that such would come to pass and that it is pleasing to God.
In conclusion my brothers and sisters in Christ, God promised to bring His reign into our world and He has done so. As children of the Kingdom of God, we boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As you continue to participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass, be thankful to God for bringing His reign into your world. Be thankful to God that through His dwelling on earth, you are able to receive the precious Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that richly feeds your soul towards eternal salvation.
First ReadingIsaiah 66:10-14
10 "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her;
11 that you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from the abundance of her glory."
12 For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall suck, you shall be carried upon her hip, and dandled upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 66:1-7, 16, 20
0 To the choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.
1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, "How terrible are thy deeds! So great is thy power that thy enemies cringe before thee.
4 All the earth worships thee; they sing praises to thee, sing praises to thy name." [Selah]
5 Come and see what God has done: he is terrible in his deeds among men.
6 He turned the sea into dry land; men passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,
15 I will offer to thee burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. [Selah]
19 But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
Second ReadingGalatians 6:14-18
14 But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
17 Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
GospelLuke 10:1-12, 17-20
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come.
2 And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road.
5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!'
6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you.
7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house.
8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you;
9 heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.'
10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,
11 `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'
12 I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!"
18 And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
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