Sunday, October 9, 2016

Homily


"Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." [Lk. 17:19] Last week's readings spoke of living faith, a faith that shines in works. Today's readings speak of healing faith, a faith that embraces gratitude. For we are called to "Rejoice always, (to) pray without ceasing, (to) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for (us)." [1 Thess. 5:16-8]

Today's First Reading [2 Kgs. 5:14-17] from the Second Book of Kings spoke of the healing of Naaman, a foreigner in the land of Israel. Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy." [2 Kgs. 5:1]

On one of their raid in the land of Israel, the Arameans had taken a young girl captive. [2 Kgs. 5:2] This young girl served Naaman's wife. She told her mistress that if Naaman was with the prophet who is in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy. [2 Kgs. 5:3] Hearing of this, Naaman repeated this comment to the king of Aram. Consequently, the king of Aram told Naaman to go and that he would provide him with a letter to the king of Israel. Naaman left, taking with him a number of gifts to present to the king of Israel. [2 Kgs. 5:3-5]

When the king of Israel read the letter, he got very upset and tore his clothes. The letter said, "I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy." [2 Kgs, 5:6] Somehow, the king of Aram believed that the king of Israel was a god. This greatly offended the king of Israel. Not understanding the true purpose for the letter, the king of Israel believed that the king of Aram was trying to pick a quarrel with him.

In the meantime, Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes. He sent a message to the king, asking him to let Naaman come to him so that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel. [2 Kgs. 5:8] Taking his horses and chariots, Naaman went to Elisha. After he had halted at the entrance of Elisha's house, Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean." [2 Kgs. 5:9-10]

What followed was most interesting! How Elisha had decided to proceed with the healing did not please Naaman at all. Naaman expected Elisha to come out of his house, to stand before him, to call on the name of the Lord God, to wave his hand over the spot of the leprosy and he would suddenly be healed. [2 Kgs. 5:11]

From the tone of Naaman's voice, it was obvious that he believed things should have gone according to his way because of his greatness. He was a very proud man! Over and above this, he resented being told to wash in the Jordan river when in his opinion, the Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, were better than all the waters of Israel. He questioned why he could not have washed himself in those rivers. Naaman turned and went away in a rage. [2 Kgs. 5:12]

After awhile, some of the servants approached Naaman and asked him, "If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?" [2 Kgs. 5:13] Therefore why not obey what Elisha asked of you that is so simple, to wash and be clean? And "so Naaman went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean." [2 Kgs. 5:14] Naaman was made well by his faith in the Word of God that was spoken through the great prophet Elisha.

Following this, Naaman returned to Elisha, acknowledging that there is no greater God on earth except in Israel. And then he offered Elisha a present in thanksgiving but Elisha would not accept anything.

Consequently, Naaman asked permission to take two mule loads of soil from the land of Israel so he could take it back to Damascus and build an altar on it to worship in his city the true God. Having been touched by the grace of God, Naaman promised that he would never again make burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other gods except the true God of Israel.

From this reading, there are a few lessons to be learned. These are:

(1) When praying to God for a favour, we do not dictate to God how He should answer our prayers. For God knows what is best for the spiritual growth and personal sanctification of each and everyone of us. In God, we trust.

(2) In our personal daily relationship with God, there is no room for pride in obedience. Before Naaman could be healed, he had to humble himself. "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." [Lk. 14:14] When Naaman humbled himself, the glory of God was manifested through him.

(3) When Elisha refused to accept any gifts from Naaman in thanksgiving, he was practicing what the Lord Jesus preached eight centuries later. "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment." [Mt. 10:8]

Today's Second Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy begins by saying, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David." [2 Tim. 2:8] The reason as to why St. Paul said that Jesus was a descendant of David, it was to emphasize the Messianic Kingship of Christ. [Rom. 1:3]

Paul continued by saying, ".. I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained." [2 Tim. 2:9] Through these words, Paul was telling those who would read his letter that although he is a prisoner, he can still preach the Word of God. The Good News can be delivered within the prison and to those outside from within the prison.

Not only has Paul's suffering encouraged him even more to persevere in preaching the Word of God, it has also motivated others to also do so. We read of this is the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. "I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear." [Phil 1:12- 14]

Because of this marvellous end result, St. Paul was even more determined to persevere for the sake of those who have been called and who have answered their calling from God, so that they may also persevere to the end and obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. [2 Tim. 2:10]

Not only was the sufferings of Paul of value to those who had already become Christians, it was also of value to those who had not yet converted. [Col. 1:24; 2 Cor. 1:5-6]

Today's Second Reading concluded by saying, "The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself." [2 Tim. 2:11-13]

This statement of Paul is a paraphrase of the Words of Jesus that are found in the Gospel of Matthew. "Everyone therefore who acknowledges Me before others, I also will acknowledge before My Father in Heaven; but whoever denies Me before others, I also will deny before My Father in Heaven." [Mt. 10:32-3]

In this part of his letter to Timothy, St. Paul was reminding the Christians that following the receiving of the Sacrament of Baptism, part of the Christian life experience includes physical sufferings and the dangers that are associated with spreading the Word of God. [1 Cor. 15:31; 2 Cor. 4:8-11]

Having died with Christ, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, we are called to put to death whatever is earthly in us, fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. [Col. 3:3-5] Like Paul, we must want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Jesus in His death. [Phil. 3:10] In the end, it shall be seen that what is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body." [1 Cor. 15:42-44].

Our perseverance in the living faith, in whatever the Lord God permits to come our way for our sanctification, will be our assurance of salvation. Our perseverance is one of the many ways of saying thanks to God for what He has given us. Because we believed, we obey Jesus. Because we obey Jesus in complete submission, we endure the trials that cross our daily path. Because we endure, in the end, our faith shall make us well." [Lk. 17:19]

During today's reading from Chapter 17 of the Gospel of Luke, [Lk. 17:11-19] we heard that Jesus healed ten lepers, nine being Jewish, the tenth being a Samaritan. It is interesting to note here that while the Jewish people normally did not mix with the Samaritans, misery so loves company that this group of lepers consisted of both Jews and a Samaritan. As we heard, out of those ten, the one who was a foreigner, was the only one who returned and thanked Jesus. Only ten percent of those who were healed showed gratitude. How offended the Lord Jesus must have been!

As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest to confirm that he was now clean and permitted to mix among the general public. For the Samaritan, more was demanded. Most likely, he had to go to his own priest near Mount Gerizim. This demand of Jesus required a greater act of obedience because of the travelling involved. While the demand was greater upon the Samaritan, he was the only one to show gratitude for the gift of healing that he received.

Today's readings provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our own disposition during prayer. Do we beg God for a special favour but forget to show gratitude by giving thanks when our favour is obtained? Do we persevere in our prayers as Paul persevered in his sufferings? If praying while in a state of mortal sin and told by the priest to go and clean ourselves through the Sacrament of Confession so our prayer will be pleasing to the eyes of God, do we grumble, hesitate or even hardened our hearts?

Today's readings provide us with answers as to why some prayers are not answered. They teach us that we are healed when we show gratitude to God for the abundance of blessings that He has bestowed upon us from the moment that we were created.

This week, let us reflect upon the richness of the Word of God that we have heard today. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to always remind us to be most grateful to the Lord Jesus for His love, His grace, His mercy and His salvation. Let us all support one another to ensure that each and everyone of us will persevere until the end. Then we will hear the Words of Jesus in our hearts, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." [Lk. 17:19]

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 12 KGS 5:14-17

Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times
at the word of Elisha, the man of God. 
His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child,
and he was clean of his leprosy.

Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. 
On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,
except in Israel.
Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;”
and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused. 
Naaman said: “If you will not accept,
please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth,
for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice
to any other god except to the LORD.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

R. (cf. 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
his right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Reading 22 TM 2:8-13

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

Alleluia1 THESS 5:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 17:11-19

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

Prayers for Today

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


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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Today's Homily

Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ. Recently, I was reading a statement about the condition of the world. It stated:

"Ours is a time of religious decay; the permanent vitality of religion has been lost, the mass of the people have become either superstitious or credulous or indifferent to religion; the elite of society are agnostic or sceptical; the political leaders are hypocrites; the youth are in open conflict with established society and with the authority of the past; people are experimenting with eastern religions and techniques of meditation. The majority of mankind is affected by the decay of the times."

Does this sound familiar? While many may think that these words were written yesterday or possibly ten years ago, they are a quote from the "Annals of Tacitus (VI,7)." These words were written around 32-37 A.D., nearly two thousands years ago. How little society has changed for those who live without faith.

When a believer holds to the standard of sound teaching that he has heard from the Gospel of Christ, in the faith and love that are in Jesus, [2 Tim. 1:13] the vitality of his religion is not lost. He does not become superstitious, credulous or indifferent to his living faith in Christ. He is not agnostic or sceptical. He is not a hypocrite in what he does and in what he says. Nor is he in conflict with the established society and its authority. Being secured in his living faith in Christ, he does not need to experience with eastern religions and techniques of meditation. For he knows that the fullness of the truth is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

During today's First Reading, we heard the prophet Habakkuk calling out to the Lord. Around 626 B.C., Habakkuk called out to the Lord because of the violence that surrounded him. Destruction, violence, strife, contention, these had become the norm of the day. Habakkuk was frustrated because the Lord was not taking control of the situation. He complained that the Lord God would not save the people. Does this sound familiar? Why did the Lord not take control of the situation? It is because He has given every human being a free will to choose right from wrong. God does not control the people. He does not force them to act against their free will.

As we sometimes have difficulty understanding why the Lord Jesus tolerates the wicked, Habakkuk had the same difficulty. Why Lord? Why do You let these things happen? Why do you permit misery... destruction... discord... conflicts...?

Responding to Habakkuk's cry to Heaven, the Lord God answered, "Write this vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it." [Hab. 2:2]

Why did the Lord tell Habakkuk to write the vision? We find that answer in the Book of Isaiah where God says, "Go now, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever." [Is. 30:8] The Words of the Lord were not meant for Habakkuk alone. They had two other purposes. They were intended as a prophecy to be read in the future when its fulfillment had come to pass. And they were meant to be written large enough so that the runner may read the exact Words of God when he delivers them to the people.

In His message, God said, "For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay." [Hab. 2:3] In other words, God was saying, "Wait patiently for the last age that will come in about 600 years from now." The last age, or the end, is the time in which we now live. It is the time that had its beginning when Jesus instituted the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth, the final day being when He gloriously returns with His angels on the last day of this world.

Then God concluded by saying, "Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith." [Hab. 2:4] In other words, the man who is rash, he has no integrity. The wicked will come to a terrible end. But those who obey the commandments of God, they will live a long life. [Prov. 3:1-2] "The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing." [Prov. 10:27-8]

God said, "The righteous live by their faith." [Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38] The Words of God summarize the whole vision. What does it mean that the righteous will live by their faith? Does it mean that faith alone is sufficient for salvation? In the Letter of James, it states, "Faith without works is dead." [Jas. 2:26] "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." [Jas. 2:17]

"These words, "The righteous live by their faith," were written in Hebrew. While there are a number of words in the Hebrew language that mean "faith," in this case, the translation came from the Hebrew word "emunah." This is a word that describes a just man, one who is faithful, loyal and steadfast, This Hebrew word is found in the Book of Exodus where it refers to the uplifted hands of Moses that were "steady." [Ex. 17:12] This same word is also found in 2 Kings where it refers to the men who could be entrusted with money. [2 Kgs. 12:15] The word "faith" as applied in the Book of Habakkuk refers to a living faith, a faith with actions, a faith with works. Therefore, it can only be concluded that faith without works is indeed dead.

"Faith is compounded of belief and love as well as of trust and confidence amid trials and tribulations." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary; page 297, # 39, 4b.)

Continuing on the subject of living faith, during today's Second Reading, Paul said to Timothy, "Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." [2 Tim. 1:13] In other words, in his preaching and personal conduct, Timothy was called to keep the truths that he had learned from Paul. How was Timothy called to keep the truth? In the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ. Why faith and love? Because faith and love cannot be separated.

Faith, hope and charity (love) are theological virtues. "They are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being." [Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1813]

Love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be separated from "joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," [Gal. 5:22; NRSV] "modesty and chastity." (Gal. 5:22; Latin Vulgate)

"We are called to love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." [1 Jn. 4:7-8]

How do we manifest our love towards others? First of all, in fulfillment of the commitment that we have made when we received the Sacrament of Baptism, we are called to evangelize to others through our holy words and our actions. We are called to be lights in the world so other may be drawn to Jesus Christ.

During today's Gospel Reading, we heard the apostles ask Jesus, "Increase our faith!" After explaining the power of faith that could move the mulberry tree, Jesus spoke of the slave. Why speak of the slave? Is there a connection here? Yes, there is!

Our faith is increased by our works that are manifested by the power of the Holy Spirit! Faith is increased by serving others, not by being served. Faith is increased when we manifest our love towards others, our family, friends and strangers. When we isolate ourselves from the world, we lose our faith.

Our faith increases when we grow in servitude. Why? Because in serving others, we become more in the likeness of Jesus who served when He washed the feet of His apostles. [Jn. 13:15] As we grow closer to Jesus in our daily personal relationship, we come to know His Divine Presence, His love, His mercy, etc... all of this leading towards unshakable faith.

True faith is unselfish. Living faith is unselfish faith. It seeks to give rather than receive. It seeks to obey God, not "me, I and myself." Unselfish faith is humble, not full of pride. It admits that "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done." [Lk. 17:10]

My brothers and sisters, a month ago, the world saw the fruit of those who had no living faith in Christ, mass destruction, violence, suicides, all what opposes the true love of God. You can be assured that those who were involved with these evil doers, they shall come to nothing... an eternal life of suffering in Hell. For the wrath of God will not escape the judgment of those who terrorize the innocent.

As we reflect upon these words, let us review what kind of faith that we have. Let us ask ourselves, "Do I have unselfish faith that will draw me to the loving heart of Jesus?" O, "Do I have a faith that places a barrier between Jesus and myself?" If there is a barrier that prevents you from growing in the love of Jesus, ask Jesus to remove it so you may blossom in your faith.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us remember those who are in need of the gift of faith so that they may grow in the love of Jesus.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4

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

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

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

Reading 2 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

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

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

Alleluia 1 Pt 1:25

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

Gospel Lk 17:5-10

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

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

Prayers for Today

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your consuming love and set my heart free to love generously and to serve selflessly. Fill me with gratitude for all you have done for me, and increase my faith and loyalty to you who are My All, My Strength, and My Life."

 

 Lord Jesus, you are the master of the universe, and yet you wish to listen to me and guide me. You know all things past, present and future, and yet you respect my freedom to choose you. Holy Trinity, you are completely happy and fulfilled on your own, and yet you have generously brought us into existence. You are our fulfillment. Thank you for the gift of yourself. I offer the littleness of myself in return, knowing you are pleased with what I have to give.

 

 Jesus, help me to place all my trust and faith in you. I don’t always trust, and this is when my fears and anxieties take over. I want to put these aside and place myself in your hands. In doing this I will be able to serve you better.

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...