Sunday, August 31, 2014

Homily for Today

"Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." [Mt. 6:10] Every time that we repeat the Sacred Words that Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer, we ask our Heavenly Father that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

What does it mean to ask that "The Lord's will be done?" [Acts 21:14] Does it mean that by some supernatural means, because we pray to God the Father, that He will change things for the better? Or, does the Lord's Prayer ask for Divine favour by the grace of the Lord and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, that we and those around us be transformed according to His Divine Will?

My brothers and sisters, nothing in this world will improve unless we change! Unless we change our thoughts, our words and our actions according to the Divine Will of God, nothing will improve. Prayers are fruitless when there is no sincerity of heart. As Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven." [Mt. 7:21]

"The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the Will of our God and Father." [Gal. 1:3-4] Accordingly, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect." [Rom. 12:2] "For the doubter, being doubled-minded and unstable in every way must not expect to receive anything from the Lord." [Jas. 1:8]

As Jesus said, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." [Mt. 26:41] Our new heart and creation that we received through the Sacrament of Baptism longs to do the Will of the Lord God in cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our new spiritual inclination is constantly battling against our old ways. At times, the battle between the spiritual and the worldly ways can be very difficuilt.

The evidence of the inner battle between our spiritual and worldly inclinations, often being out of control because we do not think before we speak and act, was mentioned in today's Gospel Reading when Jesus told His disciples that He must undergo great suffering and death. Embracing a worldly mind, Peter took Jesus aside and told Him, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." Consequently, Jesus rebuked Peter because he was thinking worldly, only seeking worldly comfort. By failing to think spiritually according to the will of God, Peter was not striving to see the spiritual benefits of the suffering and death of Christ for the salvation of mankind.

In today's First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we heard that the same thing happened again. The prophet Jeremiah was experiencing that inner battle between the spiritual and the worldly ways. Choosing to embrace the worldly way rather than the will of God, he made a fool of Himself. The Lord God was telling Jeremiah how to embrace the spiritual way, but Jeremiah would not listen.

From that same reading, there is something I would like to point out. Disobeying the will of God, Jeremiah said, "If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak anymore of his name,' then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot."

I would like to read you another similar passage from the Gospel of Luke. This passage refers to the experience of the disciples who had previously walked on the Road to Emmaus with Jesus. After Jesus left, they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road, while He was opening the Scriptures to us?" [Lk. 24:32]

In both instances, the hearts of these individuals were being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. In both instances, their minds were hearing the voice of God that was speaking in their hearts. In both instances, the action of the Holy Spirit was as a burning fire within them.

My brothers and sisters, having received the Sacrament of Baptism and the new creation of the godly seed, we have all experienced this burning hunger from time to time. It is because our spirits are starving for spiritual food. When God promised the New Covenant through the Blood of Christ, He said, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." [Ezek. 31:33]

Having God's law written on our hearts, the commandment of loving God first and then our neighbours, we cannot run away from God's burning fire. Our God is a consuming fire. [Heb. 12:29] "He is like a refiner's fire. With our cooperation, our free will, He will refine us like gold and silver until we present offerings to Him in righteousness." [Mal. 3:2-3] The One and only true Lord God is our God and He is speaking to us in our hearts. Will we respond or will we continue to choke His voice by remaining indifferent to His call? Are we going to dull our spiritual inclinations to the extent that we will no longer hear the voice of the Lord in our hearts?

The reason that God wrote His law in our hearts is for us to know Him, to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, which is our spiritual worship. "So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." [Eph. 5:17]

When we seek to live the ways of the world, we choke the voice of the Lord God. Alcoholism, drugs, dishonesty, adultery, common-law relationships, same sex relationships, hatred, slander, child neglect, all of these things choke the voice of the Lord God. Such worldly ways do not feed our spiritual lives. It dulls them. It leaves us as worldly souls that walk in the darkness, deprived of spiritual growth. It disqualifies us as children of God, taking away from us the promised salvation and inheritance of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

As Jesus said, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." [Mt. 26:41] Knowing so, then we should equip ourselves with weapons that will help us to walk our spiritual lives as living sacrifices. We should read the Word of God. We should seek the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Tabernacle. We should attend the services of the Holy Catholic Church. We should receive the Sacraments of the Church. We should enjoy the Church Sacramentals for pious devotions. For all of these holy actions are spiritual worships that please the Heavenly Father.

My brothers and sisters, today's message is, "Seek the Will of God in all things." When, by the grace of God, we feel that burning fire within our hearts, let us realize that God is calling us to be spiritual in thoughts, in words and in actions. Let us not continue to act in worldly ways, allowing our conscience to convict us of our sins. Let us turn our eyes towards the Lord. Let us acknowledge Him in love. Let us show repentance with a commitment. And finally, let us thank the Lord Jesus for speaking in our heart by glorifying His Most Holy Name.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R/ (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R/ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R/ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R/ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R/ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

reading 2 rom 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Gospel mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Homily for Today

How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! From today's readings, we perceive the depth of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God. We come to the realization that the judgments of God that were unsearchable and mysterious at the time of their occurrence were made known in time as they unravelled themselves.

Not knowing the mind of the Lord, no one can tell today how His progressive Divine Plan is unravelling itself. But looking back in history, at the unravelled prophetic words that are found in the Old and New Testaments, we can now perceive the greatness and glory of the Lord God.

In the days of Isaiah, Shebna was one of the court officials. Contrary to the Divine Will of God that was expressed through the great prophet Isaiah, Shebna tried to persuade Hezekiah to revolt against Assyria by sending for Egyptian support.

Consequently, God commanded Isaiah to relate a message to him. Through Isaiah, God told Shebna that he would be removed from his office. In his place, God's servant, Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, would take his place. All authority would be placed under him and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.

In the message to Shebna, God spoke of the key to the house of David. The words spoken by God, prophetic in nature, are very similar to the words that we heard Jesus speak to Peter in the reading of today's Gospel. What Eliakim shall open, no one shall shut; what he shall shut, no one shall open. The Lord will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honour to his ancestral house.

In this message, the key that is worn over the shoulder, represents the authority of its keeper to grant or deny admittance to the royal presence.

In those days, around 700 B.C., no one perceived the depthness of the mysteries of the Lord, that the Messiah would repeat those words seven centuries later. Nor was anyone in a position to associate the keys with the authority of Peter as the first apostolic leader of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Even today, the authority of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven still have a major impact in the Catholic Church. Whatever the Pope binds on earth in the name of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, it is bound in Heaven. And whatever is loosed on earth is made loose in Heaven.

Looking back in time, now we can perceive the prophetic mysteries of the Lord that were associated with this passage in the Book of Isaiah.

When we review today's Gospel, once more, we see the mysteries of God at work. Many of the people did not know who Jesus was. Some thought that He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or even a prophet. To ensure the fulfillment of the prophecies that were found in the Scriptures, the Heavenly Father hid the identity of Jesus as the Messiah from the eyes of many of the people until such time as Jesus had gloriously resurrected.

After the Resurrection, the Divine Plan unravelled itself so all who had a sincere heart could see that God had fulfilled His numerous promises of sending the Messiah to save His beloved people.

Who would have believed in the days of Jesus that Peter, a simple fisherman, would become the leader of the greatest Church in the world, the Holy Catholic Church? Who would have believed that Jesus would pick Peter, knowing in advance that Peter would deny knowing Him on three different occasions?

In those days, this all seemed very mysterious. But looking back today, we see that God can achieve anything that He wants. We can see how He calls imperfect men as instruments of His Divine work. We can see how He calls the uneducated to display the glorious power of His Spirit. We can see the love and mercy of God at work. Now, we can testify that indeed, the Spirit of God was at work. Why? Because the mysteries have unravelled themselves like a blooming flower.

When Jesus ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah, surely, the disciples must have thought, "That is a strange command." In their minds, they must have thought, "If Jesus is the Messiah, what does He have to fear?" Little did they perceive at the time the mysterious ways of the Lord, that the Kingdom of God was not a physical Kingdom.

When Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, what could possibly have gone through His mind? Did he expect the Kingdom of Heaven to descend on earth as many still do today? Did he see himself as ruling over the coming Kingdom? What about Jesus, where would He be? If Jesus gave the keys to Peter, surely, that must have meant that Jesus would not be around. At the time, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven must have been intriguing to Peter.

It is only after the death and glorious Resurrection of Jesus that Peter understood his apostolic role in the Holy Catholic Church. After the Resurrection, Peter was able to perceive that he had been called to lead the Body of Christ alongside the other apostles. The keys were his authority as the first of hundreds of Popes who would follow in his apostolic succession.

My brothers and sisters, there is something to learn from today's message. Sometimes in life, we do not understand why things happen the way they do. But surely, God who is everywhere, knows all, sees all and is in control of all situations. Every event, although mysterious at the time of its occurence, serves a spiritual purpose for our individual spiritual growth and for the benefit of the Church as a whole.

Today, we may not understand why certain things are happening in our lives. The events may appear mysterious. But if we look 5 or 10 in our past, we may now perceive what appeared to be a mystery at that time. We may now be able to see how we have spiritually gained from our life experiences. Although the Heavenly Father was mysterious in His ways at the time, His Divine Will is now made known to us.

This week, let us take the time to reflect on our past. Let us take the time to reflect on the mysterious ways of the Lord that have led us to where we are today. Let us take the time to perceive what our Heavenly Father has done for us so we may grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And when our eyes are opened to the mysteries of the Lord, let us take a moment to thank Him for all that He has done for us, glorifying Him in His Most Holy Name.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 22:19-23

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

Responsorial Psalm ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

R/ (8bc) Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

Reading 2 rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Gospel mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

St. Padre Pio’s 5 Point Rule of Life

Found an enlightening article at Catholic Exchange about a 5 Point Rule from Padre Pio, so here it is please enjoy and God Bless!

When we think of great mystics and wonder-working saints, we often think of those who lived centuries ago. Yet, St. Pio of Pietrelcina was both a mystic and a performer of many miracles—and he died in 1968, only 46 years ago.
In many ways, this saint was and is a contradiction to our scientific, rational age, and despite their eagerness to prove him a fraud, skeptics remain consistently unable to explain the many miracles that accompanied St. Pio’s life.
But while St. Pio is remembered as a miracle worker, he was perhaps best known in his day as a spiritual father to countless souls. He gave wise and holy counsel to those dealing with the struggles of living a holy life in the world, and through his advice, he guided many souls to heaven.
Here are five habits St. Padre Pio believed all Catholics should practice, based on advice he gave to his spiritual children.

I. Weekly Confession

“Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!”

II. Daily Communion

“It is quite true, we are not worthy of such a gift. However, to approach the Blessed Sacrament in a state of mortal sin is one thing, and to be unworthy is quite another. All of us are unworthy, but it is He who invites us. It is He who desires it. Let us humble ourselves and receive Him with a heart contrite and full of love.”

III. Examination of Conscience Every Evening

Someone once told Padre Pio that he thought a nightly examination of conscience was pointless because he knew what was sin as it was committed. To this, Padre Pio replied, “That is true enough. But every experienced merchant in this world not only keeps track throughout the day of whether he has lost or gained on each sale. In the evening, he does the bookkeeping for the day to determine what he should do on the morrow. It follows that it is indispensable to make a rigorous examination of conscience, brief but lucid, every night.”

IV. Daily Spiritual Reading

“The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder…. What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection.”

V. Mental Prayer Twice Daily

“If you do not succeed in meditating well, do not give up doing your duty. If the distractions are numerous, do not be discouraged; do the meditation of patience, and you will still profit. Decide upon the length of your meditation, and do not leave your place before finishing, even if you have to be crucified. Why do you worry so much because you do not know how to meditate as you would like? Meditation is a means to attaining God, but it is not a goal in itself. Meditation aims at the love of God and neighbor. Love God with all your soul without reserve, and love your neighbor as yourself, and you will have accomplished half of your meditation.”

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Today's Homily

During today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 56:1, 6-7], we heard the Words of the Lord God, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." [Is. 56:7] In this prophetic exhortation and warning, the Lord promised to bring to His holy mountain all the foreigners, the Gentiles, who unite themselves to Him.

This particular passage from the Holy Scriptures placed an emphasis on the Temple of the Lord, on worship, on the Sabbath, on fasting and on the Law. At the same time, there was a reference to universal salvation, the necessity for purification and the fulfillment of hopes through the arrival of the promised Messiah. In summary, today's passage from the Holy Bible echoed the fulfillment of the Heavenly Father's Divine plan that was manifested by our Lord Jesus Christ who instituted the Holy Catholic Church.

God gave two commands, "Maintain justice, and do what is right." [Is. 56:1] Not only were the people commanded to do what is right on a personal basis, but they were also commanded as a people to maintain justice. That means that God's people was expected to obey the Laws of Moses that were handed down from generation to generations. The Laws of Moses were actually Divine Laws, these having been given to Moses by God Himself.

Unity to God was conditional. Those who wished to be united to the Lord God, they were required to serve Him as servants. They were required to love the Most Holy Name of the Lord, not to profane it. They were required to keep the sabbath, holding fast to the Covenant of the Lord. These are the ones that the Lord God promised to recognize as His children, those that He would bring to His holy mountain, bringing joy to them in His House of Prayer. [Is. 56:7]

"The House of Prayer for all peoples," [Is. 56:7] formerly known as the Temple, is now called the Church, the Church being the physical building in which the faithful worship the Lord God. If you recall, Jesus made reference to the "House of Prayer for all the nations" [Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17; Jn. 2:16] when He drove the money- changers from the Temple. In the Gospel of John, [Jn. 2:13-22] the application of the House of Prayer is developed to mean more than the physical building of gathering for worship. The House of Prayer, the Temple, is defined as consisting of Jesus' own body.

During today's Second Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans, [Rom. 11:13-15, 29-32] we heard that God's gift and calling to Israel was irrevocable. This Reading was a follow-up of an earlier Chapter that addressed Israel's failure to accept Christ because of its own denial. [Rom. 10:1-21] Israel's rejection of Christ was not because God's promises had failed. For God had foreseen in His election of Israel as His people that in time, they would harden their hearts and reject the truth.

While Paul expressed sorrow over Israel's blindness, he is quick to point out that God can make good things come out of everything. Because Israel rejected the opportunity placed before it, the salvific uprightness that was made possible through Jesus [Rom. 10:1-4] the opportunity to believe in Christ was offered to all. When a reference is made to all, this includes Israel, its inclusion being an assurance that its people would not deny having been provided with the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

St. Paul points out to those who are gathered around him, if Israel's rejection resulted in the reconciliation of the world, what would be the result of Israel's acceptance of the Messiah? Surely, it would be a greater glory, the dead obtaining eternal life through Christ. How is this possible? It is because "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." [Rom. 11:29] God's 'word shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He purposed and succeed in the thing for which He sent it." [Is. 55:11]

Speaking of God's Divine mercy, Paul indicated that since God had shown mercy to His people that had disobeyed Him, in all fairness, this same Divine mercy should be shown towards the Gentiles. [Rom. 11:30-1] In fairness to all that nations, God has permitted that they all be touched by the sin of disobedience, this ensuring that all would equally qualify to receive Divine mercy. [Rom. 11:32; Gal. 3:22]

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 15:21-28] the account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, is one of the rare encounters of Jesus with Gentiles. As you all heard earlier, when Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon, [Mt. 15:21] in Southern Phoenicia, He was approached by a woman who abounded in love for her daughter who was tormented by a demon. [Mt. 15:22] Most likely have heard of the great miracles that Jesus was performing towards the Jewish people, this Canaanite woman took it upon herself to personally locate Jesus and to beg His mercy on her.

What is unusual about this event is that the woman was a Canaanite. In deuteronomic and postdeuteronomic literature, the Canaanites was viewed as a very sinful race that embodied every possible evil and godlessness. The Canaanites were viewed as a nation that was to be exterminated. A it was not the general practice for the Jewish people to mix with the Samaritans, also, it was not the general practice for them to mix with the Canaanites. So what was Jesus to do when He was approached by a race that was avoided by the Jewish people?

At first, he ignored her. He did not answer her at all. [Mt. 15:23] The more Jesus ignored her, the more the woman shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!" The more the woman shouted, the more the disciples of Jesus were getting annoyed and urged Jesus to send her away so she will stop shouting. [Mt. 15:23] In this particular case, when the disciples were urging Jesus to dismiss the woman, this was not a request to just get rid of her. Based on the exact meaning of the original writing of this passage of the Holy Scripture, their request was for Jesus to dismiss the woman by granting her petition.

To this, Jesus answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Mt. 15:24] How harsh these words must have sounded to the woman. It was like saying to her, "God's mercy is only for my people, the Palestinians. You are a Canaanite; go away!" This incident would be similar to someone going to a priest to confess his sins and the priest tells him to go away because he only hears the confessions of those of a certain nationality. Talk about discrimination! Was Jesus going to discriminate?

Anyway, the determined lady knew a good thing when she saw it and she was not about to give up on Jesus. She threw herself at His feet and repeated herself, "Lord, help me." [Mt. 15:25] Jesus responded, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." [Mt. 15:26] To this, she answered, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." [Mt. 15:27] Seeing how great her faith was, she having remarkably persisted, Jesus told her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish. And her daughter was healed instantly." [Mt. 15:28]

The conversation that took place between Jesus and the Canaanite woman is an example of dialogues that are admired in the Near East. Many refer to this type of dialogue as wisdom. Why wisdom? Because it requires a certain ability to match a riddle with a riddle, a wise saying with another wise saying, an insult with another insult, or as in the case of today's Reading, to turn an insult into a commitment. In affirming His having been sent to minister to the Jewish nation, Jesus appeared to be very harsh towards the Canaanite woman. That is because He acted like a real Palestinian of those days.

By granting favour to the persistent woman, Jesus affirmed that He had been sent to institute "a house of prayer for all people." His Kingdom that is on earth now and that is to come was not meant for only one people; it was meant for all the nations. While Saint Paul played a key role in the admission of the Gentiles into the Catholic Church, Jesus had given signs in His ministry that this was to be fulfilled. And the Heavenly Father had repeatedly prophesied this Divine Plan through the prophets of the Old Testament.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1IS 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R/ (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2ROM 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles. 
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them. 
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy. 
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel MT 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

A Prayer for Today

I believe in you, my God. You called me into existence from nothingness and carefully watch over me. You have even numbered the hairs of my head. I trust in your infinite goodness, and I abandon into your loving hands my fears, my hopes, my needs, my desires, everything. I love you, Lord, and I wish to love you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.
Petition: Lord, grant that these moments of conversation will build my trust in you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Homily for Today

Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ! How pleased the Lord must be to see so many of His children obeying the precept of the Church, to observe Sunday as a day of obligation.

Today's three readings share one common denominator. During the First Reading from the First Book of Kings, [1 Kings 19:9, 11-13] we heard that Elijah had gone to a cave at Horeb, the mount of God, where he stayed for 40 days. Why was Elijah at the cave? He was hiding there because Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, had sent a messenger to inform him of her intent to kill him.

During the Second Reading, [Rom. 9:1-5] we heard how Saint Paul was saddened by Israel's unbelief and rejection of the Lord. Expressing the great love that he had for his own countrymen, Paul was willing to undergo the worst possible fate, being cut off from Christ, if such could possibly save those that he loved.

During the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 14:22-33] we heard that when St. Peter started walking on the water towards Jesus, he became frightened and began to sink. Consequently, he called out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!" [Mt. 14:30] This is the common denominator! "Lord, save me!"

Elijah, fearing for his life, he called upon the Lord to save him. The Israelites, while they too wanted to be saved, they rejected Jesus and the only Mediator between God and man. And Peter, fearing for his life during a moment of human weakness, he too called upon the Lord to save him.

They all called upon the Lord to save them. Our forefathers called upon the Lord to save them. Our grandparents called upon the Lord to save them. Our parents called upon the Lord to save them. And most of us will call upon the Lord to save us if we have not done so as of yet.

In view of the fact that everybody is bound to call upon the Lord, the question is, "Will the Lord answer our call?" Allow me to elaborate on this subject.

Some time ago, a couple asked for my urgent prayers. I was told that, while both were fully employed, being in severe debts, they risked losing their homes, everything they had worked for. They needed a miracle, a quick fix for their problem. They did not believe that their prayer, "Lord, save me!" would obtain a miracle. And so they came to me to intercede on their behalf, hoping that the Lord would hear the prayer of a priest versus their personal prayer and that the Lord would have mercy on them.

We all prayed and the Lord answered their prayer intention. The Lord saved them, but not the way that they wanted to be saved. They only wanted the Lord to provide for their physical needs. Instead, the Lord provided for their spiritual needs. After losing everything, their house, their land, their vehicles, after having been humiliated before their family and friends, after having declared personal bankruptcy, after having put an end to their wasteful spending, their high class living and their endless partying, they rented reasonable accommodations, settled down to a normal life and finally found the Lord Jesus in their lives.

When they had everything, they did not need Jesus. They had the great "ME," the "My way Lord or no way!" They never prayed. They did not have time to worship. They never received the Sacraments of eternal life. They had three goals: fame, wealth and the flesh. What a good life! At least they thought so, until their worldly kingdom came grumbling down.

The Lord saved them! He opened their eyes. Once blind, now they could see. He made them realized that while they were abundantly blessed, they showed no appreciation whatsoever for it. They were walking on the wide road of perdition.

The fate of this couple is not uncommon. Many of the rich people have no time for God. They are too busy managing their wealth. How often do we hear today of parents complaining that their children are living common-law? They do not practice their faith. They are walking the wide path of life, living a life of mortal sin, partying, doing drugs, neglecting their children, many of the grandchildren are no longer baptized, and so on.

What we see today is the fruits of a society that lacks morals, a society that has placed employment and fame before the family life, a society that has remained silent to the immoralities that were breeding all around them. Now, the people are crying out, "Lord, save me!" Do we honestly believe that the Lord will save such a society? Is this the kind of life that the Kingdom of God is all about? Certainly not! To save this generation, the Lord must sanctify it! He must destroy this society in order to rebuilt it in His holy ways!

Yes, the couple that lost everything, it suffered for awhile. But in its suffering, it found life in Jesus Christ. Its suffering was a blessing in disguise! Suffering was the means towards salvation!

Sometime ago, I was reading a piece of prose that is called, "Secrets of the Cross." I would like to share it with you because I found it to be spiritually rich.

Secrets of the Cross

"An earthly day without its afflictions
Would surely appear to be a heavenly day.
Crosses come and go as showers and downpours,
Light and heavy, most abruptly and unforseen.
To the majority of the faithful believers,
Crosses appear to be ongoing nuisances,
Their existence not worthy of being present.
Yet, all what God has permitted serves a purpose!
Although often disguised during their occurrences,
Their intentions are subsequently revealed.
While your crosses may appear to be a burden,
Consider the spiritual benefits to your soul,
Ascertaining what you have gained from them.
If you are blind to the personal progress
That has been derived from your trials,
Then, you have failed to see the hand of God,
Silently and wisely guiding you in life,
Nurturing you as a parent teaches a child.
For every cross holds a secret behind it!"

What possible secret can a cross hold? What holy qualities can we gain from bearing a daily cross? Consider some of these virtues: charity, [pause] chastity, [pause]compassion, [pause between each one] decency, faith, fear, fortitude, friendship, generosity, honesty, hope, humility, justice, knowledge, love, modesty, obedience, patience, peace, piety, prudence, purity, respect, servitude, solitude, submission, temperance, trust, and wisdom.

Next time, when an affliction crosses our path, rather than saying, "Lord, save me!", we should consider saying, "Lord, what do you want me to learn from this cross?" Then, once we have learned the spiritual lesson that the Heavenly Father allowed to be placed before us, having understood why the finger of God has touched our lives, the affliction should go away. Having been strengthened in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be then able to continue in our spiritual growth. We will be ready to welcome the next affliction in order to learn the next lesson so we may all become great saints on earth as we will be in Heaven.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 11 KGS 19:9A, 11-13A

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. 
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.” 
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind. 
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire. 
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. 
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14

R/ (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD — for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2ROM 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. 
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh. 
They are Israelites;
theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs, and from them,
according to the flesh, is the Christ,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Gospel MT 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds. 
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. 
When it was evening he was there alone. 
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. 
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea. 
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. 
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 
He said, “Come.” 
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
After they got into the boat, the wind died down. 
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

A Prayer for Today

Father, I believe in you with all my heart. I trust in your infinite goodness and mercy. Thank you for so patiently guiding me along the pathway to everlasting life. I love you and offer all that I have and all that I do to you, for your glory and the salvation of souls.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Homily

"He had compassion for them and cured their sick!" [Mt. 14:14] Jesus had compassion for His flock, the restless souls that followed Him wherever He went so that He could feed them with spiritual food that comes from the richness of the Word of God. By answering their calling, these hungry ones were enriched with spiritual food that healed their souls. Through the Lord Jesus, they received spiritual knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of God, inclining them to continue to desire more and more.

During today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 55:1-3], we heard the prophecy of Yahweh through the great prophet Isaiah, "I will make with you an everlasting Covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David." {Is. 55:3] Was this a prophecy of the first Covenant that God had made with the Jewish Nation? No, it could not have been since God's chosen people were already living in the days of the first Covenant.

What was this New Covenant? "This [was] the covenant that [the Lord promised to] make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." [Heb. 8:10] Centuries earlier, the Lord had promised to write His laws in the hearts of His people and that He would once more live among His people. [Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 11:19-20] The Lord God also promised to give a new human spirit to His children. [Ezek. 18:31] Over and above all this, the Lord God had promised that His Holy Spirit would make His indwelling within His children. [Ezek. 36:26-7]

Was the New Covenant ever sealed? Yes! It was sealed in two parts. Its first part was sealed during the Last Supper when Jesus said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My Blood." [Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:14-23; 1 Cor. 11:23- 26] Finally, on the following day, through the Blood of Christ on the Holy Cross, as the perfect sacrifice for the remission of the sins of the world, the New Covenant was sealed forever.

Those who have repented of their sins, who have placed their faith in Jesus and who have been baptized, they have received the free gifts of the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the new heart and spirit that comes with the newness of life in Jesus Christ. As members of the Body of Christ, they were spiritually equipped to walk their living faith in Christ in order to inherit the eternal Kingdom of God.

The Words of Yahweh that we heard from the First Reading were a prophecy:

(1) of a New and everlasting Covenant;

(2) of the coming Messiah, the Son of God;

(3) of the event of the Last Supper; and

(4) of the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Lord among us, fulfilled God's promise that in the days of the New Covenant, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he would make His dwelling among His people.

Just prior to the promise of a New Covenant, God said through the prophet Isaiah, "incline your ear, and come to me: Listen, so that you may live." [Is. 55:3] These Sacred Words of God are a personal invitation to each and everyone of us to come forward and to participate in the great banquet of Divine joy that is manifested during the celebration of the Holy Mass. These Sacred Words are an invitation to all those who meet the basic requirement, to "thirst" for God. We must incline our ears because the source of eternal life is to be found in God's Word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Through Isaiah, God said, "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters..." [Is. 55:1] What does it mean to "come to the waters?" Searching the Holy Bible for a spiritual understanding of these words, we note what John the Baptist had said. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." [Mt. 3:11] From these words, it is spiritually perceived that "water" is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, of fire and of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Remembering the Words of Jesus that were spoken to the Samaritan woman, it is noted. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'" [Jn. 4:10] From these Words, it is spiritually perceived that water is symbolic of both, a gift of God and living water.

Going to another Bible passage, Jesus said, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture states, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive, for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified." [Jn. 7:37-9] This passage reveals that the symbol of water, the living water, is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Earlier in His teachings, Jesus had said, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit." [Jn. 3:5-6]

Based on the aforementioned Bible passages, it is spiritually perceived that Isaiah was prophesizing that mankind would be called to come to the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit who is the living water. You may ask, "How does one come to the Lord through the Holy Spirit?" It is through the Church Sacrament of Baptism. As previously stated, at the moment of Baptism when the believer is sprinkled with water, he receive God's gift of a new heart and spirit (the newness of life as a new creation), in fulfillment of "what is born of Spirit is spirit." [Jn. 3:6] Also, the believer receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

During today's Second Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans, [Rom. 8:35, 37-39] we were asked, "Who will separate you from the love of Christ?" Nothing can! Belonging to Jesus, suffering, pain, persecution, famine or even death cannot separate us from Jesus. Nothing that was ever created can separate us from God, not even the desires of this world or the fallen angels. We all have a free will and as long as we persevere in our living faith, God will protect us from all dangers to secure our eternal life in His Kingdom. For God yearns jealously for the spirit that He has made to dwell in us. [Jas. 4:5]

When facing suffering, pain, persecution, famine or even death, where do we turn? We do as Jesus did when He heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist. We turn to God through the Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. Jesus calls us when He says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." [Mt. 27:11]

The mentioning of the loaves of bread and the fish in today's reading of the Gospel was symbolic. They foreshadowed what was to come after the death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The fish echoes the Words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, "Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people." [Mt. 4:19] The fish echoes the ministry of the priesthood in the Holy Catholic Church. It echoes the calling of holy men to become holy priests as instruments of God. Through these holy men, the Church Sacraments are administered and souls are saved.

For this reason, "The Church affirms that for believers the Sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation." [C.C.C. # 1129] Without the Sacraments, there is no remission of sins after the Sacrament of Baptism. Without the Sacraments, there is no reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of Jesus that gives life to our souls. The Sacraments are an absolute necessity to the Christians who desires eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

The loaves of bread were symbolic of the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. At the Last Supper, "Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My Body.'" [Mt. 26:26] Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had said, "This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." [Jn. 6:50-1]

My spiritual brothers and sisters in Jesus, by now most of you must have perceive that today's message for the Scripture readings is that God had compassion for us. Through the free gift of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we have been provided with the opportunity to turn our lives around, from death to life in Christ. Nothing from this world or from the world of the fallen angels can take away from us the free gifts that God has given us through the Sacrament of Baptism.

We may suffer for awhile in this life. We may temporarily lose loved ones who are suddenly called to eternal life. We may endure financial difficulties, opposition from those who do not share our values, persecution because of our faith, emotional strain because of ongoing illness, frustration over our sinful habits that are as a thorn in the body, but none of these can keep us away from God. As God's precious children, called to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, our present losses are physical, belonging to a world that will come to an end. Our gains are spiritual, belonging to an eternal Heaven.

My brothers and sisters, as long as we faithfully continue to receive the Sacraments through the love of Jesus, we will continue to benefit from God's compassion for us. In the end, we will win the spiritual race that will lead us to our Father who awaits us in Heaven.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Responsorial Psalm ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18

R/ (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R/ The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R/ The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R/ The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

reading 2 rom 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel mt 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.