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.

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