Gospel Reflections

 

 

 Weekly Gospel/Sermon



 

 April 08, 2018 

(2nd Sunday of Easter)

SERMON

 

For many years as I give each person communion I silently u:er as each person receives the Eucharist, “ My Lord and My God.” I pray those words as an affirmation that I firmly believe that what I am imparting is, indeed Jesus, who is Lord and God to me, and, I pray, for the person receiving Communion. I sincerely hope that the “Amen”( a word which means, “ Yes, it is so”) when u:ered by the communicant is a sincere affirmation that they are indeed receiving of the Body of Christ, who is also their Lord and God. Those beautiful words of belief, my Lord and my God, come to us from the lips of the Apostle Thomas, who apparently did not believe in the reality of the Resurrection even though he had heard the testimony of his closest friends that they had seen the risen Christ. Thomas remained incredulous until the Sunday aOer Easter, this Sunday, when he came to know through an extraordinary experience, that Jesus had indeed risen.

If we, like Thomas can say “ My Lord and My God,” in speaking of Jesus, we undoubtedly say it not because the Resurrected Lord has stood before us, and has shown to us his wounded hands and feet as he did Thomas. We can say this, primarily, because the Grace of God allows us to do so. We are among those who are blessed, not because we have, like Thomas, seen the risen Christ, but because we comply with the graces of belief in him which come from the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Graces imparted to us enabling us to believe, each of us probably has our own reasons why he or she believes in the Resurrected Lord.

Blaise Pascal, the mathematical genius, was moved to faith by meditating on the fact that no threat of death could stop the disciples of Jesus from shouting to the world that he was indeed raised. Pascal said he readily believed people who were willing “to get their throats cut “to proclaim what they believed.

Some of you probably heard of the bridge on the River Kwai, built by prisoners of War during the Second World War. These brave soldiers were forced to work in deplorable conditions under the blazing tropical sun. Husky men became walking skeletons in weeks. Their morale dipped to zero. It was at that point that two prisoners organized the others into Bible study groups, and from that experience the prisoners learned that Jesus was risen, and indeed, in their midst. In all their trials they had only to reach out to him, and he was there. When they came to believe this, they experienced an amazing transformation in their personal lives. It was that experience that enabled them to proclaim of Jesus that He was their Lord and God.

This brings us back to us in this church today. We too must come to personal faith in Jesus Christ. I am sure that if we reflect on the personal happenings in our lives, on the different passage ways through which we have gone, on the different gifts we have received in life, on the emergence of the different sufferings from which we have emerged, we should indeed have reasons to believe that the Lord and God is indeed real and present in our world and lives.

A writer wrote this poem to a one well-known national columnist. The columnist reprinted it in her column on an Easter Sunday a number of years ago. The poem tries to help people, who like Thomas, was plagued by doubt. It reads:

“ Oh you who could not put one star in motion. Who could not build one mountain out of earth, or trace the pa:ern of a single snowflake, or understand the miracle of birth. Presumptuous mortal who cannot alter the universe in any way, or fashion one small bud, release one raindrop or toss on cloud into a sunny day. Oh earthling, who could never paint a sunset, or cause one dawn to shine, Oh Puny man who cannot create a single miracle, how dare you doubt the only one who can! “

As we ponder the miracles of life, may we be able to strongly proclaim Jesus as our Lord and God.

 


April 01, 2018

(EASTER SUNDAY)

SERMON

 This week many of us may have planned, or are involved in different Easter activities with our families, including: Easter dinner or egg hunts. I remember taking our kids to Easter egg hunts over the years and sometimes they would get real eggs and other times they would get plastic eggs full of candy. I think that most of us may not know what the Easter egg symbolizes. The Easter egg itself was an early Christian symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. The egg symbol was likened to the tomb from which Jesus arose from, because you had to open it up, which is like rolling the stone away from the tomb and then the good can come out. In the Gospel we know it was about 2000 years ago early this morning, that Mary Magdala arrived at Jesus' tomb and found it empty. This was a big surprise to her because she and the disciples did not understand from the scriptures that Jesus would rise on the third day. The belief at that time was that the wrapping of burial cloths would trap the death into the body until the resurrection had occurred for everyone who believed, on the last day. It was thought that no individual would rise before the end of time, including Jesus. One of the reasons Simon Peter came to believe, after seeing the empty tomb, was because of the burial cloth used for Jesus' head was rolled up. If Jesus' body had been stolen like Mary Magdala had thought the robbers had done, they would probably have not gone to the trouble of rolling up the cloth. In the other three Gospels there was an angel that told Mary that Jesus is not here, he has been raised. In all four Gospels we know that the disciples believed in Jesus' resurrection but did not understand it until Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection and explained what the scriptures and prophets had said about him.

In the second reading Paul talks not about a future resurrection but of one that already happened. During a baptism in the prayer before the baptism we pray that God will rescue man from the kingdom of darkness and bring man into the splendor of His kingdom of light. We also pray that we are set free from original sin and ask that the Holy Spirit dwell in the baptized person. In Baptism we have been cleansed from our sins and been reborn with the Holy Spirit and with the Father and Son. This is what Paul means when he says we have already “died and our life is hidden with Christ in God” and that we have been already died and risen with Christ. Paul goes on to say that we should seek what is above the earth as our goal and in doing so we live in the hope that we will be with God in his glory, just like Jesus was raised and now lives in Heaven.

The first reading is from one of Peter's first speeches to the Gentiles. The Holy Spirit has comes to the disciples and Peter is now confident and tells the Gentiles the story of Jesus' life. Peter tells them that Jesus was baptized, went around doing good, that he was put to death by dying on a tree and God raised him up on the third day. Peter then invites everyone to be faithful and live a righteous life with God. All of these readings talk about the risen Lord and give us hope that we too can be with him in heaven.

This week as we continue in the Easter season celebrations let us remember what it means and the examples Jesus life gave us to follow. Let us try to go around and do well like Jesus did. When we come into the church and dip our hand in the Holy water let this remind us of our baptism where we died to our sins and were reborn with Christ. When we see the candles burning on the altar it reminds us of the light of Christ which is the risen Christ. When we go to an Easter egg hunt and open eggs, it reminds us of the risen Christ and how the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Finally we can follow the words of Peter and Paul when they invited everyone to be faithful to Christ and his teachings, live a righteous life with God, and to seek what is above the earth as our top priority. In doing so, we hope that we will live with God in his glory.

May God Bless you

 


 

 February 25, 2018 

(2nd Sunday of Lent)

SERMON

 

In our readings and Gospel today, we see the relationship of father and son noted in each. It is a wonderful glimpse at the revelation of God to his people. God is not only God of all but Father to us all. Those who have bore the title of father, and lived its earthly vocation know the challenges of being a dad in this culture. Most of us have a father either living or deceased and experienced the joy of such a relationship. As I grow older and my father now gone, it is even more important to hold on to the lessons he taught me. Life with a dad is not always a picnic as they are one of our first figures of authority. Their role to guide and protect us often conflicts with the naïve young person who thinks they know better. As I was growing up there were times when I thought dad just doesn’t get it. He does not understand my point of view or feelings. As I aged and eventually became a dad myself I realized the wisdom that he held was so much greater than I gave him credit. Carrying the title of dad or mom for that matter is not an easy role. It requires consistency, faithfulness and a complete reliance on God the Father! For our children, it is important to remember the responsibility that mom and dad carried when they brought you into the world. Moms and dads shared in the creative nature of God himself to bring about a new and miraculous life. It is through this creative nature that each of us is linked to God the Father. Once you have a child they are the most important part of your world. You give time, resources and love to them without fail. You want to protect them from the dangers of the world and guide their decision making with wisdom. If our human parents sacrifice so much on our behalf, how much more is God doing for us. His love is infinite and often like mom and dad, he is available 24 x 7 x 365!

In our first reading we see Abraham and Isaac who prefigure what God has planned for our own salvation. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son in obedience to God. Because of his faith God promised abundant blessings to Abraham and all his descendants. God the Father however did sacrifice His son for the sake of us all. Jesus also obeyed God by allowing himself to be crucified and resurrected so that we may all have the possibility of salvation. No more beautiful a gift can be given from our Father in Heaven. You would think that such a perfect sacrifice would inspire others to follow the way of Christ. We live in a world that has forgotten Christ’s gift in many ways. We see violence and senseless crime. We see our schools attacked by evil people. We see a world that has bloated itself with consumerism that has become insatiable. We see many empty pews where people have walked away from their faith. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice can only be realized when we cooperate with his divine plan. We must live lives worthy of eternal salvation. We must live lives that reflect our thankfulness for our very existence. You and I are made in the image of God himself! Sure, we look like our earthly parents, but our souls are made to live forever in the same nature as God. Are we good stewards of our souls? Do we allow God into them on a regular basis through the sacrament of reconciliation? Lent is a time of renewal. It is a time for us to cast our eyes on the perfect sacrifice and to emulate it. Are we willing to accept God’s plan even if it is painful for us? It is in these moments of sacrifice that our faith is perfected. God tells us in the Gospel, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him”.

What sacrifice has God requested of us to make for the sake of others? Have we willingly taken up our cross during challenging times or have we been angry at God for when things do not go our way? When I was a young man, I spent 5 years as a special operations solider in the Army. I traveled the world to many not so pleasant places to do many not so pleasant things. It was a time of my life where I lived in a crucible bombarded by the worst of humanity. There were many times when I was not sure if I was going to make it home. There were times when I could not recognize myself through the evils of war. It took nearly 10 years after I returned home to begin to see the person I was before. It was a time of my life where I knew God was preparing me for the challenges that lie ahead. My mom and dad blessed me with an awesome faith in God that guided me through the darkest moments of my life. The journey was not pleasant, but it made me cognizant of a greater plan God had for me. He was preparing me to become a husband, dad and father to a special child that would need this strength to help her along her difficult journey. He would then ask her to return to him one

 day knowing that I was to serve him in a greater capacity in Holy Orders. My ability to live through so many horrific events is due to the trust I placed in God. I never doubted his presence even in the darkest moments. I was always willing to accept what lies ahead because of my love for God. It was in these difficult moments that God was there guiding me.

Trust in the Lord in the darkest moments of your life and do not question why me? Be grateful that he has placed these challenges before you knowing that with His grace you can overcome them. Use this Lent as a time to turn to God and rely on him. I assure you he will never fail you. You may not always understand the journey you are on but there is a far greater purpose. God sent his son to be crucified for our sake and to suffer unimaginable pain on our behalf. Nothing that we will face can compare with his sacrifice. Even the death of our loved ones though quite painful are not eternal. We need to stop looking at what we have lost and begin looking at what awaits us. Each of these loved ones will be there waiting for you if you only believe and live like Christ. Be kind and loving to each other. Do not be afraid of the challenges in this world as they are temporal. Our goal is not to stay here but return to the Father at our designated time. May God open our hearts this Lenten season to his immense love. May God bless you.

 


 

February 18, 2018 

(1st Sunday of Lent)

SERMON

 

Here we are in the first Sunday of Lent. In the ancient times Lent was introduced to be a period of final preparation for those who were about to be baptized into the Faith at the Easter Vigil.  It still is such!  Later in time, Lent additionally became a time in which all baptized Christians examined themselves in regard to their allegiance to Christ, and the practice of their Faith. In doing such they were called to renew their commitment to the Lord if there were any areas of deficiency in their lives.  The final words of the gospel today, “Repent and believe in the gospel”, conjure up the whole meaning of Lent whether we are about to enter the Faith or are veterans in it. Lent is a time for us to look at the ways in which we have fallen away from the Lord, and to renew ourselves in our relationship with him in a sincere way. The sacrament of Penance is a sacrament which was specifically given to us so that we might restore our baptismal innocence if it has been impaired. I hope all of us will take advantage of this sacrament sometime during this Lenten season. 

Lent is a forty-day spiritual retreat. The gospel tells us that at the very beginnings of Our Lord’s ministry, he too made a kind of retreat of forty days to prepare himself for his calling. His time in the desert was fraught with temptations. The kind of temptations he faced were temptations not to enter into His calling; he knew it would entail his suffering and death. His tempter tried to persuade him not to fulfill that calling; in return the spirit of Evil promised him many things. Our Lord, though hungry and exhausted as a human being, never succumbed in his human nature to the offerings of the devil. The temptations we face, some of them coming from the world, the needs of the “flesh” or the persuasions of the Evil Spirit, each try to careen us off course from our God-intended destination. Have we succumbed to the temptations which beckon us to abandon or diminish our relationship with God?  Insects and flies are lured by the scent of sweetness. Many times, they discover that following a sweet scent can lead to a life of imprisonment or death. Certain insect--eating plants have evolved in such a way that they attract the insects to enter them only to devour the insects when they do so. Other flowers are so steeped in pollen that when the insect enters them, they can’t get out. We might think that this only happens in the insect world, but, in other ways it can happen to us. We can get ourselves involved in certain actions and attachments which rather than fulfilling us, as they promise to do, only lead us to imprisonment and destruction. This is what happens when we succumb to temptation.                                                                                                                                                                    Temptations, however, are not in themselves sins.  The Lord himself was subject to temptations. Succumbing to evil inclinations will become sins, moral failures. If we succumb consistently to temptations, such failings will more and more define us.  

 Our nation has again experiences a senseless instance of horrible violence and evil in Florida during these last few days.  The investigators, pundits, and media scramble to find answers as to why the killer did what he did. Very often, in these kinds of tragedies, they aver that this is the action of a mentally disturbed person, and they let it go at that. The purported mental illness explains the dreadful tragedy. Often, they back up this opinion with stories of how the person has experienced hardships in childhood or in life, twisting the person’s mind into some form of mental illness. The inference is that he lost all or much of his ability to control himself.  Perhaps mental illness is the explanation for some of these horrendous happenings and the person, through little fault of his own, has lost all sense of control. Perhaps that is so,  but there could be another cause for these terrible things that is usually not considered in our increasingly secular world. These actions could be the workings of a person who has become evil. We can do evil things, but not every person who does evil things is inherently evil, for example, a person who commits the evil act of thievery, but does so out of momentary weakness, has done an evil thing, but may not be totally evil. That isolated act of evil is evil, and the person will be held responsible for it by God if not by the courts, but the person doing the wrong action may not be characterized as being a totally evil person.  There are, however, some among us in our human race who have become truly evil.  Their evil actions are the product of a being who has become dedicated to the realm of evil. They consistently do horrible things simply because that’s what they have become. Evil then defines them as their state of being. “By their fruits you will know them,” says the Lord, meaning if we can look at an apple and conclude it came from an apple tree, so when we consistently see bad or good actions in the life of a person we know what kind of a person they are.  Some people who are so steeped in evil, that they themselves have become evil, and sometimes as they progress in their course of evil they also incur mental illness as a result of their life-styles ( look at Stalin and Hitler in their last days)  In such instances mental illness may be the result of a life steeped in evil.  

The Spirit of Evil spoken about in the gospel who assailed Christ should not be thought of as a fairytale figure. There are demonic spirits intent on demonizing the world because they are in total conflict with the goodness of God, and they will do all that they can do to have us join their ranks.  Lent is a time for us to fortify ourselves against their persuasions.

 


 

February 11, 2018 

(6th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

 Many of us learned as children that there are four basic kinds of prayer: petition, prayers of gratitude, prayers expressing sorrow for things done wrong or not done right, prayers of praise. Many people never approach God except when they need something; others use the other forms of prayer. If we only approached a friend, relative, or benefactor when we needed something, that friend, rela;ve or benefactor, might well feel used. “ Do you care for me only when you need me?,” might well be a question asked of the petitioner. Hopefully, we all employ the other forms of prayer: prayers of thanks for the manifold gifts God has bestowed upon us. And, hopefully, we can recognize when we do something wrong, or fail to do something we should have done, and we ask the Lord’s forgiveness, although many people in our society never think that they ever do anything wrong. Probably the least used form of prayer is the prayer of praise, and adoration. Praise is recognizing that God is God and should be reverenced, adored, and appreciated simply because He is God. The prayer of Praise is worship of God, appreciation for God being God, an awareness that we are all unworthy to be in His presence or receive anything He has given to us we are beholden to Him as Our Lord, Provider, Creator. The prayer of adoration or praise is the highest form of prayer because it recognizes that God is God and should be appreciated and adored as such.

I will only speak today about the opening words of our second reading. St. Paul counsels us to recognize the sovereignty of the Lord and allow every ac;on we do to be done to render worship to God, even in the most mundane things. He tells us, “ Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This is the highest form of personal prayer because it recognizes that the Lord is the Lord and that all we have comes from Him. Out of gratitude and appreciation for Him we want to direct every action of our lives towards Him since we could not even begin to do anything unless we first received the raw abilities to do so from Him.

One of my favorite parts of the scripture which reflect the Glory of God is captured in the book of Daniel. It goes on with a whole litany of how the glory of God is reflected in every part of crea;on, whether those parts be conscious or unconscious, animate or inanimate, immense or small. It starts with the words, “Angels of the Lord, praise the Lord; praise and exalt Him forever. “ Angels, of course, are conscious beings who can do just that because of the created properties of their nature. Some angels have refused to do so and have parted from God; but countless angels have chosen to stand in great reverence for the Lord they serve. In every Mass we speak of angelic adora;on before the throne of God ( Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts) . We, too, being creatures able to choose, join them in their act of adoration. AGer Daniel speaks of the direct worship of the angels, he speaks of many forms of creation which are inanimate and unconscious, and he indicates that each, in their own way, reflect the glory and the greatness of the Creator. “ Sun and moon, “ he says, “praise the Lord”; “Stars of the heavens, praise the Lord. All you winds, bless the Lord; dew and rain, praise the Lord; mountains and hills praise the Lord; seas and rivers bless the Lord; You dolphins and water creatures, bless the Lord; all you birds of the air, bless the Lord. All you beasts, wild and tame, praise the Lord.” As we all know, the sun and the moon, the stars, the mountains and hills, seas and rivers, as great as thy are, are not conscious entities, and cannot of themselves render praise and blessings towards God, but what Daniel is saying is that each of these wonderful parts of creation, by virtue that they are so exquisitely made, by that very fact, reflect the wonder, the grandeur, the greatness, the mystery, the infinity of God— the Glory of God. These entities, some of them colossal, cannot raise an iota of worship to God on their own, because they are not conscious beings, but their very exquisiteness reflect the infinite grandeur of the creator. He then lists the animals of the earth, the dolphins, fish, birds, beasts, wild and tame, and while they have awareness of their immediate needs and surroundings, they have no awareness of the God who made them and cannot render appropriate worship to God by themselves. They have not been given the personal abilities to respond in appreciation to the Lord who made them, but like the moon and the stars, mountains and hills, their very existence on the face of the earth reflects the greatness, majesty, and complexity and the Glory of God. Daniel, then cites us. “You children of men, bless the Lord; servants of the Lord, praise the Lord; spirits and souls of the just, praise the Lord; holy people of humble heart, praise the Lord; praise and exalt Him above forever. “ We like all of these parts of creation reflect the wonders and glory of our creator by virtue of the exquisite way in which we are made, but we, like the angels, have the added ability to recognize that exquisiteness and who gave it to us. Moreover, unlike inanimate parts of creation, and other parts of animal creation, we can choose to render personal worship, appreciation to our maker in ways in which inanimate and lower forms of animals cannot.

St. Paul tells us to do just that in the opening words of our second reading. Let us use the special ability we have been given by God to render Him praise in ways other parts of crea;on cannot do. Our ability to worship our creator is such that that we can choose to do even very ordinary things like ea;ng and drinking and render praise to our God, thereby giving glory to Him in ways in which other parts of creation cannot personally do, but do only passively, the way a great work of art reflects the genius of the artist.

In the many forms of prayer which you can render to God, develop this unique form of prayer whereby you lift up your hearts in apprecia;on of Him who is the Lord of the universe. You have been chosen to be among those parts of creation who can directly praise and worship the Lord as the supreme Master of the Cosmos, whose Glory is manifested throughout the created Universe.

 


 

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