Gospel Reflections

 

 

 Weekly Gospel/Sermon


 

October 20, 2019 

(29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

SERMON

 

                Prayer is the lifting up of our hearts and mind to God. I hope all of you have a private prayer-life.  “Pray unceasingly, “ says St. Paul, and I won’t go into how you might do that in this homily. Generally speaking, there are several types of prayer, and the more developed we are in our spiritual lives the more likely it is that we will incorporate each one of them into our ways of communicating with God.  The first is the prayer of adoration, praise, worship. When we pray in this way, we are acknowledging that God is the creator to whom we owe everything. We stand before Him in awe, and we express our deepest respect for Him because He is the Lord of all. A good example of this kind of prayer in our public-worship is the Gloria. When we recite this prayer, we are worshipping God as the supreme Lord. Another type of prayer is the prayer of contrition. In this mode of prayer we ask the Lord to forgive our shortcomings and sins. In doing so we should have the concomitant intentions of moving away from our failings…aided, of course, by God’s grace.  A third type of prayer is the prayer of thanksgiving. In this mode of prayer we render thanks to God for His many gifts. We should do this often, as we realize that each of us has been given so much. Another kind of prayer might be called a prayer of complaint.  We probably all have done this kind of prayer at one time of other. ”God, where are you? I need you to help me in this situation I am in! “There are a number of psalms which are what we might call, complaining psalms. The psalmist is asking God to manifest Himself in a time of need, and is actually complaining to God about his apparent absence in a situation. If done respectfully, it can be a legitimate mode of prayer.  The most common kind of prayer is the prayer of petition. We are asking God to help us in time of need, and both our first and third reading today deal with this kind of prayer….the prayer of petition. 

Our first reading speaks to us of a time in which the Jewish people were besieged by an army led by a person with the name Amalek. Notice what it says! The soldiers are engaged in the battle, and what is Moses doing? He is praying for the success of his military.  What is the posture he is using as he prays? . One of the ancient Jewish postures of prayer is to stand with your hands extended as the priest does at Mass. This posture symbolizes being open to God and to God’s will. Moses is engaged in intense petition to God to protect his people from the ravages of Amalek.  As he does so, he extends his hands. The reading tells us that as long as he was extending his hands in prayer and praying, the sway of the battle went in favor of the Israelites. When he got tired of praying, he lowered his hands, quit praying, and the sway of the battle went against the Israelites. Realizing this, Moses’ assistants encourage him to continue praying, and they assist him by holding up his hands in the prayerful gesture so that he does not succumb to weariness. Because of his persistent prayer, Joshua destroyed the forces of Amalek. The lesson we can learn from this is to be continuously persevering in asking for our needs and not to give up on God when our prayers are not immediately answered. 

The gospel gives us a parable about a judge who is a scoundrel. A widow who simply is pursuing justice for herself actually badgers this judge until he succumbs to her pressures. He succumbs not out of goodness or generosity, but because he becomes fearful that she might hurt him.  We have to remember two things as we hear this parable.  We should not identify God with this judge; after all the judge is not a good person to start off with; he does not have anything in common with God. Secondly, we should not interpret this parable as an attempt to teach us that all we have to do is to badger God, and he will change his mind about granting our petitions. God has infinite wisdom, and cannot be coerced into changing his mind simply by our wearing him down. The point of this parable us to urge us to be persistent in our appeals to God. The Lord loves to see our fidelity expressed by our consistent perseverance as we face difficult situations in life. The main point of the parable is this: if an unjust judge helped a persistent woman because of her constant appeals, so much more will our good God help those who persistently appeal to Him. 

The last sentence in the gospel seems to be out of place. It does not seem to follow what went before. “ But when the son of man comes, will he find any faith on the earth?  How does that fit in with the previous words spoken by the Lord? When people’s prayers are not answered in the ways they want, they oftentimes give up on God; they lose their faith. How many people do we have on this earth who no longer believe, because they think God has failed them. A problem, a sickness, a trouble comes along, and because their prayers are not answered in the way they wanted, they give up on God; they give up on prayer. They do the opposite of what our first and third reading teach us to do. As I look at our nation today, and see the rampant unbelief, I sometimes wonder if this is not a sign that the Lord is about to make his final appearance sometime soon. 

 


 

September 29, 2019 

(26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

SERMON

                                                                 

During this fall season, I would like to shore-up our parish life by two different programs. In some ways our parish-life is sagging a bit.   A little bit later in this fall season, we hope to conduct another small group retreat for our parishioners. In the spring of this year, about 30 people were involved in a program entitled, Healing Our Church. It was a program designed to help believers cope with the clerical sexual scandal and how it has impacted people’s faith. Those who went through the program hoped that some other kinds of programs might be offered in the future, not pertaining to the that same subject matter, but other spiritual subjects which might enhance the faith- development of the participants. We found such a program entitled, Life in Christ.  The first part of the program will focus on discovering who Christ is. It will consist of about eight meetings with a meal, a dvd presentation and discussions on the contents in small groups.  Those who experienced the small group format in Healing our Church found it to be positive and rewarding. That is not surprising! Our Lord said that where two or more are gathered in His Name, he was in the very midst of them. I believe that some of the people who were involved in Healing Our Church had that experience.  More on Life in Christ a bit later.

The other program I would like to utilize during these next several weeks is an attempt to make parishioners more aware that everything we have received in life is on loan from God. God has given to each of us the gift of life, the earth on which we live, the many abilities each of us has received, the multiple resources each of us can utilize, and the gifts of time, talent, and even the material wealth we have received. He has given each of us these things not just to be used for our own well being and pleasures, but to better our world and others. The rich man in our gospel of today is not condemned because he had considerable riches, but because he was oblivious to the needs of a poor man who was at his door step. God had bequeathed to the rich man all that he had, not to be used solely for his own use, but to better others. The concept of Stewardship means that we have been given all things by God, and we should make the best use of our blessings in life for our own betterment and for the betterment of all.

The documents of Vatican Council II remind all Catholics that we belong intricately to the Body of Christ, and just as each of the parts of our human bodies add to the health  and betterment of the entire body,   so each of us who belong to the Body of Christ should realize that we have to do our share in building up the Body of Christ by the use of our time in which we dedicate some of our time for the betterment of our Church, and the parish in which we experience our faith. God has given to each of us a certain amount of time in this life, and He calls us to dedicate a portion of his gift of time to us by spending it in making our Faith and the community in which we share it better.  God has given to each of us different measures of abilities and talents. He asks us to utilize some of our talents and abilities to directly build up his family on this earth, especially in the faith community to which we belong.  We do that by dedicating at least a portion of our abilities to directly building up the Body of Christ as experienced especially in the community of faith to which we belong. Ultimately even our material possessions come from God and we are asked to share a portion of our material treasure for the building up of our Church and the community of faith of which we are a part.

Stewardship means that all we have been given is on loan from God, and we should give some of our time, talent, and treasure for the furthering of the family of God, especially in that segment of it to which we belong.

 


 

September 22, 2019 

(25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

SERMON

 

                                                          The steward in this parable is a scoundrel.  First of all, he squandered his employer’s money. When he was rightfully fired from his position because of his of his selfishness and irresponsibility, he again showed his true colors. He went to each of those who owed his employer money, and lessened the amount of the obligation they had to pay the employer. In a sense, he again squandered some of his employer’s money since the employer did not get returned to him the total amount he was owed by the debtors.  But notice why the steward lessened the amounts owed to his employer. He was thinking only of himself;  he hoped that when he became one of the un-employed, those to whom he had done those favors, would be grateful to him and help him when he became jobless. Although the employer must have been more enraged by the continuing antics of this squandering steward,  when he heard about the  maneuverings of this employee to save himself, he had , at least, some admiration for the man’s  shrewdness.

Does Christ admire this man?  Not at all!  He only laments that his followers do not employ equal industry in wanting to achieve eternal goals as do worldly men , such as this steward, employ to gain temporary ones.  And it is true! People will go to all kinds of lengths to attain only passing benefits, but often will not lift a finger to gain eternal life.  

Our Lord tells us that a person who is trustworthy in small matters will also be trustworthy in larger ones.  The opposite is true: a person who is untrustworthy in small matters will also often be untrustworthy in large ones. Let’s take a brief look at this steward.  We find untrustworthyness to be shot through the life  of this steward in small matters as well as big matters.  His untrustwortyness was not just in isolated pockets of his life, but had become characteristic of him.  He thought only of himself and was willing to do anything he could to enhance himself.   Even after being sacked from his job he continued in his old dishonest ways. He continued to manipulate to achieve his own advantages.  His maneuverings had become part of him.

It is very difficult to change the encrusted habits built up over many years.  The Russian writer Dostoevsky says: “ The second half of a person’s life is usually made up of the habits acquired during the first half.”  It seems that there comes a moment in our lives when the pliable  clay of which we are made hardens and  pretty much sets.

A n old monk was instructing his disciple as they walked through a forest. He pointed to a small oak sapling and asked one of the young novices traveling with him to pull it up. He  The novice  did now without much of effort.  He then asked the novice  to pull up another sapling somewhat  bigger than the  first. Again he did so, but it took a lot more of his strength and both hands to do so. The Master pointed to a third and bigger oak and told several of the novices to pull it up. They could not do so. The Monk concluded that’s how it is with the habits of our lives. In the beginning, before they have sunk deep roots it is easy to eradicate them, but when they have been growing a long time, it becomes more and more difficult  to dislodge them.

That’s apparently is what happened to the steward in Jesus’ story. He had become so used to a dishonest way of life that he couldn’t change.  While the story shows the danger of bad habits it also shows the importance of forming good habits. Just as a bad habit can become a way of life, so can a good habit.

The habits we form will form us.  They embed themselves day-by-day into our lives.  Let us take stock of the habits we have formed.  Reinforce the good ones. Dislodge the bad ones. If the bad ones have been part of our lives for a long time, it will take patience and diligent work to eradicate them, but aided by God’s grace and our constant efforts, it can be done.

 


 

July 18, 2019 

(20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

SERMON

Over the past few weeks, our readings have focused on the end of time and the need to be prepared for what is to come. Some biblical scholars often refer to this section of Luke’s gospel as “The Coming of the Sword”. This is a difficult gospel to digest since we often think of Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. The Messiah was regarded as a conqueror and king to the Jewish people.In Jewish beliefs, fire is almost always the symbol of judgement. So, then, Jesus regarded the coming of his kingdom as a time of judgement. The Jews firmly believed that God would judge other nations by one standard and themselves by another; and that the very fact they were Jewish would be enough to absolve them. Many in our society today still feel that way even though they do not live as Christ commands us. Each of us will face judgment based on our individual circumstances. However, as much as we may wish to eliminate the element of judgement from the message of Jesus it remains stubbornly and unalterably there.When translating this verse, Jesus said “I have a baptism to be baptized with.” The Greek verb baptizein means to dip. In the passive it means to be submerged. Often it is used metaphorically. For instance, it is used when a person is submerged in some grim and terrible experience. That is the way in which Jesus uses it here. Jesus said, ‘There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished,’ He was referring to his suffering and death on Calvary. The cross was constantly before his eyes. Jesus came not with an avenging army and flying banners, but to give his life as ransom for many. How different from the Jewish idea of God’s King! His coming would inevitably mean division and in fact it did. That was one of the greatest reasons why the Romans hated Christianity – it tore families in two. Over and over again people had to decide whether they loved their families more than Christ. The essence of Christianity is that loyalty to Christ has to take precedence over the dearest loyalties of this earth. We must be prepared to place Christ above all else, including our loved ones. This is what causes division in families and in our world today. Many within our society hold on to the pleasures of this world at the expense of their personal relationship with God. How often in our lives do we choose something other than God and his commandments? How many times do we choose other activities over spending just one hour with our Lord at Mass on Sunday? Do we show up prior to Mass so that we can bring ourselves into the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle? Are we living our lives in a manner that emulates Christ’s love for each of us? Life is filled with so many obligations and our time is often limited. What Jesus is reminding us is that everything else is second to God. When we allow other activities to take precedence over our duties to God, we are literally calling judgement upon ourselves. I know this is an uncomfortable topic for many but remember Christ came to set the world on fire and to cause divisions. Each of us has free will and can openly choose to place God first in all aspects of our life. We also have a choice to choose the pleasures and activities of the world before him. It is our choice and we will be judged accordingly. Just because we claim to be Catholics does not preclude us from judgement. It in fact places a heavier burden on us as we have been enlightened to the truth of Jesus’ message.

Our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews gives us the courage to follow the example of our Lord and not lose sight of our eternal reward. St Paul reminds us to rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. ‘For the sake of the joy that lay before him Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of God. Consider how Jesus endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.’ The sacrifices we make to resist sin pale in comparison to that of Christ’s.It is not easy to do what is right in the world according to God’s law when society has become so secular in its thoughts and actions. Our world is filled with so many wonderful things and it is easy to become wrapped up in them. Do we have the ability to persevere knowing what is right or do we give into the pressures of our world and the temptation of the evil one who seeks the ruin of souls? Life is a race that each of us must run. Even though the distance varies for each of us it is still one that requires patience and trust in our Lord. Every person in this world is only here for a short while and is judged on their actions and interactions with one another according to God’s commandments. We are called to love the Lord our God with every fiber of our being and to love one another. Our priorities are clear, and our eyes must be fixed on Jesus Christ before all else. Let us not lose sight of our calling and be distracted by the enticements of our world.Jenny Child, the author of Pray Without Ceasing wrote a beautiful prayer that fits today’s message‘Lord Jesus, you withdrew to quiet places to spend time alone with your Father. You saw the wildflowers in the fields and the birds in the air and knew that he cared for each one. May we make time in our busy lives to just be still and know that you are God. Help us to take time out to appreciate the beauty and diversity of your creation.’This is why it is so important to arrive at Mass a few minutes prior to its beginning so we have time to slow down and reflect. We need this time to quiet our minds and focus them on our Lord, who should be our first priority. We must make similar time available through the course of our week for prayer. God’s word and His Holy Spirit are supposed to guide us through the challenges of this life. It is only possible if we open ourselves up to them. We are in a race towards eternal life and Christ is the prize.This week let us reevaluate our priorities and make sure that God is always at the top of our list above all else. May we refocus our sights on our true goal which is eternal life with our Father in Heaven. May God bless each of you.


 

July 07, 2019 

(14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

SERMON

 

 I recently read the story of a man, probably now in his forties, who said that when he was a child his parents were faith-filled parents, and every week it was just the expected thing to do to go to Mass every Sunday. He never really resented having to go to church each week, but he found it to be much more enjoyable when he became an altar-server. That family custom continued until he went to college; then, he stopped going. In trying to figure out why that happened, he said that perhaps it was due to the fact that he was no longer living at home. He no longer had the active influence of family life, and he felt good about making his own decisions about almost everything.  During his second or third year of college, his roommate said to him, “ It’s Sunday and I’m going to go to church at the Newman Center;  do you want to come? “ The young man said, “ I guess I’ll go,” and he accompanied his friend   After he went to Mass, he began to accompany his room-mate frequently to the Newman Center for Sunday worship.  Soon after that, he became a volunteer at the Newman Center. Then, he went on a Newman Center college retreat, and after that was asked to be a team-leader for the next planned retreat for college students.  He became close to the campus chaplain and to the regular team leaders at the Newman Center. The influence of those people got the young man to start thinking about his future. Should he become a priest?   He pursued that idea, and decided to give the seminary a try. Today he is the pastor of a thriving parish in the state of Washington. Upon reflecting about the evolution of his whole life he says, “ What I have become all started with the influence of my family and,  down the road,  with my roommates’ casual invitation to accompany him to Mass. That was the beginning of my journey back. God did the rest, but he had the help of those human beings who stepped out to help me.” 

Our gospel of today tells us of the Lord’s commissioning of seventy-two disciples whose task it was to bring the message of Christ to those whom they would encounter on their prescribed mission. The Lord indicated that some would be receptive to his message; others would mightily resist it. To those who accepted the message, a blessing would come upon them; on those who resisted,  the judgement of God would befall them. The task of the seventy-two was to make the invitation, whether it was accepted or not. If they did that, they would be fulfilling their mission. The task at-hand would be challenging. The multitudes to be approached were great and the active laborers to approach them were too few in number . “ The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few,” the Lord told them. “ Ask the master of the harvest to send  laborers for the harvest.”  When we Catholics hear these words, we probably automatically think of priests, clergy and sisters and the need for them in the structure of the Church. The Lord knows, we do need priests, clergy and sisters to do the work of the Lord by inviting souls to become followers of Christ. The worship of our Church depends on the presence of the ordained priest to confect the Eucharist. We have never believed that just anybody can confect the Eucharist, but the confection can only be done by one whose priesthood can be traced right back to the Apostles. The danger is that we are clearly experiencing a shortage of ordained priests in this present age, and that shortage is only worsened by the publicized scandals of our times, even though it is only a small percentage of priests who were so accused.  We have to hope there will be an awakening in the hearts of those whom the Lord might be calling, just as there was in the heart of the young man of whom I spoke earlier. 

But did you ever stop to think that the call to bring Christ to others is not only reserved for ordained priests, clergy, and vowed religious? Our Catholic theology tells us that every baptized person should be doing what they can do to further the cause of Christ.  Start with your own families. Christian husbands and wives, in the Christian scheme of things, are called to do more than just live out their years together. The sacrament of Marriage has incumbent within it, the duty of helping one’s spouse become closer to God. Of helping one’s spouse to save their souls?  Parents, like the parents of the young man of whom I spoke earlier, are called upon to participate in giving a second birth to each of their children. They participated with God in generating the physical birth of each of their children. As Christian parents they are asked also to help generate a spiritual birth of their children. They do that by fostering the faith in their family members, not just by their words, but by their actions. As St. Francis said, “ Preach always, and sometime use words.”  Our families learn more about God when they see Him emanating from the entire value system and life style of the members of the family.  Try to make your household a Christ-Centered household.

We are all called upon to generate a relationship with God through Christ. That calling flows from the very nature of our baptism. The Lord called many more than 72 disciples to prepare hearts for his presence. He is calling all of us to generate his presence in our households, families, our parishes, our places of employment, our nation and in the world. May we all do our part as laborers for the Lord’s harvest. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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