Desire God more, conquer our fears: A homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 7, 2022.

Wis 18:6-9; Heb 11:1-2,8-19; Lk 12:32-48

Desire God more, conquer our fears

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom”

I lost my father and my two uncles one after another in the last seven months. Consequently, there is palpable fear and anxiety lingering in my extended family as we face the unknown, the mysterious, and the uncontrollable reality of death.

Jesus Christ speaks to all our fears in a powerful way, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.” Notice that He calls us “little flock,” and not “strong lions.” We are aptly called “little flock” because we cannot overcome the fears of life by our own power, wisdom, or ability. These fears bring us to face that utter helplessness that we just cannot dismiss by simply psyching ourselves.

We begin to overcome our fears only when we realize that we, the little flock, can have great desires. In short, our desires can be so great that we begin to share in God’s own desire for us. Thus, Jesus shows us that we overcome our fears when we grasp the immense that good God desires for us, “For your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Because God’s greatest desire is for our eternal union with Him, He also desires to give us all that we need to belong to Him now and in His heavenly kingdom.

God desires us to be with Him. But how strong is our own desire to be with Him? We begin to conquer our fears when we begin to grow in our desire for God and the things that He desires for us. God continuously offers us this kingdom and invites us to embrace it. But merely believing in the kingdom does not imply that we will have the necessary desire to be a part of it.

Jesus points out to us three ways in which we can cultivate our desires for Him and the great things that He desires for us.

Firstly, we must become generous in meeting the needs of others, “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, and inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” We have little or no desire for heaven when we are busy accumulating wealth and living only for ourselves. How can we cultivate the desire for heaven when we are not using our resources now to foster healthy relationships with others? Our desire for heaven grows to the extent that we invest and sacrifice now for heavenly things, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Secondly, we must be vigilant in waiting for the final coming of Christ to us. This vigilance demands that we seek out, welcome, and embrace only the things that keep our desire for God alive and strong e.g., intense prayer, selfless service, true repentance, spiritual reading, devotion to Mary, Mother of God, etc. On the other hand, we avoid and filter out the many lies and deceptions in our thoughts, words, and actions that negatively impact our faith, hope, and love. Only a truly vigilant soul will recognize and welcome Christ with enthusiasm, “Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”

Thirdly, we must be responsible and diligent in doing the will of God for His glory and for the good of our neighbors, “Who then is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” Our intimacy with Jesus Christ increases when we do the will of God no matter the cost or consequences, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”(Mt 12:50) We cannot be intimate with Him when we are driven by our self-will alone. This intimacy with Jesus yields a great desire to be with Him forever in heaven and subsequently diminishes our fears in this life.

Jesus repeatedly asserts, “Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so,” to remind us that we must strive to be faithful to His will to the end of our lives. We are not called to run a perfect and flawless race in fidelity to His will. There will surely be failures and setbacks along the way. But we are called to run the race to the very end.  

Abraham did not succumb to fears at all in his life and pilgrimage of faith because, above all things, he desired what God desired for him based on God’s promises to him. He was ready to leave the comfort and security of his home, “He went out, not knowing where he was to go.” Though he was old and his wife was sterile, he was ready to surrender his plan and embrace God’s plan for him, “By faith, he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age – and Sarah his wife was sterile – for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.” He was even willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the child of the same promise. How powerful it is to believe in God’s promise and to set our hearts on what He promises us instead of holding on to the things we desire and prefer.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, unlike the inheritance that God promised to Abraham, the kingdom of God is not just a promise to us now. Jesus Christ has made it a reality that is present in our midst in a mysterious way. He is bestowing on us all that we need to be in that kingdom now and till our last breaths.

There will always be fears lingering in our hearts in this world. We experience fears of death, suffering, sickness, job loss, and failures in relationships. We experience fears about our church, the many scandals that plague it, the abandonment of the faith by many, and the widespread moral and doctrinal confusion. We are afraid as we face the prospects and reality of wars and more viruses. We are indeed always God’s little flock in a scary world.

But let us remember that this little flock can have great desires too. The little flock can still desire sanctity now and life with God in heaven because God never ceases to desire this for us. He will never force His kingdom on us but wants us to desire it too as He desires it for us, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:33)

With our Eucharistic Lord rekindling our desire for His heavenly kingdom, let us also use the grace of each Eucharist to cultivate this desire for God and His kingdom and see how we begin to conquer our fears one at a time until Christ returns in glory or calls us home to His kingdom.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Become rich in what matters to God: A homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 31, 2022.

Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21

Become rich in what matters to God

One of the canons in the Canon Law that I remember clearly from my seminary formation is Canon #1300, which summarily states: “The legitimately accepted wills of the faithful who give or leave their resources for pious causes, are to be fulfilled most diligently even regarding the manner of administration and distribution of goods.”

This means that the Church must ensure that these bequeathed material goods are disposed of strictly according to the intentions and purposes of the donors. For example, goods given for the purpose of assisting the poor cannot be used to renovate the parish rectory. Obviously, goods given for the evangelizing mission of the Church should not be used to settle clergy sex abuse cases and wicked cover up by the church’s hierarchy.  

If there is an obligation to dispose of the goods of the faithful only according to their expressed intentions, how much greater is this same obligation when the giver is God Himself? Every gift from God has a purpose and that purpose is from God, and not from us. We can and we should express gratitude to God for His gifts. We can even ask for more of His gifts. But we must also be truly wise persons who always try to ascertain the purpose of God’s gifts and fulfill this purpose.  

Quoheleth says, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” to emphasis the utter foolishness of laboring and striving in this life just for the sake of having, enjoying, and possessing ephemeral things. It is foolishness to ignore the purpose of human life, the meaning of God’s gifts to us, and the true value of human effort. To ignore this purpose is to labor for the sake of something that vanishes like smoke, “To another who has not labored over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune.”(Eccl 1:2, 2:21)  

St. Ignatius of Loyola’s First Principle and Foundation states the purpose of all God’s gifts: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God, our Lord, and by this means, to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earthy are created to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.” All God’s gifts are meant to be used for the greater praise and glory of God, to offer Him deep respect, obedience, and worship, to serve Him in others on this earth, and ultimately, to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

Thus, Jesus first calls us to “take care to guard against all greed” because it is not the amount of our possessions that guarantee the quality of our lives but our ability to possess and use them according to God’s purpose. The rich man in the parable is truly foolish because he did not bother to search for and to be faithful to the divine purpose of his bountiful harvest. Rather, he imposed his own selfish purpose to God’s gifts to him, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.”

Though his wealth increased, the rich fool did not use his goods to give greater praise to God. His goods did not bring him to worship and reverence God more ardently. On the contrary, he became completely closed to serving God and others with his goods, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years.” He became so complacent that he did not do anything more to save his soul, “Rest, eat, drink, be merry!” (See Lk 12:13-21) All these and more occurred because he ignored God’s purpose for his wealth.

Secondly, Jesus calls us to use all that we have now so as to become “rich in what matters to God.” What matters to God is our eternal salvation, “God our Savior desires that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(1Tim 2:4) This is the purpose of all His gifts to us. This means that we are to engage and use the passing things of earth wisely so as to attain the eternal things of heaven. Hence St. Paul’s exhortation, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”(Col 3:1-2) We just cannot be rich in what matters to God – our salvation – if we lack that wisdom that seeks and fulfils the divine purpose in all His gifts.

Our salvation matters so much to God that He sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to make us truly wise when it comes to using all God’s gifts on this earth. Because “all things were created through Him and for Him,”(Col 1:17) it is in Christ alone and through communion with Him that we can properly discern and be faithful to God’s purpose in everything that we receive from God.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a certain foolishness that we see in our world today when it comes to using the many gifts that God has given to us. In this foolishness, we trying to impose our own warped and selfish purposes to His gifts. Many of us think that the purpose of the Christian life is to save the environment. We seem to forget that our vocation is to use all of creation in way that praises, reverences, and serves God and others. The entire “My body, my choice” mentality pretends that the human body is for sexual pleasure without consequences and for experimenting in gender fluidity. We foolishly think we are lords of our time when we spend countless hours immersed in mindless browsing of social media.  

In death, we shall be judged by our wisdom or foolishness in how we have made use of God’s gifts in this life, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” No matter our past foolishness that made us ignore the divine purpose in all God’s gifts, we can begin today to be wise. We can receive His gifts with gratitude and search diligently for His purpose, embrace it, and strive to fulfill this purpose always. We can know His purpose behind all His gifts because He has assured us, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”(Mt 7:7)

God has not only given us many gifts in this life – time, treasures, talents, abilities, experiences, strengths, etc. He also offers us many graces. Divine grace gives us light and strength to use all these gifts in living according to God’s unchanging purpose now and for our eternal salvation.   

By the grace of the Holy Eucharist, let us be wise in using God’s gifts according to His purpose until the hour of our death and do so for the sake of our eternal salvation. That is what matters most to God and it should matter most to us too.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!  

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Why we do not pray as we should: A homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 24, 2022.

Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

Why we do not pray as we should

I met a businessman some years ago who told me that he spends close to four hours daily doing physical exercises. I asked him why he spent so much time exercising daily. Was he preparing for the Olympics or what? He replied, “I want to be always fit and healthy.”

His reply reminded me of how generous and sacrificing we are in making time for the things that we value the most. We make time to eat, sleep, drink, exercise, sleep, work, etc., simply because we are convinced of their true value.  

Why is it that when it comes to prayer, we claim that we do not pray because we do not have the time to pray? We say we cannot spend time cultivating our relationship with God through prayer because we are too busy. However, the truth is that we do not pray as we should because we do not know the value of prayer. If we were convinced of the true value of prayer, we will sacrifice anything for our prayer time.  

We do not value prayer because there are certain truths that have not yet sunk into our hearts.   

Firstly, we do not pray with persistence because we do not know God’s love for each and every one of us. Jesus teaches us to pray by calling God “Father” to show that God loves us personally and freely. This same God is always inviting and drawing us into a special relationship with Him through prayer. God initiates this relationship with us in His Son, Jesus Christ, offering us His love and making it possible for us to love Him back in prayer, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins.”(1Jn 4:10) 

We must first experience and receive this love in prayer because only this love of God can satisfy us and quench our fears, “Perfect love casts out fear.”(1Jn 4:18) This love alone moves us to respond to God’s love by striving to obey Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”(Jn 14:15) We have peace and trust in God because we know the Father gives us only good things in answer to our prayers. Though He may allow evil in our lives for a greater good, He never directly gives us something that is evil.

We just cannot be persistent in prayer if we are oblivious of God’s personal love that He offers us in prayer and His desire that we grow in this love through prayer and action.    

Secondly, we do not pray always because we do not know our great need for the graces of God in our lives. Without the grace of God, we cannot do anything good or endure any evil and temptation. By teaching us the Our Father prayer, Jesus shows us our need to beg for truly essential things in prayer. We must constantly beg God to “forgive us our sins,” sustain us with our “daily bread,” protect us from numerous evils, help us to “do His will on earth as it is done in heaven,” etc. Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive,” because we cannot experience these and many more graces in our lives without consistent prayer.

We do not know our need for grace through prayer because we do not realize the deeply mysterious ways of God and our need for His light to follow Him. We have not grasped our utter nothingness without God’s sustaining grace. We do not realize the weakness of our human nature and the wickedness and cunningness of Satan, who “always prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”(1Pt 5:8)  

Thirdly, we do not pray all the time because we do not know the great calling we have to save our souls. We go the extra mile to care for the needs, pleasures, and comforts of the body that will eventually rot in the grave one day. But we ignore our souls, that immortal and substantial form of our being. Have we forgotten that the body takes its dignity and destiny from its union with the soul? Didn’t Jesus also teach us that our greatest duty is to save our souls, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (MK 8:36)

Our prayer life must not be reduced to merely meeting the needs of the body or making us feel good. Authentic prayer brings divine life to our souls, making them holy and alive with the Spirit of God. True prayer prepares and orients our souls towards God and perfect communion with Him in heaven. Our souls need that hope that comes from prayer if we are not going to become hopeless slaves of this world and its corrupt spirit.  

We easily lose the value of prayer in a world where the body is worshipped and pampered. How can we pray well in a Church where many are more concerned with our vaccine status than living in a state of grace? How can prayer flourish in an era where the focus is on bodily mutilation in the name of transgenderism while we ignore the effects of mortal sin in our souls? Prayer dies when the body receives exclusive care and attention to the detriment of the soul. 

Lastly, we do not pray always because we do not know the power of prayer to win for others the divine mercy needed for hearts to change. The prayer of a Christian living in grace is powerful because we have been reconciled with God now in Jesus Christ and we now participate in Christ’s own power over the grave, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”(Col 2:13) Because we do not pray as rebels but as God’s beloved children in Jesus Christ, we can be channels of divine mercy to souls in this world.

God promised to have mercy on the sinful people of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a few people who maintained their relationship with Him in the midst of so much debauchery. He said to Abraham, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”(Gen 18:32) Imagine the mercy of God that will be poured out on our world when we intercede for other souls from hearts that are filled with divine grace and love. There is so much evil in our families, in our church, and in our world simply because the true value of prayer has been lost to many of us.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must stop deceiving ourselves by claiming that we do not pray because we do not have the time to do so. We simply don’t value prayer as we should.

There are two things that we must do. Let us first beg our Lord Jesus Christ to instill in our minds and hearts the true value of prayer so that we can pray always without losing hope. Ours too must be the petition of Jesus’ disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He will surely teach us first the value of prayer as He did throughout the scriptures.

Then we must be ready to keep on praying even if we do not get what we are asking for. Let us pray using all the means at our disposal. We can pray the Holy Rosary, read and meditate on the word of God, use prayer books, or just be still in the presence of God in the Eucharist. We can also pray alone, with the family, with friends, in the Church at Mass, etc. Let us pray in all our moods and conditions. In short, pray as you can and in every place and time.

If we do not stop praying, God will surely give us what we need the most in this life – His Holy Spirit, the Giver of all gifts. He assures us of this gift of His Spirit, “How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”(Lk 11:13) The Holy Spirit will teach us to pray and enlighten us on the true value of prayer. This same Spirit will give us inner joy, hope, and strength to journey into the kingdom of God if only we remember the value of prayer and never stop praying.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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How to choose the better part: A homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 17, 2022.

Gen 18:1-10; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42

How to choose the better part

Why did Jesus say that Mary had chosen the better part? Is it because she “sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak?” How is her disposition better than that of her sister Martha who was serving Him until she became “burdened by much serving?” (See Lk 10:38-40)

Mary can be said to have chosen the better part because she chose to receive first all that Christ was offering to her. Hers was the better part because, before saying or doing anything, she chose the ever necessary first step of receiving everything from Christ. She first received His person, words, desires and plans, etc., “She sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak.” Despite the criticism from her sister, Mary is so much at peace because she first received all that Christ offers.  

On her part, Martha received and welcomed Christ into her home but did not first receive all that He was offering to her. Because she failed to first receive from Him what He made present, she became tired and frustrated with her service and began to complain. She lost her joy and peace in serving the Lord Jesus. She lost her focus on the Lord being served and began to compare herself with her sister Mary. She even began to accuse Jesus and her sister of being uncaring, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?” She became demanding and bossy too, “Tell her to help me.” She was overcome by many worries and anxieties. We experience these and similar things when we do not first receive from Christ.

We cannot give what we do not have. We also cannot have what we have not first received from Christ, “What do you have that you have not received?”(1Cor 4:7) Thus, before doing anything in the service of the Lord Jesus, we must first receive everything that He is offering to us. There is immense spiritual power in this complete reception of Christ and all that He brings, “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.” (Jn 1:12)

There are certain things that we must receive first from Christ if we are going to serve Him faithfully and joyfully. We must first receive the gift of His love for us, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit that has been given to us.”(Rom 5:4) This love is what moves and sustains us in faithful service, “The love of Christ impels us.”(2Cor 5:14) We cannot serve Him faithfully when we doubt or question His love for us.

We must also receive His words first. When we receive His self-revealing words, He brings meaning into all our life experiences. His words affirm us in the good that we do in His service, “Mary has chosen the better part.” He also gently rebukes us when we go astray, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things.” We cannot go astray or become frustrated when we are guided by His words and promises, “Your word is a light to my feet and a light to my path.”(Ps 119:105)

We must also receive His graces and inspirations no matter what they may cost us or where they may lead us. There is no divine inspiration that is not accompanied by sufficient graces. As long as we are determined to serve Him and do His will, we will find that His grace is indeed “sufficient for us.”(2Cor 12:9)

Lastly, we must receive His forgiveness for all our sins. We cannot serve Him faithfully when we are holding on to our sins and regrets of the past or pretending that we are not sinners and sinful. We cannot be generous in serving the Lord if we are not generous in seeking and receiving His forgiveness for our sins, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”(Lk 7:47)

After a life of faithful service and suffering for the sake of the Gospel, St. Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” He is not blaming or accusing anyone for his sufferings. He is not accusing God of short-changing him. He is not complaining or wallowing in self-pity. But he is filled with joy in his sufferings for the Lord.

He can do so only because he has first received all that Christ offered to him. He had received his mission from God, “I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me.” He has received from Christ a participation in His sufferings for the salvation of souls. He had received from Christ the meaning of suffering in the life of the Christian, “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church.” Before proclaiming Christ, he had also first received the glorious hope of the indwelling Christ, “Christ in you, the hope for glory.”(See Col 1:24-28)

“Christ in you, the hope for glory!” We do not have hope for glory because of anything that we have, do, or achieve on our own. We have hope for glory only because Jesus Christ gives Himself to us, abides in us, always acts in our lives, and is continuously bestowing on us the amazing gifts He merited for us by His passion, death and resurrection. We lose that hope when we do not receive it continuously from Christ.

We only have to receive these gifts first and then use them in serving Him all the days of our lives.  Let us begin today to first receive all that He gives to us with gratitude because they are all gifts that we cannot earn or merit. Let us receive them all with generosity because He gives generously. Let us receive them with trust because He gives us only what we truly need for our ongoing sanctification.

Should we struggle in this regard, let the Blessed Virgin Mary teach us and help us to also choose the better part. Isn’t she also one of Christ’s special gift to us, “Behold, your mother.”(Jn 19:27) Didn’t she first receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and all that He offered to her before becoming the ever-faithful virgin and Mother of God? Didn’t she refuse nothing of what God offered to her in her earthly pilgrimage? Didn’t she do and endure great things for Him till the end because He “who is mighty had first done great things for her?”(Lk 1:49) Hence, she could follow Jesus all the way to Calvary, receive His dead body from the cross, bury Him, and then wait in hope for His glorious resurrection.

If we allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us first receive everything from Christ like she did, we too shall always choose the better part. It is only then that we can do and endure everything joyfully for Him.  

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Cultivate the conscience of a Good Samaritan: A homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 10, 2022.

Det 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

Cultivate the conscience of a Good Samaritan

“You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Japan’s former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated last week while delivering a public campaign speech in the Nara region of Japan. The brutal murder of this beloved leader shocked the populace and the world and has rightly been condemned by many world leaders.

Unfortunately, his assassination has been overshadowed by the discussions on the efficiency of gun control laws. Japan has one of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The process for obtaining a gun license is long and complicated, requiring many stringent background checks and recommendations from police and shooting clubs. Japan also boasts of a very low rate of violent crimes. Most of the violent crimes in Japan are also not gun-related.

Though fatal gun violence is rare, the prime suspect in Abe’s assassination, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, reportedly shot and killed the ex-prime minister with a concealed homemade gun he must have fabricated himself. This has left the local security authorities wondering how this could have happened despite their restrictive gun laws and long history of peaceful living.

This sad and condemnable incident also affirms what Jesus said about the source of evil in the world, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil come from within.”(MK 7:21-23) Thus, we are witnessing many violent and wicked acts towards others in our world today, not because gun control laws and checks are lacking, but because consciences are not being well-formed and faithfully followed. Merely trying to restrict gun ownership or gun use cannot guarantee that our societies will be free of senseless violence and murder if we do not also begin to follow well-formed consciences.  

Conscience is that interior voice whereby God speaks to our hearts, calling and moving us to do a particular good and avoid a particular evil at an appropriate moment. In the words of the Catechism, “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.”(CCC 1778) Moses also attests that God’s words and commands found in the book of the law are also inscribed in our hearts, “It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hears; you have only to carry it out.”(Det 30:14)

We must first form our consciences well with the truth of God’s commandments because without a well-formed conscience, we cannot love God and our neighbors appropriately. A person with a poorly formed or weak conscience is one who easily resorts to violent and wicked acts towards others. These persons have no qualms taking innocent life at will. They will destroy human life with whatever they have at hand. They will shoot the innocent with homemade guns, euthanize the aged with medication, detonate bombs in churches, murder unborn infants with forceps, and fly airplanes into buildings.

When the scribe asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life,” he was asking about what he needed to do to have a truly joyful and hopeful life. He grasped that right action was connected with the fullness of life. After he stated the command to love God with all your being and to love neighbor as self, Jesus answered, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” (Lk 10:28) Without a good conscience that correctly grasps practical acts of charity that must be done, authentic love for God and neighbor is impossible and the joyful hope of eternal life becomes illusive.

The Good Samaritan in the parable showed true love to the injured and dying Jew because he had a good conscience and he followed it no matter the sacrifices involved. He could not see himself walking away from the person in need, even if that person hated him and his fellow Samaritans. He knew the right thing to do there and then and he did it. He thus showed that the law of God truly inscribed in his heart was effective.

On the other hand, the priest and the Levite, though they probably knew the command to love, cannot love appropriately because of their bad or weak consciences. They had no qualms ignoring their brother Jew in dire need. They were probably overcome by their selfishness or legalism. 

For us to live joyful and hopeful lives here on earth, we must take three action steps regarding our consciences all the time.

First, we must humbly form our conscience well with truth from God. Mere human opinions or ideologies, no matter their source, no matter how widely held and accepted they are, no matter how they may make us feel, cannot form our consciences. We must know, believe, and love the truth as revealed by God and authoritatively taught by His Catholic Church if we are going to have an upright conscience.

Believing one single lie can corrupt, darken, and weaken the voice of God in our conscience. Our consciences are weakened and confused when we believe that we can change moral truths. For example, we are deforming our consciences when we believe that people of the same sex can be married and raise a normal family. Whatever contradicts divine revelation corrupts conscience because “conscience bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments.”(CCC 1777)

Secondly, we must faithfully follow our well-formed consciences now. The longer we resist the divine summons of conscience, the more that we lose our freedom for right action and authentic love. When it comes to choices, we must not make choices based on transitory emotions or feelings alone. Neither are we to make choices based on the latest fashions or ideologies.  

Lastly, we must examine our conscience frequently. We must constantly examine our thoughts, words, and actions in the light of the word of God and the spirit of Jesus Christ that we find in the Gospels. At least once a day, preferably at the end of the day, we must pause and ask in the presence of God, “Have my thoughts, words and actions today flowed from and reflected my relationship with God in Jesus Christ?” This honest examination of conscience based on God’s words will lead to ongoing conversion that makes selfless love possible.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, because “Christ is the head of the body, the Church,”(Col 1:18) He is with us always and He is always guiding us to eternal life through our consciences. He never forces us to act or not to act. He is always saying to us, “Do this good now. Avoid this evil now. Do this and you will live!” We are to listen to Him and freely respond by His grace.

Every Eucharist is Jesus Christ coming to us to enlighten and strengthen our consciences with His truth and grace so that He can teach us and move us to love like the Good Samaritan. With our well-formed consciences, we shall hear Him and respond to Him now and always as He continuously calls us to selfless love for God and others. This is the only way that we can shun insensitivity, violence, and wickedness towards others and choose to live truly loving, hopeful, and joyful lives for God and for others, just like the Good Samaritan did.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Christ sets us free to follow Him: A homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 26, 2022.

1Kgs 19:16, 19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62

Christ sets us free to follow Him

“Go back, have I done anything to you?”

There is a radical change in the disposition of Elisha when the Prophet Elijah cast his cloak on him. He went from asking for some time to kiss his parents goodbye first to making a decisive and generous act, “He took the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them…boiled their flesh, gave it his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

Why this immediate change? It appears the words of Elijah touched him deeply, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” He probably sensed that God was not just calling him to be Elijah’s successors. God was also doing something to him and in him, allowing him to share in the power and authority of Elijah. He was generous and bold in his response to his vocation as long as he believed that the God who was calling Him was also acting on him.

When God calls us for a specific task, He also does something to us and in us. God does not call us to follow Him as if we were lifeless stones, incapable of any interior change or growth. One thing that God does when He calls us is that He labors continuously to set us free from all that hinders us from responding to His call with generosity and perseverance. In short, He labors for our continuous growth in freedom.

This is the message of St. Paul to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ has set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom.”(Gal 5:1,13) The challenge for us is to receive that freedom as a gift and make good use of it.

If we abuse that personal freedom, “using it as an opportunity for the flesh,” we will experience personal degradation, mutual destruction, and eventually, communal disintegration, “But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” 

However, if we make good use of that freedom, we actually become freer to love and serve others, “Serve one another through love.” We can offer mutual service and support for each other and enhance the community only when we make good use of the gift of freedom.

Our Lord Jesus Christ makes strong demands on us as His disciples because He does not just call us to be His disciples. He also does something to us and in us that He only He can do – He gives us a share in His own freedom as God’s beloved Son, “To those who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.”(Jn 1:12) Jesus sets us free and labors to increase that freedom in us as we respond to our vocations.  

We experience inner resistance in our commitments to Him because we are so focused on the costs, inconveniences, uncertainties, sacrifices, etc., in our calling. The inner resistances prevail because we ignore the many ways in which the Lord labors to bring us to the place of inner freedom necessary for our fidelity to our commitment to Him.

Lk 9:51-52 shows us three ways in which our lack of inner freedom leads to poor commitment to Christ as His disciples.

We have those who do not make any commitment at all as Jesus’ disciples. They are like snowflakes in their passing fervor. They only speak empty enthusiastic words, “I will follow you wherever you go.” They fall silent when the Lord speaks of the constant demands and uncertainties in following Him, “Foxes have dens and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.”

This first group speaks a lot and makes lots of empty promises but lacks any action in discipleship. They are not ready to sacrifice anything. They are afraid of what discipleship may cost them. They are slaves to their comfort and security. They want to be in control of what happens to them as they follow the Lord. They are repulsed by any idea of uncertainty as Christ’s disciples.

There are those who postpone making a commitment as disciples, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Instead of committing when they are called, this type is waiting for an illusory better, and more convenient time to commit.  

They may claim that they are not ready now or that they are not good or holy enough to commit. They may also claim that they want to resolve some personal or family issues first before making a commitment. Jesus rejects the idea that there is more favorable time to commit than the present moment, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

Lastly there are those who make half-hearted commitments because of the past, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” These ones keep looking back at what they have left already. They become slaves of the past as it keeps them from fully committing to Jesus and to His kingdom.

This last type is fixated on things of the past – sins, failures, relationships, pleasures, pains, hurts, etc. It may even be the past achievements and successes that they cannot seem to get enough of. Whatever it is, something in the past keeps them from committing to Jesus Christ in the present moment. These past things do not allow them to enter God’s kingdom, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the only way that we can overcome these forms of inner resistances is to have faith that we have been called by God and He has and will continue to work His freedom into our hearts. Jesus Christ became one like us, suffered, died and rose from the dead so that we have the freedom of His Spirit in us and so be His authentic disciples, ready to be free like HIm, who “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”(Lk 9:51)

All the evils, suffering, and pain in our world today are due to two types of people – those who abuse their freedom and those who do not know the power of the freedom for good that we have in Christ. We experience daily the myriad examples of mutual destruction from abusing personal freedom – abortion, addictions, sexual perversity, senseless wars and conflicts, kidnappings, broken homes, human trafficking, sexual abuse, corruption, etc. Our commitment to Christ will dwindle in the face of this strong current of evil and suffering if we are not constantly maturing in our inner freedom.

Our Eucharistic Lord, whom we encounter in this Eucharist, is still calling us to commit to Him again and again, even in these dark and painful times. He is also unceasingly laboring to free us. Whenever we are tempted to waver in our commitment to Him, whenever our inner resistances seem to overwhelm us, let us hear Him ask us in our hearts, “Have I done anything to you?” If we believe that He has set us free and is still doing so today, nothing will stop us from being faithful in our commitments to Him.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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The Eucharist is God’s remedy for our selfishness today: A homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 2022

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. June 19, 2022.

Gn 14:18-20; 1Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17

The Eucharist is God’s remedy for our selfishness today

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”

Two things are clear about Jesus from the episode of the multiplication of the loaves in Luke’s Gospel account.

Firstly, Jesus is truly generous. He takes the initiative to reveal and introduce His audience into His heavenly kingdom, “He spoke to the crowd about the kingdom of God.” He then takes the first step to heal all who were sick, “He healed those who needed to be cured.” Lastly, He refused to send the crowd away but chose to feed and satisfy five thousand men, “They all ate and were satisfied.”

Secondly, Jesus is not wasteful. After generously providing them bread and fish, He collects and measures the leftover, “And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.” St. John explains why Jesus picked up the leftover, “He told His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’”(Jn 6:12) Jesus does not want anything that He has given to us to be lost but to be used well for the purpose that He gave it to us.

This miracle of the multiplication of the loaves foreshadows the Holy Eucharist, where we have the climax of Christ’s generosity to us. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus offers us the complete gift of Himself in His incarnate state – body, blood, soul, and divinity. It is only in the Eucharist that He makes present again in sacramental signs His sacrifice on Calvary with all its life-giving power. It is also in the Eucharist that He offers to us all the graces that He merited for us. There is no greater generosity of Jesus towards us today than the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus shows the height of His generosity to us by giving Himself to us in the Eucharist at the most painful moment of His life, “I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you…This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”(See 1Cor 11:23-26) Nothing can stop Him from being generous with us, from giving Himself to us, not even his impending suffering and death.

He also does not want us to waste any grace that He bestows on us in the Eucharist. He wants us to use these graces to witness His own generous love for us until the very end of our lives, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”In giving us Himself in the Eucharist, Jesus also demands that we too be generous in making use of these graces in all things for His sake until the very end just as He was generous in all things for our sake. This is why we are called and graced in this sacrament, “For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His footsteps.”(1 Peter 2:21)

Whatever we are doing – praying, serving others, fulfilling our daily duties, loving and forgiving others, telling the truth, repenting from our sins, fighting temptation, resisting evil in ourselves and in the world, enduring suffering and pain, etc., – we must do it with a truly generous spirit and for Christ’s sake. Every grace from the Eucharist is given to us for a particular purpose ordained by God – to live for Christ and to spread His kingdom of light in this evil world. We have access to this grace for generous living only because “God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”(Col 1:13) We waste His graces when we do not use them as He wants us to use them.

One evident example of wasting the grace of God today is a growing acceptance, promotion, and celebration of homosexual activities, even from within the Church. We have Gay Pride parades in the month of June, traditionally a month devoted to the generous and self-sacrificing love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We have drag queen shows in our schools, exposing the innocent minds of our children to warped sexuality. Many parents lack the basic moral sensitivity to protect the mind and hearts of their wards from this sexual perversion. Many of our perverted clergy either promote this lifestyle or keep silent.

Why are we now getting used to celebrating the evil of homosexual acts? Why do we now call evil good? How can we claim to be proud of something that we know is contrary to both divine revelation and human nature? Why is there a deafening silence in the Church or even a tacit approval?

The first reason is that we too have been caught up in the current of unbridled selfishness of our times. This selfishness is manifested by an exclusive focus on what we can gain now for ourselves. Its focus is on feeling good now at all costs, even if the conscience is violated. It seeks license to do our own thing no matter God’s demands or what others genuinely need. It dreads speaking the truth out of fear of displeasing others, earning their wrath, or being called names.

The second and most important reason is that we have simply forgotten the power of sacramental grace for authentic human sexuality. Christian sexuality demands great generosity on our part because it is a participation in Christ’s own generous, selfless, and life-giving love for our sake, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.”(Eph 5:25) Because of our bodily union with Christ in the Eucharist, we too can freely and completely make a gift of ourselves for others for His sake.

By uniting ourselves to our Eucharistic Lord, we experience and participate in His generous love for us. We realize that there is no limit to His mercy for souls, especially souls that suffer from intrinsically disordered inclinations of homosexuality. We experience the power of His precious blood to wash us clean from all sin and bring us inner freedom and renewed hope.

Our union with His own flesh in the Eucharist strengthens us for fidelity in the struggles ahead. Our Communion with Him allows us to share in His own courage and perseverance so that we never give up in our struggles with sinful tendencies. With the Eucharist as our God-given remedy and antidote for selfishness, we know that we will surely prevail in the end if only we do not “receive the grace of God in vain.”(2Cor 6:1)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, only souls that are truly generous for Christ’s sake in all things will enter into His kingdom of light. On judgment day, we will stand before Him and account for all the graces of each sacrament we have received through His generosity to us. Why must we give account for each grace? Because Jesus is always generous but not wasteful.

As we receive Him again on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us remember His words to us, “To whom much is given, much is also expected.”(Lk 12:48) In the Eucharist, we Catholics are privileged recipients of the amazing gift of Christ Himself on this side of heaven. A lot more is expected from us. We cannot just blend in the crowd with others. We also cannot allow the selfish kingdom of darkness to prevail over us despite receiving the Eucharistic graces of the kingdom of light.  

Let us turn to Mother Mary, who was “full of grace,”(Lk 1:28) and also generously used that grace to the end in bearing witness to Christ, even if it meant standing at the foot of the cross on Calvary. May she help us to make generous use of each and every grace of each Eucharist in all things for the sake of Christ without wasting these graces. If we do so all the days of our lives, we shall one day be one with Him in His own glorious kingdom of light.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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How our faith in the Most Holy Trinity forms our character: A homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 2022

Solemnity of Most Holy Trinity. June 12, 2022

Prv 8:22-31; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15

How our faith in the Most Holy Trinity forms our character

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity: “It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is, therefore, the source of all the other mysteries of our faith, the light that enlightens them.”(CCC#234)

This means that we must seriously contemplate the Holy Trinity if we are going to be authentic images of God in our world. Our faith in the Triune God greatly impacts our character, and the way that we think, act, and react to all things and persons.

There are four essential things that we learn about our humanity and human relationships from the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Firstly, we are all equal in dignity. The divine persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – all have the same substance and are equal in majesty while remaining distinct persons. They are not interchangeable in any way.

This shows us that, having been created male and female in the image of God, male and female are also equal in dignity but not the same. They have inherent and unchangeable differences that make it impossible to interchange them. This illusion is sadly evident in the transgender hoax of our times.  

Because we have equal dignity, we do not use others for our own personal ends. Thus, we cannot claim to be so pained and troubled by the victims of gun violence while ignoring the cries of the many unborn infants slaughtered in their mother’s wombs in the name of abortion. Many want to ban guns but are undisturbed by the murder of the unborn. We ignore the innocent unborn only because we fail to recognize the equal dignity of all human life.

In addition, Holy Trinity means that God is a communion of persons, an eternal love of a God who is both love and always loving. Because God is always loving, the divine persons are always present to each other and to all His creatures.

This implies that we are to be present and attentive to God and to others. We are to live in His presence all the time, worshipping Him, praying to Him, seeking His will and greater glory, and allowing Him to care for us and to provide for all our needs, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for Him?”(Ps 8:4-5) We are also to be present to the needs of others and relate well with them.  We are not to isolate ourselves from others in any way.

Thirdly, we are also to be people of truth. Because God is always loving, He is always speaking truth to us and He never lies to us or deceives us in any way. Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life,” (Jn 14:6) also promised us the Spirit to guide us deeper in the truth, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.”(Jn 16:12-13) We are not to make up our own truths but to journey ever deeper in the revealed truths under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Are we listening to His truth and letting this truth guide us in all our actions and relationships or are we deceiving ourselves into fabricating our own convenient truths? As sure as the divine nature does not change, our human nature does not change too, and the truths that govern our nature are not changeable. Because we are called to communion with the Triune God, the trajectory of truth has already been fixed by God, and His Spirit alone is the one who guides us along this path of deepening truth.

There are no true loving relationships unless we believe, speak, and live according to the truth. We have the universal call to holiness because the trice-holy God is calling us to communion with Him and He has given us in Jesus Christ the “truth and grace” (Jn 1:17) that we need to seek for this holiness. Our faith in the Holy Trinity thus demands constant repentance from the sins and lies to search for truth that sets us free.

Lastly, we are to be people who sacrifice for the good of others. Because God is always loving, He is always acting in our lives for our own good. He freely offers to us a participation in what truly belongs to Him, “Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that He (Holy Spirit) will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”(Jn 16:15)

We must be willing and ready to sacrifice something to bring the greatest good – eternal life – to others. If God will surely act for our good because He is always loving, how ready are we to surrender to Him and seek His glory in all things? How completely do we trust in Him and His plans for us all the time? We must patiently and confidently wait for Him to act in our lives so that we cooperate with His eternal plan to bring all into communion with Him.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us never lose our faith in the Holy Trinity, that God is love and God is always loving. Nothing in this life has the power to transform our character more than this living faith in the Triune God. We are brought into communion with the triune God only because “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” By possessing this love, God even uses our afflictions in this life to teach us endurance and to form in us a “proven character” and a “hope that does not disappoint.”(Rom 5:1-5) We lack hope when we have a character that is not grounded in the love of the Triune God.  

Each Eucharist is a moment of deep communion with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in Christ Jesus. Each Mass is where God is always present, speaking, and acting in our lives and in the world because He never stops loving. May we too never stop believing in the Triune God so that He can form in us a proven character, a character that brings us into an unshakable hope.  

Glory to Jesus!!! honor to Mary!!!

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A simple way of persevering in our faith: A homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, 2022.

5th Sunday of Easter. May 16, 2022

Acts 14:21-27, Rev 21:1-5; Jn 13:31-33, 34-35

A simple way of persevering in our faith  

We learn an important lesson from Judas. He was called and gifted to become one of Jesus’ disciples. He received faith to heal the sick and cast out demons. Yet St. John tells us, “When Judas had left them, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified.’” (Jn 13:31)

What made Judas lose his faith in Jesus and abandon the community of faith? He did so because he was fixated on the money to be gained by betraying Jesus. Though he “had the money box and used to take what was put into it,” (Jn 12:6) he still desired more money in a way that was contrary to the will of God for him. He boldly asked the Jewish leaders, “What will you give me if I deliver Him (Jesus) to you?” (Mt 26:15)

We too begin to lose our faith in God when we continue to want something that God does not want for us at the present moment. No matter how good or necessary something is, we must want it only as God wants it for us if we are going to keep our faith in God alive and strong. This is why Jesus asks us to act and speak like “unprofitable servants” (Lk 17:10) who obey Him in faith, doing all that He desires of us, and then wanting and accepting only what He gives to us.

In this life, we are not always successful, famous, healthy, loved, rich, etc. These things are contingent on factors beyond our control and God does not desire them for us always and everywhere. What God wants from us always is to be His disciples who love others as He has loved us, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”(Jn 13:34)

Such Christlike love towards others demands a strong and lively faith on our part all the time. Firstly, we must first have faith in Jesus Christ as the “one in whom the Father is perfectly glorified” if we are going to love others for His sake alone all the time. Secondly, we must also believe in His love for us all the time if we are going to love others as He has loved us. How can we love others as Christ loved us when we doubt or question His love for us? Lastly, we must also have faith in His words and promises because these guide us in loving others like Christ. Without His words and promises guiding our love for others, we will love them in a selfish way, always seeking our own personal gains.

After St. Paul was stoned in Lystra, he recovered and entered the city with a strong message about persevering in faith, “He exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’”(Acts 14:22) He did not lose his faith because of the unprovoked beating he received. He also exhorted his audience not to lose their faith for anything. Without a strong and lively faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot love like Him, share in His love “that endures all things,”(1Cor 13:7) and so endure all the hardships that must be faced on our journey to God’s kingdom. In short, we cannot enter into heaven without a strong and lively faith in Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many things, persons, or events, in our world today that can tempt us to lose our faith in God. Our faith is usually endangered when we focus only on getting what we want or avoiding the things that we do not want without any sensitivity or openness towards what God really wants of us.

Thus, many people lose their faith today because of failed relationships, the death of loved ones, health problems, money issues, lack of jobs, evil and injustice, scandals in the Church, persecutions, etc. Some people even lose their faith in God because their preferred political candidates did not win elections! In addition, our inordinate attachment and desire for more money, power, and pleasure eventually lead us to forfeit our faith altogether.

How then can we overcome these obstacles and endure the many hardships when we give up our faith? Do we realize that we have received the light of faith for such dark moments as these? The light of Christ is not meant to capitulate to the darkness in our world for any reason, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”(Jn 1:5)

Our faith is a precious gift that Christ has won for us on the cross and by His resurrection from the grave. He bestowed this gift of faith on us in baptism. He will surely reward us for persevering in this faith to the very end, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”(Rev 21:4)

This is why we must have a strong and lively faith all the time. This is time to cultivate our faith by praying and asking Him to increase our faith while affirming the gift of faith in our lives. We must repeatedly say to Him, “Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief.” (Mk 9:24) Our faith grows through reception and adoration of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Serving others inflame us with greater faith too. Spending time reflecting on the word of God also animates our faith because “faith comes from hearing the word of God.”(Rom 10:17)

Our authentic devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, also allows us to share in her own faith. She is the one who perfectly desired all that God wanted for her, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.”(Lk 1:38) She is the one who invites us to act on His word with faith all the time, “Do whatever He tells you.”(Jn 2:5) Her faith was strong enough to endure the painful passion and death of her son on the cross, “Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother.”(Jn 19:25) In accepting the beloved disciple as her son at the height of her pain and suffering, Mary shows that she can help us to obey God and love others at hard and painful moments. Mary is truly a key to our perseverance in our faith in Jesus Christ because she will help us to act in faith and to want only what God wants for us all the time.   

Our faith will be alive and strong only when we cultivate it constantly and begin to want what God wants for us all the time – that we love others as He has loved us.   

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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How the Good Shepherd remedies our crisis in leadership: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter, 2022.

4th Sunday of Easter. May 8, 2022.

Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev 7:9, 14-17; Jn 10:27-30

How the Good Shepherd remedies our crisis in leadership

A man called into a Christian radio talk show to ask what to do about his wife who was constantly nagging him despite all his attempts to be a good leader in the family. The show’s host replied, “Maybe she is nagging you because you are trying to lead your family without actually becoming more like Jesus Christ.” I have been reflecting deeply on the host’s reply.

We usually dwell on the nagging and complaining that we receive for things that we did or did not do but we seldom reflect on how such naggings are reminders that we are not yet like the Jesus we claim to follow as the Shepherd of our souls. Jesus Himself assured us that we would face violent persecutions because people do not yet see Him in us, “They will do these things because they have not known the Father or me.”(Jn 16:3)

We find three things about the way that Jesus leads us as the Good Shepherd that should guide us in our relationships with each other.

Firstly, Jesus knows His flock very well, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them.” He truly became one like us to be present with us and to share in all that we experience, except sin. He knows our light and darkness, our strengths and weaknesses, our joys and pains, our vices, virtues, our hopes, and regrets. He knows our fears, anxieties, pains, and worries and all that we are going through now. He also knows the great saints that we can become by His grace.

Secondly, Jesus gives His flock what they really need the most – Eternal life i.e. the fullness of life with God, perfect joy, and peace, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” He does not give us what we want but what we truly need here on earth and for eternal life with God. He offers us saving truth, divine forgiveness, graces, good examples, faith, hope, love, etc. He even offers us comfort for every pain we bear for Him in this life, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”(Rev 7:17)

Lastly, Jesus freely sacrifices His own life to give us that participation in the divine life that we long for, “The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” He did this so that we belong to Him forever, “No one can take them out of my hand.”(See Jn 10)

When people nagged and complained about Jesus, they did not do so because He was in any way a flawed revelation of the Father in His person, words, or actions. Remember, “He (Jesus) has done all things well.”(Mk 7:37) They complained and criticized Him because they were envious of Him as Pilate Himself attested, “Pilate knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered Him up.”(Mt 27:18) Jesus, the Good Shepherd, thus becomes the model and the source of our right relationship with each other.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a crisis in leadership in our world today. This crisis begins in the family and spreads to the Church, society, country, and world. We have so many people who want to lead in the family, Church, and world, but few who are ready to become like Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Consequently, people end up nagging and complaining because they do not see Christ’s virtues and attitudes at all in our civil and religious leaders. Just take a cursory look at social media and see the avalanche of nagging and criticism against leaders on all levels of society and the Church. 

Many parents do not really know their children or what they are going through. Many parents focus on providing only material needs for their children. These needs are sometimes dictated by the spirit of the world and not by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Children are left lacking in the emotional and spiritual needs that would orient them to seek the enduring things of the afterlife. Think of parents today who are leading their children on the so-called gender transitioning. How can we even speak of sacrificing something for the children when many families are comfortable with destroying the life of the unborn infant in the mother’s womb?

This crisis of leadership in the family trickles down to the Church and society. The same parents who destroy the life of their unborn babies and those who see nothing wrong with it elect into public office candidates who are staunch supporters of infanticide. Those who encourage, support, and perform the slaughter of the unborn then nonchalantly receive the precious body and blood of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in Holy Communion from the leaders in the Church.

Leaders in the Church themselves cover up the sexual abuse by other leaders in the Church while ignoring the wounded victims. Church leaders lack the faith and courage to correct and so remain quiet while errant clergy spew heresy in faith and morals and corrupt the flock of Christ. Imagine the endless nagging and criticism that should rightly follow this wicked cycle of failed leadership. 

One way out of this crisis of leadership is to emphasize that it is not enough to want to lead; our domestic, civil, and ecclesial leaders must also become like Jesus, the Good Shepherd. It is not enough to have leaders in the Church smelling like the sheep but with no resemblance at all to Christ, the Good Shepherd.

We need leaders in the image of the Good Sherd within and outside the Church who know their flock well and understand what they are going through each day to survive and to be faithful to their Christian vocation. Such leaders cannot be disconnected from their flock. We also need those good shepherds who can discern what the people of God really need each day, especially truth, justice, peace, and the grace of the sacraments. We do not need Church leaders who care more about our vaccine status than the state of our immortal souls because they are fixated on their own agendas. Lastly, we need leaders who are ready to pay the price needed to bring Christ to souls and bring souls to Christ.  

Let us reflect on saints Paul and Barnabas, leaders with the mind and heart of the Good Shepherd. They freely preached the word of God to the people of Antioch, giving them the Good News that they needed the most. They were also ready to pay the price of leading souls to Christ. They experienced jealousy from the Jews, they were “violently abused and contradicted,” and “persecuted and expelled” from Antioch by their brother Jews. In the end, “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”(See Acts 13)

Isn’t this what the Good Shepherd wants for us: to be filled with His joy and Spirit despite our conditions in this life? “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) God wants His people to be joyful and at peace and not endlessly complaining and nagging their leaders. 

For us to experience the abundant life that the Good Shepherd offers us, we must first embrace our Christian vocation to lead others to Jesus and to be like Jesus too as we lead. We are not called to leadership of domination but one of humble service and sacrifice. The more we become like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the better we can see and elect leaders with the heart and mind of the one and only Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. This is how we will have civil and religious leaders that will bring us lasting peace, justice, and progress, and not leaders that will be nagged and criticized all the time. 

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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