Sharing in Jesus’ compassionate gaze today: A homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 18, 2021.

Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34

Sharing in Jesus’ compassionate gaze today

A lady asked me to pray for her at a particular hour on a given day when she was scheduled to take her second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. I prayed for her, guessing that she needed prayers that the vaccine would be effective and without debilitating side effects.  

I found myself wondering why all the fear and anxiety about these vaccines that many people claim are safe and effective. It appears people are more afraid of the vaccine than the actual virus itself!

The truth is that there is so much fear and anxiety about these vaccines because we are not being told the whole truth about them. Those who say to us, “Take the jab,” claim that it is safe, healthy, tested, and the only available remedy to the virus. Those who say to us, “Do not take the jab,” claim that the vaccines have not been subjected to the required tests and they provide many evidences that these vaccines can and have caused blood clots, heart enlargements, and even deaths. There is division as those who try to dissuade others from taking the jab are censored and cancelled by mass media. When we do not have the whole truth about the vaccines, but are fed lies and falsehood, fear and anxiety will prevail over peace in our hearts.  Also, our families and communities will be divided because of this lack of truth.

When Jesus saw the crowd following Him, “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He saw their every need in their details – their hunger, the fear in their eyes, the sicknesses they bore, their confused hearts, their abandonment and scatteredness, their vulnerability, etc. Jesus’ first act of compassion in response to their needs was to teach them truth, “He began to teach them many things.”(Mk 6:34)

Why would He begin by teaching them truth? He did so because there is no peace without the truth that Jesus embodies Himself and offers to us, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life.”(Jn 14:6) Without this truth of who God is, who we are before God as His children, and what our relationship with God demands from us at every moment, nothing on this earth will ever bring us inner peace and peace with others.

St. Paul’s declaration, “For He (Christ) is our peace,” is true because Jesus is the Incarnate Word, God’s truth in human flesh. Everything about Jesus Christ – His person, words, actions, body, blood, etc. – is peace giving because everything in Him gives witness to the truth of God’s love for us and what our response to this love ought to be. Because of His shed blood, “we who were once far off have become near.” Through His flesh, He has “broken down the dividing wall of enmity.” In His body, He has “reconciled both (Jews and Gentiles) with God.” Through the cross, He has “put (our) enmity to death.” His speaks words of peace to all, “to those who are far off and peace to those who are near.” Lastly, we also have access to the Spirit of truth and His peace through His death, “For through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.”(Eph 2:13-18)

Let us remind ourselves that what deprives us of inner peace and causes division between others and us in our families, Church and world, are the lies and deceits that we believe, condone, and communicate to others in words, actions, and omissions. These lies divide and leave us with fear. By participating in the truth that Christ brings and knowing His peace through this truth, the Church and all her members are to be channels of Christ’s peace and truth in our world today. This is our vocation as witnesses of truth in every time and place.

We seem to have forgotten the inseparable connection between truth and peace today. We believe a lie when we consider all other religions as having the same power to save as Christianity and we fail to affirm Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world. We reject the truth of the inviolable sanctity of every innocent human life. We cannot defend the truth of the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist and the need to receive Holy Communion only in a state of grace and with full consent of mind, heart and lifestyle with the teachings of the Church. We are constantly fed lies about sexual and financial abuses and wicked cover-up.  

We accept the lie that homosexual relationships can be beneficial and even embraced as another form of marital union. We accept the lie that we can blend pagan worship with the Catholic faith as evidenced in the Pachamama debacle. We accept the lie of transgenderism and reject the truth and meaning of the human body as being created male and female by God. We allow, endorse, promote, and praise heretical clergy who spew poison from their lips but we sanction clergy who try to teach the truths of the Catholic faith. 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these lies against what we believe as Catholics, how we worship, and how we live our faith are what destroys our peace and divide our community. We are also reaping the disastrous consequences of these lies in two ways. We have the crippling inner fears we experienced in this Covid pandemic and the divisions that are raging within the Church today. We just cannot blame these fears and divisions in the Church on anything else, not even on the traditional Latin mass!

Our first challenge in these times of fear and divisions is to know the saving truths of Jesus Christ. These truths are written into our very nature by God and they are knowable by sound reason that has not been clouded by sin. These truths are also revealed in the Scriptures and Tradition, taught authoritatively in the Church, and exemplified in the lives of the saints.

Secondly, we must go deeper in the truth through our communion with Christ. We must tell Him honestly what we truly believe and why we believe them. We must allow Him to reveal to us the many lies and half-truths that we have come to believe over time. What He reveals to us will surely lead us to greater inner freedom, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”(Jn 8:32)

Thirdly, we must vehemently resist the many lies and deceits that are prevalent in our days, lies that are sadly often coming from those who have been charged with teaching and defending the truths of the faith. These lies deny the true knowledge of God, who we are before Him and the holy life that we are called and graced for today. We must resist these lies because the Devil needs only one lie to fill us with fear by giving us a distorted view of God, ourselves, others and all reality.

Lastly, we must be ready to share this truth with others in a way that is compassionate and hopeful. One thing about truth of Jesus Christ is that we cannot live for ourselves when we possess this truth. We are moved to forget ourselves and to live for God and for others as we move to share this truth with others in words and action.

Let us learn from Mary to be close to Jesus and also be ready to reflect His truth to others in need. Her first act of compassion towards the needs of the wedding guests at Cana was a prayer to Jesus, “They have no wine.” After speaking with Jesus, she then invited the servants to listen to the truth from His lips and act on it, “Do whatever He tells you.” She shows us that our compassion towards others is false without this willingness to bring all to the whole truth in Jesus. We need Mary to help us recognize the truth today, hold on to it and act on it.

The world is looking at us too today. They are hungry for many things, spiritual and material. Their greatest hunger is for truth, the saving truth that Jesus personifies and offers to us in the Church through His Spirit, “The Spirit will guide you to all truth.”(Jn 16:13) In short, they want to see the compassionate face of Jesus in us. They must not see indifference, anger or harshness in our eyes, but the same compassionate look that we have seen on the face of Jesus.

Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, continues to look at this world with pity because we all are always needy, like sheep without a shepherd. We must not only share in His divine life in the Eucharist but also share in His compassionate gaze on this world that is filled with fear and division. If we share in His compassionate gaze, we will receive the grace to respond to the needs of others just like Jesus did, beginning with offering them the whole truth. Again, why should we begin with truth? Because without the whole truth, the saving truth of Jesus Christ, nothing will ever bring us peace in this world and in the world to come.

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

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When Jesus asks for a convicted faith: A homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time. July 11, 2021.

Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; MK 6:7-13

When Jesus asks for a convicted faith

I will never forget my first examinations in the seminary, Latin and Scriptures. They are not memorable because I excelled in them, but because I failed them woefully despite my best efforts. I was so discouraged with the results that I asked, “God, are you really calling me to be a priest?”

My question in desperation showed I had faith in my vocation but I lacked inner conviction. I lacked conviction because I believed more in my own performance and circumstances than on God calling me to the priesthood out of His love for me. In short, my faith was devoid of real conviction then because it was conditional. Our faith too lacks conviction when it is grounded on our condition, accomplishment, or performance in life, and not on what God is doing in our lives.  

We see this convicted faith in the prophet Amos who traveled from his native Judah to the esteemed Bethel sanctuary in the northern kingdom of Israel to prophesy the conquest of Israel. He understandably drew the ire of the Bethel high priest who dismissed him after accusing him of prophesying for material gain. Amos did not question or doubt his vocation because of this expulsion and insult. His conviction about his vocation was not based on his ability, experience, performance, or his choice of vocation. All his conviction was based on faith on what God has done, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Amos 7:15) Nothing makes him doubt or question his vocation as one called and missioned by God.

We also need a convicted faith to be on mission for Christ. This means that we cannot settle for a notional or conceptual faith that is unconnected to a living faith in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection for us who believe in Him today. For our faith to be convicted, our faith in what God has done for us must be constant, no matter our performance, the conditions of our lives, the consequences, or acceptability of such faith.

We are told that the Twelve were faithful and fruitful in their mission, “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” How could these weak, uneducated, scared men cast out demons and cure the sick? Simple: they had a convicted faith that was grounded in what Jesus had done in their lives. They had faith that Jesus had called them, given them a share in His own power to expel demons and cure the sick, and then sent them out in groups, “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits (Mk 6:7,13) Their faith was not based on their abilities, experience, acceptance by others or being listened to.

One clear sign that we lack this convicted faith today is that we fail woefully to invite others to repentance just like the Twelve did, “So they went off and preached repentance.” (Mk 6:12) This bold invitation to everyone to repent is the very first sign of their convicted faith. What about us today? We are more focused on being tolerant and accepting of everything, including heresy and scandal. In a false sense of brotherhood, we speak of dialogue in which we hide or even deny the person of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world and the only way to the Father. We emphasize inclusivity and consensus that basically excludes God and rejects His unchanging and unchangeable truth and commandments. We speak of a vague discernment while rejecting the Ten Commandments. We talk about accompaniment that does not specify the actual direction of the accompaniment i.e., towards heaven or hell.

The bottom line is that the very first step to a convicted faith is a true and deep repentance from our sins and turning back to God. Authentic repentance leads us back to life in Christ and allows us to share in the inner conviction that Jesus had as the one and only Son of God who was sent on a self-sacrificing mission for us. We cannot have a convicted faith without faith in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and a willingness to participate in Christ’s own conviction as one who is sent by our loving God. The first step into that faith is repentance.

In short, without such a faith in what God has done for us in Christ, we cannot have any spiritual blessing at all, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” In Him, we are “destined for adoption to Himself” and we also have “redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Eph 1:3,5,7) Since the blood has been shed for us, we have no reason not to repent and proclaim this repentance to others.

My dear brothers and sisters, we have a permanent vocation to the mission for Christ’s sake from the moment of our baptism. Our world is fast turning away from the path of God and is growing more and more calloused to the demands of the Gospel. We see in our Church too the missing conviction needed to call others to repentance and present clearly the truths of the faith. Lacking any inner conviction, we cowardly give Holy Communion to adulterers and baby killers while harping about the environment and racism. Instead of lovingly and passionately calling our brothers and sisters back from the throes of homosexual relationships, we keep our lips shut because we are afraid of being called bigots and homophobes or we give tacit approvals. We see many people with merely notional and conditional faith abandoning the Church too because of all these scandals and challenges within and outside the Church. We also examine ourselves and feel that we are too sinful and broken to call others to repentance with conviction.

All these can lead us to cry out to Jesus, “Lord, are you still calling me to be on mission in our world today and in a Church that is in tatters and confusion morally and dogmatically?” His answer to us is the same in each age, “Yes, I am still calling you to be on mission.” His calling us to mission is unconditional and does not depend on our situation and performance; so, we too must respond and be on mission with a convicted faith.

Let us cultivate such a convicted faith today, beginning with repentance as we encounter that blood that was shed for our sins in this Eucharist. Our faith should neither be conditional nor calculating of the possible consequences of believing. Look at a crucifix today with love and believe in what God has done for us and is doing for us in Christ today. No matter the conditions of our lives or the consequences of believing, let us believe that God is calling us out of His love for us now. Out of His love for us He is giving us what we need for faithful mission now. Out of love for us He is forgiving us now and making us holy. Out of love for us He is sending on mission to His own people as His convicted disciples. lastly, out of love for us He is sharing with us His own inner conviction.

If we believe all these and embrace a life of continuous repentance, we will have a convicted faith and we will be on mission faithfully all the days of our lives, and our mission will surely be fruitful.  

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

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The danger of taking offense at God – A homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 4, 2021

Ez 2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

The danger of taking offense at God

“They took offense at Him.”

The incarcerated John the Baptist once sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him this question, “Are you He who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus used this opportunity to warn them about taking offense at Him for any reason, “Blessed are those who do not take offense at me.”(Mt 11:3,6)

It is important not to take offense at God or to nurture offense against others because taking offense kills our joy by closing our hearts to love. We cannot receive and give love when we let upset and angry feelings to remain and grow within us for any reason. 

The Nazarites had great admiration for Jesus’ words and actions, “What kind of wisdom has been given to Him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands?” But this admiration quickly changed to offense for the smallest reason – Jesus’ humble roots and their familiarity with Him, “Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? And they took offense at Him.”

By taking offense at Jesus for that flimsy reason, they could not receive or experience the powerful things that Jesus was offering to them, like faith and healing, “So He was not able to perform any mighty deeds there…He was amazed at their lack of faith.”(Mk 6:2-3,5-6)

On His part, Jesus does not take offense at their rejecting Him but continues to do His good works of healing those who remain open to Him. He is not overcome by their taking offense at Him. He continues to be open to the Father’s plan for Him to give of Himself until His death on the cross of Calvary. We see that taking offense only harms us, not God.  

We surely offend God by our sins but God still offers us mercy. He continues to speak words of hope and forgiveness to His rebellious people whom He described as “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”(Ez 2:4) He does not keep malice with them because they ignore His words. Why then should we nurture offense in our hearts because others do not meet our expectations? 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t we easily get offended at God, ourselves and others today? We take offense at God because of the death of our loved ones, tragedies in our lives or our failed plans. We are offended because God does not usually respond to our needs the way we expect Him to do. We take offense at Him because of our lingering struggles with sin, our painful relationships, etc. We take offense at other people like our political leaders, clergy, and even our close relationships because of their actions or inactions. We also take offense at ourselves for our failures, weaknesses in life, or persistent difficulties.

We must remind ourselves that offense only wounds us; not God or others. Taking offense and letting it simmer within us is a quick and sweet poison to the soul that eventually snuffs out the joy of our spiritual life. Once offense closes our hearts to experience and offer love to God and others for God’s sake, we cannot receive the grace we need to pray fervently, sincerely repent of our sins, serve others selflessly, courageously practice virtues and overcome sin. We also forfeit all true joy that comes from being unconditionally loved by God. We thus lose all inner joy in God and in spiritual things.

This is how taking offense at God and fostering our offense against others prepare us for full rebellion against God, His Commandments, and His will for us. All the bold and obstinate rebellion against God and His commandments that we see in our times inside and outside the Church, especially those sins against human life, chastity, and marriage, most likely began with consciously or unconsciously taking offense against God for one reason or another.

St. Paul shows us that the antidote to taking offense is to keep our hearts and mind open to God and to others no matter the offense that we experience. He had received “an abundance of revelation” along with “a thorn in his flesh.” This “thorn” could have been some personal struggle or some opposition or difficulty in his life. He prayed fervently and persistently for God to take it away. God did not take his “thorn” away but offered Him sufficient grace for fidelity to Him despite the struggle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  

St. Paul was not offended by God’s refusal to deliver him from these torments. He trustingly opened his heart to receive God’s powerful grace. This grace would transform, heal, and empower him to face, accept, and endure many things that would easily cause any one of us to take offense, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ.”(2Cor 12:7,9, 10) This is the power of divine grace for fidelity to Christ even in the face of things that offend us if only we refuse to harden our hearts by taking offense at God.  

In addition to this openness to God’s love in the face of offensive things and persons, we must never allow offense in our relationships with others to linger. Jesus warned us about this too: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gifts there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”(Mt 5:23-24) If a fruitful worship of God demands that our hearts be free of any form of offense against us, we can imagine the ludicrous scenario of a pro-abortion and pro-infanticide Catholic receiving Holy Communion. It is the most empty and meaningless worship because the unborn that are slaughtered in their mothers’ womb have so many things against such “Catholics” who have denied them their basic right to life and the clergy who condone such scandalous and sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist. One cannot think of an emptier worship than this.   

If we find ourselves taking offense at God because of His mysterious ways of acting or we easily give in to upset feelings that kill our joy and keep us trapped, we must remember that God, who is always merciful, offers us the same sufficient grace to be faithful to Him in the face of all those upsetting events. We cannot transcend these upset feelings without the help of His grace.

God has also given us His Mother Mary, the ever-faithful Mother of divine grace, to help us to open our hearts to receive and respond to His love and graces in those moments. Mama Mary did not take offense at others in all the upsetting moments of her life like when she had to give birth to Jesus in a manger or look for Him for three days. She never took offense at God even when she could not understand the actions of Jesus and His words to her, “I have to be about my Father’s business…Woman, how does this concern of yours concern me?” But Mama Mary kept her heart open to the grace that would support her in fidelity to Christ even at the cross. She will and she can help us to do the same today.

In this Eucharist, Jesus offers us the same sufficient grace that filled the heart of Mary and transformed St. Paul in his own weaknesses. No matter the myriad of things or persons that may offend us today, He still offers us also His inner joy, healing, and peace that come from being open to His grace. We do not have to be slaves of our upset feelings that close our hearts to love but we can be faithful to Him in all the face of all these upsetting things. Like Mama Mary and with her help, we only need to keep our hearts open to His mysterious love and powerful grace and refuse to take offense at Him for any reason.

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

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Growing spiritually in the Kingdom of God – A homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 13, 2021

Ez 17:22-24; 2Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

Growing spiritually in the Kingdom of God

One thing is clear from the two parables that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of growth.

The seed scattered on the ground grows mysteriously, “night and day,” even when its growth is hidden to the human eyes and the one who plants is ignorant of how the seed grows, “He knows not how.” The little mustard when planted also “springs us and becomes the largest of plants” and makes a positive impact, “The birds of the sky can dwell in its shades.” (Mk 4:27,32) Nothing can prevent growth in this kingdom.

As children of the Kingdom of God, we are called and graced to continuously strive for spiritual growth. This means that we are to strive to grow and mature in our relationship with God. This is not a vague or sentimental type of growth but one that demands that we become more like Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words, and actions. Our vocation in this kingdom is spiritual growth to the glory of God who “Has called us out of darkness into His own wonderful light.”(1Pet 2:9)

For us to grow spiritually, we need two things – God’s grace and our constant effort to correspond with this grace. God, who is “faithful throughout the night,”(Ps 92:3) will always act and give us His grace. God’s actual graces always act in a mysterious and powerful way to bring us to receive, maintain, and grow in that sanctifying grace we receive in Holy Baptism. It is this sanctifying grace that makes us children of the kingdom of God. In short, we are never lacking for the grace that makes us children of the kingdom and that grace that makes us grow in His divine life.  

Sadly, we lack the needed sustained effort to grow spiritually. We give up on making effort because of our past failures and poor visible results. We get discouraged by the difficulties involved, the constant challenges and obstacles we face from the devil, our sinful flesh and the world. We do not do our part in keeping vigil over the seed of life, allowing the devil to poison God’s life-bearing seed by planting poisonous thoughts and desires in our hearts. (Cf Mt 13:28) We thus settle for a mediocre spiritual life, one that is lifeless because it is filled with compromises and dreadful of any concrete effort. We forget that our constant effort is a sign of good will towards God who bestows His grace so abundantly on us.

We thus need courage to sustain our efforts at spiritual growth. St. Paul affirmed this when he said, “We are always courageous,” because we are to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2Cor 5:7-8) It is by this gift of faith that we enter into this relationship with God and mature in this relationship.

We lose any form of courage when we choose to walk by sight. We walk by sight when we focus on only what is immediately visible and perceptible to our external senses. We are walking by sight when we judge things and events by our feelings, tastes, and sentiments alone. We are walking by sight when we judge things by hearsay and by public opinion alone. We walk by sight when we allow our imagination to become a criterion for judging right and wrong. We are walking by sight when we elevate our human experience to the point that it becomes the sole source and judge of what we believe and how we interpret all reality, including the truths of our faith.  

On the other hand, we are to walk by courageous faith for our spiritual growth. To walk by such faith means that, no matter what we are going through, we live with that conviction that, in the risen Christ, God is present and with us now. We believe that God is acting now and giving us both His graces and this present opportunity for our own spiritual growth. We listen because we believe that God is speaking words of love and hope to us for our spiritual growth. We are determined to act now and correspond with this grace now for our own spiritual growth and the glory of God. Because we are so convinced that God is acting always and His life is growing within us, we will be patient even if we do not see visible positive results in our spiritual life.

As children of the Kingdom of God, we are also called to be truly joyful and hopeful children in our sad and hurting world. But we can only be joyful and hopeful when we are striving to grow spiritually as God wills for us. We cannot have His life within us and be in relationship with Him without responding to His promptings to grow spiritually by exercising our courageous faith. How can we have joyful hope when we are striving to grow in several other ways – financially, materially, popularity, talents, ability, career wise, professionally, etc. – while ignoring the spiritual growth that is demanded of us as God’s beloved children in His kingdom?  

The mission of the Church as sacrament of salvation in each age and place is to make present the divine grace that we need to grow in our spiritual lives and to direct our own efforts in this spiritual growth by sound teaching of the word of God. Because God has bestowed on His Church the fullness of the truth and means of salvation, it is definitely not the role of the Church to dispense anyone from this call to strive for spiritual growth.

Sadly, we are seeing many failures to call all the faithful to this spiritual growth and to make available the needed graces through the sacraments. How can the faithful grow spiritually during the pandemic when our Churches are closed and sacraments are denied to the faithful? Why would clergy attempt to “bless” “same-sex” couples instead of calling them to chaste living? Why would the Eucharist be given to people who are adamantly promoting and endorsing the brutal slaughter of the infant in the womb without calling them to defend life which Christ won by His blood? Can’t we see in the lingering clerical sexual abuse and coverup a clear sign that many of the clergy are more focused on their ecclesiastical careers than their spiritual growth and those of others in their charge? We see permissiveness of heretical teaching in the Church today because we do not really have spiritual growth as our priority.

Jesus gives Himself to us in the Eucharist because He wants us to grow spiritually and become more like Him. The Eucharist is both the foretaste and foreshadow of the heavenly banquet in God’s kingdom. Thus the Eucharist cannot be only a medicine or food for sinners as some clergy erroneously teach us today because Jesus did not just come to forgive us our sins but to also make us saints like Him and with Him here on earth and in His kingdom. 

We are told that Jesus Himself grew in His humanity, “He advanced in age and wisdom and grace before God and man.”(Lk 2:52) He desires that we too grow and become more like Him. In short, He and His Father are laboring even now for this same purpose, “My Father is working still, and I am working.”(Jn 5:17) How then can we give up and allow others to dispense us from making effort to grow spiritually? Because He is laboring for us, we too can begin today and strive for spiritual growth till our last breath.

If we are still tempted to make excuses for not striving to grow and become more like Jesus, let us reflect on the words of St. Paul, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”(2Cor 5:10) We shall be judged by our efforts to correspond with His grace.

Our Eucharist is always an outpouring of graces in our lives today. Let us make use of these graces and make courageous effort by walking by faith and not by sight. This is the only way we can grow spiritually, become more like Jesus, and experience the joyful hope of belonging to God’s kingdom, the kingdom of growth.

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

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Journey into the heart of God

Journey into the heart of God

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. May 30, 2021.

Journey into the heart of God

The baby girl was peacefully at sleep throughout the baptismal rite until I poured water on her forehead and pronounced the Trinitarian baptismal formula. She woke up, let out a loud cry, and began to swirl around endlessly in her mother’s arms. For a moment I thought I had mistakenly used boiling water for Baptism!

Think of this: she was crying out in pain and discomfort at the very moment that she became a child of the Triune God by the power of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism.

I believe we all are like that little girl in her baptism experience. From the moment of our Baptism, we are made children of God even as we are crying in pain and sorrow in this world. It is not by mere chance that we experience both pain and joy as God’s children. Though we have this deep joy from belonging to God as His children, we also experience sorrow and pain because this world is not our true home and we are on a journey back to our heavenly Father.

The Holy Trinity, three divine persons, perfect in their divinity and in their eternal communion of life and love do not need us or anything from us to supply anything that is lacking in the Godhead. Yes, God does not need us! But God passionately wants us! God’s undying desire for us to belong to Him is the source of the joy that energizes us in the face of all the pain and suffering that we have to bear in this life as we journey to heavenly glory.

Before ascending, Jesus told His disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then He added, “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.”(Mt 26:19-20) The command to baptize rightly comes before the command to teach all that He commanded because, without our communion with the Trinity from baptism, we cannot obey God as His loving children. We cannot obey Him with joy if we do not have the joy of belonging to Him. We also cannot endure the pains of life if we do not have the conviction that this world is not our true home.

It is an understatement to say that we have so much sorrow and pain in our world today. We have a dreadful virus that has killed many and left many more trapped in fear. The future has so much uncertainty as many lose their jobs and sources of income. We also have contradictory and scary accounts of the origin, nature, and effects of the vaccines being provided and even endorsed by many of the Church’s hierarchy. Our family and friends are sick and dying. We have to deal with our own inner struggles. Our families are also feeling the weight of draconian lock-downs and restrictions of even worship. Our Church is plagued by the most abhorrent sexual and financial scandals and there seems to be no end in sight. There are wars and rumors of wars all around us.

What then are we supposed to do in the face of these pains and sorrows of this life? Let all these pains and sufferings remind us that this world is not our home and let them impel us to press on in our journey back to God. We will end up hopelessly confused and paranoid if we buy into the many clichés today that tend to reduce our entire spiritual life to “saving Mother earth” or seeking a vague consensus with every warped ideology of our times.  

In Rom 8, 14-17, we find three essential ingredients of this journey back to God.  

First of all, we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in this journey, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” The Holy Spirit leads us along the path of truth and love for God and others. We allow the Spirit to lead us by responding to His challenge to seek for the truth alone, speak the truth alone, and live by the truth alone. We are led by the Spirit when we are pay closer attention to the will of God and the needs of others.

We resist the promptings of the Spirit when we choose to be led by our constantly changing emotions or sentiments. We ignore the Spirit’s promptings when we are slaves of current fashion and trends. The Spirit cannot lead us when our sexual orientation becomes the sole determinant of our identity, relationships, and mission in life. How can the heavenly Spirit lead us to our true home when we depend on the mass media and public opinion to supply us our deepest values in this life?

Secondly, we must relate with God as a loving and personal Father, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”  As our loving Father who accepts us unconditionally, we are completely open and honest with Him. We trust in Him and do not submit to the worries of life. We easily surrender our lives to Him in prayer and allow Him to be God in all aspects of our lives, including our sexuality. We relate with others as our brothers and sisters, ready to speak and act in defense of the most vulnerable, especially our unborn brothers and sisters.

Thirdly, we are ready and willing to suffer with Christ, “If we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffering with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Like Jesus Christ, our path to heavenly glory is the path of suffering and pain. We do not try to avoid suffering at all costs in this life. We are ready to experience trials from both men and demons without trying to scrutinize and understand God’s plans for in these painful events.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are indeed children of the true God now even in our pains and tears. Our sufferings do not mean that we have been abandoned by God and it definitely does not mean that we are being punished for our sins. Our sufferings only indicate that this world is not our home but the arena of “working out our salvation,”(Phil 2:12) We are to reverently use all that God has given to us to live as His children now as we journey back to Him.

If for whatever reason we have forgotten or given up on our journey back to God, we will do well to begin this journey again today. In the midst of all the joys and pains, the Triune God who does not need us wants us passionately and He is calling us back to Him at every moment.

Jesus solemnly promised us, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” He fulfils this promise in the Eucharist where He is with us in both the joys and pains, the laughter and the tears of this earthly life. We never travel alone! He who has received “all power in heaven and earth” is with us to provide us the graces we need to be led by the Spirit, to relate with God as Father, and to share in His suffering till the very end. Our pains will surely give way to perfect unending joy of heaven only when we journey into the very heart of the true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!! 

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The Ascension invites us to follow Christ’s path of faithful witness

Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension. May 16, 2021

Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20

The Ascension invites us to follow Christ’s path of faithful witness

The disciples were sky-gazing as Christ was ascending into heaven. Two mysterious men interrupted them with these words, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going into heaven.”(Acts 1:11) The way that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven tells us something about the mode of His return to judge us at the end of time.

Since Jesus Christ ascended into heaven as a faithful witness to the Father’s love, He will also return to judge us based on how faithfully we also witness to the Father’s love. This is made clearer to us when we reflect on His earlier words, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”(Jn 12:32) The ascended Christ is drawing us to Himself along the same path He Himself entered heaven. Thus, our path way to heaven cannot be different from Christ’s own path of faithful witnessing to the Father’s love for us all.   

This is why Jesus does not answer questions about the time of His final triumph but reminds us that we have received the Spirit to be His faithful witnesses in all times and places, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”(Acts 1:8)  It is only through this Spirit-inspired witnessing to divine love that we can allow God to draw us to His heavenly kingdom.

What does it mean to be faithful witness to the Father’s love? Such witness implies four things.

Firstly, we love others enough to tell them the whole truth about life with God. We do not shrink from telling others of the “hope that belongs to this (heavenly) call,” the “riches of glory in His inheritance,” and the “surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe.”(Eph 1:18,19) We neither hide the immense joys and beauty of this life nor conceal the great sacrifices and pains involved. We neither denigrate the grace that God offers us nor reduce the demands of authentic Christian living. 

Secondly, we love others enough to show them the whole truth in action by the good examples of our own lives. Our words must be backed by our own good examples of faithful living. We become counter witnesses to God’s love when we hypocritically live in stark contrast to what we profess and teach.

Thirdly, we love them enough to help them to live this life of loving relationship with God. This means that we strive to provide others what they need to grow in their life with God. We give them the forgiveness and mercy that sets them free to love God as they should. We also strive to remove the obstacles that hinder them from fully living this relationship with God.

Lastly, we love them enough to pray for them. Our intercessory prayers obtain graces that move and sustain others in their own journey to the Lord. We pray for them even if they reject us and our witnessing. 

I was struck by the theme for the recently concluded 55th World Communications Day: “Come and See: Communicating by Encountering People Where and As They Are.” If we all agree as we should that Jesus Christ is the perfect communicator, did He communicate by simply encountering us where we were and as we are? Didn’t also communicate truth and grace that made us God’s children, “To those who accepted Him He gave power to become children of God.”(Jn 1:12)

The truth is that Jesus Christ is the perfect communicator because He is the perfect witness to the Father’s love. He humbled Himself to encounter us and lovingly reveal to us truths that we could never fathom, “I have called you friends because I have revealed to you all that I heard from my Father.”(Jn 15:15) He Himself is the perfect embodiment and example of all that He preached, “For the works which my Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear witness that the Father has sent me.”(Jn 5:36) He merited for us all the graces that we need and removed the sins that kill our love for God. He prayed for us then, and He even now “lives to make intercession for us.”(Heb 7:25)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot be good communicators while remaining pathetic witnesses to the love of the Father. All the evils in the world and in the Church are due to horrible communication from our own counter-witnessing to divine love. What are we really communicating to the world when Catholic clergy defiantly “bless” “same-sex” couples without any consequences from the Church? Is there now a particular breed of individuals dispensed from the precept of living chaste lives? How is such a tolerance of scandal helping faithful Catholic married couples who follow God’s unchanging plan for heterosexual and monogamous marriage, strive to raise children, and bring them up well in the faith?

Are we telling the whole truth about life with God in the Church when the hierarchy now refer to child-slaughter as simply being pro-choice? How are we helping others to advance in the spiritual life when we close our Churches because of Covid-19 and deny them the badly needed sacraments? What type of examples are we to others when we persistently hide and cover up our scandalous behaviors behind the façade of our beautiful liturgies and rich Church teachings? Are we really striving to bridge the gap between what we profess and what we actually do in our different states of life?

We seem to have forgotten that our journey to heaven depends on how we faithfully witness to God’s love in every time and place. It is definitely not enough to encounter others where they are and how they are without seeking to communicate Christ by our lives of faithful witness. We never enter heaven alone! We must strive to bring others with us through our faithful witness just as Christ Himself draws us to His place in heaven through His own faithful witness to the Fathers’ love.

So-called Catholic politicians who obstinately receive Holy Communion and the clergy who willingly offer them Communion fail to realize that the Eucharist is not an end it itself. Sacramental communion presupposes a life of witness to Christ. The Eucharist also provides us graces to give faithful witness to Christ and the teaching of His Church before others. By the power of sacramental grace, we are obliged to live for Christ in our world. When someone adamantly refuses to give witness to Him who is received in Holy Communion, the effects of the Eucharist are nullified and sacrilege is added to the soul of the recipient.   

Jesus will surely return the very same way that we see Him ascend. He will surely come to judge us, not based on how much Eucharist we have consumed in this life; but we will be judged based on the authenticity of our witness to Him before others, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”(Mt 10:32-33)

He comes now in this Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass, not to judge us, but to pour into our hearts the gift of the Father’s love through His Spirit. We need this Spirit to witness to Him faithfully in our world. God will also providentially arrange that we encounter many people in our daily lives. We may be the only ones that can give these persons that witness to Christ that they badly need to advance on their own journey. Should we fail to give such faithful witness to Christ before them, we have no reason to hope that Jesus will draw us into His heavenly kingdom along the same path that He has taken – the path of faithful witness to the love of the Father.

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

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The truly satiating joy of true friendship with Jesus: A homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, 2021

6th Sunday of Easter. May 9, 2021.

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; 1Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17

The truly satiating joy of true friendship with Jesus

“Show me your friends and I will tell you the type of person you are.”

My parents used these words to try to persuade me to choose my high school friends more carefully. I did not really take this warning seriously then because I thought my friends were not really that bad and I naively downplayed their negative influence on me.

I only came to realize the power of my friends to influence my life only when my conversion began and I discovered then that many of my deeply entrenched wrong values and negative attitudes could be traced to my close friendships many years ago. Indeed, we must choose our close friends carefully because friendships change us, causing us to act and become like our friends.

Jesus left us a very difficult and challenging command, “Love one another as I have loved you.” What is Jesus’ love like? It begins with an unalloyed obedience to the Father, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and remained in His love.” His is also a love that is not self-seeking but self-sacrificing, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” His love also chooses to love first and always, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” (Jn 15: 10,12,13) His love is unconditional and forgiving, even offered to those that were nailing Him to the cross, “Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It is obvious that we cannot love like Christ on our own power. Hence, Jesus also offers us three gifts that make such radical loving possible.

These three gifts impel us and make Christ-like loving possible for us. Firstly, He offers us His own joy to satiate us, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.” Secondly, He offers us the gift of His own love, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.”(1Jn 4:10) Thirdly, He offers us the gift of friendship with Him that we could never earn or deserve, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

These three gifts are interrelated. Without true loving friendship with Jesus Christ, we cannot love God and others like Him. Also, without loving like Christ, we cannot have His joy in us to complete our joy. Everything begins with a true and loving friendship with Jesus Christ, i.e. a friendship that allows His love to transform us completely until we begin to desire and act like Him. 

The beautiful thing is that our risen Savior is also offering the gift of friendship with Him to all persons – devout Jews and pagan Gentiles alike. St. Peter and his companions affirmed this universal invitation of friendship with God in Jesus Christ, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality…The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles too.”(Acts 10:34, 45) As we receive and respond to this loving friendship with Jesus, The Spirit of Christ transforms us so that we too love like Christ and have His joy in us.  

Our world is joyless and many of us have lost any hope of joy because we are rejecting Christ-like loving and His truly satisfying joy. On the other hand, we are fast settling for the false and disappointing joys that come from loving in a self-centered way. Many people, including clergy and lay, speak of love today as if love can be detached from the objective truth of God’s commandments. For example, we futilely try to conjure up the possibility of “same-sex” marriage only because we have rejected Christ-like self-sacrificing love. We refuse to seek that love of Christ that gives of self completely to another according to His Father’s will so that “others may have life through Him.”(1Jn 4:9) We unknowingly forfeit any iota of joy in our hearts when we do not love like Christ Jesus.

Let us reflect briefly on some steps to cultivate this deep and true loving relationship with Jesus that is necessary for our Christ-like loving and subsequent participation in His own joy.

First, we must receive and remain in the love of Christ as Jesus commanded us, “Remain in my love.” In addition to receiving this love of Jesus as a pure gift, we must never allow anything to separate us from this love. Our repeated sins, sufferings, struggles, hurts, past failures, worries, regrets, fears, etc. cannot and should not separate us from the love that God offers us in Jesus.

Second, we depend on Christ alone like branches on a vine. Our friendship with Him must not make us treat Him like equals, forgetting His majesty and our nothingness in all things. We must keep His words in mind, “Without me, you can do nothing.”(Jn 15:5)

Third, we seek to grow in intimacy with Him. Friendships that do not grow will soon dwindle and die out. We grow in this friendship by revealing ourselves completely to Him because He has graciously revealed Himself to us completely, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” Our friendship with Him dies when we try to keep secrets from Him.

Fourthly, we seek to imitate Him and please Him in all things. Because friendships makes people similar to each other, our friendship with Jesus should lead us to love and hate the same things. This is why we too will strive to obey the Father in all things and to selflessly serve others in imitation of Him who “did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”(Mt 20:28)

Lastly, let us love Mary, the Mother of the Son. How can we claim to love the Son while disdaining His beloved Mother who gave birth to Him, nourished Him, and prepared Him for His redemptive action on the cross? Just imagine the weird relationship between a friend who says to another friend, “I love you but I cannot stand your mother.” Mama Mary will surely bring her truly devoted children to a deep and abiding friendship with her Son, Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ wants us to have a complete joy even in our seemingly joyless world. It is only His joy that will make our joy complete! This means that if we are ever going to hope for this complete joy, Jesus must be our truest and closest friend and we must be growing in this loving friendship all through our lives. No matter our past, Jesus never stops inviting us to accept and go deeper in this amazing friendship with Him.  

He renews this invitation to friendship with Him in our Eucharist in these words of the Eucharistic consecration, “This is my body…This is my blood given up for you.” He is making a complete gift of Himself to us first as our friend, the one and only source, model, and reward of radical love.

Let us accept and respond to His friendship without making excuses. His love alone has power to change us, make us more like Him, and move us to love like Him. This is the only way that His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.

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

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Our vocation to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd: A homily for the 4th Sunday in Easter, 2021.

4th Sunday of Easter. April 25, 2021

Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18

Our vocation to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd

I remember going to my parents as a little boy to ask for a new thing like a shoe or bag. I always received the same answer, “What happened to your old shoe or bag?” I learned that I had to show that the old items had been carefully and well used before I could hope to get a new one.

I thought about this a few days ago as we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday and prayed for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As we beg God to send us many shepherds in His Church, we also need to pause and reflect on how faithful we have all been in our God-given vocation as shepherds who care for others and lead them to Christ. Are we even aware that, irrespective of our state of life, by virtue of the Holy Spirit within us, we are all called and gifted to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd?

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the one and only Good Shepherd, “lays down His life for His sheep.” We have the life of His Spirit in us too only because of Christ’s self-sacrifice, making us also shepherds to our other brothers and sisters in His name. This means we are constantly called to sacrifice something to provide their legitimate needs while leading them and pointing them to Jesus Christ alone as He Himself pointed to the Father alone as the source of His saving actions, “This is why my Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again…This command I have received from my Father.”(Jn 10:11,17-18)

By the power of this same Spirit, we have also become children of God, “Beloved: see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” “Children of God” is not just a name or a title, but it is a present reality that demands our growth into Christlikeness through Christ-like loving, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”(1Jn 3:1-2) So, we are indeed empowered and moved by the Spirit of the Good Shepherd in us to become more and more like the Good Shepherd in thought, word and action.

In Acts 4:8-12, St. Peter shows us what it means to be a true shepherd in the Good Shepherd.

First, Peter is “filed with the Holy Spirit.” He is thus divinely enlightened and equipped for the specific purpose of healing a particular crippled beggar. The Spirit reveals to him this particular man and inspires him to speak the right words for his healing. Notice that Peter did not heal all the crippled people in Jerusalem but only this particular beggar!

Second, Peter gave the beggar the healing that he needed more than any amount of money. He also did not heal by his own power but as a living instrument of the living Christ, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”(Acts 3:7)

Thirdly, Peter proclaimed Christ to all persons. He did not exalt himself but pointed to Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him as the Healer and only Savior, “It was in the name of Jesus Christ…In His name this man stands before you healed…There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Wouldn’t we be dishonest to claim that we are faithful to our vocation to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd for our brothers and sisters? An unbridled individualism prevails today in all the states of life, i.e. a certain Its-all-about-me mentality that seeks self-fulfillment and security at all cost and ignores both the glory of God and the temporal and eternal good of souls in our charge.

Our marriages break up so easily without any regard to how the children are impacted. The faith is not being properly passed on from parents to children, partly because it has not been fully taught and presented in Church. Religious men and women abandon their commitments because they give into secular ideals and attitudes. Gravely scandalous examples abound unabetted in the priesthood. Clergy are more interested in being politically correct, accepted and relevant than on nourishing their flock with saving truth of Jesus Christ alone.

The hierarchy allows the spread of serious moral and doctrinal errors that confuse the faithful and leave them as easy prey to the devil, the flesh, and the world. Do we really care for the spiritual needs of others when we quickly close our Churches because of a pandemic but open them only to serve as centers for vaccination? In short, we have failed woefully in supporting and caring for each other as shepherds in Christ.  

The list of our failures to be Christ-like shepherds to others is endless. The bottom line is this: we cannot get more priestly vocations simply by praying for them. In addition to our prayers for vocations, we must also rediscover and embrace our vocations to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd. How can we be praying for more priestly vocations when we are not fulfilling our vocation to be shepherds to one another in our homes, parishes, communities, workplace and Church? When He said, “To everyone who has more, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away,”(Lk 19:26) wasn’t Jesus warning us that we have to be faithful to the little things before we can hope for more better things?  

No matter how far or how long we have abandoned our vocation to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd, today is a good day to begin again. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep very well and He knows our weakness, sinfulness and selfishness. He will surely forgive us and renew us in this vocation by the power of His Spirit if only we come to Him with truly humble and contrite hearts.

Jesus comes to us at ever Eucharist to communicate to us His own Spirit. Because “God does not ration His gift of the Spirit,”(Jn 3:34) this is the time for us to renew our calling as shepherds to all in the Good Shepherd. We can begin by allowing this Spirit of Jesus to fill us with His love and power and move us to grow in love for Jesus and for others by concrete acts of selfless love.

We can also allow this Spirit to reveal to us our gifts from God and the real needs in our families, communities, Church and world that we can attend to. We can attend to those needs as best as we can as instruments of the living Christ whom we encounter in this Eucharist.

Lastly, we can point to Jesus Christ alone as the Savior of the world and healer of our hearts. When we do all these and also pray fervently for vocations, God will surely hear and answer our prayers, sending us many vibrant and holy vocations.

But if we possess the Spirit of the Good Shepherd and still continue to ignore and reject our calling to be shepherds in the Good Shepherd, then we have no right to pray to God for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

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

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Knowing Jesus better at Easter: A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, 2021.

3rd Sunday of Easter. April 18, 2021.

Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48

Knowing Jesus better at Easter

While on His death pangs on the cross, Jesus let out this anguished prayer to the Father, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”(Lk 23:34) The greatest sin in human history – the murder of the God-man – was an act of ignorance. Jesus’ executioners, both Jews and Gentiles, were ignorant of so many things – the grave consequences of their horrendous act, God’s immense love for us all, God’s plan to redeem the world through His Son’s death, and, above all, the identity of the One who was being crucified.

St. Peter reminds his Jewish audience that they connived with the Gentiles to execute Jesus Christ because they too were ignorant of who He was, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.” In their ignorance, they failed to recognize Jesus as the Servant of God in their midst. They also ignorantly “denied the Holy and Righteous One” and put to death “the Author of life.” Talk about a costly ignorance on their part! Sadly, we too sin today gravely and hopelessly because we are ignorant of Christ and the power of His grace.  

By raising His Son from the dead, God has answered the dying prayers of His Son and has forgiven humanity for being ignorant of His Son. In addition, by the Resurrection, God has put to end the time of our being ignorant of His Son, Jesus Christ. Easter initiates the time for us to know Him and to make Him know by all people. We too should echo the sentiments of St. Peter, “But God raised Him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14,15)

This knowledge of the risen Christ begins with repentance for our sins, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”(Acts 3:19) Resurrection incepts the time for that sincere repentance that leads us to know Jesus Christ more, love and obey Him more faithfully, and bear witness to Him in our world today.  

The risen Christ pursues His unfaithful disciples to Jerusalem because He wants them to know Him well. He is not satisfied with His somewhat cameo appearance to the two disciples during the breaking of bread at Emmaus. He follows them to Jerusalem and does everything possible just to make them know Him more. He speaks to them and offers them to touch Him and be assured that He is real, “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. As He said this, He showed them He showed them His hands and feet.”(Lk 24:35-40) He even ate baked fish to assure them that the same crucified One was tangibly present right before their eyes.

The risen Christ does all these so that we know Him better, experience the power of His Resurrection in our lives and give witness to Him, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”(Lk 24:47-48)

But are we really knowing Him better? There are some clear signs that we lack due knowledge of Jesus and the power of His grace despite all that He has done to make us know Him more.

First, our hearts are easily troubled when we do not know Jesus as we should. He asked the disciples, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your heart?”(Lk 24:38) We are easily overcome by the troubles and anxieties of this life when we are ignorant of Jesus Christ. Only a true and authentic knowledge of Jesus Christ silences our fearful hearts.  

Second, we futilely try to hide our sins or pretend that we do have them when we do not know Jesus well. Our ignorance of Christ also makes it hard for us to forgive ourselves and others. St. John said, “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” (1Jn 2:1-2) He expiates our sins and gives us grace to begin again, keep His commandments, and overcome sin.

Third, we lose hope of keeping His commandments and succumb hopelessly to sin when we are ignorant of Jesus and the power of His grace. St. John also said, “The way we may be sure that we know Him is to keep His commandments. Those who say, ‘I know Him,’ but do not keep His commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.” Our intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ impels us to obey His words and resist all sins out of love for Him, “Whoever keeps His word, the love of God is truly perfected in Him.”(1Jn 2:4-5)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us enter this Easter season and beyond with the conviction that the time of our being ignorant of Jesus Christ is over. This is the time to know Him and to make Him known to others. There are so many ways that we can grow in this knowledge.

We begin to know Him through our true and honest repentance for our sins. Unrepented sin makes us blind to the presence of the risen Christ in our midst. We condemn ourselves to a life of ignorance of Jesus Christ when we try to justify our sins or to call evil good.

We deepen our knowledge of Him by spending time with Him by reading the Scriptures. Let us meditate on His words, aware of His abiding presence with us. This will allow Him to also “open our minds to understand the scriptures.”(Lk 24:45) As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

We know Jesus better when we allow His love to enter and abide in our hearts. This love is also a light that helps us to see Him present and acting in all events of our lives. We cannot know Him well when we doubt His love for us for any reason.

We grow in intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ by actually acting on His word and doing His will. Jesus Himself assured us that we become intimate with Him by our fidelity to His Father’s will, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother, brother and sister.”(Mt 12:50)

We know Christ better when we also allow Him to touch us in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. He invites us to this enlightening experience of His loving presence with us through the sacraments in these same words, “Touch me and see.”

We know our risen Savior too the more that we strive to be Christ in this world. Living as Christ’s witnesses and refusing to be conformed to this world prepares us for a deeper knowledge of the risen Christ who walks with us. The two disciples got to know Him better because they returned from Emmaus to Jerusalem to bear witness to Him, “The two disciples recounted…how Jesus was made to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Lastly, we cannot know Jesus intimately without having a deep love for the person who knew and loved Jesus most passionately – His Mother Mary. Loving Mary as Jesus’ mother allows us to love Jesus with the intense love of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. We thus share in that her loving knowledge of Jesus that led her even to Calvary as a courageous witness of divine love’s triumph over sin, death and evil. There is no iota of ignorance of Christ in Mary’s heart!

Our risen Savior is still pursuing us today to touch us in this Eucharist so that we may know Him better. This is not the time to be ignorant of Christ! This is the time to know Him more and more and make Him better known to others. This is the only way we can ever hope to overcome sin, keep His commandments, and be assured that our hearts will never be troubled.

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

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Finding peace through the mercy of God: A homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, 2021

2nd Sunday of Easter. April 11, 2021.

Acts 4:32-35; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31

Finding peace through the mercy of God

The early Church is described in this way, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” We are also told how they gave this witness to the risen Christ, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”(Acts 4:33-35) Thus, they gave witness to the risen Christ by readily sacrificing something to meet the needs of others in community.

They gave witness to the Resurrection by becoming signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. Divine mercy triumphed over sin, evil, suffering and death at the Resurrection because that was when our crucified Savior, Jesus Christ, rose from the grave to give us the things that we needed the most but did not deserve at all. He willingly sacrificed Himself to merit for us things that we needed but did not deserve e.g. divine graces, forgiveness, peace, love and hope, etc.

The risen Christ appeared to His terrified disciples not to deservedly rebuke them but to give them peace, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19) They could not find that peace by huddling together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. This peace is first a gift of divine mercy from the risen Christ. In His mercy, Jesus freely offered them that gift of peace that their scared hearts badly needed and which they did not deserve because of their unfaithfulness to Him. He showed them the wounds on His hands and side to impress on them the truth that He willingly sacrificed His life so that they could have this precious gift of peace.

But this peace is not a just a gift to be received; it is also a response to the call to mission as signs and instruments of divine mercy to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retained are retained.” (Jn 20:21-22) In His mercy, He has also called and equipped us with His own Spirit to be on mission for Him as signs and instruments of His mercy in our world. For us to possess and enjoy His gift of peace, we too must be ready to sacrifice something so as to meet the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.

Let us reflect briefly on the example of Thomas in the event of the Resurrection. The other disciples tried to share with him the Good News, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas refused to believe and gave conditions for his belief, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”(Jn 20:25) They did not throw him out there and then as an apostate but gave him the patience and understanding that he needed but did not deserve.

In His mercy, Jesus repaid His visit and again showed to Thomas the wounds He bore for us so that we could have in Him “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”(Eph 1:3) The earlier words of the other disciples and their merciful attitude towards Thomas prepared and disposed him to now receive the much-needed but undeserved faith from the risen Christ and to exclaim, “My Lord, and my God.” Like Christ, the Head, the Church too reflects divine mercy to all, striving to meet the needs of all persons.

Our risen Lord once said to St. Faustina Kowalska, “Mankind will never know peace until it turns to my mercy.” We will have peace only when we turn to His mercy and receive it first as a gift and then embrace the mission to become signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world.

For us to have this peace of Christ, we must answer these following questions correctly:

First, do we receive the mercy of God as a gift? The risen Christ is not ashamed to show the wounds that He bore out of love for us. Looking at His wounds, are we also bold enough to show Him our wounds from our own sinful choices and from the harm that others have done to us? Are we trying to hide our wounds in shame and pretend that we do not have them? How confidently do we bring our sins to the Sacrament of Confession? Do we leave these sins at the cross after receiving His mercy or do we still continue to beat ourselves over our past sins?

Second, how aware are we of the many needs in our world today? Are we aware of the need for selfless love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness, hope, faith, and saving truths in our world? How much do we care about the many material and spiritual needs in our world? How concerned are we for the infants crying out for a chance just to be allowed to live and not be murdered in their mothers’ wombs through abortion? Are we even touched by any of these needs?

Third, what are we ready to sacrifice now to meet these needs? Are we willing to give up some of our time and treasures for the sake of these needs? Are we ready to put our talents and our reputations on the line too if needed to assuage these needs in others? Are we ready to give up our comfort, security, prestige for the sake of those in need? Are we ready to let go of our hurt feelings and wounded egos so as to provide these needs? We cannot be signs and instruments of divine mercy if we are unwilling and unready to sacrifice anything for those in need out of love for Christ.

We cannot wait for people to become deserving before we reflect to them the mercy of God we have received. Jesus did not wait for us to become deserving of His gifts before He laid down His life for us, “God proved His love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8) The Blessed Virgin Mary did not wait for Elizabeth to ask for or deserve her visit,
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”(Lk 1:43) If we really want to have the peace of Christ in our hearts, why should we wait for others to appreciate us or deserve anything from us before we attend to their authentic needs?

The Eucharist is Christ’s self-sacrifice by which He has mercifully won for us all the undeserved things that we need, especially the gift of His peace. Jesus also empowers us with His Spirit to be on mission as witnesses of His Resurrection and as signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. By the power of this Spirit, we can also participate in Christ’s self-sacrifice. We will possess and enjoy His peace only when we too willingly sacrifice something for the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.

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

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