The forgotten the purpose of the Eucharist: A homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary time.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 12, 2018.

1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51

The forgotten purpose of the Eucharist

I was still basking in the joy of having received my First Holy Communion when my mother brought me to reality about the Eucharist by saying something like this, “Congratulations on your First Holy Communion. Now I want to see a change in you.” I didn’t understand then what she meant but now I do.

The Eucharist demands change from us constantly because it is no ordinary or earthly food. When we eat earthly food, we receive strength to do what we want to do. But when we receive heavenly food, the food that God gives to us and food that we know about only because God chooses to reveal it to us, God strengthens us do what He wants us to do.

The First Reading shows heavenly food in action. The Prophet Elijah is in flight for his life from the murderous queen Jezebel because he had given public witness to God before all the Israelites that led to the slaughter of 450 prophets of Baal. He is afraid, discouraged, and longs for death, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” God gives him heavenly food in the form of “hearth cake and a jug of water.” He does not grasp the power of this mysterious meal but God reveals to him through an angel the importance of this food, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” When Elijah ate and drank, he abandoned his earlier plans for death and received strength to do what God wanted him to do at that time, “Strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus speaking about His Eucharist presence as the ultimate heavenly food. Jesus attests that it is God who provides this meal for us, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” It is also the Father and not mere human wisdom that reveals to us the nature and power of the Eucharist, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” Then, here is the clincher: the Eucharist is not to give us strength to do what we want to do but through the Eucharist, God strengthens us to do what He wants us to do and to do so just like Jesus Christ did i.e. with love, generosity and sacrifice.

Jesus emphasizes the utter uniqueness of the Eucharist among all other heavenly foods by comparing it with the manna that the Israelites ate on their journey to the Promised Land. God gave and revealed this mysterious food to His chosen people. The manna was meant to give them strength to do what God wanted them to do i.e. obey His Commandments, journey faithfully to the Promised Land, and give witness to God before all the nations. The Jewish ancestors “ate the manna in the desert but they died,” because they ate but did not change at all from their willfulness. Knowing what God wanted from them, they still chose to rebel and reject His plans for them.

The Eucharist remains the ultimate heavenly food because it gives eternal life, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Eternal life is attained by doing the will of God with love, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”(Mt 7:21) The Eucharist gives eternal life by giving us divine strength to continuously transition from doing what we want to do to actually seeking to do only what God wants us to do the very same way that Christ Jesus did it.

Hence merely receiving the Eucharist is not enough for eternal life. The Eucharist is not a magical rite such that we are changed simply by our frequent reception of this Blessed Sacrament. We must also come to the Eucharist with a readiness and willingness to change and let go of our self-willed tendencies to embrace the divine will no matter what it may cost us. If this constant change is lacking, if we are not constantly moving from self-will towards the divine will, then we forfeit the eternal life that Christ offers to us even as we partake of the Eucharist.

St. Paul invites the Ephesian community to change too. They are to remove all “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice,” and embrace “kindness to one another, compassion, and mutual forgiveness.” They are to be “imitators of god, as beloved children.” This is a tall order. How can they do this? They can do so by focusing on “Christ who loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Where did Christ hand Himself over for us? He did so first on the Cross and He renews His self-offering to the Father in every Eucharist that is offered. In every Eucharist, Christ, the Living Bread, comes down to us to transform us into God’s children bathe in the fragrant aroma of divine adoption and enables us to make a pleasing offering of ourselves and our wills to God just like He did.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how easy it is for us today to do only what we want to do without any regard to what God desires for us? How can we hope to experience the transforming power of the Eucharist in our lives when we come to Mass with the intention of receiving divine grace so that we can carry out our own plans and not God’s plans? We easily let others in our deviant cultures dictate to us what to do. Even when we do what God wants of us, we hardly do so with the spirit of love, generosity and sacrifice that we find in Christ. More than more Eucharists, we need better dispositions in our Eucharistic celebrations shown in our openness and readiness to be constantly molded more and more into Christ’s own image.

The present clerical sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church is a painful reminder that we have forgotten (or ignored) the purpose of the Eucharist as the ultimate heavenly meal that makes us more like Jesus Christ and strengthens us to act like He did. When the ordained faithful, graced and transformed for the sake of the Eucharist, become satisfied with being merely good or looking good to the public, when our ongoing conversion is ignored and we become reluctant to journey continuously to become more like Jesus Christ and to participate ever deeper in His own attitudes, then our Eucharistic celebrations fail to impact and change us as it has the power to do. Clergy scandals abound when, indelibly configured to Christ, we ordained do not strive to become more like Him and imitate His readiness to do not what He wants but what His Father wants. The Eucharist is to guarantee that we say what Christ said to the Father at the Agony in the garden, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

The same applies to all the faithful conformed to Christ at baptism. The Eucharist is meant to deepen our conformity with Christ in heart, mind and soul and to make us act accordingly. If we too are not striving for that which is great, better, and more beautiful by God’s standards, then we too become open to scandalous behavior in our words and actions.

Our Eucharist is no earthly meal and it is not just another heavenly meal! That is why it demands constant change from us. Because the Eucharist is the ultimate heavenly meal in which Jesus comes down from Heaven continuously to offer Himself to us and reveal to us the power and beauty of His Eucharistic presence, we too are strengthened today to change and offer ourselves completely to God the Father and do what He wants us to do in a Christ-like way no matter the cost. This is how we and our actions become a truly fragrant aroma to God even as we journey into eternal life.

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

 

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Embracing our vocation as mediators today: A homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 29th 2018.

2Kgs 4:42-44; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15

Embracing our vocation as mediators today

Last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. The major problem of concern to many at the time was global overpopulation and the scarcity of natural resources. The many man-made solutions that were being proffered to solve the problem included artificial contraceptives, abortion, and sterilization. Everyone expected the Catholic Church to follow suit and adopt such measures after many Christian denominations had joined the bandwagon of those who had made artificial contraceptives morally right.

Paul VI shocked the world when he gave in this document God’s solution to the challenging situation in marriage and family life. In the divine solution, married love was to be fully human, involving free will, mind, body and soul. It was also to be total, a complete and mutual gift of self between the man and woman in marriage, and a sharing in the pleasures and responsibilities of married love. Married love was to be faithful and exclusive until death and open to the gift of new life. In short, there was no place for artificial contraceptive in God’s plan for marriage and family life.

The Pope and the Catholic Church were mocked for this teaching in the face of the sexual revolution of the time. Dissident Catholic theologians boldly rejected and resisted this teaching, strongly arguing for the Church to adopt the widely accepted man-made solutions that by and large dismiss the dignity of the human person, the lofty vocation of married spouses to participate in the creative plan of God, the sacredness of the conjugal love, the power of divine grace for self-control, etc.

Fifty years later, having experienced the consequences of ignoring his words, we have come to realize the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The world has experienced all the evils and more that this Pontiff’s document warned us would be the consequences of artificial contraception. We are seeing the marital infidelity and the decline of moral standards that Humanae Vitae warned us about. We are experiencing the lack of respect for women, their dignity and their health and the forced use of contraceptives by governments and public authorities.

What is the lesson from this little history surrounding Humanae Vitae? First of all, purely man-made solutions do not work, they do not endure, and they do not leave us satisfied. Secondly, there is a God-given solution to every problem in this world. Thirdly, God has the power and desire to solve these problems but He wants to do so through those who know and love Him enough to listen to His own solution, trust Him and act on His words. In short, He is looking for those like Pope Paul VI who would mediate His own solution to the world’s problems.

There is a similar problem of a large population and little resources in the Gospel passage (Jn6:1-15). There are over five thousand men and they have only five barley loaves and two fish. We are told that “Jesus Himself knew what He was going to do.” But He is waiting for His beloved disciples to listen to Him, trust Him and act on His words. In trying to solve the problem, the disciples proffer a man-made solution that involves earning money and buying bread, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Man-made solutions always fall short and leave us disappointed.

Jesus’ solution to the problem is not what they expected at all – they were to surrender the meager bread and fish to Jesus and have the crowd recline. With the multiplication of the loaves and fish, they had enough to eat and enough left over to fill twelve wicker baskets. It is God’s own solution that works, endures and satisfies us.

We see this same lesson in the First Reading (2Kgs 4:42-44) where Elisha feeds a hundred people with twenty barley loaves. Despite the hesitation of his servant, Elisha became a channel through which God’s solution was made present because he was ready to listen and mediate God’s solution to them. He knew and insisted on acting on God’s words at those moments, “For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”

The Responsorial Psalm assures us, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.” God knows every single one of our needs; He has a solution for all the problems and difficulties that we face in our personal lives, in our families, communities, Church and world. But He would not intervene and solve these problems without the free collaboration of those His loved ones who wish to bring to this world His own solution and not our own human agendas. Divine solution to humanity’s problem are always mediated through men and women of faith.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are no strangers to personal and communal problems. We have personal, psychological, spiritual, relational problems. Our families are facing all forms of financial, medical, and relational problems. The Church is plagued with scandals, dwindling numbers, shortage of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, etc. Our communities and countries are not spared myriads of problems.

In addition, there are so many man-made solutions to these problems, solutions that pretend to be pragmatic but fail to take into consideration our fundamental relationship with God, our utter dependence on Him for everything, our fulfillment in God alone, and God’s own desire and readiness to help us out. Drug dealers and addicts are being hunted down and killed here in the Philippines because some people believe this would solve the drug problem. Some people would advocate the slaughter of the unborn infant to solve the problem of a child conceived in rape. Many today link global warming with overpopulation and call for population control through artificial contraceptives and abortion on demand. All these solutions do not solve the problem, fail to stand the test of time, and leave us dissatisfied.

In the midst of all these man-made solutions of our times, we are challenged to embrace our vocation as mediators. Let us be clear about this point: “There is only one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim2:5) But the Holy Spirit has “taken what is Christ and declared it to us.”(Jn 16:14) Hence, in Jesus Christ, through Him and in Him alone and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too have become mediators in the One and only Mediator, bringing to this world His own love, truth and grace as well as His own solution. We do this by being fully aware and engaged in the world’s problems, bringing them to Jesus in prayer of surrender, listening to His words, placing our trust in Him completely and then acting on His words no matter what this world may think about us.

At the wedding of Cana in John’s Gospel, there was a problem of many guests and no wine. Jesus knew what He was going to do but He was waiting for someone to bring the needs to Him, listen to His words and act on them. His Mother Mary stepped to the plate with a simple request, “They have no wine.” Jesus’ response to her is hard for us to understand but Mary knew Him very well. She sensed the love and care behind His mysterious words. She did not ask the guests to contribute money for wine or to borrow grapes and wine making paraphernalia. She had no time for man-made solutions but she listened to Him and then asked the guests to do the same and listen and act on His words, “Do whatever He tells you.” They had the best wine in abundance because Mary embraced her vocation as a Mediatrix of all graces.

We encounter Jesus Christ in today’s Eucharist, the One who knows all our problems and who knows exactly what He is going to do. He wants to meet all our needs in this world and to bring His own solution into the world through us who know and love Him. With Mary and through Mary, let us be the mediators that we are called and gifted to be and make God’s solution present in our world, the only solution that works, endures, and leaves us satisfied.

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

 

 

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Remaining Catholic in a time of scandals: A homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 22, 2018.

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

Remaining Catholic in a time of scandal

I had a conversation recently with an elderly European couple who had abandoned the practice of their Catholic faith because they said that they could no longer stomach the unending scandals in the Church and the widespread cover-up by the members of the hierarchy. They spoke bitterly of the many clerical abuses and scandals that had to do with money, power, and sex and how these were all shrouded in secrecy by those in authority. Their pains and frustrations were palpable. They are probably one more casualty to the painful scandals and inexcusable cover-ups that have plagued the Catholic Church in the last few years.

But is abandoning the Catholic Church the right response to the scandals and cover-ups in the Church? Is a rejection of the divine and Catholic faith that we received at baptism the logical response to the wicked, unexplainable, and irresponsible actions and cover-ups of some of the clergy? What do we need to keep in our minds and hearts if we are going to be faithful to our Catholic faith in these times of grave scandals?

Our Mass Readings today give us some crucial pointers for fidelity to the Catholic faith in our scandalous times. First of all, God is always in control and He knows and sees all the injustice among His people. The Prophet Jeremiah asserts that God sees the “shepherds who mislead and scatter His flock,” shepherds who have “scattered the sheep and driven them away.” God responds to the negligence of the shepherds by personally taking over the shepherding of His flock, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock.”

This prophecy of God personally shepherding His flock is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the God-man who is forever the invisible Head of the Church, and who knows everything that we are going through individually and as a body. If Christ is the invisible Head of the Church, then we can surely do our part with generosity to curb this menace of clergy scandal and trust God to do what He loves to do, which is to bring good mysteriously out of evil of the scandals of our times.

Secondly, God still chooses to make use of human shepherds, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble, and none shall be missing, says the Lord.” The failure of the shepherds does not mean that God will no longer require human shepherds. Jesus once said to His disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach but do not practice.”(Mt 23:3) God will continue to shepherd His people through a weak and imperfect group of shepherds as His instruments. We draw greater hope and strength for living our faith in our scandalous times when we dwell more on the unshakable faithfulness of God to us than on the infidelity of His human shepherds.

Thirdly, the shepherds will be held responsible for their own failures, “You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” God is ever merciful but evil deeds and scandals have their consequences, “Woe to him by whom scandals come! It would be better for him if a millstone was hung around his neck and he was cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”(Lk 17:1-2) Our shepherds will surely be held responsible for their failure to shepherd the flock as they should. But we too will also be held responsible for how we let their scandalous behavior quench the fire of our faith. We must give account for our Catholic faith we have been graced with, “Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required.”(Lk 12:48)

The Gospel gives us a fourth reason for fidelity in these scandalous times: God knows best what we all need at every moment of our lives. God’s blessings are not generic but He meets us at our point of need with exactly what we need. Today’s Gospel shows us that Jesus knows the deepest need of His audience even before they speak a single word just as He assured us, “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask Him.”(Mt 5:6) He offers rest to the hungry and weary disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The crowd that followed Him had so many needs that they were like “sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus knew that they needed truth above all things, “He began to teach them many things.”

In the Church today, Jesus knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He knows when we need to be enlightened about certain unchanging truths like the truths of our faith and morals, the truth about God and His undying love for us, the value of suffering in our Christian life, the true way of responding to divine love at all times, etc. He readily consoles each of us in our afflictions and afflicts us when need to be afflicted out of our complacence and easy compromises. God pours the light and strength of divine grace in abundance in our hearts at times of scandals like ours, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”(Rom 5:20) The reality of scandals should not diminish the reality of abundance grace that we have at hand for our fidelity today.

Fifthly, St. Paul reminds us that our reconciliation with God and our unity and peace in the Church come from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and not from the good work or sanctity of any one of us, “For He (Christ) is our peace, He who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through His flesh…He established peace and reconciled us with God, in one body, through the cross.” If our reconciliation with God in the Church and our unity and peace in the Body of Christ was purchased by Christ’s own passion and death on the cross, then how can we hope to remain in the Church without a participation in the suffering of Christ? The Church was born on the Cross and it matures and grows through the Cross too. Our choice to be faithful in these scandalous times should be seen as our participation in the suffering of Christ our Head who was ever faithful to the Father’s will even as He was betrayed, abandoned, blasphemed, and condemned to death by those who should have known better. We forfeit the abiding peace of Christ when we abandon the faith that He won for us on the cross simply because of the scandalous behaviours of a few in the Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these are times of grave scandals in the Church. There is the scandalous behaviour of some clergy, the widespread cover-up from Church authority, Church teaching that is adapted more to the secular culture than conforming to scripture and tradition, promotion of deviant behaviours by those who are responsible for safeguarding and teaching the faith in words and actions. Many of the faithful who are graced with the sensus fidei know that things are not what they should be and are tempted to discouragement and abandoning their Catholic faith. But we do not need to yield to that temptation but we must persevere in our faith even in our scandalous times because “only those who persevere to the end will be saved.”(Mt 24:13)

Our divine and Catholic faith received at Baptism teaches us that our Eucharistic communion is with the risen Christ, the invisible Head of the Church, the one who knows all that we are going through regarding scandals in the Church. He is the “author and perfect of our faith.”(Heb 12:2) Having graced us with the gift of faith from the cross, He is now perfecting our faith through the painful scandals of our times by offering us all the graces and light that we need at this time to be faithful to Him. As we participate deeply in His divine life by this grace, let us also be ready to share in His suffering for the sake of peace and unity in the Church.  This is how our Catholic faith grows and matures continuously no matter the gravity or the number of painful scandals in the Church today.

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

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Living in the authority of Christ today: A homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 15th, 2018.
Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13.

Living in the authority of Christ today

My mother had just taught me how to drive a car and it was the first time I had control of the wheels as she sat in the front passenger seat. I was trying to keep my anxiety in check when someone cut me off in traffic and I had to brake abruptly to avoid hitting him. I lost it and I laid on the horn with anger. My mother touched my hands and said, “Let him go. The devil comes in different forms and ways. Don’t let him take your peace away.”

The devil does indeed come to us in different ways and forms in our lives through people that we encounter and events that we experience. He comes to do one thing, “The thief comes only to steal, to slaughter and to destroy.”(Jn 10:10) We must thus look beyond the visible persons and distressing experiences in our lives through which the devil gains access into our hearts, minds and hearts. Our greatest and fiercest enemy is not human persons or bad experiences, but it is the devil who seeks any channel and opportunity to destroy all that is beautiful in our lives, deprive us of God’s purpose in our lives, and deny God the glory that is due to Him.

Jesus sends out His disciples in today’s Gospel after “giving them authority over unclean spirits.” They would surely be rejected and ignored by many, “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” Jesus once emphasized the danger that the disciples will face in this world from their audience when He said, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.”(Mt 10:16) But Jesus does not give them authority over the hearts of men and women who may oppose or persecute them. Rather, He gave them authority over demons because it will be the devil and not their human adversaries who will be their greatest enemy.

As long as the disciples enter into a deep trusting relationship with Jesus and let Him act and provide for them in their mission, they will have the power to cast out demons. Out of that trusting relationship with God, they will take nothing for the journey and not be choosy or picky about where they are to stay, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” Because they were in relationship with Jesus, the Twelve – weak, sinful, unlearned men – did something humanly impossible, “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in constant struggle with demons today as in times past. The devil is speaking and acting in our world today through events and people who may be his conscious or unconscious instruments by their words and actions. But how we are so blinded to be focused on the human agents and the experiences without discerning the ploys of the devil to use these creatures to enter our lives, destroy our freedom and peace and bring nothing but division, hatred and conflicts in our families, Church, and communities.

The purpose of all the devil’s actions is to hinder us and move us away from any deep relationship with God in Jesus Christ because he knows that we share in Christ’ authority over him by our relationship with Jesus Christ. The authority that Jesus gives His disciples then and now over unclean spirits is a share in that same authority that Jesus Himself had over the demons. The only way that we can enjoy Christ’s authority over demons is through an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.

Because we can only exercise Christ’s authority over the devil through our lived relationship with Jesus, the devil will use any means, direct or indirect through human agents and events, to make us doubt God’s love for us, His wisdom and His power. We are hearing the devil’s lying voice when people’s words or actions or events make us doubt God’s personal and unconditional love for us. We are hearing the devil’s temptations when we are moved to question the divine wisdom and purpose in our lives because of what happens to us. We are falling for the devil’s lies when we are made to think that God lacks the power to deliver us from temporal and eternal woes.

St. Paul reminds us of the way that God has and continues to draw us into relationship with Him in and through Jesus Christ. God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” including His own authority over demons. We have been “chosen in Christ,” “destined for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ,” “redeemed by His blood and forgiven for our sins,” so that we can exist “for the praise of the glory of His grace.” Our relationship with Christ does not dispense us from spiritual battles but brings us to participate in Christ’s own struggle and victory over the devil. As long as we are grounded on our relationship with God by His grace, we can overcome the demonic forces that come to us at every moment and faithfully fulfill the divine purpose in our world today to make His blessing available to others who may despise, reject and persecute us.

The God who brought us into living relationship with Him never ceases to draw us into that relationship with Him no matter what the past has been. The same Jesus who warned us that the devil constantly comes to us to steal, kill, and destroy the amazing benefits of Jesus’ new life in us also assures us that He too comes to us through persons and events to give us His own life-giving relationship, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Our challenge is to grow in this life, communicate this abundant life to both friends and foes by our prayers, words and actions, and to thwart the constant efforts of the devil to kill this life.

Jesus fulfils His promise of abundant life to us today by coming to us through what appears to be ordinary bread and wine in Holy Communion. Through the Eucharist, we are strengthened in our relationship with the God who “accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.” No matter what people say or do or what we experience, we must never doubt this love-relationship with God. If we never doubt His love for us, His wise designs or His power, we will surely experience His own authority over our greatest enemies, the demons who never cease to come to us in many forms and ways.

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

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The “stupidity” of God: A homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 1, 2018.

Wis 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2Cor 8:7,9,13-15; Mk 5:21-43

The “stupidity” of God

After ridiculing the Creation story and the doctrine of Original Sin in the Bible last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ended by saying, “Who is this stupid God? This son of a b**** is then really stupid.” Understandably, his words have elicited lots of critical and condemnatory responses both locally and internationally.

As people of faith let us go deeper and do some self-reflection on these painful and unwarranted words. Let us first ask ourselves honestly if we haven’t at one point or another in our lives acted as if God was stupid and clueless? Doesn’t our hopeless worries in life betray our lack of trust in His divine wisdom in the face of difficult and painful situations? Don’t we give up easily when we just cannot understand the ways of God? Haven’t we had to say something like this to God in a moment of desperate prayer, “God, what are you doing? Can’t you see what I am going through? You are not being fair! Why are you allowing this in my life?” Yes, we may not say outright that God is stupid but sometimes our thoughts and attitudes have shown that we do not completely trust in His judgments or ways of acting in our lives and in our world.

Today’s Second Reading tells us about the divine wisdom behind Jesus’ gracious act, “Though He (Jesus) was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” This is Divine wisdom in action, God laboring to make us rich; not rich in money, fame, success, pleasures, or material things; but rich in what endures and matters most – His own divine life. While remaining divine, Jesus humbled Himself and became one like us in all things except sin, chose to be born of the Virgin Mary, suffered a gruesome death on the Cross, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, sent us His Holy Spirit, and founded a Church here on earth. He did all this for one single reason – to communicate the fullness of life to us in all times and places. In His words, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) No, our God is not stupid in any way but He is a God of life who acts always to communicate to us His own divine life in ways that we could never even fathom.  

The Gospel shows us Jesus, the God of life, in action. Every single thing about Jesus, beginning from His very person, is life-giving, “In Him was life.”(Jn 1:4) Jesus’ readiness to let go of the eager crowd and go to heal the dying daughter of Jarius shows His desire and readiness to bring healing to those who approach Him with faith. Even the clothes of Jesus Christ are life-giving if touched with faith. The hemorrhaging woman found this out from her experience when she touched His clothes, “Immediately her flow of blood dried up.” Even the words of Jesus are words that bring hope and healing, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” The touch of Jesus also restores and bestows life on one who is already dead, “He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha Koum… (And) she arose immediately and walked around.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we know and believe that our God is not stupid in any way but we have to let this truth affect our thinking and attitude in life. We must focus on the action of God who the Book of Wisdom states “fashioned all things that they might have being.” He who made us and gave us life, both natural and supernatural, is the only one who can heal and restore this spiritual life to us in this life and even raise us from the grave. Jesus Christ alone gives us that life that cannot be taken away from us and that endures even beyond the grave. He is not stupid but He acts to communicate this life to us every moment of our lives, even in the most mysterious, dark, and painful ways.  

Actually, we are the ones who can act stupid. We act stupidly when we think or act as if there is someone or something out there that can bring us complete healing of our hearts. We are stupid when we think that some created things can somehow bring us interior satisfaction and contentment in this life apart from the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. We act stupid when we think that we know the best way for us to be healed and God has to dance to our own music and plan for healing. To think that we can heal and restore divine life in ourselves or that we know how God should heal us is true stupidity. Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.”(MK 2:17) We are the sick who need Him desperately and we must also accept the way and manner that He chooses to heal and restore His life to us.

We put an end to our stupidity when we come to realize deeply that only He who created and redeemed us by His blood can heal and restore us to His life in His own way that we could never understand or imagine. The hemorrhaging woman in today’s gospel abandoned such stupidity herself, having “suffered at the hands of many doctors and spent all that she had, yet she was not helped but grew worse.” She eventually did the wise thing and turned to touch the garments of Jesus with faith, believing that the Lord of life could heal her even through His garments, “If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.”

We too are challenged today to let go of that stupidity that seeks for our healing outside Christ and to be ready to touch Christ with faith in the many mysterious ways that He comes to us. We touch Christ with faith and allow Him to heal us whenever we lift our hearts in prayer. We touch Christ with faith in the Sacrament of Confession when we allow Him to heal the wounds of sin in our lives. We touch Christ with faith when we receive Him in Holy Communion and let Him renew our inner strength for battles to come. We touch Christ with faith whenever we choose to avoid any thing or person that will hinder His life in us. We touch Christ with faith when we give witness to Him by serving our brothers and sisters out of love for Him.

The garment of Jesus touched by the hemorrhaging woman with faith brought her instant healing. How much more powerful is the healing that is possible when we touch the sacred body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ in today’s Eucharist? There is absolutely no event or thing that Jesus will not use to offer us a deeper participation in His own life.

This is our God! He is not stupid in any way but He is the God of life, ever willing and ready to empty Himself completely so that we can be rich in His life through grace. Let us also empty ourselves of all form of stupid thinking and choose to act with wisdom, touch Him and remain united with Him by faith, and let Him reveal to us that He is always and everywhere our God of life.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Are we really in God’s kingdom now? A homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 17, 2018.

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

Are we really in God’s kingdom now?

It was my first experience anointing a parishioner in hospital. It was chaotic in the ICU as the doctors and nurses struggled to save the life of the man, while the family wept and prayed outside. I arrived holding my stole, ritual, and anointing oil. I was wondering, “What difference can I make at this time? Doctors and nurses, experienced in the science of medicine, labored frantically and appeared to be giving up hope that the patient’s life could be saved. And here I am with nothing but this blessed oil and prayer book?” I put these negative words behind me and proceeded to anoint the patient, giving him the last rites, commending his soul to the Lord Jesus and praying with his family before I left.

A few days later, as I was about to begin Mass in the parish on Sunday morning, I looked into the congregation to see the same man who was dying on the hospital bed a few days earlier! For a moment I thought I was seeing a ghost. He smiled at me, with his wife and children at his side. I then thought, “What the heck! It must be a smiling ghost!” We celebrated his miraculous recovery after the Mass and they said that he began recovering soon after he was anointed. His quick recovery shocked all of them, especially the doctors and the nurses. I tried to conceal my own shock too!

Anointing oil, prayer book, a newly ordained priest with a wavering faith, and a miraculous recovery from near death. What was the lesson here? I learned that I will see signs of the kingdom of God in my life if only I would give God a chance to act. I give God a chance when I choose to act with faith, pray with love, and surrender with unshakable trust in God. The ICU event that day was an act of faith in the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ for His Church, a prayer of love when all seemed lost, and a surrendering and entrusting of the sick man to Jesus Christ, praying for his healing if it be His holy will; if He willed to take him home, so be it.

Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in today’s gospel saying that “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land.” This is an act of faith because the one who scatters must have faith that the seed will grow. The one who scatters must also be a man of hope who has trust enough not to lose his sleep, worry or be anxious about the seed planted, “He would sleep and rise night and day.” In his trust, he does not have to understand how the seed grows, “Through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” He is also a man who is vigilant, watching with love for the visible signs of growth, “And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” The seed with the mysterious life in it, the mysterious growth of the seed night and day, and the harvest are all from God. But, by acting in faith, hope and love, the one who scatters gives God a chance to manifest His kingdom through his effort.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are children of the Kingdom of God from the moment of our baptism. I believe that we do not see signs of the Kingdom of God in our lives because we simply do not give God a chance to act. We do not give God a chance to act in our lives because we do not act with faith, pray out of love for God and for others, and surrender all to Jesus because we trust in Him.

It is so easy for us to feel like we have been abandoned by God when we think of our sins, failures and trials in this life. We just fail to see signs of God’s reign in our lives and in our families. We have sicknesses, marital problems, financial problems, addictions, spiritual struggles, struggles in our vocations, etc. Things may also look dismal and gloomy in the Church, plagued with all possible scandals, lack of clear teaching, and departure of many of the faithful. The devil will taunt us and whisper in our ears, “Is this still the Church that is the seed of God’s kingdom?” People like Philippines President Duterte who will never miss an opportunity to tell us that the Church is plagued with sexual scandals from priests and bishops. All these will make us wonder if we at all we have been brought into God’s kingdom.

Instead of losing hope and doubting if we are really children of the kingdom, we must ask ourselves if we are really giving God a chance to act in our lives and give us signs of His reign in our lives. We have to ponder the following questions:

First, how deep is our faith? St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading that, because “we walk by faith and not by sight,” we also “aspire to please God.” Is our faith alive enough to repent of our sins, obey God and to seek to please Him alone in all that we do or is our faith limited to notional assent to articles of the faith and devotional practices, completely unconnected to our everyday life? Is our faith strong enough to see that God is doing something and that His seed of life in us is growing mysteriously through the joys of days and the pains of the nights?

Secondly, how fervent is our love? Is our love for God and neighbor a vigilant love that is nurtured and expressed in deep prayer and in communion with God, ever attentive to the movement of His grace that prompts us to grow? Is our love vigilant for moments to prove our love for God above all persons and things, and even above self? Is it not true that our love for God tends to be more sentimental and measured by our current situation and life conditions?

Third, how firm is our hope? Is our hope in God so firm that we can freely and wholly surrender all to His holy will? Do we live with that conviction that God loves us more than we can even imagine and He desires what is best for us in each moment? Are we rather not more inclined to pretend to be in control of our lives and our conditions rather than surrendering to Him and allowing Him to reveal Himself to us in mysterious ways?

St. Paul assures us that “God had delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son.”(Col 1:13) We are no longer slaves of the kingdom of darkness. We belong to God’s kingdom now and Jesus Christ longs to act in our lives and do great things through us and in us despite all our littleness, weaknesses, struggles and failures.

The Eucharist is Christ coming to us to nurture His life in us by His Spirit. It is by His grace alone that we can make any difference in this life, “Without me you can do nothing.”(Jn 15:5) But He will never force Himself on us. He will act in us and through us to the extent that we give Him a chance to do so.

We turn to Mary, the Mother of God. God did the most amazing thing through Mary – God became man through her, a virgin who also became Mother of God. She simply gave God complete authority and allowance to act in her life as He deemed fit, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” She never doubted for once whether she was a prestigious member of the Kingdom of God or not even in the darkest moments of her life as she continued to live with faith, hope and love.

May we learn from our dear Mother Mary to do likewise in our lives today and give God a chance to act and reveal Himself to us, so that no matter what we face in this life, we will never have to doubt again whether we are children of God’s kingdom or not.

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

 

 

 

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When discouragement strikes: A homily for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 10, 2018.

Gen 3:9-15; 2Cor 4:13-5:1; Mk 3:20-35.

When discouragement strikes

St. Paul had every reason to be discouraged by the situation in the Corinth Church. Things only seemed to get worse after his first letter to them. He was now the victim of  the merciless criticism and personal attacks by those who wanted to discredit him and his missionary style. His reputation was being ruined and ridiculed and the community was turning against him despite his love and care for them.

Yet he says emphatically, “We are not discouraged.” He wards off all discouragement by choosing carefully what he focuses on, “We look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” He does not focus on “what is seen,” i.e. the “momentary light affliction” from his wicked adversaries; but he chooses to focus on “what is unseen” i.e. God acting in the depth of his soul in a hidden way to “produce for him and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” He does not focus on “the outer (visible) self that is wasting away” but on the “(invisible) inner self that is being renewed day by day.”

The Gospel shows us that Jesus Christ remains the only way for us to gain any insight into and communion with “what is unseen.” His relatives in His native place see Him attending to the crowd without time to eat. Focusing only on the visible, they conclude, “He is out of His mind.” The scribes from Jerusalem condemn Him as being “possessed by Beelzebub.” Jesus does not get discouraged with them but highlights and leads them to be aware of the “things that are unseen,” which includes His victorious struggle and triumph over Satan and our liberation from Satan’s dominion, “No man can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man.” What is unseen is that the one who was unjustly condemned as a crazy possessed rabbi is actually the one who entered into combat with Satan for our liberation and prevailed.

Our struggle against discouragement and despair demands that we too be particularly aware of and focused on the enduring “what is unseen” while engaged with the transitory “what is seen” and perceptible to the human senses and faculties. There are some things that we want to focus on if we are going to overcome the many forms of discouragement.

  1. God’s loving presence and action in us. Discouragement is usually accompanied by the sense of being alone and unable to face the struggles of life. We remedy discouragement by connecting to the Triune God within us and cooperating with the eternal divine plan to bring us to glory through the royal road of suffering and pain. Our “momentary light afflictions” become preludes to an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” when we choose to focus on the divine presence and action within us rather than being fixated on our agendas, wounded egos, and painful life experiences.
  2. Our immortal soul and the need to feed the soul with truth and grace. Our consumeristic and materialistic age can easily lead us to forget to feed our souls with revealed truth and divine grace and just focus on the needs of the body, a body that would eventually be the food of worms in the grave. We pamper and beautify the body while the soul languishes. A soul that is devoid of the love of God and His grace cannot but succumb easily to discouragement and despair in the face of life’s struggles. It is genuine love of God that moves us to resist discouragement at all cost because we want to give ourselves to God completely.
  3. The reality of heaven and hell. We can only face discouragement and its attendant confusion when we know where we are heading to: heaven or hell. A life without a sense of direction or purpose is a futile existence that does not have a chance against discouragement. We must live with that conviction that we are children of God now, that Christ has prepared a place in heaven for us, that He is leading us home to Him now and that hell still remains a possibility for us while on this earth if we reject divine love and mercy.
  4. The existence of the devil and the reality of spiritual warfare. The evil one will do anything to separate us from Jesus and to lose the new life and hope that we have in Christ. He tempts us chiefly to discouragement and despair by reminding us of our sins, exaggerating the struggles ahead for us, and making us doubt the power, love, and wisdom of God to bring us to heaven. How can we overcome discouragement when we fail to realize that “our adversary the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We have no choice but to “resist him, solid in our faith,” (1Pet 5:8,9) by engaging in spiritual warfare through prayer, meditation on the Word of God, fasting, sacraments, and due vigilance.
  5. The power of doing the divine will. St. John reminds us that, “The world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God endures forever.”(1Jn 2:17) The will of God, when done with love, unites us to Jesus Christ and makes us intimate with Him to the point that we begin to share in His power over discouragement. He who said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” is the same one who “gives those who believe in Him power to become sons of God.”(Jn 1:12) Because the divine will endures forever, the darkness of discouragement is dispelled the moment we find and do the divine will, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.”(Mt 24:35)
  6. The hidden consequences of sin in our lives. Sin is not just an offense against God who is ever ready to forgive us. The Fall of Adam and Eve show us the grave consequences of sin in our personal lives and relationships, consequences which we can never tell beforehand, especially the divisions that sins create. Sin creates inner conflict and division in us, making us afraid and dishonest, hiding from God and ourselves like guilty Adam and Eve. Sin divides us from those we should love, breeds bitter rivalry and mistrust, and fosters the blame game we see in our first parents. We lose the battle against discouragement when we try to compromise with sin, downplay its consequences, or pretend we can predict its consequences.
  7. The reality of the communion of saints. Jesus said that those who do the will of God are His brothers, sisters and mother. How powerfully is our hope renewed in the face of discouragement when we know that there is a “cloud of witnesses,” including Mary, the Mother of God, praying for us and cheering us to victory in our earthly struggle. Mary did the will of God as faithfully as anyone did and she is obtaining for us all the graces and support that we need to do the same always. There is no way that we can give in to discouragement when we know that we are not alone in this struggle but are in living communion with those our brothers and sisters who have walked the same path and done so victoriously.

I am pained and saddened by the death of American chef, author, and popular television personality, Mr. Michael Bourdain, who is reported to have taken his own life a few hours ago in Strasbourg, France. It is painful to see many of our brothers and sisters within and outside the Church giving in to the discouragements of life through suicide. No one of us is immune from struggles to keep on doing the right thing in life in the face of discouraging realities.

If we are going to overcome these discouragements, then we need to honestly ask ourselves, “What am I focusing on in my life today: the transitory and momentary “seen” or the enduring “unseen”?” If we choose to focus our hearts and minds on “what is unseen,” while engaged with “what is seen,” we will surely share in Christ’s power and victory over all discouragement.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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