The power of the Spirit-filled heart: A homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost

Solemnity of Pentecost. May 20, 2018.

Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13; Jn 20:19-23

The power of the Spirit-filled heart

St. Luke’s depiction of the Pentecost event in the Acts of the Apostles shows us something about the preaching of the Spirit-filled disciples – their words could not be ignored. The crowd that heard them speak showed different reactions. They were first “confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” They were also astounded and amazed. The Apostles’ words seized their hearts and brought them together to listen to the mysterious speech of illiterate Galileans. They would eventually mock and ridicule the Apostles saying, “They are filled with new wine.” No matter the response of the crowd they could not ignore the proclamation of the Spirit-filled Apostles. They just could not resist the power of their words to pull them together to listen to the saving words of God proclaimed by the Apostles.  

This is a good image of the Gospel we preach and witness to in our world today. The words of the Gospel leave many confused and amazed for various reasons. The heralds of the Gospel are often maligned and insulted, partly because of their own shortfalls, failings, and inconsistencies, or just out of hatred for the Gospel that they preach and witness to. But the world just cannot ignore the Gospel if it is preached and proclaimed from Spirit-filled hearts.

What does it mean to have a Spirit-filled heart? How can we judge if the Spirit of Jesus abides in us and has complete control of our hearts?

First, we preach with the conviction that Jesus alone is the Lord, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Because Jesus is Lord, we do not preach our opinions or feelings but we preach in a manner that makes us say like Jesus, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me.”(Jn 7:16). If Jesus is our Lord, then we do not preach human ideologies but the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not preach for the sake of human approval or because we are morally impeccable but we preach because we live under the lordship of Jesus Christ who has commissioned us to preach in His name and has given us “a manifestation of His Spirit for some benefit” to the body of Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.”(1Cor 9:16) We also do not preach ourselves but what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and the response that we should make. The devout Jews could not ignore the words of the Apostles because they heard them “speaking in their own tongue of the mighty acts of God.” Let us preach what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ today in and through His Church and her members and see if the Gospel can be ignored. 

Secondly, we preach the Gospel because we have experienced the effects of sin in our lives as well as the forgiveness and new beginning that Jesus offers us in His Resurrection. The disciples abandoned Jesus at His hour of need during His Passion and they had received divine forgiveness by the power of the Holy Spirit offered by the risen Christ, “Peace be with you…Receive the Holy Spirit.” From our forgiven hearts, we proclaim and make present the forgiveness that we have received, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” Our preaching should reflect the merciful love that God offers us in Jesus Christ. Our preaching lacks the power to capture hearts as long as we are not experiencing divine forgiveness, repenting of our own infidelities towards Christ, and communicating divine forgiveness to others by our words and actions.

Thirdly, we are Spirit-filled if we are people of community, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, the disciples were all in one place together.” If we are Spirit-filled, then we make sacrifices to preserve the unity of the community and we are fully engaged in the life and mission of the community. Our preaching become impotent when it does violence to the perennial and unchanging truths that unite us as a community of Christ and fails to strengthen our bond with Christ and with each other. Likewise, we lack the power to seize the hearts and minds in the world when we preach from families, communities, parishes, churches that are divided because of our actions or inaction. We must speak and act in ways that unite, strengthen and energize the Church instead of weakening, fragmenting, and paralyzing the Church for which Christ died that we may be one.

Fourthly, we proclaim the word of God from hearts that are steeped in the living waters of prayer. In the words of Jesus, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”(Lk 6:45) Our hearts need to be filled first with the light and strength of divine grace before our words can have the power to pierce through the hardened and indifferent hearts of our contemporaries. If Jesus is our Lord, we depend on Him for the grace to preach His word and we offer the result of our preaching to Him. The grace to preach and the result belong to Jesus alone, “Without me (Jesus), you can do nothing.”(Jn 15:5) It is through Spirit-inspired prayer that we receive this grace to preach and offer to Jesus whatever may result from our preaching and witnessing to the Gospel.

Fifthly, we preach as Spirit-filled believers when we place Mary, the Mother of God, at the center of our lives and our communities like the Apostles did, “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” What has Mary got to do with Spirit-filled preaching? Mary is the first human person to receive the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation by believing the words of the Angel Gabriel. By her presence, example and prayers, Mary likewise prepared the Apostles to receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Mary also communicates to her children today the true spirit of faith that filled her own heart so that they can receive the truth of the Spirit and believe and communicate saving truths in the Church. Mary helps us open our hearts to the saving power of the Gospel and close our hearts to the deadly poison of many of the innocently sounding heresies of our time.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel still has the same power to change hearts and minds of the audience. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI constantly reminded us of the beauty and power of the Gospel and that we only have to unleash it on the world by our words and actions. There is a temptation in today’s secular world to make the Gospel “relevant and acceptable” as if it was never relevant before. There is also a tendency to distort or water down the demands of the Gospel in the name of a false compassion and mercy that gives the impression that God can demand of human nature something that His grace cannot achieve in us. All these only leave the Church weak and disunited, making our preaching of the Gospel dead and boring to our world.

By the power of the Spirit who fills our hearts in today’s Solemnity of Pentecost, let us preach the Gospel by our words. There will be many possible reactions to the Gospel as Jesus taught us, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept me word, they will keep yours too.”(Jn 15:20) Some people will accept the saving words and embrace Jesus as their Lord and enter into the Church community of faith. Some will reject the Gospel all together and even call us names and denounce us as hypocrites for whatever reasons. But if the world ignores us as we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we must pause and ask ourselves if our hearts are really filled with the Holy Spirit as we preach the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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

 

 

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The Ascension and our struggle of faith: A homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus

Solemnity of the Ascension. May 13, 2018.

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

The Ascension and our struggle of faith

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Many of our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith today are losing their faith for so many reasons. The faith may be lost because of tragedies in life, lack of practice of the faith over time, grave and strong temptations, scandals in the Church, unrepented sins, casual drifting away, broken relationships and divorce, sickness, etc. The rampant loss of faith in our times makes it appear that it is a much greater struggle to maintain and grow in the faith than to begin to believe in the first place.

In today’s Gospel, the risen Christ reminds His disciples who already believed in Him of the need to maintain their faith in Him in this world, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” No matter what we are experiencing in this life or the struggles we are facing, we cannot afford to lose our faith in the risen Christ that we received at the moment of our baptism. As long as we maintain our faith in Him, we would never stray from the path of salvation.

Today’s First Reading shows us two ways in which we can lose our faith in the risen Christ and His presence and action in our lives despite having His Spirit in us.

Firstly, our faith dwindles to the extent that we are moved in our lives by anything and everything except the instructions of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Jesus “gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.” We know that “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”(Rom 10:17) When we live by faith in the risen Christ always, ready to act on His instructions without excuses or compromise, the light of faith is intensified in us and we are not left guessing about what to do in this life, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”(Rom 8:12) Through the gift of His Spirit dwelling in our hearts, our risen Lord continues to give faith-enkindling instructions in our hearts today. The question is if we are being moved by these divine instructions or by something else.

Secondly, we lose our faith when we have no intention at all to give witness to Jesus constantly before others. We begin to experience the power of the risen Christ in our lives when we are determined to be His witnesses before others in every time and place. Jesus assured His disciples in today’s First Reading, “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.” When the disciples took up His challenge to be His witnesses who “proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” they experienced the power of the risen Christ with them, “But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”

St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that we lose out on the amazing gifts that are ours from the glorious Ascension of Jesus Christ when we lose our faith in the risen Christ for whatever reason. We have access to firm hope, heavenly riches, and His invincible power in us only because Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and the Father has “put all things beneath His feet and given Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way,”

When our faith is lost, we also lose that “hope that belongs to His call,” we feel alone, heaven becomes a impossible pie in the sky for us, we become unsure that we will receive from Him all that we need to enter into heaven, our desire for heaven dwindles too and we become discouraged and despairing. When we lose our faith in the risen Christ, we lose a sense of the “riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” and we forget that we are pilgrims in this world, accumulating and enjoying the things and pleasures of this world without thought or desire for the things of heaven. With our faith lost, we fail to experience the “surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe,” and we think and feel helpless and abandoned, completely unable to overcome the many struggles, trials, and temptations of this life.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must never let our painful earthly experiences, sins or moral failures, or assault of the evil one quench the faith in the risen Christ that we received at baptism. This is our struggle of faith. Losing our faith in Jesus because of our condition or experiences in this world make us deserving of the gentle rebuke of St. Paul, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,”(1Cor 15:19)

The Ascension of Jesus, apart from being a source of joy and hope to us, reminds us of the imminent return of Christ in glory and challenges us to keep our faith in Jesus alive and growing till the very end. In the words of the angelic persons to the disciples at the moment of the Ascension, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? 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.” The Catechism put it this way: “Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent.”(CCC 673) He is coming soon to judge all of us based on how our faith received in baptism has matured in this life through all the trials and difficulties.

This is definitely not the time to lose our faith in Jesus but to struggle to grow in our faith in Jesus. This is the time to make sure that we are being moved more than anything else by His instructions received in prayer or in the Scriptures or in the Church and her infallible teaching. This is the time to let His words find room in our minds and hearts and change our ways of thinking and acting. This is the time to ensure that we are not being moved by public opinion, blind passions, human respect, mere sentiments or feelings, or desire for worldly gain.

This is also a time for us to examine the quality of our witness to Jesus before others. Are we willing to speak the saving truth of Jesus and show His love to others by our words and actions or are we crippled by the fear of being rejected, misunderstood, or labeled as bigots? Are we going to show the humble face of Jesus to others by our live of selfless service to all? Are we communicating to others the merciful face of Jesus who forgave others constantly? Are we going to be the good examples of Jesus’ redeeming love to our world that alone brings hope to others?

Our Eucharist is always a communion with Jesus Christ, the “Author and perfecter of our faith.”(Heb 12:2) No matter our condition or experiences in life today, Jesus comes silently to strengthen in us that baptismal faith by continuously instructing and empowering us for witness to Him through His Spirit. He once lamented to His followers, “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on earth?”(Lk 18:8) If Jesus returns in glory now, will He find faith in our hearts or will He find us faithless because of our life’s experiences? Our answer to this question will determine our salvation because “whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

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The cost of friendship with Christ: A homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter. May 6, 2018

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

The cost of friendship with Christ

Have you ever had that experience on Facebook when you accept an invitation from someone to become your friend and then you begin to receive invitations from unknown people? You begin to see recommended pages on your Facebook feed page that you have no idea where they come from? Whether you want to or not, whether you agree with their views or lifestyle, you become somehow exposed to all the friends and activities of all those who are friends of your newly chosen friend. Becoming friends with someone on social media, we readily expose ourselves to some extent to the favorable or unfavorable friends of the person and their acceptable or unacceptable activities.

This does not spook us out but we are willing and ready to pay this price for our friendship on social media. But are we ready and willing to pay the same price for our friendship with Jesus Christ? Are we ready to become closely related to all those whom Jesus loved and died for without distinctions? Are we ready to be exposed to the same activities that Jesus is interested in and which really matter to Him?

What is this price to be paid for our friendship with Jesus Christ? In the first place, strictly speaking, there is nothing that we can do to earn our friendship with Jesus Christ or to repay Him for this friendship with us. He reminds us of this in today’s Gospel, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father.” We are not friends with Him because of something good and lovable in us or any of our great achievements. We are friends of Jesus simply because of His love that has freely chosen us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” The price of our friendship with Christ is not a burden to be borne or a debt to be settled but our loving and free response to the friendship that Jesus offers us.

On our part, this price of friendship with Christ involves the following:

  1. We journey relentlessly towards intimacy with the Father through a life of loving obedience and rejection of the spirit of rebellion in all its forms. Authentic friendship with Jesus leads to friendship with His Father, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” We strive for that intimacy with the Father by denying self and keeping His commandments, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Our friendship with Christ is illusory if we are compromising with sin in any form or if we are picking and choosing which of His commandments to keep and which to discard or to reinterpret according to our taste. Our firm choice to live in loving obedience to God always is the action that is pleasing to Jesus.
  2. We are ready to reflect to others the same self-sacrificing love of Christ that we have experienced, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We do not love others for what we can get or obtain from them but to bring divine goodness to others through our sacrifices. In the words of St. John, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loves us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” We too love others first, always, and in a way that allows us to make sacrifices for their eternal and temporal good.
  3. We do not pick and choose whom we should love and sacrifice for. This is the lesson that St. Peter learned in today’s First Reading when he sees the sincere spirit of religion in the pagan Cornelius’ family and their openness to Jesus and His Spirit. Our God is not choosy or discriminating in His love for His people, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” Our God pours the gifts of His Spirit to those who embrace friendship with His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died for all of humanity and desires that His Spirit fills all hearts and make all His friends. As friends of Jesus who possess His Spirit in us from the moment of Baptism, we cannot discriminate or be partial in our love but we must reflect to all that universal and constant love that we have received from Jesus.
  4. Lastly, as friends of Jesus, we find our joy in Jesus and in following His own way of loving, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in your and your joy might be complete.” Friends find joy in the same things and in the same manner. Like Jesus who found His joy in His loving obedience to the Father and in laying down His life for us, we too find our true joy by loving the Father and in making sacrifices for the eternal good of others. We cannot be friends of Jesus if our hope for joy is apart from Him and in the things and pleasures of this world.

Our Lord Jesus Christ continues to reveal Himself gratuitously to us today to make us His intimate friends. But are we willing to pay the price of friendship with Christ? How seriously do we take our pilgrimage of intimacy with the Father? How are we striving to overcome the spirit of rebellion in us and in the world today? How are we loving others in a life-giving way without being fixated on what is in it for us? Where is the spirit of discrimination and partiality sneaking into our relationships so that we only love those who are likeable or beneficial to us? How are we searching for joys in the world outside Christ and our participation in His selfless love for others?

To be friends of Jesus is to be friends of those whom He loves, including His own Mother, Mary. We cannot claim to be friends of Jesus while having nothing but contempt or indifference to Mary His Mother who gave birth to Him, nourished Him and brought Him to matured manhood so that He can die for us and make us friends of God.

“As the Father has loved me, so I love you.” The Father loved Jesus by sending Him into this world through the womb of the Virgin Mary and her faith-filled response to the divine will at the Annunciation. Jesus loves us by giving us the same Mary as our Mother as He was dying on the cross, “Behold your mother.” Taking Mary as our Mother too, loving her, depending on her prayers and support, and obeying her is part of the joyful price of being Jesus’ friends.

On her part, Mary leads us to deeper friendship with Jesus Christ and helps us to readily accept and respond to His friendship. As the beloved daughter of the Father, she leads us to intimacy with God by doing His will always. As the faithful disciple who concurred with the divine plan of the crucifixion of her only son for the world’s salvation, she will help us too to lay down our lives for others. As mother of all the redeemed who have the life-blood of her Son in their hearts, Mary helps us to love others with a universal and constant love. As the one who loved selflessly and proclaimed, “My soul rejoices in God my savior,” who else but Mary can better lead us to seek for the joy of the Lord through selfless love for others?

Jesus reveals Himself again to us through His own flesh and blood in today’s Eucharist, the flesh and blood that He willed to take from no other person but the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Mary and through her, we can surely be true friends with Christ, willingly pay the price of our friendship with Him by reflecting His universal and constant love to all who are dear to Him. This is how the joy of Christ will be in us and our joy will be complete.

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

 

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The good flock of the Good Shepherd: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter

The good flock of the Good Shepherd

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

I recently heard the interesting vocation story of a Filipina religious sister, a professed religious for over 30 years. She was about 8 years old when she witnessed the labor pains of her elder sister. The pains and shouts of her sister in labor that day caused her to make a silent vow never to get pregnant in life. Her childhood friend convinced her that she could avoid the pains of child-bearing if she got “married” to Jesus instead as a religious sister because, in her words, “Jesus will not make you pregnant like that!” Thus began her desire to become a religious.

Still dreading the prospect of painful child-birth, she entered the religious convent in her late teens. But on entering the convent her motive for the religious life changed and she started to love the life of prayer, silence, religious habits, apostolate, community, etc. After her first profession of vows, she said that her motive for being a consecrated sister changed radically and become Christ-centered. She now wanted to live like Jesus, to belong completely to Jesus, to imitate Jesus more closely, and to follow Him to the very end in poverty, chastity and obedience. She said that this last motive, the Christ-like motive, is what has sustained her all these years as a religious sister through all the ups and downs of the past years.

What is it that moves us to embrace a particular vocation in the Church? Do these motives become more Christ-like and Christ-centered over time? Our fears, likes, or preferences alone cannot sustain us in our vocations in life. What gives life and strength to our particular vocations is our being rooted in our fundamental vocation from baptism to be children of God, filled with the life of God and determined to act and become more and more like Jesus Christ, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”(Rom 8:29)

St. John reminds us of this in today’s Second Reading, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” Our first calling is to grow into the image of Jesus Christ more and more, “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” If the final revelation of Jesus in glory will find us as perfectly similar to Christ, then our fundamental vocation is to become the loving and trusting children of God who are being conformed more and more to Jesus Christ in and through our given vocations in life.

Today’s Gospel tells us what we are to imitate in Christ – His willingness to lay down His life for others. In the words of Jesus, “I am the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus Christ knows us very well – our good, bad and ugly. He knows our past, present and future, our strengths and weaknesses, and our joys and pains. Nothing that we do can surprise Him or dissuade Him from laying down His life for us, “I know mine and mine know me…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” In addition, He does not sacrifice Himself reluctantly but freely, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” No matter our knowledge or lack of knowledge about others, we cannot make excuses to sacrifice self for others.

As children of God today, our first vocation is not to the priesthood, religious life, married life, single consecrated life or any of that. Our first vocation is to be filled with the life of Jesus and to imitate Him, the Good Shepherd, by freely laying down our own lives for others just as He did. Our marriages, priesthood, religious lives and single consecrated lives are enlivened, energized and renewed to the extent that we see in all of these vocations concrete divine invitations to imitate the self-sacrificing goodness of Jesus the Good Shepherd more closely.

We need authentic Christian vocations in our world today, a world in which the idea of self-sacrificing love is almost lost and replaced by the drive to use others for one’s selfish purpose. The poor are exploited for financial gains. The infant in the womb is murdered so that we can face our careers and live as we want. Even their body parts are sold by organizations like Planned Parenthood as we all turn a blind eye. Women and children are abused and sold as sex slaves. The contraceptive culture prods spouses to use each other for pleasure. The mutual objectification of the person in our hookup culture only leaves individuals deeply wounded.

When we choose to use any person for our selfish needs, we lack the energy to give of ourselves to the others and we become confused about our deepest identity and vocation. We are unable to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, the only voice that leads us to life-giving waters and our true identity as God’s children. In short, we become conformed to this culture of death and share in its confusion and hopelessness when we lose the sense of our identity in Christ as God’s children called first and foremost to become more like Christ Jesus.

The Shepherd is good but the sheep appears to be content with being completely different from Him. When we fail to become more and more like the Good Shepherd and sacrifice ourselves for others, we never know who we truly and our particular vocations suffer and even end in pain and shame. In the words of John Paul the Great, “Man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere gift of himself.”

The journey to becoming more like Christ in and through our specific vocations is the work of divine grace and human cooperation. The Third Eucharistic Prayer ends with this prayer,

“There (kingdom of God) we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.”

In the Incarnation of the Word, the Good Shepherd has freely taken on the very nature of the flock so that He can bestow on the flock that same goodness that is found in His heart alone, that self-sacrificing goodness that alone makes His flock more and more like the Him. In Holy Eucharist, Jesus makes present and effective His “laying down His own life for us.” His self-sacrifice has the power to mold us into His own image by the power of His life in us.

On our part, we can never practice self-sacrifice for the benefit of others without our readiness to imitate Jesus Christ closely to the very end. We seek to do the Christ-like thing, allowing the example of Christ to guide us in all things. We surrender our self-seeking and self-preserving attitudes to Him and beg for His own attitudes instead. We do all these for the Christ-like motive of love that moved Him, “This command I have received from my Father.”

Let us embrace our particular vocations with the help of Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, who imitated Christ Jesus so perfectly that she even went with Him to the Cross in humble faith and loving obedience to the salvific will of God for all humanity. She never wavered in her difficult and demanding vocation as Mother of our God and Redeemer and our Mother because she never ceased to imitate Jesus more closely as God’s beloved daughter.

The love that we experience in the Eucharist is never idle but moves us to the imitate Christ’s self-sacrifice, “The love of Christ impels us.” Our particular vocations will have life and energy when we too respond to this love and become more truly the good flock of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

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

 

 

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Easter: The divine response to our regrets : A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

 

3rd Sunday of Easter. April 15, 2018

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

Easter: The divine response to our regrets

The Mariam-Webster’s dictionary defines regret as “sorrow caused by something beyond one’s power to remedy.” If we value the love of God for us and the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins, then there must be a healthy and appropriate regretful sorrow that we must have for our past sins and failures in our Christian life.

But sometimes our regrets crosses the line into that sorrow that is rooted in our utter inability to remedy the evils that we have done or the evils that we have experienced from others. We show our regrets about the past that we cannot remedy when we say or think such things as:

“How could that happen to me…? What was I thinking? I cannot believe I just did that thing which I vowed never to do again…What did I do to deserve being treated that way…? I only wished that I had said or done something different then… I will never be the same again… I wish I never met or knew that person… How could they do that to me…?”

God responds to the painful regrets of our hearts by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and by raising Him from the dead on the third day. We could never remedy our sins or its consequences but in and through our faith in the Resurrection, we can overcome our regrets by true repentance, re-commit ourselves to Jesus, and journey into the new beginning that Jesus Christ constantly offers to us irrespective of what the past has been.

St. Peter had every reason to have regrets.  He had promised to die for Jesus even if all others abandoned Him only to deny Jesus three times shortly afterwards when questioned in the courtyard of the high priest during the Passion of Christ. He wept bitterly in regret of his actions. But he did something more: He believed in the Resurrection and he made use of the opportunity to re-commit himself to Christ and enter into the new beginning that Jesus offered to him on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. The risen Christ had asked him thrice, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter re-committed himself, “Yes Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus gave him a new beginning, “Feed my sheep.”

In today’s Second Reading, St Peter reminds the audience of their regrettable past actions as well as how the Resurrection delivers them from all past regrets, “The God of our Fathers has glorified His servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised Him from the dead, of this we are witnesses.” The divine calling now is not to live in irremediable regrets but to commit their lives to God, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

The risen Christ has every reason humanly speaking to have regrets about the past. He had come down from heaven, chosen to be born of the Virgin Mary in a manger, taught powerfully and worked many miracles for the benefit of others, opposed and maligned by those He came to save, accused of being possessed by demons, ignored by many, abandoned by His disciples, and finally crucified. Many of His disciples would not even believe in His resurrection.

But Jesus never lived with regrets about anything because He knew every single thing that would happen to Him from the moment of the Incarnation, culminating in the Resurrection. He affirms this in today’s Gospel, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled…Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” Jesus Christ is not subject to regrets about the past because He is the “Resurrection and the Life.” He lived, suffered, died with that certainty that His Father will raise Him from the grave.

The risen Christ does not highlight the regrettable actions of the apostles but calls them to realize that, because of His Resurrection, they can journey from past regrets into the new beginning that He constantly offers them. Because He is alive today, “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all nations.” As believers of the Resurrection, instead of dwelling on the past that we cannot change, we disciples are to re-commit ourselves constantly to the Lord Jesus, “You are witnesses of these things.”

In the Second Reading, St. John reminds us that we should not live in regrets of our past sins once we have asked for forgiveness and repented of the sin, “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 world.” Our risen Lord remains committed to the Father and to us as our Advocate and expiation for our sins, making it possible for us to firmly commit to the Lord and His holy commandments no matter how we have failed in the past, “The way we may be sure that we know Him is to keep His commandments.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in Holy Baptism, we have been branded by the Resurrection event and power in Jesus Christ. We are fallen creatures with this Resurrection power within us. In our weakness, we will do and experience regrettable things, things that we just cannot remedy because, in the first place, we can never really know their full consequences. As we regret and repent for our personal failures, we must never let our inability to remedy our failures now to blind or make us deaf to God’s constant call to recommit our lives to Him and to bear witness to others about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our Eucharist is a communion with the risen Jesus Christ who longs to take away our sins. He offers us a new beginning today as well as the only thing that can remedy our sinful past – our communion in His own precious blood. He longs to remedy the effects of sin in our world and He wants to do so through us, His witnesses in the world, who are inebriated with His atoning blood in today’s Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. All that He requires of us is that we have an unshakable faith in His Resurrection and a readiness to re-commit ourselves to Him and embrace this new beginning no matter our past regrets.

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

 

 

 

 

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Divine mercy in our souls: A homily for Divine mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday. April 8, 2018.

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

Divine mercy in our souls

I had the opportunity some years ago to speak to some seminarians who were losing their faith in their religious and priestly vocation and dropping out of their seminary in great numbers. I discovered one major factor for their departures from the seminary – they were rather dismissive of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In short, they had a rather insufficient grasp of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Sacrament of Confession, being the sacrament of divine mercy, involves much more than the forgiveness of sins and a divine assurance of this forgiveness in a community of faith as we believe. We must see in divine mercy that unmerited and utterly gratuitous love that God has for us His sinful creatures by which He willingly stoops down to supply all our needs no matter how sinful or unworthy we may be.

Thus through the sacrament of divine mercy, the human soul is ennobled with all that it needs to be and to act as God desires it to do. In the words of Jesus to St. Faustina kowalska, “When you go to Confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My heart always flow down upon your soul and ennobles it.” (Divine Mercy in my soul, #1448)

The Collect in today’s Mass shows how our faith is rooted in the ennobling power of divine mercy, “God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own.” This sacrament of Confession, in addition to freeing us from our sins, enkindles and renews our faith, making that faith permeate our thoughts, words and actions.

In the Gospel, the risen Christ does not abandon His unfaithful disciples who abandoned Him in His hour of need. He had begged them to “watch with Him” during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane because “His heart was sorrowful unto death.” But they chose to sleep and eventually abandoned Him. Upon rising from the dead, Jesus, the Mercy of God incarnate, goes searching for His disciples to bring them that which they so desperately needed. To those who huddled behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews,” Jesus repeatedly offered the peace of heart that they so desperately needed, “Peace be with you.” Sensing their guilt from abandoning Him, Jesus offered them the needed forgiveness and reconciliation with God in His Spirit, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Knowing that they would need the power to forgive themselves and those who hurt their communion in the Church community, He gave them the sacrament of divine mercy, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and, whose sins you retain are retained.” Then to the doubting Thomas who was struggling to believe, Jesus gave Him the much needed gift of faith through His sacred wounds and elicited the act of faith from Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in addition to cleansing our sins, divine Mercy is all about the divine love ennobling our souls no matter how sinful we have been or the struggles that we are facing in life. In Jesus Christ, we have access to every single grace and blessing that we need, whether it is spiritual, emotional, psychological, etc. But for divine mercy to supply all our needs and ennoble our souls, we must do the following:

  1. Experience divine mercy as often as possible, especially in the sacrament of Confession. We must not wait for the sinful actions to take root before seeking for mercy; but even confessing our sinful thoughts, desires and fantasies prepare us to act with strong faith in dealing with the temptations before they take root in our souls.
  2. Trust completely in divine mercy, that God’s merciful love will surely bend over all our miseries and bring us all that we need. We do not place our trust in our selves or in anything or in any person but in Jesus Christ alone for all our needs. In all things, our mantra should be, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
  3. Act on this mercy and let others experience the mercy that we have received from God by our striving to meet all their needs to the best of our ability.

The First Reading shows us how the early Church became a community whose faith was so powerful that “with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Having experienced the mercy of God through the risen Christ, they placed all their trust in God to the extent that “those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, put them at the feet of the apostles so that they were distributed to each according to need.” They acted on the mercy that they had experienced to the point that they met the needs of others in community, “There was no needy person among them.” They received a strong and vibrant faith that was active in love despite their poverty.

St. John reminds us in the Second Reading that “the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” It is not our money, resources, experience, knowledge, number, or anything that can withstand the onslaught of our secular world but our faith. Without faith, we cannot “love the children of God, love God and obey His commandments.” Without faith, we will see in God’s commandments only the dictates of a tyrant whose commandments are nothing but useless burdens to be discarded or, at least, meliorated. Without faith we cannot grasp the mercy of God behind His commandments, we cannot repent from our sins and wage war against the forces of darkness, we cannot keep our commitments in our vocations, we cannot pray, serve, love, forgive, etc.

This unconquerable faith that we need cannot be self-manufactured. The path to this type of faith is through the continuous experience of divine mercy, beginning from the font of baptism, through complete trust in this mercy of God in all our needs and through our willingness to meet the needs of others as best we can. How are we constantly experiencing divine mercy today? Our masses, prayers, meditations, encounters with others – are they experiences of divine mercy? What aspects of our lives today are we refusing to place under the banner of complete trust in God? Where are we trying to be in control? How attentive and responsive are we to the spiritual, emotional, physical needs of others? Our response to these questions will determine the quality of our faith.

Let us turn to Mary, our Mother in faith, who never wavered in faith even at the cross of Calvary as she suffered with Jesus for our salvation. It is divine mercy that ennobled her with such heroic faith. She experienced the mercy of God in a singularly unique way having been prevented from all original sin by the foreseen merits of Christ while we all are delivered from original sin. She placed all her trust in divine mercy for all her needs as she shows us in the wedding of Cana, “They have no wine.” She shows us how to meet the needs of others as she traveled in haste to visit and strengthen her aged cousin Elizabeth at her time of need. Mary, our Mother of mercy, is also willing to bend over us today as always to share with us her unquenchable faith if only we would draw close to her and learn from her how to experience deeply, trust completely, and reflect divine mercy to others.

Our Eucharist is always an encounter with merciful Savior who never ceases to hunt for us no matter how sinful we may be. Our risen Lord comes to us to show us His wounds not to make us feel bad or guilty but as a guarantee that He would always ennoble our souls and supply all our needs, beginning with that unconquerable faith that cries out even in the darkest moments, “My Lord and my God!”

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

 

 

 

 

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The humble and silent path to glory: A homily for Passion/Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday. March 25th 2015.

Mk 11:1-11; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47

The humble and silent path to glory

We begin our Palm Sunday liturgy outside the Church reading about Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a colt and the crowd proclaiming, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The triumphant tone changes inside the Church as we listen to the Passion narrative during the Mass in which the same crowd now shouts, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

This transition in our liturgy reflects our life of discipleship too. We easily betray Jesus after we have professed our love for Him. We pledge to follow Him faithfully in favorable moments and then deny and betray Him in our thoughts, words, and actions in unfavorable moments.

One reason why we easily betray Jesus is that we are trying to follow Jesus without sharing deeply in His attitudes. Two attitudes of Jesus shine out in today’s Readings that we can easily ignore as disciples of Jesus Christ: Humility and silence.

St. Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ “did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,” but chose to “empty Himself and take the form of a slave.” He humbled Himself throughout His life from the moment that He chose to be conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to be completely dependent on her like any other infant in the mother’s womb. As God, He could have come to this world as a thirty-three year old man and walked right to Calvary. But in His humility He chose to be “born of a woman.”(Gal 4:4)

In His humility, He shows and manifests His own need for the Father, for the help of others, and for created things. The Creator of all things affirms His need for a donkey to ride on His journey into Jerusalem, “The Master has need of it (colt) and will send it back here at once.” The King of glory chose to need the anointing of the woman in the house of Simon the Leper, “She has done a good thing for me…She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.” The One through whom all things are created gave thanks to the Father for a tiny piece of bread at the Last Supper, “Then He took a cup, gave thanks and gave it to them.” The all-powerful One did not pretend or hide the pains and fears of His heart to His disciples at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He who had the ready command of 12 legions of angels asked for the company of frail men, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here with me.”

He faced His passion with silence. He rode in complete silence even as the crowd proclaimed Him during His entry into Jerusalem, “Those who preceding Him as well as those following kept crying out: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” He definitely did not glorify Himself. He was silent before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, “But He was silent and answered nothing.” His silence in the midst of all the accusations against Him unnerved Pilate, “Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”

Why should silence and humility matter for us as it did for Jesus? By humbling Himself, Jesus in His humanity was completely dependent on the Father for everything, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing on His own accord but only what He sees the Father doing.”(Jn 5:19) By His silence, He allowed the Father to act and to bring out His greater glory. Likewise, our own humility, our sense of our complete nothingness, should lead us to a radical trust in God alone. After we have done all that we can do and say, our silence in the face of trials and temptations allows God to act in unique ways and bring about His greater glory in all things.

The glory of God does not imply that we do not face challenging and difficult situations. But God is certainly glorified when we bear fruit and remain faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in all circumstances, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my (Jesus’) disciples.”(Jn 15:8)

It is not easy for us to cultivate these virtues of humility and silence in our world today. Consumerism makes us live today with that entitlement mentality by which we think and feel that we are entitled to all that we want, how we want it, and when we want it. In our pride, we feel that God, others, and society must bend to our whims. Mass media kills our outer silence by constantly bombarding us with news, information, and opinions that are often contrary to what we believe. But we lose our inner silence when we become frustrated because we cannot have all that we desire. This frustration sets off an endless self-talk within us that shows our grumbling and discontent with life. Losing that inner silence, we vent on social media, endlessly complaining and whining about all that is not going our way. Humility and silence are lost and we cannot be faithful to Jesus Christ in the circumstances of our lives.

Humility begins when we realize that all the truly good things that we desire, have, and do comes from God and He alone maintains this good in us. We distrust ourselves and put our hope in God alone. Humility allows us to accept our need for God and for others. We accept ourselves with our strengths and limitations while striving to become what God is calling us to be. We accept our failures and are patient and compassionate with others.

We cultivate inner silence by refusing to live on the level of the visible and sense-perceptible things and events. But we journey inside ourselves to connect with the God who dwells and acts from within us. Connecting with Him, we grasp His plan for us in those moments for His greater glory and we can make a faith-filled response to Him in all circumstances.

How do we know that we have cultivated this humility and silence in our lives? We do more than just seek deliverance from difficulties and trials. In times of troubles and temptations, we can, like Jesus, choose not to pray, “Father, save me from this hour,” but we shall like Him say, “Father, glorify your name.”(Jn 12:27-29) This is the attitude that allows God to act in us and through us for His greater glory and our constant fidelity to Him in all circumstances.

The King of glory comes to us today in the humility and silence of the Eucharist so that we bear fruit always to the glory of His Father. May Mother Mary, who suffered with Jesus on Calvary by sharing in His own humility and silence, teach us to share in these attitudes of Jesus so that we are faithful to Jesus today, tomorrow, and forever, no matter the circumstances of our lives.

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

 

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