Our calling to give until it hurts: A homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45

Our calling to give until it hurts

“Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace for timely help.”

I arrived at a convent of the Missionaries of Charity sisters to teach for a few days. It was my first time there. I was tired and slightly frustrated after the many hours of travel in Manila traffic and losing my way several times because of the many wrong directions I received on my way there. On entering the convent, I saw a plaque with a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Give until it hurts.” I felt that this saint was listening to my disturbed heart then and asking me to continue to serve despite all the pains and discomforts of life.

How can we give until it hurts? How can we serve God and others when it is painful to do so? Is this saint asking us to do the impossible? Is Jesus asking us for too much when He says that we must freely choose to be slaves? “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola ended his Spiritual Exercises with an exercise called the Contemplation to attain the love of God in which he tells us two things to keep in mind if our love for God is going to sustain us in serving Him when it hurts. Firstly, “Love should manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.” Secondly, “Love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover.”

This is how God loves us in Christ Jesus: loving deeds that bring us into a mutual sharing with Him. His love is no mere words. In His great love, He humbled Himself to become one like us and to share in all that is ours, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” He shared in our weakness and trials so that we too can share in His life of love through grace, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”(Heb 4:15-16)

Though He was “tested in every way,” Jesus loved and served His Father faithfully. He is Isaiah’s suffering servant who shares with us that faithful love that makes us God’s faithful children too, “If He gives His life as an offering for sin, He shall see His descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through Him.”(Is 53:10) We are indeed His descendants in the way of love and fulfilment of the Father’s will because it is His love in us that makes us faithful in serving God even in the pains of life.  

Mk 10:35-45 shows us Jesus’ talkative disciples who fail to be completely open to share in all that belongs to Christ. They are only focused on sharing in His final glory, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus reminds them that their asking is not enough without their readiness to share in His suffering too, “You do not know what you are asking.” They continue to give themselves to more talking, arguing, and emotional venting, “When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.”

Jesus points them to two things. First, instead of only speaking and arguing, they are to focus on loving action that is expressed in selfless service of all persons, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Secondly, they must be ready to share in all that belongs to Jesus Christ, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” There is no other way to true greatness in the eyes of God.

The only way that we can hope to serve until it hurts and serve while it hurts is to willingly share in all that belongs to Jesus Christ as He freely choose to share in all that is ours. This is Jesus’ longing for us, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”(Jn 15:9) Lovers must share all!

We must first begin by sharing in His own life through grace. The hurts of life will snuff out our life of service if we are not striving to live in a state of grace and to grow in this grace through prayer, sacraments, and living His will at each moment. We are also to share in His attitude of selfless service in a world that seeks personal exaltation at all cost, “Their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Ours cannot be that worldly domination of others at all cost if we hope to serve Him even when it hurts.

We must also be ready to share in Christ’s redemptive mission if we are going to serve until it hurts. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was necessary to free us from slavery to the devil, sin, and death. His mission was to set souls free and fill them with His life. We too participate in His mission by freely sharing in the sufferings of Christ that divine providence places before us at each moment and uniting these sufferings to His own sufferings as St. Paul did, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”(1Col 1:24)

We cannot serve Jesus until it hurts when we reduce our mission as Christians to merely caring for the environment. We must be willing to share in Jesus’ life purpose if we are going to serve Him until the end, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Unless we freely share in all these things that belong to Jesus alone, we can never serve Him in our hurts and ultimately share with Him in His heavenly glory, “The Father will honor whoever serves me.”(Jn 12:26)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter our state of life in the Church, we find it particularly difficult to persevere in serving others because of the many hurts that we experience. We too are “tempted in every way” to quit serving God in others. We experience failure, rejection, misunderstanding, fatigue, discouragement, temptation, criticism, personal weakness, persecution, etc. It is so easy to hold back and withdraw into self-preservation. Our internet age compounds our problems because we start talking too much and focusing on our feelings. Sadly, the more we talk and vent, the less we actually do in the name of love.

Instead of simply venting and giving up our commitments to serve in the face of these hurts, let us refocus on the Lord Jesus on the crucifix and see where faithful service will surely lead us as we follow Christ in His mission. In our crucified Savior, God is sharing in all our suffering and offering us both healing mercy and grace to love like Jesus Christ who “loved us and gave Himself for us.”(Gal 2:30) We must let Jesus share in all our sufferings and be willing to share in all that He offers to us too so that we can serve others even when it hurts.

During His agony in Gethsemane, Jesus faced the pains and hurts of service and asked that He be delivered, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup away from me.” He eventually surrendered to His Father even as it hurt, “Not my will but yours be done.”(Lk 22:42) He drank the cup and received the strength to go to Calvary for our redemption.

Our Eucharist is always a sharing in that same cup of Jesus’s suffering. But it is also our sharing in His own divine consolation and strength by which He gave Himself to the Father for our sake even when it hurts. The Eucharist cup is indeed that throne of grace. Let us approach Jesus always with confidence and receive the help that we need to give ourselves in service until it hurts and to give even when it hurts.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!! 

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What our sadness teaches us about our choices: A homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 10, 2021

Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30

What our sadness teaches us about our choices

“Why are you sad?” How would we answer this question at any given moment? We would most likely blame our sadness on some unfavorable past, present, or imminent experiences or conditions. But we hardly examine how our present choices contribute to our sadness.   

Fr. John Hardon SJ defined sadness as pain caused by the awareness of some personally experienced evil. This implies that our sadness depends on what we experience in life, how we interpret them as evil, and how we correspondingly respond to them as such. In short, the choices that we freely and repeatedly make determine our happiness more than our conditions or experiences in life. Though we cannot control these experiences, we can surely choose how we interpret and respond to them.

The rich young man in Mk 10:17-30 came to Jesus with so much happiness, excitement, energy and enthusiasm. He is happy because he is making good choices in life i.e., the choices that God wants him to make for his own happiness – to live according to all the commandments. Speaking of the commandments, he said, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”

Despite his fidelity to the commandments, he wants more. He actually wants the fullness of happiness with God forever, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Little does he realize that He is speaking with the God-man, the One who alone inspires in us true happiness and can make us truly happy now and forever with Him in heaven.

The man’s happiness changes to sadness when he stopped making the good choices that the God-man was lovingly asking him to make at that precise moment for his own continued happiness, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor…then come, follow me.” He held on to his own ideas and desires and refused to choose what God chose for him.

Sadness entered his heart and overcame him the moment he chose to ignore Jesus’ invitation to him. He lost his happiness by choosing to keep his property and to walk away from Jesus, “He went away sad.” He still had everything – wealth, youth, beauty, virtues, etc., – but he was now sad because he stopped making good choices, the choices that love for God demanded of him. He allowed his desire for the perfect happiness of eternal life to be submerged by his desire to keep his wealth and security.

Let us remind ourselves that God has put that desire for happiness in our hearts and He alone can fulfill that desire and make us truly happy now and forever with Him in heaven, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible with God.” We just cannot find true and lasting happiness apart from Jesus and His choices for us at each moment.

Jesus does not want us to be sad and depressed for anything, not even because of our conditions and situations in this life. He wants us to be truly happy more than we even desire it. This is why He became one like us, shared in all our experiences, died on the cross and rose from the dead. He did all this to merit for us all that we need to find true and lasting happiness by making the same choices that He made out of love for the Father.  

We can never be truly and forever happy only from the things that we have or experience in this life. The more we get and experience these good things, the more we want. Like the rich young man, we can have every desirable good thing and still be hopelessly sad. The good news is that, no matter our experiences in this life, Jesus surely give us what we need to be truly and forever happy. We only have to make use of all these things to make godly choices always.

Here are some good choices we can make in all experiences in life for our own continued happiness in this world and in the next.  

Chose to keep all God’s commandments always. This is Jesus’ first requirement for the young man, “You know the commandments.” We cannot find true happiness when we choose to live in sin, justifying ourselves, compromising on God’s standards, re-interpreting and breaking the commandments, and deceiving ourselves that the commandments are not absolute. Our sadness is usually a divine invitation to deeper conversion and fidelity to the commandments.

Choose to pray to God all the time. King Solomon said, “I prayed, and prudence was given to me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came me.”(Wis 7:7) When we choose to pray always, we see God’s choice for us at each moment. We begin to see things more as God sees them, valuing them all in the light of eternity and heavenly glory. This is how St. Paul could say such things as, “I consider that the sufferings of this present are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed wo us.” (Rom 8:18) Sadness begins to fade when our prayer brings us to value things and events as God does.  We must never choose anything without first praying and asking, “Lord, let me see your choice for me.”

Choose to commit our life to Jesus Christ as His disciples. Jesus will give us light to make godly choices as we chose to follow Him and fulfill His will always, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(Jn 8:12) How can sadness prevail when we have full access to the light and hope of Jesus?

Choose to listen attentively to God’s words. God reveals to us our true hearts and transform them with His words, “The word of God is living and effective…, able to discern reflections and thoughts of our hearts.”(Heb 4:12) The word of God distills the darkness of sadness when we listen to it with the heart of Mary, “She pondered all these things in her heart.”(Lk 2:19)

Choose to let go of negative things that kill and wound love in our hearts. Our sadness worsens and lingers when we hold on to things like resentments, regrets, hatreds, unforgiveness, etc. In the words of St. John, “Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. ”(1Jn 2:11) Imagine the darkness and blindness in the hearts of those who hate our unborn innocent brothers and sisters to the point of denying them a chance at life!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many things that can make us sad in our world today. All the pain, suffering, fear, and death can really make us feel sad. It is easy to become depressed at the state of the Church, our own brokenness, the sufferings of our loved ones and the prospect of evil things to come in the future.

Let us remember that God does not want us to be sad because of any of these things. Jesus wants to see in us the joyful hope that we have as His beloved children on our journey back to Him in heaven. He desires us to have a happiness that is interior and independent of our conditions and experiences.

The Lord Jesus offers us in this Eucharist the enlightenment we need to share in His own perspective in all things so that we can properly evaluate the things that we perceive as evil and causing our sadness. He also offers us all the graces that we need to always make good choices in these moments. We must not simply wait for more favorable conditions and experiences in our life for us to be happy! This is the time and moment for true happiness as willed by God.

May we faithfully use the graces and enlightenment of this Eucharist to make good choices always, i.e., God’s choices, the choices that God inspires in us at each moment of our lives. This is how we can overcome sadness and become truly happy now and eternally happy with Him in heaven.  

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

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Are we still God’s prophetic people? A homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 26, 2021.

Nm 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48

Are we still God’s prophetic people?

Here is a sampling of some recent scandalous news items in the Catholic world.  

News item #1: Bishop Xavier of Nova resigned as bishop of Solsona, Spain, for supposedly “personal reasons.” It is widely reported that he is now cohabitating with a divorcee known for her satanic writings and erotic novels.

News item #2: Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva of the diocese of São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, resigned as bishop a few days after sexually explicit videos of himself surfaced on the internet.

News item #3 has to do deal with doctrine. Monsignor Philippe Bordeyne, the new president of the former John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, indicated that our understanding of marriage must be fluid and constantly changing when he said, “Theologians cannot continue to assert certainties about the family when we see the transformations it is undergoing today.”

Imagine the damaging effects of such scandalous words and actions on men who feel called to become Catholic priests today. Imagine how difficult it would be to encourage the youth to be chaste when their pastors do not seem to care about sexual immorality. Imagine the adverse and discouraging effects of these actions on seminarians and priests who intend to be faithful and holy in their priestly vocation. Imagine how faithfully married couples would feel to hear that their union is now outdated and in need of some form of constant “updating” to produce some other culturally acceptable deviant forms of marital union. Imagine how all these scandals in faith and morals are undermining the moral authority of the Church and making it difficult for people to recognize and embrace the one true faith.

Lest we become discouraged or carefree about all these unending scandals, let the words of Jesus about the inevitability of scandals and their consequences sink into our hearts, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come.”(Lk 17:1) God does not remove the scandals and scandalous people from our midst but He is in the business of producing prophets. Yes! In the face of scandals, God wants all His people to be prophetic i.e., people who always speak and act under God’s extraordinary influence so as to manifest His saving will to all people.

God so desires His people to be prophets that He took some of Moses’ spirit and bestowed it on the seventy elders. All the elders, including the two men who were not present, began to do what Moses did, “As the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” Moses ignored Joshua’s demand to stop the two prophesying men. This is because God’s desire for all His people to be prophetic echoed in Moses’ heart, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!”(Nm 11:25,29)

In the fullness of time, God has also given to us the very Spirit of His Son, Jesus Christ, the ultimate prophet. St. Peter attested to this promise of the Spirit when he said, “For the promise (Holy Spirit) is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to Him.”(Acts 2:39) Because we possess His Spirit, we too are to be prophetic like Jesus Christ in the face of all the scandals that we have inside and outside the Church today.

In Mk 9:38-48, Jesus calls all His disciples to be prophetic in the following ways:

Firstly, prophets are to act under the influence of divine grace and not out of self interest, envy, or rivalry. The disciples tried to prevent someone who was casting out demons simply because the person was not in their group. On the contrary, divine grace should move them out of themselves and their prejudice in order to bring all souls into unity under God, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Grace in the heart of the prophet tends to lead all to God because grace has God both has its source and its end.

Secondly, prophets are to encourage, and not prevent, those who do good, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” The prophetic soul discerns whatever goodness is present in persons, societies, and conditions. Sensing God’s mysterious action in these moments, the prophet then labors to cooperate with God and bring that goodness to fruition by his own words and actions.

Thirdly, prophets are to avoid scandalizing others at all cost, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The prophetic soul would rather die than scandalize souls purchased with the blood of Christ.  

Lastly, prophetic souls refuse to compromise and be mastered by sin because their greatest desire is to enter into the fullness of life, “If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.” The prophet cannot be so focused on renouncing evil in the Church and in the world that he ignores his own sanctity and wholeness. This is why Jesus clearly denounced hypocrisy, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”(Mt 7:5) Honest self-reflection and ongoing conversion is necessary for any authentic prophet in our scandalous times.

God does not eradicate all scandals. His remedy for the many scandals of our times is to raise authentic prophets. Where scandals lead souls away from faithfulness to God, prophetic words and actions draw them back on the path of fidelity to God. Where scandals make the practice of virtue difficult or even impossible, the prophet brings hope for virtuous living. Where scandalous acts lead others to sin and hopelessness, the prophet shows the way to fullness of life in Christ and joy-filled hope.

It is no mere coincidence that we witnessed recently the interment of the remains of the heroic priest of WWII and Korean war, Fr. Emil Kapaun, in his native Wichita, Kansas. He was a US Army chaplain who risked his life to administer to soldiers in the front lines of the Korean war. He died of pneumonia in a Korean POW camp in 1951 where he had spent many months tending the physical and spiritual wounds of his fellow prisoners and giving them hope in those dark moments.

What a providential example of a prophet in the Catholic priesthood for us today when clergy scandalously deny the faithful sacraments because of Covid-19. What is more scandalous than giving Holy Communion to persons who support and promote abortion and then declaring the faithful unfit for the sacraments because they have not been vaccinated against the Covid virus? Are we being prophetic when we deny the faithful full access to the ancient traditional liturgies of the Church?  

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we God’s prophetic people or God’s scandalous people? There are so many weak and confused people in our Church and in our world today. The scandals around them have not and cannot completely extinguish the light of truth that they bear within them as children of God, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) These persons only need to see and hear from the prophets that God is raising up at these times. We can bring that light and hope to blossom in them or we can choose to be complacent, tolerating, perpetuating, ignoring, justifying, rationalizing, or even succumbing to these horrible scandals.

Remember Jesus’ strong words for those who still choose to ignore their prophetic vocation and choose to scandalize others, “It would be better for him if a great millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” How dreadful the eternal consequences of scandal if the temporal consequences are these brutal.

“Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” This is not just Moses’ desire, but God’s ardent and undying desire for all of us now, whether we are near or far from Him. He has literally poured the Spirit of His Son, Jesus Christ, into our hearts for this purpose, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5) Do we desire to be His prophets today?

The Eucharist is food for God’s prophets in the making! This is where grace and truth of Jesus begin to influence us to always speak and act in ways that make God’s will manifest in all times and places no matter the consequences. We have no excuse now to be overcome by these scandals because God has and will surely give us all that we need to become His truly prophetic people in these scandalous times.

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

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Why we must always follow Christ with passion: A homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 19, 2021

Wis 2:12,17-20; Jas 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37

Why we must always follow Christ with passion

It was at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandals in the United States. I was having a conversation with a lady who asked me what I was doing in Boston at that time. I replied that I was a Catholic seminarian and religious preparing for priestly ordination. I remember the shock on her face and her wry reply to me, “Well, I guess we all got to follow our hearts wherever they lead us.” Simply follow your heart? Is that all we need for fulfillment in this life?

It is definitely not enough to simply follow our hearts’ passions because these passions are easily disordered. They are easily and often disordered because they depend on our feelings and imaginations as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetites that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.”(CCC 1763) Because we easily ere in regards to what we feel or imagine to be good or evil for us, simply following our hearts’ passions leads to  disastrous consequences.

St. James shows us some of the disastrous consequences of simply following our passions. It leads to inner conflicts and divided communities, “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” It also leads to inner frustration, “You covet but do not possess.” Unbridled passions prevent us from living in peace with ourselves or with others, “You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.” We cannot even pray appropriately and receive anything in prayer because of our disordered passions, “You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

What then are we to do when we are experiencing strong passions? What do we do when we experience raging desires for things that we hope will bring us pleasure and joy? What do we do when we experience hatred, aversion, and fear in the face of something we feel or imagine as evil? How do we response to that feeling of sadness and depression that accompanies the experience of evil in our lives? The last thing we want to do is simply follow our passions.

The Catechism also describes how we are to respond in the face of these passions, “It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason…The upright will orders the movement of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them.” (CCC 1767,1768) Our passions must be governed by reason and they must be subject to an upright will. Thus, our only hope in ordering our passions is to submit our whole being – reason, will and sense appetites – to Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, whose will alone is upright enough to orient our passions to what is good, true and beautiful.  In short, we must follow Jesus with passion instead of blindly following our passions.

Jesus was not just predicting His own death and resurrection when He said to His disciples, “The Son of Man is to be handed over men and they will kill Him, and three days after His death the Son of Man will rise.” He was also revealing to them the greatest passion of His heart: to serve His Father even to death on the cross for our salvation. He shows us the path to true greatness is passionate and selfless service of others out of love for His Father.

The disciples were not ready or willing then to share in the passion of His heart so they were easily overcome by their own selfish ambitions and rivalry, “They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” Jesus did not chide them for seeking to be great. We all desire to be great because we are all created in the image of a God of infinite greatness. But how do we become truly great? Jesus simply taught them that the way to true greatness was not in merely following their desires for greatness, but in sharing in His passion for selfless service, “If any one wishes to be the first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  

We share in Christ’s own passion for service in three ways. Firstly, we serve all persons, without distinction because we serve them all out of love, “Freely you have received, freely you are to give.”(Mt 10:8) Secondly, we humbly accept what comes our way as we serve. We accept the conditions, consequences, and costs of our service, “After you have done all that you are commanded to do, simply say, ‘We are unworthy servants.’ We have only done what we were obliged to do.’”(Lk 17:10) We do not have any entitlement to any remuneration.  Thirdly, we allow God to reward us for our service, “Whoever receives one such child as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (See Mk 9:30-37) By bringing us deeper into communion with the Triune God, God rewards us generously for our littlest service out of love for Him. Communion with God! What can be greater than that on this earth?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are not the Immaculate Conception herself (which we are not and never will be), we cannot simply follow the passions of our heart. Doing so leads us to seek for a greatness that we want for ourselves and has nothing to do with the will of God for us. This is a proven recipe for frustration, despair, and wounded relationships.  

We must rather seek to follow Christ with passion till the point that we allow Him to mold the passions of our own hear too and lead us to true greatness through selfless service to others. We must begin to bring the passions of our hearts humbly and honestly to Him with that determination to follow Him closely. We then allow Him to enlighten our minds and move our wills according to His own heart. He will help us to become passionate for the same things that He was passionate about. Imagine the great freedom, inner life and hope that is ours when we share in the passion of His heart until we actually love what He loves and deeply resent what He resents.

Today, we witness the many forms of unbridled passions in the Church and in the world and very little of that passionate following of Jesus. Think of the horrible clergy sexual abuse scandals, the wicked cover-up of the hierarchy, the gruesome massacre of the unborn, the promotion of homosexual predators among the Church’s hierarchy, the growing acceptance of homosexual unions and fornication, heresies that are left uncorrected and even promoted, corruptions that are ignored, addictions that are not addressed, etc. Unbridled passions are apparently running amuck in the Church and in the world with terrible consequences!

There is a great desire for greatness and little desire for selfless service to others out of love for Christ. Hence, we have in the Church what St. James rightly warned us about, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” We are futilely trying to become great by letting our passions dominate us and lead us to grasp, covet, envy, compete, and fight others. We do not want to follow Jesus’ way to greatness, “He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form a servant.”(Phil 2:6-7)

The Paschal mystery is made present in each Eucharist, allowing us to not only receive Christ, but to also share in His heart’s passion and receive the grace to follow Him with passion. He wants to lead us to true greatness, the greatness that His Father willed for us for even before we were born. He served, died, and rose from the grave that we can be children of the great God. But we cannot enter into that greatness by simply following our disordered hearts’ passions. We will enter into that greatness by always following Christ with passion and letting Him order our passions aright.

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

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Setting our faces like flint: A homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 12, 2021

Is 50:5-9; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35

Setting our faces like flint

In what is called the third Servant Song, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the messiah’s sufferings in these words, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not hide from buffets and spitting.” The messiah does not waver in His determination to fulfill His mission despite all the opposition, humiliation, and suffering that He experiences. He is resolutely determined because He is fully aware of His Father’s presence with Him at each moment, “The Lord God is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right.”

St. Luke aptly describes how Jesus set his face like flint: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). If Jesus, the suffering servant and messiah, is so resolute and unwavering in His mission to die for our sins, why are we so fickle in our attempt to follow Him? Why do we shrink back from the mission that we know that God has called us to fulfill? Why do we lack that firmness to follow Him to the very end come what may? The Good Shepherd is flint-faced but His flock is fickle.

There are two main reasons why we waver in our determination to follow Jesus Christ. The first reason has to do with our painful past experiences. We feel unworthy of being His close disciples because of our past sins and failures. We may have experienced criticism, rejection, and abuse from others, leaving us with low self-esteems. We have our past hurts and regrets that make us feel we are not good enough. We have been badly discouraged by the scandalous behaviors of those whom we looked up to inside and outside the Church.

The second reason has to do with how we imagine our life as disciples of Jesus will look like. We become afraid of the challenges and difficulties that may come with following Jesus faithfully in an aggressively secular society. We are afraid of what Jesus may ask us to sacrifice for His sake. We are afraid of what people may say or think about us. We dread facing the imagined pains and sufferings that think would come our way as we follow Christ. We are afraid of failing Him and abandoning Him altogether.

We fail to realize that being fixated on our past or future opens the door to the devil’s diabolical schemes in our lives. When we are preoccupied with what was or what may be, Satan seizes this opportunity to tempt us to be fixated on our past and imagined future, to the point that we become so paralyzed with regrets about the past and fears about our future that we cannot move forward in a life of faithful discipleship and mission with Christ.

Satan continuously magnifies our past mistakes, sins, and failures and will make our future seem so bleak and hopeless, full of unsurmountable challenges and difficulties. His ploy in everything is to make us discouraged, wavering in our commitment, and finally, to abandon our commitments to Jesus and His saving mission.

How can we stop lamenting the past or fretting about our future? How do we avoid the scheme of the devil to trap us in the past or in the present?   

Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830), the founder of my Congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, gave us a very succinct and practical advice to help us cultivate resolute determination and overcome the discouragement that can arise from being preoccupied with the past or the future: “Leaving the past to the mercy of the Lord and the future to His divine providence, consider everyday that the God Lord has entrusted you with a mission.”

Jesus’ conversation with the Peter and the disciples in Mk 8:27-35 shows us how this advice can help us set our face like flint, resolute and unwavering in our mission, just as Jesus did.

Firstly, we must leave the past to the mercy of God. Peter seems to have forgotten that his vocation in the first place was an act of divine mercy. He had experienced deep unworthiness after the miraculous catch of fish and had even begged Jesus to leave him because of his sinfulness, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus did not reply to Him, “Oh, sorry, I did not realize you were a sinner. I made a mistake in calling you. Have a nice day.” No, on the contrary, He confirmed Peter’s vocation, “Do not be afraid, from now on, you will be catching men.”(Lk 5:1-11) We overcome fickleness only when we surrender our past failures, sins and regrets to the mercy of God, knowing that Jesus has indeed come to call sinners.

Secondly, we must leave the future to divine providence. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be convinced that Jesus is the only person who knows and accepts every detail of His own past and future perfectly. The details of His passion and death are as sure to Him as His glorious resurrection, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” 

We waste so much time imagining what our future may be but fail to realize that Jesus alone knows what the future holds for us. Peter was apparently preoccupied with the future suffering that was to come. He unknowingly opened the door for Satan to entice him to respond to Jesus’ mission out of fear of his future and even regret of his past allegiance to Jesus, “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” The Prince of Apostles thus rightly earned Jesus’ rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Thirdly, we live in the present moment. This last step allows us to connect with the grace that God is offering to us at each moment and circumstance of our lives for our resolute fidelity to Him and His mission. The God who knows our past very well also knows what we are going through now and the exact graces that we need to be faithful to Him till the very end our lives. In Jesus Christ, this same God offers us His graces in the concrete moments of our lives to move us into a better future irrespective of what our pasts may have been. This is the promise that Jesus made to Nathaniel who came to Him despite his past or imagined future, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will see greater things than these; you will see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(Jn 1:51) We cannot enter into the glorious future God has willed for us without responding to the particular graces that God offers to us at each moment of our lives.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be conscious of the inner battle raging within us that determines our steadfastness or fickleness in our mission in life. Enticed by the devil, our wounded nature, and world, we are easily preoccupied with our pasts and futures. We are preoccupied with the projected deaths from Covid-19 and destruction of our environment from climate change. Sadly, we seem completely oblivious to the graces that God is giving to us to be faithful to Him and His mission at this each given moment in time.

Are our faces set like flint when it comes to the mission of saving souls for Christ? Do we not see more of rebellious attitudes towards God, a lame compromise with our confused world, constant dialogue that sacrifices saving truth for vague consensus, a turning back from our mission, an abandonment off our vocations and a gross neglect of our duties towards God and others? We waver in everything today, even in our faith and morals. We are not sure any more about the meaning of the Eucharist as Jesus’ Real Presence. We even waver in what it means to be male and female today. Indeed, we lack nothing of the resoluteness of Christ.  

A soul that is not resolute in doing the good that God has inspired in it can never hope to enter into heavenly paradise, “But he who endures to the end will be saved.”(Mt 24:13) Grace is given to us in the Eucharist for our faithfulness to our mission in each moment of the day. Grace is not given to us for our pasts or futures. God is present and active in the present, with all its joys and pains. His grace is also given to us for the present moment so that we too can have our faces set like flint in fulfilling our God-given missions, just like Jesus did.

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

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Properly disposed to receive divine healing: A homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 5, 2021.

Is 35:4-7; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37

Properly disposed to receive divine healing

“He has done all things well.”

These are the words of those who witnessed Jesus’ miraculous healing of the deaf mute in Mk 7:31-37. They said this because they realized two things about divine healing from this episode. 

Firstly, Jesus desires to give complete and thorough healing to everyone, including strangers. He does not simply lay His hands on the man as they had asked Him to do. He goes into an elaborate ritual to show that He is after restoring the man to complete wholeness.

Secondly, everything about Jesus Christ is healing and leads to healing. His person, touch, look, spittle, words, groans, presence, etc., all exude healing power, “He took him off by Himself…He put His finger into the man’s ears…He touched His tongue…He looked up to heaven…He groaned…He spoke.”  

If Christ desires to heal us all completely and thoroughly and if everything about Him has healing power, then why are we not experiencing His healing in our lives today? Why do we still experience physical, emotional, spiritual illnesses even as disciples of Jesus Christ?

One possible reason why we do not experience this healing power of Christ in our lives is that we are not properly disposed to receive Christ’s healing. We fail to place ourselves in a position to experience and respond to this healing. This is one humbling and honest reason for our lack of divine healing.

We lack this proper disposition to receive and respond to divine healing in five concrete ways.

Firstly, we lack consistent prayer. We are told that the crowd “begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man.” We experience healing from our continuous and constant prayer. We should continue to pray for healing even if we do not experience healing because such persistent prayer places us in a position to receive the healing that God wants to give to us when He wants to give it. How unfortunate when we pray only when we and our loved ones are sick and then give up praying when the sickness ends in good health or death claims our loved ones. Healing occurs when we show by our persistent prayer that we have no alternative to Jesus for our healing.

Secondly, we lack faithful discipleship. We are told that the crowd “brought the man to Jesus.” This means that they knew exactly where Jesus was at that moment. Do we really know where Jesus is in our lives now? Do we realize that He is with us and within us? We show that we know where Jesus is by the good examples of our lives. We bring souls to Jesus for healing not only by our prayers but also by the examples of our lives. Nothing diminishes the healing power of Jesus and drives souls from His healing touch than our scandalous behavior. We must also witness to others about the healing power of Jesus by our good examples.  

Thirdly, we lack complete trust and surrender to Jesus in all things. Reflect on the trust that the deaf mute had in letting Jesus lead him away from his companions and bring him to a place of healing. Imagine the complete surrender that he had in letting Jesus place His fingers in his ears, spit and touch his tongue. Jesus does not seem to care much for health protocols! This man responds by being completely open and trusting to receive whatever healing that Jesus would offer to him and whatever means He would use to do so. We too should be open and trusting if we ever going to experience divine healing.

Are we ready to allow Christ lead us out of our familiar comfort zones to the place of divine healing? Are we ready to allow Him touch any aspect of our lives for the sake of bringing about a thorough and complete healing? Are we not more prone to fixatedly seek physical and emotional healing while ignoring spiritual healing? Do we trust in God completely to surrender to Him our sins and selfishness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that He has instituted without making that spurious claim that we only confess to God directly? Don’t we usually approach Him with distrust in His love for us because of our past sins and painful experiences in life? How can He heal us when we do not completely trust in His love, power, and wisdom? We cannot experience healing without this unbounded trust in Jesus and openness to the mysterious means that He uses to heal us. 

Fourthly, we lack readiness to give greater praise to God. Those who witnessed this miracle did not keep quiet as Jesus demanded but proclaimed it more, “But the more He ordered then not to, the more they proclaimed it.” God’s healing should make us His more faithful disciples. As we beg for healing, we must also ask ourselves, “If God heals me or my loved one(s), how would I give Him greater praise and make Him better known and loved by all?” We are better disposed for divine heal when we are ready to be more devoted to Him, even in the face of our sicknesses.  

Fifthly, we lack the willingness to bring healing to all persons. Because Jesus offers healing to all, our healing depends on our readiness to be channels of divine healing to all persons. For us to actually expect God’s healing, we must not “show partiality as we adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus, we cannot discriminate “with evil designs,”(Jas 2:1,4) and expect any healing from God. For example, how can we expect divine healing when we are unaffected by the gruesome slaughter of our unborn brethren in their mothers’ wombs? Like Jesus Christ, everything about us – our thoughts, words, actions – must be a source of healing to all persons, without exemption or conditions.  

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live now with great fears about death from this Covid pandemic. We mourn the death of loved ones and we sometimes feel overwhelmed with fear of the future. We must never be overcome by fears because of our illnesses and those of our loved ones because God always desires to heal us and, through us, heal our lands, countries and nations. This is God’s message to His exiled people, “Be strong, fear not…The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared…Streams will burst forth in the desert, and the rivers in the steepe.”(Is 35:4-6) The only question is this: Are we properly disposed to receive this healing?

Lastly, we must remember that healing is God’s business. God heals who He wills, how He wills, and when He wills. Just as we have no right to be created and to be alive today, so also we have no right to divine healing. His healing and His grace that sustains us until we are healed are all His gifts to us. We can only dispose ourselves to receive and respond to His healing and grace.   

Our Eucharist is a living encounter with the God who wants to heal us. The Eucharist makes present to us today everything that Christ possesses for our healing – His divinity, words, power, groans, body, blood, soul, etc. He offers us both healing and sustaining grace in this blessed sacrament. All He asks of us is to become properly disposed and remain properly disposed whether we or our loved ones are healed or not. This is how we receive His complete and thorough healing and know for sure that “He indeed does all things well.”

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

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The power of receiving God’s words with grateful delight: A homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 29, 2021

Dt. 4:1-2,6-8; James 1:17-18,21-22,27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The power of receiving God’s word with grateful delight.  

I had exposed myself to the foulest and most immodest of music in my high school and college years, a music that glorified violence, heavy partying, rebellion, and a warped sexuality. I knew it was not good for me because I dared not play such music in my mother’s presence! However, I kept justifying my delight in this music by thinking it was alright because I was only enjoying the lyrics and beats without actually engaging in the evils being promoted and portrayed in the music.

I realized the negative impact of such music only during my conversion experience when the Spirit of God convicted me that the values in such music was completely incompatible with my Catholic faith. I just could not stop listening to it then, no matter how hard I tried and how empty it left me. It is only after much prayers, pains, tears, and repentance that the grace of God slowly broke in to set me free from my unhealthy attachment to this music.

I thank God always for His mercy and Mama Mary’s unceasing graces that sustained me through that painful healing process. I also thank God for the precious lesson that I learned from this experience. I learned that what we listen to with delight affects us greatly in ways that we can never really fathom. I resolved to choose carefully what I listen to and delight in. 

The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land where they would be exposed to the pagan worship of their neighbors. Moses prepared them for this transition with these words, “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe.” He invited them to listen attentively to God’s words with gratitude and delight because it was indeed a great gift to receive God’s wise counsels, “What great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” The divine words would also affect them powerfully if they acted on it out of gratitude to God, “Observe it that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”(Dt 4:1-2,6-8)

Listening to the word of God with due delight and appreciation as His gift to us affects us in three ways.

Firstly, the word of God leads us out of ourselves towards God. The Pharisees had become so obsessed with the outward observance of their human traditions that they eventually ignored God’s commandments, “You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human traditions.” Consequently, their hearts were further distanced from God, “This people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me.” (Mk 7:6-13) They lost that true worship that is supposed to bring their hearts closer to God’s own heart by their adherence to His words.

Secondly, our grateful adherence to God’s words makes us truly sensitive to the needs of others. St. James speaks of that new life that comes from the word of truth, “He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” The first way we show evidence of this new life is our concern for the weak and the abandoned, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”(James 1:18, 2:27)

We have here the third effect of receiving God’s words with delight – it helps us to overcome the negative influences of the world. The faith that comes from receiving, cherishing, and observing this word is our guarantee of victory over this world, “The thing that overcomes this world is our faith.”(1Jn 5:4)

A clear sign that we are not listening to God’s words with grateful delight is that we just don’t care about the needs of others. We do not care about the right to life of the unborn. We do not care about safeguarding the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. We do not care about the effects of our scandalous behaviors on others. We do not care about granting our faithful exemptions from Covid vaccines on conscientious grounds. We just don’t care about any of these needs because we do not appreciate and delight in God’s words. 

Another sign that we lack gratitude for God’s words to us is that worldly values and mentalities prevail in our lives, Church, and world. We are more interested in following secular protocols than in actually making the sacraments available for the people in the times of pandemic. We close our Churches faster and longer than the bars and shopping malls. We prioritize our image, acceptance, and relevance in our world over our unwavering fidelity to God’s words in every time and place.

Such lack of loving concern for others and cowardly pandering to the world begins in our hearts, “All these evils come from within and they defile.” Everything begins in the human heart and greatly affects our hearts. In addition, what is in the heart comes from what we listen to and take delight in.

Therefore, we must choose carefully what we listen to and take delight in. St. James reminds us that God, the source of “all good giving and every perfect gift,” does not change, “With Him there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.” God’s words also do not and cannot change in their meaning, power, and effects in our lives. They are actually meant to change us from within by the power of grace that these words bear within, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.”(James 1:17-18)

The word of God is not just something extraneous from us now. This is because God is speaking these words to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who dwells within us, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son.”(Heb 1:1-2) Thus, we must adhere to these words unconditionally if we are ever going to enter into the Promised Land of heaven.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are guilty of grave self-delusion if we ignore these words or not act on them as St. James warned us, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” We delude ourselves when we claim that these words are not to be adhered to absolutely. We delude ourselves when we think that they can be changed and re-interpreted at our will. We delude ourselves when we think that a particular group of persons can be exempted from the demands of God’s words. In short, our discipleship, worship and service are shams if we do not also strive to adhere to God’s words by the help of His grace.

The Eucharist is the greatest prayer, the very prayer of Christ Himself. The Eucharist can also becomes vain worship if it does not lead us to that loving obedience that brings our hearts closer to the heart of the Father. Divine grace is given to us in this Eucharist for obedience to God’s words. But for us to heed these words of God unconditionally in our confused and confusing times, we must first listen with delight and gratitude to God who graciously speaks His words to us all the time.  

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!! 

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This is the time to honor Mary as our Mother and Queen: A homily for the Memorial of Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, 2021

This is the time to honor Mary as our Mother and Queen

Memorial of the Queenship of Mary. August 22nd, 2021

“Why do you honor Mary?”

Our Protestant brethren and poorly catechized Catholics usually ask us this question because they are baffled, uncomfortable, and sometimes annoyed with the unique honor and veneration that Mary receives. They ask, “Why should she be venerated above all other saints?”

My favorite response to this question is this: we Catholics rightly honor Mary because Jesus Christ freely chose to honor her first. No one honored Mary more than Jesus Christ did. He freely chose to honor her above all the angels and saints.

How did Jesus do this?

Christ honored her first by the great privilege of making her the Immaculate Conception by the foreseen merits of His own passion, death, and resurrection. Conceived without Original Sin, Mary was also “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) from the moment of her conception.

Christ honored Mary by giving Himself completely to her. He did not hold back any aspect of His divinity or humanity in His complete gift of Himself to Mary. Jesus’ gift of Himself to Mary is only surpassed by the eternal gift He makes of Himself to the Father in the bond of the Spirit.

Christ then honored Mary by trusting and depending on her as His own beloved Mother. In the words of St. Paul, “In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman.”(Gal 4:4) Imagine the complete trust and confidence that Jesus had in Mary to dwell in her womb as a little defenseless infant. The almighty God who does not absolutely need any of His creatures freely chose to depend on His beloved creature for nourishment, support, protection, and movement.

Christ honored Mary by respecting her, listening to her, and obeying her every counsel to Him, “He went down with them and was obedient to them.”(Lk 2:51) The Incarnate Wisdom, whose wisdom had earlier baffled the learned scribes in the temple, also chose to submit in love to His own creature. What an honor on the side of Mary!

Lastly, Christ honored Mary by entrusting to her care all those redeemed by His passion and death on the cross. At the moment when He paid the price of our redemption, He said to Mary, “Behold, your son.”(Jn 19:26) In the person of the beloved disciple, Jesus thus handed to Mary’s maternal care all those souls that He had won by His passion.

We must never forget that Jesus Christ does not change, “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”(Heb 13:8) If He thus honored Mary so exceptionally here on earth in these ways as only He could, then He must also honor her in heaven above all angels and saints as our Mother and Queen of heaven and earth.

Nevertheless, we do not honor Mary only because she received all these divine honors in a passive way. She also deserves our unique honor because she also responded with all her being to these divine honors by serving Him as His disciple and cooperating in His redemptive mission. In accordance to the divine plan, Mary will assist Christ in fulfilling His divine mission, beginning by freely offering Him a sinless human nature that would be the instrument of our salvation. Because Mary consented to the divine plan, Christ was indeed “born of a woman,” and we graciously “received our status as adopted sons and daughters.”(Gal 4:5)

Mary served as both Mother and handmaid of the Lord all the days of her life. She served Him faithfully even when she did not understand His words and actions in her life, “Son, why have you done this to us…But they did not understand what He said to them.” She is the loving mother who “kept all these things in her heart,” (Lk 2:48,50,51) constantly pondering them because she wanted to serve and honor her son in all the conditions and circumstances of her life.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ has given us the greatest honor in making us God’s beloved children. He has done so by cleansing us from our sins in His own blood and giving us His amazing graces. We are much more than slaves now, “So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir through God.”(Gal 4:7) He has also given some of us the great privilege of sharing in the priesthood of His Son and empowered us to make His sacrifice on Calvary present. He has honored some of us to be procreators with Him through married love, bringing new life into this world and raising them up in the faith.

Christ has truly honored us. But can we say that we truly honor Him in return? Do we serve Him alone, worship Him always, and listen to Him attentively even when we do not understand His ways in our lives? Do we strive to keep His ways when this will cause us to be ridiculed and ostracized by others? Do we strive to fulfill our mission from God as our part in God’s eternal plan? Do we willingly cooperate with His redemptive mission when we are experiencing suffering and pain? Don’t we rather find ourselves withdrawing into ourselves and taking back our commitments to Him when things get unfavorable for us? The truth is that Christ honors us but we dishonor Him in many ways.

This is why we must honor Mary too as our Immaculate Mother and Queen just like Jesus Christ, the Eternal king, honored her. Jesus honored her and she responding by participating and assisting in His mission to the glory and honor of the Father. We cannot add or take away from this honor that Jesus has given His Mother. But when we truly honor her as she deserves, she too will help us to give due honor to God all the days of our lives through lives of loving obedience, selfless service, and unceasing worship in spirit and in truth.   

We can begin by reverencing Mary as our rightful Queen. This is the time to love her as our beloved Mother and depend on her for all our needs. We pray to her because she always prays for us and with us for the things that we do not even know that we need. We must have unlimited trust in Mary, following the example of Jesus’ loving dependence on her for everything. Like Jesus, we too should give ourselves completely to her and let her help us to give due honor to God. Lastly, our love for Mary must lead us to imitate the virtues of Mary, especially her humility, purity, service, hope, love, obedience, faith, etc.   

Jesus once promised us that His Father would honor whomever serves Him (Cf Jn 12:26). Thus, Heaven is not for those who only receive great privileges and honors from God. Heaven is for those who receive these honors but also seek to honor God until the very end of their lives. Jesus gave this honor to His Father through honoring Mary. We too can and should do the same through honoring Mary today and always.

Jesus Christ again gives us great honor in the Eucharist. What a great honor to receive Him just like Mary did at the Annunciation. We cannot honor Him on our own. If we begin to honor Mary as Christ did, she will help us to honor Him as He deserves and one day come to share in her heavenly glory as Queen of heaven and earth.

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

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Receive Eucharist; become Eucharist for others – A homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 8, 2021

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

Receive Eucharist; become Eucharist for others

Jesus’ audience grumbled about Him because He had told them, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus responded to their grumbling in two ways. Firstly, He pointed them to His Father’s open invitation to all humanity in every time and place, “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me.” Secondly, He provided the true life-giving bread in His own flesh, “The bread that I will give is may flesh for the life of the world.”

Jesus invites all and provides all that we need for communion with God. He does not force anyone and He does not exclude anyone. We are all invited to accept His invitation by His gift of faith before we can enjoy the beautiful things that He provides for us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise Him on the last day.”(Jn 6:41, 44, 46, 51)

The prophet Elijah had just won a major public show-down with four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, proving to them that the God of Israel was the true God. He was now on the run from the vengeful and murderous Jezebel. He is depressed and discouraged to the point of praying for death, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He seems to have forgotten the God who gave him victory over his foes a short time earlier.

God responded to him by continuously inviting and teaching him about the mysterious food that He was providing for him in the desert, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” He believes God’s words to him, eats the food in faith, and then experiences the power of what God has provided for his journey to God’s presence, “Strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”(1Kgs 19:4,7,8)

We learn something from Elijah’s experience. Our entire life on this earth is a journey back to God along a desert-like pathway. There are some moments when we sense the power of God in our lives, making us victorious over our adversities and filling us with great zeal in His service and hope for the future. Then there are moments when we feel abandoned by God and get discouraged and depressed because of our past failures and present challenges. We then forget the past victories and feel like quitting in our life of faithful service.

That is why we need the Eucharist on our earthly journey home. Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, lovingly invites us to Himself and provides for us all that we need for our journey back to God. He knows how we can be mummering like His Jewish audience or depressed and discouraged like the once-fiery Elijah. He invites every single one of us, without exception, no matter our holiness or sinfulness, our virtues or our vices, our failures or accomplishments, etc. He wants to bestow on us graces that we need for our journey back to Him. But He will never force us or move us by threats against our will!

But we must not only respond to His invitation and enjoy what He provides for us. We do not and must not try to travel alone on this journey to God. Receiving the Eucharist also entails that we must also be Eucharist for others i.e., without forcing or threatening them, we too must invite others into our lives and provide for them what they need from us for their own journey to God.

We actually “grieve the Holy Spirit” when we exclude people from our lives and deny them what they need to be strengthened on their spiritual journey. The Spirt is grieved when we actually offer things that do not help others on their journey to God, “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” On the other hand, we must be “imitators of God, as His beloved children.” Like God, we too invite others and provide for them only what spurs them on towards God, “And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”(Eph 4:30-5:2)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we aware that receiving the Eucharist demands that we too be Eucharist to others? This means that the Church and her members must make present today to all persons the same open invitation that we have experienced in the Eucharist. We cannot be picking and choosing whom we invite into the communion of the Church. Likewise, there is no room for any form of threatening or forcing someone against their conscience and free will.

The Church is not a place where we force people to take Covid vaccines against their conscience. The Church is not a place where we force people to receive Holy Communion in their hands while standing. The Church is not a place where we force people to attend only the Novus Ordo Mass. The Church of Christ remains a place of free, open, and loving invitation and not a place of enforcing mandates or issuing threats.

The Church is also a place where we provide what is needed to help others on their way to God. The Church makes present the saving truths of Christ and His saving grace through the sacraments. It is not a place where lies are welcomed and fostered. The Church is a place where people can see good examples of Christian living and not the scandalous activities of the faithful and their clergy. The Church is a place of self-sacrificing love that counteracts the self-indulgence of our world. It is a place where people can find that hope that is elusive in our world. It is place where we hear the encouraging and challenging words of the Gospel that call us to repentance and holiness, and not lies that only condemn and damn us.  

We will do well to beg Mama Mary to help us to receive Jesus with the same disposition that she did at the Annunciation. Having lovingly received the person of Jesus Christ at the moment of her Annunciation, she did not just become a living monstrance bearing Jesus within her but she also became Eucharist to others, inviting her cousin Elizabeth into her life and giving her the selfless service that she needed.

Let us always receive Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, through Mary and with Mary. We will thus receive all that we need for our journey back to Him and also become Eucharist to others, ready and willing to invite all and provide all that they need from us for their own journey back to God.

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

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Experiencing the transforming power of each Mass: A homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2021.

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time. August 1, 2021.

Ex 16:2-4,12-15; Eph 4:17,20-24; Jn 6:24-35

Experiencing the transforming power of each Mass

I have had the great privilege of offering Mass several times in the many convents of the Missionaries of Charity sisters. So, I am used to seeing these words in a prominent place in the sacristy where priests prepare for Holy Mass: “Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”

There is a double invitation in these words to all the faithful, particularly to the priest, if we are going to experience the powerful transforming power of each Mass. Firstly, we must prepare ourselves well for the Mass. It is not enough to just show up for the Mass without due preparation. Secondly, we must allow the Eucharistic sacrifice to transform us from the inside out. If the Mass will transform us, we cannot hold on to our selfish and self-centered ways of thinking and acting after as at before the Mass.

Let us now reflect on how we respond to this double invitation so that we experience the power of the Mass in our daily lives.  

We prepare for the Mass first by deep personal prayer whereby we listen to Christ and then speak to Him from our hearts. We must pray in a way that allows the indwelling Christ to engage and transform our memory, intellect, imagination and will. Such prayer demands that we do not filter His words to us and we do not try to hide anything from Him.

Such a prayer will surely deepen our faith and hunger for our Eucharistic Lord. Jesus’ lengthy but enlightening conversation with the crowd at Capernaum brought them to desire the mysterious bread that He was offering to them, “Sir, give us this bread always.”(Jn 6:33) How can the Eucharist transform us when we receive Jesus as a complete stranger and with little or no desire for deeper communion with Him? Through sincere prayer, we allow Jesus to set our hearts on fire with love for the Eucharist as He did to the two disciples in Emmaus, “Where not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way?”(Lk 24:32)

We also prepare for Mass by a life of ongoing conversion. In addition to rejecting sin, such a conversion demands a continuous spiritual growth from good to better. Our unrepented sins and our indifference to our spiritual progress prevent us from receiving the full impact of sacramental grace from the Eucharist. This is why our reception of the Eucharist demands regular and proper sacramental confession of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation. It also demands that we attend each Mass asking, “How can I become more like Jesus Christ and less of myself in and through this Mass?”

Our preparation for Mass should also include a life of selfless service to others and witness to Jesus Christ. The Eucharist will impact us to the very extent that we also recognize Christ in our brothers and sisters and reverently serve Him in them in a way that reflects the love, forgiveness, and selfless love of Christ. We cannot expect any Eucharistic transformation in our lives when we take advantage of others and become insensitive to the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable unborn infants. How can we be transformed at Mass when our lives are a complete counter-witness to the selfless and life-giving love of Jesus?

In addition to our proper preparation for Mass, we must also allow Eucharistic Lord to transform our way of thinking and valuing. The New bread of the Eucharist demands a completely new way of thinking and living, “I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” Our Eucharistic Lord illumines our hearts with His own light so that we willingly “put away the old self of our former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”(Eph 4:17, 22) We cannot experience personal Eucharistic transformation when we hold on to our old values and ways of thinking. How can Christ transform us when we are satisfied to just blend and become like others, instead of trying to become more and more like Christ whose life we now gratuitously possess?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the most powerful thing in this world is our new life in Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the divine guarantee that we possess that life even in this world, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”(Jn 6:27) Nothing can put an end to this our life in Christ, not even death and grave.

This life in Christ is offered to us at each and every holy Mass. Why then do we still remain the same? Why aren’t we transformed powerfully by the Masses we offer and attend? Why are we losing faith in the Real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? How come we are submitting hopelessly to the spirit of the world instead of transforming the world with the light of the Gospel? Why are our clergy constantly embroiled in one scandal or another? Why do we – priests, religious, and laity – violate and abandon our vows, promises, and marital commitments so easily? Why are we as corrupt, lazy, immoral, dishonest, angry, joyless, hopeless, etc., as those who do not believe in the Holy Eucharist and Mass and do not care for Holy Communion?  

The answer is simple: we are simply showing up at Mass. We do not see each mass as our first Mass, last Mass, or only Mass. Consequently, we are not properly disposed to receive our Lord sacramentally and we are definitely not ready and willing to allow Him transform us. He always comes to each one of us in each valid Mass but He cannot force Himself on us to transform us. We must give Him the permission to do so. 

“Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass!” Imagine what our Church would look like if all the Catholic faithful, particularly the priests, would approach the Holy sacrifice of the Mass with these words firmly planted in our minds and hearts. Imagine what our liturgies and daily lives would be like if we saw each Mass as our only Mass. Imagine the joyful faith and expectation we would have in each Mass if we approached it as our first Mass. Imagine the great examples of heroic holiness we would exhibit if we saw each Mass as our viaticum, our very last Eucharist preparing us to meet God face to face.

The transforming power of each Mass remains because Christ is forever truly present in each and every consecrated host. He says to us, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”(Lk 12:49) Our Eucharistic Lord has the power and will to transform us first and then the world through our participation in each Mass. All He asks of us is this – prepare for Mass well and allow Him to transform us from within through the Mass. He will surely do the rest.

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

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