On this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church invites us to reflect on the power of persevering prayer. Faith can move mountains, but prayer can also move the heart of God. But for prayer to produce such a wonderful effect, it must be rooted in humble faith, that is, in the sincere conviction that we are in God's hands and that He loves us immensely, in spite of our unworthiness. If we have this disposition of heart, we will avoid the two aberrations of wanting to impose our will on God, or giving up praying if our requests are not granted immediately. Our prayer must always be patterned after that of Jesus and end with the petition: "Your will be done!"As we observe "World Mission Sunday", we are invited to remember with much admiration and love our brothers and sisters who have left their homelands to be the heralds of the Gospel of Christ and witness to his love in the foreign missions. We should show our solidarity toward them, both with our donations and our prayer for all their needs and intentions. (Word and Life)
Reflection on my 17th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood, Feast of St Francis of Assisi 2019.
The dream. “A phrase that has become a great part of my journey as a priest. “The dream.” Saint Francis was called by God to rebuild a ruined church. “The dream.” Not so long ago I was haunted by a dream to serve. “The dream.” This dream, in which I shared with all of you.
17 years ago I lived a dream – God’s dream for me, the dream of those people who believed and helped me to get through, the dream my parents lived to see – “the dream.” That dream came true when I prostrated myself before the altar and pronounced my vows to live in obedience, in poverty and in chastity. That dream came true when I rose up from that altar and said my first Mass. That dream came true when I became Christ’s priest – a priest forever. I lived that dream.
Saint Francis lived God’s dream for him as well. As the Book of Sirach proclaimed, “Behold him in whose time the house of God was renovated, like a star shining...like the full moon at the holy day season...like the sun shining upon the temple...like the rainbow appearing in the cloudy sky.” Francis, lover and proclaimer of the Gospel became a renovator, an innovator, a collaborator, an instigator in the society and Church of his time. Francis discovered the humble, poor Christ and his example became the great light that directed Francis’ life. Jesus’ example was what set Francis’ feet resolutely on the road of poverty and humility, on the path of relationship where all were brother and sister. He invented a form of communio, of community where there existed no positions of dominance. The power of this quality of relationship flowed from Francis’ wonder-filled discovery of the mystery of the Incarnation – the God who became man. For Francis, God was not the God of the feudal wars or the holy crusades. Francis’ God was and is the Word who walked in our midst, without any sign of power, as the humblest and most loving of all. Francis discovered the humanness of God, the humility of God. For Francis, Celano writes, “the God of majesty himself became his brother (Celano, Vita II, 198). Francis embraced this call to “communio”, communion with all and identified with the God of the poorest and humblest human condition. He set an example for the society and Church of his time in his radical embrace of poverty and in his creation of a community in which “whoever wishes to become great shall be the servant, and whoever wishes to be first shall be their minister and servant (Rule of 1221). Radical thought for radical times! Francis created a true spiritual revolution with the Gospel at its very core. In his day Francis challenged his brothers, his Church, his society “ to be created anew.” St Paul echoed these words in his letters to the Galatians! “All that matters is that one is created anew!
In my journey as a priest, one thing I do is pray all the time – that God who called me to become his humble servant recreates me anew every day. The life of a priest is not easy. It’s a long road, oftentimes dark and uncertain, but God renews our heart every day. It is not possible for me to go on in the midst of difficult circumstances without you, who not only support me with my daily provisions but nourish my spirit with your faith and sustain my own faith with your prayers. I am blessed to have all of you as part of my journey of living “the dream.” Like Saint Francis, I look upon the crucified Christ and see in me his wounds – wounds that heal others, wounds that comfort the lonely, wounds that bind people together, wounds that becomes an ocean of love.
Pray for me. God Bless You!
We dedicate this first Sunday of October as "Respect Life Sunday." The willingness of those in our society to permit the killing of unborn children under the banner of “choice” is rooted in a failure to accord to God the worship due to him, and the obedience, which flows from that worship. One of the marks of a pagan society, of a paganized culture, is child sacrifice. Today, children are sacrificed to the golden idols of self-worship.
The battle against life is a long and arduous journey. We must turn to Our Lady, who is both Virgin all-pure, and Mother – Mother of Christ Our Savior, and our spiritual Mother in the order of grace. Satan, Jesus tells us, “was a murderer from the beginning.” I am convinced that the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to overcome the culture of death, and bring about victory with a culture of life, is through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by praying her Rosary. Mary leads us to Jesus, the Author of all human life; the Immaculate Heart of the Mother is the gateway to the Sacred Heart of her Son, that Heart of the Redeemer, which overflows with love for us.
Let us turn to Mary in this Respect Life Month, asking her to mold us, more and more, into the image of her Son, that we may be examples to others, leading them to true, authentic worship of God as found and as lived in his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which Christ founded on Peter, the Rock. Let us petition the Mother of God to intercede for all the people of these land, that they may come to a knowledge of the true Faith, thereby giving God the worship due to him, being his obedient servants, and respecting human life from conception until natural death.
The liturgy challenges us to solve the problem of poverty. The solution to poverty is difficult. However, our readings give us a plan for facing poverty. A recent study said that 46 million Americans lives in poverty. It should be embarrassing to a country with the great resources we have in the United States. For those living in poverty, the future is not bright. The reasons are both complex and numerous.
The rich man in our Gospel never lifted a finger to help the poor beggar. He ignored the calls for help. He remained insensitive to the needs of the poor man, Lazarus. He did nothing when a simple word from him would have given Lazarus more food than he could imagine.
The Lord calls us to be sensitive to the poor. It is easy to do nothing in the face of such a problem. It is easy to walk away … we cannot. No longer can we ignore the welfare of the poor, and the varied conditions that cause poverty. The only real solution, however, is you and I. What are we doing, and what can we do, in facing the depth of poverty? The liturgy today gives us a clear and, perhaps, uncomfortable, answer. As the Faith makes clear, this “Eucharist commits us to the poor,” and challenges us to be prayerfully mindful and actively dedicated to the weakest of our brothers and sisters (Catechism of the Catholic Church §1397).
As the causes of poverty are numerous, so also should our responses be numerous. Feed one child. Provide one family with shelter. Give one mother a bed, and a home for her new baby. Create one job. Poverty calls for Christian understanding and action. As a community of faith, we must re-examine our parish commitment to help the poor in our midst. We must exhort all peoples to live out their faith of love, mercy, and justice.
In the gospel, Luke presents us with a difficult challenge: Be like the steward. We may think - Luke has to be kidding! Why does Jesus praise the clever and devious steward? Today, money is a focus. However, the Gospel is about more than making money. Luke then links this teaching to clear examples of the importance of his disciples giving their exclusive loyalty to God, and not to possessions or money. It is not that the Lord opposes making legitimate profits, employing shrewd but honest practices, in generating money. He asks us to be shrewd in our work, but loyal to God, first.
The gospel message is not about playing economically dead. Rather, it teaches the opposite. Use well, wisely, and cleverly, our gifts and talents. Be shrewd how we do what we do.
As the church speaks on social justice and human rights issues, Luke’s Gospel story challenges us to be smart, as well as shrewd, in how we teach and spread the Gospel. We are challenged to go into the streets and work for the betterment of others, not self - and we should begin right here in our faith community. So, we bring Jesus Christ to our lives and the lives of others. Today, Luke reminds us to be clever and smart in how we do it!
At the height the jubilee in 2000, a very interesting painting by Rembrandt became popular at that time - the painting depicting the prodigal son or also known to be a painting of the merciful father.
We see in the gospel the true depiction of that painting and we can all relate to the message of the readings today. The older brother’s plight is not uncommon. We may even know how he feels because, at times, we have felt like him. But we can also see ourselves in the younger brother's eyes - we went away, further from our father's house. Whichever situation we can relate to in the gospel reading, the message is absolutely clear. Our God is rich in mercy.
When and how we ask for forgiveness to return to our God is our choice. All we know is that when we make that choice, our Father is the first to forgive us, the first to welcome us home, and the first to restore our place in God's family. The only catch is that we need to take that first step towards forgiveness.
Today, let us examine ourselves whether we are the younger or the older brother in the gospel. Let us make that first step to ask for God's mercy to return to Him. We know that once we decide to ask forgiveness from our God, the Lord will run to us, and do the rest.
In the Gospel today, the Lord warns us “to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Our Lord does not say that the Christian cannot be rich; he says, rather, that the rich must be careful, lest their wealth and possessions become the reason for which they live. It is very difficult for anyone preoccupied by the thought of owning more and more possessions, and by the constant determination to be as comfortable as possible in this life, to keep focused on loving God entirely, and on seeing him in the life to come.
The problem with materialism is that it arrests our attention, constantly, to care for material things: my home, my car, my TV, my work, my golf game, my dinner party. These things—none of which are wrong in and of themselves—can nevertheless distract us from our principle concern: the salvation of our immortal souls.
If we are too preoccupied with material things, then we are not going to pay enough attention to our spiritual life, which requires detachment from things so that we can attach ourselves to God. The Lord has given us much for which we are most grateful. However, let us not amass our treasures here below. Rather, let us seek to be “rich in what matters to God.”
“Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). The disciples of Jesus asked him to instruct them in prayer. Jesus does so, and furthermore, teaches them that perseverance is something that the disciples should have. Jesus teaches us a prayer that demands our fraternal charity - the Lord's Prayer begins with "Our" signifying that we are one as a community addressing the "Father," - we are all the same children of One Father in heaven.
Perseverance is a gift according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, therefore, we cannot persevere in prayer on our own act or merit, however, we can pray for it. Perseverance in prayer despite seeming rejection is shown by Abraham when he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. God wills that our prayer and dependence on him must be a constant part of our daily life. Jesus has given us an example of this. The Catechism teaches: “Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition” (CCC §2739). The primary source of our perseverance in prayer should be the fact that we are uniting our prayer with the prayer of Christ.
We ask, seek, and knock. This is our part and we know that when we do our part in the cycle, God does his. He gives and we receive; we find, and the door of his grace and generosity is open to us. Let us pray that we continue to see our worth as a child of God in order to fulfill our vocation to serve all of God's people.
It is very noticeable nowadays that many people lost the sense of great hospitality. People lack respect for others and even forget some simple table manners. If this is such important for human beings, it is even more important in religion with God. In the case of religion, God dwells in us - in our soul. But what kind of hospitality are we showing God?
In the first reading, Abraham gives us an example of hospitality when he prepared a banquet for his guests. He welcomes the three strangers to his home with great respect. Ancient Christian tradition saw in these three strangers a symbol of the Trinity. The Trinity greeted him, spoke with him, and sat down to eat with him. He received them with an open heart and great esteem. The tradition of a fitting welcome for God is demonstrated as well in the reception Martha and Mary have for Jesus. In Jesus, God dwells among us. Martha is caught up with physical preparations. These are important. But she lets herself get so carried away with outer preparation while Mary, on the other hand, is preparing a spiritual banquet in her soul.
We are to welcome Christ. We need to examine the kind of preparation we do in order to receive Christ in our soul. Without spiritual courtesy, any other outward preparation is of least important. Like Mary, we need to choose the better part - to listen to Christ's word, meditate on it and live it in our daily life
Who is my neighbor?
God became man in order to show us that love is not an other-worldly reality. Jesus showed us that love is real, it is here and now. By the incarnation of God's Son, love became a person. Love is never something foreign. In today's reading, Christ is asked by a doctor of the law what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus counters with a question about what the lawyer finds written in the law of God. He responds with the most sacred words of the covenant God made with Israel: the Schema. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Lk 10:27) In this law, God did not demand impossible, unnatural, or spectacular things of the Jews. He only asked obedience and love of his commandments. Then the lawyer adds to this another of the commandments of the Old Testament: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). Jesus approves this answer, however, he breaks the common practice of qualifying who would be one's neighbor. Christ answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan. He teaches that there are no distinctions when it comes to the mercy of God.
Paul tells us in Colossians that the sovereignty of Christ over the whole world demands that when we are redeemed by his grace, we take on his attitude of mercy towards the whole human race. So, who is my neighbor? Everyone created by God in Christ. Everyone in need, whether it is spiritual or physical. It is sometimes strange that people today profess their love for the human race, but they pass by those in their own homes, families, or workplaces, or parish community. There are people around us, very close to us, who are in need. Sometimes the need is not a material one, but a spiritual one. It is a need of presence. It is a need for love. Look around you, who is your neighbor? May we not pass them by.