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Monthly Archives: July 2016

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Jesus has taught us the two great commandments; the first is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. The second is to love our neighbour as ourselves. Today Jesus tells the two brothers who are in dispute of the family inheritance. “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus reminds them that life is not about owning, or possessing things abundantly. We are to love God wholeheartedly and not to worship possessions as idols.

To emphasize his point, Jesus tells these two brothers the parable of a rich man whom he also calls as a fool, the “rich fool”. This rich man had the blessings of abundant harvests. The produce is so abundant that he does not have enough space to store them. With this abundance, what does this rich man do? The scripture tells his only concerns are “I” and “my.” In his whole thought process, it is only he himself that is in the centre. It shows he only loves himself.

Is desiring for more of something than is needed really bad? We all want to have a little leftover money to cushion ourselves in times of need, Isn’t that why we contribute to super fund, for retirement?

I don’t think it is when one prepares for rainy days, or stores up one’s abundance that causes Jesus to call us fools, or does he condemn wealth.

It is the selfish and excessive desire for oneself that becomes greed. It is the way we treat our abundance and our wealth that matters to God.

Jesus further says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Who are those who are not rich toward God?

Often times, when we mention rich, we think of money, wealth. In the Bible, there are at least fifty times that money, wealth, possession or finances have been mentioned. They are mostly based on the basic commandments that “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.”

When we love God, we are rich toward God. When we love our neighbour, we are rich toward God. It is because we show gratitude to God of the blessings bestowed to us.

This rich man forgets about God, the one who gives him all the blessings he has. God gives him the talents to grow the crop and receives the produce abundantly. Whatever God gives will eventually be returned to God. He can’t take all the possessions with him, neither can we.

Isn’t this rich man a fool by hoarding all the produce and thinks he can enjoy it into eternity? He does not know his last day on earth is coming soon. And neither do we.

This man’s rich in produce can be rich toward God by showing God his gratitude. He can show God his gratitude by sharing his abundance with his neighbours who may not have such blessings but are struggling in their lives. He forgets he should love God with his whole heart, whole mind, whole spirit, and whole strength. He forgets he should love his neighbours as himself.

Certainly, if the rich man had been a person of generosity, a person who showed concern for the welfare of others, he would have acted differently. Instead of building barns, he would have helped the less fortunate build up their lives by sharing his harvest with them. In the process he would have stored up treasure in heaven.

The same holds true for us. If our plan is to be generous when we have more than enough for ourselves or when we hit it big in our career or in the Mega-Millions, the chances are that will not happen. Unless we are generous and giving when we have little, we will not be generous and giving when we have more.

Generosity and concern for the needs of others do not come about when our assets reach a certain level. They come about when we realize that all we have is a gift from God. A gift lent to us only for a time so that we might use it for good. Those who realize that fact and act accordingly are those who hit it big in “what matters to God.”

The following list has been around in the cyberspace and is something that captures what Jesus said in the Gospel. I would like to share part of it in conclusion.

Things God won’t ask on that day:
1. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. God will ask how many people you gave a lift to who didn’t have any transportation.
2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house. But God will ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
3. God won’t ask about the clothes you had. God will ask how many you helped to clothe.
4. God won’t ask what your highest salary was. But God will ask if you compromised your integrity to obtain it.
5. God won’t ask what your job title was. God will ask whether you performed your job to the best of your ability.
6. God won’t ask how many friends you had. God will ask how many people to whom you made sure you were a friend.
7. God won’t ask in what neighbourhood you lived. But God will ask how you treated and behaved with your neighbours.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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Jesus teaches His disciples to persist in their prayer, as Abraham persisted in begging God’s mercy for the innocent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The disciples had witnessed that whenever their teacher, the one they called “Master,” had exhausted himself doing good, he would withdraw from the crowd in order to pray. And they had seen the results of those prayers in his life-transforming deeds and in his unfathomable peace. “Lord, teach us how to pray!” They too wanted that peace and strength, the utter assurance that Jesus had in doing the will of his Father. “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

The simple and profound words that were the response to that request have become known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Throughout the centuries countless faithful have uttered them together, are uttering them still. They are words that rise up and blend into an endless prayer of praise, of supplication, of doxology.

Jesus showed them that first they must know whom they are addressing. The Greek word for prayer used in the gospels means “a wish, a request toward” someone. Luke’s version is pared down, simpler than the prayer found in Matthew’s gospel. The familiar one has been developed from Matthew’s version. Yet, the core is the same.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who goes at midnight to the home of a friend to borrow some bread so he can feed an unexpected guest. The man bangs and bangs at the door of his friend’s house but he is told, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.”

The man banging at the door is told to go away. But eventually that man gets the bread he seeks. He pesters his unwilling friend until he drives the weary man out of bed and into the kitchen. Persistence gets a response.

In relating that parable, Jesus seems to telling us that we need such persistence when it comes to our prayer, when it comes to bringing our needs and concerns before God.

“I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

When the door is not opened, when we do not get what we seek, the obvious conclusion is that we have not shown enough persistence. We need to keep banging on the door of heaven until we arouse the attention of God and get God to do something.

That conclusion puts God in a very bad light. It also does not fit the first part of the Gospel where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. There Jesus simply says we are to tell God what we need. “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins …. and do not subject us to the final test.” He does not tell us to keep repeating those requests again and again.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

We are to be persistent in our prayer not to arouse God, but rather to rouse ourselves out of our sleep of indifference and out of the darkness that blinds us to the presence and will of God. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I believe that prayer changes us and we change things.” The more we pray, the more God bangs on the doors of our hearts, the more God comes in and transforms us and makes us instruments of his mercy and love.

If God seems to be uninvolved and distant, God is not the one asleep we are!

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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LUKE 10:38-42 KEY VERSE: “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (v 42)

We are on a journey with Jesus here. St. Luke has emphasized that this journey with its destination of Jerusalem is crucial for understanding the ministry of the Lord along with the ministry of those who are called to follow him. And along the way, St. Luke provides us with all sorts of variations on the hospitality that will, or will not, be extended to Jesus, and to those whom the Lord’s sends out. The types of reception extended to Jesus along this journey range from the amazing, to an abrupt rejection by the Samaritans as Christ was passing through their land. The sending of the seventy by the Lord makes clear the connection between the hospitality offered to those who bring the Good news and that message of Good News. To reject the one who brings the gospel is to reject the gospel; if the One who is the Good News of God is welcomed, then their proclamation of the reign of God is also welcomed. Reject the Messenger and reject the Good news, either that or welcome both.

It’s on this journey, Jesus enters a village where a woman named Martha was mistress of the household.

It’s a brief story, and Jesus delivers the punch line: “Martha, Martha,” he tells his hostess. “You are worried and distracted about many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from her.” Everything, therefore, hangs on the one thing that Jesus mentions, the one thing that Mary has chosen and apparently her sister, Martha, has not.

What makes Mary of Bethany an example is not that she sits at the feet of Jesus. What makes her sister Martha need her example is not that she labours to accommodate others. What’s at stake lies elsewhere. A contemporary name for it is spirituality. Spirituality takes many forms. It does not have to be: emotional rather than reasonable, extroverted rather than introverted, or contemporary rather than traditional. What makes someone’s spirituality passionate is prayer, enthusiasm, and boldness. People of spirituality live committed lives. They practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm, it can spill out through service or study or devotion. It can be apparent in whatever one does.

The problem with Martha is not her hospitality. It is how she does not let her hospitality become a channel for her spirituality. Instead, she becomes distracted and complains to Jesus about her sister rather than speaking directly to her sister. While Mary listens to Jesus, Martha presumes to tell him what he must do. It appears that Martha is driven by duty rather than happiness. She may be an effective organizer, a great cook, conscientious in all that she does, but she is simply responsible, not inspired, even on the day when Jesus himself comes to dinner. She may even be busy and anxious in an effort not to have to hear what Jesus is saying.

What makes Mary an example is not the simple fact that she listens to Jesus, but that she does so in a way that is passionate and bold. Jesus does not so much commend her behaviour as the spirit behind it. Mary chooses to take some risks. She takes the chance of upsetting her sister: Mary’s not helping, she’s listening. She also risks upsetting plenty of people because she takes the role of disciple, sitting at the teacher’s feet. This is not something women in her society do. It’s a role reserved for men. Still, that’s where she places herself, or rather, where the Spirit leads her.

How then does it come about? Spirituality is more God’s gift than it is anything we do. It’s more for us to welcome than for us to achieve. It results from a series of conversions. Each of us is called repeatedly, invited to turn away from something and toward something else. The conversions that occur in our lives may cause us to turn toward God, toward Christ, toward the Church, toward the poor, toward a life of prayer, toward a certain form of service, toward the world that God loves. These conversions and still others can happen to us in any sort of order, and any of them can occur more than once.

Each of us is invited many times to turn in a new direction. Passionate spirituality happens again and again when we answer these calls. We cannot make these calls happen. But we can leave ourselves undefended so that we can hear such a call when it does sound forth. Spiritual practices, properly understood, are to a large degree a form of listening.

In this way, prayer, scripture, receiving communion, helping those in need, going on a retreat, these practices and many others are ways for us, like Mary, to sit at Jesus’ feet as a disciple and hear what he wants to tell us.

Jesus promises that we will never regret spending time with him. I try to remember that promise whenever I feel unmotivated to pray.

The Lord does far greater things for us than we could ever do for him. The Lord claims us as his own in the waters of baptism. He blesses us with the gifts of the Spirit in confirmation. He feeds us with consecrated bread and wine that draw us into a “holy communion” with him and his Church. He forgives our past and offers us a new start in the sacrament of penance. He comes to comfort us as we are burdened with sickness, discouragement, and despair. He embraces and affirms us with a love so great that it leads him to lay down his life for us. While Christianity does involve doing things for God, Christianity is first and foremost about appreciating what God has done and continues to do for us. Mary would tell us that’s the truth.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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When we leave our familiar world and enter into the world of this Sunday’s parable, we find ourselves walking along the road to Jericho. We stand beside the Samaritan and wonder if we would act the same way. Would we stop to help an enemy? Could we reach out and touch a bleeding stranger? Do we have the courage to help the victim of a violent crime, knowing that the criminal might be waiting for us?

Or are we more like the Levite and the Priest? Busy with our own interests, frightened of the unknown, wary of getting involved, eager to return to safety? No matter how we view ourselves, we always seem to connect with either the Good Samaritan who helps, or the Bad Levite, who doesn’t. We can stop, or we can pass by on the other side. We can act, or we can ignore. We can be proud of our response, or we can feel ashamed. But either way, we have choices…and power.

What if God is trying to teach us that mercy comes when we are so weak we can no longer resist? What if God wants us to know that grace and love are poured out when we have no choice but to accept? What if God is challenging us to be brave enough…open enough… to be used as an instrument What if God is inviting us to become, not just the Samaritan, but the innkeeper and the wounded one in the ditch?

Like all parables, this story is more complex than it first appears. Like all good stories, it invites us to explore, and most of all, to be surprised at what we discover when we reflect on the question, “Who is your neighbour?”

Even people who know little or nothing about the Gospels seem to know the story, or at least they know the term “good Samaritan.” They know it refers to a person who goes out of his or her way to help someone in need.

This Good Samaritan assisted the victim left for dead on the side of the road, while the two individuals, who walked the road before him, saw the robbery victim and did nothing. They just continued on their way, perhaps out of fear of becoming victims themselves if the attackers were nearby or perhaps to avoid becoming ritually impure by touching the victim.

Everyone familiar with the story knows the point. We have to be like the Good Samaritan. We have to offer assistance to those in need for they are the neighbours we are called to love.

However, there is another way to see this Gospel parable, one that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of during a prayer service with the Bishops of Latin America in March of 2012. The Pope said, “The Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us.”

With that understanding, it is Jesus, not any of us, who is the Good Samaritan. We are the victim whose life is draining away by the edge of the road.

We are those beaten down by our failings, by our selfish acts, by our failures to live as the good and holy people we promised to be. We are those robbed of our dignity as children of God by evil and sin. We are struggling on the road of life, unable to help ourselves. Laws, rituals, and self-help programs offer hope but they do nothing to raise us up.

It is the Son of God who comes to our rescue. He takes on flesh, and walks the road of life that we travel. When he sees us, he lifts us up. He forgives our sins, he heals our wounds, and he takes us to the inn, he takes us to his Church, where we can continue to be healed and made whole.

While it may be nice to picture ourselves as the Good Samaritan, as the hero of the parable, that is not the case. Jesus is the hero. Jesus is the Saviour. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who has come to our rescue.

Christ told his questioner in today’s Gospel that if he will “Go and do likewise,” if he will be like the Good Samaritan, he “will live.”

Secondly, the best way to implement Christ’s simple formula is to decide right now, enlightened by the example of this parable and strengthened by the Holy Communion we are about to receive, that when we run across someone in need this week, we will lend them a hand.

Whether friend or stranger, whether the need is material or spiritual, let’s promise Jesus today that at least this week we will not just walk by on the other side of the street, but instead we will “Go and do likewise.”

If we do, Jesus promises us, we will live.

In speaking of this parable in a General Audience of April 27, 2016, Pope Francis notes the reversal of the question, and urges us: “Do not stand by classifying others by sight who is my neighbour and who is not. You can become neighbour to any needy person you meet, and you will know that you have compassion in your heart, that is, whether you have the capacity to suffer with the other.” This means, the Pope says, “compromising oneself, taking all the necessary steps so as to approach the other to the point of identifying with him: ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This is the Lord’s commandment.”

This ability to see my neighbour as myself is at the heart of our compassion as followers of Jesus. It allows us to see our unity with all which has been brought together in Jesus’ name, to the glory of God.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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No doubt, the seventy began with the expectant enthusiasm of aspiring novices, but they returned as seasoned ministers filled with genuine joy. We can discover the quality and meaning of this kind of joy as we think through the guidelines and warnings Jesus set for them in the sending. And we can use it as the current generation of Jesus-followers.

He sent them as lambs into the midst of wolves. It was a difficult, hostile world Jesus warned, one true in every time and place. In order to undertake the task they had to overcome their fears with courage and resolve. Jesus told them to travel light – no purse, bag, or sandals. In order to get the job done, they would not have time to care about material possessions or to waste time on other distractions. He ordered them, when not welcomed by a group, to wipe the dust off their feet and move on to the next place. The urgency of the moment would not allow them to linger in hopeless situations. They went out on mission. They were so successful that they returned in a spirit of joy. It wasn’t a superficial, but a deeper, satisfying, inner joy of the soul.

As the current members of the Body of Christ, we are the seventy for our generation. Our mission is not unlike that of those mentioned in Luke’s Gospel account, and the guidelines and warnings are largely the same. We seek to serve God’s people by offering to them the good news of the Gospel, both in sharing the truth and in the actions of care and love.

We, too, go out among wolves. We live in a world that is fearful, emotionally paralysed, or aggressively angry as a result of a kind of shell-shock. Many of us suffer from acts of terrorism, near financial depression, natural disasters, and unexplainable violence in schools

Perhaps the hardest example to follow from Luke is to take with us no semblance of purse, bag, or sandal. Many are afraid of loss in the midst of an overly-materialist culture, in our desire not to give up anything of our substance, of not being willing to do without what we want and think we need. But we can easily see how the baggage of materialism can disable us from taking committed action.

Making sense of shaking dust off our feet, a practice of pious Jews during New Testament times, is also difficult. Perhaps the application for us is to make the best and wisest use of our time and energy – a prioritizing intended to maximize the effectiveness of our call to carry out God’s work.

With all this in mind, we can follow these guidelines in our efforts for Christ and to find the deepest joy that life in faith can bring. We use the challenge from Jesus to the seventy as a model to move into our everyday world, into the lives of those around us – our friends and neighbours, strangers and enemies, skeptics and unbelievers, the poor and victims of injustice – all who are in need of God. We move forward with courage and commitment in telling others about Christ, bringing them into the life of the Church, welcoming those who come into our midst, sharing with them what we have.

Above all, it is necessary to leave behind fear of failure, the inclination to avoid acting because we are afraid we will be embarrassed or rejected or that it will be too time-consuming or too difficult or costly. We must grasp life with joy in Christ and seize the opportunity to be among the seventy for our generation.

If we go at our task in this way, following a modern expression of the work of the seventy, we are certain to experience the same deep, meaningful, fulfilling joy found by our forebears in the faith. Not a superficial kind of happiness or delight, but the joy that takes root deep down in our hearts.

A final link for us with the seventy and Jesus’ instruction to them is found in his sending them out two by two. Like them, none of us acts alone in carrying out the mission and ministries of the Body of Christ. We are all in this together, and we take comfort in the partnerships we share in carrying out Christ’s charge to us as the seventy of this generation. The beauty of a true vocation however, is that it involves all of the elements mentioned above, while looking completely unique for each person. This is a reason for excitement and joy in itself! God is excited for you to be you, and to follow the joy and passion in your heart right back to Him.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Uncategorized