Sep 15, 2019

Brothers in Arms







(Luke 15: 11-24. 24th Sunday)


Many commentators on this parable tried to speculate about who the younger son and the older son where. Different scenarios are often proposed. The older son could have represented the chosen people -the younger son, the Gentiles. Others might see in the parable some resemblance of old family feuds, such as between Cain and Abel, or Isaac and Ishmael. Even in today's heated political climate, some might be tempted to interpret this parable about two opposing political and sociological ideologies! However, the more we reflect on this parable we will come to recognize that Jesus is speaking to us directly, to you and to me.


The younger son we can identify with. It is when we think that the grass is always greener on the other side -- that in order to experience life we have to get away from it all, to enjoy the world. The younger son represents times in our lives when we have been reckless, impulsive with our sights set on unrealistic expectations and without reflection or appreciation for the blessings, gifts and even the securities that we already have, we have often taken for granted.


We can also identify with the older son. He is the one who is loyal, dependable and who carries out his duty. At first glance these seem to be commendable qualities. But then we discover that there is no love or affection in him for his younger brother. He shows himself to be resentful and angry. Even his relationship with his father seems lacking in warmth or affection.


As reckless as the younger son is by leaving the security of his home and family, he still remembers the love of his father. In getting ready to return he makes an examination of conscience which is born, not from a feeling of guilt, but by “coming to his senses”. Finally he can see his life and his relationships as they truly are. In this light he truly knows what he is lacking and in his moment of isolation and darkness, he is resolved to return home and work on his relationship with his father which he has in the past taken so much for granted.


Of course, this is a parable about you and me and our relationship with God, our heavenly Father. It tells our story of all the times we have been foolish and turned our back on the God who loves us. It demonstrates that we have so often sought the things of this world as a type of food to nourish our soul instead of the things of heaven. And even from the perspective of the older brother, we must reflect on how often we have hid behind the walls of duty and self-righteousness as a way to excuse arrogance, anger and pride.


Whether we identify with the younger son or the older son or both, what unites us is our common Father. Remarkably he welcomes back to one who wasted the gifts he was given. He also pleads for reconciliation between the siblings. But most importantly this loving father gives both his children the opportunity to join in a feast, a banquet in which the fattened calf, which represents Christ himself, has been sacrificed as the true food which alone can provide the people of God the true source of reconciliation and family unity.


We are not told if the two brothers ever reconciled, embraced and celebrated together the banquet meal prepared for them by their father. How the story will ultimately conclude could depend on each one of us.


This holy banquet is now prepared. Before approaching this sacrificial meal, our blessed Lord reminds us that we must be first reconciled with God from our sins and with each other of our offenses.


Even though we are leaving summer behind, there are countless opportunities to confess our sins, and be reconciled with our heavenly Father and through Him to each other, if we respond to our father's plea to share our table with all our family of saints and sinners. This way we know that we have a place at the wedding banquet of the Son of God who continues to search out for and find the lost, the neglected, the reckless and the angry, and bring them home to safety.

Sep 7, 2019

Disputed Family




“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These words of the Lord spoken through the Gospel might seem harsh. But simply said, from the perspective of someone who dares give their life, their whole life to Christ it makes perfect but painful sense. Lk 14:25-33

How? The ultimate reality each of us will face is that we can not sustain or hold onto earthly relationships as they are now, forever. Our relationships with family, friends and even with this world as we know it will come to pass. And in the world to come, we hope that all our necessary relationships, especially with God, will not only be in place but will be life giving. 

To illustrate this point, look to Christ. Yes, he was born into a human family with natural relationships. But the relationship he had with Mary and Joseph and even his natural extended family never took precedence over the relationship with his Heavenly Father and his adopted brothers and sisters that we have become and to whom he sacrificed his life. 

Just some examples.  

He went missing for a few days as a young boy. His disappearance put anguish and fear into the hearts and minds of Mary and Joseph frantically searching for him. When they did find him, from our perspective he didn’t even seem concerned about them. And as if to add insult to injury, scolded them for not knowing that his Heavenly Father took precedence. 

During his public ministry, many of Jesus’s extended family, feared he was “going off the deep end” (Mark 3:31-35) and tried to intervene, probably in an attempt to take him home. When someone in the crowd told him that his mother and family were here, he replied, "Who are my mother and my brethren?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Even when Christ was dying on the cross, when Mary was nearby he told her to stop mothering him. Instead be a mother to my disciples. 

Yes, natural family relationships are important and they have great influence upon us for good and for bad, for they affect our minds and our hearts. But as Christ showed us by his life, the supernatural relationships we have with God and with the family of the Church are much, much more important, because they affect our souls, which are eternal. 

Sometimes we can’t have it both ways. And that will often involve a painful choice and a sacrifice. Even in that very touching letter from St. Paul we heard in the second reading, Paul looks upon a runaway slave as his son in Christ. He appeals to the slave’s master to see the young man as his brother in the Lord. 

And that’s what being in a real relationship with Jesus Christ does. It messes up all our natural family relationships and puts us all in one common family of adopted sons and daughters, with a common Father and a spiritual mother in Mary. 

If I call myself a disciple of Christ, my obligations to him and to his family of which I am now a part, take precedence over my own family business and affairs. It is the reason, I hope each one of us, brothers and sisters, are gathered here every Sunday, to support and encourage each other as family should, and to pray also for our absent sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. But there is enough of us here, with God’s grace, to fulfill those roles as needed spiritually. 

May the family sacrifices we all have to make, now find meaning, by offering and joining them to the one eternal sacrifice of Christ we encounter in this Holy Eucharist. 


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Aug 31, 2019

Know your place




Luke 14:1, 7-14. We all need to know our place. Unfortunately, we can spend so much time putting others in theirs. We all have a place, but it is not at the center of the universe. 

Christ’s parable in the Gospel, told to a people who were very sensitive about their position in social circles, allows us likewise to reflect on the virtue of humility. Yet, humility is paradoxically, a virtue that you cannot be deliberate in trying to attain. You cannot try to be humble; you cannot work on humility for it can easily become false humility. And even when you are humble without knowing it, someone often notices and are quick to mock.  A humble person often poses a threat to the arrogant. 

The virtue of true humility is the simple ability to be aware of the blessings God has given you and achievements that He has worked through you. Notice, the emphasis is God. Not me! All the talents we have, the good we do is God working through us for His purpose.  Humility, is first and foremost, towards God. 

If we are to take ownership for anything, let’s take ownership, first and foremost of our own sins, our shortcomings.  Acknowledging this first and foremost, we approach God each day, not out of pride, but humility, asking and allowing Him to work through us towards His goal. All He asks for is our collaboration, not for you or me to take charge. We are His servants. We are not His role models. 

If anyone is a role model to influence our thoughts and actions, it is not me or the person sitting in front or beside you. For all of us, it must be Christ- not the frozen picture or image of Christ that we have raised to a prominent place. Instead, to be influenced by how he lived his life, how he listened, noticed, what he said, how he reached out his helping healing hand to the weak and the vulnerable, and the attitude he had when the road he freely took lead him to the cross - the power of authentic and powerful humility. He did not say “Learn from each other”.  He said “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

To that end, let us disarm ourselves of any pride, arrogance or self importance as we prepare for His arrival at this sacred banquet. Only then can we respond to his invitation to approach the “high table”. For as Mary reminds us of God in her song of thanksgiving, “he casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.”  We should always. Know our place. 

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Aug 24, 2019

Are you saved?


Luke 13:22-30.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019


Sometimes you might be asked “Are you saved?”  It always seems to be a loaded question. In the evangelical Protestant Christianity, to say “Yes” it often implies that you have made a one time irrevocable commitment to accept Jesus Christ as your savior. And this is important for every Christian to do. If you say “No, I am not saved”, the implication is one is on a downward road to hell. 

When Jesus was asked how many would be saved, he didn’t give a straight answer. When a young rich religious man asked him how to attain eternal life, Christ told him that he had to first sell everything he owned and follow him and he would have riches in heaven. Did he do so and was he saved? I don’t know. But, maybe the better answer to the question worth reflecting on, is not about whether I have a golden ticket assuring me that I’m on the next flight to heaven. Rather, the first answer one should give to the question “Are you saved?”, is “What am I being saved from?”

In the Sunday Gospel, those who asked Jesus how many will be saved, were naturally looked around and wondering how many would be saved from all the corruption and abuse of power they experienced every day from the hostile forces and influences around them. How many would be saved from having to live lives like slaves? How many would be saved from having to desperation, poverty, injustice or hoarding up treasures for fear things will get worse? How many would be saved from following false promises, saved from going down a road of deception and self destruction.  How many will be saved from all of this?

Even while he hung crucified on the cross, one of the other crucified men shouted out to Jesus, “Save yourself, and us”. Ironically, he did! By allowing himself to be stripped off every attachment he had to this world, letting go of everything, his family, friends, and whatever little processions he had, all his belongings, even down to the very clothes he wore, even his very life, Christ was saved from empty promises, false comforts and the suffocating grip of all the stuff we often think will save us. He entered through the narrow gate without anything holding him back, a gateway to freedom and life to the full. 

So, are you saved? Look around you, consider everyone who belongs to you and everything that belongs to you? Are you willing right now to give it all up, to enter through the narrow gate, not even with hand luggage, and not turn back?

Can a Christian who makes a commitment of faith in Christ as their savior, one day be assured of their salvation and the next day loose that assurance? Yes. Even St. Paul tells us so in the Bible saying that, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Even though we may have the will to be saved, remember the words of the prayer that the Lord taught us, “Thy will be done be done”, not “my will”.

“Am I saved?  Right now at this every moment, I can say, “I hope so”. But the gift of time which I must collaborate with, is still unraveling. I have still to learn how to let go completely as pressing forward through the narrow gate, towards the goal (Phil. 3:13) of being completely one with Christ, free from all distractions and attachments to this fallen world, so that when this day is stretched out into eternity, as St. Paul says, it will be not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me. (Gal:2:20). 

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven



Our Christian faith looks upon the human physical body not only with respect but also with reverence. The body is a sacred form, substance through which God communicates his love to the world. We first encounter this in the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve. Humanity is formed first in a physical form. Only when it is infused, animated with the breath of God does Adam become a “living being” (Gen. 2:7).


In God’s original design, the body and the soul are not two opposites held together in an awkward relationship. God revealed his power and beauty through the human form of Adam and Eve, from their head to their feet. But sadly, the entry of sin into the world threw everything off balance, out of sync – the damaging shock waves permeating throughout all creation even effecting time itself which made new things old and old things to decay and die. (CCC 1008) Only God himself could push back this cosmic tsunami. And God does so through his Son Christ, the New Adam. This is the theme St. Paul talks of in the second reading.

Reflecting on this theme, St. Irenaeus (135-202) (in his Refutation of the False Gnosis ) describes how Christ enters into this wounded world and by obedience to the Father to the point of dying on the tree of the cross reverses the disobedience of the first Adam which had come through the tree of the garden. If Christ is the New Adam, then we see Mary also in a new light and involved intimately in the plan of salvation. As Eve was seduced by a fallen angel and disobeyed God, Mary as the new Eve received with joy the good news from a holy angel and obeyed God in total faithfulness, communicating the salvation of all creation in a very physical way – her pregnancy of the Son of God. (CCC 148, CCC 411) The Virgin Mary most perfectly “embodies” the obedience of faith.

On behalf of all humanity, she alone could respond perfectly to the gift of salvation offered by her Son and Savior of the world. Her “yes” to salvation resonated perfectly through every fiber of her body – that body perfectly in harmony with her soul is captured in the Gospel today. In her “Magnificat” Mary’s soul sings in joy through her body which has been touched intimately by the Holy Spirit.

St. John’s vision, our first reading today, provides us with a glimpse into heaven. Richly described in symbolic language, the woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon giving birth to the child is, of course Mary. The sixth century Oecumenius, comments on this passage, “The vision appropriately depicts her as in heaven and not on the earth, for she is pure in soul and body, equal to an angel and a citizen of heaven…. Yet she is flesh although she has nothing in common with the earth, nor is there any sin in her.” Because her body and soul were so perfectly attuned to each other, after the completion of her earthy life, both her body and soul united and inseparable experienced salvation, heaven. This is what we celebrate today with gratitude.

We pray that our physical movements, expressions, choices and actions will become, with God’s grace, more in harmony with the Spirit of Christ so that the final resting place for our bodies will not be the grave, but our eternal homeland of heaven. May this Holy Eucharist, where we are feed with the Glorious and Risen Body of and Blood of Christ shape us more and more, body and soul, into the image and likeness of God so to live with him forever and experience from God the embrace of love face to face.

Aug 17, 2019

Set the world on fire


Fire can be as dangerous as it is beautiful and useful as it is mysterious. From the burning bush to the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, throughout the Scriptures, its language is rich and often used to reflect the nature of God (CCC 696). (c.f the Seraphim) Our own experience of the summer California wildfires touches us in a particular way. Many of us still have vivid memories of the fires of 2008 that surrounded us on three sides, provoking mass evacuations, destroying many homes and livelihoods.

It, therefore, does not seem to come as much of a consolation, when we hear Our Blessed Lord saying in the gospel today, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” and the cause of households divided against themselves, family members betraying each other's trust.  

it is easier to blame, for example, the unintended tensions unleashed within a family to events such as funerals, weddings and even who gets invited and who doesn't to a family thanksgiving dinner. But the fuse of this particular stick of dynamite has been lit by the Lord himself. How do we understand this apparent “violence” with the image we must also have of Christ as the Good Shepherd and the Prince of Peace?

We must first consider when St. Luke wrote his Gospel message. It was probably written not long after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. The rumor was that the Emperor Nero had himself lit the match that destroyed much of the city so that he could begin a new massive building project. This is how a pagan historian, who survived the fire, described the aftermath.

"Consequently, to get rid of the report [that he started the fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most creative tortures on a class of people hated for their abominations, called Christians by the common people. … Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths...they were torn to death by dogs, or they were crucified on crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as human torches when nighttime illumination was needed." Tacitus, Annals XV.44

The early Christians, in the light of those “current events” would have, no doubt, listened to today’s Gospel and found in it an assurance that Our Lord himself experienced the fire of hell and transformed it into the fire of heaven. Abandoned by his own disciples, betrayed by the very ones he considered family, Christ shared in the anguish of persecuted Christians as non-believers betrayed friends and family when Roman soldiers came knocking on the door.

As case in point, St. Peter. He provides us with the example of a reluctant follower who was scared of being burnt, but finally gave himself completely to the Lord. On the night of the Last Supper when Christ was arrested, he was first content to anonymously warm his hands from the fire in the courtyard while the Lord was being beaten up by the temple guards inside. But a day would eventually arrive when he would allow himself to be consumed completely and forever by the fire of Christ’s love.

During Nero’s attack on the Christians after the fire of Rome, St. Peter, as the city’s first bishop, was arrested, tortured and crucified to death on a cross, upside down. Hisbody was buried near in a cemetery on a Roman hillside called “Vatican Hill”.

Yes, often times we will get burnt, and we will scream and call out in anger and in anguish. But as painful as if often times is, abandoning ourselves to the grace that comes from the cross of Christ, let us pray that we may we never mistake the purifying fire of heaven with the destructive fires of hell. There lies the virtue of Christian hope in the face of every dark and menacing cloud of smoke.

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Aug 14, 2019

Reaching the summit of humanity


The Assumption:

  Our Christian faith looks upon the human physical body not only with respect but also with reverence. The body is a sacred form, substance through which God communicates his love to the world. We first encounter this in the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve. Humanity is formed first in a physical form. Only when it is infused, animated with the breath of God does Adam become a “living being” (Gen. 2:7).


In God’s original design, the body and the soul are not two opposites held together in an awkward relationship. God revealed his power and beauty through the human form of Adam and Eve, from their head to their feet. But sadly, the entry of sin into the world threw everything off balance, out of sync – the damaging shock waves permeating throughout all creation even effecting time itself which made new things old and old things to decay and die. (CCC 1008) Only God himself could push back this cosmic tsunami. And God does so through his Son Christ, the New Adam. This is the theme St. Paul talks of in the second reading.

Reflecting on this theme, St. Irenaeus (135-202) (in his Refutation of the False Gnosis ) describes how Christ enters into this wounded world and by obedience to the Father to the point of dying on the tree of the cross reverses the disobedience of the first Adam which had come through the tree of the garden. If Christ is the New Adam, then we see Mary also in a new light and involved intimately in the plan of salvation. As Eve was seduced by a fallen angel and disobeyed God, Mary as the new Eve received with joy the good news from a holy angel and obeyed God in total faithfulness, communicating the salvation of all creation in a very physical way – her pregnancy of the Son of God. (CCC 148, CCC 411) The Virgin Mary most perfectly “embodies” the obedience of faith.

On behalf of all humanity, she alone could respond perfectly to the gift of salvation offered by her Son and Savior of the world. Her “yes” to salvation resonated perfectly through every fiber of her body – that body perfectly in harmony with her soul is captured in the Gospel today. In her “Magnificat” Mary’s soul sings in joy through her body which has been touched intimately by the Holy Spirit.

St. John’s vision, our first reading today, provides us with a glimpse into heaven. Richly described in symbolic language, the woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon giving birth to the child is, of course Mary. The sixth century Oecumenius, comments on this passage, “The vision appropriately depicts her as in heaven and not on the earth, for she is pure in soul and body, equal to an angel and a citizen of heaven…. Yet she is flesh although she has nothing in common with the earth, nor is there any sin in her.” Because her body and soul were so perfectly attuned to each other, after the completion of her earthy life, both her body and soul united and inseparable experienced salvation, heaven. This is what we celebrate today with gratitude.

We pray that our physical movements, expressions, choices and actions will become, with God’s grace, more in harmony with the Spirit of Christ so that the final resting place for our bodies will not be the grave, but our eternal homeland of heaven. May this Holy Eucharist, where we are feed with the Glorious and Risen Body of and Blood of Christ shape us more and more, body and soul, into the image and likeness of God so to live with him forever and experience from God the embrace of love face to face.

Brothers in Arms

(Luke 15: 11-24. 24th Sunday) Many commentators on this parable tried to speculate about who the younger son and the older son ...