Jun 25, 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:51-62

The Gospel for this Sunday sees Christ “resolute”, “determined” to reach the city of Jerusalem. Nothing can distract or sidetrack him. This is a man on a mission. However, notice his temperament. He is not like a bull let loose, or a like a galloping horse heading towards the finish line.  Instead he knows, there will be delays and obstacles; there will be disappointments and letdowns.  He knows what ultimately awaits him in a city where he will be opposed, betrayed and rejected by his own people. As Christians, we are to follow in his footsteps and respond to the evil around us in the same manner as Christ did.  

In the gospel, his excitable disciples encounter their first test of what to do and what not to do when their own message is rejected. Calling down fire from heaven every time they met opposition is no way to convince a reluctant people of the goodness of God. Christ’s disciple is called to be patient, and even exhibit “longsuffering and gentleness, not revengeful. They must not be given to wrath or savagely attack those who offend them” (Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 56).   In short, Christ rebukes any of his disciples who exhibit religious fundamentalism or impatience - the toxic combination of fear and anger. 

During first three hundred years of Christianity, when the imperial government policy was to actively thwart the efforts of Christians, accusing them of trying to influence the masses with their “doctrine” and “ideologies”, the Gospel was proclaimed most effectively and convincingly, not by the apostles calling down fire from heaven, but by the efforts and the example of ordinary, if not reluctant disciples like Simon of Cyrene who found himself compelled to help Christ carry his Cross, or like Veronica, as the story is told, who wiped blood from the face of Jesus as he made his way to Calvary. Or the soldier who stood by the cross of Christ and beheld the manner which Christ offered his life for the salvation of the world. 

The cross of Christ must be first embraced fully if a disciple is to experience completely the victory of the resurrection!

It is Christ himself who invites you and me, not only to become his disciples but also to journey down the road that same road. He is always the one who takes the initiative. We follow his lead.  It is the Lord who marks out the road we must travel by traveling it himself, “resolutely” and “determined”. 

And along that long road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.” (CCC 544) 

What brought many a pagan to the faith, was not the theological arguments but, instead, something completely illogical – the Cross.  “See how these Christians love one another”. “See how they face persecution and death, not with anger or fear – but with an inner joy and peace – a peace that the world can not give.”

As we pass by on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem, let us pray that, faithful to our discipleship, we will accept a piece of Christ's cross, and by doing so, to attract many to journey alongside us, embracing the truth that sets us free, the One who alone can provide fulfillment for every human thirst and hunger. (cf. CCC 1741) This Holy Eucharist provides us with Christ as “food for the journey”.

Jun 18, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:18-24

I would like us to meditate on some of the lines from the Gospel we have just listened to. This is to help us go deeper than the ink on the page, deeper than the page of the book.  In fact, when we open the Scriptures, God asks us, invites us to enter into his mind and his heart. How does he do this with this portion of the Gospel we have just listened to?

Consider the first line!  “Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him…” Does this not seem, at first a bit odd? How can you be in solitude, and there’s people around you, looking at you, watching your every move, wondering what you are thinking?

Maybe it’s easier than we think.  We can slip into our own little world.  You can sit in the bus or the rain and put on your earphones.  You can sit in the middle of the classroom and daydream.   You can “veg” in front of the television.  You can create your own little virtual world around you.  For most of us, our “solitude” is an escape, not an encounter. Jesus was not escaping from anywhere!

“Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him…” This is a parish church.  Would it not be easier to pray in solitude if we were in a monastery, or a convent?  Granted, our Lord would every so often climb a mountain top alone or go off into the wilderness alone. And it is necessary for us to find quiet places to refresh our bodies and souls, every so often.  But when he walked among us, most people did not go looking for him on mountaintops or in the desert. He found them. Where? In the middle of their ordinary lives, their everyday lives.

It can happen here. It does happen here.  Even though this church can be filled with a thousand people, and we see everything around us, we hear the voices of others, we walk up and down the aisle, a baby starts crying, a cell phone goes off, someone starts coughing, a door slams, someone sneezes, you hear prayers going on here and there, you see people shuffling in and out of the confessional, then others are up and down to the restroom, a child then acts up, a parent gives restless kid a clip on the ear, someone drops their prayer book… are you able to be like Jesus and pray in solitude with all the disciples around you?  Yes.

When we pray, we do not escape to a world that we have dreamt up, or built up from our own thoughts and resources.  When we pray we meet God, we can find him here and there, as he continues to still walk into our lives, we just have to give him the attention he deserves as our God and the time he seeks so that he can share his life with you and me.  He sees us in the crowd. We see him in his solitude. And when we look in his direction, our eyes meet in the crowd.  Even from what seems to be a distance, there is the joining of hearts.  We recognize that it is him, that he is listening, that he is speaking, and that he is looking at us.  And in that encounter, everything around us fades into the background.

Now, we have only meditated on one line from the Gospel.  Dare we move on to the second?  Not now or we will be here all day and evening! Instead, that one line from the psalm that we repeated again and again, might do us well to repeat again and again throughout the day in the solitude of our hearts and souls; “My Soul is thirsting for you my God”.

Jun 11, 2016

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The recent massacre of fifty young people and the injury of countless others in Orlando, Florida, has rightly provoked us to turn to God in prayer. It is a cause of much anguish and even anger.  It drives home the reality that as our world is becoming more saturated with the evil of rage, violence and blatant disregard for the beauty and purpose of God's gift of life, we cannot help but feel afraid and vulnerable. 

The reason we have been gifted with life is so that we might have the time to search for, find and know God as our merciful and loving Father.  To rob anyone of their opportunity to fully realize this ultimate goal is to collaborate in the work of evil which wants only to divide and distract us away from union with God. 

To all our brothers and sisters who met an untimely death, it is up to us, while acknowledging our own sins and unworthiness, to pray to our merciful and compassionate God on their behalf and for their families and friends. Added to this, Our Lord reminds us through the example he uses of the Good Samaritan, we have a duty to help heal wounds and look after the injured, the forgotten and abandoned, and hopefully at the expense of our own personal prejudices and despite cultural differences.  

Today's Gospel message should help us, once again, examine our own conscience before God.

Gospel: Luke 7:36-50  Humility and Mercy Meet

Psalm 32, which we responded to, captures beautifully the central message of the Readings and the Gospel this morning. The psalmist declares, “I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, ‘I confess my faults to the LORD,’ and you took away the guilt of my sin.”

Let us look at who is who in the Gospel passage we have just listened to. First, there is Jesus, who has accepted the invitation to dinner from an important religious official by name of Simon the Pharisee.  If we read the Gospel accounts of his life, it would seem that Our Lord was never shy of accepting invitations from anyone.  One might be tempted to think that our Lord kept away from nice restaurants or fine dining, so that he could be with the poor all the time. But, Christ was with the poor all the time.

Simon the Pharisee was poor, not in material things, not from what he had or had not in his refrigerator or stored in his garage.  Simon was lacking in other necessities of life. He might have lacked compassion, gentleness, and patience. Maybe, he was one of those people who had all the nice things in life, enjoyed good company, good food and even prided himself in the nicer way of praying, all the eloquences and ritual, but without much depth.  Even Christ himself, was probably for him, just a holy picture, nice to look at and more of a conversation piece.

Then everything is disrupted by the intrusion of this woman of ill repute. She barges into the dinner, disrupting everything, sending everyone into a panic – except Jesus. She goes straight to Jesus.  By doing so, it seems she knows who Jesus is. She has done her homework.  She does not target our Lord because she wants to make a point. Something much deeper is going on inside her mind, indeed her heart.  When Christ would preach out in the open, in the towns and cities, she must have secretly listened to his words. Even when she hid in a crowd of hundreds, she allowed Christ’s words, his presence to reach her.  Now she was responding, reaching out to Christ.

For she was the type of person who was very much like Simon the Pharisee.  Simon might have endeared himself to others through his social position and through his eloquent dinner table; this woman of ill repute endeared herself to others also through seduction of the senses and lustful appetites. Both the woman and the man, even though coming from two different angles share the same vulnerability – “looking for love in all the wrong places”.

But the woman, who no doubt lived a life of vulnerability, allowed herself, trusted herself, in the safe hands of Christ. Only in Christ presence, can our love be purified, made real.  Only in the light of God do we see the truth of how we seek to love and be loved and of how often we miss the mark, get distracted and often chase after sentimentalism or extravagance in its place.

Christ wants us to find a way into his heart. His heart is always open, waiting, longing to be united with our own. This demands on our part, self-reflection, humility, the courage to see ourselves truly as we are and not to be like Adam and Eve who, after sinning, hid and covered themselves up.

Acknowledge our sins and to do so before the Lord, “is the movement of a “contrite heart” (Psalm 51:19) drawn by divine grace to respond to the merciful love of God” (Comp. CCC 300).

In short, regardless of the depravity of our sins or the lavishness of our lives, let us listen to the Lord from the depth of our heart, so that we might acknowledge truly our sins, confess our faults to him, trust in his guidance and allow him to lead us to the freedom that brings us peace of mind, body and soul.

Jun 5, 2016

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Even though there is grave sin which that you can not wash away yourself with the tears of your own penance, let the Mother of the Church weep for you. She who intercedes for all, as a widowed mother for only sons, she suffers with the spiritual grief of nature when she perceives her children urged on to death by mortal sins. We are in the heart of her heart too” (St. Ambrose)

Luke 7: 11ff

The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The image of Christ showing forth his heart, a heart consumed with warm, but a tender and wounded heart, is to remind us, that God is not distant. In fact, God is not afraid to be wounded by us - allows himself to be, and his suffering is offered for our healing and salvation.

Jesus, through his heart, shows us that God is near – that he cares, most notably when we are injured, alone, or feel abandoned.  He does not approach us like a superman to fix us, but as a shepherd who patiently searches for his lost sheep.  He shows himself as a true Good Samaritan, not a do-good charity worker, but as a genuine friend who authentically cares and is not afraid to be moved by deep compassion for those abandoned and who will take time, even waste time and spend his own resources to carefully and gently bathe the wounds of the injured.

Because of his heart, we must not simply see him, on the surface, as a flat picture or concert statue. He opens himself up for us to enter into the depths of his heart.

For example, enter into the Gospel passage for today's Mass again. Read it, and meditate with fresh eyes. Use the sacred text as a door to enter into a place where you can actually meet Jesus.

What do you see? As he is entering the city of Nain, a funeral procession is coming out. It for a young man, the only son of a widow. How did he die? An accident? Was it a violent death, or a peaceful death, from sickness, was their much pain involved, maybe the young man died in his sleep?  I don’t know. Do you know? So, ask the one who was actually there there. Ask our Lord.

But there is someone else there – a woman.  There is intense, heartfelt sorrow, painful suffering from a mother who has lost her child. Her husband has died, and now her young son – her only son. She is alone – terribly alone.Even although there is an intense crowd around her, she is alone even in the constant activity of so many people that fill up every space.

Perhaps, if we were able to enter into the mind of Jesus, instead of a flash back, maybe there is a hint of something in the future - a premonition. Maybe as Christ came across this funeral of the young man and the young man’s mother following the behind the casket– maybe our blessed Lord was beginning to think about what his own mother would feel in her heart when he, her only Son would die and his own lifeless body, taken down from the cross was being carried to its grave.Our Lord is being sired with strong emotions at the very core of his being.

Maybe our mind might wander back to an incident in Christ’s life, thirty years earlier when Mary brought her little baby, Jesus, to the temple of Jerusalem for the first time, to present the child to the Lord as was expected according to Jewish custom. How the old prophet Simeon, took the precious child in his arms, and looking into the eyes of Mary, told her that, this child, her only son, would break her heart. And in doing so open up the hearts of many.

Maybe these are the thoughts, the feelings, the passions aroused in Christ’s heart. In this passage from Holy Scripture, His heart is revealed to us, along with the heart of a mother.

We draw close to Christ. We allow him to also look into our hearts, hearts that are often hard and dead.  He looks into our hearts. And what does he say to you and me? He say’s “Arise! - do not be dead, do not let your sins destroy you, do not let the sins of the world bury you." And with the grace that radiates from his sacred heart, he lifts us back up to back to life. But notice what he does next when he restores the young man to life.  He gives him back to his mother.

With the deepest love from the heart of Christ, while stretched out on the cross, in his eyes of compassion and mercy, he sees you and me, his disciple, standing at the cross, our own cross. And to us, be says, "Behold your mother!"  Our mother Mary's heart is open too for us. Allow her to kiss the scathed knee, the tender bruise. But allow her to also share her own joy with you - the joy of the triumph of the heart of her Son who is always compassionate and merciful.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

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