Oct 28, 2018

The Cost of Sight

Mark 10:46-52

During his earthly ministry, Our Blessed Lord had reached out and healed many through his miracles. Not many of those who were healed are named. In today’s Gospel, we are not only told of the name of the blind man who received his sight from Jesus, but we are also told of who his father was. This might indicate that he was a well-known figure, perhaps a person who was once very important.

But regardless of the social background, Bartimaeus provides us with an example of how to respond to God during particular incidents, special moments or unpredictable events. Often sickness, a heartache, or a setback or misfortune provide us with a unique opportunity to speak to God in a certain way that we might not be at times accustomed to.

Rather than complaining, for looking for pity or getting angry at God or religious leaders for what happened him, first Bartimaeus was humble before God, calling out “Lord have mercy”. And even though he did not receive an immediate response from God, and added to this a certain group in the crowd kept telling him to be quiet, Bartimaeus persisted – he never gave up hope that God would answer his cry for help. 

How often might we call out only once and them presuming there is no reply from God, we allow certain groups in the crowd, mobs, commentators in the world and throughout the internet to provide the answer! Fortunately, Bartimaeus instinctively knew that they could not answer his deepest questions nor heal him.

Silence from God does not mean he does not hear you. Often, God will answer our prayers by telling us to speak louder, to ignore those who try to control our thoughts or silence us. In our prayers, we need to also hear ourselves. This is important.  Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted to ask Jesus. He was focused; he knew what he was lacking and what he truly needed. In fact, God began answering his prayer even before he called out. How?

Probably without realizing it, even though he was blind and was obviously in the dark about who Jesus really was, Bartimaeus was inspired to reflect on his own personal situation. Something stirred him to stand up high and, without fear or embarrassment, to call out to God himself. Well done!  

Authentic prayer does not come from our own efforts; it is first and foremost a gift from God, even though God may at first remain hidden. He stirs us to reach out towards him, lifting us up from the mob that would keep us from thinking for ourselves even though we may find ourselves in darkness or in the midst of incomprehensible suffering (cf. CCC 2027).

Our Lord hears us when we persist in praying when it comes from the depth and when it does not give up in hope. Jesus may have been renowned, during his lifetime as a miracle worker – healing the broken bodies of those disabled, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and restoring speech to those unable to talk. But he was not a superman, a traveling faith-healer.  Every time he responded to a persistent, authentic prayer that came from the heart and soul, not only did he respond with compassion - it literally cost him!

To repair our bodies, his own body will have to be crushed.  To bring light into the world, the light must be taken from his own eyes.  So that we might hear and have a true voice, Our Lord must enter into deathly silence. Christ heals Bartimaeus by taking his place. 

Upon the Cross, our Blessed Lord pays the ransom, endures the suffering and willingly gives us his life so that whatever hardship we are to endure, it will have meaning and value only if we allow our prayer to come forth from the depth of our soul to reach the heavens, beyond the cry and hysteria of the mob.  Then, when the time is right, from the Cross we will be assured of victory over the greatest enemy, death – and all other enemies will pale in comparison.

Our Blessed Mother Mary was not spared darkness and loss in her life. She stood at the Cross and shared in the anguish of her Son. As we stand around this sacred altar and with her, ready to enter into the sacrifice of Calvary, may she help us to pray authentically with faith and hope, so that, even though at times we may walk in the valley of darkness, to evil will we fear!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oct 21, 2018

Missionaries look before leaping

The Gospel has highlighted to us that we can be enthusiastic about following Christ, but for the wrong reasons.  James and John, like many of the first disciples, were caught up with this new movement Christ was beginning he traveled about from town to town. They listened to his words and saw the fire in his eyes as he talked about the coming of the Kingdom of God.

James and John thought (and they were only thinking in worldly terms) if there was going to be a new kingdom (and because they were closely associated with Jesus) now might be a good time to get their foot in the door and secure cabinet position! 

They would soon learn that the Kingdom of God was not founded on the same terms as man-made kingdoms, governments or global corporations. In those types of kingdoms, you work your way to the top driven by ambition. Rather, the Kingdom of God is instead characterized by humility and service after the manner of Christ himself.  In other words - to imitate Christ in every way! This means ultimately to offer your whole life as a sacrifice, not for the comfort, security or prosperity of the world, but to offer your life for the “salvation” of the world. 

This sounds relatively simple. It’s not. When he asked them if they were ready to make the sacrifice, James and John, without much reflection, thought or prayer, impulsively said they could do it.  However, on the night before he was to be crucified, after the Last Supper when Christ invited the two of them to stay close to him, to sit at his right and his left as they wanted, and to drink the chalice of suffering, where were they? Incredibly, they slept through it – no doubt still dreaming of glory, while their Lord and master was sweating blood in his agony in that garden.  

However, John would later stand at the foot of the cross holding his gaze upon the crucified Lord with Mary, the mother of Christ at his side.  And after the resurrection, his brother James would be the first apostle to be martyred for his faith, his head cut off to the delight of a frenzied mob in on streets of Jerusalem.

This Sunday is called World Mission Sunday.  It’s when we first give thanks for the enthusiasm of a family of saints who came before us and the lessons they learned and taught about suffering and sacrifice in order to bring us, even at the cost of their own lives, the message and the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  

As an example, we look back with thanksgiving to the efforts of the Saint Juniper Serra and the Franciscan family who built the Californian Missions up and down the coast, baptizing tens of thousands as they did so. And the countless priests and nuns who journeyed across the seas and stepped off boats onto the soil of foreign lands and distant islands, building up churches, schools, and hospitals. And to the first Catholic families who settled in lands far from home and bringing up their children in the faith, ensured that Christianity would be passed on from one generation to another. All of us here are indebted to missionary families of some sort, their enthusiasm, and their sacrifices.

However, this is not simply a history lesson. The missionary work of the family still continues.  “Today as in the past, He (Christ) sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim His gospel to all peoples of the earth” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 7).  Faith in Christ does not end with us. It is alive when we can share it with others, talk about it, and exercise it freely without fear or hindrance.  

The missionary activity of the Catholic family is not a hobby. It’s a two-thousand-year-old project begun by God himself. Its fruits are seen at home and beyond when we desire to imitate Christ by looking after our neighbor as well as the stranger, when we seek justice for the poorest of the poor, for the forgotten souls often ignored by society, when a family of missionaries offers resources to bring the possibility of basic education to the most remote villages or townlands, or medical help in isolated places, or to be a voice for the voiceless so as to help lift up families and children from poverty, not just economic, but the poverty of the soul when it thinks that there is no love or tenderness in the world.  This is the mission of the Church, when through her missionaries, “Here comes Christ!”

Pray that the Mission of the Church, extending the family of God with Christ as head of our household, will never be afraid to bring the Savior and the grace of the sacraments into the homes of those who long to be embraced by God’s love. Pray for the missionaries, especially for Christians who are still persecuted and must endure personal sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. Pray for those who live in countries where the Good News of Salvation is forbidden to be preached and where conversion to Christ is punishable, even by death.  We pray for and be inspired by those who have risked everything to follow Christ, knowing that He alone offerings lasting peace and true fulfillment of our soul's desire.

We turn to Our Blessed Mother who prepared her Son to venture outside of the family home of Nazareth to witness to the world the Kingdom of God for the salvation of the world.

Oct 13, 2018

Look left, then right, then cross when safe

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: -

From the sidewalk without a pedestrian crossing, how do you cross a road when permitted to do so? The basic rule of thumb is to first look left, then right, then left again - and when it's clear to careful cross, looking and listening as you do. (Of course, in other countries where cars drive on the other side, you might have to first look right, then left!)

Two knowledge individuals we hear about in the Scriptures we here at Mass today, provide the first lesson on what we should do while standing on the curbside in preparation to take our first step towards the other side.

In the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom, we have listened to the prayer of Solomon. Although Solomon was renowned for his wisdom, it was not for wisdom that he at first prayed for.  He first prayed for “prudence”.

Don’t mistake prudence for fear or nervousness. Instead, prudence is a virtue – it is an art, a gift from God, to help us flourish in our relationships. (Cf. CCC 1806) It is when I strive towards the ideal, of what God asks of me, to that which is truly good, and carefully choosing the correct means and manner in which to get there. The goal of prudence is so that my love is compatible with divine love and does no harm to others. Prudence is a gift from God and a skill, in so much as we cooperate with God’s grace. Our teacher is the Holy Spirit.
Perfecting this moral virtue of being in right relationship with God, with our neighbor, our loved ones and those around us, is often a lifetime pursuit. We should never be discouraged by our own weaknesses, our sins or the complexity we often find ourselves in. God’s love for each of us is as powerful as it is gentle and patient, nudging us, encouraging us along the right path.  It is never content to keep us in one place.

But we can resist or ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God never forces us to go anywhere or do anything without our hearts being first in the right place. And he always provides us the opportunity to find that stepping stone which points to the next. And even if we topple or miss the mark, our patient God always allows us the necessary time to catch our breath, to get our bearings, to learn from our mistakes and try again, with his help, to reach the goal.

But let us not be too hard on the young man we read about in the Gospel who comes up to Jesus.  Not only does he know that the Lord is a good teacher, but he also demonstrates that he knows that he, himself, can, in fact, be good by observing the commandments. And indeed, he has been very “prudent” in keeping the commandments.
So, what then is the difference between the young rich man Solomon in the Old Testament and the young rich man in the New Testament? Both young men exercised prudence.  That is good. However, only Solomon asked for, he pleaded with God, for the gift of wisdom – to be allowed to know the purpose and the plan of God so that he could direct his life towards that goal.  (Cf. CCC 1954) The young man in the Gospel knows that God loves him but would rather not see where God wishes to lead him. That would mean a change in his life or lifestyle. He has reached his own goal in life, he was content to be "good enough". 

But instead, the young rich man wants Christ to validate his relationship as it is. In a way, he wants Our Lord to assure him that he's ok to remain on the sidewalk and not have to cross to the other side. Our Lord loves him too much too to leave him as he is. In fact, our Lord has pity for him. And even though it breaks his heart, Our Lord does not go running after him. He gives the young man time to reflect, discern, and pray for courage.  Maybe, the young man left angry and felt unwelcome. We don't know what was the outcome. We can only hope that he would eventually, without wasting too much time, do what God asked of him before the day of Judgement when we would stand before Christ again. And until that day, Christ's love for him would never diminish.
Before we get ourselves cornered by our own doing, we must pray for the courage to constantly perfect our relationships, never to be content or complacent thinking that how we live our life is “good enough”. That would be unwise.
Let us, therefore, ask Mary, the humble and prudent virgin, to remind us not to be afraid of following the advice of God’s wisdom and to help us, with God’s grace, to untie the knots we often find ourselves entangled in and tripping over, preventing us from moving forward in a new direction at the invitation of her divine son.

As he told his disciples as the got into the boat on the shores of Galilee, "let us go to the other side"!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oct 7, 2018

Boy meets Girl

Boy, girl,
man, woman, 
husband, wife,
 mother, father,
son, daughter

In days long ago, when a woman went into labor, no one knew for sure if the baby, about to be born, was a boy or a girl.  After the newborn emerged, you had to wait for the doctor, the nurse or midwife will enthusiastically declare, “It’s a boy! It’s a girl!”

Today, with the invention of ultrasound technology, an unborn baby's gender can be simply ascertained my an image on a screen. In short, using old-fashioned way or with modern science, you can tell simply by looking!

For each one of us here, as difficult as it is to imagine, our parents were once babies. Your mother was a little baby girl - your father, was once a little baby boy!

But the purpose of being a baby boy or baby girl is not to remain a baby. Within the safe environment and natural love of a family, we are mentored along the way, by fathers and mothers to arrive into adulthood. But the journey does not end there. the journey continues.

The First Reading tells us what happens next. That "a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh”. In other words, a boy becomes a man so that he can leave home and become a father. A girl becomes a woman so that she can leave home and become a mother.

But not so fast! Notice that the Sacred Scriptures tell us that when a man leaves his father and mother, we are told he is to cling, not simply to a woman, any woman but to “his wife”.  If the woman you are clinging to, or the man you are clinging to is not your husband, it is offensive to the sacred language of marriage. God defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, of a husband to his wife in order, and here we go again, to take their own turn to be a mother and father – a family!

By his words and actions, Christ defines and clarifies the nature of this sacred and permanent relationship we call the sacrament of marriage.

Is there an indication that Christ was ever married?  Yes! From the cross, Christ the Bridegroom gave his life completely and without holding back anything – he gave his life to his Bride – the Holy Church. He continues to do so through the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is why we call the Eucharist the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Notice that Christ reminds us in today's Gospel, that in the language of God concerning marriage, there is no talk of divorce. It may be in the civil language and indeed at Calvary, the civil voices called out to him to come down from the cross, to save himself. But breaking promises is not the language of God. Christ will never divorce himself from his bride.

And even though we have often times been unfaithful, Christ the Bridegroom has and always is faithful. He will never take back the ring! In good times, in bad times, in sickness or in health, for richer, for poorer, he is always faithful, even until death, death on a cross.  

It is for this reason that it is often a tragedy when the civil language of divorce threatens the sacred unity of a sacred marriage and the harmony of a family.  

It goes without saying, that preparation for marriage is crucially important and can never be entered into casually or impulsively, or as a matter of convenience.

 There were many times when Christ could have conveniently given his life for the sake of our salvation. He didn't do a practice run. Nor did he test out the cross for a while to see what it was going to be like. Instead, he chose his hour and his day, after much prayer, patience, preparation, and soul-searching so that he could do so freely. And to engaged couples who enter into the marriage covenant with Christ who rose from the dead, he assures them of supernatural help in good times and in bad times.

Never be afraid of the sacred language of marriage.  Never play it safe to simply be comfortable partners, even to cruise control into being a husband and wife or parents. Holy Marriage never stifles but always points toward cooperating with God in his work of creation, to be motherly and fatherly together. That's why, in the same breath, as our Lord clarifies the marriage relationship (in the Gospel today), he then says, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them”.

So, let us pray in particular for our children and our young people, that they will be inspired by the examples of heroic man and women who become husbands and wives.  May they learn from our example how to be fatherly and motherly, not just for their own sake, but especially for the sake of future generations to come. May we all find a welcome and a place within the family home of Jesus in the company of Mary and Joseph.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Catechism of the Catholic Church 369-373, 1601-1605, 1612-1617, 1638 ff)

Gardening Kingdom

  We often hear this phrase, “The Kingdom of God ''.  We even pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  This “Kingdom” was the hallmark of Our Lord...