Congratulation to our First Communicants!
Once, a gentleman was visiting his son. On Sunday when he went to church he took his little granddaughter with him. While they were in the church, the little girl was observing everything,. Finally they went to receive communion. Grandpa received communion and she got a blessing. On the way back to the pew she asked, “Grandpa when am I going to get one of those?” Grandpa told her, “I will make sure in a couple of years you will receive First Communion.” She kept watching the priest, and grandpa knelt down and prayed. When the priest went to the tabernacle to keep the Blessed Sacrament, she asked grandpa, “What is he doing? Is he putting it in the microwave?”
First of all, I would like to congratulate all of our First Communicants! I am sure all of you are excited to receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. Look at the Cross, and it tells you how much God loves you. Look at the Easter Candle, and it tells you He loves you and wants to be the light of your life. Look at the Altar. Just as your parents feed you so that you can be strong physically, God feeds you from the Altar so that you can be strong spiritually. At your Holy Communion, Jesus comes to you. He wants your communion/relationship with him to be holy. He wants your communion/relationship with everybody to be Holy.
In today’s Gospel of Luke, Luke is presenting two different accounts. Two disciples were explaining how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Among the Jews, this was a ceremonial gesture that began the celebration of an ordinary meal. But among the Christians, it was used as a description of the Eucharist celebration. We read in the Acts of the Apostles 2:42, “They held steadfastly to the apostles’’ teaching and fellowship to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
While the two were explaining the Emmaus experience Jesus appeared to them again and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He showed them His hands and feet to remove their doubts. We read the Gospel of John 20:27, where Jesus was appearing to the apostles and asking doubting Thomas to come to faith. Jesus showed them His risen body and assures us of the physical nature of our own resurrection on the Last Day. The resurrected body is a spiritual body.
Then he reminded them that His suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead are the fulfillment of Moses, prophets, and psalms. There is an emphasis on the term third day, and we can see a couple of references in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis 22:13, Isaac was for three days under a death sentence until God intervened to give him back alive to Abraham on the third day. In Jonah 1:17, the experience of Jonah coming forth from a whale after three days in its stomach, foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection from the grave after three days. In Hosea 6:2, Hosea depicted Israel’s restoration from exile as a third-day resurrection.
Saint Teresa looked at her with love and said, “My dear sister, have you forgotten that Jesus is still on earth and that He lives near you-yes, in the house with you, and often in your very soul. Have you also forgotten that you can see Him and can speak to Him as often as you like? Is not Jesus with us in the Most Holy Sacrament? Why then do you wish to have lived long ago, since that same Jesus who lived with Mary and Joseph lives also with you?” Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. And we who are united to Him through our baptism have risen with Him. Jesus lives with us and He gives Himself in the Eucharist as nourishment for our journey, so we can grow in Holiness.
Divine Mercy Sunday
God is love and merciful. He continues to pour out his mercy in the world through new Israel, the Church. In a dream, St. Theresa of Lisieux asked St. Faustina, an apostle of Divine Mercy, to trust in Jesus and she will become a saint. Later St. Faustina wrote in her diary, “God said to me, in the old covenant I sent prophets willingly thunderbolts of my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching humankind, I desire to heal it…”
Pope St. John Paul II declared that the second Sunday, the octave day of Easter, should be Divine Mercy Sunday. St. John Paul II has a great role in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter, St. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina. St. Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our faith and hope fixed on God, the Father, rich in mercy, who has saved us by the precious blood of His Son.
Pope Francis continues to spread the message of Mercy. During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said in one of his homilies, “Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion.”
There are two parts to the message of Divine Mercy: devotion and being merciful. Marion Fathers came up with the acronym for the Divine Mercy celebration: FINCH and ABC. FINCH: F-Feast of Divine Mercy, I-Image of Divine Mercy, N-Novena of Divine Mercy, C-Chaplet of Divine Mercy, H-Hour of Divine Mercy. What is ABC? A - Ask for God’s Mercy. B - Be merciful. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C - Completely trust in Jesus.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles talks about the corporal works of Mercy. Early Christian communities were united as a family in every aspect of life. They shared everything, supported each other, and worshiped together. The second reading from the first letter of St. John talks about keeping love for God and keeping the commandment.
In the Gospel of John, we see doubting Thomas. In the first part, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." We read in the Book of Genesis 2:7, God breathed on the first man and gave him life. We see other passages in the Old Testament about the breath of God. In Ezekiel 37:9, where God raises an army of corpses to new life by the breath of the Spirit. In the first book of Kings (17:21), we see Elijah revives the dead son of the widow of Zarephath. After the resurrection Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them new life: spiritual life.
Jesus asked them to receive the Holy Spirit, and then he commissioned them to forgive the sins. Jesus' ministry of mercy and reconciliation will continue through the apostles. A week later Jesus appeared to them and Thomas proclaims the faith, “My Lord and My God.” Apostles experience God’s mercy and proclaim it in a loud voice. Jesus empowered his disciples to become the vehicle of his mercy.
God sends people to remind us of his mercy. St. Faustina wrote in her diary, “God said to me, in the old covenant I sent prophets willingly, thunderbolts of my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching humankind, I desire to heal it…”
On Sunday, April 11 at 2:30 p.m. our cluster will have Divine Mercy Sunday service. It includes Adoration, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available. Please come and join. Thank you.
He is Risen! Alleluia!!
A couple of years ago I had the privilege to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We had the privilege to make the Way of the Cross to Calvary and celebrated Mass at the Church of Holy Sepulcher. It was a faith filed moment. Calvary is not a huge hill, considering where Jesus went to pray or where He transfigured, Calvary is a small one. Why? I don’t think Romans want to climb the huge hill to kill somebody. They chose Calvary for their own convenience. For Jesus, it is not just walking up the hill. He was scourged, crowned with thorns, and carrying the cross. He was carrying our burdens. Jesus’ crucifixion site and Jesus’ tomb are in the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
The Old Testament readings of Easter Vigil recites the covenant history of salvation, beginning with creation and extending to the prophetic promises of a New Covenant. The first reading is from the Book of Genesis, we read the creation story (1:11-2:2). In the second reading from the book of Genesis, Abraham is asked to sacrifices his only son (22:1-18). It is the high point of Abraham’s covenant relationship with God and blessing on his descendent. On Good Friday, Our Heavenly Father allows his only begotten Son crucified on Calvary. In the third reading from the book of Exodus, Israelites marched on dry land through the midst of the sea (14:15-15:1). At Easter Vigil, there is baptism and Christian initiation take place. The parting of the sea is a critical Old Testament type of baptism.
The next two readings are from the book of Isaiah. In the fourth reading, the Lord will with his enduring love, resume his covenant love for Zion and rebuild with precious stones and grant it righteousness and prosperity (54:5-14). This reading shapes the mind of the believer, especially those who are receiving the Sacraments, about the dual reality of the church as both Bride and Temple. The fifth reading is also from the book of Isaiah, which is an invitation for a meal. The Lord’s thoughts and ways are higher and His Words will not return empty (55:1-11). This passage is associated with the Gospel of Matthew (14:13-21) the account of the feeding of the five thousand. Ultimately it leads to Eucharist. This reading prepares us to reaffirm our faith and particularly those who prepared to receive the Sacrament for the first time. The sixth reading is from the book of Prophet Baruch which talks about wisdom and law (3:9-15, 32-4:4). It is an invitation to walk towards the splendor of the Lord, live the faith to the full. The seventh reading is from the book of Ezekiel tells about the restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28). The Lord will gather the Israelites from exile, cleans them by sprinkling the clean water, and give them a new heart and a new spirit, so they can grow in the law of love. The Sacrament of the Baptism is the new cleansing and Holy Spirit renewing the heart to grow in the law of love.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read an Easter Vigil, “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning; Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” An ancient homily on Holy Saturday notes that “God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and son of Eve.” Jesus on Easter Sunday morning does a new creation, brought new life. Easter morning marks the day of Christ’s victory over death and sin.
This Easter experience is a past event, a present reality, and future hope. Easter is a celebration of present reality: Jesus lives! Jesus died and rose again in the past, but that Jesus lives among us and within us right here, and right now. This is our Easter proclamation. We experience his presence in our lives in many beautiful ways.
Easter is the celebration of future hope. When we are baptized we are given a share of the Resurrection of the Lord, we become a new creation. Our hope is that we will share in the fullness of the New Life Jesus won for us through His suffering and death. It is our hope in Christ that helps us endure challenges like the coronavirus. The coronavirus has brought the pain of sickness, uncertainties, and confusion, but our faith gives us hope, beyond this pain and struggles, Easter Sunday tells us there is hope. The fullness of hope and happiness is Eternal Life.
Happy Easter to everyone!
Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, "Why do you have that palm branch, dad? "You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so we got palm branches today. "Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny." The one Sunday I can't go to church, and Jesus shows up !"The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week. At the procession with Palms, we read the Gospel of Mark. Mark dedicates over one-third of his Gospel to Passion Week, the final days of Jesus’ life. It shows the importance and every year we celebrate them from Palms Sunday through Holy Saturday. Jesus enters the Holy City of Jerusalem amidst of thousands of pilgrims who came for the annual feast of Passover (Exodus 12:1-13). Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation (1 Kings 1:32-40).Jesus entered the Holy City as a king of peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9-10).On Holy Thursday there is a Chrism Mass in Cathedral Churches because it is a solemn observance of Christ's institution of the Eucharist and priesthood. In order to make the opportunity for most priests and laity to attend this Mass, Diocese may celebrate prior to the holy week, as we celebrated in our diocese. At this 'Chrism Mass,' the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three things: Institution of the Eucharist, Institutionof the Priesthood, and Jesus promulgation off new commandment of Love. "Love one anotheras I have loved you" (John 13:3).The original meaning of this feast is celebrating the passing of the angel of death over the Israelites and their escape from Egypt ((Exodus12:3). In the new Passover, Jesus will pass over to the Father through the upcoming events of his Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. The Holy Thursday liturgy in the parish communities, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown. Washing of the feet takes place in this Mass. In the Old Testament time is wasa gesture of hospitality, normally performed by a house hold slave. In John chapter13, Jesus washes the disciples' feet. The foot washing may be a sign of priestly ordination as in the Book of Exodus 40:12. Food brought for the poor will be brought at the offertory. After the Holy Thursday evening Mass the Blessed Sacrament carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain 'entombed' until the communion service on Good Friday. And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection. Holy Thursday institution of Eucharist Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you; this is my blood and shed for you” and we see on Good Friday that sacrifice is completed on the cross. He broke himself for us and fed us. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the needy people through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy; break and share.Jesus completed the sacrificeson the Cross. The water and blood came from the side of Jesus. In the book of Numbers when Moses struck the rock, the water came out (20:10-13). Paul interprets this rock as Christ (1Corinthians 10:4) from which flows the spiritual drink of the Eucharist.St. John Chrysostom says,, "The water and blood symbolized Baptism and Holy Eucharist. From these two Sacraments the Churchis born: from Baptism, the cleansing of water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and fromthe Holy Eucharist."Holy Week can become "holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. Let us meditate on these beautifulliturgies and renew our own faith.
Third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, we choose the reading from Year A, because we have RCIA Candidates. We join them and meditate on these readings. This weekend the readings are centered on the Sacrament of Baptism and new life. The first reading, from the Book of Exodus chapter 17, tells us the story of Israelites complaining about their thirst. In the previous chapter, they had complained that Moses brought them to the wilderness to die of hunger (16:3). Here they grumbled that Moses meant for them to die of thirst. So Moses asked the LORD, “What shall I do with this people?” Moses followed God’s instruction and strikes the rock. In Deuteronomy 32 in Moses’ song, he called God the Rock. St. Paul says that the rock was the Christ (I Corinthians 10:4). The spiritual rock followed Israelites in the wilderness and satisfied their thirst. The place Israelites quarreled was called Massah and Meribah which means the place of the test. Psalm 95:89 says, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.” Several generations of the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they forgot about their God who made Covenant with them and they complained that in Egypt they at least were not thirsty.In the Gospel, Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were halfJews, ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. It began with the devastation of northern Palestine by Assyria. We read in the Second Book of Kings chapter 17 that the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. The Israelites in Samaria had defiled themselves by assimilating the practice of those pagan people and intermarrying with them. This caused enmity between Jews and Samaritans. Geographically, Judea is in the extreme south, Samaria in the middle, and Galilee in the extreme North. Normally, Jews avoid Samaria to go between north and south. But Jesus went through the Samaria and made a stop at Jacob’s well.This well was located on a piece of land that had been bought by Jacob (Genesis 33:1819), and later given to Joseph (48:22).Jesus oversteps the boundaries of Jewish traditions by conversing with women in public, sharing a drink with Samaritan, and mingling with a sinner. When Jesus reached the well, it was hot midday, and he sat there and the disciples went to town to get some food. Jesus was thirsty from traveling and asked the Samaritan woman for water.We see in the Old Testament the meetings between future spouses at wells. Isaac meets Rebekah (Genesis 24:1067), Jacob meets Rachel at the well of Haran (Genesis 29:130), and Moses and Zipporah meet at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:1521). Here Jesus is the divine bridegroom in search of believers to be His covenant bride.“Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His thirst was for the soul of the Samaritan woman. On the other hand, the Samaritan woman thirst for real love.Normally women used to go to fetch water in the morning or in the evening when it was not too hot. But she came to fetch water at noon. She may be trying to avoid the crowd. Jesus came to her level to reach out and walk with her and leads her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit comes to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of his Holy Spirit into our hearts. Samaritan woman, in the Gospel once embraced the faith, the living water, became a missionary who brought others to Jesus. Once she had a lifechanging experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself.Jesus THIRST for our faith. Do we thirst for him? Yes, we do. The question is do we recognize it? Lent invites us to renew our faith, through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let us pray for one another, in a special way please pray for our RCIA candidates Christian Paul Newbury, Jasmine Sue Zenisek and Charlotte Jirschele.
We are in Fourth Sunday in Lent. Traditionally this Sunday is known as “Laetare Sunday,” from the Latin word for “Rejoice!” It sets a tone of joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery. The theme of the reading is new life and spiritual sight.The fourth Sunday of Lent gives us a review of salvation history. The first reading is a historical moment of salvation history. Israelites were governed by Judges. Israelites looked at the surrounding kingdoms and asked God for a King of Israel. Saul was their first king, but he offended God, and the kingship was taken from him. The Lord asked Samuel, the last Judge in Israel, to go to Bethlehem to anoint Jesse’s son the next king. Samuel followed God’s command and anoints David and Holy Spirit comes upon him. This anointing is a type of baptism. We read in the book of Isaiah 1:12 “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”When Samuel met Jesse, Eliab was there and God told Samuel not to judge in appearance. Jesse’ presented seven of his children; God didn’t choose any of them. God chose the unexpected one, David. In the eyes of Jes-se, he was a young and just shepherd. Samuel was made a decision based on appearance, but God had a differ-ent plan. God said to Samuel, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” We read in the Book of Psalms 78:7071, “He chose David his servant, took him from the sheepfolds. From tending ewes God brought him, to shepherd Jacob, his people, Israel, his heritage. He shepherded them with a pure heart; with skilled hands he guided them.” God anointed David to shepherd the Israelites.The Gospel reading is also a symbolic catechesis on baptism. Isaiah prophesied and Jews believed that when Jesus comes he will heal the blind and other diseases. We read in Isaiah 42:7, “To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”Jews believed that wherever there is suffering there is sin. So the disciples brought up this question to Jesus’ attention. Jesus tells them it is a providential plan of God. Jesus gave the physical sight to the man who was blind; it is a sign that Jesus gives spiritual sight to see the world in the light of heaven. Jesus says, “I am light of the world.” Jesus is the source of truth, faith, and life. The Man who received the sight, received the light of faith.Jesus applied the clay mixed with saliva on man’s eyes and asked him to go and wash in the 'Pool of Siloam.’ In the second book of Kings (5:1014) Elisha commanded Naaman the Syrian to “go and wash” in the Jorden river to be restored to health. The pool of Siloam was in the southern district of ancient Jerusalem to serve as a water supply for the city. Siloam means sent. Here Jesus is the source of living water. This miracle anticipates the administration of baptism.Jews said that it is unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of a person who born blind. When they threw him out, Jesus came and asked him that whether he believed in the Son of Man. He made the profession of faith.This Gospel passage associated with baptism. Just as the blind man went down into the waters of Siloam and came up whole, so also believers who are immersed in the waters of Baptism comes up spiritually whole, total-ly healed of the spiritual blindness with which all of us are born. Let us pray for all those who are preparing for the Sacrament and also let us renew our own baptism in this Lenten season.I assume all of us are praying for someone during this lent. Let us pray for a neighboring family or so someone in our life. During Holy week take a candle and give it to them as a symbol of your prayer. Thank you!
Third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, we choose the reading from Year A, because we have RCIA Candidates. We join them and meditate on these readings. This weekend the readings are centered on the Sacrament of Baptism and new life. The first reading, from the Book of Exodus chapter 17, tells us the story of Israelites complaining about their thirst. In the previous chapter, they had complained that Moses brought them to the wilderness to die of hunger (16:3). Here they grumbled that Moses meant for them to die of thirst. So Moses asked the LORD, “What shall I do with this people?” Moses followed God’s instruction and strikes the rock. In Deuteronomy 32 in Moses’ song, he called God the Rock. St. Paul says that the rock was the Christ (I Corinthians 10:4). The spiritual rock followed Israelites in the wilderness and satisfied their thirst. The place Israelites quarreled was called Massah and Meribah which means the place of the test. Psalm 95:8-9 says, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.” Several generations of the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they forgot about their God who made Covenant with them and they complained that in Egypt they at least were not thirsty.
In the Gospel, Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were half-Jews, ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. It began with the devastation of northern Palestine by Assyria. We read in the Second Book of Kings chapter 17 that the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. The Israelites in Samaria had defiled themselves by assimilating the practice of those pagan people and intermarrying with them. This caused enmity between Jews and Samaritans. Geographically, Judea is in the extreme south, Samaria in the middle, and Galilee in the extreme North. Normally, Jews avoid Samaria to go between north and south. But Jesus went through the Samaria and made a stop at Jacob’s well. This well was located on a piece of land that had been bought by Jacob (Genesis 33:18-19), and later given to Joseph (48:22).
Jesus oversteps the boundaries of Jewish traditions by conversing with women in public, sharing a drink with Samaritan, and mingling with a sinner. When Jesus reached the well, it was hot midday, and he sat there and the disciples went to town to get some food. Jesus was thirsty from traveling and asked the Samaritan woman for water.
We see in the Old Testament the meetings between future spouses at wells. Isaac meets Rebekah (Genesis 24:10-67), Jacob meets Rachel at the well of Haran (Genesis 29:1-30), and Moses and Zipporah meet at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:15-21). Here Jesus is the divine bridegroom in search of believers to be His covenant bride.
“Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His thirst was for the soul of the Samaritan woman. On the other hand, the Samaritan woman thirst for real love. Normally women used to go to fetch water in the morning or in the evening when it was not too hot. But she came to fetch water at noon. She may be trying to avoid the crowd. Jesus came to her level to reach out and walk with her and leads her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.
The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit comes to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of his Holy Spirit into our hearts. Samaritan woman, in the Gospel once embraced the faith, the living water, became a missionary who brought others to Jesus. Once she had a life-changing experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself.
Jesus THIRST for our faith. Do we thirst for him? Yes, we do. The question is do we recognize it? Lent invites us to renew our faith, through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let us pray for one another, in a special way please pray for our RCIA candidates Christian Paul Newbury, Jasmine Sue Zenisek and Charlotte Jirschele.
On this second Sunday of Lent, the first reading and Gospel take us to the mountain top. We see two different atmospheres and experiences. In the first reading, God asked Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to the mountain of Moriah and to sacrifice him. Genesis 17:5, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Abraham means father of a multitude, but God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. How could God’s promise be possible if Isaac were sacrificed? God tested Abraham’s faith. In response to Abraham’s obedient faith, God swears an oath to bless the entire world. Abraham was faithful to God and his readiness to sacrifice his son Isaac is a prototype of God the Father and the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Isaac carried the wood for his sacrifice on the mountain Moriah and lay down on the wood to become the sacrifice. Jesus carried the cross to Calvary, wood for His sacrifice. If we are reading the Bible for the first time, at the beginning of the story we may think this does not make any sense. God promised Abraham numerous descendants but God asked to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. The Apostles might have felt the same way that Jesus’ crucifixion didn’t make any sense. Jesus came to liberate and restore but He was crucified.
In the Gospel Jesus, we read the transfiguration. Early Christianity and Tradition believed that the transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor. It is a message of hope and encouragement. Prior to Jesus transfigured, Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days (Mark 8:31). How did they react? Peter rebuked Jesus for saying this and Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan.” The transfiguration balances out the shock of Jesus’ first passion prediction and strengthens the faith of the three apostles. What a grace for Peter and James and John to see Jesus transfigured. They got a preview of the glory of risen Jesus and his glory in heaven. Like Jesus’ baptism, this transfiguration reveals the Trinity: Son transfigured, the Father’s voice is heard, and the presence of the Spirit is in the cloud.
We can see a similar event in the Book of Exodus 24 the covenant of Mount Sinai. The exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Mount Sinai confirm that God’s covenant love towards the descendants of Abraham. As God directed, Moses took Aaron, Nadab, and Abiud and seventy of the elders of Israel and went up to Mount Sinai. We read in the Book Exodus 25:15-17 “Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered it six days, and on the seventh day, he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the sons of Israel.” The mountain was covered with cloud and God revealed his glory and heard God’s voice. New Moses, Jesus took Peter, James and John went up to the Mountain and revealed the glory. They heard God’s voice.
At the transfiguration, Elijah and Moses came as representatives of the prophets and the law of the Old Testament and testify that Jesus is the Messiah and mediator of the New Covenant. When Jesus foretold His death and Resurrection, Peter began to rebuke Jesus, but here Peter likes to prolong the heavenly experience. So he to Jesus said, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents.” Does this tell us something about ourselves? I think we all like mountain top experiences, and we want to stay there. Transfiguration was preparing the apostles for the entry to Jerusalem and witness Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. May our forty days of prayer, fasting, almsgiving prepare us to celebrate the Holy Week.
Congratulations! I would like to congratulate our sophomore Confirmation Candidates and First Communion children. First Communion children, they made their retreat and First Reconciliation last week. Sophomore students were introduced at last weekends Mass. Congratulations to them and their families. Please keep them in our prayers.
Pope Francis in his Lenten message invites us to “renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God.” He says, “Accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word.” Through fasting, “experienced as a form of self-denial,” we will be able “to rediscover God’s gift and recognize that, created in His image and likeness, we find our fulfillment in Him.” Let us live the faith, hope, and love.
Do you think there is an evil spirit in the world? Yes, there is. This weekends reading invites us to reflect on our daily life and its challenges. Are we tempted to do…..or to say….or to see….or to listen to the devil? If so, each of us proved ourselves as a human being. But Lent invites us to overcome these temptations through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. During the lent, we reflect how Jesus defeated every circumstance that Adam and Eve; and the Israelites failed. Lent is a time to set aside our fear and focus on Jesus.
Every year on the first Sunday of Lent, we reflect on the temptation of Jesus. This year we have from the Gospel of Mark. In the Gospel of Mark, right after the Baptism of the Lord, the same Spirit who descended on Jesus in his baptism drives him into the desert for forty days. Jesus, the new Adam, was tempted by Satan among the wild beasts, as the first Adam was tempted amid the beasts in paradise.
In the new exodus, Jesus was being led by the Spirit into the wilderness and tested for forty days. In the old exodus, the Israelites spent forty years in the desert and tested. The presence of ministering angels to sustain Jesus in the new Exodus, recalls the angel who guided the Israelites in the desert in the first Exodus. We read in the book of Exodus 23:20, “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.”
The new Adam, Jesus, through His filial love for the Father brought forth the new Israel of God there where Adam and Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation. Jesus began the campaign against demons, death, and diseases in the desert, and continues through his proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus trained his disciples on how to overcome the devil.
I am sure everyone experiences every time we renew our Baptismal promise and try to live it, the tempter attacks more aggressively than before. Jesus assures us on this lent that the victory is ours through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We would increase your prayer to grow in the virtue of humility, intensify our giving of alms to detach from the possessions, fast to overcome attachments, and recognize our own poverty.
During this lent, I would like to invite everyone prays for one family. It could be your neighbor. Pray for them these forty days, and during the Holy week present a lit candle to them and let them know you were praying for them. It will brighten their life, our life and with this warmth and light, it will be beautiful to celebrate Easter.
A little boy had just returned home from an Ash Wednesday church service. The little girl from next door asked him what the smudge was on his forehead. He replied, "It's Ash Wednesday." "What's Ash Wednesday?" she asked. "Oh," he replied, "It's when Christians begin their diet."
Lent, our annual retreat is forty days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday. It invites us to keep a diet for spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual health. Last year, our Lenten season and celebration of Holy week were in total isolation. As we begin our Lenten season still there are uncertainties and not fully out of the pandemic, but we have hope soon to be out of these hard times. Pope Francis in his 2020 Holy Week message said, “Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let us be generous. Let us help those in need in our neighborhood. Let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks. Let us pray to the Lord for those who are in difficulty in Italy and in the world.”
Lent is a time to revisit our quality/ability to reach out in love. Reach out demands love which leads to sacrifice. God, himself, gave us a true model to reach out to. Because of love for humanity, God left His glory and became a vulnerable being like one of us. We see the culmination of His love in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is the point of mediation for lent.
In the first reading on Ash Wednesday we read from the book of Joel, “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…” Lent asks us to come closer to God. The Gospel of Matthew tells us the means to reach the goal: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Prayer: We devote ourselves to prayer: in personal prayer, participating in weekend Mass, and if our schedules allow, attend weekday Mass. If you are not able to in person, we do Livestream Mass and Rosary through Facebook and YouTube.
Fasting: Fast from anything that harms us and others. It could be food or other things, habits, or situations. When we fast from something, the outcome of the fasting is to use it to reach out to others. Suppose one is going to reduce the amount of time from watching TV, use that extra time to reach out to someone. There the fasting becomes healthy and meaningful.
Almsgiving: Freeing ourselves from greed and helping others. It can be through prayers, inviting others to pray at Mass, spending time with others, and/or giving financial help.
Lent, in a sense, is a time to die, so we can rise with Christ at Easter with a new spirit of life. Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during this season to die and rise with a healthy body, mind, and soul.
“O God, Creator of us all,
From whom we came, to whom we go,
You look with pity on our hearts,
The weakness of our wills you know.” (This is part of the evening prayer for Ash Wednesday)
World longs for healing, isn’t it?
Recently, I read a short story. One of my all-time favorite church magazine cartoons pictures a physician in his office, speaking with his bookkeeper. The subject of their conversation is a patient's bill, which apparently had been in the accounts receivable file for a long, long time. The bookkeeper says to the doctor, "He says that since you told him his recovery was a miracle, he sent his check to the church." Today’s gospel passage from Mark touches on the subject of miraculous healing.
In the Ordinary season, we listen to Jesus' public ministry. The healing ministry of Jesus is one of the ways of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus did healing two different ways: by proclaiming the word, and by touching. Jesus is in Capernaum, in a way we can say Jesus’ second home. It is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today’s Gospel is from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark where Jesus grasped Simon’s mother-in-law’s hand and helped her up. In the same chapter, we can see Jesus heals the leper. There he stretched out his hand and touched him. In the Gospel of Matthew (8:5-13) we read the healing of a centurion’s servant. Jesus was amazed in the faith of the Centurion and said “You may go; as you believed, let it be done for you.” The moment Jesus said these words, the Centurion's servant was healed at home.
Simon’s mother-in-law received healing and she got up and waited on them. And there is something more beautiful that happened there. The door of her house was open for others. People kept coming to receive healing. The Gospel says, “The whole town was gathered at the door.”
I recollect my pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. It was eighteen years ago. It is a place of healing. It is amazing to see the hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims come to Lourdes from all over the world. If I remember correctly, every day there is a Eucharistic procession, and reciting the Rosary during the procession. There will be people who are in a wheelchair, using crutches; children were carried and so on. Everybody was helping each other if they needed help and praying together in the Eucharistic procession.
When I read the Gospel passage, I was thinking the whole town came to the door of Simon’s mother-in-law. I was picturing in my mind if it was today, especially with this COVID-19, the whole world might have been gathered for healing. As we all know due to COVID, people suffer because they physically got COVID, family members suffer because they cannot visit their loved ones, some others suffer because of the stress of the new work situations, still, some others suffer because they lost their job. The list goes on and on.
In the first reading, we see Job is at an extremely low point in his life. He was lamenting. Like Job, we all experience the months of misery. Perhaps, we do not suffer to the extent that Job suffered, but life brings with it many challenges, including challenges to our faith that God will get us through the crisis.
God knows our difficulties and frailties. He came to heal us just like he healed in the Gospel and to give us hope. He waits for us in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, to give us healing and give us nourishment. We meet him in our family members, neighbors, healthcare professionals, and so on. He is with us now and always.
Job opening: Joan Bruch, our secretary decided to take early retirement due to family reasons. Please join me to thank Joan for the service she provided for St. Anthony and our cluster. Her last day will be March 15. That said, we are looking for a secretary who is organized, has computer skills and a people person to fill the position. There will be an ad in the bulletin and newspaper in the coming weeks. Thank you!
A couple of years ago, I think I read in Fr. Tommy Lane homily, he writes, once when he was on retreat in a monastery in Ireland he greeted one of the monks and asked, “How are you, Father?” He replied, “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” It sounds funny but it expresses a truth about all of us, “there is still a bit of the devil in us” because we have not yet overcome our attachment to sin. “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” would certainly be true of the man with the unclean spirit in the Gospel today (Mark 1:21-28).
This weekend's readings remind us that God is with us. He cares for us and our needs. In the first reading, we see Moses who shared with the people of Israel God’s promise. Moses was about to die. People were concerned about their future. Moses was leading them through the wilderness to the Promised Land and he is about to die. The question was for them, now how were they going to know the will of God. God answered their concern and question through Moses. He told them, God will raise a prophet like him and they will learn the will of God from no one but their prophets. There are two sides to this promise. The first hint is all the true prophets who were to succeed Moses will bring them the will of God. The second is that this promise ultimately leads to the coming of Jesus. This passage came to be understood in a quasi-Messianic sense in the New Testament. Peter in his kerygmatic discourse (Acts 3:22) mentions the promise from the Deuteronomy (18:15), in the first reading.
At the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:7), Moses and Elijah appeared. There was a bright cloud that cast a shadow over them, a voice came from the cloud that said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Here we see Father reveals His Son, and an invitation to listen to him.
In the Gospel, we see Jesus in Capernaum, in Galilee, the center of his ministry. The new Moses is here, who inaugurated the new exodus at the baptism in Jordan. Israelites celebrated Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. The temple is in Jerusalem, but every city had a Synagogue which is a small building used for the gathering for prayer, worship, and instruction in the scripture. It took place day-to-day catechesis of the people. Jesus was there and he was already considered as a teacher and they were in amazement in his teaching.
Most of the people recognize Jesus; there were people who ignored Jesus. In this Gospel passage, there was a man with an unclean spirit. This unclean spirit confesses that Jesus is the “Holy One.” It was not because of the faith, but it was out of fear. The unclean spirit obeyed Jesus and came out of him. It couldn’t resist Jesus’ word. The Divine power is displayed through Jesus' word.
Today, Jesus invites us to do his mission. We received this call at baptism, then confirmed, and nourishes at every Eucharist. He is not calling us to do exactly what he did. He is calling us to give his presence to others. It could be by being next to them, sometimes it could be through our prayers, some other times it could be sharing our talents or treasure. In order to do these things, we need to find nourishment and renew our spirit. We need to confess Him as “Holy One,” not out of fear, but out of LOVE. Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus renews his saving commitment to us. He breaks and gives to us for our nourishment and send us out to continue to share with others.