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.
A priest was ministering to a man on his deathbed. "Renounce Satan!" said the priest. "No," said the dying man. "I say, renounce the devil and his works!" "No," the man repeats. "And why not, I ask you in the name of all that is holy?" "Because," said the dying man, "I want to wait until I see where I'm heading before I start annoying anybody."
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….? If so you proved yourself to be a human being. But Lent invites us to repent and receive grace to embrace a new life. Lent is a time to set aside tendencies of our mind and focus on Jesus.
St. John Paul II writes in his theology of the body, in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, gave them a perfect world to live. The relationship was so perfect in love. God blessed them with the gift of caring for each other and for all God’s creation. The first man and woman joined in love, a union in which they were “naked without shame.” There was no need for shame or embarrassment because they were perfect in love. As we read in the first reading, they lost the unity, peace, and perfection of love as soon as they fell in the temptation and sinned.
In the Gospel, we read today, the temptation of Jesus. If we look at the life of Jesus, it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In the Book of Exodus, Moses led Israelites through the Red Sea and wandered in the desert, and was tempted for forty years before they reached the Promised Land. The new Moses: Jesus, after the Baptism, he came out of Jordan River and led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The Israelites fall in the temptations, but Jesus brings victory over the temptation.
In the desert, the devil tries to tempt Jesus by quoting the Bible passage. On the other hand, Jesus faces the temptations by quoting Bible passages. Each time Jesus says, it is written…if we look at those Words we can see them in Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8. These two chapters of Deuteronomy gives us the Word of God while Israelites were in the desert. It will be a good reading to understand the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4.
In the desert, Jesus was hungry, and the first temptation: the devil tempts Jesus to use his power for himself. We are all tempted to selfishness. At every moment we must listen to God’s Word, seek God’s will. Jesus says, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Our deeper needs are for more than food and drink.
In the second temptation, the devil tells, throw yourselves down and let Father send angels to rescue you. Are we tempted to pray to God something like this? Jesus’ answer to this temptation, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
That third temptation the Lord endured is the temptation we all have to accumulate possessions and power as though these gifts from God will make our lives happy. What/who has first place in our life? God or our possessions?
The essence of evil is a turning from God. St. Augustine speaks about it as a flight to nothingness. For God is the source of all that is. Evil perverts His Creation so that instead of the good things He creates leading us to Him, we use His gifts to run away from Him.
Our mind has the tendency to run away from God. It has the addictive pattern of thinking. Lent is time to give up our head and give in to our heart. We need to set aside our mind for some time to be with God.
Lent, a season of grace!
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."
We talk a lot about healthy food; in the end, we end up eating all kinds of junk food. Lent invites us to keep a diet for spiritual health, which helps our physical health too.
On Ash Wednesday, the Church begins forty days of Lenten journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can see in the Bible the number forty is repeated. Genesis chapter 6-9 we see, it took 40 days for sinfulness to drown in the flood before a new creation could inherit the earth. It took 40 years for the generation of slaves to die before the freeborn could enter the Promised Land. For 40 days Moses and Elijah fasted and prayed to prepare themselves for a life's work. Jesus fasted and prayed forty nights and days in the desert before the public ministry. And he faced the tempter in the desert.
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.
Francis writes in his Apostolic Exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, "whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God's voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades." He continues that, "We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own."
Through the forty days of Lenten exercise of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we spring-clean our lives; sharpen our senses to be open to God and others. Lent helps us to recognize that our identity and mission are rooted in Jesus' dying and rising. Lent is a time to fast from certain things, but also a time to feast on LOVE.
Forty days of prayer is a time to reflect on the part we play in God’s one human family. Part of that prayer journey may include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community. Forty days of fasting is a time to remove the obstacles getting in the way of loving God and our neighbor. Forty days of almsgiving is a time to experience the spirit of poverty, and come closer to those who are in need.
What can I do this Lent? 1. Take a few minutes for daily prayer (Don’t forget to pray our prayer card). 2. Find time to attend Mass every Sunday. And if you go every Sunday, try to find time for weekday Mass at least once or twice? Or go for the Stations of the Cross. 3. Pray for one or two of your friends/families each week and invite them for the weekend Mass and come with them for Mass.
Prayer Card: Please pick up a prayer card and pray this prayer every day. We will be praying every Mass this Prayer. Let us pray for our cluster community.
Two sisters spent the day fighting. That evening they prepared for bed, still mad at each other. As usual, each knelt by the side of her bed for their prayers. "Dear God," the 8-year-old began, "Bless Daddy and Mommy, bless our cat and dog." Then she stopped. Her mother gently prodded, "Didn’t you forget somebody?" She glared across the bed at her 6-year-old sister and added, "And, oh yes, God, bless my ex-sister."
We just celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am sure everybody talked about and celebrated lots of LOVE. Today’s readings talk about LOVE. It challenges us to choose freely and wisely in order to observe the laws given us by a loving and caring God.
Ben Sira, the author says in the Book of Sirach, tells us that we are engulfed with the mercy and love of God. He is all around us and in us. He knows what is going on within us. He gives us a choice: choose Him or reject Him. If we choose Him, we live. If we reject Him, we die. God has given the power to choose.
The Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday. Gospel of Matthew chapter five started with Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel starts with a statement “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill…whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
When evangelist wrote the Gospel, his audience was the Jewish converts. Jews had 613 laws and sub laws. Matthew tells them, Jesus came to bring the old law to its natural fulfillment in the new. In another way he says, he came to complete the law. They knew the Ten Commandments. Jesus enhances them and invites them and us to integrate law and love together. Another dimension of Jesus teaching in the Gospel is an invitation to clean up our inner thoughts, so the external actions will be more profound and meaningful. In other words, Jesus tells us to go deeper than just avoiding occasions of sin. They tell us that God sees what is going on within us. We have to do all we can to be sure that we treasure His presence within us.
We are sons and daughters of God. Every person has dignity. Every one of us is chosen by God. We cannot sacrifice the freedom we have in Jesus Christ to the evil of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be enslaved by sin. Jesus came to free us from sin. His deepest love is expressed on the Cross- a sacrificial love.
Someone asked Mother Teresa, "What will we be judged on?" She responded, "I believe that when we die and the time comes for us to be judged, God will not ask how many good things we did in our lives, but only with how much love we did them."
Anointing During the Mass: Pope John Paul II designated February 11th Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as World Day of the Sick, “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering and reminding us to see in our sick brothers and sisters the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of humankind”. In our cluster, we will be praying for people who are sick among us and also all those who work in the field of Health Care on the weekend of February 22/23, 2020. At these Masses, there will an opportunity to receive the anointing of the Sick. Thank you.
Historians today consider Abraham Lincoln to be one of the greatest, presidents of this country. However, that greatness was not evident to all during his lifetime. Lincoln received a large amount of bitter – and often contradictory – criticism.
To his critics, Lincoln told a story about a traveler who got caught in a terrible thunderstorm. The night was totally dark and the flashes of lightning provided the only clues to the path. One bolt struck quite close and the crash of thunder brought the man down to his knees. He was not a praying man, but he made a short fervent (eager) petition, “Oh Lord! If it’s all the same to you, give me a little more light and a little less noise.”
All of us can identify with that prayer. We live in a world of a lot of noise. It can sometimes confuse and disorient us. What we need is less noise and a bit more light. Today’s first reading, as well as the Gospel, tells us how we are to be light and salt to the wider world.
The Book of Prophet Isaiah is divided into three sections. Today’s reading is from the third section of Isaiah which witnesses the struggle and hope for blessing of the post-Babylonian exilic community. They are back in the homeland. Their efforts to survive created a deep division in the community. It was the survival of the strongest, and the poor and homeless were ignored. In this contest prophet Isaiah told them to “share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, and clothe the naked. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). But elsewhere in John 8:12 Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world.” Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Old Testament Moses gave Ten Commandments in the Old Testaments. In the New Testament Jesus gave a new law at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is talking about the flesh and blood embodiment of the light. As long as he is physically present in the world he is the light of the world, but when he is no longer physically present his followers now assume the role of being the light of the world.
As a light, we are called to show the way. Without light, we bump into each other and fall into the ditch. But light says: “Here is the road, take it; here is danger, avoid it.” Light illumines and reveals it. Without light and salt, the world would be in very bad shape, uninteresting and impossible to live in. With light and salt, the world becomes a safer and better place. It is our duty as Christians to make the world a better place.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta did all she had done out of love and it brightened the whole world. It was this love that moved people so deeply. Commenting on this point, former British TV star Malcolm Muggeridge said in effect: “I can’t tell you how much I owe to Mother Teresa. She showed me Christianity in action. She showed me love in action. She showed me how the love one person can start a tidal wave that can spread across the world.”
Indeed Mother Teresa shows how can be the light of the world. Mother Teresa didn’t set out to pare her light before people. She simply set out to love. And in loving, she became ‘a light for the whole world’.