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.
Fr. Tommy Lee says, “When I was in Florida recently I visited the Kennedy Space Center. I saw Cape Canaveral and the launch site for the space shuttle. In the Space Center I was able to look at and touch a moon rock. Through the miracle of modern science and space travel, I reached out and touched the moon! When we pray we leave this world and touch God.”
Theme for this weekend is prayer. In the first reading, we see Abraham’s intimacy with God. He pleads for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah by talking directly to God and asking God to change his plans. He doesn’t just ask, he is persistent in asking, pushing for more and more mercy each time. It may look like a comical dialogue. Like a little child who keeps asking and asking until they get what he/she wants. On the other hand, God is gentle and merciful.
We see in the Gospel Jesus himself goes to pray: intimacy with his Father. The disciples say, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." Jesus taught them to pray by using the intimate word “Abba” “Father” to address God. Our Father is a Father who listens to us. He is merciful. Psalmist say that God is true, he has a long memory for His own promises and a short memory for failure to keep ours. We have to trust in his love and mercy.
This prayer we all pray every day. This prayer begins with God, calling Abba, Father; a deep relationship between God and me. Then God’s purpose in my life, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done.” Then it goes to our needs: “Give us each day our daily bread.” Then we say, “Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.”
Then we pray “Lead us not into temptation.” Pope Francis has officially approved a change to the translation of the Lord's Prayer to replace "lead us not into temptation" with "do not let us fall into temptation," which many scholars say is a better translation of the original text. The Pope said he thought the current English translation was not correct because it implies that God leads people into temptation, an action that is against his nature as a good and holy God. "A father doesn't do that, a father helps you to get up immediately," Francis said of the line in question. "It's Satan who leads us into temptation, that's his department."
In the Gospel, Jesus goes on after the prayer, further explaining the intimacy which God longs from us. He tells the story about a man who wants to be hospitable and is asking his neighbor to lend him some food to give his guests. When he doesn’t get the response he wants from his neighbor, he asks again, and again and again…persistence in asking made the neighbor to get up and give what he wants. Then Jesus praises the man for his persistence in asking.
At the end of the story, Jesus reminds us that God is there for us beyond our understanding. Every time we pray we touch God. Every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, heaven meets earth, God comes to us and becomes part of our life. Prayer changes us and others to be ready to receive the grace of God.
Prayer can change the course of history. So let us pray, pray, pray. “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
The theme for this weekend is hospitality to God. The first reading and the Gospel painted very beautifully the hospitality to God.
Andrei Rublev, the great Russian icon painter, famous for his work in particular with his ‘Old Testament Trinity’: picturing the three angels welcomed by Abraham (Genesis 18 – today’s first reading). Christians see this scene as a prefiguring of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. This icon is also called ‘Welcome to the Stranger’. The table where they are seated has four sides. There are three seated figures; the fourth is an invitation to join them. Anyone praying with this icon for any length of time will feel that the invitation is somehow mutual: as you welcome the Divine Persons into your heart, they are inviting you to sit at the table with them. They are inviting you into the heart of God.
In the first reading on a hot day, Abraham sits at the entrance. He might have been enjoying the breeze on that hot day. All of sudden he saw the three men and recognized that it is the Lord. Abraham begged God not to pass by, but stay, so he can serve the Lord. Then he ran to the tent to prepare food.
In the Gospel we see, Martha and Mary welcome Jesus to their house. Martha and Mary, both have different styles of hospitality. Mary sits with Jesus and listens, but Martha wants to make sure everything is right for him.
Two aspect of spirituality: first, doing something like Martha and second, siting and receiving like Mary. Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world and our parish churches need such dynamic and generous men, women, boys and girls who get the job done. At the same we have to adopt Mary into our life too. The key to the Christian life is SETTING PRIORITIES: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. Active and busy as we are, we have to find time every day to listen to God, to our spouse, kids and neighbors. Listening and quiet caring are essential for the success of pastoral life, married life, family life and the rearing of children with love, affection and sense of discipline. Human love begins at home and it begins with listening.
God is passing by my/your home. Do we invite him? My heart is the place where he is welcomed. Mother Teresa often talked about the God appears in disguise: poor and needy. We need to give attention to see who is passing by us. Abraham paid attention, so he didn’t miss the Lord.
Little Tim was in the garden filling a hole when his neighbor peered over the fence. Interested in what the youngster was doing, he politely asked, "What are you up to there, Tim?" "My goldfish died," replied Tim tearfully, without looking up, "and I've just buried him." The neighbor said, "That's an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn't it Tim?" Tim patted down the last heap of earth, and then replied, "That's because he's still inside your stupid cat."
This weekend readings tells us that God reveals in Scripture, in Jesus Christ and in our
neighbor. A scholar of the law asked Jesus a very basic religious question: “What should I do to
inherit eternal life?” In answer to the question, Jesus directed his attention to the Sacred
Scriptures. Jesus asked him, "How do you read it?" The scriptural answer is “love God and
express it by loving your neighbor.” However, to the scribe the word “neighbor” meant another Scribe or Pharisee – never a Samaritan or a Gentile. Hence, the Scribe insisted on further
clarification of the word “neighbor.” So Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan.
It is tough story for the scholar to here. In this parable the Priest and the Levite “passed by on the opposite side.” They had their own reason. The law didn’t allow them to interact on that
situation. At the time of Jesus, Jews and Samaritans interact each other. They were enemies. Here Jesus describes the parable of Good Samaritan as the answer to the questions. The scholar might have asked himself, “Do you want us to be like that Samaritan, who is our enemy?”
The parable clearly indicated that a “neighbor” is anyone who needs help and anyone who gives that help. Thus, the correct approach is not to ask the question “Who is my neighbor?” but rather to ask, “Am I a good neighbor to others?”
The Good Samaritan’s story can take us to so many realms of life. The first and foremost thing is about the Good Samaritan is that “he came near,” while the priest and the Levite “passed by on the opposite side.” God always come closer our life. Jesus came in person to be with us. Clement of Alexandria sees the Samaritan as Jesus: “Who can this neighbor be but the Savior himself? Who but he has had pity on us as we lay almost dead from the dark forces of this world, with so many wounds, so many fears and passions, so much anger, so much sorrow, so much deception, so many deceptive pleasures? Jesus alone can heal these wounds.”
Origen of Alexandria writes about the story of the Good Samaritan, “The man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is Adam. Jerusalem is Paradise. Jericho is this world. The thieves are the forces of the enemy. The priest is the Law. The Levite is the prophets. The
Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience. The horse is the body of Christ. The inn that is open to all who wish to enter is the Church. The two denarii are the Father and the Son. The inn-keeper is the pastor of the flock, whose duty is to care. The Samaritan’s promise to return indicates the Savior’s Second Coming.”
This weekend reading invites us to meditate on core of our faith: the root of the Ten Commandments, which is LOVE GOD and NEIGHBOUR. Who is my neighbor? Let us make a list our neighbors and see who are in and who are out of the list.