We are surrounded by bad news, isn't it? Turn on the TV or look at any media, all over we can see sad news. Especially in 2020 with COVID-19 totally changing our lives. But we still have reason to celebrate and share the good news. Our young people are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Please join me in congratulating our Confirmation Candidates from Immaculate Conception, who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Sunday, August 2nd in the afternoon and Confirmation Candidates from St. Anthony who received on Thursday, July 30th. You can see their names on cover of our bulletin, so when you see them congratulate them and continue to pray for their faith journey.
This weekend I would like to reflect on the Sacrament of Confirmation. Most of us may not remember our baptism. We were so little, our parents and godparents stood for us and expressed their commitment to bring us in faith. When we grew up, we stood up for ourselves and proclaimed our faith. This week, our young people are doing the same at their Sacrament of Confirmation.
How many of us know Jesus? We may say, “Yes, I know Jesus.” Then the question is how deep do we know him? The Apostles were the closest followers of Jesus. They walked with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and listened to his teachings. They thought they knew him well. In reality, they did not know Jesus until the Pentecost.
Look at the Crucifixion scene, they were scattered, and then they were hiding in the upper room. Jesus after resurrection appeared to them. After Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection, they gradually started to learn and know Jesus.
At the coming of the Holy Spirit, their eyes were opened, they understood the teaching of Jesus, they got ever closer to Jesus. The Pentecost experience filled their hearts with joy and courage. They were no more afraid for they understood the true meaning of peace Jesus shared with them. They were not stuck there either, they grew in their journey and went around the whole world and proclaimed the Good News!
In another way to look at the celebration of Sacrament of Confirmation, it is our Pentecost, our young people are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. The rest of us are renewing our commitment. Confirmation is one of the seven Sacraments. And one of the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation. Those who receive Sacraments as an adult, receive all three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) at the Easter Vigil.
Our young men and women were preparing for a long time for this day, for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was life changing for them. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit. What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? There are seven of them: 1. Wisdom which helps to understand things from God’s point of view; 2. Understanding which helps us to understand the deeper meaning of supernatural truth; 3. Knowledge helps us to appreciate the life God has given: begin to see God’s presence in people, things, and nature and treat them with proper dignity; 4. Right Judgement or Counsel which helps to make the right decision God would want me to make; 5. Reverence or Piety which helps to trust God more, relationships become stronger; 6. Courage or Fortitude which helps to stand up for what we believe; 7. Fear of the Lord or Awe and Wonder which helps us to stay on the right path to heaven. Fear of the Lord is because I love God and I want to please Him.
Let us congratulate our young men and women on their Confirmation, and continue to pray for them and let us reaffirm our commitment.
Invitation to live in the presence of God!
Let me start by congratulating our St. Anthony Confirmation Candidates, who will receive Sacrament of Confirmation on July 30th. Let us keep our Candidates, sponsors, and families in prayer. This weekends reading invites us to live in the presence of God. Let us pray that our candidates may encounter and receive the Holy Spirit at the reception of the Sacrament. Immaculate Conception Candidates will be making their Confirmation in the following week.
A couple of years ago, I read a story about the Pink Diamond of Tanzania. Dr. Williamson was a geologist doing some archeological excavation work in Tanzania. One day he found himself driving in a deserted area, slipping and sliding along a rain-soaked road. Suddenly his four-wheel-drive vehicle sank up to its axles in the mud and got stuck. Pulling out his shovel, Dr. Williamson began the unpleasant task of digging the car out of a mud hole. He had been at it for a while when his shovel uncovered something strange. It was a pinkish stone of some sort. Being a geologist and naturally curious about rock formations, he picked it up and wiped away the mud. The more mud he removed, the more excited he became, and he could hardly believe what he saw. When the stone was finally clean, Dr. Williamson was beside himself with joy. He had discovered the diamond which became known as the famous Pink Diamond of Tanzania and is now set in the royal scepter of Great Britain. In today’s two parables, Jesus tells of two other men who unexpectedly discovered treasures.
Jesus is trying to sell us a great treasure. I didn’t know how many of us are going to buy it. Jesus invites us to inherit the Kingdom of heaven. Gospel of Matthew chapter 13, we started to read the last couple of weeks. It started with the Sower sowing the seed and then moved to wheat and weed, mustard seed, and yeast mixed with the flour. This weekend we hear two more brief parables of hidden treasures. Both of them are buried treasures and the pearl. This weekend parable invites to reflect on a personal commitment to acquiring the treasure.
I am sure we all want to find the best in our life, the supreme treasure. Do we succeed in finding the treasure? In those moments of distraction, are we chasing false treasures? The real valuable pearl is God’s life/presence here on earth and later in heaven.
Some time ago I listened to a message. It is about walking with Jesus in our daily life. Rise in the morning with Jesus, and whatever you do that day do with Jesus. Whenever we include our fellow being part of our life, whenever our love overcomes sin and our faith overcomes suffering, whenever we render humble service to others, we are walking with Jesus.
This weekends entire reading is about living in the kingdom of heaven/the presence of God. In the first reading, God visited Solomon in a dream. God told Solomon to ask for a favor. He could ask anything, but his request was for an understanding heart. What would you and I ask if we had an opportunity like Solomon? The LORD was pleased in his request and told him that “I give you a heart so wise and understanding.”
In the second reading St. Paul says to Romans, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Let us love and live in the presence of God.
If God came in your dream tonight and asked you to ask for one thing and one thing only, what would you/I ask for? Through these readings, Jesus reminds us that to inherit the true treasure, the kingdom of heaven, the presence of God.
Thank You Mary Rybak and Welcome Tammy Radlinger at the Immaculate Conception Office!
As you know Mary Rybak is leaving her position at Immaculate Conception and Tammy Radlinger is going to take the secretary position along with some of her existing job. Let us express our gratitude to Mary for her years of service and welcome Tammy into her new position. I am sure she will do a great job!
Anthony De Mello, S. J., in “TAKING FLIGHT” narrates a story: a woman dreamed one night that she walked into a brand new shop. Much to her surprise, she found God working behind the counter. She asked God, "What do you sell here?" "Everything your heart desires," God replied. It was incredible. She was talking face to face with God. "I want peace of mind and love and happiness and wisdom and freedom from fear," she told God. Then almost as an afterthought, she added, "not just for me, but for everyone on earth." God smiled, "I think you've got me wrong, my dear. We don't sell fruits here. Only seeds."
How is your garden doing? I think this year we have just enough rain, so we don’t have to do too much watering in the garden. Last weekend we heard the parable of the sower and seed, and this weekend, we hear the parables of wheat and weeds, mustard seed, and yeast in the wheat flour. The core of these parables is the Kingdom of God. Matthew is talking to a Jewish audience, so he is the phrase Kingdom of heaven instead of the Kingdom of God. Jesus believed that they are not worthy to call Yahweh. So they used different words to say about God. The kingdom of God means the presence of God.
First, Jesus tells them the parable of wheat and weeds. In Palestine, it was very common to see the wheat and tares growing together. It is very hard to distinguish one from the other. Jesus tells them in the parable, “Let them grow together until the harvest.”
There were people in Jesus’ time who wanted him to separate the bad from the good as well. Among them were people who claimed the good people, the Pharisees whose name means “the separated ones” and others were sinners. Like Pharisees and Scribes, we will be tempted to do the same.
St. Augustine says that the field, he explained, is, indeed, the world, but it is also the Church, the place in which saints and sinners live side-by-side, and in which there is room to grow and to be converted. "The evildoers," he said, "exist in this way either so that they will be converted, or because through them the good exercise patience."
Then Jesus talks about the two other parables. The first speaks of a mustard seed that is sown in a garden. What’s special about this mustard? That it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it grows, it becomes a bush bigger than the other vegetables. The second parable speaks of a woman who mixes a little yeast into a large mass of flour. Without anyone knowing how the yeast goes about working silently until the whole mass is fermented. In both cases, it is small beginnings but leads to great transformation.
The Spirit of God is still working among us. It may have a small beginning, it promoting solidarity, love and joy-filled family, Church, Community, Nation and the World. But we need to allow the Spirit to work in us and grow. Our God is loving and merciful.
Outstanding among the heroic founders of the United States was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Printer, author, publisher, inventor, scientist, businessman, thinker, statesman, and diplomat, Franklin was a great blessing to the U.S and to humanity. I read a story about Benjamin Franklin by Msgr. Arthur Tone. One day he received a gift of a whisk-broom from India. He noticed a few seeds fastened to wisps of the broom. Franklin planted them. When the first crop came up he distributed the seeds among his friends and neighbors. Their crops flourished. Thus, Franklin was responsible for introducing broom-corn into the American colonies and starting the American broom manufacturing industry.
All three readings invite us to reflect on the power of the Word of God. In the first reading, Isaiah reminds us that like rain and snow earth fertile, the powerful word of God always produces fruits. In the second reading, Paul, in the midst of persecution feels peace in having preached God’s word. In the Gospel, we listen from the Gospel of Matthew the parable of the sower.
Gospel of Matthew, the entire chapter of thirteen, the discourse in the parables. We will be listening to Jesus talking in parables the next few weeks. Jesus took the life story of the people and tried to teach them the Word of God.
Jesus is the sower, and the Word of God is the seed and our hearts and minds are the soil. Jesus in this parable invites us to look at our heart and ask a question that how fertile is our heart to receive the Word of God. It depends where we are in our life. In the parable, the seeds fell in different places like, on the path, rocky ground, among thorn, and rich soil. If we want to produce many fruits we need to have a receptive heart.
This parable aims at the hearers of the Word of God. There are times we hear the Word of God with a shut mind. There is no chance to enter into their heart. Pharisees know the scripture, but they don’t understand the Word incarnated among them, because they think Jesus is a false prophet.
There are times we hear the Word of God with a mind like shallow ground. They want to follow Jesus, but the cross is a challenge for them, quickly drop it. There are times we hear the Word of God, but the mind and heart have crowed with so many interests and things. There are times we hear totally focused on the Word of God, we embrace it and produces many fruits.
The Prophet Isaiah says in the first reading that this is what we need to do God’s work. He predicts that we will embrace the Everlasting Word. And he prophesied that the Word of God would be returned to Him.
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
St. Paul tells in second Corinthians 9:10, “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
Christ is the gardener, seeds are the Word of God and it is in our world. The fate of seed depends on what kind of soil receives those seeds in. Let us make work on our soil, our mind and heart, to receive the Word of God, cherish and nourish, so it can produce many fruits.
During the days of the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII used to submit all his anxieties to God with this prayer every night: “Lord, Jesus, I’m going to bed. It's your Church. Take care of it!” We all know that we are safe at the presence of the Lord. Do we completely trust in him?
In the first reading, Prophet Zechariah consoles the Jews in their suffering and promising that their God who is meek and humble will come and establish peace. We see this same passage in the Gospel of Matthew 21:5, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and raised. His entry into the city such a way is to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah.
The second part of the Gospel for today is the heart of Jesus. Matthew (11:28) Jesus says "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” And “my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
This Gospel passage from Matthew is similar to Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sir 51:23, 26).
Yoke does not sound good, it is a burden. Well, it turns out that sometimes farm animals will be unequally yoked. For training purposes, a farmer might yoke a bullock with an ox. The ox pulls the entire load while the bullock walks next to him. Once the bullock is trained, they share the burden. "My yoke," Jesus says, "is easy and my burden light." When we walk with Jesus in love, our burden will be easy. Walking together in love is not easy, it needs a rhythm. We need to learn from Jesus. It is a process, it is a journey to make.
Today’s Gospel passage starts with Jesus’ praise to the Father for he chose to reveal to the little ones. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees have rejected Jesus’ teaching and significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike has accepted them. It is granted to those who are open to receive it.
Rectory roof project
Dear cluster parishioners,
We were planning to do a fundraising for the rectory roof. First, it was a plan to do fundraising in conjunction with the Feast of St. Anthony, which was June 13, but COVID-19 changed our life and it didn’t work out. We cannot do the way planned now, so we are still going to do a portion of fundraising. We will be mailing you the raffle tickets this week, please consider to participate and if you can make a donation towards it, please do so.
The rectory roof is the original roof and it contains asbestos, so we need licensed roofer for that, and we have bids from them and the total cost is $ 84,000.00. You will receive your raffle tickets early next week. Thank you in advance for your support of this project.