We safeguard our faith by turning to the Lord and responding to His holy word. The prophet Isaiah makes this admonition: “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” There are many who would rather do things their way and be blind to what is good. So what then results is, as Christ said, that a son will be “against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” It happens too often now in our society and all over the world.
Our Saint today, St. Teresa of the Andes, needed to follow the truth, her calling from God. She was born on this date, July 13, in 1900. She came from a quite wealthy family in Chile; but when she was 18 years old, she was drawn to a life of poverty in a remote Carmelite mountain monastery. There were those in her family who strongly disapproved of her becoming a nun, but St. Teresa made a life choice, which ended so very soon on earth when she died at the age of 19—but she gained eternal life in Heaven! “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” we heard in today’s Gospel. Teresa safeguarded her life in response to God’s word.
We safeguard our faith as our response to God’s holy word. By God’s protection, we are delivered from evil. By His grace, we cease to do evil and learn to do good. Our challenge in this year of 2020 is not just to safeguard our health—but also, and even more important, to both safeguard our Faith and practice it. In our day, churches have closed because of the Coronavirus. Over this past weekend, Mission San Gabriel burned. How that occurred is still not yet determined, but our guard is up. Other burnings and vandalism also happened in other parts of the country during the same time.
Here at St. Therese, we thought it wise to hire a security agency to safeguard our church and property. Beginning last Saturday, we now have on-site security for the nighttime hours. We need to be vigilant in safeguarding our faith, as we do our church, and be alert to any danger. We also need to be vigilant of any danger to our souls, to be free of sin, and to pray for God’s grace to strengthen and protect us.
July 12, 2020
WHAT’S IN A PARABLE?
What’s in a parable? A nice story. Mostly short and composed with message, an image. Simple…or is it? Sometimes not! We will be hearing Jesus’ parables from the Gospel of Matthew for the next three weeks, including today. “Parabola” in the Greek means “to compare with.” It’s the translation of “masula” in Hebrew, meaning “riddle or proverb”.
No, parables are not always easy…or simple. Jesus gives a good clue to us to pay close attention to the parables, because they may cause us to think, to figure them out. “Why do you speak to them in parables?,” ask His Apostles. It’s not clear even to them. “Why do you speak to them in riddles?,” is another way of understanding their question. Isaiah gives answer to our parable today about the sower and the seed. “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth,” so saith the Lord. The Psalm response proclaims, “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
Jesus makes the story and symbolism clear. The seed is the Word of the Kingdom. There are four different places where the seed may fall. First of all, though, this seems like a pretty careless sower. If a landscaper were to bring lawn seed, he would probably not let it fall on the driveway or onto gravel; that would be a waste. Even if grass were to grow there, it’d be scraggly and unwanted—not part of the plan. For sure, get rid of all the weeds because, once those get started, they take over.
For Jesus, however, He speaks of not discriminating where the seed should fall and to whom—everyone is included. The Word of God is for all! Even more deeply, He is the Word—and He desires faith and a turn to the Lord. Using words from St. Paul to the Romans, I tell you, Brothers and Sisters, there are types of suffering so evident now, beginning with the scourge of Coronavirus that we are enduring. What has it brought? First, fear, confusion, frustration—and now anger, unjust deaths, riots, protests, defamation of statues, vandalism, burning of churches.
It is bad and has become horrible. We need God more than ever! We need to pray, to listen to His Word, and understand it. We need to turn to the Lord. Be holy! Scripture challenges us to be holy! Let’s turn to the Lord for understanding. God’s glory is there for us.
July 10, 2020
CHRIST JESUS IS OUR HOPE
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry proclaiming, “Repent and believe in the Gospel. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” In the Gospel according to Matthew, He continues the story of Jesus’ mission going “to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.” Further, “His heart was moved with pity” for the crowds “because they were troubled and abandoned.”
Have you been feeling troubled lately, or even abandoned? Christ Jesus is our hope. In the Gospel of Matthew we heard during this week, Jesus declared, “The harvest is abundant…so ask the Master of the harvest to send laborers for His harvest.” Then He “summoned His Twelve disciples…gave them authority…and sent out these Twelve.” Their names are: Simon, named Peter, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, Matthew, James and Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. He sent them to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” to make this proclamation: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Of course, it is! Jesus is here!
God has His marvelous plan and His children have always been part of it. Yet, His children have many times been errant, brats, deviants, or maybe sometimes disappointing. However, even long ago, through His prophet Hosea, the Lord rendered unto Israel: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God; you have collapsed through your guilt.”
Centuries went by after the prophets were constantly calling the Lord. Then came the fullness of time and our redemption, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”
In His coming, the Son of God sent His Apostles out to let the whole world know the Good News. We have been hearing some of that Good News in stages: Jesus summoned His Apostles and then He sent them out, but not without challenge. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved,” as we heard today. We listen well to their message and, though we yet are sinful, in God’s love we are given our hope, Christ Jesus. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
July 9, 2020
THE CHINESE MARTYRS
God has His marvelous plan and His children have always been part of it. Yet, His children have many times been errant, brats, deviants, or maybe just sometimes disappointing. Through His prophet Hosea, the Lord spoke to Israel: “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred,” due to their callous disobedience and turning away from Him. “The more I called them, the farther they went from me.”
Centuries went by and still there was much to lament. Seven hundred years after the prophet Hosea, “God (still) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but (even) have eternal life.” In His coming, the Son sent His Apostles out to let the whole world know the Good News that, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
That Gospel did spread to the ends of the earth. Sixteen hundred years later, indeed, in China, there were those who rejected the news and attempts were made to banish it. Those attempts continued for centuries, and they continue now in our day. Today we celebrate the heroes and saints from those centuries and that land: One hundred and twenty Chinese martyrs, St. Augustine Zhao Rong, priest, and his companions, from nine years to 79 years old—priests, religious, catechists, laborers, parents, and children. Their beatification was in 1946, and their canonization in 2000.
Notable among them was 14-year-old Anna Wang, who would not renounce her beloved Jesus. Along with other family members, she was martyred in the town square in the year 1900. Her shoulder was cut with an axe, then her arm severed, but she remained in an ecstasy repeating the Holy Name of Jesus, before offering her life for her faith. May God bless all of China in our day. May He grant healing, consolation, and conversion. May God have mercy upon us all as we turn to Him in faith, and may we constantly rejoice in the realization that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
July 8, 2020
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND
Christ Jesus is our hope. Jesus has declared, “The harvest is abundant…so ask the Master of the harvest to send laborers for His harvest.” His declaration immediately precedes the Gospel of Matthew we heard today. Then He “summoned His Twelve disciples…gave them authority…and sent out these Twelve.” Their names are: Simon, named Peter, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, Matthew, James and Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. He sent them to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” to make this proclamation: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Of course, it is! Jesus is here!
Built on the foundation of the Apostles, our Faith brings us to belief in the True Presence of Christ, Body, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist. He comes to us. Jesus came to the Virgin Mary in an outstanding way. His little body was conceived in her by her trust and faith: “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” In His tiniest form and human nature, yet in His full divinity, Jesus was yet present in a way which the whole universe cannot contain.
We begin our Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the words, “we turn to you in confidence.” This prayer is found on the cards with the image of “La Bruna.” “The Brown Lady”—called as such because she appears in the original image (painted in the 13th century) with brown flesh tones—is the oldest known image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and carries a miraculous tradition. The icon is now in Italy. “Icon” means “image.” Here are some notes. First, the babe. The baby's face is not "babyish." Jesus is here! This is to indicate the eternal existence of Christ. The star on Mary’s shoulder is a sign of her virginity—before, during, and after the birth of her Son. Mary holds her Son safely in her arms. There is a sign of protection, and the faces of the Mother and the Son are close to each other in an expression of gentle togetherness. The eyes of Mary and of Jesus are turned towards us. Though out of the picture, we have their attention.
Our Novena prayer will conclude our intercessions in our Mass. May our dear Lord in His love and mercy grant all our needs. Jesus is with us. Jesus is here. Let it truly be known, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
July 7, 2020
THE HARVEST IS GREAT
Today I’ll speak about Hosea, the Gospel of Matthew, and the state we’re in now: Covid, the State of California, a closed-down, locked-down situation. Let’s begin with our Gospel message. A demon was brought to Jesus, and He drove the demon out. Wow! But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Matthew makes no further comment on that but continues the story of Jesus’ mission of going to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and, we are told, “curing every disease and illness.” Further, “His heart was moved with pity” for the crowds “because they were troubled and abandoned.”
Feeling troubled or maybe even abandoned? We need assurance. Let us “ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.” Let’s do that for sure. We need to. There is a darkness all around us, and the indications are fear, confusion, frustration, and anger. Don’t those emotions come up when you find yourself in pitch-black darkness? It’s not fun. So many are finding themselves troubled and feeling abandoned. I know I’ve gone through some of those emotions myself lately.
In our reading, Hosea is prophesying to the children of Israel in the north: “Cast away your calf, O Samaria! How long will you be able to attain innocence?” We may also ask, “How long will we be able to attain innocence?” Let us ask the Master to send out His laborers. The harvest is great. There is hope—Christ Jesus is our hope.
We also can find hope when we turn to His Mother, the Virgin Mary, who is OUR Mother as well. Today we begin the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which we shall do at the end of the Prayers of the Faithful. We turn to her who will intercede for us to help us in all we need. Let’s do that for sure. We need Christ Jesus, our hope.
Five Women of Faith
July 6, 2020
FIVE WOMEN OF FAITH
I am going to speak with you this afternoon about five women. I am going to give five short stories of faith, and the beauty and importance exemplified in each. There is a well known adage, of which I will only use half, the only part that matters for now: “Women: You can’t live without them.” I know I couldn’t. My mom is the first woman I’m mentioning. I wouldn’t be here without her. Even more, she helped instill the faith I carry, that which gives me life in the Church.
The next are two young girls. The first is today’s saint, Maria Goretti. The Church honors her today on this, the 70th anniversary of her canonization.While still yet a girl, she retained her dignity in order to be true to her faith. She would rather lose her life than to lose her dignity as a Christian, pure and unstained. She was just eleven years old when she lost her life, only to gain eternal life because of her faith. The second of these young girls is one that we heard about in today’s Gospel: the official’s daughter, who was restored to life by Jesus, because of the faith of her father.
The other woman in our Gospel had been losing the very symbol of life for twelve years: she was hemorraghing blood, draining her strength and her life. It is by her faith that she is freed of her anxieties, worries, and suffering. “Courage, daughter, your faith has saved you,” our Lord tells her.
Far be it from me to not also recall the greatest story of faith of all, summarized in these words: “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” In these words to the Angel Gabriel, the ever-Virgin Mary, most blessed among all women, declared her acceptance of God’s holy will, that through her the Savior of the world, the Light of the Nations, would be born, that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life. We celebrate the life we have through Him. These stories of faith are presented to you so that we might have faith.
We thank our loving God for these five holy women. We thank Him so much for the faith in His Son, which we cannot live without.
Jesus Is In Our Boat
June 30, 2020
"JESUS IS IN OUR BOAT!"
Never!—Never have I heard of anyone being able to command the weather to settle down and for it then to do so—except for Jesus. I firmly believe it. Even though it may be hard to imagine, I believe it. “Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey?,” the prophet Amos asks. No. Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure? No. Does a snare spring up without catching anything? No. Do two walk together unless they have agreed? No. Have faith. Do not lose it. Fear the Lord. Love the Lord. Trust in Him. Walk with Him, be in agreement.
Today, the Church remembers in celebration the first Holy Martyrs of Rome. Thousands were martyred for their faith in Rome—in many ways and all throughout the Empire. These holy martyrs believed in the Gospel and gave their lives for what they believed. They followed Jesus—they WALKED with Him, and He, with them.
Martyrdom. Would that terrify you, "O ye of little faith"? With Jesus in our Boat, why are you terrified? “Lord, I am a sinful man!” Maybe that’s why I am fearful. “Lord, I am not worthy!” Brothers and sisters, we can be at least a little concerned that we would have enough faith to not want to offend the Lord—and follow through with it. We need to be just a little concerned that we would not become upset, complain, judge, hold on to anger, think about or—worse—view impurities. We must be concerned with any bit of lying or profanity. Actually, if we should die for our Faith, I think that would erase most of those sins; but could we?—or would we?
Put your trust in Jesus—and be worthy of it. He is just asking us to live our lives as we are placed, and to follow Him. I think I’m going to try a little bit harder, by the help of His grace, to do better today. Or should I wait for July 1st? No, if not today, when? Jesus is here to help. He is in our Boat! God will love you for it. It’s what He’s looking for: Faith in a good YOU.
They Gave Their Lives for the Gospel
June 28, 2020 (Vigil of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul)
“THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THE GOSPEL!”
“Before God, I am not lying” (Gal 1:20). We believe you, St. Paul! The Church has been listening and following your teachings now for millennia. By your letters we are blessed.
We are also truly blessed in the vocation of St. Peter—one so magnificent that the Church, which Christ chose to build on Rock, has deemed it appropriate to brighten the closing of the Lord’s Day with an evening vigil for both saints.
Regarding this celebration of these two apostles, St. Augustine tells us that, “this day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul,” adding, “We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message.” Amen!
Powerful evangelists. Peter was given his commission by Jesus to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” This is the apostle who became the Rock upon which Jesus built His Church—a firm, strong foundation against which “the gates of Hell shall not prevail.”
If I may use some of the words from St. Paul to the Galatians: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel preached” by him was “not of human origin.” For God called him “through His grace,” and was “pleased to reveal His Son” to him, so that he “might proclaim Him” to the world. As to what he was writing to us, behold, before God, he was not lying!
These are men we honor on the Lord’s Day, for they gave their lives to the proclamation of the Gospel. “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all…might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17). Yes, St. Paul, we hear you loud and clear. We, in turn, proclaim the Gospel loudly and clearly, through the Faith we have received and in God’s love.
June 25, 2020
JESUS IS OUR ROCK
Nope—you do not build on sand. I’ve tried it. Doesn’t work. What we are speaking of here is the need to build on rock—firm strong, solid, foundation. Jesus is our Rock. God is our Rock. On such firm ground we will not falter or break down but remain sure and strong. Did not our Lord Himself decide to build on Rock? “You are Peter (“Petros,”) and upon this Rock I will build my Church,” and so the grace of God was established for all who believe in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He continued in his address to Peter, “...and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The rain and floods may come, and the winds blow and buffet His House, but It will not collapse. Throughout our salvation history are many stories of how to stay in the truth that God is God and God alone. He is our surety.
In our first reading we heard how Jerusalem fell, God’s holy city. The young king Jehoiachin did evil in the sight of the Lord. It was a lingering evil built up through his forebears, who had built their house on sand. This, the Babylonian exile, occurred in 576 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. An additional wave of exile reoccurred ten years later.
Choose well where you will put your life, which foundation you will choose. I suggest you let your choice be Jesus, and let your choice be strong. God loves you, so much so that He sent His dearly beloved Son, so that you may believe in Him, have your faith built upon Him, His Holy Church, the Commandments and Sacraments, so that you may not falter nor perish. Be holy, do not sin. Your surety is in Jesus and His Church. May you always find your strength and blessings in Him.
June 24, 2020
"JOHN IS HIS NAME"
“John is his name,” Zechariah wrote on the tablet. “John”, a name meaning, “God is gracious,” which comes from the Hebrew, “Yohanan,” or “Graced by Yah.” They were going to call him “Zechariah” after his father, we are told in the reading, but Zechariah knew full well the name already given his child through the message of the angel, “You shall name him John.” The name, “Zechariah,” means “the Lord has remembered,” which would seem appropriate for this child, for indeed the “Lord has remembered His covenant,” the words sung in thanksgiving by Zechariah.Yet the newborn babe is “graced.” His parents are graced, and so is the world. This child, John, is soon acclaimed by his father, “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”
“John is his name.” The Baptist—a voice crying out in the wilderness. Our Lord said of him, “I tell you, among those born of women, there is no one greater than John.” He is great in his calling, he is great in his relationship to the Lord, as they are of the same family. He is great in his holiness and being, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” as the angel related to his father in the Holy of Holies at the altar of incense. He is great in his humility—as the least are the greatest.
We celebrate today “he who prepared the way of the Lord” and who gave to us knowledge of salvation, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is our true salvation. Let us celebrate in gladness the Birth of the Baptist, as we await in anticipation for next six months—yes, six months—the celebration of the birth day of the Savior. May His blessings be upon you always, and in a special way through the intercession of St. John the Baptist.
Remove the Beam From Your Own Eye
June 22, 2020
“Don’t judge me!” “Stop it!" "Back off!” You might get away with saying these words to someone close to you... They're good warnings to those who don’t know all the details of what is going on in your life. You might also say, “What we have here is a lack of communication,” when there appear to be lots of misunderstandings between yourself and someone else. That may be true; however, it works both ways. We should not judge either, because we are probably getting something wrong. Why? Because we do not fully know all the circumstances—the full story and every nuance of that story—which is why all judgment is best left to God. He knows everything—much more than we do ourselves.
God understands and knows fully all the details of our lives. The story we just heard from the 2nd Book of Kings is part of a judgment on God’s part, as His people disregarded Him: The children of Israel sinned before the Lord by venerating other gods. That was over three thousand years ago, yet we can stand to learn from this story from Holy Scripture. In our day, we can also stand to have more prayer! Riots have broken out, innocent people have been hurt, statues of St. Junipero have been desecrated and torn down, even deaths have occurred. Pray hard for the conversion of our neighbor!
Not only should we pray for our neighbor, but we first should make a strong and more concerted turn to the Lord ourselves. Doesn’t our Lord tell us to, “first take the beam from your own eye”? That would be a very good thing. Take the beam from your eye! It is bothersome and, worse than that, letting it linger is like, symbolically, holding on to something which our Lord’s strong and gentle hands would be nailed to. Bothersome and symbolic—we don’t want it! Pray hard for God’s grace; only by His grace can we remove any type of beam.
Do good to let the joy of Christ freely enter and be ever in your hearts. Don’t judge, have peace, be soothed, and don’t let anything bother you.
June 21, 2020 (Father's Day)
“HAVE COURAGE AND DO NOT FEAR!”
“Have courage and do not fear,” is the message in today’s Scriptures. The grace of God and the gracious gift of His Son overflow for the many, as Paul tells us. We like to think of this as being a particular quality of fatherhood, very fitting since we are celebrating Father’s Day today. We pray for our fathers to be brave and to fear nothing, especially in these last few months when so many face the challenge of decreased finances with which to provide for their families and to keep them safe, as well as dealing with any illness or danger which arises. We also pray for those fathers who seem to lack the courage to stay with their families or to show them love–-they need our prayers! We have received courage from God, and we honor and praise Our Father in Heaven, today in this holy Mass on His Day, by keeping it holy.
“Fear no one,” our Lord told the apostles. I think we have all experienced fear in many forms. Since it is a somewhat innate emotion we are born with, in this sense it is unavoidable. I hope, however, you have not experienced the type of extreme fear in which your life is threatened. If you have, you know how horrible that is, and you should not wish it upon anyone. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the Twelve to, “Fear no one.” The apostles have journeyed with Him and they have already seen times of confrontation and accusation, which our Lord Himself handled many times by turning the tables on His opponents and controlling the situation. Sometimes He would simply escape the situation unharmed, by simply walking away. “Fear no one,” He tells them. He is preparing the Twelve and the rest of His disciples for their ministry. He is preparing them for the future, well ahead of time, through His Word, reaching us now through the millennia. “Fear no one.”
It is true that, as our Lord tells us to fear no one, we need to walk in faith and in truth, in the way which is Jesus, because He is the Way and the Truth. He is Emmanuel—“God with us.” Let me tell you that, although the disciples were brave, they would still exhibit fear at crucial times. They almost all scattered during the time of our Lord’s arrest, His passion, and His death, continuing to do so after His burial. They remained hidden even after His Resurrection, but it is at this time that they were becoming especially emboldened with His incredible presence with them. They received enlightenment as the Scriptures were opened to them. They received a joy in this experience, which no one could take away from them—no matter what. Can you imagine? Not only that, but on the Feast of Pentecost—with the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit coming down upon them—they could not contain themselves and needed to burst open the doors and proclaim the Truth of the Savior to one and all. All this to bring about faith in Jesus Christ, and to save the people from sin so that they might have everlasting life.
Yes, I would like to have that type of joy within me—the joy of Jesus—and, at the same time, let that joy be more than simply not being afraid. With such joy—joy that no one can take away—there is no fear, no matter what. Let us listen then to the Scriptures opened and revealed to us. Jesus has done this for us at His coming. Have no fear, walk in His truth, and may the joy of Christ be within you always.
June 20, 2020 (The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
A FIT DWELLING PLACE
“O God, who prepared a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit in the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, graciously grant that, through her intercession, we may be a worthy temple of your glory, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.”
Such was the opening prayer for our Mass today. Mary, a fit dwelling place, immaculately conceived and full of grace. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the finest example of our race; she is the Queen of all—whether visible or invisible—of all the angels and saints. The Little Flower, St. Therese, lovingly noted: “It is true that Our Lady is Queen of Heaven and earth, but at the same time she is more Mother than Queen.” Ah—so true! The Blessed Virgin was given to us as our Mother, and she cares for, nourishes, and protects us, her children. She prays for us, interceding before her Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
She is my hero, and I am proud that I am her son and she is my Mother. We all share in the love of her Immaculate Heart, taking up the invitation to believe in her Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. United in this love, we unite ourselves to His Most Sacred Heart, to Jesus through Mary, as shown by two of her devoted disciples, the revered St. John Eudes and St. Louis Marie de Montfort—both of whom lived in the same century.
Our Lord Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. In our Gospel, our Lord was found in His Father’s House. We prayed at the beginning of our liturgy that, through the intercession of Mary, we may be a worthy temple of His glory. We may hope in such a way, then, that Jesus may be found there—and He will be. In the Gospel, we heard that Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” Jesus is ever in her heart. With our hearts united with hers, we are sure to find Him there—waiting expectantly to ever embrace us in His love.
June 19, 2020
SACRED TO THE LORD
Just as Moses said to His people, “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God,” we ourselves know this is true of ourselves in our own time. Being “sacred to the Lord” is a most marvelous gift—even more so as Jesus is truly with us here in this day. The Word-Made-Flesh has made His dwelling among us. We are sacred to God in that we share in the love of the Most Sacred Heart of God’s Son. As a sacred people, we also accept the exhortation of old, as Moses prescribed and enjoined upon his people, “You shall, therefore, carefully observe God’s commandments, statutes, and decrees”; and “The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear Him,” that is, to those who keep His commands.
We know the Father in a special way today, since the Son wished to reveal Him to us. Praised be God! Alleluia! We learn from the Son and know how to bear the burden, the yoke, and to turn it to love in the forgiveness of our sins, in forgiving others, in love for others. This is following His commands: To love one another as He has loved us.
To remain in His love is to remain in Him, and He in us. In this way, the yoke of life and of time is made easy, and the burden, light. Our Lord Jesus is meek and humble of heart. In joining our hearts with His, our hearts become like His—meek and humble. Such was the heart of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), who shared in the donning of the yokes and burdens of others. Such is the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother. We are invited to share in her joy—a joy that cannot be taken away. When we join our hearts with hers, our hearts melt in the fire of love within her Son’s Most Sacred Heart, and we become one—one in joy, one in love, meek and humble, in union with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. We are presented a most marvelous gift. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting. Praised be God! Alleluia!
June 18, 2020
"FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS"
The “Our Father,” which we are accustomed to praying as Catholics in the Roman Rite, is based on the version our Lord teaches in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Immediately following the prayer (Matthew 6:9-15), Jesus focuses on forgiveness: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Yes, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses—AS we forgive those who trespass against us. In His sermon on the Mount, didn’t Jesus tell us, as we’ve heard in the Gospel this week, “But I say to you, turn the other cheek... go the extra mile...”? Did He not say, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Let me tell you, however, it is only by God’s grace and with the Holy Spirit’s gifts of knowledge, understanding, strength, and courage, that we can do this at all.
When you go to the Lord to beg His forgiveness, because your sinfulness is offensive to His Holy Name and is an affront to His truth and beauty, it is best to go before Him with some righteousness. Don’t you think it is better and in good order to seek first to forgive others before we seek forgiveness for ourselves? There is true humility in that, and it is humility that attracts God’s mercy.
There is a verse by the Nobel Prize-winning author from early in the last century, Rabindranath Tagore from India, in a poem he wrote: “Do not go to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins. First, forgive from your heart those who have hurt you.” We can do this with God’s help—as He would have us do. This, then, is the way of perfection, when we ask in humility to be cleansed of our misdeeds and sinfulness. Let us go in humility to the "temple," in—this church, a room in our homes, or wherever we may be before our Lord—and stand before His awesomeness and beauty. By the help of His grace, let His merciful love shine upon us and from within us. In our Lord’s love and by His divine teaching, may we dare to call God, "Our Father,” beginning our prayer with those words as Christ Himself taught us, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name...”
May His Name be truly blessed as we practice the way of love, which He has wonderfully taught us.
June 17, 2020
PRAYING FOR A DOUBLE PORTION
Before the Lord took Him up to Heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah said to his follower Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you.” Elisha replied, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” Elijah answered, “You have asked something that is not easy.” It WAS a bold request, but a particularly good one. St. Therese seemed to be impressed and inspired by this bold, yet very good request. In her “Story of a Soul,” St. Therese dares to ask the “inhabitants of Heaven” to adopt her as their child AND to cast their glance towards a great number of little souls (*see bottom of this homily).
The spirit in which a two-fold portion is asked for, seems to me to be very Carmelite. Within our Carmelite Order, to which St. Therese belonged, St. Elijah is acknowledged as the Father and Founder of all Carmelites. Therefore, this story and request, indeed, seem so Carmelite in nature. The request made by St. Therese, though bold, was made in humility, because she saw herself as so little, so tiny. Our Lord in the Gospel proclaims humility, saying: “Go into your room and pray in secret; give alms and fast so that no one knows.” Our story and the double-portion request is so Christian, faith-filled, and in the "Way," which is of Jesus.
Let us all be so emboldened to walk on this path and to follow boldly in the Way of perfection and holiness.
*Words of St. Therese from her book, "Story of A Soul" - In order that love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that it lower itself to nothingness and then transform this nothingness into fire...I am the smallest of creatures, I know my misery and my feebleness, but I know also how much noble and generous hearts love to do good. I beg you then, O blessed inhabitants of Heaven, I beg you to adopt me as your child. To you alone will be the glory which you will make me merit, but deign to answer my prayer. I dare to ask you to obtain for me your twofold spirit. O my Jesus, I love you. I love the Church, my mother. I recall that “the smallest act of pure love is of more value to her than all other words together.” I beg you to cast your divine glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg you to choose a legion of little victims worthy of your love (Chapter 11, pp. 155-59).
June 16, 2020
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
In today’s readings, we see cases of *antithesis (*from the Greek, meaning, “to place against"; anti = against and tithenai = place). In the first reading from the continuing story of Elijah, the King of Northern Israel, Ahab, is fresh from his turn to the Lord on Mount Carmel. The rains came anew, ending the long drought, falling on the good and the bad alike.
In the story, Ahab is refused sale of his neighbor Nabal’s vineyard. He is sick because his neighbor could not part with the family properties. The king’s wife, Jezebel, took notice and acquired the vineyard through set-up, treachery, and false testimony—which led to the death of Nabal by stoning. The Lord pretty much had had enough and declared judgment against Jezebel, which we heard about today through the prophecy that dogs would devour her body, which eventually did happen when she perished and was left for dead after battle. Ahab, however, fasted, put on sackcloth, and sorrowfully repented about what happened to Nabal and so was spared by God’s mercy, his personal punishment being remitted. This story contains literary antithesis: Guilt, sorrow, and forgiveness.
The antithesis mentioned in today’s Gospel (in Matthew, Chapter 5) is from a set of six antitheses from Jesus’ teaching on the Mount: “You have heard it said—but I SAY TO YOU...!” Today, our Lord tells His disciples, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ BUT I SAY TO YOU: Love your enemy.”
There is a wonderful adage I came across by the Nobel-Prize-winning author from India in the last century, Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote, “Do not go first to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins. First, forgive from your heart those who have hurt you.” This quote helps us to understand the words we pray in the “Our Father”: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us...”
In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we will hear our Lord teaching that prayer. He teaches merciful love and compassion, which really makes sense if we listen to Him and follow in His way. It first leads to peace within us, which is necessary if we expect peace to take place in our world.
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter (April 23, 2020)
"OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN"
At the conclusion of Chapter Three of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The One who comes from above is above all.” John is writing his Gospel in Greek and he uses the Greek word “anothen,” which means either “from above” or “again”. He writes, "The One who comes again is above all. Jesus will come again! Alleluia!".
Our churches are closed now in order to help save lives–to help slow infections. Dioceses throughout the world have collaborated strongly on this, as we the Faithful comply in collaboration, hope, and trust in God’s mercy. As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez sent out a notice that he will preside on May 1st in a re-consecration of our country to the Blessed Virgin under her title of “Mary, Mother of God”. This is together with the bishops in Canada as they also re-consecrate their country to the Blessed Virgin on the same day, all for the purpose of ending the pandemic of which we are victims. Thanks be to God! We are so much in need of Heavenly protection. The power of faith and prayer is awesome; the power of God is awesome!
When this pandemic is over, my hope and prayer will be that our Archdiocese of Los Angeles will focus strongly and bravely on saving life in the womb. It will take a special depth of faith and courage, which we can attain if we are more open to it. Just as the Apostles said to the Sanhedrin Council, their jailers, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:21).
Let me be a little emboldened. In places where all the churches are closed, there are certain businesses and services which remain open to the public–maybe with some limits, but they are open just the same. Among these are Planned Parenthood Centers, which, though they provide certain health services to women, are really there to offer contraceptives and pregnancy terminations of the yet-to-be-born babies. Thankfully, because of a lack of resources and supplies in some areas, many of those centers have been shut down. According to their own reports, fourteen percent of their total centers (what they call “service delivery points”) throughout the world are now closed. That is out of a total of 5,633 mobile and more permanent clinics and care outlets throughout the world, according to their sources.
Our Lord at His conception in the flesh was at the tiniest point of His life while in the womb of His Mother, Mary. The termination of life even at this stage of conception is unconscionable, and I hope you can agree. If you are Catholic or of any Christian belief, you must agree with this. The Catholic faith teaches the truth of Christ. Life termination by man is to be prevented at all stages of life. Our cry for the truth (“The Lord hears the cry of the poor!”)–a strong lifting up of our voices for life in the womb–is long, long overdue. Now is the time for us to work for the preservation of life at all its stages–from conception to natural death. We need to obey God rather than man. We need to be prophetic and point out the truth, call out for the truth. Let our choice be for life and the holiness of all life. Let our choice be for Jesus. Let our choice be strong.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter (April 22, 2020)
"AN EVERLASTING LOVE"
In his homily this morning, Holy Father Pope Francis offered this observation: “In our Gospel is contained kerygma, catechesis, and theology.” How really true! “Kerygma” is a word used for the initial proclamations of the Gospel, in this case by John, as we heard today in his third chapter. Hector Molina from Catholic Answers explains this further: “To put it simply,” he writes, “the kerygma is the very heart of the Gospel, the core message of the Christian faith that all believers are called to proclaim.” The Apostles of Christ, miraculously released from the darkness of their prison, immediately went to the temple area to make such proclamations as we heard in today’s first reading. They proclaimed Jesus Christ!
We heard in yesterday’s Gospel Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, proclaiming to him, “...so the Son of Man will be raised up!” In this, Jesus prophesied His being raised on the cross, His rising from the tomb, and His ascension into Heaven. This discourse with Nicodemus happened long ago, though it is the same truth which lights our hearts today. In Him we are lifted up to bring forth the light of truth, of Jesus Christ, as we heard in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “God loved the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son” to us. God loves US so much that He sent us His Love, He gave us His Love.
In today's Daily Reflection, provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dr. Jem Sullivan notes that long ago–almost 500 years!–Our Lady radiated God’s Love to St. Juan Diego in a special way, assuring him: “Listen, put it into your heart, most little of my children. Let nothing frighten nor grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear any sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your help? Are you not happily within the folds of my mantle, held safely in my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.” So is God’s consoling and assuring love for us. Long before the writings of John, the prophet Jeremiah (31:3) announced, “Long ago the Lord appeared to me saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; with loving kindness I have drawn you to me.’”
The same is true now, even as it was so long ago. Let it be in our hearts. Let us proclaim to the world, “God is with us! God so loves the world!” We are not in the darkness nor are we abandoned. Christ’s light shines! In His loving care, His loving protection, His healing rays, may we know the assurance of His Presence among us, His embrace. God so loved the world that He sent us His Love, He sent us His Son, to know Him and to believe in Him, and to express that “karygma”–a proclamation of His truth with our lives. Possessed with such faith, we will not perish, but have life everlasting–His light, beauty, and love everlasting.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter (April 21, 2020)
"HE HAS RISEN, AS HE SAID!"
Today is Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter, 2020. The great Easter day. Resurrexit sicut dixit! “He has risen, as He said,” Alleluia!" Our opening prayer in today’s Mass emphasizes this: “Enable us, we pray, almighty God, to proclaim the power of the risen Lord.” It is powerful indeed!
Today we have the continuing Gospel of John in Chapter 3. Our Lord prophesies to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus relates to the teacher of the law contained in the Torah, about the prophet Moses raising the image of a cause of death–a serpent–to be looked upon by those who sinned. Yet, what they viewed was their own sinfulness, which brought about the resultant punishment in the stinging fire of death. What they experienced was mercy, healing, and the saving power of God. “So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”
And so we look upon the crucifix, where Our Lord, our Salvation, was hung. The prophetic image was this: Jeshuah, raised on the cross, risen from the grave, and ascended into Heaven. Those who believe will have eternal life–everlasting and exceeding in beauty. Jesus enjoins Nicodemus, as one versed and immersed in the Word of God, to understand how He speaks in spiritual aspects and not of the world: “The wind blows where it will, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it blows. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” The word for Spirit in Hebrew is “ruach,” which also means “wind”. “You are a teacher of Israel, and you do not understand this?... You must be born from above,” Jesus tells Nicodemus.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Greek word John uses is “anothen,” which means both “from above” and “again.” Nicodemus makes the relation to being “born again,” missing the spiritual aspect of “being born from above”–of what he is being told and of what is being explained and revealed. Our Lord has come from above. We rise with Him in our baptism in water and Spirit. From above, the Spirit is poured down upon us, alive in action and movement, for our purification, the washing away of our sins, and to give us life–leading to life eternal, which exceeds all in beauty.
We look upon the Son of Man for our healing. We look upon our sins and failings which He has carried and taken upon Himself. We are enjoined to understand, to be healed, to believe, and to receive eternal life. Resurrexit sicut dixit. “The Lord is risen, as He said,” Alleluia!