Sunday
Jul162017

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Homily, Deacon Bill Finnegan

Today’s Gospel reading is one of the most familiar of all of Jesus’ parables.  So familiar is it, that most of you know it so well that you could preach this homily.  What would you say if it were your turn to preach?  Think about that and perhaps share your thoughts with your spouse, a friend, your children.

But it is not your turn, it is my turn, so I best get on with it.  The Parable of the Sower reminds me of how poor of a farmer I am.  The other morning, at coffee after daily Mass, the group was talking about rhubarb and raspberries - how they grow like weeds, and how hard it is to kill those plants!  I couldn’t enter the conversation, because I cannot get either plant to grow in my yard!!  I would like to blame it on poor soil, but I suspect it is my fault.

Today’s first reading, the responsorial psalm and the Gospel are all about soil and seeds.  Both Isaiah and the psalm talk about the role of moisture in the growing process: rain and snow (IS), watering and drenching (RP).  It is the watering and drenching of the rain and snow that make the soil fertile and fruitful, so that the harvest will be rich. 

Every farmer knows this.  I know some farmers in AZ who are snowbirds from Iowa and Montana, and they are always talking about the weather and the yield and the crops.  But being a city boy, I am again out of my depth.  Fortunately, today’s readings are not about agricultural growing techniques, but spiritual growing techniques.  And that is somewhat within my realm of interest and influence.  Jesus concluded the parable with the words, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  And in a rare occurrence, He then explains the parable.

The seed that we heard about in the readings is the “Word of God”.  We Catholics believe that phrase has two meanings.  The first involves the biblical readings that are proclaimed at every Mass.  The second meaning of the word, “Word”, is Christ, Himself. 

Recall the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the second person of the Blessed Trinity, is the Word that comes froth from the mouth of God.  As we further read in John’s Gospel:

And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,

and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son,

full of grace and truth.

This is what we believe as Catholics.  So in Isaiah, the LORD, while referencing the role of rain and snow, is metaphorically speaking about His only Son, Jesus.  Isaiah today concludes:

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.

We celebrate the Word “going forth” in the Annunciation and the Nativity.  We celebrate the “return” of the Word on the Ascension, after the Passion, Death & Resurrection of the Son.  Thus Jesus, after achieving the end for which He was sent, i.e., our salvation, returned to His Heavenly Father.   Jesus died on the Cross for us so that we might be reconciled with His Father, Our Father.  That is why He was sent forth and became Incarnate.

Each weekend, Fr. Andrew, Deacon Bill Tunilla, or I become the sower of the seed, when we preach our homilies.  We pray over the readings and the Holy Spirit provides us with kernels of truth to share with you, as a part of the Liturgy of the Word.  We stand up here and, like a good farmer, we broadcast the seeds of our faith out on the congregation.  We become the “sower [who] went out to sow”!  We sow the seeds of truth as we know them.

Questions, however, come to my mind: How are the seeds received by those gathered here?  Do our words and thoughts cause you to think more deeply about your faith?  Is the soil of your heart rich soil that will allow your faith to flourish?  Have you nourished that soil with the rain and snow of prayer, so as to make it good receptive soil?  Are you drenching your heart with prayer daily?

One way to pray, in preparation for coming to Mass each weekend is what is called Lectio Divina.  This method of prayerful preparation for Mass picks up on Jesus’ words today, about opening our ears to hear.  Lectio Divina allows you, through prayerful meditation, to open your ears and hear what God is trying to say to you at this time in your life. 

In praying this way, you slowly read the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel, alert to words or phrases that seem to be speaking directly to you.  Dwell on those words, and savor them.  At Mass, if those same words are emphasized in the homily, you will get the sense these kernels of truth are being broadcast your way.  The Liturgy of the Word, the Word of God will become much more meaningful in your life.  Mass itself will become a much more enjoyable and enlightening experience.  The seeds of faith, hope and love will take root in your heart.  You will look forward to hearing the words, “A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew.”  And each time you will recall the words, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Then you will open your ears to listen intently to the Word of God.

Sunday
Jul092017

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I grew up in a multi religion country where even in a family there are two or three different religions. For example, a father believes in Confucianism and a mother goes to a Buddhist temple and they allow their children to go to different Christian denominations. It is not common in Christian countries but it is not very strange in Korea. Of course, there are some major religions and a lot of minor belief systems in the country. Since the country is multi-religious, there have been attempts to have dialogues among the religions. And differences and similarities among them have been discussed in the country. So the Korean Catholic Bishops Conference started an RCIA book with these differences to give catechumens an idea about what makes Catholicism unique from other religions.

Could you guess what differentiates Christianity? While other religions have human origins, God takes an initiative in Christianity. God first reveals Himself to human beings and tells them how much He loves them. It is God who started our religion. We call this God’s revelation. Therefore, Christianity is a religion of revelation while others are religions of nature. It is a unique attribute of Christianity. Then what is God’s revelation? It is an expression of His love. And Jesus Christ is a culmination of this revelation. Human beings are created eager for this revelation. Catechism of Catholic Church says, “This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation.” Today’s Gospel theme is this revelation.

We might want ask, “how does God reveal Himself?” We have two sources of God’s revelation. Do you happen to know what they are? They are Scripture and Tradition. The Catholic Church has preserved these two sources in the Apostolic Tradition and the Bible. With today’s Gospel reading, the Church reminds the faithful that Jesus is the one who presents the light of God’s revelation to the meek and humble. In today’s Gospel, Jesus—the Incarnation of God’s love--explains how we can recognize this revelation. Jesus says, “although you (Father) have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones.” It tells us what attitudes we need to realize God’s revelation. God’s revelation is manifested in those who are little and humble like children, not in the wise and the learned.

Jesus asks us to become like Himself, meek and humble. “for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” With meek and humble hearts, we get ready to receive God’s love, the revelation, and there we find authentic rest. Today’s first reading shows us how humble and meek the king who is symbolic of the Messiah becomes.

Today’s first reading contains a prophetic passage heralding the rise of a royal Messiah. Zechariah, one of the twelve Minor Prophets, prophesies probably in the fifth and sixth century B.C. after the Israelites had returned from the Babylonian Exile. The Promised Land was ravaged by the Babylonian conquerors and after they returned, they found the Jerusalem Temple was demolished and desecrated. Everything had to be restored. In a beautiful lyric, the prophet Zechariah depicts the coming of a peaceful king riding on a little donkey colt. Most of the Israelites were expecting a Messiah of glory and splendor. The divine King was supposed to be extraordinary in a wonderful appearance. However, today’s prophet describes a Messiah who is humble in strength. Meekness and humility are the signs of the anticipated Savior.

Does it remind you of the portrait of “Suffering Servant” in the prophet Isaiah? In light of the prophet Isaiah, Zechariah’s vision of a “just savior” and “meek king” acquires a new rich meaning. God’s Suffering Servant shows us the manifestation of God’s revelation and His love. Jesus is the meek and humble Servant-Son who is willing to suffer for His flock. God’s justice and peace rise from the meekness and humility of the Suffering Servant. This image is exactly correspondent to the prophet Zachariah’s vision, “just savior” and “meek king.” Who is the king and the servant? This Messiah is the fully incarnated in Jesus Christ.

Today’s liturgy encourages us to imitate Jesus Christ in being meek and humble of heart. God reveals His love to those who have this heart, not to those who are wise and rich. Once we receive the light of God’s revelation, we experience true rest even though we are burdened and labored in our lives. This is why Jesus tells us to come and rest in Him. We are asked to become simple and open so that we may take Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden. Do you feel weary and heavily burdened? Please imitate Jesus’ humility and meekness and come to Him. He is also humble and pours out His peace and justice on all of us. That is where we feel authentic rest and peace.

Being gentle and meek opens us to God’s revelation. Being ordinary and poor means we are reliant on and turn to God’s love. When we do that, we find true peace and rest. We are called to be the humble receivers of the revelation of God’s love. 

Sunday
Jul022017

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Simple Truth

When I was growing up one of my mom and dad’s favorite TV shows that I remember watching was the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In show which aired from 1967-1973.  A regular on the show was an actress named Lily Tomilin who played a character named Edith Ann.  Edith Ann was a precocious five-and-a-half-year-old girl who sat in an over-sized rocking chair with her rag doll, Doris, and talked of life at home with her battling parents and bullying older sister, Mary Jean. When Edith Ann was finished with the dialogue should would end with the words “And that’s the truth” punctuated with a noisy raspberry.  

As we recall last Sundays Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”.  We can safely say that this is one of Jesus’ harder lessons to accept.  Death is a subject most of us would rather not talk about.  Death can be a terrifying concept but even as we consider our last moments, Jesus does not want us to be ruled by this terror.  Instead Jesus tells we should be afraid of losing our relationship with God.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has a few more difficult things to tell us.  The first one is that we are to love God more than our family. The second one He is asking us to be generous, both for the prophet and the disciple.   

The first: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”.  This can be pretty eye opening for us as we sit and ponder what Jesus is saying to us.  It can come as a shock for us since we do so much to build up our families  Yet Jesus tells us they are not to be our first priority and if they are then we are not worthy of Him.

As shocking as it may seem for us it was even more so in the times of Jesus and for his apostles.  In Jesus’ time your family was your sole support.  Neither King Herod nor the Romans were going to provide for you if you were injured, sick, jobless, or broke.  People only had their families to turn to in their hour of need.  For the apostles they were truly taking a risk in following Jesus and we too are being asked to do same.

The second: Jesus is asking us to be generous.  Jesus tells us whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will received a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple----amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

Jesus tells his disciples to support the local church, which carries on the ministry of proclaiming the Word of God and supports the needs of those in the greater community.  Again we can become uncomfortable and perhaps annoyed when we hear the call to tithe and to be generous.  It is not enough to use our excess but we are challenged to dig deeper.

Yet, I for one can be pretty tight with our excess resources when the opportunity comes to give.  A little voice chimes in, well if I give now I may not have enough for myself in an emergency or if something breaks. I think our tendency is we give just the scrapes and store up our resources just in case. 

This past week Sherry and I moved 3 U Haul truckloads of resources to our new house and after a few tubes of Ben Gay, I have decided I have more excess than I know what to do with.

As I considered how all the excess stuff accumulated in our home, I pondered where Jesus came up with such difficult lessons and I thought do we really have to stick our necks out that far to please God?  As I searched for the answer I found Jesus is simply sharing with his apostles and us is to live out the simple truth…..the Ten Commandments.

We need to keep in mind the first three commandments deal with our relationship with God.  We are to have no other gods before him.  We are to reverence God and his holy name.  We are to set time aside to keep holy the Sabbath.  It is after these that we are to honor our parents and others in the remaining six.

While our families are indeed important and merits its own commandment, it comes after our first duty of getting our relationship right with God.

Placing other concerns before God is idolatry.  In Matthew 6:21, Jesus states, for where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.  That is a tough pill to swallow but it is the simple truth.  It doesn’t come naturally or easy for us because we often worry what it would mean for us to change our lives. 

God gave us the simple truth of the Ten Commandments and as disciples we are called to live out these truths in our daily lives not matter how unpopular they may be in the politically correct world we live in.  We need to remember that no one can change Gods truth to suit his own needs and desires. Living these simple truths won’t be easy. But if we live them and put God first in our lives….everything else will fall into its proper place…and that’s the truth….

Sunday
Jun252017

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily Deacon Bill Finnegan

As I was preparing for this homily this weekend, two words in the First Reading kept coming back to me.  I will save the second word for later in my homily, but the first word is “terror”.  Jeremiah, the prophet, tells us that there is “Terror on every side!” 

Jeremiah is speaking about the terrorist threat of the Babylonians, which led to the Jewish exile in Babylon (modern day Iraq), the Babylonian captivity as it is known, but he could just as well have been talking about the worldwide threat to Christianity today.  You have heard me preach about this before, and there has been no let up in the suffering that Christians have endured for their faith all over the world. Please continue to pray for them.

In our own country, there is an attack on Christianity, and Catholicism, albeit a bloodless one so far.  The courts are continually forcing Christians to comply with laws that go against their professed faith, or they are wiping out Christian symbols all over the country.  (Quote from the Canticle of Zechariah, “Free to worship Him without fear”.)

The latest such assault on Christianity came this past week in Pensacola, FL.  Pensacola is the home of Naval Aviation, and that is where I began my pre-flight training, so many years ago.  A Federal Judge ruled that a 34 foot Cross in a public park must be removed in 30 days.  A cross has been on that spot since 1941!  After being there for 76 years with no objections, and simply because 4 people, 2 of whom no longer live nearby, found it offensive, it has to be removed in 30 days.

We have to recognize that there is evil in the world, and evil people too.  We as Catholics are called to seek out the good in everyone and everything.  Indeed, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the daily readings this past week, says that we are to even love our enemies.  We are called to love those who would choose to do us harm.  We are called to be peacemakers.

In the Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul names these evil deeds as sins.  He makes an interesting observation about sin and law.  He states, “sin is not accounted when there is no law”.  Thus there must be “law” in order for there to be “sin”.  Think of it in everyday terms.  Driving 50 mph is not, in and of itself, wrong, but if the law says the speed limit is 45, or you are driving in a school zone, then there is a violation of the law, a sin, so to speak.  We are called to abide by God’s Law.  The problem is that lawless people have no sense of right and wrong, of good and evil; they have no moral compass.  Those who slaughter Christians, simply because they are Christian, are such evil people.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the 12, the Apostles, and by extension, He tells us, to “Fear no one.”  If we believe in Christ and His message, we are called upon to fearless!  He makes a distinction between “those who [can] kill the body but cannot kill the soul” and “the one can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna”.  Only the Devil, Satan, can kill both the body and the soul, and he can only do it with our complicity.  When we give in to the temptations of the Devil, no matter what they are, we sin.  When we sin, we separate ourselves from God, and risk the fires of Gehenna. 

Jesus also says that we are all called upon to “proclaim [what we hear] on the housetops”!  We do that, in no small way, by the way we lead our lives.  Do people know that you are Catholic by your fearless loving attitude?  Do you live the Word of God, proclaimed?  Are you willing to die for your faith?  The last question is a tough question, and hopefully no one here will have to literally answer that question.  However, I was in a discussion a while ago, when ISIS was on a killing spree of Christians.  As the news reported the story, Christian women were being asked to deny Christ or their child would be killed.  During our discussion, one Catholic woman volunteered, “I would deny Christ to save my child.”  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus is cautioning us against in the Gospel today, when He says, “But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father”?

Pray that you will never have to suffer such torture or terror, but also pray that if you should have to so suffer, that you will have the faith and the courage to “proclaim Jesus on the housetop”!  Know that the Holy Spirit will give you the courage when you need it most.

The second word from the first reading that I wanted to talk about is the word, “champion”.  Jeremiah says, “But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion”.  He then goes on to say how the Lord, our God, will protect us from our enemies.  The other morning I was having a bowl of Wheaties, “The Breakfast Of Champions”.  The box, as long as I can remember, has always had the picture of a “Champion” on it.  I wonder if a cereal box in Jeremiah’s time had a picture of God, “the mighty champion”, on it.

We are all familiar with the expression, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” (from the Letter to the Romans) - which really is the theme for all today’s readings.  Jeremiah says that the Lord, the mighty champion, has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.  (If God is for us ... .)  St. Paul says that Jesus is the gift of God that overcomes the transgressions of sin.  (If God is for us ... .)  And Jesus, Himself, says, in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”  (If God is for us ... .)

Wouldn’t it be great if Wheaties put Jesus on their box of cereal, for all the world to see, and thereby acknowledge Him as the “Champion of all champions!”?

 

Tuesday
Jun202017

Corpus Christi Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Today we are asked to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist. But we already commemorated this on Holy Thursday in Holy Week, didn’t we? Remember? Jesus took His outer garment off, put His towel around the waist, washed each disciple’s feet, and dried them with the towel. On that night, Jesus established the Eucharist, the everlasting covenant which was the salvation promise between God and His people. This wonderful covenant was renewed on the night when Jesus gave His Body and Blood away for our salvation. On Holy Thursday we already celebrated this institution. And then why do we celebrate this again today? We focus so much on Jesus’ passion and death on Holy Thursday in Holy Week. In the 13th century, Bishop Robert in Belgium convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From the country, the celebration began to spread, and on Sep. 8th, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull and established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

In many countries, the procession of the Blessed Sacrament or adoration or benediction take place today. By doing this, people express their best way to reverence, honor, and respect the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They appreciate the presence of Jesus Christ among them and ask Him to bless their lives. Therefore, today we are reminded of the meaning of the Eucharist which is the everlasting covenant between God and His people.

We are celebrating Corpus Christi for three reasons. First, we give our collective thanks to God for Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and honor Him there. Second, this feast teaches the faithful how to develop our faith and devotion to the Eucharist. Finally, we are instructed to appreciate the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice. And we learn more about the importance and value of the “Real Presence” so that we may be more appreciative of the Sacrament.

In today’s first reading, the Israelites are about to end their long journey in the desert to a settlement in the Promised Land. Moses stands up and addresses them on how they have been fed in the desert. “He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers.” Since manna is a prototype of the Eucharist, this speech can be considered an illustration of the Eucharist in the Old Testament. When I reflected on the first reading, one word caught my attention. Moses keeps saying, “Remember,” and “Do not forget.” I think these are key words when we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. No, actually this is what we do every time we celebrate the Eucharist. “This is my body.” “This is my blood…Do this in remembrance of me.” Celebrating the Eucharist is an act of remembrance of Jesus Christ, our Master. Here the word, “remember” is not merely an acting of recalling. It is more than that.

We don’t even know how important it is to remember. I don’t know if I told you this. I have a friend in Korea whose father has Alzheimer. My friend said to me one time, “Every time I go to visit my father, he doesn’t recognize me. I have to let him know who I am. My father became a different person.” And then he continued to say, “If you lose your memory, you are a different person. I think you are your memory.”

If you don’t remember your friends or families, you are not you anymore. I think he has a point. Our memory has everything. It contains knowledge, emotions, imagination, relationships, faith, love, hope, spirituality, concept of God and Trinity, and so on. Everything is in your memory. St. Augustine says in his book, ‘Confession,’ “The power of memory is great, very great. It is a vast and infinite profundity…this power is that of my mind and is a natural endowment but I myself cannot grasp the totality of what I am.” If you lose your memory, you lose everything.

Therefore, an act of remembrance of someone or some things means a lot to all of us. It is like we go back to the time when something happened and become a part of that time. Therefore, when Jesus says, “This is my body… This is my blood… Do this in remembrance of me,” we actually go back to the time when Jesus established the Eucharist and eat His body and drink His blood with Him. We become a part of Jesus’ body and blood by remembering and celebrating the Eucharist. In this process of remembering that we move towards eternity and partake in eternal truth. So when we hear the words “Do this in remembrance of me,” we might do well to think “Do this, to know me now, in the past and the future, for all eternity.”

In a few minutes time as we witness bread and wine becoming the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will not be watching a re-enactment of the last supper with a priest pretending to be Jesus. We all are actually there. Priests, in Persona Christi, are actually Jesus and we all stand with the disciples at the last supper ready to receive our Lord’s body and blood. When we leave this mass today, we take that gift, the source of our Christian strength with us. As we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, let us thank Jesus for coming to us in the form of bread and wine and enlivening us and sharing His precious life with us. And then we fulfill our mission to proclaim the life Jesus gives us in the Eucharist.