Sunday
Nov112018

The 32nd Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

We have a big contrast in today’s Gospel. Jesus criticizes the scribes and their haughty attitude in the first part of the Gospel. The scribes were experts in the Law of Moses. They were the lawyers of their day. They were often referred to as rabbis as well, for they were not merely jurists but also religious teachers-a cross between a priest and an attorney. People turned to them for proper understanding of God’s will as revealed in Scripture. They were one of the leading groups that was guiding people through the interpretation of the Moses. By playing this role, they contributed to the development of rabbinism and became the forerunner of modern-day Judaism, but controlled people. Therefore, they claimed the best seats in a synagogue and at banquets. Jesus publicly chastises their arrogant behaviors and looking down attitudes and condemns their ceaseless grasping for honor.

On the other hand, there was a woman in the second part of today’s Gospel. Unlike the scribe, she couldn’t even enter into the temple and stayed in the first of the three courtyards in the complex, which is called “the Court of Women.” She humbly fulfilled her religious duty there by putting two small coins in the collection. Jesus observed this widow. The word for “widow” in Hebrew carries the meaning of one who is silent, who is unable to speak. You all remember that the Mediterranean cultures were usually divided by the gender. Men belonged in the public area; women remained secluded with the children deep within the home. Men played the public role, and women did not speak on their own behalf. She was even a widow. She already lost her husband. She didn’t have anyone standing for her. If her son was not yet married, she was even more disadvantaged. She was the most powerless person of her day.

We find this huge contrast in today’s Gospel. On the one hand, there is a group of the most powerful men who are honored and respected so much that they don’t know how to generously serve people. On the other hand, there is a widow who is destitute but extremely generous. Jesus gives a great compliment on her generous action: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.” Jesus doesn’t praise the widow because she is poor. Jesus praises her for being generous. Jesus’ remarks on the widow’s attitude in today’s Gospel give us a lesson on total and wholehearted giving: “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

We have another generous woman in today’s first reading. She is a pagan woman who gives all even though she has the little. The prophet Elijah was given a signal proof of God’s power and solicitude. And this pagan woman, the poorest woman, who was about to die after she had the last meal with her son, was asked to provide a meal for this unknown prophet. She believed God’s words, followed the prophet’s instruction, and risked her life and her son’s life. This is an admirable faith on the part of a simple and poor widow. And this reminds us of all those who accomplish the acts of God’s mercy, forgetting themselves. This poor widow of Zarephath shows us the depth and power of faith that is font of total giving. This widow does not hesitate to part with her remaining provisions for the benefit of a needy stranger, the Lord’s prophet. These two widows are the examples of total and wholehearted giving.  

This act of giving reminds me of the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus who teaches the perfect example of total giving. He is “the Gift” itself and “the Giver,” Himself. Jesus is the ultimate self-giving Lord. He is the true poor one because he humbles Himself down to the earth even though He is divine. This self-giving act is culminated on the cross. In union with Him, our lives can become capable of total self-giving. Our lives can be transformed into a wholehearted gift to God. We have a lot of widows around us who are practicing this self-giving act in the Church.

Last weekend, three of the finance council presented the annual report at every mass. The parish has been great financially lately because of your generous giving. I was glad they mentioned the past projects that we accomplished and said thank you all. And we have gotten three main projects finished in last 2 and a half years like they said: the renovation of the main Church in 2016, the addition in 2017, and the overflow parking this year. Every time the projects started, I was worried about the fundraising. I thought to myself, “How do we make the goal? How do we raise our fund? What if we don’t meet the goal?” This was the lack of faith that I showed even though I was doing God’s works. But I have seen a lot of widows in my parish who were willing to contribute for God’s house. The widows put their total and wholehearted giving in the projects. Some widows sold tickets, others contributed their time, some donated their talents, some raised fund through food, some shared their gifts even though they had little. The widows in this parish have shown the extreme generosity. You all are the widows. Your devout and pious act has made this parish different. I’d like to say thank you again.

This self-giving action comes from the strong faith in God. And this faith is built and strengthened when we are totally dependent upon God. This wholehearted act of love should be continued by the total faith in God. We are almost at the end of the liturgical year. Today is the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time. Two weeks from today will be the last weekend of this liturgical year. We are going to celebrate the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday. As the time is coming up, we are asked to meditate upon eschatological themes. These themes help us to reflect upon the quality of our relationships with God that we have built for one year. Like the widows are presented as the example of total and wholehearted gifts in today’s Gospel, we are invited today to total response to God’s redemptive love and the wholehearted giving to people in need. Let us give thanks to God and ask Him to bless us in this mass that we can become capable of devoting our whole beings to loving Him and our neighbors.

Sunday
Oct282018

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily - Deacon Bill Tunilla

We Live by Faith

 I think St. Paul in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians said it well when he said, “We walk by faith, not by sight.  Faith is one of those things you have or you don’t have or you struggle to have.   You can’t see faith or touch it but you know it’s there.  I think faith can be easier noticed in those who have few material possessions or who suffer physical, mental or emotional impediments.  For faith is often all we have at those times in our lives, and faith is one of the greatest truths.  For Hebrews 11 tells us, “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see” (Heb11:1-2).

In the Gospel of Mark we hear the story of the healing Bartimaeus.  It is the second healing of a blind man recorded in Marks Gospel.  The first occurred in chapter 8 at the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem when he healed the blind man at Bethsaida.  Now at the end of His journey right before Palm Sunday, Jesus heals another blind man but this time it is instant and complete. 

Mark tells us that Jesus was leaving Jericho, an ancient city about 15 miles north east of Jerusalem.  Jericho is the site of Israel’s first conquest in the holy land (Jos6).  We are told a sizeable crowd accompanied them.  Most likely the crowd included Jesus’ followers and the pilgrims who were heading to Jerusalem for the Passover. 

It was a requirement for all the Jewish people in Palestine who were able to travel to travel to the holy city of Jerusalem for the Passover commemorating the exodus from Egypt.

Bartimeaus was a blind beggar sitting upon the roadside begging for alms when Jesus came by.  He must have sensed something out of the ordinary was going on….and he was right, for upon hearing it was Jesus he began to cry out, Jesus Son of David, have pity on me. 

Like many of those in the gospels who cry out for Jesus, Bartimeaus is rebuked by the crowds who basically told him to hush.  Still, Bartimeaus was not to be deterred and must have had a deep faith and placed his hope in Jesus. He was utterly determined to meet the one person whom he longed to confront with his trouble. It was a desperate desire, and it was that desperate desire that kept him persistent until Jesus stopped and said, “Call him”.

Now with the joy and excitement of a kid at Christmas, Mark tells us he threw aside his cloak and sprung up and came to Jesus. I can picture his excitement might have been like a contestant on the Price is Right who springs up in utter hysteria when they are chosen as the next contestant. 

His response was one of enthusiasm and it was decisive.  To cast off ones cloak symbolized leaving behind your former way of life. 

As Christians we are called to cast off our sinful nature at our baptism and become a new creation.  Like Bartimeaus we too need the healing of Jesus.  As I considered this story I asked myself what would I say if Jesus stopped and asked me the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?” What would I say? What would you say?

If this question sounds familiar it should for we heard these same words in last Sundays Gospel but only with a different motive. James and John asked Jesus to grant that one sit on his right and the other on his left.   To sit at a ruler’s right or left hand was a sign of power and prestige.  I’m sure James and John were dreaming away as those positions came with many perks and privileges. I’m sure they didn’t have a clue to what His glory meant or what it was to drink from the cup Jesus was to drink from or to be baptized with the baptism He was to be baptized into.

So again what would you or I say if He asked us, “What do you want me to do for you?  Would we be like James and John asking for power and glory?  Or would we answer like Bartimeaus did, not asking for any special privilege or honor but just to be restored to wholeness?  Would we hear as Bartimeaus did, “Go your faith has saved you”.

 

Two things about the faith of Bartimeaus stand out for me.  One is his persistence and his eagerness to respond.   Bartimeaus stayed the course and kept calling for Jesus.  He didn’t let those in the crowd discourage them.  He could have very easily sat down and said nothing more.  Let us remember Bartimeaus during the times in our lives when the storms come that we need to keep persevering in our faith.

The other is to be eager to respond when God calls to us.  Too many times we are like Eyeore and have no joy.  We allow Satan to continuously drag us down into the pit of despair and lost hope. Satan is the great deceiver and he wants us to lose hope and put our trust in this world instead of Gods kingdom.  He constantly disguises his lies as something truthful. We must stay vigilant and continue to pray and discern the truth so we won’t be tricked into false illusions.  Thomas Merton, a great 20th century American Trappist monk and writer wrote this prayer.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end…nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing and I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Today let us ask God to give us the strength to continue to be like Bartimeaus and persevere with our crosses and never to lose sight of the truth.  For we walk by faith and not by sight. For faith is that confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see.  And when Jesus comes by may we like Bartimeaus, see with the eyes of faith, cast of our cloak, spring up, and eagerly go to Jesus.

 

Sunday
Oct212018

The 29th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Today is the 29th Sunday of ordinary time. And throughout the whole world, we are also invited to commemorate this Sunday as World Mission Sunday. It means we are reminded today that the mission is at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Decree, Ad Gentes (A Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church), “the pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father.” We are on a pilgrimage back to the Father’s house and we are a Church that is very much on a mission: proclaiming the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. This is the nature of the pilgrim Church. And as much as we have a mandate to go out to all the world, we also live with the realization that the Gospel needs to be preached in our backyard-in our families, in our schools, in our workplaces and among our friends. This is what we remember as we celebrate World Mission Sunday.

Speaking of the world mission, I have met a lot of missionaries who devote themselves to missions all over the world: China, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Mexico, Africa, and so on. They are sent to preach the Gospel especially in the Third World, leaving their hometowns and families and friends and cultures. They freely give up many things in their home countries and serve local people happily. They are also privileged to experience new aspects of life and different cultures and customs. I am a missionary, too. I am always excited about meeting and experiencing new cultures and people. I enjoy being refreshed in a new culture and becoming a new family member to the culture. That always excites me.

What I, as a missionary, need most is acceptance of new cultures and people. In order to accept new ones, I have to be open minded. If you are not open to new cultures, you might be isolated. This openness also requires a virtue of humility and self-giving. Being a missionary and proclaiming the Gospel to a new nation provide a great opportunity with opening yourselves to the everyday newness of God’s revelation. This example of missionary life has become a great challenge to all of us who are already accustomed to an ambitious and self-centered world. Missionaries literally live in the Gospel without being attached to the material world and the ambitious imperative, which is a challenge to us and makes us reflect on what faith means to us. 

Actually, the world is rather more comfortable with ambition, and achievement, and self-promotion. You are number one; nobody loves a loser; nice guys finish last. These echo deep values of our contemporary world. There are no gold medals or adulation for those who finish last. That is the kind of mindset of the disciples in today’s Gospel. Jesus is on His final journey to Jerusalem and says that there he will suffer and die. Far from expressing sorrow or sympathy, James and John skip the thought of suffering and move to the thought of resurrection and glory and ask Jesus to let them sit at His right and left when He enters his glory. They want to be more important than anyone else. They want position, and power, glory, and status. They want to win!

Two brothers are ambitious like most people in the current society where number one is always remembered. But where Jesus leads them is a path to glory: the cup of suffering, death to power, and self-giving. That is to say, it is death on the cross. This is basically the missionary life. Today Jesus seems to say, “You want the places next to me? You’ve got to take the cross first. Make sure you are ready to take the cup of suffering.” The cup of the suffering is the key of today’s readings.

The first reading is a fragment from what we call the “Song of the Suffering Servant” in the book of Isaiah. In the song, the Suffering Servant takes our sinfulness and sacrifices Himself to deliver us. And the New Testament finds these songs fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Servant of the Lord: “If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.” This is where we find the mystery of the cup of suffering. Like the suffering servant, our suffering and sacrifice give life to people. Through our death on the cross, people gain new life.

Today Jesus still asks us, “Can you drink the cup that I drink?” By asking this question, Jesus defines glory very differently than we do. Real glory is not the glory of winning a gold medal, of being a champion, of winning an outstanding award, or of being an object of envy because of our looks or our achievements. Jesus’ glory urges us to answer the following questions: Are we truly ready to take the cup of suffering? Are we willing to give up everything and follow Jesus’ path to the cross? Are you ready to leave what you are familiar with and participate in God’s newness of everyday life through missionary devotedness? The Church is missionary by nature. This means we all are supposed to pursue Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering, not worldly success. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” This is the spirit of the missionary Church. As we celebrate World Mission Sunday, we are asked to take not the way of glory and power, but the way of the servant like Christ. Therefore, all nations will gather in the glory of God.

Sunday
Oct142018

The 28th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Getting into heaven has been a great subject throughout history. People have been curious: “Who is going to be saved?” The Latin words, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Outside the Church there is no salvation), this theological proposition, the Church has kept for a long time. It is also true that this sentence has provoked several theological arguments inside and outside the Church. Who is going to be saved? How can we be saved?

One time, a catechist asked his children in the Sunday school class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into heaven?” They all answered, “NO!” “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Again the answer was, “NO!” “Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven? He asked them again. Once more they all answered, “NO!” “Well,” he continued, thinking they were a good bit more theologically sophisticated than he had given them credit for, “then how can I get into heaven?” A 5-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!”

Having eternal life was a great issue and concern in the time of Jesus, too. In today’s Gospel, a rich man knelt before Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He wanted to be sure that he was among people who were to be saved. But not only for this rich man, but also for all people, this question has been asked out of people’s curiosity and sometimes fear. Finally, a protestant reformer in 16th century pointed out that since time began God predestined those who by faith would be saved. But it was impossible to know for certain, who was who. So people again wanted to have a more confident way to find out that they would be involved in the group of salvation.

But the Catholic Church already started to discuss this issue not from an individual sanctification, but from an ecclesiastical perspective. The Church believes salvation comes to individuals through the Church. Therefore, like I said in the beginning of the homily, the Church has been maintaining a stance of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (there is no salvation outside the Church). Of course, the Church adopted this axiom from one of the outstanding Church Fathers, St. Cyprian Carthage, a bishop of the 3rd century. Since then, a lot of Church Fathers and Councils have reaffirmed this thesis. And then finally the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains more about this expression in 846, “How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.” Therefore, we come to the solution that the Church encourages us to look at this salvation issue from the ecclesiastical perspective.

Let us go back to today’s Gospel and take a closer look. When the rich man came to Jesus and asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reminded the rich man of God’s commandments. “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal” and so on. And the man said that he had observed all of these from his youth. The rich man still reduced the salvation issue to the personal observance of the laws. And what did Jesus command him? “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” While the rich man looked at salvation as an individual sanctification with observance of the commandments; however, Jesus broadened his understanding of salvation from the individual to the ecclesiastical perspective. “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and then come, follow me.” We, the Church, are responsible for people around us. We, as the people of God, are asked to take care of the poor. We, as the body of Christ, are supposed to move forward to God’s Kingdom, the future Church of Eternity. This is how we inherit God’s Kingdom: being a member of the heavenly Church.

Are we going to be saved? This is the question that the rich man brings to Jesus. Jesus still answers to us through the Church: “The one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church.” (CCC 848)

Today Jesus wants us to look at salvation in a different way. He comes to us through the Church. We all know that a part of the Body of Christ is suffering from the sexual abuse and misbehavior revelations, and the whole body is hurting. But we all know God’s salvation is preserved in the Church. We say, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This is a new frame of salvation broadening the horizon of understanding of eternal life. Looking at salvation in the Church’s eyes is like having the true treasure of Wisdom as the first reading points out. It is also like imprinting God’s words in our hearts as the second reading affirms. We are asked today to turn our eyes to our neighbors who lost their homes and families because of natural disasters and we pray for them. We are asked to look at the poor like a treasure on this earth. We are asked to give up what we value, whatever it may be, and offer to God. That is where God’s salvation comes. That is where eternal life is preserved. Let us give thanks to God in this mass, celebrating the Eucharist where Jesus spreads his life throughout the Church. “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father…for my sake and for the sake of the gospel…will not receive eternal life in the age to come.”

Sunday
Oct072018

The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily - Deacon Bill Tunilla

No man is an island was a quote I heard as a young boy growing up.  Although I never knew where it came from yet I understood what it meant.  I later discovered the seventeenth century poet John Donne wrote the poem as part of a collection of devotions.  But the next line in the poem is one that is not familiar to us, “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”

In our gospel reading we just heard from Mark, Jesus cites the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman. God said it was not good for man to be alone so he created him a suitable partner.  Not just any partner would do.  In fact, many species are listed that were not deemed suitable partners for the man, but only woman is deemed worthy.

Not only was woman chosen worthy, but God chooses a rib from Adam. For our ribs are at our sides thus symbolizing man and woman standing equal, side by side, not one standing behind the other.  Our differences are complimentary to one another, not competitive.  

From the beginning God created natural marriage.  This relationship of husband and wife was raised above the extraordinary to image God’s love to the world in a tangible way. 

Being equal partners in the covenant of marriage we become one flesh. The language in Genesis indicates that Gods intention for marriage is to possess the special covenantal nature as was God’s covenant with Israel. Within a valid Sacrament of Matrimony is the grace by which we live out Gods desire for our marriage.

Still the church recognizes some marriages ends in divorce and most often finds that a valid Sacrament of Marriage never existed allowing a Catholic couple to remarry. Our tribunal and parish priests can offer support during these difficult times.  It is important to keep in mind that a declaration of an invalid marriage bond in no way places blame on either party, nor does it deny a marriage took place and the legitimacy of children is never questioned, the church only seeks to discern if a valid Sacramental bond existed.  

Jesus too addresses divorce with a look at the intention of the hearts of the parties divorcing in Galilee. The Pharisees, as usual, approached Jesus with the intention to ensnare him when they asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?  Divorce was widely accepted in Jewish society at that time but still there was controversy among the Pharisees as what constituted sufficient grounds. 

The only mention of divorce in the Torah is in Deuteronomy 24: 1-4, where it says, “When a man after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house.  Interpretations of exactly what constituted something indecent ranged from adultery to burning the evening meal.

Jesus in true rabbinic fashion responded with a counter question, putting the monkey on their back, “What did Moses command you?”  It was sort of a trick question since Moses gave no command about divorce other than the Deuteronomy verse I just quoted. 

Jesus explains the reason for the legislation was because of the hardness of their hearts.  Israel is often chastised in the Old Testament for being a hard hearted or a stiff necked people.  When we have hardness of heart, we stubbornly refuse to yield to God and his ways.  It is the willful blindness to God’s truth that causes Jesus to scold the Pharisees and his disciples.

Now this is where Jesus puts the rubber to the road and comes to the heart of the real commandment he is drawing their attention to.  He quotes from Genesis referring to humanity prior to the sin of Adam and Eve.  The first (Gen 1:27) is where Jesus recounts, “God made them male and female”.  The second is (Gen 2:24), where He describes the covenant bond of love between husband and wife, expressed in sexual union; “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

In biblical thought flesh is not merely the physical body but the whole human body being present in the visible world.  After all we are creatures of a spiritual, physical and emotional nature. 

With these statements Jesus brings marriage into a whole new light by referring to humanity before the fall, Jesus is implying from here forward, God’s original intention is the true standard for marriage.

Jesus concludes with his own solemn injunction; “What God has joined together; no human being must separate.” Jesus is confirming that the union of husband and wife is no mere human custom but a bond made by God himself (Mal 2:14-16) and no human being is authorized to dissolve that bond once it has been made.

With his pronouncement on marriage, Jesus brings his teachings on suffering, self-denial, humility and service into our most intimate and personal space.  This teaching is for all of us, not only those who are married.  Our daily lives are called to be filled with self-giving love of the other and fidelity to the fallen and imperfect persons God brings into our lives. We must remember we too are fallen and imperfect but we can achieve greatness for within is God’s holy goodness and love.

If there is one lesson I’ve learned over and over in my life is that I must make decisions of love for the sake of the other over myself, be it my wife or one of our kids, a co-worker, parishioner or the checkout clerk at the store.  

While it is easy to accept happiness when everything goes our way, I like most people don’t like to accept suffering.  It is human nature to want to get rid of suffering.  While the media is sure have all the answers, more material things, and self-centered recipes for happiness this quote from Pope Benedict XVI says this about suffering.

“Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

In all of humanity, male and female, the newest to the eldest, single, divorced or widowed, we will suffer as part of God’s Divine will for us. Let us embrace our crosses as Christ did on the road to Calvary.

When we give of ourselves freely and share love and forgiveness we mirror God’s holy love and are not an island onto ourselves but everyone is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” …. together we are the Holy Body of Christ, his Church and we can make a difference in the world.