Tuesday
Apr232019

Easter Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Happy Easter everybody!! Christ our Lord destroys death today and is raised from the dead. Let us delightfully celebrate Christ’s resurrection tonight and spread the Good News to the world. I’d like to invite you all to share the joy of Easter with one another. Would you turn around and say, “Happy Easter” to people sitting next to you?

Resurrection is the culmination of the mystery of our salvation and redemption. By His death, Jesus freed us from sin, and by His resurrection, He restored to us the most important privileges lost by sin. In the prefaces of Easter, the Church’s theology is connotated. I am going to read some parts to you to let you know how amazingly and wonderfully the Church expresses and praises this mystery: “by dying he has destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life.” “Through him the children of light rise to eternal life and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful.” “For, with the old order destroyed, a universe cast down is renewed, and integrity of life is restored to us in Christ.” Therefore, Christ’s resurrection brings life and light to the world. Above all it constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings. Through His resurrection, all living beings obtain Christ’s life and restore the fullness of God’s goodness. Furthermore, Christ’s win over death is the principle and source of our future resurrection. Like St. Paul points out, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

In order for us to recognize the significance of Christ’s resurrection, the Church presents to the faithful all the readings about how Christ’ resurrection affects our lives. Peter in today’s first reading, boldly summarizes the mystery of Christ’s works. “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible.” This Good News will start the blessed life through the forgiveness of sins according to his preaching: “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Freedom from sin is the basis of the divine life and joy of faith. St. Paul in today’s second reading also emphasizes the joy that the resurrection brings. He sets the resurrection as the divine event and tells us to pursue what is above, that is to say, the joy that the divine event brings. The disciples in today’s Gospel also believe Christ is risen when they see the empty tomb. That brings them joy and hope.

Christ’s resurrection is a joyful event. Our own resurrection will be the best day of our life. Our joy depends upon whether or not we believe this divine mystery. Our joy comes from the faith in Christ’s resurrection. Some people think the empty tomb is not a convincing evidence of the resurrection. But those who believe in the resurrection can see the goodness and the truth that are beyond human logics. And this faith brings them joy.

I have a wonderful story about what it is like to believe in Christ’s resurrection. The Archdiocese of Anchorage had a Pastoral Day on Apr. 10th and a speaker Dr. Tim Mullner had a great presentation about the 2018 Vatican Synod on Young people. At the end he brought up a wonderful analogy which I liked. So I am going to repeat his story. Some of you might have heard this.

In a mother’s womb were two babies. The first baby asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course, There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The doubting baby laughed, “This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous. The umbilical cord supplies nutrition. Life after delivery is to be excluded. The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there. Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” the first baby guffawed, “You believe in mother? Where is she now?”

The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us. It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“Ha, I don’t see her, so it’s only logical and she doesn’t exist.”

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her. I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes…”

Like the first baby, some people think there is no life beyond death. They don’t see the truth, and there is no joy in their lives. They are locked up in their cocoons. But we all know Christ’s Passover from death is a divine transformation from darkness to light, from death to life, from hatred to love, from conflict to peace. This brings joy to us all. We all celebrate the mystery of the transformation today. We all become the witnesses of the resurrection like the disciples in the tomb of today’s Gospel, holding Christ’s light in our hands. We break our cocoons and participate in the process of divine transformation. The new life of pure spirit lies beyond death due to Christ’s win over death today. In order to enter the unfamiliar world of life-to-come, we must learn how to give ourselves out like Jesus on the cross. That is where our joy sprouts.

We, Christians can cultivate joy by being close to the risen Christ. Because Christ emancipate all of us from darkness through His resurrection, we are invited to the goodness and love of God, not darkness and hatred. We believe in trust and peace, not fear and conflict. We are invited through faith to eternity and life with God, not death and limitation. All this is what we celebrate today. We look into the empty tomb and see the fullness of life. It is in the resurrection that we find authentic joy and love and peace and we hope our divine transformation and we are raised with Christ at the end. Happy Easter again.

 

Tuesday
Apr232019

Holy Thursday - Deacon Bill Tunilla

Washing of the Feet

Tonight, we are called to humility as we enter into the Triduum which is the Latin term for “Three Days”.  These most sacred days begin with the liturgy on the evening of the Lords Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. These three days are not just old stories but we are fully invited to take part and reflect in our hearts and minds on Jesus’ words and actions because in the second reading and the gospel, Jesus is asking something of all of us.

There’s a tendency to highlight the Eucharist on Holy Thursday and rightfully so.  This liturgy invites us to the table of the Lord with Jesus and his disciples. In the Gospel of John we are guided in our understanding of the gift of the Eucharist.

John recounts that before he offered the bread and wine, his body and blood, Jesus took off his outer garment, tied a towel around his waist and then he did something unthinkable: he began to wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus knew all things had been given into his hands. He knew that his hour of humiliation was near, but he knew his hour of glory was also near.

Such a consciousness might have filled him with pride; yet even with the knowledge that all power and glory were his, he humbly washed his disciples' feet. At a moment when he might have had supreme pride, he chose supreme humility. True love is always like that.

For example, when someone gets sick, the person who loves them will often perform the most menial services and delight in doing them, because love is like that. Sometimes we may feel doing a menial task such as scrubbing a toilet, changing a diaper, picking up after ourselves or taking out the trash are beneath us. Jesus didn’t’ see it that way.  He knew that he was Lord of all, and yet he washed his disciples' feet.

To understand the significance of this we must consider how most people in those times traveled by foot. The roads of Palestine were unsurfaced and unclean. In dry weather the roads were covered inches deep in dust.  After a rain the roads turned into mud. Ordinary people wore sandals, which were simply soles, some made out of wood or sod, held onto the foot by a few straps. They gave little protection against the dust or the mud of the roads.

 

For that reason, there were always great water pots at the door of a house; and a servant was there with a ewer or a large jug and a towel to wash the soiled feet of the guests as they came in. Jesus' little company of friends and disciples most likely had no servants to carry out this duty where in a more wealthier household there would have been a servant to do this task.   

Yet even within sight of the Cross, the disciples were still arguing about matters of precedence and prestige. It may well be that on the night of this last meal together they had got themselves into such a state of competitive pride that not one of them would accept the duty of seeing that the water and the towels were there to wash the feet of the company as they came in.

But Peter recognized how inappropriate it was for Jesus, the Master to do a slave’s job.  Peter does not understand the meaning of the foot washing, although Jesus tells Peter you will understand later.  This future understanding would be a gift of the Holy Spirit who after the resurrection brought light to Jesus’ words and deeds.

Peter is adamant about not letting Jesus wash his feet. Jesus tells him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”  This statement highlights the relationship between the foot washing and the cross. 

The foot washing signifies Jesus’ loving action on the cross.  Peter must yield and let Jesus wash his feet in order to share in Jesus’ life, which the cross makes possible.

Peter agrees but he still doesn’t get what Jesus is telling him.  Peter is thinking concretely that Jesus is talking about washing body parts when he said, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.  Peter still didn’t understand this humble gesture of the foot washing signified the cross.  Jesus’ death on the cross suffices to make one clean all over.  It cleanses us from sin and incorporates us into the mystical Body of Christ.  The necessity of this washing is also an image of baptism.

After Jesus had performed this humiliating action out of love for his disciples, an action that, culturally, would be considered beneath his disciples to do for one another, Jesus explained what He did and why. "You should wash one another's feet," He told them. "I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:1-17)

In a few moments Father Andrew will duplicate this act of humility by washing the feet of those chosen.  This will symbolize the salvation Christ accomplished for us and offers all of us a free gift.  The right response is to receive this gift by yielding to the actions of Christ in our lives and to say yes to his transforming grace.

Some people resist Christ because they do not consider themselves sinful enough to require him to wash them in baptism or in the sacrament of reconciliation.  Others have the opposite problem and stay away because they are ashamed of their lives or secret sins.  To all of us Jesus speaks gently but firmly as he did to Peter, “Come, for unless I wash you, you cannot share in my inheritance.”

So when we are tempted to think of ourselves as being more stately or having greater dignity or prestige then our neighbor, let us picture the humbling image of God’s only son, our King, girt with a towel, kneeling at his disciples' feet.

 

Monday
Apr152019

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord - Deacon Bill Tunilla

 

Life is full of transitions.  Today Christ moves thru many transitions. It is Palm Sunday and Luke in our first Gospel describes Jesus journey to Jerusalem.  As Jesus was drawing near to the Mount of Olives, he sends his disciples to find and untie a colt and bring it to him.  On the colt, Jesus rides along the road to Jerusalem and the people spread their cloaks out for him and proclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. 

But by the very next Gospel the crowd’s mood changes and Jesus is transitioned from hearing Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord, to crucify him!  Crucify Him!  Jesus is then lead out to the place called the Skull to be executed with the two criminals.   

Now consider how many Christians go about triumphantly singing and shouting out God’s praise yet live out their lives by the standards of our culture with disregard for God’s laws. We seem to live in a world turned upside down but so did Christ.  He was an innocent victim chosen by the people to be crucified while a criminal was chosen to have his life among the people restored.  Many people living today might choose to kill an innocent unborn child rather than choosing life. Some may choose to live Christ like while others choose to emulate a life style of sin.  These readings remind us that we too can be like the crowd calling out for Christ’s crucifixion when denying him or failing to live out our lives as Christ commanded us.

Yet even though we all sin, it is Jesus, who gives us the greatest example of living a life of love, mercy and hope.  Jesus listened to his Father, and fulfilled His Father’s will, rather than his own.  Merciful to the end he asks his Father to forgive the people for they know not what they do.  His mercy is shared in even a greater way in the midst of his ultimate suffering upon the cross when he forgives the good thief and he tells him, “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Isn’t that what we all hope to hear after our last day on earth?  Today you will be with me in paradise?   These final days of Lent should be a time to reset our hearts back to desiring eternity with God and putting God first in our lives.

Each Sunday in Lent became moments of possible transitions for us. The first Sunday of Lent, Jesus was tempted in the desert. Like Jesus we too can identify with temptation and like Christ, we can deny ourselves those things that tempt us into sin.

On the second Sunday of Lent Jesus was transfigured before his disciples. He gives us a glimpse of what awaits us on the other side after our earthly journey is done. We can only imagine his glory and ours as we seek out God’s will over our own.

The third Sunday of Lent Jesus tells the story of the Fig Tree and we are challenged into producing good fruit or risk being cut down. We can cultivate our lives through prayer and works of Mercy becoming a life-giving people, serving others, instead of following our own selfish ways.

On the fourth and fifth Sundays we transitioned into forgiveness with the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Woman Caught in Adultery. Jesus shows us how he never gives up on us in the Prodigal Son.  He is always on watch waiting for our return to him.  To the women caught in adultery, he tells her that he doesn’t condemn her either when he tells her to go and sin no more.

This Sunday we begin the transition to Easter.  We accompany Christ thru Holy Thursday with the institution of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders. On Good Friday we consider the agony of Christ and his sacrifice on the Cross, a symbol of death, pain and destruction which he transitions into the Cross of Mercy for all of us.  This reminds us of just how humanly impossible it is for us to save ourselves. 

And finally on Holy Saturday the barren altar and sanctuary is again filled with rejoicing because of Christ’s triumphant resurrection over death.  We can look ahead to our own resurrection when we will rise from this place to HIS Holy place, our true forever home…that is to be…….our final transition.

Monday
Apr082019

The 5th Sunday of Lent Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

It took me a while to adapt myself to the most frequent question in our daily life, “How are you?” It is because it is not a daily question to Koreans. We just say, “Hi,” or “Hello” to one another. That is it. We don’t use the question that often unless we really want to know how well our friends are. But since I came to America, this question, “how are you?” or “how are you doing?” has been the most common question that I have asked and have been asked. I was assigned to Sacred Heart in Wasilla when I first came to Alaska. When I went to work around 8:30 in the morning, Fr. Scott Garrett, the pastor, said, “Good Morning! How are you doing?” I said, “I am good.” A couple of hours later, in the afternoon he came to my office and said, “Hi, Andrew, how are you doing?” He asked the same question again in the middle of the day. I thought to myself, “why is he asking the same question again, even though he already knew I was doing well. I already let him know how well I was in the morning.” It was a little bit odd to me. So it took me a while to get used to that.

Anyway what is the usual response to that? We usually say, “fine,” or “good,” or “well.” Some people try to answer differently like, “somewhere between better and best,” “much better now that you are with me,” “my lawyer said I don’t have to answer that question,” “all the better now that you asked,” and so on. There are many ways to answer the question. But people usually answer, “Good,” or “Fine.”

Since we use the answer, “good” a lot, I have a question. What do you mean by good? What is good? The ancient philosopher, Plato said, “we always act with a view to some good. The good is the object which all pursue, and for the sake of which they always act.” His disciple, Aristotle took the same point of his master, and said, “the good is that which all aim at.” They thought the good was similar with the purpose of life, happiness. And they saw good as something that was achieved through acts and practice of virtues. But the Catholic view on good is different. Catholic theologians connect this goodness with faith and knowledge of God. And it is always harmonized with God’s revelation according to St. Thomas Aquinas’s theology.

The Church’s view on good, especially the highest goodness is always attached to the knowledge and faith in God. This idea is exactly echoed in today’s second reading. Paul says, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” God’s goodness comes to us in the utmost limit through the knowledge and faith of Jesus. Supreme good is to know Christ according to St. Paul. And knowing Christ is nothing but loving Christ. And loving Christ means that we willingly dedicate ourselves to live in the Paschal Mystery: His passion, death, and resurrection. The Catholic Church teaches that true happiness and the highest pleasure rest in the love of Christ.

Once we love Christ, that is to say, we have the knowledge of Christ, we come to consider everything else as “rubbish.” It is because union with Christ is the best treasure we could ever have. This is something new that we never had before. It brings us bliss and eternal pleasure that we can only feel in the presence of God. The prophet Isaiah sings in today’s first reading, “says the Lord, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters…see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth… in the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” This is the prefiguration of the waters of Baptism. Without grace we are like desert lands. The waters of Baptism make us supernaturally alive and purify and elevate our nature and brings us to the love and the knowledge of Christ. Now Baptism means that it is time to forget what lies behind but to look at the new things that God is doing. We die in our old ways of the past and rise in the new ways of God in our baptism. We are supposed to live out the spirit of baptism in Lent. We are supposed to give up our old ways of life and enter into the new ways of God.  

But this conflict between the past and the future, the old way and the new way, and the supreme good and the arrogant wiles, we find in today’s Gospel. A woman is caught in the very act of committing adultery and brought to Jesus by the crowd. There is a trap here that the Pharisees and the scribes set before Jesus by bringing the woman. This trap is dilemma. If Jesus says that the woman can be released from the obvious act of the sin, he clearly violates the Mosaic Law. The enemies say, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” They draw a line that Jesus should not cross. Therefore, if he says “let her go,” he becomes an irreligious person. He is not the prophet any more. On the contrary, if he orders that she be stoned, he is in trouble with the Romans. It is because the Roman Empire already took the right of the capital punishment from the Judeans. That is why they handed Jesus over to the Romans to put Him to death on the cross. Jesus is trapped in today’s Gospel.

Jesus then writes on the ground and then destroys their trick by challenging this cruel mob to examine their motives: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Everybody leaves and the sinful woman stands alone in the presence of Christ. She is now facing Jesus. She is looking at Him. She is contemplating Him. And she gets to know Jesus: “where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir.” “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” This encounter leads her to the knowledge of Christ and then to the love of Christ and finally to a new way of life. She is forgiven. She receives the grace of Baptism by starting her new life.

Next weekend is Palm Sunday. We are almost there, the end of the journey. We need to encounter the gracious and merciful Jesus in Lent like the woman. We are supposed to know Jesus better. We are required to love Jesus more. We are invited to live out the grace of our baptism in Lent. And then we participate in Jesus’ way of the cross and consider everything else as “rubbish,” like St. Paul. If we do this, eternal life and Supreme goodness will be granted to us in the presence of God. Let us humbly ask God to renew our hearts and minds that we live out the Paschal Mystery through the love of Christ.

Sunday
Mar312019

The 4th Sunday of Lent Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

We had the parish mission last week. You all remember the speaker, Joe McLane. He introduced himself to all of us during last weekend’s announcement. He shared wonderful stories with us for 4 days. He brought up a lot of holy lives of saints, took us to the early Church fathers’ writings, and challenged us to be faithful and bold as Catholics. It was a great presentation. I wish all the parishioners could’ve come and listened. Anyway, he mentioned in the last mission speech today’s Gospel passage, “the prodigal son” to show us how merciful our Father is. And in the same talk, he shared his conversion story, telling us how awful he had been like the prodigal son in the parable, and how he had realized he deserved to be loved, and how much mercy and forgiveness he has experienced from God. It was just like the prodigal son’s journey. His wonderful conversion story struck a chord in me and reminded me how compassionate God is like the father in the parable. You can’t overemphasize how much God loves us even though we feel we are not worthy to be loved. This is the main point in today’s readings.

Today’s Gospel is so famous that if I ask ten people if they know this parable, 8 or 9 of them probably would have no problem with retelling the basic plot of the story. Even though they are not Christians, they probably say, “Yes, I know the parable.” This is one of the best-known stories in the world. But if I ask them in what context Jesus brings this parable, probably 8 out of ten might say, “I don’t know.” Do you remember in what occasion Jesus tells this parable? The context that Jesus is facing is revealed in the beginning of the Gospel. The setting definitely helps us deepen our understanding of the parable. “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them Jesus addressed this parable.”

Jesus is sitting and eating with sinners today. He is being surrounded by outcasts. He is having a conversation with the marginalized. Sitting and eating together means being involved and respectful. You might not want to sit and eat with somebody you don’t like. Sharing tables means an expression of respect. By having a meal with them, Jesus embraces them and elevates their dignity and integrity as His friends. But the Pharisees and the scribes at the same table complain about Jesus’ attitude. And then Jesus starts telling the story. This story telling is a defense of Jesus’ table fellowship with outcasts and a response to the complaints of those who consider themselves the just. This is the context where Jesus addresses the parable. Jesus is presenting and emphasizing His own table fellowship with repentant tax collectors and sinners.

Let’s take a look at the parable. The father is described merciful and the son is depicted very disrespectfully in the parable. If I tell you how unacceptable the son’s behavior was in the Jewish community, you probably have a clearer idea about how merciful the father was. In the Jewish culture, the request for distribution of the inheritance is very rude and shameful because this means a son wishes his father were dead. By asking for his share, the younger son insinuated his father’s death. Fathers in the culture were discouraged from giving out shares to their sons because if a father did, he was still entitled to live off the proceeds while he lived. Therefore, the prodigal son’s request, “Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me,” was not allowed or tolerated. The son sold his share and went off. By selling his inheritance of the family wealth, the younger son went deeper into shame. This act infuriated his family. And then he had a dissipated life and spent all the money he had in a far-off land. This was also not allowed. This even made things worse because losing money to non-Judeans in the Gentile countries was very shameful to their society. He was bad. He did everything to become really bad. He wanted his father’s death, put his family into shame by selling the family possession, and even lost it to the Gentiles. He was a bad child.

He got nothing and no one cared for him, and according to the Gospel passage, coming to his senses he decided to go back to his father. This was the conversion moment of the son. He said, “I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’” And then he started the journey to the father. And then we see the most dramatic scene in today’s Gospel. “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” It didn’t matter to the father how bad his son had been. The father didn’t care what the son had done. The father was pleased only with the fact that the son came home.

This is the divine care for the repentant sinners that Jesus makes clear before tax collectors and sinners and religious leaders. This is our God. This is the mercy of God. This is the power of divine love. This parable is a perfect reminder of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We hesitate to go to confession for many reasons whether it is internal or situational. We have a hard time going to confession because of our emotions, busy schedules, wounds, procrastination, and fear. But we need to bring everything like our anger, frustration, jealousy, emptiness, greed, and temptation to confession. And we are deeply sorry for the fact that we have distanced ourselves from God, so then we go to confession and restore our relationship with God. And we will be forgiven. The son was not sure if the father would accept him or not. But he got up and started the journey to return to the father. Likewise, we need courage and faith to get up and return. This parable of the prodigal son is the perfect example of our journey to go to confession, the Sacrament. This parable tells us how much God wants to dwell within us even though we are not worthy. We only need to open ourselves to God’s mercy.

It’s Lent. We are at the half way point of Lent. We are deeply encouraged to go reconcile with God as we read the prodigal son’s conversion story. If you still hesitate to return to God, please trust God’s mercy. You still have time to come back. It is open to you all. I am pretty sure it brings you a great joy. This is the joy of becoming a new creature like St. Paul points out in today’s second reading. I’d like to conclude my homily with his beautiful words: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.”