Monday
Oct162017

The 28th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Tuesday last week, the Diocese of Juneau had the Ordination and Installation mass of Bishop Andrew Bellisario. I flew down to Juneau on Monday and attended the mass the following day. Archbishop Etienne presided at the Ordination and the Apostolic Nuncio was there to present the appointment letter from Pope Francis. And there were several bishops including the two previous bishops of the Diocese of Juneau. Since Bp. Bellisario is a Vincentian, some Vincentian priests came up and concelebrated the mass, and some priests from the Archdiocese of Anchorage visited and joined the celebration of the mass. Of course, all the priests from Diocese of Juneau were there and congratulated the new beginning of their apostolic leadership. It was wonderful. You know it is wet almost every day in Juneau. But it was sunny and beautiful on the Ordination day.

Everybody in the Ordination mass was happy about the new bishop. The new bishop made vows before God’s people, knelt and prostrated himself as a sign of humility and was consecrated and anointed and finally seated on the cathedra as a successor of the Apostles. It was a wonderful celebration. The most touching moment to me was the last speech that the new bishop made for the appreciation of his ordination. He thanked all the people who have helped and assisted with that ordination. Especially he thanked his family. He introduced his family and talked about his family’s background; his grandparents came from Italy and settled in upstate New York and experienced poverty where he was raised. And he started to link how he grew up with the Vincentian spirituality. I was very touched by his wonderful story. I think his whole life was the right and faithful acceptance of God’s invitation to the service of the poor. I see how wonderful it is when a person responds fully to God’s invitation and strives to live the invitation. This is a theme of today’s readings.

On the contrary to the new bishop’s humble response, we have another group in today’s Gospel that rejects the King’s invitation. “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.” This is a heartfelt invitation to the villagers. As you all guess, the king is God. Imagine. The king throws a wedding party with rich food. A wedding feast is a celebration of love, a celebration of commitment, and a celebration of union. A wedding feast is the most joyful celebration. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes how abundant the feast is that God throws for all nations. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” There are rich foods, juicy nourishment, and choice wines on the feast. This is a perfect celebration of sharing. The villagers are privileged to get the invitation.

But what are their responses? Some ignore the invitation and go away to their farms and businesses. Furthermore, some molest the messengers and even kill them. This is an awful way to respond to the invitation. Of course, this parable is presented to point out that Jews don’t accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and treat Him badly even though they are first invited and foreigners become finally guests to the heavenly banquet. This first part of the parable tells us the universality of God’s calling to salvation. Everyone is eventually invited to the feast regardless of race, nation, country, sex, age, etc. Everyone is called to salvation.

But if we take a closer look at the second part of the parable, we find another truth. Actually, some scripture scholars insist that the parable in today’s Gospel is actually a combination of two parables, originally spoken on different occasions. In the second part of the parable, the king orders his servants to invite people to the wedding feast right off the streets. Then he expects the guests to be dressed for the occasion. And then the following action of the king is difficult to understand. He kicks one person out by reason of a violation of the dress code. That doesn’t seem fair or reasonable. But there is the second truth. It is that God’s calling requires a specific response. This response involves accepting Jesus as our Savior and, furthermore, includes a true conversion of heart which is symbolically to put on a wedding garment.

Today’s parable is like a mirror we are looking at. How do we respond to God’s invitation to His heavenly banquet? Obviously, we ourselves have given a positive response. We say “Yes” to the invitation. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But the real question is, what is the quality of our response? Do we allow our responses to become less generous, half-hearted and unenthusiastic? Do we devote ourselves to God’s mission as the grateful guests in the feast? The New Bishop Bellisario’s speech triggered me to ponder about my response to God’s invitation. Am I willing to give myself up and take up the cross and follow Christ? Am I prepared properly to join the feast that God has thrown for me for free? We are required to answer these questions as we respond to God’s invitation to the feast. We are asked to check the quality of our responses.

St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading what the high-quality response looks like: “I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” We become God’s children by baptism but we are also required to grow in faith by continuation of our response to God’s invitation. Our life is a process of accepting God’s invitation. We are all ears to God’s calling. We are here today to listen to God’s whispering call and say “Yes” to that and keep moving toward the conversion of hearts. By doing this, we can do all things in God who strengthens us.

Monday
Oct092017

The 27th Sunday Homily- Fr. Michael Kim

Before I begin my homily, I would like to tell you a story about my school days. At that time, I was a night owl, in other words, an evening person. That person tends to stay up late at night and then also rises late in the morning. So every morning, my dad came to wake me up. But, I did not hear it, and continued to sleep. Next, my elder sister came to wake me up. But I did not hear it, and continued to sleep. Finally, my mom came to wake me up. But I did not hear it, and continued to sleep. So, I was late to school so many times, and I have regretted that.  I should have listened to my dad, my mom, and my sister.  

In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks to the priests and elders with a parable. In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him. Several times the servants are sent to collect payment, and each time they are killed by the tenants. Finally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants kill the landowner’s son, believing that they will inherit the vineyard.

The symbol of the vineyard is a mirror where we can see a reflection of our relationship with God. We believe that God always cultivates us and cares for us. From the book of Isiah, from today’s first reading, we heard that “My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.” In this Scripture, my friend means our God, giving us love, mercy, and compassion every day. He is doing his best for us.

The problem is that people reject his love, mercy, and compassion. Rejection is a very difficult experience that can take time to overcome. As I told you in the beginning of my homily, I rejected my dad, my mom, and my sister many times. They were very upset at me, and my heart was not comfortable also. Every time I rejected my family, I had to say to them with a small sound, with a crawling sound, “I am sorry.” 

In the parable of todays’ Gospel, Jesus reminds the chief priests and elders that God’s own people have repeatedly rejected God’s love. Jesus tells the people that God has sent many messengers to help them know how to live. But, not everyone listened to these messengers, and so God sent his own Son, Jesus. God sent Jesus to teach them. God continues to reach out to them through Jesus Christ.

That is the love of God, that is the mercy of God, and that is the compassion of God. Even though we make some mistakes, God never stops loving us. Even though we are going in the wrong direction, God never stops guiding us. Even though we are oversleeping in the morning, God never stops waking us up every morning. That is the love of God, that is the mercy of God, and that is the compassion of God.

 “Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” As in Paul’s teaching in the second reading today, we need to give thanks to God for his ceaseless love, for his forever love, and for his endless love. 

This Sunday’s Gospel tells us that, notwithstanding the difficulties and apparent fragility, nothing can stop the love of God for us. Jesus Christ is the evidence of his everlasting love. So we are called to stay with Jesus and continue his mission of helping people to meet Him and to be saved and to struggle every day to counter the forces of evil and fulfill the desire to do good and promote justice. You are invited to participate in this mission, and you are chosen for this mission. Jesus tells us:

“I have chosen you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will remain.

 

Monday
Oct022017

The 26th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I have never heard this expression: “Put your money where your mouth is.” Have you heard of it? It means you show by your actions, not by your words that you support or believe in something. I have no idea where this expression originates, but we have another similar expression with this: “Walk the talk.” It also means, “Don’t just talk about things, do something about them.” Every time I hear an expression like this, I question myself, “how many times do I put my words in action?” I preach a lot. I give sermons every day. But I ask myself, “how good am I at practicing Jesus’ love that I preach?” Applying this to our situation, we might want to say that being a Catholic involves more than pious feelings and beautiful words.

We hear a lot of beautiful and sacred words in the Eucharist. We, at times, feel God’s presence and are filled with Holy Sprit’s joy and happiness when we pray, reflect, chant, contemplate and participate in the breaking of bread. But Jesus in today’s Gospel asks for more than these feelings through the parable of the Two Sons. The first son says, “No” to his father’s request to go to work in his vineyard while the second son says, “Yes” to his father’s order. But their actions are exactly opposite. Jesus gives a tribute to the first son’s complete conversion of heart. Which son do you want to be? The first son who changes his mind to obey his father? Or the second son who merely pretends to listen to his father’s order?

But now I’d like to present to you another Son in today’s readings. Did you find Him? It is Jesus Christ. We hear one of St. Paul’s most beautiful chants in today’s second reading which is recited in the psalmody for the first Vespers of every Sunday of the Liturgy of Hours. “Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” This third Son, Jesus Christ says “Yes” to His Father’s salvation plans and obeys God’s will by giving His divinity up and becoming one of us. He fully conforms His will to His Father’s and humbles Himself for human beings’ deliverance. This “thy will be done” attitude brings us the spiritual conversion and leads us to God’s vineyard. And in the vineyard, we walk the talk and practice Jesus’ teachings.

We are celebrating the second Stewardship Sunday. There is God’s vineyard here. We all are God’s workers. We are also ordered by God to work in the vineyard. There are two answers before you: “Yes” or “No” like the two sons in today’s Gospel. What do you say to God’s calling to be stewards for His vineyard? We have a great example of Jesus Christ as our eternal Steward. It is time to open ourselves to the whole conversion of heart and to become God’s stewards. As I told you last weekend, all we have is God’s gifts. From this attitude, thanksgiving comes. It is time to give back what we have received by empting ourselves, taking a form of a steward, and serving in God’s vineyard. Let us work together. Let us cultivate God’s vineyard together. God needs His workers to reap God’s gifts.

Like prophet Ezekiel says in today’s first reading, we do the right thing and keep life in us. “He does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” We are being given a chance to build God’s community through stewardship. This requires spiritual conversion like the first son does in today’s Gospel. Once again, I encourage you to go out to the fellowship hall after the mass and look around God’s vineyard. If you have not signed up, yet please commit yourselves to one of the ministries. And by doing this, we all say “Yes” to God’s calling to be stewards and pray, “Thy will be done.” 

Monday
Sep252017

The 25th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

God is the owner of the vineyard and we all are His workers hired by the owner according to today’s Gospel. An issue occurs after the work is finished. It’s a justice issue. In this analogy, Jesus challenges our prototype of justice. I told you I only have one brother. When we were young, I always received more and better than he did: cookies, candies, pocket money, clothes, stationery, etc. He always said, “This is unfair.” But I thought it was fair because I was older than he and I thought it was very just that the older got more and better. What do you think is justice in the world? The definition of justice is the sorting out of what belongs to whom and giving it back to them.

But today’s Gospel completely overturns this universal idea of justice. We think it seems to be just that those who work less get less and those who work more get more. But it doesn’t work that way in God’s eyes. The last remarks from the owner of the vineyard show us how God sees justice. “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” The last sentence of Jesus is striking my mind. “Are you envious because I am generous?” How many times do we complain when we think other people receive more? How many time do we think injustice prevails in God’s ministries. There is no reason to be jealous but we are at times.

What is Jesus telling us through this analogy? Jesus urges us to look at internal appreciation through the justice in God’s eyes instead of superficial fairness. We are asked to look first at what we have received instead of being jealous of what other people have through our stereotype of justice. Jesus wants us to turn the point of comparison with others into sufficiency of God’s grace within us.

What should we say when we are recipients of God’s grace and blessings in our lives? It’s thanksgiving. Those who come and work early in the morning in the analogy are supposed to say thank you when they receive their wages. Jesus is talking about God’s grace and blessing in the analogy. We are not able to weigh God’s grace. We can’t measure God’s blessings. We only say thank you for God’s abundant gifts no matter how much we receive.

Thanksgiving is a right attitude of those who are appreciative of God’s blessing. This attitude proceeds to the stewardship which is more responsible for God’s mission. As I told you, God is the owner and we all are stewards. Today we are celebrating stewardship Sunday. Stewardship is nothing but a way of life. It is another way of thanking God for all His blessings. Since all we have is God’s, we return a portion of the time, talent, and treasure given to us. Stewardship reminds us that we are not the owner of our lives but the steward of what we have been given by God.

Paul’s reflection in today’s second reading gives us an idea about what the stewardship way of life is like. “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” A Stewardship way of life should be filled with Christ and His blessings. Christ is getting bigger until He fills our life with blessings and we can’t help devoting ourselves to stewardship. Christ’s grace magnifies our life and thanksgiving overflows and leads us to God’s vineyard and work all day.

We are asked today to return our time, talent, and treasure to God because we are filled with Christ and His blessings. We are supposed to share, give, contribute, offer, and thank in our lives through our stewardship way of life. Now we have a powerful way to change our faith life and the faith life of the parish: the stewardship life.

After mass, you will see all the ministry tables displayed in the fellowship hall. I encourage you to go around the fellowship hall and decide which ministry you can sign up. And once you sign up, you have to share your time and talent to commit yourselves. Our parish still needs more of God’s stewards to achieve God’s mission. You are privileged to participate in that mission by returning your talent and time to God and committing yourselves to the parish ministries. Please pray about it and feel free to sign up and be a part of God’s mission. 

Sunday
Sep172017

The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily - Deacon Bill Finnegan

I would like to begin my homily today with a question, a quiz if you will - When was the last time you heard these or similar words: “If my brother sins against me”?  Think about it; you don’t have to answer out loud; just see if you can remember.

It was last weekend at Mass when the Gospel began, “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”  Thus Jesus told us, through Matthew last week, that when someone sins against us we are to first go to them privately, point out the sin and seek reconciliation.  There were other steps in the process last week that Deacon Bill preached about, but I am not going to repeat them – since you have been using them all week to resolve problems.  That first private step, if it is successful, presumes that the person admits the fault, seeks forgiveness from you and you grant it.  You forgive your brother. 

It is with this situation in mind that Peter poses the question at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading.  He asks, “Lord, if my brother sins against me how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Peter is dealing with a repeat offender here and he wants Jesus to tell him when it is sufficient to stop forgiving.  When exactly is enough, enough? 

Today we have the expression, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”  Peter seems to be operating from that model, except he’s willing to go all the way to being fooled seven times before he feels shamed.  Remember, to the Jewish people “7” was a big number – after all God created “all that is, seen and unseen” in 7 days!  But Jesus throws Peter a curve, as He so often does.   7?  “Not seven times but seventy-seven times!”  (I actually prefer the old translation that read “seventy times seven times”.  Not sure why they changed it, but that adds up to 490 times!)  What Jesus is saying is that you just keep forgiving and forgiving until you lose count – and then you forgive some more.  How many of us are willing to do just that – to forgive the same person over and over and over again?

The Gospel continues with Jesus telling the parable of the unforgiving servant, sometimes referred to as “the merciless servant”.  We know the story well.  The master forgives the first servant a “huge” debt when he begs for “patience” in repaying; but then the first servant is merciless when the second servant who owes him “a much smaller” amount begs him for “patience” using the same words.  The moral of the story is that you will be forgiven in the manner that you, yourself, forgive.  Here’s another question to ponder – How patient will God be with us based on how patient we are with others, when they wrong us?

You know, most of us pray to God asking for such forgiveness every day when we pray The Lord’s Prayer = The Our Father.  We ask the Father, “to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us”.  But are we truly forgiving of others who wrong us?  And how many times do we forgive?  Do we take those words to heart, or do they just come out of our mouth out of habit?  Shortly, we will pray the prayer together, “at the savior’s command and formed by divine teaching”.  Listen to the words you are praying and take them to heart this week.

The first reading today is from one of the lesser known books of the Bible – the Book of Sirach.  (This is one of the seven – there’s that number again – books that are in the Catholic Bible that are not in the Protestant Bible.)  The theme of the reading is the same as that of the Gospel = forgive and you will be forgiven.  In the reading, your neighbor did not love his neighbor = you!  He committed an unspecified injustice against you.  But you are asked to act with justice to him; you are asked to Love Your Neighbor by forgiving him.  Not an easy request – but who said being a good Jew in the time of Sirach or being a good Catholic today was going to be easy?

There is another expectation of you – if you listened carefully to the first reading.  It is the expectation that you “pray” regularly.  Sirach says, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, you own sins will be forgiven.”  Notice he says “when you pray” not “if you pray” – there is a presumption that you have a prayer life.  Do you?  Spending some time each day in prayer will make you more in tune with the concepts of love and justice, and yes even of forgiveness.

There is also a beautiful logic to this reading, that all of us should be able to understand.  This logical thinking comes in the form of 1 statement and 2 questions:

The statement – “The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance!”

The questions –

“Could anyone nourish anger against another & expect healing from the lord?”  “Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, [and] seek pardon for his own sins?”

This makes perfect sense to me, how can we be vengeful, angry, merciless – like the first servant – and expect healing, pardon or forgiveness from God?  The less we love and forgive our neighbor, the more we sin against him/her and against God.

In both of these readings, Sirach and Matthew are trying to convince us to change our ways before it’s too late: Sirach through logic; Matthew through the parable.  And both remind us that if we don’t change our ways, that we will be dealt with harshly when we die.  Sirach says, “Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin.”  The Act of Contrition, as I learned as a child, included that sentiment in the words, as I asked for forgiveness, “because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell”.  Jesus says (in Matthew), recalling the anger with which the master finally dealt with the first servant, “So will My Heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Last Thursday was the parish feast day, the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.  The Crucifix, the Cross with the Corpus, the Body of Christ, upon it is a symbol of our salvation.  Jesus died on the Cross that we may have life eternal.  It is also the symbol of forgiveness.  Remember one of the Seven Last Words of Christ, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Jesus, as He was dying, forgave those who placed Him on that very Cross.  He also forgave us for our sins.  He & the Cross are the symbols of forgiveness.  Keep that in mind as you ask, “Lord, if my brother/sister sins against me, how often must I forgive him/her?”  As Jesus did, just forgive!  Don’t count how many times, just forgive and forgive again.  Whatever it takes (7x, 77x, 490x).  Never stop forgiving.