Sunday
Dec032017

The First Sunday of Advent- Deacon Bill Tunilla 

Mark 13:33-37

BEING WATCHFUL

One of the duties I hated in the military was pulling watch and there were several reasons why I hated it. First of all I would have to stay up all night and by nature I’m not a night owl so I would have to struggle to stay awake and alert.  Another reason was night watch was so boring.  We didn’t have smart phones, MP 3 players or I Pads to help pass away the time.  And finally I hated being responsible as I didn’t want anything to happen on my watch.

Today we begin Advent and the dawning of a new church year.  It is a season of watchfulness.  Being watchful has been the theme of the Gospel for 3 out of the last 4 Sundays so it must be pretty important. 

In November we heard the parable of the 10 virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom.  The following Sunday the gospel shared the story of the master who gave his servants talents, then returned unexpectedly to see how they had used those talents.

Today Mark emphasizes how Jesus strongly used the word watch.  Be watchful! Be alert!  He places his servants in charge each with his own work.  He orders the gatekeeper to be on watchWatch therefore you do not know when the lord of the house is coming and what I say to you, I say to all watch. With all these references to watch I began to wonder if Jesus was the son of a jeweler and not a carpenter.

But Jesus brings to us a practical conclusion. We are men and women who know our master will come, but we just don’t know when. We live in the shadow of eternity.  Jesus calls us to self-vigilance, to ensure that our day to day work is completed and we are to use the talents God has given us and not hide them from our brothers and sisters.  We are not called to be anxious or fearful as the man who hid his talents, nor live with hysterical expectation.

Jesus kept things simple.  Just live each day putting the interest of God and our neighbor ahead of ourselves and use the gifts God has bestowed on each of us.  

It is then we can find peace and not anxiousness knowing we are ready to meet him face to face. Our life is but a preparation to meet the King.

Our reading from Mark is the last part of an address Jesus gives about the last things, the signs of the end, persecutions, and the coming of the Son of Man.  This parable occurs just before Jesus’ passion.  Jesus repeats staying watchful when He is with Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus reminds his disciples and us that our attentiveness should become a constant habit. 

This was true for the apostles in the garden with Jesus as he awaited his death and it is as true for us today as disciples waiting for our death.  Death is inevitable and will be marked in the moment when we have chosen our own fate to spend an eternity with Jesus or have chosen the absence of God’s presence.  How are we living our life?  Do we choose to be absent to God for most of our day or do we desire to please God throughout our day?

Staying on guard duty and being watchful is no easy task. This takes work and vigilance on our part.  I think there are three things that can help us not only during Advent but every day of our life. 

The first is to fight and stay alert.  We often run ourselves ragged by trying to accomplish so many earthly goals and may lose focus of why we are on this earth and find ourselves tired like the apostles in the garden. 

We can fall into despair when things start going wrong.  We ask why Lord?  What have I done to deserve this?  Hebrews 12:6 tells us, My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.

The second is not allowing ourselves to become bored and complacent. How easy is it for us to become bored?   Kids, how many times have you told Mom and Dad, I’m bored?  That is boring?   It’s tough fighting off the boredom and the same old dull routine. 

In our busyness, boredom and despair is where Satan has his best shot. He knows our weaknesses and waits to catch us in his snares. 

The snares of seeking pleasure over God’s will.  While he asks for our watchfulness we seek and misuse alcohol, drugs, and sex. We fall into a life of promiscuity, lies, gossip, slander, greed and you can continue the list of vices Satan uses to tempt human kind. 

Yet if one stays focused on what we were put on this earth to do, and watchful of slipping up, then it becomes simple to identify our talents and serve our neighbor, seeking the good of others.  If we put others first all else will fall into place for us.  As John the Baptist put it, I must decrease so He could increase.

Thirdly we are called to take on the responsibility for our own salvation.  It’s often easier to judge others or blame them for our mistakes.  But it is only ourselves we are fooling.  Jesus knows our faults and how well we use our gifts.  If we think we do not have faults or shortcomings or have trouble identifying them then let us pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to illuminate our hearts, minds and souls to our sins and shortcomings.  Then let us humbly approach our Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation and ask for forgiveness for our sins.

Again Advent is the season of watchfulness.  We remember the watching and waiting of our ancestors who watched and waited for the Messiah but then failed to see him when he walked their streets and taught in their temples.  Let us not fail to see Jesus in our lives.

Today we watch and wait for Jesus’ coming again in glory.  Christ left us his presence in the Eucharist.  Each Sunday Jesus comes to us in the incarnation.  That is Jesus, the Word of God, comes to us in flesh and blood.  Jesus is the incarnation of God, and he comes to us sacramentally in the Eucharist.  But let us not leave him here in this holy place. 

This advent let us become more watchful for Jesus as he enters our days and nights and to share our gifts so truly we can celebrate the birth of Jesus and be ready when he comes again….. never knowing the day or the hour we shall meet the King. 

 

Sunday
Nov262017

The Solemnity of Christ the King Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Today is the last Sunday of this year in the liturgical calendar. The liturgical New Year will start next week with the first Sunday of Advent. In the last weekend of every year, the Church celebrates the solemnity of Christ the King. You probably picture different images about kings and define different roles kings can play. But this is how the Israelites started monarchy.

Israel has been invaded by some surrounding powers so many times that they asked God to appoint kings. They wanted kings to protect themselves from the invading powers. The Lord warned them in the book of Samuel that the kings they wanted would tax, conscript sons and daughters for his service, confiscate property, and eventually enslave them. However, their fears for their own survival were so great that they chose to have a king. They wanted security and protection under the monarchy. But as we know, their attempts have failed a lot of time and they have been enslaved many times because they didn’t recognize who the only King was. The beginning of their monarchial system had something to do with their longing for security.

We are also very concerned about our security recently because of many tragedies involving mass shootings. We all are so sorry for that. We all pray that those sad incidents never take place in our country. But these things have caused the increase of concern about security. People say that more measures for security must be considered. We need to make sure everybody is safe. I know this is important. We’ve got to do the best we can. However, we’ve got to admit that there are no guarantees that we will be protected. Security measure upon security measure may use up more of the nation’s resources but will still not guarantee our safety. When it comes to safety and security, the only system that we can depend upon is the heavenly King.

In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel conveys God’s message that God looks after and tends his sheep, gathers the scattered sheep, pastures them, and gives them rest. God, as the chief shepherd, leads and takes care of all of us. Throughout Israel’s history, the earthly kings have hardly performed their roles. They were sinful before God, powerless in military, and unfaithful. The people of Israel have suffered from wars many times and eventually ended up being captives in Babylon. Israel has been exposed to dangers and insecurity even though they had kings. And the history of Israel shows how prophets tried to keep the kings honest and mindful of religious values. The prophet Ezekiel reveals the ideals of authentic kingship in today’s reading.

This authentic heavenly kingship includes serving, caring, loving, gathering people, not ruling, dominating, and enslaving people. The prophet says, “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” This is exactly what Jesus came and showed us. Many Israelites wanted Jesus to be their king. But Jesus refused the earthly kingship because he knew what people expected. Instead, he showed people his own way of kingship as less visible in tending to the outcast. In today’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ utmost concerns about the outcast. He tells the sheep on his right that they have fed him, clothed him, and cared for him, and he admonishes the goats on his left that they never took care of him. What is striking about Jesus’ accounts in today’s Gospel is that he identifies himself with the outcast. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” If we serve our brothers and sisters, we serve Jesus Christ. If we ignore them for any reason, we abandon Jesus Christ. This is a shocking idea about his kingship.

It is like he is saying to all of us today, “You are my children. You have already received my kingship. I am going to show you how that works. Serve your brothers and sisters no matter how small they are because they are also my children.” He wants us to tender to people in need. This mission is the call that stands before all of us because it is the right thing to do. Jesus presents a different model of kingship from the one that our earthly kings have. This new model has been manifested most when Jesus humbled Himself and was subject to His creatures by becoming like one of us and reconciled us with His Father. He is the humblest King beyond time and space and, this way, He builds the Kingdom of peace, love, and justice. He shows His Kingship not by dominating people but by serving them in the humblest way.

Today, we celebrate Jesus Christ’s kingship. We believe that Jesus will come again on the last day and finally reign over all nations and races with authority, power, and sovereignty to the ends of the earth as our King. But meantime He wants us to tend to His sheep, our brothers and sisters and people in need around us following the new model of Jesus’ Kingship. He wants us to be kings by serving people, not dominating them. This is the only way to be secure and safe in our daily lives: acknowledging Jesus’ kingship of service. We are reminded of the famous phrase of St. Paul today: “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” Amen. 

Monday
Nov202017

33rd Sunday Homily- Fr. Michael Kim 

Good morning to everyone, Today's readings echo a wise message of spiritual investments. The Lord Jesus Christ invested in us, and he expects to reap something in return.

 

Anyone who is involved in business knows that money management stresses the importance of getting something in return from your original investment. If the business cannot show a profit, it is a loser. And losers are dumped / in favor of better business opportunities that promise profits.

The parable in today’s Gospel tells the story of a master and his servants. Before setting out on a journey, the master distributes his goods to his servants, giving five, two and one talent.  

 

The Hebrew term for "talent" was kikkār, meaning a round gold. Do you like gold? Me, too. The talent was the heaviest or largest biblical unit of measurement for weight, equal to about 75 pounds. Thus, a talent represented a large sum of money. 

 

One who possessed five talents of gold was a multimillionaire by today's standards. Some calculate the talent in the parables to be equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. So it means even “One talent” is no small amount!

 

What is more important is that the parable does not stress producing more talents, but indicates the way we are to live our life with God. The gift from God should be placed at the service of the Kingdom by making the community grow, in love, fraternity, and sharing.

 

The first two servants ask for nothing. They do not keep the talents for themselves and make no calculations. They do not seek their own well-being. Very naturally, they only work for the service of the Kingdom.

 

In the First Reading from the Book of Proverbs, we can find an example of two servants. It spoke of a very productive wife that bears fruit in all things. She never sits idle, using every opportunity presented to her to increase the family wealth. Because of her qualities, she is far more precious than jewels.

She is not afraid to learn how to sew and make clothing for the members of the family in order to save money. From the money that she managed to save, she invests in land. There, she plants a garden in hope of selling the fruits of the seeds that she plants.

 

While tending to the needs of the family, she also tends to her spiritual needs and the needs of others. She gives generously to those in need. To those seeking comfort, she speaks gentle words, only wisdom coming from her mouth. She is never idle, having no time for foolishness and gossip.

From each of the characters in this reading, there is something for us to learn. In a way, this wonderful woman is a picture of what we should be, always being fruitful in our ways.

 

However, the third servant in the parable of Gospel is so afraid that he does nothing. Actually, among Jews at the time of Jesus, there was an image of God as a severe judge who treated people according to the merits they acquired by observing the law. This caused fear and prevented people from growing. It prevented them from opening a space within themselves to accept the new experience of God which Jesus communicated.

 

Before such a God, the human being is afraid, and has no trust in God but rather trusts in himself. This person becomes incapable of growing freely. This false image of God isolates the human being, ruins the community and does not help people live joyfully.

 

I would like to remind you that we don’t have to be afraid of God through the Second Reading from the Letter to the Thessalonians. It tells us that since we are children of the light and children of the day, we should not worry about when the Lord shall return. It is sufficient for us to know that we should keep awake and be sober. In other words, we should be always ready because the Lord suddenly comes as a thief in the night.

 

Let’s go back to today’s Gospel. The Parable of the Talents informed us as to why we must persevere in our living faith, why we must be fruitful in all our thoughts, our words and our actions.

The master in the parable is a picture of Jesus. As the master entrusted his slaves with some talents, the Lord Jesus also entrusted us with spiritual gifts that have been bestowed upon us through the Holy Spirit.

As the master expected his slaves to invest the talents that he had entrusted them with, the Lord Jesus also expects us to be fruitful. He expects us to use the gifts from God to their greatest potential.

We are expected to shine as lights in the world, to shine in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruit that the capable wife displayed in the First Reading.

 

We are expected to love God with our whole being. And then, we are expected to love others as we love ourselves. Through these fruit of the Spirit, we become productive, giving in return to the Lord. Our personal efforts and growth to mature spiritually in Christ would be the end result that our Lord seeks from us.

Remember this: To those who persevere in their living faith, the Lord will say, "Well done, good and trustworthy child; enter into the joy of your master."

 

 

Sunday
Nov122017

The 32nd Sunday Homily- Deacon Bill Tunilla

BE PREPARED

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.   "Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"  "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "We have plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.  When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger - while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need.

For the past two weeks Sherry and I were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and visited many holy sites. One was Cana, the site of our Lords first miracle, that of the Wedding Feast.

There our Lord took water and turned it into wine. It was at Cana that I viewed the lamps spoken about in our scripture today.

If we look at today’s Gospel reading with western eyes, it may seem an unnatural and even a made-up story but in fact this parable is just as relatable to us today as it was in ancient Palestine.  But you first must have an understanding of how weddings worked.

The first stage of the marriage was the betrothal period.  This involved the young man offering a bridal price to the father of the young woman he hoped to married.  Girls were considered eligible for marriage around the age of 13-14.  In ancient days these were considered the prime years for child bearing. 

If an agreement was reached a young man and woman would be betrothed.  Similar to a modern engagement except that a betrothed couple was considered legally married and a bill of divorce was needed to terminate the union. The bride usually lived with her parents throughout the betrothal period which could last as long as a year.

The second stage of the marriage was the wedding feast.  A wedding was a great occasion. The whole village turned out to accompany the bridal party to the couple’s new home.  They travel the longest road, in order to receive the glad good wishes of as many as possible.

The bridegroom comes unexpectedly, and sometimes in the middle of the night.  He is required to send a man along the street to shout: `Behold! the bridegroom is coming!' but that may happen at any time; so the bridal party has to be ready to go out into the street to meet him whenever he chooses to come.

The procession itself was filled with singing and dancing and was guided by maiden torchbearers.  When the couple reached their home, followed by a long train of family members and friends the feast would begin and sometimes last an entire week or more.

Other important points we should consider is that no one is allowed on the streets after dark without a lighted lamp, and that when the bridegroom has arrived, and the door has been shut, late-comers to the ceremony are not admitted.

Like so many of Jesus' parables, this one has an immediate and a wider universal meaning. Its immediate significance was directed against the Jews who were Gods chosen people.  Their whole history prepared them for the coming of the Son of God when he came, but instead they were quite unprepared.  

They set their eyes and hearts on a Messiah who would come as a great warrior and subdue the Romans and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. Yet the Messiah came as a God of Love, forgiveness and of new chances as he did throughout the Old Testament renewing covenants with those who broke His covenants.  Our God continues to seek us out and restore our relationship with him.

Today this parable has at least two universal warnings for us. It warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. For example, a student would be foolish to begin studying on the day of the exam, or how many of us leave things to the last minute like getting on those our studded tires when the snow has already fallen?

Or would we prepare our presentation for the board of directors on the state of the company the morning of the meeting?

Sometimes it is easy to let things go for so long that we can no longer complete the task at hand, but we can’t allow ourselves to sit back and not be prepared to meet with God. We can’t wait to the last minute to live the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments or love our neighbor as our self.

The second universal warning tells us that there are certain things that cannot be borrowed. The foolish virgins found it impossible to borrow oil, when they discovered they needed it. We cannot borrow a relationship with God; we must possess one for ourselves. We cannot borrow character; we must be clothed with it. We cannot always be living on the spiritual capital others have amassed.

There are just certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves as we cannot borrow them from others. Still let us not be discouraged for remember God sent his son, the God of love and forgiveness, the God who lets us begin again and again in rebuilding our relationship with him.

 Our first reading from the book of Wisdom tells us, she (Wisdom) is right around the corner sitting by the gate waiting for you.  We are provided now with all we need (wisdom, invitation to vigilance, warnings about preparedness) to be ready for when Christ comes. 

The tough part is not to be distracted by our earthly pursuits and put off preparing for our destination meeting with God for it will happen. When Christ comes no one knows the day or the hour. 

We are blessed to be Catholic for we can seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession, we can arm ourselves with Christ in the Eucharist and we can begin to live as a Christian each day, preparing ourselves as if this were the day when our Bridegroom will come and invite us to the feast.  We must be ready.  We must be prepared.   The question is are we prepared like the ant?  Or are we like the grasshopper.

Tuesday
Oct312017

The 30th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “You shall love the Lord, your God…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What do you think love is?

Every Wednesday night, we have RCIA class. You know what it stands for. RCIA is “Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.” In that class, some adults who want to join the Catholic Church, whether they are baptized or not, learn about the catechism of the Church, the bible, sacraments, liturgy, social teachings, prayer life, etc. They are guided to study all the basic teachings of the Church and the class helps them to get ready to live as children of God after their baptisms or profession of faith.

In every class, they usually have about a 20-minute group discussion after hearing the coming Sunday Gospels. Last Wednesday, they talked about their own reflections on today’s Gospel whose theme is love of God and love of neighbor. The discussion was very deep and meaty. One said that we want to be treated with respect and we treat others as we want to be treated. Another said that kindness is the key to love. Another said that someone’s motivation enables us to love God and others genuinely because God sees inside. Another said that forgiveness is the expression of love for others. Everything they brought to the discussion was good nourishment that helps us to broaden the horizon of understanding of love.  

Today we overuse the word, “love.” It is used so much and in so many ways, that it is not easy at all to say exactly. We often say, “I love my wife. I love my car. I love my job. I love my dog. I love Italian food. I’d love to hear that.” We find the word, “love” everywhere. Where do love of God and love of neighbor fit in? Jesus says, these two commandments are the greatest and “the whole law and prophets depend on these two.” What does it mean, love of God and of neighbor?

First, let’s think together about love of neighbor. At this point, I’d like to quote St. Thomas Aquinas. He says, “To love anyone is nothing else than to wish that person well, to want what is good for them.” This reminds me of parents’ true love of their children. Parents usually give not what their children want but what they believe is good for them. When a child wants a toy, parents don’t buy it right away. Instead, they’d like to see if that is good for them. This is true love. When Jesus say, “you shall love your neighbors as yourselves,” what He means is to give what is the best for our neighbors regardless how much we like them. We have a good example in the first reading. The reading tells us to take good care of aliens, widows, and orphans and take nothing from the poor. The reading asks us to consider what is the best for our neighbors instead of giving what they want. The reading commands us to wish our neighbors well instead of treating them wrong. This is how we love our neighbors.

What about love of God? It doesn’t make any sense when we say, “we give God what is good for Him,” because God’s goodness is always perfect and plentiful. There is a second definition of love: to define love as a union of wills. We love God when we join our will to His, when we want what God wants, when we try our best to live according to God’s will. This requires the complete devotion of our whole being including reason, volition, heart, soul, and mind. This is what Jesus means when He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Let’s go a little bit deeper in Jesus’ commandment. One of the Pharisees comes to Jesus and asks him what the first of the commandments is. Jesus answers by quoting a part of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:5: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” This is the beginning of Torah. It begins with the two words, “Hear, O Israel” (Shema Yisrael). It is a declaration of faith and a pledge of allegiance to God. All Jews are familiar with this Bible passage because they begin their prayers with this sentence. Therefore, Jesus’ answer is the best way to respond because Pharisees are the religious leaders who spend their whole lives studying the Torah. Jesus quotes this important part to give the Pharisee a good understanding of what Torah’s spirit is. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Jesus slightly changes the original text. I don’t know if you noticed it. There are “heart, being, and strength” in the Torah, but Jesus uses “heart, soul and mind.” Jewish people consider heart a seat of understanding, a home of the affections, and a seat of the will. Soul is regarded as the living powers. Mind is meant to be intellectual powers. What Jesus insinuates by replacing these three entities is to conform our whole being to God’s will: our heart, our soul, and our mind.

Knowing that God invites us to love Him and our neighbors is not enough. We are asked to devote our whole being to God’s will and our neighbors’ good. What Jesus requests today is that we join our will to God’s and do our best to practice it with our whole being. If we turn our hearts and souls and minds to the task of doing God’s will, we are loving God and knowing what is the best for our neighbors. Loving God is not merely knowing God’s commandment. In essence, love is a function of the will. To love God means that we conform our will to His. To love our neighbor means we will our neighbor’s good. When we do that, the world will be filled with the achievement of God’s commandment of love.