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

We have heard post resurrection stories for the first 3 weeks in a row after Easter Sunday. But last weekend we heard the Good Shepherd Gospel and this week we hear Jesus’ last supper discourse in John’s Gospel. It might seem to be strange to hear a part of Jesus’ farewell discourse during late Eastertime but it makes sense only in its liturgical context. Liturgically we are heading for Jesus’ ascension. Jesus is leaving us soon, ascending into heaven, and sitting at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, the Church wants us to listen to Jesus’ last words before He leaves.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tries to show us how to continue to follow Him until the end of the world. Being curious of what Jesus is saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God…If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be,” the disciples start asking questions. Thomas asks, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Thomas is looking for directions.

You have probably been lost more than once. One time I got a sick call and took off to visit the sick person for the sacrament of anointing. She didn’t give me her address. She gave me the direction. She said, “Please take the park’s highway. When you see a storage with a pink roof, turn left. You will meet a fork at the end of the road. Make a right and my house is in the second driveway on your left.” I thought it was clear. When I got to the area following her direction, I ended up in an abandoned shed. There was no house in the second driveway. I was looking for her house in that subdivision by knocking on every door and asking them if they knew the sick person. Nope. I couldn’t find her. I got lost. It is important to have the right direction otherwise you will be lost. This was just a direction of roads. But what about a direction in life?

Sometimes we don’t know the way to go in life. When I was in my college, I didn’t know what to do after graduation. I was stressed a lot by my unstable future. I was anxious. I decided to go to the graduate school not because I wanted to study more, but because I didn’t know what to do after graduation. I couldn’t find the way. I had no future. I was worried. A sister gave me a book, titled “In Russia with God.” It is an autobiography of a Jesuit priest who worked in Russia under the communism government. He was sent to Russia for missions but he was caught and put into a prison and was there for about 20 yrs. Even though he was in the prison, he administered the sacrament of confession to the inmates secretly. After he was released, he took care of a parish with enthusiasm. When I finished reading the book, I found my way. I felt like I went through a dark tunnel and I found the bright way. I thought to myself, “This is my life. I will live like him.” I decided to join my congregation and became a missionary like him. I found the direction of my life.

Thomas asks, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Thomas is looking for the way. He wants to know where Jesus is going. He wants to know the direction. But Jesus is not talking about where He is going as a place with an address. Jesus is not talking about an actual way to go. He is talking about the relationship. Jesus wants His disciples to be able to recognize the relationship that exists between the disciples and Himself. This is divine relationship. This is mutual indwelling. This is the trust between the Master and His disciples. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus is asking us today to join the wonderful relationship with Him if we think we are lost and don’t know the right direction. Jesus is saying today, “If you don’t know where you are going, please look at me and put yourselves into my loving relationship. You will receive life in me and you will find direction.” Today Jesus moves our attentions from way-finding to the right relationship with Himself and His Father.

In today’s first reading, we heard a conflict in the early Church. It was a conflict between spiritual need and material need. The Apostles found a solution by selecting seven deacons filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. This solution was for the continuation to celebrate the Eucharist and spread the Word of God. The whole community sought to establish the right relationship with God by meeting spiritual and material needs. The establishment of the office of deacons in the Church has nothing to do with hierarchy. It is always associated with the spiritual growth of the Church through the right relationship with God. In the second reading, St. Peter tells us who we are. He says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” This identity is defined through the relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus elevates our identity as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. This is coming from the faithful relationship with God.

People are looking for ways. They don’t know where to go in their lives. They are lost without knowing what to do. But we have a clear vision about where we are heading because Jesus proclaims today that He is the way and the truth and the life. Jesus invites us to the intimate Father-Son relationship. The early Church finds the right solution in the relationship with their Founder through the celebration of Eucharist and Words of God. This is where we are going.

This is the Easter time. We are asked to spend some time reflecting on life in Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus offers this life in the Eucharist every day and invites us to the relationship with Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. It is here where we are nourished on the bread of life. It is the relationship that grows in Christ. This relationship allows us to reflect on our destination and direction, our belief in Christ. This is our calling as a holy priesthood that sanctifies us and leads us to the Father-Son relationship. 


The 3rd Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Last night, we had first communion. 29 fully prepared kids received their first communion. You have no idea how happy they were. They were dressed beautifully and decorated themselves with some veils and crowns like princes and princesses and respectfully went forward and received Jesus’ body and blood. Their parents and families were also happy and proud of them. After the mass, they had a small cake reception and we all congratulated them on their first day of encounter with Jesus Christ. But behind this happiness, I wonder how they remember this important day later when they grow up. Probably they might remember their beautiful clothes or some nice gifts or some pictures taken. I hope the first communion kids remember that yesterday was when they first encountered the glorified body of Jesus Christ. I hope yesterday was the most memorable day in their lives because they recognized Jesus Christ in the bread and wine.   

Like the first communicants, it is always pleasant and joyful to encounter Jesus Christ. But this can be meaningful as long as we recognize Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel is very well known. It is about two disciples who are going down to Emmaus on the very first day of Easter, Jesus’ resurrection. This very significant Gospel passage is only found in Luke’s Gospel because we have some food for thought. You already know the story. When the two disciples are walking on the way to Emmaus, Jesus appears but they don’t recognize Him. I wonder how they don’t recognize their master. They have been following Jesus for three years. They already know Jesus but don’t see Him. Why?

The Gospel says, “Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” What covers their eyes? They probably had their own expectation when they followed Jesus. But their dream broke and scattered at the same time when Jesus died. They are disappointed. They are in despair. They are sad. Their own eyes are definitely covered by their own concerns and feelings. They don’t see Jesus.  

I have a cousin who is a famous announcer in a broadcast company. He is not catholic. I had a chance to talk to him when I had a vacation in Korea last year. He said that he went to a Catholic mass one time. During the communion, he was curious what the bread tasted like. He joined a line. He stood in front of a priest. The priest said, “The body of Christ” lifting up the consecrated host. He didn’t know what to say and how to respond. So he said, “Okay, Yes” instead of saying, “Amen.” The priest asked, “Are you catholic?” He said, “No.” The priest said, “You are not allowed to receive the communion.” The priest gave him a blessing. Like my cousin, some people don’t recognize Jesus. They don’t have eyes to be able to see Him in the bread and wine.

But sometimes WE are kept from recognizing Jesus because our spiritual eyes are covered by many things like material goods, greed, our own dreams, visions, failure, disappointment, and so on. Jesus is always with us in everything like nature, people, relationships, the Bible, and the Eucharist. Jesus is always walking with us, but our eyes are covered and we don’t recognize Him. In the Gospel, Jesus explains to them the prophesy of the Messiah in the Old Testament but they don’t understand because they have ears but don’t have much attention to comprehend.

When do they recognize Jesus according to the Gospel? Yes. In the breaking of bread. This is another word for Eucharist. “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” In the breaking of bread, they encounter Jesus Christ. We clearly see Jesus when we take Jesus’ body and blood which is present in bread and wine. This is very significant. It is when we have the Eucharist that our eyes are opened, our understandings are deepened, our spirituality is growing, and our faith and love are strengthened.

Furthermore, we fully understand the Scripture in the breaking of bread. The two disciples deepen their understanding when Jesus shares bread with them. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” When they look back on that, they completely get the understanding of the Scripture and they realize they had a deep encounter with Jesus in the breaking of bread. We know the mass has two parts: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. We hear God’s words and reflections in the first part and receive Jesus Christ in the second part. It is in the breaking of bread that we get the full reflection on the Scripture and realize that Jesus still remains within us.

After this realization, the two disciples go back to Jerusalem and proclaim the good news that Jesus has risen, which is our mission to the world. This breaking of bread helps us to understand the words of God, completes the union with Jesus Christ, and at the end leads us to Jesus’ mission. This story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus tells us how our Sacramental life must be after we accept Jesus’ resurrection and how we are nurtured and fostered in the Holy Communion.

Sometimes we are on the way to Emmaus like the two disciples with despair, despondency, and sadness. But every time we participate in the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus. Jesus gives us the full understanding of the word of God and encourages us to go for the mission with enthusiasm and joy of resurrection. As we reflect on the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, let us humbly ask God in this mass to remain within us in our lives and to give us blessings to go on the mission. 


Easter Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Happy Easter! Everyone. Today, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Would you say “Happy Easter!” to the people next you? May blessings and graces of Jesus’ resurrection fill your hearts and lives with joy and peace! As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we are pleased and delighted to remind ourselves that we moved from death to new life.

As you all know, resurrection is the core and the culmination of our Catholic faith. St. Paul says in the first letter to Corinthians (15:13-14) “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” Our faith, preaching, charity, service, prayer and all of our Catholic activities would go for nothing without the resurrection. Therefore, resurrection is like a pillar that holds up the Catholic faith. The building of the Catholic faith would fall down without it.

Why do we celebrate Easter? Why do we rejoice and share joy today? It’s because, as I told you, Jesus’ resurrection brings us new life. Through this wonderful miraculous event in human history, we moved from death to new life. The Catechism of Catholic Church says, “The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.” Jesus leads us to the way to eternal life through His resurrection. That is the reason why we are delighted on Easter. Last night, through the liturgy of the Light, we lit our candles from the Paschal candle which is symbolic of Christ. We walked into the church with our candles following the Easter candle, the risen Lord. By doing this, liturgically we confessed Jesus brought new life to people who were in darkness. We confessed the true life is in Christ. We express our joy of getting this new life through the Liturgy again today.  

In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb and ran to the disciples and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.” St. Peter and Jesus’ beloved disciple went to the tomb, and what they found there was the empty tomb.

There have been doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. Some people think there is no evident proof about Jesus’ resurrection. The empty tomb doesn’t guarantee the resurrection. They say they really don’t know if it actually happened. The disciples don’t understand Jesus’ resurrection either. “The disciples did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” The Catechism of Catholic Church says, “The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise. Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection.”

This historical fact, the empty tomb, asks us to shift our focus to the faith: the faith based on Jesus’ resurrection. Our faith starts to grow from the empty tomb where Mary Magdalene and the other disciples witness to the fact of the Resurrection. In today’s first reading, Peter in his speech testifies Jesus’ resurrection. “We are witnesses of all that he did...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.” We have firm testimony about Jesus’ resurrection.

When we hear a lot of witnesses about the resurrection historically, we are asked to encounter the risen Lord in our lives. We are asked to recognize the resurrected Jesus in our lives. When we do that, we believe we receive new life and we will be resurrected in the future like Jesus Christ. In the second reading, St. Paul points out that Jesus’ resurrection becomes our hope of our resurrection. We are invited today to commemorate Jesus’ triumph over death and our victory over death in the future. Jesus doesn’t sit up there in heaven and issue from on high the joy of the triumph over death. He Himself comes down to the earth and goes further down to darkness and brings all creature back to new life. He dies and renews every creature by rising from the dead.

As we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection in this mass, we not only recall Jesus’ resurrection, but also actually participate and partake in His resurrection through this liturgy. Jesus’ resurrection becomes an example of our future resurrection in heaven. Jesus’ resurrection will become our resurrection. Let us stand firmly on the faith of Jesus’ resurrection and have hope of our future resurrection. Let us joyfully rejoice the new life we are celebrating today and share this wonderful news with other people from now on. 


Fifth Sunday of Lent - Deacon Bill Tunilla, Homily

Believe it or Not

Skepticism is generally defined as any questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief.  It is often directed at domains, such as morality, religion the existence of God, or the possibility of knowledge, or of certainty.  There have been many events throughout history where people have been skeptical. 

One event I can recall was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  People were glued to their television sets to watch this historic event.  As they say there is one in every crowd and there were many people who believed that NASA faked the moon landing.  Conspiracy theorists claim all elements of the Apollo program and the associated moon landings were hoaxes staged by NASA with the aid of other organizations. 

Since the late 2000s, high-definition photos taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of the Apollo landing sites have captured the lander modules and the tracks left by the astronauts. In 2012, images were released showing five of the six Apollo missions' American flags erected on the Moon still standing; the one exception is that of Apollo 11, which has lain on the lunar surface since being accidentally blown over by the takeoff of a rocket's exhaust.  Even with proof there are people still today who continue to believe the moon landings never happened.

Things were not so much different in the times of Jesus.  Many people still didn’t believe Jesus was God even though he healed the sick, the lame and in last Sunday’s gospel made the blind see. Throughout John’s Gospel, John reiterates that Jesus is sent from God.  The Gospel of John begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

There are people who believe and open themselves to the revelation, while others remain closed.  John tells us Mary rose quickly and went to where Jesus was.  The Jews who were with Mary followed her for they presumed she went to weep.  Jesus sees Mary weeping and becomes perturbed and deeply troubled and asks where have you laid him?  John tells us Jesus wept of his friend Lazarus.  Some of the Jews say, Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?

Our gospel tells us that Lazarus was dead for four days.  In Jesus’ time some rabbis thought that the spirit hovered around the body for 4 days after which decay would start to set in. 

Another way to look at it according to St. Thomas Aquinas is the first day represents the sin of the heart.  The second day represents sins of the tongue.  The third day represents the sins of evil actions and the fourth day stands for the sins of wicked habits.

Jesus purposely puts off coming to see Lazarus for two days so Jesus could reveal that death is necessary but not the end.  Out of death Jesus gives us life.  As John tells us Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here, the skeptics, I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.  And when he had said this he cried out in a loud voice.  Lazarus, come out!”  When Lazarus came out they untied him and many of the Jews who had come with Mary saw what he had done and began to believe in him.

The resurrection of Lazarus is the last of Jesus’ signs before the Passion, and it spurred the enemies of Jesus into action against him.  In typical Johnannine irony is found the fact that Jesus’ gift of life leads to his own death.

The raising of Lazarus has more to do with Jesus, us, and believing, than it has to do with Lazarus.    Jesus worked an even greater miracle than just healing him.  By raising him from the dead he gave a clear sign that he has power over life and death.  Raising Lazarus brought about a difficult question for many in Jesus day and for ourselves….Do you believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead?  Or are we skeptics?

Jesus asks Martha the question Do you believe this after he tells her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Jesus comes to us like he did to Martha and Mary and asks the question of us, “Do we believe?”  We spend our whole lives grappling with the mystery of Jesus bringing life out of death.  When we think we have our arms wrapped around it something or someone is ready to lead us down the path of skepticism. 

This gospel challenges us today.  Do we truly believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead?  Do we believe Jesus rose from the dead and do we believe Jesus will raise us from the dead to be with him for eternity?  So the question remains are we true believers or skeptics?  Do we truly believe Jesus will raise us up after death and restore us to new life or is it a fabricated tale perhaps like a moon landing?   


Fourth Sunday of Lent Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I am a nearsighted person. My mother has bad sight, so I think I inherited my mother’s gene. Anyway I am so nearsighted that I can’t distinguish people’s faces or even read signs if I take my glasses off. I am kind of incapacitated without my glasses. I am almost blind without glasses. I can’t see many beautiful things in Alaska without glasses. I can’t enjoy driving anywhere in Alaska without glasses. I can’t do anything without my glasses. If we lose our sense of sight, I think we are able to say we lose almost everything.

We all know how important the sense of sight is among the five senses. It is said that humans can receive about 90% of information through the sense of sight. We use our eyes in almost every activity we perform, whether reading, working, watching TV, writing a letter, driving a car, and in countless other ways. If we don’t see, we will lose most of the information we can get through our eyes. So people are afraid of being blind.

The sense of sight is important even to animals. An eagle's eye is almost as large as a human's, but its sharpness is at least four times that of a person with perfect vision. The eagle can probably identify a rabbit moving almost a mile away. An owl can see a mouse moving over 150 feet away with light no brighter than a candle. A cat's eyes glow in the dark because of special silvery “mirrors” that reflect light, making it much easier for them to see in the dark. Superman can even see something through objects. Therefore, the sense of sight is very important to creatures. Someone’s life changes depending on what view of life he has. Someone’s value may change depending on the way he sees that value. The way people see the world produces a view of the world. How people run the country decides to adapt different political systems.

Today’s readings and gospel have all something to do with the ability “to see”, that is to say, sight. In the first reading, when Samuel went to Jesse’s family to pick up King David, God said, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature…Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” God tells the Samuel the way God sees is different from the way people see. In the second reading, Paul emphasized everything will be visible, when Jesus comes again in the light. He said, “for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” We don’t see God’s will clearly but it will be revealed in light when the time comes. The gospel tells a story about a man born blind whose sight Jesus restored. He got his vision back through Jesus’ healing. He could see after following Jesus’ order, which was to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. All the readings today are about how we see things and people with God’s eyes.

In the first reading, Samuel needed God’s eyes to select the future King David. In the second reading, Paul asked people to learn what was pleasing in the eyes of Jesus’ eyes, then they would be able to see everything in the Light. If they had clear-sighted eyes, they could see that Jesus’ second coming was at hand. They could expect Jesus’ coming with bright eyes. In the gospel, the blind man received the new sight from Jesus. Jesus gave him a light, which is Jesus’ eyes. Furthermore, he got this sight by being anointed by clay and washing himself, which means the sacrament of baptism. He got a totally new life by washing himself like the grace of baptism that the Church gives us. This new life to him is to regain the sense of sight of God.

Now we all know how important it is to see something even in the bible. But what do you see right now? What are you seeing if you have the new sight from the washing water? Or what do you want to see if you have Jesus’ eyes? To be honest, I always tend to find negative things in my brothers and neighbors. Once I hit it off badly with my brothers or neighbors, I can’t find anything good in them. This is what we see with old eyes. This was what the blind man saw when he was in darkness. This is not what God sees. God sees people in a different way. He sees us as his children. “Not as man sees does God see.” I do not always see my brothers and sisters with God’s eyes. But when I pray or examine myself, I always feel I am called to see good things in my brothers and sisters, whether or not they are good to me. This is where we are called.

Lent is a time when we change our sight like the blind man in the gospel and look at our brothers and sisters with God’s eyes. We are called to change our way to see people and the world in the season of Lent. We ask God to give us a new way to look at thing. We are called to wear God’s glasses to see good things in our neighbors. Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent. We are at the half way point of the Lenten season. Today I hope you reflect on what you have seen since Ash Wednesday and think about what you will look at for the second half of Lent.