Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Homily, Father Andrew Lee

Today’s Gospel is a follow up of last Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel. Last Sunday we heard about the Beatitudes which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes told us how blessed we have become when we observed the values that Jesus committed to us. Today we hear the section of the Sermon that follows the Beatitudes. And we will continue to hear from this Sermon on the Sundays leading up to Lent.


The Sermon on the Mount is Matthew’s special presentation of Jesus’ “opening act” as a great teacher. Jesus clearly follows the footsteps of Moses: just as Moses’ teachings were presented in the five books of the Torah, so Matthew presents the Sermon on the Mount in five sections and each section contains Jesus’ original teaching. But Jesus’ message on the Mount just as clearly transcends Moses’ in style and content and reinterprets the Mosaic Law that has dominated the Jewish people’s lives for thousands of years. The Sermon is shocking to Jewish people even though the structure of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is correspondent to the teaching of Moses. It’s because Jesus’ teaching on the Mount penetrates their inner purity beyond external observance. The Sermon challenges people to rethink the purpose of the Law. Today’s Gospel passage offers only a scrap from the Sermon on the Mount. Here today Jesus presents two simple similes: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.”


Jesus says that his disciples are the salt of the earth. We all know how salt functions in food. Salt is a crucial factor in making flavor. But we are not aware of it because we take it for granted. But could you imagine food without salt? I was in Papua New Guinea for about three months when I was a seminarian. It was a mission exposure. The country is one of the places around the world that still preserves the traditional way of life: the way of hunting, fishing, building houses, wearing clothes, cooking, and so on. There are hundreds of tribes and languages all over the country. Each tribe still keeps its primitive tradition without contact with civilization. It is an amazing and beautiful island where you can experience primitive tribal lives. And you can also experience a wild life. When I was there, I had a chance to travel around and visit some tribes. I walked down and climbed up mountains with my heavy backpack. Once I got to a village, I talked to the people, had food with them, and stayed at the village one night, and the next day I headed for another village. It was like a two-week trek. They had very steep mountains and rough rivers so I had to walk 6-7 hrs every day. I was exhausted. Furthermore, I couldn’t eat well. Their staple foods are yam and taro, which is like sweet potatoes. I ate their food during the trip. It was hard to get energy from their food.


I finally arrived at the last village in the trip. I was sick of eating their food. In the village, a man gave me food like the other villages did but this time he also gave me a bottle of salt. I had not eaten any salt for about 2 weeks. I picked up the yam, dipped it into the salt, and put it in my mouth. It was awesome. It was not salty. It was sweet. I ate all the food with the salt. I realized how important a role salt plays in making taste. Salt gives us flavor and helps us to eat well. We can’t imagine food without salt. Salt makes food food. Salt is used not only to give flavor to food or to preserve food quality, but also to purify, or to use in a sacrifice.


Now we know what becoming the salt of the earth means. We make the world a better place, more specifically, the Kingdom of God, God’s reign, by becoming the salt of the earth. We preserve life-giving values that Jesus shows us on the cross by helping people in need. We purify unclean and unjust factors of our culture by becoming God’s prophets in the world. This is the role salt plays in the earth.


And Jesus also asks us to be the light of the world. Many houses in Palestine had only one room, so one clay oil lamp could light the whole house. If a family put this lamp under a basket, they would be trapped in the dark and light would lose its role. Light must be on the lamp stand to shine in every corner of the house. Now Jesus asks us to become the light which makes the world brighter.


“Light” is the main theme that runs through all of this Sunday’s Scripture readings. The first reading says, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked…Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness.” In the second reading, St. Paul says that he comes to the Corinthian Church not to persuade people, but to give the light of God’s wisdom and spirit. All the readings today prompt us to become the light: the light to glow in our lives.


But If you take a closer look at today’s Gospel, Jesus adds the phrase, “of the world” to the term of “light.” What Jesus means here is we are called to be the light not only for those we care for, but also for all people just as Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for every sinner without exclusion. He doesn’t say we are the light of our families or we are the salt of our parishes. He clearly says we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. It means whether we have people we care for or not, whether we like them or not, we are called to become the salt to them and convey the light of Christ to them. There is no partiality. While Moses established God’s law for the chosen people, Jesus brings the salt and the light to all people and nations without exclusion to save them all. This is how we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Therefore, let us ask Jesus in this mass to shine His light on us so that we can rise in the darkness of the world and make it brighter until Jesus comes again. 


Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Deacon Bill Tunilla

Blessed Are They

If you stopped and ask people what they want most in life, I think the majority would most likely say to be happy.  Deep down inside we all want to be happy.  Our secular world has many products, experiences and getaways that the manufacturers claim will bring happiness.  The latest perfume, car, electronic gadget or the white sand beach with a cooler of your favorite beverage by your feet will bring you some sort of happiness.

Prior to his baptism in 387 St. Augustine wrote a small work entitled the Happy Life in the form of a dialogue with various family members.  With his dialogue partners St. Augustine established that all people wish to be happy.  He concluded happiness will not be found in material things one desires.  It will be fleeting since when satisfying one desire another will take its place.  St. Augustine concludes happiness is not fleeting but is permanent and therefore it can only be found in God who is everlasting.


In our Gospel from Matthew we hear the 8 blessings or Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The term beatitude comes from the Latin word beati the plural of the word blessed.  As I was doing some research about the beatitudes I found a few interesting facts. I was unaware there are beatitudes in the Old as well as the New Testament.  Most of the Old Testament beatitudes are found in the Wisdom books in the bible.  For example Psalm 1 starts out, “Happy are those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked….

In the New Testament there are 37 beatitudes.  Of the thirty seven, seventeen are found in the Gospels.  These express the fundamental change of life that faith in Jesus demands.  In the book of Revelations seven can be found.  They express the blessed state of the faithful who are saved.

The CCC, 1716 (Catechism of the Catholic Church) section on moral living begins with the discussion of the beatitudes.  The beatitudes raise our hope towards heaven and the new Promised Land.  They trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus.

They reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts.  God calls us to his own beatitude.  This vocation is addressed to each individual personally as well as to the church as a whole.

Think of what the beatitudes ask of us.  For example being merciful is good.  It describes how we are to live together as followers of Christ.  If we are merciful we will be more kind and respectful in how we treat others.  We won’t bully our classmates or make fun of or totally discount persons who have mental of physically challenges. 

We will honor our parents and care for our children.  We won’t allow ourselves to become impatient or angry with others who annoy us.  If we live like this we will grow in humility and become clean of heart.  We will live as Jesus taught his disciples.  What we must always remember is that this is what Jesus expects of us.

The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wistful glimpses of some future beauty; they are not even golden promises of some distant glory; they are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy.

The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain. The joy that sorrow, loss, pain and grief are powerless to touch.  This joy shines through our tears and nothing in life or death can take that away.

John 16:22 tells us “So you are also now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take away your joy.

The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the temporary joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ.

In a few moments Jesus’ presence will be with us in the Eucharist. Let us ask Jesus who is meek and humble of heart to give us the grace we need to understand what he teaches us through the beatitudes, so that we can grow in humility and be truly blessed by our Father in heaven.  

When we receive Jesus, stop for the moment and give thanks to our merciful God who loves us so much even though we sometimes fail miserably in living out the Beatitude’s with our brothers and sisters.

Each day we can rise up to the challenge to live out the call of Jesus just as if we sat at his feet during his Sermon on the Mount.   Read the Sermon on the Mount again this week and picture yourself at his feet.

We can find that true happiness that Saint Augustine wrote about.  WE have it here in this place, right now.  And when we leave after the final blessing let us go glorifying the Lord by our lives and take the teachings of Jesus with you.  So live out your faith and the truth, for this is where we find our true happiness.


3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Encountering the Word with Jeff Cavins


2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

In the medieval age, theologians used the axiom “bonum est sui difusivum” which translates “the good is diffusive of itself.” Originally it applied to the Holy Trinity: the goodness of love found within the three persons of the Trinity was poured out into time and space in the act of creation. In other words, God’s goodness flows out itself in the creation of the world. But if we extend this meaning to our lives, it might say that if we share God’s overflowing goodness with people around us, the goodness is not restricted to them but spreads out beyond them and helps establish God’s Kingdom on earth. Simply speaking, we participate in God’s goodness, it overflows itself and reaches out to every person and creature. This Latin saying crossed my mind because today’s Gospel is about John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus, the Lamb of God. So I’d like to talk about how we witness to Jesus Christ and His goodness in our lives.

On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, last Monday, we heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel how John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God come down upon Jesus and anoint Him for His ministry. Today’s Gospel, the Gospel of John, furthers that scene as we hear John witness and testify, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And then John continues to say, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Like John the Baptist, today we are called to testify that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the Son of God. But how do we witness to Jesus? At this point, we need the Latin words that I mentioned a while ago.

As I told you, the goodness flows itself and spreads out when we share it with our neighbors. There are many ways to testify about Jesus Christ: simply telling people to believe in Jesus, sharing our faith stories, helping people in the name of Jesus, inviting them to catechism classes, giving them some handouts about who Jesus is, etc. But the goodness is diffusive of itself. If we testify the Gospel by our actions and love, not by our words and lips, Jesus’ goodness spreads itself beyond the end of the world and all nations know that Jesus is the Savior and the Son of God. Here is a good example. You know there a lot of saints in the Church. Who do you like most? I like St. Maximilian Kolbe because I think he showed us the most confident way to testify Jesus Christ. You probably know about his life.

He was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan. He got tuberculosis and he remained frail in his life even though he recovered. He founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady before his ordination and started spreading the movement after his ordination. He went to Japan and established a monastery and went India to extend the movement. And then he returned to Poland. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned in 1941 and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. A prisoner escaped and ten prisoners were chosen to die by way of reprisal. Fr. Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th. What do you see in his life? I mention this saint because I think his life and sacrifice was the most powerful way of being a witness to Jesus. He sacrificed himself to save someone else’s life. I think he bore witness to Jesus Christ’s life-giving sacrificial love by his death. He witnessed what Jesus Christ’s love on the cross was. And furthermore, his goodness of love has spread itself and many people have been affected by that.

How do we testify Jesus to the world? The saint answered the question by his life. His death was the most powerful way of testifying Jesus’ love and goodness. This sacrificial service and life-giving love that the saint showed us is entrusted to us all, the baptized. By Baptism, we are called to become witnesses to Jesus. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is told to become a witness to God’s good tidings. “It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant…(But) I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is our personal call to witness God’s message that God’s people will be restored and brought back from the slavery of sins because God sends His Son as the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins. In the second reading, the first letter of St. Paul to Corinthians, Paul also emphasizes that he is called to become Jesus’ apostle to witness to people in the Corinthian Church that Jesus Christ is our Savior.

God’s goodness always is self-spreading when we testify it by our actions and love. Sometimes we feel feeble and unconfident in testifying Jesus. But we have already received the power and grace to be witnesses to Jesus by our baptism. Through baptism, we are empowered and enabled by God’s spirit to testify that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away all the sins and to free the oppressed by proclaiming the good tidings. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are entrusted with the power to practice Jesus’ sacrificial and redeeming love to others by our actions. Our call to become Christian witnesses might be renewed today if we can ask ourselves the following questions: Who appoints us to be witnesses? How do we testify to Jesus? How are we nurtured in our faith witness? When have we been challenged to witness to our faith? What keeps us from being witnesses? How do we share God’s goodness with people?

Today we are asked to answer those questions. So then let us ask God in this mass to help us to love God’s goodness, walk humbly with Him, and courageously testify to Jesus Christ by our words, actions, and lives.  


The Epiphany of the Lord - Homily, Deacon Bill Tunilla

Follow the Light

In 1989 my family and I were on a bus from Pennsylvania to New York City to catch our flight at JFK for London, England.  Neither Sherry nor I had ever been to New York City before.  The picture we had wasn’t a very pretty one.  Growing up we heard stories of how dangerous the city is at night.  We heard stories of people standing around watching as people were beat up or robbed.  In my mind New York was a very dark place even in broad daylight.

As we pulled into the Port Authority Bus station I was surprised by how large it was and that the parking was underground.  I felt anxious and wondered just how we would find the airport shuttle and make it to the airport on time.  On top of everything the airport was under construction and the normal pathway was filled with poor signage.

Then un-expectantly a man appeared out of nowhere and asked what we were looking for.  We told him and he said follow me.  Sherry didn’t want to follow him, but I felt a sense of ease and told her it was okay.  


We dashed down corridors, up escalators, through doors at what seemed to be the speed of light when a brief thought crossed my mind, “Just what have I gotten us into?”  Then at last we popped out a door which lead to a dark parking lot and a sense of dread surrounded me but just there ahead was the shuttle to the airport.  I thanked the man and offered him a gratuity for getting us there.  He disappeared from the scene and seemed to vanish. 

In today’s Gospel the magi arrive in Jerusalem looking for the new born king of the Jews.  They told King Herod we saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. 

Who were these magi and what star are they talking about?  The Magi were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were soothsayers, astrologers and interpreters of dreams. They were the teachers and instructors of the Persian kings.


In ancient days most men and women believed in astrology and that one could foretell the future from the stars, and they believed that a man's destiny was settled by the star under which he was born.

It was a commonly held belief that a new star would appear with a new ruler’s birth.  We do not know what brilliant star the ancient Magi saw but many suggestions have been made about it.

About 11 B.C. Halley's Comet was visible shooting brilliantly across the skies. About 7 B.C. there was a brilliant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. St. Matthew draws from the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that a Star shall advance from Jacob.  In this instance the word star did not mean an astral phenomenon but the king himself had arrived.

As humans we tend to live by common sense and logic.  Who of us would follow a star into the unknown or a complete stranger through a dark, unmarked building to a bus terminal? 


We often run from those moments when we are called to blindly trust and rightly so, it keeps us safe.  But the moments I am talking about today are more about God’s call to each of us.  And our decision to risk our comfort to follow God’s desire and will for us.  

We can easily hold back and allow the moment to pass and do nothing or we could be like the magi and embrace this light of Christ that calls us to journey from our comfortable daily routine and like the magi diligently search for Christ.   

Who calls us to follow into the light of Gods power?  The Holy Spirit, the light of Christ, the light in the world.  This divine light always presents us with a choice to embrace the gift of salvation or to remain stuck in our ways.  We can wallow in our own self-made darkness, fretting over our own fears of losing what we think is precious to us or we can bravely move ahead in our lives and embrace the will of God.

When we choose darkness we cage ourselves into limited expectations, confined insight, restricted dreams etc. 

If we choose light we open ourselves up to unbound options.  The light changes us because it opens up for us a divine world we cannot imagine.  The magi followed the light, encountered the light, and offered homage to the Light.  So must we.

There will be inevitable setbacks and challenges as we struggle with following the Light.  You know the journey of the Magi was not without difficulties.  Every day our lives are filled with obstacles and challenges that can knock us out of our lane.  Still being faithful to the struggle and continuing to diligently search for God is the key.

God can be found in many circumstances of our daily life, in our families, the nurses that provide care, in our neighbors, those we work with and in our leisure time.  God leads us just as he led the magi to the star.   We must simply choose to trust in God’s loving presence, his desire to be with us and in his sure guidance.

The feast day of the Lord’s Epiphany reminds us that the light of Christ is a light that spreads out and permeates the world, diffuses salvation everywhere and invites all people to live in the light. 

So this week I invite you to encounter Christ and trust in Gods loving presence and sure guidance, but be reminded that there is no encounter with Christ without a change.  Expect to sacrifice some comfort, maybe a lot of comfort as you step out to meet new challenges.

Yet that little voice, you know those little nudges you continue to feel drawn to, those decisions to do more in the church, more for your family, giving more of yourself for others, becoming a better person. 

This is something we know is right and with our Yes can become a reality and we become the person God needs us to become to do his will.  This all starts with us seeking the true Star, the Light and we do this by spending more time with God so we may all arrive at the Light and pay homage to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.