Sunday
May132018

The Ascension of The Lord: Homily - Father Michael Kim

My brothers and sisters, welcome to today's celebration of the Holy Mass. I pray that the love and grace of Jesus dwells within all of you on this beautiful spiritual day. Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. This Feast commemorates the elevation of Christ into Heaven by His own power in the presence of His disciples on the fortieth day after His glorious Resurrection. The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven completed His earthly work of our redemption. Through His numerous apparitions to hundreds of people between the Day of His glorious Resurrection and the Day of His Ascension, Jesus proved two things. First of all, He proved that He was the promised Messiah. Secondly, He proved that through He Who overcame death, those who persevere in their living faith shall also overcome death and inherit the Kingdom of God.

During today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles that spiritually enriched us with the Word of God, we heard the words that were written in the beginning of the second book of St Luke. In his first book, the Gospel According to Luke, St. Luke wrote an orderly account about what Jesus had done and taught from the beginning of His ministry until the day when He was taken up to Heaven. Now, St. Luke was writing about what took place following those days.

For forty days, Jesus had appeared to His disciples, presenting Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs. While speaking about the Kingdom of God, Jesus explained the Scriptures to His disciples. He ate and drank with them. He walked on the Road to Emmaus with some. He allowed some to touch Him to prove that He had a physical body. Having done these things, Jesus commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until such time as they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the promise of the Father. While John the Baptist baptized with water for the repentance of sins, Jesus would baptize His disciples with the Holy Spirit. Through His actions, Jesus was opening the eyes of His disciples as to what was to come.

Today's spiritual message is found in the Gospel Reading that we heard earlier. When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation.

The one who believes and is baptized will be saved: but the one who does not believe will be condemned." In other words, those who do not believe and refuse the Sacrament of Baptism will be condemned. It is absolutely necessary that one be baptized of water and Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

To those who believe, Jesus promised to bless them with spiritual signs. In His Name, they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. Faith demands belief in Jesus, in His Word, accepting Him unconditionally. We are invited to not shield ourselves with any name or title, doctrine or custom, and to keep ourselves always open to the surprises of God which demand a constant conversion. Names and titles, doctrines and customs, devotions and pleadings are like a tag that we wear on our chest for identification.

The tag is important because it helps us when necessary to meet a person we are looking for. But when we meet, we do not look at the tag any more, but at the face! Very often, when we meet the person we are looking for, he or she is quite different from what we imagined before. The meeting always carries some surprises. More so our meeting with God in Jesus.

During today's Second Reading, we heard St. Paul asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him, and the eyes of our hearts be enlightened. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the eyes of the disciples would be opened. They would embrace a spiritual heart that would open their minds to the fact that the spiritual Kingdom of God has come on earth as it is in Heaven. As such, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the eyes of all of you would be opened.

My brothers and sisters, as you reflect upon the Ascension of the Lord Jesus, remember that while Jesus has ascended into Heaven, He is here with us today. He is present in our hearts. He is present in His apostolic Church. He is physically present in the Holy Eucharist and in the Sacred Tabernacle. As mysterious as it appears, while He has ascended, our faith affirms to us that He is still here with us. May Jesus always be with each and every one of you as you are moved by His Spirit to proclaim the Good News to those around you.

Monday
May072018

The 6th Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I have a Korean friend. Sometime we talk on the phone. But the first words that come from his mouth every time he calls me are “what are you doing?” He doesn’t say “How are you?” or “how have you been?” He starts his phone calls with, “What are you doing?” I get tired of reporting to him what I am doing before we start our conversations. One day I asked him why he always starts a conversation with me by asking what I am doing. He said, “I am just curious.” And he keeps doing it. Therefore, I still feel like doing some things is more important than being as I am. Every time he calls, I still tell him what I am doing. Honestly I feel like I am supposed to do something before I make phone calls or receive his phone calls. 

Which one do you think is more important? Doing or being? Do you think actions are more important than existence? Do you think what you are doing defines who you are? People discuss “Doing” and “being” to try to figure out which one is more meaningful. We see a little bit of this tension between “doing” and “being” in the story of Martha and Mary in Lk 10:38-42. When Jesus visits the sisters, Martha is doing something in the kitchen to serve Jesus, and Mary is listening to Jesus at his feet. They say that Martha is symbolic of “doing” while Mary is symbolic of “being.” Which one do you think is more valuable? Doing or being?

Today’s Gospel is full of love statements. Jesus uses the word, ‘love’ nine time in only 8 verses: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love…This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” When we hear the word, ‘love,’ we probably are drawn to thinking that we are doing ‘love,’ or we put it into action. But in Jesus’ statements, there is no conditions to love. He says, “l also love you because my Father loves me.” It has no connotation that Jesus loves us because we are doing something good. Jesus’ love touches our being without any conditions. The Father loves Jesus so that Jesus loves us. It naturally comes from the existence of Jesus and the nature of the Holy Trinity.

And then Jesus frames His commandment: “love one another as I love you.” We can find no conditions in this sentence either. We are also asked to come right to the core of our friends’ beings with Jesus’ love. No conditions are allowed in that love commandment. Jesus’ love has nothing to do with what we are doing, but is deeply connected with our being itself.

In the Middle Eastern value system, “being” is the primary preference. It entails a spontaneous response to a certain stimulus of a moment. This is more like children dancing as a response to a flute somebody is playing in the market. This is a part of Jesus’ analogy in Mt 11:16-17. Do you remember that? If someone dies, we mourn and grieve. It is spontaneous. This prompt response is always associated the primary value, “being.” If people don’t have appropriate responses like the children and people in the market, they are considered uncooperative. In this same value system, “doing” is a calculated and planned activity which is the secondary option. In this context, the fact that Jesus brings love into the primary value system, “being,” means integrity in our love. When he says, “love each other as I love you,” He asks us not to do ‘love,’ but to plunge our beings into the core of people’s beings themselves. Jesus loves people without any conditions. In other words, Jesus loves us not because we do something good but because we ARE His children. Our existence itself is the only condition to get Jesus’ love.

We can find this equality of Jesus’ love in today’s first reading. When Peter comes to Cornelius’ house, this first convert Gentile does him homage, and kneels. Peter raises him up and says, “Get up. I myself am also a human being…In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” God’s unconditional love goes right to the core of Cornelius through the mouth of Peter. This is the love we are speaking about today. Jesus’ love is deeply related to the primary value, “being” of people whether they are Jews or Gentiles. God’s love has no partiality.

A famous book of a psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, “To Have or to Be?” tells us that the modern society has become more materialistic and prefers “having” to “being.” Your social status is determined by how much you have. Therefore, he suggests that people should ponder more on a “being” nature and not toward a “having” nature. But this “having” oriented attitude is applied not only to materials, but also to talents, capabilities, and competence. When someone is useful, we think he or she is valuable. When someone’s capability is profitable, we think he or she is beneficial.

But according to today’s readings, Jesus’ love has nothing to do with how much we have, how useful we are, and how talented we are. Jesus’ love is not partial. Jesus loves us as we are. Jesus’ love comes right to the core of our beings. This is why we call this love unconditional. And Jesus gives us the commandment: “love one another as I love you.” We are sent to reach out to people’s beings with Jesus’ love. We are supposed to love them not because they are “doing” something valuable but because they “are” friends and children of Jesus. In this mass, let us ask God to give us eyes to see through to people’s “beings” instead of their “doings” whether they are old or young, women or men, Catholics or non-Catholics. And then the world will finally know what God’s love means.

Sunday
Apr292018

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

Last night, we celebrated First Communion at the 5:30 mass. It was a big turnout. We had 24 First Communicants, their families, relatives, and friends. The church was full of people. We were gathered together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to congratulate the special moment of the children as they received Jesus for the first time. During the homily, I asked them a couple of questions to see if they were ready. They all answered well. It was impressive. They have been prepared for about 2 years and I think they responded well. The kids were dressed beautifully in white with smiles and excitement and came forward respectfully to receive Jesus Christ. Of course, when they received the Holy Communion, some of them looked serious, some looked nervous, some looked devotional, and some looked gracious. But all of them enjoyed the special moment when Jesus came to them. And their parents and families, relatives, friends were also happy about them, and proud of them. After the mass, they had a small cake reception. It was a good time for them and the parish. You should have seen how happy and pleased they were. Do you remember your first communion? What do you remember about that day?

When I watched the happiness and joy last night in the First Communion, I asked myself what they would remember on this First Communion day when they grow up. What do they remember? Their beautiful clothes? the First Communion gifts that their parents had wrapped? the sweet cake that they enjoyed? What remains in their minds after they grow up? I prayed that they would remember the excitement and gratitude of the moment when they received Jesus, not their fancy clothes, or the delicious cake, or gifts. By remembering the first experience of the perfect union with Jesus, they will realize how much they will have grown in the future through this union. In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to pursue this union.

Jesus presents Himself as the true vine and calls us the branches of the vine: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” This analogy of the vine is very familiar with the Jewish people because the vine is one of the important products in Palestine. It is very common to have vineyards and workers there. In the Old Testament, you might hear a lot of words about comparing Israel with a vine and vineyard. Many prophets through God’s words refer to Israel as a vine that God planted. For example, the prophet Hosea says in chapter 10 and verse 1, “Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.” The prophet Isaiah says, “let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard.” The prophet Jeremiah says, “But I had planted you as a choice vine.” The analogy of the vine is familiar to the Jewish people. Jesus uses this common analogy to emphasize how special the bond between the vine and the branches is. He continues to say, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” In the second reading, John also says, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”

But did you see anything strange or different in Jesus’ presentation of today’s Gospel? Jesus replaces the Old Testament vine which is Israel with Himself. In the Old Testament, the vine indicates Israel, God’s people. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus presents Himself as the “true” vine-He adds “true” to the vine. Jesus changes the collective solidarity into a personal intimate bond by this slight modification. It leads to the point of Jesus’ self-effacement: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” What Jesus is telling us today is that, like this intimate and personal bond between the vine and the vine grower, we are supposed to remain in Jesus. Otherwise life won’t be in us. This special union must be single minded and single hearted, otherwise we will be pruned and thrown into the fire.

A question arises at this point: why does Jesus wants us to stay in Himself? I meant what is the purpose of this life giving special union between Jesus and us? The purpose would be to bear fruit which means we are called to become Jesus’ disciples. Discipleship is the purpose of remaining in Jesus like the branches which must be attached to the vine. We got sustenance from the true vine and then we are led to true discipleship. We hear of St. Paul’s conversion in today’s first reading. The Apostles don’t believe him after his conversion because Paul is the one who has persecuted brothers and sisters of Jesus. But Paul’s intimate and personal experience of union with Jesus leads him to true conversion. But that is not an end. He goes out and proclaims the Gospel as Jesus’ disciple. Today’s second reading ends with these words, “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”

This is the purpose of the union with Jesus: being disciples. This is how we bear much fruit while we are attached to the true vine and provided with what we need to sustain. We are challenged today to ask ourselves, “Are we remaining in Jesus? Are we attached to Jesus? Are we bearing fruit as disciples of Jesus?” Jesus invites us to enjoy this special and intimate union in the Eucharist, like the First Communicants did last night. He wants us to grow. He wants us to develop from there. And finally we will be mature enough to go out and practice our discipleship in the world so that people know God’s Kingdom is at hand.

Sunday
Apr222018

The 4th Sunday of Easter: Homily - Father Michael Kim

Today, in the Gospel Reading, Christ tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd.” As sheep in the fold, we feel protected, knowing that He gave His own life for us. He says that He has other sheep that are not of this fold, and that He also has to gather these sheep together.

Our mission, as Christians, is to help our Church to maintain the flock united. Bringing others to the fold is also a task that each one of us has. And if we do this, we will be able to form one flock under one shepherd, Christ.

As you know, the task of each priest is to be a good shepherd, to be well familiarized with his sheep, the Christians who belong to his parish, and to defend them from the ferocious wolves who try to attack the flock. He should be like Jesus, prepared to give his life, if necessary, to defend his flock, remembering the reward that Christ gives to him.

Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated each year on this forth Sunday of Easter, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd. So, today is a day of prayer, asking God, in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, for more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

Many times, there are young people who hear the call of the Lord, but they do not encounter enough support for that calling to bear fruit. We have to give them our support and tell them there is nothing greater than renouncing the world and giving everything for Jesus.

Do you know how many seminarians we have in Alaska? We have 10 Alaskan seminarians preparing for the priesthood. We know that preparing for the priesthood is a task of self-giving that demands fidelity to God and to oneself. Whoever is ready to follow Christ demonstrates it by trying to live an exemplary life in this world.

That is why, if we see a young man who is somewhat special who makes us think that he might have a vocation, family, friends, parish priest, and the entire community should support him so that his vocation will take root.

To be a priest, there will be many years of study, of spiritual and mortal trials and much sacrifice before he gets his priestly ordination. Even, to be a good priest, one must be well prepared, ready to defend the sheep.

He will also have to protect himself from the many dangers that life will throw at him. And, most importantly, he will have to forget himself, looking out for the good of others. He should remember the phrase Christ said, “I give my life for my sheep.”

Each church community is a flock. And we are members of that flock. As parishioners, we have to put in our grain of sand, showing that the center of our life is the Good Shepherd, Christ.

Next, we have to promote harmony and unity in the community so that its members feel comfortable and happy within it. All together, we will have to strengthen it.

So, when the wolves come, and I am sure that they will come, and want to separate us from our Church and our faith, they will not be able to take away even one sheep.

With unity and good harmony, we will be able to maintain, for Christ, one flock under one shepherd. Let us remember that Jesus gave His life for us. He is our Savior, the Good shepherd.

Since today is the World Day of Prayers for Vocations, I would like to remind your calling from God. 

If any of you are contemplating the religious life and the priesthood, then I would like to hear from you. If any of you enjoy a burning desire to serve the Lord by tending to the sheep, even as a lay missionary, then I would like to hear from you. If any of you entertain a spiritual mind that is continuously compelled to reflect on spiritual things, then I would like to hear from you.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, may our minds be strengthened by the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that we are about to receive. And let us humbly ask the Heavenly Father for His grace to shine on our Parish by the power of His Spirit, so we may be blessed with religious vocations to fruitfully continue the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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