Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

It seems natural for Jesus to move from His hometown to the lake town of Capernaum after being threatened by the arrest of John the Baptizer. Prudence must have taken hold of him or it must have been a fruit of prayerful reflection and listening to the Father than ne decided to move out.

Many of us left our hometown to go to school or to look for greener pasture. When we marry or when we join the religious life or priesthood, we also leave home. It sounds so natural – but that is exactly what life with God is – so natural.

The first SVD missionaries sent to China said goodbye to their folks for good. It must have been a kind of dying. They did not think of going home again. No exchange, no return. When Jesus perceived that His actual ministry will start in Galilee, there was no turning back either. Again it sounds so natural that it was here that Jesus called together His first disciples from among the folks of the place.

Jesus’ message was: Turn away from sin for the kingdom of God is at hand. He made this as His cry up to the end of His life. Sin and the kingdom are odds. Jesus found it again so natural to give up His life so that we may have the grace to turn away from sin. Are we ready to give up sin which is ultimately a call to be with and to be like Christ for good? It is in fact a move from the natural to the supernatural level. (Fr. carlos Lariosa, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

Isaiah 9:1-4

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18

Matthew 4:12-23

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Time to Begin

 Matty, believes he should be a soul winner for Christ. In the parish Bible class he has learnt how to share his faith with people and lead them to Christ. But he has never done it. Matty prays to God to give him a sign so that he would know exactly when to start. One day Matty is travelling in the subway to meet his Bible study friends. He has his Bible in his handbag. A young man about his own age enters the train and sits next to Matty. He wears a T-shirt with the slogan, “who has the most toys wins.” Matty bends his head and says a little prayer, “Lord give me a sign when to start.” The young man’s cell phone rings. His friend wants him to come and pick him up. After arguing with his friend awhile, he says, “All right, I will come to the church and pick you up, but I will not enter the church. You will find me at the parking lot,” and hangs up. Matty bends his head a second time and prays, “Lord, I’m still waiting for the sign!” Finally, the young man turns to Matty and says, “You know, I got this weird friend who skips work on Sundays to go to church. I don’t get it.” Matty smiles, bends down his head once again and says, “Lord, the sign, the sign!” End of story.

Today’s gospel is on Jesus beginning his public work. After living a private life for more than thirty years, how did Jesus know exactly when to end the hidden life and begin his public work? Our first thoughts are to suppose that, of course, God his Father spoke to him and communicated to him exactly when to begin. He got a special green light from God. But today’s gospel suggests that Jesus probably arrived at this decision the way most people do, that is, by inferring from the things happening in their lives what God is trying to say to them.

Our gospel reading begins, “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea” (Matthew 4:12-13). Jesus hears that John has been arrested. He figures that the renewal movement that John started would be needing a new leader. He looks around and finds that none is more suited to assume leadership of the movement than he himself. That’s it. That is all the sign he needs. He says farewell to his family and moves on to meet the challenges of his public calling. Unlike Matty in our story, Jesus does not sit there and wait for a special supernatural sign from above. Rather, Jesus learns to read the “signs of the times,” that is, to infer from the goings-on in the world around him what God might be saying of him.

What needs do we see in the world around us? Do you, for example, see the need for more messengers of God’s love and peace in our world today? What can you personally do about it, given the personal circumstances of your life? When are you actually going to start doing something about it, or are you, like Matty, waiting for a special sign from God? Well, that sign may never come. We, like Jesus, must learn to read the “signs of the times” in which we live.

Note that Jesus does not start preaching immediately. If he had started preaching right away from his home town in Nazareth, they would probably have silenced him there and then. The first thing he does is to look for a location and a community that would support his vocation. He finds it in Capernaum where he quickly attracts a group of friends and disciples. Even though he is the son of God, Jesus does not work like a lone ranger. He shares his vision and his ministry with people. That is why, even though he was stopped and killed just three years after, they could not stop his work and his vision for a new world of sisters and brothers. In Jesus we see not only what it means to do God’s work but also how to do God’s work.

Let us ask God today to give us the wisdom to read the “signs” of our own times so that we can correctly infer from events in the world around us what demands God is making of us, as individuals and as a church. And let us ask for the courage to start doing it, not just praying about it.

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle

Isaiah 9:1-4

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18

Matthew 4:12-23

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Is Christ Divided?

 Archeologists working in Corinth have uncovered ancient religious objects bearing these inscriptions: “I belong to Aphrodite” and “I belong to Demeter.” The making of such confessional slogans and inscriptions was one of the ways people expressed their faith, devotion and loyalty to one of the many gods or goddesses of the ancient Greek mystery religions that were practised in Corinth before Christianity came. It appears that when these same people became Christians they tried to express their new Christian faith in the same old way. But this time, instead of proclaiming their loyalties to the one Lord in whom all Christians believe, they erroneously directed them to the different ministers who were instrumental in founding and establishing their Christian communities. That is how they ended up with the divergent Christian confessions and claims that we find in today’s 2nd reading: “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12).

First we see that by identifying and defining themselves primarily in relation to Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter), the Corinthians have raised these notable missionaries who brought them the Christian faith to the same status as Christ whom they preached. These slogans, no doubt coming from a sincere desire to express their faith convictions, nevertheless became a source of rivalry and conflict among them, a source of division (schism in Greek) and heresy. The Corinthians forgot the words of Paul: “For we do not preach ourselves; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

This story of how the one Christian church of Corinth ended up in fragmentation and polarization can tell us a lot about how the one universal church founded by Jesus Christ came to become the thousands and thousands of different confessions we have today, with some working at cross purposes to others. As in Corinth much of the division among Christians stems from groups of Christians idolizing their favourite leaders and putting them in the place of Christ. Of course it is inevitable that certain Christians would feel more at home with the dogmatic security of the keys of Peter (Matt 16:10-19), others with the charismatic liturgy of Paul (1 Corinthians 14:18), and still others with the pedagogical eloquence and learning of Apollos (Acts 18:24). Unity is not uniformity. This legitimate expression of diversity, however, should never lead to division (schism) because, as Paul reminds us, what unites us as Christians far outweighs whatever it is that divides us (1 Corinthians 1:13): “Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

If only all Christian ministers and leaders had the spirituality and humility of Paul to direct their members to give their unquestioning allegiance to Christ rather than to themselves! The unity of all Christians in Christ would be more of a reality than the fleeting dream it seems to be today.

Did you notice that among the “followings” criticized by Paul in Corinth was one that had the slogan, “I belong to Christ?” Now why would anyone criticize such a slogan? After all, the members of this confession are right and all others are wrong. Yes and no. One may have the right words and slogans and yet carry on with the same wrong attitudes of divisiveness and exclusiveness that is characteristic of less enlightened groups. This was apparently the case in Corinth. To heal the wounds of the divided body of Christ, right words and slogans are certainly necessary but they are by no means sufficient. Over and above the right statements of faith, we need the right attitudes which spring from a recognition that we all belong to Christ.

What an appropriate reading for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25! This week was purposely chosen as Christian Unity Week because it brings together the feast of St Peter’s Chair in Rome (January 18) and that of the Conversion of St Paul (January 25). As we celebrate these two pillars of the one catholic and apostolic church of Christ let us resolve, as individuals and as a community, to work to heal the wounds of division among Christians, for a house divided against itself cannot stand.

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

 Homily # 1

Isaiah 8:23-9:3
Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23

A few weeks ago I overheard part of a conversation between two people.  Actually I heard a question asked rather emphatically and I couldn’t help myself; so I listened.  The question was stated with such finality that my initial thought was, ‘what a strange thing to ask’…because the speaker really wasn’t looking for an answer.  Quite frankly, I don’t believe either of them were looking for answers…they were too busy trying to talk.

The question I heard though and have mulled over is more or less rhetorical but it is certainly timely as we have just listened to the gospel today.  The question was simply stated:

“Do you know what the problem with religion is today?  It’s the gospel!  It just doesn’t relate to us right now.”

The person speaking stated the ‘problem’ as he saw it, provided his captive listener with an answer and then threw in his rationale for good measure; End of Conversation.

I thought of this brief and very fragmented conversation when I read an email a friend sent me this past week.  This is especially so in that today’s gospel marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  And I find myself challenged…is it problematic that religion and the gospel seem distant for us right now?

So, for a moment let’s place the events of recruiting these followers in the context of our time.  With a broad swipe at modern psychological testing and skill assessment, someone suggested that if Jesus had sent his apostles for these tests this might well be the reply he would have received:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men that you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization.  All of them have taken our battery of tests.  We have tabulated the results through our database and have arranged personal interviews for each of them with a staff psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.  It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for your enterprise.  In short, they exhibit no team concept.

ü     Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.

ü     Andrew demonstrates no qualities for leadership.

ü     The brothers, James and John, place personal interest above team loyalty.

ü     Thomas shows a skeptical attitude that could undermine morale.

ü     Matthew, the tax collector has been blacklisted by the Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.

ü     James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows real potential.  He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well and has contacts in high places.  He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible.  We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

Perhaps we to need revisit the original question the person asked dealing with ‘the problem with religion.’  Instead of trying to label religion as a problem, we could reexamine our own relationships and view our faith in the context of the gospel.  In other words let’s bring the story into our personal world.

When asked our religion, many of us would describe ourselves as ‘Catholic’ or as a ‘Christian.’  But we would tend to back away from daring to call ourselves a ‘disciple’ or be counted as a ‘follower.’  After all, that distinction belongs to the great heroes of our faith: the saints who have preceded us or certainly the very holy people in our world today.  Our lives are just too ordinary, our professions too worldly to imagine that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus…or doing the work of the Gospel.

However when we place ourselves into the story, Jesus encourages us to change our lives…he tells us; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Then he beckons us to come with him…to follow him…to be his disciple.

Our initial response is a resounding YES…just like Peter and his brother Andrew…and at once we leave our ‘nets’ and follow him.  Then we come to our senses and say Lord I’m only a nurse in a hospital or I work in a nursing home, what can I possibly offer…and Jesus responds to us; “Look into the faces of the people you care for and see my presence…know of my Father’s love for you and for the people you help.”

Or…Lord, I’m just a student in school…and again Jesus would invite us to ‘be aware of the needs of our fellow students…pay attention to those who may be struggling…so that through us his presence will be known.’

Or…I’m a single parent…Or my wife and I are struggling to raise our children…OR and this is where we include our own story.  In each of our lives Jesus encourages us to join him, to reach beyond ourselves, to experience the kingdom of heaven in our time.

Jesus’ invitation in the gospel to fishermen…tax collectors…farmers…laborers…and peasants to be his followers is extended to each of us as well.  His call to discipleship transcends that moment on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; he calls to us here and now, in our own time and place.

We are his disciples.  When we were baptized we accepted an invitation to take on the work of discipleship in the homes and classrooms and workplaces where we live our lives.  Jesus continues to invite us to follow him and to take on his work, the same work Peter and his brother and fellow fishermen leave their nets to take on:  to bring others to God through the Gospel of peace…reconciliation…and love.

Homily # 2

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said to Peter and his brother Andrew, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”.  They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers.  Shortly thereafter, Zebedee’s sons, James and John, left their father to follow Jesus.

Hmm, I wonder what they all recognized in Jesus that they would give up their family, friends and professions in order to follow our Lord.  Why did they follow and others, more intelligent, not recognize the Messiah?

You know, I think that most of us, if not all of us, struggle from time to time with knowing exactly who Jesus is too.  And, you know what?, it’s OK to have those concerns because, if we’re to seeing God in our lives, He’ll come to us in so many different ways, that it’s not always possible to recognize Him.  Perhaps a short story might help illustrate what I’m trying to say.

A young boy was walking through the park.  He had just gotten out of his catechism class, where his teacher had told the class that you could never tell when you’ll meet Jesus.

As he was walking through the park, he noticed an old woman sitting on a bench.  She looked very lonely, so he sat down next to her.  He said “Hi” and proceeded to offer her a piece of his candy bar, which he had been saving.  She accepted the piece of chocolate with a smile.  They talked for a while about nothing in particular and then the boy offered her another piece, which she also gladly accepted.

They chatted a little while longer and then the boy got up to leave.  As he began to walk away, he turned around, ran back to the bench and gave the woman a big hug.  And, she gave him her very biggest smile.

When he arrived home, his mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, “What made you so happy today”?  The boy said, “I shared my chocolate bar with Jesus.  And, guess what, Mom?  She has a great smile”.

Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her little apartment which she shared with her sister.  “You’re all smiles today”, said the sister.  “What made you so happy”?  “Well”, she said, “I was sitting in the park sharing a chocolate bar with Jesus.  And, you know what?  He looks a lot younger than I expected”!

So, my brothers and sisters, where do we find God?  Is He only way up there in the sky somewhere?  Is He so far away that He doesn’t really care about us?  No, He’s right here, right now-among us.  God is right here at (name your parish)-not only in the Holy Eucharist and in His Holy Word-but He’s right here in each and every one of us.

And, He’s not just here.  God challenges everybody-each and every one of us-to see the sacred in the ordinary events of our lives-to see Him in all people-even the ones who we’re not particularly crazy about.  We’re to do this because, in those people and in the events which may seem awful at the time, Jesus comes to us in disguise.

He came to St. Martin of Tours as a beggar.  He came to St. Francis of Assisi as a leper.  He came to St. Augustine as a little boy on a beach.

So, how does Jesus come to you?  Does He come as a Catholic school teacher who is trying his/her best to give the students a moral rudder in today’s world-a world that says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, just have fun today.  Don’t worry about any consequences”.

Does Jesus come to you as a doctor or a lawyer or a tradesman or any person who does the best job possible, because he/she does their job as if they’re doing it for Christ?

Is Jesus, perhaps, coming to us in our priests, deacons and religious, who’ve sacrificed more than we’ll ever know because they want to help us get to heaven?

Regardless of wherever we are in our lives-whether we’re happy or sad, rich or poor, young or old-whatever, we can be sure of one thing.  Jesus will come and surprise us, if, like the boy and the lady in our story, we’ll just keep our eyes and hearts open to Him.

It’s just like when we think that we know someone well, they up and surprise us.  All of a sudden, we get a new insight into that person’s true identity.  Many times a spouse, after many years of marriage, will say, “After all these years, you still surprise me”.  The truth of the matter is that we can never completely exhaust our discovery of another person.  Nor can we even begin to exhaust our ability to discover Jesus.

But, like all of the great saints, we can begin to open our eyes and hearts to see God in every experience of our lives-the good, the bad and the neutral.

Perhaps there are people here sitting here today who feel that they’re not getting anything out of this Mass.  It’s an honest feeling because not every Mass (and homily) sends chills up our spines.  But, regardless of how we “feel”, God’s gifts are here for us-in the Eucharist and in His Word and in each other.

Although the Mass is a wonderful gift of God to us, He expects us to share His gift with others.  Here are just a few ideas about how to share God with others:

1. End a quarrel.
2. Encourage a child.
3. Keep a promise.
4. Forgive an enemy.
5. Listen
6. Apologize, if you are in the wrong.
7. Laugh a little more.
8. Get rid of envy and jealousy.
9. Speak your love.  Speak it again and again and again.
10. Allow another person to know you.

Even if we can accomplish only one or two of these suggestions, do it.  Bring Jesus to someone.  Perhaps, another person will then say of you, “After all these years, you still surprise me”.  And, you know what?, maybe you’ll even surprise yourself.

And, when we meet Jesus someday, and we all will, maybe He won’t have to say to us, “I confess, I don’t recognize you”.  Instead, He’ll say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Welcome into the joy that awaits you”.

Homily # 3

The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.  This is how St. Matthew describes the impact of Jesus’ ministry.  As we gather this morning let us be mindful that it is not we who choose Christ, but Christ who has chosen us.

There is a story about a young man named Matt, who lived in the heart of London and believed he should be a soul winner for Christ.  He belonged to a parish bible study class and it was there that he learned to share his faith with people and how to lead them to Christ, but he never seemed to accomplish the task.

One day Matt was traveling on the tube to meet his bible study friends.  He had his bible in his bag. A young man about his own age entered the train and sat beside him.  The young man wore a T-shit with the slogan “WHO HAS THE MOST TOYS WINS”. At the moment Matt bended his head and said a little prayer, “Lord give me a sign when to start”.  The mobile phone of the young man sitting beside him rang and Matt couldn’t help but over hear the conversation.  The young man’s friend wanted to be picked up. After arguing with his friend over the phone for a while Matt heard the man beside him say, “All right, I will come to the Church and pick you up, but I will not enter the Church. You will find me in the car park”.  Matt bended his head, a second time in prayer and said, “Lord, still waiting for the sign.”  Lastly, the young man turned to Matt and said, “You know, I have this strange friend who skips work on Sundays’ to go to Church. I just don’t get it”. Matt smiled bended his head again and prayed, “Lord, the sign, the sign”.

Unlike Matt in our story, Jesus does not sit there and wait for a supernatural sign from above.  Rather, Jesus learns to read the signs of the times, from the goings-on in the world around him what demands God might be making of him personally.  He calls the disciples and they act in response.

What yawning needs do we see in the world around us? On a global level we have seen recently the great response of the world to the people of the Tsunami atrocity.  On a personal level we might ask ourselves, how we can be messengers of God’s love to those around us.  Have we started with those near and dear to us? Will we wait for a sign like Matt in our story? Do we always have to wait for something to happen before we respond?

Note that Jesus does not start preaching immediately. If he had started  right away from his home town of Nazareth , they would probably have silenced him there and then. The first thing he does is to look for a location and a community that would support hi vocation. He found it in Capernaum where he quickly attracted a group of friends and disciples. Even though He is the Son of God, Jesus does not work like a lone ranger. He shares his vision and his ministry with people.  That is why, even though he was stopped and killed just three years after, they could not stop his work and his vision for a new world of sisters and brothers. In Jesus, we see not only what it means to do God’s work but also how to do God’s work.

Let us ask God today to give us the wisdom to read the signs of our won times so that we can correctly infer from the events not only in the world but also around us.   What demands is God making of us, as individuals, and as a Church? And let us ask for the Courage to start doing it, not just praying about it.

Homily # 4

Despite what one finds in the popular press and perhaps hears in conversations with acquaintances, Andrew Greeley, the Chicago priest who has achieved celebrity status both in the academic and publishing worlds, claims that his novels are “stories of grace.” Like his friend Fr. John Shea, Greeley claims that our faith is enhanced and remembered through the medium of story. So he tells modern stories in which God is present both to the characters and to the reader. Well if Fr. Greeley is correct, and I think he is, we have in this morning’s reading one of the key stories in our tradition. As I read it, I become more and more intrigued by the details of the story and I realized that the story of the “woman at the well” is every bit as challenging to all of us as is the story of the prodigal son which was present in yesterday’s liturgy. Like most of the stories of our faith, this one has nuances, that defy analysis in the ten minutes we expect our homilies to take. Perhaps this is why so many of our Catholic Universities report a major increase in the number of adults who in later life come back to school to study scripture. Be that as it may, I will spend my remaining eight minutes on four aspects of Jesus’ character emphasized in this story and quit, leaving you the same message I leave myself-there’s enough to know about the word of God that we could spend our whole lives interacting with it. And we should.

First, this story enhances the humanity of Jesus. Wearied with his journey, Jesus sat by the well exhausted from the effort his life required of him. Like all of us at times, Jesus knew the aching weariness that besets all travellers through life.

Second, it shows us the warmth of his sympathy. From an ordinary religious leader, from one of the orthodox church leaders of the day the Samaritan woman would have fled in embarrassment and hostility. It is relatively obvious that this particular woman was an outcast from her own society for surely there was a well in her home community yet she, in the heat of the day, toiled almost a mile from Sychar to get her water. One can presume that the well of Sychar was populated by the women of the community and they would not have welcomed such a profligate woman-five husbands- in their midst. Yet the sympathy of Jesus calls sinners from the heat and dust of their own journeys as the providence of God calls all of us to sit by the well and see the truth of our own existence mirrored in his eyes.

Third, it shows Jesus as the demolisher of barriers. The quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans was ancient. In the eight century BC the Assyrians had invaded the northern kingdom of Samaria and had captured and subjugated it. They did what conquerors often did in those days-they transported many of the conquered to Media and replaced them with outsiders- in this case non-Jews. Almost inevitably the remaining Samaritans-who by the way were ten of the tribes of Israel-began to inter-marry with the incoming foreigners, and thereby they committed what to the Jew was an unforgivable crime. They lost their racial purity. In a strict Jewish household, even to this day if a son or daughter marries a Gentile, his or her funeral service is carried out. Such a person is dead in the eyes of orthodox Judaism. Those Samaritans who were carried off never returned. They are the ten lost tribes of Israel. Those who remained had inter-married with foreigners and had lost their right to be called Jews at all.

In the course of time a like invasion and a like defeat happened to the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem. Its inhabitants were carried off to Babylon, but they did not lose their identity; they remained stubbornly and unalterably faithful to their traditions. In time by the grace of the friendly Persian king they returned to Jerusalem to reconstruct the temple. When the Samaritans came to assist them in this holiest of works, they were contemptuously told that their help was not wanted that they had lost their Jewish heritage and had no right to share in the rebuilding of the house of God. As one can imagine, the bitterly resentful Samaritans not only returned to their homeland but began to establish their own traditions choosing to make holy Mount Gerizim as that place where Abraham had been willing to sacrifice Isaac, where Melchisedech had appeared to Abraham and where Moses had built an altar as he led his people into the promised land. Whether these facts were correct or not, the Samaritans established their mountain as the holiest of places and imbued it with traditions that had been part of their Jewish past. In turn they truncated the old testament, reading only the pentateuch and ignoring the prophets and psalmists as heretical. FOR SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS THIS HATRED FLOURISHED with enmity between the two often breaking out into bloody massacres. It was small wonder that the Samaritan woman was astonished that Jesus, a Jew, should speak to her AND ASK FOR HER HELP.

Fourth, there was another way in which Jesus was destroying barriers between people. The Samaritan he spoke to was a WOMAN. The strict rabbinical code forbade a Rabbi to greet a woman in public. A rabbi might not even speak to his own wife or daughter or sister in public. There were even Pharisees who shut their eyes when they saw a woman on the street. For a Rabbi to speak to a woman in public was the end of his reputation. To speak to a Samaritan woman and a notorious one at that. Well what do you think?

To the Jews this was an amazing story. Here was the Son of God, tired and weary and thirsty. Here was the holiest of men, listening with understanding to a sad story. Here was Jesus breaking through the barriers of nationality and orthodox customs to touch the inner core of a person who needed healing, God so loving the world in deed.

And what else is here for us this morning?  Read it again when you go home. Listen then to the message Jesus gives this woman-AND HIS DISCIPLES-see how he treats her. See how he allows her to see her errors without lecturing her. And see what her response is running home to spread the word to people who shunned her, forgetting even to take her water-jug with her. This is the behavior of one who is born again of water and the Holy Spirit. Can we behave like this woman? Or do we need to spend more time in the healing presence of Jesus? Where does he wait for us today?

Homily # 5

In today’s second reading, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he touches upon a subject that bears further investigation in these troubled times.  The Corinthians seem to be confused and seem to be losing sight of the main focus of their allegiance to One God.  Paul chastises them and writes, There are rivalries among you.  Each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul”, “I belong to Apollos”, “I belong to Cephas”, “I belong to Christ.”

Paul is reminding them that there is one Jesus Christ.  His words are as important today as they were 2000 years ago because in our times, this same phenomena can occur.  There are many religions in the world.  Because of the recent events the 3 main religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have been getting much publicity.  It’s true that we must respect the right of others to practice their beliefs.  However, as Paul  said to the Corinthians, I urge you , brothers and sister, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree in what you say and that there be no divisions among you.

While there are many religions in our world we Catholics believe there is only one, true religion and it was ordained by God to Adam and Eve and it was fulfilled by the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we would be redeemed.

Often we may take our religion for granted because we live in a democratic society and we recognize that everyone has a right to their own opinions and beliefs. So, the question can be asked, “What difference does it make what I believe?  There are a lot of different opinions on which is the true religion.”  For the young people here today, this can be a vexing problem.  Is there really any difference?

So, we are much like Peter, Andrew, James and John, the first 4 followers Jesus called to become His apostles.  They had to make a decision:  “Will I follow this man who says, ‘Come after me.’”  They answered ,”Yes” and established their places in Heaven.

It is the decision we all must make.
Will we follow Jesus Christ?  The question, therefore, is important.

The answer is that if we believe Jesus Christ taught the truth and our Church has continued to rely on His teachings as the foundations of our faith our answer will be, “Yes”.

Let me give you an example of how different religions have different teachings.  We have learned much about the Muslim religion since September 11.  Many Muslims in this country have been persecuted in one way or another and that persecution is not justified.

However, we as individuals, must recognize that the teachings of the two religions are diametrically opposed to one another.  Mohammed taught His followers that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God.   He recognized Jesus as a great prophet but he taught that he, Mohammed, was the last and greatest prophet, sent by his God Allah.  So, there is a drastic difference in these two teachings.

The doctrines of Islam and Christianity differ in other areas.  Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and to forgive those who have offended us.  The Koran teaches a different lesson.  Basically, it says that if those outside Islam will convert they are to be accepted.  However, if they do not convert, they are to be killed.  That’s pretty drastic language but that’s their philosophy.  Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

So, why is that important to us?  We’re safe and secure here in our church this morning and we’re not going to be influenced by other religions.  That may be easy to say but the words of Paul and the words of Jesus are very important today because we live in a society that says to us, “It doesn’t matter what you believe.  It doesn’t matter how you behave.  There is no right or wrong.  You decide for yourselves.”

That’s why it is important for all of us to understand just what our belief in Jesus Christ really means to us.  Are we convinced that He is our Savior?  Are we convinced His teachings are the true teachings sent to us from the Father so that by following them we can attain eternal life?   For 2000 years those teachings have remained the same.  For 2000 years no other individual has had a message as powerful as His.  No other prophet, no other ruler has offered the proof that Jesus offered us.  Who has fed thousands with a few loaves and a few fish?  Who has cured the sick, who has raised men from the dead?  Who else has ascended into Heaven? Who offers us the promise of eternal life, an eternity filled with blessings we cannot even imagine?  Jesus Christ!

It’s true, there are conditions to His promises.  He also asks that we love our neighbors, that we keep His commandments, that we worship Him each week and spend some time in prayerful recognition of what He has given us. If we believe there is one God, there is one Jesus Christ and if we follow His teachings, then we do have the true answer to our own salvation.  The confusion that Paul addressed in the second reading still exists today.   Isn’t it ironic that things haven’t changed that much over time.

It’s an awesome concept that God would send His only Son to save us.  Are we that important?  Many in our society would have us believe otherwise.  We sacrifice our unborn children, in some states it is legal to sacrifice those who are aged but to our God, each of us is precious and every moment of our lives is important to Him.   His is a message of love.

That’s His message to us today.  As Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John so He is calling us to remain faithful.  In this hectic world in which there are many conflicting philosophies the simple truth is we can only find happiness, peace and, eventually, salvation by heeding the words of Paul, “I BELONG TO JESUS CHRIST.”

Homily # 6

Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment.” (Today’s reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.)

Some seventeen years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul of Tarsus established a Christian community in Corinth.  About five years later, while Paul was preaching in Ephesus, he received word that factions had arisen in Corinth.  Hence the writing of the letter we read in today’s Mass, pleading for unity and an end of factions.

Paul was well aware of the final prayer of Jesus at the last supper where he repeatedly asked His Father: “I do not pray for my disciples only, I pray also for those who believe in me through their word, that all maybe one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in You.  I pray that they may be one in us.”

Despite the very clear and emotionally intense desire of Jesus for unity, Christianity has experienced a history off actions and disunity from its very beginning. The Zealots, a Jewish militant group, many of whom were Christians and all of whom were opposed to Roman control of Jerusalem, failed in their efforts to overthrow Rome, where both Peter and Paul were eventually martyred during the reign of Nero. Gnosticism, basically a dualistic approach to religion and philosophy (a world of good separate from a world of evil), influenced various Christian communities, especially in the East, from the beginning of Christianity. This resulted in an abundance of diversity.

We must remember that without the means of modem communication and travel, it was very difficult to establish a universal orthodoxy of doctrine and to prevent an intrusion of unorthodox influences.  Consequently, there were constant variation in Christian belief in the early centuries.  We must remember, too, that Christ preached the basics of the Good News and left the formulation and codification of the doctrine to his apostles and to their successors.

Eventually, after years of debates and argumentation, there was a split in Christendom between the East and the West. And then, of course, in the sixteenth century there as the further split caused by the Protestant Reformation.  Factions upon factions continued so that today we have, here in America alone. Well over one hundred churches that call themselves Christian.

Certainly this division in Christianity is not the will of God. Certainly the final prayer of Jesus for unity has been frustrated by millions of followers. We have seen a mild resurgence of ecumenism in the past few decades. We have been blessed with a pope who has devoted his years in the papacy to attempting to break down the barriers of division.

But here we are today, January 27, 2002, living in a world divided religiously and at the same time reading from the letter of St. Paul where he exhorts us to unity of belief.  In a few moments we will be extending to one another the peace of Christ, while there is no universal peace of Christ in the world today.

So, what are we to do? What can we say? What do we pray for?

(The presenter suggests that each homilist answer these questions according to the disposition and needs of the particular congregation, but at the same time encouraging the faithful to become better Christians, happily living good lives so as to attract the good favor of our separated brethren.)

*************************************************************************

Moments
Clarity

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:23:00 01/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines–LAST WEEKEND, I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE to check if my latest book “Just a Moment” was already available in that area. I asked the saleslady:

“Do you already have the latest book of Father Orbos?”

“What is its title? Just a moment, sir,” the saleslady replied as she gestured me to wait while she checked.

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 4, 12-17), we are told that Jesus, after leaving Nazareth His hometown, began preaching in Capernaum by the sea. His fame began to spread, and people began to see in Him a great light. All this did not happen in just a moment. It was a result of His diligence, determination and clarity of purpose in doing the Father’s will. Unless life is seen as a mission, it could end up to be just an empty pursuit of self-satisfaction and self-gratification.

* * *

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” This message is a very urgent and a very timely reminder for all of us individuals and as a nation. Hoping and praying that our government officials will really listen and heed God’s call for true conversion. It’s sad that many of our leaders have become vague and untrue. Money and power have made them insincere.

As we go through life, what message are we proclaiming? And when we are gone what message will we leave behind? What statement are you making to this world with your words and with your very life?

* * *

If you had the choice, what words would you like to be written on your grave to best describe you? Will it be: “Here lies … who loved much? … who worked much? … who accumulated much? … who shouted much? … who spent much? … etc. How the world will remember us by is our individual choice.

* * *

Don Alfredo Gothong, patriarch and chairman of the board of the Gothong Group of Companies, was buried in Cebu last Jan. 15. In his last will and testament he wrote: “I have lived in this world a long time. Yet life is brief and fleeting. To all my loved ones, I want you to instill in your hearts that the best, the most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” That is quite a statement coming from a man who left a fortune to his family through honest and hard work. Indeed, “If through one person, a little more love and goodness have come to this world, then that person’s life has had meaning.”

* * *

We are happy with our brother-priest Fr. Fernando Suarez and his grace-filled healing ministry. What makes us doubly happy is his clarity of vision and mission, pointing not to himself but to God whom he serves as the source of his unusual “gift.” As long as a person knows who he/she is before God, then there will be no problems about self-aggrandizement and pride.

* * *

When we congratulated our classmate Gov. “Among” Ed Panlilio for having been named as “Filipino of the Year” by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, his reply to our text message was clear and simple: “Thank you. To God be the glory. We are just doing our mission.” So humble, unlike some you-know-who who take and make every opportunity to boast about their so-called achievements (if these are theirs at all).

* * *

Here’s a wonderful and timely reminder for us pilgrims and travelers in this world: “As you go through life, yield not a traffic on Temptation Avenue. Avoid Sin Street because it’s a dead end. Pass up Hypocrisy Street, Gossiping Land, Backbiting Boulevard. You have to pass through Trials Avenue but that’s all right because Victory Road is straight up ahead. Enjoy your journey.”

* * *

On Jan. 31, 2008, at 7 p.m., we will be at the Sacred Heart Church in Cebu for a Healing Mass with 14-year-old blind girl Fatima Soriano. And on Feb. 1, we will be in Divine Word College of Calapan for a school fund-raising concert.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, as I grow up, instill in me clarity of vision and mission. Amen.

************************************************************************

Called to be fishermen

Bel R. San Luis, SVD

The story is told about a despondent man who complained to his mother, “I’ve stopped going to church for two reasons: I don’t like the people, and the people don’t like me.”

The mother gazed at him and said sympathetically: “My son, you should go back to church; I’ll give also you two reasons why. You’re already 60 years old, and you are the parish priest!”

* * *

When the Lord started His ministry, He called a core group: Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and others to become henceforth “fishers of men” (Mk 1:17).

And like that despondent parish priest in the story, these chosen followers were to continue Christ’s mission regardless of whether the people would like them or not.

* * *

Why did Jesus choose fishermen as His first disciples? In his book “His Words Resounds,” Albert Cylwicki writes, “It certainly wasn’t for their educational background or their training in Scripture. Such men would be found in the synagogues, not by the seashore.

“The first disciples were probably chosen because they were not pious but good men down deep. Not easily discouraged, but patient and persevering. Not self-indulgent, but hardworking. Not educated, but full of wisdom.”

* * *

Now and then we hear criticisms of church leaders. Parishioners complain about pastors who’re grouchy, unapproachable, materialistic (“mukhang pera“), ultra-conservative.

Perhaps what the faithful should bear in mind is that being God’s minister does not by itself abolish the minister’s humanity.

* * *

Despite that, spiritual leaders have the obligation by virtue of their divine calling, to constantly strive to overcome their human frailties. The undesirable qualities of a bishop or priest can scandalize or turn off people from religion.

On the other hand, the positive human qualities of Jesus’ ministers immensely influence people and win them to the church.

* * *

Unfortunately many have the wrong notion that the call of Christ to be “fishers of men” is addressed only to the apostles and their successors: Bishops, priests and religious. That’s not true. Gone are the days when the laity simply say “Amen, Amen” or obey, pray and PAY.

The Decree on the Laity of Vatican II states: “Incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself” (3).

* * *

Today we know of more and more numerous lay Catholics who sacrifice time, treasure and talent for the church. Think of the eucharistic lay leaders, lectors, collectors, choir members, sacristans and yes, the various parish organizations like the Parish Pastoral Council, Legion of Mary, CWL, Knights of Columbus, Mother Butlers Guild who render their services “gratis et amore.”

Consider, too, the many lay Catholics involved in various renewal movements such as the charismatic organizations, the Neo-catechumenate, Marriage Encounter, Couples for Christ.

* * *

Whether you are an accountant, a lawyer, clerk, doctor, musician, an executive, a teacher, a driver or whatever, you share in the apostolate of Christ as “fishers of men.”

You may do this not through active involvement in the church but through the witness of an exemplary Christian life.

* * *

One time I said a funeral Mass for an unmarried lady. After the Mass, I was approached by a young man who said, “Father, I am a distant relative of her, but I’ll never forget her. She had been very good to me. Now and then she had helped me materially and had been guiding me, giving me advice which have helped me become a better person. I’ll miss her very much.”

* * *

Are you aware that as baptized Christian, you are called to be a “fisher of men,” to “catch” people for God and to bring them closer to Him? Seeing or hearing from you, are people attracted to God? Or rather turned off by your conduct and way of life?

If we have been remiss in our Christian calling, let’s ask forgiveness from God and resolve to be a true, committed “fisher of men.”

*************************************************************************

Prescriptions to happiness

Bel R. San Luis, SVD

Once upon a time there was a king who had everything the world had to offer – all that money could buy, plus absolute power over his people.

But despite all the money and power and prestige he possessed, he was not happy.

And so he summoned the wisest of wise men in all his kingdom and asked them to provide him with a solution to his problem.

* * *

“I want to be happy,” he said. “I command you to tell me how to achieve happiness.”

After consulting with one another, the wisest of all the wise men in the kingdom came up with a solution.

“You must find a truly happy man in your kingdom, take his shirt from him and wear it yourself. Then, you too will be happy.”

* * *

So the king dispatched his elite horsemen to every corner of the kingdom in search of a truly happy man and, eventually, they found one. The trouble was, he didn’t own a shirt!

The moral of the story is: Happiness cannot be found in material possessions and wealth. Much less ill-gotten wealth.

* * *

When Christ came, He taught a blueprint for living which turned upside down the prescriptions for happiness of this world. That blueprint is contained in the eight Beatitudes or “Be-happy attitude” (Mt 5:1-12 in this Sunday’s gospel).

Jesus declares “Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” By “poor in spirit,” He meant a spirit of detachment from material wealth.

* * *

A rich person who’s charitable and not enslaved to his or her wealth but uses it for the good of society is “poor in spirit.” Some wealthy people living in posh enclaves of Metro Manila belong to this category, like the late jeweller Fe Panlilio, John Gokongwei, Dr. Emilio Yap, the Ayalas. On the other hand, a poor man who sees his poverty as a curse and whose sole obsession in life is to become rich is very poor indeed.

* * *

The second beatitude: “Blessed are the sorrowing; they shall be comforted,” means that I may be hurting, but I will bounce back.

Sorrow and pain are part of everyone’s life. But rather than allow them to defeat me, I can find a way to rise from failures and misfortunes to achieve success or “turn our scars into stars.”

* * *

In the third beatitude, “Blessed are the meek,” meekness is not synonymous with weakness, as many think. The meek person is not silent in the face of evil or does not stand up when other people’s rights are trampled upon.

Mahatma Ghandi, charismatic leader of India, who courageously and vigorously fought against the injustices in his native land through non-violent means, was a strong and “meek” man.

* * *

The fourth beatitude, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness,” means that I really want to do the right thing. Happiness can only be found at a deeper level where we hunger and thirst for the things of God – His word, his presence, His peace.

* * *

The fifth beatitude is: “Blessed are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs.” This beatitude challenges us to show compassion, understanding and forgiveness to others – for we too stand in need of these from others.

* * *

The sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure of heart” invites us to examine if our motives are always entirely unmixed or unadulterated. We ask ourselves the question: Is our service for our Church or for society done for selfless motives or for prestige or our vested interest?

* * *

The seventh beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called children of God” means that we must be reconcilers, bridge-builders, peacemakers. This is a crying need today not only due to the conflicts with rebels and Muslim extremists but also in our conflict-ridden communities and families.

* * *

The eight beatitude is: “Blessed are those persecuted for holiness sake.” Although we may not be persecuted for our faith like the early Christians or those living under a harsh Communist rule, we suffer from more subtle forms of attack on our Christian values through the media and advertising. We need to be courageous and steadfast in our faith and moral values.

* * *

Somebody said that some people cannot find happiness because they look for it in the wrong places, like in drugs, “good time,” and material security. As the psychologist D. Prager once said, “More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain – marriage, raising children, professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work.”

We can find all this ultimately in Christ’s prescription to happiness – the beatitudes.

************************************************************************

BIBLE CHRISTIAN KA BA? : Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – January 27, 2008

May
isang “Bible Christian” na mahilig gamitin ang Bibliya upang malaman
kung ano ang gusto ng Diyos sa kanya lalo na sa paglutas sa kanyang mga
prolema. Minsan ay nalugi ang kanyang negosyo at katulad ng kanyang
nakaugalian ay sumangguni siya sa Bibliya. Kinuha niya ito at nakapikit
na binuksan ang pahina. Laking pagkagulat niya ng bumungad sa kanya ang
Mateo 27:5 na nagsasabing: “Lumabas si Hudas at nagbigti!”.
Natakot siya at sinubukan niyang maghanap uli. Habang nakapikit ay muli
niyang binuksan ang Bibliya at ang kanyang hintuturo ay tumapat sa Lukas 10:37  na ang sabi: “Humayo ka’t gayon din ang gawin mo.”  Halos himatayin na siya sa takot nang muli niyang buksan ang Banal na Aklat.  Ang bumungad sa kanyang talata: Juan 13:27, “Kung ano ang iyong kailangang gawin, gawin mo na agad!” At alam n’yo na marahil ang kasunod… hehe. Ang ikatlong Linggo ng Karaniwang Panahon ay parating inilalaan sa padiriwang ng National Bible Sunday!  Ang
Bibliya ay hindi parang “bolang kristal” na nagsasabi ng ating
kapalaran. Hindi rin ito katulad ng mga “Best Seller” na libro sa
National Books Store. Hindi lang ito naglalaman ng kasaysayan o
pamantayan sa mabuting pamumuhay. Ang Bibliya ay ang SALITA NG DIYOS! Ito ang aklat na kung saan ay ipinahayag ng Diyos ang Kanyang pag-ibig at katapatan sa tao sa pagbibigay sa atin ng kaligtasan. Sa Ebanghelyo ay nakita natin kung paano nangaral si Hesus ng buong sigasig!  Ang Bibiliya ay ang pangangaral ni Hesus sa atin sa kasalukuyang panahon.
May oras ba akong inalalaan sa pagbabasa ng Bibliya? Baka naman may
“tag price” pa ang Bibliya kong nabili o kaya naman ay namumuti na sa
dami ng alikabok dahil hindi ko nagagalaw sa pinaglalagyan nito! Kung
me tiyaga akong tapusin ang volumes ng Harry Potter bakit kaya ni isang
pahina ng Bibiliya ay hindi ko matagalang basahin? Ang sabi nga nila:
Kung gusto mo may paraan… kung ayaw mo, may dahilan! Ugaliin natin
ang araw-araw na pagbabasa ng Bibliya at at pagninilay sa Salita ng
Diyos. Sa panalangin tayo ang nakikipag-usap sa Kanya. Sa pagbabasa ng
Bibliya… Siya ang nakikipag-usap sa atin. Kailan mo hinayaang kausapin ka Niya?

*************************************************************************

BIBLE CHRISTIAN KA BA? : Reflecton for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – National Bible Sunday – January 23, 2011

“May isang “Bible Christian” na mahilig gamitin ang Bibliya upang malaman kung ano ang gusto ng Diyos sa kanya lalo na sa paglutas sa kanyang mga prolema. Minsan ay nalugi ang kanyang negosyo at katulad ng kanyang nakaugalian ay sumangguni siya sa Bibliya. Kinuha niya ito at nakapikit na binuksan ang pahina. Laking pagkagulat niya ng bumungad sa kanya ang Mateo 27:5 na nagsasabing: “Lumabas si Hudas at nagbigti!”. Natakot siya at sinubukan niyang maghanap uli. Habang nakapikit ay muli niyang binuksan ang Bibliya at ang kanyang hintuturo ay tumapat sa Lukas 10:37 na ang sabi: “Humayo ka’t gayon din ang gawin mo.”Halos himatayin na siya sa takot nang muli niyang buksan ang Banal na Aklat. Ang bumungad sa kanyang talata: Juan 13:27, “Kung ano ang iyong kailangang gawin, gawin mo na agad!” At alam n’yo na marahil ang kasunod… hehe. Ang ikatlong Linggo ng Karaniwang Panahon ay parating inilalaan sa padiriwang ng National Bible Sunday! Ang Bibliya ay hindi parang “Libro ng mga Hula” na nagsasabi ng ating kapalaran. Hindi rin ito katulad ng mga “Best Seller” na libro sa National Books Store. Hindi lang ito naglalaman ng kasaysayan o pamantayan sa mabuting pamumuhay. Ang Bibliya ay ang SALITA NG DIYOS! Ito ang aklat na kung saan ay ipinahayag ng Diyos ang Kanyang pag-ibig at katapatan sa tao sa pagbibigay sa atin ng kaligtasan. Sa Ebanghelyo ay nakita natin kung paano nangaral si Hesus ng buong sigasig! Ang Bibiliya ay ang pangangaral ni Hesus sa atin sa kasalukuyang panahon. May oras ba akong inalalaan sa pagbabasa ng Bibliya? Baka naman may “tag price” pa ang Bibliya kong nabili o kaya naman ay namumuti na sa dami ng alikabok dahil hindi ko nagagalaw sa pinaglalagyan nito! Kung me tiyaga akong tapusin ang volumes ng Harry Potter bakit kaya ni isang pahina ng Bibiliya ay hindi ko matagalang basahin? Ang sabi nga nila: Kung gusto mo may paraan… kung ayaw mo, may dahilan! Ugaliin natin ang araw-araw na pagbabasa ng Bibliya! Sa panalangin tayo ang nakikipag-usap sa Kanya. Sa pagbabasa ng Bibliya… Siya ang nakikipag-usap sa atin. Kailan mo hinayaang kausapin ka Niya? Ngunit hindi lang sapat na basahin ang Bibiliya. Mas mahalaga sa pagbabasa ay ang pagninilay sa Salita ng Diyos at ang pagsasabuhay nito. May mga Kristiyanong pabibilibin ka dahil kaya nilang banggitin mula sa memorya ang mga kapitulo at bersikulo ng Biblia. Ang tanong… isinasabuhay ba nila ito? Saulo mo man ito mula sa unang pahina hanggang sa huli ngunit hindi mo pinagninilayan at isinasabuhay ay para ka lamang “wang-wang” na nag-iingay na walang mabuting nagagawa sa kaligtasan ng iyong kaluluwa! Basahin, pagnilayan at isabuhay! Ito ang paraan upang matawag na mga tunay na “Bible Christians”. Tatlong paraan upang maging buhay ang Salita ng Diyos sa ating buhay.

************************************************************************

See Today’s Readings:  Year A

Back to: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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