Saturday, May 28, 2016

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Abundance or Scarcity?

Radio, television and other means of mass media have given most of you ideas about what is called the gospel of success although you may not know explicitly that this was the gospel of success. This gospel has other names. It is also called prosperity theology, prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel. Basically it teaches that material wealth is God's will for all of us. All of us can be healthy and wealthy if we follow God's will. And it is God's will that we have faith in this truth, that we speak only positive things about ourselves and others and that we give to God's work our donations of tithes and other gifts so that God can bless us with better health and more wealth.

In our country we have heard about the El Shaddai movement which teaches this gospel of prosperity. Some leaders and members of the Catholic Renewal Movement also preach this gospel of success. Among our non-Catholic brothers and sisters there are some who also promote this message of health and wealth for all. They put forth verses like Jesus saying, I came that they may have life and life in abundance (John 10:10). Usually they incorporate in their messages that if we want to be blessed by God we have to give him a part of our income.

But there are other Christians who oppose this gospel of success and prosperity. They argue that Jesus was born poor, lived poor, and died poor. If we are genuine Christians, followers of Jesus, we have to live like him, poor. They mention that Jesus condemned wealth in the parable of the rich man who acquired so many things, then told his soul to rest but that very night he died. They also cite that famous statement of Jesus that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  

So does Jesus want us to have prosperity or scarcity or just sufficiency?

Our Gospel reading today gives us an answer to this question. In the story Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish so that these were able to feed five thousand people. The more wonderful detail in the story is that the people were satisfied and there were still twelve wicker baskets of left over. This detail is mentioned by all four evangelists and they agree on the number of baskets, twelve.

In other words Jesus multiplied bread and fish that were more than the amount needed by the people. Some of us may notice the appropriateness of the number twelve. It seems that each apostle had a basket of left over food.

If we observe nature which is a creature of Jesus as the Word of God it produces abundance to an exaggerated degree. Take the mango tree. One seed of mango tree planted and grown to maturity produces millions of flowers and tens of thousands of fruits in its lifetime which can be three hundred years. The same can be said of the seed of a grain. One seed in time produces grains enough to fill granaries. The world Jesus created is a world of abundance.

What is most important for us to remember is that Jesus gives of himself in abundance. Today we celebrate the solemnity of the body and blood of Christ. He gives of himself through the bread and wine in the Mass in abundance. He does not spare himself. He even gives himself to those who are not properly prepared to receive him in holy communion. He gives himself to saints and sinners alike.

According to world estimates there are 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world. If even only one percent of that receive the body and blood of Jesus that would be 12 million, a staggering number. Jesus feeds 12 million people with his  body and blood. Surely this is feeding us with abundance.

What Jesus wants us to have is not an abundance of perishable things like material wealth, but of the things that matter most in life. And nothing is of more value than his own body and blood. This is perfect food for all humanity.

What more can we ask of Jesus greater than his own body and blood? He has given us himself and with this he has given us all things, as the Apostle Paul affirms in his first letter to the Corinthians. He says, "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours" (3:21-22 AV).

Jesus has given us everything, more than what we need. It is only proper that we surrender to him all that we are and all that we have.

For our prayer today let us recite the famous prayer attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola which has been put into song. Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty. Take all my will, my mind, my memory. All things I hold and all I own are yours. Yours is the gift, to you I all resign. Do you direct and govern all and sway, do what you will, command and I obey. Only your grace, your love on me bestow. These make me rich, all else will I forego. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Mystery That Became a Problem

One and one and one equal one. This is the problem which have occupied the minds of many who study the Bible. How can one plus one plus one become one? How can three become one? How can the three persons of God be one God?

There is a story which some of you may have heard already about Augustine the Bishop of Hippo in Africa. One day he was walking along the shore thinking about this problem of three persons in one God. As he walked and thought about this problem he saw a child who brought water from the ocean into a hole. Curious, Augustine asked the child what he was doing. The child replied, "I am putting all the water from the ocean into this hole". Augustine commented, "But that is impossible." The child rejoined, "So it is with the problem in your mind." With that the child disappeared.

Yes, it is impossible for us to solve the problem of the Trinity, how the three become one because it is not a problem. It is a mystery. We do not solve mysteries. We only solve problems but the Trinity is not a problem. It is a mystery. Therefore it cannot be solved.

There have been many attempts of course to explain the Trinity, some by very pious persons. But in reality it cannot be understood by mere human mind. Some have compared it to an egg which is composed of three parts, the shell, the yellow nucleus and the white substance covering the nucleus, and the egg is one. But the persons of the Trinity are not parts of God, each of them is God, fully and completely God. So the comparison with the egg is not able to teach us about the Trinity.

Making the mystery of the Trinity a problem caused a problem in the Church. This resulted to one of the reasons why the Orthodox Church is not united with the Catholic Church today. There are around 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world today. There are many reasons, religious and political, which caused the Orthodox Church which is the majority Church in Russia not to remain united with our Catholic Church.  The first reason mentioned by church historians has something to do with our understanding of the Trinity.

We cannot discuss this first reason here in detail. We can only give a brief reference to this matter. To put it simply the Catholic Church expressed her belief that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as we recite it in the Mass. On the other hand the Orthodox Church expresses this belief without the phrase "and the Son" which in Latin is "filioque". The Orthodox Church says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Period. There is no "and the Son". The Orthodox Church does not want to put this "and the Son" in their Creed or statement of Christian belief.

From the beginning the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church were united although they had different customs and different ways of saying the Mass. For example in the Orthodox Church married men can be ordained priests. So they have married priests. The Orthodox Church acknowledged the Pope as the rightful bishop of Rome. But in 1054 they began to separate from one another. And as I mentioned already one of the reasons why they separated from one another was their difference in understanding the Trinity, particularly where the Holy Spirit came from, from the Father or from the Father and the Son.

This matter is really too complicated for a homily to address to. But I have inserted it here in a homily to show that when we make a mystery a problem, like the mystery of the most Holy Trinity, we are going to be led astray in our Christian life.

The Holy Trinity is not a problem. It is a mystery. And because it is a mystery, not a problem, it is not to be solved. It is to be experienced and lived. And Jesus shows us how to live the mystery of the Trinity in our Gospel reading today.

Jesus says in the Gospel reading, "Everything that the Father has is mine". This tells us that what God the Father has is also possessed by Jesus. The godhead, the goodness, the wisdom, the power of God the Father and all the attributes that he has are all in Jesus. That is why Paul exclaimed, "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God . . . It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him . . . ." (Colossians 1:15, 19). In the next chapter he says, "In Christ the fullness of the deity resides in bodily form". This means that Jesus is fully God, just as the Father is also fully God. We express this in our Creed saying, "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God".

Our Gospel reading ends, ". . . he (the Spirit of Truth) will take from what is mine and declare it to you". This means that what Jesus has will be taken by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will declare or announce this to us. According to our second reading the Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts.

As the Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts he pours out God to us because as John says, God is love. Receiving this love of God and living it out is experiencing the love of the Holy Trinity. It is being immersed or baptized into the life of the Trinity. Then we live like God, we think like God, we speak like God and we work like God. This is making the mystery of the most Holy Trinity live in our hearts. We know that God the Father lives in us, that God the Son lives in us, that God the Holy Spirit lives in us. And now we know and feel that they are one because we are one with them.

For our prayer today let us pray the all too familiar Glory Be. This prayer has been with the Church since the year 380, more than one thousand six hundred years ago. It is the most familiar prayer to the Trinity. Some sources say it originated in Syria, the Roman province where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. But we pray this prayer today with the phrases from our Gospel reading. We bow our heads.

Glory be to the Father who has given all that he has to the Son;
Glory be to the Son who has all that the Father has;
Glory be to the Holy Spirit who takes what the Son has and gives this to us.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pentecost Sunday Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Lawyer

In an ordinary or usual court procedure involving the trial of a criminal, there is the accused with his or her counsel or lawyer, there is also the accuser with his or her counsel or lawyer, there is the judge, there are the witnesses and the clerk or clerks of court. Of course there may be also some onlookers and some security personnel. At the completion of so many hearings of the case the judge delivers the verdict.  He or she either convicts or acquits the accused.

In our Gospel reading today we have a lawyer mentioned, not the judge, who gives the verdict for us. This is a very special case of a lawyer giving the verdict, so that we no longer have to face the judge.

In our Gospel reading Jesus mentions this lawyer by his role: that of an advocate. Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." Then he repeats the word "Advocate" and makes clear who this advocate is. He says, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything". This Advocate is no other than the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word translated here as "advocate" is "parakletos". In the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible this Greek word is only anglicised. It is translated as Paraclete. In the Authorised version translation it is rendered as Comforter. In the Revised Standard Version which some Catholics use and in our New American Bible Revised Edition from where the text of our Gospel reading is taken "parakletos" is translated as "Advocate".

The original meaning of the word "parakletos" as used by the Greeks was that of someone called to one's aid in a judicial cause. Hence it is understood as an advocate, a pleader, intercessor. In our present day this is the lawyer for the defense. And Jesus picked this word because this is what he meant, somebody who would plead for us before the Sovereign Judge.

Jesus described the work of this lawyer. A few verses after this he described his work as convicting the world of sin, of justice and of condemnation. In John 16:8 Jesus described the work of this lawyer as convicting, reproving, rebuking, exposing the sin of the world.

Before we consciously come to Jesus we are in and of the world. This lawyer, the Holy Spirit, convicts, reproves, rebukes, exposes our sinfulness to us. When this happens we feel we are the greatest sinner in the world. This conviction is the work of the Lawyer whom Jesus sends us in his bodily absence.

In the lives of the saints we often read that this and that saint considered himself or herself to be the greatest sinner in the world. We who read their lives seem to think that this was an exaggeration. We cannot seem to think that they were indeed the greatest sinners. But this conviction for these saints was real. They did not think it an exaggeration. It was not the result of their imagination. This was the result of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in them. When the Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness we consider ourselves the greatest sinner in the world. The result of this is that we hasten to go to Jesus to seek his mercy. Looking at him in the cross the Spirit himself tells us our sins have been forgiven through the suffering and death of Jesus.

After being thus convicted by the Holy Spirit and delivered from our sinfulness by our faith in what Jesus did on the cross, we escape the judgment of God. Jesus said this: "He does not come under condemnation, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24).

Thus we have a case where a lawyer, the Holy Spirit, convicts us and pronounces us guilty and upon our agreement with this we will no longer be condemned by the judge, we have escaped condemnation.

This experience of the saints wherein they considered themselves the greatest sinners is not supposed to be an isolated experience, for the canonized saints only. This is supposed to be the normal experience of every Christian who has actualized the grace of baptism given him or her. If we actualize this grace there comes a time when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and we consider ourselves the greatest sinner in the world.

This is what happened during Pentecost day. We read that when the people heard of Peter's preaching, they "were deeply shaken" (Acts 2:37). The Authorized version renders these words as "they were pricked in their heart". The Revised Standard Version renders them "they were cut to the heart". The literal meaning of the original word is "they were stricken or pricked violently, were smitten."

St. John of the Cross has a better translation which aptly expresses the experience of a Christian when he or she is convicted by the Holy Spirit. St. John says, 'He tenderly wounds our souls in its deepest center'.

This Lawyer is the living flame of love that tenderly wounds our soul in its deepest center. Again let us not consider John of the Cross as a way out of the road saint, as offering an ideal too far for us to reach. He only expressed the normal experience of a person who wants to be a genuine Christian.

Let the Holy Spirit convict us of our sinfulness. Let this Lawyer accuse us and let us accept his accusation. Then we will no longer hear the verdict of the judge.

Let us bow our heads and you follow me as I pray the prayer of St. John of the Cross from his poem THE LIVING FLAME OF LOVE.

O living flame of love
That tenderly wounds my soul
In its deepest center! Since
Now you are not oppressive,
Now finish your work! if it be your will:
Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet burning,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
That tastes of eternal life
And pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
The deep caverns of feeling,
Once obscure and blind,
Now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
Both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly
You wake in my heart,           
Where in secret you dwell alone;
And in your sweet breathing,
Filled with good and glory,
How tenderly You swell my heart with love.

By St. John of the Cross, as translated by E. Allison Peers and revised in just two words)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Solemnity of Our Lord's Ascension Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Promise

There was a time in the churches, both Catholic and non-Catholic, when the Holy Spirit was considered as the forgotten person of the blessed Trinity. This was because he was rarely mentioned or if mentioned it was only as part of a prayer formula. People then did not have an ongoing conscious relationship with him as they had with God the Father and God the Son. Then the Pentecostal movement arose in the non-Catholic churches, followed by the charismatic renewal movement in the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit became more and more known again.

The movement to learn more and more about the Holy Spirit may be new to most people, but the Holy Spirit has been with us even before the creation of this world. From all eternity God the Father wanted to give this Holy Spirit to us as his gift and he promised during the history of the nation Israel that he would give this gift to us.

This is what Jesus meant when he said before leaving us in physical form as proclaimed in our Gospel reading today, "And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you". He said that he would send the promise of his Father upon his disciples.

Today we remember that Jesus left us physically by ascending to heaven. We are not as aware that he had to leave us in order to send us the gift which he and his Father God had wanted to give us from all eternity and which he promised several times that he would give us: the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said, "If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7).

It is well for us to reflect on this promise of God the Father so that we will have a greater appreciation for and love of the Holy Spirit so that when we remember his coming to us next Sunday we will welcome him with greater joy and happiness.

The Holy  Spirit was promised by God explicitly eight centuries before Christ. In the Prophecy of Isaiah we read, "I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring" (44:3). Two hundred years later he renewed this promise through Ezekiel. It is mentioned by this prophet at least three times in his book, notably in chapter 36: "I will put my spirit within you" (v. 27). Still two hundred years later God again renewed this promise in the famous prophecy of Joel which is quoted by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, "Then afterward I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind" (Joel 3:1). Thus we see that every two hundred years since the time of Isaiah God promised to send his Spirit, not just to a select few who would do a special mission for him, but to all who would believe in Jesus.

From all eternity God wanted to give himself to us. He would do this by giving us his own Spirit, who is also the Spirit of Jesus. This is his most precious gift to us, greater by an infinite degree, than the gift of all creation to us.

Receiving this gift we would have God's own Spirit with all the power, wisdom, goodness and holiness that he has. Can God give us someone or something greater than himself?

We know by memory John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave us his son. But God did not stop there. He gave us his Spirit so that his son Jesus can live within us.

Now Jesus is no longer a person outside of us. By his Spirit he is inside our body, inside our soul to make us live the way God wants us to live.

No greater promise can God make to us than the promise of giving himself to us and no greater gift can he give us than the gift of himself through his Spirit.

Because of this gift in us, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit live in us! What more can we desire? Our Catechism in number 1239 expresses this truth of the indwelling of the Trinity in us as "entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity". The Triune God comes into us as we enter into his life, just as a sponge is in the water and the water is in the sponge.

The Carmelite St. Elizabeth of the Trinity lived this reality of the indwelling Trinity to the full and exclaimed with that beautiful prayer which we will pray today.

Let us bow our heads and you follow me as I pray her prayer, even just in your mind.

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely, in order to establish myself in You, motionless and tranquil, as if my soul were already in eternity. Let nothing trouble my peace or cause me to leave You, O my changeless One, but let each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Amen. (copied from TRINITY WHOM I ADORE, Frederick Pustet Co., Inc., 1953).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Result May Be Denied

Last Sunday we learned something about logic. We discovered that logic or correct thinking is very dear to Jesus because he is logos, the Word, from which the word logic is derived. Jesus wants us to think correctly. He established the laws of correct thinking which were discovered by the philosophers.

We also learned about one kind of conditional syllogism or argument. This was the Modus Ponens in Latin or Way of Affirming in English. We learned that in this kind of argument the condition can only be affirmed. It cannot be denied. In our example we said, If it is raining, the streets are wet. The condition "if it is raining" can only be affirmed in order to have a correct conclusion. If we deny it no correct conclusion can be made. If we say that it is not raining, we cannot say that the streets are not wet. This is because they can be wet even without a rain, as by a flood from a dam of water.

Thus from our Gospel reading last Sunday we learned that if we love one another, all men will know we are disciples or followers of Jesus. We cannot say, because we do not love one another, therefore all men will not know we are Jesus' disciples. This is not correct thinking although it is nice to hear this and seems to be a good topic for preaching. But we know Jesus does not want us to make such a statement because it is wrong thinking.

Today we are going to learn the pair of Modus Ponens or Way of Affirming. This is the Modus Tollens or Way of Denying. This way of argument or reasoning is applicable to a statement we heard Jesus say in our Gospel reading a few minutes ago.

Jesus says, "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him."

We can apply the Modus Tollens or Way of Denying reasoning here. But first we need to explain a bit what this Way of Denying is.

Remember that in a conditional argument of the Way of Affirming there are four parts. These are the condition, the consequent, the affirmation and the conclusion.

In a conditional argument of the Way of Denying there are also four parts. But instead of the affirmation in the third part we have the denial. So we have these four parts: the condition, the consequent, the denial and the conclusion.

To illustrate by way of the example we used, which have been also used by philosophers and mathematicians, we have: If it is raining, the streets are wet. But the streets are not wet. Therefore it is not raining.

Notice here that the consequent is denied, therefore the conclusion is the denial of the condition, namely, it is not raining. This is correct reasoning. If we deny the consequent, then we also deny the condition. Common sense tells us that if the streets are not wet then there is no rain.

Let us now apply this to the statement of Jesus. This statement can be made into a conditional argument this way: If a person loves Jesus, he will keep Jesus' word. Now let us deny the consequent. But he does not keep Jesus' word. The conclusion according to the rule of Way of Denying is that we also deny the condition. Therefore he does not love Jesus.

It is amazing that in the Gospel passage we have, Jesus applies this conclusion. Notice the next sentence in our Gospel reading. Jesus continues, "Whoever does not love me does not keep my words". Here we have Jesus using the Modus Tollens or Way of Denying.

It is clear now that if we do not keep Jesus' word this tells us that we do not love him. To keep on loving Jesus, we have to keep his word.

We go now to the meaning of keeping the word of Jesus.

The original Greek word for "keeping" here is teyrein which has these meanings: to keep watch, to guard, to watch over protectively, to keep strictly, to preserve, to shield, to store up, to reserve, to keep in custody, to maintain, to keep in a good condition.

Thus we see that the word "keep" here has many meanings. The one who showed us the real meaning of this "keep" is Mama Mary. In Luke 2:19 we read, "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart". The same root word is used here, teyrein. The Pulpit Commentary has a beautiful explanation of this verse. It says that Mary waited and thought, writing down her reflections and showed these to Luke the Evangelist later who wrote about this.

To keep the word of Jesus is to mark it attentively, to heed or obey it, to consider it as a treasure to watch over and protect. That is why our New American Bible translates this word as "treasure". Notice Jesus used the singular here, word, meaning the fullness of all that he said, a unity because if we disobey one word we disobey all.

To keep the word of Jesus is to be like Mama Mary, always thinking of what Jesus said and reflecting on it and guarding it so as to pay heed to it and obey it.

The word of Jesus is one, the whole Bible, with all the lived experiences connected with it. These experiences we call tradition.

Keeping the word of Jesus is totally different from using it to prove an idea we have. There are some people, even preachers, who study the Bible not to keep it but to use its words in an argument so that they appear to be wise in the word of God. These persons are users and manipulators of the word of God. They are not keepers of God's word. They catch unsuspecting listeners to agree with them and eventually persuade them to join their group. They appear to be experts in the Bible, using this and that statement with complete chapter and verse reference but their only purpose is to prove themselves right. Keep away from them. They are not keepers of Jesus' word. And according to the argument we learned they do not love Jesus.

On the contrary let us love the Bible and treasure it in our hearts. If we do not open and read our Bible and ponder over what we read there on a habitual basis, not once in a while, but as a habit, it merely shows we have no love for Jesus.

Let us pray to Jesus to guide us in keeping his word, the Bible. Let us bow our heads.

Lord Jesus, help us to read you, to think of you day and night so that we always follow you. Amen.