Archive for September, 2009

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

September 28, 2009

“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ … will surely not lose his reward.”

This morning’s Gospel passage very clearly reminds us that our actions here on earth have eternal consequences.  If we follow God’s Law and act with charity, we will be rewarded in the life of the world to come.  If we lead others into sin, we will not fare so well (to say the least).  There is, of course, always room for repentance.

In this life, we are constantly faced with choices: we can choose to follow God or we can choose to sin.  In this world we will never be entirely free from temptations.  Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, human beings have had to struggle against their fallen human nature.  Our fallen nature is weak, it is inclined towards sin; and yet sin can never make us truly happy.

Because of our fallen state, God’s Commandments and the Church’s precepts (or laws) can, at times, seem like a cage: mere restrictions.  That is not what the Law was intended to be, however.  The Lord gave the Law to us in order that we may be set free.  This truth may sound backwards to our modern ears.  We live in a culture that thinks that true freedom means being able to do anything, anytime, anywhere.  This is a false notion of freedom.

The Jewish Faith understands the Law very differently.  Our Responsorial Psalm today says that: “The precepts [or laws] of the Lord give JOY to the heart.”  When we think of ‘law’ the idea of ‘joy’ does probably not immediate come to mind.  The Law isn’t meant to enslave it is meant to set free; it is meant to set us free from sin, free from death, free from being slaves to our passions and from the misery that comes from sin.

The Israelites rejoiced that they had received the Law from God on Mount Sinai.  God had not revealed Himself to any other nation like He revealed Himself to the Jews in the Old Testament.  The pagans did not know the Lord.  The Lord revealed Himself to the Israelites and He gave them His Law on Mount Sinai.  Why did He give them the Law?  So that they could know how God wanted them to live and they could follow God’s Law and be blessed by Him.

We were made to know and love God, but sin keeps us from fulfilling that for which we were made.  God’s Law acts as a guide for us to know how to live as we were intended to live from the beginning.  We need the Law because our fallen human nature and is inclined towards sin.  We also need God’s grace in order to overcome our weak nature.

In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ became a man and died in order to save us from sin and death.  Jesus fully reveals God to us and shows us the way to Heaven.  When He was asked which Commandment was the most important, He summed up all the Commandments in two sentences: Love the Lord your God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.  It is important to know and observe the Commandments; when Jesus summed up the Commandments in those two sentences He did not abolish the Law.  What He meant was that if every one truly loved God with all their heart, and their neighbor as their self we wouldn’t need the Commandments.  We wouldn’t need a Commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy, if we all loved God.  We would come to Church because we love God, not just because we are required to do so.

If everyone really loved their neighbor as their self, we wouldn’t need a Commandment to honor our father and mother; we wouldn’t need a Commandment to not bear false witness; we wouldn’t need a Commandment against killing.  We would never do those things.  If sin did not exist, we would not need to be told to treat others, as we would want them to treat us.  It is because sin makes us selfish and prideful that we need Commandments.

The reality is that we are all sinners.  We all have to struggle against pride, envy, jealously, and all kinds of temptations.  We also have to make an effort to fulfill the purpose for which we were made: we have to work at loving God with our whole heart; we have to work at loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This week we are having the annual ministries fair.  There are tables set up representing the various ministries here in our parish.  There will be people at the tables who are knowledgeable about the various ministries and they are there to help you find ways to reach out towards others.  I encourage all of you to consider taking a look after Mass.  We are called to live out our Catholic Faith in charity.  Reaching out in charity toward others not only helps them, it helps build up the Church and it gains for you an eternal reward in Heaven.

Lord Jesus, help us to have open ears that we may listen to Your call and open hearts that we may be willing to do whatever You call us to do.  Amen.

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September 27th

September 28, 2009

This is the fifth bulletin article in a series on the liturgy, and we are just now beginning to reflect upon the first parts of the Mass: up until now, all the reflections have been centered on our own preparation before Mass begins.  It is important that we prepare our minds and hearts to enter into the sacred liturgy, but let us turn our attention now to the parts of the liturgy.

One of the very first things that we all do together as we begin Mass is we stand up and sing a hymn.  We stand in order to show exteriorly our interior readiness to enter into worship; we sing in order to express our joy.

Sunday Mass is not meant to be a burden.  The Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our Catholic Faith.  (cf. CCC 1324)  At Mass, we are intimately united to Our Lord and God in Holy Communion.  We sing during Mass to show the joy and gratitude that we have in our hearts for all that God has done for us and all that He is about to do in the Mass, viz. give Himself to us in Holy Communion.

Saint Augustine says that singing is for one who loves.  Love songs and poetry exist because ordinary everyday human language is not enough to express all the emotions in the human heart.  When the heart is filled with love, it overflows in song.

There is another saying which puts it like this: “Those who sing, pray twice.”  This saying presumes that the one singing is singing out of heartfelt love.  The goal of prayer is to unite us in love to God.  The more the prayer moves our hearts into loving union with God, the more perfect the prayer.  Singing is meant to facilitate this union of our hearts with the Lord.

We ought to try to sing the songs and the other parts of the Mass from our hearts, even if we are not the best of singers.  God accepts and is pleased by our efforts.

We should also try to be attentive to the words that we are singing.  The lyrics of hymns and the responses that we sing at Mass, together with the melodies, are intended to help us lift our minds and our hearts to God.

God bless,

Father White

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

September 21, 2009

“[The Apostles] remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.”

They remained silent because they knew in their hearts that the Lord would not be pleased to hear: “We were just discussing which one of us is the greatest.”  They were embarrassed about their envious competition.  It is one thing to have a healthy sense of competition, there is nothing wrong with competition if it is in the right spirit; the problem is unhealthy competition, which leads to envy, jealousy or pride.

God, Who Is Love, created each and every one of us, and He made us in His own image and likeness. We were all created by Love and we were created for love.  We were made to love God above all things and we were made to love one another.  The two greatest commandments given by Jesus are meant to remind us to live our lives in the way that God created us to live them: in true charity, with authentic love.

The Eternal Word of God took flesh of the Virgin Mary; He became a man like us in all things except sin, so that He could show us how to live.  He left the glory that He had from all eternity in order to be born in a manger.  He came down from Heaven to show us the way to Heaven and He taught us how to live by the way that He lived, by what He said and did.  He taught us how to love by laying down His life on the Cross.

Jesus Christ is the example of how we are to live.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be last of all and the servant of all.”  He didn’t just speak these words; He lived them out.  He washed the feet of the disciples: a job reserved for slaves.  Then He told His disciples to love one another as He had loved them.

The Lord gives us a very different model of greatness than the world does.  The world tells me to put myself first.  The world tells me that I am more important than everyone else.  The world tells me: “Forget everyone else; if it makes you happy, do it!”

Our Lord gives us a different standard.  We are all creatures of God.  Through our Baptism, we became sons and daughters of God.  In Holy Communion, we are all united with the True and Living God in a most intimate and unique manner; that doesn’t make us better than everyone else.  God loves each and every one of us.  We are all destined to be forever happy with God in Heaven.  We should desire that everyone be in Heaven with us at the end of time and we should pray for others who we know are far from the Lord.

The Lord calls us to have charity towards others: we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are called to treat others, as we would like to be treated.  Why?  We are all part of the same human family.  As Christians we are all members of the Body of Christ.  In Holy Communion each one of us is intimately united to Our Lord.  If I am united to the Lord and the person sitting next to me is united to the same Lord, how can I hold a grudge against that person?  We are all members of the same Body: the Mystical Body of Christ.

We are all called to love others; and not just in some generic, theoretical way.  Jesus gets very specific, He tells us: whatever you have done to the least of my brothers and whatever you have not done to the least of my brothers you have done to me.  In this parish, there are many efforts made to reach out to those who are less fortunate than we are; there are many opportunities for us to reach out to those in need.  The most important thing that we can do for others is to share our spiritual goods: to offer our prayers for them.  Reaching out to others in need is one way that we can answer the call of the Gospel today to be servants in imitation of Jesus, Who came to serve not to be served.

Lord Jesus, may we have a true concern for those in need; inspire our hearts, Lord, with true charity for others.  Amen.

September 20th

September 16, 2009

God created human beings with a body and an immortal soul.  Our bodies help us to convey what is within our hearts.  We can communicate through our speech; we can express love, affection, and friendship by outward gestures (e.g. hugs, handshakes and high-fives).

What we do with our bodies at Mass can also help us maintain a proper interior disposition.  When we stand, we show our respect (for the Gospel, for example).  When we sit, we assume a more receptive posture: for the other readings and for the homily.  When we kneel, we engage our bodies in our worship and adoration of Our Lord.

There are several times during the Mass when we are asked to kneel (if we are physically able to do so).  We are asked to kneel during the most important parts of the Mass, like during the Consecration when Our Lord descends from Heaven to our altar at the words of the priest.  We are asked to kneel at these various times in order to show exteriorly the adoration and reverence we should have in our hearts for our God.

Many people are in the practice of kneeling for a few minutes of prayer upon arriving in their pew.  This is a good practice, which can help us recollect ourselves and prepare for Mass.  As I mentioned before: the more we do to prepare our hearts to enter into the Mass, the more attentive we will be during the Mass.  The more attentive we are, the more our hearts will be receptive to all that the Lord wants to do in our hearts.  The Lord wants to pour His grace and His love into our hearts when we receive Holy Communion, but He never forces His grace upon us.  We have to do all that we can to be open to receiving His grace.

God bless,

Father White

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

September 15, 2009

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly . . . be rejected . . . and killed and rise after three days.”

This week’s readings are yet another example of how Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament prophesies.  In our First Reading, we hear a prophecy written by Isaiah.  The Prophet Isaiah wrote long before Jesus was born, but it sounds as if the Prophet were describing Christ’s scourging and crowning with thorns: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard . . . my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

The Jews of Isaiah’s day did not understand that these words applied to the Messiah.  They had other ideas of what the Savior should be.  They wanted a king who would deliver the people from their political oppressors.  Jesus Himself said that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Jesus came to set us free: free from sin and death.  He accomplished our redemption by dying, as foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament.  The Jews of Isaiah’s time did not understand this.  The Jews of Jesus’ time did not understand; Jesus’ own disciples and Apostles did not understand that the Savior had to suffer and to die.  Saint Peter, the Rock upon which Christ said that He would build His Church, misunderstood when Jesus foretold His own death and Saint Peter rebuked the Lord.

That the Messiah would come and die a most cruel death on a cross was not on anyone’s radar.  The people wanted a political king; they got a suffering servant.  It goes against human wisdom, but Jesus did not come to conquer kingdoms, He came to conquer hearts.  He willingly suffered and died for you personally.  Yes, Jesus died for all of us, but as God He knows each and every one of us intimately.  He created us.  He loves you and He died to save you.  He willingly took all that He suffered upon Himself to save you from sin and to show you how much God love you.  Even if you were the only person that He created, He would have suffered just as willingly in order to save you.

And what does He ask of us in return?  He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him.  He asks that we love Him above everything in this world.  He asks that we love others as ourselves.  God made us for Himself.  We were made for communion: communion with God and with others.  It is only by loving God above all things that we will find true happiness, lasting peace and real joy.  God commands us to do what will make us happy.  Following His Commandments is not meant to be a burden; the Commandments were given to show us how to be happy; they show us how to live as we were made to live.  We need to put our faith into practice.  By living out our faith, we will come closer to the Lord and we will find real happiness.

The second Reading today, from the Letter of Saint James, puts it like this: faith without works is dead.  Our faith needs to affect the way we live.  Can we really claim to be Christians if we make no effort to follow the most basic Commandments?  I am not saying that we have to be perfect.  Scripture tells us that even the just man falls seven times a day.  We do need to make an effort to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.

Lord Jesus, help us to put the faith, which we profess, into practice in our daily lives.  Help us to love You, Who loved us even unto death.  Help us to follow you faithfully in all that we do.  Amen.

September 13th

September 10, 2009

In last week’s article, I offered a reflection on the Sign of the Cross that we make with the holy water as we enter the Church.

The next thing that most of us do upon entering the Church is we ‘genuflect’ before we enter the pew.  The word ‘genuflect’ comes from two Latin words, which literally mean: ‘to bend the knee’.  It is a pious custom to touch the right knee to the ground as a sign of adoration and love for the Blessed Sacrament.

It is a praiseworthy custom to genuflect towards the Lord, truly present in the tabernacle, before entering or leaving the pew.   Some people, who are unable to bow due to health concerns, may choose to bow towards the tabernacle instead of genuflect.  The ordinary way to show our adoration and love for the Lord is by a genuflection.  If we are physically unable to genuflect, a bow towards the tabernacle is just fine. The Lord does not ask us to do the impossible, but it is good to do something to acknowledge the Presence of the Lord when we first arrive and before we leave the Church.

Genuflecting is a simple way that we can remind ourselves of God’s Presence in the Eucharist.  We should always try to genuflect with devotion, paying attention to what it is that we are doing.  As we genuflect, we should be aware of the reason that we are genuflecting.  The significance of the genuflection may be lost on many today, but it may be helpful to think of the chivalry of old: it was customary for a man proposing to a woman to get down on one knee to ask her hand in marriage.  Getting down on one knee was a sign of devotion and love.

The external actions that we perform at Mass are meant to help us enter into our worship with both our bodies as well as our souls.  The external actions should be reminders and indicators of our interior dispositions.  I’ll write more on that subject next time.

God bless,

Father White

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

September 8, 2009

“He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Gospel this morning relates that the crowds were “exceedingly astonished”; and their astonishment was not just a reaction to the miracle that Jesus had performed.  They were astonished at the fact that Jesus healed a deaf man, to be sure, but their astonishment went deeper than that.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Everything in the Old Testament pointed to the Redeemed, Who had been promised from the very beginning.  For centuries the Jews had been awaiting the Messiah- The One Who would come to deliver them.  The Jewish people of Jesus’ time knew the many Prophecies surrounding the coming of the Messiah.  We heard one of those Prophecies this morning.

In the First Reading, from the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet told the people that God would come to save them.  And he further predicted that when God came, “the ears of the deaf [would] be cleared . . . the tongue of the mute [would] sing.”  The first century witnesses of the miracle related in the Gospel were undoubtedly acquainted with this Scripture passage from Isaiah.  Surely this would have been a sign for them that the Lord was in their midst, that their redemption was at hand.

By this miracle, the Lord fulfilled the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah.  The Gospel tells us that as soon as the Lord spoke, “immediately the man’s ears were opened and his speech impediment was removed.”  The same Lord Who created the universe and everything in it, through Whom all things were created out of nothing, told a deaf man’s ears to “Be opened!” and immediately they were.  The Lord instantaneously healed this man of his speech impediment, “and [the man] spoke plainly.”

What a gift that must have been!  Most of us probably can’t even imagine what that must have been like to be deprived of the gift of hearing and the gift of speech.  In this day and age, it can be hard to imagine going a day without communicating with others.  We are constantly engaged in dialogue with others through cell phones, the Internet, text messages, blogs, etc.

Communication is a gift from the Lord.  We mostly take it for granted, but imagine the joy that the man in the Gospel must have had when he pronounced those first words after the Lord healed him.  He had been unable to communicate with others.  He couldn’t hear and he couldn’t speak.  There weren’t any text messages.  He couldn’t just whip off an email.  Many people couldn’t even read or write.  Communication must have been near impossible for him.  What words of gratitude and thanksgiving must have issued forth from that man’s newly healed mouth!  I am sure that he was truly appreciative for the ability to communicate with others.

The Lord created us in His own image and likeness; and we know that God is a Trinity of Persons.  We were created out of love and we were created for love.  Animals cannot carry on conversations with one another.  We, human beings, are the only creatures in the whole world that have this great gift: the ability to share our thoughts, feelings, ideas and hopes with others.  We have tongues, and with our tongues we should praise God and build one another up.

The problem is that we often take this great gift for granted.  We misuse this ability.  We can abuse this gift that we have received from the Lord and we use it to attack others.  Saint James says that the tongue is a small member and yet it can do great harm: With our tongues we bless the Lord and with the same tongue we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.  (cf. James 3:5-10)

Reigning in the tongue can be a great challenge.  In the heat of anger we can oftentimes say things that we later regret.  A simple word can seem like a small thing; it doesn’t take much energy to utter a word.  And yet words can have profound impacts upon our lives.  Words can convey our love to others; and words can be the cause of a grudge that can divide a family for decades.

It would be good for us to examine our own use of this gift during this upcoming week.  Do we use language for what it was intended: to convey truth and communicate love?  Do we use language to build up, or to tear down others?  Do we engage in gossip behind other’s backs?  How would we feel if we found out that others were talking behind our backs?  Aren’t we supposed to treat others the way that we would want to be treated?  Let us strive to gain control of our tongues.  St. James tells us that if we can gain control of our tongue we will be better able to exercise self-control in all other aspects of our lives.  (cf. James 3:2)  Let us be grateful for the gift of speech and use it as God intended.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for creating us with the ability to communicate with You and with one another.  May we always use this gift in a way that pleases You.  Forgive us, for the times when we have misused our tongues.  Help us to love you always and our neighbors as ourselves for love of You.  Amen.