August 20, 2018

August 20-25 weekday homilies

Aug 20 Monday (St. Bernard, Abbot, Doctor of the Church): Mt 19:16-22: 16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

The context: Today’s Gospel reminds us that we do not possess anything in our life that we refuse to surrender to the Lord.  Rather, it often possesses us, and we become the prisoner of our possessions, violating the First Commandment, which demands that we give unconditional priority to God. Jesus reminds the rich man of the Commandments that deal with his relationships with other people and challenges him to sell what he has and give it to the poor.  Jesus’ challenge exposes what was missing in the young man’s life: a sense of compassion for the poor and the willingness to share his blessings with the needy.

The incident of the rich, young ruler: The rich young man who came to Jesus in search of eternal life really wanted to be accepted by Jesus as a disciple. The young man claimed that from childhood he had observed all the Commandments Jesus mentioned.  His tragedy, however, was that he loved “things” more than people and his possessions “possessed him.”  Jesus told him that keeping the Commandments was not enough and challenged him to share his riches with the poor.  “There is one thing lacking.  Sell all you have and give to the poor, and then you will have real treasure. After that, come and be with me.” Jesus asked him to break his selfish attachment to wealth by sharing it. But “when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

Life messages: 1) Jesus makes the same challenge to each of us today.  Our following of Jesus has to be totally and absolutely unconditional.  My attachment may not be to money or material goods, but to another person, a job, my health, or my reputation.  We must be ready to cut off any such attachment in order to become true Christian disciples, sharing our blessings with others. 2) To follow Jesus, we must have generous hearts and the willingness to share our blessings with others to show our generosity. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) puts it in her own style: “Do SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL for God. Do it with your life. Do it every day. Do it in your own way. But do it!” (Fr.Tony) L/18 

 Aug 21 Tuesday (St. Pius X, Pope): Mt 19:2330: 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, Who then can be saved?26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?28 Jesus said to them, Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.

The context: Jesus told a rich, young man who had expressed his desire to follow Jesus as a disciple that he had to share his possessions with the less fortunate as a condition for becoming a perfect disciple. But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. It was then that Jesus made the comment given in today’s Gospel. Jesus uses a vivid hyperbole or “word cartoon” to show how riches bar people from Heaven.  The camel was the largest animal the Jews knew, and the eye of a needle the smallest hole.  The needles eye is variously interpreted.  Most probably Jesus used it literally: a) The little, low and narrow gate on the outer wall of the city of Jerusalem through which even a man could hardly pass erect was called, “The Needle’s Eye” in Jesus’ time.  b) The Greek word used in the passage for camel is kamelos, which can also mean a ship’s thick cable or hawser rope.  In either case, Jesus is saying that it is not impossible, by the grace of God, for a wealthy person to keep his spiritual integrity, but it is extremely difficult and uncommon. Why do riches prevent man from reaching God?  First, the rich think that they can buy their way to happiness and out of sorrow, so they don’t need God.  Second, riches shackle a man to this earth (Mt 6:21).    Third, riches tend to make a man selfish. The Bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil; it says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus also challenges the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity are signs of God’s blessings, and poverty the sign of His punishment. Jesus condemns a value system that makes “things” more valuable than people. Life message: An invitation to generosity. 1) Jesus was so generous that he gave us his very self.  The crucifix is “Exhibit A.”  To follow Jesus we must have a generous heart, and we should be willing to use it by sharing our blessings with others. God does not ask us to give up our riches, but He does ask us to use them wisely in His service. How do we use our talents?  What about time – do we use it for God?  We each get 168 hours every week.  How do we use our time?  Are we too busy to pray each day?  (Fr.Tony) L/18

August 22:Queenship of Blessed Virgin Mary: Luke 1: 26-38: This special Liturgical Feast was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954 through his Encyclical Letter Ad Caeli Reginam. But Mary’s title as “Queen of Heaven and Earth” is a great scandal to many non-Catholic Christians. Here is the Biblical argument supporting her Queenship. 

Biblical basis of the feast: Since Holy Scripture presents Jesus Christ as a king, his mother Mary is the Queen-Mother. Jesus is King by Nature, as God; she is Queen by “divine relationship,” that is, by being the Mother of God. In most of the messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah (5:1), Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel (7: 13-14), Christ, the Messiah, is represented as a King, an identity given to Jesus in the New Testament: Lk.1: 32-33, Mt. 2:2, Lk.19: 38, Jn.18: 37. The beginning of the concept that Mary is a Queen is found in the annunciation narrative, given in today’s gospel. For the angel tells Mary that her Son will be King over the house of Jacob forever. So, she, His Mother, would be a Queen. Mary is also Queen by grace. She is full of grace, the highest in the category of grace, next to her Son. She is Queen by singular choice of God the Father. If a mere human can become King or Queen by choice of the people how much greater a title is the choice of the Father Himself! Mary’s Queenship can be seen in the great vision described in Revelation 12: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Rev. 12:1–2). Revelation 12 portrays Mary as the new Queen-Mother in the Kingdom of God, sharing in her Son’s rule over the universe.

Role of Queen- mother in the Bible: In the monarchy of King David, as well as in other ancient kingdoms of the Near East, the mother of the ruling king held an important office in the royal court and played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. In fact, the king’s mother ruled as queen, not his wife or one of his wives. The prophet Jeremiah tells how the queen-mother possessed a throne and a crown, symbolic of her position of authority in the kingdom (Jer. 13:18, 20). Probably the clearest example of the queen-mother’s role is that of Bathsheba, wife of David and mother of Solomon (1 Kgs. 1:16–17, 31; 1 Kgs. 2:19–20; 1 Kgs. 2:19–20). Some Old Testament prophecies incorporate the queen-mother tradition when telling of the future Messiah. One example is Isaiah 7: 13-14. 

Life message: Understanding Mary as Queen-Mother explains her important intercessory role in the Christian life. Just as the King responded to the queen-mother of the Davidic kingdom (“Ask it, my Mother, for I will not refuse you” 1 Kings 2:20), Jesus the king of the universe, responds to Mary, his Mother, whose will is completely one with that of God, and who serves Him in acting as our advocate before her Divine Son. Hence, we should approach our Queen-Mother with confidence, knowing that she carries our petitions to her royal son. (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Aug 22 Wednesday Mt 20:116: 1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.‘ So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.‘ He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.‘ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.‘ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.‘ 13 But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The context: The parable described in today’s Gospel is known as the “Parable of Workers in the Vineyard or theParable of the Generous Landlord.”  This remarkable and rather startling parable is found only in Matthew.  There is Gospel, or “Good News,” in this parable because it is the story of the landlord’s love and generosity, representing God’s love and generosity.  The question in God’s mind is not, “How much do these people deserve?” but rather, “How can I help them?  How can I save them before they perish?”  It’s all about grace and blessings. God is presented in the parable as a loving mother who cares about each of her children equally. The parable in a nutshell: The Kingdom of Heaven, says Jesus, is like a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  He rounds up a group at 6 AM, agrees to pay them the usual daily wage and then puts them into action.  At 9 AM, he rounds up another group.  At noon, he recruits a third team, and then at 3 PM, a fourth.  Finally, at 5 PM, he finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work.  He sends them into the vineyard to do what they can before sundown.  As the day ends, the landowner instructs his manager to pay each of the workers one denarius, the daily living wage, and to begin with those who started at 5 PM.

Life messages: (1) We need to follow Gods example and show grace to our neighbor.  When someone else is more successful than we are, let us assume he needs the success.  When someone who does wrong fails to get caught, let us remember the many times we have done wrong and gotten off free.  We mustn’t wish pain on people for the sake of “fairness.”  We become envious of others because of our lack of generosity of heart. 2) We need to express our gratitude to God in our daily lives.  God personally calls each of us to a particular ministry. He shows his care by giving us His grace and eternal salvation.  All our talents and blessings are freely given us by God, so we should thank Him by avoiding sins, by rendering loving service to others, and by listening and talking to Him. (Fr.Tony) L/18

Aug 23 Thursday (St. Rose of Lima, Virgin): Mt 22: 114: 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son,3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, `Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.‘ 5 But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the thoroughfares and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.‘ 10 And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; 12 and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.‘ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The context: The Parable of the Royal Banquet and the Wedding Garment is Jesus’ interpretation of the history of salvation.  It is also one of the three parables of judgment Jesus told in the Temple of Jerusalem in the last week of his public life, addressing the chief priests and elders of the people, i.e., the religious and civic leaders. This parable was delivered by Jesus during his last visit to the Temple on the Tuesday of Holy Week. The parable was intended to be a fitting reply to the accusation that Jesus was mingling with publicans and sinners. Jesus hints in the parable that he is befriending the sinners and preaching the Good News of God’s salvation to them because the scribes and Pharisees have rejected him and his message, while the sinners have accepted him wholeheartedly.  The parable: The actual parable is the disturbing story of a king who celebrated the wedding feast of his son. When the VIP guests who had been invited refused to come, he brought street people in to take their places. Here, Jesus combines the parable of the marriage feast with another rabbinic parable, the parable of the wedding garment. The parable means that that God loves his people and provides for their eternal salvation. It also gives the strong warning that if we do not accept His loving invitation for eternal salvation extended to us through His Church, we will have no place with Him. St. Augustine explains the wedding garment as charity and Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 604) explains it as love. We are the other guests, gathered from “the highways and the byways” of the world.  Hence, we have no right to judge one another. We should have the decency not to look down on one another. 

Life messages: 1) We must keep our wedding garment fresh and intact:  At our Baptism, we were invited to the Heavenly banquet and provided with the wedding garment of sanctifying grace. When we love one another with agápe love as Jesus loves us, we are keeping our wedding garment in all its brightness. 2) We need to wear our wedding garment for the Eucharistic banquet: God Incarnate waits for us in His house of worship, offering Himself for us on our altars and inviting us to partake of the sumptuous banquet of His own Body and Blood for the nourishment of our souls in the Holy Eucharist. Our wedding garment for this Heavenly banquet must be the state of grace brightened by our works of justice, charity and holiness.  (Fr. Tony) L/18

Aug 24 Friday St. Bartholomew, Apostle): Jn 1:43-51:  Feast of St. Bartholomew or Nathaniel 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

The Context: In today’s Gospel of John (John 1:43-51), Nathanael, also called Bartholomew or “son of Tholomay,” is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he accepts Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus welcomes him saying, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”  Jesus’ comment, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” is probably based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” Nathanael reappears at the end of John’s Gospel (John 21:2), as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius after his Resurrection from the tomb. The Gospels thus present Bartholomew as a man with no malice and lover of Torah with openness to truth and readiness to accept the truth. Nathanael was the first Apostle to make an explicit confession of Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God.

Life messages: 1) Let us pray for the grace to love the word of God as Bartholomew did. 2) Let us also pray that we may accept the teaching of the Bible and the Church with open heart and open mind without pride or prejudice. (Fr.Tony) L/18

 Aug 25 Saturday (St. Louise, St. Joseph Calasanz): Mt 23:112:  The context: For Jesus, it was the third day of the very first “Holy Week” in Jerusalem, a day of controversy and personal attacks.  Jesus was under fire and lashed out at the religious leaders of Israel for rejecting Him as the Messiah.  In the text chosen for the Scripture reading today, Jesus pronounced eight woes against the religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and publicly humiliating them because they were more concerned about self-promotion than serving others.

Three sins of the Scribes and Pharisees:  Jesus raises three objections to the Pharisees: (1) They do not practice what they teach (v. 3). They lack integrity of life and fail to practice what they preach, namely, justice, mercy and charity.  (2) They overburden the ordinary people (v. 4). The scribes and the Pharisees, in their excessive zeal for God’s laws, split the 613 laws of the Torah into thousands of rules and regulations affecting every movement of the people, thus making God’s laws a heavy burden. (3) They do all their deeds to be seen by others (v. 5). Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of seeking the glory that rightly belongs to God.  They express their love of honor in several ways, thereby converting Judaism into a religion of ostentation: (a) “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” (v. 5).  b) They “love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues” (v. 6).  (c) They “love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi” (v. 7).

Life messages: 1) We need servant-leaders in a serving community:  The Church is a servant-community in which those who hunger, and thirst are to be satisfied; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless are to receive shelter; the sick are to be cared for; the distressed are to be consoled; and the oppressed are to be set free.  Hence, leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed.

2) We need to live the Faith we profess. Our Faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Heavenly Father.    Hence, we should always pray for them. Then, instead of judging the poor, we should be serving them both directly and through our efforts on behalf of economic justice.  Instead of criticizing those of other races, we should be serving them both directly and through our efforts on behalf of racial justice. Instead of ignoring the homeless, we should be serving them through efforts to supply them with adequate housing.

3) We need to accept the responsibility which goes with our titles. Titles and polite forms exist to remind each of us of our specific responsibilities in society.  Hence, let us use everything we are and have in a way that brings glory to God, by serving His children. (Fr.Tony) L/18