September 3, 2018

September 3-8 weekday homilies

Sept 3-8: Sept 3 Monday (Gregory the Great, Pope, Doctor of the Church): Lk 6: 6-11: 6 On another Sabbath, when he entered the synagogue and taught, a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And he looked around on them all, and said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The context: Today’s Gospel describes a miraculous healing performed by Jesus one Sabbath as a public violation of Sabbath laws, in order to prove that God’s intention for the Sabbath was for His people to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.

 The incident and the reaction: Ex 20:8 and Dt 5:12 instructed the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy. But the scribes and the Pharisees had amplified God’s law on the Sabbath, misinterpreting it and making it burdensome for the common people through man-made laws. Jesus wanted to demonstrate in public the original intention of God in declaring Sabbath holy. For Jesus, the Sabbath was a day of rest on which Israelites were meant to adore God, to learn and teach His laws and to do good to others. Hence, Jesus took the liberty of healing a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue immediately after the worship service, thus infuriating the scribes and the Pharisees.

Life messages: 1) Our Catholic Sabbath observance of participating in the Eucharistic celebration is meant to recharge our spiritual batteries for doing good to others and avoiding evil. 2) Our Sunday observance is further meant to be an offering of our lives to God on the altar, to praise God, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins, to present our needs before the Lord and to participate in the Divine Life by receiving Holy Communion. 3) It is finally a day to spend with the members of the family and to help in the activities of one’s parish and neighborhood. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Sept 3 Monday (Labor Day in the U.S.)– Readings 907-911]: The first Labor Day was observed on September 5, 1882, to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers and to give them a day off on the last day of the summer. Today, Labor Day unofficially signals the beginning of a new “school year” of work and study and the end of the lazy days of summer.

1) It is a day to acknowledge the dignity of labor and workers. a) The Bible presents God as working six days in the creation of the world and commanding Adam to work six days and rest on the seventh. b) Jesus, God’s Son, was a professional carpenter. c) Most of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen and Paul was a tent-maker. d) In his inaugural speech in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus expressed his preferential option for the poor – the working class and those who cannot work.

2) The Church teaches the nobility of work and the necessity of just wages. In the encyclical, Laborem Exercens, Pope St.  John Paul II instructs us that all of us are called to work together for a just society and a just economy which allow us all to share God’s blessings. He reminds us that governments should see that the greed of a minority does not make the life of the majority miserable. He advises labor unions to fight for social and economic justice, better wages and better working conditions.

3) It is an appropriate time to acknowledge and bless the temporal and   spiritual work that our parishioners do for their families and for the parish community. It is also a day to remind ourselves that our workplace gives us an opportunity to practice what we believe, thus witnessing to Christ. It is also a place where we can display a level of integrity that matches our Faith. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Sept 4 Tuesday: Lk 4:31-37: 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

The context: After his sad experience in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus made his headquarters the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business. There he started his preaching and healing ministry. The people were impressed by the authority with which he taught. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using his own authority and knowledge as God. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect accomplishment of God’s will, and absolute confidence in God were the sources of Jesus’ authority.

The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism, which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, using his authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” The demon obeyed at once, throwing the man it had possessed to the floor in the midst of the people in the synagogue on its departure. The people were impressed with Jesus’ power and authority that could command even evil spirits.

 Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, demonstrated by his miracles, which in turn give authority and validity to his teaching. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings, even if some of them are mysteries beyond our understanding 2) Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 3) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus the healer with trusting Faith first, then go to the doctors who are the ordinary instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Sept 5 Wednesday: Lk 4:38-44: 38 And he arose and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they besought him for her. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her; and immediately she rose and served them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them; 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation, and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to build up the Kingdom of God. By preaching and healing, Jesus drew his listeners to belief in a loving and providing God and to loving obedience to His will. We are told that Jesus recharged his spiritual batteries every day by talking with and listening to his Heavenly Father, often in a desolate place at night.

Healing mission: Jesus never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the mercy and compassion of his Heavenly Father to every sick person who approached him with trusting Faith. As soon as he had finished the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening, when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism. Jesus either concluded the day or, as he did here, began the new day, by spending time with the Father in prayer in a lonely place.

Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, radiating Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick and by visiting, helping and encouraging the sick and shut-ins. 3) We, too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged every day as Jesus did, by prayer.  (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Sept 6 Thursday: Lk 5:1-11: 1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

The context: The scene is the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret in Greek and Tiberius in Latin). The story of the miraculous catch of fish described in today’s Gospel is similar to the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus recounted in John 21:4-14.  It is one of the “epiphany-call stories” which direct our attention to the fact that Jesus had his own criteria for selecting people to be his apostles.  The reading challenges us to examine our own personal calls to conversion and discipleship.

The miraculous catch followed by the call: After teaching the crowd from a seat in the boat of Simon, Jesus said to him “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Simon and his companions were stunned by the biggest catch of their lives. This event led Simon to acknowledge his unworthiness, as a sinner, even to stand before the Divine Presence of Jesus. Jesus was so impressed by Simon’s obedience and confession of unworthiness that he immediately invited Simon, Andrew, James and John to be his disciples and so to “catch men” instead of fish. 

Life Messages: 1) Our encounter with the holiness of God needs to lead us to recognize our sinfulness. The Good News of today’s Gospel is that our sinfulness — our pride and self-centeredness – does not repel God. That is why we offer this Mass asking God’s pardon and forgiveness and receive Holy Communion after acknowledging our unworthiness.

2) With Jesus, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.  Today’s Gospel passage tells us an important truth about how God works in and through us for His glory.  God chooses ordinary people – people like you and me – as His ambassadors.  He uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and our responses. (Fr. Tony) L/18

  Sept 7 Friday: Lk 5:33-39: 33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 36 And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. 37 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. 38 Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. 39 (And) no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question asked by a few disciples of John the Baptist about fasting and feasting. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were three cardinal works of Jewish religious life. Hence, John’s disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted while Jesus’ disciples were seen feasting with him and never fasting.

Jesus’ reply: Jesus responds to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compares his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber, the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus explains that his disciples will fast when he, the bridegroom, has been taken away from them. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment and of using old wineskins to store freshly fermented wine, Jesus tells the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which are in many cases different from the traditional Jewish teachings.

Life messages: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds: The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to have new visions, new ideas and new adaptations and to replace old ways of worship with new. So we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Holy Spirit (Who works through the Church’s magisterium to interpret and apply Scripture – the Old Testament revelations and the New Testament teachings — and Sacred Tradition to our lives), as the Primary Source of our Christian Faith. (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Sept 8 Saturday (Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary): Sept 8 (Anecdote: Life magazine estimated that the prayer “Hail Mary” is said two billion times every day, and each year five to ten million people make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  Many others visit Marian sites elsewhere in the world. Mary is prayed to as advocate and helper, and even in the sports area there is a reference to her power: the last desperate pass by a losing football team was once called a “Hail Mary pass.” Mary is also venerated by Muslims. It is reported that when the Prophet Muhammad cleared the idols out of the Kaaba in Mecca, he allowed only a fresco of the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus to remain. In every Muslim mosque, the “mihrab” or prayer niche in the wall is dedicated to Mary. In the Qur’an, she is described as having been sent as “a mercy for the worlds.” (http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php?id=15974)

History: As one of the oldest Marian solemnities, this feast is based on the second century (A.D. 175), apocryphal book Protoevagelium Jacobi (The Pre-Gospel of James), which reflects the traditions of the early Church, although it is not considered an inspired book.  According to this book, Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. Mary was born either in Jerusalem or in Sephoris, three miles north of Bethlehem.  The Annunciation is believed to have taken place later in the house of Mary’s parents. The feast originated in the fifth century in Syria or Palestine. St. Romanus of Syria is supposed to have brought it to Rome. The Roman Church adopted the feast in the 7th century and fixed it on September 8th. It is found in the 8th and 9th century Gregorian Sacramentary.

Importance: The feast is the birthday celebration of the mother of Jesus, our Heavenly Mother and the Mother of the Church. It is the birthday of an ordinary woman who was chosen to become the mother of an extraordinary Divine Child. The Church celebrates the death day of a saint as his/her feast day, considering it his/her “birthday in Heaven.” The three exceptions are Jesus’ birthday (Christmas), Mary’s birthday (September 8), and John the Baptist’s birthday (June 24). Mary’s birthday is celebrated because of her Immaculate Conception. John the Baptist, in Elizabeth’s womb, was filled with the Holy Spirit during Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth. We honor Mary because God has done great things for her (Luke 1:49), a) by choosing her as the mother of Jesus His Son, b) by filling her with His Holy Spirit twice, c) by making her the embodiment of all virtues (“full of grace”), and our Heavenly Mother and d) by allowing her to become the most active participant with Christ, her son, in our redemption.

The readings: (Mi 5:1-4; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 1:1-16, 18-23). Micah’s prophecy obliquely identifies Mary’s Son, the Messiah, as God Incarnate; Romans 1:3 states that Mary was a descendant of David, and Matthew’s genealogy in today’s Gospel also supports this truth.

Life Messages: 1) Let us, as Mary’s children, give a suitable birthday gift to our Heavenly Mother. Every mother wants her children to inherit and acquire all her good qualities. Hence, the best birthday gift to Mary is for us to become holy children of a Holy Mother. 2) Let us make this day a day to start practicing Mary’s virtues. Let us practice her virtues of a) trusting Faith in the power of God (“nothing is impossible for God’), b) perfect obedience to the will of God (“be it done to me according your will”), c) the spirit of sacrificial and sharing love, and d) the acceptance of suffering with one hundred percent commitment to her heroic mission. (Fr. Tony) L/18