November 4, 2018

Weekday Homilies November 5-10

Nov 5 Monday: Lk 14:12-14: He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

The context:  Jesus was invited to a dinner where he noticed how the invitees were rushing for the best places. So he used the occasion as a teachable moment, advising the host on the motives behind one’s generosity and the criteria to be followed while inviting guests for banquets. Jesus instructed him to “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” in the community and obtain the blessing of God on the day of the Last Judgment.

Life message:  We need to check the motives behind all our acts of generosity to assess if they are meritorious acts or not. If a generous act is done chiefly out of sense of duty or obligation (as we pay our income tax because it is the state’s law), or if we pay tithes in the parish mostly because it is God’s law, we lose most of the merit. If a rationalized self-interest, like a future reward in Heaven, is the only motive for our good action, we lose the merit of the action once again. We lose the merit of an act of generosity if vainglory or a desire for fame or for acknowledgement from others is the only motive behind our generosity. That is why the Jewish rabbis used to advise their disciples that in the best kind of giving, the giver should not know to whom he is giving, and the receiver should not know from whom he is receiving. Pure altruism with agápe love and overflowing charity are the motives God shows us in His gifts to us, and He expects from us the same in all our acts of generosity, charity and service to Him in others. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 6 Tuesday: Lk 14:15-24: 15 When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; 17 and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for all is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, `I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ 19 And another said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ 20 And another said, `I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, `Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, `Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, `Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”

 The context: Jesus was participating in a banquet where he advised the host to reserve admission to the “poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” and so to become eligible for God’s reward at the resurrection. One of Jesus’ fellow-guests commented on the blessedness of those who are invited to attend the Heavenly banquet hosted by Yahweh to honor His Chosen People. Jesus used the occasion to highlight the cost of refusing God’s invitation for the Heavenly banquet with lame excuses by telling a parable of a banquet hosted by a very rich and influential landowner.

The parable: The invited VIP guests, who had accepted the first invitation to participate in the banquet, refused the second invitation a few days before the banquet, giving lame excuses like the inspection of a newly-bought field, the testing of a newly-bought five yoke of oxen and honeymooning with a newly-married wife.  The angry landowner instructed his servants to invite everyone in the surrounding areas in order to fill the banquet hall. Jesus directed this parable to the Jewish religious and civic leaders who had accepted the Covenant, but had refused to accept his invitation for God’s salvation, the endpoint of the first Covenant, and had attacked his preaching and healing ministry. Jesus explained through this parable why he was befriending tax collectors and sinners, promising them eternal salvation and participation in the Heavenly banquet.

Life message. God invites us through Jesus and his Church to the banquet of the word of God, to the banquet of the body and blood of Jesus and to the banquet of His grace through His Holy Spirit via the Sacraments. Let us examine ourselves to discover whether we, too, are refusing God’s invitation and giving lame excuses to show how busy we are because of our work or career duties, our addictions to games, entertainments and hobbies or our preoccupation with family matters. We may not get a better chance or more opportunities to accept God’s invitation to pray deeply, to join the Eucharistic celebration or to do serious study of and refection on the word of God or service in the community. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 7 Wednesday: Lk 14:25-33: 25 Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

 The context: Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem, and his apostles as well as the common people thought that he was going to overthrow the Roman government by using his miraculous powers. Hence, a big crowd was following him. Jesus thought it was necessary to clarify for them the real cost involved in following him – the cost of Christian discipleship.

The teaching: Today’s Gospel passage from Luke challenges us to make a total commitment to the will of God by putting Him first in our lives.  He reminds us to count the cost of being a Christian, because the cost is high.  Christian discipleship requires one to “renounce” both possessions of the earth and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships).   Jesus lays out four “trip wires” challenging true Christian discipleship: i) attachment to family; ii) attachment to possessions; iii) the hard consequences of discipleship which may involve even losing one’s life; and iv) the cost involved.  Using the examples of a watch tower in a vineyard, left uncompleted due to lack of funds, and the example of a foolish king facing defeat by going to war without assessing the strength of the enemy, Jesus warns his would-be followers to count the cost and calculate the consequences before becoming his disciples.

Life message: 1) We need to accept Jesus’ challenge of making a total self-gift to Him in our commitment in true Christian Discipleship: Jesus’ challenge can be accepted only if, with God’s grace, we practice the spirit of detachment and renunciation in our daily lives.  Real Christian discipleship also demands a true commitment both to the duties entrusted to us and to loving acts of selfless, humble and sacrificial love offered to all God’s children around us. This is possible only if we rely on His grace, on the power of prayer and on the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a) daily prayer, b) devout participation in the Sunday Mass c) diligent study of the Bible, d) service in and beyond the parish, e) spiritual friendships, and f) giving time, talents, and resources to the Lord’s work. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 8 Thursday:  Lk 15: 1-10: 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 

 The context:  Today’s Gospel passage, from chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, is known as the “Gospel in the Gospels,” or the “distilled essence of Christ’s Good News.” In this chapter, using three parables, Jesus answers two accusations leveled against him by the Scribes and Pharisees, namely, that he is mingling with the sinners and sharing their meals.  These parables teach us that our God is a loving, patient, merciful, and forgiving God. He is eager to be merciful toward us, not vengeful and punishing. He is always in search of His lost and straying children.

The parables: Since the self-righteous Pharisees who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd’s joy on its discovery, the parable of the lost coin and the woman’s joy when she found it, and the parable of the lost son and his Father’s joy at His repentant son’s return. Besides presenting a God Who is patiently waiting for the return of sinners, ready to pardon them, these parables teach us God’s infinite love and mercy.  These three parables defend Jesus’ alliance with sinners and respond to the criticism leveled by certain Pharisees and scribes at Jesus’ frequent practice of eating with and welcoming tax collectors and sinners.

Life messages: 1) We need to meet the challenge for self-evaluation and return to God’s mercy: If we have been in sin, God’s mercy is seeking us, searching for our souls with a love that is wild beyond all imagining.  God is ready to receive and welcome us back as Jesus welcomed sinners in his time.  2) Let us get reconciled with God, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we are in mortal sin, and in asking His forgiveness for our sins every night before we sleep. We also need to ask God for the courage to extend this forgiveness to others who have offended us. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray as well for God’s Divine Mercy on those who have fallen away from grace.  (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 9 Friday (The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica: John 2:13-22

Historical note: Today the Church celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I (AD 314-335), in AD 324.  This Church serves as the Episcopal seat of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome and, hence, is called “the mother and head of all Churches of Rome and the world.”  It is known either as the Lateran Basilica, or as St. Johns Lateran, because the land for the basilica and baptistery, built originally by the Emperor Constantine (as the Basilica Constantinia), belonged to the Laterani family. The name St. Johns comes, first, from the Baptistery, rebuilt after its hard treatment by the Visigoths (AD 410), by Pope St. Sixtus II (AD 432-440), and dedicated by him to St. John the Baptist. In that Baptistery, as time went on, all Roman children were baptized. The second source for St. Johns is one of the three chapels connected to the Lateran Basilica and built by Pope St. Hilary (AD 461-468), who dedicated it to St. John the Evangelist, in thanksgiving to that saint for his earlier saving of Hilary’s life. [Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), pp. 58-58, 71-72, 77-78.].

The context: Today’s Gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.  He drove out its merchants and money-changers with moral indignation at the unjust commercialization of a House of Prayer and the exploitation of the poor pilgrims in the name of religion.  The merchants charged exorbitant prices for animals for sacrifices, and the money-changers charged unjust commissions for the required exchange of pagan coins for Temple coins.  The Temple Jesus cleansed was the Temple in Jerusalem. Originally built by Solomon in 966 BC, and rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 515 BC after the Babylonians had destroyed it, the Temple was renovated for the last time by King Herod the Great starting in 20 BC.  The abuses which infuriated Jesus were 1) the conversion of a place of prayer to a noisy marketplace and 2) the unjust business practices of animal merchants and money-changers, encouraged by the Temple authorities.  Hence, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove away the animals and the money-changers, quoting Zechariah the prophet, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”(Zechariah 14:21).

 Life messages: 1) We need to avoid the business mentality of profit and loss in Divine worship.  Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of love, respect and desire for the common good, with no thought of gain or loss.  2) We need to remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by impurity, injustice, pride, hatred or jealousy.  3) We need to love our parish Church and use it.  Our Church is the place where we come together as a community to praise and worship God, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask pardon and forgiveness for our sins and to offer our lives and petitions on the altar.  Let us make our Church an even more holy place by adding our prayers and songs to community worship and by offering our time and talents and treasure in the various ministries of our parish. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 10 Saturday (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church): Lk 16:9-15: 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. 15 But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The context: After telling the parable of the rascally steward as an example of shrewdness and as a warning against using unjust means for gain, Jesus advises his listeners to make friends with the poor by almsgiving and to be faithful and honest in the little things entrusted to them by God.

 The teaching:  Jesus advises his followers to imitate the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends for himself. Jesus suggests that his disciples should show their generosity and mercy by almsgiving: “sell your possessions and give alms” (Luke 12:33). The recipients immediately become friends of the kind donor. It is God’s generosity which makes one rich, and, hence, the money we have is unrighteous in the sense that it is unearned and undeserved. So, God expects us to be generous stewards of His generous blessings. Generosity curtails our natural greed, making almsgiving an act of thanksgiving to God for His generosity. Then Jesus tells us that what we get in Heaven will depend on how we have used the things of the earth and on how faithful we have been in the little things entrusted to us. A slave is the exclusive property of his master, and our Master, God, is the most exclusive of masters. So,  serving Him cannot be a part-time job or spare-time hobby; it is full-time job. Finally, Jesus warns the Pharisees that material prosperity is not a sure sign of one’s goodness and God’s blessing, but a sign of God’s mercy and generosity.

Life messages: 1) We need to share our blessings with others. Since all our blessings are God’s generous loans to us we need to be equally generous with others. 2) We need to serve God full-time:  Since God owns us totally, we are expected to be at His service doing His holy will all the time. Hence, there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. (Fr. Tony) L/18