April 29 Monday (St. Catherine of Siena): John 3:1-8: 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the night visit of Nicodemus with Jesus. Nicodemus was a rich Jewish rabbi and one of the seventy members of Sanhedrin. Later in his Gospel, John shows us how Nicodemus argued for a fair trial for Jesus (7:51) and how he cooperated with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus (19:38). Nicodemus came to Jesus convinced that obeying the Mosaic Law and offering the prescribed sacrifices were enough for one’s eternal salvation.
Hence, Jesus plainly tells him that in order to be saved he has to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit (through Baptism). Jesus further explains that his disciples have two lives, namely natural and supernatural, and two births, namely a physical birth from one’s mother as her son or daughter and a supernatural birth from God through Baptism as God’s child, a member of His family in the Church and an heir of Heaven. The supernatural birth is possible only when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Life message: 1) We need to remember that rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit is a continuous process for Christians. For that process of rebirth to take place, we need, every day, to repent of our sins and try, with His grace, to renew our lives through prayer, our sacramental life and meditative reading of the Bible, accompanied by corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In addition, we need to ask for God’s guidance. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19
April 30 Tuesday (St. Pius V, Pope): Jn 3:7-15: 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life
The context: Today’s Gospel is the continuation of the visit of Nicodemus with Jesus. Nicodemus was a rich Jewish rabbi and one of the seventy members of Sanhedrin. He wanted to clarify whether the obeying of the Mosaic Law and the offering of prescribed sacrifices were enough for one’s eternal salvation. But Jesus used the occasion as a teachable moment, showing Nicodemus the necessity for a spiritual rebirth through the action of the Holy Spirit by means of the water of Baptism as an essential condition for one’s salvation.
Jesus teaches Nicodemus the effects the Holy Spirit produces in the souls of the baptized. We know the presence, force and direction of wind by its effects. It is so with the Holy Spirit, the Divine “Breath” (pneuma), given us in Baptism. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the scholars tell us, the same word pneuma means ‘spirit’, ‘breath’, and ‘wind’. We do not know how the Holy Spirit comes to penetrate our heart. But He makes His presence felt by the change in the conduct of the person who receives Him. Jesus further explains that he himself comes from Heaven, and, hence, his teaching is credible. Then, by comparing how God saved the snake-bitten Israelites through the symbol of bronze serpent, Jesus tells Nicodemus that ”the Son of Man is going to save mankind by death on the cross.
Life message: We need to adjust our lives, recognizing and making full use of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives: 1) We need to begin every day by asking for His Divine strength and guidance and end every day by asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins. 2) We need, as well, to pray for His daily anointing and for His gifts, fruits and charisms so that we may live as children of God. 3) We also need to throw open the shutters and let the Spirit enter the narrow caves in which we bury ourselves. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19
May 1 Wednesday: Feast of St. Joseph the Worker: Mt 13:54-58: (alt=Jn 15:1-8): Introduction: Today we celebrate the liturgical feast of St. Joseph the Worker to honor St. Joseph, to highlight the dignity and importance of labor and to honor the workers who are dignified by their labor and who bring Christ to their workplace. This is the second feast of St. Joseph; the first was the feast of St. Joseph, husband of Mary and the patron of the universal Church which we celebrated on the 19th of March.
History: In response to the May Day Celebrations of workers in the Communist countries where workers were considered mere “cogs in the machine,” Pope Pius XII (declared Venerable December 19, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI; Wikipedia), instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955 to Christianize the concept of labor, to acknowledge the dignity of labor and to give all workers a role-model and heavenly patron.
Theology of work: The Bible presents God as a worker (Gen 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”) Who is engaged in the work of creation and of providing for His creatures. God the Father assigns His Son Jesus the work of human redemption and gives the Holy Spirit the work of our sanctification. That is why Jesus said: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work (John 5: 17). Further, it was God’s command that man should work: “You have to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow” (Genesis 3: 19). Jesus showed us the necessity and nobility of work by working in Joseph’s carpentry shop until he started his public life — a preaching and healing Messianic ministry. The workers are important and their work noble, not only because they obey God’s command to work, but also because they sustain and promote social welfare and the progress of societies.
Joseph as an exemplary worker: Joseph worked to support his family by helping his neighbors, using his skill in carpentry. He was a just worker, honest in his trade of buying wood, selling his finished products and charging for his services. He was a working parent laboring hard to support his family. He was a praying worker who prayed in all his needs, got answers from God in dreams on important occasions, and kept God’s presence in his workshop. He was an obedient worker who kept the Mosaic Law of Sabbath rest and spent the day of rest to take Jesus to the local synagogue and to teach Jesus God’s Law given through Moses.
Life messages: 1) Let us appreciate the dignity of all forms of work and all types of laborers as they glorify God and promote the welfare of society. 2) Let us be sincere and committed to our work as St. Joseph was, working in the constant awareness of the presence of God. 3) Let us love our work and convert it into prayer by offering it for God’s glory. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19
May 2 Thursday (St. Athanasius, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): Jn 3:31-36: 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; 33 he who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit; 35 the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.
The context: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains his Divinity to Nicodemus and his relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus’ Divinity which gives authority and veracity to his teachings and credibility to his promise of eternal life for his followers.
Jesus’ claims: 1) Jesus claims that, as Son of God, he “comes from Heaven.” Hence, he can speak of God and Heaven from his own experience, just as the native of a town can speak authoritatively about his town. That also means his teachings are reliable. 2) While the Jews believed that prophets were given only a small share in God’s Spirit, Jesus, as God’s only Son, shares the fullness of God’s Spirit and, hence, his teachings and promises are always reliable. 3) He gives eternal life to his followers. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.”
Life messages: 1) We need to seek the daily guidance and strengthening of the Holy Spirit living within us because it is He Who reveals Divine truths to us and Who gives us a better and clearer understanding of Scriptural truths taught by the Church.
2) Since our destiny depends on our own free daily choices, we need to choose Christ and his teachings and stand for Christ’s ideas and ideals.
3) We need to choose Jesus in order to choose Life. Before his death, Moses challenged Israel: “See I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…. Therefore, choose life that you may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Joshua repeated the challenge in Joshua 24:14-15. We face that challenge every day. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19
May 3 Friday: St. Philip & James, the Apostles) Jn 14:6-14: If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 …14
James, son of Alphaeus, called James the Lesser, wrote the epistle that bears his name to the whole Church and served as the bishop of Jerusalem. He is different from James the Greater, the son of Zebedee, the brother of John and the cousin of Jesus. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known by the title of James the Just on account of his eminent sanctity. James and his brother Jude were called to be Apostles in the second year of Christ’s preaching, soon after the Pasch, probably in the year 31. In addition to his epistle and his actions as Bishop of Jerusalem, James, son of Alphaeus, only appears four other times in the New Testament, each time in a list of the Twelve Apostles. In Christian art, he is depicted holding a fuller’s club because he was believed to have been martyred by being beaten to death with a fuller’s club at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt where he was preaching the Gospel.
Philip: John describes Philip as being from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same town as Andrew and Peter. It is possible that Philip was originally a follower or disciple of John the Baptist. He was in Galilee when Jesus called him. Immediately after his call as an Apostle by Jesus, Philip introduced Jesus to his friend Nathaniel as the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:45). On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. Philip expressed his surprise declaring, “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit” (John 6:7). It was in answer to Philip’s plea, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8) that Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Since Philip had a Greek name, some Greek Gentile proselytes once approached him with a request to introduce them to Jesus. Eusebius records that Polycrates, 2nd century Bishop of Ephesus, wrote that Philip was crucified in Phrygia and later buried in Hierapolis, in Turkey. Tradition has it that his death was around AD 54. We celebrate his feast day on May 3rd along with the feast of St. James.
Life message: Let us ask the intercession of Sts. James and Philip so that we too may bear witness of Jesus by our lives to those around us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19
May 4 Saturday: Jn 6:16-21 : 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, 20 but he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
The context: The event presented by today’s Gospel is the scene immediately following Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five small loaves of bread and two fish. Sensing the danger of having the people make him leader of a revolt, Jesus promptly instructed his apostles to leave the place by boat and went by himself to the mountain to pray after dispersing the crowd.
A double miracle in the sea: When the apostles in the boat were several furlongs away from the shore, they faced an unexpected storm, caused by the hot wind of the desert rushing into the Sea of Galilee through the gaps in the Golan Heights. Recognizing the danger, Jesus went to the boat, walking on the stormy sea. Jesus calmed the frightened disciples as he approached the boat, and as soon as he got into the boat it “reached land they were heading for.”
Life messages: 1) We need to approach Jesus with strong Faith in his ability and availability to calm the storms in our lives and in the life of the Church. Church history shows us how Jesus saved his Church from the storms of persecution in the first three centuries, from the storms of heresies in the 5th and 6th centuries, from the storms of moral degradation and the Protestant reformation movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the storms of sex abuse scandals of the clergy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 2) We need to ask Jesus to protect us when we face storms of strong temptations, storms of doubts about our religious beliefs, and storms of fear, anxiety and worries in our personal lives. 3) Experiencing Jesus’ presence in our lives, we need to confess our Faith in him and call out for his help and protection. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19