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June 29- July 4: 29 Monday (Saints Peter & Paul the Apostles): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/solemnity-of-saints-peter-and-paul/ Mt 16: 13-19: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/NmjcL1lEJ1M?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAlWO6X2kAG00Pyg_VQd3RD
Peter and Paul are the principal pillars of the Church. Today we celebrate the feast of their martyrdom. Peter was son of Jona and brother of Andrew. He was a professional fisherman from Bethsaida, a fishing town on the Lake of Galilee or Gennesaret. He might have been a follower of John the Baptist. It was his brother, Andrew, who introduced him to Jesus, and Jesus who changed his name from Simon to Cephas or Peter. Jesus made Peter the leader of his apostles. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus promised to make Peter the head of his Church, and the risen Jesus confirmed Peter’s precedence. It was Peter’s speech on the day of the Pentecost, which inaugurated the Church. He made missionary journeys to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea He also offered the decisive argument settling the question of Gentile converts and the Jewish Law at the first Council in Jerusalem. He wrote two epistles to the whole Church, and he was martyred in Rome by crucifixion under the emperor Nero.
Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest apostolic missionary, was a Roman citizen by birth as he had been born in the Roman colony of Tarsus. His original name was Saul. As a Pharisee, he was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he learned the trade of tent-making. He was present at the stoning of Stephen and “consented to” this deed (Acts 8:1). But he was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. He made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. Paul wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and lived under house arrest for two more years in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome.
Life Messages: 1) Just as Peter and the other apostles did, we must open our eyes, ears, and hearts wide to see, hear and experience the Risen Lord coming into our life in various forms, circumstances and events.
2) We need to love, obey and pray for Pope Francis and the bishops and priests who are the successors of Peter and the Apostles as they continue the work of the Risen Lord with and for us. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
June 30 Tuesday (The first Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/firsaint-martyrs-of-the-church-of-rome/; : Matthew 8: 23-27: 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/DT8-_N9Dwks?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAlWO6X2kAG00Pyg_VQd3RD
The context: Matthew’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. The role of God in calming the storms of life is the central theme of today’s Gospel. By describing the miracle, Matthew also assures his first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. The incident reminds us today to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek his help in the storms of life.
The storm: The Sea of Galilee is a lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. It is notorious for its sudden storms. When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys, gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels compressing the storms and letting them rush down to the lake to create violent waves. Unable to control their fears, the disciples wake Jesus up, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus’ response is immediate. At once he rises and rebukes the winds and the sea, and instantly there is total calm. Only then does Jesus gently chide his terrified and now astonished disciples for the smallness of their Faith.
Life message: We need to welcome Jesus into the boat of our life to calm the storms we face. All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity, and it is natural that we all will experience different types of violent storms occasionally in our lives: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubts, anxiety, worries, temptations, and passion. Only Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow or console us for the loss of our dear ones. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of the Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us his Divinity and the authority behind the words of Holy Scripture. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worries about ourselves, about the unknown future, and about those we love. Jesus also calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 1 Wednesday (St. Junipero Serra, OFM (U.S.A.) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-junipero-serra/: Mt 8:28-34 28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel episode demonstrates Jesus’ power over the devil in a Gentile town called Gadara (Matthew) or Gerasa (Mark and Luke) of Decapolis, east of the Jordan. Two (one), possessed men came out of a tomb-filled desolate place. The possessing demons, recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, begged him to send them into a herd of swine. In Mark’s and Luke’s version of the incident, the possessed man’s demons named themselves Legion (6000), indicating their number. Jesus did as the evil spirits requested, the then-possessed swine ran down the slope, and they drowned in the sea. The frightened people of the city asked Jesus to leave their city. The people considered their swine more precious than the possessed men, and the liberation given to these men from evil spirits did not matter to them. If we have a selfish or materialistic outlook, we fail to appreciate the value of Divine things and push God out of our lives, begging Him to go away as these people did.
Life messages: Come out of your tombs: 1) Jesus is calling us to come out of the tombs. Our tombs are the closed-in, sealed-off areas of our hearts where life in the Spirit of God has died because we haven’t let Jesus minister to us through others. Such ungodly persons are lonely. They try to satisfy their inner emptiness by filling their lives with money, promiscuity, addictions, or workaholism. 2) Jesus, the liberator, is ready to free us from the tombs of our evil addictions and habits. Let us go to him and receive his love, that we may experience the joy and freedom of the children of God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 2 Thursday: Mt 9:1-8: 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Beyond showing his authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons, and over sickness, in today’s Gospel we see Jesus demonstrating a new form of authority – his authority to forgive sins. Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed man to health as a sign of this authority. The healing episode presents Jesus as the embodiment of God, sent to save us, restore us and make us new. So, we have to look beyond the boundaries of our religious experience to appreciate the healing and forgiving operation of our God in newer and newer ways.
Many kinds of sickness, like the paralysis of the man in the story, were seen by the Jews as punishment for their personal sin or the sins of their parents. It was also a common belief that no sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus had first to convince the paralyzed man that his sins had been forgiven. Once Jesus had granted the paralytic the forgiveness of God, the man knew that God was no longer his enemy, and he was ready to receive the cure which followed. It was the manner of the cure which scandalized the Scribes. By forgiving sin Himself, Jesus had, they thought, blasphemed, insulted God, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. This healing demonstrates the facts that we can never be right physically until we are right spiritually and that health in body and peace with God go hand in hand.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives. The heart of the Christian Faith is the “forgiveness of sins.” In the Creed we say, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” While we have the power to forgive others, we need to be forgiven ourselves by the One who has the authority to forgive. In Jesus, we see this authority, the same authority He gave to his Church. Today’s Gospel gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to hear from the priest’s mouth the words of Jesus to the paralytic being spoken to us: “Your sins are forgiven.”
2) The Gospel also instructs us to forgive others their sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily sins every day of our lives. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 3 Friday Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-thomas-the-apostle/ Jn 20:24-29: 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21…. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle. Today’s Gospel passage (John 20:24-29), presents the fearless apostle St. Thomas, in his uncompromising honesty, demanding a personal vision of, and physical contact with, the risen Jesus as a condition for his belief. Thomas had not been with the disciples when Jesus made his first appearance to them. As a result, he refused to believe. When he appeared to Thomas later, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.” Thomas was able to overcome his doubts by seeing the risen Jesus.
The unique profession of Faith: Thomas, the “doubting apostle,” made the great profession of Faith, “My Lord and My God.” This declaration by the “doubting apostle” in today’s Gospel is very significant for two reasons. 1) It is the foundation of our Christian Faith. Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Jesus as demonstrated by his miracles, especially by the supreme miracle of his Resurrection from the dead. Thomas’ profession of Faith is the strongest evidence we have for the Resurrection of Jesus. 2) Thomas’ Faith culminated in his self-surrender to Jesus, his heroic missionary expedition to India in A.D. 52, his fearless preaching, and the powerful testimony given by his martyrdom in A.D. 72.
Life messages: 1) Faith culminating in self-surrender to God leads us to the service of our fellow-human beings. Living Faith enables us to see the risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render each one loving service. (“Faith without good works is dead” James 2:17). Mother Teresa presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.” It was his Faith in the Lord and obedience to Jesus’ missionary command that prompted St. Thomas to travel to India to preach the Gospel among the Hindus, to establish seven Christian communities (known later as “St. Thomas Christians”), and eventually to endure martyrdom.
2) We need to grow in the living and dynamic Faith of St. Thomas using the following means prescribed by the Spiritual Fathers: a) We come to know and experience Jesus personally and intimately by the daily and meditative reading of the Bible. b) We strengthen our Faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal and community prayer. c) We share in the Divine Life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. d) We are reconciled with God on a daily basis by repenting of our sins and asking God’s forgiveness and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we fall into a grave sin. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 4 Saturday (U. S. Independence Day reflections on next page): Matthew 9:14-17: 14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 And no one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
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 responded 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 compared 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 explained that his disciples would fast when he, the bridegroom, was 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 comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment and the danger of using old wineskins to store freshly fermented wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were in many cases different from the traditional Jewish teachings.
Life message: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts: 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, new adaptations and new ways of worship in the place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 4: U. S. Independence Day: Synopsis of Independence Day Homily-2020
- This is a day to thank God for the political and religious freedom we enjoy and to pray for God’s special blessings on the rulers and the people of our country.
- It is a day to remember with gratitude the founding fathers of our democratic republic, especially, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, who believed that all power, including political power, came from God and was given to the people who entrusted this power to their elected leaders.
- It is a day to remember and pray for all our brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives to keep this country a safe and a free country, and for those who are now engaged in the fight against terrorism in other countries.
- It is day to remember the basic principle underlined in the constitution, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
- It is day to remind ourselves that we have a duty to protect these God-given rights by voting into power leaders who believe in God and who have character, integrity, experience, and strong belief in inalienable human rights.
- It is day to fight for the fundamental right to life denied to pre-born children to grow and develop in their mothers’ wombs and to the sick and the elderly to die gracefully without fearing euthanasia.
- It is day to pray for and work for liberation for all those who are still slaves in our free country – slaves to evil habits and addictions to nicotine, alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuity and sexual aberrations.
- It is a day to take a pledge to become recommitted to doing something about our own growth in Christ, and to living as Americans who contribute something to our religion, Church, country, and the lives of others.
- It is a day to remember where we came from, what we stand for, and the sacrifices that thousands of our countrymen have made on our behalf.
- It is a day to raise our voice of protest against liberal, agnostic, and atheistic political leaders, media bosses, and activist, liberal judges who deny religious moral education to our young citizens.
- It is a day to offer our country and all its citizens on the altar of God, asking His special providential care, protection and blessings.
Intercessory prayers for Independence Day (USCCB)
- For the people of the United States, that we may be united in building a society in which everyone can have the opportunity to live with dignity and hope, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For the Church, that we may be a witness to Christ’s love by practicing charity and promoting justice and peace throughout the world, we pray to the Lord.
- For Catholics throughout our nation, that the values of our faith may guide us as we exercise our responsibility as voters, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For the members of this community, that we may find ways to help build a world of greater respect for human life and human dignity, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For those who serve in elected office, that they may lead with courage and wisdom, reflecting the Church’s teaching that the moral test of our society is how the weak, the poor, and the vulnerable are faring, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For all citizens of the United States, that our participation in the upcoming election may lead to a world of greater respect for life and commitment to justice and peace, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For those who are suffering from poverty and injustice, that our decisions this election year may lead to policies and programs that help them live in dignity, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For parishioners who have been elected to public office, that they might use their offices to protect the unborn and promote the dignity of the poor and vulnerable, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For the earth, that our nation’s leaders will be inspired by God’s Spirit to protect all of His creation, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For workers around the world, especially children who work long hours for little pay, that we might all seek ways to promote fairness, justice, and dignity in their lives, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- For leaders around world, that they might find ways to bring an end to war and violence, and promote peace and development for all nations, we pray to the Lord. . . .
- Concluding prayer by the priest