September 6, 2020

September 7-12 weekday homilies

Sept 7-12: Visit http://frtonyshomilies.com for missed Sunday or weekday homilies. Sept 7: Homily on Labor Day (in the U.S.) is on page 2)

Sept 7 Monday: 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. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/rQnmw8LDekQ?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d 

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/for 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 on Sunday, is meant to recharge our spiritual batteries for doing good to/for 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 our neighbors in the activities of our parish and neighborhood. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Sept 7, Monday: Labor Day in the U.S. : 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. It was President Grover Cleveland who signed a bill into law on June 28, 1894, declaring Labor Day a national holiday.

1)It is a day to acknowledge the dignity and necessity of labor and workers. We participate in the creative act of God by the various forms of work we do using our God-given talents,  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 tentmaker. 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. Work is necessary for our own wellbeing, for health of body, mind and spirit. It enables us to be independent and to help those who are less fortunate and unable to work. Works of charity are the main criteria of our Last Judgement: “Whatever you did to one of these least brethren you did to Me.”

2) A day to remember the Church’s teaching on the nobility of work and the necessity of just wages. In the encyclical, Laborem exercens (September 14, 1981), 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 the day to remember and pray for the job-less people: There are thousands without work and millions more who are underemployed, working at part-time jobs or jobs that do not pay a decent wage. Society has a moral obligation to reduce joblessness because it is through work that families are sustained, children are nurtured, and the future is secured. Joblessness is also a clear threat to family life.

4) It is an appropriate time to acknowledge and bless the temporal and   spiritual work that our parishioners do for their families, for their neighbors 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, and to display a level of integrity that matches our Faith, thus witnessing to Christ.

5) It is a day to pay attention to a  warning: The warning is that we should be  aware of the danger in work. If not properly oriented it can make us workaholics, we may turn work as our God or may consider it as an escape mechanism to run away from spouse, children, and neighbors.

Thus, on this Labor Day, let us try to realize the dignity of work, the necessity of work and the danger involved in work. Let us thank the Lord for the talents and work he has given us to do. Let us pray that we may find joy and satisfaction in our work, realizing that we are co-creators with God and stewards of His creation. By offering our work for God’s glory, let us transform our work to prayer.  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Sept 8 Tuesday: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary): Mi 5:1-4; Rom 8:28-30; Mt: 1:18-23 or 1:1-24:

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 it 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, and freely consented, 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.

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 word”); c) the humility of “the handmaid of the Lord,” who surrendered her whole being to God unconditionally; d) the spirit of sacrificial and sharing love; and e) the acceptance of suffering with one hundred percent commitment to her heroic mission. (Fr. Tony) L/17 USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/dr5AN0b4jLM?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d 

Sept 9 Wednesday (St. Peter Claver, Priest (U.S.A.= homily on the next page) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-peter-claver/ : Luke 6:20-26: 20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/v_ZvIyeSmvo?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d 

 The context: Luke presents the Sermon on the Plain as following immediately upon the choosing of the twelve Apostles. Today’s Gospel passage, taken from Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, teaches us that true happiness or beatitude lies in the awareness of who we are and what we are supposed to do. The eight beatitudes Jesus gives in Mathew, like the four in Luke, contradict the ideas of “real” happiness prevalent in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day (and in our modern society as well), according to which wealth, health, power, pleasure and influence are the “true” beatitudes.

The Beatitudes: Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical   blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, which contradict our natural expectations in every way.  Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced because in poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. Experiencing these miseries opens the way for us to receive the true riches, the food, comfort and acceptance we find only in His love and His presence here and in His Kingdom forever. The Beatitudes are commands for how we should live, and what we should do. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for one’s Faith, but commitment to Jesus and His spirit of sharing.

Life messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenges of the Beatitudes in our daily life.  Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. When we reach out to help them, we are living out the Beatitudes. In addition, Jesus tells us that we are serving him in these suffering people. We are also loving our neighbors as Jesus loves us.  That is why we are told that we will be judged on the basis of our acts of mercy and charity (Mt 25:31-46). 2) Let us also remember that each time we reach out to help the people who are needy, sick, and/or oppressed, we give them the experience of God’s love for them. 3) Just as the Apostles were called to minister to society’s untouchables, so all Christians are called to minister to the untouchables, the discriminated against and the marginalized in our own modern society, that they may meet God’s love in human flesh. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20 USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm

St Peter Claver (1581-1654): Peter Cxlaver was born as the son of a Catalonian farmer, at Verdu, Spain, in 1581. He died at 73 on 8 September 1654. He obtained his first degrees at the University of Barcelona. At the age of twenty he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona. While he was studying philosophy at Majorca in 1605, Alphonsus Rodriguez, the saintly door-keeper of the college, learned from God the future mission of his young associate, and thenceforth never ceased exhorting him to set out to evangelize the Spanish possessions in America. Peter obeyed.  The young Spanish Jesuit scholastic Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 at the age of 29 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena (now in Colombia), a rich port city washed by the Caribbean where for forty-four years he was the Apostle of the African slaves. He was ordained there in 1615. Peter Claver’s predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.”

Early in the seventeenth century the white masters of Central and South America needed laborers to cultivate the soil which they had conquered and to exploit the gold mines. The natives being physically incapable of enduring the laborers of the mines, it was determined to replace them with African slaves in the 16th century. The coasts of Guinea, the Congo, and Angola became the market for slave dealers, to whom native petty kings sold their subjects and their prisoners. By its position in the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena became the chief slave-mart of the New World. A thousand slaves landed there each month. They were bought for two and sold for 200 ecus. One-third of the passengers died in transit. Though half the cargo might die, the trade remained profitable. Neither the repeated censures of the pope, nor those of Catholic moralists could prevail against this cupidity. The missionaries could not suppress slavery, but only alleviate it, and no one worked more heroically than Peter Claver. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

St. Peter Claver’s ministry: Peter declared himself “the slave of the negroes forever”, and thenceforth his life was one that confounds egotism by its superhuman charity. Although timid and lacking in self-confidence, he became a daring and ingenious organizer. Every month when the arrival of the slaves was signaled, Claver went out to meet them on the pilot’s boat, carrying food and delicacies. The slaves, cooped up in the hold, arrived crazed and brutalized by suffering and fear. Claver went to each, cared for him, and showed him kindness, and made him understand that henceforth he was his defender and father. Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters, he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s saving love.  He thus won their good will. To instruct so many speaking different dialects, Claver assembled at Cartagena a group of interpreters of various nationalities, of whom he made catechists. While the slaves were penned up at Cartagena waiting to be purchased and dispersed, Claver instructed and baptized them in the Faith. On Sundays during Lent he assembled them, inquired concerning their needs, and defended them against their oppressors. This work caused Claver severe trials, and the slave merchants were not his only enemies. The Apostle was accused of indiscreet zeal, and of having profaned the Sacraments by giving them to creatures who scarcely possessed a soul. Fashionable women of Cartagena refused to enter the churches where Father Claver assembled his slave friends. The saint’s superiors were often influenced by the many criticisms which reached them. Nevertheless, Claver continued his heroic career, accepting all humiliations and adding rigorous penances to his works of charity. He became the prophet and miracle worker of New Granada, the oracle of Cartagena, and all were convinced that often God would not have spared the city save for him. During his life he baptized and instructed in the Faith more than 300,000 African slaves. Peter Claver understood that concrete service like the distributing of medicine; food or brandy to his black brothers and sisters could be as effective a communication of the word of God as mere verbal preaching. As Peter Claver often said, “We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead. After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp. He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.

He was beatified 16 July, 1850, Pius IX, and canonized 15 January, 1888, by Leo XIII. His feast is celebrated on the ninth of September. On 7 July, 1896, he was proclaimed the special patron of all the Catholic missions among the blacks. Alphonsus Rodriguez was canonized on the same day as Peter Claver. St Peter Claver is also the patron saint of race relations, foreign missions, and against slavery.

Message: Peter’s determination to serve forever the most abused, rejected and lowly of all people is stunningly heroic. When we measure our lives against such a man’s, we become aware of our own barely used potential and of our need to open ourselves more to the power of Jesus’ Spirit to serve the needy people. (Fr. Tony)USCCB video reflections on St. Peter Claver: https://youtu.be/pmVRKGWJ7wc?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d  &

Sept 10 Thursday: Lk 6:27-38: 27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most  High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/inVuy5k-I1M?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d 

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain as given by Luke.  It describes the power of Christian love when exercised by practicing the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This golden rule is amplified by a string of particular commands: 1) “Love your enemiesDo good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.”    Jesus orders us to love our enemies. 2) Show your Christian love to everyone, especially to your enemies by treating them with mercy and compassion because our Heavenly Father is merciful and compassionate to all His children. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.”3) Stop judging and start forgiving.

Life messages: 1) We need to answer the invitation to grace-filled behavior: What makes Christianity distinct from any other religion is the quality known as grace, i.e., our ability to treat others, not as they deserve, but with love, kindness, the spirit of forgiveness and mercy. 2) We need to accept the challenges of day-to-day life. Jesus challenges our willingness to endure unjust suffering for his sake and the sake of his Gospel. 3) We need to pray for the strength to forgive. At every Mass we pray the “Our Father”, asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. We must forgive, because only forgiveness truly heals our relationships and heals us. If we remember how God has forgiven us, it will help us forgive others.   4) We need to live our lives in accordance with “the Golden Rule.”   (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Sept 11 Friday: Lk 6: 39-42: He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/22NE2Y8_Zxs?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d 

The context: In today’s passage, taken from the Sermon on the Plain given in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus condemns our careless, malicious and rash judgments about the behavior, feelings, motives or actions of others by using the funny examples of one blind man leading another blind man and one man with a log covering his eyes trying to remove a tiny speck from another’s eye.

Reasons why we should not judge others:  1) No one except God is good enough to judge others because only God sees the whole truth, and only He can read the human heart. Hence, only He has the ability, right, and authority to judge us. 2) We do not see all the facts or circumstances or the power of the temptation which has led a person to do something evil. 3) We are often prejudiced in our judgment of others, and total fairness cannot be expected from us.  4) We have no right to judge because we have the same faults as the one we are judging and often to a greater degree (remember the critical man with a wooden beam in his eye?) St. Philip Neri commented, watching the misbehavior of a drunkard: “There goes Philip but for the grace of God.” Abraham Lincoln said that only he has the right to criticize who has the heart to help (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Sept 12 Saturday (The Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/mosaint-holy-name-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/ : Lk 6: 43-49: 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” USCCB video reflections:https://youtu.be/rQnmw8LDekQ?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DD-uFtIWwJSoiHMmBgqLd9d

The context: In today’s passage, taken from the Sermon on the Plain given in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the necessity for cultivating a strong Christian moral character as the foundation of our Christian life.

The teaching: In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus teaches us that the good fruits of Christian virtues, like love, mercy, forgiveness, and service, result only from an upright character trained in and cultivated by the repeated practice of Christian principles. Jesus compares good works with figs and grapes and reminds us that thorny shrubs and bramble bushes cannot produce them.  In the second part, Jesus gives us two warnings: that we must match our profession of Faith with actual obedience to the will of God, and that we must build a life on the firm foundation of his teachings. Jesus emphasizes the truth that we should not be mere hearers of the word of God but also consistent doers of that word. In other words, our profession of Faith should match our practice. Jesus compares mere hearers of the word with a foolish man who built his house on a sandy foundation and the doers of the word to a wise man who built his house on strong and solid rock.

Life messages: 1) We need to be men and women of character with the courage of our religious convictions, doing what is right at all times. Such persons are honest and reliable before God, themselves, and their neighbors. 2) We need to build our family on a strong Christian foundation. There can be no great marriage and no great family without a solid foundation, and that foundation begins with the husband and wife doing and being the love of Christ for each other and for their children. 3)  We need to get ready to face the storms of life: Jesus wants us to follow his words and to build our lives and our families on these words. He wants us to be ready for the storms of life, including, among others, the current Covid-19 pandemic, economic downturns, pension defaults, war, depression both mental and economic, relationships that fade, the deaths of those who love us and whom we love, devastating illness, and protracted disease. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20