Saturday, December 18, 2010

4th Sunday December 19 2010 -- God is with us!

4th Sunday Advent, December 19 2010
God is with us!
One boy was about to go on his first date, and was nervous about what to talk about. He asked his father for advice.
The father replied: "My son, there are three subjects that always work. These are food, family, and philosophy."
The boy picked up his date and they went for Ice cream. As they were enjoying ice cream, they stared at each other for a long time, as the boy's nervousness built.
He remembered his father's advice, and chose the first topic.
He asked the girl: "Do you like spinach?" She said "No," and the silence returned.
After a few more uncomfortable minutes, the boy thought of his father's suggestion and turned to the second item on the list. He asked, "Do you have a brother?" Again, the girl said "No" and there is silence once again.
The boy then played his last card. He thought of his father's advice and asked the girl the following question: "If you had a brother, would he like spinach?"
This is story not about how to date but of nervousness, fear and anxiety. When we go through such difficulties God says that He is with us. How? Let us understand.
Today’s readings express the same sentiment.
Go was with the people of Israel, God is with Paul when he was on his missionary journeys. God was with Mary and Joseph at the great crisis time.
To Judah, a nation in crisis, Isaiah promises that God would come to them as “Emmanuel.” In the gospel reading today, that prophecy was fulfilled. At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son just as had been promised by Isaiah, and that his name would be “Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
On this the fourth Sunday in Advent there are three ways in which God is with us.
1. God is with us in one another. The Christmas tree was put up in the church with names tags. There were around 200 names tags. All were taken by you to send some gifts to people who cannot make the ends meet and who have no means of giving gifts to children or of celebrating Christmas. In your generosity “Emmanuel - God is with us” was for those people.
By becoming human, Jesus made human beings a sacrament of God’s presence. God reaches out to us in and through one another. Not just during the Christmas season, but every day and every night we are called to be “Emmanuel” even as we find God in those who come as “Emmanuel” in our life.
2. God is with us in the Eucharist. John, in his gospel, gives no account of the nativity of Jesus. He talks about the incarnation by saying, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” If we look at the literal translation from Hebrew, “flesh” would mean, the “whole person of the divinity” and “made his dwelling” would mean, “pitched his tent or tabernacle” among us. In the Old Testament, God was with the people of Israel in and through the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was initially kept in a tent and the glory/presence of the Lord would cover the tent. This was the tabernacle of the Old Testament. A cloud would cover the tent as a sign of God’s presence. Later the Temple of Jerusalem became the dwelling of God. The Temple was first destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC and then again in 70 AD by the Romans. However, these earthly dwellings have been replaced by a new temple, a new tent, a new tabernacle – the tabernacle of the real presence of God in and through Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If there is one thing that we Catholics take for granted – it is the presence of the all holy God in the Blessed Sacrament. “Emmanuel, God is with us” here in this tabernacle. The next time you want to be in the presence of God either in a time of crisis of otherwise, spend time in the presence of the Eucharist.

3. God is with us through life. God’s greatest gift to us is the new life God promises us in Jesus. “I have come that they may have life, life in abundance” (Jn 10:10). Emmanuel, God is with us.” God carries us from this life to the next. In embracing the fullness of our humanity it has been made possible for us to embrace the fullness of divinity. This advent, spend time reflecting on what that means for us personally.

We gather every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we reach the climax of God’s presence with us. Here, God is with us a) in one another b) through God’s real presence in the Eucharist, and c) God allows us to participate in God’s life in the bread and wine. Today, again, here is Emmanuel. In this Eucharist, “God is with us.” Amen.

3rd Sunday December 12 2010- We are called to experience joy and hope!

3rd Sunday Advent --We are called to experience joy and hope!
The Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you'll come to the Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven."
"I don't think I'll be there," the boy said. "You don't even know your way to the post office."
Do you want to go to heaven or want experience heaven?
Now we look at the readings again, there is tremendous hope and joy promised. So for example, in the first reading this is what the Prophet Isaiah has to say:
“Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong and do not fear!
Here is your God, he comes with vindication,
With divine recompense he comes to save you.”

The community to which Isaiah was writing lived in rather dark times. Hezekiah was the king of Judah at the time and Sennacherib the Assyrian king had laid siege to its capital, Jerusalem. The entire nation was in the danger of being wiped out. The famous inscription of Sennacherib said, “I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in his cage.” But as is promised in today’s readings, God says, “Be strong and do not fear!
Here is your God; He comes with vindication, with divine recompense he comes to save you.”
God did deliver the city just as he had promised. As Christians we find this prophecy fulfilled in an even better way. God came to us in Jesus and brought the most hopeful and joyful thing that could ever bring to humanity: our salvation. Our lives are not easy, but today just now, our God comes to save us. When John’s disciples came to ask Jesus if he was indeed the Christ, he pointed to the signs of the kingdom right there in their midst:“The blind regain their sight, The lame walk, The lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, And the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” When does it happen? The second reading tells us about the need to be patient and avoid grumbling just as a farmer who has to be patient for the crop to grow.

There are three things I suggest we do for the rest of the two weeks before Christmas. These are my three practical implications for this week.

1. Make our hopes and joys realized and shared! Can the hope and joy promised in the scriptures be ours this Christmas? Some of us have children, close relatives, and friends in Iraq; I personally know friends in the congregation that have lost jobs; I know people that are sad because of broken marriages and depressed because relationships did not materialize. I know people whose immediate family members are hurting because of illness. I know children and young people in this congregation who are hurting because their parents are going apart. Where is the hope? To those whose days are dark and to those whose days are bright, my suggestion is, make the prophecy of Isaiah your own. Take this reading home, read it again and again and claim the promise God is making. In other words, do we want Isaiah’s prophecy to come true for us? If we do, then, let us invite God into the situation that we are in: Is it Unemployment? Illness? Relationship? Happiness? Contentment? Peace? Anxiety? Hurt? It does not matter what situation we are in. Let us open our lives for Jesus to enter in. Isaiah’s words are a prophecy and it has to come true for us now as it did for the Israelites. Let us believe that this prophecy is for us: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication, With divine recompense he comes to save you.”
2. “Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” I also want to draw our attention to what St. James is saying to his community in the second reading “Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Even as we make God’s prophecy our own, let us fulfill our own obligations so that today’s prophecy can come true for us. Let us make peace if there is peace to be made; let us root out sin in our lives since it becomes an obstacle between God and us; let us share with those in need the things God has shared with us; let us be kind and gentle with people of all nations, cultures, and races, embracing them as our brothers and sisters; let us refrain from judgment so that God may spare us. Let us “make our hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

3) We need to open our hearts and let God transform our lives: Today’s readings remind us that our lives can also be transformed if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We must prepare our hearts to recognize and welcome Him by allowing a met├ínoia (a change of thinking about God, ourselves, and the world) in us during Advent.
Today, today, just now, Jesus comes to us. In this Eucharist, Christ comes to us in the here and now. His words to us are the same that God spoke through Isaiah:
“Be strong and do not fear! Here is your God; he comes with vindication, with divine recompense he comes to save you.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2nd week Advent December 5 2010 -- We are called to be hopeful in hopeless situations!

2nd Week of Advent – December 5th 2010 – We are called to be hopeful in hopeless situations! A priest walked into a barber shop in Washington, D.C. After he got his haircut, he asked how much it would be. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the Lord."
The next morning, the barber came to work and there were 12 rosaries and a thank you note from the priest in front of the door.
Later that day, a police officer came in and got his hair cut. He then asked how much it was. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the community."
The next morning, he came to work and there were a dozen donuts and a thank you note from the police officer.
Then, a Senator came in and got a haircut. When he was done he asked how much it was. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the country."
The next morning, the barber came to work and there were 12 Senators in front of the door for a free haircut. Very smart and selfish senators! This story raises two questions. What are we and where are we?
Despite the holiday mood, most people I have had conversations with seem to be a little grim about the state of affairs. The facts are the same: housing loan crisis, high gas prices, signs of recession in the economy, the rise of conflicts, climate change, global warming, unemployment, nuclear proliferation, the threat of terrorism, the falling dollar, the sky-rocketing cost of health care, the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The list seems unending. Surprisingly, the stock market seems to be doing rather well in spite of it all, which in one sense makes people wonder what is really going on. I am by no means a pessimist nor do I court doomsday, but there is a hint of a crisis-situation in the world today. But the most frightening part of this scenario that no one, not one nation has a viable, sound solution to these problem. The leaders of the world cannot even agree on a strategy to address the problem that encounters all of humanity. I want to offer a theological reflection on the state of the world and some direction that today readings offer to us both for the world and for us personally. The readings offer hope in our hopeless situations!
The context within which today’s first reading was written was not any different from today. Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s first reading comes in the context of an impending crisis. He prophesied during the reign of king Ahaz. He was a bad king because he did not trust god’s promise of protection to the people of Israel. The Assyrians were becoming stronger in the Middle East while both the Jewish kingdoms Israel and Judah were getting weaker as they blatantly violated their Covenant with Yahweh. Isaiah refers to the Israel as an “impious nation” (Is 10:6), and warns Judah that unless she made some radical changes in her society she would be destroyed as well. But God also offers a hope filled promise. A messiah-like figure filled with wisdom, and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord would appear. He would bring about justice and faithfulness and restore the people of the “impious nation.” Christians identify this messiah-like figure to be Jesus.
This brings us to the gospel reading. John the Baptist began his ministry by proclaiming exactly what he was sent for: to “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mt 3:2). However, his solution for the restoration of the nation rested on two things: a) making straight the path for Christ; and b) producing good fruit as evidence of your repentance. In other words, the restoration of Israel would be the result of Israel resisting the temptation to walk in its own ways (repentance) and looking to the way of Jesus (prepare the way of the Lord).
Let me offer three practical implications of today’s readings.
1. We are called to walk in the ways of God – justice and faithfulness. We began this homily by pointing to the world in the verge of a crisis. If today’s readings are telling us anything it is this – that if the world must sustain itself, it must be based on the sound principles of justice and faithfulness. The present situation stems from the basic lack of justice in our dealings with each other and the tendency of human being to prepare not a way for the Lord but for profit, easy money, quest for power. In other words, human beings are preparing the way not of the Lord but for themselves. A safe and happy world is not magic; it will only be the result of walking in the ways of God – justice and faithfulness. It is only then that:
“The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.” (Is 11:3-9)
2. Today’s readings offer a personal promise and a challenge – the promise is Jesus; the challenge is repentance. Our lives can mirror what is happening in the world today. So many individual lives could find happiness, contentment, and peace if only we would pause during this season and took time to prepare the way for Jesus. The invitation of John the Baptist to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” is a personal invitation to each person here today. Surely, each one of us can look at our lives and find areas where we can bring Jesus in. Let our preparation for Christmas not be a time to prepare a way for our own selves, but rather, a time to prepare the way for Jesus. It is only by the wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord that Jesus offers to us that we can save ourselves from destruction.
3. We are called to produce good fruits! John the Baptist calls the Pharisees brood of vipers and tells them produce good fruits as evidence of their repentance! There is a simple, direct message. “Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” - (Mt 3:10). We have two more weeks left for before Christmas. Let us isolate those acts that bear bad fruit (repent) and let us prepare the way for Jesus (thus producing good fruit).

This Eucharist is yet another opportunity to keep our eyes focused on Jesus as we prepare for Christmas. Let us “prepare the way” for him as he come to us in the Eucharist. Amen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent 1 Nov. 28 2010 - We are called to walk in the light!

Advent 1 We are called to walk in the light!

It is a story about good news and bad news!

Doctor: I have some good news and I have some bad news.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: The good news is that the tests you took showed that you have 24 hours to live.
Patient: That's the good news? What's the bad news?
Doctor: The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday! So you are going to die now.
Let us understand the good news and bad news! I would like to raise two simple questions. How much do you think the world military spending is? According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook, in 2006 the world spent $ 1,204 billion in military expenditures. My second question: How much would it take each year to end world hunger? It would take 13 billion dollars a year to end hunger for the world’s starving. We could end world hunger ninety times over if as Isaiah says in today’s first reading,
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again. (Is 2: 4). On the first Sunday in Advent the scriptures offer us an invitation: “Come let us walk in the light of the Lord.” A similar invitation comes to us in the second reading. Paul invites us to “…throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…” (Rom 13:12). The theme of “light and darkness” is a perfect way to guide us through this holy season. The event of the birth of Christ was covered in light. The glory of the Lord “shone” (Lk 2:8) for the shepherds; the light of the star led the magi to the manger (Mt 2:2). Even though John does not give an account of the nativity, he begins the gospel by saying, “The light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9).
Thus, on this first Sunday in Advent, let us take the invitation to “walk in the light of the Lord” very seriously. For this Advent, I am going to propose that we walk in the light of the Lord in three ways.

1. The birth of Jesus was a global event. God’s vision for the entire human race is a vision of peace. Swords (military spending) must be beaten into ploughshares (farming). Spears (weapons) must be turned into pruning hooks (gathering equipment). Some poor countries just in the last year raised its military budget by 28.6% ($ 3 billion) while it has three hundred million poor people living below the poverty line. The military budget of the United States is $ 364.24 billion while it has ten million people that face the prospect of hunger. My own resolution is to refrain from the politics of violence. My resolution is to reject the culture of hate and division. Whether it is other races, castes, cultures, religions or nationalities, my resolution is to beat the sword into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks in my own life.

2. Second, let us end darkness in our own lives. Paul suggests to the Romans in today’s second reading: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.” The second resolution is to let God shed God’s light in those areas of my life where I am afraid to let God’s light shine; perhaps there is a relationship, an addiction, a prejudice, some resentment, a little self-centeredness, a little pride. Let us “throw away the darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).

3. The “light” that we hear about in the readings is not an impersonal thing like the lights we put for decoration outside. The “light” is Jesus. The best way to stay in the light is to “be” in the light. Let our real preparation for Christmas revolve around Jesus. Take the readings each day this advent and spend a few moments in prayer. Let us be obedient to the word of God each day. That is the best way to “be” in the light. If we do this, then all our other activities, like the tree, gifts, food, and friendships will a special meaning.



Let this Eucharist be our “Yes” to God’s invitation to walk in the light. God gives us Jesus himself to accompany us on this journey. Let us receive Jesus and walk in the “light.” Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

33rd Week Nove. 14 2010, Today we have the good news and bad news!

33rd Week Nov. 14 2010, Today we have the good news and bad news1
During a Papal audience, a business man approached the Pope and made this offer: Change the last line of the Lord's Prayer from "give us this day our daily bread" to "give us this day our daily chicken." and KFC will donate 10 million dollars to Catholic charities. The Pope declined.
2 weeks later the man approached the Pope again and this time with a 50 million dollar offer. Again the Pope declined.
A month later the man offers 100 million, this time the Pope accepts. At a meeting of the Cardinals, The Pope announces his decision: Today I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news is... that we have 100 million dollars for charities.
The bad news is that we lost the Wonder Bread account! Today’s readings are about good news and bad news! First bad news! Today’s readings give us some stark warnings. These warnings come at a particular time in the liturgical year. Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The end of calendar year too is fast approaching. As Christmas draws near, and as the church uses the feast of the first coming of the messiah to reflect on the second coming of Jesus, the readings remind us of the end times. Thus all the three readings today draw attention to the impending apocalypse.
Apocalyptic prophecies are a feature both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Thus in the first reading from the Prophet Malachi there is a reference to the coming of the Messiah and the “rising of the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20a). And we know that the Messiah did come. Paul, in his letters often expresses his belief not only in the certainty of the second coming of Christ but also how and when Christ would come. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul talks about Jesus coming in the clouds with a trumpet blast (1Thess 4:16). As to when Christ would come, he was sure that it would be imminent. He wanted his community to stay prepared since the Lord would certainly come before their life time. Today’s second reading comes from the misuse of the Pauline idea of the second coming. Some people at that time used the belief in the immanent coming of Christ as an excuse for laziness. Their argument was if Christ’s was coming soon then any labor is futile. Idleness led them to interfere in other people’s affairs. Thus in today’s second reading Paul urges all Christians to go about their normal lives, fulfilling their individual, family, social, and Christian responsibilities precisely because the end was near.
The gospel reading continues the theme of the end times. The gospel gives us a vivid description of what is to happen at the end time. Wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, persecutions, and betrayals will characterize the end times. This scene can be very frightening. But these things do happen. If you read the time magazine cover story on the California fires, people were mortally scared when the fires actually hit them. But the consoling part of Jesus’ message is: “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed” (Lk 21:19). Christ has invited us into his eternal kingdom and even every bit of our life us secure with him. If this is the bad news, then what is the good news?
I want to draw three practical implications from the readings as good news!
1. Focus our mind on right things: The first implication comes from the Gospel reading. Is the reading meant to frighten us? Is it meant to put the fear of God into our hearts? No! In fact, just the opposite! It is meant to help us focus on things that are really important. There is a possibility that as we live our lives we may lose our focus and vision from what is really important to the mundane things of our human existence. We can get caught up in making more and more money, in legal battles, in petty family quarrels, and in accumulating things. We can be so caught up with ourselves that we can forget others; we can even forget God. The important thing is not when the world will end, or even how it will end. The important question is if the world does end today, will we have our minds focused on what is really important: on God, on love and peace, fidelity and justice, faith and hope; things that really matter. If we do have things that are really important in focus, then the message is not that frightening after all. On the contrary we will be more taken up with the message. “Do not be terrified. When all these things happen not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19).
2. Conduct ourselves in an orderly manner: The second practical implication comes from the second reading where Paul urges the Thessalonians to conduct themselves in an orderly manner (1 Thess. 3:11). St. Gerard Majella, our patron saint, whose main responsibility in the monastery was baking bread for the entire community, was once asked what he would do if Christ was to come at the moment he was baking bread. He replied, “I will continue to bake bread.” In fact, fulfilling one’s responsibility is the best way to prepare for the second coming of Christ. That is why Paul urges all Christians to go about their normal lives, fulfilling their individual, family, social and Christian responsibilities precisely because the end was near. I hope when Christ comes or when our end comes we are caught doing what we are supposed to be doing.
3. The participation in the Eucharist is an experience of God: In the book of the Apocalypse, Jesus is unveiled as a lamb, though slain. This points us to the Eucharist. At every Eucharist, there is a coming of Jesus; every Eucharist there is an unveiling of His presence. Just as Jesus unveiled himself to his disciples on the road to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread he unveils himself at every breaking of the bread (Lk 24:13-35). The Eucharist is one of the best ways for us to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming, since it is both a foretaste of that final second coming, and also the very presence of Jesus Himself.
For instance, whether we believe in global warming or whether we believe that the erratic weather conditions are only a sign of climate change, we live in a time of stark warnings. Scientists are telling us that something is wrong with our life style. Our level of consumption and its effects are unsustainable. They are telling us that if we continue to live the way we do, one day our fragile eco-system will collapse. They are telling us that the earth in on the verge of a catastrophe. But it is in our human psyche to think that disaster is far away. Because if we accept that it is near then we have to make real changes. If we continue to believe that we have plenty of time, then we do not have to change our life-style. However, Scientists are urging us to make some hard decisions so that we are not caught unprepared. The message is the same as the scientist’s – let us not be caught unprepared.
Let us remember that Christ who will come on the last day or Christ we will meet at our own end is the very Christ we will meet in this Eucharist. Think about this as a real possibility - we might be only as prepared to meet Jesus then as we are prepared today to receive Jesus in this Eucharist. Is that a reason for us to be afraid or does that make us confident to meet him? Only we know the answer to that question.

33rd Week Nove. 14 2010, Today we have the good news and bad news!

33rd Week Nov. 14 2010, Today we have the good news and bad news1
During a Papal audience, a business man approached the Pope and made this offer: Change the last line of the Lord's Prayer from "give us this day our daily bread" to "give us this day our daily chicken." and KFC will donate 10 million dollars to Catholic charities. The Pope declined.
2 weeks later the man approached the Pope again and this time with a 50 million dollar offer. Again the Pope declined.
A month later the man offers 100 million, this time the Pope accepts. At a meeting of the Cardinals, The Pope announces his decision: Today I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news is... that we have 100 million dollars for charities.
The bad news is that we lost the Wonder Bread account! Today’s readings are about good news and bad news! First bad news! Today’s readings give us some stark warnings. These warnings come at a particular time in the liturgical year. Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The end of calendar year too is fast approaching. As Christmas draws near, and as the church uses the feast of the first coming of the messiah to reflect on the second coming of Jesus, the readings remind us of the end times. Thus all the three readings today draw attention to the impending apocalypse.
Apocalyptic prophecies are a feature both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Thus in the first reading from the Prophet Malachi there is a reference to the coming of the Messiah and the “rising of the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20a). And we know that the Messiah did come. Paul, in his letters often expresses his belief not only in the certainty of the second coming of Christ but also how and when Christ would come. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul talks about Jesus coming in the clouds with a trumpet blast (1Thess 4:16). As to when Christ would come, he was sure that it would be imminent. He wanted his community to stay prepared since the Lord would certainly come before their life time. Today’s second reading comes from the misuse of the Pauline idea of the second coming. Some people at that time used the belief in the immanent coming of Christ as an excuse for laziness. Their argument was if Christ’s was coming soon then any labor is futile. Idleness led them to interfere in other people’s affairs. Thus in today’s second reading Paul urges all Christians to go about their normal lives, fulfilling their individual, family, social, and Christian responsibilities precisely because the end was near.
The gospel reading continues the theme of the end times. The gospel gives us a vivid description of what is to happen at the end time. Wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, persecutions, and betrayals will characterize the end times. This scene can be very frightening. But these things do happen. If you read the time magazine cover story on the California fires, people were mortally scared when the fires actually hit them. But the consoling part of Jesus’ message is: “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed” (Lk 21:19). Christ has invited us into his eternal kingdom and even every bit of our life us secure with him. If this is the bad news, then what is the good news?
I want to draw three practical implications from the readings as good news!
1. Focus our mind on right things: The first implication comes from the Gospel reading. Is the reading meant to frighten us? Is it meant to put the fear of God into our hearts? No! In fact, just the opposite! It is meant to help us focus on things that are really important. There is a possibility that as we live our lives we may lose our focus and vision from what is really important to the mundane things of our human existence. We can get caught up in making more and more money, in legal battles, in petty family quarrels, and in accumulating things. We can be so caught up with ourselves that we can forget others; we can even forget God. The important thing is not when the world will end, or even how it will end. The important question is if the world does end today, will we have our minds focused on what is really important: on God, on love and peace, fidelity and justice, faith and hope; things that really matter. If we do have things that are really important in focus, then the message is not that frightening after all. On the contrary we will be more taken up with the message. “Do not be terrified. When all these things happen not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19).
2. Conduct ourselves in an orderly manner: The second practical implication comes from the second reading where Paul urges the Thessalonians to conduct themselves in an orderly manner (1 Thess. 3:11). St. Gerard Majella, our patron saint, whose main responsibility in the monastery was baking bread for the entire community, was once asked what he would do if Christ was to come at the moment he was baking bread. He replied, “I will continue to bake bread.” In fact, fulfilling one’s responsibility is the best way to prepare for the second coming of Christ. That is why Paul urges all Christians to go about their normal lives, fulfilling their individual, family, social and Christian responsibilities precisely because the end was near. I hope when Christ comes or when our end comes we are caught doing what we are supposed to be doing.
3. The participation in the Eucharist is an experience of God: In the book of the Apocalypse, Jesus is unveiled as a lamb, though slain. This points us to the Eucharist. At every Eucharist, there is a coming of Jesus; every Eucharist there is an unveiling of His presence. Just as Jesus unveiled himself to his disciples on the road to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread he unveils himself at every breaking of the bread (Lk 24:13-35). The Eucharist is one of the best ways for us to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming, since it is both a foretaste of that final second coming, and also the very presence of Jesus Himself.
For instance, whether we believe in global warming or whether we believe that the erratic weather conditions are only a sign of climate change, we live in a time of stark warnings. Scientists are telling us that something is wrong with our life style. Our level of consumption and its effects are unsustainable. They are telling us that if we continue to live the way we do, one day our fragile eco-system will collapse. They are telling us that the earth in on the verge of a catastrophe. But it is in our human psyche to think that disaster is far away. Because if we accept that it is near then we have to make real changes. If we continue to believe that we have plenty of time, then we do not have to change our life-style. However, Scientists are urging us to make some hard decisions so that we are not caught unprepared. The message is the same as the scientist’s – let us not be caught unprepared.
Let us remember that Christ who will come on the last day or Christ we will meet at our own end is the very Christ we will meet in this Eucharist. Think about this as a real possibility - we might be only as prepared to meet Jesus then as we are prepared today to receive Jesus in this Eucharist. Is that a reason for us to be afraid or does that make us confident to meet him? Only we know the answer to that question.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

32nd week Nov. 7, 2010, God is one not of the dead but of the living!

32nd week Nov. 7, 2010
Oh my God, who are you? – God is not one of the dead but of the living!
Four Catholic ladies are having coffee together. The first one tells her friends, “My son is a priest. When he walks into a room, everyone calls him ‘Father’.”
The second Catholic woman chirps, “My son is a Bishop. Whenever he walks into a room, people say, ‘Your Grace’.”
The third Catholic woman says smugly, “My son is a Cardinal. Whenever he walks into a room, people say, ‘Your Eminence’.”
The fourth Catholic woman sips her coffee in silence. The first three women give her this subtle “Well…...”
She replies, “My son is a gorgeous, 6′2″, he weighs 400 pounds. When he walks into a room, people say, ‘Oh my God…’.”
Oh my God, who are you or how do I understand? Clearly, the theme of today’s readings is life and death. Intertwined within those themes are the words of Jesus, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Lk 20:38).
The manners in which these themes occur in the readings seem to suggest the fact that belief in life after death was not necessarily a universal Jewish belief. This is obvious in the gospel reading. The Sadducees (a Jewish sect) came up to Jesus with the hypothetical case of a woman who married seven brothers as each of them successively died. The Sadducees accepted the teachings of only the first five books of the Old Testament and in these books belief in the afterlife is not specifically mentioned. But by the time of the Maccabees, about one hundred and fifty years before the coming of Christ, belief in the resurrection of the dead was clearly established. For example, in today’s first reading, when the seven brothers and their mother were being put to death for refusing to accept Greek practices unacceptable to the Jews, one of the brothers says to the Antiochus Epiphanes, their persecutor, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever” (2 Mac 7:9). By the time of Jesus, the resurrection from the dead was accepted as an article of Jewish faith, except for the Sadducees. In fact, Jesus claimed that he was the resurrection and the life (John 11: 25).

The case created by the Sadducees was meant to impress upon others the futility of belief in the afterlife. Jesus begins his answer to the Sadducees by pointing it out to them that the belief in life after death is actually found in the Pentateuch. That is why he declared at the end of today’s gospel reading, “That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord,’ that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk 20:37-38). The last statement of today gospel reading becomes the most hopeful statement in all of scripture. The God we believe in, is a “God of the living and not of the dead and to him all are alive.”
Three practical implications!
1. The first implication of the readings is the tremendous consolation and the hope they offer to those of us who have experienced the death of a dear one. The greatest gift God had given us is a participation in the life of God. Christ opened the door for us to participate in the God’s very life. Christ, then, eliminates death. We move from life to life.

2. The abuse of the belief in the life after death was one of the reasons that Karl Marx called religion the “opium of the poor.’ Belief in the next life was offered as a consolation to the poor so that they may not claim their human rights. In other words, the poor were told not to let their misery trouble them because God would reward them in the next. Such opinions come from a totally skewed understanding of this life and the next. Rather, belief in the next life makes this present life even more important for how we choose to live on earth has an eternal implication. Look at the miseries and difficulties of people, they have believed when it was most difficult to believe, hoped when they were confronted with hopelessness, and were grateful to God when it was the most difficult to do so.

3. This Eucharist is very important from the perspective of life here on earth and life with God. As Catholics we believe in the communion of saints. This means that at every Eucharist we gather not only as this community but we worship God with all the angels, saints, our ancestors and all those who are with God. Our God is the God not of the dead but of the living. This Eucharist, then, is our real time connection with the God of the living in whose presence all those who have died constantly worship God. This Eucharist is a celebration of life. That is why Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (Jn 6:54). Let us celebrate the God of the living who offers us eternal life.

As we continue to celebrate the Eucharist, let us allow the life of Christ to bring us from despair to hope, from darkness to light, and from death into life. Amen