32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (year B) – 11th November 2018 (Alternative Homily)

Theme: GIVING

  • 1 Kings 17:10-16;
  • Psalm 145 (146):7-10. R/ v. 2;
  • Hebrews 9:24-28
  • Mark 12:38-44

Today is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year B. The readings today tell us about giving. The gospel today tells us that a widow gave to the Temple treasury all that she possessed and all that she had to live on. The first reading tells us that a widow shared her last meal with the prophet Elijah. The second reading tells us that Jesus gave himself once and for all! These three readings tell us about giving:

(1) No one is too poor to give. The widow in the gospel gave two small coins. The widow in the first reading shared her last meal. Jesus gave himself! 

(2) It is not how much we give, but how much we have left after giving. The two widows and Jesus had nothing left after giving! 

(3) One cannot love without giving. Last Sunday’s readings were on love. This Sunday’s readings are on giving! 

(4) In giving, we do not only help the poor, but we also help ourselves to depend on God and not to depend on money. Our religious sisters, brothers and priests take the vow of poverty, not because poverty is good, not even because they want to help the poor, but because they want to depend on God and not on money. (Mt 5:3; Mt 6:33) 

(5) It is more blessed to give than to receive. The widow was blessed with food and life after she shared her last meal with the prophet Elijah. 

(6) We do not only give to the poor, we also give to God. The first widow gave to the Temple treasury. The second widow shared her last meal with Elijah the Prophet of God. Jesus gave himself to God his Father! 

(7) Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who worked among the poorest of the poor, tells us that we must give until it hurts. The two widows and Jesus gave until it hurts! 

(8) We do not only give money. We also give things, food, oneself, time, service, talents, love, etc. One widow gave money, one gave food, and Jesus gave himself. 

(9) We give what we have received from God! What we have received freely from God, we give freely! 

(10) We have to give and to receive, that is, to love and to be loved! Reciprocal love! (Focolare)

Today in this Mass, let us pray that we may have the Spirit of the two widows and of Jesus Christ Himself, so that we may give to God and to neighbour, especially to the poor and needy. Amen!

32nd Sunday in ordinary Time (Year B) -11th November 2018

Theme: DEPEND ON GOD FOR OUR MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE

  • 1 Kings 17:10-16;
  • Psalm 145 (146): 7-10. R/ v. 2;
  • Hebrews 9:24-28
  • Mark 12:38-44

Today is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year B. The readings today tell us to depend on God for our material and spiritual sustenance. The Gospel Acclamation today tells us that the poor in spirit are blessed and the kingdom of God belongs to them!

The poor in spirit are the materially poor, the spiritually poor, and most importantly, they are those who depend in God for their material and spiritual sustenance! Thus the Gospel Acclamation:

“How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3; SM)

Our religious sisters, brothers and priests take the vow of poverty, not because poverty is good, not even because they want to help the poor, but because they want to depend on God for their material and spiritual sustenance! They believe that God will provide! They believe in providence! They have great faith!

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt 6:33; CSB)

That is, seek first the kingdom of love, justice and peace and his salvation, and all these other things will be given to you as well!

The gospel today tells us that a widow gave all she had and all she had to live on to the Temple treasury! Indeed she was very very generous! She was more generous than the rich who gave much more. Although she gave only two small coins, she gave all that she had and all that she had to live on! She gave her whole life to the Temple treasury!

But more importantly, she was a widow of great faith. She depended on God for her spiritual and material sustenance! (CSB) She prefigured Jesus Christ who depended on God for his material and spiritual sustenance until his death, resurrection and the salvation of the whole world!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us of another widow – in a man’s world, widows have no power or money! The first reading tells us that a widow shared her last meal with the prophet Elijah. After that she and her son will die of hunger because there will be nothing left to eat. Indeed the widow was very very generous. She shared all that she had to live on with the prophet Elijah.

But more importantly, she was a widow of great faith. (CCB) She depended on God for her spiritual and material sustenance! And because of her great faith the Lord rewarded her with food and life. She and her son were not to die of hunger. She and her son will have food to eat and will live! Thus the first reading tells us,

“The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.” (1 K 17: 16; SM)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm also tells us to trust in God and to depend on God, because he is a God who gives justice to the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, protects the stranger, helps the widow and the orphan, etc.! (CSB; HCSB) Thus we read in the responsorial psalm:

“It is the Lord who is just to those who are oppressed. It is he who gives bread to the hungry, the Lord, who sets prisoners free. It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind, who raises up those who are bowed down. It is the Lord who loves the just, the Lord, who protects the stranger. The Lord upholds the widow and orphan.” (Ps 145 (146): 7-9; SM)

And thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“My soul, give praise to the Lord.” (Ps 145 (146): 2; SM)

The second reading is a continuation of the second readings of the past few Sundays. Again, the second reading compares the Levitical priesthood of the Jews in the Old Testament with the priesthood of Jesus Christ in the New Testament:

(i) The Levitical priesthood has its sanctuary on earth made by human beings, but the priesthood of Jesus Christ has its sanctuary in heaven where God is!

(ii) The Levitical priest offers sacrifices of blood of animals every year on the Day of Atonement, but Jesus Christ offered himself as a sacrifice once and for all!

(iii) The Levitical priest will not come a second time at the Parousia, but Jesus Christ will come a second time at the Parousia to reward with salvation all who are waiting for him!

Again, today in this Mass, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes present, real and effective, the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our salvation and again today in this Mass, we receive the Holy Spirit to help us to depend on God for our material and spiritual sustenance! A happy and holy Sunday to all of you! Amen!

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – 7th October 2018

Theme: MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

  • Genesis 2:18-24;
  • Psalm 127 (128). R/ v. 5;
  • Hebrews 2:9-11
  • Mark 10:2-12 (Shorter Form) 

Today is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year B. The readings today tell us that it is against the law to divorce one’s husband or wife. And this law comes from God. The Church cannot change this law, the Pope cannot change this law, and not even Jesus can change this law. It is a law from God his Father! Thus in the gospel today Jesus quotes from Genesis, that is, the first reading:

“This is why a man must leave father and mother, (and cling to his wife; NJB), and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.” (Mk 10:7-9; SM)

To understand the law against divorce we must understand marriage! People get married for two reasons, that is, for love and for procreation. We are created in the image of God and we have to do what God does and we will be happy as God is happy in heaven! God does two things, that is, He loves and He creates, especially human beings.

We are to love as God loved us. We see the love of God in Jesus Christ on the cross; a self-giving love, a self-sacrificing love; a forgiving love, a merciful love, a saving love! Husbands and wives are to love one another as Jesus Christ loved them, that is, they are to love one another, not only with a romantic, erotic and sexual love; but with a self-giving, self-sacrificing, and forgiving love! With the love of Jesus Christ there can be no divorce! In fact the love will grow stronger and deeper with each passing year!

We are to create as God created us, that is, we have to have children! A marriage without the desire to have children is not a Christian marriage. It is not open to life. It is not a consummated marriage, that is, the marriage does not exist! And such a marriage can be annulled by the Church! Today with both parents working, it is a real sacrifice to have children. But Christian love is sacrificial love and it is only this love that can bring us true happiness!

Today, sadly, many do not want to have children. In 2010 the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco warned the Italians of “demographic suicide”, that is, over 50% of Italian families are without children. Another quarter have only one child, while just 5.1% have three or more children. (CWN, May 28, 2010)

The founding prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew lamented the low birth rate of Singaporeans, that is, 1.2 live births per female – far below the 2.1 needed for replacement. Currently, 31 per cent of Singaporean women and 41 per cent of men are choosing not to have children. “We’ve got to persuade people to understand that getting married is important, having children is important”, said Lee, once an ardent population-control advocate. (CWN, August 14, 2012)

Again, we have to have children, that is, three or more children in each family!

Now we understand the law against divorce and more importantly we understand marriage! The first reading was quoted by Jesus in today’s gospel:

“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.” (Gn 2:24; SM), that is, one body in love and procreation of children!

The responsorial psalm tells us that if we follow God’s law, particularly the laws on marriage and divorce, God will bless us with a happy family! (NJB; HCSB; CCB) God will bless us with many children and many grand children! God will bless us with abundance of food to eat to our satisfaction. God will bless us with prosperity. God will bless us with happiness and peace. God will bless us with long life! Thus the response:

“May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” (Ps 127 (128): 5; SM)

The second reading tells us that Jesus the Son of God became man and became our brother in order to suffer, die and rise from the dead for our salvation! And this is what we celebrate in the Eucharist every Sunday!

It is most urgent and most important that we come to Mass every Sunday to receive the Holy Spirit of our Risen Lord so that we can love as God loves and we can procreate as God creates and so that we can be happy as God is happy in heaven!

A study in the United States showed that one third or more of marriages end in divorce, but only “one out of fifty-seven marriages ended in divorce among husband and wife that worshipped at church consistently. Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is organized Scripture reading and prayer.” (Fr. James Gilhooley’s Reflections on the Sunday Gospels)

Therefore if you want a happy marriage and a happy family, come to Sunday Mass every Sunday and if possible come for BEC meetings, Prayer Meetings, Alpha courses, Neo-Catechumenal community celebrations, Bible-Sharing, etc.! A happy and joyful Sunday to all of you! Amen!

1st Sunday of Advent (Year B) – 3rd December 2017

Theme: PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST AT CHRISTMAS AND AT THE
END OF THE WORLD

  • Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1. 3-8;
  • Psalm 79 (80): 2-3. 15-16. 18-19. R/ v. 4;
  • 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
  • Mark 13:33-37

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. It is also the first Sunday of the new liturgical Year B! The word Advent means coming or arrival, that is, the coming of Jesus Christ! To begin with, we must remember that there are three comings of Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ came in memory two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ will come in majesty at the end of the world, and Jesus Christ will come in mystery this Christmas! Remember the three Ms: Memory, Mystery and Majesty!
The three comings are interrelated. Jesus Christ came two thousand years ago in memory and Jesus Christ continues to come every Christmas in mystery. That is why we are sure that Jesus Christ will come in majesty at the end of time! The word Christ-mas comes from two words, Christ and Mass. Jesus Christ will come this Christmas in mystery in the Christ Mass!
The readings today tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of the world!
The gospel today tells us to stay awake, that is, to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time. Thus we read in the gospel today: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’”
We prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ by praying, reading the Bible, attending BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community) meetings, attending Sunday Mass every Sunday, caroling, proclaiming the good news, going to confession, repentance, etc. We also prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ by being Santa Claus, that is, Saint Nicholas (Dutch), by giving Christmas presents to the poor, the aged, the sick, the prisoners, the foreigner, the orphan, the needy, the poor children, etc.!
The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading is a prayer for God to come and a confession of sins. The first part of the first reading is a prayer for the coming of God: “Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance. Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down – at your Presence the mountains would melt.” (Is 63:17; 64:1)
The second part of the first reading is a confession of sins: “You were angry when we were sinners; we had long been rebels against you. We were all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing. We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind.” (Is 64:5-6)
The historical context of the first reading was the return of the Jews from exile from Babylon in the sixth century BC. Today we also pray for the coming of Jesus Christ and we also confess our sins!
The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm is a prayer for God to come and save his people. Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.” (Ps 79 (80): 4) The response of the responsorial psalm is repeated three times. It is also repeated three times as a refrain of the original psalm. It can be paraphrased thus, ‘God of the heavenly host of angels, bring us back from sin and death; let your favor, grace and blessing be on us and we shall be saved.’!
In the responsorial psalm we pray for the coming of Jesus Christ to save us. Thus we read in the first part of the third stanza: “May your hand be on the man you have chosen, the man you have given your strength.” (Ps 79 (80):18)
Finally as we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time, the second reading tells us to thank God for all the graces that we have received at the first coming of Jesus Christ and to pray God that he may protect us from sin and death until the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time!
Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of the world! Amen!

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 5th November 2017

Theme: PRIDE IS THE GREATEST SIN; HUMILITY IS THE GREATEST VIRTUE 

  • Malachi 1:14-2:2. 8-10
  • Psalm 130 (131)
  • Mt 23:1-12

Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, or 31st Sunday of the Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that pride is the greatest sin and humility is the greatest virtue!

The first reading from the prophet Malachi tells us of the sins of the priests! The priests do not keep the law, and the priests give wrong instructions on the law to the people! The first reading also tells us of the sins of the people! The people marry foreigners and divorce their Jewish wives! (v.10)

Again, the gospel today tells us of the sins of the religious leaders! The gospel tells us of the sins of the Scribes and Pharisees! The gospel tells us that the Scribes (Lawyers) and Pharisees do not practice what they preach!

They are also hypocrites! They tie small boxes containing the Law on their foreheads and left forearms; they wear tassels at the fringe of their garments to remind themselves to keep the commandments; they take the seats of honor at banquets; they take the front seats at the synagogues; they are being greeted obsequiously (slavishly); and they are being called Rabbi, Master, Father, and Teacher! (CSB/NAB)

But their greatest sin is the sin of pride! That is why I began this homily by saying that pride is the greatest sin and humility is the greatest virtue! That is why the gospel ends with Jesus saying, “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”! (Mt 23:12)

A parallel verse is found in “Lk 18:14”! In fact Luke 18:9-14 is on pride and humility! “Luke 18:9-14” tells us that a Pharisee and a tax collector went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee said this prayer to himself, ‘I thank you God I am not like the rest of men, greedy, unjust, adulterous, particularly, I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes (10%) on all that I earn.’! The tax collector on the other hand said this prayer, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”! Jesus says in the gospel that the tax collector was justified, but the Pharisee was not justified!

The tax collector was justified not because he was good and holy, but because he was humble! The Pharisee was not justified not because he was bad and sinful, but because he was proud! The Pharisee was good and holy – at least compared to the tax collector – but the tax collector was humble! The tax collector was justified, but the Pharisee was not justified!

It is important to remember that Satan himself fell because of pride! Satan wanted to be like God; to be equal to God! In “1 Timothy 3:6” we read, “The elder-in-charge should not be a new convert, in case pride should turn his head and he incur the same condemnation as the devil”!

Again, we read in “Isaiah 14:12-15”, “‘How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn? How did you come to be thrown to the ground, conqueror of nations? You who used to think to yourself: I shall scale the heavens; higher than the stars of God I shall set my throne. I shall sit on the Mount of Assembly far away to the north. I shall climb high above the clouds, I shall rival the Most High.’ Now you have been flung down to Sheol, into the depths of the abyss!”! (NJB)

The Church Fathers identified the fall of the Morning Star (Vulg. ‘Lucifer’) with that of the prince of the demons (Satan)! (NJB/CSB)

Adam and Eve fell from grace also because of pride! Satan fell because of pride and that is why his temptation to Adam and Eve is also on pride! In Genesis 3: 4-5, we read, “Then the snake said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil.’”!

Satan fell because of pride; Adam and Eve fell also because of pride; and the Scribes and Pharisees fell also because of pride! But more importantly, the tax collector was justified, raised up and exalted because of humility!

Humility is not belittling oneself, but humility is accepting and confessing the honest truth of oneself! And the honest truth of oneself is that I am a sinner, I cannot save myself, and more importantly, I believe only God can save me! Humility is trusting in God for my salvation!

Thus the responsorial psalm of today (Psalm 130 (131); a psalm of humble childlike trust in God: “O Lord, my heart is not proud nor haughty my eyes. I have not gone after things too great nor marvels beyond me. Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. A weaned child on its mother’s breast, even so is my soul. O Israel, hope in the Lord both now and for ever.”!

Today we celebrate this Eucharist in humility! We began this Eucharist by humbly acknowledging our sins, and more importantly, with faith and trust in God, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us His Holy Spirit to justify us and through us to justify the whole world! This is the Good News! A Happy, Holy and Blessed week to all of you! Sunday, the day of the Sun, the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, blesses all the days of the week!

Amen!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 29th October 2017

Theme: YOU MUST LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD AND YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

  • Exodus 22:20-26
  • Psalm 17 (18): 2-4. 47. 51. R. v. 2
  • Matthew 22:34-40 

Today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, or 30th Sunday of the Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that we must love the Lord our God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves!

In the gospel today, Jesus, or Matthew, joins the two commandments into one commandment! The two commandments, that is, the first and second commandments cannot be separated!

In other words, if we do not love our neighbor, we cannot love God! As St. John puts it in his first letter, “Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see can love God whom he has not seen.” (1John 4:20)

Again, the two commandments cannot be separated, again, and more importantly, we cannot love our neighbor if we do not love God! How can we love our neighbor if we do not love God, if we do not have faith in God, if we do not believe in God, if we do not pray, if we do not come to Mass, if we do not have the Holy Spirit, if we do not have the love of God in our hearts? If we do not love God, our love for our neighbor will be unconscious self-love and our service to our neighbor will be unconscious self-service! That is why to love God is the greatest and the first commandment!

And most importantly, the gospel tells us implicitly, that we love God because God first loved us! We love our neighbor because God first loved us! And we love ourselves because God first loved us! This is the eternal truth of the gospel and by this eternal gospel truth we are saved by our God who is eternal, who has no beginning and no end!

The first reading from the book of Exodus tells us about the social dimension of love of neighbor! Just as we love God and love ourselves on the intrapersonal (within) level and we love our neighbor on the interpersonal (between) level, we also love our neighbor on the meta-personal level (beyond the personal level), that is, the societal level, the public level, the political level, the economic level, the structural level, etc.!

It is here that we address the issues of social justice, liberation of the oppressed, human rights, changing the structures of society, the poor, and even the protection of the environment, etc.!

Thus we read in the first reading, ‘The Lord said to Moses, ‘tell the sons of Israel, “you must not molest the stranger or alien, you must not oppress the stranger or alien, you must not ill-treat the widow and the orphan, you must not earn interest from the poor when you lend money to the poor, and you must return the pledge, the pawn, the security to the poor, when you lend money to the poor”’’!

But most importantly, the responsorial psalm tells us that we love God because he is our strength, our rock, (our bulwark, our wall, our defense, NJB), our refuge, our fortress, our help, our stronghold, our shield, our savior, our victory and our love!

The responsorial psalm ends with this praise of God, “He has given great victories to his king and shown his love for his anointed”!

The responsorial psalm is a psalm of King David thanking God for his military victories over his enemies!

Today the Lord continues to love us in the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to love Him, to love our neighbor, and to love ourselves! Today in this Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us his Holy Spirit and continue to love us so that we can continue to love him, love our neighbor, and love ourselves! This is the good news!

Amen!