Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A week ago at a school mass here, I asked the students to imagine one gift that they wanted for Christmas. Then I wanted to find out how much their gifts were going to cost their parents. I saw only one or two hands went up when I asked them whether it cost below $10. Quite a few more hands went up at $50, but most of the hands went up at $100 and above. I feel your pain, parents and grandparents, because this Christmas will be a costly one for you.
Now I would like to ask you to do the same exercise. I want you to imagine one gift that you want for Christmas. Since we are big boys and girls, I’ll start at $50. $100…$200…$500…$1000…$2000. At that price, I’ll bet you want a new HDTV.
Now let me give you something to think about. Few days after that school mass, one of the students approached me and said, “Deacon Paul, my Christmas present costs my parents nothing.” I said, “Really? What is it?” The student said, “My parents are separated, and I want them to be back together.” I was speechless.
What that student said puts everything into perspective doesn’t it? Of all the gifts that we can buy with money for each other, one gift costs nothing but is priceless—that is, the gift of ourselves to each other. The essence of Thanksgiving is not about shopping, football, or pigging out, but thanking God for placing family and friends as gift in our lives. It’s all about that gratitude.
This morning I went to Our Lady of Lake Hospital to visit our sick parishioners, and I told them about this student to an elderly lady who was in the hospital with a broken hip. Her daughter was there with her. They were planning to spend the Thanksgiving and the rest of the weekend at the hospital. But they were thankful that the whole family could spend the time together even if it was at the hospital. The student who made us think today has gained a great many strangers who will pray for him. I know we all have estranged family members and friends in our lives. Why don’t we ask Our Lord during Communion to ask Him to look after them and to bring them back into our lives?
Saturday, November 17, 2007
How many of you have your alarms set to go off at in the morning? I know there are about 120 husbands and single men who get up that early to be at St. George every Friday mornings by . These men are from parishes all over the diocese. What’s the occasion? They are there for a weekly men’s spirituality program called, “That Man is You.” They begin with breakfast followed by a presentation and then they break into small groups to reflect and discuss topics from the presentation. And afterwards, there is still plenty of time left to get to work.
What compels these fathers, husbands, and single men to wake up so early to attend this program? It is because they are hearing the call from God to be better leaders as husbands and fathers of their families. But our culture tries to stifle and demean this important call by God. You know when you turn on the TV these days you don’t get a good picture of what good fathers are like. On TV you often see irresponsible, immature, selfish, and mindless husbands and fathers. How about Homer Simpson or Ray Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond. One television researcher observed the following: “Only a small portion of the current barrage of television images contains positive models of men as nurturing parents, and even these provide very mixed messages about fathering. In popular situation comedies, most men continue to act incompetent…” Storylines often portray fathers viewing their children as intrusions in their lives compared to more important pursuits such as drinking beer, watching TV or playing golf. These TV dads invest considerable time in thinking up schemes to avoid their family, and they appear overwhelmingly uninterested in everyone else’s lives.
Our gospel today talks about the signs of the end times. We see plenty of apocalyptic signs such as wars, natural disasters, famines, and plagues. Every night we see images of war in
Let me give you a great example of Christ-like fatherhood in the midst of persecution and hardship. In 1941 in the height of WWII, Father Maximilian Kolbe was thrown into
On one occasion, a prisoner from Fr. Kolbe’s bunker escaped. As a punishment, ten men were selected at random to be thrown into a starvation bunker to die. One of the unfortunate men, Francis, cried out, “My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?” Fr. Kolbe then stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.” Fr. Kolbe’s offer was accepted, and he was thrown into the starvation bunker. Francis later recalled, “I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. I the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me?” The news quickly spread all around the camp. It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of
in the morning sounds a little too early for most of us to attend a spirituality course. But to these 120 men who brave through drowsiness to get to St. George know that there is a big stake on the line—their family. In the midst of war on our families, Our Lord is reminding us that this is a time of grace; it is by our perseverance that we will secure our families. We entrust today in a very special way to the Blessed Mother our families so that she may strengthen the fathers and husbands, that she may mold our families like the Holy Family.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Last year, one of the movies that did quite well in the Box Office was the movie called, "Da Vinci Code." How many of you have seen the movie? How many of you read the book by Dan Brown on which the movie was based on? The movie did so well that in
Today's gospel began as follows: "Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus." We can see that denial of resurrection goes far back. This denial has a habit of appearing throughout history, though. One of the central assertions by Dan Brown is that Jesus was merely a human prophet and not God. For Dan Brown, Jesus died at the cross; end of the story. How many of you were aware of this denial of resurrection when you were reading or watching the movie? If Jesus did not resurrect from death, what are we celebrating at mass? If we believed that Jesus did not resurrect, what is the meaning of the communion that we receive? Would it not be just a symbol for the bread at the Last Supper--just a community meal? Would we not treat communion as simply bread just as thousands of other Christian denominations do?
What is one evidence that Jesus has left us that his resurrection is real? The Eucharist--Jesus' resurrected body and blood--truly and really present. The Eucharist is alive; it is not dead. Our Lord revealed to St. Faustina how some of us treated Him in the Eucharist. He said, “When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the souls, but souls do not even pay attention to me. They leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things…They treat me as a dead object.”
When you and I approach the Eucharist, does it look like we are about to take into our bodies the living person, Jesus Christ, true God and true man?
I have been to many protestant churches prior to returning to the Catholic Church ten years ago. I have been to main-line, Evangelical, and Assembly of God churches. And I have to admit there were some amazing churches. Most if not all of the preachers put me to shame; in comparison, I am boring and uninteresting. Some have awesome praise-and-worship bands; their music is heart thumping and makes me want to jump. Despite all these attractive and compelling things that drew me week after week, I still church hopped. I would say, well I like the music but I don't like the preacher. Well, I like the preacher but I don't like how people treated me. Does this sound familiar to us Catholics as well? Yet despite of it all I still returned to the Catholic Church. Why? There was resurrected Jesus in flesh, blood, body, and soul in the Eucharist and I was so privileged to receive Him every day at mass. Everything we do humanly possible at mass pales in comparison to what Fr. Jack will be doing after "Holy Holy Holy." Through his hands, the bread and wine will undergo such a radical transformation that they will literally become the resurrected body and blood of Jesus. You know Mother Teresa used to kiss the hands of priests whenever she met them. For Mother Teresa, every priest was precious because they were the only ones who could bring resurrected Jesus in the Eucharist.
Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' may have captured our wallets and our imaginations. He may even have persuaded some of us that Jesus did not resurrect. However, remember the Creed that we will recite shortly; "I believe that he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again. He ascended to heaven, and seated at the right hand of the father, coming to judge the living and the dead." Remember that resurrected Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Imagine a husband and wife driving on I-10 toward
How many of you wives here had this happen to you? It’s a phenomenon so common that if you googled on internet “Why men don’t ask directions,” you’ll get a lot of explanations. One article that I found on Google says that for men, they are NEVER “lost.” Men have complete faith and trust in their own ability to be in control. Being lost, implies for men, that they are helpless, vulnerable, and without control. It’s bad enough that men feel lost, then on top of that, their wives are asking them to turn around and ask someone for direction. The article says that men only put their lives in the hands of people who have proven themselves trustworthy. To ask someone in the gas station, to ask someone who has not proved themselves trustworthy, is asking men to reliquish their control. Turning around means casting aside our innate instinct to be in control. That is very difficult for both men and women alike.
Who of us in the church here would not like to be on the drivers seat? It’s natural for us to trust our own ability to find our own way to destination. But are we certain that we have the right directions? Have we missed the exit and need to turn around? There is another word for “turning around.” It’s called conversion. And in the Gospel, we see a “turing around” or conversion of a short man named Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus is not that different from any of us. He worked hard at what he did, and he achieved the top position in his profession. But the way he achieved this top position must have been noticeable by others and himself. When Jesus offered to stay in Zacchaeus’ house, others grumbled that Jesus was going to stay at a house of a sinner. Zacchaeus’ conscience must have been pricked. Because he showed a dramatic turnaround. Zacchaeus offered half of his possessions to the poor and to redress anyone he has extorted. And Jesus remarked, “Today salvation has come to this house…” Zacchaeus didn’t take long to heed Our Lord’s prompting that he needed to take the next exit and turn around. Isn’t God asking us to do the same, today.
This coming Thursday, at our school’s library, I will be giving a talk on living the messages of Our Lady of Medjugorje. You are more than welcome to come and hear me talk. But I can give you the gist of Our Lady’s messages right now. Remember the image of a husband and wife driving to
First sign. Am I praying daily? Our Lady encourages especially rosary to be prayed daily. She says, “Today I call you to begin praying the rosary with a living faith. That way I will be able to help you. Dear children, you wish to obtain graces, but you are not praying. I cannot help you because you do not want to get started. Dear children, I call you to pray the rosary, and that your rosary be an obligation which you fulfill with joy.” (
Second sign. Am I going to confession once a month? Our Lady said, “Jesus desires to fill your hearts with peace and joy. Little children, you cannot realize peace if you are not at peace with Jesus. Therefore, I invite you to Confession so that Jesus may be your truth and peace.” (
Third sign. Am I reading the scripture daily? Our Lady said, “Little children, you do not know how to live in the grace of God; that is why I call you all anew to carry the word of God in your heart and in your thoughts. Little children, put Sacred Scripture in a visible place in your family, and read and live it.” (
Fourth sign. Am I fasting when I can? Our Lady said, “Today I call you to renew prayer and fasting with even greater enthusiasm until prayer becomes a joy for you. Little children, the one who prays is not afraid of the future and the one who fasts is not afraid of evil.” (
Fifth sign. Am I participating in the Holy Mass with joy? Our Lady said, “There are many of you who have sensed the beauty of Holy Mass, but there are also those who come reluctantly. I have chosen you, dear children, but Jesus gives you his grace at
Does any one of the five signs apply to us? Have we missed our exit? If we have, shouldn’t we take the nearest next exit and turn around as Our Lady suggests?