Saturday, April 12, 2014

5th Sunday of Lent-Year A

5th Sunday of Lent-Year A
Ezekiel 37:12-14
Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Rom 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45

God Will Solve Your Problems in a Way That Brings Life To Others

About ten years ago, I had to attend a best friend's wedding in a city, which was about three-hour drive from where I lived. I had no money for bus ticket and a gift for the couple so I decided I was going to fast and pray for a week and ask God to let somebody bring me money to buy the bus ticket and the gift I needed. After four days nothing happened. Six days nothing happened. So the night before the wedding I got so angry with God and began to complain and ask: “Where are you God and why are you not listening to my prayers?”  On the day of the wedding I told God: “Since you did not solve the problem, I am going to solve it my own way”. So I decided to go and stand by the roadside and beg somebody for a ride. After about an hour I saw a man who pulled aside towards me without me stopping him. He asked where I was going so I told him I needed a ride to the city. He offered to give me a ride. During our conversation, he asked what I was going to do and I told him about the wedding. Guess what.  He told me he was attending the same wedding ceremony I was going to and said he would be glad to give me a ride back. I was so ashamed and told him the entire story of how I was angry with God that day. Then he told me maybe I was an answer to his prayers because God had healed him from some sickness and he did not know what to do to thank God so he had prayed that morning that God would bring him somebody who needed help so he could do some charity as a way of thanking God. What really surprised me was that before we got to the place of the wedding he told me he had to stop by a gift shop and buy something for the couple and that I could pick up any gift and he would pay for that. See what God did? He did not answer my prayers the way I wanted because he had a better plan that would reveal his glory not only to me but also to this man who prayed to him.

Beloved in Christ, maybe you don't need a bus ticket or a gift for your friend. But have you ever found yourself in a situation when things got so bad that you asked: “where are you God and why do you allow this to happen?” Perhaps you are going through some situation right now that makes you ask that question. Life can get very tough at times and you can feel abandoned. What do you do when you get to times like that? Our readings today respond to that question. As we get closer to the celebration of the passion of the Lord, the readings remind us of some important facts about life that we need to reflect on:

1.      God never abandons us; suffering or chaos in life is not a sign of God’s absence. We need to remember how the world began. The book of Genesis reminds us that the very act of creation was God bringing order, goodness, and beauty out of chaos. That is what God is always up to: bringing good out of evil, hope, when all hope is gone. The first reading tells the story of the people of Israel when they were in exile in Babylon and life was extremely difficult for them. They had become like dry bones without any life. All hope was gone. That was when God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision about the dry bones and promised that he would bring new life to his people: “I have promised, and I will do it”. What did he promise? To make all things new, to bring good out of evil, to bring order out of chaos through the power of his Spirit.

2.      Remember that God’s Spirit lives in you. Our second reading tells us to remember that the Spirit who brings new life dwells in us and if we allow him, he will always bring life no matter how hopeless a situation might seem; even physical death will be turned into life.

3.    The gospel teaches us that all sufferings and the chaos in our lives can lead to new life and reveal the glory of God. In the gospel, Jesus hears about the sickness of Lazarus and John tells us that because Jesus loves Lazarus so much, he delayed for two more days until Lazarus died. When you interpret this according to human wisdom, you may go like “really? That does not make sense at all because if you really love somebody that much when you hear that they are dying you don’t intentionally waste more time” So, why did Jesus do that? Because he was going to reveal God’s glory not only to Mary and Martha, but also to all the people in Bethany and to his disciples.  The people and the disciples all needed to come to new life. So it was not only Lazarus who was raised to new life. All the disciples, Mary, Martha, and all those who witnessed this miracle were raised to a new life of faith in God. They saw how much God cares about them and that God will not abandon them.

Beloved in Christ, this mystery of God bringing new life is what we celebrate today in the Eucharist and will celebrate in a very special way at Easter. However, we are not celebrating these mysteries just to remember what God did centuries ago, but also to experience that same mystery in our own lives today. We do not only celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus, we are called to also become the bread that is broken for others by allowing God to solve our problems in a way that brings life not only to us but also to others. So beloved in Christ, I don’t know what troubles you have in your life right now. I don’t know the chaos in your life. I don’t know what brings tears into your eye. I don’t know your disappointments and how you think God is delaying. But I know one thing: God has not abandoned you. He will keep his promises to you but he will do it in a way that will bring life not only to you, but also to many more. Are you ready to be the bread that is broken for others? Are you ready to allow God to use your sufferings not only to bring you new life, but also to bring that new life to many more? Then hold on! Don’t give up!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent-Year A

Fourth Sunday of Lent-Year A

The Impossible Becomes Possible When You Allow God’s Wisdom to Guide Your Human Reasoning 

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, last week we celebrated the first scrutiny of our catechumens and all of us, baptized, joined the catechumens to reflect on the questions: Do I trust in the Wisdom of God’s plan for my life? Do I trust God enough to give him not only my words but also my life? Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and the Church celebrates the second scrutiny of the catechumens. Today’s readings invite all of us to probe our hearts and examine our ways to see whether our lives are based on human reasoning alone or whether we allow our reasoning to be guided by God’s Wisdom.
St. Paul in our second reading today calls on us to “live as children of light”. He explains a life that is lived in the light as one that produces goodness, righteousness, and truth. My sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in a world that constantly rejects God’s wisdom and deceives us that we can rely on human wisdom alone to reach the fullness of our lives. However, the history of the world continues to affirm that human beings cannot rely on human wisdom alone to get the best out of life. Our readings affirm the truth that human wisdom alone is limited; and that without obedience to the Wisdom of God, we will be lost, we will make mistakes, and walk in darkness.
Our first reading tells the story of how God asked Samuel to go and anoint David as King of Israel. The story shows how Samuel initially used human reason alone to try to identity the one he was to anoint but failed. It was only when Samuel allowed his human reason to be guided by God’s word did he know that none of the seven brothers had been chosen but rather the boy David, who according to human reasoning was too young and did not possess the qualities of being the king of Israel. Our gospel reading reminds us that obedience to God brings life. St John repeats, many times, the way Jesus performed that cure to show how if God is obeyed, what seems humanly impossible becomes possible. 

·       First, Jesus began the whole miracle by telling his disciples that the cure was according to his Father’s plan. “We have to do the works of the one who sent me” By these words, Jesus showed that the cure he was about to perform was not based only on his human wisdom. It was what his Father wanted at the moment.
·       Second, Jesus took clay and saliva, two things that human beings would consider useless and ordinary. Clay is like dust and mostly people just walk on it. Saliva is mostly spitted out as something that is not needed. Yet, when the blind man obeys Jesus’ word and goes to wash in the Pool of Siloam, God brings new life and new sight by using these ordinary things. According to human reasoning, this is impossible; but when the blind man obeys God’s word, and allows his human reason to be guided by God’s Wisdom, he gains new life. Because of his obedience to the Words of Jesus, he had both his physical eye and his spiritual eye opened. Not only could he interact and celebrate with his neighbors, but he could also interact and celebrate with God. He could now declare: “I believe”. He received life to its fullest. 

Beloved in Christ, if you rely solely on human reasoning, you will avoid those who hurt you, you will not forgive those who offend you, you will protect yourself even if it calls for sacrificing others, you will chase after whatever makes you happy even if that destroys your soul, and you will give up when life seems too difficult. However, when you allow God’s wisdom to guide your human reasoning, when you put your trust in God’s words and obey him, hatred turns into love, jealousy turns into celebrating the blessings that comes to others, despair turns into hope, and the impossible becomes possible.

3rd Sunday of Lent-Year A

3rd Sunday of Lent-Year A
Ex 17:3-7
Ps. 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Rome 5:1-2,5-8
John 4:5-42

Do I Trust in the Wisdom of God's Plan for my Life?
Beloved in Christ, we thank God for another opportunity to gather in worship, listen to God's words, profess our faith in God, and dine with him at his table. We gather to celebrate and reflect on our life of faith. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: "Faith is not only giving God your words; Faith is much more than saying I believe in God. Faith is giving God both your word and your life". My sisters and brothers in Christ, St. Paul, in our second reading today, discusses faith as a love relationship and reminds us that faith is the love of God, which he has poured into our hearts and he invites us to respond to that love. He reminds us that faith is not a set of doctrine to be believed or rejected. Rather, it is a love relationship with God; and any true love relationship goes beyond words. Real love is expressed in the daily choices that lovers make for the sake of each other.
Today is the third Sunday of Lent and, as a Church, we celebrate the first rite of scrutiny with our catechumens who are on their journey to give their lives in a sacramental way to God and receive a renewed life in Jesus at Easter. The rite of scrutiny is a moment of grace and an invitation to the catechumens to reflect on their relationship with the God who is calling them to examine their minds, words, and actions to see if they truly trust God that much to give him their lives.  
However, this scrutiny is not only for the catechumens. The church invites all of us to join the Catechumens to scrutinize our faith. Our first reading teaches us that it is one thing to profess faith in God; but it is another thing altogether to live out that faith. The sin of the people of Israel in the first reading was not that they were thirsty and grumbled against God. The actual sin was that they did not trust in the wisdom of God's plan for their lives. God had set them free from Egypt, divided the Red Sea for them, saved them from Pharaoh's chariots and charioteers, given them water at Marah, and given them manna from heaven. Yet, the people did not trust the wisdom of God's plan for their lives. That is what offended God.
Beloved, are you at times like the Israelites? I am; and I think we all are. There are times we doubt the wisdom of God’s plan for our lives and choose to do other things rather than obey God's words and follow his plans. But the good news is that it is never too late to start anew and do it right. That is the message of our gospel reading today. The woman at the well did not hide her past from Jesus; she accepted it, confessed her past to Jesus, and she was ready for something new: “ Sir, give me that water”. The result was that she received a new life. Let us also scrutinize our lives today, accept our failures and confess them to Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us in our second reading that our God is kind and merciful and that he died for us even when we were sinners so we can put our hope in his mercy.
Beloved, if we are sincere in our act of contrition, God will forgive us our sin and give us new life. Let us find sometime today and reflect on the questions: Do I trust in the wisdom of God's plan for my life? Am I ready to renew my commitment to God and give him not only my word but also my life?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

First Sunday of Lent-Year A

First Sunday of Lent-Year A

Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Psalm 51
Rom. 5:12-19
Mt. 4:1-11

Lent is not so much about what you can give up.  
Rather,  it is about your openness to receive the graces that God is bringing you.

The day before Ash Wednesday, I was chatting with one of my friends from New York. She is not a Christian, but she is very interested in what we do as Christians so I told her about Lent and how we are called to pray, give alms, and fast. She asked: “Oh, can I join you?” and I responded “Sure! Why not?” Then she said, “Oh okay, I guess I can join you to fast because I have to lose weight anyways:). So she and I had a nice conversation about the fact that the purpose of Lent is not to go on diet and lose weight or to even pray and give alms in order to show God how holy we can become.
Beloved, even as Christians, we can misunderstand what Lent is about. We may be tempted to tell God: “Okay God, I am going to do 1, 2, 3, 4 and you have to do 5,6,7,8,9,10” Or “God I am going to do this and that; and you have to fix this and that”. However, Lent is not so much about what you can give up. That is just part of it. Rather, Lent is about your openness and readiness to receive the graces that God is bringing you.  It’s a time where God gives us special graces to return to Him. It’s a time where He tells us: It does not matter where you have been or what you have done. You are my child and I love you. I miss you and I want you back in my arms. So, Lent is a time to reflect on what it means to be a child of God, what it means to have God’s spirit dwell in you. It is a time to reflect on what it means to be a disciple and re-examine the choices we make and the routes we have taken in life, and where we have fallen short, ask God for the grace to start anew. In that sense, Lent is a time for “re-calculating; a time for  re-routing”  
Yes, Beloved in Christ, our  readings today remind us that life is not always easy. There are many problems and temptations in life. However, the the good news in the readings is that we can overcome; it is possible to overcome these temptations and live our Christian calling. God did not call us to fail. He called us to succeed. That is why He continues to give us the grace to overcome temptations in life. The gospel shows that Jesus overcame his temptations because of his openness to the graces that his Father sent him for the moment. The gospel highlights two forms of openness that helped Jesus to overcome his temptation:

1. Openness to Scripture: Jesus used scripture to overcome his temptations. Even as the Messiah, Jesus spent time to read the Word of His Father. He spent time to read and reflect on Scripture and that is what helped him to overcome temptations. I don’t know why, but many Christians, at times, find it so difficult to make time to read the Bible. There are times we prefer to read all the book about the Bible except the bible itself. However, it is only through the power of the Word of God that we can overcome temptations. Reading the Bible before and have the words of Scripture dwell in one’s heart is what makes it possible for one to reference it in times of temptation. Trust me, if you have not developed the habit of reading the bible for yourself, you will not be able to do so when temptations come. This lent, pray for a deeper love for the word of God and let’s begin to make time to read the Bible with our family and with our friends. Try to add Bible reading, at least one hour a day, to your to do list!

2. Openness to the small group that God provided: The gospel tells us that God sent Angels to minister to Jesus in the desert. Jesus had won the victory by overcoming his temptations; but he needed help to sustain that victory. The Angels were Jesus’s small group and church community in the desert, who helped him to maintain his victory. Beloved, you cannot overcome temptations all by your own strength. Even Jesus needed help and allowed the angels to minister to Him. We need the church community. That is why here at St. Thomas we have adopted the model of small groups to provide that support for each one of us. So if you do not have a small group, please join one so that you can have the best of this Lent. If you are already in a small group, be open to the members of the group; don’t be afraid to share your struggles with them. Build a circle of trust so that they can truly minister to you. Jesus had to trust those angels, open up to them, and allow them to help Him so that He could live his calling as the Messiah.

My prayer for you and me, this Lent, is that God will give us the grace to recalculate, the grace to re-route, the grace to read and reflect on scriptures, and the grace to allow others to help us on our Christian journey so that we can find the strength to return into the arms of our God.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ash Wenesday-Year A

A question for meditation:

What effect will the ashes that I received on Ash Wednesday have on my life?

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year A

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year A
Lev. 19: 1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103
1 Cor. 3: 16-23
Mt. 5: 38-48

Dare to be holy! Dare to be a temple because the world needs you!

Beloved in Christ, God saves the world, but He does not save the world without the help of human instruments, such as you and me. That is why God has called you and me to become his disciples. Our responsorial psalm reminds us that our God is kind and merciful; and He desires that every human being in the world comes to experience this love and mercy. Jesus in the gospel reminds us that we are called to experience God's salvation and help others do the same. What does Jesus mean by “be perfect”? He means I cannot control what people do, but like God, I can control my reaction to what people do. So, I should live in such a way that people can experience God’s love and mercy through me.  That is the honor and the privilege we have as Christians: to help others come to know and experience God's love and mercy; The question I ask myself today is if I take a look at the way I live, the choices I make, the things that I do, do I really get it? Do I really get what it means to a disciple of Christ to bring God's love and mercy? Our first and second readings remind us of what it means to be a disciple of God. 

To Be Holy:  The first reading tells us that to be a Christian is to accept the call to be Holy. What does it mean to be holy? In the bible, to say that something is holy is to say that thing is set apart for the salvation of people and the glory of God. So the call to be holy means we should live as people who are set apart for the salvation of souls and the glory of God! Beloved in Christ, Christians are not called to blend in, but to stand out so that we can be light in the darkness to help others walk the path of life in such a way that they may not tremble and fall; but that they may be safe and have the best of life. This is what makes God happy, a concept which is described in theological terms as glorifying God!

To be a Temple: Taken literally, a temple looks like a passive place, a building that cannot move, talk, or do anything. But symbolically, a temple is much more than that. It is an active reality. There are some basic characteristics of a temple:
  • A temple stands out. It does not just blend in. It welcomes everybody both sinful and righteous.
  • However,  the purpose of the temple is to transform lives: To make those who come in as good better, and those who come as sinful, good. The temple is to help people encounter the divine so that they can be transformed to become like the divine being who dwells in the temple.
  • In the temple, you always find wisdom that goes beyond what the world teaches. A true encounter with a temple makes one realize that people cannot live by human wisdom alone. Life based only on human wisdom can survive for a time, but eventually, it leads to destruction and emptiness. It is only when we allow human wisdom to be guided by the wisdom of God that life becomes complete, and brings true fulfillment.
Beloved, we need to ask ourselves some important questions as we reflect on these readings. In the family, among my friends, and in my work place: Am I a true temple? Do I welcome everybody? Do people who encounter me become better human beings? Do I help them get transformed into the men and women God created them to be? Do people find the Wisdom of God when they interact with me or do I live and teach only human wisdom? My prayer for you and me this week is that God will give us all the graces we need so that, in words and actions, we can dare to be holy, we can dare to be a temple so that through us people will experience God's love and mercy!  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Maintaining our Usefulness and Radiance as Salt of the Earth and Light of the World

Beloved in Christ, in our gospel today Jesus reminds us that we are the salt of the earth and light of the world. He goes on to admonish us to be careful with the way we live our lives so that we don’t lose our usefulness as salts and our radiance as light. Our first and second readings bring out some important dos and don’ts that we need to practice so that we do not lose our relevance as salts and our radiance as light.
The first reading tells us that in addition to reaching out to the poor, we need to avoid oppression, false accusation, and speaking evil about people. I would like to suggest that we find some time this week to reflect on these don’ts. Avoiding Oppression: Do you oppress people? You may think “oh I don’t have any power, so I don’t oppress anybody”. But I want you to think about this. When you are dealing with people, do you always want to be the one receiving praises? Do you feel confortable when somebody else receives the praise? Are you able to genuinely rejoice in the successes and blessings of others? Do you manipulate your relationships to get what you want out of them or do you empower others through your words and actions?
The reading also tells us we need to avoid false accusation and malicious speech. As I reflected on this I remembered an incident that happened last year. There was this person who always looked very grumpy and easily got annoyed. Every time I talked with him he was grumpy. So I drew the conclusion that this guy is just a grumpy person so I will not worry myself about him. Anytime I was going to meet with him, I prepared my mind that he would be grumpy. One day, I was having a chat with him and he did not look that grumpy so I remarked: “Um, no offense but today you do not look grumpy”.  He looked at me, smiled, and then told me he mostly comes across as grumpy because he has sleep problems and does not get more than one hour of sleep at night. I felt so ashamed because I was so wrong. I had accused him falsely. I began to pray that God would cure him of his sleep disorders. Beloved, maybe as you hear this story, you are thinking: “Oh father Richmond, I thought you were better than that”. But before you judge me, I just want you to take a moment to ask yourself “Do I always take time to understand what is going on with people before I draw conclusions about their behavior?
St. Paul in the second reading tells us not to rely on human wisdom in our interaction with people. In our interaction with family, friends, and others in our church community and the society where we live, we need to allow the power and wisdom of God to direct our thoughts and actions. It’s only in this way that we can maintain our usefulness and radiance as salt of the earth and light of the world.