Homilies

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Every Saint Has a Past, and Every Sinner Has a Future...

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Every Saint Has a Past, and Every Sinner Has a Future...

I asked a seminarian as to what or who inspired him. He said: “If the saints can do it, we can do it.

How grateful we are for the saints. Their courage and example inspire and encourage us. Actually - We are all called to be saints because only saints can enter heaven. Many of us, even the best of us, will not go straight to heaven, but will have to spend time in purgatory, so to speak, to purify us from the consequences of our sins and from our sinful inclinations before we enter heaven.

That is why – aim high - aim to be saints – aim for heaven. If you miss – you will end up in Purgatory but if you live your lives aiming minimally only for Purgatory, if you fall short – well, you know what that could mean…

Living by Faith

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Homily on “Living By Faith” (based on the Reading from the book of the Prophet Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 and the Gospel of Luke 17:5-10):

 Today’s first reading comes from the Prophet Habakkuk.  Habakkuk lived around 650 years before the Lord.  It was a time of violence.  The Babylonians were threatening or attacking the rest of the world, including the kingdom of Judah.  Hatred and violence were seen as part of life, and so the prophet Habakkuk cried out for help and deliverance.

 The history of our faith is filled with stories of deliverance.

 The most popular of all is the Exodus, the story of deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.  The Exodus has represented salvation and deliverance for people of faith.

 And there are many other stories - People delivered from fiery furnaces and lions’ dens, from giants, from devils, and from mighty armies; delivered from famines, floods, and terrible diseases, even from death. So, the people of faith understand God as a God who acts, who acts for our deliverance… as our Savior because we cannot save ourselves.

 We all have our own deliverance stories – from illness, strained relationships, financial struggles, violence, poverty, abuse, … and because of them, hopefully, they strengthened our faith in God.

 But – admittedly – our stories have not always been stories of deliverance.  What about those times when deliverance did not come? – when it seems our prayers were not answered?  Does that mean we did not have enough faith as those people we hear about who have survived through major tragedies and struggles in life?

 Let me share three points to ponder:

 First - When deliverance doesn’t come, it does not change who God is.

God is still God. God remains the same. Often, God’s methods or ways are not our ways – and are unknown to us.

God’s ways are simply a mystery. Sometimes we cannot know why things happen as they do - but this does not change who God is.  God remains our loving, gracious and merciful Father. He will always love us.

Secondly - When deliverance doesn’t come; when our prayers are not answered, it does not necessarily mean we are being punished.

It is possible that we are experiencing the consequences of irresponsible decisions. But all suffering is not punishment. As a matter of fact, both the scriptures and church history show us that the most godly people are often the ones who suffer most.

Think of all the good people, perhaps some of the finest Christians you yourself have known, for whom deliverance has not come. Think of our Lord in Gethsemane. Even for him there was not the kind of deliverance for which He prayed. We should not always complicate our experiences of suffering by adding guilt. When deliverance doesn’t come, again, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are being punished.

 

Thirdly - When deliverance doesn’t come, it does not mean there is no grace.

 

Sometimes deliverance and grace are not the same thing.  The deliverance  that God provides is not always the kind of deliverance we might choose for ourselves - but it is always the victory of grace… maybe not delivering from pains and struggles but overcoming them by the grace of God.  God promised that He will always be with us in our struggles in life.

 And the Good News is – if you really think about it, sometimes when deliverance has not come, we have ended up actually finding more grace, finding more of God, finding more of ourselves than we would have - if the deliverance we wanted had come – we could say it is a “blessing in disguise”, so to speak.

 God, in his infinite wisdom and permissive will, somehow allows us to suffer because He can bring good out of something seemingly bad.

The truest meaning of faith is the capacity to believe, even when no answer to our problem or even when no healing comes – in the way and time we want them.  True faith is trusting that God’s grace is sufficient, and will ultimately triumph over all things. As one popular song goes: “He makes all things beautiful in His time.”

 Listen again to the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk from our first reading:

How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.

Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.

 What is that vision?  The big picture - God’s vision of the world.  His plan is still unfolding.  God knows what He is doing with the universe.

 Let us pray for wisdom every day. Wisdom is seeing things and events, seeing ourselves and seeing other people, seeing our current circumstances and reality as God sees them. We need to pray for wisdom everyday.

 Let us put our faith in God’s love and mercy – even if it seems to be taking forever – let us not give up.

 So – if it delays – What are we supposed to do? WAIT!

 Admittedly - like Habakkuk, we lament and complain – we get impatient - How long O Lord?

 We can all relate and identify with that prayer and must have expressed it ourselves.  At times – we get to a point in our life – we get frustrated - we just do not know what to do anymore and we start to question why God does not do something.

 How long?  Listen to the answer:  “If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” -  in God’s time… in God’s good time, in God’s ways, in God’s plan which holds everything together.

 We all have our own problems of all kinds – losing a loved one, illness, financial problems, relationship problems, … and recognizing our own weaknesses, we come together today to pray for faith and for the courage to live our faith and for the grace to accept the complexities of life… that God works in ways we do not easily perceive or understand.

 Faith is confidence in the will and purpose of God which gives us the power to endure whatever may come.

 Let us pray that we continue to put our trust in God and in His Divine Providence.

 Like the apostles, we pray: “Lord, increase our faith.”

 So - If you think you have been given a difficult role in life, or if your faith leads you to face steep challenges, continue to give thanks to God.  He obviously has great plans for you and me.  God has given us the faith we will need.  Let us use that faith, and we will see God do what we could not do on our own.

 Like the servants in the Gospel, we continue to be faithful and we continue to serve God, do His will as He commanded … and that is all.  To God, and not to us, be the glory.  What greater joy could there be than that?

God bless…

Rich Man and Lazarus

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Homily on Mercy, Love and Compassion (based on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus; Luke 16: 19-31):


An angel appeared at a gathering and told the leader of the group that he had come to reward the leader for his years of devoted service. The leader was asked to choose one of three blessings: either infinite wealth/money, or infinite fame or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the leader asked for infinite wisdom. “You got it!” said the angel, and disappeared. All heads turned toward the leader, who sat glowing in the aura of wisdom. Finally one of his colleagues whispered, “Well, say something.” The leader looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”


“Money is not the root of all evil.  The love of money is the root of all evil.”

 

Last week’s Gospel ended with: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”  In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us what happens as a consequence of loving money, pleasures and comforts of this life more than loving God and our neighbor.

 

The rich man went to the netherworld not because he was rich.  No, it is because of his self-centered preoccupation with his own life and its pleasures.  He was so spiritually blinded that he could not, would not even give a little attention to the needs of a poor man lying at his doorstep.  That’s the reason he ended up in torment.  That’s something all of us need to ponder because there might be a poor man at our own doorsteps.


From hell - the Rich Man raised his eyes and saw Lazarus.  But you see – before - the Rich Man never saw Lazarus as a fellow human being. The Rich Man may have noticed Lazarus before but only as a stinky, beggar in dirty clothes begging for food.


In the Gospel we heard two Sundays ago, the Pharisees saw the people Jesus was eating with - only as tax collectors and sinners but God saw them as His children who had gotten lost and needed to be found. That’s the reason Jesus came, and that’s the reason he welcomed sinners and ate with them.  He was trying to help them find their way back to God.  This was something the Pharisees did not understand – the loving merciful heart of God – how He feels about His people…. about us….


When people hear the word “Mercy”, they often think only in terms of forgiveness… but mercy means also compassion, to “suffer with”, compassion particularly towards those who are in need in one form or another… all around us… even within our own family.


We say that God is compassionate, but we ignore the poor. We say that God loves us and has mercy on us, but we hold grudges against our relatives and friends. Our actions need to truly reflect God's mercy. 


The parable in today’s Gospel tells us to open our eyes and our hearts to be more aware of the people around us who need our help. That person, that Lazarus at our gates, might be the means for our own salvation.  The truth is - the poor people actually teach us how to love.


Certainly - many of us are living in a world that has provided well for our needs.  We are fed, sheltered, supported by family and friends.   There is really nothing wrong with all of these… We surely have a right to all of these.  The question to us is:  What are we doing for those to whom life has not been so kind? – What are we doing for the less fortunate?


Are we walking by the Lazaruses in our own community without seeing them as fellow human beings.


Are we quick to assume that the person begging at the street corner maybe a drug addict, or an alcoholic, perhaps a thief… or perhaps someone who is lazy or who has not worked hard enough?


Of course, we are not all called to be another Saint Teresa of Calcutta but her life of faith gives us a great example and insight into the heart of God.  


As St. Teresa of Calcutta shared – that at the heart of her vocation is to respond to Jesus’ words “I thirst” on the cross – Jesus’ longing for the love of the broken bodies of the poor and His desire to offer Himself as spiritual drink to the poor.  Jesus wants their love, and He wants to give Himself to them so that they would be free to give themselves back to Him… but the poor cannot - because they are hungry and suffering… They are more concerned about physically surviving.


The ultimate goal of our helping the poor – after providing them with their basic human needs – more importantly - is for the poor to also encounter and know Christ Who is the key to everything… With Christ, you have everything.


At the end of our lives, we are all going to be called to give an account for all that we have been given – either much or little.  We need to be always reminded and challenged with this verse from the Gospel of Luke, 12:48: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” .. and we have all been given much more…


These words are frightening because they apply to us who live in the richest and most materialistic nation in the world.


What kind of sin the Rich Man ended up in Hell for? The sin of omission. We don't think about that, do we? Usually when we go to confession – if we go to Confession – that is another story - we say, "Father, I did this, I did that, I thought about this, I had too much of that,-- But again, the sin that sends the Rich Man to Hell, is actually his indifference to the poor… He is disconnected… He has no compassion…

 

It is not enough that you do not do bad things. The question is: Are you doing anything good for others who cannot pay you back?

 

My brothers and sisters -  Are we not the “rich man?”

 

This famous Gospel parable challenges us, it does not condemn us. It is meant to bother us, to disturb us, to get under our skin, so to speak. What are we doing in our lives to take care of the poor? 

 

Everyone of us here, when we stand before God on that day of judgment, will be judged on WHAT WE HAVE FAILED TO DO, not so much on what we have done. Sometimes we look at what we have done and say, "Oooh, look at what I have done or accomplished." When we focus on that, we forget what we have failed to do.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel:  Jesus said, "I assure you, as often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to Me.”

In the Gospel reading, the rich man cried: “but if someone from the dead goes to my brothers, so that he may warn them, they will repent.”


Maybe, if someone were to rise from the dead, we would change our priorities.  Maybe if someone were to rise from the dead we would be infinitely more concerned with the spiritual than we are with the physical.  Maybe if someone were to rise from the dead we would use our gifts, our talents, our intelligence, and our possessions to reach out to others in need. 


But you know what?  Someone has already risen from the dead.  He calls us to have faith in Him - instead of faith in our possessions. His name is Jesus – our brother.  Today, we plead with Him to help us be truly Christians and merciful.


God bless…

 

Cycle C – 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6: 11-16; Luke 16: 19-31)