Pastor's Corner

This page provides quick access to Fr, Michael's Pastor's Corner columns.

November 12, 2017 - 32ND Sunday in Ordinary Time

JESUS PROVIDES THE WISDOM needed for being ready to meet him when he comes again. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus cautions his listeners to stay awake, "for you know neither the day nor the hour". He warns them not to be like the foolish bridesmaids who were unprepared and were shocked to discover that, at the decisive hour, because they were unprepared, they were excluded. Until then, there seemed to be no difference between the wise and foolish bridesmaids. But the midnight call to action finds the wise prepared and welcomed, and the foolish unprepared and left out.

The month of November, begins with All Saints' Day, which is immediately followed by All Souls' Day, when we pray in a special way for our departed loved ones. St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that when the Lord Jesus returns in glory, those who have already died will rise first. Then we who are alive ... will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

How, then, can we best prepare to meet the Lord? Our first reading may have the key. Wisdom can be found by those who seek her. And the wisdom we seek - to be prepared to meet the Lord - is found in what Jesus teaches his disciples. His message is about how we are to live in the kingdom of God here on earth, so as to live with God after our death. His lessons are about forgiving others generously, being grateful for the generosity of others, following through on our word, and not expecting reward for doing the right thing. Most important, he teaches that loving God with all our mind, heart and soul, and humbly loving our neighbor as ourselves, are the greatest commandments.

The lessons Jesus taught his listeners as he prepared for his death provide us all the wisdom we need for being prepared for our own deaths. Let us stay awake in seeking to live in the wisdom Jesus shares and find ways to grow in our love for God and neighbors.

Fr. Michael

November 5, 2017 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

LET GOD BE GOD! We hear these days, too many people claiming to be great. Be it in the political circle, be it in the social circle or even in the spiritual circle, people who claimed to be the greatest have fallen head long on the floor and sad was their end. Just look around, the modern world has witnessed too many of such characters in self-glory and their downfall. As an exception, some of them toward the end of their tenure on earth have acknowledged that it is God who is the greatest and not themselves.

That's the simple message of today's first reading from the prophet Malachi: A great king am I, says the Lord. There's a dire warning to the priests: Give glory to my name... or your blessing I will make a curse. It seems it is from this very perspective that Jesus speaks out so aggressively in our Gospel, as he confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is interesting to see that he doesn't question their authority, but warns them. Jesus does question and warn all of us to go beyond words of faith and to act on what we profess.

Whenever Jesus says I am in the Gospels, he is making a clear reference to the First Commandment of the Ten, and to his own divinity. Remember that First Commandment? I am the Lord your God. You shall have no strange gods before me. It's very easy to dismiss it as hopelessly out of step with the modern world.

We might say there's not a lot of idol worship going on in our culture, at least worship of carved images of strange deities. But we do have our idols in power, wealth, fame, pleasure, independence. The most insidious and widely embraced idol, though, is the image we see when we look in a mirror. There is something within us that in subtle ways struggles mightily with the notion of allowing God to be God: it's that determined sense that "nobody is going to tell me what to do."

So how do we let God be God; let God be the greatest? One way is through prayer, when we pray the Lord's Prayer and say "thy will be done." Repeatedly returning to a posture of humbly seeking and following the will of God, no matter how challenging, no matter how contrary to our own will, is the heart and soul of humbling ourselves as Jesus calls us to. It allows God to be God, humbly acknowledging that God is the greatest!

Fr. Michael

October 29, 2017 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the words of Jesus, "I CAME NOT TO ABOLISH THE LAW BUT TO FULFILL IT." And in today's Gospel, He reveals that love of God and of neighbor is the fulfillment of the whole of the law and the Prophesy. Think about this, devout Israelites were to keep all 613 commands or precepts found in the first five books of the Bible. Jesus in fact sums up this big load of precepts and all the teachings of the prophets into two verses - the love commandments.

He seems to summarize the two stone tablets on which God was said to have engraved the Ten Commandments. The first tablet set out three laws concerning the love of God such as the command not to take His name in vain; and the second contained seven commands regarding love of neighbor, such as those against stealing and adultery.

It is love that is the center of the 10 commandments. Our filial relationship with our creator also leads us to care affectionately our brothers and sisters. Love is far more than simple affection or warm sentiment; a total giving of ourselves to God - loving with our whole being, that is with all our heart, soul and mind and concrete expression of our concern for our neighbor.

In the words of St John in his letter, "We love because God first loved us." He has been our deliverer, our strength when we could not possibly defend ourselves against the enemy, sin and death. Hence, we love Him in thanksgiving for our salvation. Therefore, let us imitate Jesus in laying down our lives daily, in ways large and small, seen and unseen, our lives offered as a continual sacrifice of praise!

Fr. Michael

October 22, 2017 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

IS IT LAWFUL TO PAY THE CENSUS TAX TO CAESAR OR NOT? Jesus is asked in today's Gospel. Matthew makes it clear that those who ask this question are interested in one thing only: how they might entrap Jesus in speech. If Jesus answered "yes," he might forfeit his popularity with the masses, who resented the payment. If he answered "no," he could be denounced to the authorities for inciting people to break the law.

Jesus does not give either of the answers his questioners were looking for. Jesus' reply, Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, rejects the radical position of those who claimed that the Roman government was unlawful and should not be obeyed at all. All the emphasis, however, is on the second part of Jesus' answer: Pay to God what belongs to God.

What is God's anyway? The answer is inescapable: everything! From God we receive all that we are and have, except sin. God has given us the gift of life, and has preserved our lives until now in the midst all the dangers to life. God has given us our talents: everything from the five senses, which we share with the animals, to the uniquely human gifts of thought, speech, love and laughter, to the individual talents that make each person unique. How dull life would be if we were all the same!

If paying to God what is God's means putting God first in our lives. Are we putting God first in our lives? Or does he get the leftovers? Jesus understood, and taught, that we must give God the first fruits - out of gratitude. This grateful giving of first fruits was based on the truth that everything comes from God, and hence everything belongs to God. When we put God first in our lives, we make a beautiful discovery. We find that what is left over for ourselves is always enough, ultimately more than enough! We find that God will never be outdone in generosity.

Fr. Michael

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