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Pastor's Homilies

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I have heard people say, "I wish I had stronger faith." There have been times in which I have said the same thing myself. The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. I suppose all of us at some time or other have turned to the Lord with those words, or something very like them. We usually make such statements in times of a crisis or during moments of distress.
These same sentiments are expressed in the Bible. We hear them today from the voice of the prophet Habakkuk. When Habakkuk wrote, the residents of Jerusalem were faced with their city’s destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. In the middle of the siege on Jerusalem, the people, began to wonder if God cared for them anymore, and, even if He did care, was He capable of doing anything about their circumstances?
Habakkuk sets these very human thoughts in writing, and he utters a very honest prayer, "How long, O Lord. I cry for help, but you do not listen . . . I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Habakkuk bravely expresses what some people of faith feel at times: God is not listening to their prayers. The response to his lament may not have pleased Habakkuk. But he is reminded that the vision of God's justice will be fulfilled. And he is told to wait and to persevere in faithful service.
Something similar takes place in this Sunday's Gospel dialogue between Jesus and the apostles. Jesus has just confronted them with some challenging statements about the need to forgive continually. In the wake of that demanding teaching, his apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith.
The response of the disciples is exceedingly human. They can’t even begin to grasp how they can forgive. And so they say to Christ, “If you want us to be that forgiving, you better help us out….you better ‘increase our faith.’” It is as if they want him to give them some spiritual steroids, so that they will be able to accept his teaching and follow him faithfully.
Jesus responds by assuring them that even the smallest amount of faith has powerful effects. They already have the faith that they are asking for. God has already graced their lives with faith. Now they must learn to use it. Or, in the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading, they need to “stir into flame the gift of God.”

The faith that Jesus talks about is not about giving intellectual agreement to a particular doctrine or idea. Faith is a relationship of trust and love. It means opening ourselves to receive another’s life and giving our life to another. That other one is God. That one faith-relationship is foundational to who we are and how we live.

Think of our own human relationships, or think about a married couple’s faithfulness. They are faithful because they have committed themselves to each other in love and trust. They are faithful because they carry with them that one relationship wherever they go, in all that they are and all that they do. Faith is simply the way in which we live letting God guide our decisions, our words, and our actions. Faith will not change the circumstances of our lives. Instead, it changes us. It moves us.

The disciple’s found Jesus teaching on forgiveness to be a hard one to put into practise. We know from experience that is not easy to forgive always. Sometimes we will be burdened with our inability to forgive until our faith changes us. Until our faith moves us to forgive. Until we let God guide our decisions, our words, and our actions.
The apostles were challenged to live more fully and faithfully the values of the Gospel. When we are challenged to live the values of the Gospel let us pray to the Lord like the apostles to increase our faith to increase our trust and love for God, that we may live more fully and faithfully as followers of Jesus.

Fr. Jinto

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Many of the stories or parables of Jesus have a twist in it, something that goes counter to what the people of Jesus’ time would expect. Last Sunday it was the prodigal son, two weeks ago it was hating mother and father to be a disciple and just before that it was “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

We may at times have problems understanding or even agreeing with parables. The difficulty we might have with today’s parable is that Jesus seems to be praising a person who was consciously being dishonest and deceptive with his employer. The manager was certainly dishonest.  He clearly squandered his master’s property and was being fired because of it.

But what Jesus praises the manager for is not his dishonesty but his diligence or prudence in reacting to the situation when he gets a wake-up call from his master.

In order to better understand the parable, we need to know a little bit about the economy of Jesus’ time which is different from what it is today. In the economy of Jesus’ time the manager was the middle man. He took the master’s goods and sold them at a price to make a profit for the master and himself, much like tax collectors who added to the tax imposed to make a living.

Tax collectors were known for adding much more to the tax in order to get richer. So it may have been with the manager in the Gospel reading. He may have overcharged customers for the goods so that he and his master made a good profit.

When the manager asks the debtors to write out a new note, the manager is canceling his own commission, while his master still received all that was his due. The dishonest manager thus takes the hit himself, losing his own commission on the trades, and not his master’s. The parable concludes with the master praising the manager for acting prudently in a crisis. And that is the point of the Gospel. Everything was going fine for him. Then one day he is told he will be let go. He gets a wake-up call. He is told his employment is about to come to a close. This is a real wake up call because there was no unemployment insurance, no social security in those days. Someone who is out of work is in a desperate situation.

Realizing that, he does an assessment of his life. He does something drastic. He cancels the debt with the hope of receiving favors in the future. When the manager gets the wake-up call in regard to his material well being and future he moved when it was time to move. He acted when the situation called for action.

Jesus uses the parable and the way the manager deals with the crisis situation to teach us a spiritual lesson. Jesus uses this parable as a metaphor for the spiritual, the things of our heart and soul. As Jesus addresses this parable to the disciples he was challenging them to be concerned about their spiritual life, their eternal relationship with God just as the manager was concerned about his material future.

We come to immediate attention often times for the material things. We get motivated to action when we get a wake-up call regarding our heath. What do we do when there are threats to spiritual welfare, the wellness of our heart and soul? Spiritual life is about our relation to God which is of paramount significance in our lives. It is the spiritual that links us to God and one another.

So Jesus’ teaching leaves us with some questions that we could ask ourselves. Do we have the same care and concern about our eternal relationship with God as we have about our material life and future? Can we be as vigilant for the things of God as we are for all the other things that are in our lives?

Fr. Jinto

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Among the many issues that the world is facing today, one of them that has got a lot of people concerned about and rightly so is the is the wild firesin the Amazon rainforest and other parts of the globe. This has formed the backdrop for the annual Season of Creation, timely tuned this year to the theme of biodiversity.

The Season of Creation begins on Sept. 1 with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and runs until Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis asks all Christians to embrace this season in prayer, in living more sustainably and in raising our voices in the public sphere. We are invited to think more deeply about what is happening at present to the Earth, the environmental destruction which now threatens our world, our common home, and to be more attentive to the cry of the earth.

This year's Season of Creation is focusing on "protecting the web of life in all its variety." I think this theme helps us meditate on two essential facts about creation: that creation comes from God, and we play a part in it. We are part of a complex, delicate and interdependent web of life which is valuable because it is created, sustained and redeemed by God.

We have been reading about what is happening in the Amazon and how it affects our weather, the availability of water in many regions of the planet, and the very air we breathe, producing more than 20% of the oxygen around Earth. This goes to show the interconnectedness in the vast Web of Life.

God’s great creation has been evolving for some 15 billion years. Primitive life forms began billions of years ago. The truth of the matter is we humans are late comers to the community of life on planet earth. Over the countless centuries we’ve developed our skills in farming, in learning and science. In this whole process there is a tendency to imagine ourselves to be over and above all other life forms. We’ve lost that sense of connectedness with them, that sense of dependency on them.

On this first Sunday of the Season of Creation, the scriptures call us to humility: humility before God, humility in our relationships with each other, and humility before God’s gift of creation in all its beauty, goodness, diversity and complexity.

The word “humility” has its roots in the Latin word “humus,” which means “earth,” “ground,” or “soil.”   As God made the earth, he made us: we draw our life and our breath from that same source of all creation, from the God who made heaven and earth. We're all a part of God's good creation.

So, to live in Humility is to live with in awareness that everything I am, and I have is a gift from God. We need the humility, that gratitude which helps us realize “we did not weave the web of life; we are a strand in the web of life.”

Today’s Gospel shows God’s special love for the poor. Let us hear the Gospel message today where we are called to consider those on the margins, this includes those most at risk from climate breakdown. In fact, it is the poor who depend most immediately on the health of ecosystems and are affected most severely by the collapse of the natural systems that sustain all life. Billions of people today face the loss of productive soils, clean water, forests, fish and coral reefs, and biodiversity loss is a major driver of human migration.

As we enter the Season of Creation, we are invited to look to our lifestyles, our consumerism, and to educate ourselves as to how they negatively impact the beautiful creation of God. let us pray that we will experience a renewed commitment to reverence the Divine in Creation, and to take responsibility for its care.

Fr. Jinto

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is a question about God’s goodness as old as religion itself: How can God be all-merciful and all-loving if there is eternal punishment? It’s a false question. God doesn’t deal out eternal punishment. God offers us life and the choice is ours as to whether we accept that or not.

God, Jesus tells us, doesn’t judge anyone. We judge ourselves. Jesus did not come to earth and die on the cross to punish us. He died to save us, to bring us to God.

In the gospel passage we hear today, “Someone asked Jesus, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ Or, to re-phrase the question asked of Jesus: who gets into heaven? And the answer Jesus gives? Everyone is invited.

Once when I was working in the hospital, I passed by an elevator that was stuck. I heard the automated voice at five-second intervals as I passed by the elevator. “Going up,” announced the empty car whose door apparently had jammed open. And while no passengers were lured into the car by the inviting voice, still she called forth.

Another day I encountered another automated voice, this one from a stuck revolving door in the hospital lobby. “Please step forward,” invited the voice, repeating the invitation at five-second intervals. But no one paid attention because it was plain to all that the door was jammed. And so, as crowds moved around in the lobby, the voice continued “Please step forward.”

God invites us each day to take the next step heavenward: It’s true that the voice of God is often not as obvious or as inviting as the automated voice at the hospital. One has to listen deeply to the heart’s desire to hear God’s invitation. Sometimes, we are as unmindful of his voice as were the hundreds of people who passed a broken elevator and a stuck revolving door at the hospital. But he’s insistent. He invites us many times each day to ascend heavenward.

Of course, the invitation is to strive to enter through the narrow door. Why does he say it is a narrow door? The metaphor of the narrow door used by Jesus is not about the reduced dimensions of a door. The narrow door is defined in the beatitudes as passion for justice and peace, humility, forgiveness, and unrelenting kindness and compassion. The narrow door is the metaphor used by Jesus to describe the manner in which he himself lived. He chose the way of compassion, simplicity and unconditional love.

So, the door is narrow not to be oppressive or to exclude anyone.   Butit is a disposition of humility, generosity, forgiveness, truthfulness, in a word, loving obedience to God’s commandments, no matter what the cost. These are the “conditions” that make the road to life “narrow.”

This “narrow gate” is not an unpleasant surprise that we will find only at the end of the journey of our lives. It is a daily reality, a challenge which we have to accept if we want to find life now and forever.

Those who are unwilling to pass through are people who lock themselves out. In short, where and how I spend eternity is entirely my own decision, not God’s. He invites us many times each day to ascend heavenward by choosing the narrow door to love and life.

Fr. Jinto