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“Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered.”

Kabataang Pilipino: Gihigugma, Gigasahan, Gitahasan ka

Fr Junjun Amaya (Diocese of Sandhurst, Victoria, Australia)

A Letter to the Filipino Youth: On this year of the Youth (2019) in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines come year 2021.

(Note: This has been published for the 2019 Fiesta Souvenir of my home parish (San Isidro Labrador Parish) in Mantalongon Dalaguete Cebu Philippines)

Two unforgettable moments of grace for me were the opportunities to be part of  two World Youth Day events- one in Sydney, Australia in 2008 and the other one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013.  Being part of the crowd of young people from all over the world celebrating and publicly declaring our Catholic faith, was not only amazing but it was a great moment of grace and a great manifestation of the working of the Holy Spirit.

I can still remember the final Mass with Pope Francis in the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro with millions of young people listening intently to  the words of Pope Francis in his homily reminding the importance of the youth not just as the future of the Church but as the present as well. Pope Francis said: “The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you.” He also stressed: “Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you!

I would echo these same words to the youth in the Philippines. The Church in the Philippines needs you. The Philippine Church is counting on you. Jesus Christ is counting on you. We are counting on you.

Though the Church in the Philippines is just two years short of 500 years old, she is forever young not only because of the many young people over the centuries to whom the Church is counting on but also because of the many youth of today who stood up to be counted and still do. Thank you, Filipino youth.

The theme to celebrate this year of youth is beautifully crafted: “Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered.”

Being youth has a mission and one important aspect of the mission is being youthful. As Pope Francis said, the Church needs your ‘enthusiasm and creativity’. The Church needs your youthful approach to life, your ideals and your new perspectives on things, especially on the faith.

Don’t worry if things would not be as clear as you would like to be. Life is not always in black and white let alone being a missionary of Christ’s love and presence among other young people.

Remember that when Christ walked on this earth proclaiming the most beautiful and assuring message from the Father to us, not everyone liked to hear what he had to say, not everyone liked to see what he had done, not even everyone liked his presence near them. For some, Jesus did not only comfort the afflicted, he also afflicted the comfortable. Even among his closest disciples, he didn’t get all their support and loyalty all the time.

But remember, my dear young people, you are among the 3G’s generation, and with God, you are the formidable 4G.

3G means you are beloved (Gihigugma ka), gifted (Gigasahan ka) and  empowered (Gitahasan ka).

You are beloved. Jesus loves you the way you are.

Pope St John Paul II in his homily at the 10th World Youth Day held in Manila Philippines in 1995, would remind you what it means to be loved by the risen Lord. St John Paul said: “Beloved ones, sisters and brothers: build your lives on the one model that will not deceive you! I invite you to open the Gospel and discover that Jesus Christ wants to be your “friend” (Cf. Jn. 15: 14). He wants to be your “companion” at every stage on the road of life (Cf. Lk. 24: 13-35). He wants to be the “way”, your path through the anxieties, doubts, hopes and dreams of happiness (Cf. Jn. 14: 6). He is the “truth” that gives meaning to your efforts and your struggles. He wants to give you “life”, as he gave new life to the young man of Nain (Cf. Lk. 7: 11-17), and gave a whole new future to Zacchaeus who was dead in spirit through ambition and greed (Cf. ibid. 19: 1-10). He is your “resurrection”, your victory over sin and death, the fulfilment of your desire to live forever (Cf. Jn. 11: 25). Because of this he will be your “joy”, the “rock” on which your weakness will be turned into strength and optimism. He is our salvation, our hope and happiness and peace.

My dear young people, even if you think you are not cute in the eyes of your crush, you are always CUTE (charming until the end) for Christ. Even if at times you feel you are not loved by the people you care about or even the Church you would have liked to be identified with, Jesus loves you to include him in your plans as he has included you in his own plans. So stay CUTE as well (Christlike until the end).

Second, you are Gifted.

Find that special gift in you. Find that purpose God has assigned for you. You have the chance to appreciate life and all the good things that may come with it as you go on living. Don’t take this for granted. You have the opportunity to invest your time and talents that not only make your life better but also that help better the lives of others. You have all the opportunity to not just dream of good things, but getting up and make those dreams a reality. Be a gift yourself (good influence to your friends all the time).

Third, you are Empowered.  

Christ not only loves you to be his friend. He also wants you to tell others about him. He wants you to bring your friends to him. He wants you to make him part  of your circle of friends. He wants you to be an active part of the process of establishing God’s kingdom. You are empowered to share in the values and principles that Christ is passionate about. Make good use of the WIFI connection within you.

W– your sense of Wonder. Strive to look for what is true, good and beautiful.

I-be a person of Integrity. ‘Do the right thing always even if no one is looking.’

F– grow in Faith. Faith is your direct connection to God. It is your direct link to Jesus.

I-uphold your Identity. Be who you are. Do not pretend to be someone you are not.

God bless you all, Filipino Youth.

Keep up and even if the going is tough, keep going.

When it is harder to pray, pray harder.

Homily All Saints Day 2019

lift up your hands to GodToday, the universal Church celebrates the solemnity of all the Saints.

All Saints’ Day is not about Halloween, but it means that the Holy wins—the holy people wins. It is a day of celebrating those who have gone before us and paved for us the way to God by their life of holiness and example of virtue.

Can we be SAINTS? visit this link

Historically this practice of honoring the saints started during and after the persecution of the early Christians.  Because of the many who were martyred then, it was quite difficult to remember all the dates of their martyrdom. Furthermore, some dates of their death could not be verifiable. Moreover, there were so many of them that their dates exceeded the number of days in the year. Therefore, today’s feast was created in the year 600 or so to cover all the saints in the Church.

So today we honor not just those who are formally and publicly canonized saints in the Church.

We honor and revere today those people great and simple, known and unknown, rich or poor, man or woman, those people whom we may have met and known personally, those whom we may even have worked with, whose lives are exemplary and whose lives are patterned after the life of Christ.

We honor them because we believe in the communion of saints and because in and through them, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, the holiness of the Church shines through.

Every time we profess our faith, we say we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The holiness of the Church is visible through the saints.

We celebrate this day because we are sharing their joy. After the race in their lives called the Cup of Christian discipleship, after taking up their crosses and following Christ faithfully regardless of difficulties, trials and temptations, all of them got the crown of Christ’s glory- the glory of the saints, that glory that St Paul would assure us— “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (1 Cor 2:9)

The saints were not perfect. They were not born saints. They were also sinners like all of us. Oscar Wilde would say: “The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future.

The saints were made holy because they freely and willingly responded to God’s call to be holy and they faithfully lived out their calling over and above all things. They became saints because they lived in hope that as St Paul would tell us in the second reading today, the hope of seeing God face to face, by purifying themselves, patterned after the purity of Christ.

The lives of these holy people, the saints, assure us that there is something greater, beautiful and rewarding experience God has prepared for us when we remain faithful to Christ.

Our Readings today remind us of the great things that await us if we go on walking on the right track heading towards God.

The first reading from the Book of Revelation tells us of the wonderful mixed of nations, races, colors, language, together as one in worshiping God in the heavenly liturgy.  

In our second reading, St John reminds us that we can’t exactly tell or know what really would become of us in heaven. But all we know is that we will see God as he is.

Isn’t it an exciting wait, to see God not only through our needy brothers and sisters, not only through the wonderful works of creation, but as HE really is? I’m looking forward to that moment.

We can get to that moment if we live out the virtues outlined in the Beatitudes that we heard read as our gospel today.  

The Beatitudes serve as our guidelines as we look forward to the fulfillment of every good thing that we hoped for.

A scripture scholar even said that the BEATITUDES is the summary of the whole Gospel. We can see the beatitudes in the very life of Jesus. We can also see that the saints really lived out the beatitudes in their lives, whoever they were, whatever they did, and whatever time they have lived in.

Mother Teresa is one great example many of us can imitate and learn from not only on what she had done, but on what she said as well.

She said: “We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with him right now–to be happy with him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means: loving as he loves, helping as he helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues, being with him for all the twenty-four hours, touching him in his distressing disguise.”

In other words, be let us be ‘Christ-like’ in all that we do and all that we are.

In terms of a game, we aim for the trophy and for the victory. If the players had to work hard in training to get the trophy, and must we.

Another way to attain that moment of seeing God face to face is to Stand up for Christ here and now as the saints did in their time.

Standing up for Christ is indeed very hard and challenging especially in our time and day. At times we may find the Jesus who not only comforts the afflicted but also afflicts the comfortable.

Yet we must not be afraid to stand up for him, because even if we are standing alone, we know that we are standing on the right ground.

Even if our knees are trembling, we know that we are standing on the firm and solid ground.  

So today, let us thank God for the gifts of saints, people who were once like us but have assured us that though sinners we still have the capacity and the opportunity to become saints.

Let us also ask the prayers of the Saints that like them the holiness of God and the holiness of the Church may shine through us.

Let us also ask the intercession of the saints that like them we may live in hope of the glory that God has prepared for us for all eternity. Amen.

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Homily for Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday 2019

Mass at Calvary Chapel
Church of the Holy Sepulchre Pilgrimage 2016

Friends, brothers and sisters, Happy Easter! Are you happy?

I am happy not because I can now rest from the busyness of many things that Lent and Easter involve or entails, but because Easter is a time of JOY. I am happy not because all this busyness of Lent and Easter do’s will soon be over but  especially because of all of you here tonight/today celebrating this wonderful celebration of our Christian faith and tradition.

Yes, there is so much detail in tonight’s liturgy as you would notice, but I loved every detail of it. 

I am so happy too to welcome into the Faith and into the Church 14 new members who would be baptised, confirmed and to receive their first Eucharist today. Welcome to the family.

Brothers and sisters, what DOES EASTER MEAN FOR YOU PERSONALLY?

For me, Easter is a celebration of God’s forgiveness, a celebration God’s faithfulness to his promise, and a celebration of Christian hope.  

First, Easter is a celebration of God’s forgiveness of our sins in the sense that not only God forgives us 70 times 7 times, but that he would even pay the punishment our sins himself not by any amount of money but by the very life of his only begotten Son.

Someone says: ‘The devil knows us by name, but he calls us by our sin. While God knows our sins, he calls us by our name.’

In Christ, God calls us now ‘redeemed’ by the blood of his Son, Jesus. St Paul would remind us in the letter to the Romans (Rom 6:3-11), “we must realize that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin.”

In the death of Jesus on the Cross, God is telling us a wonderful message: ‘We are to die for’.

Just look at the person sitting beside you and say: ‘You are to die for!’ That’s the Easter Message Jesus has for each of us today.

Second, Easter is a celebration of God’s faithfulness to his promise. One notable thing on Easter Vigil is the series of readings from Old Testament. Yes, it is long, or could be longer even. But when we reflect on those readings we realize that it is about the truth that God is always there for us and with us in our journey through life. It is not just about God’s personal concern for his people but also on his faithfulness to his promise.

God remains faithful to us even if at times, we don’t care about him. God never abandons us even if at times we tend to abandon him.

God never forgets us even if at times we tend to forget him.

God never prefers anything over us even if at times we prefer anything over him and that God loves us even if at times we are not lovely.

Third, Easter is a celebration of hope. We see in Jesus that though he went through unimaginable sufferings, mockery and humiliation, even these terrible things do not have the final say in his life- the resurrection does.

The risen Lord assures us now to remain in hope even if at times we have to face challenges, trials and difficulties in life. Christian hope means to Hold On, Problem Ends or Hang on Pain Ends.

We need hope more  today in the midst of the many things that may weigh us down. We have been bombarded by many negative events happening around us.

Just today, that news of attacks in Sri Lanka killing more than a hundred people and injuring many others, leaving families grieving and places of worship destroyed, safety in hotels compromised, is just one example of things that may weigh us down.

Christian hope would point to us the image of the Cross- Jesus may have died there but that wasn’t the end of him. It ushers in a new life not only for him but for us as well.

Because of Christ’s resurrection, the Cross ceases to become a sign of punishment and becomes a positive sign. As Christians therefore, we are to live as positive-minded people and surrounded by positive-minded people.

To grow in Christian hope we need to take in on ourselves the question of the Angels to the women in the tomb: “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he is risen”. (Cf Luke 24:1-12).

This means of course, we must not lose sight of Jesus in our lives. St Paul would mean this in his Letter to the Colossians to ‘look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is.’ (cf Col 3:1-4) This means also we are to focus our endeavours and aspirations on what is life-giving for us. I would call this, our Easter EGG: to devote our ENERGY to what is GOOD and GODLY.

One other source of hope for us is the evidence of the empty tomb.

Now this is a challenge because according to the gospel the tomb is empty. I don’t mean that we hope for nothing.

Let us however, look at  what’s left in the empty tomb. According to the other gospel narrative on the resurrection (John 20:1-9), when Peter and company arrived at the tomb they saw the linen cloths used to wrap Jesus before his burial, on the ground. And they saw also ‘the cloth that has been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in  a place by itself.’

Now the way it is being rolled up is significant.

It is told that in the Jewish custom at the time when the Master is eating, his servant would be standing near observing and always ready to clean the table when the master finished his meal.

If the master is finished with his meal, he would get up and after using the napkin to wipe his mouth, beard and fingers, he would get up and just leave the table ‘napkin’ crumpled on the table. This is a signal for the servant that he could now clean the table.

But if the master would need to leave the table before he finished his meal and would still come back, he would fold the napkin and place it beside his dishes. This would signal the servant that his master is coming back to the table.  ( visit: https://aleteia.org: Why-did-jesus-fold-the-linen-cloth-that-covered-his-face-in-the-tomb/)

So friends, Jesus not only rose from  the dead. He will come again. Let us prepare ourselves for his coming again then by the ABC of Easter: Adore the Risen Lord always, Be a living presence of Christ in the world, and C– care for one another. Amen.

I wish you all a meaningful and joy-filled Easter celebrations. Drive safely and drink moderately. Happy Easter Everyone.

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Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent year C

Three years ago, while I was still serving as the Spiritual director to the Legion of Mary in the Diocese, I was invited by the Legion of Mary Summer School in Melbourne to present one of the topics chosen for that year. The topic I was asked to present was ‘Can we be saints?’

Can we be saints? (asking the crowd) {weak response}

Yes, of course…we can, but we need more enthusiasm than that.

That’s exactly my comment to the Legionaries’ response to my question in that talk, because I was given the last topic for the whole Summer School. And you know when we attend a two-day conference, come the last presentation our feet would already be halfway through the door so to speak.

Anyhow, it is true we can be saints. We are all called to be holy, but we have to begin by acknowledging we are sinners, that we need God’s mercy, that we need Jesus. If we read the lives of the saints, they would always say: they are the most unworthy of all.

In our gospel today, Jesus would show us that his mercy is greater than our sins. And in showing us this beautiful aspect of our God, he also challenges us to be merciful to others especially to those who are caught up in sin—sinners like us.

But the Pharisees and the scribes in today’s gospel episode would have none of this. They were threatened by the presence of Jesus. Jesus’ presence made them uncomfortable. Yes, Jesus does not only comfort the afflicted, he would also afflict the comfortable.

They brought in a  woman whom they call ‘sinner’ (i.e. caught in adultery) to Jesus. But they were not really concerned so much on the woman’s welfare. They were concerned on how to bring Jesus down.

So they took advantage of the woman’s vulnerability and weakness in order to further their self-interest and their plot to get rid of Jesus.

In our modern experience, this act of taking advantage over the sins of others is evident in using the ‘sins’ of the Church as an excuse to say that the Church is not worthy to be believed in now, or to say: ‘I don’t really want all that God stuff now’, or to say ‘religion is the cause of war and conflict.’

The Good news for us is that Jesus knew better. He could see farther. He could see the bigger picture. Jesus could see beyond the horizon. He could read between the lines of what the Pharisees really wanted of him.

It’s funny because the Pharisees and the scribes thought that with their case about the woman Jesus would certainly be trapped.

For them, Jesus would have to give an answer either  YES or NO. And for both answer they already have an accusation against him.

If Jesus would say ‘NO’, they would accuse him of breaking the law of Moses which commanded that a woman committing the sin of adultery had to be stoned to death.

If he would say ‘YES, stone her to death’, then they would accuse him of not living out what he preached, such as forgiving 70 times 7 times, or that God is loving and forgiving God, waiting for his prodigal son to come back no matter how long he had to wait.

However, Jesus had an amazing response to their case. He didn’t SAY anything at first. He DID something though. He wrote something on the ground WITH HIS FINGER. For Jesus, ACTION speaks louder than WORDS. This reminds me of a quote attributed to St Francis that says: ‘Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.’

We can always speculate what would Jesus have written. Some say, he must be writing the sins of the people around him. But I think the message Jesus wanted to express in there was not what he was writing about, but on what he was writing with—his finger.

Why didn’t he look for a stick or a twig to write something on the ground?

That’s the message. When we wrote something with our finger, our index finger/forefinger would be pointing outwards, the thumb would also be pointing outwards. The three other fingers would have been pointing towards us.

In doing this, Jesus conveys a message to the accusers (the Scribes and Pharisees) that before you condemn others of their sins, have a look at yourselves first at least THREE times and see if you have not done something worthy of condemnation as well.

In that gesture, Jesus reminded the audience that being holy is not feeling or thinking that we are better than others or that we can condemn others who have committed sinful acts. Being holy is helping others make things right and to help make others at right with God.

The Pharisees however, failed to see the message  Jesus expressed in his action. They persisted on what they believed to be the right thing that Jesus would need to do in that particular situation- to command that a woman be stoned to death- so that they would have something to accuse him with.

So Jesus had to express it himself in words saying: ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’

And that’s how amazing Jesus is. Just as we thought there would be no way out, he would show he is the Way. For Jesus, if the path ended, he would blaze a trail. The Pharisees left him, one by one. They wouldn’t accept his statement on the issue indicating to them that the real issue is not how faithful he is to the law of Moses or how forgiving he is to sinners. The real issue is their attitude towards sinners themselves.

Jesus also did something else amazing: He looked up at the woman. Jesus made himself even lower in status here- reminding us of himself taking up the punishment of our sins in order for us not die in sin.

He looked up. He didn’t look down the sinner. We are to do the same. To look up at the sinner not because of the sins they had done, but because they need us to help them correct the wrongs they had done. To ‘look up’ also means to ‘pray for the person’, to pray for God’s mercy for sinners’.

Friends, sinners we may be, but we have the capacity to become saints. St Paul in the second reading would attest that with and through Jesus we can achieve this potential. St Paul exclaimed: “I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.”

Let us be assured that as in St Paul’s life, every saint may have a past, but in Christ every sinner has a future. Let us also be assured that Jesus can transform our trials  into triumphs, our cross into crowns, our sinfulness into saintliness, only that we never lose sight of him. Amen.

 

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Stations of the Cross (Holy Land Pilgrimage 2016)

One of the most memorable events we did during our Pilgrimage in Holy Land in 2016 was to retrace the way of Jesus  to Calvary while praying the Stations of the Cross on the streets of Jerusalem. I didn’t have the prepared traditional guide for the stations, so the night before we walked the way to Calvary, I composed my own reflection on each of the stations. We started really early in the morning to have the streets of Jerusalem all to ourselves. Then we finished it with Mass in the Chapel in Calvary (Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem).

This is so memorable for me so I am sharing this with you.

Journey of Christ (Sandhurst Diocese 2016 Pilgrimage)

on the way to Calvary)

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In doing this age-old tradition in Lent, we are following Jesus on the way to the Cross, on the way to death and on the way to life. As we reflect and pray with the stations of the Cross, we offer all our concerns to our Lord and pray that He will transform our problems into prayers, our trials into triumphs, our sinfulness into saintliness, our cross into crowns. Let us also offer this prayerful time for our personal intentions, for our family and friends, for the peace in the world, for the conversion of sinners and for the peace in the Holy Land.

“Come Follow Me”

(Mat 4:19)

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First Station: Jesus is condemned to death

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:22-31

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Reflection/Prayer:

Let us contemplate on the face of Jesus—the gentle face that reveals to us what truth is like, the loving face that reveals to us the face of  mercy, the most beautiful face that shows us what the Father is like.

Let us pray for those who are innocent-victims of injustice, greed, power and ill-informed ideology. Let us also pray for those who are unjustly treated and unfairly condemned, that they may experience the comforting presence and touch of Jesus.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be… 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.   All: Have mercy on us sinners.

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Second Station: Jesus takes up the Cross

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading:  John 19:13-17

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;  and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

Reflection/Prayer: Let us contemplate on the Cross of Jesus weighing heavily on his shoulders. He took on the burden of our sins to himself, in order to free us from the slavery of sin.

Let us pray for those who are carrying their crosses or are experiencing the crosses of any kind due to illness, natural disasters, or man-made violence. May they never give up hope rather that they would put their cares in the words of Jesus ‘Cast your burdens upon me, and I will give you rest.Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.                       All: Have mercy on us sinners.

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Third Station: Jesus falls under the Cross for the first time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 53:4-7

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

 

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the image of Jesus falling under the Cross. Our sins put him down there. Yet, he kept going. He continued on. He never gives up on us even if at times we tend to give him up. He never abandons us though at times we tend to abandon him or to put him in the last of our priorities.

Let us pray for those our brothers and sisters who are in the brink of hopelessness and despair due to life’s difficulties or due to the mockery of others, that Jesus may strengthen them and help them get up and keep going.              Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.   All: Have mercy on us sinners.

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Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: John 19:25-27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the image of Mary, the other women and the disciple Jesus loved standing near the Cross of Jesus. Despite the pain of seeing the suffering of her own Son, Mary stayed by Jesus. And even in his suffering, Jesus still cares for those he loved. He left his mother to the Church and he left the Church to his Mother.

Let us pray for all mothers who are suffering the loss of their son or daughter in death, displacement or any other reason, that with the prayers of Mary, they may obtain the grace of healing and reconciliation. Let us also pray for the Church that she may continue to be the caring mother for all her children.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

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Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.  All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Scripture Reading: Mark 15:21

The soldiers compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the image of Jesus being relieved of his burden because someone helped him carry his Cross. Though forced to help Jesus, Simon of Cyrene was privileged to carry the Cross by which Jesus redeemed the world.

Let us pray for those who have helped us in many ways in our time of trials, problems and difficulties in life. Let us also pray for ourselves that we may always be ready to offer help to those in need.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.     All: Have mercy on us sinners.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sixth Station: A Jerusalem woman wipes Jesus’ face.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 25:40

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

 

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the woman among the crowd who couldn’t bear looking at Jesus heavily laden with the Cross. Tradition says her name is Veronica which means ‘true face’. With cloth at hand, she wiped the blood and sweat dripping in Jesus’ face. She couldn’t do much, but she offered what little help she could.

Let us pray that we may have the courage to do whatever we can and whatever it takes to get closer to Jesus by being sensitive to the needs of others and in showing that we care for them in whatever way we can, even if it’s the least we could do.        Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.                       All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Seventh Station: Jesus falls for the second time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 63:9

It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the pain of Jesus underneath the weight of the Cross. He took the punishments of our sin to himself because of his great love and mercy for us. He was alienated because he stood up for the truth, for what is just, for what is proper, when we tend to do the opposite to further our self-interests and self-gratification.

Let us pray for those who were alienated because of their advocacy for what is true, what is just, right and proper. That the Spirit of Jesus may empower them to never give in to the temptations of power, greed and false security. Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Eighth Station:  Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:27-31

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

 

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the soothing words of Jesus to the women who empathised with him in his sufferings. Because of his love for us, Jesus would forget his own sufferings just to reach out to us, to comfort us and strengthen us in our sufferings.

Even in his sufferings, Jesus still cares for others. Let us pray that like Jesus we may also learn to go beyond our own personal cares and concerns and be sensitive towards others who are suffering.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.   All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading:  Luke 22:28-32

You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

 

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the weight of the Cross of our sins that pinned Jesus on the ground. Yet he never gives up on us. He keeps going to assure us that God does not count how many times we fall but on how many times we get up when we fall.

Let us pray that we may obtain a truly repentant heart, sorrow for our sins and humility to come to reconciliation with our God and with one another in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tenth Station:  Jesus is stripped of his garments.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: John 19:23-24

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfil what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

 

Reflection/ Prayer

Let us contemplate on Jesus as he experienced an utter indignity by stripping him of his clothes which had been his comfort and protection. Jesus is stripped of his security, comfort and dignity.

Let us pray for those people whose security is stripped by those who performed acts of terror, whose comfort is taken by those people in authority, and whose dignity is being trampled by the rich and the strong. That they may experience God’s comforting love in a more special way. Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.   All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: Lk 22:33-38

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

 

 Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the hands and feet of Jesus nailed on the Cross. The hands that did all the miracles of healing, feeding, touching the untouchables, and the feet that walked over the earth preaching the Good News of the Kingdom are now nailed on the Cross, helpless and powerless.

Let us pray that we may become the hands and the feet of Jesus in the world as his living witnesses.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:44-49

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the great act of Jesus on the Cross—dying for the ones he loved, dying for his friends. Jesus, our Way, our Truth and our Life  gave up his own life for us to live. The one who showed us how to live a truly human life lay down his life in such humility and love, also taught a lesson how to die with dignity— to die for the beloved’s sake.

Let us pray for all our relatives and friends who have died, that they may now rest in peace and enjoy eternal life.                  Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ body is taken down from the Cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

Scripture Reading: John 19:38-40

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the dead body of Jesus being carefully prepared for its burial. Jesus’ body is prepared for burial in such care, respect and love by the people who loved him and stayed by him in faith to the end. His dead body assures us now that though our bodies may die, we will rise again in glory with Jesus if remain faithful to him until the end of our earthly life.

Let us pray that we may respect, value, uphold and cherish human life from its conception to its natural death.                         Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

 

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.   All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Fourteenth Station: Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Scripture Reading: Mark 15:46-47

Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joset saw where the body was laid.

 

Reflection/Prayer

Let us contemplate on the dead body of Jesus being laid in its resting place. For and in Jesus, the tomb became a gateway to the resurrection.

Let us pray that our hope for the resurrection may be sustained, our desire for heaven may grow even more and our dream of eternal life and happiness may be realized for us in heaven.

Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be…

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.           All: Have mercy on us sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Concluding Prayer

Father, we thank you for the gift of your only Son Jesus Christ who showed us how much you loved us, who assured us how much you care for us by dying in order  for us to live. Grant, we humbly pray that we may have the courage to stand up for the truth, to be true to ourselves before you, to be obedient to your will and to be loving to one another. We ask this through Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.   

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Mass on the boat (sailing on the Lake of Galilee)

The other day I said Mass at one of the 4 Catholic Schools in my parish for the grades 1 and 2. I asked them to spell the name Jesus for me. After testing quite a few on their spelling I explained that in Jesus, God loves us so much because he even includes US in the name of his Son. The name Jesus could not be Jesus without U, and without US in it.

And in the gospel we have heard today, Jesus assures us that not only we are included in his name, but that no matter how great our sins are, God’s love is even greater and no matter how far we have gone away from the Father, he is always there waiting for us to return.   

I would call this ‘Amazing Love’.

First, God’s love is so amazing that he gives without counting the cost. For a father, it would have been a great insult to hear his son asking for a share of his property. Normally, a property is only divided among the children if the owner is approaching death or has died already. In asking for his share, the youngest son not only broke the 4th commandment to honour his father, he also in a way wished that his father be dead. How rude of him.

Without counting how much it would cost him, the father divided his property. (Cf Deut 21:17)- the eldest son received two-thirds of the property and the younger son (assumingly) received one-third of the property.  

In doing this, the father lets go of all that’s his, that’s love (cf 2 Cor 8:9). That’s why later on in the gospel, he said to his older son: ‘All I have is yours.’

The younger son, having such a windfall, left home to a far country.

We can imagine, that the home he left behind was a good home, with servants and all. But as any good home, it has rules and boundaries. The son would have none of these rules and boundaries, so he left home to be free.

It would have been a painful sight for the father to see his youngest son leaving him with no assurance of coming back. He lived like a one-day millionaire. He used his freedom irresponsibly, and spent his wealth carelessly, living a life of debauchery (Luke 15:1-3).

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, debauchery means “extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures.”

St Luke would call it a ‘sin against heaven and against the Father’ of the Prodigal son.

But of course, living a life of sin and a misuse of our freedom do not always ensure us a happy and meaningful life.

Eventually, left to his own, apart from God, the prodigal son hit rock bottom. His so-called friends left him. There is a saying that goes: ‘Before you count your friends, be sure you can count on them.’ The son found this out the hard way.

In finding this out, the prodigal son taught us important lesson when we experience difficulty in life: One, he didn’t lose his self-respect. He didn’t fall into great despair and hopelessness as if there is no way out of the situation. He looked for something to do that would benefit himself, even if it was doing the most humiliating of jobs for the Jewish audience, i.e. taking care of pigs-animals  considered ritually unclean by Jewish law. And two, he remembers the good things he had- this means counting his blessings. In low moments of our lives, it is helpful to recall the many good things God has given us even us without asking: e.g. experiences, opportunities, relationships, etc.

The second thing that shows us how amazing God’s love is that he forgives us readily when we repent and return to him in reconciliation. When we return to him he would meet us more than halfway. When we go to confession, we experience how amazing our God really is.

The gospel tells us that while the son was still afar, his father saw him. The implication being that day in and day out the father must have been waiting for his return all the time, perhaps watching the road that leads to the village everyday, looking for any sign of his son. This is love- Looking Out for the Value of Each person.

Then he ran towards his son. In the Ancient Near Eastern culture, to rush is an undignified gesture, let alone by an old respectable man. The love of the father is so amazing that he doesn’t mind what people say or think about his love for his son. He engaged in such humiliation in order to lift us up from eternal damnation.

He then “put his hands around him and kissed him”. This gesture implied that the father would have kissed him either on the neck or on the cheek. This is significant because in the culture of the time, people of equal status kissed each other on the cheek. If someone is of lower status, he kissed the neck or the shoulder of his superior. If he is even of lower status, he would kiss the hand.  And if he is a slave, he would  kiss the feet.

The gospel tells us that the father put his hands around his son and kissed him. When we hugged someone and gave that person a kiss, we could only be kissing either the cheek or the neck. Now, if the father kissed his son on the cheek, he considered his son as his equal. If he kissed him on the neck, he put himself even lower in status than his son. St Paul reminds us that ‘Christ emptied himself for our sake.’ (cf 2 Corinthians 8:9)

Then the son started to make his confession. But the father, happy as he was for his son’s return would not even let his son finish his prepared confession.

Not only that, when we repent and return to God, as the father of the prodigal did, he would give us the best robe, ring, and sandal. Now again these things are significant:

The robe: In the Ancient Near East culture: When a person of high regard died, his family will take his robe and put it over the eldest son as a sign that now all the respect  and authority belongs to the son. By putting on the robe, the father restored the respect worthy of his son.

The ring: reminds us of the power of seal of the King’s ring. By giving this to his son, the father would indicate that once again, the son is now able to sign in the father’s name. (cf symbol of authority in the story of Joseph and Pharaoh [Gen 41:41-42])

The sandals: Again culturally then, the slaves are distinguished  from others because they go barefoot. By giving him sandals, the Father would say: ‘My son is free man, with all the rights as my son.’

The Father restored his son’s rights and dignity. The Father has reconciled with his son. All is forgiven. All is good.

One important thing to note here: reconciliation with God is not just a private affair. It is a celebration of the whole community, of the whole Church.

In the gospel, the father ordered that a fattened calf be slaughtered. Again in the Ancient Near East culture, this kind of meal is prepared for special occasion and for special people.

(Cf: Gen 18:7) Angels’ visit to Abraham; 1 Sam 28:24- woman (necromancer)- Spiritist (offered to Saul upon his visit); 2 Sam 6:13- David sacrificed when the Ark of the covenant passed by.)

A sheep would only feed about 20 people- so basically an immediate family or a few close friends. A calf and a fattened one can feed 80 people—i.e. most if not all the people in a typical Ancient Near East village.

Friends, brothers and sisters, we are the prodigal sons and daughters  of the Father at times. Lent is an opportune time for us to make our way back to the Father- to confess our sins and resolve to sin no more. The Father is waiting for us. Let us take Jesus’ hand leading us back to the Father by being responsible with the freedom God has given us.

Freedom is not that we are able to do many things or to get all the things we want. It is however, choosing the right thing and using it well. And exercising our freedom is to acknowledge that we may never always be doing the right thing, but we can always make things right. God has ‘US’ in the name of his Son. Let us  give him a home in our heart and be an exemplary Christian. Amen.  

(reference: The Nazareth Jesus Knew by Joel Kauffmann)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Homily for 19th Sunday 2018

First reading:  1 Kgs 19:4-8                 Psalm: Ps 33:2-9         Second Reading: Eph 4:30-5:2         Gospel: John 6:41-51

When I came and joined the seminary in Melbourne in 2007, one thing I found fascinating in Australian conversation is the way questions are answered with negatives.

For example the question: ‘How are you going today?’ You answer: ‘Not bad.’

‘Where are you assigned for your pastoral placement?’ ‘Not far.’

‘Do you like that certain lecturer at Catholic College?’ ‘Not really’.

‘How did you go with your exams? ‘Not sure’.

When I say, ‘Thank you’, I would expect ‘You’re welcome’ but instead the reply is: ‘No worries.’

 I just found conversations like this fascinating so I just listened. But when one of these Aussie seminarians noticed me being left out in the conversations, he would try to include me in the conversation by saying: ‘So, Johnny boy (as I was known then) what team do you barrack? And I would answer: ‘Not Collingwood.’

And I felt accepted. But I think it is not because I didn’t go for Collingwood, but because I speak their language.

By speaking ‘the language’ so to speak, I felt I belong to the community.

Friends, brothers and sisters, God wants to be part of the human community, or to say it more exactly, God wants us human beings to belong to the community of the Divine- i.e. life with God.

We can reflect on the gospel today that God is really serious of having us part of the Divine life by sending us Jesus to teach us, to feed us, and to fetch us.

First, Jesus is sent to teach us.

In the gospel today, Jesus hints himself as the fulfillment of the Prophetic word that ‘we will all be taught by God’, when he said: ‘To hear the teaching of the Father and learn from it, is to come to me.’

As our teacher, Jesus speaks the language of humanity in order to teach us the language of God- the language of love, of forgiveness, of peace, of service and communion.

To learn from Jesus we need first of all to come to him in faith and to believe in the one who sent him.

But it is not enough to say we believe in Christ, or that we are Christian. We need to live it out in our lives. In other words, practice what we believe.

To practice what we believe, St Paul in the second reading today would offer us few practical ways. St Paul said: ‘never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow all sort of spitefulness.’ Rather that we live as ‘friends with one another, kind and forgiving’ as God has forgiven us in Christ.

Second, Jesus is sent to feed us.

From the very beginning of the story of our salvation, one of the ways God reveals himself to us is to be our provider in order for us to live. In the Old Testament, we heard the story of the people  of Israel led by Moses having given the Manna from heaven. In today’s first reading, we have Elijah being provided by the angel with bread and water- essential elements to live.

In Jesus however, God provides us with food and drink  that are not just for temporary provision for our hunger and thirst but in order for us to live on forever. In the gospel Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life’, the bread from heaven, the living bread, the bread for the life of the world, and ‘anyone who eats this bread will live forever.’ Jesus here was talking about his body being offered on the Cross for our salvation and which we do in memory of him every time we come to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

The Body and blood of Christ we partake when we come to Mass is Jesus really being true to his promise that he will be with us until the end of time.

Let us receive the Eucharist then with such respect and veneration, regularly examining ourselves, going to confession and making ourselves worthy to receive such heavenly gifts right now, by living our lives the way God wants us to every moment in our life.

Third, Jesus is sent to fetch  us.

This is what makes Christianity different from all other faith conviction.

I have certainly heard someone before saying to me: ‘Father, it doesn’t really matter what religion do you affiliate with. We are all heading to the same mountain anyway- God.

When I heard this,  there is always the temptation for me to reply: ‘But are you sure you can get to the top of the mountain with what you have?’ ‘Or are you sure, you are climbing up the right mountain?

Fr Frank Moloney, a Salesian priest and a scripture scholar describes Christianity in this way: ‘All religions seek to find God, but the wonder of Christianity is that in Jesus of Nazareth, God has set out in search of humankind.

In other words, Christianity offers us the truth that God didn’t just remain up on the top on the mountain looking down at us struggling to go up expecting that eventually we will get up there.

He sent his only Son down to help us in our struggles, to guide us on the right way, to show us the sure way to get  up there, to support us in our journey up and at the same time to be our food and drink in the journey.

Brothers and sisters, God wants us to be forever part of his Divine life in heaven.

He sent us Christ, his son, speaking in our own human language to teach us how to be part of the divine life, feeding us with his life-giving body and blood in the Eucharist and fetching us himself in order to get us up there safely. Let us not take this amazing grace for granted. Let us resolve to be Christ-like in our life and works everyday, for with him, we can ‘taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’ (Psalm 33).