Thoughts To Live By…

Posts Tagged ‘catholic sunday gospel homily or sermon

John 6:1-15
Multiplication of the Loaves
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday Gospel Reflection

Today’s gospel narrates to us one of the greatest miracles of Jesus – the feeding of about five thousand people out of five barley loaves and two fish. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels.

“The location according to the text is in a “desert” region. There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren. The word “desert” means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people” (15 James A. Brooks, Mark, NAC. p. 107).

The miracle happened when John the Baptist had just been killed and Herod was seeking Jesus.  Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples to be alone to rest (according to Mark and John’s chronology the disciples had just returned from being sent out) and to give them some private instruction.  It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him and they have nothing to eat. There and then Jesus out of his compassion feed five thousand people in number. There were even 12 filled wicker baskets of fragments left-over.

There are three points to be considered here for our reflection and daily Christian living:

First, Jesus takes cares of us in all our needs: both body and soul. Hence, his love and care for us is integral, whole and complete. This is why in today’s account, Jesus does not want to dismiss the hungry crowd on empty stomach in a deserted place. Instead, out of compassion, he attends to his peoples’ hunger, both material and spiritual. This is the best reminder for all of us who are ministers of the word: “Never preach in an empty stomach,”  or “You cannot preach love on an empty stomach” as the popular saying goes.

Second, a miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us. Expectant faith, therefore, does not make us fold our hands doing nothing looking into heaven while waiting for miracles to come. Rather it spurs us on to make our best, if not greatest possible contributions, our efforts, cooperation, generosity, five loaves and two fish, knowing that without them, though how humble and inadequate they were, there would be no miracle.

Third, miracle aims conversion, faith and discipleship.  It would be somehow sound to infer that what really happened here was not just the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish that fed the five thousand of  hungry crowds but also a miracles of sharing as a fruit of conversion, faith and discipleship. It is said that “the world is so poor for everybody’s greed but so rich for everybody’s need.”

It is estimated that 840 millions out of 6.2 billon (August 16, 2002 estimate, US Census Bureau) in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition (World Hunger, Do you know the facts?). About 24,000 people die everyday from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourth of the deaths are children under the age of five. Famine and wars cause about 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about often. Majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition whose cause is poverty. And the root cause of poverty is sin in the forms of injustice, greed and selfishness.

We do not need Jesus to come and be crucified once again just to perform miracles for us so that we can eat and live. Rather, let the word, the person and the example of Jesus do miracles for us by transforming us from being greedy to generous, from being selfish to selfless, from being close and indifferent to being sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people around us. This is what the world needs now. The miracle of sharing, giving, caring and love. With this, the world would be a better place to live in.

Mk 14:12-16, 22-26 – The Lord’s Supper
Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ
Sunday Gospel Reflection

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Corpus Christi. “Corpus Christi” are two Latin words for “Body of Christ.” This great feast is in honor of the Real Presence of the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine.

St. Bonaventure reminds us of its meritorious effect when we celebrate and explicitly confess our belief on the Eucharist: “There is no difficulty about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as in a sign, but that He is truly present in the Eucharist as He is in heaven, this is most difficult. Therefore to believe this is especially meritorious.”[ 7. In. IV Sent. Dist. X. P. I Art. Un. Qu. I, Oper. Omn. Tom. IV Ad Claras Acquas 1889, p. 217]

As we celebrate this Solemnity of the Corpus Christi we are reminded of the following:

First, the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligations. This is the first of the precepts of the Church in which every Catholic ought to fulfill to the least to be considered practicing Christian. The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation”) requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Cf. CIC, cann. 1246-1248; CCEO, can. 881 par.1, par. 2, and 4).

In the Philippines the holy days of obligations are: Christmas Day (December 25), Motherhood of Mary (January 1), and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8).

Essentially connected to this obligation is our active, full and conscious participation in the celebration of Eucharist. When we are absent-minded or our focus is disintegrated our participation is questionable. When we do not know what we say and what we do during the mass our participation is not conscious. When we do not participate in all the responses and community singing during Mass our participation is not active and full. When we go to the Church for reasons other than to take part in the celebration of the Mass then our motivation and participation are questionable.

Second, to receive the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ every time we attend Mass or at least once a year especially during Easter. This is also one of the precepts of the Church. “The Mass is a sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. And it is because of this that even the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us” (see cf. CCC 1382).

During the consecration where the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he invites and urges us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you ( see Jn 6:53). “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn 6:57).

In the Eucharist “is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit. Thus men are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ …” (Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 5). For the bread of life to sustain life, it must be sought, approached, taken, broken, and eaten. Likewise Jesus must be invited into our lives if we are to enjoy the well being he brings.

Third, to receive worthily the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul St. Paul urge us to examine our conscience before coming to confession to avoid the sin of sacrilege: ”Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the body and blood of the Lord. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion when conscious of grave sin (cf. CCC 1385) by observing the fast required in the Church (cf. CIC, can. 919) and by bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) that convey the respect, solemnity and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

Before so great a sacrament, let us echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion:” Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed” (cf. Mt 8:8). And pray, that through Christ, the Mediator, we may be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other so that finally God may be all in all” (see cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48).

Jn 15:9-17 – Jesus’ Commandment
Sixth Sunday of Easter

“This I command you: love one another” – John 15:17

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. “The commandment of love encompass all of the commandments of the Decalogue and fulfill them. All are contained in them, all follows from them, all strive toward them” (OR, June 1991). “Love is the greatest and the first of all the commandments and in it all the others are included and made one” (JP II Address to Youth). It is a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rm. 13:8, 10) that suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all, crowns all.

In today’s Gospel, the commandments (plural) in Jn 15:10 have been reduced to a singular commandment: the disciples are to love one another, just as Jesus has loved them. This is the new commandment of Jn 13:34, and it is repeated in Jn 15:17. The disciples’ love for one another is compared to Jesus’ love for them. How has Jesus shown his love for the disciples? This was illustrated in 13:1-20 in the washing of the disciples’ feet, introduced by the statement in Jn 13:1 that Jesus loved them to the end.

It was explained how in context this constitutes a reference to Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross on their behalf; the love they are to have for one another is so great that it must include a self-sacrificial willingness to die for one another if necessary. This is exactly what Jesus is discussing here, because he introduces the theme of his sacrificial death in the following verse. In 10:18 and 14:31 Jesus spoke of his death on the cross as a commandment he had received from his Father, which also links the idea of commandment and love as they are linked here.

Let us take note that It is not just the degree or intensity of the disciples’ love for one another that Jesus is referring to when he introduces by comparison his own death on the cross (that they must love one another enough to die for one another) but the very means of expressing that love: it is to express itself in self-sacrifice for one another, sacrifice up to the point of death, which is what Jesus himself did on the cross (cf. 1 John 3:16).

Jesus has shown us the way of real loving to the end. He died for us even when we were sinners.  He loves us all even when we were unlovables, undeserving of his love and unrepentant sinners. Let us, therefore love as he has loved us. “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors that you may be children of  your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. If  you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (v. 44-48).

Useful Homily:

Abide: Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD

Jn 15:1-8 – The Vine and The Branches
Fifth Sunday of Easter

Somebody once compared a Christian to a basketball player. To be good player, he said, it is not enough that you run fast, dribble well, assists timely and execute the play as planned. It is not enough that you have years of experience, full knowledge of the rules and regulation, good nutrition, enough rest  and constant practice. What matters most is to be able to shoot, to make points  and eventually to win the game.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is saying the same thing but in ways familiar and understandable to his people during his time.  Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears much fruit…He who abides I me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:1-2, 5-8).

Our Lord is describing two kinds of followers: that of those who, although they are still joined to the vine externally, yield no fruit; and that of those who do yield fruit but could yield still more. The Epistle of St. James carries the same message when it says that faith alone is not enough (James 2:17). Although it is true that faith is the beginning of salvation and that without faith we cannot please God, it is also true that a living faith must yield fruit in the form of deeds. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). So, one can say that in order to produce fruit pleasing to God, it is not enough to have received Baptism and to profess the faith externally: a person has to share in Christ’s life through grace and has to cooperate with Him in His work of redemption.

Jesus uses the same verb to refer to the pruning of the branches as He uses to refer to the cleanness of the disciples in the next verse: literally the translation should run: “He cleanses him who bears fruit so that he bear more fruit”. In other words, He is making it quite clear that God is not content with half-hearted commitment, and therefore He purifies His own by means of contradictions and difficulties, which are a form of pruning, to produce more fruit. In this we can see an explanation of the purpose of suffering: “Have you not heard the Master Himself tell the parable of the vine and the branches? Here we can find consolation. He demands much of you for you are the branch that bears fruit. And He must prune you `ut fructum plus afferas”: to make you bear more fruit’.

“Of course: that cutting, that pruning, hurts. But, afterwards, what richness in your fruits, what maturity in your actions” (St J. Escriva, “The Way”, 701).

After washing Peter’s feet Jesus had already said that His Apostles were clean, though not all of them (cf. John 13:10). Here, once more, He refers to that inner cleansing which results from accepting His teachings. “For Christ’s word in the first place cleanses us from errors, by instructing us (cf. Titus 1:9) […]; secondly, it purifies our hearts of earthly affections, filling them with desire for Heavenly things […]; finally, His word purifies us with the strength of faith, for `He cleansed their hearts by faith’ (Acts 15:9)” (St. Thomas Aquinas, “Commentary on St. John, in loc.”).

Christianity, therefore, is not just a religion of “don’ts” or simply avoidance of sin but one of “do’s”. Christ is very definite about it, “You must bear fruit in plenty,” fruits of good works.  The only thing that matters is “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6) as St James beautifully put it: “What good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?” (Jas 3:14).

We must bear abundantly the fruit of holiness (see Gal 5:22ff) and evangelization (Jn 15:5). Otherwise, we will be like “a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt” (Jn 15:6). We bear fruit abundantly by being attached to and living in the Vine, Jesus Christ (Jn 15:5). We must be abiding in Jesus and He in us, and stay in communion with all the others who abide in Jesus.

The life of union with Christ is necessarily something which goes far beyond one’s private life: it has to be focused on the good of others; and if this happens, a fruitful apostolate is the result, for “apostolate, of whatever kind it be, must be an overflow of the interior life” (St J. Escriva, “Friends of God”, 239).

The Second Vatican Council, quoting this page from St. John, teaches what a Christian apostolate should be: “Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate. Clearly then, the fruitfulness of the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ; as the Lord Himself said: `He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing’. This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by the active participation in the Liturgy. Laymen should make such a use of these helps that, while meeting their human obligations in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate their union with Christ from their ordinary life; but through the very performance of their tasks, which are God’s will for them, actually promote the growth of their union with Him” (“Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 4).

If a person is not united to Christ by means of grace he will ultimately meet the same fate as the dead branches–fire. There is a clear parallelism with other images our Lord uses–the parables of the sound tree and the bad tree (Matthew 7:15-20), the dragnet (Matthew 13:49-50), and the invitation to the wedding (Matthew 22:11-14), etc. Here is how St. Augustine comments on this passage: “The wood of the vine is the more contemptible if it does not abide in the vine, and the more glorious if it does abide….For, being cut off it is profitable neither for the vinedresser nor for the carpenter. For one of these only is it useful–the vine or the fire. If it is not in the vine, it goes to the fire; to avoid going to the fire it must be joined to the vine” (“In Ioann. Evang.”, 81, 3).

Jesus, makes it clear that those baptized into Christ have been baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13). If we are united to Jesus, the Head of the body, we are to be united to all the other parts of the body. Jesus promised that the world would believe when Christians are one (Jn 17:21). In unity, we will bear the great harvest leading to Jesus’ final return.


July 2020
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