WEEK OF AUGUST 18th
The Letter to the Hebrews was primarily addressed to a group of Jewish Christians, who faced with increasing opposition were in danger of abandoning the Christian faith. The author encourages them by showing Jesus Christ as the true and final revelation of God. He emphasizes three truths: i) Jesus is the eternal son of God, therefore superior to all prophets, and even Moses himself; ii) Jesus has been declared by God to be an eternal priest, therefore superior to all of OT priests; iii) In Jesus, the believer is saved from sin, fear and death, therefore superior to all sacrifices. By citing the examples of the faith of some of the famous persons in Israel's history, as we heard in the previous week, the writer appeals his readers to remain faithful and persevere to the end. Indeed, this message is valid for our times. We all need to hear it again today.
For today, Christians live in a very challenging times. The attack on the Church is unprecedented. No doubt, the crisis we face in the Church has left many a believer confused. Frustration has led many to even leave the Church. Well, with a focus centered only on the human errors of the Church leaders, one would easily lose hope in the Church. But Christian Faith is centered on something far greater, on someone far superior- Jesus! Jesus who is alive and present! This is not to divert the attention from all the failures and sins of the leaders in the Church.
The author of the Hebrews also leads his audience to take their focus on Jesus. Rightly so, we hear in today’s second reading: “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (12:2). Our Catechesis often takes us to the minutest details of faith, which not necessarily lead one to grow in Faith. The Catechesis that does not center on the Kerygma- the proclamation of the person of the Crucified and Risen Savior, will be lacking the power to transform persons. All our Catechesis (religious instruction and programs) must ultimately lead to a deeper knowledge of Jesus and consequently grow in love of Jesus. Growing in personal relationship with Jesus!
Some time ago, I heard Relevant Radio making a reference to a poll conducted in our country. It said that the “survey showed 7 out of 10 Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist”. For many, Eucharist is only a symbol, like the bread and wine offered in other Christian Churches. How sad! The Church's faith has been built around the incarnate son of God! God came to dwell with us! There have been several Eucharistic miracles in the history of the Church. If you search Google and YouTube, you will be able to watch and learn more about them.
Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) was a well known literary figure and an intellectual. The sight of a woman with her shopping bag entering the Church and quietly visiting with Jesus in Tabernacle for a brief moment and leaving the Church made a deep impression on her. That sight intrigued her. She had never found anything like that in a Synagogue or a Protestant Church. This personal experience led this intellectual Jewish woman to recognize that God is not a concept but a living person. Eventually she embraces Catholic faith and consecrates herself to God by entering religious life. During the Nazi Reign of terror, she was taken to Auschwitz and was gassed to death.
Church has an array of heroic witnesses in its history, whose faith and example should be a model in times of confusion and frustration. They all kept their eyes fixed on Jesus. Our eyes may be wandering on everything around us except on Jesus. No wonder why we are vexed! The times such as ours call us once again to fix our eyes on Jesus. Let us devotedly receive Jesus in the Eucharist and also grow in love of Jesus by participating in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Don’t hesitate to visit Jesus who waits for you. Take your children too! Here in our parish itself, I have seen persons who stop and make regular visits with Jesus. What a joy! What a gift! Jesus waits for a visit from you!
PASTOR'S PEN - AUGUST 25th
One of my friends called me last Sunday afternoon. The friend began: “Father, what a Gospel passage- Division! Fire! It wasn’t good news at all.” We had a long conversation.
If the last week’s Gospel passage was not enough of a “good news”, then then hear this week’s, which is worse and truly life threatening: “I do not know you”; “depart from me”; “wailing and grinding of teeth”. Not so good to hear! In fact, very scary. Yet, it is the Good News!
Luke presents in the Gospel of today about the door policy of the kingdom of God. He clearly shows that there is no such thing as automatic membership; and the door into the kingdom is not wide that anyone can casually saunter through at any time. Important to note that even the narrow door will not remain open indefinitely. The narrow door becomes a locked up door! So, the evangelist calls for action! Action in the here and now! The image changes from tight space to time up!
The Good News is that the entrance to the kingdom requires some personal effort. To God’s love and grace, a response is required from all of us. Moreover, there is an urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter. Now is the day of Salvation! Natural allegiance, right address, impressive pedigree- none of these can substitute the person's decision for the kingdom of God. One must consider the present moment as the only opportunity for one to enter the kingdom of God. The door policy is going to be determined by fidelity to the Word of God. Do we live by God’s word in our daily lives?
Many Christian churches preach that by their membership in the church, they are already “saved by Christ”; as such, they seem to rule out the necessity of any personal conversion- much less of an ongoing and progressive conversion. Such a view totally goes against the Biblical sources. If there is one thing that can be found in the pages of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, it is this call to conversion- metanoia (in Greek). Living the present moment with a greater consciousness of God’s presence and our response to that presence of God in us is the key.
The summer time must have been busy for many families- vacations, travels, camping, visiting with relations. Indeed, very good things to do. In the midst of all these good and great moments, have we given importance to our relationship with God? This is an important question. The answer lies in having certain priority. The Gospel passage makes it clear: In the kingdom of God, there's no telling who is coming to dinner!