Setting the World on Fire

The coming of the Kingdom of God will bring a time of judgement when Jesus comes with glory with the legions of angels from Heaven, and while Jesus’ words in today’s gospel seem harsh and not the Jesus we want to speak this way, His words are spoken and are true whether we like His tone or not.  Remember, God is God and we are not.  Jesus is strongly urging us to seriously consider our choices and their consequences here and in the after-life.  Being Christians requires total loyalty to Jesus, and this loyalty must be honored, even over our family and friend relationships here on this earth.  Jesus challenges us to take a closer look at where our love and loyalty really lie because His true followers and disciples of today are those who love God above all and are willing to forsake everything for Jesus Christ, even family and friends who do not follow all of Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus proclaims: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” There’s a vibrant urgency to these words that must have been apparent in his voice.  What does he mean? Why is he so passionate about this?  In the ancient Jewish world, fire was generally associated with judgment.  So what kind of judgment does Jesus bring?  He brings the judgment of the Cross.  He brings the judgment that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us.  He brings the judgment that brought St Paul to exclaim that “He loved me and He gave Himself for me.  So when we really look at the crucifix, we see the judgment of God. We see the horror of sin, and the infinitely greater love of God who came to die to set us free from sin and unite us to Himself.

When Jesus states that he wants to set the world on fire, Jesus really means it, but not a physical fire of destruction, but with the fire of God Himself!  The fire of God’s love given to us freely by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We all have been baptized in this fire in Holy Baptism.  Recall the words of John the Baptist, “I baptize you in water for repentance, but the one who is to follow me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11).”

The fire is here now and always as God is fully present in His Church and in all of the seven living sacraments of God!  Are we igniting the lives of others with our fire for God!  Is our fire spreading into other people like wildfires spread in forest fires?  This is the fire that Jesus is speaking about and in our day.  This fire is needed more than ever when less families, children and adults of all ages are coming to Mass.  We have become too comfortably a part of the modern secular culture, and this comfort has resulted in a dangerous complacency toward the life giving words of Jesus.  Too often, we listen to these words, but not allow them to penetrate our hearts, transform our lives, and set the world on fire.  There is something ultimately attractive when people become all that God created them to be.  It is this striving that we need to rediscover again.  I leave you with the words of St. Cyril of Alexandria (who lived in the 4th and 5th century) as he stated in his homily:  “We affirm that the fire Christ sent out is for humanity’s salvation and profit.  May God grant that all our hearts be full of this!  The fire is the saving message of the gospel and the power of its commandments.  The gospel ignites all of us on earth to live a life of piety and makes us fervent in spirit, according to the expression of blessed Paul.  Besides this, we are also made partakers of the Holy Spirit, who is like fire within us.  We have been baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit.  This fire is the fire of the gospel that comes to us by the Holy Spirit in holy baptism and confirmation.”

Jesus calls us to change the world, to set it on fire with His love.  Each person can share in this love, no matter how small the action seems to be today since there is no such thing as a small action in the eyes of God.  There’s an everyday martyrdom to which we’re all called.  It means smiling at someone when we feel lousy.  It means a kind word when we feel like biting someone else’s head off when they something mean to us.  It means refusing to give in to bitterness or hatred towards someone who’s hurt us, and instead choosing to forgive that person.  Those little acts of witness to Christ’s love – of martyrdom – help to set the world on fire with love.

I continue to thank all of you for your continued hospitality and warmth you are showing me and each other.  Please spread the good word of our wonderful parish and it is very nice to see more and more people coming back to worship God.  Many of us are saying how great it is to see our parishioner families returning back.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us! 

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!  

Have a great week and enjoy life with a great smile! 

Pray always!

Preparation for the Parousia

Are we ready for Jesus to come?  That is what the word “Parousia” means; Jesus’ actual second coming.  Do we want Him to come and take us to Himself and be with Him, the Father, the Holy Spirit, with the Blessed Mother, with trillions of angels along with all of our loved ones who have gone before us?  The answer may be “yes” for us, but not right now, I am not ready to go yet.  There is still so much to do in life, right?  Well, not for Jesus.  He is concerned about bringing all of us into His Kingdom in Heaven so that where He is, we also may be, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!   Jesus is carrying on his theme from last Sunday to this Sunday again reminding us to be ready to stand in front of Him in Heaven because we do not know the day or hour when we will leave this Earth immediately and taken by our guardian angel leading us to the throne of the living and holy God, as shown in the picture below.  The Didache; which means “Teaching” and is based on the teaching of the Twelve Apostles after Jesus ascended into Heaven, is a brief Christian treatise, dated from the first century.  It states, “Watch over your life.  Do not let your lamps go out, and do not keep your loins unbelted, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.  Meet together frequently in your search for what is good for your souls, since a lifetime of faith will be of no advantage to you unless you prove to be fully responsive to the very end.  In the final days, many false prophets and seducers will appear.  Sheep will turn into wolves, and love into hatred.  With the increase of iniquity, people will hate, persecute and betray each other.  Then the world deceiver will appear in the guise of God’s Son (Didache 16.1-4).”  Now, we are in the twenty-first century and how the words recorded from the Apostles teachings are relevant in our lifetime.  Yet, people seem to think nothing about Jesus’ second coming.  Many say, “Two thousand years have gone by, and Jesus still didn’t come.  What is the rush?  He might not come for another thousands of years.”  It is true, we do not know the physical return of Jesus from Heaven just like the world did not know the Son of God was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, growing inside Mary and born like all of us into the world He created back two thousand years ago.  The fact is this, if Jesus does not return in our lifetime, it is a guarantee that we will come to Him, in our lifetime, and stand in front of Him to be judged how we lived our earthly lives, and this is what many people have forgotten in our daily living.  At every holy Mass, wherever it is celebrated throughout the world in the plethora of human languages, after we pray the “Our Father” prayer, pay attention closely to what the priest says at every Mass when he prays, “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”  At every Mass, we pray and anticipate the Parousia, so why are we afraid to give ourselves to God completely?  St Basil the Great states, “What is the mark of a Christian?  It is to watch daily and hourly and to stand prepared in that state of total responsiveness pleasing to God knowing that the Lord will come at an hour that he does not expect (The Morals 22).” Today’s Gospel, Luke 12:32-48, is prayed at every funeral wake service.  We would rather do something more entertaining than to think of our coming home to the Lord, and yet, our Lord wants the opposite; He wants us to be home with Him in His kingdom forever once we have lived to the fullest here on God’s green earth.  Jesus warns us to be vigilant because we never know when He will surprise us with His presence as He says, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” St. Paul speaks about faith.  By faith, we trust that God will give us new life just as God has promised.  How have we encouraged others to trust God more fully?  When Jesus warns us to be more vigilant because we never know when He will appear again and surprise us, the question for us today is, when has Jesus surprised me by His coming in my life so far?  As we look at this artwork of the angel one last time, when is the last time we prayed to our guardian angel?  Is this a prayer only taught for the children and when we grow up, we stop praying to angels because we have adult minds?  Angels are real spiritual intellectual beings who want us to do God’s will and help and guide us along our earthly pilgrimage to bring us home to our heavenly pilgrimage.  Jesus talks about angels many times in His ministry.  Please make it you intention, if you have not done so already, to pray the Guardian Angel prayer everyday until we see them in person, and I guarantee you we will! Please notice how our parish grounds have been uplifted with removal of many weeds along the buildings and our grass areas.  I continue to thank all of you for your continued hospitality and warmth you are showing me and each other.  Please spread the good word of our wonderful parish and it is very nice to see more and more people coming back to worship God.  Many of us are saying how great it is to see our parishioner families returning back.

Vanity of Vanities

The words of Qoheleth, son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3)?” The over view of the Book of Ecclesiastes: the meaning of Qoheleth as “the Preacher,” is understood by scripture scholars as King Solomon. Vanity means futility; that it is meaningless. Vanity describes something that is not substantial and lasting, but ephemeral and passing; worthless, empty of meaning, purpose and content. What is really important in life? Working just for money and climbing the worldly ladders of success and prestige is what many of us do when we look for careers and make a living, but is it the fulfillment of our spiritual lives? Jesus, who is wisdom incarnate, is obviously greater than King Solomon. He is the Son of God. Jesus is making a strict and direct point for us and our world, a basic, but by no means agreeable and popular acceptance by a plethora of hard working people, that the meaning of life is not about getting more rich to be better off to enjoy our future retirement after we have invested our money in the stock markets, mutual bonds, etc., or having bigger homes with more possessions, but to realize that God wants us to seek the things that are above and concentrate upon Heavenly possessions and not earthly ones because everything on earth comes to an end. Grass is green, then it is brown. Flowers bloom, then they fall off. Bananas are green, then they turn to yellow and eventually, dark brown mush. Everything changes, and Jesus wants us to change our way of thinking and living now! Seek the Kingdom of God first!

Our emphasis on the vanity of materials and goods that are meaningless sounds harsh, but Jesus is really reminding us an obvious spiritual truth, our life on earth is passing. Even if we do not like talking about it, it will come for all of us. Ignoring and not talking about it will not help either knowing that we all want to go to Heaven.   Remember the “beanie babies” craze in the nineties? How many people waited in long lines and paid a lot of money for those beanie babies. Now, they give them away free at garage sales I am told. Do you see how the words of scripture are applied daily to our lives? All is vanity! We shouldn’t treat the things of this earth, as wonderful and beautiful and useful as they are, as if they were ends in themselves, and they are not. They are means to an end, instruments to help us fulfill a much higher purpose, that of knowing and loving God. We need money and possessions in order to live our lives, and it is certainly no sin to enjoy them, but if striving after them makes us neglect a healthy relationship with God, the Church, and our neighbors, we will come to a tragic end, just like the rich man in the parable, when Jesus might tell us something in Heaven we may not like to hear at our judgement.

The painting you see was painted in 1627 by Rembrandt entitled “Parable of the Rich Fool.” The rich farmer in this parable is portrayed negatively, as an example of greed. By replacing his existing barn, he avoids using agricultural land for storage purposes, thus maximizing his income, as well as allowing him to wait for a price increase before selling. St. Augustine comments that the farmer was “Planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor. He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.” Only if those bills and market analysis papers in the painting may be replaced with Catholic books and magazines, and even more so, the Holy Bible. Believe me, the world would be a better place. Jesus’ parable provides an example of what one ought not to be like. The person whose identity is tied up with his or her possessions, status, and/or achievements, and is driven by acquiring them, can so easily end up unaware of the call of God and the need of the neighbor.

When St Paul makes his list of sins that put our friendship with Christ in danger, he puts a spotlight on one particular type of self-centeredness, as if to say that we need to pay special attention to it. He writes, “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with all its practices.” We are being reminded today that lying, deceiving, and manipulating the truth are sins. It is not alright (like many people feel) because everyone else is doing it, it is part of life right now. They unravel God’s plan for human society and endanger our friendship with Christ. God, the author of all truth, has given us the capacity to know and communicate the truth, so that we can build up healthy relationships.

Jesus knows how easily we are tempted by money and possessions. They seem to promise so much, like those “beanie babies” did for one time. That’s why Jesus makes this lesson so clear. “Take care to guard against all greed,” Jesus warns. It has been said for over two thousand ears, and yet the words of Jesus still fall upon deaf ears. Instead, if we want a truly fulfilling life, we should strive to be rich in what matters to God. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “God does not expect us to be successful, but to be faithful.” Today, let’s renew our friendship with Christ and, with the strength he supplies in Holy Communion, let’s confidently embrace once again the consequences of that friendship, which includes being warriors of truth, not mercenaries of spin.

I would like to thank all of you for your continued hospitality and warmth you are showing me and each other. I am so blessed to have such parishioners! Thank you for all of your continued prayers and house warming gifts that I am receiving. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you. I am always meeting a lot of wonderful people! Please spread the good word of our wonderful parish and it is very nice to see more and more people coming back! Many of us are saying how great it is to see our parishioner families returning back.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us!         Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

Have a great week and enjoy life with a great smile! Pray always!