Sunday, January 26, 2020

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Sunday of the Word of God

Today is the first Sunday of the Word of God. In his apostolic letter Aperuit Illis, Pope Francis called the Church to reflect on the Word of God on this Sunday. You can read the text here:  The Holy Father writes:

"Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.

The various communities will find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity. It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word. On this Sunday, it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honour that it is due. Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy. In this regard, renewed efforts should be made to provide members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the word, as is already the practice in the case of acolytes or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Pastors can also find ways of giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture, especially through the practice of lectio divina. (#3. "Aperuit Illis")

Reading Scripture is extremely important. Even more important is actually putting the words into practice. Today's readings remind us that the Lord is the light and source of salvation.  The first reading we heard during Midnight Mass. The people walk in the darkness but see a great light. This light is Christ who alone brings salvation. No one else can save. It is very important to stress this, even to fellow Catholics. I have met a few Catholics who love Our Lady and the Brown Scapular. They take the words about not facing the pains of hell as a form of a free ticket to heaven. This is not so nor what Our Lady meant via the Scapular. The Scapular is just a sacramental. It is supposed to aid us in the spiritual life so we may achieve salvation in Jesus. The Scapular does not save anyone on its own merits or even on the merits of Our Lady. She herself told us to do whatever He says. These were her last recorded words in the Gospel. So wearing a Scapular or following a specific promise from any devotion does not save anyone by its own merits. This is why in the second reading we read, "Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" Paul etc are instruments God used. They are not the source of salvation. It is important to understand this. Christ is the focal point. He is the Savior. We must be united in His name and not be divided, as the second reading tells us. We must be of one mind and purpose. If not, then we make a mockery of Christ and Catholicism.

We must follow Jesus. Jesus calls us to be fishermen and go out and cast our nets to bring the catch in. This means evangelization. Unfortunately, our Church has lost this sense. We are not going out there and evangelizing. Evangelization can be done in many ways. This does not mean standing on a corner preaching. Even a simple smile and friendly attitude is evangelization. It opens others to respect you and listen to you.  This presents the opportunity to plant seeds of faith via amicable discussions.  We have to  avoid proselyzing or being overly aggressive that we turn others away. If someone does not want to hear it, then so be it. They have made their choice. It may be temporary or permanent, only God knows. The Gospel tells us that Jesus chose the disciples for this very mission: to evangelize. We must do the same and follow Jesus.  Today's Sunday of the Word of God is important. Despite being the Church that gave us the Bible, many Catholics are ignorant of it. While some Protestants may give the pretense of knowing Scripture, they simply memorize the ones that their "pastors" teach them in order to attack Catholics.  So they too are ignorant of Scripture. This is not good. Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, as St. Jerome tells us. We must learn Scripture. Most importantly, we must learn Scripture the way it was meant to be learned. Only the Church can interpret the Scriptures via the Holy Spirit. This is why we must seek sources approved by the Church and not just read any material out there. Scripture is full of so many great teachings and sayings, but there are also sections that may come across as disturbing or contradictory which must be read in the right context with the right exegesis and historical perspective. If not, then we will end up starting our own sect or become an atheist claiming the Bible is work of chaos instead of the Word of God. 


Sunday, January 19, 2020

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Behold the Lamb of God

We are fresh off the holidays. Christmas and the Epiphany are over. The new year is here and we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus last Sunday. Now the Epiphany is taking hold. We are seeing Jesus revealed more and more. Last Sunday, we are told by God the Father that He is the beloved Son. Now we begin Ordinary time and will learn more about Christ and what He has to offer. Ordinary time is not ordinary at all. It just means that no serious big events will take place. So do not let the word "ordinary" fool you.  In fact, in my opinion, Ordinary time is the period which we all should focus a little more on. This is because we learn more on the person of Jesus and what He expects from us believers.

In the first reading, we are told of the servant who God will use to show His glory. This servant will bring Jacob and Israel back to the Lord and will be a light to the nations. Jesus is this new servant. He is the one who will gather Jacob and Israel back. He is the light of the world and the one who brings salvation. We too are servants of the Lord who must be His mouthpiece, hands and feet in the world. We must do God's will. Today's responsorial Psalm reminds us of this. Like the Psalm states, "Here am I, Lord; I come to do you will," we must state this proudly and move onward to do His will in the world.  Unfortunately, many Catholics tend to believe that a vocation or a "call" is solely for those men who eventually become priests or brothers. The same can be said of those women who eventually become religious sisters. However, this is not the case. All believers in the Church are called by God in one way or another.

In the second reading, we see how Paul himself is called to be an apostle of the Lord. The Gospel tells us that Jesus came to do a job, so to speak. John the Baptists points to Him as the "Lamb of God." This lamb takes away the sin of the world. What does this all mean?  Calling Jesus a "lamb" is representative of the fact that Jesus is the sacrificial offering. We read in the Old Testament how God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This was, of course, a test. Isaac was never sacrificed. In fact, God later provides the sacrificial offering. Similarly, God once again provides the sacrificial offering: His only Son. Next, what is the "sin" of the world? Can the world even sin? Well, we must look at Adam and Eve for the answer. The "sin" of the world is original sin, the rejection of God and disobedience that Adam and Eve began and which has passed on to us. This "sin" is what leads to other sins, venial, mortal which are actual sins.

This is why Jesus is the Lamb of God. He is the sacrifice whose blood will serve as expiation for the sin of the world. John the Baptist tells this to all present and to us today in 2020. John the Baptist tells us how the Holy Spirit came like a dove upon Jesus and that this one is the person who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. This means that the water of baptism is sanctified and given authority only in Jesus. Let us now follow Jesus more closely. It is a new year and new decade which we should use to focus on growing in holiness. There are so many events going on in the world that make us wonder how much time is left. Let us not sit and speculate, but take action to better our lives via the Sacraments, the Mass, prayer and the faith.


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