Sunday, September 26, 2021

26th Sunday in Ordinary time - Let Us Cut It Out!

Urgent: I dislike putting these messages here, but I need your help.  Not enough donations have come in. Please help me reach my campaign goal so that I can maintain and expand this work for about 4-5 years more.  You will help to keep this work going and growing.  Please donate at, www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus. Thanks. 


Reflection:

Today's readings are about envying others who do things in God's name and "cutting" out what may send us to hell.

In the first reading we read of God coming down in a cloud and speaking to Moses.  We are told that God takes some of the spirit that was on Moses and gives it to seventy elders.  When He did this, those elders began to prophesy.  Two of the men, Eldad and Medad were not present but still received this spirit.  They too began to prophesy.  Joshua then tells Moses to stop them. Moses replies, "Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that all people of the Lord were prophets!  Would that the Lord might bestow His spirit on them all!"  He says this because Joshua felt that there was a sort of competition going on. To him, Moses should have been the only one prophesying.  However, Moses says that it would be better if all the people were prophets for the Lord and that each had His spirit. This ties in with today's Gospel.  We must not be envious of others nor prevent others from spreading God's word (Galatians 5:26). God gives to each of us gifts which bring joy to us and others as we read in the Psalm today.

The responsorial Psalm tells us that God's law is perfect and refreshes the soul.  Every decree from God is trustworthy.  The fear of the Lord or respect for Him is pure and endures forever.  As servants of God we must be careful with God's laws and follow them.  We must not let sin rule over us and must be blameless and innocent, free of sin (Matthew 5:48).  This means living unattached to things of this world like the second reading tells us.

We must not be like those rich people who whine and complain when they lose money or something does not go their way.  Material things should not define us (Hebrews 13:5).  They should not be relied upon unless for necessity (IE food etc).  So many people buy expensive cars, homes, clothing etc believing these will bring them status or joy.  It never ceases to amaze me how many rich people, especially singers, athletes and actors buy expensive mansions and then sell them within three to five years.  They sell them because they are expensive to upkeep.  Then when you add property taxes, it can get even more hairy to keep a mansion.
This is why we must not story up treasures that we clearly cannot take with us when we pass on (Luke 12:33, (Matthew 6:19-21).

The reading tells us, "Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud."  This phrase speaks well to what Pope Francis has been telling us, especially during his visit to the United States.  Unfortunately, some so-called "conservatives" have criticized him calling him a Marxist. He is no such thing. What he has reminded us is that greed is evil (Proverbs 11:28,Luke 12:15) . Capitalism is not a perfect system for all and is not a perfect system period.  Many people are left out of the "trickle-down economics" and the capitalist process.  There is something wrong when less that one percent hold almost all of the world's wealth.  Our Holy Father is calling attention to this; not to destroy capitalism, but to make it better and fair for all so that it focuses on the common good and not just the bank accounts of a few. In the medical field, notice how lately (past 50 years) we find treatments but no cures.  This is not a coincidence. A "cure" is not big business as it will only bring in profits once.  However, a treatment will bring profits all the time because they occur more than once. This is why the Pope speaks strongly against the abuse of capitalism. The things of this world will not last (Matthew 24:35).  We can live in luxury and pleasure  fattening ourselves up, but in the end, all of that stays here while our bodies rot in the grave (Matthew 6:20). We must cut out what is evil in our lives as the Gospel tells us.

In the Gospel, we see a similar scenario as in the first reading with Moses.  John tells Jesus that he saw someone driving our demons in His name and that they tried to stop him because the man was not part of the disciples.  Jesus' reply is interesting. He does not say, "Good."  Instead, He says, "Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  For whoever is not against us ifs for us."  This speaks volumes even today where in many parishes there is sometimes a competition going on among the laity, among the clergy and even among both together. How many times have we become envious of others and their work in the Church?  I myself have been targeted at parishes and social media for my work; usually from "traditionalists" or "liberals."  These have interjected during my work with atheists and have tried to discredit me so that atheists would ignore me.  It brings up the question: who are they following, Christ or Satan?  Why impede the conversion of atheists with slander? They in their delusional understanding of the faith believe that only they truly profess and witness to the Catholic faith.  These are the postmodern Pharisees.  

Even outside of the Church, some of us may be bothered when we see "pastors" and others doing things in Jesus' name. We call them heretics and other bad things. This is wrong.  While these people are separated from Christ's true Church, they are still following Christ.  Jesus said He had sheep in other folds that still hear His name and will come join the one fold (John 10:16).  This is why ecumenism is important. Those who are against ecumenism and believe that we are a "militant church" that is at war with the world do not understand Christ nor Catholicism.  The term "militant Church" does not mean that we fight our brothers and sisters who are not Catholic.  We are not called to be Cain killing Abel in the world, so to speak.  It means that we are in a fight for our lives against the powers that be in this world that fool us into thinking money, power, the flesh etc are what bring eudaimonia or joy that never ceases (Ephesians 6:12). The Pope is not a heretic for praying with people of other faiths or for visiting a Protestant worship location or Mosque.

These people, while having different doctrines are worshiping the same God.  There is only ONE God up there listening to His children (1 Corinthians 8:6).  Some of our ancestors in our respective cultures may have named Him using different titles, or may have described Him based on culture, but that does not change the fact that there is only One God, One Creator. Lastly, we must protect our children.  The Holy Father told us at the World Meeting of Families that we must protect children who are our hope and future.  Jesus says, "whoever causes one of the little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."  These are strong words from Christ. They reflect how serious He was about protecting the little ones.  Unfortunately, some in our Church have offended these little ones in awful and evil ways. We must pray for all those involved, including the perpetrator.

If a child comes to us telling us of abuse, we must immediately report it to the police.  It is not our job to determine if kids are lying or not.  As the saying goes, "better safe than sorry."  All men have fallen short of God's grace, including the clergy (Romans 3:23). So we must not believe like in the past that priests cannot do any harm. We all have the defect found in the effects of original sin in us.  Because of this, we are predisposed to do all kinds of crazy and evil things (Colossians 3:5).  If you do not believe this, just turn on the news. You will hear all kinds of stories of beheading, rape, throwing babies in toilets, selling fetal parts, incest, parades with people having sex, States legalizing drug use, parents punching a girl to death and dumping her body on a beach, hashtags on Twitter celebrating abortion, I can go on and on, but you get the point.  We live in a beautiful world with ugly behaviors  in it.  This is why Christ tells us to "cut it out." He says that "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna."

Christ here is not saying to literally cut body parts off.  He is speaking metaphorically. Notice how He uses parts of the body that are essential to living but do not end life if they go missing. Jesus does not say to take out your heart or brain and throw them away because these organs are extremely vital to maintaining existence in the physical body.  We can lose hands, feet and eyes and still adapt to life but will face hardships of course.  The idea behind these words of Christ is to cut out what in our lives is keeping us in sin. We must go and sin no more (John 8:11).  Sin is like a cancer that keeps growing unless we kill it off or remove it. The more we sin, the more insensitive we become until we eventually set faith aside altogether (Ephesians 4:17-19). It is a cancer of the soul that effects the body and others around us (Micah 6:13, 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).  During this Covid-18 coronavirus pandemic, we have so many evils take hold. Large cities have become lawless. Murder and shootings have gone up.  We must cut all of this out. Reach out to people with the Good News and vote those out who do not share a reverence for God and morality.  So let us pray for one another and not be envious of others who preach Christ and have that Spirit of God in them. Let us protect our children and cut out what is keeping us from God.  May Jesus Christ be praised.


Readings: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Sunday, September 19, 2021

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Be Like A Child

 Urgent: I dislike putting these messages here, but I need your help.  Not enough donations have come in. Please help me reach my campaign goal so that I can maintain and expand this work for about 4-5 years more.  Please donate at, www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus. Thanks.


Reflection:
Today's readings focus on how Christ would suffer at the hands of the perfidious and how to answer our fallen human nature's drive to war and conflict.

In the first reading, we read the foreshadowing account of what Jesus would face during the passion.  He would be "obnoxious" to the people.  They will turn against Him because He rebukes their lifestyles (Mark 10:2). The people fought back against Him.  They tested Him and mocked Him because it says that "God will deliver Him" (Matthew 27:43).  Like Christ, we too will be mocked and harassed for speaking up for the truth ((Matthew 5:11, Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9)). We will be called smugish overly virtuous people who are obtrusive and so on. This is what a follower of Christ is to expect. But God upholds our lives as the Psalm tells us today.

God is our savior (Psalm 68:19).  It is in His name that we are saved (Acts 4:12, Romans 10:13).  God hears our prayers even in bad times when we feel abandoned by Him (Psalm 116:1, Psalm 17:6, Psalm 3:4). All kinds of arrogant people will rise up against us (2 Chronicles 36:16). This is expected when we publicly profess our faith in Jesus.  These people will seek our demise, slander us, and may even put us to death.  But we must not give up or become afraid. God will help us and will be there for us (Romans 8:31).  We must live in love, not hate like the second reading tells us (Ephesians 5:2).

War, jealousy, and so forth are things found in fallen human nature (Romans 1:18-32). These are the bad effects of Original Sin which brought about disorder in the world (Romans 5:12).  Unfortunately, these will continue to plague us as we advance in our spiritual lives. We will see fellow Catholics who may be jealous of us, or we ourselves may become envious of the positions others hold in the Church. Sometimes we start wars in our communities, parishes, workplace, and of course among nations. It seems like human beings love to fight each other. We fight over anything; religion, politics, places in line, material things, for the love or attention of others, etc. These are the bad effects of Original sin.

This is what happens when we set aside the law of God. We become like primitive animals seeking only our selfish ambitions. The novel "The Mist" by Stephen King comes to mind. A movie was even made about it. In this story, scientists open up a dimension to another world where these insect-like creatures enter and wreak havoc upon humanity. A group of people is trapped in a supermarket and little by little they go from being civilized to uncivilized. The rule of law disappears so they become driven by the instinct to survive. Meanwhile, a fanatical and demented Protestant Bible thumper begins to capitalize on the events by associating them with the Bible. She becomes a Jim Jones type as the people begin to believe her and also become psychotic.  They fight amongst each other. Human beings often have weak minds which are impressionable, especially to evil. We call this concupiscence (Romans 7:8, Colossians 3:5, CCC 1264). However, Christ it the key that unlocks these natural disordered instincts and sets us free (John 8:36, Galatians 5:1). We must trust Jesus and allow Him to transform our fallen human nature. In the Gospel, we will read how fallen human nature corrupts the mind.

In the Gospel, Jesus and His disciples begin a journey through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know about it in order to avoid the crowds. He wanted to use this time to teach the disciples. Jesus tells them that “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”  They did not understand what He was referring to and clearly were not knowledgeable in Scripture (first reading which mentions this).  When they had reached Capernaum, Jesus noticed that the disciples were arguing among themselves.  He asks them, but they remained silent. We are told by the writer of the Gospel that they were arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus tells them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”  Jesus says this after placing a young child among them.

We see how Holy Mother Church has placed the readings in such a way that they connect. Jesus is the fulfillment of what was prophesied in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17).  He is this "Son of Man" who would be mocked and put to suffer a shameful and horrible death.  This ties into what we read in the first reading. Furthermore, the argument among the disciples is connected to the second reading in regards to human beings and their selfish ambitions and instinctual drive to hurt each other. Jesus says tells that they must be like children.  Children can go to a park with their parents and play with other kids with ease.  They play with other kids as if they knew them already. It is when they begin to "mature" that they start developing this sense of competition and inner drives to fight each other. We must be like children and be innocent (Matthew 18:4).  Trust one another just like kids trust other kids at a playground and just have fun. If we were like "kids" like Jesus suggested, we would not have wars and all of these stupid conflicts that we create for absolutely no reason.  Those who are not innocent before God like children cannot go to heaven (Mark 10:13-16).

We must be a servant to others and not seek positions of power or first place in order to gratify our egos (John 13:12-14, Mark 10:44-45). By being a servant, we show that we are secure in our egos.  Serving others does not make us weak or a "push-over."  Lastly, we must be good to children, teach them well and protect them (Proverbs 22:6). Children are our greatest asset (Psalm 127:3-5).  On the news, we hear of Planned Parenthood selling unborn children body parts and some people out there defend this.  It is just sickening. Recently a young Muslim boy was arrested simply for showing an electronic clock that he made which caused school officials to overreact due to Islamophobia. This is not how we should treat kids.  We have to receive them, protect them, and teach them well (Matthew 18:2-6). Today, MTV, Pop singers, Rap singers, and whatnot are raising our youth. They instill all kinds of crazy messages into their young minds. We must end this and restore the home as the first school and not let the "village" raise our kids. The best way to teach our kids is by being examples to them.  We must show them that to be last is to be first. We must show them that serving others is the way we should go. May Jesus be praised forever.






Readings:  Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Sunday, September 12, 2021

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Follow Christ via the Cross and Transform Faith into Work

Faith without works is dead. Our Lord expects us to not just believe, but to put that "believe" to work.  I have been trying to do this for a few years now online and need your help. Please donate at: www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus and put your faith into action by helping me continue and expand this work.  Thanks and God bless you for your help.


Reflection:

In today's first reading, we see the foretelling of what happened in last week's Gospel with Jesus healing the deaf and mute man (see: Sacerdotus: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ephphatha - Fear not, God Opens Us Up). This first reading is also a foretelling of what Christ would go through in His passion.  He would be beaten, spat on, and humiliated but would return no response to the violence (1 Peter 2:23).  We too much "turn the other cheek" and not return evil for evil or violence for violence (Matthew 5:38-48).  God is our help and our protection (Psalm 46:1, Psalm 28:7).  Let those who hate us and oppose us come forward; let them mock us and hate us (2 Peter 3:3).  God is with us (Psalm 46).  As long as we stay in God's truth, no one can prove us wrong.  We must walk with God in this life like the Psalm for today tells us.

Walking with God in the "land of the living" is a must like the responsorial Psalm tells us.  God is always with us listening to our supplications (1 John 5:14, Psalm 66:19).  He may not answer every prayer, but He knows of them and what is in our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 17:10).  All kinds of evil can encircle us, but God will be there to save us (Psalm 22:16, Psalm 27:2).  God will rescue us from whatever may come to us, but we must be just and loyal to Him. Our faith must a living faith that works, not a dead one as the second reading tells us.

What good is belief without the exercise of that belief?  What good is faith if that faith is not put to practice?  St. Paul asks this question and states that such a faith does not save.  He is correct!  How can we be Catholic, believe in God and the teachings of the Church but refuse to help others and spread our faith?  What good is our faith in that regard?  Atheists criticize all Christians about this.  Many times when we see a homeless person or someone in need, we simply tell them "I will pray for you" instead of helping them with their material needs.  We say, "go in peace, keep warm, and eat well" as the reading tells us. This is not genuine Christianity.  We must put our faith into practice by not only believing in God but also by helping others (Matthew 5:42, Matthew 25:35-40). Today, many parishes are closing because of a lack of participation and donations. We must do our best to help our parishes grow by participating and donating.  I know many are upset over church closings due to the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, but remember, these parishes ultimately belong to each parishioner. While the bishop may be the owner on paper, in reality, the people who attend them are the owners and must care for them.  It is in giving that we receive (Luke 6:38). Last week I shared a personal story of encountering homeless people in the streets of the Bronx. I can tell you firsthand how good it is to help others in many ways, not just spiritually. Giving to others may seem strange.  Why should I give my hard-earned money to others? The act of giving shows that we deny ourselves to serve God and others as we read in the Gospel.   It may seem strange, but it is a way to spiritually mature. We may not always understand God's ways as we read in the Gospel today.

In today's Gospel, Jesus and His disciples went out to Caesarea Philippi. While traveling there Jesus asks the disciples "Who do people say that I am?"  They respond that the people think He is John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets.  Jesus then asks them, "who do you say that I am?"  Peter takes speaks first showing his leadership and tells Jesus, "You are the Christ."  Jesus then tells them not to say anything. He does this to avoid the fanaticism that would take place if people learned too fast who He really was.  Jesus then teaches them that He has to suffer greatly and would be rejected by the elders, chief priests, etc which is connected to today's first reading.  He would then be killed but will rise after three days. Peter took this news badly and rebuked Jesus, but Jesus told Him and said "Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Jesus was referring to His passion, death, and resurrection.  Peter did not understand this and rebuked Jesus.  Jesus told Peter "Get behind me, Satan" because Satan is the one who would have something to protest about regarding Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection.  It was in this moment that Jesus crushed the serpent's head so naturally, Satan would not want Jesus to carry out what was supposed to happen (Genesis 3:15, Romans 16:20, Psalm 68:21).  Peter did not understand because he did not have the Holy Spirit yet (John 14, John 13:16).  We too may not understand things until we pray to the Holy Spirit to come and enlighten us (Isaiah 11:2). Many times, we try to rationalize things via our human understanding.  Atheists tend to do this a lot.  They see things through the lens of materialism and what they believe to be logic.  This is why they have a hard time understanding God and the things of God (Romans 11:33).  We wonder many times why God allows evil.

Yesterday, we were reminded once again of the horrific attacks against America. These things do not make sense to us yet we hear so much about "God's plan" in regards to the course of events.  No one can understand God's mind and why He allows certain things that we find horrendous (1 Corinthians 2:16, Romans 11:34). We trust that all things will lead to a greater good (Romans 8:28).  As followers of Christ, we must accept the cross and be prepared to suffer and possibly lose our lives for Him (Luke 14:27). We must deny ourselves and let Christ transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18). This does not mean that we cease having an identity. What this means is that we are restored to what God designed, not the fallen state that we are in now.  Today so many are pushing for "my truth" or "my personal truth." This is nonsense. Truth exists independent of each one of us. Truth is a person named Jesus. Science is not the truth, math is not the truth, psychology is not truth.  Not even theology of philosophy.  This is because these fields of study are finite and do change as our understanding of reality grows.  Our true identity is not in our "personal truth," but the Truth, Jesus Christ. Let us trust God always; put our faith into practice; not become a "Satan" attempting to thwart God's will and be prepared to carry the cross and suffer for Christ and the Gospel.  May Jesus Christ be praised.  





Readings:  Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB




Sunday, September 5, 2021

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ephphatha - Fear not, God Opens Us Up

 Hello friends, I ask you to please help me with my fundraising campaign in order to maintain and expand this evangelization work. Not enough have donated and I am concerned.  Please donate at: www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus.  



Reflection:
Today's readings are about trusting God and being open to Him so we can be made new.

In the first reading from Isaiah, God says to those who are afraid, "Be strong, fear not!"  Fear is a natural response in human beings. Biologists and evolutionary psychologists believe that we developed this feeling in order to survive. Some of us when we see an arachnid, automatically get nervous and our fight and flight processes get to work.  We either squish an arachnid, spray it with Raid or something, or we run like "Forrest Gump."  Fear allows us to survive in many cases.  However, God tells us to not fear.  He "comes with vindication; with divine recompense" we are told.  God will care for us and fight for us (Exodus 14:14, Deuteronomy 3:22). This is why we must "turn the other cheek" and not take revenge (Romans 12:19, 2 Samuel 22:48, Deuteronomy 32:35).  Today, we have many reasons to be afraid. Around the world, we have ISIS and others who take pride in beheading Christians and torturing them.  Even in our beloved USA, we now have the LGBT, secularists, atheists, and pro-abortion advocates targeting us in many ways.  They are trying to push us into our church buildings and silence our public voice and witness.

As you may know, a Christian county clerk named Kim Davis was arrested in 2015 for simply following her conscience (see: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2015/09/kim-davis-jailed.html). She refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and for this, she was sent to jail for contempt despite other politicians doing the same in regards to refusing to obey or enforce laws and getting scot-free. Moreover, the Supreme Court did not even bother to hear her appeal. Justice Elena Kagan, a supporter of the LGBT agenda clearly showed her bias and rejected Davis' case demonstrating that Christians have no voice before the Supreme Court.  This is scary indeed. However, we must anticipate this and worse (John 16:33).  Because we believe in Christ the Lord, we will suffer greatly and will be brought before the powers that be (Luke 21:12). However, God will not be mocked and will avenge us if we remain faithful through this or any persecution that will come (Galatians 6:7, Romans 5:3-4).  Recently, Texas passed a huge abortion ban that brought abortion supporters to their knees whining in anger. The Supreme Court refused to block the law which may indicate that Roe vs. Wade may be seeing its last days. This is good news!  However, because of this law, many businesses like Lyft and Uber are paying the legal fees of drivers who get sued for driving someone to an abortion mill. Many others are protesting and voicing diatribe against the Church, other people of faith, and the pro-life movement in general. They are mocking us, calling us backward and misogynists.  Things will get really bad if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade effectively making abortion illegal again. If this does occur, God-willing, we must prepare for the wrath of the evil one and those who support evil. 

We must not fear man and his pretenses to possessing power over other human beings; but instead, only listen to and obey God (Matthew 6:24, Matthew 10:28-29, Acts 5:29).  Only God has the power (James 4:12 ).  If we trust God, we will see His marvels (Matthew 13:58, Matthew 8:13).  The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will hear (Isaiah 35:5).  This is not just physical healing, but also a psychological and spiritual one as well.  Those who are blind to God and refuse to listen to Him will, once God intervenes.  God will restore creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:5).  Today we are seeing many droughts around the world, especially in areas that have lost their way (Job 12:15, Psalm 32:4, Psalms 68:6, Amos 8:11, Jeremiah 17:5-6).  God will take those "burning sands" and turn them into pools.  He will bring springs of water to the "thirsty ground" (Isaiah 44:3).  However, first, we must bring back our nation to God (2 Chronicles 7:14).  We must allow Him to change us from within without fear (Ezekiel 36:26).  As today's Psalm states, we must "praise the Lord."

"Praise the Lord, My soul!"  This has to be the essence of our lives. God is faithful to us (Psalms 86:15, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).  He is just and secures this justice to those who are put down and oppressed (1 Corinthians 1:28, Psalm 9:9).  Refugees seeking help must trust God.  He will help them.  It is God who has the final say in the affairs of each one of us (Proverbs 19:21).  He gives sight to the blind, picks up those who are humbled, protects the strangers and those who society labels as pariahs or undesirable classes (Deuteronomy 10:18, Leviticus 19:34).  God has no favorites and treats everyone equally as we read in the second reading.

God shows no partiality we are told.  He does not favor one group over another (Acts 10:34, Galatians 3:28).  While He did choose Israel as His people, these people were a preparation for the redemption and salvation of the whole world (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 28:28).  God is not the father of just the Jews, but of the many nations He promised to Abraham (Genesis 17:4-5).  We on our part, must "adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ."  This is done not just by being pious, but by loving others regardless of their condition or where they come from (Mark 12:31).  If we see people not well dressed or maybe lacking hygiene enter our churches, we must not look at them with disgust. We must not judge them or separate them from the congregation as if they do not deserve to be there.  Instead, we must bear it all for Christ. The grace of God transforms us.  No one should be treated differently simply because they are different. This is not what Christianity is about. 

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I do not like being touched or embraced. I tend to keep to myself in that regard.  During this Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, I have welcomed the social distancing and hope it remains. This will prevent not only diseases from spreading from person to person but will prevent scandals and accusations of violation of boundaries. We know this is the new thing now.  However, as a Catholic, I began to grow spiritually and as a human. The stoic atheist was dying in me.  I will never forget years ago in the Bronx.  I walking on 181st and Grand Concourse.  The event was so powerful that I still remember the location.  Anyhow, as I was walking with a cassock on, I passed by a small park on the Concourse. There were a group of homeless people sitting there.  One of them asks for money and I only had seven dollars so I gave it to him and asked him to share it with the others.  What happened next was just amazing.  After giving him the money, I had gone on my way walking. The man comes and calls me and I turn around. He is smiling and invites me to join them for lunch.  I was confused as to what he meant.  Well, he took the money I gave and bought some slices of Wonder bread and cold cuts, bologna I think which is cheap.  He got the food and was making sandwiches in the park and giving them to other homeless people (his friends).

Moreover, he invited me to join them. Now, naturally, I was a bit hesitant to join them but did not show it outwardly.  The dying atheist in me was concerned about diseases, lack of hygiene, etc.  But I felt a voice in me tell me to go eat, so I did.  We held hands and prayed on the street and ate this simple lunch. It was one of the greatest feelings ever and spoke to me better than any papal document, homily, theologian or spiritual director could.  I still remember this and always pray for those people I met that hot summer day. God spoke to me strongly using those people. Another more recent event was in Boston.  I was working at St. Francis House giving out clothing to people.  This young Caucasian male comes in about 18 or 19 years old, maybe younger.  He was shirtless and barefoot.  Mind you, it was about 28 degrees outside.  His milk-white smooth young skin was red from the cold. He was shivering and was just a sad sight to look at. Those who work at the place are only allowed to give one article of clothing per person. Well, I was stuck.  He needed a shirt, socks, shoes, and coat.  I did not know what to do.  Again, the "stoic Mister Spock-like atheist" was still in me a bit and I was trying to judge the situation like a Utilitarian using calculus. The guy was nearly in tears obviously desperate. I tend to be very stoic so he probably interpreted my lack of emotions as "he doesn't believe me."

In response, he kept insisting, looking at me with piercing sky-blue eyes that he needed the clothes; that he was freezing and did not even have underwear. He even pulled the waistband of his jeans outward out of desperation revealing his male parts and buttocks as "proof" that he only had the pair of jeans and nothing more. Again, I did not know what to do. He was clearly poor, in need of clothing, and not lying. He was dirty and the odor of armpits and unwashed male genitals was obvious to all present.  In my head I was processing, "Should I or should I not?  What if I get in trouble with the religious brother supervising me?" However, again I felt that voice in me telling me to give him what he needed, so I did.  The young guy started crying and gave me a big hug which almost took the air out of me showing how hard he squeezed me.  When I saw the religious brother I told him what I did expect to be scolded and instead, he smiled and told me that we do not get in trouble for doing God's work and told me not to worry about the rules.  Again, God was teaching me about the poor and what to do.  I have many more stories like this, but if I write them, then this post would be over 400,000 characters! Like the old Nike sneakers motto, "just do it."  Help others and do not worry. As the reading tells us, "Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.  Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?"

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus goes to the people who have all kinds of physical handicaps.  A deaf man with a speech impediment was presented to him. Mark when writing the Gospel even used the word for "speech impediment" in Greek which is mogilalon.  The same word is used in the Greek version of the first reading showing the connection between this Gospel event and Isaiah's words. Anyhow, the man with the handicap begs Jesus to lay His hands on him.  Jesus takes the man away from the crowd and does something strange.  He puts His finger inside the man's ears, spits, touched the man's tongue, and looked up to heaven saying "Ephphatha" which means, "Be Opened!"  The man was immediately healed. He tells the man not to tell anyone, but the man obviously does.  The people were amazed and said, "He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."

This is a lot to take in, but let us simplify it.  The encounter here is clearly a fulfillment of the first reading.  In regards to the finger in the ears, spitting and the touching of the tongue, these had to do with the beliefs of the time. The Romans and Jews of the time believed saliva had healing properties.  There were also many people at the time who believed in talismans claiming them to be able to heal others using these gestures and objects. Jesus used these gestures and spit to communicate to the people what He was doing (healing).  He was also indicating that healing comes from God because the healing took effect not when the touching and spitting happened, but after Jesus looked up to heaven.  This was not magic. One can see the body language at work here.  Then looking up to heaven was conveying that God above does the healing and has the power. Moreover, the spitting on the ground shows how God "waters" the dust of the Earth (human beings),(Genesis 2:7, John 9).  This is why the Church uses Sacramentals which are sacred signs that are connected to the Sacraments, remind us of God and our faith, and which God uses to bless (Acts 5:14-16, Acts 19:11-12, CCC 1667-1679). God can do miracles easily without needing anything, however, we see in today's Gospel how God is a personal God who engages our senses and our physical existence via His human self in the person of Christ.  Jesus pulls the man aside in private showing that God has a personal relationship with each one of us (Isaiah 43:1). God deals with us individually, not just as a Church collective (Ezekiel 18, 1 Corinthians 7:17).

Now you may be wondering why did Jesus tell the man not to inform others of the healing, well, this was due to several reasons. Jesus clearly had people among the religious leaders who hated Him and were jealous of Him.  He did not want to draw attention to Himself in that regard.  Moreover, if news spread that Jesus was this healer, then people will flock to Him just to seek this and will never learn about the Kingdom of God nor the Gospel (John 4:48). Unfortunately, we see something similar today with Popes.  Whenever a Pope visits a location, millions go to see him and a lot of these do not even bother to process his message or internalize it. Finally, the reading ends by stating that Jesus did well.  This is in relation to God making all things new (Genesis 1:31, Revelation 21:1-5).  Jesus restores all things (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Our past does not define us, Jesus does. Let us not be afraid and trust God.  Let us welcome all, especially the poor who need our love and care.  Like the deaf and mute man, let us go to Christ and ask Him to lay His hand on us to cover using grace; spit to water our dry souls, put His finger in our ears to take away our stubbornness and refusal to listen, and let Him say "Ephphatha" so that we can be completely open to God.  Only Christ can open us to receive His Word and preach it to others. A good example of someone who accomplished this is St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was a humble woman who served the poorest of the poor.  She was slandered by many atheists including the late Christopher Hitchens but kept to her work of serving others. Mother Teresa was a true humanist who cared for others while Hitchens and other alleged humanists simply made money off of atheism and making shock and awe commentaries.  Let us imitate Mother Teresa who let Jesus open her to receive His Word which she took to heart, mind, and action.  May Jesus Christ be praised!




Readings:  Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB



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