Sunday, October 31, 2021

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Trick or Treat God

Before we begin today's reflection, let us focus a bit on Halloween. It is October 31st and it falls on the 31st Sunday of Ordinary time. This day brings many memories to me and possibly you reading this blog as well.  It is "Halloween."  In America and other nations, many young people dress up in different costumes and go "trick or treating."  

The holiday seems innocent enough, but of course, there are the dangers of knocking on strangers' doors, receiving candy and other treats from strangers, and becoming a victim of a prank or more recently, gang initiations.  

Many Catholics and other separated Christians wonder if it is ok to celebrate this day since most of it seems to be about evil, death, darkness, and violence.  All throughout television scary movies about psychopathic serial killers, zombies, ghosts, and monsters are being played in syndication.  There are even ghost shows out there having live ghost hunting sessions.  The question that comes to mind on this day is: 

Is this day all about a glorification of evil?

Well, let's briefly look at the origin of this holiday.  Some claim that this day originated in the Pagan Celtic harvest festival called Samhain.  The Catholic Church purposely moved All Saints day and All Souls day to coincide with this celebration in order to drain Paganism and convert it to Christianity.  

However, that is disputed because there seems to be no evidence that Pope Gregory IV was aware of this Pagan celebration.  Nevertheless, the Universal Holy Day of All Saint's day was added the day after the 31st and hence the 31st became to be known as, "All Hallow's Eve."  

In the Liturgy, Solemnities begin at the vespers (Evening Prayer) before the actual day of the Solemnity.  So in effect, All Saint's day begins at the vespers of October 31st.  Moreover, All Soul's day follows All Saint's day.  This further adds to the speculation that the Catholic Church did this on purpose to convert Pagans to Christianity.  

During the Reformation, ultra-conservative and fundamentalist sects attacked the idea of Saints, praying to saints and of course celebrating them.  Groups such as the Puritans forbade the celebration of Hallow's Eve and anything that was suspected as Catholic, Pagan, or Satanic.   However, while in America the Puritans did not prevent Hallow's Eve from "evolving" to its present form.  Many cultural elements were added to it such as the Jack o' Lantern, Trick or treating, dressing up in costumes, etc.  

Like any Holy Day, society often twists the purpose/meaning of it.  Hallow's Eve became Halloween and now is celebrated as a day when people just dress up, trick or treat and just enjoy themselves as someone/something else.  

While these celebrations seem strange and "evil," but also are fun, we have to thank the Catholic Church for the fun part, so to speak.  The trick or treat part derives from the Medieval practice of young people going door to door collecting, "Soul cakes."  For each cake, the child prayed for a soul in Purgatory.    Instead of the jingle, "trick or treat, gimme something good to eat"  kids said, "A soul-cake! A soul-cake! Have mercy on all Christian souls, for A soul cake!"  

In my opinion, Catholics and other Christians should not fear Halloween, but try to re-Christianize it.  Remember that this day belongs to the Lord and us.  Do not let secularism or paganism claim it as their own.  Have fun with it, but always keep in mind that evil is evil and is something that is real and must be avoided.   

Parents: If you let your kids dress up as monsters or violent characters, explain to them that what these characters represent or do in movies or shows must remain fiction and not become reality.  

We must strive for a world where monsters, violence, murder only exist in fiction.  

We must also remember to be proud of who we are.  Dressing up as a monster, character or whatever must be done just for fun and not to "feel" like someone else.  You are a unique individual.  No one else will ever be LIKE YOU!  Appreciate that!  

It is up to you if you wish to celebrate this day or not in the way secular society celebrates it now.  Instead of having kids dress up as violent things, one can try dressing them up as saints, angels or positive people as well.  

Say a prayer before going out to Our Lady, St Michael, and your Guardian Angel.  Pray for each home you visit.  

Check the sex offender's list to make sure you know who you are visiting.

Download Apps to help locate and track trick or treaters.

Check the treats before letting your children eat them.  Check your surroundings. Try to be with a crowd, not alone.  


Today is Halloween and it is a day much used for frights and to scare. Fear seems to be the theme today.  The first reading tells us to feat the Lord, your God.  Does this mean we have to be afraid of God? No! God is our Father. We cannot fear our father. Fear here means respect. We respect God just like we respect our parents. We do everything right so as to not offend them. Moses tells us that we have to keep God's statutes and commandments.  We must love God with our entire being: heart, soul, and strength. This is very important. It makes no sense to go to Mass and then do all kinds of evils afterward. Where is the "fear" of God there? Where is the respect? God sees us all. We cannot hide anything we do or plan to do. God is our strength and we must love Him as the responsorial Psalm tells us. 

God is our strength. We must love Him. He is our fortress and deliverer; our rock of refuge and salvation. Without God, we cannot exist. We are nothing without Him. He keeps us in existence with a mere thought. God created us because of love. He puts up with us because of love. He sent His Son to die for us because of love. We must return that love by doing what He wills. This means following His commandments and helping one another.  This is our ministry whether ordained or not.

The second reading tells us that Jesus is with us forever in His priesthood. Jesus is the one true priest. Priests at our parishes serve and act in Jesus' name. It is Jesus who celebrates Mass and the Sacraments. The man investments are just a stand-in if you will. We must make use of the priest by going to confession and Mass. We must pray for them and remember that they too are human. They are men subjected to weakness as the reading tells us.  Jesus died once for all. The Mass is not a new sacrifice. It is a reenactment of the one and only sacrifice on the Cross by Jesus Christ.  Many of our separated friends erroneously believe that Catholics sacrifice Jesus over and over. This is not true. The priesthood is grounded in Jesus and His Word. 

Today's Gospel summarizes the duty all Christians must follow. We must love God with all our mind, soul, body, and strength and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the summit of Catholicism. This is why we have Sacraments, Commandments, Mass, and so on. If our Catholicism is not bringing us to love God with our entire being and our neighbors as ourselves, then we are just practicing nonsense. We are just being mechanical and going through the motions. The faith and its seed are not sprouting in us. If we are not making use of the Sacraments to show that we love God with our entire being, then we are just wasting our time and condemning our souls.  If we are not loving one another and just love people or tolerate them in certain situations or to get ahead, then we are just wasting our time. The faith is not in us. We are just being hypocritical and atheistic in thinking. Both of these acts are necessary. We must love God with our entire being and neighbor as ourselves. It is sad to see online and in parishes Catholics hold grudges. Recently the founders of Where Peter Is and One Peter Five blocked our Sacerdotus account on Twitter. It is an immature move showing that the founders behind these blogs are not living an authentic Catholicism. They are not loving their neighbor as themselves. This may indicate that they do not love themselves. There is a disease in their spirituality that does not allow them to love themselves and others. We cannot be like this. We cannot hold grudges.  A Catholic who blocks another Catholic does not follow Jesus' commandment. He or she is simply going through the motions of Catholicism and not internalizing it. We must love God with our entire being and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is what God commands of us. It is not easy, but it is also not impossible. It can be done if we subscribe to humility and openness. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in its onset hurt this. Doctors and scientists told us to keep apart from each other. No one could embrace each other or help each other out of fear of being contaminated. While we must care for ourselves, we cannot exaggerate. Viruses and diseases are part of nature. We will get sick from something. It is only inevitable. May Jesus Christ be praised!


Readings: Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Friday, October 29, 2021

Our Lady of the Universe Bronx Apparitions 76 Years Later

The Bronx is a borough of New York City that is known for many things: its rich cultural diversity, its iconic landmarks, its vibrant arts and music scene, and its history of resilience and innovation. But did you know that the Bronx is also the site of a reported Marian apparition? Yes, according to some witnesses, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in the Bronx in 1945 under the title of Our Lady of the Universe.

The story goes that on November 15, 1945, a nine-year-old boy named Joseph Vitolo Jr. was playing with his friend John Bruno near his home on Villa Avenue, adjacent to the Grand Concourse, a major boulevard that runs through the Bronx. As he climbed onto a ledge, he saw a bright light and heard a voice saying "Fear not, Joseph. I am Our Lady of the Universe. You must come here every night at seven o'clock for fifteen nights." He then saw a beautiful woman dressed in white with a blue mantle and a crown of stars, holding a rosary in her hand with a Star of David on her chest. She smiled at him and disappeared.

Joseph ran home and told his parents what he had seen. His father, a devout Catholic, believed him and took him to the local parish priest, Father Edward McKenna. The priest was skeptical at first but agreed to accompany Joseph to the spot where he had seen the apparition. The next night, November 16, Joseph returned to the ledge with his father, his friend John, and Father McKenna. As they prayed the rosary, Joseph saw Our Lady again and spoke to her. He said she asked him to pray for peace in the world and for sinners. She also told him to spread devotion to her Immaculate Heart and to wear the brown scapular.

Word of Joseph's vision spread quickly throughout the neighborhood and beyond. The following nights, hundreds and then thousands of people gathered around the ledge to witness the phenomenon. Some claimed to see flashes of light, stars, or even Our Lady herself. Others reported hearing heavenly music or smelling roses. Many brought flowers, candles, statues, and pictures to honor Our Lady of the Universe. Some also brought crutches, wheelchairs, or sick relatives, hoping for a miracle.

The apparitions continued until November 30, 1945, when Joseph saw Our Lady for the last time. He said she told him: "I am very pleased with your obedience to my request. Continue to pray for peace in this troubled world." She then blessed him and everyone present and ascended into heaven.

The apparitions of Our Lady of the Universe have never been officially approved or condemned by the Catholic Church. However, they have been tolerated and supported by some local clergy and faithful. A shrine was built on the site of the apparitions, where Masses and rosaries are still celebrated regularly. Joseph Vitolo Jr., who died in 1990, remained faithful to his experience and devoted to Our Lady until his death.

Today, 76 years after the apparitions, Our Lady of the Universe remains a source of inspiration and hope for many Bronxites and visitors who come to pray at her shrine. She is a reminder of God's love and mercy for all people, especially those who suffer or struggle in this world. She is also a symbol of the Bronx's spirit of faith, courage, and joy.

What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can go through.  

If you want to learn more about Our Lady of the Universe or visit her shrine, you can check out these links:





Sunday, October 24, 2021

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Restoring Sight

Dear readers, like the beggar Bartimaeus begging for pity in today's Gospel, I ask you to please help keep this evangelization work alive by donating. So far a few have donated, but I have not met the goal. Time is running out. 

In December, I have to pay for the renewal of this domain name, so I need your help.  I also want to expand this work so it can reach even more people.  Please help me meet my campaign goal by donating any amount at  


In the first reading, we read of God telling the people that He has delivered them.  He promises to gather them all including the blind and lame (Jeremiah 32:37, Jeremiah 23:3). These people were scattered and suffered greatly.  They cried and were lost, but God says He will bring them back with consolation (Ezekial 36:24).  God reminds His people that He never abandons them.  He is a faithful God; a faithful Father (1 Corinthians 1:9).  Even when His people sinned and turned against Him, God was there and worked wonders as we read in the Psalm.

In the responsorial Psalm, we are told that God has done great things for us. This Psalm is an expression of joy. It is reminiscent of the wonderful things God has done for His people. Joy and happiness come from God (Psalm 126:3, Luke 1:49).  Material things do not make us happy. Everything that we have and comes from God (Acts 17:28). This should remind us to always be faithful and pleasing to God at all times.  As Catholics, we have Christ who intercedes to us next to His Father in heaven (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, 1 Timothy 2:5). He pleads to the Father on our behalf so that when we are scattered by doubt, we can return rejoicing as Christ represents us before God the Father as we read in the second reading.

The second reading reminds us that priests are representatives of God. Our Catholic priests are "another Christ" (CCC 875).  They do not replace Christ but stand in His place physically speaking. Like the priests of old, they offer the sacrifice of Christ on the altar at Mass.  Christ is not re-sacrificed (1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:28). The sacrifice is reenacted, if you will.  It is "replayed" because Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).  Jesus was the perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14).  He was the spotless lamb offered for the sins of all (1 Peter 1:19).  The priesthood is not an "honor" that is given.  It is not a privilege.  No man has a right to be a priest.  This priesthood of Christ only comes via the call from God.  Christ is the real priest (Hebrews 4:14).  A priest in the order of Melchizedek offered bread and wine (Hebrews 5:10, Hebrews 6:20, Genesis 14:18).  This priesthood is forever even if a priest leaves the public ministry or is removed.  As a priest, Christ calls for mercy via His passion, the Divine Mercy. Priests must be merciful to others and not judge others.  Instead, they must admonish the sinner and call him or her back via the sacrament of Penance. In today's Gospel, we see this mercy.

Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus.  This man was born blind and was a beggar.  We know that blind people often develop a great sense of hearing.  Bartimaeus was no different. He heard Jesus was around and not knowing exactly where began to shout out, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."  The people in the town told him to shut up.  How many times in our own world do we see the homeless treated poorly?  People ignore them, tell them to shut up or write them off as drunkards and drug addicts.  Humanity has not changed. Back then the people did the same. Nevertheless, the man continue to call out to Jesus and Jesus responded telling the people to call him. The man threw aside his cloak and sprang up to Christ who asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"  The man simply asked, "I want to see."  Jesus then tells the man, "Go, your way; your faith has saved you."  The man immediately received his sight and followed Christ.  This Gospel shows us the mercy of God. The blind man not only represents a person with eye problems but the sinner (Matthew 15:14).  We become blind to God when we sin (2 Peter 1:9).  Nevertheless, God is still nearby and we can still sense Him one way or another (Psalm 145:18). If we call out to Him and ask for mercy, God too will tell us to come to Him. He will restore our sight, not only physically but spiritually (Luke 4:18).   This is important today as we are in this Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.  Many have been lost and the faith has been tested. 

In response, we must "throw aside our cloak"  like the beggar did or set aside our old ways and follow Him on the way as Bartimaeus did and rejoice in the wonders of the Lord as the first reading and Psalm remind us (Isaiah 42:16, Mark 8:35).  Priests in the Catholic Church must be merciful like Christ and be ready to welcome the "spiritually blind" in order to bring Christ's healing to them.  This is what Pope Francis has been stressing to all of us even during the Synod that has just closed. We must ask mercy from God and be merciful to others. We must try to understand where life has taken others and meet there where they are in order to bring them back to Christ.  Let us as God to have pity on us and to remove our spiritual blindness which prevents us from seeing Him and the beauty in the souls of our neighbors both family and stranger.  May Jesus be praised.

Readings:  Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Sunday, October 17, 2021

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Being Humble and of Service

 Dear readers, I ask you to please help keep this evangelization work alive by donating. So far a few have donated, but I have not met the goal. Time is running out. 

In December, I have to pay for the renewal of this domain name, so I need your help.  I also want to expand this work so it can reach even more people.  Please help me meet my campaign goal by donating any amount at


In the first reading, we read a foreshadowing of Christ and how He will be suffering in order to justify many (Psalm 22:1-31, Isaiah 50:6).  Jesus became the offering on the altar if you will.  Instead of the ancient rites of sacrificing animals on altars, we have now Jesus, the Lamb provided by God (John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelation 12:11, Genesis 22:8).  Animal sacrifices were common among pagan religions which the people of the Old Covenant often found themselves being influenced by. The use of animal sacrifices and the sprinkling of their blood was a sign of forgiveness and a foreshadowing of the true sacrifice in the person of Christ, the Lamb of God (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10; Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 16:15, John 1:29). Animal sacrifices by themselves were just symbolic and had no power.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes,
"The blood of animals could neither 'atone' for sin nor bring God and men together.  It could only be a sign of hope, anticipating a greater obedience that would be truly redemptive." (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 133)
The true sacrifice is Jesus who died on the cross and had His blood shed for all of us as expiation for our sins (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was done once and is efficient for all to be redeemed (Hebrews 7:27). Many of our Protestant friends believe Catholic priests "re-sacrifice" Christ over and over, this is not true. The Sacrifice at Mass is a remembrance or reenactment if you will, of the salvific events of the Passion of Christ (CCC, 1366-67). Since God is providing us the offering, we must ask for mercy and trust Him as the Psalm says.

God is trustworthy and He loves justice and what is right, the responsorial Psalm introduces (Psalm 145:17). The Psalm tells us of God and how He looks upon those who fear Him or have respect. He shows us kindness and delivers us from death, the death of grace in hell (Revelation 20:14).  We must wait on the Lord who is our protection. He cares for us so much that He gave us His only son, the high priest as we read in the second reading.

Jesus is the high priest we are told in the second reading.  As a priest, not only does He offer the sacrifice, but He IS the sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12).  As priests, He sympathizes with our fragility because He became one of us in all things except sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 2:7).  Jesus faced the same things we face, but He never sinned. He got happy, He got sad, He faced pain, He faced stress; everything human beings have faced in life, Jesus did as well as a true man while at the same time being true God.  Because of this, we have a God - the one and only God - who we can confidently come to in order to receive mercy (Matthew 11:28-30). God is all about love and mercy. If God was not merciful, then it would have made no sense to send His Son to redeem the world (John 3:16). Clearly, we see that He is merciful. This reading is a great way to prepare for the upcoming Yes of Mercy.

Finally, in the Gospel, we see James and John ask Jesus to literally approach Jesus with confidence.  They dared to say to Him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  Of all the nerve...!  How can they dare say this to Christ?  Who can say to God, "you have to do what we want"?  That is just absurd; nevertheless, James and John did exactly that.  They did this because they understood who Jesus was and since they were His followers, they felt they could speak to Jesus like this with confidence. However, they let this friendship with Jesus get to their heads, so to speak.  After Jesus asks them, "What do you wish me to do for you," they answer Him with, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."  This was clearly an ambitious request. James and John believed that since they were following Jesus as His disciples, then that meant they would have a high position in the kingdom of God.  This is not the way to go. We must be humble when serving God and one another (Galatians 5:13).  We do not worship Christ in order to expect benefits or a position as a prince or princess of sorts (Matthew 5:20, Romans 12:16).  Rather, we worship Christ because it is "good and just" as we hear in the Mass (Psalm 136:1). Our reward is having a full friendship with God.  This is what we strive for. However, this does not come easy. Jesus asks the two brothers, "You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  In other words, Jesus is asking them if they can drink from the cup of suffering and accept the baptism or the rebirth in regards to becoming a new person (Luke 22:42, Psalm 102:9, Romans 6:4). Following Jesus is not a walk in the park, so to speak. We will have to do a lot of things and face much suffering (Luke 9:23, Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 9:62). 

Those who persevere and do not lose faith will enjoy the rewards of salvation; namely being with Jesus, His Father, the Holy Spirit, and all of the angels and saints (1 Timothy 6:12). This entails loving God and neighbor, receiving the Sacraments, living a holy and spiritual life following the commandments of God and the Church as guides (Acts 16:30-31, John 14:15). We cannot be like James and John and think of our salvation as being a career ladder that we have to climb. We must be the servant of others, not the master (John 13:12-14). Jesus gave us the example by being the one who came to serve and not serve.  He set Himself aside to ransom the rest of us who quite honestly do not deserve it.  None of us deserve to be saved (Romans 11:35).  We have no claim to anything that God has to offer.  We lost that privilege due to our sin and stubbornness (Romans 3:23). However, the mere fact that despite this God continues to defy the odds to bring us back shows us how much love He had for every human being. Let us trust God and approach Him with confidence so we can obtain grace.  Let us see to serve God and on another and not use our Catholic faith or positions in the Church in order or lord over others. The Catholic faith does not exist to create or feed personal ambitions or thirsts for power over others.  This is why the Holy Father Pope Francis is holding the synod for synodality. He wants the Church to be a Church that listens and works for the flock, not lord over the flock.  We must be humble and of service to all people, not just Catholics. The Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that we must help each other even during a time where contagion is spreading and has taken millions of lives globally. Service does not necessarily mean getting close to people and possibly exposing oneself to Covid-19.  It can also mean loving neighbor by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated if one feels comfortable with it.  Let us be humble and help one another.  May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings:  Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Monday, October 11, 2021

Bishop Barres Removes CNN's Fr. Beck's Faculties

 Bishop Barres bishop of the Rockville Centre Diocese has removed Fr. Beck of the Passionist order and regular on CNN from functioning as a priest in his diocese. ON their part, the Passionists are inquiring as to why this was done and have stated that they will be leaving the diocese's parish St. Therese church on the feast day of St. Paul of the Cross on October 19. 

Parishioners of the parid were told on October 6 of the order's decision to pull out of the parish and its trustees are upset. They are calling for answers from Bishop Barres and the diocese. The diocese claims that they had a written agreement stating that Fr. Beck's faculties would expire in August. However, the Passionists dispute this claiming, "It had not been, nor was it ever stated that Father Beck would be in Montauk for just a year." 

Faculties are the canonical/legal term for a cleric's powers to function as a priest within a diocese. While a priest is ordained forever, he cannot function as a priest without permission from a bishop. It is like a police officer who can only function as a cop when he or she has his or her badge and is in good standing. 

Fr. Beck is concerned over the decisions and rightfully so. The removal of faculties is often interpreted as a punishment against a priest who did wrong. In today's age, sexual abuse is the first thought many minds cross when they hear that a cleric lost his faculties. By the diocese not giving a reason, Fr. Beck is concerned for his reputation. 

The parish Fr. Beck is being removed from has been suffering due to poor leadership according to parishioners. The Passionists were allowed to work at the parish to bring some stability. Clearly, parishioners love their presence there and are upset over the order's decision to leave the parish due to the diocese's removal of Fr. Beck's faculties.  

Let us pray for all parties involved and for a resolution. 

Source: Father Edward Beck on Twitter: "Some news New York diocese's unexpected removal of popular CNN priest roils parish | National Catholic Reporter" / Twitter

Sunday, October 10, 2021

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - It is Very Difficult to Enter Heaven

 Dear readers: Today's Gospel tells us how Jesus expects us to give to others and not store up treasures or possessions.  In light of this and the call to be "doers of the word" and not just "listeners," I ask you to please help keep this evangelization work alive by donating. So far a few have donated, but I have not met the goal. 

In December, I have to pay for the renewal of this domain name, so I need your help.  I also want to expand this work so it can reach even more people.  Please help me meet my campaign goal by donating any amount at   

Today's readings deal with seeking God above anything else and being detached from material wealth.

In the first reading, we are told how great wisdom is.  Wisdom comes when we first fear the Lord or give the Lord the adulation and deference that He deserves (Proverbs 9:10).  The riches of this world, the power of scepters, thrones, or even the papacy or presidency means nothing compared to the spirit of wisdom (Proverbs 11:28). In order for wisdom to come, we must pray and trust in God's providence (Philippians 4:19).  Wisdom is the first step. It allows us tos ee the world and life objectively. With this objectivity, we can discern God's will and purpose in our lives and the lives of others.  We begin to understand what must be done and how we must do it.  Love follows this. God will fill us with love as we read in the Psalm for today.

God fills us with love.  We in turn sing for joy. We must ask God to teach us how to "number our days aright" or plan our lives around Him.  Man proposes and God disposes we often here (Proverbs 19:21). No matter how much we pretend to control our lives or freedom, it is God who has the final say (Jeremiah 29:11). This is why we must pray and ask God for mercy and kindness. He will bless us and let the work of our hands prosper.  We cannot do anything without God. We are learning this the hard way now during this Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Man in government and even the Church decided faith was not essential.  Boy were they wrong.  We need faith.  Faith is what kept us going during the hard times last year when tens of thousands were dying around the world daily. 

In the second reading, we read of the importance of the word of God.  It is "sharper than any two-edged sword."  This word penetrates "between soul and spirit, joints and marrow" reaching to the heart. The word is Jesus, the Lord, and Savior (John 1:1). This word comes to us in many ways; via the Sacraments, the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, prayer, meditation, and when we help one another (Matthew 25:40).  If we can put each of these ways to work for us and our schedules, our spiritual lives would grow immensely (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Lectio Divina is a great way to put Sacred Scripture to work in our spiritual lives. This can be incorporated with mediation and our private prayers or even the divine office.  The study of Sacred Tradition also increases our spiritual life.  When we grow in the knowledge of our faith, our faith increases (Ephesians 4:13).  The Sacraments complete the aforementioned because we receive the Word via them. They help us travel the narrow path to heaven which we will learn of in the Gospel.

In today's Gospel, a rich man comes to Jesus and asks, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus says something interesting, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone." This line is often used by Muslims and other sects such as the Jehovah's Witnesses to "prove" that Jesus was not God. At first glance, it seems to make sense.  Jesus seems to imply that He is not God because He asks the man "Why do you call me good" and says that "no one is good but God alone."  What are we to make of this?  When Jesus asks "Why do you call me good," He is challenging the man to see what the man understands of God. If Jesus was not God and was correcting the man, He would have said, "I am not God, so I am not good."  Instead, He asks the man just like He would ask the disciples "who do you say that I am? (Mark8:29)"  The question is meant to challenge and bring about reflection.

Moreover, Jesus tells Him, "You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." The man answers that he has followed these since his youth. However, Jesus points out to him that he has failed to observe something else, He says, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  The man's face dropped in disappointment and he left away sad because he was wealthy and had a lot of things.  Jesus then tells the rest that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.  In fact, a camel can pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to reach heaven.  Jesus used hyperbole to get His point across.

Those around Him became upset and asked, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus answers, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."  We often hear this today. People lave the Catholic Church claiming the teachings are hard or archaic. They are like those who asked Jesus "Then who can be saved?"  Nobody said it would be easy.  This Gospel ties in with the first reading in that the word of God is more important than jewels, thrones, and scepters.  When Jesus says to "go and sell possessions" He is telling us not to be attached to material things. The man Jesus spoke to was a wealthy man and he felt he earned salvation just for following the commandments.  We cannot be saved in this manner.  Blindly following rules and commandments like a Deontologist or person who does things out of mere duty does not save unless we put them to genuine practice (1 Corinthians 13).  Today we see workers, cops, docotors and others blindly follow rules setting morality aside.  This is wrong.  We see people record with cellular devices as they witness an assault or robbery. We see priests,deacons and others deny ppeople a blessing, sacrament or even consideration to join a seminary for petty reasons just becacsue they have to follow the rules and regulations.  This is cowardice. This is not of God.  Faith without works is a dead faith and saves no one (James 2:14-26).  Having wealth and possessions is not evil in itself, but it can become evil if we solely live for them (1 Timothy 6:10). We must be ready to give them up whenever and not suffer because of that (1 Corinthians 7:31).

Many atheists criticize the Pope and overall clergy for having golden chalices, pectoral crosses, vestments, and ornate buildings. While they have a point in that these things may be too extravagant, they do not understand that these men do not own these things. When bishops pass away, their rings, crosses, crosiers, etc get passed on to future bishops. Similarly, religious habits are "recycled."  Chalices and other items remain in the churches they are used in. Some are even given away to other churches that need them.  As for being ornate, well this is our way of giving to God the best we can craft (Proverbs 3:9). Does God care whether we use gold, wood, glass, cotton, or silk?  Not at all, they belong to Him already (Haggai 2:8). However, each of these items can be used to show God how much He means to us. We craft them beautifully to show what we think of the glory of God. If we dress up nice for parties, to meet leaders, why not have nice things to worship God?  Pope Francis has been trying to change the image of a "wealthy papacy" by using simpler things, but he has not gotten rid of them.

Each one of us should live simply and if we have wealth, we should remember that it is a blessing from God. God allows us to have it so we can use it for good; to help others and so forth.  I know it is hard to do. We are raised by our nations and their cultures to believe that we have to work hard, save and live in a secure retirement. This creates an atmosphere of competition and greed.  We forget that God is the one who controls all things (Mark 4:18-19). Each one of us can save a fortune and then die before we can enjoy it (Luke 12:15). This is why it makes sense to not be attached to it and trust in God's providence (Hebrews 13:5). What we do have, we should put it to good use and not store them up (1 Timothy 6:7-10). It is hard to give. I have learned this from the slow response to my fundraiser from Catholics and others who visit and use my content.  Even our parishes suffer closings because we do not support them.  No one likes to give without asking what it is going to be used for. We are often suspicious and rightfully so.  So many people out there take advantage of our generosity; however, we must remember that it is the act of giving that pleases God.  If the person we give to misuses what we gave, then he or she will be accountable to God for that.  Similarly, we too will be held accountable if we do not help others with what we have whether great or little (Proverbs 21:13).

We can follow all the commandments, pray every day but if we do not help and love others then all of that faith was in vain (James 1:22, Mark 4:24).  It was never put into genuine practice via caring for others and being detached from material wealth. Not everyone who shouts 'Lord Lord' will be saved (Matthew 7:21). So let us focus on the word of God who is Jesus, follow His will which entails both loving God and neighbor. Let us give to others in need freely without question or concern trusting Jesus' words that we must help others without using a litmus test (Proverbs 11:24-25). God will reward you for helping others.  May Jesus be praised forever!      

Readings:  Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Sunday, October 3, 2021

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Sanctity of Holy Matrimony

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Today's readings touch upon the family; specifically marriage, divorce, and children.

In the first reading, we read from the account of creation found in Genesis.  God sees that man or Adam is alone and has no suitable partner. Adam is a unique creation. All living creatures come "out of the ground" which fits with the theory of evolution well (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3:19). Adam comes from the same matter the Earth, plants, and non-human animals come from, but he has something different.  This is the breath of God (ruah), the soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Matthew 10:28, Genesis 2:7). This soul makes man sentient, capable of intelligence, morality, emotions, and so forth. He is like a "god" but not like God (Psalm 8:5). Genesis makes it clear that God is the creator and man cooperates with God by naming the creatures in the creation and caring for them. However, man despite being an "animal" as well is not compatible with other non-human animals (Leviticus 18:23). God creates a partner for man while he is in a deep sleep. I see this "deep sleep" as a man setting aside himself to accept God's will via the love and partnership of his partner; this sleep is God preparing man (Isaiah 29:10).  This partner God creates comes from a rib.  Now, this is of course allegorical language. The "rib" is meant to convey the message that Adam and his partner are equal and love since the rib is close to the heart (Proverbs 22:2, Acts 17:26, Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28). They stand rib cage by rib care or side by side.  The use of a rib also shows that both Adam and his partner are ONE; of one flesh. This partner is called "woman." God made this woman and named her Eve.  There was no Adam or Steve, no Eve and Eva, only Adam and Eve.  Two distinct genders of the same species. This union of Adam and Eve, man and woman constitute a union blessed by God.  The two become one flesh that cannot be separated.  This brings us to the Psalm which asks God to bless us all the days of our lives.

We must ask God to bless us every day, especially if we are in a married situation (Psalm 67).  I will explain this in my section on the Gospel reading. As the responsorial Psalm states, we must always walk in God's ways (Deuteronomy 5:33).  Our ways are paths full of cracked sidewalks, sinkholes, and quicksand that stifle us, so to speak (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). With God's blessing, we will have our harvests, growing and united families.  As Blessed Mother Teresa used to say constantly, "The family that prays together, stays together." This is why asking God to bless us is important. Prayer reminds us that we need God (James 4:10). We cannot live life alone without God.  The Covid-19 Coronvirus pandemic we are facing now is a great reminder that we are nothing without God. Our work, science, advances cannot adequately face nature. Even with a vaccine, this virus is still outsmarting humanity. We need God.  God is the only one who can get us out of this pandemic and the pandemic of sin. Despite our abilities, we are still "lower than the angels" as the second reading describes.

In the second reading, we read of Jesus who was made "for a little while, lower than the angels."  What does this mean?  Is Jesus some weak demi-god like the mythological being Hercules?  Not at all.  Here the passage is referring to Jesus' human nature. Remember, Jesus has one personhood and two natures: divine & human.  Despite being God, Jesus' body was truly human in all things except sin (Philippians 2, Hebrews 4:12).  It got old, it grew, it got dirty, it got hurt, it got cold and hot.  Jesus did everything we do today whether it is eating, drinking, walking, taking baths, and yes, using the bathroom.  He was one of us!  This is why He is described as being "lower than the angels."  How lower?  Well, due to our capacity to expire or die. We all die. This is part of being human and possibly the main thing that distinguishes us from angels. Angels are pure spirits, they do not die.  Our souls are also spirit and do not die, but they are not angelic (Matthew 10:28, 1 Corinthians 15:53). When we die physically, we do not become angels.  I know some parents like to tell this to kids, but it is erroneous.  The fact that humans are "lower than angels" does not mean they do not have value. Jesus died for humans, not angels.  This shows that humans are God's favorite creatures.  Then when you add the fact that God has angels protect us like bodyguards, you get the point as to how much he values humanity.  Jesus became one of us to elevate us to the Father.  Because of this, Jesus has become our brother as well.  This shows us how much God also values the family.

Finally, in the Gospel, there are two versions, a longer and a shorter one.  Jesus is asked by the Pharisees, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"  They did this to test Him. Jesus came across as a reformer of sorts.  The Pharisees were the "conservatives" of the day who saw Jesus as some progressive liberal who was changing everything.  This of course was not so.  Jesus was neither liberal nor conservative.  Today Pope Francis faces the same criticism for changing the approach of the Papacy upon the world.  Anyhow, Jesus asks the Pharisees "What did Moses command you?"  They answered him, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her."  These words are significant because they show the problem we see today.  The "law" verse "the heart."  Jesus tells the Pharisees that their hearts are hardened (Isaiah 6:10, Jeremiah 16:12). They have become so legalistic that they forgot what God said about marriage (Mark 2:23-27).  Jesus continues, "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together,no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them,"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

So here, Jesus repeats what we read from the book of Genesis in the first reading.  God made man and woman, male and female.  Both are of one flesh and joined by God.  Man cannot separate this union.  Jesus then makes it clear that divorce is sinful and that anyone who "divorces" his or her partner via the law of men and marries another commits adultery.  God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).  Divorce is a big problem in society.  Studies show that people divorce within the first 4 months of marriage.  Many young people today are even opting out of marrying and are just moving in together.  Because of this, the sacred institution of marriage has been weakened.  Marriage has become just something that we do, a social ritual that has no significant meaning or value.  Furthermore, today we are now allowing marriages that do not reflect that union between one man and one woman.  So-called "same-sex marriage" is now the "law of the land" in America.  There is confusion in the culture of what love really is and what constitutes a natural marriage.  A marriage between a male and female is complementary. This union brings forth new life in the form of children. Anything else is artificial and unnatural (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27).  It is destructive and irrational.

Unions without a mother and father are hurtful to children whom Jesus said to come to Him.  This is why we must pray for the family and for all marriages.  It is in the union of one man and one woman where the love between the three persons of the Blessed Trinity is reflected in the world.  This is why Satan hates marriage and has been focusing his attack against humanity via marriage.  Remember, it was the serpent to brought Adam and Eve to argue as to whether or not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3).  It was this serpent who instigated the fall of humanity by attacking this union of man and woman, the one flesh. This is why the attacks on marriage today whether via divorce or other strange unions are demonic in nature (Ephesians 6:12).  We must continue to pray and push forth legislation that will protect marriage between one man and one woman.  The Supreme Court is NOT the Supreme Being.  Hopefully, with the newer conservative justices, we must push for this law to be overturned just like Roe V. Wade.  We must also pray for our bishops. Many of them are being led astray by demonic forces. We can see this via their opinions and attempts to thwart Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  There are many forces at work in the Vatican that is trying to accomplish the work of the Serpent.  May God bless us all, and send St. Michael to guard over the Church during these difficult times.  

Readings: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB



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