December 30, 2017
God’s Salvation Among Us
Simeon was a man who has been “awaiting the consolation of Israel” his whole life. This life-long yearning was satisfied the moment his eyes saw God’s salvation.
And who brought him this experience of God’s salvation? A simple and ordinary couple who fulfilled their responsibilities with God – observing what required of them as people of faith at that time, and their responsibilities as parents – doing what they knew as best for their son.
The mystery of the Incarnation, God-with-us, continues in the ordinary moments of life, and in the fulfillment of our daily responsibilities.
Image source: www.agnusday.org
December 24, 2017
(This Gospel passage is for Mass at Dawn on Christmas Day)
The Shepherds – The First
After Mary and Joseph, shepherds were the first human beings to hear of the birth of the Savior.
Because of their work and their living situations, shepherds were social and religious outcasts. As Pope Francis put it, “They were considered pagans among the believers, sinners among the just, foreigners among the citizens.” 
Yet, they were the first to hear the good news of the birth of the Savior proclaimed by the angel.
They responded and went to meet the Savior. They praised God. Then shared the news with others.
They lowly people of the land became the recipients and sharers of God’s salvation.
 Pope Francis, Homily at Mass During the Night, Christmas 2017.
Image: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Adoration of the Shepherd, c. 1650, Wikipedia
December 23, 2017
“The Lord is with you”
The angel Gabriel announces Mary’s unique place in God’s loving plan: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
With the Son of God coming into the flesh, we now are all given a share in this grace. We are all full of grace. The Lord is with us.
The loving presence of God gives dignity to each human person.
How do I view, treat, and present myself as God’s dwelling place?
How do I view and treat others as God’s dwelling places?
May we live in such a way that each human encounter reflects God’s presence in our world.
December 16, 2017
“I Am Not”
“I am not…” is not the way that most of us commonly speak of ourselves.
We often emphasize who we are. And sometimes when I say, “I am…” I might not be truthful, but I would rather avoid saying what I am not.
It is probably partly because of my self-centeredness, and partly because of the self-promotion that is so valued in our culture.
Unlike most of us, John the Baptist easily admits, “I am not the Christ,” “I am not Elijah,” and “I am not the Prophet.” He even professes that he is not worthy to untie the Messiah’s sandal strap.
John knows who he truly is because he knows who Christ is.
December 10, 2017
The Gospel of the Son of God
Mark begins his account with “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God”
This is just the beginning. It is to be enfolded and continued.
Interestingly, Mark has the beginning but does not have “the end” of his account of the Gospel.
What enfolded in Jesus’ public life and ministry and his cross continues.
The title “the Son of God” appears two more time in Mark. First, by the voice from the cloud at the transfiguration identifies Jesus as “my beloved Son.” Second, when Jesus dies on the cross, the centurion acclaims, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
The Gospel of Jesus continues in us when our lives are lived and offered for others – as Jesus did.
December 3, 2017
“In Every Way You Have Been Enriched in Christ”
The Gospel of this First Sunday of Advent includes a parable. Jesus tells us, “It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge.”
“Placing (his servants) in charge” can also be translated as “giving them ability, permission, and liberty of doing as they please.” In other words, the man gives his servants whatever they need to take his place while he is away.
We are not servants. We are children of God.
And as children, St. Paul assures us, reflecting on his own calling, “The grace of God has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind. … so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2nd Reading from 1 Corinthians)
As we await and prepare for the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s salvation, may we live as children of God, with the grace that has been given us in Christ Jesus. In this way, we will be the light and hope of Christ in our world.
November 25, 2017
The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Serving the Son of Man
In the Gospel According to Matthew, today’s parable of “the judgment of the nations” follows immediately “the parable of the talents” that we listened to a week ago.
In that context, one possible interpretation of today’s parable is that caring for others is a way of investing and making profit of what has been given to us.
Sometimes, we may feel and use the excuse that the needs of the world or of others are so great, and we do not know if we can make a difference. Remember, the servants were expected to simply work with what they have been given.
And taken the two parables together, it is quite clear that we meet and serve the one who has entrusted his possessions to us (first parable) and “the Son of Man” (second parable) in the least among us.
May we learn how to share with others what has been generously given to us.
November 19, 2017
God’s Generosity and Trust
For the third servant, the master is unreasonable.
The servant fails to appreciate the generosity and the trust his master has in him. Giving this third servant one talent is no small thing. It might be worth at least a million dollars.
Moreover, the master knows what his servants are capable of because he “entrusted his possessions to them – to each according to his ability.”
The master knows his servants, their abilities, and he trusts them.
Yet, the third servant considers him “unreasonable.”
Do I trust that God knows me, after all, it was God who “You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139: 13).
And God trusts me with God’s divine life in Jesus Christ.
Let us pray for the courage, wisdom, trust, and generosity to share this incredible gift of God’s generosity.
November 11, 2017
Five Are Foolish, Five Are Wise
A few weeks ago, we listened to another wedding parable, with a king inviting guests to his son’s wedding (Matthew 22: 1-10). In that parable, the invited guests refused to come. The king then sent his servants out to “invite to the feast whomever [they] find. The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike.”
In today’s parable, both the wise and the foolish virgins are included in the wedding.
God does not discriminate in his invitation.
It is up to us to respond.
Image source: http://www.agnusday.org
November 4, 2017
Giving Oneself In Service
Today, we hear St. Paul expresses his love for the Christian community of Thessalonica, “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.”
Paul learned that from Jesus, who practiced what he preached and was the servant of those he loved.
As we celebrate and receive Jesus, who continues to give himself to us in his life-giving words and his Body and Blood, may we learn to give “our very selves” in loving service of our brothers and sisters.
October 28, 2017
“Be Imitators of the Lord”
In the 2nd reading, Paul instructs the Thessalonians, “You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers.”
In other words, Paul summarizes the progression of the Christian life. He and his companion imitated the Lord. The Thessalonian Christians imitate them . Those Christians then become the models for others to imitate.
Then in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the program of the Christian life, the program that he is the ultimate model for us to imitate: the two-fold commandment of love.
 Similarly, he wrote to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
October 21, 2017
What Belongs to God
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
The question is, “What belongs to Caesar that does not belong to God?”
The fact is everything belongs to God, beginning with the life we have.
Even Caesar’s power, in the eyes of faith, comes from God.
While legitimate civil authorities have their roles in our lives, in the good running of a country and of the world, to them belongs nothing that does not come from God.
Then, how does Jesus’ instruction guide or challenge me in how I set priorities of my life?
October 14, 2017
The Wedding Feast for the King’s Son
Imagine myself as one of the guests in the parable. I am invited – by the king, to “the wedding feast for his son.”
Would I say no?
It’s unthinkable to say no to a king. Period.
And for such an occasion – the wedding feast for the king’s son, certainly it is a privilege of the few to be invited.
And when I am invited, how would I get ready for it? With what attitude and excitement would I find myself going into the feast?
Today, God invites me to such a feast – the Eucharist.
Does this parable challenge me to evaluate how I approach the wedding feast of the Lamb of God?
October 7, 2017
To Produce Fruits
This is the third vineyard parable that we listen to consecutively.
For the first vineyard parable, we reflected on the privilege of working in God’s vineyard. It is the vineyard owner himself who continues to invite us, “Go into my vineyard.”
The second parable affirmed the dignity that God has given to us. We are no longer hired laborers, but children and heirs. Our inheritance is the vineyard, given to us by God our Father.
And today’s parable reminds us that the vineyard does not belong to us. God, in God’s generosity, has given it to us as our inheritance. It is indeed a privilege to work in God’s vineyard.
This privilege comes with a responsibility, “to produce fruits.”
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org
October 1, 2017
Last week’s parable was the story of some laborers hired by the landowner to work in his vineyard. This week, the landowner asks his own sons to go to his vineyard.
In the 2nd reading for this Sunday, St. Paul reminds us of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ who “emptied himself,” became one with us, and by his death of the cross, made us children of God.
Do we see ourselves as hired laborers or God’s children who God offers a share of the Kingdom?
September 23, 2017
“Go into my vineyard”
The owner of the vineyard offers the same invitation to five group of laborers.
It is the same invitation for those who are ready to work “at dawn.” It is the same invitation for those who are “standing idle in the market place” at 9 o’clock, those who were there at noon, and at 3 o’clock. And finally, with the same words, he invites those who have been “standing idle all day.”
All are invited to labor in the vineyard.
At what hour in my journey of life does God invite me? More importantly, it does not matter what type of laborer I am. What matter is that it is God who offers me the invitation, “Go into my vineyard.”
September 16, 2017
Last Sunday, Jesus instructed us on reconciliation. This week, we continue with Chapter 18 of Matthew. And now, Jesus speaks of forgiveness.
There is no reconciliation without forgiveness.
And there is no forgiveness when I fail to recognize that the offender and I are both sinners, indebted to God. This might be one way of applying the parable of the unforgiving servant. The offender and I are both “fellow servants.” We are both indebted to God, and have both received God’s forgiveness.
Moreover, as St. Paul reminds us in today’s 2nd reading, not only has God forgiven us, by Jesus’ death, God has given us life.
When we forgive, we allow God’s mercy and generosity come to life in us.
September 9, 2017
Missing the Mark
The word Matthew uses in this passage for sin (18:15) is “originally from the world of archery and means “missing the mark.” 
Looking at it this way, sin is what makes me less than the person God calls me to be. And on the communal level, sins make us less than the people God calls us to be.
Self-examination and communal building must then be based on that question, “What makes me less than the person God calls me to be?” And “What makes us less than the people God calls us to be?”
And community life involves helping each other to become the people God calls us to be.
September 2, 2017
We probably don’t want to admit it, but we all conform to certain things, from trends, styles, fashions, to ways of thinking or acting.
St. Paul urges his community then, and us today, “Do not yourselves conform to this age.” On the contrary, we are to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ and his way of love.
In order to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ, we must carry the cross and follow him.
It is probably true that most of us will not have to die for Christ as martyrs. The question, as Matthew Kelly, the Catholic writer and speaker, asked, is whether we are living for Christ.
In the daily carrying of our cross and in small acts of loving we live for Christ, and in this way, conform to him.
August 26, 2017
Who Do You Say that I Am?
In the first question, Jesus asks the disciples for people’s opinion about him.
In the second question, Jesus asks the disciples for their own opinion about him.
In response, Peter, in the name of the group, professes that Jesus is “the Son of the living God.”
This is not the first time they acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. The group did it once after Jesus calmed to storm (Matthew 14:33). They were then identified as “those who were in the boat.”
Now, Peter is the first person identified by name to profess this faith in Jesus. 
It is not enough knowing what people say about Jesus. It is not enough to know the faith of a group, even though it is essential to share the faith of the Church community. After all, each of us has received the gift of faith and its knowledge through the Church.
Yet, faith must be both communal and personal. It must be both my faith and our faith.
 John Petty. www.progressiveinvolvement.com
August 19, 2017
“Lord, Help Me”
While reading this passage, we are often shocked at Jesus’ seemingly insulting words to the woman.
Why could the woman not feel offended?
There are at least two details in this passage that can help us to understand her attitude. More importantly, we might better appreaciate the source of her courage.
First, Matthew tells just that Jesus himself goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon (top left corner on the map). This is the region of the gentiles. And the woman herself is from that area.
Second, Jesus speaks to the woman.
We have here a devout Jew, one the woman recognizes as the Promised Savior of the Jews and Lord, going to the region of the gentile of his own.
Moreover, he speaks to her. This would have rendered him unclean.
Other Jewish religious leaders would not have done that.
Jesus takes the initiative to reach out to the religious and ethnic outcasts of his time. In fact, he reaches out to people who for generations have been the Jews’ enemies.
This passage, therefore, is really about Jesus’ reaching out to the gentiles and outcasts. Jesus’ attitude gives the woman the courage to approach and appeal to him.