Midnight Christmas Mass has its own unique characteristics and "feel". Of course, we rejoice tonight at the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And the "theme" of every Mass is the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, this is a vigil, and thus we gather tonight at this hour of darkness to wait together. We join our ancestors who waited in the darkness, and we join our brothers and sisters today as we wait in joyful hope for Christ's triumphant return. On this night we would do well to reflect on the words of the hymn, "O Holy Night", especially the lines: "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth". Our life makes complete sense in light of the Incarnation. As we wait, we rejoice tonight!
Even though we are just days away from celebrating Christmas, we still find ourselves in the beautiful season of Advent -- a time of waiting and preparing for the Lord. The scene of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth in the Gospel is one of great joy and wonder, and we would do well to contemplate and imitate the faith and exuberance of these holy women. In the second reading -- from the Letter to the Hebrews -- we are reminded why the Incarnation was necessary. God took flesh and was born of Mary so that he could offer a perfect sacrifice in obedience, which would bring salvation to the world. This eternal gift begins for us at Christmas, the feast we look forward to celebrating very soon.
During Advent we prepare to receive our Lord. God comes to us not "once upon a time", or "in a galaxy far, far away", but in a specific moment in history and in a specific place. St. Luke places his coming within historical events sot that we may know that Jesus Christ really and truly came in the flesh. Imagine: God loves us so much that He opened the heavens and came down to live among us! We celebrate his true and abiding presence even today, in every Mass. God is with us.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We proclaim and believe that God, in His goodness and love, preserved Mary from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception -- thus preparing her to be a worthy vessel for God's Son. In this liturgy we adore our God and thank God for the redemption of the world, wrought by the death and resurrection of His Son. May we, like Mary, strive for holiness and purity, so that we also may constantly say "Yes" to our God.
Today's Gospel gives us the very familiar story of "The Rich Young Man". Especially for those present at this Mass who were about to be confirmed, the young man gives a good example -- and then teaches us what else we must do. First, he runs up to Jesus, does him homage, and asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Undoubtedly, Jesus approved of this question and the desire of the young man to enter eternal life. All of us should be able to express that same desire: What must I do in order to be saved? Jesus answers by saying that keeping God's Commandments is the first step, but it cannot end there. We must continue to follow the Lord by taking up our cross daily. While the young man went away sad, I pray that we may take up that challenge and follow Jesus courageously every day of our lives.
In the Gospel Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" After listening to their responses, Jesus looks at them and asks, "Who do YOU say that I am?" This is THE question that we all must answer. It's not enough to say that we know about the Lord; we hope to be able to answer wholeheartedly that we know the Lord.
In today's readings we hear Moses and Jesus calling the people to fidelity. God gives us the Law in order to lead us to Himself. Whereas we may think that laws exist to hamper our freedom, God's law does just the opposite. Through the Law God gives us the freedom to choose the good. By loving God with all our mind, heart, and soul, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we imitate our Lord and thus grow in holiness. This is a message that the people in Moses' day and in Jesus' day needed to hear; a message that we need to hear and follow today. May we recommit ourselves to being faithful to God and to His commandments today and always.
There is a very common -- and extremely relevant -- theme in the readings today. Both Joshua and Jesus ask their contemporaries to make a decision. "Who will you serve?" "Will you leave me, too?" Even (and especially) amidst trials and difficulties of all kinds, we pray for the grace to answer as our ancestors did: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" And from St. Peter: "Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of everlasting life."
We are making our way through the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, sometimes referred to as the "Bread of Life Discourse." Today Jesus hears the people around him "murmuring" about him and his teaching. This recalls the attitude that our ancestors had toward Moses and the teachings that he revealed to them from God. 'Murmuring' in the Bible goes beyond incredulity -- the people weren't simply in awe of what he was saying; it shows that they doubted and disagreed with what was being taught. Jesus's answer to them is that it is God the Father who draws them and teaches them the Truth, if only the people will allow it.
The Eucharist is the Living Bread come down from heaven. It is Jesus' flesh, for the life of the world.
Today's Gospel comes from John 6, the chapter which give us Christ's teaching on the Bread of Life. Following the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Jesus expounds on the True Bread that comes down from heaven -- the Eucharist -- and explains how we should hunger and thirst for it about all things. We believe without a doubt that the Eucharist truly is the Real Presence; the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Through the Eucharist we have communion with the Father, and thus we can come to enjoy eternal life.
Today in all of the readings and in the Psalm as well, the image of a "shepherd" is clearly evident. Whether that be in the reading from Jeremiah, where God speaks through the prophet and says, "Woe to you, shepherds who mislead my people..."; or in the Gospel from Mark, where Jesus laments the fact that the people are like, "sheep without a shepherd"; the message for all of us is obvious: God is calling us to be good shepherds of His people - people in great need, people in our own families, people around us every day. We rejoice that we have such a Good Shepherd watching over us constantly, but we also pray that we imitate Our Lord every day, being compassionate and caring toward our brothers and sisters.
Today's Gospel stories of the resuscitation of the little girl and the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage teach us about what God wants for us: wholeness, health, life. The sacred author of the Book of Wisdom puts it plainly: "God did not create death". In his words and actions, Jesus shows us that God created us in His image and likeness, and therefore wants us to be well and to be with Him forever in heaven. As we thank God for this great gift, may we direct our efforts to promoting life and healing in our world.
Normally, we celebrate a saint's feast day on the day when they died. This is true for almost all saints' feast days. But there are three exceptions: The birth of Jesus Christ, the birth of Mary, and the birth of St. John the Baptist. John's birth shows us once again that God's will is being carried out in time. We must thank God and praise Him for His loving plan of redemption for humanity. At the same time, we should strive to emulate St. John the Baptist, who pointed the way to Christ and announced his presence when at last he came. The question of John's contemporaries -- "What will this child be?" is a question for all of us today: "What will I be [for Christ]?"
In his teaching about the Reign of God, Jesus uses two very helpful parables. He likens the Reign of God to a mustard seed, something so very small that can grow into a very large shrub. We, too, though small can do great things because God is with us. The other parable is of a farmer who sows seed in his field and then waits for the harvest. Even though he tends the field and waters it, how it grows is a mystery. So it is with the Reign of God. It is already sown among us on earth, and it is developing according to God's plan. We must trust in God's will always, while cooperating with God as co-workers: tending, feeding, and expanding the Reign of God.
Hoy en el evangelio, Jesus nos enseña del reino de Dios. Él usa el ejemplo de una semilla de mostaza: es algo bien pequeño, pero una vez sembrado en la tierra llega a ser una gran planta. Los pajarillos y los otros animales disfruten su sombra. Iqualmente nosotros -- aunque seamos pequeños -- podemos hacer cosas grandes, porque el Espiritu Santo vive dentro de nosotros. Con Dios, todo es posible.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, "A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand". He could very well be speaking about creation after the fall. In Genesis we hear how sin entered the world, and we see the effects of our parents' disobedience: separation, division, discord. The Good News is that God sent His Son into the world to bring us unity -- with God, with each other, and with all of creation. May all of us strive to maintain that bond of peace and unity that is ours through the gift of God's Holy Spirit.
(This is a short homily because after I gave it a priest translated it in Vietnamese for the congregation. Also, 17 young people were confirmed during this liturgy)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is God's gift to humanity, and it brings us into communion with God. God wants us to be one with Him, and this is possible through our union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. How to have union with Jesus? By eating his Body and drinking his Blood. That is why the Eucharist is Viaticum: food for the way. May we return to this Living Food again and again so that we have life within us -- and eternal life at the end of the age.
(Starts with applause for Confirmation candidates.) (Bilingual homily).
We know a little about the mystery of God - as a Trinity of Persons -- because God has willed it thus. God has been revealing Himself to His creation over time, and with the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, we now know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are caught up in the love that is God, and thus we are to amplify that love in the world.
The Ascension of the Lord is only part of the mystery of what some call the "Christ event": the Incarnation, life, suffering, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. We separate these aspects of our salvation and celebrate them at various times in the liturgical year so that we can reflect on them individually.
In this homily, I describe the Ascension as it might have gone from the perspective of the Angels in heaven. It's a little light-hearted, but it may help us to reflect more deeply on what it is we are celebrating. Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow.
In the First Letter of John, we hear, "It is not that we have loved God, rather God loves us"; and in the Gospel of John: "It is not you who have chosen me; I chose you...". God takes the initiative in everything. Before we were even born, God loved us through and through (Psalm 139).
Our love for God, therefore, is a response to His love for us. Everything we do -- practicing our Faith, praying, serving others, etc. -- is an attempt to be like God in our actions and words.
Love one another, because God loves you.
(Short homily, as I cut out the part where I addressed the Confirmation candidates in the beginning.)
I am the vine; you are the branches, says the Lord. The operative word in the Gospel today is "remain". Jesus tells us that we must remain in him as he remains in us. We know that he remains in us because the Holy Spirit of God has been given to us. We show that we remain in God by the way we live our life -- dedicated to loving our brothers and sisters, and serving God in the Church.
The readings all speak about repentance and forgiveness. But isn't that one of the things on which we focus during the season of Lent? Yes, but it is also a main part of our celebration of Easter, for forgiveness is bestowed upon us by God through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. As we hear in the words of Consecration at Mass (over the chalice): "This is the cup of my Blood, which will be shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins." Let us seek forgiveness from God through our contrition, and let us share the Good News of repentance with all people.
Did Thomas really doubt what his fellow Apostles told him about Jesus' Resurrection? Should he be known only by that one question that he had? We should be grateful to Thomas, because we are actually a lot like him (with our questions and doubts today). We should remember Thomas as one of the greatest disciples and apostles, having defended and preached the Faith fearlessly, and having giving his life for the Gospel as a martyr.
Jesus Christ is Risen! He is truly risen from the dead!
In this brief homily, I talk about the lessons learned from St. John's account of the Passion of Jesus, as well as from the 1st reading, from the Prophet Isaiah. Again, this is more than just "looking back" at what happened to someone 2000 years ago; the Passion and death of Jesus Christ is our salvation from sin and death. As we honor and remember the events which led to Jesus' death on the cross, may we also do what he did -- serve our brothers and sisters in this world, even to the point of laying down our lives for others.