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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sep 11, 2020
1st Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9 
Resp. Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
2nd Reading: Romans 13:8-10
Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

In today's Gospel Peter is praised by Jesus, and the next minute it seems, Jesus is calling Peter Satan. Peter is using worldly understanding and does not want Jesus to suffer on the Cross and for us to eventually do the same. It is not that Jesus wants to see us all in pain, but He wants us to understand that redemptive suffering, that is, suffering in an evil world for being good, which therefore helps the Kingdom of God to grow is what He intends.

One thing we must understand is that the Church consists of people, all of whom want to escape suffering as much as possible and as long as possible. I doubt that there are many people who wish to suffer right now, the way the Lord lays out for us. Now, there are many who do suffer, reluctantly, but still want to do the will of God. Looking at this realistically, we all suffer, but for what reason? Because we are evil or because we are good or somewhere in between? We know that God's Kingdom is being established and that it will come to be and that we can either help or hinder its progress. No matter how much we may hinder the Kingdom of God by our sins, it will be established and however much we help through our good works, it will be hastened.

We can know many things about ourselves. We can acknowledge that we have this strength, or that weakness. But what do we really do about it? We know our sinfulness impedes us from spiritual advancement while doing the Will of God can move mountains. But what do we do in the meantime? Sometimes it is hard to get started. Once we get moving we know that we have to keep up with the momentum and keep on carrying the Cross all the way to the end. If we reject the Cross for whatever reason, we know we are wrong and feel guilty. We know that what the world holds for us is emptiness, pain (and ultimately) nothing worth having. And we all do really know in our hearts that Jesus is right. The Psalms say He (God) made us, we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his flock. Well, let us do the best we can: We pray and encourage ourselves and each other. We take God at His word and go forth, blindly, as He may have it and, we are asked not to look back. We know that we want to commit to God completely and that it will cost us. Its just that we would like to know what is in store for us, what we will have to go through, to be able to assess if we can stand up to the pressure. Now, The answer is yes. But no details will be given. We need to trust and the Lord will do the rest.

The choice is ours to make.

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Aug 24, 2020
Domenico Ghirlandaio / Public domain
1st Reading: Isaiah 22:19-23 
Resp. Psalm: Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8
2nd Reading: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20 

Jesus said, And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. First of all, let us go to the OT and recall that in the Psalms, God is repeatedly called the rock, which means He is the foundation on which everyone can depend – no matter what – sinners and saints alike. Psalm 6 says My help comes from God, He alone is my rock. In the 1 st letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Jesus, God's Word, who is our Savior is called rock as well. And the rock was Christ. So now, Jesus calls Peter, rock. All has been transferred to Peter and of course, down to our Pope. We are not asked to have faith in Peter, that he will not fail, but in Jesus's promise that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church, which will uphold St. Peter and all his successors. God's Will, Jesus's promise, is what strengthens St. Peter and all the popes down through the ages and will continue to do so. Faith in God is the rocky fortress that protects all of us from being drawn into hell. We are not talking about a building, but grace – a free gift from God.

Why are we here at Mass today? Why do we pray and keep trying to be good and going to Confession? Because we have accepted the fact that God is our foundation of rock. Sometimes it seems that God isn't there for us and that He doesn't even hear our pleas – Sometimes it seems that we have no foundation, especially when suffering comes our way. Just like being bounced around on an airplane or on the water in a boat, we are happy to land on solid ground, so we will be happy when we live the way God asks us so that He is truly our foundation. It is hard for us to figure this out completely, but the more we begin to live for God and His Church and forget about worldly glamour, pride, lust, avarice and all other forms of greed, we will see what a true foundation God is. What is now hidden* will soon be revealed to us. What would we rather have: God's promise of a sure foundation of true love and bliss, or the world's promise of emptiness, pain and disillusion?

The choice is ours to make.

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD

Twentieth Sunday

Aug 19, 2020
1st Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 
Resp. Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
2nd Reading: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28 

Jesus tests the woman in today's Gospel. She is begging him for help – she asks him to have pity on her daughter. But He says "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The woman was not an Israelite, she was from Canaan. But she doesn't let what Jesus says stop her – she keeps on and says "Lord, help me". Then Jesus says something surprising It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. Most of us might be so discouraged by this time, but the woman came up with a wonderful answer: Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus said O woman, great is your faith! And her daughter was healed.

Why did Jesus talk to her in this way? He was testing her. Jesus can only do miracles if we believe in Him. And when we pray to Him to help us, just as this Canaanite woman did, He tests us too, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes we are tempted to think that He abandons us and that He doesn't hear us. What must this Canaanite woman have been thinking when Jesus answered her the way He did? Even if she felt discouraged, she still kept on and at the end Jesus praised her! Jesus doesn't test us because He doesn't know how strong our faith us, He tests us for us to know how strong our faith is. The stronger our faith is, we will then be brought to God's holy mountain as we read in the first reading, which is a deeper spiritual communion with Him. The more united we are with God, the less we sin, and are filled with greater peace and the more disposed we are to do His Will.

This is incentive for us to keep on praying even when we think that God doesn't hear us or doesn't even care. It would be different if we asked Him for something and we could at least get an immediate answer like yes, no or wait, like we tend to get when we ask a question to a fellow human being. God doesn't work like this because He needs to test us. He tests us because He loves us. Again, He does this because He wants us to know how strong our faith is or isn't. We have to work for all the good things we have and we have to constantly work on our relationship with Him, too, because it is the best. 

Jesus came to save all of us. By this example in today's Gospel, He wants to show us that He saves everyone whether or not they are Israelite and to show, most of all, His chosen people, that there are others who have great faith in Him despite not knowing Him as well as they do. If they took time out to understand the Scriptures, they would know that Jesus is who He says He is and would understand that they should believe in Him in the same way, if not more. And if they did believe in Him, what great things He would do for them. But these things are great in the eyes of the Lord, not in the eyes of the world.

He's waiting to do great things for us, too. Will we let Him?

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD
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