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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Have the Same Disposition as Zacchaeus

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 30, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, Arizona, USA

“Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.”

Today for this 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time we once again hear the story of Zacchaeus.
Those around him did not look kindly upon this man. He was a tax collector, and such were despised and viewed as criminals. Yet, a transformation takes place in the life of this so called criminal. 

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus would be passing through his town of Jericho, and he strongly desired to see Him. Something extraordinary moved his heart.

So, Zacchaeus does everything he can to see Our Lord. He was short and couldn't see over
the crowd, but Zacchaeus would not give up. He climbed a tree. 

And that caught Our Lord’s attention. Therefore through his perseverance, Zacchaeus  received the salvation he so deeply wanted.  

He understood  that his life needed to change. Therefore, Zacchaeus says to our Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”

Fr John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, the overall message of today’s Gospel is that if we want to experience the presence of the Lord in our lives, if we want Our Lord to come stay in  our hearts, then we must have the same disposition as Zacchaeus.
Reflect on your relationship to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a relationship takes effort on your part.  God sees our hearts. He knows our deepest desires. 
In Zacchaeus' story, there was a crowd of people. Yet, Jesus only dined in one home because Zacchaeus showed a deep desire for Christ, and demonstrated his willingness to give Our Lord whatever was required in order to receive eternal salvation!

My brothers and sisters, look at your intentions. Do you want an encounter with Christ? Then make an effort in your spiritual life. When you come to Mass, seriously seek to meet Our Lord. Have an open heart. Be willing to change.  

Don't become another person in the crowd of Catholics who does not connect with Jesus because you do not make the effort. Pray,
come to Mass every week, come to the Sacrament of Confession. 

We have over 1 billion Catholics today. Unlike  other Christian denominations, we have the True Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ right here in our midst. We have the opportunity to receive His Presence into our bodies and our souls every day! How much do we truly want to experience this great gift! How easy it is to take this gift for granted. 

We have the truth, yet many Catholics ignore our Church’s’ teachings on contraception. But, for those striving to follow Church teaching on chastity and contraception, Our Lord says, "Today salvation has come to your house.” Our Lord blesses these couples because they offer their love and intimacy in a way that pleases Him.

Many see Church teachings as nothing but rules and regulations. But in actuality they are blessings.  When individuals, couples, and families offers themselves to God according to His will and His plan, then salvation comes to their house.

The bottom line in the message of today’s Gospel is that God sees our faithfulness. He sees our holy desires, and He blesses those who truly seek Him with a contrite heart. 

We live in a world that is crowded with many people. Yet, among the sinners, Our Lord makes Himself available to those hearts who truly seek Him and try to conform their lives to His teachings.

Therefore, set yourselves apart from the rest of the crowd by coming to God with a sincere heart. It doesn’t matter where we have been or what we have done. What matters is that we truly want Our Lord's attention and we are willing to offer Him our lives. 

If we come to Our Lord this way -- without holding anything back -- we will hear the words He spoke to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house because [you too] are a descendant of Abraham.”

May God bless us and help us. Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

God Sees and Looks Kindly Upon Every Person

Zacchaeus! Come Down from There! 

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 30, 2016
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Today’s gospel reading (Luke 19:1-10) presents us with the encounter Zacchaeus had with Jesus which led him to his radical conversion and transformation.

Jesus was passing through Jericho when Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of Him. Similarly, Jesus constantly passes through our lives in the experiences we have, places we visit and persons we meet. As  Zacchaeus did, do we go out to meet Him? 

Encountering Christ simply means giving Him
the attention He desires in order for our hearts to be softened and transformed. When we meet Him, we are but the recipients of His divine favour. It is actually Jesus who searches us out to encounter Him. Like the parables of the lost sheep and coin, He is the shepherd looking for his own. But there could be a number of things that prevent that wonderful encounter.

Ordinarily speaking, Zacchaeus -- who was short -- would have seen Jesus if there were no crowd surrounding him. His inability to see Christ did not depend on his short stature, which was no fault of his. 

Instead, it depended on the insurmountable obstacle of the crowd surrounding him.  He needed to get away from the crowd in other to
see and encounter Jesus. This crowd for us could mean a number of things. It could be a relationship, a sinful habit, an environment, an attitude of the mind, an association with a sect or group or even an unsound doctrine or belief that could prevent us from having a clear view of the presence of Christ around us. To encounter Christ therefore, we have to alienate ourselves from these obstacles by aiming to be higher than them as Zacchaeus did. By climbing the tree, Zacchaeus was able to leave the crowd and see Jesus.
Most often, the crowd tends to impose certain limitations on us. These limitations could be in the form of ideologies or the “popular mentality,” which includes the vain feeling of self-pride. Zacchaeus conquered this mentality by humbling himself to climb a tree. Even Jesus had to work against this mentality, which considered it unfit for Him to associate himself with supposed sinners. This merited Zacchaeus the favour of receiving a divine invitation from Jesus.

Biblical scholars have advanced two interpretations of the encounter Zacchaeus had with Jesus in his home based on how one understands the words he addressed to Jesus:
“Half of my goods Lord, I give to the poor and if I have cheated anyone, I pay him back four time as much.”

The first interpretation is that Zacchaeus, a sinner underwent a radical conversion and transformation that enabled him to do what the rich and devout Jew of Mathew 19:21 could not do (sharing his possessions with the poor and following Jesus). By implication, an encounter with God could transform us into better Christians. The second interpretation, so much conscious of the expression “if I have cheated …” considers Zacchaeus perhaps as a truly righteous man whom the crowd identifies as a sinner because of his profession as a tax collector. But Jesus truly judges who a man is and not who people thinks he is. Last Sunday, he praised a repentant tax collector against a proud and arrogant Pharisee. Today, he praises a tax collector whom he knows to be a good and generous person.

God truly sees in us unique individuals and not stereotypes. He is more interested in our positive potentialities than in our negative actualities. He wants the best in us because He loves us. The first reading (Wis. 11:22-12:2) reminds us of this fact that the Lord loves all that exist and would not have made anything if he hated it. Though we are sinners, He knows we can be saints if we cooperate with His grace. That is why we don’t have to judge people as stereotypes by condemning them as sinners on account of their profession, race or religion. 

Therefore beloved brethren, like St. Paul in the second reading (2 Thess. 1:11-2:2), let us pray that God may make us worthy of His calling as his children. So that each encounter we have with Him will bring about a radical conversion and transformation in us and qualify us to be with Him at the second coming. Happy Sunday for God loves you.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Sleeping Beauty: Wait for True Love

He Loves Me. He Loves Me Not. 

by Susan Fox 

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
Yet I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you'll do
You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream”
 (Once Upon a Dream from the 1959 Disney classic Sleeping Beauty) 

I was that little girl twirling and singing “Once Upon A Dream” at recess on the school grounds the weekend after the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959. 

Six years old, I closed my eyes, danced, and experienced the dream of love. I knew I wanted to be loved forever by one man in marriage. And no other. 

But can a six-year-old marry? Should she marry? No she must grow up. She must learn first to be a friend and how to discern real friendship and its counterfeit: some men will desire her outer beauty, not herself. They will pretend to care. They will try to use her. 
This is a critical choice. Allow your hormones to choose the wrong man and you condemn your children to a lifetime of misery. For the man you choose will help raise your children. He will be intimately responsible for your protection.

Sexuality becomes truly human when it is integrated into a relationship of one man to one woman in a complete and lifelong mutual gift. Chastity allows the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. (CCC 2337)

Either a human being governs his own passions or allows his lower powers to dominate his life, and then he becomes a slave. In fact, he becomes stupid. And because sexuality is a generative power, how you use it will affect the future of those you will come to love most intimately, your own family. 

I was painting stripes on a parking lot in one of my summer jobs during college, when I overheard a conversation in one of the apartments. It was a mother talking lovingly to her baby to try and protect it from the voice of its father — a harsh drunken voice, speaking to her in a derogatory manner, mocking her in front of the infant. It was a battle of sorts.

Clearly the child was in an unsafe condition and so was its mother. She had made a bad choice. No Prince Charming here. No dream of lifelong love. Not even friendship was possible in that conversation. You cannot love when the love is not reciprocated. The poor woman had fallen into the arms of lechery, and she conceived her child in that compost pile.

Oh but he was gorgeous! And in the beginning he paid attention to her. She was hungry for male attention. She wanted to be loved. Perhaps her father was absent or had
Pope Saint John Paul II
behaved in the same manner. The sexual urge is a force of nature, and the first thing aroused is our emotions. This is called
attraction by Pope Saint John Paul II in his book on Love and Responsibility. 

But he may have only reacted to her in a sensory manner. He did not look at her character, her humanity — just the pretty package. She failed to heed the warning signs, and imagined he had virtues and values that he didn’t possess. Or she might have hoped to change him. Their relationship probably reached the level of sympathy or co-passion. Such is purely affective love, in which the decision and will do not play a role. 

They undoubtedly experienced desire, each seeking the missing good in the other. She became his food, a means to satisfy his desire. She failed to recognise the shallowness of his regard. They never became friends. Benevolence is necessary
for true friendship to exist. Not only must you desire a person as a good for oneself (she’s gorgeous! I want her) but also you must above all desire her good. I want her to be happy. I will make sacrifices so that she may be happy. That’s true love. 

She seemed to benevolently desire good for him. She desperately wanted him to love their child and herself. But the problem was that there was no equal response on his side of the equation. So the attraction and desire fell into hatred in his heart.  Concupiscence perverted it. The first born daughter of unchastity is blindness of spirit. He was unhappy, enslaved by his lower powers. 

Did they have similar interests? A common purpose? People tend to bond with others with similar personalities. Gifted with the first woman, Adam’s happy response was "At last! This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called 'woman,' because she was taken from ‘man.’" (Gen. 2:23) It’s hard to tell from the conversation I overheard. 

Love is by nature not one-sided. It is between persons. If both of them had contributed personal love, full of ethical value, to the relationship then their daughter would be raised in a stable and loving  environment. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — the future Pope John Paul II — called this reciprocity. When only personal utility (the useful good) or pleasure determines reciprocity, he said, then the relationship is unstable. Trust is impossible in that situation. If she had trusted her spouse, she would not have been correcting him using her conversation with the child.

The future pope concluded that we must test love thoroughly before it is declared to each other, and especially before one starts building  one’s vocation and whole life on it.  

Every human being has the dream of reciprocal love. Only a lifelong committed relationship, full of ethical value, to a person of the opposite sex can create a  happy marriage. 

Today, I walked past the anxious spouse of one of our students. His wife is pregnant, and she was sick with the flu. He didn’t go to work. He was staying by her side all day to see to her care.  

That self-sacrificing love is the kind to engender trust. Their baby will be born to a happy family. 

Susan Fox is working on a master's degree in Marriage and Family at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. 
Interested in studying at the International Theological Institute? You can apply here.
Each student at ITI is only charged 6,000 Euros a year in tuition, but the actual cost of the education is 20,000 Euros.
Donate here

Or in Europe, contact: Dipl. Ing. Alexander Pachta-Reyhofen, Director of Development (Europe), International Theological Institute, Email: a.pachtareyhofen@iti.ac.at

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Go Home Justified! Confess Your Sins

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 23, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 18:14)

In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 18:9-14), we receive a lesson on the importance of humility. 

Our Lord tells a parable about a religious 
leader and a common tax collector who find themselves praying in Jerusalem’s holy temple. Both the Pharisee and tax collector stand facing the high altar offering their prayers and lives to God. 

The Pharisee stands by himself looking up to heaven as was custom delivering a prayer with “I” in every breath. He says, I thank you that I am not like the others, I fast twice a week, pay tithes on my whole income.”

Meanwhile, a few yards away, a tax collector prays. Pious Jews regarded such a man as the scum of the earth. He bows his head to the ground, beating his chest, confessing his absolute need for God because of his sins.

He prays, “Be merciful to me God for I am a sinner.” Our Lord Jesus says, “I tell you, this man, the tax collector, went to his home justified rather than the other.” 

Today’s Gospel passage reminds us that the practice of our faith has nothing to do with ourselves. The practice of our faith is instead about conforming our will to the will of God.  Mass, prayer, the precepts of the Church, the commandments, the sacraments -- all that we do as Catholics is meant to conform us to the way of God’s plan for eternal life.

Today’s Gospel therefore calls us to examine our intentions. Do we come to Mass to give gratitude to God for all He has done for us? Do we come to fall in love with Christ and His Church? Or do we come to Mass out of obligation and in boredom? 

God wants us to be happy. He wants us to come before Him acknowledging our weaknesses and our need for His mercy! Our 
Go Home Justified 
Church has the sacrament of Confession. This sacrament is the most perfect opportunity to go home justified as did the tax collector in today’s Gospel.

When we come into Church, do we humble ourselves before the presence of God? Our Lord wants us to approach Him in the Holy Eucharist with utmost reverence. It is the Lord whom we receive! And if we can’t receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist for whatever reason, we show our Lord much humility when we come up in communion line and ask for a blessing.

In our time today, some Catholics do not walk
humbly before the Lord, but instead challenge Our Lord’s teachings. For example, the Church's teachings on contraception are widely ignore by many Catholics.

Politicians  claim to be Catholic yet publicly espouse beliefs that are contrary to our faith. They support gay relationships and abortion. This is not an attitude of humility, but of pride toward Our Lord and His Church.

My brothers and sisters, the overall message of today’s Gospel is that if we want to grow in our relationship with God, than we
must humble ourselves before Him. Our Lord wants our faith to be real. He wants our worship to be sincere. 

Such humility allows us to become who God made us to be. We  no longer rely on ourselves but on the Lord. In humility, our Lord works in us and through us because our lives no longer become about us but about Christ living in us.

This is what we see in the examples of the lives of the saints. Some -- such as Saint Paul -- had to be humbled before becoming the holy man Christ called him to be. Others such as Saint Therese of Lisieux were living a saintly life since childhood. Yet, what all holy men and women have in common is their extreme desire to humble themselves before Our Lord! 

Just yesterday our Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, processed together under the protection of Our Blessed Mother to pray the Holy Rosary. Next to Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Blessed Mother is the most perfect example of humility. Our Blessed Mother did not seek to do her will. She sought nothing but to do the will of God!

Ordination of Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, let us learn from the example of our Blessed Mother! Let us learn from the saints! We cannot decide right and wrong for ourselves. We must trust the Church. The bottom line is that if we want to enter into the kingdom of Heaven than we must humble ourselves before Our Lord acknowledging that we are nothing without Him!

As we come to receive Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist this evening, let us recognize our need for humility. We Catholics have been given the gift of eternal salvation! We have been given the gift of Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist! Let us never place ourselves and our own self will in front of this great gift! Let us never dare to allow the spirit of pride which is so prevalent in our society today to turn our hearts from living our faith for God alone. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Christ washing the feet of His apostles. "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:6-8)


Sunday, October 16, 2016

When Christ Returns, Will He Find Faith on Earth?

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel passage, Our Lord Jesus teaches us of the need to persevere in prayer. As we come to receive Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist this morning, let us take to heart our desperate need to listen to His words on the importance
of praying constantly and consistently for our salvation and  the salvation of souls in these godless times in which we live today! 

In His example of prayer, Our Lord emphasizes the need to pray particularly for justice.

Our Lord gives the example of a dishonest judge pestered by a widow who sought justice against her adversary. Even though the widow was dealing with an unjust judge, she would not give up! She persevered in getting an answer to her situation in what was true, right, and just. (Luke 18: 1-8)

Our Lord says, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out 
to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” (Luke 18:6-8)

As we reflect on this example, we are reminded that God’s justice will always be given to those who sincerely call upon Jesus in time of need. Today’s example teaches us that if even the unjust judge will grant justice for the poor widow, then God will certainly do so for those who call upon Him.

God’s justice has been emphasized throughout salvation history.  We have all heard the story in the Book of Exodus where the Israelites were enslaved by the governmental leaders of their time in Egypt. God heard their cries of oppression, and He led them out of slavery to worship Him in peace and truth.

Ever since the time of the Exodus, God’s faithful people have continued to be harassed, rejected, and persecuted for their desire to serve the One True God.

God has sent His Son to save us from the corruption of this world so we might live in His Promised Land for all eternity. 
Yet, as we await the day of fulfillment of Our Lord’s Kingdom on earth, we need to persevere in prayer. 

We are in a battle between the children of evil and the children of light, and as we come closer to the second coming of Christ, this battle will get even more intense! Christians will be persecuted as our society continues to make laws that oppose the coming of the kingdom of God.

God is looking for people who pray. God is hearing the calls of those who long for an end to the immorality and corruption of this society. God is hearing the cries of those who want to live in Truth.

At the end of today’s Gospel our Lord Jesus asks a serious question for each one of us as we seek to prepare to live in the eternal kingdom to come. Our Lord says, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We should reflect on this last line of today’s Gospel. God is seeking hearts who call out to Him day and night for justice!

The devil is alive and active in our world today more than any time since our Lord Jesus walked this earth. The devil knows his time is short. Therefore, we need to pray constantly to stand strong as faithful Christians in spite of the pressures of the world.

We must pray for our country, especially as we await the coming  election. It's a horrible election. Yet, we are getting what we deserve because we continue to turn away from God and His plan of life.

There is much disgrace in both candidates. But what is important is the policies the candidates support. There is nothing worse than a party that supports abortion and expanding its availability. God hears the cries of over 59 million martyrs in the womb!

As long as abortion continues, we will never have peace and justice. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. in 1994. Hillary Clinton was present.  "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another, but to use violence to get what they want,” she said. This is why “the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. If we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

My brothers and sisters, God always has mercy on any person who repents of the sin of abortion or sin of any kind.
Fr. John Paul Shea
God hears the cries of our heart. But  we will not have peace as long as we allow the murder of children in the womb. And one of the political parties in this upcoming 2016 election promotes abortion even up to the last moment before birth.  

The sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage are under attack. Our Blessed Mother told Fatima visionary Sister Lucia that the final battle between Our Lord and Satan will be over marriage and the family.  “Don’t be afraid because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue,” Sister Lucia said. However, “Our Lady has already crushed its (Satan's) head.”

If we want to be strong in our faith in these godless times we need to persevere in prayer! Our Lord is coming again, and He will put an end to the governments and policies of our world  that are not of His Kingdom.

Therefore, as we long for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven, let us not become discouraged. God is hearing the cries of all who want true justice, and His justice will come!

Yet, the question we must ask ourselves, when Our Lord Jesus comes again, “will He find faith on earth?” Will He find faith in our hearts?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

CAMP AT HIS DOOR: Persist in Prayer

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct.16, 2016
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Camp at God's Door
 As Moses led God's people from slavery in Egypt through the desert to the Promised land they encountered numerous threats to their lives: the army of Pharaoh, the Red Sea to be crossed, the lack of water in the desert. 

One such threat was opposition from those peoples whose lands they were going through. Today's reading (Exodus 17:8-13) is an attack by the Amalekites. But as we see in our reading, after kneeling and becoming weak we rise full of power. Prayer has enormous power, it can influence the outcome of events and it can change the lives of people. 

So just like Moses went up the hill and extended his arms in prayer until the victory was won, it is an encouragement to us to be persistent in our prayer. To good Christians,

prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the night. As no one can run marathon without training, so no one can live a proper Christian life without prayer. But to experience the power of prayer we must camp at His door.

When we persevere at God's door praying, He will come. But our problem nowadays, is that we have become an "instant" society -- instant coffee, instant tea, instant food, instant cures with the result that we expect God to take our calls instantly. Too many people pray like a little boy who knocked at the priest's house and ran away after the priest opened the door. 

The dishonest judge in today's Gospel (Luke 18:1-8) neither feared God nor any human being. He had ignored the plea for justice of
The unjust Judge and the Widow
the old widow many times but she never gave up. She kept making new trips to the judge's office until the wicked judge relented and gave her justice.

Many of us tend to give up easily after only a few attempts. God's time is not our time. God's plan is not our plan. God may delay our answer in order to purify our motives, so that we will learn to ask Him for what we need and not what we want. 

He may delay in order to intensify our desire. With an intensified desire, we may have the courage to scale the heights of excellence instead of remaining mediocre after having our desire granted easily. 

If God had granted all the silly prayers and desires I had made in life, where would I be now? True prayer is not about manipulating God into granting us our requests, but surrendering to His ways. We need to experience His Presence even without His presents. Hence we often need to pray for God Himself to come and fill our emptiness with His own fullness.

Fr. Joe Mungai
Brethren, whatever we pray let us believe that God will eventually answer us. When faith sets prayer to work, prayer sets God to work. Fix a time for prayer in your daily routine. The demands of modern life are such that unless we schedule a regular time to pray we probably wont pray at all. Ralph Martin in his book "Hungry for God" says, " A real estate man I know gets up early in the morning to pray; an aerospace engineer prays and reads Scripture on his lunch break; a production manager of a computing firm prays after his children are in bed at night."

We should keep in mind that when something becomes important to us, we schedule it right into our daily life. We don't leave it to chance. For example if we want to deepen a friendship with someone, we schedule times and places to meet with that person. The same is true of God, if we want to deepen our friendship with God, we need to plan for times and places to meet Him in prayer. 

We not only need to persevere not only during the period of prayer as Moses did, but
also from day to day and week to week as the widow in Jesus' parable did. Yes prayer is the oil that keeps the lamp of faith burning brightly. I know of no better thermometer to the temperature of faith than the measure of the intensity of prayer. 

Lets us conclude our reflection with this thought:
I pray because I am a Christian and to do what a Christian must do, I need help. I pray because there is confusion in my life and to do what is right, I need light. I pray because I must make decisions; but the choices are not always clear, so I need guidance. I pray because I have doubts and to keep growing in my faith, I need help. I pray because most of what I have is given to me, so I ought to give thanks. I pray because Jesus prayed to His Father, and if I considered it important so should I. Amen.

Have a Blessed Sunday.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

God Reminds Us to Be Patient

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 2, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Fr. John Paul Shea 
As we reflect on the readings for this 27th Sunday in Ordinary time we are once again given the opportunity to meditate on the importance of faith.

In today’s first reading we hear from the prophet Habakkuk. The particular concern for Habakkuk in this reading was the rise of Babylon. Babylon had emerged at that time as a great regional power and was threatening Judah, and the prophet doesn’t get why God isn’t doing anything.

Habakkuk cries out to God saying, “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene… Destruction and violence are before me.”

If we listen to these lines, it sounds similar to what many of us can relate to in our time today. We watch the nightly news and our stomachs become sick. We hear constantly of such things as terrorism, murder, killing in our streets, and financial problems… All these sorts of things can weigh heavily on our souls. And, like Habakkuk, we find ourselves saying, “How long O’ Lord?” How long will these things go on? 

However, we are reminded from today’s reading that God’s plan takes time for its fulfillment and that we therefore need to have faith as we await God’s plan and His will to unfold. 

As the prophet Habakkuk cries out to the Lord in today’s first reading, God reminds him to be patient. God says to Habakkuk that His plan still has its time, and will not disappoint; it will surely come, it will not be late.

My brothers and sisters, today’s readings call us to reflect on the importance of faith. Faith is an act of trusting in God. To have faith means that we are open to what God will do in His time and His way for the greater good of our lives and the world around us. To have faith means that we realize that we are not in control of our lives and what takes place around us and that we therefore need to rely on God.

In today’s Gospel we hear the disciples ask Our Lord to increase their faith. Our Lord responds by reminding the disciples of the

power of faith. He says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Yet, our Lord does not stop there. Our Lord goes on to teach His disciples and us that we need to have an attitude of humility if we want to live in faith. Our Lord speaks about a servant and his master. Our Lord says, “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’?” 

Our Lord says, “So should it be with [us].” Our Lord says, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

My brothers and sisters, the real issue in the scene of today’s Gospel is not that the

disciples need more faith. The real issue is that they need to exercise the faith they have by recognizing that faith is a gift from God!

Therefore, if we too, want to grow in our faith then we too must have the attitude of a servant. If we want to grow in our faith than we must humble ourselves before God acknowledging that He alone is our master and that we are nothing without Him! 

When we do things on our own without God then we become faithless, proud, and disobedient. This is how it has been since the fall of mankind, and it is what we see around us today as we wait for our Lord Jesus to come again in glory. 

Our society today follows not the revelation of truths given to us by Our Lord. Our society today instead teaches us the lie that we are the master of our lives and that there are no external truths.

Even many Catholics today are conforming their hearts not to the revelation of our faith but instead toward the ways of the world. Instead of acknowledging that we are Our Lord’s unprofitable servants, and instead of striving to do all we are obliged to do in light of the faith handed down to us, many in our Church today instead act as if we are the masters of our faith and that our faith should conform to our will. 

A few weeks ago, for example, one of the vice presidential candidates for the upcoming election who claims to be a devoted Catholic stated publically that he believes that our Church will change its views on same sex marriage. This sort of thinking does not come from divine faith. The Church can’t change its teachings on marriage and sexuality because marriage and sexuality was given to us by God according to His design for His plan of life.

My brothers and sisters, the bottom line is that our faith does not come from human origin. Faith is not about trying to please the culture or about seeking to get the Church to revolve its teachings around the human person. No, faith is when a person accepts God’s revelation and strives to live according to God’s revealed truths. If we want to be strong in our faith than we must strive to serve God by following His plan of life as His unprofitable servants, recognizing that everything we have and are is a gift from God! For, when we surrender our lives to God and His revealed truths, than no difficulties, hardships, or influences of the world will

break apart the rock of salvation that has been planted in our hearts through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As we come to receive our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist this evening, let us set our hearts on the gift of faith. No matter what may be going on in our lives today, no matter the difficulties in our world and society, no matter who becomes president in the upcoming election, God is in control, and His grace will prevail! For, the world with its sin and hardships will pass away, but our faith in our Lord Jesus and His Truth will live forever. Amen!