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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.