From Fr. Peter's Desk
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 25, 2020
Lord, Help Me Love You!
Most of you have heard the poem “Trees,” which winds up with the words: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” The author of that poem became a Catholic at the age of 27. He was a sensitive, straightforward, and simple writer who took common things, like a tree, and brought out their beauty. He enlisted in World War One and was killed in action at the age of 32, leaving a wife and family.
Joyce Kilmer’s deeply religious spirit found fulfillment in the Catholic faith. He loved and lived it. His letters to his wife, also a poet, to his children and friends were filled with spiritual insights. In one letter he wrote something closely related to today’s Good News: “Pray that I may love God more. It seems to me that if I can love God more passionately, more constantly, without distraction, that nothing else can matter… I got faith by praying for it. I hope to get love the same way.”
How many of us have ever asked God to help us love him? To love God is a gift – from God Himself. Too many falsely think we can grow in the love of God by our own efforts, that it is entirely up to us to learn how to love Him.
To be sure, we need to do everything humanly possible to carry out the command of Christ: “You shall love the Lord your God.” But above and beyond our efforts this gift will be ours when we beg it from our heavenly Father.
What do we mean when we say: “Love God?” Here is a working definition that has helped me. To love God means to desire to please God. Christ’s command might have read: “You shall desire to please God.”
Love of neighbor means the desire to do good to our neighbor. We cannot “do good” to God, but we can desire to please God. We can and must do good to our neighbor. Incidentally one of the best ways to please God is to do good to our neighbor.
Jesus told us several times in several ways that he who loves God will keep God’s commandments. Several Sundays ago, we saw that God’s commandments are a proof of God’s love for us. Keeping them is a proof of our love for Him.
You come to Mass because God is pleased when you worship Him. You receive Holy Communion because God wants to be with you. You pray because God is pleased when you talk to Him. You respect His Holy name because that pleases Him.
You honor your father and mother because that pleases Him. You respect your health and life and the health and life of others because that pleases God. You respect the sacred power of sex because that pleases God. You respect the right of your neighbor to his property, his good name, his wife, because that pleases God.
To do these things is to love God. To do them we need God’s help, we have to ask His help, as Joyce Kilmer did, as the saints did.
Use the opening prayer of the Mass: “Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise.” “Make us grow in love” (Eucharistic Prayer #2).
I want to please you, Lord. Help me to please you.
God bless you and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 18, 2020
Once, a missionary went to a distant land to preach the Good News of Christ our Lord. While he was walking with the guide, he asked about the people, culture, food and so on. And at one point, the missionary priest looked at the guide and asked, "What about cannibals? Do you have cannibals in the community?' The guide laughed and laughed and said, "O Father, we do not have any cannibal because the last one we ate yesterday".
The Holy Catholic Church today celebrates 'Mission Sunday'. Today we in a special way, pray for all our missionary priests, nuns, and people who dedicate their lives to promote justice and peace and who preach the Good News of Christ our Lord, namely love and forgiveness to all. We, by the very nature of the sacrament of Baptism, are called to become missionaries at home and missionaries abroad.
There is a non-canonical story of our Lord Jesus Christ that, after His ascension, the angels met with Him and, looking at his feet and hands, they said, “You suffered a lot to bring love and forgiveness among people, and Lord, who is going to preach your mercy, compassion and love now?”
Jesus said, "My followers, because I asked them to go everywhere to preach the Good News.” “What would happen after they die? Do you have any other plan?” Jesus said, "My only plan is after my apostles, my disciples, people who were baptized will carry on the message".
Yes, brothers and sisters, we are His plan. We are called to bring the Good News of love and forgiveness to all.
In the Old Testament time, people did not go out to preach the message of God. They spread the message of God within the community. But in the New Testament time and after His glorious Ascension, we are called to go everywhere to preach the good tidings.
Once a man came to a spiritual master and offered him two gold coins and said, "Master, I would like to be a missionary and thus go everywhere and preach the Good News, and what should I do?” The master, without answering the man, picked up one of the gold coins and threw it in the river.
The man right away jumped into the water looking for the gold coin and, upon not finding it, asked the master, “Where did you throw my gold coin?” For that the master took another gold coin and threw it in the water and said, "Right there". Then the master with compassion looked at the man and said, "Son, if you want to be a missionary, you should know how to unbind yourself from material things and hold on to Christ the Way.
Every time Christ sent His apostles on the mission to preach the Good News, He clearly told them not to take anything with them. As they went, the power of Christ was with them. They preached the message of Christ according to their needs, and the Gospel helped people to look at their culture, customs and traditions differently.
I remember one year during my vacation in Lake of the Woods, Ontario, I went to visit a priest friend in Manitouwadge near Thunder Bay. He said that in his mission Church, as he was doing a funeral Mass, right after homily...every one of them left the church and he did not know what was going on. They all came in after ten minutes, and thus he finished the Mass. Afterwards he asked one of the parishioners why people left right after the homily. Do you know what he said? "O Father, this is our tradition. Right after homily, we always go out for a ten minutes smoke-break."
As St. Paul went to different communities to preach the Good News, so many people tried to stop him and so many went against him because they were so afraid to change. They were people like the Pharisee in today's gospel trying to entrap Jesus by asking him about paying taxes to the emperor or not. In answering them, he went further: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Powerful message!
St. Paul, in order to preach the Good News, not 30 thousand kilometers but 30 thousand miles walked. He was given the power and stamina by Christ our Lord. And we all know how St. Jean de Brebeuf did the mission work in Canada.
Once there was a fight between two African tribes in Niger and a man from one tribe killed his neighbor who belonged to another tribe. When the tribe won, they wanted to take revenge of the killer and they called the wife who witnessed her husband's death and asked her to point out the killer but she refused saying , "The missionaries who were here taught us how to forgive and accept others like Christ". Once Gandhi said, "Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".
Even today there are so many priests, religious and lay people going to different countries to preach the good news of Christ our Lord. They build schools and hospitals; they build churches and homes for orphanages. They are doing a wonderful job in the name of Christ our Lord. Let us remember them all and pray that God may continue to bless them.
Today we are also called to become missionaries. We are called to preach the Good News to all. Yes, it is our duty to tell them all about God's love and Christ's forgiveness.
Let us preach the Good News and, as St. Francis of Assisi says, "Let us preach the Good News to all and, if it's necessary, let us use words." Yes, let our life preach to them all the unconditional love and unlimited forgiveness of Christ. Amen.
God bless you and Stay Safe!
Father Peter Pham