Father Peter's Past Sermons
Past Sermons from Father Peter's Desk
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 26, 2020
Faith is a Treasure
An old lady in Scotland was so poor that the community had to support her, even though her son had come to America and had become very wealthy. “Why doesn’t John help his mother?” the neighbors often whispered.
One day a neighbor dropped in and suggested that her son would surely help her if he knew of her need. Mother-like, she defended her son: “Oh, John is so thoughtful, but he needs all his money. He’s a good boy. See, he writes to me every week, the nicest letters. And in every letter he sends a picture. They are strange pictures.” “Did you save them?” asked the neighbor. “Oh, sure,” replied the mother, as she reached for her Bible. “I save all his letters and put the pictures in the Good Book.”
Between the leaves of the Bible the visitor found hundreds of United States bank notes, more than enough to keep the old mother in comfort. She had a treasure but she did not know it.
In this weekend’s Good News, Jesus told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a hidden treasure which a man found in a field. He sold all he had and bought that field. The treasure Jesus is talking about is our faith, which makes us members of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The treasure is our faith in Christ, our belief that He is both God and Man, that he saved us on a cross, that He will take us into heaven if we are faithful to Him. Like the unknowing mother in our story, too many of us do not realize what a treasure we have in the truths of Christ.
All of us should be like the man in the parable, ready to “sell” all we have to get the faith and to keep the faith. Thank God, practically all of us have this faith. It was given to us with little or no effort on our part. But, to keep that faith, to nourish and strengthen it, demands some practice.
For example, some of you would have preferred to sleep a little longer this morning, or to go fishing or golfing, rather than come to Mass. But you “sold” that extra sleep, that fun of fishing, for the treasure of the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass and Holy Communion.
Many of you have contributed to our Catholic Charities Collection, to our Bishop’s Appeal, to Chalice and many others. You exchanged a few dollars or many dollars for the treasure of helping the needy, as Christ commanded.
During the Eucharist, we offer to God the bread and wine which is brought up from your midst to show that it comes from all of us. God turns that bread and wine into the Body and Blood of His Son, and presents it to us in Holy Communion.
What a small price for such a great treasure. May Christ help all of us renew our faith, renew our determination to live our faith in Him – at any cost.
God bless your week and Keep Safe.
Father Peter Pham
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 19, 2020
Wheat and Weeds
Holland is famous for its fields of flowers, at times stretching as far as the one can see. Their delicate and varying colors are a delight to everyone. There is one especially beautiful scene to be found mainly in the south of Holland: a wheat field in June. The soft, green waves of wheat turning to gold are tinted here and there with the contrasting blue of the cornflower.
The scene is a poet’s and painter’s paradise. But it is a sad one for the farmer. The blue blossoms of the harmful cornflower mean that his crop could be one-third less than usual. There is no way of rooting out those attractive weeds without seriously hurting his wheat field. Another worry is that tourists will trample down his grain trying to pick the beautiful blossoms.
Why did God make this weed so attractive and yet so harmful? To the Dutch farmer the cornflower, or corncockle, as it is sometimes called, is a mistake in nature, something that cannot be in tune with God’s goodness.
God permits the same situation in the field of human beings. The great majority of people are trying to be good. They try to be honest, kind, sober, clean of heart, according to their lights. Yet, we find weeds, women and men who make the effort to be good wheat, good persons. Inwardly they are evil, although outwardly their way of life may appear attractive. Often they prosper, they succeed, they seem to thrive. They have comfortable homes, plenty of food, pleasant times, good health. They are attractive weeds like the cornflower. Yet, they can harm the wheat.
Why does God permit irreligious, worldly, and even sinful people to thrive and succeed? Jesus gives us the answer in today’s Good News. God has planted the wheat – good people. The enemy, the devil, has planted weeds – wicked people. Jesus tells us to let both the wheat and the weeds grow until the harvest, the judgment, when the wheat will be gathered and saved, while the weeds will be gathered and burned.
God is just. One reason He allows the evil to be materially successful is to reward them on earth for the little good they may have done. He sometimes permits the good to suffer on earth for the few wrongs they may have done, so that their joy may be more complete at the judgment.
We asked in our opening prayer: “Father, let the gift of your grace continue to grow in us.” In the first reading we prayed to God: “Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us.” In the responsorial psalm we cried out: “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
There is one big difference between the weeds and the wicked. The weeds cannot be changed; the wicked can be changed. That is the main purpose of this Holy Sacrifice and of the journey of our faith – to bring the godless back to God, to change human weeds into human wheat.
God bless you all and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 12, 2020
Help in Hearing Sermons
One of my hobbies is to study the history. One of the countries’ history is, of course, Canada. The next, as you may guess, the United States. In reading these histories, I thought of the heroic founders of that particular country. For example, in the US, outstanding among them was Benjamin Franklin, who died in 1790. He was a printer, author, publisher, inventor, scientist, businessman, thinker, statesman and diplomat. He was a blessing to the United States of America and to all humanity.
For example, one day he received a gift of a whisk broom from India. He noticed a few seeds fastened to the wisps of the broom. Franklin planted them. When the first crop came up he distributed the seeds among his friends and neighbors. Their crops flourished. In this way Franklin was responsible for introducing broom corn into the American colonies, and starting the American broom manufacturing industry.
You and I are called upon to do something like that. Jesus Christ gives us His truths – seeds – which we are to plant in our own minds and then in the minds of others. Those truths, those seeds, Christ gives us through the public worship of the Church He founded, through Catholic reading, through His inspired word, the Bible, and through the preaching of His special servants, His priests.
Take a cue from Benjamin Franklin. Treasure the truths Christ gives us. Plant them. Share them with others. My job is to tell you Christ’s truth. Your job is to hear it and make it grow. In the words of Jesus: “Let anyone with ears listen.”
May I make a few suggestions on how you can get the most out of sermons? You don’t have to be a farmer or gardener to know that you have to prepare the soil for the seed.
How helpful it would be if everyone on the way to Mass would prepare himself for receiving God’s truth: not, “Dear Lord, don’t let Father talk too long today,” but “Dear Lord, help Father give me some truth I can nourish for my good.”
Every worthwhile preacher prays that those who hear him will benefit from what he says, will provide fertile ground for the truths he is planting. How about returning the favor by praying for the preacher?
As you enter church make the sign of the cross thoughtfully over your body, washing away the distractions of the world, the flesh and the devil. Make yourself open to the seed of God’s truth.
Listen carefully to the prayers and readings, especially the Gospel. Pay close attention to the homily. Try to understand. Try to remember.
Christ is speaking to you through His priest, however limited that priest may be. The man in the pulpit can be an effective instrument of Christ. He can also be ineffective. The message may come through loud and clear, or it may be dull and garbled. But it is an important message. Keep the soil ready.
For most Catholics, the only time they receive the seed of God’s truth is from the Sunday worship and the celebrant’s explanation. Be ready to receive it.
We priests are trying to renew and improve our preaching, especially for me, English is not my mother tongue. Help us by trying to improve your listening.
God bless you all and Stay Safe. Let’s continue to pray for the end of Covid-19. Pray for the victims of this pandemic and their family.
Father Peter Pham
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 5, 2020
Yoked with Christ
In a Bible study on today’s gospel passage, a priest started off by asking the college student participants whether they really think that the yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden light. The answer he got was a resounding “No!”
Asked to explain, the students went on to recount the daily pains and discomforts they suffer in their attempt to be faithful to Christ’s teachings. “I have this problem,” said Elena. “I pray about it constantly and I make all the effort I can, yet I keep falling into the same temptation over and over again.” Johnson spoke about all his efforts to fight an addiction. “I have prayed about it. I have sought help. And I really try. Yet after a few days of apparent success, I find myself falling right back to where I started.”
Many of us can identify with the predicaments of these young people. In today’s gospel Jesus offers us a way out: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The rest he promises is a release from the experience of serving God as a fatigue and a burden. The promise means that serving God could be transformed into a sweet experience of rest.
Jesus then goes on to show how: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (verse 29). Looks like we have a problem here! Is Jesus calling on those who are carrying heavy loads to come and add a yoke to their burden? Doesn’t that sound like adding affliction to the afflicted? No. Jesus is asking us to cast away our burdens and take on his yoke. This is because, unlike the burdens we bear, his yoke is easy and his burden light.
So then, what is this yoke of Christ? The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Servants were said to be under the yoke of their masters (1 Timothy 6:1) and subjects under the yoke of their rulers (1 Kings 12:10). To take the yoke of Christ, therefore, is to put ourselves in a relationship with Christ as his servants and subjects, and to conduct ourselves accordingly.
There is, however, a better way of understanding the yoke of Christ. Among the Jews, the yoke was put on the necks of two cattle so that together they could pull the plough as one. It always takes a pair to work a yoke. When Jesus asks you to take the yoke, you might as well ask who is your yoke-mate. Your yoke-mate is none other than Jesus himself. The yoke, in fact, belongs to him, and he only invites you to team up with him. The yoke of Christ is not just the yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him.
To take the yoke of Christ is to associate and identify ourselves with him: our destiny with his destiny, our vision with his vision, and our mission with his mission. It is to know that we are not pulling the yoke alone and by our power, but together with Christ and by the strength that comes from him. It is to know that Jesus is not just a teacher who gives you homework but also a friend who helps you do it.
There is a story of a man who had a dream. In the dream, he was walking along a sandy beach with Jesus and they were replaying all the important moments of his life. The man noticed that for each scene there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to Jesus. But he also noticed that, when they came to the most difficult and trying moments of his life, there was only one set of footprints to be seen.
The man could not understand this, so he asked Jesus: “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. Why is it then that during the most difficult periods of my life, when I needed you the most, you would leave me?” Jesus replied. “My child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the most difficult moments of your life, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times I carried you.”
We should never forget that we are yoked with Christ. To this end, it helps to start each day with a prayer like this: “Lord, help me to remember that there is no problem I am going to face today that you and I together cannot handle.” This is how the yoke becomes easy and the burden light.
God bless you and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham