Saturday, December 12, 2009

How To Have Peace Of Mind and How to Be Prepared to Meet God

A couple of Christmas’ ago, my brother gave me a big jug of some “muscle drink”. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the “before and after” pictures on the jug were of me! The” before” picture was my face superimposed onto a girl’s body. The “after” picture was of my face superimposed onto a profession bodybuilders’ body. My brother was also kind enough to put an insulting “quote” and testimony from “me”! Yes, it was hilarious, insulting, and hilariously insulting.

Yes, at Christmas time, we must prepare for traveling, gift-buying, and sometimes, even prank gifts in the spirit of brotherly love.

Reading II
Phil 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

This week’s Mass readings, call us to prepare for the coming of the Lord (and I don’t mean Santa Claus). The readings also clue us into how we can have peace which is something that every person wants. Right?
Peace that Surpasses All Understanding
In the 2nd reading, Saint Paul says that if we tell God about our concerns and needs “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Here we are promised an unheard of peace, one that “surpasses all understanding”. We are promised that this peace will “guard our hearts”. At first glance, it’s hard to understand how telling someone our needs and requests will lead to this incredible peace.

But Paul’s language suggests much. For one thing, his words suggest that God LISTENS to those who speak to him. After all, why would someone encourage another person to speak to a person who does not listen? Yes, Paul is suggesting something that each one of us needs to understand well- that God listens to us when we pray even though it often seems like no one in the world cares about us or that no one in the world understands us.

But with God, it is different. He listens to us and knows us intimately and he even knows us more than our best friends knows us (check out Psalm 139). And then of course there are people who listen, but do not care. Why should we tell someone about our concerns who listens but does not care? Paul does not explicitly say this, but it only makes sense to tell people our desires and requests if they care. Ah yes, God cares. Putting our concerns before the Lord in prayer will bring a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

Peaceful, Happy People

Fortunately, I have met the Cardinal in my Archdiocese many times. Anyone who has met him and spoken to him would agree that he is a man of great peace. He is a man of great calm.
I also know a great friend of God who works as a nun ministering to college students. Indeed everyone who meets her sees that she heeds the words from the 1st reading “be glad!” and “be happy!”1 Her face beems with a supernatural joy constantly. Wow! It is a great pleasure to be around her.
I also know a missionary from the Southwestern United States. She is calm like the morning time at a secluded beach. To me, these people are living proof that telling God our concerns and needs brings a “peace of God that surpasses all understanding”. This peace will “guard our hearts”. How wonderful it is to know that you are under the protection of God!

The practical application is that we should pray.

Preparing For the Coming of Lord

John the Baptists mission was to prepare the way of the Lord.
Now, when you know that a guest is coming to visit your home, what do you normally do? Most people make a sincere effort to clean up their home.
In a very similar fashion, John recommends the same in the Gospel. He basically tells people to stop sinning and gives several examples. We believe that God knows everything. And so, there is no way that we can spiritually “sweep things under the rug” or throw our things into the closet. Jesus sees our spiritual mess no matter how clean we appear to be on the outside.
And so, this is largely why John the Baptists preaches repentance as the best way to prepare for the coming or the Lord. We can’t just prepare to clean up, we have to ACTUALLY clean up our souls through repentance.
The Lord will come to us in more than one way. He will arrive in his second coming, at the Euchartistic table at Mass, and he comes to us when we are in the presence of other people. In all 3 of these situations it is critical that we be prepared, most of all by getting rid of our sinful behaviors.
Just as it is feels good to have a clean house in preparation for a guest, having clean souls, through repentance, baptism and confession, we can rejoice, “be happy” and “be glad” at the Lord’s coming when we encounter the Lord through one another, at Mass, and when Jesus comes again in glory.
I’m quite sure that repentance is a great part of the reason why these people I have mentioned above are so peaceful.
Actually, the missionary lady I mentioned once told me that a man predicted to her that she would die. Her response was “I am ready”. Can you and I say with peace that we are ready? Let’s ask the Lord to prepare us and let us do our part to prepare for the God who loves us.

1- The first reading says “rejoice” which means “be glad” or “be happy”

Reading 1
Zep 3:14-18a

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm
Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (6) Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Lk 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Eucharist- Just a Piece of Bread? Mass Readings for August 9, 2009

A few years ago, I was at Church where a middle-school-aged boy said to everyone "it's just bread" referring to the Eucharist. I think the boy was saying out loud what many Catholics incorrectly believe to this day.

We Catholics believe that the Eucharist, is the source and summit of our faith. If the Eucharist is the source and summit of your faith, you should be able to answer this question: "Why is the Eucharist the source and summit of your faith?" This week's gospel helps us to understand the Eucharist more.

Jn 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Ordinary Bread Versus Jesus

Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, yet when we look upon the consecrated host, we might find ourselves "murmuring" just like the Jews in the Gospel. We might say something like, "That's Jesus? Is this not the bread that just came out of a plastic bag? Do we not know where it was manufactured? Does it not taste like bread?"

After the murmuring in the Gospel, Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him". This seems to be a reference to baptism where we are given the gift of faith. In other words, we cannot believe in the Eucharist except by the hand of God which comes upon us at baptism (at baptism we receive a supernatural faith).

As Catholics we do NOT believe that the bread changes in a scientifically-measurable way. But don't we believe in electrons and atoms even though we have never seen them? We Catholics believe that the bread has become Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit even though we can see no difference. Now if the Eucharist is Jesus in his ENTIRETY, then how can the Eucharist NOT be the source and summit of our faith? Is it not Jesus whom we worship? Is he not the source of all that is good? Is he not God? Jesus is Lord. The Eucharist is Jesus. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. If you find this difficult to believe, remember that there was only one teaching that resulted in some of Jesus' followers leaving him. It was the teaching of the Eucharist. You can read about Jesus' followers leaving him in John Chapter 6. Even the apostles who remained with Jesus had difficulty believing. In John 6:60 his disciples say to Jesus, "this saying is hard, who can accept it?"

If you are having difficulty believing that the Eucharist is Jesus, you should trust in God and use the faith he has given you. You must USE your God-given faith! After several of Jesus' healings, Jesus told the healed person "your faith has saved you". Now let's take a look at what happens at Mass every week.

Holy Mass

The Eucharist is the summary of our faith. The Eucharistic encounter is like the short story of man. God creates man, man needs God. God gives himself to man. Man accepts.

In the Eucharist, we can see that God gives himself to us freely. God knows that food alone does not satisfy the needs of man, but only God can do that. In his generosity, God gives man what man needs- God himself. In preparation for our weekly encounter with God at Mass, we refuse mortal sin (which makes us incompatible with God) and instead seek God even though many mortal sins can give us temporary pleasures (e.g. premarital sex, stealing, missing Mass etc).

When faced with the decision of whether or not to attend Mass, we might say just as the apostles said to Jesus "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." At the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass), we admit that we cannot live without God. We admit that the things of this world are not enough for us. We acknowledge that we need God and that we cannot live without him. And what does God say in reply? "Your faith has saved you."

Yes, it's neat that Elijah received food from God at a time when Elijah was fleeing for his life. But I am sure Elijah would have preferred to have what most of us have access to every day- the Euchurist. Jesus says in this week's Gospel "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

A Preview of Heaven

In this gospel, Jesus says, "I will raise him on the last day". What does this have to do with the Eucharist? Paragraph 1402 of the Catechism says that "If the Eucharist is the memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus, if by our communion at the altar we are filled "with every heavenly blessing and grace," then the Eucharist is also an anticipation of the heavenly glory."

That's right. Jesus says, "I will raise him on the last day because the Eucharist is very closely related to heaven. The activity that we do every weekend (Mass), which some Catholics find boring, is truly a snapshot of heaven. Perhaps what makes heaven so great is that God gives himself to us (even though we have done nothing to deserve his love) and like we do during Mass, the holy souls in heaven respond to God by acknowledging his greatness in never-ending praise. Can you believe that the same thing happens at Sunday Mass? God gives himself to us eternally, and we respond in praise (even our attendance is pleasing to him) and thanksgiving. At communion, we experience a real union with God as he becomes one with us and his divinity enters our bodies which can only happen because God has sanctified us through baptism.

When Jesus said, "Do this in memory of me", he didn't just mean that he wanted us to remember him. He was telling us to celebrate the Mass; to break bread with one another. And of course part of Mass includes an invitation to participate in communion. We have an opportunity to respond to the invitation to holy communion as Mary responded- "Behold, I am the servant (handmaid) of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

Because the Lord cares so much about us, he gives himself to us at Mass. He does this because he loves us.

Read more about the Eucharist

Reading 1
1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading II
Eph 4:30—5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma

Friday, July 17, 2009

"I Feel Lost"- Mass Readings For July 19, 2009

Do you ever feel lost? Do you ever feel alone? The readings and commentary this week address these concerns. They dig into what causes us to get lost in the first place. There is commentary following the first reading.

Reading 1

Jer 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
"The LORD our justice."

Separated From God and One Another

In the first reading, God warns the bad shepherds who have "mislead" the people and scattered" them. The Lord says "You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds." The implication here seems to be that bad shepherds commit evil deeds and those evil deeds mislead and cause "scattering". The Catechism echoes this belief in paragraph 817 which states "The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism1- do not occur without human sin". The Catechism here reminds us that sin causes disunity (division).

The fact is that sin ALWAYS involves disunity and separation. Picture Adam who reached for the apple because he wanted to be "like God", but without God (separation).2 "In sin, man seeks to attain his goal without God."3 This reminds me of a child who in defiance of his parents breaks his hand away and walks into traffic without his parents. Typically when we commit sins like stealing, drunkeness, sexual sin, dishonesty, and cheating, we are not interested in doing these sins with God at our side. In our hearts, we might say something like, "I'm just going to sin a little bit, I can do without God for a brief moment." In doing so, we willingly separate from God.

Our sins not only separate us from God, but cause disruptions in ALL of our relationships. And that is the state of many of our lives. Many of us walk amongst a "vast crowd" which is divided and unguided. Sin separates us from God AND each other.

It is also important that we realize that in encouraging others to sin, we separate them from God as well. When we cause others to sin, our just God says, "You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds."

The Good Flock and the Good Shepherd

But clearly, God makes a distinction between the bad shepherds and the "remnant of his flock". It is up to us which group we will walk with. For those who have chosen to be in the Lord's flock, God says "I myself will gather [them], and I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble." Despite the wretched condition that sinners have put themselves into, God shows his desire to help, to guide, and to provide security for us- his "flock".

The Gospel reading, involves nearly the exact same situation. There are people in need of a shepherd. The difference is that in the Gospel situation, we see the fulfillment of God's promise of appointing shepherds and raising up a righteous, and just King. The gospel reminds us that the apostles are appointed shepherds and that Jesus is the King described in the first reading. We should take particular note of Jesus' reaction to the "vast crowd" who were "like sheep without a shepherd". Despite the pitiful condition of the flock, Jesus looks at them with pity. Pity can be defined as "sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy"4. So despite the fact that we are sinners, we need only read this gospel to know what God thinks of us and our sinful situation. He is hurt by our suffering, and in his mercy, he wants to help us. He looks at us with pity.

Ultimately, the readings this week teach us a simple and important lesson. We feel lost because we ARE lost. We are lost because of sin. Division and separation are natural consequences of sin. We need someone to guide us. God knows that we are lost. He cares that we are lost, and he desires to lead us into heaven.

This responsorial psalm is perhaps one of the most common ones at Mass. There is a reason for this. This responsorial psalm is the prayer of a soul who notices Jesus' look of pity and realizes Jesus' goodness. The soul then puts great trust in the Lord and says, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want."

a related blog "Nice Guys Go To Heaven?"

1-schism means separation from Church because of doctrinal difference
2-Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 398
3-CCC 415

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading II
Eph 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
"Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Who Should We Evangelize?

Often times when I am hanging out with fellow Christians, we end up talking about evangelizing others. People say things like, "I'm trying to bring my co-worker to Christ" or "my dad's a non-believer and I'm trying to convert him." On the surface it sounds great. Many believers feel so loved by God that they want to share this love with others. But here is the question: are we really being sincere in our desire to evangelize?

Not only do we need to question our sincerity, but we also need to learn how to go about "making disciples of all nations" as Matthew Chapter 28 says. That's what this week's readings are all about. God addresses an important Christian topic: evangelization. Let's begin with the 2nd reading. The other readings will come after the commentary.

Reading II (From July 5th Mass)
2 Cor 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Preaching to Difficult People

All 3 readings this week involve someone trying to evangelize amidst opposition. In the first reading, it's Ezekiel trying to evangelize the Israelites. In the Gospel, it's Jesus and the people of his native place (Nazareth). In this reading, it's Paul who is trying to evangelize. In all 3 readings, the "preachers" encounter difficulty, but it is the 2nd reading that talks about the difficulty in detail and teaches a critical lesson in Christianity.

Paul is suffering from a "thorn in the flesh". This Hebrew expression is similiar to "thorn in my side" and typically refers to a person.1 And so it is very likely that Paul is encountering difficulty because of some person. And it's not just a little bit of difficulty. Paul describes EXTREME difficulty. After all, his "three times" of begging that the "thorn" might leave him is similar to Jesus' thrice request that his Father let the "cup" of the passion pass Jesus by.

In modern language, I would say that Paul is suffering because of a difficult person. Jesus' reply to Paul's cry for help is "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." Notice that Jesus does not take away the suffering that Paul is encountering. Paul's "weaknesses" are his "hardships" and his "constraints". And so, Jesus is essentially saying, "I will not take these difficulties from you Paul because it is these difficulties which will perfect you and it is through these difficulties that my "power" is revealed/given fully to you."

Our Difficulty Can Lead to Christ and Heaven

Just how does that work? Well, just like Jesus in Gethsamane, Paul persists in his mission despite extreme difficulty (an extremely difficult person in this case). His persistence shows not only that Paul is sincere, but his persistence and perserverance allow him to participate in a GIANT opportunity to imitate Christ.

Everywhere Christ went, there were annoying, difficult people, and often times these people wanted to kill him. His best friends (disciples) bailed out on him at his execution, and the respected rabbis hated him. Everywhere he went, he was mocked and tested. Jesus' motivation was to help people. His motivation was not to make himself feel good. But it is in these difficult moments that we can see the sincerity of Jesus' love. For instance, he prays for the people who had just pounded nails through his innocent hands, for example. Jesus did not let personal pain and threats (understatement) stop him from loving people.

And so Jesus knew that Paul's difficulty would perfect Paul and make him strong. That's why Jesus didn't take away Paul's difficulties.

Sincerity and Difficulty

Again, most Christians have a desire to evangelize.This week's readings test our sincerity. Will we only help easy-to-love people or will we seek to help the "thorns" in our lives? This week's readings also give us insight into what difficulty really is.

Through this week's readings we can see that Paul is just like any other person in that he encountered both difficulty and difficult people. Like most Christians, he had a hard time and asked God to take away his difficulty. But God knew that Paul's difficulty was not an obstacle, but rather a doorway and a means through which Paul's faith would be strengthened. Again, difficulties are not obstacles to life, they are the means through which we can experience eternal life (the kind of life that matters most) if we react the way Paul eventually did and the way that Jesus always did when he faced difficulty.

Paul was illuminated through this experience. Through this incident, Paul and we are shown the mind and the love of God. Acts of sincere love allow us to see people with the eyes of Christ, who views every difficult person not as an obstacle, but as a dignified person worth saving no matter how challenging it is. Once again, God opens our eyes because he loves us.

Where We Can Go From Here

Every Gospel is a call to action, not a call to nod our heads in agreement. So here's what we need to do:

* thank God in all things. Our trials, difficulties, annoyances, and sufferings are gifts to us

* we must seek to serve others no matter how difficult the circumstance or the people.

* we must pray more. The first reading (below) says that Ezekiel embarked on his evangelical mission AFTER he spoke to God. Paul came to understand one of the most important lessons of his life through a conversation with God. We must pray more. Praying 120 seconds every day (30 seconds for each meal and 30 seconds before bed) is not enough for us to stay in touch with God and his plan for our lives. We must talk to God constantly and at length!!!!

God loves us- a lot.

1-I learned this from the footnotes in the New American Bible

Reading 1
Ez 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.

Mk 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, "Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?"
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house."
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

click here for more commentary on suffering

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How To Eliminate Fear

Fear is a strange thing. Our fears affect our every day lives. We fear embarrassment and so we exaggerate or lie in order to avoid being embarrassed. In fear of angering a friend, sometimes we fail to give him/her the advice that we know he/she needs. We fear being criticized, and so we are hesitant to present our ideas to others. In extreme cases, people have such great fear that they take their own lives.

No one wants to live a life of fear. This week's Gospel speaks of fear and how to overcome it. Would you like to know how to overcome fear? Read this brief gospel.


Mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let us cross to the other side."
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?"
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
"Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

The disciples were lifetime fishermen. A squall came up that was so violent that the disciples were TERRIFIED. This squall, which was violent enough to TERRIFY professional fishermen, must have been pretty serious. When they awoke Jesus, he sad to them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?". In these few words, Jesus suggests that if they DID have faith, they would not be terrified.

Jesus says here that fear comes from lack of faith. How does lack of faith make us afraid? Why don't we have faith? How do we get faith and how do we hold on to it? Before we answer these questions, we must see what/who controls everything.

The Power of God

Most people understand the power that water has. For instance, in hurricanes it is flooding (water) that causes most of the deaths. Over 100,000 people were killed in the 2004 Tsunamis in Asia. Yet ironically, water is also necessary for life to be sustained. In the Gospel and in the first reading, God makes it quite clear that he has power over water and in doing so, he communicates to us that it is HE who has power over all things including life and death.

The disciples knew that Jesus was powerful. After all, Jesus had already cured many people at this point in the Gospel of Mark. He had also showed that he had power over demons and even the power to forgive sins. It was a known fact among Jews that only God could forgive sins.1


And so, perhaps it was not Jesus' power that they doubted, but rather Jesus' concern for them. After all, the disciples accuse him of not caring when they ask," do you not CARE that we are perishing?" We Christians do the exact same thing today. Terrible things happen including the deaths of our loved ones and because we can't see God, we ask "do you not care Lord? Where is God? (perhaps he is asleep?)"

But our Christian faith tells us that "the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company."2 We often doubt God during hard times and wonder just as the disciples wondered about Jesus saying, "is he going to help us?" Our faith replies, "of course God is going to help us! God CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN SPECIFICALLY TO HELP US!"

This is a great of example of how lack of faith creates fear. If we truly believed what our faith professes, namely that God loves us and wants to save us, then there is NOTHING to fear. Our faith assures us that God cares about us. And not only does he care, he has the power to help us. Our faith says that God has power over life and death. That's what he is expressing to both Job and the disciples in this week's readings.

How Lack of Faith Creates Fear

The Catechism says that in faith, we believe EVERYTHING that God has revealed to us.3What has God revealed to us and how does this relate to fear? Let's use the Apostle's Creed as a guide to our faith:

* "For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven"- If we do not believe these words, then we believe that we are alone. Or else we believe that God does not "care" about our salvation. And where does that leave us? It leaves us alone and AFRAID. We must believe our faith and our fear will subside.

* "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead"- Remember how we fear embarrassment and being criticized? Our faith tells us that God will come in glory as our judge. If God is our judge, why the heck should we fear the criticism and judgment of others? We shouldn't! God is our judge, we needn't fear the judgment of men. Our faith in God protects us from this irrational fear.

* "We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins". Did you ever notice how everyone hates to see themselves on camera? Most of us are afraid of others seeing us on camera. But even greater than that this fear is the fear that others might find out the terrible things we have done. Would we not be terrified if everyone knew our darkest secrets and sins? Our faith tells us that the only real judge that exists offers the forgiveness of sins. Our faith tells us that our sins can be forgiven. God himself offers us forgiveness of our sins and so again our faith shows us that there is nothing to fear. If we DON'T believe this, we remain afraid.

And so, if our faith (which is a gift from God) wipes away our fears, then why are we still afraid? We are afraid to the extent that we do not believe what our faith professes. Our faith is a gift from God. Just like any gift that a person gives, it can be rejected by the recipient. The reason we are afraid is because we reject our faith which is a gift from God.

As Catholics, we believe that we can sin against our faith. As Paul says in 1st Timothy 1:18-19 "Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith." Each time we sin, we profess to God that WE DO NOT BELIEVE. Again, we reject our faith by sinning. The next time I am about to commit a sin, I should ask myself, "do I really want to do this? My faith gives me courage. While this sin will only bring me fear. I would rather do the right thing and stay close to God, my protector"

There is great news But,how can we get it?


Through our baptisms, we have been given faith. We already have it! We are afraid because through sin, we have rejected our faith. The solutions is extremely simple- we must say sorry to God NOW. We must stop sinning now! We will sin again. Every time we do sin, we must say sorry to God and return to him. And therein lies the ultimate solution to fear-remaining with God. Remember that God is all powerful. He loves us. Without him, we are so very AFRAID. We must stick with God. We can stick with him (have him in our boat) by obeying his commandments. In obeying the commandments, we profess WITH OUR ACTIONS that we believe. And what does our faith do? It wipes away fear. Isn't that what we want?

The Catechism offers us practical advice about faith: "To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith." In other words, we can nourish our faith by reading the Bible and the Catechism (which contains the entirety of what Catholics believe). I have to ask myself these questions: "How often do I read the Bible? When is the last time I read the Catechism? Have I ever prayed to God for faith? When was the last time I did that?"


* Fear rules the lives of MANY people
* Fear is caused by lack of faith
* God loves us and he wants to save us. That's why Jesus came
* Faith comes from God as a gift
* We can either accept or reject this gift of Faith
* Now that we have faith (the key to erasing fear) we must not sin against our faith
* In order to nourish our precious gift of faith, we must read the Bible and the Catechism
* We should ask God to increase our faith

God DOES care about us. In fact, he loves us. Do you believe?

1-Mark 2:7
2-Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 162
3-CCC 150

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Welcome to Your Real Family

Have you ever seen the movie "August Rush"? In the movie, a little boy longs to find his parents and ultimately finds them with tremendous joy. Every person wants to belong to a happy family. Every person wants a home. This week's Mass readings speak of the family that every soul longs for, and reminds us how to enter that family. Please read the 2nd Reading and the Gospel. They are both very short. Commentary follows the Gospel. The first reading and the Psalms are after the commentary.

Reading II
Rom 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Mt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

God's Greatness and Love

In the first reading, Moses talks about how incredible it is that God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by miraculous means. He says that, "This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other." Moses has a pretty good point here. The 2nd Reading on the other hand, reminds us that God does something even more extraordinary than a rescue by miracles. He offers to adopt us into his family.

Some people want to be a part of a great family. Perhaps they want to be members of powerful political families or members of the royal family in England. But God offers us something much greater than this. He welcomes us into the GREATEST family. The head of THIS family did much more than create an Earthly kingdom like Rome or the English empire. He created the universe! Is there another family whose head created the universe? Paul reminds us of how to enter God's family in the 2nd Reading when he talks about "those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God". Here, he makes a reference to baptism. In baptism, God adopts us into his family.1 It is only through baptism that we are literally changed and then live anew "led by the Spirit".

Through baptism we become God's heirs. When we think of the word "heir", what comes to mind? "Heir" makes me think of someone who will inherit something. So in baptism, what is it that we inherit? Through baptism, we are given the grace to enter heaven2 and we share in "the priesthood of Christ in his prophetic and royal mission."3 In other words, through baptism we inherit Jesus' MISSION.

The Great Mission

Here we clearly see Jesus calling the baptized to the "priesthood in his prophetic and royal mission". It is not necessary for us to be the original apostles to understand this. In fact, we ARE apostles of God today. In the Gospel, Jesus clearly reminds us of what God's intentions are for mankind when he says, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". God intentions towards all people is that they be joined to him as adopted sons and daughters. We, who have inherited Jesus' mission are expected to make disciples out of everyone.

Take Courage

Just as the 2nd reading says, the Holy Spirit whom God has given us is not a spirit of fear. In other words, we are members of God's family, and in God's family, there is no reason to be afraid. And since we are truly adopted children of God, we can call God "Father" as Paul says in the 2nd reading.

The good news about joining Christ's priesthood and mission is that we don't have to be scared about being ill-equipped. God himself equips us for our Christian mission through the sacraments. In the second reading, Paul speaks of us "suffering" with Christ and being "glorified with him". The Catechism says that "Believers who respond to God's word and become members of Christ's Body, become intimately united with him: "In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification." This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ's death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which "really sharing in the body of the Lord, . . . we are taken up into communion with him and with one another." (paragraph 790). All this means is that we CAN undertake this mission because God helps us through the sacraments.

The Highest Purpose

God's evangelical mission for us is a great mission and the best we could ever have. Christ's request that we bring others into his loving family is the highest purpose that any person can have. As Christians, we must be thankful for this honorable mission and we must take courage because God gives us the equipment (the sacraments) to undertake this great mission. Jesus says in the Gospel, "behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Let's keep that in mind when we go to Mass. Let us remember our mission every time we make the Sign of the Cross. Let's think of how God keeps his promise of remaining with us each time we take the consecrated host in our mouths.

In the Gospel reading, the disciples saw Jesus after his crucifixion "but they doubted". At Mass, let us not doubt but rather believe that Jesus is "with us always, until the end of the age." We belong to the holiest, most powerful, most loving family EVER because................

God loves us

Real Life

I just returned from Vietnam, where I met my mom's side of the family for the first time. They were so loving to me from the first moment they saw me. My older cousin (whose face I'd never seen before) was glowing when she greeted us. She hugged us as though she had known us for a long time. She later showed me her poor home. My heart ached when I saw her little shack, which sits atop a pool of dirty, foul-smelling water. She cried as she told me about how water enters her house when it rains (it rains nearly every day in Vietnam). She also wept as she told me how unacceptable her house was for her 17-year old daughter to live in.

In the end, a Catholic family decided to buy a house for my cousin and her family. You see, my mom's family has not been baptized (they are Buddhists). During my trip, I constantly thought about how I wanted them to be baptized. I pray that my poor relatives in Vietnam see the face of God through the people who are helping them financially. I do have great confidence that my cousin's new sponsors will remain strong because those sponsors are sustained by God through the sacraments.

some kids outside of my cousin's house

the interior of my cousin's house

my cousin holding my 2nd cousin

me with some kids near my cousin's house

me in my cousin's house

my brother and some kids

me about to eat a strange Vietnamese fruit

1- Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1270 & 804
2- We can still destroy our opportunity to go to heaven by sinning seriously (persistence in mortal sin to the end of our lives)
3- CCC 1268

Reading 1
Dt 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people:
"Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever."

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

R. (12b) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
For he spoke, and it was made;
he commanded, and it stood forth.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How To Stay Close To God Forever

For most of my life, I was not a religious person. I was happy and pleasant to most people. Yet I do recall a yearning inside of myself for something meaningful. I yearned for goodness. I wanted peace. Despite the fact that I had nearly everything that I wanted, including good relationships and a decent looking future, it felt like something was missing.

That feeling never went away until I began a relationship with God. Now, my happiness has changed into a more permanent JOY. I do not fear death. I am at peace. I feel more in touch with reality than ever before. Even though life is not perfect, I no longer feel as though that "something" is missing from my life.

And so, God has blessed me because I feel as though I am closely joined to him. This week's readings speak of being joined to Christ. Why would any person want to be joined to Christ? A few good reasons are listed above. So do you want to be joined to Christ? Do you want to live a life in which you are close to God? If so, what does a person need to do in order to stay joined to the Lord? This week's readings offer the answer. The Mass readings are below after the commentary.

If we want to be close to God we must first be baptized so as to receive forgiveness of our sins and to be born anew. This week's commentary will focus on life AFTER baptism. The Gospel reading and the 2nd Reading talk about "remaining" in Christ. In other words, the message in the readings focus more on those who are already connected to Christ. And so, the 2 readings tell us explicitly what we must do to remain in Christ and have him remain in us.

The 2nd reading says that "Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them". So if we keep the commandments, we will remain close to God? Yes! It really is that simple. Why is it this simple?

Reasonable Requests

Many people view God's commandments as rules similar to the rules they must follow at work like "show up to work on time" and "don't use the company car for personal use". But the commandments are not like human "rules". They are more like reasonable requests and invitations made from one person to another. For example, say that I am married. My wife says to me, "I will be 100% faithful to you, please remain faithful to me. I promise to never cheat on you. Do not cheat on me. I promise to never steal from you. Do not steal anything from me. I promise to always tell you the truth. Do not lie to me."

Although her requests can be challenging, they are very reasonable. And what would happen to my relationship with my wife if I always told her the truth? What would happen to our relationship if I never looked at other women lustfully, but rather I looked at my wife with great admiration and respect? Our relationship would grow. Our relationship would strengthen. I would be a happier man. That is God's intention in his commandments.

The commandments are not like human rules. They are reasonable requests from God. Unlike humans, God is 100% faithful and honest with us. God's commandments invite us to love him and each other.

Purpose and Fulfillment

The commandments also fulfill a great longing inside of every human being. Human beings will always inevitably ask this question "what am I supposed to do with my life?" To this, God answers "follow my commandments". When we carry out and live the commandments, our desire for meaning and purpose are answered and fulfilled because when we obey the commandments we are answering a call from God himself. This is why Jesus says, "my yoke is easy, and my burden light."1 His request to us is very simple and reasonable. In our hearts, we wrestle and we dig with great pain searching for meaning and purpose. Jesus responds with great simplicity: "keep my commandments". Paul echoes this is the 2nd reading "Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them." And this is why we feel fulfilled when we obey the commandments- because in doing so, our relationship with God strengthens, and that is the desire of every man, whether he knows it or not.

Let us remember that in following God's commandments, our desire to live meaningful lives is fulfilled. Only after we are baptized and only after we follow the commandments does this feeling of "missing" something in life disappear and is replaced with peace and fulfillment.

Hell and Disconnecting Ourselves From God

Although keeping the commandments and remaining in God fills us with happiness and joy, we can still destroy our relationship with God. In the Gospel reading, Jesus says "Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned." This situation of hell is described throughout the Gospels. Usually, Jesus describes it with words like, "wailing and grinding of teeth", "burning", and descriptions of "fire" and such. In the above paragraphs, I wrote about the happiness and joy of having a relationship of faithfulness, honesty, and righteousness. This happens not because God likes us more when we follow the commandments. It happens because as we follow the commandments, WE draw closer to the Lord.

When we disobey God's commandments (sin), we separate ourselves from him. When we commit serious sin (mortal) we willfully disconnect from God completely.2 Let's go back to this analogy of me and my wife. Suppose I cheat on my wife. This act by its very nature destroys our relationship. The act is a serious offense against my wife. If I persist in cheating, no kind deed will make up for it. It doesn't matter if I buy her flowers, take out the trash, and write happy songs about her. And so, this is what is meant by Jesus in the Gospel reading. This situation of serious sin against God is described in the Gospel where Jesus says, "without me you can do nothing." Mortal sin separates us from God completely and often causes the worst heartbreak a person can feel.

Fortunately, God offers us forgiveness. All we have to do is ask for it and stop sinning, just like the man who stops cheating on his wife. For Catholics, we must go to confession in order to receive forgiveness for our mortal (serious) sins, and fortunately, confession is free of charge.

There is a very popular notion these days that if you are a good person that's all that matters. But make no mistake about it. If I feed the poor, go to Church, and I'm nice most of the time, while committing serious (mortal) sin without an intention to quit, my soul is lost, and no pleasure in the world will make up for it.


Now most people know the feeling of heartbreak. People have been writing songs about heartbreak since writing started. That's because heartbreak hurts so much and it's unforgettable. THE WORST HEATBREAK THAT A PERSON CAN FEEL IS WHEN A PERSON DIVORCES HIMSELF FROM GOD.God is the perfect spouse. The Bible describes Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church (you and me) as the bride. Nothing is worse than being separated from this perfect bridegroom (God). Nothing that a man does to bring himself happiness will make up for this, the highest form of heartbreak.

God is the perfect spouse. He is perfectly honest and perfectly faithful. He invites us to have a perfect relationship with him. He is the vine, we are the branches. All we have to do is follow his very reasonable commandments. God reveals himself through his commandments. He reveals his desire for us. He desires that we love him and each other for eternity- with happiness and joy.

God loves us!

1- Matthew 11:30
2- CCC 1861

P.S. One of the most common mortal sins I can think of is the sin of premarital sex. Please read about this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2390. If you had sex outside of marriage and have not confessed, I beg you to go to confession right now, and vow to never do it again until marriage. No fleeting physical pleasure is worth an eternity without our beloved God- the only true BEST FRIEND we have.

Reading II
1 Jn 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

Jn 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

Reading 1
Acts 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he was a disciple.
Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,
and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,
and that he had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,
and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.
He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.
And when the brothers learned of this,
they took him down to Caesarea
and sent him on his way to Tarsus.

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

R. (26a) I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
"May your hearts live forever!"
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
all the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.