Lenten retreat @st. JPII Parish. Pawtucket, RI. March 14, 2022 

My friends, 

Do you remember how you used to look to the future with fire in your belly, feeling that anything was possible? 

Do you remember how you used to think anything was possible with the help of God?  

Do you remember the time when you used to always see the glass half full, hopeful, full of life?  

Do you remember the times when someone asked you–“what do you want to be when you grow up? your eyes would light up; you’d enumerate so many dreams and hopes you had?  

Yes, I’m talking about that time in your teenage years when life was green, life was pink, life was delicious… 

Yes, I’m talking about that time after college when you were smart and you knew it; you had vision, you felt unconquered and unconquerable… 

Yes, I am taking about that time when you used to take your faith seriously; prayer was fruitful; going to church was delightful; God was palpable….  

Now, you don’t dare anything; you don’t long for much. You act defeated and you think defeated. 

You act trapped. You act as if youre caged in. 

Here’s my question to you— 

What has happened to that dreamy you, that hopeful you, that fearless you, that strong you, that decisive you—? When did you stop believing that everything was possible? 

In spiritual direction, I often ask someone—what are your plans, dreams, what do you want to accomplish, what do you live for? What would you die for? Deep down, I know what I am up against when the answer is ‘huh, nothing really’. In some way, they are lost; and they have no map; they have no memory, no vision, no desire beyond the ordinary. They are retired before retiring! Does any of this speak to your reality?  

What happened to you?  

Did the divorce smash your hope in humanity, and even in yourself?  

Did that one failure redefine your entire life?  

Is it due to that person who has hurt you so deeply that you feel like you can never recover?  

Is that sin still holding you back? 

Is it due to that guilt that keeps weighing you down even if it’s been 5, 10, 20, 30 years?  

What happened to you? When did life stop being excited? When did you stop dreaming, hoping, …? 

Is it due to that sickness that holds you back preventing you from any longtime commitment?  

Is it those voices, those people that keep telling you over and over again– ‘you can’t; you’re not worthy; you’re not smart enough? You’re not strong enough…’? what is it? 

What happened to you? If you cant answer that qyestion, youre halfway healed, free? 

Today, I’m here to tell you this—listen up–  no matter what had happened in your past they don’t define you; they don’t tell your entire story—God is the one that tells your story.  

I mean your failure, that letdown, that abandonment, that mistake, that struggle—that’s just a line, a paragraph, a page, a chapter in the masterful story that God is writing about you.  

That situation you face –it’s only a second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year in the beautiful tapestry of the story that God is writing about you. Stop acting as if they are the author of your life’s story; they are not; God is. And he is not done writing your story. God is not done with me—repeat with me. Say it as if you believe it. You’re still the pen in his hand and he’s still writing.  

So, only what God wrote about you matters.  

So, the question becomes then– What does he write about you? Because its important to know this—what I say about you doesn’t matter in the end. What your friends say about doesn’t matter at all. What the world says about has no bearing on you. Even what you say about you doesn’t matter—you don’t know you fully, really. They definitely don’t know you. Only what God says matters. Who knows a piece of art better than the artist who made it? God created, planned, handpicked you, knows you thru and thru. Only what he says about you matters, really. 

What does he say about you? 

You are chosen, destined, consecrated, made holy before the beginning of the world to the hymn/ symphony/ song/ for his glory. That’s your story. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you. You have access to God’s wisdom. You are reconciled to God. You are not condemned by God. You have been completely forgiven. You are tenderly loved. You are a sweet fragrance of Christ to God. That’s your identity; this is who you are.  

You are a branch attached to the fruitful, juicy, delicious vine that he is. You are the temple in which God dwells. You are light and salt of the earth. You are a joint heir with Christ. you share in the inheritance of Christ. you are united to the Lord and form one spirit with him. You are a member of the body of Christ. you are a living stone in Christ being built up on the foundation. You are a chosen race. You form a royal priesthood. You are a holy nation/ family. You are a people/ family chosen by the Lord. This is your complete story. most of the chapters of your life speak about that reality.   

There’s more! You have the mind of Christ. you can approach Christ in the boldness, freedom and confidence of a child. I have been rescued from Satan’s domain and transferred into the kingdom of Christ. you have been made complete in Christ.  you have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind. You are royalty in God’s kingdom. You are free from any condemning power spoken against me. I am confident that the good work started in me will be brought to completion. That, my brothers and sisters, is the victorious story that God has spoken over you. That’s what defines you. 

Yes, I am taking about that time after your marriage—you used to cook, dance, sing, laugh, go for a walk together, enjoy everything together… life was wild. 

Let me conclude with the words of St. Paul– 

Ephesians 1:18-23– “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, [that power which is] far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. by that power, God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

Here’s what I’d like you to reflect on in the next 15 minutes in silence—what would you do today if you know no matter what you do, you cannot fail? 

St. Joseph: Model for Young Man, Husbands, and Fathers!

It’s very telling that this silent man, this man about whom little is known has countless cathedrals, shrines, schools, cities, streets, millions of people, churches, chapels named in his honor. There is more! He is the Patron saint of the universal Church, patron of a happy death, Patron saint of Workers, and he is known as the “Guardian of the Redeemer. In the documents of the Church, only the Blessed Mother is mentioned more frequently than Joseph. Almost all the major saints had a devotion to him.

Here’s the first lesson— though very few may know your name, though you may never go viral, though you may not be very educated, tough your life may be lived in the shadow, though you may feel unimportant, although almost all of you will never be known for the hard work you do, if you allow God to take the driver’s seat in the car of your life, your reward will be warranted. Your name will be written in the book of life; your legacy will be extensive and expansive. You can still be impactful and influential.

 So, whatever vocation the Lord had entrusted to you, do your job! Live your vocation to its fullest magnitude! Be faithful in season and out of season! Don’t live it halfway. Do it better than Michelangelo can paint the Sistine chapel. Do it better than Andrea Bocelli sings the prayer. Do it better than Shakespeare can write a poem. If you do it that way, although no one may take notice of you, your name will never be forgotten. Generation after generation will honor you! God will honor you!

Point 2– Fathers are not born; they are made. You become a father through trial and, often, much error. Studies are not lacking over the past several decades on the role of fathers and the negative impact of absentee fathers on children. In fact, we are in the midst of a crisis of fatherhood. You know the numbers: 1 in 4 kids growing up in America today without a father in the home. 

Per report of the dept of justice, that has disastrous impact on children

  • 63% of youth that committed suicides are from absentee or fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway youths are….
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders….
  • 71%of all high school dropouts…..
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions…..
  • 75% of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers…..
  • 75% of rapists motivated by displaced anger….
  • 75% less likely to practice the faith….

St. Joseph reminds us why there is no substitute for a good and loving father. Strive then to be a man of honor, not just integrity. Assume responsibility for your mistakes. Admit when you’re wrong… its ok to say youre sorry to your kids. Go back and try again. Know that you’re not your child’s best friends. Learn how to criticize them and give them feedback without hurting them. Learn how to affirm them. Build them up and give them confidence. Ask questions. Check how they are really doing often. That’s how you become a father….

But still St. Joseph beckons us to ask: how do we avoid that our children become a statistic? Thru ideas, incentives, practical applications, stimuli, rewards, examples, models, symbols, reflections, encouragement, dialogue and a constant rethinking of our way of doing things.

Lesson? Strive to give your children everything you can — education, a decent home, character, time, love and hugs and kisses, but know that God, faith and religion come first. If you do that, the crises of fatherhood will be greatly mitigated. We are all in some way responsible. Do your part!

Point 3. The gospel tells us that Joseph found out that Mary was with child and he did not know how since they had had no relations. Obviously, that must have been very distressful. Although by law, he is required to report him to the authorities, which would mean death, Joseph rather was looking for a way to dismiss her quietly in order not to cause any harm to her dignity. He did not call her names.…. he certainly did not beat her up or abuse her….  He remained a man of God even in the midst of this confusing imbroglio.

What do we see here

Through his quiet service and gentle strength, St. Joseph proposes to us a convincing vision of authentic masculinity; it is vision quite different from the one proposed by our culture today. Where our culture often tells men they must be dominant, Joseph is meek and humble, ever listening and attentive to the needs of others. Where our culture paints a picture of the quintessential man as powerful and aggressive, Joseph shows us a man that uses his inner strength for the protection of the vulnerable. Where our culture wants to use women’s bodies as a sexual tool to take advantage of whenever possible, Joseph shows us the dignity of women transcends their bodies. 

He teaches us most importantly how to break up with a woman; he teaches how to love them even when we fail to understand them. He teaches us that even when we know we are right, we do not to be pompous about it…. He teaches how we deal with a difficult situation reveals more about us than about the other person. He teaches to respect their feminine genius in them.

Lesson— Strive to live the virtue of magnanimity—greatness of soul—it’s the virtue that raises all the others to the highest virtue. The stretching forth of the person toward excellence. Joseph comes to realize that the Lord has gifted him with the greatest responsibility and decided to stretch forth that responsibility to the highest level. Husbands—you have been granted a unique responsibility of leading your wife and your children to heaven. The lesson from Joseph here is this—the best way to succeed in this is to prioritize our relationship with God.

Confirmation Homily

Dear candidates, If I give you $50 billion, what would you do with it?….. feed a lot people, buy a house, car, help your parish, private airplane….  

Well, you won’t be given money today— but when I put that Chrism oil on your forehead and say “Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” at that very moment, you will receive power/ grace/ gift/ a special mission; a mission more valuable than any amount of money anyone can give you; a power and mission that will turn you and others into tools into the hands of the Almighty God; a power and mission no one, nothing can ever take away from you, if you don’t allow them. 

You will receive mission from on high like 

  • St. Jude to give hope to the hopeless and despairing… to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to family and strangers alike.
  • Aaron in the Old Testament to be set apart only for the service of God and to offer your life as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord.  
  • StJoseph to respond to Gods call even when you don’t understand everything. 
  • St. Michael to fight for and defend God when other people say he doesn’t exist or he’s not real. 
  • St. Catherine of Siena to set the world on fire and to bring peace and unity where there’s division. 
  • StDymphna to stand up with those who suffer mentally, spiritually and marginalized. 
  • St. Augustus Tolston to shine, to give taste, to love even when you face unjust opposition from those who are supposed to raise you up. 
  • StLuke to put Jesus before your job, family and friend and even yourself. 
  • Josephine Bakhita not to allow your past, and your hurts to define who you can become through the power of forgiveness and healing. 

These are the saints you have chosen as your confirmation name. They are stars in the skies of our lives because they lived their God-given mission. Imitating them is recipe for greatness.

These powers, this mission, the grace, the gift you will receive today are not yours to keep; they are given to you to heal, transform, gather and serve others. use them they multiply. Don’t use them you lose them. As simple as that!

As the second reading says, God gives them to you to

  • Show compassion to the suffering around you. 
  • Exercise purity in a world that tries to devalue it. 
  • Bring hope and positivity in a world devoid of hope.
  • Forgive even when someone hurts you. 
  • Speak up for the right thing. 
  • Do the right thing even when everyone around you is doing the wrong thing. 
  • Fight for life from conception to natural death.
  • Practice non-violence though violence can be so much easier, to give back to your community.
  • Become selfless servants.
  • Make your faith the light in your decisions.
  • Become a leader in your schools, workplace, and family
  • Become involved in church and in society in the name of God, to turn the other cheek.
  • Go to confessions often, to give yourself a new start.
  • Practice humility, which is the way to the mountaintop.
  • Choose joy even when complaining, sarcasm and cynicism are easier. 
  • Always strive to receive Jesus in a state of grace. Grace makes you better at everything you do.
  • Become priests and religious sisters and good married men and women.
  • Never stop practicing your faith because that’s. 

That’s the potentials you will have in your hands from this day forward. 

These gifts, my fellow young friends, are more powerful, most magnificent, more explosive, more sublime than any amount of money anyone can give you. Why? Because 

  • Money can’t change people’s hearts, these power from on high can. 
  • Money doesn’t last, these do. money can’t buy you happiness, these can. 
  • Money can’t solve your issues, these can.
  • Money can’t take away your fears and inner insecurities, these can. 
  • Money can’t give you a holy family, church community and neighborhood, these can. 
  • Money certainly can’t get you to heaven, these will. 

The awesome gifts you will be receiving today can do infinitely more than you can think or imagine, let them be unleashed in you! They are the secret to both a successful Christian and a secular life. Choosing them will bring happiness. Not choosing them will hurt your and a lot of people. Choose well! 

A Medieval Speaks to Moderns!

A medieval woman of the 14th century who speaks with eloquence and compelling authority to 21st century modernists, a mystic with feet on the ground, an apostle not an intellectual, a preacher not a scholar, a gifted, charming, graciousness, affable master of human affairs, a stupefyingly free spirit, and possessive of an explosive personality. Saint Catherine of Siena is a voice to be reckoned with. She’s like certain book– not attractive at first glimpse, but once you start to read her, she becomes contagiously adventurous.

Every worthy influencer has master ideas that constitute the fabric of her life. In the case of Catherine, it is freedom, self-knowledge, and shadow. I intend to summarize what she meant by these 3 terms.

If St. Francis of Assisi was married to Lady Poverty, Catherine’s spouse is Lady Freedom. her primary concern was people’s liberation. As an acutely student of human nature, most people are in bondage due to the evil of corruption, vices, pride, envy; they are addicted to success, honor, debauchery, power, ideologies etc. the principal reason for these bondages is fear: fear of what others might think, fear of ourselves, fear of being judged, rejection, fear of suffering, spiritual and moral failures. As she sees it, when these winds gather strength and start attacking us from within, we become trees of death rather than trees of life.

The power of free will

We must understand that the greatest gift given to humanity is freedom to choose. No one and nothing can take our freedom from us if we don’t allow them. no one can force us to commit the slightest sin. Our free will is like a pickaxe. It can overcome any difficulty. We have no excuse to sin. This godlike power was lost at the fall of Adam and eve, but wonderfully restored by Christ. By this power, we are masters of ourselves and the world. We are kings and queens, lords and ladies, a little less than God himself. Our freedom was given to lead to human flourishing. Its purpose is to empower us to choose the good and the true, a window of unity to God, and to serve others. But unfortunately, freedom is in chains/ bondage.

How to regain our freedom? She suggests something similar to St. Paul in Roman 7. It’s only the tender, pure, straightforward love of God revealed in Christ that can rescue us from the slavery of sins. We need to be a manly man who advances courageously to the battlefield. We must run to Christ crucified like a fearful child running to his mother’s arm. If we run our life on the grace of God, then we will become truly free. In her words, “if you want to be relieved of your burdens and infirmities, keep your eyes on the slain lamb so that the fire of his charity may warm your heart and soul”.

Catherine’s second master idea is self-knowledge. There are 2 sides in the journey to self-discovery. On one hand, we are made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ. This is our grandeur and dignity. This makes us a little less than the angels. On the other hand, she discovers there is an ugly, stubborn, weak, stunted, and wretched side to us. we come to this clear-eyed discovery only by gazing both within ourselves and above and beyond ourselves i.e. into “the gentle mirror of God”. so, we are the middle between greatness and nothingness, earthly and heavenly, light and darkness, the angels and the beasts. Catherine understands this perfectly when God spoke to her thus, “do you know who you are and who I am?… You are she who is not and I am He who is”. This is true for all of us. That means just like “a nothing” cannot achieve anything, we – a nothing—cannot accomplish without utterly depending on God. as Catherine puts it,

“I am a foolish and wretched creature while you are supreme goodness. I am death and you are life. I am darkness and you are light. I am ignorance and you are wisdom. You are infinite and I am finite. I am sick and you are the doctor. I am a weak sinner who has never loved you [as you deserve].”

Without this “night of self-knowledge”, without the constant back and forth between knowledge of God and self-knowledge, there’s only confusion, and real freedom remains impossible. Also, the reality of our lives must be envisioned not within the lens of self, but within the infinite power, goodness, and love of God for we are dirty, but he is the ocean. The measure of greatness is the capacity to see ourselves in that mirror.

The third master idea from Catherine is “don’t be afraid to face your shadow”. Face your shadows, or else they will hunt you later. By shadows, she meant facing our past hurts and wounds, hidden faults, garbage and package we carry within from our childhood, breakups, divorces, abuse etc. When we fail to acknowledge our shadowy self, we project them on others without being aware of it. i.e. we overreact, we get angry for little to nothing, we think less of ourselves, we remain closed in, etc because deep down we are hurt. The reality is– hurt people hurt people. Catherine urges us to deal with them because they will emerge when we are least ready for them such as in marriages, jobs, ministry, relationships, etc.

How to deal with them

Bring them to Jesus in prayer i.e. revisit that situation and explain it in details to Jesus. Do it at least 3 times and let it soak in into the unconditional love and mercy of Jesus the physician. Second, bring them to spiritual direction. Sometimes, we need an experienced, well-versed person to open our eyes to what life can be. Third, bring it to counseling. A good counselor helps to name the problem and compartmentalize it, which makes it easily to deal with it.

Lest we forgot how difficult it could be to revisit past hurts, Catherine reminds us that to successfully confront the shadowy self is an achievement of its own.

Let it Speak!

Beauty! What a contagious, intoxicating, captivating thing! Whoever you are, no matter what your experience may be, beauty gets your attention. Beauty is the overpowering one. It is impossible to ignore it. That’s why it is one of the best means of evangelization. I may not be able to get you through arguments (truth), I may not be able to get you through my goodness (the good), but spend enough time with me, I’ll get you through the beautiful (beauty). That’s why the church has always been a friend of the art in her efforts to evangelize. She sees art and artists as a worker in the vineyard helping her to echo the gospel to every creature. That’s what the best advertisers are usually masters of the arts.ppp

Throughout history religious people and the church have always been patrons of the art. That’s why the Church, through St. John Damascene, in the 8th and 9th centuries, vehemently opposed “the iconoclast crisis” i.e. the destruction of work of art. Many of the Church Fathers were artists and poets. In fact, When the Edict of Constantine in 313 declared Christianity tolerable, work of art became a privileged means of conveying the faith. Majestic basilicas, shrines, chapels, stain glass windows, paintings, sculptures depicting passages from scripture began to appear. What does the Church understand by this? You cannot argue with beauty. It is too appealing.

Pope Paul VI spoke of artists in lofty terms when he refreshingly told them, “We need you; we need your collaboration to carry out our ministry of… preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. We need you because in this activity … you are masters. We need you to make accessible … treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and to clothe them in words, colors, forms graspable to all. Deprived of your assistance, our ministry would become faltering and uncertain…. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art.” Only experience can tell us if that statement is true, but at least it tells artists how they are seen in the eyes of the church.ddd

In letter to artists, John Paul II echoed to artists where they stand in relation to society “Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers, and mothers…(4). To repeat, at the end of the day, beauty will save us. We need artists to keep producing.

What is the cash-value of art?

I think art helps us in our search for meaning. We can subscribe to anything once we get its meaning. Without beauty, certain meaning cannot be understood. Authentic beauty is not only for the intellectuals. It takes us to a world that we are called to, but can’t get on our own; art and beauty liberate our minds from darkness, transfigure it, and empower it to transcend itself. It’s like being inspired. You suddenly feel empowered to act.

ssArt and beauty, in the words of Plato, give the human person a healthy “shock”, draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and being content with the ‘everyday’; rather, it “reawakens” him, opens afresh the eyes of the heart and mind to experience awe and wonder. Beauty pulls us up.

Finally, beauty is a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. no one should be surprised about this since God is beauty itself. Is it not that beautiful that while we cannot do anything that can benefit God, he still keeps on loving us? Is it not beautiful that while we were the one who ran away, he is the one who went after us? How beautiful it is that God puts up with us though we are the lowest i.e. dumbest of all the rational creatures?ggg

In conclusion, we are al in some way custodians of art and beauty. They speak to our feelings and reasons, touch the individual as well as the collective, call forth our dreams and hopes, and broaden our horizons of knowledge and of human engagement, support them.

Priestly Misunderstanding!

If you are a church news aficionado, you definitely have heard about the synod on the Pan-Amazon region in early 2018.images-1

A little background of the issue on the Amazon

It’s a vast territory with an estimated population of 33.6 million inhabitants, of whom between 2 and 2.5 million are indigenous. The area of the Amazon River extends over 9 countries in South America.

regionIt’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Each community has its own worldview, symbols and meanings, and vision of the future. They know how to adapt to the territory. However, today the scientific community warns of the risks of deforestation of that region. This endangers the survival of the entire ecosystem, biodiversity and the cycle of water vital for the survival of the tropical forest; 17% of the region is deforested already. In addition, the Amazon is an invaluable and fundamental life support systems for air, water, soils, forests and biomass for the whole of the Americas. As of late, it’s becoming a place of pollution-related diseases, drug trafficking, illegal armed groups, alcoholism, violence against women, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and smuggling, organ traffic, sex tourism, the loss of original culture and identity. Many feel we can no longer ignore this is due to a lack of education of the inhabitants. A sustained presence of the Church there can transform that.

Where does Church come in?

How best to evangelize the people of that region? That’s what the Synod was about. To achieve this, some have suggested that the Roman Catholic Church allow the ordination of married men of that region and just for that region.

It was open debate at the Vatican. Faithful Catholics nervously waited what pope Francis would decide; others jumped on the opportunity to promote their agendas. The media buzzed and feasted on the question.


Benedict XVI and Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote a short book entitled From the Depths of our Hearts[1] on priestly celibacy since they could not fathom such a change. It’s just not theological or doctrinally feasible, and not just because it’s a slippery slope.

Cardinal Sarah maintained that ordaining married men to the priesthood would be a pastoral catastrophe, lead to ecclesiological confusion, and obscure our understanding of the priesthood because:

a) A consistent priestly life ontologically requires celibacy. The priest is not a man who performs a sacrificial function, but a man who offered himself as a sacrifice through love. The priest removes himself from worldly bonds to unite himself completely to God so that he can become available for others.[2] Since the priest offered the sacrifice of the Mass, matrimonial bond is impossible since he cannot have two spouses.[3] Sarah points out that the priesthood cannot be understood apart from celibacy. This is not a matter of discipline only; it’s not just a way to make oneself available. It is a mean by which the priest configures himself to Christ. Priesthood involves a total gift of self to the Church as Christ to the Father. It would be unjust to require that of a married man. A married priest would make him a lesser Christ.[4] It is part of the very identity of the priest that he resembles the Bridegroom in whose person he acts in all aspects. Christ emptied himself to the point of death; similarly, celibacy is a self-emptying for God and others. how can a married priests give himself totally when he has to worry about the well-being of his wife and children? How can he put himself in precarious and dangerous situation when he has to secure a good future for his children? The people of the amazon region have the right to a full experience of Christ the Bridegroom. We cannot offer them second-class priests.[5]

indb) It is argued that due to the shortage of priest in the Amazon region, the people are being deprived of the most precious gift Christ left his people—His Body and Blood. Cardinal Sarah addressed that when he clarified for all that the priesthood is neither a right nor an obligation. The Eucharist is an unmerited gift, not an obligation. Such obsessions are the product of ideologies developed by sorcerer’s apprentices exploiting the distress of the voiceless. In strong language, Sarah maintained that we cannot tamper with the doctrine of the priesthood and celibacy in order to tailor-make a response to the felt or alleged needs of some extreme pastoral situations. Celibacy is a driving force that makes evangelization and missionary credible. Ordaining married men to the priesthood would discredit their missionary motives. A man does not become a priest because it is necessary to fill a need of the community. Priesthood is a state of life, not a function to be fulfilled. Marriage is a different state of life. To ordain a married men to the priesthood would amount to diminishing the dignity of marriage and reducing the priesthood to a job.

A Historical Interlude

What do we say of the fact the Church for the first few hundred years of her existence many married men were ordained to the priesthood? Cardinal Sarah maintained that although that was true, these men promised on the day of their ordination to abstain from sexual relations with their wives indefinitely. In fact, at the council of Elvira, the church excluded many bishops, priests, and deacons from the priesthood because they broke that promise. And no one protested at that time against that decision.[6]

Okay, your Eminence, why can in the Roman Catholic Church not handle the situation like the Eastern Orthodox church? They allow married priests. To that, with astute dexterity, the cardinal says that would be solving an issue with another issue. In fact, allowing married men to the priesthood in the east was due to a mistranscription of canons from the council of Trullo in 691.[7] It was never supposed to happen that way. Also, there’s so much tension between the two states in the Eastern Church. Many easterners refuse to go to confession to a married priest. Many of them have experienced divorces. Their churches are empty. They don’t have more vocation than the Roman Church. In many cases, the priests cannot even support their families. They are in crisis. Yes, most of eastern churches are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church; that is so to foster a gradual development toward the practice of celibacy.[8] When married men from other denominations are ordained, they are rather exception to the general norm of what priesthood means.

Stop Beating around the Bush!

What can be done to bring the gospel to the people of the Amazon region? there’s nothing more contagious than priestly fervor and faithfulness. One such priest can give rise to more vocation than 100 indifferent, cold, empty, unfaithful priests.[9] Though there may a dearth of vocation, find such priests and send them there. The real solution is to raise an army of the baptized in and/or for that region to hand on the faith to the people.

amaNot convinced? In the history of the Church, we have many such examples. In Korea, one the missionary priests were martyred, laypeople kept the faith alive for over one hundred years. In Uganda, through the work of laypeople, the faith grew and multiplied. In japan, though the missionaries were expelled and martyred, the Christian community lived for two centuries without a priestly presence. The point is this: we don’t need to clericalize the lay faithful. We need to disciple them as Jesus disciple the 12 and send them forward. Their very baptism and confirmation are an untapped potentials have not been exploited nearly enough, and we are underestimating them. Satis![10]

Cardinal Sarah argued that he cannot, in good conscience, support the idea of married priests in the Church not simply because it is impractical, but more importantly because there is an ontological-sacramental connection between priesthood and celibacy. The latter is the instrument of our entrance into the priestly being of Christ.[11] It is a witness to a world beyond this one.

[1] Benedict XVI and Robert Cardinal Sarah, From the Depths of our Hearts: Priesthood, celibacy, and the Crisis in the Catholic Church, trans. Michael Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2020)

[2] ibid 66

[3] ibid 67

[4] ibid 69

[5] ibid 72

[6] Ibid 77

[7] Ibid 80

[8] Ibd 81

[9] Ibid 120

[10] ibid 96-7

[11] 137-8

The Strangeness of God

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God (1 Cor 1:27-29).

If you take the time to make sense of God’s way, you will notice whenever he wants to achieve something, he usually goes about it in some unique, strange and odd way. he usually chooses the oddest means possible, most unexpected and interesting people possible, and most unsavory of places.

Just a few examples to clarify this point!

UnknownTo enter our world, he not chose a teenage girl, he chose to be born in the unsanitary, dirtiest, most dangerous, and unexpected places you could have imagined. Even if you were drunk, you probably would not choose such a place for the mighty God to be born.

Unknown-1The place he was crucified was at some point the garbage dump of the city. Yet, it became one of the most important places in the history of the human race. Even you put a whole team of drug addicts together, they probably wouldn’t have chosen such a place.

To save the city of Nineveh, he chose Jonah. A Jewish man who not only hated foreigners, but a staunched enemy of the Ninevites. Yet, he chose to save them thru him. After much rebellious opposition, he went to Nineveh and spoke one line: “In forty days, Nineveh shall be destroy, unless you repent! The moment they heard his words, they all repent in sackcloth and fasting.  Even you put the smartest people together,  they wouldn’t have chosen Jonah as means to save nineveh.Jonah

To commence the evangelization of Samaria, Jesus used “the Samaritan woman”– rejected, outcast, prostitute that no one wants to talk to. Yet, meeting her and transforming her life, she became the means by which he reached Samaria. Even if you team up the craziest feminists in the world, they would not have chosen her.shutterstock_268972022_1

What do we see here? In all these cases, God uses odd, interesting, unexpected, unsavory people and place to carry out his plan. In fact odd and unsavory don’t really capture what really happened in these caes. Whether you look at it from conservatives or liberals’ viewpoint, it just makes people cringe.

Again, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,…. (1 Cor 1:27-29).

Here’s the point– if you look at the Catholic church in America right now, you should think that it’s the last thing that God can use to save people. The church right now looks unsavory, dirty, hellish, and embarrassing.5034053e36034.image

But just like God transformed the manger into a place of adoration, just like he changed the idolatrous Ninevites into godly people, just like he altered the garbage dump of Jerusalem into the holiest place on earth, just like he uses the embarrassing Samaritan woman into evangelizer, so will he do with this scandalous church. His ways are odds and strange. We don’t always get his ways. That’s precisely why he is God. he knows what’s he’s doing. But in the midst of our confusion,  we don’t give up. We trust.

On an individual level, if you feel like your life in its own way has been like a garbage dump the last place God would want to dwell due to sin, addiction, unfaithfulness, then don’t get discouraged. The more strange one’s life is the easier it seems for God to transform it.

One Full First Year!

When did it happen? How did it happen? What have I accomplished? So much to say! So many beautiful experiences! So many graces! What is the perfect way to encapsulate it all? It is a time to count my blessings and be thankful.

First, my greatest and loudest thanks go to Almighty God! He has chosen me to be a priest for the sanctification of his people. Then He has brought me here to serve, love, learn, grow, and mature. That’s what I think this first year was about. I am privileged to serve at a parish where there are ample opportunities to experience it all—the beautiful, the best, the awesome, and the joy. In my first year at parish ministry, it is clear that there are no dull moments for a priest, especially if he makes himself available for people. It’s either he is doing something, or getting ready to do something for the people. I don’t think anyone is ordained for himself. So, that’s how it is supposed to be

Secondly, I am thankful to each of the parishioners for putting up with me for almost a year. They’ve been overly supportive, prayerfully uplifting, consistently kind and generous. I’ve the privilege of being a servant, a priest, a father, a man, a brother, and a friend journeying home with them. That’s what I have tried to be.

I’m thankful to my pastor. Every “baby” priest needs someone to feed him with soft food and drink, hold his hands, and lead him as he tries to make his first step in ministry. the pastor has been that someone. He has been there throughout this first year patiently helping me, answering my questions, and teaching me how to apply what I’ve learned at the seminary. Thank you. So many others have helped me to get to this point. My parents and close friends, strangers and fan who never cease praying for me. your prayers do more than you can think or imagine. I need them! Keep them coming. Only in heaven will you know fully the effects of what you have done.

Although I spent 8 years in seminary formation, how could have I known what ministry would be like? During this first year, I’ve seen a lot– people growing, heart transforming, spiritual wounds healed among the young and the aged. I’ve experienced many discovering what it means to be loved, forgiven, accepted, and free for the first time. I’ve seen people being convinced of the power of the gospel, feeling empowered by the sacraments, and sent forth to be and live their best. God can achieve all these without me; yet, he has chosen to do them through me. What a privileged!

Among the many blessings of this year, preaching has been among my favorites. There is something powerful about preaching the word of God. Of course, hearing confessions, teaching at the school, and enjoy a fun game with the students in the parking lot, or going bowling with friends have been some of the greatest blessings of this new year.

God has been good to me, and I am so very thankful that He has called me to this life. Know of my prayers for you, and thanks for praying for me.

Easter 2018

As we celebrate the feast of feasts, the feast of victory, the defeat of death, the hinge on which Christianity is hooked. Allow me to point out one vital lesson the resurrection of Jesus is teaching us: this life is not all there is.

Think about it. Many of us spend a lot of energy trying to make it in this world. college. Pursue career. Buy house. Cars. Make a name for ourselves. Retirement plans. We exercise. Go to the doctor, eat healthy so that we can live the best life in this life. all this is awesome for there’s nothing wrong with these per se. I myself go to the gym at least twice a week.

easterBut here’s the problem— while we do everything we can to have a good life here, how much time do we spend preparing for the life to come? Here’s what Jesus risen from the dead is saying—if you only live for the here and now, you’re living life backward. If you spend all your energy for this world, you’re missing out; He is saying—look this life is short; you live 80, 90, 100 years if lucky. The other one is not a million or 10 billions; it’s forever. Jesus came for one purpose and one purpose only: to teach us how to get to the next life. That’s where all the fun is. So, would you honestly say you’re being trained well for the next life?

Now here’s what it means for a young adult person—15-35 to train well for the next life: you do what the second reading suggests– seek what is above. You do what the women in the gospel did—they looked for Jesus even if all their friends were not. But Look what they’ve found out—they became the first apostles of the resurrection. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to be an apostle of? Here’s a suggestion: how about holiness?

Here’s what it means for a parent to prepare for the next life—they strive to raise future who are true witnesses of Christ. St. Maria Goretti, pier Giorgio Frassati, Thérèse the little flower, etc. your children are made for so much more than this world can offer. Teach them how to strive for higher things.

Here’s what it means for a Christian man or woman to prepare for the next life—he or she approaches life with certainly, confidence, joy, purpose and meaning because he knows he can’t be defeated because the one he follows is alive. In his decision-making, he consults the Lord. He remains true to the sacraments because he knows without the risen Lord, he/ she will be defeated. How is your preparation going?

Good Friday 2018

I meant to give this homily on good friday, but the Holy Spirit thought otherwise. so here it is. Something surprising and interesting happened at the beginning of Jesus’ passion narrative of Good Friday. As they came to arrest Jesus, he asked the soldiers: “who are you looking for?” they said Jesus of Nazareth. He identified himself as I AM. They all fell to their faces. Imagine that—someone came to hurt you and you know it, and that person fell at your feet. What would you do? someone is bullying you at work. Someone attacks your family. well, you would probably react the way Peter had in the garden. Once the soldiers laid him on Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers– fight. Or you would react the way the other apostles did– overwhelmed and helpless, they fled in fear. So basically when people are met with violence—the two typical ways they react are—fight/ defend themselves, or flight/ run away.

As we commemorate the great day of our salvation, the day we call “Good Friday” despite, I want you to notice that Jesus did neither. In so doing, he shows us a third/ nonviolent/ more effective way to deal with violence.

We see this third way throughout his ministry, he tells us that if someone strikes you on the right cheek, don’t fight or flight, turn the other cheek as well. you have heard that it was said, an eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist an evil. As Gandhi said, “an eye for an eye would make the whole world go blind”. Rather Pray for those who persecute you. If someone presses you for one mile, don’t fight or flight, go two miles. If someone asks you for your coat, don’t fight or flight, give him the undercoat as well. In this, he was preaching nonviolence.

UnknownToday as he was being led to the cross, he responds nonviolently. Father forgive them… like a lamb led to the slaughter he opened not his mouth. Though all-powerful, he became weak like us. He is thus nonviolent thru and thru.

So what’s the effect of nonviolence? Nonviolence mirrors back the violence to the other person. i.e. it is like putting a mirror in front of the violent person and compels him/her to look at his violence; Not running away mean “I refuse to justify your violent behavior”. Not fighting back means “I will not be like my oppressor.” when I do something bad to you and you do something bad to me we are even. But when you do something bad and I don’t follow thru, I compel you to see your violence.

What do we learn here? Nonviolence is more powerful than violence. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate how effective nonviolence is.

mother-teresa---mini-biographyMother Teresa and little hungry girl in the street of Calcutta. She found a hungry little girl in the street; she brought her to a bajery and asks the baker to give some bread to her; in response, the baker spat on mother’s face. She took her handkerchief out, wiped the saliva, and said “Thank you for that gift for me, but now give some bread to the child.”

during a period of racial unrest in South Africa, Bishop Desmond Tutu came face to face with a white racist man. The man said, “clear the way because I don’t make way for gorilla”. Tutu got off the sidewalk and says: I do.

john_paul_ii_visits_1979when the communists were in power in Poland in 1979. The government stifled all freedom of speech in public or private. On a pilgrimage as pope, JPII spoke of God, human rights, and religious freedom. as he was speaking, the crowd started to sing “we want god 2x. the chant went on for 14 minutes. a few months later, communism in Poland was no more. that’s the power of nonviolence.

Notice the common thread in all in all these examples– they neither fight nor flight; rather, they hold their ground. They mirrored back to the violent person their violence and refuse to approve it. That’s what it means to turn the other cheek. That’s what Christ did thru his passion. That’s what we are called to do. May this be your model as you face bad people.

May this inspire you to stand for truth, righteousness, and the vulnerable.