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Keeping the Day of The Lord Holy

One of the parishioners asked me why we should go to Church every Sunday. This prompted me to think that perhaps, many others have the same thought. If anyone has such a thought, let me answer their question:

First of all, the obligation of observing the Day of The Lord falls on all the baptized Christians, because it is the third of the Ten Commandments of The Lord. It says: “Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it, you shall not do any work…” (Deuteronomy 5:12-14).

The word “Sabbath” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “day of rest”. “To keep it holy” means “consecrate” or “set apart” or “sanctify”. As a steward of God’s gifts, abilities, resources and opportunities, we have six days to use all of them for our good. The seventh day is reserved to engage ourselves for God.

There are good reasons why we need to refrain from regular work on the sabbath day: From a human point of view, first of all, we often say that we don’t have time to pray or to spend time with the family or to spend some time with a friend or to relax. This commandment of The Lord solves these problems. Secondly, from the point of view of our faith, we are called to glorify, honor God and exercise our faith by going to the Church and participate in the Mass.

It is important to know the historical shift in observing the third Commandment. Before the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, the last day of the week, Saturday, was the Sabbath day. But after these glorious events, it was no more the last day of the week but the first day, Sunday, which was observed as “The Day of The Lord”. The change was made because The Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week.

At the present age of Catholic laxity, many have lost sight of the fact that it is a grave or mortal sin to skip Mass on Sunday or on a holy day of obligation when one is able to attend. Next week, I will share, why it is a grave sin to miss the Mass on Sunday and on the holy day of obligation.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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Why should I pray?

God knows me and knows what I need. If so, “Why should I pray?”

Prayer basically enables a person to relate himself/ herself with God. We pray to God because of our relationship with Him, sharing what is weighing on us in life, our feelings and thoughts of our daily life. In fact, even if our family members and our friends would know what is happening in our life, we still share about it and they listen to us with love and affection. The same is true with prayer.

Prayer neither changes what God knows nor does it change what God does. Instead, prayer changes us. Prayer is about being in relationship with God and pouring out our hearts to God. Prayer is about God receiving all that is in our hearts in love. Prayer is about not being alone. Prayer is about being with God, the Emmanuel, that is, God who is with us in our darkest and hardest moments. Prayer is about Jesus crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” God is with us in those moments of feeling abandoned. We pray because God created us to be in relationship, and relationship requires communication and communion. We pray to be with God.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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Jesus Cleanses the Temple

In John’s Gospel, the cleansing of the temple occurs early in the story, whereas in the synoptic gospels, all place this much later in their accounts. Perhaps John wanted to show the radical change Jesus desired in all aspects of life; our cleansing. Jesus, filled with justifiable anger makes a mess of the area of the temple where merchants sold animals for sacrifice and money changers did their business. This is a picture of Jesus we may find difficult to accept; He seems so gentle and peaceful in the gospel stories, and we may ask; where did this attitude come from? If we only had this small passage to work from how would we view Jesus? Likely much differently than how we understand Him, because we have four full views to come to know Him. We are blessed to have all four gospels, each with a different perspective, each written for a different audience, yet each describing the same God man.

We hear in the passage today that Jesus understood human nature. This is comforting and at the same time it makes us squirm. We are comforted knowing that Jesus, in His human nature, experienced the same things we do; hunger and pain, desires and passion, concern and caring. He understood human nature through living it, observing how we treat each other and the foibles each person has. This is what makes us squirm; that He knows our frail characters as well as what we are capable of. He was tempted, yet was able to endure and rise above. He was rejected but did not seek revenge. He was mocked and scorned but asked for forgiveness for them.

We have good reason to squirm. If we reflect on our lives honestly, we must admit we have fallen short in many ways. We have not lived up to our potential, the potential God knows we have. This is the time of year, especially during the holy season of Lent to lay bare our shortcomings and to seek forgiveness, to call upon the God of mercy for the strength to overcome our weaknesses and strive once again to become the daughter or son He desires. We cannot do this without His help. He is essential in our journey.

Take the time to sit quietly with the Lord this Lent and contemplate His greatness with awe and ask Him what He desires of you. This is the key to conversion and forgiveness. What kind of radical change does Jesus desire for you?

 

Deacon Ray


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What Shall I Give Up for Lent?

Lent is a period to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. As a process of preparation, we recall our own Baptism and do penance. Self-denial is what Jesus requires from us, in order to be his disciples. Self-denial is about making sacrifice, focusing on the Cross, and reminding ourselves of what Jesus gave up for our sake.

During Lent, the usual question, that is asked, is, “What do you give up for Lent?” Even though we are already in the second week of Lent, here are some suggestions to give up, out of our love for Jesus:

  • Give up grumbling, instead, give thanks in everything;
  • Give up five to ten minutes of personal entertainment, and spend that time in reading the Bible or in personal prayer;
  • Give up looking at other people’s weaknesses and mistakes, but concentrate on their best attributes and characteristics;
  • Give up your worries and anxieties, instead, trust in God and place them before God;
  • Give up your loneliness, replacing it by visiting someone, who is lonely or sick;
  • Give up judging others by appearance and by the standard of the world, instead, leave to Jesus to judge.

Wishing you a fruitful Lent,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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Holy Mass Explained – Part 20

Active Participation

The phrase “active participation” was conceived by the saintly Pope Pius X. He explained: If you wish to participate in the Mass actively, you must follow with your eye, heart, and mouth all that happens on the altar… You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings … and in this manner, you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass.”

Active participation entails participation of mind and heart expressed through bodily gestures, sacred signs, praying, singing in union with the whole assembly. During the Mass we take different postures like standing, sitting and kneeling down; Kneeling is an expression of our submission before the majesty of God and a sign of our adoration. It is by singing and responding to the priest’s prayers, we are taking active participation.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on Dec. 4, 1963. It explains: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation… such a participation is their right and duty by reason of their baptism…”

While celebrating the Holy Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ, as the head of the assembly, present in the Church. While the priest performs the celebration, the assembled faithful are expected to be present as conscious and active participants, rather than mere observers. In other words, they should not be like silent spectators, on the contrary, they should involve themselves by praying, singing and consciously being present in the celebration.

With this column, I bring to an end my explanation about the significance of the Holy Mass. I hope that you have gained a greater understanding of what we celebrate. My earnest appeal to you, now, is that you take active participation from the beginning until the end of the Mass.

May God bless you

Fr. Arul Joseph V


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Holy Mass Explained Part 19

Closing Rite

The distribution of the Holy Communion during Mass is like an act of a lover meeting with the beloved. When we receive the Eucharist, we are welcoming Christ into our hearts and so it is an important moment. The priest and Deacon are the ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lay Eucharistic Ministers are the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, authorized by the Church-authorities. Some have scrupulous thought that it is better to receive the Body of Christ only from the priest or deacon. Such people must believe that the Lay Eucharistic Ministers distribute the same Body of Christ as the Priest or Deacon.

At the end of the distribution of the Holy Communion, the remaining Consecrated Hosts are taken to the Tabernacle for private adoration and for the use of the sick and the homebound, who are unable to participate in the Mass with the community. After receiving the Communion, there is a time for meditation whether silent or singing a song.

Is it right to leave the Church immediately after receiving Communion? It is not right. Some people receive Communion and go straight to the parking lot. If someone would leave the party, before saying goodbye to the host and the fellow guests, would this be appreciated? I am sure it won’t be appreciated; rather it would distress the host. Just so would such people distress God, who has provided the spiritual meal.

After the concluding prayer, the priest concludes the Mass with the prayer and the final blessing in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. At this point, the priest or the deacon greets the people that the Mass is ended and the assembly may go in peace. With the response, “Thanks be to God”, the assembly goes out singing joyfully, empowered to serve in the outer world.


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Holy Mass Explained Part 18

The purpose of the responsorial psalm and Alleluia

Someone asked me, why we sing the Psalm and Alleluia in between the Readings. We Catholics are accustomed to hearing the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation sung or recited between the Readings. These were instituted by the Second Vatican Council, in order to foster the meditation on the Word of God.

Following the first reading, we raise our mind and heart reciting or singing the Responsorial Psalm taken from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Since the early centuries of the Church, what was known as the Graduale and the Sequence were sung between the readings. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Responsorial Psalm forms an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and the Psalm should correspond to the first Reading (cf. GIRM #61). In fact, it has a thematic relationship to the first Reading and it is people’s response to God’s Word. In the current lectionary, the Responsorial Psalm comes with antiphon which enables the assembly to sing after every verse sung by the cantor.

There is also an option of using seasonal Psalm, namely, a psalm that fits with the mood of the Church Season. This allows the assembly to reflect on the meaning of that season.

Gospel Acclamation/ Alleluia:

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise, with a verse from the Gospel. Except during the season of Lent, we sing “Alleluia”. It is usually sung by everybody, standing and is led by the cantor. The verse is sung by the cantor. We stand while singing this song of praise because this posture would help the assembly to welcome and greet The Lord, who is going to speak to us in the Gospel.


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Jesus’ Healing Ministry

We hear in the Gospel from Mark how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Note that she immediately served Him after this miracle; she wanted to show thanks for what Jesus had done for her. The passage states that after sunset the whole town gathered at the door seeking Jesus. This was due to the Jewish laws regarding work on the Sabbath; no work could be done, even the act of bringing someone to be healed could be considered work, as well as Jesus’ healing actions, thus the gathering after sunset.

Jesus healed out of compassion and concern for their wellbeing. He was generous with His ministry, not holding back His power, not judging if someone was “worthy” of healing, not trying to discern the reason the person was seeking His healing powers.

I believe there are many people who seek Jesus only when they need something. A job is going poorly, their marriage is struggling, their health is poor… Yes, we can fall into this routine where the only time we pray is when we are in need. One of the commercials on Relevant Radio describes this type of prayer as a vending machine; we put in our prayer and God produces whatever we have prayed for.

The trouble with this is God is not just there for the problems in our lives, but at all times. We need to seek Him at all times; when we are living the daily routine of our lives, when we celebrate the joys of life and when we face trials. Jesus showed us the importance of prayer as we hear in the passage today; “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Jesus knew the importance of a strong relationship with the Father.

We are called to this same relationship. One of love and trust. When we pray we should always remember who it is we are addressing, the God of power and might, of love and mercy. The God who desires each of us to be in union with Him. The God who grants our prayer requests with His wisdom. We don’t always get what we pray for, because God knows what is best for us. We often don’t understand God’s wisdom, which is why we struggle when our prayers seem to go unanswered. This is where our faith, trust that God knows best, plays a role in our relationship.

Keep on praying!

Deacon Ray


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Holy Mass Explained Part 17

Meaning of the word “Amen” in the Mass

The word “Amen” is not a strange word for any Catholic, because it is used as a concluding response to all the prayers we recite. It is also used during the Holy Mass as people’s response to the prayers offered by the priest as the president of the assembly. What does this word mean? What is its significance?

Etymologically, the word “Amen” is a Hebrew term. It signifies trustworthiness and faithfulness. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church inculcates that this Hebrew word expresses both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him (cf. CCC 1062). It is also used to affirm, approve and emphasize something that is said. Jesus uses this word often, in order to affirm his statements: “Amen, amen, I say to you…” This Hebrew word would also mean “truly”. Thus, the double “Amen” Jesus uses is sometimes translated as “truly, truly” or “verily, verily”. The statement “Amen, amen, I say to you…” is used, in order to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching and his authority founded on God’s truth (cf. CCC 1063).

When we say “Amen”, in response to a prayer, it affirms the content of the prayer as an expression of faith that God will hear and act on the prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “… after the prayer is over you say ‘Amen’, which means ‘So be it’, thus ratifying with our ‘Amen’ what is contained in the prayer…” (CCC 2856).

When we receive the Holy Communion, our response to the statement “The Body of Christ” implies God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in Him (cf. CCC 1062). Thus, it is an act of our faith in God’s trustworthiness and our trust in His love. The word “Amen” precisely means that we believe in the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.


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Holy Mass Explained Part 16

How Many Times May a Person Receive Holy Communion?

Some of our parishioners have asked me, whether one can receive Holy Communion more than once in a day. Let me clarify, how often in a day one can receive Holy Communion.

The Church law, namely, the Code of Canon Law stipulates:

Canon 917: “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 921, §2.”

Canon 921, §2: “Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however, those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again.”

Based on the above two Canons, we can conclude that a person can receive Holy Communion twice a day by participating in the Mass; nevertheless, a person in danger of death can receive Holy Communion again the same day, even outside the Mass.

The rationale for such a concession is that the participation in the Mass and the reception of the Holy Communion are intrinsically connected. In other words, the two parts of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist are two parts of the one whole celebration.  Full participation in the Mass entails that one has to be present from the beginning until the end of the Mass and receive Holy Communion. Unfortunately, a few individuals come for Mass in the middle, receive Holy Communion and leave before the Mass concludes. One has to participate in the whole Mass and more precisely, one has to thank The Lord for His gift after receiving the Holy Communion.

According to Canon 921 §2, even if a person has already received Holy Communion twice in a day, he/she can receive Holy Communion again, in a special circumstance like danger of death.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V