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Selected Homilies

Fr. Michael Sequeira St. Mary's Church of the Visitation Clinton, Connecticut

Christmas 2004 I would like to mention four words now. They are connected with some of the things that happened this year, in 2004. Please try to listen to them and to tell me what they are referring to. Do you recognize these words? My words are the following: Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. They are the names of the hurricanes of this year. These hurricanes killed thousands of people in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Haiti, Jamaica and in many places in the United States. Thousands were killed. Hundreds of thousands of people became homeless and foodless. In addition, this year there was a big tragedy in Russia. One thousand two hundred people were held hostages in a school there. When it ended, four hundred were dead, most of them children. There is tragedy in Iraq: innocent people are killed and all live in fear. Perhaps there are many problems in your own countries. Under these circumstances, how can we celebrate a good, joyful, enjoyable Christmas, you may ask. We may think that in order to celebrate a good Christmas everything in our world, in our countries and in our lives should be fine. But in reality, they are not fine. So how can we celebrate Christmas with joy and peace? Brothers and sisters, we need Christmas every year, not because problems everywhere are absent and we are living in peace. We celebrate Christmas precisely because there are problems and peace is lacking. We celebrate the birth of Jesus in the midst of them. Why? Jesus was born on Christmas day to free us from all those pains and sufferings. He became a man in order to give us a new beginning and a new hope. He came to our world

to show us the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. In other words, we celebrate Christmas because our world desperately needs Jesus and his light. Celebrating Christmas means celebrating the fact that God entered our world visibly and began to live in our midst lovingly. God became like one of us: a brother, a sister, a parent, a neighbor, a friend and a helper. Today we remember that God took on human flesh and began to dwell among us visibly. That is why the child of Bethlehem is not any child. It is God in human form. It is God living among us. It is God giving us the good news of our salvation. That is why the Prophet Isaiah calls the Child of Mary "Consejero admirable, Dios Poderoso, Padre Sempiterno, Principe de la Paz, Emanuel. Today we should be filled with joy, admiration, praise, thanksgiving and prayer. Celebrating this year's Christmas means being determined to imitate the goodness of God and the generosity of God in our lives. It means being Jesus to one another. If you have to forgive somebody, forgive today! If you refuse to forgive, Jesus is not fully born in your life. You may celebrate Christmas Mass and eat the Christmas meal, but real Christmas has not taken place in your life if you refuse to forgive generously. If you are inclined to be negative and always look for the faults of others, be positive minded and look for good things in others. When you do that, Jesus has really been born in your life. As you celebrate this year's Christmas, allow God fully to enter your home and your personal life. Be faithful to God and to your Sunday Masses. Be a child of God! May you have a good Christmas!

Advent of 2004 Today we begin an important time called Advent. This word, Advent, is a Latin word and it means the coming. Obviously it refers to the coming of Jesus. Advent therefore is a special time during which we prepare for the coming of Jesus. But the coming of Jesus

can mean two things: His coming in flesh ( His historical birth two thousand years ago) and His coming again at the end of the world. Advent is primarily a time of preparing ourselves to celebrate His historical birth among us. It is the time to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas. At the same time, it is also an occasion to realize that He is coming again and that we need to be prepared for it. Thus Advent serves two purposes. I want you to have a fruitful Advent season and so I would like to explain its meaning to you. Advent has four weeks and each week has a special theme. The theme of the first week is to reflect upon Jesus' second coming at the end of the world. That is the focus of this Mass and I will explain it to you very soon. The liturgy for the second week will introduce one of the most important persons of the Advent season: John the Baptist. He played an important role in the life of Jesus. He introduced Jesus as the Messiah of the world to the people. He prepared for Jesus' coming! Therefore the Gospel reading for the second Sunday is all about John the Baptist and his preaching. John the Baptist plays an important role in the third week of Advent too. The readings for the third Sunday are all centered around his ministry, his preaching and his baptism. The fourth week focuses upon another important person of the Advent Season: Mary. All the readings for this Sunday are related to the role Mary played in the birth of the Savior. It also introduces many other persons connected with the birth of Jesus such as Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, and her husband, Zacharia. Let me explain to you the meaning of the readings for this Mass. As you know, January 1 is the beginning of the new year for the world. For the Church, the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the new year. Today we celebrate the Mass for the first Sunday of Advent, so this day is the beginning of the Church year.

As the Church begins a new year, it makes us look at the end of the world. That is to say, the liturgy of this Mass reminds us that one day the world will come to an end and that the Lord Jesus will come again at that time. Jesus will come for a second time to defeat all forms of sin and evil in the world and to give us the fullness of life and salvation. He will come to create a new heaven and a new earth. That is the belief of the Catholic Church. This is an important element of our Catholic doctrine. However, we do not know when exactly Jesus will come again and when the world will come to an end. We do not any details about it. Therefore today's readings urge us to be always prepared. They tell us that Jesus may come anytime. He may come unexpectedly. Therefore this liturgy urges us to be always prepared. It tells us to be vigilant. But how? All the three readings tell us that we should lead a good, Christian life now. The Prophet Isaiah speaks about walking in the light of the Lord in the first reading. He shows us that we need to be instructed in the ways of the Lord and walk in his paths. And in the second reading, St. Paul speaks about "putting on the Lord Jesus". That he means, he urges us to live as Jesus lived. He tells us how to live as Jesus lived: by avoiding excessive drinking, lust, jealousy, selfishness, etc. I would like you to spend a lot of time in prayer during this Advent season. If Advent is all about the coming of Jesus into our families and into our lives, we need to be much more spiritual and prayerful. In a particular way I invite you to come to our Advent Reconciliation Service on Monday, December 20, at 7:00pm. Come, make peace with God and with one another before this year's Christmas. Let there be reconciliation in your lives. Amen.

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Happy Thanksgiving, 2004 Dear Parishioners, Thanksgiving is all about how God entered the lives of immigrants and gave them abundant food and a fertile land! God made them a blessed people! As you celebrate this year's Thanksgiving, allow God to enter your life and your family and give you similar blessings! Realize you need God and God's Church! Give thanks to God for your present blessings! In the spirit of traditional Homecoming Events associated with Thanksgiving, I invite those of you who are rare or occasional Church goers, to a special Mass on November 20-21. Come home to Christ and your spiritual family! Brandon Nappi, an excellent speaker from the Holy Family Retreat House

will be preaching at all the Masses. If you are regular Church goers deepen your spirituality during these coming holidays! Allow God to enter your lives generously and lovingly! Happy Thanksgiving, Fr. Michael Sequeira

Imitating God in His Goodness! 32nd Sunday, November 7, 2004 I can certainly speak on the importance of marriage and family life this evening because our readings refer to them. But is that the main theme of the readings? I can as well speak on the resurrection from the dead. That too is mentioned in the first reading as well as in the Gospel passage and it maybe good to address this subject because we are in the month of November, a month dedicated to the memory of, and prayer for, the faithful departed. Our bodily death is not the end of everything. It is not the final word. It is only beginning of our life with God, because just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so also He will raise us to life on the last day. But again, is this the main message of today's reading? Moreover, I can also address to the subject of persecution of Jesus' disciples since that is the main issue in the first reading. In some countries Christians are physically persecuted today. In our own country, we are not persecuted similarly. However, is our culture persecuting us differently but realistically and effectively? I have spoken on this subject many times before. Christian values are derived from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although they expect us to enjoy life, they demand a life of prayer, sacrificial sharing, a certain amount of detachment from earthly goods and service to one another from the disciples of Jesus. Are the values proposed by our culture militate against these Gospel values and prevail over them? What do you think? Brothers and sisters, on my part, I would like to draw your attention to something else which I think is important. It is the attitude of the leaders of the Jewish community at the time of Jesus. The Jewish people then were one community. They professed one faith and one God. At the same time, however, there were many different groups in it based on theological opinions, ritual customs and so on. Two of them were Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. On this matter, they were right and all others were wrong! On the other hand, the Sadducees vehemently denied the bodily resurrection. Again, on this matter they alone were right and all others wrong. The Gospel reading is all about how they came to Jesus with that ingenious story of the widow ­ it was only a parable, not a true story ­ not because they were really interested in his answer on the subject of resurrection. They were not, because they already knew the answer: there is no resurrection! They asked him the question: in the resurrection whose wife will she be, for two reasons. First, in order to use Jesus' own answer against the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection. "See, what Jesus said!" More importantly, they questioned him with the hope of using his answer against Jesus himself! They were trying to set a trap for him! The Gospels tell us that they did this on many occasions. Take for example, the case of the woman caught in adultery. They brought her to Jesus with the question whether she should be stoned to death as Moses prescribed, not because they were interested in his answer. They already knew the answer: she should be stoned! They brought the case to him so that they could catch him in his answer. No matter how he answered it, they were hoping to use it against him! Dear friends, Jesus ministered for three years teaching the doctrine about God. Unlike their own teachers, he taught them with authority and made a profound impression on

them. He performed many miracles of healing the sick, casting out the demons and raising the dead. He did this not to demonstrate his own power or to draw attention to himself! In teaching about God and working miracles, he was only revealing, making known the Kingdom of God to them! What is the Kingdom of God? It is God working in the life of the world and the lives of people liberating them from sin, illness and bondage and giving them reconciliation, freedom and life! The Kingdom of God is God's marvelous deeds in the lives His people! God was revealing his saving actions in and through Jesus! And the ordinary people saw this and accepted the Kingdom by accepting Jesus and believing in Him. The ones who rejected Jesus and the Kingdom he was revealing were the leaders of the community: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and so on. Instead of listening to Him, they were busy trying to catch Him in his speech! They were close-minded. They were narrow-minded. They missed the point entirely! This attitude eventually led to Jesus crucifixion! Brothers and sisters, exactly two weeks from today you will be busy shopping for Thanksgiving. Exactly a month from Thanksgiving we will be celebrating Christmas! Enjoy the meals, the company, the sports etc during these days. At the same time, remember the coming days are great spiritual days! These are the days when we feel the presence of God in our midst, the wonderful deeds of God and the love of God! On Thanksgiving Day we remember how God entered the lives of immigrants and gave them abundant blessings, a fertile land and in this way transformed their lives! And in the Christmas event, we see how our God came to us in a visible and personal way to save us, to reconcile us and to make us His own children! In all of this, we recognize the goodness of God, the greatness of God, the generosity of God, the mystery of God. Imitate that same greatness and generosity of God in your own lives by being broadminded and open-minded. Don't always look only for the faults of others, don't always be only critical of everything, don't always be negative. If God were to see only my

weaknesses, I would not be alive today! Instead God sees all my good things and keeps on giving me many more blessings! Be positive by seeing the mighty deeds of God and God's people in our midst. Admit and encourage all that is good and great in your Church, in your community and in your family. Contribute to what is good by supporting it and plying your own part in making it grow! This is the only way for growth for others. Most importantly, this is the only way for growth for yourself! May our parish become a community in which people acknowledge the marvelous ways by which God is manifesting Himself to us and may we respond to Him with similar praise and thanksgiving through our lives. Amen.

Reflection on the Day of the Lord 33rd Sunday, November 14, 2004 Two months ago I said that September is like the beginning of a new year. After the relaxing summer months, children go back to school and usual activities resume. So we get the impression that a new year is beginning! Two months from now, I will be saying that January 1 is the beginning of a new year. It is likely that on the last weekend of May I will be saying that the Memorial Day is like the beginning of a new year. It sounds like we begin a new year many times in the year. It all depends upon how you interpret many things. The Church also has a year. It is called the Liturgical year. It begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which this year, will be on November 28. So we are at the end of the Church's year of grace. As we approach the end, the liturgy every year reminds us of the end of time and the world and about the coming of the Lord. This day is called the Day of the Lord. It is in this sense that we need to interpret today's readings. These readings may at first cause great fear in us because they speak about wars and insurrections, persecutions and

divisions and so on. Instead of going out to meet the Lord when he comes, we may be tempted to hide ourselves under the bed or in the closets! In reality however it is not going to be a sad day. It is going to be a happy day but only for those who fear the Lord and follow him faithfully. On that He will give them their reward for being His faithful disciples. At the same time, the coming of the Lord will be a day of fear for the unjust and the impious. At that time He will bring to justice to those who have sinned against God and God's people in ways that are most serious. God Himself will put an end to all wickedness, injustice, oppression, hatred and murder. All this amounts to the fact that on the last day, God will intervene in our world for the last time and establish a new creation: a creation of joy for the just and a creation of justice for the unjust. The Bible contains many examples for God's intervention in our world in order to give the human race a new beginning. The flood for forty days at the time of Noah was God's doing to put an end to sin and to make a new beginning of goodness. The exodus of the Hebrew tribes under the bondage of the Pharoah in Egypt and their entrance into the promised land was another example. Also to be considered is the return of the exiles in Babylon to their own country after 70 years of exile. The final intervention of God in our world was in and through His Son, Jesus. He defeated sin in all form and gave us peace, reconciliation and new life. He removed us from the power of the evil one and put us in the hand of a loving and liberating God. As a result, all those who want to conquer sin in their own lives, can do so. However, because of our free will and people's ability to reject God, there is still going to be a certain amount of suffering, pain, persecution and injustice in the world. In other words, people will reject God and choose evil. This will affect them and all others. We see this happening in today's world. This will continue to take place until He comes again. On that day, all powers of evil will be once and for all defeated and final peace and a new creation will be established. All the narratives about the wars and insurrections, persecutions and killings, the sky and the sun being darkened, etc., described in our

readings are symbolic of this final struggle between the powers of evil and the powers of good and of the victory of God. In less than two weeks we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. What is Thanksgiving? It is nothing but the celebration of God's intervention in the lives of immigrants, not to bring them fear, but to give them many blessings, a fertile land and the ability to become a powerful nation. Exactly a month from then, we will be celebrating Christmas. What is Christmas? It is nothing but the fact that God entered our world in and through His Son not to impart fear but to give us reconciliation and friendship with God. The last coming of God will be similarly be an entrance into our world to give us final victory over all forms of sin and disorder and to impart on us lasting friendship with our God. Therefore what really matters is the way we live now. As a result of hearing the Word of God in this Mass may we live for God. May we live as servants of God to serve God's people. May we live as Jesus' true disciples. Amen.

Jesus and Zaccheus 31st Sunday October 31, 2004 This Gospel reading tells us that Jesus went to visit the house of Zaccheus. When I read it, I remembered something that happened when I was growing up as a small boy in India. It was all about our Church and our priests. Our parish had two priests: the pastor and his assistant. One day when we were all in the rice fields, plowing the land and planting the rice plants, the assistant priest came to our house. It was a big surprise because in our place priests do not come to visit homes. If he came to our house, there was a reason for it. So why did he come? He came to inform us that the pastor of our parish was going to celebrate the jubilee of his ordination and that he was in charge of organizing it. He decided to tell us that he

needed our help in organizing this celebration. He asked for our help. We promised to help him. I want you to know that we were very happy that he came to our house! We were very glad! It was a great honor that he visited us! It was as if God came and entered our home! We were delighted! Out of joy, we told all our friends about his visit to our family! The Gospel reading tells us a similar story. Jesus went to the house of Zaccheus and was his guest. And Zaccheus was most happy about it. Who was Zaccheus? He was a member of the Israelites. His job was to collect taxes. As you know Palestine at the time of Jesus was under the Roman rule. It was a Roman colony. So there were many agents to collect taxes for the Roman emperor. Zaccheus was one of them. Everyone hated people who collected taxes because they were collecting money for an outsider and an oppressor! There was another reason for hating tax collectors. They were cheating people! They were demanding more money than what was owed to them for taxes and they kept the balance for themselves. As a result, tax collectors became rich! Zaccheus was a rich man. But precisely because the tax collectors were employees of a foreign ruler and because they were cheating people, they were considered to be sinners and to be second class citizens. People were thinking that tax collectors would not be saved. They would go to hell! They were condemned by the society! Their God was their money and the enjoyment that came from it was the only enjoyment they would have in life. Tax collectors were untouchables! Jesus entered the house of an untouchable! Zaccheus, therefore, expected Jesus to condemn him. He expected Him to call him a sinner. Instead of doing that, Jesus loved him! He went to his home! He had dinner with him. He stayed at his house! This was a total surprise for every one. In this way, Jesus told him and his family that God loved them. God forgave them their sins. God will take them to heaven. Jesus gave them a new life. Jesus gave them a new hope. Jesus gave them joy! As a result, Zaccheus and his family were totally changed. They gave their

money to the poor. They loved God and came close to God. And they loved all those who hated them. There was a complete change in them as a result of Jesus' visit to them. Dear friends, all of us are saints and sinners. We are saints because we try to love God and one another. We try to practice our faith as well as we can. At the same time, we are sinners because sometimes we do what is not right. I want you to know that no matter who you are, Jesus loves you. He comes to you through your Catholic faith, through the Holy Communion, through the reading of the Bible. Allow Jesus to enter your life and your home by coming to Church for our Sunday Masses faithfully. Remain faithful to God. Receive the sacraments. Recite your prayers always.

Unceasing Prayer: Part I 29th Sunday, October 17, 2004 Three years ago, I went to a Billy Graham School of Evangelism. This is not one of the crusades he runs in big cities drawing thousands of people to them. Schools of Evangelism are a three day conference consisting of preaching, prayer and fellowship. During this event, I took a workshop called Prayer in Church Groups. The speaker drew our attention to the fact that in every parish there are always committees, organizations and church groups that meet periodically. He insisted that it is most important these groups devote at least fifteen minutes of their meeting time for prayer. And he said that if these groups were to claim that they have no time for prayer for such a length of time because they have a long agenda and a lot to be accomplished and a lot to be decided and so are inclined to be satisfied with a quick opening prayer, please know that they are implicitly saying that they do not need God at their meeting. They are implying they can manage without God and that they can depend upon their own abilities. The Church groups need to involve God in their discussion and in their decision making process through prayer! Let them be open to his guidance and his inspiration in their deliberations. They need God!

In his book, the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says the same thing. "God is present at all moments in your life. If you invite him to your midst, he will come and be a part of your life" he says. Brothers and Sisters, Today's readings are all about God and prayer to God. They tell us that we need to have prayer in our lives. And prayer is not a moment, but a way of life. It is always a part of our lives. Moreover, they tell us that prayer is not just asking for favors from God such as petitions at the time of illness, accident and problems. Prayer is more than that. It is first of all an act of praising God for all his glory and giving thanks to Him for all his goodness to us. Most importantly, prayer is most powerful. The story contained in today's first reading from the Book of Exodus describes the power of prayer. It can make the impossible possible. Let me explain it to you by means of my own story. My cat, Roman Catholic, cries loudly in the car whenever I take him to his doctor. Since I know him, I can guess why he is crying so loudly. He thinks that I am taking him to give him away to somebody. He thinks that I am going to dump him somewhere! It is the end of his life, he guesses. But that is not true. If he knows me, I am only bringing him good health! In a similar way, the Exodus story in the Bible informs us that God delivered the Israelites in Egypt from their bondage under the Pharoh. They were on their way to the promised land. During this passage in the desert, they encountered an enemy, the Amalek who were strong warriors. They threatened to kill all the Israelites who were nothing in comparison to them. So, it was clear that the Israelites would die at their hands. It was as if God had taken them out of Egypt only to have them killed on their way to the promised land. It was as if he brought them out of their bondage only to dump them there! So Moses cried out to the Lord. And the Lord said that there was nothing to fear. Moses only had two things to do: Be engaged in 1. action, and 2. prayer. Action: Moses had to send all his men to fight against the Amalek whether they were trained or not. Secondly, action: Moses had to go up to a hill and pray there with uplifted hands. This he did. The story tells us that as long as Moses was praying with uplifted hands, the Israelites were winning the battle, but when his arms were tired and he let them down, the

Amalek were winning! So the path of action was clear! The key to winning the war was Moses' gesture of uplifted hands! He had to have them uplifted in prayer continually in order to win. So, two men supported his arms and he prayed in that fashion continually. As a result, the Amalek was defeated and the Israelites resumed their journey to the promised land. The dependence of the uplifted hands for the success in the battle sounds like magic, but in reality it is all about the use of the whole body in our prayer. Prayer is not just words. It involves our whole body. Uplifted hands are a symbol of our prayer rising before God. The imposition of hands in Confirmation, Ordination, Confession, Consecration of the Bread and Wine on the altar signifies the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the persons or objects. Here at St. Mary's we have seven Masses every weekend and each one has its own style: quiet Mass, family Mass, Youth Mass, Spanish Mass and the Brazilian Mass. At some of these Masses, people may assemble in the sanctuary for the opening rites. Why? Because it enables the use of the whole body in our eucharistic celebration. And if you really want to see active participation in the Mass, come to one of our Brazilian Masses! We celebrate them on the second and the last Sundays of the month. When I go to the Yankee Stadium to see a baseball game, I see there a crowd. In Grand Central I see a crowd. When I look at you, I am not seeing a crowd. I am seeing a community. And there is a difference between the two! A crowd is anonymous. People don't know each other and don't want to know each other and they don't care for each other. In a community however people know each other, care for each other and love one another. We are a community! Not any community but a community of prayer! The main characteristic of our community is that we are a people at prayer. And so, I urge you to be a people of prayer. By that I mean, not only that you participate in the Mass actively and regularly, but also develop your own prayer life by reading the bible and praying constantly. When I say this I need to make my own confession to you. I cannot preach to you without looking at myself. Yes, there have been times when I might have neglected my own

prayer life. I might had many valid reasons to justify myself for its lack, my busy life, etc, but no excuse should have been an excuse for not praying as I should have. And so, in preparation for this homily and in delivering it to you now, I have decided to begin the day with prayer every day! I have decided that no excuse is going to be a justifying excuse. Prayer comes first! This is my response to God speaking to me in today's readings and in this Mass. What is your own response to God speaking to you about the importance of prayer in your life? God is waiting for your response, not next year or tomorrow, but now! You need to respond now! May our parish become a community of prayer! Amen.

Unceasing Prayer: Part II October 24, 2004 "Two people went up to the temple area to pray." This is how today's Gospel reading began. I know this parable can be interpreted in many different ways and all interpretations can be valid. My own understanding goes along the path of the main message of last Sunday's readings: unceasing prayer. Speaking on the parable of the wicked judge and the poor widow, I said that prayer is not a moment. It is an integral part of our lives. We always pray. More importantly, prayer is not just asking God for favors. It is more than that. Biblical concept prayer is that it is an act of recognizing the mystery of God, the greatness of God, the glory of God, the goodness of God, the generosity of God and His many gifts to us. It is an act of looking at the beauty of our universe and from there recognizing the beauty of God. It is a way of looking at the marvelous deeds of God in our lives and in the life of the world. All of this should lead us to praise God and to thank Him. Real Christian prayer is an act of praising God and thanking God.

The Gospel reading tells us that two people went up to the temple area to pray. The prayer of the second one, the tax collector, was heard by God. It was effective. Whereas the prayer of the first one, the Pharisee, was rejected by God. It was not pleasing to God. Why? What was wrong with that? Before I answer that, please realize that the Pharisee was a member of an elite class of the Israelites. He was well educated. He was knowledgeable in his religion and the commandments. He went to the synagogue to pray always. He was in good standing with his community and yet his prayer was rejected. Why? His prayer was rejected because instead of praising God in the temple, he praised himself. Instead of acknowledging the greatness of God, he drew God's attention to his own greatness. In fact, instead of praising God, he expected God to praise him! Additionally, he judged others and condemned them. His prayer was not a prayer. It was an act of arrogance and sin! But the other person, the tax collector who was a simple and uneducated person, stood at a distance as he prayed. This alone proved that he acknowledged the mystery and the greatness of God and his own mortal nature. He beat his breast! So in all humility he prayed a prayer which can be a model prayer for us as well: God have mercy on me a poor sinner. His humility and his sincere prayer was a sacrifice acceptable to God. Brothers and sinners, as I speak about humility and prayer and our ability to face ourselves, I would like to tell you something. I was speaking to somebody recently. During this friendly conversation he said to me: Fr. Michael, you also have your own ego! You also have your own self-image! I need to address myself to this comment. I have an ego!!! When I was going to High School as a boy in India, I learnt very little about the United States of America. In fact, I learnt only two things. First, United States are rich. Living in the United States is like living in heaven! Secondly, there is a state there which is beautiful with beautify scenery. It is California. And the oranges grown there are delicious! When I was learning all of this, I never thought that I myself would one day be

there. I never pushed my way or manipulated things in order to come here. I never dreamed I would be here. And yet, if I am here now, I believe God brought me here. He brought me here for a purpose. He had a purpose for me! And my duty is to carry out the purpose He has for me. My duty is to be humbly doing His will! My goal is to make sure that the Church is for the people and the people for the Church. That means, I want to make sure that the Church serves our people to grow physically, emotionally and more importantly, spiritually. I am serving the purpose of God in my life! I believe that if by ego we mean our determination to do God's will for us and this determination keeps us going and energizes us, such an ego is good and life giving! If on the other hands, if our ego makes us focused upon ourselves and our own need to be praised by others, our ego is destructive! Are you doing the purpose for which God created you? Do you know the purpose for which God created you? The best means of discerning the real purpose in your life and to live it heroically is again a sound prayer life. A healthy life of prayer can help you to know yourselves and others better. As I mentioned last Sunday, there could have been times when I myself could have neglected my own prayer life. I could have used may excuses for it: my busy life, my many appointments, etc. But I have realized that all these excuses for my lack of prayer are not excuses at all. I need to improve my prayer life as I should! I need to do what I am supposed to do before I preach to you. Friends, this is my response to God speaking to me in today's readings. What is your own response to Him? Please give your response not tomorrow, but now! May our parish become a community of prayer and faith. Amen.

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