Sunday, November 12th, 2023 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16, Psalm 63 “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God ”, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13
The Martyrs of la Florida
Fr. Cáncer’s expedition sighted the Florida coast at approximately 27º latitude, somewhere near present-day Bradenton. Initial contacts with native peoples were apparently amiable and peaceful. On one occasion Fr. Cáncer knelt in prayer with his fellow missionaries and with Magdalena, and they were joined by many Indians. Fr. Tolosa and Fuentes were apprehended and killed shortly after they opted, against Fr. Cáncer’s judgment, to separate themselves from the rest of the missionary party and travel on foot to their destined port. Their deaths were later confirmed by a Spaniard named Muñoz, who had come to Florida with the Soto expedition and who now sought refuge with the Dominicans. Some time later Fr. Cáncer went ashore and was clubbed to death after having fallen to his knees in prayer. The location of these killings was most likely present-day Safety Harbor, Florida.
These Dominican missionaries have enjoyed a continuous fama (reputation for martyrdom) from an early date. A remarkable relic is the diary that Fr. Cáncer kept in his own hand, which was completed by Fr. Beteta, an eyewitness to his death.
4) Fr. Pedro Martínez, S.J. (between September 28 and October 6, 1566) Fr. Pedro Martínez, a native of Teruel in Aragón, was appointed Superior of the first band of Jesuits bound for Florida, who departed Spain in June of 1566. With him were two fellow Jesuits, Fr. Juan Rogel and Br. Francisco Villareal. When their ship was near the coast of Florida, Fr. Martínez volunteered to take a small party ashore in a smaller boat in order to seek directions and supplies. On September 14, 1566 they made landfall, perhaps on Cumberland Island. As they traveled through native villages they were well received until they entered a region under the control of Saturiba, who was partial to the Huguenots. Near present-day Mount Cornelia, on the eastern outskirts of Jacksonville, Fr. Martínez’s companions went ashore in search of fish, leaving him and the remaining crew in their boat, which was soon surrounded. Not availing himself of an opportunity to escape, Fr. Martínez was eventually pulled from the boat, dragged ashore, and beaten to death. He has long been regarded as the proto-Jesuit martyr of the Americas. 5) Father Luis Francisco de Quirós, S.J. (February 4, 1571)
6) Brother Gabriel de Solís, S.J. (February 4, 1571)
7) Brother Juan Bautista Méndez, S.J. (February 4 or 5, 1571)
8) Father Juan Bautista de Segura, S.J. (February 9 or 10, 1571)
9) Brother Pedro de Linares, S.J. (February 9 or 10, 1571)
10) Brother Sancho Cevallos, S.J. (February 9 or 10, 1571)
11) Brother Gabriel Gómez, S.J. (February 9 or 10, 1571)
12) Brother Cristóbal Redondo, S.J. (February 9 or 10, 1571)
These eight Jesuit missionaries were killed in February 1571 in present-day Virginia, which at the time was claimed by the Spanish and was part of La Florida. In the summer of 1570, frustrated with the slow progress of evangelization in the Spanish forts ringing the peninsula of Florida, Fr. Juan Bautista de Segura, a native of Toledo, opted to undertake a mission far to the north to a region known as Ajacán. Apart from the long- standing Spanish interest in this region, Fr. Segura was attracted to this location by an Indian named Paquiquineo, a native of Ajacán, who had received baptism while in Mexico City, having taken the name Luis, and was now offering to assist the Spanish in the conversion of his tribe. We will continue next week. Source: Martyrs - Martyrs of La Florida Missions - Tallahassee, FL
Sunday, September 17th, 2023 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Sirach27:30 - 28:7, Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”, Romans 14:7-9, Matthew 18:21-35
The Our Father includes two petitions that are fundamental for the life of a Christian: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Jesus answered Peter’s question about the limits of forgiveness with a parable about two hearts: the heart of the king, representing God “rich in mercy” who forgives and forgets all our debts; and the heart of the unjust servant who chokes his debtor without an ounce of compassion.
Sisters and brothers: if we do not take advantage of God’s mercy at the opportune time we risk hearing our condemnation at the final judgment, distancing us forever from Divine Love.
1. The first thing we must do is forgive, but up to what point? The Christian attitude is unique. It means ardently seeking reconciliation with one’s enemies. It means never holding a grudge or hoping that the other will just recognize his fault and admit how little he knows. It means being humble and not thinking that one’s own imagined reasons for justice will always prevail. This call from Jesus to live a life without seeking revenge or trying to make others pay back “all they have done to us” is truly a very demanding challenge. We need to examine our consciences today to see if we are really following this gospel teaching, especially as regards that person who it is hardest for me to get along with. Then we need to take the necessary steps to change. Do we work hard at forgiving? Do we fight against rancor?
2. The condition for being forgiven is being the first to forgive. This is the meaning of the Our Father: “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” When someone knows that he himself is forgiven, he in his turn is quicker to forgive. He who has received free of charge, in his turn gives free of charge. As St. Cyprian teaches: “There where you were wounded, you are now cured. Love those who you used to hate, those very ones you could not bear.”
3. Vengeance has no place among Christians. There is no place for the law of the Talon: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Our community, our family, our workplace, our friends – all of this is a natural place for acceptance and forgiveness. Let us look around us and ask ourselves: how do we treat others? Are we building a world of vengeance or a universe of forgiveness? God is more human than we are, and when we imitate his behavior, we ourselves become more human.
Peter’s question is also very human: “How often must I forgive my brother? Seven times?” But God puts no limits on his generosity: “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven times.” Neither should we put limits when the time comes to forgive our brother. The strength of the Lord will lead us to live in harmony with the way God himself has treated us: we, like Him, will strive to be “rich in mercy”.
Source: ePriest.com / Best Practices and Homily Resources for Catholic Priests
Sunday, June 18th, 2023 – Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Exodus 19:2-6a, Psalm 100 “We are his people: the sheep of his flock”, Romans 5:6-11, Matthew 9:36—10:8
Pray for Vocations
Christ trusts His apostles to reveal and introduce "salvation" to all of His people; He calls us in a personal way, awarding us redemption and conversion. Such a mission implies the social transformation of the human race. The modern priest must play both a father and a teacher role. Not everyone can carry out such a demanding task; nor is it a responsibility that can be easily mastered. We are being called now, more than ever, "the harvest is great."
Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Gospel recounts Christ with His generous mercy, who is moved when seeing His people "abandoned and exhausted", like sheep that have no shepherd. It is in that situation the Church finds itself in today for "the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few." We need priests! Why have vocations diminished? What has happened to our world? It is obvious that materialism has invaded the home and the school grounds; as well as the economy, the political arena and our work places.
The family obsesses about its financial well-being, their "social status". Learning institutions are but conduits of information, rather than developing virtuous traits and community. The youth are motivated by the practical and useful, seeking comforts; the standard of a disposable society. Thus, we cannot be surprised by the following conclusion from this Gospel reading: The harvest is plentiful and growing, but the laborers are few, and declining. Yet there is a deeper cause for concern: "modern man has expelled God from their daily lives."
1. Jesus Christ's primary directive is 'prayer': "Pray to the Lord of the harvest to provide the laborers to gather His crop." The Church will grow vibrantly if the community of believers is solid and well-instructed in religious doctrine. One of the most serious shortcomings of modern Christians is religious ignorance. Formation must be nurtured. Our contemporary world demands from its Christians "to supply rationale for their faith." But "nobody can provide what they themselves do not have." Our prayer must remain strong: "Lord, send us saints and holy priests that reflect your heart."
2. His second recommendation describes the distinctiveness of the Christian life: "We have received it free, thus should share it freely." Every Christian is a "Gift from God" to his fellow brothers and we all should follow the unselfish example of Jesus Christ who surrendered His life; His death on the cross for the salvation of all men. It is imperative that we teach our youth so through Christ's generosity both the quality and quantity "of shepherds to tend to His sheep will multiply." We must pray fervently to our Lord for vocations and educate our children about generosity so they will recognize the call of a life to God. The entire community that supports them will treasure them like vessels of clay. Amen.
Sunday, March 26th, 2023 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Ezequiel 37:12-14, Psalm 130 “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption ”, Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45
My dear brothers and sisters, when someone we love dies, we become aware of a large absence in our life. In today’s Gospel we hear how the death of Lazarus leaves a large absence in the lives of those who loved him. By the time Jesus arrives Lazarus is already dead, and Martha voices her regret: if Jesus had been here with them earlier, things would surely have turned out differently. But Jesus’s absence is essential to the story. John tells us at the beginning of his account that through the death of Lazarus the Son of God will be glorified. Just as the blindness of the man in last week’ Gospel served as the occasion to show Jesus as the light, so the death of Lazarus will serve to show Jesus as the life.
Who Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, he will show her that he means now: “I am the resurrection and the life.” So the death of Lazarus does not mean that it is too late for Jesus to be his life. In a loud voice Jesus calls to the dead: “Lazarus, Come out!” The great miracle is that while he is dead Lazarus hears the word of Jesus and obeys it. Hearing the voice of the Son of God, Lazarus lives again. When Lazarus comes forth he is still wearing the clothes of a dead man. He is still enshrouded. Jesus now addresses the community: “Unbind him; let him go free.” In obeying the word of Jesus the community plays its part in helping Lazarus unwind and emerge into the light of his new life.
The story of the raising of Lazarus proclaims the great truth that Jesus is Lord of life. He has power to call us out of our tombs- for the Christian life only begins when we, Ben though we are dead, hear the word of God and obey it. We know from experience that we don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. E can be dead in the midst of life- hoping for a word and a community that will put us together again. The voice of Jesus calls us all from making the tomb our natural habitat. It also challenges us to take responsibility for our brother who, like Lazarus, is loved by Jesus. If we see someone buried alive we are invited to do as Jesus and the community do in the Gospel: call them, and help them go free. If we do that as part of our Lenten task, then the resurrection at Easter won’t come as too much of a surprise. May the grace of God be with us, amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, March 19th, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is traditionally called Laetare Sunday from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her”. This Sunday speaks to us of joy, because as we journey to the Calvary with Jesus this Lent, we are reminded that the moment of our redemption is coming closer. Joy has a spiritual origin, arising from a heart that loves and feels itself loved by God. Today, rose-colored vestments are permitted in place of purple. In this way the church reminds us that joy is perfectly compatible with mortification and pain. It is sinless and not penance which is opposed to happiness.
In the first reading, the prophet Samuel was sent by God to Jesse to anoint one of his eight sons as the future King. As Samuel arrives, Jesse presents seven of his sons to the prophet. It did not occur to him that his youngest son might be the chosen one. Samuel in a similar way was impressed by the eldest son and seeing his great height thought he would be God’s choice. But he was wrong. They forgot that “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” The Lord saw in David something more than meets the eye. And as Christian, St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “we walk by faith and not by sight”.
In the gospel, Jesus saw the need of the man born blind; that he wanted to be healed. The irony of the story is that the man born blind recognized Jesus as the messiah while the religious leaders failed to see. But this man’s journey to recovery of sight is of great importance to us. Jesus made clay with his saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”. Jesus demonstrated his love for this man by healing him. He united deed and a word-command, but leaving it to the blind man to make the final decision to obey his word. Jesus’ action and word would remain unfruitful if this man would refuse to go and wash. He obeyed the command and his sight was restored. Instead of his healing arousing in the heart his parents, neighbors and the religious leaders joy and rejoicing; it causes interrogation, separation, division, rejection, anger, and fear. Why, because they refused to see the miracle and the person who healed him. Bless us Lord that we may see! In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, March 12th, 2023 – Third Sunday of Lent - Cycle A Readings: Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”, Romans 5:1- 2, 5-8, John 4:5-42
My dear brothers and sisters, we enter into the third week of Lent. Last week, we participated in our Lenten retreats with the theme “From the Cross to the Light”. As we look at the light, we are filled with hope. There is a type of hope that can help us momentarily and give us motivation to keep going. However, this hope runs out the moment we stop thinking about it. This type of situation is what the people of Israel experienced in the desert. Of course, the natural need for food naturally leads us to seek the means to achieve and satisfy hunger and thirst. But the message that the book of Exodus wants to communicate to us is deeper: complete trust in God. This confidence is different from the one we were referring to up to now; we can call it with the same name, hope, but the origin is God.
This hope is what we know best as a theological virtue; that is, it is a gift from God. The essential difference between the virtue of hope and the hope that we can manufacture is that we receive the former from God through grace. The second ends the moment we put it aside. Although the first, the hope of God, we can also deny it and we will become blind to it. It is in these moments that we begin to lose our entire trust in God and we can even tempt God, as the people of Israel did.
Our response should be like that of the woman at the well. Jesus waits for us at the well, even in the heat of midday, to draw us closer to Him. Just as the people of Israel approached Moses to ask for water, so we put ourselves at the feet of the Samaritan woman and approached the well with Jesus.
Hope is possible by the grace of God: the hope that He gives us, which is a firm confidence that God fulfills the promise of eternal life. All this comes from living water that becomes a spring capable of giving eternal life. This is God's hope. The firm conviction in eternal life for the gift we have received. This is our faith. And so we are invited to share that spring of charity with our neighbor today.
In this third week of Lent I would like to invite you to reflect on these as questions: ·
1.What hopes have I created that do not bring me satisfaction?
2.What moments remind me of experiencing the living water that Jesus Christ offers me?
3. And, with this information, what do I want to say to Jesus in my prayer today? May the grace of God be with you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, January 22, 2023 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3, Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation”, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17, Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
My dear brothers and sisters, Pope Francis instituted the third Sunday in Ordinary time as “Sunday of the word of God. We hear in today's readings what it is like to live without light and what it is like to pass from the darkness and shadows of life to the light that shines like the splendor of salvation.
The prophet Isaiah pro-claims, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” And then Saint Matthew, the evangelist presents the context from which Jesus' preaching emerges as an announcement of the coming of light: “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The two readings highlight how salvation is manifested and presented to us in history as a divine response to human reality. Darkness seems to dominate and reign in the existence of many people and the suffering may be impossible to escape. However, it is necessary to see the reality of the world’s situation from another perspective, with the eyes of faith.
The eyes of faith, open our hearts to the light of faith. This powerful light cannot come from ourselves; it comes from God. Faith is born from the encounter with the living God, who calls us and reveals his love to us, a love that precedes us and on which we can rely to be safe. The light of faith has everything to do with the goodness of God and our openness to receive his love and direct our lives through it. It is about entering into the divine light, because we have been invited to be in union with Christ, who is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”
For many people of the world, life is often surrounded by darkness and it is difficult to see a spiritual light that shines as a sign of hope. Living in the midst of the darkness of human suffering and facing the forces of death and sin, it is difficult to recognize and experience peace. In other words, they are not used to seeing the light when almost everything seems dark. Indeed, many people do not think about light, but ask the question, Where is God?
However, we will not find God if we think that he is not within history, if we think that he is not interested in human experience. God does not stray from the path of man and through Jesus Christ he has permanently approached humanity, because in the Incarnation, God has become human. It is a work that can only shine and illuminate the darkness of sin. It is about Jesus Christ, who is the divine light in person. May we experience his light and love, and our faith renewed as we encounter him in the Holy Scriptures.
May the Lord bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, November 27, 2022 – First Sunday of Advent - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122 “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord “, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24: 37-44
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this week we begin the season of Advent. It is a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Advent is the time when we remember that Jesus came into the world and that he also promised one day to return in all his glory.
Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope. The Word of God tells us that Jesus has not come just once. He comes and keeps coming, but are we ready to recognize him? The readings of this Sunday invite us to be vigilant, to keep our eyes wide open in order to discover and prepare the ways that Jesus has chosen to come and free us from what is not right in our lives. We are called upon in this season to get our personal life in order so that our special guest will be pleased, delighted, and feel welcomed.
The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel Reading assures us that there is hope of new life. Jesus warns us that it is very easy for us to be caught up in speculations or give way to despair. If we abandon ourselves to the cares and pleasures of this world, they will blind us and prevent us from seeing the coming of the Son of Man. We are exhorted to be vigilant and prayerful in such a way that we can make our way safely through the cosmic disorders. It is necessary to be disciplined in our behavior so that we can remain on the right path as we await the coming of the Lord.
We prepare for special visitors in special ways. We desire to delight them, help them to feel comfortable. We ask ourselves and perhaps others about what food they like and what activities would please them. These are visible signs of affection. Advent is precisely the time that the Church offers us to train ourselves to wait on the Lord. The Lord invites us in this season to raise our eyes and open our hearts to welcome him. We all de- sire a new world. We desire that the peace of Christ reigns in our world instead of war, poverty, injustice, cor- ruption and prejudices. The advent season helps us to focus on the journey toward the birth of Jesus who is the peace of the world and the manifestation of the love of God for all humanity. Just as his coming more than two thousand years ago changed human history, our hope is that each time we celebrate his birth, the earth will be renewed. Our participation in these efforts may be spiritual as we accompany the agents of peace with our prayers and love. It can also be through our personal efforts as we promote peace in our personal spheres of life. May the Advent season be for each one of us a true journey to encounter the Lord our Redeemer. May the Lord bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and f the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD.
Sunday, August 14th, 2022 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C Readings: Jeremiah 38, 4-6. 8-10, Psalm 40 “Lord, come to my aid!”, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the gospel reading Jesus tells us that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” What did Jesus mean by fire? Fire is used in the Bible in many ways. Fire is used as a sign of purification- the prophet Isaiah recounts that “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,’ he said, 'now that this has touched your lips.' Your wickedness is removed, your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7). Fire also signifies God's presence and love. We can remember the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples like tongues of fire, showing them God's power and giving them the courage to go and bear witness to the gospel. Fire represents God's judgement on sinful people. We can recall the story of Sodom and Gomorrah whom God punished with fire.
Jesus was so filled with his experience of the Kingdom of God, that his heart was on fire to invite all people to experience the presence of God's love in their life. It called for purification from every burden and sin that clings to us. An invitation to experience the love of God and bring to people's notice the consequences of sins. “The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
When we are filled with that fire, we cannot but allow ourselves to be instruments of God's love, mercy and compassion in the world. Yes, it will come with some struggles. Jesus says, “a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father," It will also invite hatred, a feeling of abandonment and loneliness. Times when we will even question if we are doing the will of God, because we will go through the experience of the absence of God. But these challenges and struggles should encourage us to persevere. The second reading exhorts us that: "in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood”. Consider what Christ went through to save us. He was mocked, beaten, spat upon, imprisoned, wrongly treated, and crucified like a criminal but he remained faithful.
We are called to be faithful to the mission that God has entrusted to us, no matter how small, big, or challenging it might be. Let us never forget that it takes only a tiny spark to ignite a forest fire. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” May the Lord grant us an experience of that fire so that we can be true witnesses to the glory of his holy name.
In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD
Sunday, May 1st, 2022 – III Easter Sunday - Cycle C Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41, Psalm 30 “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me ”, Revelations 5:11-14, John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14
My dear friends, Jesus desires to ignite the faith of disciples and to restore their hope that his plan for them is still in place. At the call of Peter in Lk 5:1-11, he realized his unworthiness at the catch of fish, but Christ told him that he will be a fisher of men. This was a new life for him. Peter was privileged not just to be one of the twelve disciples but one of the three that formed the inner circle of Jesus (together with James and John). At the transfiguration, the healing of the daughter of Jairus, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter promised that he will even lay down his life for the Lord. But he denied him three times.
Today’s gospels help us to understand that this was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. But before this third appearance, Peter had reached a point where he felt like quitting. But Christ came and gave him three opportunities to renew his love and commitment to him.
My dear friends, in life, there are many things and experiences that can happen to us that will make us want to quit. Sickness, persecution, betrayal, temptation, fall, trial, repeated failure or sin. But we encounter a God who assures us that he is a God of new opportunity and grace.
Probably, earlier Peter had made the promise to die for the Lord, based on his own power and effort, but he recognized his weakness and inabilities and therefore his need to trust in the Lord who called him. Follow me. Know that the plans of God for you are still in place. The bible tells us that weeping may last a whole night but joy comes in the morning. Because we serve a living God, a loving and compassionate God. He calls you to follow, trust and give him praise even with your present situation. We celebrate Christ in his Word and in the Eucharist. We celebrate the Easter Good News, which transforms us, gives us hope, joy, love, unity, a sense of direction in carrying on the mission of the risen Lord in the world. May the Risen Lord fill us with Easter joy and hope.
Father Paschal Chester