The Invisible Men

Feast of Christ the King – Cycle A

Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 Psalm Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 Mt 25:31-46

I want to focus our reflections today on four different perspectives of the Gospel; Reflection, Examination, Penance and Action.

The Gospel today helps us to anticipate the great celebration of the coming of Christ as king. In the movie the “Return of the King” there is a great scene towards the end of the movie when one of the Heroes, Aragorn is crowned king of Gondor before all of the peoples of Middle Earth. It is a scene filled with majesty, grandeur, and joy, because it celebrates mans triumph over omnipresent evil in the world, and the restoration of the world to a right order.

This is a useful image for us to keep in mind as we reflect on the Gospel today because today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, where we celebrate the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and rejoice in the fulfillment of all the good that God has done throughout time.

Christ and the Angels
In the Gospel today, Jesus describes this time when he says that he will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.

What comes next in the Gospel today is almost a counterpoint to the grandeur, pomp and circumstance that almost always seems to accompany such great events. Jesus turns to all of the nations gathered before him, and begins to separate them onto his right and his left.

His Right
He turns to those gathered on his right, and says to them; “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

His Left
Then he turns to those who are on his left and says to them; “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.

The Invisible Men
The elect, those on Christ’s right ask “when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?

Likewise, those on the left also asked Jesus “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?

Corporal Works of Mercy as an Examination of Conscience
(How the Gospel Challenges our hearts)
What is startling about the dialog between Christ and the people is that both of them seem to be blind. Both of them fail to recognize the invisible men in their lives.

Caught up in all of this grandeur and magnificence of Christ coming in glory are the invisible women and men who are the key to our salvation. If we are able to recognize these men and women in our lives, then they can help us into the kingdom of heaven.

The Kingdom of God is about sharing our hearts with our neighbors, our brothers and sisters here on earth, with those who are in need. When Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, he does so based on the actions of their hearts.

The challenge of the Gospel today is for us to open up our hearts to those who are hungry for God, thirsty for his love, strangers, naked, sick or in prison.

The Hungry need the Bread of Life
Who are those invisible people in our world who are hungry for the Bread of Life, the Word made Flesh? What about those who are starving for God and we don’t speak to them about the love of God that lives in our own hearts? Is it because our hearts have grown cold, or hardened, or we are ashamed to proclaim Christ as king?


One of the beautiful things about taking a spiritual retreat, a day for refreshing our souls is that it allows us to open up and realize that we are spiritually hungry, starving for the love of God to become active in our lives.


The Thirsty need life-giving water
Who are those in our midst who are thirsty to know that they are loved by God through us? It was an awareness of God’s thirst to love souls that motivated Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to start literally feeding the hungry, stay with the dying, just to be in relationship with those people who had been abandoned on the streets of Calcutta. Christ is thirsting for souls, that his love be made known to those invisible people who are around us every day, and he is asking you and I to be the vessels of that love.


Welcome those who are strangers to the Kingdom of God
Why is welcoming the stranger in this list? Doesn’t it seem a little out of place in the context of all of the rest? Jesus came to welcome us (who had become strangers to God, because of our sin) back into relationship with His Father. Similarly, He invites his disciples (us) to welcome strangers into relationship so that they too can experience the love of God through us; through our lives. Who is the invisible stranger in our lives? Are they here at the Church, standing beside me, or behind me, or before me? Are they at my work or at my school? God is calling us to share our hearts with our brothers and sisters, because love is always expanding, and it is through us that He has the opportunity to show His love in this world.


Clothe the Naked – Return dignity to the people.
Who are the invisible naked people in our lives? Who are those whom we dehumanize? Who are those who live as objects rather than people in our lives? What do I mean? When we dehumanize someone, when we treat them as a thing and not a person, when we fail to recognize the beauty that God has created in them then we fail to clothe the naked. Sometimes the naked people are those who are at work, either customers or employees that we treat callously, and without love. Sometimes it is when we are trapped in pornography, that we learn to look at everyone as being naked. Is the naked that we are called to clothe ourselves? Have we destroyed the dignity of our bodies through the abuse of drugs or alcohol? Stop and think; who are the naked in your life that need clothing?


Care for the Sick and Imprisoned
Who is imprisoned by sin, trapped by some way of acting or behaving that God is inviting us to go and visit them, so that they can know his love. When Christ came he went and stayed with those who were sick (with sin) and in prison (because of their life style). He stayed with them to heal and to liberate. When the Gospel is lived it always heals (it cures the sickness of our souls), and it frees (It frees us from the shackles of Sin so that we can live as God created us to live. Who are the sick and those in prison that Christ is calling us to visit this week?


Penance – The Corporal Works of Mercy in Action
The Catechism refers to this passage from the Gospel of Matthew as the Corporal Works of Mercy – Meaning that these are ways that we can show God that we love him with our actions, in what we do.

Penance is spiritual medicine for our soul. Practicing penance means that we take concrete actions to correct the habits of sin that we have established in our lives. We can look at the corporal works of mercy as an examination of our conscience, and allow ourselves to be convicted by our sin. After acknowledging our sin, we are called to penance, to show that we can work at reforming our lives. We can use the corporal works of mercy as an opportunity to show our repentance by doing something concrete about our sins.

Faith in Action – Live the works of mercy
Take some time this week and practice the Corporal works of Mercy
• Bring some food to those who are hungry for the food bank.
• Bring some non-perishable drink, or drink mix (dried milk and the like).
• Step out of ourselves and greet those who are strangers in our midst, be they the immigrant, or someone here at mass who we have worshipped with for years and yet do not know.
• Go through our dressers and closets and bring some of our excess clothing here to clothe the naked.
• Consider volunteering some time to visit the sick, those parishioners who are lonely, imprisoned in their homes or at a nursing home. There are parishioners who are going to visit the sick tomorrow and in two weeks to visit the sick after the 8:30 mass on Sunday.

At his coronation the King will point out his servants
At the end of the movie “The Return of the King” in the midst of the victory celebration in which the King is crowned, and honored the King turns and draws attention to those who did his work throughout the story. They were the invisible agents of the King, doing his work, and making his kingdom known.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel calls us to spend our life this week being the invisible agents of the King, feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and visiting those who are sick and in prison so that they can come to know the fullness of God’s love.


Sister Death

All Souls Day – Cycle A

Wis 3:1-9 Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Rom 5:5-11 Jn 6:37-40

Grandpa Frank Died
My grandfather died while I was in college studying to be an engineer. He died during finals when the weather was cold and windy, and I was taking evening classes. It was an early afternoon when I got the call from my mom who told me that Grandpa Frank had died. He had been sitting at the kitchen table talking with Grandma, and when he stood up to go and get the laundry for her, he fell over dead.


For the rest of that day I was in a fog. I still had finals to take and the rest of the week I just went through the motions, finishing up tests, turning in projects, and then we drove out to Nebraska for his funeral.

Seeing Death Face to Face
At the vigil we prayed the rosary for Grandpa, and it was there that I came face to face with his body, lying cold in his coffin, holding on to his rosary. It was really the first time I had come face to face with the death of someone I knew and loved very much.

When we buried Grandpa, all of us gathered around his grave, and had a really good cry. We were saying goodbye, and grieving together as a family. Our tears were of sadness mixed with joy. It hurt to miss Grandpa, but at the same time, I was so happy to have known a man who was so full of life and full of love.


Comfort the sorrowing – Death is not the end
One of the greatest joys of my diaconal ministry is to pray with the families of those who have died. In those special moments, I have an opportunity to reach out to the families who have lost loved ones. They are sad, they are grieving, they have a sense of shell shock. At the same time it is an opportunity to share the hope that is at the heart of the Gospel – death is not the end.

We are created for Relationship with God
We are created for relationship with God and with one another. Death is not an end to our relationships, but a transformation in their nature. Grandpa Frank is with God now, and our relationship has not ended, because Christ will not end. God created us for a relationship of Love – selfless love. Love where we pour out our lives for one another.

How my fathers witnessed their sacrificial love
Years after Grandpa Frank died my Dad was sharing with me an example of his love. When my Dad wanted to go to a particular college, Grandpa went to work at a second job so that he could. It was Grandpa’s way of saying to my Dad – I love you. Likewise, when I needed to finish a basement in my house, my Dad gave up his weekends to come over and help me remodel, framing, wiring, sheetrocking, painting, and finishing. It was his witness of selfless love to me.

Grain of Sand vs Pike Peak
When Jesus came to live among us He told us that the way we live our lives here on earth determines how we will spend eternity when we die. Now, we might think that 80 or 90 or 100 years is a long time, but that is NOTHING compared to eternity. It is like comparing an itty-bitty grain of sand to Pike’s Peak.

Selfless Love
Christ calls us to love one another as He has loved us. To pour out our lives for one another. This is the witness of selfless love. When a father gives of himself to his children. When a husband serves his wife, when we take care of one another here in the Church, or on the highway, or at work or school then we are preparing our souls to spend eternity with God in heaven.

Selfish Love – You Deserve It!
Original Sin and our culture corrupts this natural tendency for selfless love and twists it into selfish love. The majority of advertisements that we see encourage us to love ourselves. Slogans like “You deserve it!” “Pamper yourself!” “You earned it!” take our naturally created need to give ourselves in selfless love and twist it inwards on itself so that we love ourselves. To God, Selfish love sounds like our sound system when we misconnect it so that it feeds back on itself. It sounds horrendous.

Sister Death
In his Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis praises Sister Death when he says “Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death, from whose embrace man can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
The reason for his warning of woe is tied to the Scriptures, to the judgment of our souls. The Catechism teaches that when we die, we face two judgments, the Particular Judgment and the Final Judgment. This is another way of reminding ourselves that what we do, how we relate to one another does matter. That is why when our relationships with God and one another are in good order, we are happy to meet Sister Death.

Particular Judgment – Lazarus and the Rich Man
When we die our soul faces the particular judgment. We know this from Luke’s Gospel where Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus and the Rich Man both receive an immediate reward for how they lived their lives. Lazarus ends up with the Saints, and the Rich Man in an abyss. Both reaped the fruits of their labors, but the Rich Man was not really prepared to meet Sister Death.

Final Judgment – The Sheepish Question
Jesus goes on in scripture to speak about the final judgment that happens at the end of time. When this topic came up while I was in the Seminary one nameless Deacon Candidate sheepishly raised his hand and said – “Excuse me professor, does that mean that God can give us a reward, and then at the end of time change his mind?” The professor answered the question this way. At the particular judgment we experience immediately what we have done, but at the final judgment we see the effects of our actions, both the good and the bad rippling through the lives of all that we have met, like a stone entering a still lake. What a profound witness to the power of sacrificial love that moment will be.

Meditation on Death – Reflect on your life with urgency!
In some monastic orders, when one of the nuns or monks dies, all of the brothers or sisters gather around the body to hold a wake. The body of their dead brother or sister helps them to think about the grain of sand and Pikes Peak. As a Deacon, when I have the opportunity to pray with a family who has lost a loved one, I always come away thinking about this image as it relates to my own life; and my own death. God allows this to happen because he is asking us the question – “how am I maturing in my ability to love selflessly”?


I am the Vine, you are the Branches
The source of selfless love is found here in the Mass, where we become rooted in Christ – who said in John’s Gospel – “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned… As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” In this Mass we are invited to the Table of the Lord, to unite our sacrifices to His as he pours out His life for us and feeds us with his Body and Blood. Here we have the foundation of selfless-ness, the foundation of self-giving. It is here in this great mystery that we find the antidote to selfishness, the source of holiness, and the strength to grow in relationship with one another.

Divine grace washing into your soul
Some of the most precious time that I get is when I sneak in here late at night, or early in the morning to just sit and soak in the presence of the Lord. Sometimes I can feel the Lord is gently filling up my soul with His love, like a tub that is filled to the brim and gently overflowing. I become profoundly aware of the peace, joy and love that Christ is showing me here in this sacrament of the Altar.

Watch and Pray
I want to invite you to join me in taking just one hour out of your week, or month and coming to the Church to spend time in silent prayer before the Lord. At our parish we are blessed with opportunities for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
· Every Tuesday night from 6PM until 7:30 PM (Shirley)
· Every Thursday day from 8:30 AM until 9:00 PM, (Fr Dan)
· Every first weekend of the Month we have Adoration from Friday evening until Sunday morning. (Jorge Reyes / Luis Ponce)

Come and spend an hour with the Lord and I promise you that his blessings will fill up your life. I have seen the fruits of adoration in families have given some time to God in prayer. He blesses those families with an abundance of His grace. Not all at once, but slowly and gradually they are transformed into blazing beacons of Gods love.


What a beautiful wedding – Well done Good and Faithful..
After we buried Grandpa Frank, we returned to the Church where we had a meal that the parishioners had kindly prepared for us. I turned to my Grandma and meant to say to her, “Grandma, that was the most beautiful funeral I have ever attended”. But instead I said “Grandma, that was the most beautiful marriage I have ever attended”. She responded with a smile – “Your right Paul, because Grandpa is with God now at the heavenly marriage feast.”

And so, my sisters and brothers I long for the day when we can join my Grandpa at that great wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.