Sermon Notes by Fr.Eugene A. Thalman M.M. for homilists and religion teachers. Embargo: Catholics are welcome to read after Noon, Sunday

[Our Lady of Fatima is a Catholic parish of the Hong Kong diocese. It is located on a one-square mile island. The total population is over 30,000. About 50 Filipino Catholics attend the English/Tagalog Sunday Mass and about 120 Chinese Catholics attend the Chinese Mass. The Church is also a center for pilgrimage. The pastor, Fr.Gene Thalman M.M., ordained 1960 is a Maryknoll missioner. He enjoys sharing with you his weekly struggle to make the Word of God relevant to this particular community. [email protected]. Cf. also Social Concerns Lessons at ( under "Library."]


01/21/02 3rd Sunday of the Year (A) Matt. 4: 12-23

(Caution: This sermon is directed to children. Adults should read this sermon under the supervision of a mature child.)

My little brothers and sisters, when you finish school you will have to start work. Today Jesus starts his public work life. What does Jesus do on this first day? Jesus preaches. What is the important thing that Jesus has to say?

Who can tell me in one word what Jesus told his listeners to do? Look in your missalette. (Matthew 4: 17.) [Correct answers: "Reform!"]

Many people think that "Reform" is a big people’s word! It’s the kind of thing that bank robbers and nasty people got to do or they will be in big trouble on the last day. But today Jesus is talking to all kinds of people. He is telling everyone to reform. Even good people must reform. Jesus is saying that he expects us at Our Lady of Fatima to reform: old people, middle age people, young people, children and even babies!

In the bible "reform" is a very special word and it includes two ideas. To repent means to (1) turn away from selfishness and to (2) turn to God and to other people. If you have a baby brother or sister in your family, you can easily understand the meaning of the word "Reform".

Raise your hand if you have a baby brother or a baby sister. Rebecca, what does your two-month old baby brother do mostly? [Eat, sleep and cry.]

Let tell you about an ordinary (typical) baby. Let’s call him "Barkus Wong." Like all babies Barkus has many needs. When he is hungry, a woman (his mother) always comes to nurse him. When Barkus cries, the woman drops everything comes to see what might be troubling Baby Barkus. When Barkus is sick, he demands that this woman sit by his bed twenty-four hours a day. Also Barkus insists that his bottom be kept tidy and powdered. This woman may be overworked. Or she may be sick. Or she may be tired and wanting a few minutes rest. However, if the woman delays Barkus cries louder and makes her feel guilty.

At night this woman may be feeling sad, but Baby Barkus expects her to sing happy lullabies until he falls asleep. If at anytime of night Barkus has a nightmare and sees an ugly green monster, he expects this woman to come running, turn on the lamp, bring his pet rabbit, expel the monster and hold him until he falls asleep. Barkus thinks only of himself and his own comfort.

But one day about three months after his birth, Barkus has a new thought: "This woman takes good care of me. She evidently loves me. And I have been treating her like a flunky. I am a selfish, ungrateful, insensitive little brat. All I think about is "me—me—me."

So Baby Barkus decides to make the woman happy. That very day after the woman has fed and burped him, baby Barkus smiles at her for the first time. And forthwith, this woman "goes bananas" with joy.

ANALYSIS Let’s do a simple analysis, Barkus was born selfish. (We are all born selfish.)

And yet at the age of three months, Barkus has suddenly become aware of "another" person. Barkus wants to make that other person happy.

He decides to stop thinking of himself all the time and reforms. He turns away from his selfishness [selfishness = sinfulness].

And forgetting himself, he turns to "another." He forgets his own comfort for a few seconds. He briefly stops thinking exclusively of his own comfort.

Barkus changes his behavior. He smiles at this nice woman when she burps him. For the first time in his brief existence, Barkus gives joy to "another."

In theological terms, Barkus turned from sin/selfishness and turned to God and neighbor. Barkus performed his first act of reform.



Look at Peter and Andrew in today’s gospel. They was good, hard-working fellows. Their father was a boat owner and the brothers had a comfortable future. Jesus calls them to help him save folks. Peter and Andrew turns away from a comfortable life and turn toward Jesus. "They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers."


Most of us like to think that we are good guys. We are not too worried that we are grievously displeasing God or injuring other people. But this morning Jesus reminds us that we must always "reform" We all are like onions. We all have layers and layers of selfishness that must be peeled away during our lifetime.

All of us at Our Lady of Fatima, adults as well as children, are trying to be less selfish and more loving to God and others.

What kind of things do you do to make Jesus happy? When you play games do you think of having a good time for yourself. Or do you welcome the Risen Lord and unpopular kids to be a part of your games? Are you like baby Barkus when he was still a two month old selfish little brat?

This week I invite you to think about how you have been treating Jesus. [Children: let’s talk about the favorite things that we like to do with the Risen Lord.]

FINALE If during the week, you will smile at a schoolmate whom you don’t know very well or whom you dislike and if you will try to make this schoolmate a little happier, raise your hand.


01/21/02 3rd Sunday of the Year (A) Matt. 4: 12-23

This sermon will be preached at the children’s Liturgy of the Word as well as to a small Chinese adult group at the anticipated evening Mass. It will also be preached in English at the Filipino Mass. Hence the attempt to be simple. To impress more sophisticated congregations, remove humor and do background reading in developmental psychology.

ONE WORD: Metanoein


Metanoein requires that we turn away from selfishness and turn our thoughts and actions to the welfare of others.

TEXT: "’Reform your lives!’"




"Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion [turning] to God with all our heart, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed." [Emphasis added: et] Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills: Benziger Publishing Co, 1994), #1431, p. 360.


"’Follow me,’ says Jesus to Simon and Andrew, to James and John, to Matthew; and his word, full of authority draws their adherence (Mk 1,17-20." [Emphasis added-et] Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed., trans. P. Joseph Cahill S.J. Biblical Dictionary (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967), p. 164.


"The Greek Bible also uses conjointly

the verb epistrephein, which connotes the


in practical conduct,

and the verb metanoein, which looks to the

interior change,

(metanoia, that is, repentance)."

[Emphasis added-et] Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed., trans. P. Joseph Cahill S.J. Biblical Dictionary (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967), p. 430.



Recently a person in her sixties told me how she turned to the Risen Lord in a new way. She said: "I used to think of Jesus as an older brother. But recently I realized that I am older than he was when he died and rose. So I turn to him as my younger brother."

LETTER TO EDITOR (Self-produced.)

Dear Father Gene,

I find writing homilies difficult. I often get stuck. Any hints? Help! Fr. Sixtus,

Dear Father Sixtus,


It is the experience of senior homilists that sleep is the remedy.

After you have given what you consider to be reasonable amount of time in studying the readings, consulting a resource or two, jotting down some random ideas and perhaps composing a summary statement, go to bed.

While you are asleep your sub-conscious is working its fingers to the bone putting coherence into your thoughts and taking out the garbage. As a bonus your sub-conscious often brainstorms and presents you with the perfect illustration while you are brushing your teeth the next morning. The more nights I sleep on a sermon, the sharper and more creative it becomes. I think that this is the way the Holy Spirit likes to work while I am asleep. But she lets me take the credit for being creative.

By beginning your preparation a week in advance, you will have slept on your sermon for six nights.

Hope this is helpful, Fr. Sixtus. Fr. Gene


Chewing, Digesting and Practicing God’s Word

01/21/02 3rd Sunday of the Year (A) Matt. 4: 12-23

nAME_______ fAVORITE PRECIOUS METAL _____ Grade_____

1. Repentance includes a t__________g from s_________ss and a t______g to

The Risen Lord in a deeper or different way.

  1. Repentance involves an i_________r change and a change in our prac___l
  2. c___d___t.

  3. In his early months Baby Barkus thought only about h _______f. But he repented and thought more about his m______r and her happiness.
  4. Tell how Baby Barkus changed his practical conduct. ________________.
  5. (Optional) How is Jesus inviting you to deepen or change your relationship to him?