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].]


02/18/02 Second Sunday of Lent (Year A) Mt: 17:1-9

My cousin could easily have afforded to buy an expensive dog for a pet. Instead he went to the dog pound. In the cages there were some cuddly dogs with soft fur and frisky faces. Instead my cousin picked the most miserable looking dog in the pound. He brought the dog home. After a few weeks, the dog walked with shoulders high. And when he saw my cousin, his tail (not my cousinís) wagged like a windmill in a typhoon.

Why did this dogís morale change so radically? Because he was chosen! He was chosen not because he was a beautiful dog. He was chosen because my cousin wanted to give him the gift of a new life. If we truly believed the mystery of grace, we would be running around bouncing with peace and joy.

GODíS POINT OF VIEW To the apostles, Jesus was the best person they had ever met. Jesus was loving, compassionate, honest, a great sense of humor and a great conversationalist. Just being with Jesus was a wonderful experience. He was a great companion in all kinds of weather. And apostles loved to hear Jesus talk about God.

But in the previous chapter of Matthew, 16: 21-23, the apostles learned something new about the kind of person Jesus was. Jesus was the fulfillment of the hopes of the Old Testament. Jesus was the promised "Suffering Servant."

In the Old Testament, Godís people suffered a great deal. The chosen people were called Godís suffering servants. And Isaias prophesied that God would someday send the one special Suffering Servant. In 53:11, Isaias promised: "Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear." In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus reveals to his apostles that "he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly...and be put to deathÖ" Jesus reveals that he is the Suffering Servant.

In todayís reading, six days later, Jesus revealed to Peter, Andrew, James and John another aspect of his identity. Jesus takes them to a high mountain. Suddenly, "He was transfigured before their eyesÖ Jesusí face became as "dazzling as the sun" just like Mosesí face. Do you remember? After Moses interviewed God, he had to cover his face because his face was blinding like the sun and folks couldnít look at him. Matthew is always reminding us that Jesus is the new Moses.

Out of the cloud came a voice (in the Old Testament, a cloud symbolized the presence of God): "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests."

Jesus was Godís beloved Son. Jesus was Godís gift to us. (Romans 6: 23: "Ö the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."


You may have noticed that I seldom use the word "grace" or "sanctifying grace" in my sermons. I fear that when I use the word "grace", most Catholics misunderstand. They think that grace is "a thing." They think: "If you go to church or help the poor, you get a pint, a quart or even a gallon of grace." Grace is not a thing!

Grace has such a rich meaning that we could spend our whole lives deepening our appreciation. We could talk every Sunday of the year about "grace" and there would be always so much more we would not have said. In order to deepen our appreciation of the "Amazing Grace" teachings, why not review sections #1996 to #2011 in the new Catechism? Afterwards your life might never be the same.

GIFT The simplest meaning of GRACE is GIFT. GRACE includes all the gifts that God gives us. But the biggest gift (grace) is his Son Jesus. "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests." There are many other gifts (or graces) but they all flow from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

UNEARNED In my country, we have this marriage custom. In the morning we have the Church wedding. In the evening, the newly weds invite their family and friends for a reception. The guests bring gifts that the newly weds will be able to use in setting up their home. When my parents married they sent out invitations but forgot to include one of their acquaintances. The fellow could had said: "They didnít invite me. So I wonít go." But the fellow came anyway. It was fortunate he came because his present was two pillows. If it hadnít been for him, my parents would not have had pillows on their wedding night.


Grace means that God gives us gifts whether or not we invite him to our party. Even though, we donít invite him, God is always giving us gifts. God gives presents to people who havenít heard of him. God gives gifts to people who do bad things. God gives gifts to people who hate him.

You see, God is like my cousin who picked out the worst dog. God doesnít give us presents because we are lovable or beautiful. If we are beautiful it is already a gift from God. From the very nature of a gift, it cannot be earned. If we have to work to get a gift, it is not a gift. Or if someone gives us a gift but we must agree to do something in return, then it is not a gift. Godís gifts are truly gifts.

Our task is to admire and cherish these gifts. We will certainly feel deep inside ourselves that we want to use these gifts well. We use these gifts to make not only ourselves happy but others as well.

During this season of Lent, we Christians enjoy thinking about Godís "Amazing Grace." [Read this beautiful hymn.] Of these gifts, Godís greatest gift -- "This is my son, the beloved Son on whom my favor rests." ñthis gift of Jesus will always be on our minds.


This morning we at Our Lady of Fatima are filled with gratitude for the riches of Godís gifts of grace. These gifts have been gained for us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. During this season of Lent, we, as a community, will enthusiastically celebrate the mystery of Godís ñ grace. As you leave Church this morning, I hope to see all of you smiling, standing straight, and joyfully wagging your tails.


02/18/02 Second Sunday of Lent (Year A) Mt: 17:1-9

(In most sermons, I try to find practical things that the folks can do. But todayís sermon is different. I want to help them to experience the joy of being gifted (graced). I want them to feel great! People who feel great often do great things!)


THEME: To remind ourselves of Godís and amazing and gratuitous gifts.

TEXT: "íThis is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.í"


I didnít do anything special last week. I just went around with the thought of Godís generosity to me. I was walking on air.



"Grace is favor, and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons [and daughters], partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills: Benziger Publishing Co, 1994), #1996, p. 483.


"Grace is the gift of God which contains all others gifts, the giving of His Son (R 6,14f; Jn 1,17) But grace is more than just a gift. It is the gift that radiates the generosity of the giver and envelops with this generosity the creature who receives His gift."

JG wjy, "Grace" Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed., trans. P. Joseph Cahill S.J. Biblical Dictionary (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967), p. 191.

(This book is available in Chinese translation.)


These sermons are written on the preceding Monday. The sermon is often improved in the following days: a new example, excision, a sharper focus etc. The sermon is first given to a small group on Saturday evenings. This sermon can be a groping affair. But there is little time-constraint. So I can rephrase and be more detailed with my material. That night I sleep on it. And let my unconscious clean up the bugs.

Hence the following morning there is usually considerable improvement. Often the "One Word" is changed to more accurately reflect the focus. I sometimes listen to a Tina Turner cassette to ignite my enthusiasm. The first sermon is in English to our Filipina domestics at the 7:20 A.M. Mass. Here it is necessary to adjust material that is more relevant to their lives and cultural heritage. The second sermon is directed to the Chinese Catholics at the 9 A.M. Mass. Often this sermon takes wings!

Chewing, Digesting and Practicing Godís Word

02/18/02 Second Sunday of Lent (Year A) Mt: 17:1-9

nAME_________ Grade_____________

  1. __T/F Mrs. Smith has dedicated her life to the poor and she merited a lot of grace.
  2. Grace is a g_________s g_____t from God.
  3. If I worked all my life for God and others, could I earn Godís gifts? Why or Why not? __________________________________________
  4. Who is Godís greatest gift to us? ___________
  5. (Optional) Name a particular gift that you have received from God that you think about a lot.