Homily: Holy Thursday C

Cycle C. Holy Thursday

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

Many people desired to leave behind them a concrete symbol for the posterity to remember them. The Pharaohs of Egypt had thus built the great pyramids of Egypt. It stands high, embraced by the heavenly clouds, still bearing witness to the memories of Pharaohnic rule. Former President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, figured his great face on a mountain between the cities of Pujo and Baguio. But on 30 December, 2002 the visage was blown to pieces.

Jesus left behind him not a perishable monument, but his very real presence in the institution of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the symbol of life giving bread. “I am the bread of life…unless you will eat the flesh of the son of man you will have no life in you (Jn 6). Interestingly, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the Hebrew name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”.

Eucharist was instituted on the Day of Passover. Passover for the Jews was one of the greatest feasts. It recalled the major events in the history of salvation. To remember the great deeds of God in delivering His people from Bondage, God commanded them to keep this feast observing all the details as it was done in Egypt, when the Angel of God came down and smote all the first born of the homes which were not smeared with the blood of the lamb. After narrating the events, they ate the unleavened bread together with the roasted lamb.

Lamb was an important symbol in the expiation of sins. In Leviticus we read the account of transferring the sin of the society onto the lamb. “The High Priest is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place (Lev.16:21-22).” The goat bore their sins and disappeared into the desert. This gave the Israelites a visual image to “see” God forgiving their sins. Before the scapegoat was sent out, the high priest had sacrificed a goat and made atonement as a sin offering for the nation of Israel. The law prescribed, “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood; He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. (Lev 16:15). The reconciliation with God has been accomplished for the year.

When John the Baptist was preaching repentance he saw Jesus and he proclaimed “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When Jesus was pointed out as the Lamb of God, John Knew well the role of the lamb in the Jewish tradition. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he willingly obeyed God’s command. But, as Abraham raised hands to slay him God called him. “Abraham, do not lay your hands on the child. Abraham looked up and saw a ram. He sacrificed it to God. A male lamb is offered daily at the morning and evening sacrifice on the Sabbath day, at the feast of the New Moon, of Trumpets, of Tabernacles, of Pentecost, of Passover and on many other occasions.

Jesus the Lamb of God offered himself to God at the last supper. Eucharist stands as a perfect offering. Jesus changed the bread into his Body and wine into his Blood. He gave authority to his disciples to reenact this sacrifice. When he entrusted them with this power he knew they were weak. He knew that Peter would deny Him. He knew they would all hide for fear of the Jews. Still he has given them the privilege and entrusted them with the power to reenact the sacrifice.

There are Cherubim and Seraphim waiting at his feet. Bu he has not given this power to any of the Angels. By commanding them to reenact this sacrifice in his memory Jesus has instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders, and set them above the Angels. Even Mother Mary had the opportunity to bring Jesus into the world only once. But he comes down through the hands of the priest at every Eucharistic celebration.

Then Jesus reminded them that this authority is for service. He demonstrated it by washing the feet of his disciples. And Jesus gave them the new commandment. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Every Christian who partakes in the body and blood of Jesus should turn into the Lamb of God. He should be able to bear witness to the new commandment of love. He should be able to reenact the sacrifice of Jesus. Then as John declared seeing Jesus, “Behold, the lamb of God” our brothers should be able to point at us and say, “Behold the lamb of God.” For that the love taught by Jesus, the sympathy reflected in the face of Jesus, the consolation found in the words of Jesus, the forgiveness offered by Jesus, the Kindness shown by Jesus and the understanding radiated through the actions of Jesus should be experienced through us. May Jesus give us the strength and grace for this especially during the great Triduum.


Homily: Palm Sunday C

Cycle C Palm Sunday.

Luke 19:28-40; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2: 6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56.

The royal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem echoes many details from the life of the ancient kings of Israel and contemporary history.

The crowd around Jesus was aware of King Solomon’s royal procession on David’s royal mule as he was taken to be anointed as king.

After he rode the royal mule to be anointed, the crowd followed with shouts of “Long live King Solomon!” and they blew the trumpets and played music on pipes and sang and rejoiced in the royal procession. Riding the royal mule, and then later being seated on David’s royal throne, were both acts that confirmed that David’s kingship was legitimately being transferred to Solomon. Other narrations are found in the book of Jeremiah (13:1-11) and Ezekiel (4:1-4).

William Shakespeare gives a vivid account of the Roman triumphal procession. When Julius Caesar was returning after the victory over the sons of Pompey, the common people took a holiday, decorated the streets and shouted slogans for Caesar.

The Jews who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem that day were aware of the connections to Israel’s past kings and practices in the contemporary empires. His entry on a donkey, the spreading of cloaks beneath Him, and palm branches waving—these all were acts for royalty.

The Jews were eagerly waiting for the fulfilment of the Prophecy made by Zechariah, about 500 years ago. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey….. He shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:9-10).

They had lived under foreign rule for hundreds of years, with no son of David to rule on the throne. Finally, it seemed, here was the one to reclaim the throne! Just as in the royal parade for Solomon, now nearly ten centuries later the Jewish crowds in the same royal city raised their voices in the royal procession. They rejoiced and praised God for the mighty works Jesus had done, and said “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

There was a great difference between the imperial processions and the triumphant entry of Jesus. In the Roman Imperial Processions, the picture bearers went ahead; the standard bearers moved ahead of the king; the crosslets lined before the king. Unlike the Roman imperial processions Jesus did not have any picture bearers. There were no bearers of standards, trophies or crosslets. Jesus was in front and He led the procession. Because Jesus came as the king of peace. He was no ordinary king. He required no special anointing from the priests, for He had been anointed with the Holy Spirit in His baptism. He needed no officials to transfer authority, no borrowed mule from the previous king to establish His legitimacy. He wore no finery or royal robes, and marched with no other army than a small band of fisherman. He carried no sword. He made no political promises.

But Jesus gave kingly orders. He ordered his disciples, “Go off to the nearby village, you will find a tethered colt, untie it and bring it here.” These words reflected the power of authority. So the disciples did not dare to question him.

Jesus made kingly demands too. In case anyone questioned them, they were to answer “the master needs it.” The master needed a service from the owner of the donkey. And he had the right to demand that service. As Jesus required the service of the owner of the donkey he needs the service of each and every one of us today. He keeps on sending a variety of messages to us with the impression, “the master needs it.”

The master’s demands come to us through our neighbours. When we place our Lenten sacrifices remember that the master needs it. The master needs to extend support to an ailing brother. The master needs it to quench the thirst of someone. The master needs it to satisfy the hunger of a needy. The master needs it to provide shelter for a homeless. And the master needs it to alleviate the pain of the suffering.

Let us remember the words of Alice Cary, "True worth is in being, not seeming: in doing, each day that goes by some good.” During this Holy week let us ask him, “Lord what do you want from me.”

Homily: Lent05C

Cycle C 5th Sunday in Lent

(Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

Oscar Wilde’s story “The selfish Giant” has a great message.

Every afternoon, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.




The poor children had now nowhere to play.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom

"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer.

One morning, he saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms.

And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have been!" he said.

He took a great axe and knocked down the wall.

Oscar Wilde’s story gives the picture of a man who has understood what he has done was wrong, and corrected himself by knocking down the walls that he has built.

Today’s Gospel presents before us the picture of a woman who stood at the feet of Jesus with the realization that she had done wrong and she was ready to change her ways. Jesus’ reply to her was amazing, “Go away and don’t sin anymore.”

The Gospel gives two diametrically opposing views. One, a group of people who wanted to take pride in punishing the sinner, and the second, Jesus - with infinite mercy and forgiveness. And between them was a penitent who was sorry for her deeds and waiting for a chance to amend her life.

The very purpose of Jesus’ life on earth is reflected here. Make the people aware that their ways are wrong; so, repent and return to God.

It is the attitude of everyone to project the responsibility of his mistakes on to others, and find justification for his deeds. This is summed up in the proverb, “A bad workman blames the tools”. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden God called him, and he put the blame on Eve and said, “The woman that you sent to me gave me the fruit”. God called her. She replied, “The serpent gave it to me and I ate”. The crowd that brought the woman before Jesus to be punished according to the Law of Moses too was trying to hide their faults and find consolation in self justification that they had done a remarkable work before others by punishing her.

It was the principle of Jesus that only the man who himself is without fault has the right to express judgment on the fault of others. “Judge not,” said Jesus, “that you may not be judged.” He said that a man who attempts to judge his brother was like a man with a plank in his own eye trying to take a speck of dust out of someone else’s eye. One of the commonest faults in life is that we demand standards from others that we never even try to meet ourselves. The qualification for judging others, according to Jesus is not knowledge, but it is achievement in goodness. That was the challenge Jesus placed before the crowd, “Let the man among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.

We often forget that when we point a finger at our brethren three fingers are directed to us and one to an invisible power. Through his example Jesus tells us never to point at others, rather be compassionate and be an instrument to radiate the mercy of God.

In the first reading we hear God reminding his people through prophet Isaiah about His deeds for them. He said that it was He who created Israel. It was He who led the Exodus of His people under the leadership of Moses. It was He who divided the Red Sea and who destroyed the great army of the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was He who quenched the life out of the enemies of His people. In view of all these He wants them to return to him. They should be faithful to him, and he will do for them wonders far greater than the ones he had done in the past for their ancestors. A second chance has always been placed before the people. And the second chance always involves a challenge.

Jesus also gives a second chance to the woman. The second chance involved a challenge. A challenge to change; a challenge to grow in goodness; a challenge to reach out to the new way with Jesus.

Every time the chosen people drifted away from God, He called them back with the offer of mercy and promise of a Compassionate Saviour. And that promise of God has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. No matter how great a sinner a person may be, Jesus never condemns anyone; he urges us to repent, encourage us to persevere and assures us of his help at all times.

Each one of us is a masterpiece of God’s mercy. Let’s trust in Him, and he is with us with the reassuring words:

God sent his Son into the world,

Not to condemn the world,

But to save it.

Homily: Lent 04C

Cycle C 4th Sunday in Lent

(Jos 5:9-12;2 Cor 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3,11-32)

Return of the Prodigal son

St Luke gives three parables of Jesus in the 15th chapter of his Gospel. All the three deal with the message of God’s mercy.

The parable of the shepherd who lost a sheep

The parable of the woman who lost a coin

The parable of the father who lost a son

The agony that we experience when we lose something is very great. In 2004 the Earthquake in the Indian Ocean washed off the shores of India. Thousands of people were found missing. It was a common sight on the beaches, that mothers were looking for their sons, wives were waiting for the return of their husbands; and fathers were frantically searching for the life beat of their children. All waited in eager expectation that the lost ones would come back. The expectations of some were realized, and others continued indefinitely. And many miracles happened. The missing people returned after days and weeks.

The swirling waters of the tsunami swept the parents of a 20 day old baby. Her father later managed to claw his way back to the badly damaged building, where he found his daughter crying as she floated precariously on the mattress in about five feet of water. Rizal Shahputra, 20, arrived at Malaysia's Port Klang - sunburnt, dehydrated and starving. He was found clinging on to a floating tree trunk, frantically waving for help, some 100 nautical miles from his home in Banda Aceh in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The survivors’ relatives were overcome with joy on receiving them.

Jesus gives a more touching story of the “home coming” of a son, and the joy of the father on receiving the lost son.

The younger son demanded his share, and left home. When he was in a distant land, a famine struck the land and he had to take up some abominable work. In short we can say that he had given himself to the designs of the devil, and fell into sin.

Christopher Marlow’s play Doctor Faustus gives a beautiful picture of a man who has sold himself to the devil. Doctor Faustus strikes a deal with Lucifer. He is to be allotted twenty four years of life on earth, during which time he will have Memphistophilis, a devil appointed by Lucifer, as his personal servant. At the end he will give his soul over to Lucifer as his payment and spends the rest of time as one damned to hell. This deal is sealed with his own blood. He is visited by the good angel, and warned him about the danger he is in. It urges him to repent and revoke his oath to Lucifer. But he turns a deaf ear to the angel, and persists in his damnation.

The prodigal son, when he left his father’s house struck a deal with Satan; and he obeyed his commands and reached the lowest state of accepting the abominable work of feeding swine. But unlike Faustus, he realized his mistake. He decided that he must awake. Only those who are aware that they have fallen can awake. We often fail to realize that we have fallen from the grace of God. When Cain raised his hands against his brother, God called him. But he pretended that he did not know anything about his brother, and asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ It often, is the case with us too. We do not realize that we have missed the track. Only if we realize that we have fallen, we will be able to arise from there.

St Luke says when the prodigal son was aware of his state he decided to return. His first option was his father’s house where even the servants live in abundance.

A teenager who is sent to hostel for studies feels home sick. His father, mother, brothers, sisters, and the whole home make him long for it. When the prodigal son realized the state in which he was, it was almost his state of mind too. He felt an irresistible longing for his home.

Finally when he returns home the site embarrasses him. His father recognizes him from far and runs to him to welcome him back.

Jesus tells us too that we have to realize our state, and then our first thought should be about the father who is waiting to welcome us back.

In the second reading St Paul appeals to reconcile with God. And the first reading gives us the picture of Israelites in the Promised Land. And it is a reminder for us too to reconcile with God and reach our promised land.