Homily: Easter05C

5th Sunday in Easter Times

Acts 14:21-27; Ap 21:1-5; Jn 13:31-35

In 1336 BC Alexander the great began his conquest of the world. It was his dream to conquer India, the land of legends. With his army he marched towards India and reached the city of Multan. Alexander saw that the city was well fortified.  He was not ready to give up. He led the assault against the city of Multan. He climbed the fortress and ascended on the top of the city walls. Below he saw a large army aiming their poisoned arrows at him. He did not wait. He jumped into their midst. Two of his soldiers followed him. The great leader of war led from the front and his soldiers followed him. History presents a few examples of such heroic men who led from the front and others followed him. We do not see any leader other than Jesus admonishing his followers to imitate him. Jesus told his apostles, “love one another as I have loved you.”

God has been preparing his chosen race to accept the new order.   Moses was taken to mount Sinai and given 10 commandments. These admonitions were new to the Israelites. They were different from the practice of the world where they came from. And for them the commandments gave a revolutionary concept.  God continued to refine them through the teaching of the prophets. And that process reached its culmination in Jesus.  Jesus repealed the old laws and commandments and replaced them with new ones. The basis of the new law was his own life. The greatest commandment ever given is “Love one another as I have loved you.” The love that Jesus showed was different from the one that they had experienced. His love was sacrificial. Love becomes meaningful only when its demands for sacrifice are accepted.

Edwards VIII ascended the throne of the British Empire after the death of his father. But his proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American Socialite, led to a constitutional crisis in British Empire. Religious, legal, political and moral objections were raised. Mrs Simpson was perceived to be an unsuitable consort to him. But king Edward was not ready to give up his love for the throne. The conservative leaders and people were unwilling for any compromise. Edward abdicated his throne for the realization of his love.

Jesus’ love for the humanity is characterized by great sacrifices. He left his immortal and radiant form and assumed mortal body and came down to earth. On earth he experienced rejection and persecution. He accepted even crucifixion to show his love for his people. And Jesus told his disciples “love one another as I have loved you.”

When Jesus tells us “love one another as I have loved you” our love too should be ready to accept sacrifices for the sake of our love. We should be able to sacrifice our ego. We should be able to sacrifice our comforts. We should be willing to sacrifice our likes and dislikes. We should be able to sacrifice our choices. Mother Theresa accepted the hardships of Calcutta to bring consolation to the orphans of Calcutta. Gandhiji gave up the comforts of life for the liberation of millions of Indians. We can also follow such examples and do little sacrifices in our daily life in order to realize the glimpses of God’s love in our life.

Secondly, Jesus’ love is full of understanding. He knew his disciples through and through. He knew that the disciples would flee at the moment of his trial. He knew that they would disperse after his death. But he understood the circumstances which made them react in such a manner. The understanding that was seen in the early Christian communities made them unique. Tertullian, a great Christian writer and leader from North Africa in the second century, gave an account of a mass turning to Christ.  What prompted them to do it was the life of the early Christian communities.  Unlike their hate-dominated clubs and societies they saw the emergence of a strikingly different community with unusual love and understanding. This experience attracted them to accept Christian life.

Thirdly, Jesus’ love is forgiving. He told Peter that he would deny him three times before the cock crew. But Jesus was ready to forgive Peter. When the people brought the woman caught in adultery to be stoned, she felt secure before the forgiving eyes of Jesus. She felt reassured of God’s love and forgiveness. Even on the cross Jesus promised paradise to the repentant thief and prayed for those who crucified him. Never has there been a concrete realization of such a forgiving love. When Jesus gave the new commandment of love to his disciples, He expects the same forgiving love from each one of us.

Homily: Easter04C

4th Sunday in Easter Time
Acts 13:14,43-52; Ap7:9,14-17: Jn 10:27-30
9th December 1971 was the saddest day in the history of Indian Navy. Indian Navy deployed INS KHUKRI off the coast of Diu, in the Arabian Sea, for a submarine hunt. While in operation, the ship was struck by a salvo of three torpedoes. The ship sank in minutes. When everyone was trying to save himself Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla chose to be with the ship under his command. He was seen standing on the deck with a feeling of dedication and commitment to the ship and the sailors entrusted to his care. The ship was swallowed by the Arabian Sea with 194 men. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla displayed conspicuous gallantry and dedication. He held on to the ancient tradition, “Captains don’t abandon their ships.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus is presented as a Shepherd who dedicates himself to the sheep. Jesus asserts that “I know my sheep and they follow me….. No one will ever steal them from me”. These words show the tremendous trust and the tremendous claim of Jesus. His trust was something which traced everything back to God. The history of salvation shows that whoever tried to count on his own abilities miserably tasted defeat and met with tragic end. Goliath took pride in his own strength and challenged the chosen people of God, and he was humbled by a teenager, David. David was able to win over Goliath, because he put his trust in God. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God”. (Psalm 20:7)Joshua defeated a large army with a handful of men, because his strength was God. “They cried to God in the battle, because they put their trust in Him. (Chronicles 5:20) The psalmist says, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust. (Psalms 18:2)”
Jesus’ attitude to life was not self confidence but God confidence. He had no servants yet they called Him Master. No degrees; yet they called him Teacher. No medicine; yet they called him Healer. No army; yet the kings feared Him. He won no military battles; yet He conquered the world. He was buried in a tomb; yet he lives today. This victory of Jesus is the result of His trust in God.
Today’s second reading from the Acts of Apostles gives us an account of the work of St Paul and Barnabas. They challenged the self trust of the Jews and admonished them to put their trust in God by accepting Jesus. This enraged the Jews and they cast them away from the city. So, they shook the dust from their feat and turned to Iconium where their message was accepted by the gentiles.
John sees in his vision large crowds of people assembling before God. They are the ones who put their trust in the Lord. He calls them as “purified by the blood of the lamb.” For John’s listeners purification by blood was a familiar concept.
Mithraism, the most famous mystery religions of that time offered to men a rebirth and a promise of eternal life by deeply moving ceremonies. Their most sacred ceremony was ‘taurobolium’ or the bath of bull’s blood. It is described by the Christian poet Prudentius. A trench was dug, over which was erected a platform of planks, which were perforated with holes. Upon this platform a sacrificial bull was slaughtered. Below the platform knelt the worshipper who was to be initiated. The blood of the slaughtered bull dripped through on to the worshipper below. He exposed his head and all his garments to be saturated with blood. He came out from this certain that he was reborn for all eternity.
Throughout centuries people have adopted various practices to attain eternal life. Jesus taught His listeners that the only way to gain eternal life is to place their trust in God. The Old Testament dream of people who put their trust and confidence in God is seen in Isaiah (49:10) “They shall not hunger or thirst; neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them; for he who has pity on them will lead them. And by springs of water will lead them. The psalmist’s confidence in God is reflected in the verse, “He leads me beside still waters.”(Ps 23:2) All these dreams are summed in Revelations. “They will never hunger or thirst again; because the lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water.”
As Jesus put his trust and confidence in God we should be able to put our trust and confidence in Him.

Homily: Easter03C

3rd Sunday in Easter Time

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41. Rev 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

In 1748 during the battle of Nile aboard the French Ship Orient, there took place a great and heroic event of trust. Commander Louse de Casabianca asked his young son Giocante to wait for his order to leave the deck. The boy stood on the deck waiting for his father’s orders. The ship caught fire. Flames rose to the sky. He was surrounded by flames. Finally he called out,

“Say father, say, if yet my task is done”

But the poor little boy did not know that his father was lying dead and cold in the bottom of the ship. He stood on the burning deck with absolute trust in his father.

“Speak, father! Once again he cried.

“If I may yet be gone!”

While over him fast, through sail and shroud

The wreathing fires made way.

Felicia Cortothea Hemans immortalized the trust of Giocante in the poem Casabianca.

As Giocante showed unwavering trust in his father we see Peter expressing his unchallengeable trust in Jesus. Peter and his companions went out fishing but they caught nothing in the night. In the morning Jesus stood on shore and told them, “Throw your net out to the starboard and you will find something.” Without any hesitation Peter did so. John emphasizes that they had a great catch. This is the second time that Peter shows his absolute trust in the words of Jesus.

By the lake of Gennesaret, Jesus once got into the boat of Simon Peter, and asked him to cast the net into the deep sea. Simon Peter replied, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.(Lk 5:4).

In spite of all these , after the crucifixion of Jesus Peter gave up his hope. His declaration, “I am going fishing” indicates his giving up and returning to the old style of life. But the words, “It’s the Lord” transforms him. The world has never been the same for Peter. The realization of the fact of resurrection of Jesus transformed everything for him. It transformed everything for the apostles. They spread throughout the world and turned the Roman Empire upside down. Empires fell before them and kings did obeisance.

The realization, “It is the Lord” transformed them into men of courage. Today’s first reading enumerates the heroic deeds of the Apostles. The timid men who confined themselves into the rooms behind closed doors come out and proclaims the resurrection of Jesus with unrelenting boldness

The realization, “It is the Lord” transformed them into men of principle. They refused to heed to the warnings of the Sanhedrin and declared that in all circumstances obedience to God should come first. Above all it gave them a clear vision of their function.

As Peter gave up his hope and trust for a moment and declared, “I am going fishing”, we too give up- we give up our communion with the church; we give up our hope in the benevolence of God; we give up our faith in humanity. At these dark moments the declaration of the Apostle, “It is the Lord” that the Lord is with us to enkindle our hope and trust should give us strength and courage to count on Him.

Peter’s trust in Jesus brought him new responsibilities. Jesus wanted Peter to profess his faith in Him before others. It brought him a task. Jesus said, “If you love me feed my sheep.” And it brought him a cross. Jesus said, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch on your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round and take you where you would rather not go.

On the shore of Gennesaret Jesus used Peter’s boat as a platform to convey His teachings to the people. Now Jesus uses Peter himself as an instrument to impart his message to the Jews and Gentiles alike.

Our hope and trust in Jesus entrust us with the responsibility of bearing witness to his life and teachings as did Peter and the Apostles.


Homily: Easter02C

Cycle C 2nd Sunday in Easter time

Acts 5:12-16; Ap 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

After the death of Jesus, for fear of the Jews the Apostles confined themselves to a closed room. They received the news of the resurrection of Jesus from many sources. He was seen by the women who visited the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb. He appeared to the apostles themselves. But these testimonies did not give them enough courage to come out and proclaim the reality of resurrection. They remained behind the closed doors. Again Jesus appeared to them and greeted them, “Peace be with you.”

“Peace” is the first word that came from the lips of Jesus on meeting his Apostles. “Peace be with you. (Jn 20:19). Then Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins. Jesus knew man’s weakness and the havoc sin causes in man’s heart. It destroys the peace and joy of every man.

One of the famous tragedies of William Shakespeare is Macbeth. When Macbeth was returning after a victory, he was met by three witches. The first witch greeted him, “Thane of Glamis”. The second witch greeted him “Thane of Cawdor”, and the third witch greeted him, “King hereafter”. As they disappeared messengers reached with the good news that he was appointed as the Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth went home and shared this strange experience with his wife. She enkindled his hopes, and persuaded him to Murder Duncan, the king, who came to his house as his guest. As Macbeth thrust the dagger into the heart of Duncan he heard a voice, “Macbeth Sleep no more.” And “Macbeth has murdered sleep.” Thereafter Macbeth never had peace in his life. His life became miserable. In his frantic attempt to get peace he committed murder again and again.

When Macbeth sinned against the king he lost his peace. Jesus was aware that sins destroy the peace of man. So when he wished them “peace” he also granted them the power to destroy sin. To destroy a powerful enemy we need a powerful weapon. Jesus put this weapon in the hands of the church when communicating to his Apostles the power to forgive sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus said to the apostles

“Those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven:

Those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.”

Jesus knew well that the disobedience of man, the excessive desire of man for wealth, the selfishness of man, the hatred that brews up in the heart of man, causes separation from God. And this separation destroys the peace of man. Isaiah warned the Israelites, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.”(Is 59:2) And this separation from God is unbearable. David, the chosen king of Israel, experienced it when he broke the command of the Lord and he Lamented, “Do not withhold your tender mercies from me, O Lord” (Ps 40:1). God commanded Adam and Eve, “Do not eat the fruit of this tree.” But when they disobeyed him they were estranged from God and they wanted to hide. This separation was miserable. And they lost their peace.

As sin destroys internal peace Jesus strictly commanded his disciples to love their enemies, and to return good for evil (Mt 5:44). Jesus ratified his teaching with his own example as he hung on the cross. He prayed, “Father forgive them” (Lk 23:24).

The estrangement that happened because of sin is bridged by Jesus (Eph 2:14) and Jesus gave the power to his Apostles to forgive sins and re-establish peace. St Paul wrote to the Romans affirming this message that God has called us to peace. God expects us to keep His commandment, and in return He gives us his peace. Proverbs tells us “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov.16:7)

For peace and joy to prevail in the Christian community, unity should be maintained. That is the message of the First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles taught the early Christians that three things are necessary to foster unity.

So they gathered regularly in the Portico of Solomon. The early Christians came together regularly under the leadership of the apostles. And today we should gather in the church, the house of God regularly. And this communion will certainly give us power and strength to remain united, forgetting all the differences.

Secondly, they listened to the teaching of the Apostles. We, too, must listen to the word of God and reflect over it. It will give us courage to fight our ego.

When the early Christians remained united under the leadership of the Apostles they worked wonders. The sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping mats, in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across.

Today the risen Lord stands in our midst and greets us too, “Peace be with You.” Let’s translate this message into action and pass on to our brothers and sisters. When you take initiative in patching up an estranged relationship with your friend, when you forgive a dishonest act of your friend, when you show kindness to someone, when you appease the anger of your friend, when you find time to re-establish a broken relationship, when you persuade someone to give up some evil habits you are giving the message, “Peace be with you”. And the peace that you radiate will come back to you manifold.


Homily: Easter C

Cycle C Easter

Alexander the great went to Corinth, to see the great philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope. Alexander was thrilled to meet him. He wished to do him some favour. But Diogenes replied, “Give me a little of immortality.”

Dear brothers and sisters man’s search for immortality is as old as man himself. In the Biblical accounts of creation we read that the serpent tempted Eve with the promise that if she ate the fruit she would become like God. And Eve could not resist that offer. She disobeyed God’s command with the desire to become like God.

The Epic poem from Mesopotamia, “Epic of Gilgamesh” describes the attempts of Gilgamesh to learn the secret of eternal life. He under took long and perilous journey to find the secrets of immortality. Finally he was told, “Gilgamesh, what you seek, you will never find.”

So it was concluded that human life comes to an end with death. Therefore it is engraved on the tombstones, “Here lies Caesar”, “Here lies David”, “Here lies John”.

But there is one tomb in the world that is empty, and the tomb stone does not bear any engraving on it. That is the tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Aramathea. The occupant of the tomb has overcome death and came to life again.

At dawn, when the women reached the tomb of Jesus two men stood by them in flashing raiment and asked them “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?”

The angels conveyed to them that Jesus has risen from the dead. And he is no more to be searched among the dead.

Shakespeare is dust, and will not come

To question from his Avon tomb,

And Socrates and Shelley keep

An Attic and Italian Sleep,

They see not. But O Christians

May you not meet in spite of death,

A traveler from Nazareth?

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection enkindled the spirit of Peter. Only Peter went out to experience it by himself. The story of his denial of his Master was not a thing that could be kept silent; and yet he had the courage to face those who knew his shame. He ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths. He went back home amazed. Peter realized the messianic prophecies and the teachings of Jesus.

The Psalmist says, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:10). In other words, though the Messiah had been buried, He would be resurrected according to the appointed time of God. He would not be in burial forever but rather He was there to fulfil the Scriptures concerning His death. He must be resurrected from the dead to prove that the power of death could not overpower Him.

During the ministry Jesus did frequently inform His disciples about His death and resurrection. In fact Jesus made the comparison between His resurrection and the life of Jonah in the belly of the fish, similarly the Son of Man would be resurrected from the dead after three days (Matt 12:40).

Peter began to realize the relation between these teachings and the reality of resurrection. Peter is now confident of his faith. His sermon bears adequate testimony to that fact. Peter declared, “You killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witness.”

The words, “Jesus is alive!” were enough to create a great spiritual hunger in the disciples where emptiness existed because of his death. May these words wipe out the darkness in us and enkindle our spirits.