Homily: Cycle13C

Cycle C 13th Sunday in the ordinary times

1 Kgs. 19:16b, 19-21; Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Lk. 9:51-62

The Indian Epics narrate many amazing stories about the dedication of the disciples to their masters. The story of Ekalavya in Mahabharata is such an amazing one. Ekalavya is introduced as a young prince. He lived near the ashram of Drona, where Pandavas princes and Kaurava princes used to take lessons in various arts. He had great desire to learn the art of archery from Dronacharya. But Drona would not accept him as his disciple. But the boy was not to be put off; his determination knew no bounds.

Ekalavya went off into the forest where he fashioned a clay statue of Drona. Worshipping the statue as his preceptor, he began a disciplined program of self-study. As a result, Ekalavya became an archer of exceptional prowess.

One day while Ekalavya was practicing, he heard a dog barking. Ekalavya fired seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog's mouth without injuring it. The Princes were surprised. They asked him who his master was. He replied that His “Guru” was Dronacharya. When Drona heard of it he went to see his unknown disciple.

He found Ekalavya diligently practicing archery. Seeing Drona, Ekalavya prostrated himself and clasped the teacher's hands, awaiting his order. Drona asked Ekalavya for his Gurudakshina, the deed of gratitude a student owed his teacher upon the completion of his training. Ekalavya replied that there was nothing he would not give his teacher. Drona said, “Give me your right thumb.” Without hesitation he cut off his right thumb and handed it to Drona.

Today’s readings speak to us about the cost of discipleship. In today’s first reading we find that Elisha is called by Elijah to move into an unknown future. In the Gospel, we find the challenge to move beyond the ties of family loyalty and affection into commitments outside the pale of our immediate families.

The call of Jesus to discipleship was characterized by complete self renunciation. The response has to be immediate and unconditional. Jesus did not allow them time for a second thought. He called Peter, and Peter left everything and followed Him. The man who accepted Jesus invitation to follow Him, but requested Him to let him go to bury his father first, Jesus gave an answer which surprises us:

“Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus disciples had to leave all else in order to be with Jesus (Mark 3:14). Once the decision is made it is final (Lk (:62) “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”

Secondly, Jesus’ call to His disciples hip meant a call to mission. Jesus prepared them to go out into the world and catch men. He said to peter, “I will make you fishers of men.” The mission Jesus entrusted to His disciples was to bear witness to His own life and teaching. He wanted them to preach to the people as he preached the mercy of God; He wanted them to heal the sick as he had healed the people who came to him for comfort; He wanted them to feed the people as he had fed the crowd; He wanted them to raise the dead, as he had raised Lazarus, He wanted them to suffer for the sake of the Kingdom of God, as He would suffer on the cross.

Thirdly, the discipleship of Jesus is unique in the magnitude of its reward. He said to them, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”


Homily: Cycle12C

Cycle C 12th Sunday in the ordinary time.

Zech 12:10-11; Gal 3:26-29; Elk 9:18-24

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” is a beautiful story.

In Autumn Swallows migrate to the warm climate of Egypt. On the way a Swallow took asylum at the foot of a golden statue, ‘The Happy Prince’. As he was preparing to sleep, a drop of water fell on him. He looked up but there was no sign of rain. Again came a drop of water. The Swallow looked up, and he was shocked to see ‘The Happy Prince’ shedding tears. The Prince had precious stones for his eyes, a ruby on his sword hilt, and his body was made of gold. Yet, the Prince was not happy. The Swallow flew up to his shoulder and asked, “Dear Prince what makes you cry? He said to the swallow, “There is a mother who is not able to get medicine for her sick child. Please take the ruby from my sword hilt and give it to her.” The swallow did so, and it felt warm. The Prince said, “You feel warm because you have done a good deed.” The next day The Happy Prince requested the swallow to pull out one of his sapphire eyes and give to a little match- girl, whose matches fell in gutter. Unwillingly the swallow did it. The following day again The Happy Prince requested the swallow to pluck out his other sapphire eye and give to a writer who was not able to complete his book because of his poverty.

Now, the Prince had lost his vision. Taking pity on him the swallow decided to abandon his plan of going to Egypt. He sat on the shoulder of the Happy Prince and narrated whatever he saw to the Prince. The sufferings of the poor people who could not afford to eat and live made the Prince sad. The Prince requested the Swallow to take all the gold from his body to help the suffering poor people. Having lost all his gold and precious stones, he became an ugly statue. Being unable to bear the chill, the swallow died and fell at the foot of the ugly statue.

The councillors noted the condition of The Happy Prince. He looked shabby. They decided to replace the Happy Prince with their own statue. So the statue was brought down and melted. But they threw away the leaden heart and the dead swallow.

“Bring me two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the lead heart and the dead bird.

“You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for ever, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.”

This is the message of today’s Gospel. Jesus said to his listeners, “Any one who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”

Here Jesus lays down the conditions of service for those who would follow Him.

The first condition is that a man must deny himself. As Henry Ward says, “It is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.” Moses was living in the comforts of the palace of the Pharaohs. When he saw the injustice meted out to his own brethren he reacted against it. He knew that he had to give up his luxury, he knew that he had to give up his power, he knew that he had to give up his positions, he knew that he had to give up everything he enjoyed. Moses did it without regret. The Apostles accepted the invitation of Jesus to follow Him. So they had to give up their profession, their interests and their dreams. They did it willingly. St Francis of Assisi set out for Crusade, then he heard the call. He had to give up his ambition to accept the plan of God for him. Jesus justifies his demand on his disciples by his own life. His denial of himself was unparalleled. He prayed, “Father, Let Thy will be done.”

Secondly, a man must take up his cross. Jesus’ listeners knew very well the horrors of crucifixion. The very thought of it made them shudder. They had seen people with a pole fixed across their shoulders being led by the Roman soldiers to be crucified. They had seen people hanging on the cross and longing for death in great agony. In 6 AD, after the rebellion of Judas the Galilean, two thousand Jews were crucified on crosses which were set in lines along the roadside as a dreadful warning for others. All these events were fresh in their minds. So, His message was direct and plain. Whoever wished to follow Him should be ready to endure the worst.

Thirdly, a man must spend his life, not hoard it. Listen to the words of Albert Einstein, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” So, our motive must be, not “How much I can get.” but, “How much I can give” Not “What is the safe thing to do?” but, “What is the right thing to do?”

When a candle is lit, it spreads light around it at the cost of itself. If it is kept in the locker it will remain there and becomes a burden. “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." Says Albert Pine.

Finally, Loyalty will have its reward. As Oscar Wilde says, “In my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for ever, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.” When the Angel of the Lord came down looking for beautiful things it found a Mahatma Gandhi, an Abraham Lincoln, a Martin Luther King, a Maximillan Kolbe and a lot like them. When we do a little sacrifice in our life for others, our actions too will become beautiful before God.


Homily: Cycle11C

Cycle C 11th Sunday in the ordinary time

2 Sam 12:7-10; Gal 2:16, 19-21; Lk 7:36-8:3

Aesop's Fables have been around since 620 B.C. Millions of people have enjoyed hearing them and learning from them for centuries. The story of the lion and the mouse conveys a great message.

A lion was sleeping one day when a little mouse came along and ran up and down over his face.

This awakened the lion and made him very angry.

He put his paw over the mouse and said, "What do you mean by waking me? You shall pay for this," and he opened his big mouth to swallow the mouse. The mouse pleaded to let him free.

The lion roared that he would not let him go.

The frightened mouse pleaded again. "If you let me go perhaps I can do something for you sometime." This made the lion laugh. But he pardoned the mouse.

As the little mouse scampered off, he said, "Thank you, kind lion, I shall not forget your kindness."

Sometime after this the lion was caught in a trap. He roared so loud and struggled to free himself. The little mouse heard him; he ran to him and saw that the lion was in trouble.

He worked long and hard and at last the lion was free. The lion once forgave the little mouse and the mouse in return risked his own life as a gratitude to the great forgiveness he received.

Today’s readings give us the message of God’s forgiveness and the response that offer of forgiveness demand from us. The first reading presents an account of David’s sin. Nathan the prophet walked into David’s chamber to announce God’s wrath. He said, “You have shown contempt for the Lord, doing what displeases him.” David reacted to the rebuke of Nathan with great humility. He realized his sin, repented of it and lamented, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Then Nathan said to David, The Lord, for his part, forgives you.”

David always remained grateful to the Lord for this forgiveness. We hear David’s response in today's psalm. It expresses his regret for his sin and gratitude for God’s mercy.

“Happy is the man whose offense is forgiven,
Whose sin is remitted.”

The lesson of David’s sin and response is indeed beautiful. Jesus completes it in today’s Gospel. A woman who was a public sinner approached Jesus. She bathed his feet in tears of remorse. This upset the others. They reacted to the woman and questioned Jesus. Jesus did not make light of her wrongdoing. He told her that her sins, "her many sins," were forgiven.

The very mission of Jesus on earth was to convey the message of God’s mercy. Through the words of the prophets and deeds of kindness God has been revealing his mercy to the people. The Bible shows that God’s watch care rests over the people who practise forgiveness. Joseph’s brothers grew jealous of him. So they sold him to Egypt. But Joseph forgave his brothers. Therefore God protected him. Throughout the Ministry of Jesus we see that Jesus offered his forgiveness to the people. Therefore, the same attitude is demanded from his followers too.

Forgiveness is a divine quality. It is the attribute of God himself. Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” There is a beautiful poem about forgiveness.

When on the fragrant sandal-tree
The woodman's axe descends,
And she who bloomed so beauteously
Beneath the keen stroke bends,
E'en on the edge that wrought her death
Dying she breathed her sweetest breath,
As if to token, in her fall,
Peace to her foes, and love to all.
How hardly man this lesson learns,
To smile and bless the hand that spurns;
To see the blow, to feel the pain,
But render only love again!
This spirit not to earth is given -
One had it, but he came from heaven.
Reviled, rejected, and betrayed,
No curse he breathed, no plaint he made,
But when in death's deep pain he sighed
Prayed for his murderers, and died.

Too many times we dwell on the wrongs that have been done against us. So it is difficult for us to forgive others. So Mahatma Gandhi says, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Forgiveness should be offered when people require it. Delayed pardon does not do any good. Thomas Campbell’s poem “Lord Ullin's Daughter” conveys this message in a heart rending tone. Two lovers, the young "chief of Ulva's isle" and his "bonny bride," Lord Ullin's daughter, had been hotly pursued by Lord Ullin and his horsemen for three days. Both knew that the young man would be slaughtered if they were captured. They approached a boatman on the stormy night to row them across and offered him a silver pound. Seeing their plight the boatman, agreed to row them across in spite of the raging storm, not for money, but for the sake of the "winsome lady." As the pursuers approached, the boat put out into the stormy lake. Lord Ullin was shocked to see his daughter in the midst of the raging waves. She put one hand around her lover and the other was stretched towards her father for help. He called out to them, vainly promising forgiveness to the young man if only they would return but it was too late. The waves swallowed them and he was left lamenting.

William Blake says “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” If we can practice this principle in our life we can find peace, joy and fulfilment.


Homily: Corpus Christi

Cycle C Corpus Christi.

Gen 14:18-20; I Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17

The Pelican is excessively dedicated to its young one. The pelican collects small fish and stores in the pouch at its neck. In the process of feeding them the bird presses the pouch against its neck. There is a reddish tinge at its breast plumage and redness   at the tip of its beak.  All these specialties of the pelican have given rise to a legend of the Pelican feeding its young with its own blood.

The mother Pelican pierces its breast, opens her side and lays herself across her young pouring out her blood over the young. The young ones feed on the mother’s blood and revive strength and come back to life. This symbol of pelican was used by the medieval church to indicate the sacrifice of Jesus.

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Body and blood of Christ. This feast reminds us of the great sacrifice of Jesus and His command to his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.”

From the time of the election of the Israelites God’s presence was manifested in various ways among them. Moses received 10 commandments in Mount Sinai. As he brought it to the people they made a Tabernacle and placed the Tablets in it. The presence of God lingered over the tabernacle.

God’s presence has always been with His people in various ways.  He manifests himself through the astounding beauty and immensity of creation itself.  Through the voice of the prophets, through the wisdom of the sages, and finally God manifested Himself in human form through Jesus. Jesus at his departure instituted the Eucharist to continue his presence with his people. St Francis of Assisi who had a profound experience of Jesus declared, "Just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He has us see Him in the Sacred Bread. For in this way our Lord is ever present among those who believe in him, according to what He said: "Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28, 20)

In addition to the presence of God, throughout the Old Testament   God expresses His concern for the people. During  the exodus when the people   craved for food God sent them the heavenly bread, “Manna” which people ate and they were satisfied. The Scripture says, “He provided Manna which neither you nor your fathers had experienced before (Deut 8:3). When they were thirsty God asked Moses to strike the rock and water gushed forth.  Prophet Jeremiah preached to the people (Jeremiah 9:15) “Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, and give them water”. In the New Testament we have numerous instances where Jesus expressed his concern for the poor and hungry.  The miracle of multiplication of bread to feed the crowd is an instance of Jesus’ concern for them.

The Eucharist, therefore, is the symbol of God’s presence.  St Maximilian Kolbe wrote, “God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” It is the symbol of God’s concern and God’s immeasurable love. St. Peter Julian Eymard expressed it as, “The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.”  Jesus is present among us in Eucharist. And we keep the Eucharist most venerably in the tabernacle.

When we receive the Holy Communion we become the tabernacle where Jesus is present. So Maximilian Kolbe says, ‘If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” Hence, it is binding on us that we should keep the tabernacle, ourselves, holy.  St Francis de Sales preached to the people, “When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage, welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.” Blessed Damian dedicated his life for the service of the lepers. It was a hard choice. He said, “Blessed Sacrament is, indeed, the stimulus for me to forsake all worldly ambitions.”