Homily: Cycle18C

Cycle C 18th Sunday  in the Ordinary Time

Eccl 1:2,2:21-23; Col 3:1-5,9-11; Lk 12:13-21


Charles Dickens in his play “The Christmas Carol” gives the picture of a selfish man, Mr Scrooge, whose sole aim in life was acquiring as much wealth as possible at any cost. He considered Christmas celebrations as humbug, and hated charity. He weighed human relationship against material wealth. He never bothered to care for his nephew or his employees.

One day night, he saw an unusual figure in his bed room. It was a ghost in chains. The ghost introduced himself as the ghost of his deceased partner. He came to warn Mr Scrooge about the futility of the life that he was leading. He told him that some spirits would come to him and he should listen to their message, to avoid the fate that Marley was suffering.

First came the ghost of the past. He took Mr Scrooge to his past. He was presented as a young man who did not heed to the voice of his parents; who abandoned the love of a beautiful maiden to amass wealth. The second ghost, the ghost of the present, took him to the church where Christmas celebrations were being held; and to the house of one of his employees. There he witnessed what others thought of him. Everyone hated him due to his over attachment to wealth. The third ghost took him to the future. He was taken to a house where a dead body lay unattended and unlamented by any one. He was curious to see the dead man. The ghost allowed him to see the corpse. Mr Scrooge was shocked it was his own death scene.

Mr Scrooge learned a great lesson that his frantic chase for wealth was meaningless. It would only lead him to eternal misery. This is the message of today’s readings.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes, from which the first reading is taken, was evidently a man of wealth and education. Like every Hebrew of his time he too shared the view that material prosperity was one of the chief signs of God’s blessing and approval. Yet he questioned the assumptions of his society. He declares the truth that “a man who labours wisely, skilfully and successfully, must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. So he asks himself, “What profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has laboured under the sun?” He was wise enough to ask the question, “Is it not vanities of vanities to labour so hard to build up earthly happiness and before one realizes it he has to leave it and depart from this world.”

This experience leads some people to store things in the grave for future. The discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun gives amble evidence for this. When his tomb was opened they found great treasure buried along with his body. The list of contents describes breath taking treasure and different types of objects, many of them were made of gold and silver and encrusted with precious jewels. There were gold ornaments, silver ornaments, jewellery, furniture, weapons, thrones, jars, bots, chariots clothes and statues representing servant.

The man in the story of Jesus too is like this. He exhorted himself, “eat heartily, drink well, and enjoy yourself.” He gave no consideration to his end. But God said to him: “fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then? St Paul advises us, “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.”

The message today’s readings give are:

First, God wants us to remember that excessive attachment riches are dangerous. It makes us proud, closes our heart to the needs of our neighbour, and easily turns into idols which replace God in our live.

Secondly, God wants us to keep in mind that whatever we possess is God’s gift. This gift should not be a hindrance, but a help to discover His love and goodness. We will remain accountable for two things: “How we acquired them?” and “what use we made of them?”

Listen to the wise teaching from India:

Rivers do not drink their water
Trees do not consume their fruits themselves
Clouds do not rain for them
Thus, the wealth of the noble men is to be used for others.

Satish

Homily: Cycle17C

Cycle C 17th Sunday in the Ordinary Time


Gen. 18:20-1, 23-32; Col. 2:6-14; Lk. 11:1-13

Leo Tolstoy’s “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” is a parable of forgiveness.

Ivan Demetrievich Aksenov was a merchant living in the town of Vladimir. One day he planned to go to a fair as a business venture, but his wife pleaded for him not to go because of a nightmare she had the previous night. She said that all his hair had gone gray when he returned from the fair. Aksenov ignored his wife's dream and left for the fair.

Aksenov met another merchant on his way, and the two decided to travel together. They checked into an inn and retired separately. Aksenov woke early the next morning to get to the fair and left without the other merchant. Not far down the road, Aksenov was stopped by the police. They explained that a merchant was just murdered and robbed in the town, and they searched Aksenov's bag. They found a bloody knife, and despite Aksenov's claims of innocence, he was sentenced to be flogged and sent to Siberia.

Aksenov spent twenty-six years in Siberia. Slowly he gave up his desire for revenge, resigned to his fate, and dedicated his life to God. He became a mediator of sorts in the prison, and he was well respected by the other prisoners and guards alike. One day a new prisoner, Makar Semonovich, was transferred to the prison. After overhearing several conversations, Aksenov discovered that Makar Semonovich was the man who committed the murder for which Aksenov was blamed.

One day the prison guards noticed that someone had been strewing mud around the grounds, and the search led to the discovery of a tunnel. Aksenov had found out earlier that it was Makar Semonovich who was digging the tunnel, but even after being questioned by the police, Aksenov declared that it was not his place to speak about the matter. Makar Semonovich approached Aksenov later that day in a terrible state, and he confessed eventually his crime. Aksenov forgave Makar Semonovich, and he felt as if a terrible weight had been lifted.

In the prayer that Jesus taught, He added a clause, “Forgive us as we forgive our trespassers”. Forgiveness is the central problem of life. Sin is a sense of separation from God, and is the major tragedy of human experience. Whenever sin increased, God’s inevitable punishment was pronounced. Many a time we find mediators, pleading with God, for the sake of humanity. The first reading gives an instance of Abraham’s pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, even if there were only ten just men in the city.

We often think, what is the use of one man observing justice, while the whole world around is reeling in injustice. The first reading is the answer to this question. The just life of one man, can save the whole world from the punishment of God. Whenever we do a little act of kindness, whenever we extend a helping hand to the needy, whenever we console an ailing friend, whenever we adhere to truth, we contribute to the goodness in the world. No good action, however trivial it appears, will go futile.

The Prayer that Jesus taught us covers all life. It covers past sins. When we pray we cannot do other than praying for forgiveness. The primary condition to accept God’s forgiveness is to extend our forgiveness to others.

If our prayers are not being answered, we should search our consciousness, and see if there is someone whom we have yet to forgive. Find out if there is some old thing about which we are very resentful. Search and see if we are not really holding a grudge against someone.

Secondly, it covers the present need. It tells us to pray for our daily bread. When the people of Israel were fed with “Manna” (Ex 16:11-21) they were directed to gather only what was enough for the day. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time. Cardinal Newman prayed for the strength to keep the next step.

Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene--one step enough for me

Since we are filled with remorse about the past and anxiety about the future we forget the present. We often ponder over what we could not do yesterday, or what we will do tomorrow, so we fail to see the obligations of today. Hence Jesus reminds us to live “today”.

Thirdly, it covers future trials. “Temptation” means “any testing situation”. It includes every situation that is a challenge to and a test of a person’s integrity and fidelity. As one grows more and more intense in spiritual life, the trials that he has to overcome too increase. As we advance, new and powerful temptations await us on the path, ever ready to hurl us down, if we are not watchful.

To emphasize the importance of persevering in prayer, Jesus gave the story of a friend who arrived at midnight and the necessity to go next door to one’s neighbour to borrow loaves of bread.

Jesus concluded His teaching by saying that “If you ask, it will be given to you.” Our prayers are answered by not granting what we ask, but by giving what we need.

I asked for strength…….
And God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom…
And God gave me problems to solve
I asked for prosperity…
And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work
I asked for courage…
And God gave me Danger to overcome
I asked for love….
And God gave me Troubled people to help
I asked for Favours….
And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted…
I received everything I needed, my prayer have been answered.

Satish

Homily: Cycle16C


Cycle C 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gen 18:1-10; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42
Hospitality is a great virtue hailed in all the world civilizations. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, hospitality was a divine right. In the Biblical tradition hospitality is an obligation. The most extreme example is provided in Genesis (19:8), Lot provided hospitality to a group of men. When a mob tried to attack them, he offered his daughter as substitute and pleaded to spare his guests.
Celtic societies valued the concept of hospitality, especially, in terms of protection. A host who granted a person’s request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to the guests, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
A real-life example of this is rooted in the history of the Scottish Clan MacGregor from the early seventeenth century. The chief of Clan Lamont arrived at the home of the MacGregor, chief in Glenstrae, told him that he was fleeing from foes and requested refuge. The MacGregor welcomed his brother chief with no questions asked. Later that night, members of the MacGregor clan came looking for the Lamont chief, informing their chief that the Lamont had in fact killed his son and heir in a quarrel. Holding to the sacred law of hospitality, the MacGregor not only refused to hand over the Lamont to his clansmen, but the next morning escorted him to his ancestral lands.
Today’s first reading gives an account of the hospitality of Abraham. The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oak of Mamre. As soon as he saw them, he invited to stay and offered hospitality. He served them with delicious dinner and waited on them. They departed with a blessing, and a promise that they would visit him again next year. The Gospel presents the hospitality of Martha and Mary. Jesus, along with his disciples, visited the house of Martha and Mary. Martha struggled hard to prepare food for that group. Mary peacefully sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to him as he taught the people gathered around Him.
Two aspects of hospitality are bought out in this passage. The first is, “generously provide for the guest.”   
(Joke) – The good wife apologized to her unexpected guest for serving the apple pie without cheese. The little boy of the family slipped quietly away from the table for a moment, and returned with a cube of cheese, which he laid on the guest’s plate. The visitor smiled in recognition of the lad’s thoughtfulness, popped the cheese into his mouth, and then remarked:
“You must have sharper eyes than your mother, sonny. Where did you find it?”
The boy replied with a flush of pride.
“In the rat-trap”
The first requirement of hospitality is to provide for the guest generously. To feed his guests Abraham asked his wife to knead three bushels of flour and make loaves. Then turning to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf. Taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them.
Jesus himself had been the host many times, in his life. When the crowd that was listening to Him felt hungry, Jesus multiplied bread to feed them. After His resurrection, Jesus invited the disciples to come and share the food he had prepared.   
An example of the importance of hospitality in the classical world is the tale of Baucis and Philemon. In this tale, the ancient gods Zeus and Hermes visiting the town of Phrygia disguised as simple peasants. Their search for a meal and a place to stay for the night met a lot of closed doors, until they arrived at the house of Philemon and Baucis.  Though poor, they couple acted as good hosts by giving the little they had to their guests. They even proposed to slay the one goose which guarded their house. As a reward, the gods granted them one wish, besides saving them from the flooding of the rest of the unhospitable town.
The second aspect of hospitality is to listen to the guest attentively. Good hosts are good listeners. The medieval travellers, who entered the hall of local lords were invited to tell the story of their journey after refreshing themselves. When Jesus began his teaching there was a perfect listener, Mary. In spite of Martha’s reminder, Jesus did not ask Mary to leave her choice, of listening to Jesus.
Hospitality is always rewarded generously. Abraham was given the promise that he would have a son, and Lot was saved before the destruction of the town.
Hospitality, to bring its blessings, should be offered whole heartedly. The proverb says, “It is a sin against hospitality, to open your door and darken your countenance.” St. Peter Teaches, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Anything that we offer to others must spring from a generous heart.
Remember the proverb, “Who practices hospitality entertains God himself.
Satish
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Homily: Cycle15C

Cycle C 15th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

Deut 30:10-14; Colo 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

The Epic poem “Paradise Lost “of John Milton gives a vivid description of the fall of Angels from “Heaven”. The Satan decided that he was equal to God, and he was powerful enough to challenge God. So, a war broke out in heaven. Satan and his followers rallied on the one side; and Archangel, Michael and others on the other side. Satan was defeated and expelled from heaven. Satan and the other rebel angels are described as lying on a lake of fire, from which Satan rises up to claim Hell as his own domain and delivers a rousing speech to his followers and declares, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Milton also describes the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Paradise. Milton shows a great difference in the fall of Satan and the fall of man. When Satan was expelled from heaven, he persisted in his pride and declared, “It is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” But when Adam and Eve were expelled from the paradise they fell into despair: "They sat down to weep, not only tears rained at their eyes, but high winds rose within. That was their inward state of mind." The initiative to restore them to the Paradise came from God himself. Michael tells Adam of the eventual plan of God. But, man has to respond positively.

In today’s first reading Moses admonishes the people that the only condition to be saved is “to observe the commandments.” Moses had told the Jews that God’s Law was written in their hearts; it was easy for them to keep it. St Paul, in the second reading, tells the Christians of Colossae that all we have to do to be saved is to keep united to Christ.

In today’s Gospel we have a Teacher of Law asking Jesus, “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In other words the question means, “What is it that really counts a person to be saved?” This question is as old as human existence. The great Rishis of India spent their life in the silence and solitude of the Himalayas seeking an answer to it. The pious religious teachers pondered over it. The great saints meditated over it.

When the Teacher of law approached Jesus with the same question, Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law?”

The man replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbour as yourself.”

Jesus replied, “Do this.”

The answer given by Jesus increased the ambiguity in his heart. The first part of the law is clear. “Love your God.” But the second part is very obscure.

We live among 7 billion people. On our way to the office we meet some people; when we commute by train or bus we meet some others, in the office we meet a different lot, in the church we come across another group. Among all these “who is my neighbour?”

The story of the Good Samaritan is Jesus’ answer.

“A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho.” – At the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious for its danger and was known as the “Way of Blood.” The 20 mile long road was narrow, rocky and full of sudden turnings which made it the happy hiding-ground of brigands. So, people never travelled alone. Rather, they travelled in convoys or caravans. Since the man was travelling alone, he was obviously a reckless traveller, and brought trouble to himself. We find among us, too, such typical characters. They get involved in everything. They get into trouble very easily. They never allow any trouble to spare them. So, always we have a group of neighbours who invite trouble for themselves.

Jesus describes three characters. The first two are: “A Priest” and “A Levite”. They happened to be travelling down the same road, but when they saw the man, they passed by on the other side. They were probably going back to their home after a week’s duty in the Temple. They had spent a whole week performing religious duties. For the Priest to touch the dead man would mean losing his turn of duty in the Temple, and he refused to risk that. The Temple and their worship failed to be translated into action. They set rituals above charity; the prescriptions of the Law above the pain of man. Our prayers, our ceremonies, and our celebrations will become meaningless if they fail to be translated into action.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Gitanjali.
Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground
And where the pathmaker is breaking stones.
Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.

The third character Jesus describes is “The Samaritan”. The Jews hated the people of the region called “Samaria.” They refused to worship at the Temple of Jerusalem. The Jews called them heretics.

The Samaritan traveller was moved with compassion for the wounded man. He bandaged his wounds, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Feeling compassion without practical action is useless. So, “compassion to be real, must issue in deeds.”

Jesus concluded the parable with a direct command “God and do the same.”

In our daily life we meet many good Samaritans, who translate their compassion into action. On Jan 15, 2009, the world witnessed a remarkable emergency landing when Captain Sullenberger skilfully glided the US Airways flight into the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.

One bridge over China’s Yangtze River sees hundreds of suicides Chen Si, a Nanjing man started spending weekends there saving lives. Chen Si has stopped about 144 suicides. (The Los Angeles Times reports.) “All people really need is one person willing to lend a hand,” Chen says. After saving people, he tries to help with kindness and money.

A paper reported about the miserable condition of a labour camp in Sharjah. The Next day the children of Our Own School, Dubai, collected large quantity of food grains to be delivered to them.

These are some of the good Samaritans of today.

Today Jesus command to us, too, is “Go and do the same”

Satish

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Homily: Cycle14C

Cycle C 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Is. 66:10-4; Gal. 6:14-18; Lk. 10:1-12, 17-20]

John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” is one the greatest works that describe the journey of human soul towards its destination.

Christian begins his journey from his home town the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City.” On his way he had to face numerous challenges. Finally he reached the “wicked Gate” which would lead him to the “King’s Highway”. At the end of his journey he reaches the “Place of Deliverance”. When he steps on to the “Place of Deliverance”, the burden on his back falls down and he is relieved. There he is given the greeting of peace and he is welcomed into the “Celestial City”.

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus sending out his disciples to impart to the people greeting of peace and welcome them to the “Kingdom of God.” The Gospel says that Jesus sent out a large number of disciples. There were seventy of them.

The number seventy has great significance. It was the number of the elders who were chosen to help Moses with the task of leading and directing the people in the wilderness (Num 11:16). Again, it was the number of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Council of Jews. The number seventy also represented the number of nations in the world. There are seventy tribes or clans listed in the Book of Genesis. In the mind of Luke, the sending of the seventy disciples was a sign that all the nations of the world are to be invited to the “Kingdom of God.”

This passage also tells us of certain supremely important things about our journey. We are to travel light. It is easy to get entangled in the things of this life.

The Poem: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost expresses this concept in a very touching manner. The poet was travelling through the woods filled up with snow. He was tempted to stop to enjoy the beauty of the woods. But he became duty conscious and he thought,

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

Once Dr Johnson, after seeing through a great Castle remarked grimly, “These are the things which make it difficult to die.” The Earth and its fleeting allurements often blot out heaven. The advancements of science and its achievements make us feel too self- reliant and forget the reality that we are mere travellers on the Earth. We just pass by never to return. In this journey many of us are deterred by the dazzling sights along the way and forget the aim of our journey.

“Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose direction and begin to bend.” Says, Walter Savage Landor. So it is of utmost importance that we should always be conscious of our goal.

Secondly, we are to concentrate on our task. When Jesus sent out His disciples they were directed to greet no man on the way. In the Old Testament we read that Elisha heard of the news of the death of the Shunemite woman’s son. He ordered his servant Gehazi to gird his loins and take up his staff in his hand and go and lay the staff on the face of the child. If anyone saluted him he was not to reply. Gehazi was entrusted with a mission. Jesus sent out His disciples in the same manner. They too were entrusted with a mission. So they were not to stop until they reached their destination. Like the Christian of the Pilgrim Progress we are on a mission and we should not be stopped by anything on the way.

When Lot and his family fled from the wicked men God commanded him to go forward and never turn back until they reached the mountain top. But Lot’s wife turned back to see what was happing behind her, and she became a salt statue.

Orpheus is a Greek mythical figure. His music was enchanting. One day he was shocked to see that his wife was dead. So he went to the underworld and played so mournfully that all the nymphs and even Hades, the god of the underworld, was moved by his music. Hades agreed to allow Eurydice, his wife to return with him to Earth on condition; he should walk in front and not look back until they both reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following him, and in his anxiety as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, and she vanished for the second time.

The command of Jesus to His disciples was never to stop or turn back; but to go ahead until they reached their destination. Bu in our anxiety and worries, we often tend to turn back and defy His command.

Now we are entrusted with the same mission that Jesus entrusted His disciples with, i.e., to bring God’s reign into our lives.
Satish