Homily: 31st Sunday Cycle C

Cycle C 31st Sunday in the ordinary time
[Wis. 11:22-12:2; 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2; Lk. 19:1-10]
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq who succeeded Ghazi was one of the most interesting, and colourful rulers of India. He ruled Delhi from 1325 to 1351. Mohammad Bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, located in the Deccan region of India. He did this in order to administer the provinces located in the south. Since things did not work out as he had planned, the capital was shifted back to Delhi after two years.
Though Tughlaq was the unchallengeable monarch of his empire, when he realized the mistake in his decision he showed courage to change it.
In today’s Gospel we meet a powerful and wealthy man who declares his willingness and courage to change his ways and amend his life.
Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing by, and he decided that he should see Jesus. Being a short man, he knew that he would not be able to see Jesus in the crowd. Hence he had decided to climb a Sycamore tree.
There are three points for our reflection, in the action of Zacchaeus.

First of all, he had a powerful desire to see Jesus. For the last 2000 years Jesus has been the central point in human history. History has been divided into two parts as BC and AD, with Jesus at its centre. Ever since, almost everyone in the world has heard of Jesus. Almost everyone has wished to see Jesus. During the life time Jesus, the Gospels say, that Herod wanted to see Jesus. Jesus was sent to him for his trials. But the presence of Jesus before Herod did not make any difference in him. Hearing about Jesus has not made any difference in millions of people for the last twenty centuries, because there was no deep desire to experience him.
Zacchaeus determined to see Jesus, and would let nothing stop him.  For Zacchaeus to mingle with the crowd was a courageous thing to do, as all the people hated tax collectors.  Things were not easy for Zacchaeus, but the little man had mustered courage from his determination. His determination opened up a way for him to act.
Secondly, Zacchaeus exhibited a lot of humility, a lot of guts, to climb a tree. He did not stop to think how unbecoming it was for a person of his social status to climb a tree like a boy.
Jesus reached the spot looked up and called him by name. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." [Lk. 19:5] So Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus was not by chance. Jesus called Zacchaeus in a unique way. Those who were present, knowing that Zacchaeus was a dishonest tax collector, did not agree with Jesus' choice of a place to stay. In their eyes, Zacchaeus, like all tax collectors, was a sinner, and Jesus’ mission was to call sinners to repent.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom [Wis. 11:22-12:2] speaks of the mercy of God for all the things that He has created. When we compare the size of the universe, the endless space that stretches out beyond our imagination, the earth is like a speck that tips the scale or like morning dew that falls on the ground. [Wis. 11:22] And if the earth is like a speck or morning dew, how would we measure the size of a human being? In truth, God loves all things that exist. He detests none of the things that He has made. For He would not have made anything if He had hated it. [Wis. 11:24]
The earth is full of His creatures. They all look to God to give them their food in due season; when He gives to them, they gather it up. When He opens His hand, they are filled with good things. When He hides His face, they are dismayed; when He takes away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When He sends forth His Spirit, they are created, and He renews the face of the ground. [Ps. 104:24-6, 28-30]
In His infinite mercy towards all, the Lord God overlooks the sins of the people so that all may repent. [Wis. 11:23] He corrects little by little those who trespass, reminding and warning them of the things through which they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their
trust in the Lord. [Wis. 12:2]. Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus too is part of this infinite plan of God.

Thirdly, there was a total change of heart. By the grace of God, Zacchaeus repented of his sins. He said to Jesus, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." [Lk. 19:8]
As Zacchaeus waited on the sycamore tree to meet Jesus, we wait at the confessional   with a repentant heart. To make our sacrament of confession fruitful, we should be able to experience a change of heart. When Zacchaeus experienced Jesus he declared that he would pay back four times; when we experience Jesus we should also be able to declare that we have changed the way we have been dealing with our family and our brethren.
Then we too will hear the consoling words of Jesus that Zacchaeus heard, "Today salvation has come to this house,”


Anecdote 1) Forgiven people: In the movie The Mission, one of the leading characters is converted from being a slave-trader of the Brazilian Indians to be a Jesuit priest. But he insists on doing penance, dragging a heavy bundle through the jungle back to the Indians he used to enslave. Once back, in a dramatic, cliff-side scene, where the bundle threatened to make him fall, the Indians cut away the bundle. The people he had formerly enslaved forgave him and set him free. –We have to power to do the same for each other. As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, we are a priesthood of believers who are to be priests for one another, forgiving one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. We have the power to forgive as God’s sons and daughters.
John R. in ‘Hear His Voice’

Anecdote 2) What loving God implies….: There is a story about a poor man who went from house to house begging for a little money or a crust of bread. But no one showed him any compassion. Many a door was slammed in his face, and he was turned away with insults. Little wonder that the poor man grew despondent. One wintry day, as he was trudging through the slippery streets, he fell and broke his leg. A passer-by took him to the hospital. When the people of the town heard that a poor stranger has been taken to the hospital suffering from a broken leg, they felt very sorry for him. Some went to comfort him; others brought him good things to eat. When he left the hospital they furnished him with warm clothes and gave him a tidy sum of money. Before the poor man left town he wrote to his wife, ‘Praise God, dear wife. A miracle happened: I broke my leg!’ Most people would sooner help one who has fallen than keep him from falling. -Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’

Anecdote 3) The failure of Christianity: A story is told about a man who sold an old ‘banger’ of a car to an unsuspecting stranger, and who later went to confession. Afterwards he met one of his old pals in the local pub. When one of his pals heard he had been to confession, he said, ‘I hope you told the priest how you cheated that man over the car.’ ‘I did no such thing,’ he replied. ‘I tell the priest my sins. But he has no right to know my business.’ -The great danger facing church-going people is that they don’t see the connection between what they do in church on a Sunday and that they do in relation to their neighbour on a weekday. -Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’

Anecdote 4) Love of God in action: Fr. George Anderson served as a Chaplin at the maximum security prison at Riker’s Island, New York. He started a Prayer-discussion group among some of the prisoners. The group would read a passage from Scripture. The prisoners would then ponder the passage in silence and end by discussing how it applied to their everyday lives. One evening a prisoner named Richard, from a section for the mentally disturbed, was with the group for the first time. Fr. Anderson describes the episode this way: “It was a windy evening in March. There was little heat in the room. An inmate sitting opposite Richard, having come only in a T-shirt and trousers, was shivering. Richard had come with his shoulders wrapped in two blankets. Then while we were discussing the idea of helping each other, Richard suddenly got up, walked to the other inmate, and put one of his blankets around him.” -Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Anecdote 5) Loving God with our whole being…: Alexander Blake’s book The Nureyev Image describes how totally committed Rudolf Nureyev is to dancing. According to Nureyev himself, ballet has become his whole life, his only “avenue of fulfillment.” Blake writes the following about Nureyev’s dedication to his art: For its sake he has fought and sweated, suffered, quarreled, insulted and been insulted, schemed, dreamed and made bitter sacrifices. It takes priority in his life over everything and everybody; his loyalty to it is unquestioning. It is both the means of his living and the end. -The way Rudolf Nureyev loves dancing and dedicates his whole life to it gives us an inkling of what today’s readings teach about how we should love God: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” -Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Anecdote 6) The kingdom of God is here: Once a village blacksmith had a vision. An angel of the Lord came to him and said The Lord has sent me. The time has come for you to take up your place in his kingdom.’ I thank God for thinking of me’, said the blacksmith, ‘but, as you know, the season for sowing the crops will soon be here. The people of the village will need their ploughs repaired, and their horses shod. Do you think I might put off taking my place in the kingdom until I have finished?’ The angel looked at him in the wise and loving way of angels. and vanished. The blacksmith continued with his work, and was almost finished, when he heard of a neighbour who fell ill in the middle of the planting season. The next time he saw the angel, the blacksmith pointed towards the barren fields, and pleaded with the angel. ‘Do you think eternity can hold off a little longer? If I don’t finish this job, my friend’s family will suffer.’ Again, the angel smiled, and vanished. The blacksmith’s friend recovered, but another’s barn burned down, and a third was deep in sorrow at the death of his wife. And the fourth… and so on. Whenever the angel reappeared, the blacksmith drew the angel’s eyes to where the suffering was. One evening, the blacksmith began to think of the angel, and how he had put him off for such a long time. He felt very old and tired, and he prayed ‘Lord, if you would like to send your angel again, I think I would like to see him now’. He’d no sooner spoken than the angel appeared before him. ‘If you still want to take me’, said the blacksmith, ‘I am now ready to take my place in the kingdom of the Lord’. The angel looked at the blacksmith, and smiled, as he said ‘Where do you think you have been living all these years?’ -Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’

Anecdote 7) "Life is Worth Living".: Some years back a radio/TV program captured the attention of millions throughout the word, particularly the English speaking segment. It was Bishop Fulton Sheen's program Life is Worth Living. The opening, dramatic lines spoken by the Bishop as he introduced the program were, "Is life worth living, or is it dull and monotonous? Life is monotonous if it is meaningless; it is not monotonous if it has purpose". Today’s readings tell us that life is worth living, if we are ready to experience the mercy of a forgiving God who accepts us as we are.

Anecdote 8) A man who decided to change himself: William L. Stidger in his book, There are Sermons in Stories, once told about the owner of a small drugstore. For some reason this druggist hated his work, so he spent his mornings looking for something better and his afternoons at the ball park. He soon decided it was foolish to leave a business about which he knew something for one about which he knew nothing. So he decided to make the best of what he had. He would build up his business by giving the best service possible. When a customer who lived near would call in an order on the telephone, he would repeat each item being ordered and his assistant would fill the order. With the order filled, the owner would keep the customer on the line while the delivery boy dashed out the front door. When the delivery boy reached the house of the customer, who was still on the line with the drugstore owner, she would excuse herself for a minute to answer the door. Coming back to the phone she would express great surprise at the quickness with which the order was delivered. News got around about the drugstore that filled orders so promptly, and soon Charles R. Walgreen, founder of the great Walgreen drugstore empire, had more business than he could handle. Walgreen said his work was easy, like a game, and he soon found great joy in what he had once despised. (Rev. J.B. Fowler, Jr., Illustrated Sermons for Special Occasions, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1988).Walgreen saw that since he could not change his situation, he would change himself. That is what Zacchaeus did in today’s gospel story.

Anecdote 9) The transforming touch of the master’s hand: Snow Man was a gray white horse that Harry De Leyer picked up cheaply at a horse auction. Harry trained Snow Man, and the horse served well at the girls’ school where Harry was the riding master. However, when the school closed for the summer, a neighbor made a generous offer for Snow Man, and Harry could not afford to refuse it. So Snow Man had a new home. Snow Man, however, liked his old home and his old master. Time and time again he jumped the neighbor’s high fences and returned to Harry. Finally, Harry bought his horse back. In that series of events, though, was a clue to Snow Man’s real greatness. Snow Man was a natural jumper, and the horse that once jumped fences to return to his loving previous master later jumped at Madison Square Garden for two national titles! (Paul Aurandt, Paul Harvey’s the Rest of the Story, ed. (New York: Bantam Books, 1977), pp. 68.) All Snow Man needed was the love and attention of his master. That is what Zacchaeus needed as well. Zacchaeus knew that there was something more in life and he was determined to experience it. He was willing to make whatever change was necessary in life to see his dream come true. After he had felt the touch of the Master’s hand, he was willing to live up to his new commitment by no longer being dishonest in his work, by making restitution for the wrongs he had done in the past, and by sharing what he had with the needy.

Homily: 30th Sunday Cycle C

Cycle C 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35:12-14, 16-19; 2Tim 4:6-8,16-18; Lk 18:9-14

In the 10th century BC, after King David captured the city of Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Israelites, he chose a high place as the site of a great temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 24:18-25). But the construction of the project was completed by King Solomon in 957 BC. The Temple of Jerusalem was an important centre of religious and national identity from the beginning, but it became even more important at the time of King Josiah (640–609 BC) He abolished all other sanctuaries and established Solomon's Temple as the only acceptable place for sacrifice in the Kingdom of Judah. The prayer at the temple is considered particularly efficacious. Therefore whenever possible the Jews went to the temple to pray. When away from Jerusalem, the Jews would turn in the direction of the Holy city and the Temple.

The Temple of Jerusalem played a significant role in the life of Jesus too. After his birth, Jesus was dedicated at the Temple in accordance with the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-28). When he was a boy, he impressed the Jewish teachers with his knowledge (Luke 2:41-52). Jesus was later tempted by Satan to jump off the Temple to prove his status and he angrily overturned tables of moneychangers during the "Cleansing of the Temple" (Matthew 21:12). Jesus chose the temple as the background for today’s parable.  Jesus said:  "Two men went up to the temple to pray” one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The name Pharisee was given to a group that had come into existence at a time when, on account of persecution, many Jews abandoned their religion. Their aim was to set an example of faithfulness to the Jewish religion. But gradually their descendants grew proud and self righteous. They began to boast of their holiness and despised the weakness of others. This attitude is clearly seen in the words of Rabbi Simeon Ben Jacai, who wrote, “If there are only two righteous men in the world, I and my son are these two; if there is one, I am he.” Jesus teachers that this attitude is unacceptable before God.

Two men went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood at a prominent place and enumerated the things that he was doing. Some Pharisees liked to impress the people with their show of devotion. So they chose Mondays and Thursdays as fasting days. Mondays and Thursdays being market days, many people would visit Jerusalem on these days. They stood in the market places covered with ashes, as a sign of their fasting. The common people saw these external signs and were impressed with their holiness. But Jesus went deep into the spirit of their prayer and religious observances. He depicted the Pharisee as a symbol of pride. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ The only similarity that Jesus presents between the two is: "Two men went up to the temple to pray."  The parable highlights the differences between the two. The Pharisee prided himself in the fact that he was a keeper of God's law and not among "robbers, evildoers, adulterers."  The Publican, by contrast, could only say, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."   The Pharisee exuded confidence; the Publican depicted a lack of confidence.

A humble prayer is always welcome before God. One of the greatest examples of this is the prayer of King Solomon. He stood before the Lord with an attitude of Humility, "I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in." He prayed, “Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil." (I Kings 3:9). Humble prayers are always answered. God said to Solomon, “"See, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honour, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days." To those who are humble God promises great things, "I dwell in the high and holy place; with him who has a contrite and humble spirit." (Isaiah 57:15). Whenever people approached Jesus with humble requests Jesus never turned them away empty handed. The people who sought comfort in Jesus, and the People who sought cure from Jesus all went back satisfied.  Jesus says the tax collector who came to the temple with a humble heart went home justified.

Another difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector is that “One stood up and one stood off”. The Pharisee chose a prominent place to be seen by others. While the sinner stood away. People who are aware of the holiness of God and their own sinfulness never dared to stand up in the presence of God. The holiness of God is so inspiring. So the book of revelation declares "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, (Rev. 15:4). The tax collector who had this experience stood off. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. (Alexander Pope ).

Thirdly, one exalted himself and one humbled himself. The Pharisee was proud of his humility, and the tax collector was humbled by the realization of his pride. The Pharisee despised the Publican who was unaware of anything else but the presence of God. God always exalts those who humble themselves and exalt their fellow men. James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poem “Abu Ben Adhem” describes it in a moving manner. Abou Ben Adhem was a religious person. One night when he was sleeping peacefully in his room, a sparkling light woke him up. He found out that this bright light was due to the presence of an angel who was writing something in a golden book. He asked the angel what he was writing in the book. The angel replied that he was writing the names of all those people who love God. About asked the angel curiously if his name was in the list. The angel replied that his name was not there. He then politely requested the angel to write his name as the one who loved his fellow men. The angle wrote and disappeared. The other night, the Angel came again with a still glistening light and displayed the names of people whom God loved. Abou Ben Adhem saw that his name was on the top of the list.

Let us stand before the Lord with an attitude of humility. Then our prayers will be acceptable before God.


Homily: 29th Sunday Cycle C

Cycle C 29th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

Exodus 17:8-13; 2Tim 3:14-4:2;Lk 18:1-8
Once a person was driving his cart through a rain drenched road. As he moved forward the wheels began to sink in mud. The muddy roads held the wheels tight, and he could not drive forward. He yelled at the horses, He beat the horses, but there was no change.

Cycle C 28th Sunday

Cycle C 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[2 Kgs. 5:14-7; 2 Tim. 2:8-13; Luke. 17:11-19]

There is an interesting story about two Angels who were sent to the Earth.  The    cries and petitions of the people reach the door steps of heaven constantly. So once God decided that he should send the angels to the Earth to collect them directly from the people. Thus two

Homily: CycleC27

Cycle C 27th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

Hb 1:2-3,2:2-4;  Tim 1:6-9,13-14; Luke 17:5-10

In the readings of today we find prophet Habakkuk, Timothy and the Apostles facing the problem that put to severe test their faith threatened to crumble.