Homily: 2nd Advent A

Cycle A 2nd Sunday of Advent.

Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12

Alexander is one of the most fascinating personalities in human history. Although he was the son of a king and inherited an empire that included most of the Greek city-states, he set out to conquer an empire for himself. From 335 B.C. to 324 B.C., in 11 years, Alexander and his army battled their way across 22,000 miles; and founded some 70 cities in the lands he conquered and ordered them to be named after him.

He was one of the most successful military commanders in history, and was undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks. He had conquered the Persian Empire, Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Bactria and Mesopotamia and extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as the borders of Punjab.

But, the Macedonian empire didn't live much longer than Alexander. After his death his kingdom was promptly carved up into three pieces by his generals. The Macedonian people have never seen much peace or freedom. They've been under the feet of ambitious conquerors from the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Turkish Empire; and more recently, the country was affected by the world wars.

Establishing a vast empire with its frontiers extending up to the oceans had been the great desire of many emperors. They never lasted beyond a few years after the death of the founder, because they were founded by shedding blood, annihilating the opponents and by employing unfair means. Prophet Isaiah announced the establishment of an empire that is just contrary to what the world had ever experienced.

“A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
A scion thrust from its roots:
On him the Spirit of the Lord rests,
A spirit of wisdom and insight,
A spirit of counsel and power,
A spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."

Prophet Isaiah made this announcement to a nation that was torn by continuous wars; to a nation from where almost all the people were carried off as slaves; to a nation that was plundered and laid waste.

He promised that this saviour will establish a kingdom founded on peace and harmony. The long lost harmony would be restored by him. In his kingdom,

“The wolf lives with the lamb
The panther lies down with the kid,
Calf and lion-cub feed together
With a little boy to lead them.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole
Into the viper’s lair
The young child puts his hand.

He will be able to re-establish harmony between God and man; harmony between man and man; and harmony between man and nature. This extraordinary harmony will be founded on wisdom and the fear of the Lord. Once men come to know God, sin, the cause of disunion, will disappear and peace will set in.

The Gospel of today shows John the Baptist inviting the Jews to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand.” The emergence of John was like the sudden sounding of the voice of God. He fearlessly denounced evil wherever he found it. John Rebuked Herod; He criticized the Pharisees; He condemned the ways of the Sadducees, and he challenged the religious leaders. He was well aware that his message would offend the leaders; his warnings would hurt the public; and his denunciation would displease the authorities; but he had the courage to condemn evil. He condemned evil and called the people to repent.

Today we are entrusted with the same mission. We have to carry out the prophetic warning and denunciation of evil. As prophets we cannot close our eyes against, corruption, against injustice, against exploitation and against the evils in the society. When we tell the truth it may hurt others. “The truth is like the light to sore yes,” said Diogenes. But for fear of offending others if we keep silence, it is ignoring our social obligations. When Diogenes criticized the society he was rejected; when Socrates raised his voice against the authorities he was silenced by death sentence; when John the Baptist rebuked Herod, he was beheaded; when Gandhiji questioned the British in South Africa he was imprisoned. But their prophetic voice bore fruit. As Diogenes puts it, “He who never offended anyone never did anyone any good.”

Repentance was the very centre of the Jewish Faith. All the prophets called people to repent. But John’s call to repent was combined with a promise... The coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a kingdom of peace and harmony.

In the season of Advent the message of the church, too, is “Repent, and turn away from evil.”

[(Joke) The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray:

"Take only ONE. God is watching."

Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child posted a note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples. ]

The essence of repentance lay in a thorough change of mind that will bring about a change of life and a change of conduct. Then like John we will become the heralds of a Kingdom that will be established on love and understanding; and will wipe away hatred, disunity and selfishness.

Often we are pushed into passivism and take refuge in the attitude that our actions are insignificant and we cannot effect any positive change.

Once a little girl was on the beach one day after the tide had rolled out. Hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore. The little girl picked them up one by one and threw them back in the sea. “You can’t make a difference, for there are thousands on the beach,” said an onlooker. She looked at him as she threw another one in the sea and said: “It made a difference to that one.”

Even the smallest effort is not lost; each wavelet on the ocean lost, aids in the ebb-tide or the flow; each raindrop makes some flowers grow; each struggle lessens human woe. Each action of ours can make a difference. God never intended for an individual to solve all of life’s problems. But he did intend for each one of us to use whatever resources and gifts He gave us to make a difference where we are. Then unlike the world empires, the kingdom that prophets dreamed, the kingdom that John announced, the kingdom that Jesus came to establish, the kingdom to which we are invited will last for ever, and we can sing with the Psalmist:

“In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.”

Satish

Anecdotes for the Homily.

1) Renounce Everything for the Love of the Supreme: A ticket collector in a train found an old worn out wallet in a compartment full of people. He looked inside to find the name of its owner. There was no clue. All that there was in it was some money and a picture of Jesus. He held it up and asked: “To whom does this wallet belong to?” An old man said: “That’s my wallet, sir, please give it to me.” The ticket collector said: “ You’ll have to prove that it is yours. Only then can I hand it over to you.” The old man, with a smile said: “It has a picture of Jesus in it.” The ticket collector said: “That is no proof; anyone can have a picture of Jesus in his or her wallet. What is special about that? Why is your picture not there like most normal people?”

The old man took a deep breath and said: “Let me tell you why my picture is not there in it. My father gave this wallet to me when I was in school. I used to get a small sum as pocket money then. I had kept a picture of my parents in it. When I was a teenager I was greatly enamoured by my looks. I removed my parents’ picture and put in one of my own. I loved to see my own face and my thick black hair. Some years later, I got married. My wife was very beautiful and I loved her a lot. I replaced my picture in this wallet with a picture of her. I spent hours gazing at her pretty face. When my first child was born, my life started a new chapter. I shortened my working hours to play with my baby. I went late to work and returned home early too. Obviously, my baby’s picture occupied the prized position in my wallet.”

The old man’s eyes brimmed with tears as he went on. “My parents passed away many years ago. Last year my wife too left her mortal coil. My son, my only son, is too busy with his family. He has no time to look after me. All that I had ever held close to my heart is now far, far away from my reach. Now I have put this picture of Jesus in my wallet. It is only now I have realized that He is the eternal companion. He will never leave me. Alas! If only I had realized this before, if only I had loved the Lord all these years, with the same intensity as I loved the Lord all these years, with the same intensity as I loved my family, I would not have been so lonely today!”

The ticket collector quietly gave the wallet to the old man. When the train stopped at the next station, he went to a book stall at the platform and asked the salesman: “Do you have any picture of God? I need a small one to put in my wallet!” –M K Paul “Inspiring Anecdotes and Stories”

Homily: 1st Advent Sunday A

Cycle A 1st Sunday of Advent

Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44

On a mountain of Northern Vietnam, there is a rock that appears like the image of woman bearing a child in her arms looking toward the horizon like waiting for someone. This image is especially striking at sunset and sunrise, bringing about indescribable emotions to all who have ever looked up to that mountain and admired the waiting woman.

This rock became a source of inspiration for several legends in Vietnam about women waiting for husbands.

A Long time ago, in a small village, there was a young couple who had been living happily together. The young wife had just given birth to a child when a large army invaded their land. The King then called for all young men to join the military to fight the invaders. The young husband, complied with the order of the King, went to the frontier. The young wife waited for her husband to return. Months and years passed but her husband never came back. She decided to climb up to the top of a mountain to watch for her husband. There she stood, the small child in her arms, looking toward the frontier, expecting her husband to return. She stood there days after days and nights after nights. Rivers and mountains near and far heard of her story and pitied her. They wanted to counsel her to return home so they went in flock to visit her, forming a long mountain range that now runs throughout Vietnam (the Trường Sơn mountain range). As years passed by time set her body into stone. But her soul lived on and there she stood waiting forever.

History of salvation is a story of promises and the long and continuous waiting for the fulfilment of the promises.

When Adam and Eve defected the Paradise God promised a mediator. He promise to save Noah and his family from the flood (Gen 6:18). He promised to Abraham that He would make Abram into a great nation. (Gen 12:2). He promised to Israelites that He would deliver them from the bondage in Egypt. He promised the wandering Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey. Once they were settled, He promised them a King, and a temple to worship Him. He promised to David that his kingdom would be established for ever. The promises continued through the prophets. He promised through the prophet Jeremiah a New Covenant. (Jer 31:31-34), and the great promise of a saviour came from Prophet Isaiah. “This young woman will give birth to a son. She will name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).

The year of the liturgical calendar starts with the season of Advent. The season of Advent is a season of expectant waiting. The Latin word “adventus” means “coming”. So in the season of Advent we are waiting for the coming of some one. The coming of the saviour.

All the three readings of today describe the manner how our waiting should be! The waiting of a Christian is not a passive waiting devoid of any creative activity. It is not a waiting in laziness. But this waiting is an invitation to walk in the ways of the Lord – the way of justice, the way of charity, the way of forgiveness, the way of simplicity and the way of altruism.

In the first reading we hear the invitation of Prophet Isaiah:

“Come let us go to the mountain of the Lord,
To the temple of the God of Jacob
That he may teach us his ways
So that we may walk in his paths.
O House of Jacob, come,
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

So, Advent is a time of invitation to walk in the light.

For St. Paul night time is the symbol of nefarious activities, and day time stands for the time when we do good. St Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome:

“Let us live decently as people do in the daytime;
No drunken orgies,
No promiscuity or licentiousness
And no wrangling or jealousy.”

Secondly, Advent is a time of invitation to be engaged in action. In the mind of Paul the whole life of a Christian is waiting to meet Jesus. It is not a call to be passive and do nothing. But it is a call to be actively engaged in the daily affairs of life. To be instruments in the hands of God. God worked among His people through the medium of chosen people. Moses was chosen to be an instrument to lead the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt to freedom. Ehud was sent to protect them from the Moabites(Judges 315).Samson was an instrument at the hands of God to deliver His people from the oppression of the Philistines. Nehemiah was sent to rebuild the temple. Today we are the instruments at the hands of God. So, Advent is an invitation to constantly strive to achieve our goal. As Robert William Service puts it, “Striving is strength: with all that's in me I will not falter in the fray.”

Do not allow passivity to creeps into our lives and falter in the fray. .An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” says the proverb.

John F. Kennedy is said to be very fond of a particular story. During his 1960 presidential campaign he often used it to close his speeches. It is the story of Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives back in 1789. One day, while the House was in session, the sky of Hartford suddenly grew dark and gloomy. Some of the representatives looked out and thought that was a sign that the end of the world had come. Uproar ensued with the representatives calling for immediate adjournment. But Davenport rose and said, “Gentlemen, the Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.” Candles were brought and the session continued.

Thirdly, Advent is an invitation to be vigilant. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus insists on watchfulness.

“Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The Lord’s coming will be a surprise for many, as the “thief in the night.” But for those who heed the warnings of Scripture, the “Day” will not overtake them as a thief, because they will be ready for His coming, though we don’t know when it will be.

In the season of Advent the Church wants us to go through life, watchful, active and joyful.

Satish

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Anecdote 1) Change and Renewal are Laws of Life: When winter comes, the trees must sigh in sadness upon seeing their leaves failing. They say, “We will never be the same as before.” Of course, or else what is the sense in renewing themselves? The next leaves will have their own personality, they belong to a new summer that approaches and which will never be the same as the one that has passed.

Living is changing—and the seasons repeat this lesson for us each and every year. Changing means passing through a period of depression, we still do not know the new, and we have to forget all that we were used to. But if we have a little patience, spring finally comes and then we forget the winter of our despair. Change and renewal are laws of life. Better to get used to them instead of suffering from things that only exist to bring us happiness. –Fr M. K.Paul

Anecdote 2) Conscious Preparation: Once upon a time there were two eighth grade girls, Lois and Ella Mae, who were both sensational volley ball players. Lois was the captain of the team and the best player on the team. Ella Mae was co-captain and the second best player on the team. They were also “best friends” and were together all the time even when they weren’t playing volleyball. Ella Mae didn’t mind being second best and Lois didn’t think being best was all that big a deal. There was one difference between them, however, and I bet you know what it is. I wouldn’t want to say that Lois was lazy exactly, but she was just a big deficient in the work ethic area, know what I mean? Ella Mae on the other hand was almost compulsively committed to practice. Hardest working player in the whole school, including the boy athletes. Lois used to tell herself – and everyone else who would listen to her – that Ella Mae had to work hard because she didn’t quite have all the talent at a co-captain ought to have.

Well, the team won their section and their division, and their region. They were really good, Lois was the best spiker in the city and Ella Mae never gave up on what looked like a lost point. Finally they came to the city championship against their traditional rivals, St. Adelbert. Ella Mae wanted to practice every day the week before. Lois said two days was enough. After all, there was more to being in eighth grade than volleyball. You know what happened? Sure you do. They lost to St A by one point because they were just a little bit out of condition. Don’t cry, Ellie, Lois said to her friend in the local ice cream store where they were eating pink pistachio peppermint ice cream. We’ll have lots of championship games in high school. BUT, Ella Mae sobbed, we’ll never have an eighth grade championship game again.

Anecdote 3) Cry the Beloved Country: Alan Paton was a South African writer. Among the books he wrote was the haunting story, Cry the Beloved Country, which poignantly described the situation in South Africa under apartheid. Paton had a dream. He dreamt of a new day for his beloved South Africa, a day in which there would be justice and equality for all. For this reason he entered into politics, and fought to end the iniquitous system of apartheid. For decades he followed his dream, and worked generously and courageously to make it a reality. It was a dream that many said would not be realized. Yet it was. Unfortunately, Paton did not live to see it. He died before the dawn. The prophet Isaiah had an even bolder dream, a dream of universal brotherhood and peace. Isaiah’s vision was a splendid one. It would only be realized by the coming of the Lord Jesus. (Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’)

Homily: Christ the King

Cycle C 34th Sunday Christ the King.
 
2 Samuel 5: 1-3; Colossians 1: 12-20; Luke 23:35 – 43.
 
In the year 200AD Jingo, the Empress of Japan, invaded Korea. Following the defeat, the Korean king placed valuable treasures before the empress and promised to pay “homage and send tribute until the sun no longer rises in the East, but comes from the West; until the courses of the rivers turn backwards and the river pebbles ascend and become stars in Heaven”.

When Queen Sheba visited King Solomon, she crossed the Sahara desert into Israel with more than 797 camels, donkeys and mules too numerous to count. She gave the king 120 talents of gold, very great store of spices and precious stones. The value of the gold alone, which she gave to King Solomon, was of great worth. (1 Kings 10:2-5) It was customary, in the ancient world, to place great treasures and gifts before the emperors and kings to please them.
 
When the Magi heard about the birth of a king for the Jews they set out with royal offerings- Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. After 33 years, the same king stood elevated on the cross with the inscription INRI, (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum - "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews") By placing this title Pilate had  made an involuntary, but historical proclamation  that Jesus is the King not only of the Jews but of the Universe.  Many a time such involuntary proclamations of Jesus’ Kingship are heard from unbelievers. The soldiers made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they put a royal purple robe on him, and shouted, "Hail! King of the Jews!"(John 19)
 
Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "You have said it." (Luke 23:3).
 
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (Jn 18:37)

This king; the king of the Jews, the King of the Universe, the king of the living and the dead  was on the cross on
Mount  Calvary  bestowing his gifts on his people.
 
The Feast of Christ the King was established nearly 85 years ago by Pope Pius XI. After the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, the inhuman atrocities and untold misery, made people lose their hope and faith in the just world. Then, the Pope reasserted with the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King, that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus remains the King of all history, all time, all creation and of the entire universe. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title, and he assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".
 
On the cross, Jesus shows himself as a king who distributes his gifts most generously.
 
Jesus distributes pardon around: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Jesus’ mission on earth was to offer God’s forgiveness.  As against the traditional concept of God, as a God of revenge, as a God of punishment, as a God who made demands on his people; Jesus presented God as a loving and merciful father.  God is like the shepherd who rejoiced on finding the lost sheep; God is like the father who ordered a feast upon the return of the prodigal son. Jesus went about healing the sick, proclaiming the mercy of God and inviting people to repent. He showed great generosity in offering pardon to the sinners. This mission He continued till the last moments on the cross.
 
Secondly, Jesus grants heaven to a thief just for the asking: “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:43)The first person to formally recognize Jesus as king was a condemned criminal.  He captured the Lord's heart with his humble request: “Jesus remember me when you come in your kingly power.” When the whole crowd at the foot of the cross ridiculed Jesus, he was able to grasp the real meaning of Jesus’ kingship. His faith deepened in the dark moments when Jesus’ divinity became obscured. 
 
In life, we have to make our choice. We could be like the soldiers who mocked Jesus. [Lk. 23:36] We could be like the criminal on the cross who kept deriding Jesus. [Lk. 23:39] Or we could be like the repentant thief who put his trust in Jesus and asked Jesus “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The choice is ours!
Thirdly, Jesus shares His mother’s love with the whole mankind: “This is your mother!” (Jn 19:26). The only person who was with Jesus with unrelenting support was His mother. Throughout His life Jesus experienced her love, concern and protection. Whenever Jesus’ life was threatened she was able to make crucial decisions to save Him. She fled with the infant Jesus from Jerusalem; when the boy Jesus went missing she undertook the dangerous journey back to Jerusalem to find Him; she followed Him in His mission and finally she traversed the way of the cross to Calvary and stood at His feet. So, Jesus gives this loving, caring and protective mother to be the mother of His Church.
 
No earthly king has been so magnanimous with his gifts, as Jesus was on the day of His death on the cross. We must receive His gifts humbly and gratefully.
 
When we think of kings, we often think of kingdoms. Jesus has a kingdom on earth, a kingdom that comprises all the continents. That Global Kingdom is the Church. We are all members of it.  Through nearly 2000 years of the Church's existence, we know with great certainty that our kingdom is not of this world; it not a temporal power. Even though temporal powers have tried to annihilate the Church through various means, it has always risen with greater strength. Neither the sword of the emperors, nor the guillotine, nor the infidelity of its members was able to disintegrate it, because at its head stands the King.
 
If Pilot involuntarily declared Jesus as the King of Jews; today, we should voluntarily announce Jesus as our King; and as loyal members of his kingdom fight for human rights, human dignity and true freedom.

Satish

Anecdotes for sunday. 

Anecdote 1) A king once fell inlove with a poor girl. At first, he thought of simply bringing her to the palace and marrying her; but he realized this wouldn't work since she'd soon realize the immense difference in their backgrounds and not be happy. After much reflection, he decided to renounce his kingdom and go and live near her so that she would realize how deeply he loved her. Shocking one and all, he left the palace. -Philosopher Kierkegaard

Anecdote 2) Moloch is the ancient name of the god who seeks human sacrifice. It was to him that ancient pagans sacrificed human lives, even the lives of their own children. It is to Moloch that some people even today seek to build themselves up and promote their interests by destroying those around them. There are those who put others down and even destroy the careers of others in order to advance up the ladder of corporate power structures. Lust isn’t a vice that is confined to sexual exploitation – lust for power is likewise a false god that can exert power and control over us as well. Modern day Moloch worshippers determine to do whatever is necessary at all costs, even at the cost of human sacrifice, in order to advance themselves. That, too, is something to think about on this Christ the King Sunday.

Anecdote 3) Let No Man Presume: Alexander McClaren has observed that on Calvary there were two thieves crucified with Jesus. One thief was saved that no man need despair, but only one, that no man might presume. It's the last Sunday of the church year. If there were one last sermon to preach, one last time to tell the story, what would you choose? Or better still, what will the answer be when the story ends? The king waits.
    Crown him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon his throne;
    Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns
    All music but its own.
A wake, my soul, and sing
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity.
 -(Theodore F. Schneider, Until the King Comes, CSS Publishing Company )


Anecdote 4) Long live Christ the King! Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, a priest of the Society of Jesus, lived during a very trying time for the Mexican people. The Catholic Church was terribly persecuted. A popular uprising of Catholic laymen called the Cristeros rose to the occasion to free the Church from oppression. Blessed Miguel Pro died as a martyr, executed by a firing squad of federal soldiers on November 23, 1927. As he stood, waiting for the shots that would end his earthly life and begin a new life in the kingdom of Heaven, he forgave his executioners, and spreading out his arms in the form of a cross he cried out “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” (Fr. James Farfaglia)

Anecdote 5) On His Majesty’s Service: Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."

Homily: 33rd Sunday Cycle C

Cycle C 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov 14

[Mal. 3:19-20; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk. 21:5-19]
 
The Liturgical year of the church is coming to an end. Next Sunday, we shall celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and the Sunday after, we shall start the New Liturgical Year.
 
Today's readings direct our attention to the End of the World, otherwise known as the Last Things, or the Day of the Lord. “The End Time” is a theme spoken of in all the religious writings, in the traditions of every society, and celebrated much in literature.
 
Childhood’s End is a science fiction novel written by Sir Arthur C Clarke. In this novel, he describes that humanity is visited by aliens who resemble Satan. The aliens, named in the novel as the overlords, are seen in the role of "heralds" for a god-like force named the Overmind. A transformation occurs in the last human generation, which ultimately merges with this Overmind and resulting in the destruction of the earth and the solar system.

All the religions have their own beliefs about the end of the world, the triumph of good over evil and Judgment Day.

In Christianity, the End Times are often depicted as a time of tribulations that precedes the Second Coming of Jesus. Jesus on his Second Coming will usher in the Kingdom of God and bring an end to suffering and evil. In slam the “Day of Resurrection" or “the Day of Judgment", Allah's final assessment of humanity, is preceded by the end of the world. In Judaism the term "End of Days" is taken as a reference to the Messianic era and the Jewish belief in the coming of Messiah.

During the First Reading from the Book of Malachi,  we heard the Lord say, "'See, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and all evildoers will be  like stubble; the day that is coming shall burn them up,' says the Lord of hosts, ' leaving them neither root nor branch.'

In other words, the evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. When they die, there will be no tombstone to mark their graves. Over time, their existence will fade away from the memories of the passing generations.

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus’ announcing the destruction of Jerusalem, that of the world and his second coming.  Some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His Kingdom. Therefore they refused to work. One of such community was that of Thessalonica. To such persons, St. Paul commands and exhorts in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. [2 Thess. 3:12] Every Christian, when he is able to do so, must support himself and not live off the income or wealth of the others.

The same false belief has been held throughout every generation, even to this day. The Shakers thought the world would be over in 1792, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses pegged various years between 1914 and 1994 as an end date. More recently, some doomsday forecasters have focused on the year 2012.

The Day of Judgment and the End of the World ought to cause us to think more about what is valuable to do today. The Church puts the Last Days in front of us so that we can judge what is right and what is wrong in what we are doing in the present.   Rollo May, A popular writer, once observed, “The most effective way to ensure the value of the future is confront the present courageously and constructively.” When we live the present responsibly and meaningfully, we are preparing ourselves for the second coming of Jesus into our lives.

The Day of Judgment for every person is his own death. It can happen at any time, in any way. The end of the world for me can be through an accident, by means of death by old age, or by means of a natural calamity. The recent floods in various parts of the world caused thousands of death, and it was the end of the world for them; the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused thousands of people feel that it was the Day of Judgment for them. The tsunami that swept the shores of Indian Ocean brought the world to an end for thousands. So, we must wait for this great moment.

But while waiting for this great moment to come, we must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. But, Jesus also has promised us his infallible assistance in our attempt to make our life meaningful. He has assured us that, “Your endurance will win you your lives.”

Satish


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Anecdote 1) Beware of false messiahs: On November18, 1978, Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple committed mass suicide with over 900 of his followers in an isolated community called Jonestown in Guyana. Jones was fascinated with his power to manipulate people and preached ‘revolutionary struggle’ that would end either in victory (socialism) or ‘revolutionary suicide’ (death). Nowadays, people’s temples and doomsday cults seem popular among believers for whom religion is opium, and God, an idol. Doesn’t Jesus’ warning in today’s gospel also sound pessimistic and destructive? – (Francis Gonsalves, “Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds” p.418)

Anecdote 2) The theater is on fire: The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager appears on the stage, apologizing for the interruption. He announces at the top of his voice that the theater is on fire, and begs his patrons to leave the theatre immediately without causing a commotion. The spectators think that it is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again feverishly implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building engulfing the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concludes Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators?" (Resource, July/August). Today’s readings warn us about a similar fate if we are not well prepared when the “Day of the Lord” dawns quite unexpectedly, marking the end of the world.

Anecdote 3) A man was living in the Canadian prairie with his daughter, and one of the great problems about living on the prairie was the fear of prairie fires which rage through and destroy everything in its path. Well, their fears became real when a huge prairie fire broke out, and the father realized that there was nowhere that they could run because they were surrounded by fire.  So the father started his own fire with his frightened daughter, and watched as the area burned, and then he took his daughter into the centre of the area that had been burned already.  He knew that the approaching fire would not touch this area because there was nothing left to be burned. He spoke gently to his very frightened daughter and told her not to be frightened, that the flames could not get to them because everything combustible had already been burned.

Anecdote 4) Consider the Joy!: Consider the story of one young man. He was often sick as a baby. He was always small, puny some would say. As a youth he was always frail and delicate. He was not able to play sports with the other boys his age. Eventually he entered the ministry. But his health was so fragile; he was unable to serve his growing congregation.
    Amazingly, he did not dwell on his troubles. In fact, his spirit soared. His only real complaint was the poor quality of the hymns of his day. He felt they did not convey hope and joy. Someone challenged him to write better ones. He did. He wrote over 600 hymns, most of them hymns of praise.
    When his health collapsed completely in 1748, he left one of the most remarkable collection of hymns the world has ever known. His name was Isaac Watts. In a few weeks we will be singing one of his most famous hymns, "Joy to the World!" Isaac Watts discovered joy in his life because he knew that God would never desert him. He was able to live his life with all sorts of health problems feeling close to God and Jesus. He had joy deep in his heart. –Timothy J. Smith

Anecdote 5) Stop Speculating!: There is an old story about a warrior who was struck one day by a poisonous arrow. This man happened to be a speculative sort of person, so as he lay on the ground he mused to himself: "I wonder what kind of wood this arrow is made of? What sort of birds, do you suppose, the feathers come from? I wonder what type of man shot this arrow — tall or short, dark or light." His comrades, who saw his plight, could bear it no longer, but cried out in frustration: "For God's sake, man! Stop speculating and pull out the arrow!" –Gary L. Carver and Tom M. Garrison

Anecdote 6) The theater is on fire: The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager appears on the stage, apologizing for the interruption. He announces at the top of his voice that the theater is on fire, and begs his patrons to leave the theatre immediately without causing a commotion. The spectators think that it is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again feverishly implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building engulfing the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concludes Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators?" (Resource, July/August). Today’s readings warn us about a similar fate if we are not well prepared when the “Day of the Lord” dawns quite unexpectedly, marking the end of the world. 

Homily: 32nd Sunday Cycle C

Cycle C 32nd Sunday in the ordinary Time

2 Mac 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2,16-3:5; Lk:20: 27-38

Life after death has been a burning problem for many in every century. So, the legends, folklore and fiction are full of stories of man’s attempt to gain immortality.

There is a story about Alexander’s quest for immortality. Alexander, the great, came to understand that in the mountain of Kaf there was a great cave, very black and dark, wherein ran the water of immortality. He decided to undertake a journey to the dark cave. Being afraid that he might lose his way in the cave, he decided to seek the advice of some old men. An old man advised Alexander to take a mare that had a colt at her heels, and leave the colt at the entrance of the cave; the mare would infallibly bring him back to the same place without any trouble.

Alexander advanced so far that he came to a gate. On the shining gate he saw a bird. The bird asked Alexander what he wanted. Alexander replied that he was looking for the water of immortality. The bird asked him one more question. Then it died and the gate opened. Alexander looked in. He saw an angel sitting there with a trumpet in his hand. He asked the Angel his name. The Angel answered that his name was Raphael. He asked Alexander who he was. He replied that he was Alexander, and he was looking for the water of immortality. The Angel gave him a stone and asked him to look for another stone of the same weight; then he would find immortality.

Alexander searched far and wide. Finally he found a stone almost of the same weight. He put both the stones on the balance. Finding very little difference he added a little earth which made the scales even. A few days later Alexander had a fall in the barren ground of Ghur. His attendants laid him upon the coat he wore. Then began to realize the meaning of the words of the Angel that he could attain immortality only when he would be put to the earth.

Today’s readings speak about immortality. The first reading gives the account of a mother and seven sons who preferred death to going against their faith. They declared, “The King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever (2 Mac 7:9). The mother and the sever brothers were deeply convinced that immortality will be granted by God, “Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands; yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him.”

But this conviction was not shared by a group of Jews called the Sadducees. In the Gospels we hear about two groups of Jews. The Pharisees and the Sadducees. Though they are often mentioned together they had different beliefs.

There are a lot of differences between both the groups. The Pharisees were entirely a religious body. They had no political ambition. They were not bothered about the government as long as they had freedom of worship. The Sadducees were few but wealthy. They were largely collaborationist with Rome.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, in Angels and Spirits; whereas the Sadducees held that there was no resurrection from the dead, and that there were no Angels or spirits.

The Pharisees believed in fate, but the Sadducees did not believe in fate.

The Sadducees, then, came with this question about who would be the husband in heaven of the woman who was married to seven different men. They regarded such a question as the kind of thing that made belief in the resurrection of the body ridiculous. Jesus gave them an answer which has permanently valid truth in it. He said that we must not think of heaven in terms of this earth.

The Sadducees were not able to grasp the meaning of the word of God, because they spoke the way they did. Their minds, exclusively bent on material things, prevented them from understanding God’s plan expressed in the Scriptures.

There are a lot of silly questions that divert our attention from the most fundamental question of the purpose of our existence. It is absurd to think that all the beauty in the world, all the love that we experience, all the pursuit of justice, all the compassion and sacrifice that we make come to end at the grave. Rather, they attain their perfection when they touch the earth. Their transformation and glorification happen at death. We still remember the concern of Fr Damian, who took pity on the lepers and lived with them. Our hearts are full of the kind deeds of Mother Theresa. We recall the attempts of Abraham Lincoln to grant freedom to the slaves of America. We value the works of Mahatma Gandhi. We remember the pardon offered to his enemies by the late Pope John Paul II. Death has transformed them and their actions. In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin (one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States, author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat), penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have been influenced by Paul's teaching on the resurrection of the body. Here's what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, the former printer lies here, food for worms, like the cover of an old book: its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding. But the work shall not be wholly lost: for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new & more perfect edition, corrected and amended by its Author. (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/franklin-epitaph.html).

A physical death is not so much the end of life, as a step to another more perfect life, one that last forever. At physical death begins a new journey. We have to be always ready to begin this journey.

Today’s Second reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians opens our eyes to the fact that the Lord strengthens our hearts in every good work and word.

St Paul urges us to get ready for eternal life by humbly asking Jesus to help us to be faithful to him.
Satish

Anecdote 1) Making the right choice: In the film ‘Romero’ which tells the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a supporting character named Lucia foresees that her continuing struggle for freedom may end up in personal tragedy. She asks a priest who is also involved in the struggle whether it is all worthwhile. She wonders whether there really is an afterlife. If not, why keep up the fight for freedom? Yet she chooses to continue to fight, knowing what that choice means. Eventually her fears are realized, and she is murdered for her beliefs. In our own country, we do not face the choice Lucia faced. But we do have to choose whether to follow Christ or simply to eat, to drink and be merry. This Sunday’s readings can help us to face this choice. -J.E. Spicer in ‘Preparing for Sunday’

Anecdote 2) Antidote to Worry: The only son of a mother had died on the war front. World War II was then raging and matters had to be done. A neighbour was informed and requested to convey the distressing news to the mother. The neighbour gathered a few friends and went over to her house. She was on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. The man said quietly, “I have something very sad to tell you.” Then he paused. “Bill has been killed in France.” The mother hesitated just for a moment, and then the brush continued going round and round. Finally she said, “Well, all of you sit down, won’t you please? I’ll make you a cup of tea.” They protested but she insisted. “Please,” she said. “I want to make you some tea! I feel like doing it.” And she chatted while she boiled the water, brought out some cakes, arranged the tea, and sat down with the callers. A long time after the time of mourning was over, her neighbour said to her, “I’ve always admired you for the way you took the news of your boy’s death. But I have never been able to understand it. “Well,” she said, “my grandmother one told me, ‘Whenever you get distressing news, don’t stop your work. Continue with it. Whatever you are supposed to be doing at that moment, you should do. The best antidote for worry is trust in God and work.” -Francis Xavier in ‘The World’s Best Inspiring Stories’

Anecdote 3) Immortality of the Soul: Many of our contemporaries no longer believe in the immortality of the soul or the resurrection of the body. Taken up with the tragic and repelling character of death, they cannot conceive that life can continue under other forms when earthly existence is ended. There are even Christians who go along with the view of death as a definite end: they have no hope of either a personal afterlife or a general resurrection. For them Jesus only lives in his disciples in the measure in which they keep his memory and live in his spirit. In their scepticism both these groups recall the Sadducees of Jesus’ time: political opportunists, religiously conservative, they preserved the old concept of a colourless survival of souls in an uncertain ‘Sheol’. The teaching on the resurrection of the dead, formulated much later than Moses, seemed to them stupid and useless. In this spirit, they put to Jesus in today’s Gospel one of those fantastic problems dear to all casuists. Taking the law that a man must marry his brother’s childless widow, they use it to pour ridicule on the doctrine they reject. Jesus does not meet them on their own level. In the new world of the resurrection there will be no question of marriage or procreation! On the deepest level Jesus replies by an act faith in God, the living One! He is the God not of a short human life, But of a covenant, and cannot be limited by corruptible existence. He is the God not of the dead in a state of suspended judgement, but of those who put in him their hope of life. The resurrection is not a doctrine one can take or leave; Jesus himself was to die as witness to this hope in the God of the living”. –Glenstal Bible Missal

Anecdote 4) Film: Truly Madly Deeply: Truly Madly Deeply is a film about life after death. Nina’s lover a musician named Jamie, dies from a simple throat ailment. Nina goes to a therapist to cope with her grief. She often senses Jamie’s presence and hears his music. She receives some support from her friends at the translation school where she works. Then she begins to ‘see’ Jamie and starts a whole new relationship with him as a man-ghost. She is happy although she is somewhat unsure about the reality of what is happening. Later Nina encounters Mark, an art therapist who works with a group of young adults with Down’s syndrome. They invite her to join them. Nina and Mark start to date. This enables Nina finally to confront Jamie the ghost-man and ask him to leave. She tells him she must let him go and live her life. As she goes off with Mark, the ghosts watch her from her window and Jamie sheds a tear. –Truly Madly Deeply’s underlying themes of bereavement and letting go are explored as a love story that cannot be. We can empathize with Nina’s loss at Jamie’s death but her relationship with Jamie the ghost-man is unreal and she has to let go and get on with her own life. We can take Jesus’ words at the end of the gospel as a reminder that our God is a God of the living, and that we must live our lives here on earth to the full. The afterlife is different from here and now and we must let go of those who have died. As they go to their new and eternal life, we continue our journey in hope. -Peter Malone in ‘Light, Camera…Faith!’

Anecdote 5) The Stopped Up Dam: There was a beautiful lake that lost its zesty freshness. The water formerly had been clear. It was alluring to animals and people alike. But it became covered with green scum. The farm animals became sick from drinking the water. Finally someone came to the lake who understood the problem. Debris collecting from the hard spring rains had stopped up the dam and prevented the free flow of water not into the lake, but out of the lake. The spillway was cleared and soon the lake was fresh and clean again. The flow in and out was necessary to keep the water pure! –Doesn’t the same principle apply to you and me as human beings? The blessings of God flow to you and me, but we fail to realize that most of these blessings are not meant to us, but through us, for the good of others around us, especially for those in need. -Richard Patt in ‘All Stirred Up’

Anecdote 6) At death life begins…: Gerald Kempis, brother of Thomas, had a beautiful palace built and invited his friends to admire it. Everybody admired it, but only one could find fault with it. “You have a beautiful palace, but I still would give you some advice.” “What?” asked the owner. “Have the door walled up.” “Which?” “The one through which you will be taken out one day to the cemetery…” “Ah, but this door cannot be walled up, for death is an unwelcome guest from which man cannot escape.” –Alexander the Great asked to be buried with open hands so that people would see that in spite of all his possessions he wasn’t taking anything with him. Prince Albert, upon his death-bed is reported to have said, “I have had wealth, rank and power. But if this were all I had, how wretched I should be now.” Guido Salvadori, Italian poet and professor at the Sacred Heart University at Milan, when he was on his death-bed, asked for his best suit. “Now” he said “begins my feast….” -J. Maurus in ‘A Source-Book of Inspiration’

Anecdote 7) Resurrection of the dead: The film Amadeus ends showing the funeral of the great musician Mozart. He died at the age of 35. A genius, he never re-copied his compositions. He never had to make corrections, so the first draft was also the final copy. A genius, he started playing several instruments at the age of four, wrote several symphonies by the age of eight and created at least 528 musical compositions before he died at age 35. He was a genius, whom one authority calls "one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament." What a waste, that he should have died so young! It makes you wonder: is this life all there is? Imagine a beloved spouse, a darling parent or grandparent, a close friend, lying cold in the coffin. Is this life all there is? We try to comfort ourselves with the doctrine of the resurrection. We say: the genius of people like Mozart is not going to be wasted. The love of dear ones - the squeeze of their hands and the music in their voices - that love will be enjoyed in even greater intensity. A Sadducee in Jesus’ time might say, "I don't believe it; the doctrine is absurd." That was the point the Sadducees wanted to make by challenging Jesus with an absurd story of a woman who married seven husbands, in today’s gospel.

Anecdote 8) Sign of the cross by Brezhnev's wife: As Vice-President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who was the president of the U.S.S.R. for 18 years. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow Mrs. Natalia. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: she reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. -Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26. 

Anecdote 9) The epitaph of Benjamin Franklin: In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin (one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States, author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat), penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have been influenced by Paul's teaching on the resurrection of the body. Here's what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, the former printer lies here, food for worms, like the cover of an old book: its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding. But the work shall not be wholly lost: for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new & more perfect edition, corrected and amended by its Author. (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/franklin-epitaph.html ).