Homily: 4th Sunday - Cycle A

Cycle A - 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13; I Cor 1: 26-31; Mt 5:1-12a

There was a touching  incident in the career of Professor Stuart Blackie of the University of Edinburg. Many years ago, once he was listening to his students as they presented oral readings. When one young man rose to begin his recitation, he held his book in the left hand. The professor thundered, “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!”

At this harsh rebuke, the student held up his right arm. He did not have the right hand! The other students shifted uneasily in their chairs. For a moment, the professor hesitated. Then he made his way to the student, put his arm around him, and said, “I never knew about it. Please, will you forgive me?” Professor Stuart Blackie was so humble that he was able to realize his mistake, accept it and apologize for it. Humility is a virtue rarely prized by our society today. Power, appearance, and finances are too often cantered around oneself. In contrast, humility minimizes self-focus. A humble person is neither arrogant nor selfish. But he regularly seeks to praise, honour, and serve others. Therefore, the lifestyle of a modest person is richly saturated in compassion, encouragement and integrity.

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Zephaniah suggests that if the humble seek to obey the commands of the Lord, seeking righteousness and humility, on the Day of Judgment, they will be hidden from the wrath of the Lord because of their simplicity, humility and righteousness.

We have prided ourselves to live in a society of educated, sophisticated and modern people. However, it does not justify our rudeness, our unforgiving attitude, or our self-serving personality. Humility is a virtue that needed to be rediscovered in our lives. It needs to be cultivated if we desire to live peacefully and in accord with our community.

Humble people maintain a personal relationship with the God, submitting themselves to His Divine Will. This opposes the rich and the proud who do not have time for their Creator. Their fame, social life, wealth, pleasures take up their time. So, Jesus taught:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.”

The second reading also emphasizes that God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. We can find many examples in nature for it. Poets have praised lavishly the song of birds. But it is strange that all the singing birds are small creatures. We have never heard an eagle sing. Poets have never sung of the song of a turkey. Children have never followed the song of an ostrich. But, poets have immortalized the song of a cuckoo. Lines have been written about the song of the nightingale. The canary has found its place in literature. The lurk has been a constant theme for poetry. Many small and insignificant things in nature reflect beauty in its fullness. Sweetness of human existence comes from people who are small in their own estimation. When we humble ourselves God will make us His instruments. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."(James 4:6). Proverbs teaches “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” (Proverbs 11:2) and St Peter wrote to the early Christians" Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1Peter 5:2-6)A certain French Marquis was raised to his grand and exalted state from very humble surroundings. He had been a shepherd in his earlier days & so, in his palace, he had one room known as "The Shepherd's Room". In that room were reproductions of hills, valleys, running streams, rocks and sheepfolds. Here were the staff he had carried and the clothes he had worn as a lad when herding his sheep. When asked one day the meaning of this, he replied, "If ever my heart is tempted to haughtiness and pride, I go into that room and remind myself of what I once was."

A pompous, inflated Congressman once remarked to Horace Greeley: (Horace Greeley was a political reformer and newspaper editor) "I am a self-made man." To which Greeley replied, "Well, Sir, that relieves the Almighty of a great responsibility." When pride comes there is no place for God. A person becomes filled with himself, his achievements, his abilities and his ambitions. Pride not only withdraws the heart from God, but lifts it up against God. Humility helps us to realize our strengths and weaknesses.

There is an interesting fable in Aesop’s fables.

A Bull was bitten by a Mouse and, angered by the wound, he tried to capture mouse. But the mouse reached his hole in safety. Though the Bull dug into the walls with his horns, he got tired before he could rout out the Mouse, and crouching down, went to sleep outside the hole. The Mouse peeped out, crept furtively up his flank, and again biting him, retreated to his hole. The Bull rising up, and not knowing what to do, was sadly perplexed. At which the Mouse said, "The great do not always prevail. There are times when the small and lowly are the strongest and are able to prevail!"

Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God. Yes, in the end, the humble and low shall be exalted while the mighty and the proud shall be brought down.

Humility was a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi, and this form of Franciscan piety led to the artistic development of the Madonna of humility first used by them for contemplation. The Virgin of humility sits on the ground, or upon a low cushion, unlike the Enthroned Madonna representations. This style of painting spread quickly through Italy and by 1375 examples began to appear in Spain, France and Germany and it became the most popular among the styles of the early Trecento artistic period.

When Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them a parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."(Luke 14:7-11)

Being humble is a powerful trait. Humble people see things for what they are. They do not judge, as they do not wish to be judged. The humility that Jesus demanded from his disciples was exemplified in his life, and it culminated at the last supper, when he washed the feet of His disciples.

Today, through the beatitudes Jesus invites us to cultivate the virtues of poverty and humility that they may help us to return to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of God. Hence, we should always remember the words of Jesus:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven."
“Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.”



The Poor in Spirit: The ‘poor in spirit’ are found no only among society’s rejected people but also among its most successful people. An example of this is Pope John XXIII. One of John’s fist acts as pope was to visit a large prison in Rome. He told the prison mates, “You couldn’t come to see me, so I came to you. He also told them that the last time he went to a prison was to visit his cousin. The next day the Vatican newspaper omitted the reference to his cousin. The paper was afraid some of the readers would be shocked to learn that a papal relative was in jail. The newspaper was kept busy during Pope John reign editing out ‘papal indiscretions’. Pope John was one of the world’s most successful people, yet he was as humble and unassuming as some of the world’s least people. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…….” -Mark Link in Sunday Homilies’

Homily: 3rd Sunday - Cycle A

3rd Sunday in the Ordinary Times
Is 9:1-4; 1Cor 1:10-13,17; Mt 4:12-23

Al Catraz Island was the first long term Army Prison in America. It is an island surrounded by freezing waters and hazardous currents. This prison had many types of cells. The underground cells were dark dungeons. The rooms were dark. The only sustenance thrown to that darkness was a little bread and water. Several prisoners were kept in the darkness hand cuffed. In that darkness men lost the concept of days, weeks and years. Their only companion was darkness.

In 1934 work was begun to give the military prison a new face and a new identity. So, a delegation was sent to improve the conditions of prisoners in Al Catraz Prison. There in the pitch dark underground cellars they found certain types of men who were afraid of light. When they were brought out they couldn’t stand the brightness of the sun. The light made them frantic. They wished to take refuge in darkness.

The first reading from the book of Isaiah proclaims that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light have shone.”(Is 9:2). This has been fulfilled “When Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.”

At His coming into the world, Jesus found it enveloped in thick darkness, the darkness of sin; all men groped in it, searching for light, for joy and for freedom. In this darkness man was not able to see the path leading to God, took for God what he himself had fashioned, looked for happiness where it could not be found and went on sinking deeper and deeper into sin. John the Baptist perceived this danger, and his message was decisive and demanding. He addressed the crowd, Brood of wipers…..Produce fruit to fit repentance. John continued his message with a threat and a promise.

Jesus took over where John the Baptist had left. Jesus gave the substance of his message in a sentence. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” There are certain characteristics to be identified in the message of Jesus.

Jesus voice had a note of certainty. There was no doubt about his message. Jesus preached with certainties. He spoke to his listeners about the need for immediate action. The conviction that reflected in the words of Jesus captivated His listeners and silenced His enemies. So Jesus’ words pierced through the heart of men. When the Pharisees tried to attack Jesus, He told them that they were wrong. He challenged their false beliefs and meaning less customs. He taught them that the law was instituted for man and not man for law.

Our lives should be proclamation of certainties. A man cannot make others sure of that about which he himself is in doubt. There was an Unknown Rebel at the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Little can be verified about the lone protester who faced-off with the tanks of the People’s Liberation Army on June 5, 1989. As the column of tanks drove down Chang’an Avenue to quell the Tiananmen Square protests, a single unarmed man in a white shirt blocked their path and continually thwarted their attempts to manoeuvre around him by stepping in their way. Eventually onlookers pulled the student back into the crowd, where he disappeared. Yet despite his anonymous, brief appearance, the media coverage of his nonviolent act resounded throughout the global community. The Unknown Rebel was listed as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

The Apostles, saints and martyrs shared the conviction of Jesus. Their conviction transformed them into brave men who are remembered throughout history. Today, the church needs us to share the same conviction and to be heralds of Jesus’ message.

Secondly, Jesus’ voice had the note of authority. He laid down and announced a king’s command and executed a king’s decision. Jesus taught with authority. “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." – (Mark 1:27) There was no doubt in their experience that he was no ordinary teacher. They were amazed at how different his teaching was:

It is one of the sad things about us that we tend to make allowances for modern ways of thinking. Instead, we should dare to our prophetic authority to the present situation.

Thirdly, Jesus’ message came from a source beyond Himself. It was not the expression of one man’s personal opinions, but it was the voice of God transmitted through one man to the people. When Moses was sent as a mediator God assured him, “Now go, I will help you speak, and will teach you what to say.”(Ex.4:12) The same assurance was given by Jesus to His disciples too, “But when they arrest you do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.”

The message of Jesus offered light, joy and freedom. Therefore, large crowds followed him. But, Jesus picked up a few from among them, to continue his work. In today’s Gospel Mathew gives an account of the calling of the first disciple. Jesus called the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, to be fishers of men. There is a story that the Greeks used to tell how Xenophon became Socrates’ disciples. Socrates met him in a narrow lane and barred his path with a stick. Socrates showed him certain things one after another and asked him where he could get them. Xenophon gave him correct reply. Finally Socrates asked him, “Do you know where men are made good and virtuous?” “No” said the young Xenophon. “Then, follow me and learn,” said Socrates.

God’s call, come to men from a source beyond, in extraordinary ways. Fabien was Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a Pope. Eusebius, a church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabien. Seeing this, Fabien was chosen the pope, unanimously. He accepted call, led the church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in AD 250.

Jesus called the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, to make them good and virtuous. God called Fabien to lead the Church, and they accepted the call. Today, Jesus calls us too, to follow Him, and learn to be good and virtuous. When we accept His invitation the message of Jesus will reach us with the message of light, joy and freedom.




1) Light and darkness: Terry Anderson, a journalist for the Associated Press, was seized and held hostage in Lebanon for seven years; blindfolded almost all of that time, Anderson described his experience in this way, “Deepest darkness, fumblings, uncertainties are frightening. More frightening is the darkness of the mind, when outside light makes no impression and inner lights go dim. . .” (Den of Lions, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York: 1993). In November of 1965, a power failure plunged seven northeastern U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, into a darkness which lasted for more than thirteen hours. About thirty million people living in eighty thousand square miles of territory were affected. In 1977 another less severe power failure darkened New York City for fifty-two minutes. Losses due to accidents and looting were in excess of one billion dollars. In the Holy Scriptures, light and darkness serve as symbols for good and evil. In today’s first reading and in the gospel, Jesus is presented as the one sent to remove the darkness of sin from the world. Isaiah promises that his people will see an end to the darkness of oppression and separation. Today’s gospel shows us how the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus.

2) Labor room suspense: Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse came out beaming. To the first she said, "Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins." "Terrific!" said the man, "I just signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins and this'll be great press." To the second man the nurse said, "Congratulations to you too. You are the father of healthy triplets!" "Fantastic!" he said. "I'm the vice-president of 3-M Company. This'll be great P.R.!" At that point the third man turned ashen and ran for the door. "What's wrong, sir? Where are you going?" called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, "I'm dashing to my office to resign. I'm the president of 7-UP!" (Msgr. Dennis Clarke). John the Baptist and Jesus surprised the self-righteous Jews by their call to repentance. Today’s gospel, from the fourth chapter of Matthew, offers us Christians an equally surprising and shocking announcement by Jesus: “Repent; the kingdom of God is near.”

Homily: 2nd Sunday Cycle A

Cycle A 2nd Sunday in the ordinary time
Is 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34

There are many signs in nature that foreshadow the natural events. When the Scarlet Pimpernel opens people know that the weather will be sunny; when it closes tightly rain is expected. So, this flower has been called the "poor man’s weather glass". When the petals of the Morning Glory open it indicates fine weather, and the shut petals predict rain and bad weather.

Dust storms are common in desert areas. When strong winds pick up large amounts of loose sand, and travel on the horizon looking like a solid wall of debris and dust the desert dwellers know that there is an impending dust storm. When there is large thunderhead clouds and wind picks up, people expect a thunderstorm.

There was a great turmoil in the desert of Jordan raised by a man who lived there, John the Baptist. In the Jordanian desert Very few plants grow. Very few animals live there. It has bad soil. The soil has chalk in it. Stones and rocks cover the ground. Still, multitudes of people crossed it. They went to see the new prophet, John the Baptist, who began his work suddenly. There had been many prophets since Moses. The Jews knew this. But after the time of Malachi, no prophet had spoken for 400 years. People wanted very much to hear from God. So, People began to talk about him. John wore simple clothes. He ate ‘wild honey and locusts’. He lived a very simple life. He did not have a home. He did not have any possession. He shouted out his message (Matthew 3:2), and his message raised a storm of conversion.

Sending envoys to prepare the way for the arrival of a king or a dignitary is not unknown to us. That practice is as old as the establishment of the monarchy. There is nothing unusual in that. So, when the “King of kings” and the “Lord of lords” came into the world, He sent an envoy to prepare a way for Him: John the Baptist. However, the kind of envoy that was sent was as different and unusual as the kind of King he was supposed to announce.

God already had prepared the way for this envoy some 800 years ago when the prophet Isaiah made this announcement about his coming:

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all the flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

A few hundred years later came the prophet Malachi, who made a similar announcement:

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3:1).

Mathew describes the storm raised by John. “Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the districts around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6).

The message of John the Baptist was essentially– prepare and repent.

Prepare for the coming of God’s Messiah. Prepare for the coming of your King. Be washed, be cleansed, become pure in heart; in your thought, and in your mind. Repent, turn around, and change your life. This was the message they found – get ready! So that Jesus can come into you and live.

As a dramatic sign of the inner change that John was demanding, he offered the outward sign of baptism, plunging a person desirous of a new life into the deep waters of the River Jordan. It was the first time in Jewish History that the Jews received Baptism.

John’s fearless denouncement of evil, and summon for righteousness prepared the way for Jesus to make His entry. Then, John pointed beyond himself. John was not only a light to illuminate evil, a voice to rebuke sin, but he was also a sign post to God. It was not himself he wished men to see, he wished to prepare them for Jesus. John said of Jesus, “He who comes after me was before me. He is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.”

When the Spirit takes possession of a man a transformation takes place. First of all, his life will be illumined. There comes to him the knowledge of God and God’s will. He knows what God’s purpose is. He knows what life means. He knows where duty lies. God’s wisdom and light comes to him. The first parents were tempted with this light, “When you eat of it, you will be like God knowing good and evil.”(Gen 3:4).

Ten 20th century Christian martyrs from across the world are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London. They were Unveiled in 1998 by Her Majesty, The Queen of UK.

Esther John stands in the centre of these statues, with the following inscription.

"In an age where conversion to a new faith provokes fear and hatred"
"Leave all other ties, Jesus is calling."

Esther John was born in Qamar Zia, India, on 14 October 1929, one of seven children. As a child she attended a government school and, after the age of seventeen, a Christian school. There she was profoundly moved by the transparent faith of one of her teachers, and she began to read the Bible earnestly. She was suddenly overtaken by a sense of conversion to this new religion.

Her Christian faith grew privately, even secretly. Then, seven years later, she ran away from home, fearful of the prospect of marriage to a non-Christian husband. In April 1959 she completed her studies there and moved to Chichawatni. She evangelized in the villages, travelling from one to the other by bicycle, teaching women to read and working with them in the cotton fields. On 2 February 1960 Esther John was brutally murdered. Her body was taken to the Christian cemetery at Sahiwal and buried. Later, a memorial chapel was built in front of the nurse's home in the grounds of the hospital there. Today, Esther John is remembered with devotion by the Christian community with whom she lived and worked.

21 centuries ago John pointed out Jesus to the world. In the last century, when the Spirit had taken possession of Esther John, she was able to point out Jesus to our world.

Secondly, when the Spirit takes possession of a man, his life will be strengthened. Knowledge without power is a haunting and frustrating thing. But the Spirit gives us not only knowledge to the right but also strength and power to do so. The early Christian community experienced it. So, when their faith was challenged, and their life was threatened, the Spirit strengthened them. Hence, many of them courageously embraced death. So did, Esther John, in the last century.

Thirdly, when the Spirit takes possession of a man, his life will be purified. Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit was to be a baptism of fire. All the evil in life will be burned away until we become clean and pure. Hence, the apostles were able to challenge their enemies, when they were presented before the rulers to be condemned, guilty.

The Church, today, admonishes us to allow the Spirit to illumine, strengthen and purify our lives.


Homily: The Baptism of the Lord

9. 1st Sunday in the Ordinary Time – Baptism of Our Lord

Is. 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt. 3:13-17

The Eagle Has Landed is a book by Jack Higgins set during World War II. Hitler proposed the idea of capturing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Steiner was forced to accept the mission.