3rd Sunday in Lent -Cycle A

Cycle A : Third Sunday in Lent
 Ex. 17:3-7; Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn. 4:5-42 
  There is no more fundamental resource than water, the basis of all life. Water had been a source conflict from the ancient past. Individuals, clans and nations fought for water. Water technologies were developed by a number of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia and the

Homily: 2nd Sunday in Lent Cycle A

Cycle A 2nd Sunday in Lent

Gen 12: 1-4; Tim 1: 8-10; Mt 17: 1-9

At the bottom of a pond some little grub larvae of dragonflies are crawling around in the mud. They wonder what happens to their members who climb up the stem of the water lily and never come back. They agree among themselves that the next one who is called to the surface will come back and tell them what happened. The next grub worm that finds itself drawn to the surface by nature, crawls out on a lily leaf and emerges from its last molting skin as a beautiful adult dragonfly. It has been dark and murky down below, but the dragonfly sees that everything is bright and sunny in the upper world. Suddenly something begins to happen. The transformed grub spreads out two huge beautiful colored wings and flies back and forth across the pond to convey the glad tiding of its transfiguration to its friends. It can see the other grubs in the pond below, but they can’t see him. He also realizes that he cannot dive into the pond to convey the glad tidings of his great transformation.  A similar transfiguration takes place in human life too.  When man meets God, his life is transformed.

The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation.  The reading from Genesis explains how blind obedience to God transforms the childless and pagan Abram into the Abraham who became the prototype of trusting faith and the father of God’s Chosen People. Today’s passage is really the first encounter between Abram and God. Abram was prosperous in land and livestock, but he had no children, and that, to people of his time, was the most serious of all possible deprivations. So God challenged him with an offer: "I will make of you a great nation." But God's requirements were absolute: "Go forth from the land of your kin." The requirements were to become even more absolute when, after Abraham finally had a son, God asked him to sacrifice that same son (Genesis 22:1-18). God asks us, too, to leave our old life of sin behind and go forth with Him into a period of repentance, renewal of life and transformation.

The Gospel tells of the scene of heavenly glory of Jesus.  The disciples received a preview of the glorious figure Jesus would soon become at Easter and beyond. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4). After his later encounter with God, Moses' face shone so brightly that it frightened the people. Elijah had traveled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kings 19:8). At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Man is transformed in the presence of God. Each sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the sacrament of reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick in faith we are physically and spiritually healed and our sins are forgiven. In marriage man is entrusted with the creative power of God. In the Sacrament of Eucharist and Holy Orders a total transformation of week human beings takes place.

We need these 'mountain-top’ experiences in our own lives. At the Transfiguration of Jesus Peter cried out “It is good to be here.” That should be our response too when we come into contact with the presence of God. All the great men reached the point of glory at the time of prayer. So when our community comes together in prayer this transformation will take place within ourselves, in our parish, and in our community as a whole.



Talk of Rev. Fr. Bobby Jose OFM Cap
Repentance (Malayalam)

Homily: Lent 1st Sunday

Cycle A 1st Sunday in lent
Gen 2:7-9;3:1-7; Rom 12:5-19; Mt 4:1-11

Today we begin the first Sunday in the season of Lent. Lent is a season of penance that has been set apart by the Catholic Church in memory of the forty days fast of Our Lord Jesus in the desert. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent includes forty fasting days. The Lenten Season is a time to fast for the purpose of gaining spiritual strength in order to resist all forms of temptations.  So the church proposes that we should do penance to regain spiritual strength.

Once upon a time a very earnest young man visited a famous rabbi. He told the rabbi that he wanted to become a rabbi and asked for his advice. It was winter time. The rabbi stood at the window looking out into the yard while the rabbinical candidate gave him a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, ‘You see, Rabbi, I always dress in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages; only water ever passes my lips. I perform numerous penances. For instance, I always carry sharp-edged nails inside my shoes to mortify me. Even in the coldest weather. I lie naked in the snow to punish my flesh. And to complete my penance, I take a dozen lashes every day on my bare back.’ As the young man spoke, a stable boy led a white horse into the yard and took him to the water trough. The horse drank his fill of water, and having done so, rolled in the snow, as horses sometimes do. ‘Just look!’ cried the rabbi. “That animal, too, is dressed in white. It also drinks nothing but water, has nails in its shoes and rolls naked in the snow. Also, rest assured, it gets its daily ration of lashes on the rump from its master. Now, I ask you, is it a saint, or is it a horse?” The point the rabbi was making was that penance is not an end in itself. (Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’)Our penance should be a means to obtaining grace to resist all temptations in life.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Genesis [Gen. 2:7-9, 16-18, 25; 3:1-7] recalls the creation of our first parents and the entry of original sin into the world. Adam and Eve enjoyed an innocent nature. But when Eve was tempted to disobey the command of God, it could not be resisted. She just gave in, and Adam followed. It is human nature to choose the easiest path. The path that offers no resistance. The path that has no hurdles. The path that does not place any demand of sacrifice on us.

Anyone who has ever paddled downriver in a canoe knows that a river does not travel in a straight line.  Rather, it twists and meanders wildly, whipping blindly around bends, constantly pushing the craft back and forth from sand bar to overhung branch to brambly shore. The river follows the path of least resistance and following the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked. The same is applicable to us too.

Once upon a time there were three shepherds who each wasresponsible for a flock of sheep. One winter’s night all three were awakened by the howling of a wolf. The first was about to get out of bed when he heard the rain beating against his bedroom window. He had second thoughts, turned over in bed, and went back to sleep. The second got out of bed, dressed, and went to the front door. However, on opening it he was hit by a squall of sleety rain. He went back inside and returned to his warm bed. The third got up, dressed, and went outside. There he had to contend with rain, wind, darkness and cold. But he stuck to his task until he had seen that his sheep were secure. When he got back indoors he was wet through and got a nasty cold as a result of his efforts. Now which of the three shepherds knew most about the rain, the wind and the dark? The third of course. Those who give in easily to temptation know little about the struggle involved. Those who struggle with temptation and overcome it know it best. If you want to know what victory over temptation costs, don’t ask a sinner ask a saint. (Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies)

Today’s Gospel gives an account of the temptations Jesus endured. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was put severe temptations. 

In the first temptation, the tempter said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." [Mt. 4:3] To this, Jesus answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" [Mt. 4:4]
It is a temptation the modern world faces much more than that of any age. The greed for material possession. The insatiable greed for luxury. When the world around us suffers, we run after the latest fashions.  The world is constantly hit by natural disasters. (Tsunami in Japan). Countless number of people loses their shelter, clothing and means of livelihood. They are reduced to nothing. In such a world to run after satisfying our greed for luxury is a great sin, and easily giving into temptation.  The season of lent reminds us to open our eyes and see the world around us; to act promptly and not to wait.

In the second temptation, "the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed Him on the pinnacle of the Temple." {Mt. 4:5] Then Satan said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" [Ps. 91:11-2; Mt. 4:6] To this, Jesus replied, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" [Mt. 4:7]

The temple of Jerusalem was very high and there were always plenty of people gathered in the courtyards of the temple.  If the people see a person coming down from the top of the temple without getting hurt, He would become popular hero. Winning popularity always remains an unconquerable temptation. We are ready to do anything to become popular – live with serpents, walk through fire, laid buried under the earth for hours and so on. If we have an examination ourselves, we can recount countless occasions, when we acted differently to gain popularity, even at the cost of others. Jesus’ answer is a warning to us too.

In the final temptation, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the Kingdoms of the world and their splendour. [Mt. 4:8] There, Satan said, "All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me." [Mt. 4:9] Quoting Deuteronomy 6:3, Jesus answered with severity, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" [Mt. 4:10]
Thirst for power is deeply embedded in each one of us. All the wars in our history were just to satisfy the thirst of some one.  We practice it in the little spheres of our influence. At home, in the work place, in the parish and so on.

The message of lent for us is to fight against three basic evil natures in us:  temptation to amass material possession, temptation to gain popularity through unfair means, temptation to get power at the cost of others. If we are able to resist them in little measures we will be able to contribute to the alleviation of suffering and injustice that prevail today.


Ash Wednesday A

Cycle A: Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18.

To help us understand the significance of lent the Church makes use of a sign, the sign of ashes. Ashe is blessed and imposed on the forehead of each one of us.

Ash is an object of daily contact. Every one, young or old, come in contact with ash or dust, and everyone knows that it is one of the things of least importance. So the church reminds its members that we are created from Ash and we have to return to ash. In this short span of life the physical body that is the composition hash has been glorified, and made prominent by the presence of the spirit that gives the life breath to the body. So the season of lent reminds us to subdue the desires of the flesh to the demands of the spirit.

Ash is used as a symbol to remind us of our weakness. There have been leaders who wielded enormous power, but only for a short span of life. Then they had to submit to the natural course of death and disintegration. TenzingNorgay conquered the highest peak, the Himalayas. But when his turn arrived he was conquered by death. Alexander the Great conquered the ends of the then known world. But when his turn came, he had to submit to the unconquerable enemy, death. Sir Ronald Ross conquered, but when his turn came he was conquered by the great enemy, death. All of them returned to dust and decay. So, ash reminds us today that we are week human beings who are granted a short life on this earth.

Realizing this inevitable reality the church places its demands on us: “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” The sign of turning away from sin is indulging in good work. To the Jew the three great cardinal works of religious life were, alms giving, prayer and fasting. In the season of lent the church wants us too to practice these virtue.

It is a strange fact that these three great cardinal good works are done from wrong motives. So Jesus warned his audience, when these things were done with the sole intention of bringing glory to the doer their value was lost.

A man may give alms just to demonstrate his generosity. A man may pray just to make an impression on his fellow men. His praying may simply be an attempt to demonstrate his exceptional piety. A man may fast, not really to humble himself in the sight of God, but to show the world what a splendid self disciplined character he has. A man may practise good works simply to win praise from men. Then they already had their reward from men, and he does not leave to God a chance to reward him.

There was a rabbinic saying, “Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices.” But often we are tempted to make a show of our generosity. J. J. Westein quotes an eastern custom from the ancient days. “In the east water is so scarce that sometimes it had to be bought. When a man wanted to do a good act, he went to the water-carriers and instructed him: ‘Give the thirsty a drink.’ When the water carrier gave water to the thirsty, the man stood near him and asked,” Bless me, who gave you this drink.” Jesus teaches that he had already enjoyed his reward. Our works of charity must be done in secret. So that God who sees our work will reward us. Johnson, in his own days of poverty, went on slipping pennies into the hands of the waifs and strays that were sleeping in the doorways because they had nowhere else to go. Once Jonson was asked how he could have bear to have his house filled with necessitous and undeserving people. Johnson answered: “If I did not assist them no one else would, and they must not be lost for want.” Here we see real giving. A giving that flows from the heart.A giving that is the fruit selflessness. This is what the church demands us in the season of lent.

Secondly, the season of lent reminds us practice the habit of fasting. To this day in the East fasting is an essential part of religious life. In many cases fasting was a preparation for revelation. Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights before he received the revelation on the Mount Sinai. Daniel fasted as he awaited God’s word. Jesus Himself fasted as he received the ordeal of temptation. St Francis spent days in fast as he waited for the revelation of God. When the body is most disciplined, the mental spiritual faculties become most alert. Fasting is good for self discipline, and it preserves from becoming the slaves of habit. Above all fasting helps us understand the plight of the needy, and to appreciate things all the more. But fasting has gone completely out of the practice of the contemporary man. We should practice it in our own way. And the reason for it is:

“So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.”

Thirdly, the season of lent reminds us to spend time in prayer. One of the loveliest rabbinic says is, “He who prays within his house surrounds it with a wall that is stronger than iron.” Jesus emphasized the importance of prayer in His teaching and by His example. In fact, Jesus laid down two great rules for prayer. All prayer must be offered to God, and we must always remember that the God to whom we pray is a God of love, who is ready to answer.

As Lent is a time to go back to god, let us join with our brothers and sisters in almsgiving, fasting and prayer. May God bless our efforts.


9th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Cycle A - 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deut 11:18-26; Rom 3:21-25; Mt 7:21-27

All the ancient monuments, buildings and sculptures that are surviving till today are built on rock. The Ajanta Caves are a series of 29 Buddhist cave temples in Ajanta, India. They are built on rock. The huge stone structures remain a marvel even today. These are one of the masterpieces of pictorial art.

Another marvel that survives the test of time is the Kailash temple. It is part of a complex of over thirty temples that cover over two kilometres. Kailash was built in the eighth century BC and it is believed that two hundred thousand tons of rocks were removed during the construction of these impressive historical monuments. It but stands proud as the biggest monolithic temple in the world.

The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah). An impressive and beautiful edifice, the Dome of the Rock can be seen from all over Jerusalem. It is the crowning glory of the Haram es-Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary"), or Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Islamic monument that stands today and certainly one of the most beautiful. It also boasts the oldest surviving mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) in the world.

There are also many examples of huge structures that collapsed after a short period of time. The fall of Karnak temple is one such example. The Karnak temple complex is huge, covering a site almost a mile by two miles in area. There are over 25 temples and chapels in the complex. Many reasons are given for the fall of this amazing structure. They call it engineering defects.

Today’s readings convey the same message. Anything that has a strong foundation will survive the test of time, and those that are built on weak foundations will crumble against forces of nature. Human life also is the same. All the people who build their life on value systems live beyond their time.

In the reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses warns Israelites that they will be blessed if they obey the commandments of the Lord, but cursed if they reject God’s words and go after pagan gods. St. Paul, in the second reading, asserts that men are now justified and sanctified by believing in Christ and following his precepts. In other words, we are made righteous by our faith in Jesus through the grace given to us “as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” In today’s gospel which is the concluding part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us two warnings: that we must match our profession of faith with actual obedience to the will of God and that we must build a life on the firm foundation of His teachings. Thus He warns us against over-confidence and self-complacency.

Relying on self-complacency is like building castles on the sand. There are sandcastle-building competitions on many American beaches. The sandcastle-building enthusiasts are given a plot of sand, about thirty feet by thirty feet, and with their team of ten people, they create exotic sandcastles, sand dragons and sand animals. There are teams of professional sand-sculptors who travel the sand beaches of the west coast, weekend after weekend during the summer months, creating exotic, incredible works of art in the sand. The people walk through this myriad of sand sculptures, all glorious in their detail, like in a wonderland of sand fantasies, and we marvel as we walk from one creation to another. But within six hours, the tide comes in and wipes everything away, so hardly a trace of the artistic beauty remains and with a few tides’ coming and going, there is not a single trace of the sandcastles and sand dragons.

In today’s gospel Jesus makes a pointed comparison between a man building on sand, and one who builds solidly on rock. Hence, we have to give a strong foundation for our life.

First of all we have to give a strong foundation for our personal life. Our personal life must be based on a strong foundation of virtues. A drowning man cannot save another drowning person. If he tries to do so both will drown together. Likewise, unless we have strong convictions based on the teachings of Jesus, and the example of saints, we will be absorbed by the materialistic approach of the society, and we will lose the direction. That is why many people fail to discover the purpose of their life. They are left in this vast world, like a ship without a compass in the vast expanse of the ocean. St Paul spent days and nights in solitude and prayer to equip himself to begin his ministry. St Francis retired to the silence of night to be in the Presence of Jesus before he began the next day. All the saints and holy men spent time in silent prayer, to strengthen the foundation of their life. Derive strength from the words of Jesus, and his consoling presence, so that we can translate our words into action.

Secondly, we need to give a strong foundation for our family. The cornerstone of a solid foundation for the family is Christian faith, affirmed and lived out. There can be no great marriage and no great family without a solid foundation. We are all in the family-building process, parents, children and extended family, and none of us can cheat on the foundation if we want our home to last. Edwin Markham has written a little story called “The Builder”. A certain rich man wanted to help someone. He saw the squalor in which a certain poor carpenter lived with his large family. The rich man sent for the carpenter and placed in his hands the blueprint for a nice home. He ordered that the house be made beautiful and sturdy, and that the best materials be used, regardless of the price. He further explained that he was going on an extended trip and wanted the house completed when he returned. Seeing the chance to make a huge profit, the carpenter skimped on materials, hired inexperienced workers at low wages, and covered mistakes with paint. When the rich man returned the carpenter handed him the keys to the house and told him that his instructions had been carried out to the letter. Good, replied the rich man as he returned the keys to him. For the house that you have been building is yours. You and your family are to live in it. In the years that followed, concluded Markham, the builder often regretted that he had cheated himself. You and I are building houses with either good or shoddy material. We are building according to code or we are cutting corners. Jesus warned us to build our houses wisely, because the keys are going to be handed to us and we are going to have to live with what we have created. Family get together and family prayers will help to understand one another, feel other’s aspirations, appreciate other’s ambitions, share the anxieties and support one another. That is the foundation for building a strong family.

When a strong foundation is made for the personal and family life, it will empower us to face the storms and challenges of life. The challenges that people meet are different in different centuries. In the first centuries the Christians met with persecution. Many gave up their life for their faith. In the middle ages the Christians were threatened by divisions in the Church. In our time the challenges that we have to face are different: family breakdown, estrangement of parents and children, alienation between the members of the society, rivalry between societies and casual approach to value systems. There is a need to strengthen the bond between couple. There is a need to strengthen the bond between parents and children. There is a need to strengthen the bod between the members of the society. There is a need to strengthen the bond between the societies. Accept the challenge and be ambassadors of change.

Jesus is always with us with the offer of help to empower us. What we need is only to surrender us. Let us pray with Thomas Merton:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Anecdotes for Sunday

Faith in Prayer

Twelve-year-old Irmgard Wood lived in Stuttgart, Germany, during World War II. One morning her mother and her sister saw an American plane catch fire and fall from the sky. Instinctively, they prayed for the pilot, even though he was an American.

Years later, the Wood family migrated to America. Irmgard’s mother got a job in a hospital in California. One day a patient detected her German accent and asked her where she lived in Germany. “Stuttgart,” she said. The patient replied. “I almost got killed in Stuttgart during World War II. One morning my plane caught fire and fell from the sky. Somebody must have been praying for me.”

“More things are wrought through prayer than this world dreams of.” –Alfred Tennyson

Faith and Rain

After four years of drought in the little village, the parish priest gathered everybody to make a pilgrimage to the mountain; there they would join in common prayer service to ask for rain.

In the middle of the group the parish priest noticed a boy all wrapped up in warm clothes and covered by a raincoat. “Are you crazy” he asked. “It hasn’t rained in this region for five years and you’ll die of the heat climbing the mountains!”

“I’ve got a cold, father. If we are going to pray to God for rain, can you imagine the climb back down? The downpour is going to be heavy that it’s better to be prepared.” At that very moment a coud roar was heard in the sky and the first drops began to fall. The faith of a boy was enough to work a miracle that thoughsands of men were praying for.

“While faith makes all things possible, it is love that makes all things easy.