Friday, November 29, 2019

December 01, 2019: Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A.

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Mt. 24:37-44

God’s Vision for Humanity
In a world enveloped in darkness and dominated by fear, sorrow, sickness, poverty, cynicism, apathy, wars and rumors of war, Christians are called to be unapologetic optimists. They are to shine the light of joy, happiness and hope, and restore peace to the world. This is what Advent is all about. This period of waiting for the Messiah demonstrates that God is much greater than our collective feeling of sadness and despair. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16). As the Jews waited in hope for the Messiah, so we wait! Advent assures us that the birth of Christ will restore joy, peace and love to our broken world.

This was Isaiah’s vision in the first reading. “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it.…He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Is. 2:1-5). Isaiah predicts that a day shall come when mankind shall live together and walk together in faith and righteousness and brotherhood. We pray for the realization of this vision with faith and optimism! Without our collective desire for peace, we are condemned to the dreadful prospect of wars succeeding wars until the human race destroys itself. The words of John F. Kennedy ring true here, “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” We note with sadness that in our world today, the instrument of war has far out spaced the instrument of peace, and so if mankind doesn’t pursue peace and peaceful cohabitation with her neighbors, the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science, can engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. Therefore, Isaiah’s vision is urgent and urged us to create a world of peace and hope both for ourselves and humanity

Advent calls us to look at God’s vision for humanity, to consider, to accept and obey Him, or perish miserably. For in order to experience peace we must acknowledge the supremacy of faith in God. “It is because the sovereignty of God is acknowledged, and men no longer pay lip service to it, but are prepared to organize life in keeping with it, that the whole face of the world is changed.” Secondly, mankind must be willing to learn the way of life without violence and outwardly pursue peace. And finally, Isaiah notes that the distrust that man has in negotiating for peace can only be overcome by trust in God. We say Amen to that!
St Paul, in the second reading, cautions against waiting till it is too late to live a life of grace. He said, “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to wake from sleep.” When we sleep, we forget that we have work to do and places to go. And when we let our guards down we can easily be surprised by events or calamities. Paul exhorts us to “Conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” The flesh, according to Paul, is our unredeemed self that is always at war with our spiritual self. Msgr. Charles Pope, in his, stated that the flesh “Refers to the part of us that is alienated from God. It is the rebellious, unruly, obstinate part of our inner self that is always operative. It is the part of us that doesn’t want to be told what to do. It is stubborn, refuses correction, and doesn’t want to have a thing to do with God. It recoils at anything that might cause us to be diminished or to be something less than the center of the universe. The flesh hates to be under authority or to have to yield to anything other than its own desires. The flesh often desires something simply because it is forbidden.” If Advent must be meaningful and anticipate the birth of Christ, the flesh must be redeemed and submit to the will of God.

The Gospel exhorts us to stay awake for we do not know when the Son of Man will come. The vision of Isaiah and the exhortation to be alert will make the preparation for the birth of Christ fruitful. For during Advent, we do not only wait for the coming of Christ at his birth, but also for his second coming at the end of time. While we wait, what sought of people ought we to be? We must be engaged in acts of penitence which Advent calls for. We must purge ourselves of sins and keep our hearts clean by making use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ must be welcomed into a clean house. Our heart is the temple of the Holy Spirit, it is there that God dwells. We must get rid of malice and malicious thoughts and deeds. Grudges, anger, resentment and revenge must have no room in our hearts. We must be engaged in sporadic acts of kindness and compassion; and be committed to a healthy prayer life and be available to assist others in their needs. May God give us his grace. Amen!

Action exercise. Advent is a period of 24 days from December 01 to December 24. There are 24 chapters in Luke’s Gospel. If we read a chapter of this Gospel a day, we would read the 24 chapters of Luke’s Gospel by December 24. We will be enlightened about Christ’s life and the reason for celebrating his birth, then Isaiah’s vision will be ours too, and we will come to understand God’s vision for humanity. 

“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning

Friday, November 22, 2019

November 24, 2019: Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1 -3; Colossians 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43

Just A Different Kind of King
Today is the last Sunday of the year. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new Church’s Year (A). On this last Sunday, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. Yes, we live in a democracy and we do not want to be ruled by kings, queens, princes or princesses. The idea of king, even that of Christ, can send a cold chill down our spines. But wait a minute! Why this feast? The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. When it was first celebrated, Benito Mussolini was Prime Minister of Italy (1922-1943); Adolf Hitler had been out of jail for a year, and his Nazi party was growing in popularity, and before long, he would be appointed chancellor of Germany (1933); and Joseph Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At the same time, the world lay in great throes of depression, secularism and atheism were on the rise. The Pope asserted that the most effective defense against the destructive forces of the age is the recognition of the kingship of Christ. So, this feast asks few simple questions: who exercises dominion over you? Who rule your life, your heart? Who do you listen to?

The children of Israel always regarded God as their Lord. He is the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt to the promised land. Though the Lord was in charge, he appointed leaders called judges to assist him in the day-to-day administration of the people. But when the Hebrews observed that their neighbors were ruled by kings, they requested for a king, so that they could be like their neighbors. Samuel tried to discourage them. He saw it as a rejection of God’s sovereignty. When they insisted, Samuel warned them: “The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will assign your sons to his chariot and horses, and they will run before his horses… he will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting and make his implements of war and equipment of his chariot. He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers. He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his officials. …He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work. He will tithe your flocks and your yourselves will become his slaves.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18). In spite of the warning God gave permission and Saul became the first king of Israel.

In the first reading, we read of how David, a brilliant and far-sighted military and political leader became the king of both the Northern and Southern kingdom of Israel. David was a king after God’s heart (1 Sam. 13:14). God had promised David through Nathan, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm for forever” (2Samuel 7:16).  The psalmist rejoices over the election of David thus: “I have chosen David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him.” (Psalm 89:21).  Jesus is a descendant of David and so He is the promised king whose kingdom will have no end.

Our celebration today shows Christ as a different kind of king. He is not the type of king described by Samuel above. By no means! He said so himself to Pilate. “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Jn. 18:37). But He was quick to add, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants (would) be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.” (Jn. 18:36).

The kings of this world are protected by bodyguards, soldiers, attendants, guns, tanks and military might. But Jesus does not have any of those, neither did He need them. He surrendered himself with twelve unlettered men, who ran away from Him at the slightest provocation. He had no one to speak for him and He did not even defend himself. He was arrested in the garden, tried at night, convicted of a crime he did not commit and crucified as a criminal amidst two criminals.

Allow your imagination to wonder, leisurely, with me through the world, where Christ could possibly be allowed to be our king. There would be love; yes, love for everyone, regardless of language, color, creed or status. There would be peace. There would be no wars or rumors of wars. Prayers would be offered in schools and children would be brought up to respect their elders; and indeed everyone, and adults would do same. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Is. 21:4). Guns will not be heard of, neither will there be a need for self-protection. There would be no police brutality in our streets and the word corruption would not be thought of or discussed in public. There would be public trust on our social structures. We would respect our environment and not jeopardize the world by depleting the ozone layers for selfish national ambition to exert dominion over nations. We would eat healthy meals and be afraid to poison our bodies with opioid or other substances; because we know our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. There would be perfect harmony between human beings and nature and none would harm the other; because the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Is. 11:1-9). It was only a dream! Wake up now!

This is the picture painted for us today as we come to the end of this Church’s year. We are to reflect on the bounties that Christ the king brings. He wants us to emulate him, to do what He has done. He shows us, by example, how to live, so that we may live in peace with him in this world and in the next. While dying on the cross, Jesus forgave the repentant thief and promised him everlasting life. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” He prayed for those who killed him on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34). He did not forget his mother but entrusted her to John. He did not forget us either but entrusted us to His mother. (Jn. 19:25-27).

St Luke portrays Jesus as the king reigning on the cross. He is truly the king of love, mercy and forgiveness. The Preface at this Mass gives us the kind of kingdom Christ has established for us: “As king he claims dominion over all creation that he may present to You, his almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” Christ is our king, for on his Cross He gives us everything without counting the cost. May we be open to receive his gifts of pardon, mercy and forgiveness. And may we not be hesitant in offering same to others. May Christ the universal king welcome us to his kingdom with these reassuring words: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Amen.  

Points to Ponder:
·      Is Christ the king of my heart?
·      Is Christ the Lord of my life?
·      Am I willing to forgive others as I am forgiven by God?

“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning

Friday, November 15, 2019

November 17, 2019. Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year (C)

Readings: Malachi 3:19 -20; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

What Would You Do?
What would you do if you were to know that you will die today, this week or next month? I am sure you would make preparations so as to be ready to meet your creator on the day of judgment. You may write your will and give your money away. You may go to confession, or may be, go for a retreat, or make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These and many other ideas are very good indeed, while you wait. But why would you postpone doing good till the end, with anxiety and the fear of death hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles? 
Our readings today address the end time and the four last things that await us. We know, for a fact, that we will die. When? We know not. We know we will be judged. After judgment, there will be a verdict of heaven or hell. We know these because the bible tells us so. “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:19). In the Gospel, Jesus talked about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that took 46 years to complete: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” That temple was indeed destroyed seven years after the prediction.
It seems at times, we have been assuaged by structures without reflecting on why they were built. Did that temple raise people’s minds to God? Probably not. “Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” (Lk. 19:45-46). There were many other abuses going on within that temple, even as it looked very beautiful outside. What about us? Do we always conduct ourselves with decorum in the sacred place designated for the worship of God? We may be proud of our beautiful church, but does it reflect the glory of God? Do we worship God in spirit in and in truth? Are we lacking in forgiveness, compassion and mercy within the house of God? Do we welcome all who come to worship God, regardless of their status, clout, race or appearance? If not, the temple must to be destroyed.
Allow me to reflect with you on the structures we have erected, that may make it difficult to totally surrender to God. What are these structures? It could be our academic achievements that make us look down on others. We may have made our jobs a god, and so we have no time for God. It could be our social status that make it difficult to be open to others. It could be our monumental pride that stands so tall in us that blinds and prevents us from seeing God and others. It may have taken us years to accumulate our wealth, to build our empire, to construct our temple and attend our social status; but if we do not see Christ in them, Christ will say to us “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Fr. John Pichappilly, in ‘Kindle Your Spirit’ wrote “When a temple becomes so superimposing that people are no longer able to see God except in it, the time for its destruction has come. Our faith demands that we recognize the presence of God in the human person as well as in the temple.”
The readings remind us that our time on earth is short. Christ will come one day soon, therefore, we should be prepared. But this knowledge doesn’t mean that Christ’s coming will be today or tomorrow. It could be any day! Unfortunately, some people are so focused on the end of the world, that they even predict the year and the day it will happen. Christ warned, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” (Lk. 21:8-9). Therefore, we should live normal lives, be concerned about the basic things in life – caring for one another, being one another’s keeper; be prayerful and committed to our faith. Let us not worry about the end. It will come when it will come. If we go about our duties as Christians, we need not be afraid. We know that the day we die is the end of the world for us and the beginning of life everlasting with God.
In the second reading, St. Paul urged his listeners to imitate him in their work. Some of them had stopped work believing that the end of the world was imminent. “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” (2 Thess. 3:6-16). Being over anxious about the end of the world can be a distraction. The end will come whether we like it or not. We do not need to do great and extraordinary things just because we know we will die today or tomorrow and hope to squeeze into heaven at the nick of time. We should be doing great and extraordinary things as a way of life, from the day of our baptism till the day we die. A Christian should be found at his/her duty post 24/7. We do not put on Christianity when it suits us and take it off when it doesn’t.
Though the readings may have painted doom and gloom pictures about the end time; the earthquakes, the ominous signs, wars and insurrections, nations fighting against nations, persecutions, famines and plagues, betrayals and imprisonments, there are words of consolation and assurance for those who do the will of God. We must not be afraid. Fear is for the guilty. Worrying unnecessarily is for those who do not know their destiny or He who controls it. We do not worry about tomorrow because we know tomorrow is in God’s hands. Christians must not follow anyone with questionable predictions. We are not even to give a defense but “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Lk. 21:15). The first reading assures us: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Malachi 1:20). We must put our trust in the Lord and do his will at all times. According to St. Paul, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us?... No, in all things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:28-39). Christ put it even better “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk. 21:19). According to William Barclay, “The man who walks with Christ may lose his life, but he can never lose his soul.” So, let us do what Christ commands us to do. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk. 21:28).
Questions for reflection:
·      What temple have I erected for myself that makes it difficult to worship God
·      Why am I so worried about the end of my life?
·      Do I worship God out of love or because I am afraid of hell?
·      Do I worship God both in his temple and in my brothers and sisters?

“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn. 6:39).

“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning.