Category Archives: HOMILIES





Once upon a time, there was a man who was imprisoned for stealing and involving himself in violence. He spent 10 years in jail and on the day he was released, he was a happy man. He comes home, and meets all his family members. He was a changed man. There was no anger, no impatience, he seemed relaxed and content. Then he sees a big cage at his home with so many love birds chirping. He watches them and at one point goes near the cage and opens the door and lets all the birds fly free. When questioned by his family members, he affirms the invaluable beauty of freedom and respect to all. Well, he was an enlightened changed man for sure.


Years ago some scientists did a simple experiment on a bullfrog. They threw a bullfrog into a container of boiling water, and the bullfrog instantly popped out of the boiling water. Next they put the bullfrog into a container of cold water. The bullfrog liked it and stayed in the container. The scientists then turned on the heat at the bottom of the container. As the water got warmer, the bullfrog relaxed and took a nap. The bullfrog was so comfortable that it stayed in the container and was “cooked”.

Most of us are in the “comfort zone”. We have a house to go home to, a nice bed to sleep on, food in the fridge, a group of friends to mingle with, along with some basic necessities of life. We have worked hard to get to where we are now. So why should we change this? The truth is most of us are like the bullfrog, because we feel warm and comfortable, we refuse to get out of our comfort zone, and prefer to stay where we are. In life we are either creating or disintegrating. There is no such thing as “staying where we are”, because there is always movement. So if we are not moving ahead in life, we must by nature, be moving in the opposite direction.

“It is inevitable that some defeat will enter even the most victorious life when we are not cautious. The human spirit is never finished when it is defeated… it is finished when it surrenders.” True freedom proclaimed by Christ is not the one that leads us to laziness, rather to hard work and never giving up.


During the Ordinary Sundays of this year it is Luke’s story about Christ that we will be following. Today’s Gospel passage is in two distinct parts. It begins with the opening paragraph of Luke’s account. It is addressed to a friend, Theophilus. Luke implies that Theophilus has already been instructed orally in the message of Jesus but Luke will now present him with an accurate and orderly account of Jesus’ life and teaching. Luke clearly acknowledges that he himself never saw Jesus. His gospel was written at least 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet he wants to assure his friend that what he writes is accurate and is based on the experiences of people who did know Jesus personally. At the same time, it is important to remember that Luke, like the other evangelists who have differing versions of the same events, is not writing a biography. His first purpose – as we see in the second part of today’s passage – is to tell us the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for our personal lives and why we should accept and follow Jesus as our King and Lord.

A preparation for his work

The second part of today’s passage involves a jump in the text. We leap from the opening paragraph of Luke’s gospel to Jesus’ first public appearance in his hometown of Nazareth. In between are the story of the Annunciation, Zachary and Elizabeth, the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus and the temptations in the desert. We have, in other words, jumped from chapter 1 to chapter 4 in our text. All that has been described before is really a preparation for today’s scene. For what we are seeing here is the solemn inauguration of Jesus’ public life and mission. Immediately before this he had been down at the River Jordan with his cousin, John the Baptist, and, following his baptism, he had his strange experience in the desert [to be discussed on the First Sunday of Lent]. So the Gospel says that Jesus “with the power of the Spirit in him” (arising from his Baptism and his triumph over the Evil One) “returned to Galilee”. Galilee is the northern province of Israel to which Jesus belonged. And he went back to Nazareth “where he had been brought up”.

A purposeful journey

Luke very deliberately has Jesus start his work here. His public life will be a single, direct journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem, the focal point of the story told by Luke in his gospel and in the Acts. Unlike the other accounts, there will be no going back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem. And it is in Jerusalem, the city of peace, that Jesus will suffer and die. It is here that he will rise to life and become our Lord and Saviour. And it is from here too that his disciples will go forth to every corner of the world with the Good News.
So it is that on this first day he goes into the synagogue “as he usually did” on the Sabbath day. (Jesus was an observant Jew. His attacks were never on the Law as such but on its interpretation and abuses. He came, as he said, not to destroy, or replace, the Law but to fulfill it.)

There were no priests in the synagogue, which was simply a prayer hall. The priests were in the Temple, the only place where sacrifice was held. Every male Jew had a right to read the Scriptures and to speak to the assembly.

Mission statement

As Jesus stood up to read, a passage from the prophet Isaiah was given to him. It was a passage about the coming Messiah. What happens now, of course, is that Jesus is announcing that he himself is that Messiah. He applies the words of the prophet to himself. “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me [at his baptism], for he has anointed me.” “He has anointed me.” That is a way of saying “I am a king”. A king was proclaimed by anointing. We remember the prophet Samuel anointing David as king. The Greek for Messiah is “Christos” (Cristos) and it means “the anointed one”. Saviour King, Messiah, Christ – they here all mean the same thing. Jesus Christ means Jesus King. “Christ” is an explanatory title; it is not a name. And what kind of king is Jesus going to be? There immediately follows a proclamation, a programme or manifesto of what we can expect from him. Today we might call it a ‘mission statement’. The words are to be taken both literally and symbolically.

Good news for the disadvantaged

They are addressed directly to the materially poor, those in prison, the physically blind, the oppressed and exploited of the world. While Matthew speaks of “the poor in spirit”, Luke addresses the beatitude directly to “you who are poor, weep, are hungry and oppressed”. The message for them is one of hope, of healing and of liberation. This will come about not by some miracle but by the transformation of those who, aligning themselves with Jesus, can put an end to these things. But the message is surely to be understood symbolically as well, so as to include all of us.

So, in addition to the materially poor, there are those who are emotionally underdeveloped, those who are lonely or rejected, those who are crushed by their need to be surrounded by material plenty. all are poor, really poor. And they include all of us at some time.

The unfree

In addition to those held in captivity, especially those who are unjustly in prison but also those who, guilty of some crime, need conversion and reconciliation, there are many, many who are far from free. Very few people indeed are truly free and many actually fear true freedom and the responsibility that goes with it. True freedom is something for all of us to pray for. “Give sight to the blind.” There is a kind of instinct that makes people in some cultures consult the blind as sources of a special insight. Physical blindness is far less disabling than the blindness that comes from prejudice, ignorance, jealousy and other emotional blocks. Most people, said a writer, “lead lives of quiet desperation”. Societies which often boast of their freedom create sometimes unbearable pressures on people. We need to become aware, here in our own society, to what extent we are living under pressures we could well do without.

A shared life

How do Jesus’ words reach us today? The answer, I believe, is in today’s Second Reading. The problem with our Christian living is that it is so individualistic. We try to manage things on our own. And that is even true of the way we try to live our Christian lives. But it is not the picture that Paul describes here. He sees the multiplicity of Christians as living members of one Body. Each member interacts in a constant giving and receiving. And each member gets the same respect. In fact, it is the “weakest” and “least honorable” parts which receive greater attention. That is how the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel become living realities. For it is in mutual giving and receiving as one Body that we enable each other to experience the enrichment (overcoming our poverty), the vision (banishing our blindness), and the freedom (removing the oppressions and addictions) which Jesus wishes us to have.

Finally, we cannot help noticing the contrast between the proclamation of the Law in the First Reading and that of Jesus in the Gospel. The Law was essential for dignity, human rights and freedom but there is a new ingredient in what Jesus gives – compassion. That’s what makes the difference.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 17-01-2010



Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the late 1800s, a well-known bishop was travelling the United States, speaking to religious and academic leaders. At one of his stops, he was invited to have dinner with some prominent leaders. During the dinner he was asked, “What do you think the future holds for us?” After a moment’s pause, he replied, “The future is bleak, and in my opinion, we have discovered all there is to discover, created all there is to create, and invented all there is to invent.” One of the leaders

commented, “I think someday, man shall learn to fly like the birds.” To this, the bishop replied, “You are mad, flight is only reserved for the angels.” With that statement he stormed out of the room. The good news was that the bishop’s last name was Wright! Years later, his two sons Orville and Wilbur, made the dream of flying real on the windswept salt marshes of Kitty Hawk. 

We live in a world full of riches. We have to be open to the idea of change. What is needed to tap into the vast potential of this world are new and better “ideas”. Never under rate yourself and others. Others will ridicule and laugh at your ideas but you will have the last laugh at the end. Can you imagine Jars of water becoming Wine? 

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” Jesus’ mission was a mission of wisdom. He made water into wine, turned ordinary Jars into deposits of sweetest wine.  If you are with Jesus, everything is going to be possible. 

John tells us that on the third day a wedding took place in Cana. This is an interesting detail because through most of his gospel, John is not specific about time. The two main places where he counts sequences of days are the raising of Lazarus and in these first two chapters. When John counts days, he does so for a specific purpose. In this case, when John says this wedding happened on the third day, we need to reckon this counting as a part of the greater sequence in chapters 1 and 2. After counting all the days enumerated from chapter 1 and chapter 2, we find that this wedding takes place on the seventh day. John, in his subtle manner, parallels these seven days of Jesus’ early ministry to the creation week. The six days of calling disciples ends with a

seventh day of rest at a wedding party. John uses this new creation imagery to

highlight the significance of Jesus’ ministry.

Now, combine this creation imagery with the Old Testament images of wedding banquets and new wine. Passages like Isaiah 55:1; Joel 3:18; and Amos 9:13-15 use this imagery to symbolize the coming end of the age. Go back later and read these passages within their greater context. John combines the creation imagery and the end-times imagery to indicate that Jesus provides something more than a personal self-help program. Jesus makes possible a renewal for all of creation. John explains this renewal through the rest of the gospel, but in this passage, we get a glimpse of how it affects our relationships, our wholeness, and our purpose.

Jesus brings renewal to our relationships. Look at verses 2-4 to see the changing relationship of Jesus with his mother. Notice how Jesus responds to his mother. The NIV translates it: “Dear Woman, why do you involve me.” Some translations make it sound much harsher. Jesus is respectfully and gently distancing himself from his mother. Rather than addressing her as mother, he calls her “woman.” He subtly indicates that the nature of their relationship is changing. Until now, she had enjoyed special privilege as Jesus’ mother, but now she had to begin to learn how to be a disciple. This process would be painful for her. She would feel rejected; she would watch Jesus die; and she would also come to realize that she too had to kneel at the cross of her king. She would have to let go of some of the privileges of mother, but in so doing the new relationship would give her something greater and deeper than before. This is not to say that Jesus stopped being Mary’s son, but only that the nature of the relationship changed: the old transformed into something new. If that was true for Mary, then it is also true for us. When our relationship with Christ is the most important relationship in our life, it transforms all our earthly relationships into something new. Not only does Christ give instructions for relationships in this book, but he also renews and transforms us from the inside.

This inner transformation enables us to view our relationships less from the perspective of “What can this person do for me?” and more from the perspective of “How does our relationship bring glory to God?” It enables us to turn off the TV and tune in to our children. It enables us to forego a Saturday of golf to spend time with a lonely aunt or a lonesome uncle. It enables us to say, “I’m sorry,” to affirm the good in the other person. When we bow to Christ as our king, we learn to sacrifice our wants so that we may show the love of Christ to those around us.

Not only does Jesus bring renewal to our relationships, but he also brings renewal to our wholeness. Look at verses 5-10. The six stone jars contained water used for the ceremonial washing of guests’ hands and cooking utensils. These washings were not just to take care of dirt. God’s demand for purity was administered through the tedium of countless sacrifices and washings. The unspoken belief is that through proper observance of the ritual for cleaning the

outside, we’ll be clean on the inside. We’ll be whole before a holy God.  The ritual is not a magical formula that makes the connection happen, but rather it is a gateway through which a true seeker can find that connection. The ritual is an aide to focus the individual’s reach to connect with that undefinable “something out there.” It still seems that there is a yearning for something we can do to connect us to eternity. Christ comes on the scene and blows rituals away. He takes the instruments for the ritual and uses them in a totally new way. Rather than the jars being used as instruments through which man can reach to God, the jars become vehicles for God’s blessing to man. What once held water that man used to wash and to approach God now held wine generously provided by God for man’s enjoyment. Whereas wholeness was once achieved through ritual, it now comes through relationship with a living, breathing person who provides the best wine for the feast. Jesus gives us a new way to become whole.

Not only does Jesus bring renewal to our relationships and to our need for wholeness, but he also brings renewal to our very belief. Look at verse 11. The miracle is called a sign, and at that sign his disciples believed. Jesus’ words and deeds were signs about who he is. In the same way, the Scriptures themselves, and the evidence of the transformed lives of those in the church, are signs proclaiming Christ as King. So we’ve seen that Christ brings renewal to all things, and that this passage highlights renewal in relationships, wholeness, and faith. As I said before, it’s done in the context of a party. This was not a somber occasion – this was a celebration! Wedding feasts in those times could go on for days. This was a festive affair. Similarly, the renewal that Christ works within us is a cause for celebration. We in the church should be celebrating and partying because of what God has done and is doing in his people.