Category Archives: HOMILIES

4th SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD


4th SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

STORY:
A married lady was expecting a birthday gift from her husband. For many months she had admired a beautiful diamond ring in a showroom, and knowing her husband could afford it, she told him that was all she wanted.

As her birthday approached, this lady awaited signs that her husband had purchased the diamond ring.

Finally, on the morning of her birthday, her husband called her into his study room. Her husband told her how proud he was to have such a good wife, and told her how much he loved her. He handed her a beautiful wrapped gift box. Curious, the wife opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the wife’s name embossed in gold.

Angrily, she raised her voice to her husband and said, “With all your money, you give me a Bible?” And stormed out of the house, leaving her husband.

Many years passed and the lady was very successful in business. She managed to settle for a more beautiful house and a wonderful family, but realized her ex-husband was very old, and thought perhaps she should go to visit him. She had not seen him for many years.

But before she could make arrangements, she received a telegram telling her that her ex-husband had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to her. She needed to come back immediately and take care of things.

When she arrived at her ex-husband’s house, sudden sadness and regret filled her heart. She began to search through her ex-husband’s important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as she had left it years before.

With tears, she opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. Her ex-husband had carefully underlined a verse, Matt 7:11, “And if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father, who is in heaven, give to those who ask Him?”

As she read those words, a tiny package dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a diamond ring, with her name engraved on it — the same diamond ring which she saw at the showroom. On the tag was the date of her birth, and the words…’LUV U ALWAYS’.

How many times do we miss God’s blessings, because they are not packaged as we expected? Trust HIM always. HE knows what is good for you and may even ignore what you thought was good for you.

Do not spoil what you have, by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

If your gift is not packaged the way you want it, it’s because it is better packaged the way it is! Always appreciate little things; they usually lead you to bigger things!

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country (Luke 1:39)

“Those days” are the first days of Mary’s pregnancy – of the pregnancy of a young girl – probably less than 15 years old – of the pregnancy of a young and unmarried girl living in a small village where such a thing would bring untold shame – no, not UNTOLD, but rather frequently told gossip, that would shame her, her family, and her child for ever. In THOSE days, Mary flees her village and heads for the far away hills.

Travel for other than (religious purposes) was often considered deviant behavior in antiquity. While travel to visit family was considered legitimate, the report of Mary traveling alone into the “hill country” is highly unusual and improper.

Now this is also the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. (This is the “in the sixth month” of Verse 1:26.) But unlike Mary, Elizabeth’s pregnancy has taken away the disgrace she endured among her people. (See Verse 1:25.) For unlike Mary, Elizabeth had been barren, and she and her husband Zechariah were getting on in years. And unlike Mary who had no husband, the angel Gabriel announced their pregnancy to Zechariah:

Even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will … make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke1:15-17).

This is the child – whom we know as John the Baptist – who leaps in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth.

Normally speaking, matters having to do with the womb are not talked about in public. This is women’s talk and it is usually kept carefully within the private circle. … The fact that Luke reports such female conversation here suggests that he considers the reader a family insider.

Therefore, before moving too quickly to the magnificence of Mary’s Magnificat, it is perhaps wise to pause and sit within the intimacy of these two women’s conversation. To consider ourselves not as distant outsiders, but as invited and welcomed extended family into a blessed conversation between these two women.

Does anything leap for joy within us? Can we feel the stirring of new life? Of age old hopes? Of the impossible longing becoming possible?

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord (Luke 1:45)

And blessed today are we who also believe.

Mary’s song of praise, Verses 46-55, pretty much summarizes the teachings of Moses and the Prophets.

Anyone who thinks the Good News of Jesus Christ is only about one’s personal, individual salvation / forgiveness / justification / redemption will have a hard time preaching this text. This is a text about social reversals / transformation. Those of us who are proud, smart, powerful, high status, and well-fed have a tough text to hear today.

But the text today has moved from a young girl fleeing in shame from her home to that same young girl’s soul magnifying the Lord, and her spirit rejoicing in God her Saviour.

We may not need to flee in shame, but the text is calling us to also move; to also move from whatever space we are in to a space of seeing and naming and rejoicing in all the deeds God is doing to restore the creation to its fair balance.

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THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD


THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009 

Child’s Definition of LOVEA group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.  See what you think:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.  So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too.  That’s love.” Rebecca – age 8

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7

“Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen,” Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” Nikka – age 6

“There are two kinds of love.  Our love.  God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them.” Jenny – age 8

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared.  I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that.  I wasn’t scared anymore,” Cindy – age 8

“My mommy loves me more than anybody.  You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” Clare – age 6

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine -age 5

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” Chris – age 7

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4

“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren – age 4

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen – age 7

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.” Mark – age 6

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget,” Jessica – age 8

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.  The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.  The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

                                                                                                                                 
Love and Joy are the traditional theme for the third Sunday of Advent. As Advent progresses, love-joy becomes the dominant human expression. Introduced with Mary’s glad, if surprised, response to her selection as the mother of Jesus, soon angels, shepherds, and magi are not only heralding but joyfully celebrating the unfathomable entrance of God into the world as a baby.

Mirroring the joy build-up of Scripture is the escalation of positive human emotion for many-though not all-during this time of year. The Christmas season buds with awareness, love and builds with anticipation. Ideally, the march toward great joy is not only characterized by gift-sharing, social gatherings, and television classics, but solemn moments of spiritual exploration and introspection.

Realities of around us 

While Advent represents a sky of widespread hopefulness, such sky is not unclouded. Advent/ Christmas season can be more grueling than glorious for those whose lives are already highly stressed. Caregivers, including clergy, are especially vulnerable. Higher than normal expectations and demands during the holiday season may be enough to topple persons who have already been living on the edge of emotional collapse.

Moreover, domestic violence increases as persons feel unable to fulfill what they perceive to be minimal family obligations and responsibilities. Alcoholism, depression, drug addiction, shaken baby-syndrome, suicide, and homicide are horrific signs of the inability to cope with stressors often exacerbated during the holiday season. Thus, perhaps as at no other time in the liturgical year, is the historic therapeutic function of African American preaching and worship more important than during Advent and Christmas.   

Luke 7:18-35 may be characterized as the last earthly sighting of Jesus by John the Baptist. Luke is the only gospel which contains all three viewings. John’s first sighting of Jesus occurs while he is still in the womb of his mother. It is a spiritual visioning of Jesus that causes baby John to leap in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (Luke 4:1).

The second sighting occurs on the banks of the river Jordan. For days, months, and years, John, infant-turned-iconoclast, had been, with intensity, preaching, baptizing and looking; preaching, baptizing, and looking; preaching, baptizing, and looking. Finally one day he shouted, “There he is!” He’d caught sight of the one who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 7: 16).

Lastly, Luke records a third sighting of Jesus by John. However, the noticing of him in Luke 7:20 is strikingly different from the earlier ones. The earlier sightings evidenced certainty and excitement.  John seemed to know who Jesus really was before Jesus was even born. Moreover, John’s unbridled enthusiasm while still in Elizabeth’s belly and on Jordan’s bank argues for his being acknowledged as the first one who ever “shouted” about Jesus. Yes, Mary, the mother of Jesus, shouts in Luke 1:46-55 but her shout, no less magnificent than John’s, is inspired by what God has done (something worth shouting about) more than it is about who Jesus is.

However, by Luke chapter seven, certainty and enthusiasm are dimmed by John’s status behind bars. Glad certainty about Jesus turns to simmering suspicion about him:

“Are you the coming one or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20).

Considering Luke 7, alongside earlier texts that have John “seeing” Jesus, allows the preacher to address the matter of the changing seasons of faith. It is not always that we see Jesus with “glad eyes.” Sometimes, because of circumstances and choices, our vision of Jesus is blurry and not joyous. But, blurry vision is still vision. And our vision of Jesus does not determine Jesus’ vision of himself or how he sees us. Whatever our plight, Jesus is always God’s son and, in his eyes, we are always God’s children. And there is this good news, too good not to be true: even when we are not certain about God, God is certain about us. This is why we can serve with joy and gladness as officers in the Church and as stewards of God everywhere, even in troubled times.

Ways of Loving Care

Hospitable and loving behavior towards others is lauded in this text of practical spirituality.  Even more importantly, such behavior is linked to God. The word God is said four times between verses 10 and 11. If believers have any doubt about what is the source of what often are difficult behaviors to practice in pressure situations, the doubt is answered with “God.” Godly behavior would be untenable without God. Precisely because God loves so, we can love so. Precisely because God welcomes so, we can welcome so.

This text may be used to encourage church leaders to be out front in exhibiting compassion and understanding. To do this is to see Christian leadership in a larger light. More than taking charge of a group or an initiative, Christian leadership is about leading in offering love, forgiveness, and grace to others. Who can question the need for such lavish soulful leadership in our churches and our world today?

Challenges of Love

The focus texts can be brought together with a beautiful challenge to pastor and people alike to see each other as God sees them. Jesus’ response to the questioning of John was to really look, to consider what was actually being done to help people: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  (Luke 7: 32) Peter implores the first believers to be first in blessing each other as God blesses each one of them. As we see with the eyes of faith, let us see with the eyes of God. Beholding each other through God’s eyes has a positive, powerful influence on our attitudes and actions toward each other. If joy is to take hold of our hearts this Advent season, it will only be done if we see others as God sees them.

Soft or delicate in texture and consistency; easily broken, cut, compressed, chewed; not strong or robust; unable to endure hardship and fatigue. If we were developing a list of characteristics needed for living in a world where violence and danger were ever present, perhaps “tender” would not make our final list of desirable attributes. On the other hand, tender’s original meaning, “to stretch, hold out,” might cause us to think twice about the matter. Would the violence and danger in our world be lessened by the presence of more people who could stretch past their fears and with perseverance, work and wait for redemptive new ways of seeing, listening, and thinking?  

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, “All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.”

Edison replied very confidently, “Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We now know that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb.”

We hear of John, previous to our text, as the babe that leaps in Elizabeth’s womb (1:41). After his birth we hear the song that his father, Zechariah, sings about his role in preparing the way for the “mighty saviour” (Luke 1:67-79). Yet, between his birth and his appearance in our reading there is no mention of John. The scripture does not tell us when he enters, or how long John is in the wilderness. It is only conjecture, but perhaps John is sent into the wilderness away from his parents, away from civilization to be tested and to endure a trial that teaches him to depend solely on God.

We know John will speak out against wrong and be imprisoned (Luke 3:19-20), then beheaded by Herod (Mark 6:28). We know the one whom he heralds compares him with prophets of old and praises him (Matt 11:11-13). What we do not know is how this unlikely messenger moves to the edge of the wilderness, just beyond positions of power and orderliness, to call the people back to God, cajoling them into a baptism of repentance (metonia) for the forgiveness of sin. We can conjecture that it is God who empowers John the Baptist to be able to cry out, to all within the range of his voice, to be washed in water, and see the coming salvation of God (3:6).

Paul, another unlikely messenger, thanks and congratulates the followers of Christ in Philippi for believing and “proclaiming God’s message.” He prays that they continue to grow in a fuller condition of love and that this condition might influence how they live their lives. Paul calls us all to live so that Jesus would be proud.
MICHAEL JACKSON

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.” Yes, I know I am quoting a Michael Jackson song, and even as I write I know you the reader may groan. With all the previous media attention around Michael Jackson’s death in June of this year, these are the words that come to mind as I think about John’s cry of repentance (metonia). Metonia word-translated repentance from the Greek can be interpreted as “a change of mind.” It implies a sense of regret or remorse. The very potent lyrics of Jackson’s song, “I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat. Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their need” implies the regret of not seeing what is right in front of him. The song, composed by Seidah Garrett, is calling us to stop and change our minds.

John the Baptist’s call is similar. He steps out of the wilderness in a clear strong voice calling us to stop ignoring God. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” John cries. Later he will tell those gathered how. (Luke 3:11) But how do we? As we move closer and closer to the most commercialized day of the year, in a time of recent economic crisis, how do we “make his paths straight”? Could the economic crisis, which might be thought of as a wilderness experience, help us depend solely on God? This Advent can we change our minds about money, power, status, and our sense of orderliness? I believe we can. We are empowered by God through the waters of our baptism; we are promised the forgiveness of sins; we can change our minds. Yes, I know Michael Jackson is an unlikely messenger of repentance but as he sings, he calls us to “Take a look at ourselves and make that change.”

Repent and believe the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repentance is a way of getting back on track. It is a time to be self introspective. I have been preaching now in the UAE and I myself feel the power of working among people. Repentance really gives people another chance for a change, a change that can bring them immense joy and a change in their attitude makes them really happy and healthy people.

John the Baptist did just the same inviting people to repentance. Asking them to change their old ways and keep updating with the new ones that lead them to the joys of God’s Kingdom.

Father what can I do? I do not know to get reconciled with my wife. I said start with a smile on your face. Change your basic attitudes towards her. Look for creative ways of dealing with her. Be sure of this sooner than later you will find changing waves in your wife’s life style.

Basically we know that our mistakes make us perfect. We need to learn from them, that is the secret of our success. If you are afraid of making mistakes, you will never arrive anywhere.

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009

WATCHING FOR GOD

To the disciples’ delight the Master said he wanted a new shirt for his birthday. The finest cloth was bought. The village tailor came in to have the Master measured, and promised, by the will of God, to make the shirt within a week.

A week went by and a disciple was dispatched to the tailor while the Master excitedly waited for his shirt. Said the tailor, “There has been a slight delay. But, by the will of God, it will be ready by tomorrow.”

Next day the tailor said, “I’m sorry it isn’t done. Try again tomorrow and, if God so wills, it will certainly be ready.”

The following day the Master said, “Ask him how long it will take if he keeps God out of it.”

Preparation: Some of us prepare for a journey, others prepare to deliver a speech and many others who prepare daily for their job, work and do some assignments to fulfill the expected results. Hence, during this Advent season we too are requested to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Well in Europe preparations for commercial Christmas began three months ago selling specially the lottery tickets of EL GORDO, that has a prize money of 25 million Euros. One who wins will be just not in his/her normal life. One who wins that lottery will be feeling as it were on cloud 9 or in heaven already. But this is too worldly; the things of this world will pass away. But the things that really matter are God’s kingdom deep within us. Therefore a preparation would be really justified in order to invite the Lord into our hearts and to make him the ruler of our life.

To some, today’s celebration of the First Sunday of Advent is a reminder that there is less than one month before the arrival of Christmas. To others, it means that the rush is on to put twinkling lights around the house, to buy what is needed for the Christmas pastry cooking, to shop for presents. And to others yet, it means to make peace with relatives so all may enjoy a wonderful family Christmas as Christ intended it to be.

According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, Advent means three things:

(1) It means to prepare ourselves to be worthy of celebrating the Christmas anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love.

(2) It means that through the Sacrament of Holy Communion and through grace, we are to prepare our souls as fitting abodes for the coming of the Redeemer.

(3) It means to prepare ourselves for the final coming of the Lord as our Judge, either at death or at the end of the world, whichever may come first.

Today three readings from the Holy Bible prepare us to be spiritually uplifted according to these three goals of the Season of Advent.

The First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah, insists that during the days of the Old Testament, the Lord God repeated the promises that He had made to Abraham and to His descendants. [Gen. 22:15-18] To Abraham and his offspring, God had promised to bless them, that they would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And they shall possess the gate of their enemies and by his offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves.

Over and above this, God was now promising that a righteous Branch would spring up from the descendants of King David, the righteous One executing justice and righteousness in the land. While the Jewish people of those days took these words as meaning to indicate the coming of a King and a worldly kingdom, that was not what God was referring to. He was referring to a spiritual Kingdom in which Christ, the offspring, [Gal. 3:16] would be the First fruit of many to follow. [1 Cor. 15:20, 23] God was speaking of the spiritual Kingdom that was promised to Abraham, he who was to become the spiritual father of all those who live by faith. [Rom. 4:13-8] God was speaking of the Mystical Body of Christ.

For just as the Father has life in Himself, He was going to grant the Son also to have life in Himself. [Jn. 5:26] Through the mystery of the incarnation, He the Father who is the Righteous One [Rom. 10:3] was going to give all authority [Jn. 5:27; 1 Pet. 3:22] to His Son, the Righteous One who was being called to execute justice and righteousness in the land. Through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, we as the living saints of the Holy Catholic Church receive our righteousness. As such, “the Lord is our righteousness.” [Jer. 33:16]

Today’s Gospel Reading echoes the fulfillment of the promises of God the Father through the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the Reading appears to contain prophecies of days that are ahead of us, such is not the case. Today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke was taken from Chapter 21, verses 25 to 28 and 34 to 36. One particular verse of importance was omitted, that being Luke 21:32, where it states, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all things have taken place.”

Jesus stated that all the signs mentioned during today’s Gospel Reading were to be fulfilled before the passing away of the generation that lived in His days. As such, the signs that He was giving to His followers have to be perceived as representative of the ending of the age of the Old Testament and the beginning of the new age, when the New Covenant was made during the Last Supper.

As Saint John states it, “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” [Jn. 21:25] While the Holy Bible does not tell us everything that happened after the Resurrection of Jesus, there is sufficient information provided in other passages to tell us that these things have come to pass.

When a reference is made in the Holy Bible to “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” tradition tells us that this is a reference between the great battle between Archangel Michael and Satan, at which time Satan was casted out of Heaven. [Lk. 10:18; Rev. 12:7-10]

On the subject that “Christ redeemed us,” [Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7] that truth is made known to us through the teachings of the Catholic Church and our ongoing profession of faith.

Regarding seeing the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, when Jesus called Nathanael as a follower, He told him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [Jn. 1:51] We can only accept as truth that this came to pass as Jesus promised to Nathanael because Jesus is the truth. God cannot lie. [Tit. 1:2;] No falsehood is found in Him. [Heb. 6:18]

Today’s Gospel Reading tells us to be on our guard so our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, so the day of the Lord will not catch us unexpectedly, as in a trap. No one knows when he will die! No one knows when he will appear before the Lord God to be judged for his worldly behaviour! As such, no one can prepare himself as one prepares himself to go on a holiday.

Therefore, Divine wisdom tells us that we should always be prepared! We should immediately be prepared in case the Lord calls us tonight during our sleep. Before our bedtime tonight, if anything needs to be done, it must be completed. For there may be no tomorrow.

Today’s Second Reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians gives us sound advise as to how we should prepare ourselves. Which ever comes first, that we depart from this world before the final return of the Lord Jesus or He gloriously returns with His saints on the last day, either way, we should abound in love for one another and for all. Our love should not be limited to our friends, but also for our enemies. Our love should not be limited towards those we are talking to, but also towards those we are not talking to. Our love should not be limited to those we can forgive, but also towards those we have difficulty forgiving. “For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” [Mt. 7:2]

To be fully prepared, we must have holy hearts so we will be blameless before our God and Father. To achieve this goal, we must walk with the sanctifying Holy Spirit who disciplines us to increase our holiness. We must maintain pure minds at all time. We must receive the Sacrament of Confession to maintain our ongoing righteousness by the grace of God. We must receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, so we will qualify to inherit the eternal Heavenly Kingdom as children of God. We must do all what is humanly possible to continually remain in communion with God on a daily basis.

Not knowing when the coming of the Lord shall be for each and everyone of us, we must persevere in our living faith. Indebted to Christ for our redemption, we cannot allow ourselves to take a break from our living faith. For a shipwreck in our faith by allowing our human nature to take over our spiritual commitment could cost us our blessed hope among the saints and angels in the continuous presence of the Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we received the gift of a new heart and a new spirit, over and above the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us in our spiritual lives. During the coming week, let us embrace a spiritual attitude so the Season of Advent may become something special for us. May Advent be a true moment of preparation for each and everyone of us in the expectation of the coming of Jesus at Christmas, at death, or at the last coming of the Lord, which ever may come first.

CHRIST THE KING – 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD

CHRIST THE KING – 2009

STORY:

Once upon a time there was a childless King who wanted to choose a worthy successor to his throne after he passed away.

He called all the young children in his kingdom to his palace one day and said: “It has come time for me to choose the next King. I have decided to choose one of you as my successor, as my Crown Prince, and groom you to be the King after I am gone.”

The amazed children listened spellbound as the King spoke: “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – Just One Seed. It is a very special seed. I want you all to go home, plant the seed, water it, nurture it, and come back here to me exactly one year from today with the plant you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me and whoever grows the best plant will be the Crown Prince, the next King after me.”

There was one small shy boy who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed from the King.

He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story.

She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it regularly and nurtured it carefully.

Twice every day, in the morning and in the evening, the small shy boy would water the seed lovingly and watch to see if it had germinated and grown.

After a few days, some of the other children began to talk about their seeds and the lovely plants that were beginning to grow, but the small shy boy kept going home and checking his seed, disappointed that nothing was growing from his seed.

Days passed, then weeks, and months, but still there was no sign of a plant growing from the small shy boy’s seed. But the small boy still kept lovingly watering his seed regularly hoping that it would germinate.

By now the others were talking about their wonderful healthy plants but small shy boy didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure, but he kept persevering and nurturing his seed with love and dedication in the optimistic hope that his seed would someday sprout a plant.

Six months went by and there was still no sign of a plant in the small shy boy’s pot.

Everyone else had exquisite tall plants, but he had nothing to show.

Inwardly he feared that maybe he had killed his seed but the small shy boy didn’t say anything to his friends and kept on tenderly watering and nurturing his seed with dogged determination and doting devotion in the fond hope that his seed would grow and blossom into a beautiful plant.

Finally, one year passed, and all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the King for inspection.

The small shy boy was scared and did not want to take his desolate plant-less pot with just the soil and seed to the King, but his mother encouraged him to go, to take his pot with him, and to be honest about everything.

The small shy boy felt fearful and nervous, but he listened to his mother and took his barren pot to the King.

When the small shy boy arrived at the King’s Palace, he was astonished to see the variety of beautiful and exotic plants grown by all the other children.

Totally crestfallen, the small shy boy put his desolate pot on the floor and everyone jeered in derision and mocked him. A few children felt pity for him and tried to console the small shy boy.

Suddenly the King arrived, looked around the hall appraising the plants and showered words of praise to the gathered children: “It is really amazing – you all have really grown fantastic beautiful plants, trees and flowers. I am truly impressed. Today, one of you is going to be selected as the Crown Prince to be the next King!”

The small shy boy shivered with tremors of trepidation and overcome with shame tried to hide in the back.

The King’s eyes searched all over and suddenly he saw the small shy boy at the back of the hall with his barren pot.

The King ordered his guards to bring him in front of the throne The small shy boy was terrified. “When the King sees my pot, how badly I have failed in the task he gave me, he is sure to punish me!”

Seeing how frightened the small shy boy was, the King stepped down from his throne, walked down towards the petrified boy, lovingly put his hand on the small shy boy’s shoulders and announced: “This boy is your new King!”

The small shy boy could not believe his ears – it was unbelievable that the King should select a failure and loser like him who couldn’t even sprout his seed be the Crown Prince.

The King escorted the small shy boy to the throne and said to everyone: “One year ago I gave all of you a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But what you did not know is that I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. Except this honest boy, all of you have brought me beautiful plants with exotic flowers and even trees with fruit. When you found out that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. This boy was the only one with the sincerity to nurture the barren seed for one whole year with dedication, hope and perseverance and had the courage and honesty to bring me the desolate pot with my seed in it. Therefore, I select him as my Crown Prince to be the next King!”

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, he will sit upon his royal throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” (Mt 25) We worship Jesus Christ as Lord and King because he is victorious in the battle over sin and death. In His resurrection, which we celebrate and in which we participate at every Eucharistic Sacrifice, our Lord established His rule over all creation, and overcame in Himself the effects of the sin of Adam. Christ is Lord, for he has conquered what we fear most and have no power against, the cruel and bitter specter of death. We cannot but exult and shout for joy with the knowledge that we can share in His Resurrection. We share in the Resurrection in the first place by meeting Christ in the liturgy, in Word and Sacrament. The Christ we receive in the Eucharist is the Easter Christ, the risen and glorified Christ as he is now victoriously seated at the right hand of the Father in glory.

The lesson of the final judgment in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, verses thirty-one to forty-six, makes clear that we are to seek out and to meet Christ wherever he may be found, in a particular way in human life in all its stages and conditions. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40)

The Lord associates himself in a mysterious way with the poor. We may have great reverence for His true and real presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and are called to love him with our whole heart, mind soul and strength. Yet, we cannot please God or love Him as we ought if we fail to love our neighbor as our self, doing so for love of Christ. The divine love and life poured out abundantly in the Eucharist is given both for love of God and love of neighbor.

The Catechism teaches that the requirement of charity for our neighbor flows from the presence of Christ by the power of his word and the Holy Spirit.

Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,’ is present in many ways to his Church: (Rom 8:34) in his word, in his Church’s prayer, ‘where two or three are gathered in my name,’ (Mt 18:20) in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, (Mt 25:31-46) in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But ‘he is present…most especially in the Eucharistic species’. (CCC 1373)

Our Lord Jesus has given His Body and Blood to us precisely so that we may overflow with the same love for others that he has first given to us. It is for this reason that he will judge us at the end of the world on the ways in which we have generously and self-sacrificingly offered ourselves for the life of others in imitation of the way in which He gives of His own life unceasingly for His bride, the Church.

It is fashionable today to take up such causes as feeding the hungry, building shelter for the homeless, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty. These are good and necessary, and a sign that Christ is at work among many men and women of good will. There remain, however, the many who are neglected, abandoned, whose lives are threatened. The Christian will be praised for feeding, clothing and helping the poor, for being with the lonely. These are good works and they must be taken up by the Christian community together with all men and women of good will. The Christian, however, is condemned and attacked for recognizing that these works of charity should also be extended to the confused and rejected young mother, to the unborn child, to the terminally ill, and to all those whose lives are determined to be not worth living.

The kingdom of Christ, a reign of charity and peace, is for all. The Lord sends us out as his disciples so that all mankind may be brought under his reign in the world. We the baptized are the agents through whom the social kingship of Christ will be realized. Our baptism is our commission and our grace for the apostolate.

Today after Mass, with others or with the whole congregation and with priest or deacon leading, pray together the “Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, in petition that “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2009

DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.

FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD

32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
08-11-2009

 

YOUR ARE WORTH

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up.He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.”He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up.He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. Now who still wants it?” Many more hands went up.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. Because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.

AS HE WAS standing in the temple watching scribes and other people coming and going, Jesus saw what any of us would have seen: the “religious” with their long flowing robes, and the common people hurrying in to make their offerings. His comments seemed interesting, even amusing, until I realized where I would be located in this ordinary scene and what Jesus would be saying about me.

Let’s face it, many of us reading this would be the folk wearing the clerical or academic robes, or other special clothes associated with class and power. We wear them to be noticed, as a mark of our station. “Beware of people like this,” Jesus says. “These people who like to be treated with respect, or have the best seats at the dinner parties.” Who wouldn’t like these perks? Nothing wrong here at least not on the surface.

But Jesus looks beneath the surface of things. He sees things from an entirely different perspective. And he sees that there are costs associated with the distribution of power and wealth that we take for granted. He notes these costs by saying these people “devour widows’ houses.” What can he mean by this?

Apparently one of the scandals of Jesus’ time was the insidious way that the religious establishment served the needs of the wealthy and, in clear violation of the Torah, violated the poor, especially those outside the social structures – the widows. The reference to “widows’ houses” could refer to the scribes’ tendency to abuse their role as trustee for the estates of widows, or it could refer more generally to the way upkeep of the temple (a house of prayer) “devoured” the resources of the poor. Either way, the practice of praying had become a cover for injustice. What is worse, then as now many involved with the temple were unaware of the way the structures worked against needy people, for the needy were almost invisible. They didn’t walk and sit among the scribes and religious leaders.

Again, Jesus sees things differently. Jesus pays special attention to the poor widow whose clothes were unspectacular and who probably was overlooked by almost everyone. Oh yes, many rich people put in huge sums. That would be impressive, and it was meant to be! But Jesus commended the woman who put in a penny. Why? Because the others did it for show out of abundance; she did it for God with “all she had to live on.”

The question about both clothes and offerings is the same: What is acceptable worship? What is to be done to be “noticed” and who do we want to notice us? Jesus gives us a clue. The scribes gave in order to make a human impression; the widow gave all she had, revealing that she was completely dependent on God. The scribes located – socially and religiously where I am located – became a negative example of trust, while the poor woman, contrary to cultural expectation, provided a positive example of trust. Here, then, is a vivid instance, so common in the Gospels, of the fulfillment of Mary’s song: God has “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”

Most commentators on this Gospel passage tend to speak of it as praise for the widow. She gave all the money she had, and so was a remarkable example of generosity. Similarly the widow in the first reading shared all she possessed with the prophet, and also demonstrated extraordinary generosity. Both widows can be seen as images of Our Lord Jesus Christ who gave all for us, even his very life. In this sense the readings show us how radical the Gospel message is. As followers of Christ we are called upon, not just to lead what might be called a respectable life, but to give everything to God. We are to be, not half-hearted disciples, who make all sorts of compromises with the world, but people who find their fulfillment, not in what they have, but in what they are. Instead of hoarding our time and our money, we are called to live generously, putting our trust in God and our faith in eternal life. This is a common interpretation of these passages and it tells us something very important about what it means to be a Christian. There is also, however, another and even more radical lesson here. A Deeper Lesson. There are some commentators on this Gospel passage who argue, quite convincingly in my opinion, that Jesus is not so much praising the widow as he is lamenting the kind of religious culture that encourages people like her to donate her entire livelihood to the Temple. Keep in mind that Jesus has just condemned those scribes who love titles, who seek the front seats in public gatherings, and who desire the praise of others. He accuses them of “devouring the houses of widows.” So in that first part of today’s Gospel passage he appears to be speaking out against the kind of religious leaders who encourage poor widows like this to donate even what they need to live on. The point is not that Jesus disapproves of donating to the support of the Temple. It is rather that he insists giving to the Church must not come ahead of a person’s genuine human needs. We must keep our priorities straight. Remember how, earlier in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus defended his conduct when he healed sick people on the Sabbath. He did so on the grounds that human need comes ahead of Sabbath observance. Recall as well that in Chapter 7 he condemned those religious leaders who refused to support their needy parents on the grounds that they were giving the money to the Temple instead; he called this hypocrisy. So today’s Gospel reading appears to be emphasizing Jesus’ genuine concern about ordinary people and his desire that they be able to satisfy their most basic needs in life. He rejects any sort of religion that ignores those needs. He insists that any kind of religious practice that leads us away from doing all we can to help people live a genuinely human life is false. Such religion dishonours the God who cares deeply about every single person. This Gospel passage also reminds us that, as a Church, we should not find ourselves “devouring the houses of widows.” There is a responsibility to support the Church. However there is also a duty on our part as a Church-community to ask why we want that support. If we seek it to pay our legitimate expenses, to support the preaching of the Gospel, and to have something on hand to assist those in need, then all well and good. However if we seek it so we can look rich in the world’s eyes, so we can be thought strong and successful as a Church, then we are following the wisdom of the world rather than the Wisdom of God. This world treasures honours, money, influence, and regards them as the signs of a successful life. In every age the followers of Jesus are tempted, like the scribes, to buy into that view. We must not let that happen to us. Finally, today’s Gospel raises disturbing questions about the kind of witness we give to our world. All of us need money and we sometimes have to occupy positions of authority. However it is our sacred calling, as a Church-community, and as individual Christians, to be a public sign that the God we serve is the ultimate owner of any money or goods of which we happen to be the temporary stewards, and that this God is a generous Father, not a miser or an uncaring master. We give that witness by the way we use money and authority, and especially by the way we care about the needs of others.

 

Conclusion
One of the great Christian virtues is liberality, that is, an attitude of generosity in the way we use our time, our talent and our treasure. It is from the Latin word “liber”, meaning “free”. The idea is that if we are free with what we have, we will experience a great personal freedom ourselves. At the same time we must never give other people the impression that God does not want them to have enough to meet their genuine human needs. If we did that, we would be insulting the generosity of God.

31st Sunday in ordinary Time. 2009

31st Sunday in ordinary Time
01-11-2009
All Saints Day

[From this Sunday onwards the homily page will not carry the Sunday Readings – Thanks and God Bless
– Fr. Rudolf Valerian D’Souza]

Long time ago, there was an Emperor who told his horseman that if he could ride on his horse and cover as much land area as he likes, then the Emperor would give him the area of land he has covered. Sure enough, the horseman quickly jumped onto his horse and rode as fast as possible to cover as much land area as he could. He kept on riding and riding, whipping the horse to go as fast as possible. When he was hungry or tired, he did not stop because he wanted to cover as much area as possible.

Came to a point when he had covered a substantial area and he was exhausted and was dying. Then he asked himself, “Why did I push myself so hard to cover so much land area? Now I am dying and I only need a very small area to bury myself.”

The above story is similar with the journey of our Life. We push very hard everyday to make more money, to gain power and recognition. We neglect our health, time with our family and to appreciate the surrounding beauty and the hobbies we love.

One day when we look back, we will realize that we don’t really need that much, but then we cannot turn back time for what we have missed.

Life is not about making money, acquiring power or recognition. Life is definitely not about work! Work is only necessary to keep us living so as to enjoy the beauty and pleasures of life. Life is a balance of Work and Play, Family and Personal time. You have to decide how you want to balance your Life. Define your priorities, realize what you are able to compromise but always let some of your decisions be based on your instincts. Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of Life, the whole aim of human existence.

So, take it easy, do what you want to do and appreciate nature. Life is fragile, Life is short. Do not take Life for granted. Live a balanced lifestyle and enjoy Life!

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character .

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny I hope that you enjoy the above story and moral.

“Any man’s life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day.”

Not so long ago, a new pastor was assigned to a parish that was quite divided over the issue of what it means to be a good Christian. One faction was very upset with the previous pastor who did not, in their opinion, give enough vocal support to every pronouncement that came from Rome and who spent way too much time encouraging parishioners to consider issues of social justice. In addition this group wanted at least one Mass a Sunday in Latin and wanted the pastor to preach about the evils of birth control and divorce, forbidding the sacraments, including Christian burial, to those known to be sinning in those matters. The other faction was also upset with the previous pastor because they thought he didn’t go far enough on issues of social justice and spent far too much time encouraging people to pray and meditate and to follow the example of Mary. Representatives of both factions were constantly coming to the rectory to register their complaints. After one knock down drag out session with representatives of both factions, the new pastor wearily wandered into the reception area of the rectory. The teenage girl who answered the phone looked at him sympathetically (because, of course, she had heard much of the shouting match he had just endured) and said, “You know Father, my grandpa always said, “Love God and love your neighbor. That’s what it’s all about.” The pastor smiled, thinking wouldn’t it be great to have her give the homily one Sunday?

WE ARE APPROACHING THE END of the LITURGICAL year. And, in the gospels of these Sundays, we are looking at the final phase of Jesus’ life before his suffering, death and resurrection. He predicts certain things that announce the end of times.

Last week we saw Jesus leaving Jericho on the last stage of his journey to Jerusalem. He healed the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who, once he regained his sight, saw that the only thing he could do was to go with Jesus on that final journey. Today’s story takes place in Jerusalem itself. The context of the story is important. “Sacrifice” is mentioned in both the Second Reading and the Gospel. There are clear links with the Temple, the Old Testament and Jewish Law. A Scribe approaches Jesus. He is an expert in interpreting the Law. There were more than 600 laws, too many for an ordinary person to grasp. He asks a question which was much-debated among scholars of the day: Of all these many laws which was the most central, the most basic, the one that summed up all the others?

Unlike other occasions, there seems to be no sense of hostility or of a trap being set here. The man just wants to know Jesus’ opinion as a rabbi and teacher.

Positive response

Note how Jesus receives the man. Usually Scribes and Pharisees are presented as hostile to Jesus. It would be natural for Jesus to be on the defensive, to react negatively. But Jesus always takes the person as he or she is. He does not indulge in stereotyping about “typical Scribes and Pharisees” and tarring all with the same brush. We do this so easily with classes, races, age groups (teenagers, older people). We use so many labels. We even stereotype individuals we know before they have opened their mouths, based on our previous experience with them. Jesus accepts and responds to this person here and now as he is. An example which we can all follow and which would save a lot of wear and tear in our relations with people, if we did so.

A new development

To answer the man’s question Jesus quotes from the Jewish scripture, the Old Testament. In answering the question, Jesus begins from where the man is, in an area which will be both familiar and acceptable to him. But he takes two distinct texts and puts them together as one. This is a significant development and one that is absolutely central to the Christian vision. In today’s First Reading from Deuteronomy, one of the books of the Jewish law, one can see that one is urged to love God with all one’s energy and to “keep all his laws and commandments”. There is no mention here of the “neighbour”. That appears in a separate text in a different book of the law (Leviticus 19:18).
The Scribe is obviously pleased with the answer. And he further adds that these two commands are far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.
And it is this dual approach which makes Jesus the perfect priest mentioned in the Second Reading. The priests of the Law were men subject to weakness. “Death put an end to each one of them.” While Christ, “because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood”. Jesus is the “perfect” Priest and now the only Priest, because absolutely perfect in his love for the Father and in his love for us.

Like Jesus, we cannot separate our love of God from loving ALL those around us. Sometimes we see our sins just as offences against God, even when action is directed against another person. We may go to “confession”, get forgiveness and feel the matter is finished. We go to God for forgiveness, when what is also needed is forgiveness from and reconciliation with the person we have hurt. If we cannot love the neighbour we can see, how can we love the God we cannot see? (cf. 1 John 4:20) And who is my neighbour? For the people in Jesus’ time, it was a fellow-Jew. Others, even though physically near, were not. Following the teaching of Jesus, however, it is anyone who needs our love, our concern, or who shows love and concern for us, transcending all barriers and independent of like or dislike, approval or disapproval. But some of us can sympathise with the complaint of comic strip character, Charlie Brown: “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand!”

Loving others, loving ourselves

We are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. That sounds very demanding. Actually it is often part of the problem. Many, if not most of us, do not love ourselves very much. Many, most would not like others to know us as we feel we really are. Our feelings are echoed in the title of two books by Jesuit John Powell: Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? and Will the Real Me Stand Up?

We go to great lengths to hide our inadequacies, our weaknesses. We spend a lot of money on houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, dining out. Image is all. We need status symbols to prove we are “someone”. Teenagers looking and sounding very “with-it” but actually hiding behind currently fashionable clothes-styles, hairstyles, language, being “cool” and “hip”. Very few people are really themselves in front of others. In computer jargon we say, “What you see is what you get [WYSWYG]”. In other words, what appears on the screen will also appear on a print-out. For people it should be, “What you see is what there is.” This requires total self-acceptance (not the same as self-approval) and integrity, wholeness. Self-acceptance means that I fully acknowledge both my strengths and weaknesses and I am not ashamed of them and I don’t mind if other people know them. Because such a person knows that the key to being loved is to have one’s real self accessible to others.

God and our Neighbour:

Conventionally we say we should first love God. Then, for his sake, we love others. Lastly, self should be denied, sacrifices should be made. We should not be selfish, self-centred. Actually it may surprise us to be told that we cannot not be self-centred. Everything we do is self-centred. We need to go the other way: learn to love and accept self fully. Then, and only then, are we free to look out and reach out to others in love non self-consciously. When I have nothing to hide, it is easy to be myself. And, if others do not like what they see, that is their problem, not mine. And we will then discover that, when we have learnt to love genuinely and unconditionally, we will be loved in return – though not by all. We cannot be loved by all because there are many people out there who are not able to love; it is not because there is anything wrong with me. To want to be loved by everyone is simply unattainable. And when we know what really loving and being loved is (by direct experience), then (and only then?) can we talk about really loving God. All this, says today’s Gospel, is more important than any ritual or sacrifice. It is no good being in church every hour of every day if I am not a loving person.

Discipleship

Jesus said the Scribe was “close to the Kingdom” because he had touched on the essence of living: loving God and loving others as a single but distinct reality. But he is not quite part of it yet. He was not and apparently did not become a full disciple of Jesus. And what makes such a disciple? By this will all know that you are my disciples – that you love God? That you never miss Mass? That you have special devotion to Our Lady? No, none of these by itself. What is essential and sufficient is to love God in loving others and to love others in loving God.

Late Pope John Paul’s daily slogan “do not be afraid” helped him to combat his way towards great heights in sanctity and heightened successful performance during his 26 years of papacy. His humble beginnings as Pope and his rising popularity and a rare combination of his humour, smiling face and attractive personality won him great appreciation and acceptance across the globe. The worldwide media branded him as a ‘hard working and courageous Pope’. I had the most rare opportunity to assist him during the last three days of his agonizing hours of life. He struggled till the end to keep himself serene and lucid and the media people were wondering at how he could resist and be so strong till his last breath and were able to say boldly “amen” to the Lord.

In the early nineteenth century, a young man in London aspired to be a writer. But everything seemed to be against him. He had never been able to attend school more than four years. His father had been thrown in jail because he couldn’t pay his debts, and this young man often knew the pangs of hunger. Finally he got a job pasting labels on bottles in a rat-infested warehouse, and he slept at night in a dismal attic room with two other boys from the slums of London. He had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of the night so nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. Finally the great day came when one was accepted. True, he wasn’t paid for it, but one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. He was so thrilled that he wandered aimlessly around the streets of London with tears rolling down his cheeks.

The praise, the recognition that he received through getting one story in print changed his whole life. If it hadn’t been for that encouragement, he would have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories. You may have heard of that boy. His name is Charles Dickens

In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays.. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, ‘Case dismissed!’

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, ‘Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah…yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!’

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, ‘Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists’ holiday!’

The lawyer pompously said, ‘Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists just when that holiday might be, your Honor?’

The judge said, ‘Well it comes every year on exactly the same date – April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as ‘April Fools Day,’ consider that Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2009

Reading 1
Jer 31:7-9

Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

R. (3)  The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Reading II
Heb 5:1-6
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel
Mk 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

HOMILY:

Once, there was a General who wanted to cross a river. He was unsure of the depth of the river, and whether his horse could make it across the river. He looked around for help and saw a little boy nearby. He asked the boy for advice. The boy looked at the size of the General’s horse and paused for a moment. He then confidently told the General that it is safe for the General and his horse to cross the river. The General proceeded to cross the river on his horse. As he approached the middle of the river, he suddenly realized that the river was, in fact, very deep, and he almost drowned. After he recovered from his shock he shouted at the boy and threatened to punish him. The boy was stunned and innocently replied, “But General, I see my ducks crossing the river everyday without any problem, and my ducks have shorter legs than your horse”.

If you need advice, get it from people who know what they are talking about. Napoleon Hill says that, “opinion is the cheapest commodity on earth”. Make sure you review for yourself the opinion of others before you act on them.

“It is not the straining for great things that is most effective; it is the doing of the little things, the common duties, a little better and better.”

Jericho is on the way to Jerusalem for Jesus, but apparently nothing of interest happened while he was there. Upon leaving, however, Jesus encountered another blind man who had faith that he would be able to cure his blindness. This isn’t the first time Jesus cured a blind man and it’s unlikely that this incident was meant to be read any more literally than previous ones.

wonder why, at the beginning, people tried to stop the blind man from calling out to Jesus. I’m sure that he must have had quite a reputation as a healer by this point – enough of one that the blind man himself was obviously well aware of who he was and what he might be able to do. If that is the case, then why would people try to stop him? Could it have anything to do with him being in Judea – is it possible that the people here are not happy about Jesus? Were the people thought they were wiser than the blind man? Of course we would like to advise, pretend to know many things, but we need to know who knows. The blind man knew, but not the others. Others just blindly followed Jesus, but the blind man in spite of not seeing Jesus with his eyes, was already full of Jesus and knew that he can heal him.

It should be noted that this is one of the few times so far that Jesus has been identified with Nazareth. In fact, the only other two times so far came during the first chapter. In verse nine we can read ” Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” and then later when Jesus is casting out unclean spirits in Capernaum, one of the spirits identifies him as “thou Jesus of Nazareth.” This blind man, then, is only the second to ever identify Jesus as such – and he’s not exactly in good company.

This is also the first time that Jesus is identified as a “son of David.” It was foretold that the Messiah would come from the House of David, but so far Jesus’ lineage has not been mentioned at all (Mark is the gospel without any information about Jesus’ family and birth). It seems reasonable to conclude that Mark had to introduce that bit of information at some point and this is as good as any. The reference may also harken back to David returning to Jerusalem to claim his kingdom as described in 2 Samuel 19-20.

Isn’t it odd that Jesus asks him what he wants? Even if Jesus weren’t God (and, therefore, omniscient), but simply a miracle worker wandering around curing people’s ailments, it has to be obvious to him what a blind man rushing up to him might want. Isn’t it rather demeaning to force the man to say it? Does he just want people in the crowd to hear what is said? It’s worth noting here that while Luke agrees that there was a single blind man (Luke 18:35), Matthew recorded the presence of two blind men (Matthew 20:30).

I think it’s important to understand that it probably wasn’t meant to be read literally in the first place. Making the blind see again appears to be a way of talking about getting Israel to “see” again in a spiritual sense. Jesus is coming to “awaken” Israel and cure them of their inability to properly see what God wants of them.

The blind man’s faith in Jesus is what allowed him to be healed. Similarly, Israel will be healed so long as they have faith in Jesus and God. Unfortunately, it is also a consistent theme in Mark and the other gospels that the Jews lack faith in Jesus – and that lack of faith is what prevents them from understanding who Jesus really is and what he has come to do.

I guess I am not much different from those folks. I really thought I was. They were so insensitive to this blind person. Those out front even had the boldness to hush that man into silence. The more I read this story though, the less and less I found myself to be different.

I would have been paying attention of my joys with Jesus rather than caring for the needs of someone on the outside. I personally wouldn’t have been one of those people out front telling this blind beggar to be quiet, but I would be thinking how I could keep as close to Jesus as possible. After all, I, like these other people have been greatly blessed by Jesus. My life has been transformed. There is no doubt about it. Jesus Christ has been good to me. It can’t be wrong to want to be close to Jesus.

Healing stories in the Gospels never seem to be simply a reversal of physical misfortune. A paralyzed man stands and walks. A man stretches out a withered hand to Jesus and sees it become useful again. A girl who was pronounced dead awakens. Particular suspicious are the stories of those who “once were blind, but now they see.” The connections between seeing and believing are so strong in the Gospel accounts that these miracles worked through Jesus almost always seem more about growing in faith than taking off dark glasses. Though Bartimaeus was blind to many things, he clearly saw who Jesus was.

Seeing “who Jesus is” is the goal of faith, and it leads to discipleship. Only the unblind can see where to follow. Indeed, at the end of the story we’re told that this is exactly what happened. Bartimaeus regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way. Given that the very next verse in Mark narrates the entry into Jerusalem, the way Bartimaeus followed was the way to the cross.

Physical sight is not required for discipleship, but restoration is. Again and again in history, prophesy and gospel, God works through miracle, through political forces, through social action and through ordinary living to pick us up from where we have fallen and redirect us along right pathways. Blind Bartimaeus calls from the gutter until the Lord hears him. Then he returns to the Lord and is restored. I picture him, the last recruit in the discipleship army, marching toward Jerusalem with palm branch in hand.

Those who return to the Lord are restored, the Bible instructs. But how do we come to the point of return? Sometimes we make it sound easy and quick. I’m fairly skeptical of the 180 degree, overnight kind of return. Some changes are no doubt fast and immediate, but the changes that endure unto the generations are the result of a process of human or divine origin. Our returning to the Lord for restoration is a process which may be described in many ways.

Decades later, we know that “troublemakers” become martyrs and a heroes, whose birthday is a national holiday. We continue to be amazed at our collective blindness to the effects of jealousy, partisan spirit, dirty politics. Well, when people try to malign you, ill treat you, sideline you, you are like that blind man. But you never give up.

These are the rhythms of reformation. The troublemakers become heroes. The radical new ways eventually become beloved traditions. We are always moving from blindness to sightedness, from unfaithfulness to faithfulness. On days such as this, I am less interested in how the Catholic Church was reformed. Reformations teach us that we continue to need reform.

What corners of the church, of society need serious reformation in this 21st century? Where are our blind spots? Will a reformer arise among us? Should one arise, what will we do to him or her? What do we allow to go unchallenged today that will one day cause our grandchildren to shake their heads at how blind we were to the gospel?

We disciples of Jesus have vision problems. We sometimes describe our blindness as an inability to see the forest for the trees, but that’s a compassionate analysis. More worrisome is the inherited blindness of each generation, which so often assumes as if it is the best generation of all, with no lessons left to learn, only an inheritance to enjoy. This arrogance is the root of our blindness. We still need the miracle of restored sight. We advise others through our blindness, and we lead them astray as the boy did to the General on the horse.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 18, 2009

Reading 1
Is 53:10-11

The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.  If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

R. (22)Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Reading II
Heb 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Gospel
Mk 10:35-45 or 10:42-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.

Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

HOMILY:
Once I visited a home and there I found a man working in the kitchen. I asked him about his job. He said that he was working for a bank and now it was his turn to cook that day. Well, I asked what about his wife? He said that she was with his kids went shopping and they would return by evening for dinner. He told me that he was away the whole week and would get only evening to be with his family. He thought that it would be nice to send his wife and children shopping on Sundays and he would cook to keep himself in touch with his family, food and with his feeling with the family members. I was surprised at the wisdom of the man. Here he was helping himself to be family after his whole weekś work in the bank. To be first we need to learn to be last. That is the lesson Jesus gives us all. The disciples were fighting to be first, even in the Kingdom of heaven. But Jesus answers that it was the prerogative of the Father to give that place.

She was born in 1910 in Macedonia. Her family belonged to the Albanian community. When she was baptized she was given the name Agnes. In 1928, at the age of 18 she decided she wanted to be a missionary for India and decided to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto. She came to their mother house in Dublin where she learned to speak English and took the name Sister Teresa after St Teresa of Avila, the patroness of missionaries. Early the following year, 1929, she arrived in India where she completed her training. She had been sent to Calcutta to study to become a teacher. The children quickly grew to love her and used to call her “Ma.” Her work was teaching history and geography. Eight years later in 1937 she made her final vows.

Sister Teresa felt she was receiving a second call, to leave the convent and live with the poorest of the poor. After a long wait, eventually in 1948 she received permission to leave the Loreto community provided that she kept her vows. She exchanged the Loreto habit for the cheap white and blue sari. First she went to Patna to get medical training as a nurse. Back in Calcutta she went to work in the slums in the streets, to talk with the poor and help them. During this time she was staying with the Sisters of the Poor. The following year, 1949, seven girls joined her in her work. During that year also, Sr Teresa received Indian nationality. In 1950 she got approval for the foundation of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Charity. There were 12 sisters then. She needed a house for her work and bought a house which has become the mother house of her congregation. She won many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. On September 5th 1997 Mother Teresa died. Fifty years after the foundation of the Congregation there were 3000 Sisters working in over 500 missions in 100 countries.

St. Mark’s gospel has its own distinct focus into the life of Christ.  It is like the other gospels in that it is all about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  But, it is also distinctly Markan. It is Holy Scripture divinely written and Communicated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and yet distinct to its earthly author, Mark, at the same time.  Perhaps Mark emphasized some things that were needed for the church to hear. We can surmise that Mark may be thinking of his own weaknesses when he emphasizes certain things in his gospel.  For example, we learn in Acts 15 that Paul and Barnabas were ready to travel to more regions to preach.  We are told that Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.  This is the evangelist.  But Acts 15 records that Paul did not want to take Mark because he had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and would not continue on the mission.

This became such a contentious situation that Paul and Barnabas even parted ways.  There is also something unique when Jesus was arrested. Mark’s gospel points out that there was a young man who followed Jesus when he was arrested.  The guards tried to seize the young man and they grabbed hold of his linen garment, but he escaped, running naked.  Church history claims that this was Mark.  These things being the case, we see that Mark was a bit timid and unsure.  He had a difficult time doing what he should have done for the gospel. 

Perhaps Mark’s own sin and weakness colors certain emphases in his gospel.  One of the things that makes Mark’s gospel somewhat unique is how time and time again, people are told to do things, but they do the opposite or they completely misunderstand.  For example, Mark’s gospel is the only one of the gospels that records the women at the empty tomb departing in fear and telling no one for a time. 

Our gospel for today focuses in on two disciples who want to do just the opposite of what they should do.  What stands out in Mark’s gospel is chapter 8:34.  Jesus says, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and pick up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  This is the crux of the gospel, yet we see over and over again in the gospel how the disciples and others actually fail to properly pick up their cross and follow Jesus. 

We see people more concerned with saving their lives, rather than losing their lives for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake.  This is exactly what is happening in the gospel for today.  James and John, sons of Zebedee make a request to Jesus.  Matthew says that they have their mother make the request.  Mark gets to the heart of it, because its’ really James and John who want it.  “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and another at your left in your glory.” 

This comes right after another one of Jesus’ passion predictions. Jesus foretold his death and resurrection.  James and John let sinful ambitions get the better of them.  They were probably thinking that if all this was really going down, then they better get there ducks in a row.  After all, there is always a certain pecking order of sorts, so they thought they would try to show some initiative and leadership. They wanted to be co-rulers and co-heirs with Jesus in glory. 

Did they really understand heaven or the kingdom? They didn’t know what they were asking, because to sit with Jesus in glory was to put themselves equal to Jesus.  Jesus understood these two brothers, and He knew that they didn’t really know what they were asking.  Jesus asks them a question which could be taken a couple of ways.  Jesus asks, “Are you able to drink the chalice that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am to be baptized with?” They correctly answer yes, but they meant something different than Jesus. Christ’s chalice, or, cup, was the cup of suffering.  Christ’s baptism was a baptism in His own blood.  James and John could not go there.  They were sinners. They could not redeem mankind from sin. Only Jesus could do that.  But Jesus says to them, “you are correct, the chalice that I drink, you will drink and the baptism that I am baptized with, you will be baptized with.”  But Jesus meant this by means of transferrable.  Christ’s cup and baptism consisted of His cross.  His cup was His pain and suffering and the Father’s removal of Himself from Jesus on the cross.  James and John would participate in this cup and baptism through the sacraments which were instituted.  The reason is simple. Jesus instituted the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper because His merits won on the cross are poured into the sacraments. Therefore, when James and John would later gather around an altar with the church and participate in these sacraments, they would drink the cup of Christ and be baptized with His baptism.  James and John resemble us.  We want to be lords, every one of us. We want to be heard, we want the glory.  It is this way in the church.  Get a bunch of people together in the church and you can bet that there will be some problems.  Sin is selfish.  Adam and Eve wanted to be like God.  This is how sin entered the world.  They took of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because they wanted something that was not theirs to have.  Satan is the same way.  

James and John wanted what was not theirs to have.  The rest of the disciples were angry at the brothers’ request and rightly so.  But Peter was no different and neither are you.  Who rules the church? Who sits with Jesus? Who deserves to sit with Jesus? This way of thinking and practicing one’s life will destroy faith and the church.  This is why Jesus follows up by saying, “whoever would be first among you, must be slave of all;  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  

 The Beatitudes speak the same way.  Therein lies the pattern.  The greatest of the saints are the humble.  It is often the quiet ones, the prayerful ones who do the most for the kingdom.  It is the gentle and lowly who are the greatest.  Why? Is it some great act that they perform? No.  It is because they trust in the Lord and take their problems and the problems of the church to the humblest and greatest, Jesus Christ.  This theme runs all throughout the book of Proverbs.  I often think of Proverbs 22:3, “A prudent man seeks danger and hides himself; but the simple go on and are punished.” 

There is much to this and this is what Jesus is discussing.  The nature and character of the church is to do what St. Paul says, “to lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way”(1 Tim 2:2).  To the Thessalonians Paul says, “But we exhort you, brethren, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you.”(1 Thess. 4:11). 

The gospel indicates that it is Christ’s will that the church not be like the world.  The world is full of rulers.  The church is the gathering of the humble servants of Christ.  Prayer on our lips, forgiveness ready when there is repentance, and love that overflows. You cannot do this on your own, however.  We enter this beautiful body of Christ through baptism, but we enter with sins.  Repent of them, all of them. 

Jesus forgives you of your sins.  He died on the cross and was the only true servant that this world has ever seen, and He did it for the sins of the world, even your sins.  To become a peaceful, quiet Christian and then Church takes the Holy Spirit’s leading through the word and sacraments.  It can be done.  Jesus must do the leading and the following.  This is why we drink of His cup and pick up our crosses and follow Jesus through Holy Baptism.  The love of Christ and the merits of His cross make your soul and this church a beautiful, quiet, pleasant place that gives us a brief respite from the world while we sojourn on this pilgrimage.  Amen.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2009

Reading 1
Wis 7:7-11
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us,
for the years when we saw evil.
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Let your work be seen by your servants
and your glory by their children;
and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Reading II
Heb 4:12-13
Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Gospel
Mk 10:17-30 or 10:17-27
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

or

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

HOMILY

Two woodcutters were in a tree-cutting contest. Both were strong and determined, hoping to win the prize. But one was hardworking and ambitious, chopping down every tree in his path at the fastest pace possible, while the other appeared to be a little more laid back, methodically felling trees and pacing himself.

The go-getter worked all day, skipping his lunch break, expecting that his superior effort would be rewarded. His opponent, however, took an hour-long lunch; then resumed his steady pace.

 In the end, the eager beaver was dismayed to lose to his “lazier” competition. Thinking he deserved to win after his hard work, he finally approached his opponent and said, “I just don’t understand. I worked longer and harder than you, and went hungry to get ahead. You took a break, and yet you still won. It just doesn’t seem fair. Where did I go wrong?”

The winner responded, “While I was taking my lunch break, I was sharpening my axe.”

Life eternal is through hard work not through riches or wealth.

In replying (v.17) Jesus shifts attention from himself by saying “goodness” is the quality of social relationships – that a person is good, only in company!   Jesus is “good” in His union with God. We are “good” only in society that is united with God in love. The commandments that follow take for granted, that it is in a person’s social relations (doing justice and loving) that God is loved, goodness is practiced and eternal life is won! “Only God is good” is really saying that the other teachers available to this man are no bloody good!

Jesus reminds the man of the essence of the Torah (vv.19-20). When Jesus quotes the Torah of Moses, He names the social commandments – those dealing with a person’s treatment of neighbour – commandments which a powerful person would be most prone to offend.   The man’s reply shows that he has a desire to go beyond the external ritual obligations to God and synagogue. He has faithfully dealt justly with his neighbor. Jesus looked at him fondly (vv.21-22).

However, in a distorted society, where the poor lack, Jesus challenges, “whatever you have – give to them.” Jesus offers a way to achieve a fulfillment (life and blessing) but the man preferred his riches. To give up what he had, threatens a social organization dominated by those who have economic power in their hands. Where the necessities of life can only be bought at a price – riches and the power riches provide are barriers that cushion people from vulnerability to know God’s presence, love and the reception of God’s blessings – or “eternal life”!  St. Matthew mentions that the man was young and therefore probably had inherited his wealth. He wanted to inherit, “eternal life”. Jesus tells him that inherited wealth and inheriting the rewards of discipleship are in opposition.

In the Hebrew tradition, wealth was considered a blessing from God and marked a person’s uprightness. This man was rich while others were poor.   For Jesus it meant that society was breaking the “giftedness” established by God. In the desert, God had given the people the precept that among them there should be no poor (Dt.15:4)! And therefore – no rich either!!

Jesus invites the man to break with society’s values and follow a practice of promoting a system of gifting (Mk.10:23-25). The disciples show astonishment at the degree of commitment needed in the man’s case. The metaphor of the camel and the eye of the needle (v.25) takes discipleship out of the difficult category and makes it a “mission impossible”!

Jesus asks this man to make a radical break with accepted social and financial practice. To love is to give.  To give life is to deny death. To increase in wealth does not prevent having to die. Giving is the only way if life is to continue. It was on this basis that Jesus interpreted the demands of God for this man and the blessing that flow from carrying out those demands – eternal life.

Through the history of Christianity, there have been rich who have abandoned everything to follow Jesus; many of the great saints were former rich people.   St. Anthony was a young Egyptian millionaire, who had inherited enormous estates and at the age of twenty went into a church at the moment when the priest was reading this gospel phrase: “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.” He did that at once!  An exceptional case?

“Who then can be saved?” (v.26) is still the question. This is key to Mark’s gospel. Jesus confronts the Zealot strategy which rates wealth as a blessing from God. Wealth belongs to this Torah-keeper, whom Jesus invites to break from his wealth to follow Him. Jesus than generalizes the man’s difficulty; “My children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (v.24).

This challenges us readers to question whether wealth is the decisive factor in our social-values system. It is on the level of wealth that everything comes together in relations to receiving blessing and entrance to the reigning of God?   According to Jesus what matters is not what a person has or does. It is a person’s readiness to be open to the strange ways of God! Sharing wealth creates a new system in which the whole of society can fulfill what Jesus asks here of this person: a system where there won’t be any more rich and everyone can enter the reigning of God.

Jesus says this is not impossible for those who follow Him (v.27). They are related to the One, whose practice of promoting gifts links those who follow to God – for whom all things are possible!

The promise given to the disciples is not some kind of spiritual or interior life.   There are two times of blessing and life – now, and in the future. There is not a time of curse now that is recompensed by a time of blessing later on. Jesus promises a new society bringing material abundance to all. The old system of economic inequality will be subverted in the reigning of God here on earth!   Although St. Luke may give us an idealized picture of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, this community discovered that when they sold their possessions things tended to multiply (Ac.4:34-35).

They didn’t sell the houses in which they lived, for they met together in one another’s houses (Ac.2:46). What they sold must have been the houses they had rented out to others. The result will be that, “none of their members was ever in want” (Ac.4:34). This is only possible in a community. Jesus dared to hope for a “kingdom” or world-wide community, structured so that there would be no poor and no rich.