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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

At a time when division, polarization. and violence are rife in society church is the last place I want to come to, and hear the words, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). Moreover, to hear these words from Jesus’ lips is very, very difficult. This is not the Jesus we know. The Jesus we know is the Jesus who promised God’s kingdom to peacemakers. The Jesus we know is the Jesus who says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The Jesus we know is the Jesus who, after the resurrection, appeared to his frightened and confounded disciples saying, “Peace be with you!” What are we to make of Jesus’ seemingly divisive statement?

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It’s only a week since gun-violence claimed the lives of ten people in Oregon district in Dayton. Last Sunday night, I was among the more than 2,500 people gathered at the very spot where a young man had unleashed terror and death. It was not even twenty-four hours since the mass shooting, but people had the courage to come together and be a community! What makes human beings act in this way? What is it about human beings that in the darkest hour, we never give up! It’s called faith. It may not always be religious faith. But it’s faith. Faith is the inexplicable conviction human beings have, that in spite of it all, we can approach the next moment, the next hour, the next day, the next week, indeed, the future with hope! “I’ve gotta have, faith, faith, faith,” goes a George Michael song! In today’s scripture reading, we might as well hear the author of the letter to the Hebrews say, “We’ve got to have faith, faith, faith!”

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I have just returned from Paraguay, named in a global survey as the happiest and most positive country in the world. After a glorious welcome at the airport by a harpist, two classical guitarists, and a host of other people, I was sure that the survey was accurate. The drive from the airport to our hosts’ homes made me skeptical. Who did they talk to? Certainly not the man selling fruits at the traffic lights! Certainly not the woman selling trinkets on the streets with a child in hand! Who did they talk to? In four days, my skepticism was laid to rest. Living amidst the people revealed what would be hidden to the superficial eye. Over four days I encountered some of the most hospitable, happy, and positive people I have ever met. What is the secret? I do not want to be simplistic, romanticize Paraguay’s social issues or suggest that I have discovered utopia. In four days and a brief homily, it is impossible to uncover the complexities of Paraguayan social life. However, my experience in Paraguay takes me helps me understand Jesus when he says that we must be “rich in what matters to God.” And that is the secret of the Paraguayan community we met. I met a people rich in what matters to God. I did not encounter the vanity that today’s first reading speaks about. I did not meet a people obsessed with money, wealth, and possessions. I did not encounter self-obsessed people. The secret to the happiest and most positive nation is that they are “rich is what matters to God.”

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

To the modern western mind, Abrahams haggling or bargaining with God, in today’s first reading, may sound preposterous. To me, coming from India, I am not alarmed. Haggling is part of our daily life. In fact, for us haggling is an art. We do not buy anything without haggling. I am reminded of my dad in this regard Every morning, when the fish monger comes to my house, my dad had to haggle. The fish monger already knew that my dad would haggle. So the price he quoted would be already higher than the original price. My dad haggled to bring the price down. At the end of it all, the fish monger was happy that he got the price he wanted and my dad was happy that he saved a few bucks. Or, at least he thought he did. Haggling was and is common in the Middle-East as well. Abraham’s bargaining with God follows this practice. 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Perhaps, you have heard about my awful experience at the hands of American Airlines on my recent trip back from India. What was supposed to be a 36-hour journey became a 60-hour journey. Weather was not the only reason for the delay. The problems ranged from unavailability of the crew, incomplete paperwork on aircraft maintenance, non-working toilet, and finally, low fuel. More than a hundred passengers sat in the plane, and on the tarmac for 5 ½ hours, only to be deboarded. Besides the unbelievable reasons for the harrowing experience, my primary frustration was about customer-service. There was simply no one to help. And if there were people who could help, they simply did not care. Good customer-service could have made everything easier. The biblical word for customer-service is hospitality. Abraham, in the first reading, and Mary and Martha in today’s gospel reading, are great examples of Christian customer service. If you want to know what hospitality is not, travel American Airlines.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Today’s scripture readings answer our most enduring question: “How do we get to heaven?” A scholar of the law came and asked Jesus this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 10:25). Isn’t eternal life what we all seek? If eternal life is our quest, then today’s gospel passage becomes critical to our eternal pursuit.  

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I’ve just spent the last month home with my dear mother. I picked her up at my brother’s home, where she now resides, and brought her to her own home. She got the chance to visit my dad’s grave, move around in her own space, and meet her relatives and friends. Not only that, we got her entire house re-painted. We cleaned every nook and corner, got the furniture polished, and rearranged things that way that made her feel good. As I have now returned back to ministry in Dayton, I am realizing how important the last month has been. 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Scripture Readings

As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi the meaning of this feast most probably is a no-brainer for us. As believers we have the Eucharist at the very core of our Catholic life. We strongly believe that Christ intended that we have his real presence in bread and wine; that for this reason at the Last Supper Jess took the bread and wine and gave it to his disciples and said that it was his body and blood; and that by doing this in memory of Jesus, he becomes present to us in a real and concrete way. But what we consider undoubtedly to be integral part of our faith has also always been the topic of intense controversy. As early as Paul’s times (today’s second reading), there were misconceptions about the Eucharist. A few decades later John in his gospel would dedicate an entire chapter (Chapter 6: bread of life discourse) to remove doubts about the real presence of Christ in bread and wine.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Scripture Readings

This year has been the year of tornadoes, inexplicable weather patterns, flooding and numerous weather-related death and destruction. When we see natural devastation like we have seen recently in our own city of Dayton, OH, it can be very difficult to sit before God without feeling frustrated and terribly sad. It is often very hard to reconcile the greatness of God with the utter misery and pain caused by natural disasters. “Why could God not have stopped all the destruction we have seen this year?” Sometimes it is not uncommon for people to get angry with God. In our minds, only God is more powerful than the powers of nature. It does not make sense that a compassionate, loving and good God does not positively intervene to stop utter devastation.

Pentecost Sunday - Mass during the Day  

Scripture Readings

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The feast of the Pentecost as a ritual originated after the Exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery to freedom. Yet, this feast takes us to Babel in the book of Genesis. Genesis 11: 1 tells us, “The whole world had the same language and the same words.” The people then built the tower of Babel, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves….” They were afraid that they would be scattered all over the earth and get lost. It seems strange that God responded by confusing the people with many languages. However, this is scripture’s way of saying that humanity had begun to trust less and less in God and more and more in designing their own destiny. In other words, the confusion at Babel is a consequence of human arrogance and pride.

The Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. The danger of a feast like the feast of the Ascension is precisely this – that with Christ’s ascension into heaven we may think of God being up there, unconnected to the world here below. After all, didn’t the disciples stand there looking into the sky? (Act 1:11) So I began writing this homily by asking myself the question. ‘What significance does the ascension of Jesus hold for me’? ‘What relevance can Ascension have for us today’?

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Reading

I came to a very important realization when my father passed away. No matter how much you prepare yourself for someone’s death, you can never prepare enough. Grief has a way of disabling all your defenses. It takes months and sometimes years to come to terms with the absence of those you love. Perhaps, this is the best way for me to describe the sentiments behind today’s gospel reading. Jesus was no more physically among the disciples and the early church. After his resurrection, he appeared a few times to his disciples, but now even that had ceased. The early Christian community not only yearned for Christ’s presence, but struggled to find new ways to experience his presence.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Dayton is caught in the middle of a contentious debate this week. The debate is about the response to the rally that hate group KKK is going to hold on May 25th. While some suggest that the best response is not to respond, others think it should be actively protested, and yet other groups are planning to hold parallel events away from the location of the rally. Immaterial of your favored response, I am left wondering how we find ourselves in this place in the 21stCentury? Within the last few months, Jews in synagogues, Christians in churches, and Muslims in mosques have all been victims of violence and hate. Two thousand years after, “I give you a new commandment: love one another,” how is it that hate continues to take centerstage? 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

In the biblical times, the analogy of the sheep and shepherd was a meaningful way of describing God’s relationship with people. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cared about his flock, went in search of the one stray sheep, and even gave up his life for his flock. In this case, the analogy works. However, this analogy has limitations when we apply it to the relationship between those in authority and those over whom authority is exercised. The problem is that sheep are rather naïve, unassuming, and unintelligent creatures. They cannot think for themselves, they easily go astray, they are totally dependent upon others, and they easily give into a herd mentality. But people are not like sheep. Nor can they be treated as sheep. People need to be treated as people. When people are treated as sheep, the analogy of the sheep and shepherd becomes very awkward.  

Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

At a critical juncture in the life of Jesus, the apostles, and indeed the nascent Church, Jesus asks Peter the question: “Do you love me?” Why this question? Why not, “Do you remember everything I said and taught?” Or “Are you up to this?”  If I was in Jesus’ place, the question would be, “You just denied me three times! Can I still trust you?” Why was the question, “Do you love me?” 

Second Sunday of Easter - Sunday of Divine Mercy

Scripture Readings

This homily was originally written for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2018. 

The Second Sunday of Easter is also celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It was in 2000, at the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, that Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be commemorated as Mercy Sunday. Since then, the Divine Mercy devotion along with the iconic Divine Mercy image of Jesus has spread throughout the world. Many, many Catholics set aside the 3 PM hour to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy.  

In my three points, I would like to reflect on Divine Mercy, the devotion and its practice. 

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord

Scripture Readings

On January 11, this year, I lost my beloved father. Two days later, he was buried in the local parish cemetery. In Kerala, one of the 29 States in India and also a very Christian State, common Catholic cemeteries are rare.  This is because from ancient times, parishes have maintained their own private cemeteries for their parishioners. It has huge implications for the survivors. This means that families do not always have permanent individual graves. My family will have my father’s grave only for three years. After this time, his remains will be ritually moved to a common resting place. In other words, my family and I will not have a grave to remember my father. We must find another way! We know the way! We will be compelled to look for my father elsewhere – in heaven. We better believe in the resurrection! After all, didn’t something similar happen at the first resurrection? On that first Easter Sunday, there was nothing in the grave. In the final analysis, there was no grave; only a stone that was removed. Even since that first resurrection, no grave is a permanent grave. Since that first resurrection, we must all look for our loved ones elsewhere. Our destiny is not the grave. Our destiny is a resurrected life with the risen Lord in Heaven. 

Today is Easter Sunday, the Lord’s day of Resurrection. Let me offer three practical implications of Jesus’ resurrection.

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Scripture Readings

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

something to be grasped.

“Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.”

(Philippians 2:6-8) 

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year C Readings

Scripture Readings

There is a trend these days, which on the periphery seems pious and holy, but if we look deeper, is concerning. There are people who come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation not because they have committed serious sins, but because they have made the sacrament a weekly or monthly devotion. Some priests encourage this practice as well. The claim is that you have to be in a ‘state of grace’ to receive Holy Communion. Being in a state of grace is totally consistent with Catholic teaching. However, the boundaries of the state of grace have been changed. It almost demands perfection. This trend is a resurgence of an old heresy called Pelagianism. Pope Francis addressed its danger in his apostolic exhortation Rejoice and be Glad. The danger is that we believe that grace, rather than being a gift of God, is earned by us by our own merit and actions. If there is anything that the parable of the prodigal son teaches us it is this: even when we are sorry for our sins, God’s forgiveness is not our right. In every sense of the word, God’s mercy is a pure gift.