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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The text book that I used to teach Religion 101 at the University of Dayton had a Chapter in it entitled, “Breaking the Cycle.” The author, Dr. Dennis Doyle, cites an example of how his eight year old and his six year old got into it one day while playing basketball. The eight year old made his shot, and then, just for fun tossed up a quick practice shot, which he did not make. The six-year old did not see the first shot but saw the practice shot that his brother did not make. The argument led to the older brother hitting the younger one with the ball. The younger one ran into the house screaming. Dr. Doyle was aware of the sibling rivalry that existed between the two. After much talking and conversations and after much going back the forth, aware that he was not making much progress, he finally asked his children this question, “… And who is going to break the cycle?” 

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was reminded of a parable as I reflected on read this weekend’s readings. There was a little boy who had a nasty habit. He would catch butterflies and hold them in his little fist. He would then go about the village posing a question to people, which they could never get right. Extending his fist toward them he would ask if the butterfly was  dead or alive. If someone said that the butterfly was alive, he would let the butterfly go free; but if someone said that it was alive, he would crush it in his fist and prove them wrong. One day, a wise man visited the village. The boy approached the wise man as if to claim another victim through his nasty game. The boy stretched out his hand toward the old man and said, "Sir, if you are as wise as everyone believes you to be, please tell me whether the butterfly in my hand is dead or alive.” The wise man was unperturbed. He looked calmly into the boy's eyes. “Son,” he said, “the choice is in your hands.” 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Perhaps you have heard about Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, “Silence.” The movie has been in the making since Scorsese first read the book in 1966.  Its the story of two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), who leave Portugal for Japan, to find a third priest (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing while working as a missionary. The third priest is believed to have committed apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus Christ after being tormented by the Japanese. The role of one of the two priests is played by Andrew Garfield. To play his part, Garfield actually made the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Originally, he did not make the Exercises in self-interest.  He did it to get over his own “not-enoughness” - the feeling of not being good enough. But what happened was totally unexpected. In an interview he gave to Brendan Busse, he said, “God! That was the most remarkable thing—falling in love, and how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus.” 

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It has been a stressful and tense week for America. Immaterial of whether you are a supporter of President Trump or not, these are not easy times. I had the privilege of having some distance from all the tension. But as soon as I entered the country, every conversation I have had, somehow, leads to the happenings in the nation. Whether it was the march last week or the march this week, whether it is immigration or refugee resettlement, people have taken on to social media to express their hopes and their anguish. One of the question I asked myself was, “In times like this, what is it that I rely on?” When fragility strikes, what do I fall back on? After all, politics cannot give us salvation and does not promise us eternity. We need something deeper. I turned to scripture for answers. No matter which side we are on, this Sunday’s readings offer us some direction. 

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I find it truly interesting that the very scripture passage that was read for Christmas is today’s first reading as well. Isaiah says:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 

upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. 

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, 

as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, 

as people make merry when dividing spoils.” 

Yet, it is not all that strange this very scripture passage is used again. If you noticed, the gospel reading introduces us to the beginning of Jesus ministry. The light that Isaiah is referring to, is Jesus. 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Last Sunday, on the Feast of Epiphany, I reflected with you on the star that led the magi. I remember saying that whereas the star was an external sign, the magi were also following a star within them - their conviction that their destiny lay in Christ. I also remember asking the question, “What is your star?” “Where is your star leading you?” “Who lies at the end of your star?” As we enter the Ordinary Time in our liturgical calendar, I would like to follow up my Epiphany homily with a further reflection on the questions. 

The Epiphany of the Lord

Scripture Readings

A couple of weeks back I preached a homily titled, “Turning the Ahaz in Us into Jospeh” in which I drew a contrast between KIng Ahaz and Joseph. I had said that whereas Ahaz could not get himself to trust God unconditionally, Joseph showed incredible capacity for fidelity and trust in God. Today, I want to contrast King Herod and the Magi. 

There are many points on which Herod and the wise men can be contrasted. First, the Magi were on a search. “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” they asked. In contrast, the birth of Jesus went completely unnoticed by Herod. Neither did he hear the angles nor did he see the star. Second, the scriptures tell us that Herod was “greatly troubled” when he heard that a star had appeared announcing the birth of Jesus. He became afraid. His fear was so intense that it made him act irrationally. Many innocent children were killed in the process. In contrast, the gospel reading tells us that the magi were “overjoyed at seeing the star” and the “child with his mother.”  Third, the magi did the child homage and offered him gifts. Herod on the other hand, sought to destroy the child.

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Scripture Readings

I must admit, Advent 2016 was a challenging Advent. Changes in the staff at both parishes, the literal doubling of my official responsibilities, my travel to India to visit my ailing father, the many funerals during Advent, all contributed to a rather restless Advent. You may not believe this, but, I eagerly looked forward to my 14 hour non-stop flight to get some alone and quiet time. I am not saying that advent and Christmas were not meaningful. I am simply saying that my soul was craving for something deeper. 

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Scripture Readings

Perhaps many of you know that recently I had a make a trip home to visit my ailing father. Altogether, I was home but for a week. It all ended well with my father showing extraordinary recovery within a matter of days. Most of you have since said to me that it was my presence that did it for him. Actually, my brother had come first. He saw my father home through his first hospitalization. By the time he was hospitalized the second time, I had decided to visit him. While I was there, I discovered that people in the neighborhood knew that I was coming. “Our son is coming!” they had told every visitor.  It was as if with my coming everything would miraculously be fine again. That is exactly how it played out. My father showed an almost miraculous recovery. While I cannot but acknowledge the work of the medical community, and while I cannot but be grateful to my God, I cannot deny that my brother and my presence made a big the difference. Presence is everything!

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

We are a week away from Christmas and today’s scripture readings get as close to the events of Christmas. There is something special about the stories in these readings. As we read them, we realize that ordinary people were integral to the main plot. Somehow, their stories of these people converge with the story of the birth of Jesus. There are characters in these stories who are models for us and those that we do not want to imitate. I would like to approach today’s scriptures through the characters in the story of Jesus. 

Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

Perhaps because I left the US before Thanksgiving and returned at the peak of what the corporate America calls the “holiday season,” the contrast between Advent and pre-Christmas frenzy hit me harder this year. When I landed at the Dayton airport, the very first song I heard over the speakers was, “Fa la la…” There was a rebellion within. I wanted to scream that is not time to fa la la yet! The demands of Advent are serious. It demands examination of conscience, repentance and conversion. However, the mood outside the church does not help us pursue the demands of Advent. It is easy for us to skip the demands of Advent altogether. 

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

Whether we formally call it a “vision” or not, each one of us has a vision. For example, when a couple gets married, they imagine life to go a certain way. They have a vision. When a child is born, parents imagine how they would like the child to grow up. They have a vision. When someone gets a new job, they imagine how the new role brings meaning and purpose to life. In very simple terms, a vision is how we think something should go long-term, and the effort we put to make it happen. Vision allows us to have a plan and then put our effort into making the vision a reality. Without a vision, we have nothing to look forward to. 

First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

I want to introduce you to what I would like to call, the theology of juxtaposition. We understand juxtaposition – placing two opposite side by side in order to highlight their difference. Life, as opposed to, death: Juxtaposition – placing two opposite side by side. Heaven and hell: Juxtaposition – it is an important tool to teach important lessons. 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Scripture Readings

Over the last two years, the Vatican has been in secret meetings. As intriguing this may sound, the purpose was reconciliation. The Vatican hosted meeting between the United States and Cuba to end five decades of political enmity. Finally on July 1, 2015, US and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relationship after more than fifty years. Just this week, news also broke that Cuba pardoned 787 prisoners in response to a call by Pope Francis to consider granting amnesty to prisoners. As usual, the entire issue has supporters and opposers. Most people had admired the Pope’s role but others have criticized him, saying, that the Church should stay out of politics.   

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Last week, the title for my homily was the “The Art of Dying Well.” The theme revolved around one thought - that the art of dying well is really about the art of living well. So this week I decided to focus in the “art of living well.” The focus of last week’s readings was death and dying. This week’s focus is on the end times and when that actually happens how might be we be found living well. The irony is that we have no insight into when these cataclysmic events might occur. The only thing we can do is to make sure that when these things do happen, we are found living well. Really! That is all we can do!

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There is a new Catholic website. It is launched by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and it is called artofdyingwell.org - Yes, “the art of dying well.” As my own father approaches the later years of his life, I found it very helpful to visit this website. The website explains its purpose this way: “In the Catholic faith it is believed that life is a precious gift from God and death simply opens the way to new life. Planning ahead can help to overcome fear and anxiety. Perhaps it is possible to take the sting out of death and encourage acceptance of it as a part of life itself.” Then the website gives the readers various resources for life and death.

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

This is my first year as a citizen… and I am soooooo looking forward to vote!!! Electioneering this time around has been brutal. This has been the mother-of-all negative campaigning. The candidates have tried their best to bring out the worst in the opponent. The goal is to make the other person look bad, so that the candidate looks better is comparison to the worst.  I think a campaign should try to bring out the best in the other so that voters can decide who is the best. As a first-time voter in the US, instead of choosing the best among the best, I am having to chose the lesser of the worst. 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Even though today's homily is written specifically for Immaculate Conception Parish, I have approached this reflection from the perspective of "Missionary Discipleship." You may apply this to your life no matter what parish you belong to). 

Each year, the Parish Finance Commission gives a financial report to the parish. Since this is my first year as pastor, I thought it would be appropriate to address you on the state of the parish. However, my focus is not financial even though numbers are important. I would like to share with you my thoughts on “missionary discipleship,” a construct given to us by Pope Francis. After all, a local parish, which is an extension of the universal church, exists not for its own sake, but for the mission entrusted to her by Christ. It is an awesome privilege to part of this mission. Our parish is one tangible way to participate in the Church’s mission. Let me share three points with you. 

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Over the last two weeks the scripture readings have been about faith, prayer, intercession, and healing. If you remember, they were not the easiest topics to write reflections about. I was ready to move on to something else. But God was not! So here is another week of trying to deal with these themes. God sure has a sense of humor!

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There are two very powerful stories in today’s scripture readings. The first story is the healing of Naaman the Syrian and the other is the healing of the ten lepers. As powerful as these stories are in themselves, I would like to reflect on them from the perspective of a sentence from today’s second reading. Paul writes to Timothy, “But the word of God is not chained.” 

Let me provide the context for these words from Paul before I draw three practical implications for today.