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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

My parents are people of great faith and devotion. So the other day, when my mother said to me that she “had it out with God,” it was not funny. There are intentions close to her heart that my parents have been praying for, for decades. But things seem to be getting worse. So mom said to me, “I asked God if he was deaf?” Later, in my prayer, I said to God, “You can answer her! I am not defending you!” Or, here is another message someone sent me on Facebook. “… There have been many people that God has put into my life just to suck them right back out. I read my bible and try to go to church but I just feel empty, like, He is not listening. I know He has given me many blessings in my life and I am thankful. But the heartache seem so much stronger.” It reminds me of the very opening sentences of today’s first reading: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” Who is this person crying for help? This person is every one in this church at one point or another. 

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Last week, my homily reflected on a disciple’s relationship with wealth. I said three things: that God has a special care for the poor and that God lifts up the poor; that the New Testament model for a disciple’s relationship with material things is “stewardship” as opposed to “ownership”; and, that a good steward tries to develop a “spirituality of stewardship,” i.e., a disciple relates to the material things and people in his or her life not according this his or her own whims and fancies, but in a way that God intends. 

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

How many of you are Chipotle fans? It is not uncommon for me to garb a quick bite there myself. Recent news, though, has made me boycott Chipotle. Nearly 10,000 workers are suing Chipotle. They claim that the company made them work extra hours "off the clock" without paying them. It is alleged that Chipotle routinely requires hourly-paid restaurant employees to punch out, and then continue working until they are given permission to leave. It's a practice known as wage theft. 

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We are ten months into the Jubilee of Mercy. I hope that you have taken the time to reflect upon the significance of this year. It is also my hope that you have let mercy rule in your lives. May this year not pass you by without you making it to the sacrament of penance and also offering unconditional mercy, forgiveness and love to someone. Here is the deal. If “mercy” has not been a big deal for you, then, may be today’s readings will not a be a big deal either. Today’s readings celebrate mercy to the point of it being a scandal. God’s mercy is a scandal! It is a scandal but it is true. 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(This is the second installment of my two-part reflection on Mother Teresa as she is canonized a saint on Sept 4).

When we think of Mother Teresa, we think of her as someone who brought God’s love, care, and kindness to the most abandoned people in the world. We also think of her as someone who was guided daily by God. After all, her entire endeavor to leave the Loreto Sisters and begin a new order of sisters, was at the personal wishes of Jesus. You would expect that her spiritual journey was one long honeymoon with God. Surprisingly, that was not the case. The book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light — a collection of her writings to her spiritual directors and confessors—reveals an unexpected twist to to her story. These writing reveal that Mother Teresa experienced more than five decades of total abandonment at God’s hands. Let me just read one of her entries. “Lord my God, who am I that you should forsake me? The Child of your Love—and now become as the most hated one—the one—You have thrown away as unwanted—unloved. I call, I cling, I want—and there is no One to answer—no one on whom I can cling—no, Not One.—Alone… Where is my faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith—I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart—and make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them—because of the blasphemy—If there be God—please forgive me—When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven—there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.—I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(On September 4, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be be canonized a saint. Today and next weekend, I would like to offer a two part reflection on this newest saint. I will base it on the scripture readings for the weekends).

Let me begin with a touching story from Mother Teresa’s childhood. Agnes, as she was called before she took on the name Teresa, was born on August 26, 1910. When she was only 8 years old, her father suddenly fell ill and died. Agnes became extraordinarily close to her mother, Nikola. Agnes learnt charity from her mother. Nikola had given an open invitation to the destitute of the city to dine with her family. Her mother would say to her, ”My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.” When Agnes asked who the people eating with them were, her mother would simply say, "Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people.” In light of this story, let me read the conclusion to today’s gospel reading. “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you” (Luke 14:14) In these words, Christ taught his disciples about humility.” 

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

If salvation or heaven was not integral to our faith, how many of us would be religious? For intensity sake, let me reframe the question. If at the end of our lives, our virtuous living could not guarantee us heaven, would we still be believers? Christianity, in particular, is a very demanding religious tradition. It invites us to take up our cross, to be humble, to die to ourself, to give beyond measure, to be poor in spirit, to forgive our enemies us and to sacrifice our life for our faith . After fulfilling these expectations if all we could expect was some earthly reward, would you and I still be Christian? The human heart longs for immortality and salvation. Without the assurance of salvation, religion would lose its purpose. In fact, religion IS the quest for salvation. 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

“Do you think I have come to bring peace? No, I tell you, bur rather division.” Division, violence, and wars remain the uppermost concern in the minds of many of us. Terrorism is sweeping the globe. There is not one country that can rest secure. In our own country, political discourse is bordering the extreme. Racial violence has claimed many lives. Fear is crippling our normal lives. As if this were not enough, we come to church and we hear Jesus saying, “Do you think I have come to bring peace? No, I tell you, bur rather division.” I have read this passage many times. I even know how to interpret it correctly. Yet, when I read it at face value, my heart sank a little. And then we have the words, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” What shall we do with Jesus’ words? 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

When I travelled to India in June, I took the book, “The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis,” to read along the way. This is no ordinary book. On the one hand, this book tells the story of St. Francis’ incredible journey from being a rich notorious youth to a radical follower of Christ; on the other hand, the story is the journey of Gerard Thomas Straub, a Hollywood film maker and a professing atheist. Straub once used to have Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore star in front of his camera. He also was the producer of the famous television serial General Hospital. In March 1985 he went to Rome on a visit and chose the quiet of a church to rest a while. He did not enter the church to pray but to take a break. The rest is history. In his book, “The Thoughts of a Blind Beggar,” he says, “Within the space of a fleeting moment, I knew … that God was real, that God loved me, and that the hunger and thirst I had felt for so long could be satisfied only by God.” That was only the beginning. Inspired by Christ and St. Francis, Straub’s new found faith, like, Abraham, led him to places and to make changes he never imagined. His conversion took him from riches to self-imposed poverty, from future fame to embracing the poor, from the comfort of his Hollywood home to the slums of Central America, India, and Africa.  

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There is a new movie released called, “Equity.” It brings two seemingly unconnected themes together: Wall Street and women. Early in the movie, Naomi, an investment banker, who is overseeing a tricky IPO, is asked by the career panel what makes her get up in the morning. “I love money,” she responds. “I grew up in a house where there was never enough,” she continues. “I was raised by a single mom with four kids. I took my first job on Wall Street so I could put my brothers through college. But I am not going to sit here and tell you that I do what do for other people because it is OK to do it for ourselves… for how it makes us feel.” Later in the movie she says, “Money is not a dirty word!” Let’s admit it - money is not an issue for those who have enough; but for those who cannot make ends meet or have to work hard at it, not having it is the hardest thing. Money may not make us happier, but it sure does make life easier. Financial stress is a killer. It breaks marriages, it can make people unhealthy, give us heart attacks, and change our behavior.

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. Every morning, when the fish monger comes to my house, my dad has to haggle. The fish monger already knows that my dad will haggle. So the price he quotes is already higher than the original price. My dad haggles and brings the price down. At the end of it all, the fish monger is happy that he got the price he wanted and my dad is happy that he saved a few bucks. Or, at least he thinks 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

How often have you felt frustrated by another person on a cell phone…  in a restaurant, at a public place or even at home? How often have you wished that someone would just get off the phone? I was with somebody for dinner once and the other person kept answering all the texts. I thought that was rude. Have we forgotten basic hospitality? 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Doesn’t feel like we are in the twenty-first Century. As humanity makes progress, society is supposed to become safer, more egalitarian and peaceful. Instead, the kind of violence and turmoil we are experiencing looks like we are digressing. We have made unprecedented progress in the field of education, science and technology. Racial, religious and economic strife should be a thing of the past. Instead, a dozen more lives have been lost - civilians and police officers.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Today's reflection is based on Fr. Satish Joseph's installation of Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St.Helen Parishes. This homily is his vision for Immaculate Conception, since this website is of the Immaculate Conception faith formation ministry. He wrote a separate one for St. Helen Parish, which will be available on www.sthelenparish.org). 

It is with immense gratitude to God, to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and to the parishioners of Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes, that today, I assume the awesome responsibility of Pastor of both these parishes. As I do so, I ask God for two graces: humility and wisdom - humility to know that pastorship means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the Good Shepherd; and wisdom to view each person and situation through God’s eyes. Even though Fr. Vincent is new to our communities, I consider him integral to the ministries at both parishes. I believe that God has placed him among us for a reason.   

Please allow me to share how I understand the role of a pastor and his relationship to a parish. While this is not a comprehensive statement, it would like to give you an insight into my thinking, my spirituality, my leadership, and my ministry. As usual, God speaks to me in three points. 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It is truly amazing, that in the Bible, scenes from two distant millennia, written by authors from completely different era. for completely different audiences, can be so similar. In the first reading, the young Elisha, who was ploughing his field, is called by the prophet Elijah to follow him as his attendant. Before Elisha follows him, he seeks Elijah’s permission to bid his family goodbye. Elijah concedes to the request. Elisha then offers a sacrifice of the animals he used for farming and used the ploughs to make the fire for the sacrifice. He bids his family adieu and then follows Elijah. This passage has a striking parallels in today’s gospel reading. There were people both looking to follow Jesus, and those that Jesus called to follow him. When one of them asked Jesus to allow him to bury his father, Jesus refused to make the concession, and said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” To another man who wished to follow Jesus, but first say good bye to his family, Jesus, said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’ Jesus refuses to make the concession that Elijah made. 

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Fr. Satish is in India, visiting his parents. This homily was written three years ago). 

I have an invitation to speak this summer at the national conference of the National Catholic Education Association. The topic that was given to me was: New Evangelization and Adolescents. I am guessing that they want me to talk about making the ‘good news’ of Jesus relevant to high school adolescents. As I prepare for this talk the theme that is emerging is that there is difference between ‘religion for religion’s sake’ and ‘discipleship.’ There is a difference between ‘teaching religion’ to our youth and somehow ‘allowing Jesus to capture the imagination of our young people.’  

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Fr. Satish is on Vacation visiting his parents in India. This homily was written 3 years ago. The message is still as relevant). 

Today’s readings have two very poignant stories to reflect upon. Who does not know the story of David’s lust for Bathsheba, his conceited strategy to possess her, the prophet Nathan’s prophecy to convict him of his crime and David’s repentance?  It is a classical biblical story of sin and reconciliation. And then we have the famed story of the woman at the feet of Jesus. The setting for this story is very important. The setting is the house of a Pharisee who has his own sense of sin and righteousness. Jesus overturns his ideas of sin and reconciliation. We have, then, two biblical classics to reflect upon. 

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Very close friends of mine asked for my prayers for a grieving family, last week. Twenty-nine year old Marjorie had died suddenly. Marjorie was not ill. Her death was sudden and shocking to all, especially to her husband Patrick and three young children, Payton, Hailey and Mariah. The oldest child is only eleven and the youngest is four.  I cannot imagine the sadness of the husband and three young children. When tragedy strikes, our instinctive question is, “Why?” As people of faith, we may even ask, “O God, Why?” I have celebrated countless funeral masses with this very question in mind. Even as a people who believe that Jesus died and rose again, as believers in eternal life - the pain of any tragedy is real and paralyzing. 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Scripture Readings

(This homily was written 3 years ago for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ). 

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

The staff I work with, is a crazy bunch. Friday morning, I was walking about the hall ways of the offices aimlessly, when one of them asked me, “Have you finished your homily?” I wanted to say, “I do not need another mother,” but I didn’t. And then I heard someone say “You better have finished it, Mister!” There was a reason why I was aimlessly wandering the hallways. The Trinity is the most difficult topic to write about. In fact, later I said to the staff, “I am struggling with the homily. This is the most boring feast in the church. This feast is so blah!!!” I was only partly kidding. The significance of this feast lies in the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. If we really want to know who we are, then we have understand our Creator. We understand God as Trinity. How we understand God has direct implications on our self-understanding.