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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 - 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. 

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?