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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.

Pentecost Sunday

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. 

Solemnity of 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’?

And here is my answer. I would like to discuss this in three points. 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

As I read passages like today’s gospel, something within me craves for the simplicity that they express. For that matter, the entire gospel is rather simple. They are about simple things accomplished simply. ‘If you love me,” Jesus says in today’s gospel, “You will keep my word.” It is as simple as that. There is a possibility that you may not like his words and do not want to keep it. And that is OK. But if you do love him and keep his word, Christ offers a new world. Today’s homily is a “back to the basic” kind of homily. Based on today’s gospel, Christianity is about three simple things: Love, Relationship, and Peace. 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Prince died this week. This musical legend who is somewhat of a mystery, has fans spanning decades. Listening to a coverage of him on NPR, I was intrigued by one commentator talking about Prince’s song, “Purple Rain.” There are as many explanations about the meaning of the song as there are websites about him. The commentator understood “Purple Rain” as a love song in which Prince sings about his devotion to a girl. When “Purple Rain” was released, the commentator said, he could not wait for his heart to be broken just so he could sing “Purple Rain.” Now, that’s devotion! 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Pope Francis was in Lesbos, Greece, yesterday. He went there to visit the migrants who are now in camps as their flow into Europe has slowed down. Many of these migrants are now being sent back to Turkey, which in turn sends them back to Syria. The Pope visited the migrants there to show his solidarity with them. His visit is more than a symbolic visit. It is his hope that world leaders will follow his example and work diligently to come to the aid of the migrants. Yesterday he tweeted, “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such.” The Pope went one step further. On his way back, he took twelve migrants back with him to the Vatican on the same plane that he was returning.

Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Early March, news shocked the Christian world that in a militant attack on a convent in Aden, Yemen, four nuns (Sr. Anselm, Sr. Reginette, Sr. Judith, Sr. Marguerite) from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were among the 16 people who were killed. The four sisters, two from India and two from Africa worked in a nursing home attached to their convent. It was also reported that a Salesian priest from India, Fr. Thomas Uzannalil was handcuffed and kidnapped. To date, there is no news about him. Around Holy Week, there were rumors that Fr. Thomas was to be brutally crucified on Good Friday. Thank God that this was only a rumor, but not having any information about him is worrisome. As I read today’s readings, particularly the first and second reading, I could not help but think about Fr. Thomas and the sisters. I find it amazing that people choose to be in places of conflict and preach the “good news” of Jesus Christ. I almost feel guilty that my life is so secure. 

Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Scripture Readings

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. It was at the canonization of Sr Faustina in 2000 that Pope John Paul announced that the Sunday after Easter would be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s mercy is always a marvelous grace to celebrate, yet particularly, during the Jubilee of Mercy. It is said that Pope Francis too has great devotion to Divine Mercy. 

The Resurrection of the Lord

Scripture Readings

When Pope Francis visited the United States, addressing the crowds at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, he told the story of a child who asked him a question. “What did God do before God created the world?” the child wanted to know. The Pope admitted that this was a difficult question for him to answer. And then he said, “I told him what I’m saying now to you. Before creating the world, God loved, because God is love.” Today, as we celebrate Easter, I want to think of Easter as the triumph of God’s love. If any of us wanted to know what God’s love is like, the cross and the empty tomb tell us the story. 

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Scripture Readings

For someone who is not a Catholic, it will be just another week. Schools will take spring breaks, families will take vacations, businesses will get into top gear preparing for spring and summer, politicians will continue their bickering, insulting and whining, and March madness will be in full swing. But for those of us who are Catholics, it is also Holy Week. For us Catholics, that makes all the difference.

Fifth Sunday of Lent 

Scripture Readings

Last Tuesday, Bob Trangenstein, my American dad passed away. I call him my American dad, because his home is where I spent my first Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States. Since then, I have spent every holiday there. Bob’s death came very quickly. It was barely six months back that he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Bob’s funeral is the closest I have come to burying my own parents. Weeks before he died, he had gotten very frail and I had to the opportunity to take him for a small walk. During that walk, he made told me that something has been bothering him and offered to make his confession. I really thought very highly of Bob, but it is then that I really got to know how good of a person he was. He had let the smallest misdeeds get to him. At the end of the walk and before we went into the house, standing on the sidewalk, I gave him absolution. I also reminded him that our God is a good, kind and loving God. I could see the immediate relief on his face. Later, he told numerous family members about the peace that had come over him since the reconciliation. He told me that he was ready to die.

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A Scrutinies

Scripture Readings

Yesterday, I facilitated an all day retreat at St. Mary’s parish in Arnheim, OH. The theme for the retreat was “The Seven Last Words of Jesus: A Journey Toward Easter.” Jesus uttered some very powerful, radical, and life-altering words from the cross. Just the words, “Father, forgive them…” changes the way we conduct human affairs. Each of the seven last words of has the power to alter human history. I have conducted this retreat before. But yesterday, a new insight came to me. These last words of Jesus are not merely about what Jesus said from the cross. These last words reveal who Jesus really was as a person - divine and human. If it is true that crisis reveals character, then, the cross revealed his true self. The retreat also led me to understand today’s gospel story of the healing of the blind man a little differently . Jesus had said to the blind man: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

My homily today is about Jesus the light. In my three points I want to talk about the light as a person, the light as a way of life and the light as a choice.

Third Sunday of Lent – Year A Scrutinies

Scripture Readings

I got a T-shirt as a gift for my 50th birthday! It said, “I Make 50 Look Good.” The T- shirt inspired another thought in me: “Jesus makes sinners look good.” Is that not what Paul means when he says in today’s second reading, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

The story of the Samaritan woman is one of the most fascinating stories in all of scripture. From the time I first read it as a child and until today, the Samaritan woman comes across as a very likable person. At the end of the story, she comes out looking good. In reality, her five husbands, her sixth live-in, her brash mannerism, and her callous bravado, should make her look dubious. However, that is not how history remembers her. She comes out looking good. This is true of many characters in the Jesus story - Zacchaeus the unjust tax-collector, the woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears, the adulterous woman, Peter who betrayed Jesus, and even the centurial who crucified him. In the end they all come out look good! Sinners, when they encounter Jesus, come out looking good.