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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.  

Second Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis was in the unlikeliest of all places - the US-Mexico border. He visited the  border town of Cuidad Juarez, once known as the most violent place in the world. Before he celebrated mass for about two hundred thousand people, Pope Francis laid flowers at the memorial which remembers the immigrants who have lost their lives. The Pope’s gesture added fuel to the already fiery and controversial issue of immigration in the United States. While in Cuidad Juarez, he also visited the local prison, where, just a week before, 47 inmates were killed in gang-related riots. He said to the to the prisoners, “Jesus urges us to have the mercy that embraces everyone and is found in every corner of the world. There is no place beyond the reach of his mercy, no space or person it cannot touch.” 

First Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Every since I have gotten my smart phone, I have become dumber. I used to be able to remember phone numbers. Now, I have to look up my own number. It is worse with passwords.  People are becoming bad spellers because of spell-check on our computers. Technology is adversely affecting human memory. We remember less and less because machines do it for us. The renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that that artificial intelligence ultimately will destroy us.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Over the last couple of months, I have been accompanying a very dear friend of mine through his terminal illness. I would describe this friend as “a good man.” He is a really good man - married, faithful to his wife, children and family, God-fearing, and genuinely good to everybody. In more ways than one, he is a model for me. As the end of his life approaches, he shared some of his fears with me. Prominent among them is his fear of standing before God. As a pastor and friend, I know that he has nothing to fear. His life has been right and just. Yet, he says that he is afraid. I have not reached a conclusion whether his fear rises from the religious formation he received as a child, or it is the “Fear of the Lord,” which we know as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is the latter. This latter gift is also called “awe of God.” It means a healthy fear of God.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It is not uncommon for people to ask, “How did you decide to become a priest?” My answer often is a big sigh! First of all, it is a complex story. I find it hard to talk about my call to priesthood either as a casual conversation or a conversation that is time-constrained. The second reason is that my decision to become a priest was unlike Jeremiah’s call in today’s first reading. I did not hear voices or see visions. I was a teenager trying to figure out what to do. I did not even know if I wanted to be a priest. I simply wanted to try it out, and then, year after year, for twelve years continued to plough on. On the way, I faltered, I fell, I got up and fell again, and.… here I am today. Today, almost twenty-two years back, as I look back at my priesthood, I realize that this is my calling. The peace I have in the depth of my being… that is what assured me of my call.  

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

I have probably shared this with you before. Every time I leave home, my parents and I gather for prayer. Something wonderful happens just before I leave. My mom and dad lay their hand over me  and bless me. I feel their breath. I feel the warmth of their body. I feel their tears as they feel mine. Most of all, I touch their holiness. And then, they both make the sign of the cross upon my forehead. Right at that moment, I experience a little bit of heaven. Right at that moment, I feel a little more free, a little more strong, a little more loved, a little more sure. I know that heaven is indescribable. But if someone asked me what heaven it like, I would say, its like my mom and dad blessing me. 

The Epiphany of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany literally means manifestation. It is the feast of the manifestation, the revelation, presentation of Jesus to the world. If this is true, then, is it not truly amazing that the magi saw a mere child and recognized the Divine? Today gospel says that “ they prostrated themselves and did him homage.” If I was one of them, I probably would have been disappointed that the spectacular star had led me only to a mere child. Perhaps, that is why, they, unlike me, are known as three wise magi.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Scripture Readings

The Feast of the Holy Family is a relatively new feast compared to the two thousand history of the Church. The Coptic Church has always had a devotion to the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph because of the biblical reference to their flight to Egypt. In the Western Church, however, devotion to the Holy Family dates back only to the early sixteenth Century. The Feast of the Holy Family as a liturgical celebration was established by Pope Leo XIII as late as 1893. It was the time when the very structure of the family, its identity and its role was being radically transformed by unbridled and rapid industrialization. 

Our families, as we find them today, is a direct result of the impact that the industrial age has had on the family. Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, I am sure our minds are drawn to our own families. May I offer three points for us to reflect upon. 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

How big do you think is heaven? I think of heaven as limitless, unbounded, unfathomable. In fact, everything that we imagine about God and eternity is unimaginably big and boundless. God has no beginning and no end. So is eternity. The created universe too is an endless expanse. Creation is magnanimous. So what about the small? Is there room for ‘small?’ After all, if we put human life in perspective, we are like a speck of dust. In fact, we are so small that if tomorrow any of us dies, nothing will change. Life will go on. What about the small?