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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The Russian Billionaire Yuri Milner and the British Physicist Stephen Hawkins are putting their money and brains together. They have joined forces for one of the most tantalizing yet most elusive project –finding intelligent alien life. The price tag for this project? $100 million! Recently, NASA’s space probe “New Horizons” flew by just 12,500 km (7,800 miles) away from Pluto. The probe took 9 years and travelled almost 3 billion miles to get to Pluto. This mission cost about $900 million. Just this week NASA’s $600 million Kepler mission has revealed an earth-like planet whose distance from its sun is the same as the earth’s distance from our sun. I get very excited about news like this. I am no scientist but I understand the significance of such missions. It is in our nature to probe the mysteries that surround us and it advances science However, here are a few other pieces of information that could leave us wondering. Feeding America, a network of food banks in the Unites States, tells us that just in the United States, 16 million children face hunger on a daily basis. It also tells us that 84% of its clients with children purchased the cheapest food available even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option. The world hunger scene is even more critical. As I said earlier, I am not against us trying to find alien life in the universe. But it is puzzling that we cannot solve the hunger problem here on earth.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

To understand today’s readings we must understand the context within which Jeremiah (today’s first reading) prophesied. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet in the year 628 BC when Josiah was the King of Judah. Josiah began a process of reform that would rid the nation of idolatry, injustice and false religiosity. Jeremiah wholeheartedly supported Josiah’s reform. After Josiah, however, under King Zedekiah, the false prophet Hananiah began to counsel the King to revolt against the Babylonians. It was also at this time that the old idolatry and infidelity returned. On instruction from God Jeremiah opposed the King and the false prophet. As a result, Jeremiah was arrested, imprisoned, and publicly disgraced. Had Zedekiah listened to Jeremiah and stayed faithful to the covenant, perhaps, Judah would be spared. Tragically, the Babylonians pillaged Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, killed thousands of Israelites, took into exile all able bodied men, women, and children, and left behind to die, the aged and disabled.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings 

Pope Francis is on a visit to South America. There are many highlights to his visit – visiting the notoriously violent and overcrowded Palmasola prison, vesting for mass at the local Burger King, and blessing a children’s hospital in Paraguay and masses at various places. Yet, the most unexpected action of the pope was an apology. Pope Francis apologized for the "many grave sins" committed by Christian colonists against indigenous peoples in South America. Talking about "new colonialism," in which corporations and banks replace the old colonial powers, the Pope acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church's history is not entirely free from transgression. "I say this to you with regret," he said in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, "Many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God." Pope Francis is not the first pope to make apologies. In the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II did the same during the last years of his term. Both these popes are admitting that there are times that the church has lost sight of her mission, her meaning and purpose. Perhaps, she has acted even contrary to her mission. 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Last week, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision on same-sex marriage. I assume that some of you are thrilled about this decision and others tormented by the same. The official statement from the American Catholic bishops has been clear on two aspects. First, it considers the SCOTUS decision contrary to the long-held biblical and church doctrine. As Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said, “Under the false banner of ‘marriage equality,’ the United State Supreme Court today redefined marriage by judicial fiat.” He also affirmed that “traditional marriage is the cradle of the family, the basic building block of society.” On the other hand, the official statements were also empathetic of same-sex couples. I think Archbishop Schnurr said it best when he stated, “… It is undeniable that families headed by same-sex couples are growing in number and visibility. These families deserve everyone’s love, respect, compassion, sensitivity and, where appropriate, pastoral care from the Church.”

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I had an extra week in India this time. Not only did I get the time to travel with my parents but it I also got the opportunity to meet people who I otherwise would not get to meet. Many of them were families in our own neighborhood and a few even beyond. Not that I am surprised but in many of my conversations with people I became aware of the immensity of their needs. There are families and social service institutions that are simple overwhelmed by the immensity the needs.  There is a couple, for instance, with four daughters struggling to educate them and then see that they are married and settled down.  In India, getting the daughters married is huge responsibility. And then, there is this woman whose husband is paralyzed but supports him and the education of her two children by working as a maid. She barely makes it. There is a couple who got into debt so that their son could emigrate to Dubai and realized that the job he promised is not what awaited him and now cannot repay the debt. There is a woman whose husband is an alcoholic and the only son who supported her met with a bike accident and is now laid up with compound fractures. There are more stories but they too depressing. I did try to help some of these families, but I wish I could simply wipe their pain away. It is the immensity of the needs that overwhelmed me. We are not alien to situations like these in our own nation, are we?

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In about two days, I must leave home again to return to my ministry in Dayton. As I have said after my earlier visits, every time I leave home, I leave part of me behind and I bring part of my home with me to Dayton. I am finding it harder yet again. It is probably because dad is weaker than before. Every time dad and I ventured out of the house, I have had to hold his hand all the way. Mom is not getting any younger. My parents understand the reason I must leave, but they also wish I lived closer. For me, however, more than even before, leaving home will be an act of faith. It is going to every ounce of faith in me to believe that my parents will be in God’s hands in my absence. Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are very poignant and it seems that they are directed toward me. Jesus said, “He said, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" (Mk 4:40).

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Scripture Readings

There is nothing like being home for the feast of Corpus Christi. By this I do not mean the festivities at our local parish. Rather, I mean that I am with my parents. It is only so many days in a year that my parents and I get to be present to each other in flesh and blood. We hug and kiss each other. We hold hands, we talk, we laugh and cry together. During the rest of the year we speak on the phone. But being present in a real way twice a year is radically different. Just yesterday, my parents thanked me for coming home every six months. It gives them something to look forward to. It is the same with me. Real presence matters.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Scripture Readings

I spent twelve years in the seminary before I was ordained. Through the first eight years, my only goal was to get to the theology classes because I wanted to get into the depths of the knowledge about God. I plunged into theology with the excitement of a two-year-old about to jump into a puddle. But a puddle is only so deep, right? That is how I felt with theology as well. The best of my efforts to understand God led me only thus far. The best of my theology professors often ended the class with the line, “It is a mystery.” If I heard that statement one more time I could scream. Twenty-one later, today, when people ask me questions about God, I tell them what I was told when I was young, "It is a mystery.”

Pentecost Sunday

Scripture Readings

This Saturday, May 23rd, a day before Pentecost, the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified. Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador at a time when there was widespread economic oppression and gross human right violations. Romero threw his weight behind those who were suffering. He was one of the foremost figures in the revolution. He wrote in his book, The Violence of Love: “For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out.” And he did exactly that. As a result, Archbishop Romero was assassinated at the altar as he raised the chalice at consecration. Once, Romero was a peaceful and non-violent revolutionary.  Today he is a saint! 

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings

There is some new data that should worrisome for many of us. The Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. The drop in the Christian share of the population is seen mainly among mainline Protestants and Catholics. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

(Let me preface the homily by saying that the stories I will share are not meant to put the people in them in a negative light. I respect each person and where they find themselves at a certain point in their life. I am sharing these stories with immense respect for them).  

I am going to share two stories with you. The first story is about a patient at hospice I anointed last Sunday. He must have been about eighty years old. When I introduced myself to him, he seemed relieved. One of the very first things he said to me was, “Father, I am glad you are here. I have not been to church in thirty, fourty, fifty years. I have no reason for that. Just did not do it. I wish I had.” I tried to console him and let him know that God’s love is greater than our weaknesses. He believed that. But then, it is what he said afterwards that got my attention. He said, “When I get out of here, I am going to come and see you in church. I promise I will be in church every Sunday, if I can.” Of course, in my mind I was wondering if he knew he was at hospice. I really prayed that he might recover and at least be able to go to church at least once. The larger question in my mind was, did it have to come to this to realize what he should have always done? To face death with regrets – It is really not a good place to be at!

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

There is a story my second grade teacher told us in my catechism class. Strangely, I still remembered the story as I read today’s scripture. One day, Michelangelo walking through a garden in Florence, saw a block of marble in a corner protruding from the earth. It was half covered by grass and mud. He stopped suddenly as if he had seen someone. Then he said to his friends who were with him, exclaimed: "An angel is imprisoned in that marble; I must set him free." And, armed with a chisel, he began to work on that block until the figure of a beautiful angel emerged. The teacher continued, “Each of us is an angel in the making. And God is the artist. The chisel is the Word of God. God uses his word to bring out the best in us.” Later when I got older, I verified the truth of Michelangelo’s story. It turns out, that my teacher was correct. The angel is now in the Basilica of St Dominic in Bologna, Italy.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

For Charles Gladden, home is a makeshift bed on a sidewalk next to D.C.'s McPherson Square Metro Station. He sleeps with his shoes by his side, and a few blankets to keep him warm. Gladden wakes up before sunrise, when he and the other homeless men and women here are kicked out, before the bustle of morning commute. He collects his worldly possessions -- which fit into a single bag – and begins his own trek to work. And his job is at the U.S. Capitol. For 8 years he has worked in Senate cafeterias, washing dishes and doing janitorial work. Gladden is 63, and makes about $11 an hour. He takes home about $360 a week. But he said he gives a lot of it to his children and grandchildren, who have their own financial troubles. "I take care of them," he says, "I don't want to be a burden on my kids." He also said, “I'm an embarrassment. I don't want to be an embarrassment to this country, the country I was born and raised in."

Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Last week, a most gruesome video of an apparent chlorine gas attack in north-west Syria emerged. The footage shows the attempts of doctors to revive three children, all aged under four. All the three children died. Last week, more than four hundred immigrants drowned in the sea as they tried to escape the violence parts of Africa and the Middle East. Last week, New England Patriot’s rising star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of the murder of his time friend, Odin Lloyd. His contract with the Patriots was worth $ 40 million. Last week, an acquaintance of a very dear friend of mine was convicted of child sexual abuse. He is awaiting his sentence. These are serious crimes. If we examine own our thoughts, words and actions last week, we probably realize that even though we may not have committed serious crimes, there are times when we fell short. Perhaps a blatant lie, an unhealthy or impure thought, some form of prejudice, an unfair judgement, an unkind word, an omission, unjustified anger or a habitual act may have been part of our life. If, you are somebody with rationality and freedom and you were free of any of these things last week, please come forward; we would like to light a candle to you.

Second Sunday of Easter/Sunday of Divine Mercy

Scripture Readings

I am wandering off my trodden path for my homily today. This homily is more of an exposé than a scriptural reflection with my typical three practical implications. I am doing this because today is Divine Mercy Sunday. The celebration of the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday is a very recent development. It was on this Sunday in 2000 that Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina Kowalska. It is to her that we owe the origin of this celebration. On that day, JP II announced that “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.” Sr. Faustina was born in Poland and she became a nun in the Congregation of the Sister of Mercy. Her life was characterized by deep spiritual interiority. On Feb 22, 1931, Sr. Faustina experienced a life-changing vision of Christ standing in a white robe with two rays of light emerging from his heart. It is the signature image of the Divine mercy devotion. Faustina died at the very young age of 33. In his life-time, John Paul actively promoted the message of Sr. Faustina and this was probably the rationale behind his 1980 encyclical, “Rich in Mercy.”

The Resurrection of the Lord

Scripture Readings

I have asked myself a question often. After his resurrection, why did Jesus only appear to his apostles and a few close disciples? There is a villainous side to me which makes me imagine that if I were Jesus, I would have shown up at Pilate’s bed side when he was fast asleep and tickled him. I would have loved to see his face when I said, “Dude, want to wash your hands?” Or, as the chief priest, Pharisees, scribes, elders and those who had falsely accused gathered for worship, I would slowly slip among the worshippers and land in the front row. Can you imagine their faces? And I would have said, “Now do you believe?” Then I would just vanish from among them.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Scripture Readings

We are entering Holy Week. On the one hand, Holy Week commemorates the story of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. However, if we look deeper, it is also our story. Holy week and the story of Jesus as we heard it in the reading of the passion, dramatizes the stark realities of the human condition. Within the Jesus story we find intense suffering, intrigue, malice, prejudice, hatred, betrayal, bribery, corruption, and bloody murder. Intertwined in this sad story is the life of a man who took the consequences of human sin upon himself and transformed it into love, forgiveness, peace and eternal life. He did so by becoming the “suffering servant” of God – a concept introduced to us both in the first and second readings. By becoming the “suffering servant,” Jesus changed the very meaning of human life. Human quest for permanent happiness and eternal life can only be fulfilled in Jesus.

Fifth Sunday of Lent - Year A Scrutinies

Scripture Readings

At every funeral mass, before I begin the official prayers, I always address the family gathered around the casket. I remind them the death of a loved one is one of those moments when the best thing we can do is to come before God. Death is one of those moments where our best option is to place life in God’s hands. Up until death, we could do everything in our power for those we love. But once someone dies, we are helpless. Our only help from this moment on is, God.

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Year A Scrutinies

Scripture Readings

The scripture readings on the third, fourth and fifth Sunday of Lent (especially if we are following the Year A readings) are intentionally chosen to lead those preparing for baptism (at Easter) to come the fullness of faith. The gospel readings on these three Sundays are from John. John’s entire gospel revolves around the theme “coming to believe in Jesus.” Thus, last Sunday we heard about the Samaritan woman who by the end of the story came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Next Sunday we will hear about Martha and Mary who even before the raising of Lazarus will confess Jesus as the Resurrection and Life. Similarly toward the end of today’s gospel reading when Jesus says to the blind man that he is indeed the Son of Man, the blind man confesses, “I do believe Lord.” And then he worshipped Jesus. Like in the other stories, there is a huge difference in the faith of the blind man from the beginning of the story and the end of the story. At the beginning of the story he was blind but now he sees. At the beginning of the story he did not know Jesus but by the end he worships him. At the beginning of story he was just another sinner considered blind for either his or his ancestor’s sin. By the end of the story he is liberated and saved by his faith. This is true of the Samaritan woman, and Mary and Martha. In fact, this is true of the entire gospel of John. 

Third Sunday of Lent - (Year A Readings)

We have just heard the incredible story of the Samaritan woman. I am hoping to reflect on the story from three perspectives: the personal, the social and the ecclesial (church). This story is more than the Samaritan woman’s personal salvation story. Woven within it are powerful social and ecclesial themes that are very relevant to us.