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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I have received numerous e-mails or phone calls from parishioners who have been concerned about the child sexual abuse scandal. The concern is on multiple levels – for the abused, for the faith of God’s people, and also for me. I received numerous e-mails and messages enquiring about my well-being.  Thank you for all this. I would be lying to you if I said that I am not struggling. I am more than struggling. I feel despondent, discouraged, and overwhelmed. The question I am asking myself is – what now? I joined the seminary when I was 17 years old. I am fifty-two years old now. The Church is all I have known. I have loved the Church like a man would love his family. Intentionally, consciously, and even aware of her imperfections, I have given my life to the Church. What now? What does my priesthood mean now? I am wondering if you are asking yourself, “What does my Catholicism mean now?” 

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Finally, after five weekends, we have reached the end the Bread of Life discourse. We could only wish that the discourse ends well. But it does not. It ends letting the readers know that many of Jesus’ disciples “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:66). Just as you prepare yourself for a bad ending, there is a glimpse of hope. Jesus came to the Twelve and asked them, "Do you also want to leave?" (Jn 6:67). Peter’s response warms every believer’s heart. "Master, to whom shall we go?” he says, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). (As an aside, please keep Peter’s confession at the back of your mind. We will return to it later). Just when you think that the story has a happy ending, John gives us this devastating news: Jesus said to the Twelve: “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil? He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot (Jn 6:70-71). The story will ultimately end well, but for that we must until the resurrection. 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reading

One of the most difficult things to believe in the Catholic tradition is the belief that the bread and wine at every Eucharist is transformed into the body of blood of Jesus. The difficulty is seen in the statistics. Only 57 percent of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and the wine. Perhaps, we can find some consolation in the fact that we are not alone in our difficulty. Around the end of the 1st Century, John’s community dealt with the same issue. Last week we reflected on Jesus’ words, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). The people were quick to ask, “"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (Jn 6:52). 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Of the all the people in your life, is there one person you love the most? Perhaps, there are a few people who love the most. What could you do for them? Are there any limits to what you can do or be for them? Are there words to describe how much you love them? These are emotional questions, are they not? The reason, I begin with these questions is because today we are going to reflect on Jesus’ love. What does Jesus do? What does Jesus give us? What does it say about God’s love? 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

For the next three weeks our gospel reading will be taken from chapter six of John’s gospel. Most of this chapter is the bread of life discourse. It began last week with the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and will end with many disciples ceasing to follow Jesus because his teachings were too hard to follow. In between these two events is sandwiched Jesus’s teaching of him as the “bread of that came down from heaven” and him being the “bread of life.” Since we have three weeks to understand every aspect of this teaching, I would like to explore the “Bread of Life Discourse” in some detail. I would like to keep the more strictly Eucharistic themes for the coming weeks. Today, I want to reflect on the more unconventional interpretations Jesus teaching on the bread of life. 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Just down the road from our parish is some land which the Marianists call Mount Saint John.  The other night, as I was there praying I came across a statue of Jesus for the first time.  Jesus’ heart is exposed and his open hands are lifted next to his heart.  He struck me as strong and vulnerable, ready to receive whoever comes and eager to give them whatever he can.  It is an image which I think can help us unpack today’s readings.  Let us consider the heart of Jesus, the hands of Jesus, and Eucharistic life. 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The other day, I met with a young mother of three beautiful children. After merely seven years of marriage, she feels abandoned. Now she must file for a divorce for the sake of getting support for her children. While her sadness came from the fact that her marriage was falling apart, she also felt that as a Catholic if she sought for divorce, she would go to hell. She said that her faith in God was completely crushed. She felt abandoned by God. She cried through the entire hour-and-a-half she spent with me.  After much listening and some thought, I invited her to consider God’s presence in her life just a little differently. I said to her, God is not sitting up somewhere these disconnected from you or your life. God has not abandoned you. I said to her that God is beside you, crying with you. As you cry, there are tears in God’s eyes. God cannot forcefully change your husband’s behavior. God can give you the inner strength to go on. Perhaps, this meeting with me is God’s way of caring for you. By the end of the conversation, she was a lot more at peace, even though life ahead seemed to be an uphill climb. But, most of all, she was consoled that she was not going to hell. 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was in a phone conversation with a couple last week. They believe that their home is possessed. At least one of the family members is convinced that a strange presence may be controlling this person. They gave me very vivid and strange imageries of things happening in the house. The terms they used most often was “darkness.” Knowing that they were not Catholic or that any of them were baptized, I invited them to meet with me so that I could know more about them before I went into their house to bless it. The family did not honor their appointment and I feel a little concerned. I made a phone call to find out, but they have not responded. It is not very rare for me receive requests for exorcism. Whenever I receive them, I am a little cautious but also bold. I am always remined of today’s gospel reading, where Jesus gave authority over unclean spirit to his apostles. Today’s gospel tells us that with faith in the authority that Christ gave them, “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I have a few questions for you? Put your hands up if at some point of your life, you found faith hard? Put your hands up, if at some point you were tempted to give up faith? Put your hands up, if at some point you doubted if God existed? Put your hands up if at one time or another you had it out with God, because a very selfless and legitimate prayer was unanswered? Put your hands up if you at one or another you looked at God and said, “That’s not fair!” Would you agree with me, if I said, “Faith is hard?”  

In today’s gospel reading Jesus visits his home town. The passage ends with the statement, “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk 6:6). One way to reflect on this passage would be to look at everything that was wrong with the people of Jesus’ town and see what we can learn from it. The approach I am taking a just little broader. I am asking the question, “Why is faith hard?” 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Every time the first scripture reading for our liturgy it taken from the book of Wisdom, we want to sit back and let the words sink in. This is because Wisdom addresses the deepest longings of the human soul. Right at the outset, though, let me provide a caution. Today’s first reading is an excerpt from Wisdom Chapters 1 & 2. Out of the forty verses that make up these two chapters, only four verses are read today. I strongly recommend, then, that this week we take the time to reflect on Chapters 1 and 2 in their entirety. I am choosing to focus on three thoughts that are contained in our very short reading.  

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Scripture Readings

It is not always that the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist falls on a Sunday. This year it so happens that it does. Generally, Sunday readings always take precedence over most feast day readings. However, John the Baptist is such an important figure in the Bible that the church sets aside the reading of the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time to focus on him. Since the Church intentionally gives John the Baptist this place of honor, let us reflect on his life and message. 

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

When I celebrate mass with our school kids, I sometimes ask them where heaven is. It is not uncommon for them to point toward the sky and say, “There.” One of the concepts that is very close to the word heaven is, kingdom of God. And because most of us imagine heaven to be up there, we also think that the kingdom of God lies beyond us in the far distant future. Even though we often pray “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is heaven,” we really do not believe that heaven and kingdom of God have anything to do with us in the here and now.

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(While in India, Fr. Satish is unable to post a new homily. Below is a past homily from reading Cycle C and you can find the relevant scripture here.)

Today’s readings tell some rather unbelievable stories – unbelievable not because God cannot accomplish great things but because stories such as the ones we have today is not a part of our normal experience. Both in the first reading and the gospel reading are two stunningly similar stories of young men being raised to life. How often have we seen that? This is hard to believe.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Scripture Readings

Every so often, I am in total awe at things that connects us to ancient history. The Feast of Corpus Christi is one of those celebrations. The history of this goes as far back as 498 AD. In the early church, Holy Thursday came to be known as Natalis Calicis, or the Birth of the Chalice. However, since the focus of Holy week was on the passion and death of Jesus, the main event of Holy Thursday, the Last Supper at which Jesus gave us his body and blood, did not get the importance it deserved. Into the picture comes St. Juliana of Mount Cornillion, in the late 12thCentury. Her devotion to Blessed Sacrament, a vision she had, and her personal efforts led to a special day being set aside celebrate Corpus Christi. By mid 13thCentury, the Feast of Corpus Christi was an established celebration in the church. On Sept 8, 1264, Pope Urban and IV declared the annual celebration of the Feast of Corpus to be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Scripture Readings

I am a foodie. I often use food to understand spiritual mysteries. I am not the first to do this. For example, Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountainthe LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples, a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” The Bible often uses the imagery of a banquet to describe heaven. After all, the most important event of Jesus life was the Last Supper. Being a foodie, I get it! Jesus also said, “You are the salt of the earth.” I get that too! Today, I would like to use food to understand the Trinity. St. Patrick used the Shamrock the Trinity and Fr. Satish is using food… more specifically Indian cuisine. 

Pentecost Sunday

Scripture Readings

The room from which I workout, I can see much of the parish campus. Just the other day I was saying to myself, soon there will be leaves on these trees. I could not wait for spring. This morning as I worked out, I looked out of the window again. The trees are now covered in green. Not just trees but the grass is green, there are flowers in the fields, and I heard the birds chirping. As the sun tried to peek through the clouds, the entire campus lit up. I said to myself, this is what Pentecost was like. There was the pre-Pentecost world. The trees were bare, the grass was dry, the flowers had faded and the birds had lost their sound. The post-Pentecost world – it has colors, and sound, and beauty, and song. What shall I say? I am a hope-filled romantic.  

Here are my three points: 

a) “Just as the Father Sent Me!" In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says to his disciples, “Just as the Father sent me, so I sent you” (Jn 20:21).  What did the Father send Jesus for? As I see it, Jesus was sent to make our world as beautiful as it was at creation. Jesus did his best. Not everybody brought his vision, but by the time he left the earth, he had filled the world with love, and goodness, and mercy, and peace. For this, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Now, as Jesus was entrusting his work to the disciples, he says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20:22). They would need the Holy Spirit in the same say he did, so that they could continue his work. There was only one difference.  While at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the Holy Spirit came only upon him, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all creation. Hence, at our baptism, we too got a share of that first Pentecost Now, God has given us the Holy Spirit, so that we might accomplish the work that Christ began. Today, then, as we realize that Jesus is sending us just as the Father sent him, let us open our hearts wide for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in and upon us. We must continue Jesus mission to make our world a beautiful place. We must live heaven on earth. For this, let us pray for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  

b) A De-Babelized World! Pentecost did not only transform the church but also our world. At Pentecost, a world divided by the many languages, cultures, nations, and races understood each other. Our world needs a new Pentecost more urgently that even. Our nation and indeed the entire world is divided into two main camps. There are those who believe that the old days of a few powerful countries being superpowers, and the rest of the world being divided by which superpower they follow, is achievable. In this view, while America screams, “Make America Great Again,” so does Russia, and China, and India, and Iran, and the European Union. Each nation wants the same thing - to become great again. And people believe that there will be a single, clear winner. For this reason, each nation is dedicating more and more time, money, resources and human-power to an unprecedented arms race. And then there are those who believe that the days of the old ideologically divided world are over.  I am one of those people. I believe that there is a new world order. In this new world order, either all of us win together or we lose together. My belief is not merely based on politics. My belief is based on my Catholic view of the world. Let me explain. In the Bible, the various races and languages that exist in the world today is attributed to the building of the Tower of Babel. Since then, the world was divided into languages, races, cultures, peoples and nations. However, at Pentecost, a new world order is unleashed. The post-Pentecost world is a de-Babelized world. It is world in which, even if people speak different languages, even if people are from different countries, even if people belong to different races, and cultures – they understand each other. Pentecost takes us to God’s original vision of creation, of the world, and of people in it. Pentecost is feast of world unity, of world peace, of the progress of the entire world and of all peoples. It is a beautiful world. It’s a world of colors, and music and the language of love. Whether we buy into this vision or not, is a choice we make.   

c) Life in the Spirit. What does Pentecost mean for us? Pentecost means that we live life in the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means that we allow Jesus to send us just as the Father sent Jesus. Pentecost means that we work with God to take our world back to God original intent. We must work with Jesus to make our world as beautiful as God’s original world. How do we accomplish all this? Here is the practical implication of this feast – that we in fact and in deed, live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Here is the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul says, in today second reading, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Pentecost is God attempt to recreate a world that is built around love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control. For this, Christ empowers us with the Holy Spirit and sends us forth.  

The Eucharist is a proto-type of heaven. All peoples, all nations, all races, all cultures, worship the same God today singing songs of unity, love, and peace. This altar today unites people from all nations. What beauty of what happens here must now beautify the world. For this, Christ has given us the Holy Spirit and sent us to the world. -

Fr. Satish Joseph

he Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Today is the Feast of the Ascension. On the one hand, this feast is the culmination of Christ’s life. Jesus came from the Father and now he returns to the Father. However, I would like to approach the feast from the perspective of the disciples.  As I see it, this feast is also a celebration of God’s enduring trust in humanity. Let me explain. Think about one time in your life when you were in total awe of something that happened to you. Perhaps it was walking down the aisle with your just-married spouse, or holding your first-born for the first time, or holding the diploma after graduation, or receiving the appointment letter to a job you really wanted. I am thinking of my ordination my ordination. I remember having just been anointed by the bishop. A very strange feeling overcame me. It was the feeling of an awesome sense of privilege, unworthiness, and immense responsibility all the same time. I saw my Ordination both as God anointing me and God putting God’s trust in me. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt at Ascension. 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

My homily today is very simple, because the readings for today's Mass are very simple. John says, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love" (1 Jn 4:8).”  

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

There is a story my second-grade teacher told us in religion class that I strangely still remember. 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. He exclaimed: "An angel is imprisoned in that marble; I must set him free." 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. 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 

As you can imagine, Holy Week is one of the most demanding weeks in a priest’s sacramental life. Not only was I ill this Holy Week, but Fr. Dave’s illness and hospitalization made the week even more demanding than it generally is. Nevertheless, to say, by the Easter Sunday 6pm mass was over, I was overworked, exhausted, and hungry. I said to the congregation, “Jesus is risen, but I am dead!” I was looking forward to kicking my shoes off, having a glass or wine or three, some dinner and crawl into bed. I also said this to the congregation: “I don’t care what you are doing tonight, but I know what I am going to do.” I Left the sacristy, entered the kitchen and had barely poured my glass of wine, and my phone rang. There was a call on our emergency line that somebody was actively dying at hospice. This person was not a parishioner at any of our local parishes. Hospice had been trying to reach priests at many of our neighboring parishes, but they were not available. Most probably they probably were visiting family. I looked at my wine glass and then I looked up… and said to Jesus, “You are really not funny!” I also said to myself, “You think you know what you are going to do next. You don’t!”