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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Right after I was ordained in 1994, India’s corporate sector was introduced to a very influential and effective thinker, Stephen Covey. Many of us as priests also read his very popular book, The7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book sold more than 20 million copies in fourty languages. In 1996, Dr. Covey was recognized as one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans and in 2002, Forbes named The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People one of the 10 most influential management books ever written.Stephen Covey died last July  but continues to influence the management world. I for one was a Stephen Covey’s fan. One reason for this was that he gave new insights into my own following of Jesus. Here is one statement that influenced my discipleship: “There is no involvement without commitment.” For example, my priesthood require both commitment and involvement. What would my priesthood look like it I was not committed? What would the celebration of this Eucharist look like if I was not involved?  Whether it is marriage, friendship, work or sports or the following of Christ, there is no involvement without commitment and there is not commitment without involvement. 

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

If a Christian does not look different than those who are worldly, then what is the point in being a Christian? What good does it serve to be Christian by name? To what purpose then, was the death of Jesus Christ? 

I have titled this homily, “But It shall not be so among you.” Today’s gospel reading reveals the internal power struggle among Jesus’ disciples. James and John beat the other disciples in asking Jesus if in his Glory they could sit one at his right and the other at his left. Mark tells us that when the other disciples heard this, they got indignant at James and John. Perhaps, this may have been because each of them either nurtured the same ambition or because they felt upstaged by the two brothers. Either way, Jesus’ response swift and categorical. “But it shall not be so among you” (Mk 10: 43). 

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

From the time I began to read the lives of saints in the seminary, I have come to admire many of them. Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila were among some of my favorites. However, my hero all through seminary was not a canonized saint - Archbishop Oscar Romero. That changed today. Nov 14, 2018 will remain and red-letter day in my priestly life. After 35 years of anticipation, today, Archbishop Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis.   

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It is not uncommon for me to receive calls about troubled domestic life. Sometimes these calls are about children, but most of the time, it is about a troubled marriage. I am not a professional counselor, hence, most of the time, after initial conversation, and some spiritual guidance, I point them out in the right direction for help. On the other hand, for every couple that encounters marital discontent, I know another family that is blissfully happy. I am sure you too know families that both have marital discontent and those that are content. In reality, there are no perfect families and there are no perfect marriages.  Most of the time bliss is experienced amidst imperfections, and imperfections amidst bliss. What shall we say about families, since, the liturgy compels us to reflect on marriage and divorce?   

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Who is the richest person in the world today? It’s Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Whole Foods fame. His net worth is more than $164 billion. Recently, he made news when he created a $2 billion fund to help the homeless and set up a network of schools. Jeff Bezos has often been criticized for taking a back seat on philanthropy. So when he made news with his new philanthropy, there were skeptical reactions. Imagine that I had $164 in my wallet. Now imagine that a very hungry family approached me for food. Imagine that I gave them $2. What would that look like? Even though $2 billion is a lot of money, not only did most influential people see Bezos’ action as too little, but also questioned whether his charity was meant to create a positive image in society. Either way, this story is a good starting point for my homily.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Friday morning, just as I was looking for a start to this homily, a mother of a young man who plays for the Carroll High School Patriots sent me an e-mail saying, “We need a Patriot win against CJ Eagles tonight. Say a little prayer!” I replied, “For you I will pray for the Patriots, but for Fr. Bob Jones I will pray for the Eagles.” This way no matter who wins, I can say God heard my prayer. As it turns out the Eagles won! Here is another story. Today, India and Pakistan are playing a very crucial cricket match for the Asia cup. Of course, Jesus is on India’s side, right? How could he not? These are very naïve, harmless examples. However, apply the same rivalry to a job situation, to how the inheritance is shared, to sibling rivalry, to race relations, to the upcoming elections, to international politics; suddenly we have the perfect recipe for serious conflict and war. 

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

“Not my family, not my problem!” On the 26thof September, I am organizing an evening to share my experience with undocumented immigrants at El Paso and Juarez. I posted the information and flyer on my Facebook page. One of the actual responses on my post from someone who identified himself as a Christian was, “Not my family, not my problem!” For all the years I have been on social media, this was my first jaw-dropping, shocking moment. Immaterial of the issue, I cannot believe that a Christian could think this way. What use is faith, if it does not lead to action? What use is action if it does not originate in faith? 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings 

Perhaps many of you know that I spent most of last week in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico, on an immersion experience of the immigration crisis, along with 15 other priests. Our goal was to understand the immigration issue in depth, to express solidarity with the immigrants, to visit them at the various refugee shelters in El Paso and Juarez, and to pray at the border with Bishop Mark Sietz of El Paso along with other religious leaders. 

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.