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"We Must Obey God Rather Than Men"

Sunday Mass Readings

Zimbabwe, the small country in the South of Africa is much in the news these days. The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for more than two decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small British colonist community in the 1980’s and became the country's first native leader. Prior to his reign there had been much oppression of the natives by British settlers. For example, in 1930, the Land Apportionment Act restricted the native access to land, forcing many of them into wage labour. Native opposition to colonial rule grew between 1930 and 1960. Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 and since then has been the ruled by Mugabe. While he began well, he changed the country’s Constitution in 1987 and became its executive president. They say, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Now, Mugabe presides over a nation whose economy is in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace. Zimbabwe has the world's highest annual rate of inflation - 1,700% - and only one person in five is in full-time work.

"Jesus is Alive! We 'are' the Evidence"

Easter Sunday Mass Readings

The cover of the April 8, 1966 issue of The Time did not have pictures of any personalities or world events. It had only three words printed on it: Is God Dead? As early as the Oct 22, 1965 issue, Time had printed an article on the “death-of-God theologians.” Among them was Thomas J.J Altizer, an associate professor of religion at Atlanta’s Emory University who wrote, “We must recognize that the death of God is a historical event: God has died in our time, in our history, in our existence.” What compounded the issue was the discovery in December 1945 of fifty-two Coptic extra Biblical texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. These documents were translated into English by 1970. These texts presented the life, death and resurrection of Jesus rather differently than the traditional gospels. The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, The Gospel of Judas and other extra-biblical literature do not take the resurrection of Jesus for granted. Fictional accounts of Jesus’ life like the Da Vinci Code, and the more recent documentary on the tomb of Jesus by Hollywood director James Cameron only add fuel to the fire.

"By His Stripes We are Healed"

Good Friday Readings

In recent times, scientists have issued stark warnings about the perils of “global warming.” Human beings have been on the face of the earth for thousands of years. Has it taken us this long to realize that our actions and our lifestyle has consequences? If there is anything “global warming” is teaching us it is this, that we must take responsibility for our actions. To look at the melting ice in the artic region; to see rising sea levels causing untold hardships to the poor in low lying areas; to see the change in weather patterns across the world; to see the dramatic increase of droughts in Africa and Australia, flash floods in East and South Asia and hurricanes and tornadoes in the Americas is indeed a heart wrenching experience. We have seen this closely both in New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi. The most sobering experience for me has been to look at all these natural calamities and realize that in some way, I am responsible for this.

"The Suffering Servant of God"

Palm Sunday Readings

We know from the media that the political climate in the country is very charged right now. Republicans and Democrats have been trading charges as each other over a number of issues. A growing number of people are expressing disgust at the low standards of the political establishment. Some people say this is the lowest it has ever gotten. In the midst of all this, two high profile members from opposite political parties made significant announcements. John Edwards announced that his wife’s cancer had returned. A week later, Tony Snow, the White House spokesperson announced that his colon cancer had returned. God, goodness, heroism, evil, cancer, sickness, pain and death, do not differentiate a Democrat from a Republican, or for that matter an Indian from an American. We are all human beings and subject to the same human condition. Human beings have strived for centuries, to avoid the exigencies of the human condition. They have sought to avoid suffering and become immortal. However, we also know that enormous amount of wealth cannot prevent physical and emotional pain from tormenting us; the best anti-aging creams cannot stop us from aging; and even our foremost medical technology cannot stop us from ultimate death. No wonder, then, that when it comes to matters of life and death, like the Edwards and the Snows, we all turn to the same God.

On Human Dignity

Sunday Mass Readings

Consider the following news worthy events that hit the news papers this week:

First on a humour note: There is a new online dating website that promises to only let beautiful people obtain membership. The aptly named functions like a regular dating website with pictures and profiles, but members must maintain an 8 out of 10 rating to continue their membership. Well, I guess the rest of us should spend lonely, pathetic lives.

On a more serious note: This year, 2007, Britain is commemorating the 200th year of the abolition of British slavery. Over the centuries, 12 million people from Africa were captured, sold, bought and enslaved. While European countries have paid millions of dollars for the holocaust, for some reason countries are apprehensive about either apologising for slavery or talking about reparation. Finally, Tony Blair said sorry for the slave trade, months after his statement of "deep sorrow" was criticised by some for stopping short of a full apology. In America, this is a highly contentious issue.

"Coming to His Senses"

Sunday Mass Readings

If we had to trace our faith journey beginning with first Holy Communion till today, what would it look like? How has our faith matured over the years? If you get the chance, it would be a worthwhile exercise to list the areas where we have grown or perhaps even declined. Today’s readings encourage us to undertake such an exercise. More than any penance we may have undertaken this Lent, this might be the most important task.

Third Sunday of Lent

Today's Mass Readings

The power of desires! I am thinking of the last time Mega Millions was at $ 216 million. I imagined myself winning the amount. And if I did, I imagined paying off the parish debt, setting up a great Catholic school system for Dayton, and helping those who die of starvation. But I did not win. So here I am still poor and my genuine good desires dangling like a pie in the sky. But I have other desires. I wished my parents to be here for my graduation and this desire will be fulfilled. For all of us, desires are a part of our life. Some of these desires are fulfilled some of these are not. I met a couple last week who really desire a child and they don’t have one. I know somebody desired to overcome his addiction and have a family and now he is married and is expecting his first child. In particular, I want to recognize in our midst those catechumens and candidates who for a whole year had desired Christ union with the Church. This Easter God will bring their desire for fulfilment.

Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

This week, I spent quite a few hours in the confessional. I celebrated he Sacrament of Reconciliation for the students of St. Helen School on Tuesday. On Thursday, I was at the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the students at Immaculate Conception School. On the same evening, we also the Tri-Parish reconciliation service. In numerous instances, the sense of comfort and relief in the faces of the penitents is something that only I get to see. One penitent put it this way: “I just want to be this (makes a gesture connecting her heart and God above), to be OK.” Tears rolling down her cheeks, she longed to have God back in her life again. She left the confessional in total relief and peace. It’s also called joy!  

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

In today’s gospel Luke provides us with some very descriptive historical details. This kind of historical detail is rare in the four gospels, because, in terms of literary genre, they are not historical books. The gospels are a unique genre, and it is meant to inspire faith. Since Luke does give us historical data, we must pay attention to it. Luke tells us who the Roman Emperor was (Tiberius Caesar), who the governor of Judea was (Pontus Pilate), who the regional leaders were (Herod, Phillip, and Lysanias), and who the high priest were (Annas and Caiaphas), when John the Baptist began his ministry. Surely, Luke was being intentional in giving these details. What do these details teach us? I would like to suggest three things:  

Scripture Readings

 A friend of mine was telling me her experience at the stores on Black Friday. A mother was standing at the checkout line. Her two little children were giving her a harrowing time. My friend, who was also in line, decided to help her out. She pointed towards the security camera and said to the kids, “Santa is watching you from there!” The kids’ eyes grew big and they stopped dead! The mother had no further trouble with them.

Scripture Readings

With a contentious mid-term elections barely over,  I am not sure about our appetite for the Feast of Christ the King. Often, we completely de-politicize the gospel. However, think about it. Jesus was brought before the political establishment of the time, by the religious establishment of the time, to be judged, condemned, and finally crucified. Jesus’ condemnation and death as much a political event as it was a religious event. On the other hand, perhaps the feast is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the political contentions. The Feast of Christ the King tells us that the cross was hardly was the end of the story. The feast of Christ the Kings celebrates the reality that the cross became Jesus’ throne, that strength lies in humility, and that power lies in love. 

Scripture Readings

We have been hit by devastating hurricanes and wild fires this year. Especially, when it comes to hurricanes, people are advised to evacuate. I always wonder why some people do not heed the warnings. I understand that some people do not evacuate for compelling reasons - poverty, health issues, family compulsion, pets. But there are those who could and simply will not. And as they were warned, things end tragically for many of them. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded that life itself comes with ample caution. We are all invited to live well. We are invited to strive to be happy. We are all invited to make life meaningful. However, the gospel cautions us - all things will come to an end. The Gospel cautions us that life is unpredictable. As with hurricanes and wild fires, there are those who heed the warning and those that do not.  

Scripture Readings

There are two stories in today’s reading and they both involve poor widows. In the first story, Elijah, as he flees from his murderous enemies, seeks refuge with a poor widow. The story tells us that she and her son had only and handful of flour and a little oil left. They were desperately poor. The second story tells us about Jesus’ admiration of a poor widow who “from her poverty” (Mk 12:44), put in two small coins into the treasury. The two coins were all she had. These two thought-provoking stories. 

Scripture Readings

Here is a tweet from a priest that I follow on twitter: “All liturgy should be celebrated solely by the candlelight of beeswax candles in an enormous, dark church filled with the smoke of incense. All parts should be either chanted loudly and solemnly in Latin or said in such a low voice that no one can hear them.” Here was my reply. “At the Last Supper, on which every Mass is based, none of these eccentricities existed!” What is it about us that we like to take what is accidental to Christianity and bring it center stage? And what is it about us that we take what is center stage of Christianity and relegate it to the boundaries? 

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. 

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? 

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. 

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?”