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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

(Fr. Satish is in India visiting his parents. This homily was preached by him three years back. The homily is still relevant for today as we reflect Christ's call in the Gospel).

Each time I leave my home in India to return back to my ministry in Dayton, the  last day, the last hours, and the last moments are even intensely emotional. Just before I leave, mom and dad always pray over me and give me their blessings. As they blessed me this time I realized how much it hurt all of us to part from each other. For some reason, my mother always surprises me with her prayers over me. She prayed something like, “Loving God, bless the people of my son’s parish whom you have called him to serve. Bless them and let them know your love through him.” This is what is surprising about my mother – she is always able to rise above the immediate situation and find the bigger meaning and purpose. She did this when I left home at 16 and she does it even now when I am 48. In her simple prayer, my mother, had lifted us all from our gloom and given meaning. We still wept as we parted but there was hope.

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was watching a show on the Hadron collider, the most expensive scientific experiment ever done. The collider conducts experiments in particle physics to recreate the same condition that existed when the Big Bang occurred. How much do you think has been spent on this experiment? Thus far $ 6 billion has been spent and another 5 billion has been dedicated to it. This makes experiment controversial. Is this experiment really worth it? Should we not be spending this money on other urgent human needs? Particle physicists justify the experiment by saying that the more we discover about the origin of the world the more we can say about ourselves and build a better future. I personally think that it is important that we know about ourselves, but there is another significant question. If our experimentation is only going to tell us about the origin of the world and how the world is held together, how much should we spend for knowing the meaning of life? If we take today’s scripture seriously the most significant question about the meaning of life does not cost us money, but rather, it sets us on a life-long quest.

The Epiphany of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Last week, I had, what I am now calling, “homily fatigue.” I think the way Christmas fell this year took its toll on me. Hence, what I have for you today instead of full length homily, is a brief reflection.    

Today is the feast of the Epiphany. Even though this feast is about Jesus, I want to begin with Mary. Today’s scripture tells us that the Magi “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” 

I absolutely love this image… the child with his mother, Mary. 

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Scripture Readings

In preparing this homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, I have been thinking… What is the meaning of a “holy family?” How do we define a “holy family?” Are there criteria? In other words, “What makes a family, holy?” If there is even one person in the family who is not living an exemplary Christian life, would that family still be a holy family? If there are arguments, misunderstandings, addictions, broken relationships, deep hurts… could that family still be a holy family? 

I have to admit that my homily for the Feast of the Holy Family has been influenced by my experiences this week. I have three stories of three different families… and then some practical implications. 

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Scripture Readings

The author of this story is unknown. All we know is that it is written by a young mother and that it was Christmas day. She writes: “We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee. His eyes were wide with excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. "Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy,” the man said to Erik. Erik was responding with glee to the man’s comments. My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. We ate in silence; all except for Erik and the man. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man was poised between the door and me. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly, a very old, smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik, in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor -- gently, so gently, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back.”

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

Sunday Readings 

There are two stories in today’s scripture readings. The first reading tells us the story of David and gospel reading is the story of the annunciation. I am stepping aside Advent themes to deal with very common questions that people ask: “What is God’s will for me?” “How do I discern whether I am doing God’s will or not?” Discerning God’s will is a complex spiritual exercise. In the stories of David and Mary, we might have some insights.  

Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

For Advent this year, my focus has been almost entirely on the first readings of the last three weeks, more specifically, the Babylonian exile. In the first week of Advent, I focused on the people of God desperately yearning God’s redeeming intervention. In the second week of Advent, I reflected on Isaiah’s announcement the exile was coming to an end. I remember preaching that while the exile could be attributed to God’s justice, the people newfound freedom was an act of God’s mercy. This week, we continue with our reflection on the exile. Only thing is that today’s first reading is directed toward the people who are finally back in their homeland. 

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, one of the first things we do is examine our consciences and seek God’s mercy. “Kyrie Eleison! Christe Eleison! Kyrie Eleison!” And then the celebrants announces the absolution, saying, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life!” The congregation responds with a resounding, “Amen!” And then community does something special. We break out into the Gloria! “Glory to God in the highest,” we sing, “and peace to his people on earth!” The reason is simple. The experience of God mercy and forgiveness leads us to rejoicing! One moment the mood is sorrow for sin and the next moment the mood changes to praise! This contrast of moods is also the best way to explain the spirit of Advent. All of Advent we prepare our lives for Christ. And then at Christmas, we break forth singing “Glory to God in the highest!” 

First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

The Christmas frenzy has begun. No matter how much I try each year, there is no escaping it. More often than not, I feel violated by all the in-your-face glitz and glamor. It is crazy, but my first Christmas party is on the 12th of Dec. It goes ridiculously downhill after that. I have given up trying to make Advent a quite time. The social and commercial dimensions of the season are so blatant, that there simply is no escaping it. All I can do is to make sure that I do not lose out on the real meaning of the Advent season. 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Scripture Readings

I am sure you have heard about the concept, ‘Culture Wars.’ Culture Wars refers to the conflict between traditionalist or conservative values and progressive or social liberal values in the Western world. Here in the United States, the term culture wars entered our contemporary vocabulary in the 1990’s with a book by James David Hunter, entitled, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. On the Feast of Christ the King, I begin my homily with a reference to Culture Wars because this movement is affecting the Catholic Church greatly. There is a very small but a vociferous movement in the Church that believes that Pope Francis is committing heresy. There are many reasons for this accusation, but the most prominent of them is that the Pope making it possible for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion on a case-by-case basis. They accuse him or undermining centuries of Church doctrine. Pope Francis, on the other hand, is clear the he is not overruling doctrine, but that he is providing pastoral care for those in need. The culture war in the church runs the risk of creating a schism. 

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Latest data tells us that now the richest 1% own 86% of the world’s wealth. In the United States, top 20% of Americans own 86% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population own 14%. I begin with my homily with these statistics not only because of staggering the inequality, but also because in a Capitalist economy such as ours, the Parable of the Talents might make us conclude that the top 1% are really the heroes of the parable, and that the rest of us are lazy, stupid, and incapable. After all, the master said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”  Matthew’s purpose of writing this parable is certainly not economic. If the Master is God and the servants are us, it becomes very important that the parable is interpreted correctly, least it become a tool for oppression. 

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

At every baptism, after the child is draped in white garment, the celebrant lights the baptismal candle from the Paschal candle, and hands it to the child with these words, “Receive the light of Christ.” And then the celebrant says to the parents and godparents: “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.” These words are a direct reference to to parable of the ten wise and foolish maidens in today’s gospel reading. The symbolism of the lighted candle is simply this - that our baptism, at which we receive the new life of Christ, is an invitation to live that new life, wisely and not foolishly, with faith rather then faithlessly, in anticipation of Christ’s coming rather than aimlessly. Our baptism is a commitment to intentional living. 

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Last Tuesday, the Church observed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On the 31st of October, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian Monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of the chapel at Wittenberg castle. Luther’s main issue in the 95 theses was indulgences. There are very few events that divided humanity in the way the Reformation did. It is not my intention to criticize Martin Luther, to discuss indulgences, or to judge 16th Century Church leaders. Historians tells us, though, that the schism caused by the Reformation could have been avoided. Depending on which side of history the Catholics and Protestants find themselves, they look at the Reformation very differently. Yet Catholics admit that perhaps that the Popes of the time, Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X, misread the signs of the time. As Renaissance Popes, they were more interested in art, music, and architecture rather than paying serious attention to the needs of their flock. The rest is history. 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The great Christian mystic, John of the Cross, once said, “In the evening of our lives we will be judged by love alone.” Today’s readings are bound to create a genuine problem for preachers and congregations in Catholic parishes across the world, unless of course, preachers decide to by-pass the issue. The very first statement in today’s first reading says- “Thus says the LORD: You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Across the globe, national elections are being won and lost based on particular political party’s stand on both documented and undocumented aliens or immigrants. Not only do some Catholics disagree with the Catholic Church’s pastoral teaching on immigration, but they have gone so as far as to openly dissent with Pope Francis and the US Catholic bishops on the issue. 

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" (Mt 22:21). This perhaps one of the most well-known quotes of Jesus. I would like to reflect on this quote in three questions. 

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

How many of you are familiar with the Baltimore Catechism? It is very different than the Catechism of the Catholic Church we have today. Published in 1891, it has about 300 pages and the entire Catechism is written in question answer format. I think it is still the clearest and direct explanation of the Catholic faith. For example, the first question is, “Who made the world?” The answer, “God made the world.” The sixth question  asks “Why did God make you?” The answer is, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” Did to hear that? God made us to be happy! This may sound contrary to the lessons we draw from today’s gospel parable of the man thrown out from the wedding feast for coming without a wedding garment. In fact, when understood correctly, even this parable is about happiness.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

This is the third week in a row that the gospel reading is about a vineyard. Two weeks back we heard the parable of the workers hired to work in a vineyard during different times of the day and being paid equally by its owner. Last week we heard the story of the landowner who asked his two sons to work in the vineyard and them responding differently. Both these parable had a common message - that God was accessible to the first and last alike, and yet, that it was the ones who were last that were walking in the kingdom of God first. This was not because God was somehow unjust, but because some of those who were first refused God’s offer of unconditional and redeeming love for all people. 

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I am not going to talk about the state of public discourse in our country. People are up to their noses with it. To get respite, many people have chosen to withdraw from public discourse. Others have completely abandoned social media and news channels. I am not going to talk about it either, because I don’t want you to feel oppressed in church as well. My personal challenge has been to discern my Christian code of conduct in these times. As a Catholic priest, pastor, and a public figure, how do I navigate through the divisiveness and the hate without also compromising the cause of justice and righteousness? How do I become a healer and reconciler? These are questions that affect my eternity.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

How often have you cried out and said, “Its not fair!” I probably say this at least once day. Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am not. When we experience an injustice, we seek justice from the justice system. It is the right thing to do. It is right to seek justice not only on a social level, but we Catholics also believe that justice is a divine quality. We know God to be just. There is a problem, however. When we have done something wrong and we come before God, we don’t seek justice, but rather, mercy. Here, then, is the dichotomy - we know God to be just but we expect to be treated with mercy. If God treated us sinners in the same way that our justice system treats offenders, what would the confessional look like? In the Christian tradition, God is known to be both just and merciful? Where do justice and mercy meet? The purpose of the parable of the generous vineyard owner in today’s gospel reading is meant to address precisely this question. Just to recall, in the parable, a vineyard owner invites laborers to work in his vinegar at various time during the day, but pays them all the same wages, which causes the ones who came first to the field to grumble. 

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Besides “Love one another, as I have loved you,” no other teaching of Jesus is more definitive of Christianity than his teaching on forgiveness. There are no ‘ifs’ and 'buts' attached to Jesus command to forgive. This makes the teaching of forgiveness challenging for the holiest of Christians. It is simple, it is straight, and it is uncompromising. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant in today’s gospel reading ends with this saying, “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” As far as Christian spirituality is concerned, the unconditional demand for forgiveness is where the rubber hits the road.