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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I am a cradle Catholic. I was twenty, and about two-and-a-half years in the seminary, when I had my first deep spiritual experience. I made a good confession, I resolved to spend time in prayer each day, and also make some serious life-changes. Because I felt close to God, and because I was earnest about living my new life, I expected life to get a lot easier. The opposite happened. I lost some friends and I found my new existence to be a struggle. Like me, most people who newly become Christians or have had a conversion experience, expect life to get easier. They expect temptations to go away, their prayer to be answered easily and their strained relationships to get smooth. Their rational is very logical. As they move closer to God, and as they embrace holiness, they expect a turn around. The expectation makes perfect sense. If you take medication for an ailment and do everything the doctor asks you to do, you are supposed to get better. In spiritual life, often, the opposite happens. Life actually becomes harder. It is counterintuitive, but this is exactly what happens. 

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Not because Jesus was having an identity crisis, he asks his disciples who they thought he was. Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” As I said last week about the story of the Canaanite woman, Matthew wants his readers know that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. What happens after this is truly meaningful. Jesus does not ASK Peter who Peter is. Jesus TELLS Peter who Peter is - the rock on which he will build his church. In fact, Jesus defines two things - Peter and the church. Jesus was not having a identity crisis. Jesus was giving Peter and the church a vision and a mission. 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Today’s gospel reading has confounded a lot of people in the pews. Its the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus pleading with him to heal his daughter. It is a great story of great faith. However, do you cringe every time you hear Jesus say, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs?” Was Jesus’ response to the helpless and desperate mother an insult? Let me simply say this: there is more to the story!

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Do you think that Jesus experienced fear? Were there moments in his life where he was overcome with fear? The gospels have no recorded instance of Jesus being afraid. The only instance that we can assume that he was afraid was at the garden of Gethsemane, where Luke tells us that, “He was filled with such agony and prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood.” On the other hand, the gospels have instances of Jesus urging his disciples not be afraid. Just within the last two weeks, twice we have heard that twice. Last weekend, after the transfiguration, he came to his frightened apostles and said, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” In today’s gospel readings he came to the rescue of his terrified apostles and said, “Take courage, It is I; do not be afraid!” 

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Whenever I read passages like the ones we have as our readings today, I feel a little disconnected. I am not saying that I have any doubts about the marvelous experiences of Daniel in today’s first reading or the apostles in today's second reading and the gospel. All I am saying is that I haven’t had them. I am not sure about you, but, I am left with a piece of bread and some wine in my hands. It takes everything in me to believe that the God who appeared to Daniel and the apostles is the same God I hold in my hands. I lay my hand on people who are ill, anoint them with Holy Oil and believe that God is hearing my prayer. All I have is the quiet time I spend before God in prayer. Sometimes, it takes everything in my to believe that there is somebody on the other side. 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I wish that today’s first reading was read prior to last Sunday’s reading from the book of Wisdom. Today’s reading recounts the story of God’s gift of wisdom given to Solomon. The book of Wisdom was written after God gave Solomon the gift of Wisdom. 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I am going to begin my homily with a few sayings: “A jealous ear hears everything, and discordant grumblings are no secret” (Wis 1:10). Here is another one: “A great number of wise men is the safety of the world” (Wis 6:24). One more: “Our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred because it is fixed with a seal; and not one returns” (Wis 2:5). The last one: “Age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, not can it be measured in terms of years” (Wis 4:8). All these saying are from he book of Wisdom, the book from which our first reading is taken. 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The use of parables to teach the lessons of life was one of the most brilliant strategies that Jesus used. Besides the fact that Jesus used imageries and analogies from the daily events to connect with his audience, parables by their nature are open ended. We can draw multiple meanings from parables. For that matter, a parable never runs out of meanings. The parable of the Sower and the Seed is one of the richest parables in the gospels. 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We may not think too much about this, but everything we know, we act, we think, and we live is learned. Think about a new born infant. Besides breathing, hunger, sleep, wailing, and of course pooping, the baby knows very little. Many of these behaviors are instinctual. A new born baby has very little intentionality. What the baby learns as he or she grows up depends on the home and society. As a child grows up, he or she learns behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives. Everything we know, act, think, and live today - is learnt. 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Instead of a customary homily, I am going to share three stories with you. I am basing these stories on today’s first reading, where the goodness shown by strangers bear great and unexpected fruit. In 2 Kings 4:8-16, an influential woman in Shunem showed kindness to the prophet Elisha, who returns the favor by blessing her and her husband with a child they always desired. The reading also shows that in the most mysterious ways, God is good all the time. 

Here are my three stories: 

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Historically, you and I know how the action of one person can cause either immense harm or bring about immense good. Hitler single handedly could have prevented War War ll. He did the opposite. Over sixty million people died in that war. On the contrary, there are also people who single handedly brought much good in the world. St. Francis of Assisi, for example, single handedly reformed the Church. For more modern examples, I think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela. Their actions were redeeming actions. Perhaps in our families too there are people who either cause destruction or bring peace.

Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

On Mothers Day, when I preached a homily about mothers, a few fathers nudged their spouses and said, "Let's see what he says on Fathers Day." Of course, fathers, I do have a homily for you as well. After all without our fathers we wouldn't exist. There is a complication though. Today also happens to be the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Perhaps, the connection between the two feasts can be found in God the father who loves, provides for us, nurtures us, and redeems us in and  through the body and blood of Jesus.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Scripture Readings

The television show that entertains me during my workouts is The Little Big Shots. Hosted by Steve Harvey, the show is about kids who have unique or extraordinary abilities, and kids who Facebook or Youtube posts have gone viral. Some of these posts have a million or more views. The other day, Steve Harvey asked a three year old if she knew how how many views her post has received. She said, “a hundred.” She had in fact received five million views. When Mr. Harvey told the little girl the real numbers, she was expressionless. She simply could not comprehend the magnitude of that number. She knew it was a lot more than hundred, but she simply could not warp her mind around five million. Let me give you an adult example. There are times when we stand before something marvelous - the Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest, the Niagara Falls - and the sheer awesomeness consumes us. It is as if we get it, but we don’t get it. This is what God is like. When we stand before God, we are like that three-year-old who knew she was dealing with something big, but could not comprehend the magnitude. We get it, but we don’t get it. There is a word for it. It is called mystery! This is what we mean when we say that the Trinity is a mystery. 

Pentecost Sunday 

Scripture Readings

I read the scripture readings for Pentecost for the first time on Wednesday. As I read each of the readings I could feel my eyes tear up. Somewhere in the deepest part of my being, I feel very tormented. Nothing troubles me more than the inability of human beings to come together and work for the common good. Global conflicts, racial divides, economic inequalities, political and religious intolerance affect me deeply. When I was a kid and later as a teenager, I used to be much more optimistic. I believed then, that one day we will work through our problems. I believed that one day there will be fewer poor people in the world. I believed that one day, nations will spend less on weapons and more on education and development. At fifty-one, I have become less optimistic. I have not lost hope, by my hope is fading that in my life-time I will see a more equitable, peaceful, and united world. The scene on that first Pentecost was the beginning of a revolution, a recreation of a wounded world. The tears filling my eyes was an expression of two things: first, my regret at the world continuing to be a wounded world; second, a pining for a new Pentecost. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please let your Spirit work wonders in our midst again.” As I prayed, I continued to write my prayer. I invite you to pray with me. 

The Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings

I have a letter with me written by my mother on August 10, 1992. Earlier that month, I had written home about the difficulty I was having in the seminary. I was trying to get my parents opinion on taking a leave of absence. Here is what she wrote back: “If you cannot continue, I am telling you as I have said always, “Our door is always open.” I have no intention to make you a priest. If you find it difficult, get out early. I am only waiting for your ordination to retire. Find a good job in Bangalore and settle the matter. Nothing to worry. I am with you.” With the assurance that my mother gave me, anybody would think that I quit. However, that is not how it worked out. I said to my self, if my mother is with me, I can weather any storm. I decided to take my difficulty in the seminary head on, knowing that, no matter what, my mother was with me.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

There is a new book that is creating great controversy in Christian circles. It is written by Rod Dreher and entitled,The Benedict Option. The subtitle of the books says it all. It proposes a “Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” Dreher believes that our nation is no more a Christian nation but a post-Christian one. He believes that Christianity is entering a new Dark Age and that in our time and within our civilization we may live to see the death of Christianity. The main enemy of Christianity, according to him, is militant secularism which threatens to eliminate religion entirely. Dreher invites believers follow the model of the sixth-century monk St. Benedict, who, as the Roman Empire collapsed, withdrew from society and set up religious communities. Following the Benedict option, Dreher invites today’s Christians to withdraw from politics, move inward, and deepen, purify and preserve their faith. He also suggests that Christians secede from mainstream culture, pull their children from public school, put down roots in separate communities and find new and more radical ways to practice their faith. Even though I do not entirely buy Dreher’s main argument, I at least think that he is concerned about the right thing - the relevance and authenticity of Christianity for in our times. 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Perhaps most of you know that Pope Francis has been on a twenty-four hour visit to Fatima. He was there to canonize two of the three children who witnessed the apparition of Mary. Apart from all the celebrations, he also tweeted, “Whenever we look at Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.” On mother’s day, there is nothing more beautiful Pope Francis could have said about Mary. Mothers are the face of love and tenderness of God and Mary. In my life these days, much focus has been on my father because of his ill-health. I love my father to death. However, it is my mother who is the hero. This woman who gave birth to me, nurtured me, and loved me - this woman is my hero. Gentle yet strong, loving yet straight-forward, tender yet firm, holy yet humble  — she is my hero. She is small but she has the biggest heart. My mother is my hero. As I often say, “My mother is the best mother in the whole wide world.” I am sure most of you will say that same thing about your mother. 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

High profile geo-political events have monopolized our attention for more than a year now. Brexit, the American election, the North Korean conundrum, and now the French and British elections. Locally, the issue has been between fake news and alternative truth. In the midst of all the brouhaha, news about critical humanitarian crises have not made the headlines. Twenty-three million people in East Africa risk hunger, starvation, and death due to a persistent drought. The problem is compounded by ethnic conflict. As you know, the most affected people in times like this are women and children. For the past couple of weeks, I have been unable to detach myself from the suffering of the people in East Africa. 

Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

On the 25th of April, the feast of St. Mark, I completed 23 years of priesthood. Neither was it a milestone nor did I spend too much time celebrating it. Through the busyness of the day, though, I often found myself consumed by thoughts of my many years as a priest. I am 51 years old and I have spent a little less than half of it as a priest. I spent 11 years in the seminary before that. So thirty-four of the fifty-one years have been in religious life. As I looked back at my life, I realized how these thirty-four years have been like today’s gospel story. The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is symbolic of my own life. Just like them my life too has been an attempt at discipleship. It has been a marvelous journey. Yet, just like the two disciples, my journey is also punctuated by doubts, fears, anxieties, sins, and failures. In spite of my failures and occasional lack of confidence in God, I have always found God by my side. Sometimes as a stranger, sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a person who challenges me, in prayer, in the scripture, in the Eucharist, and most of all when life is rough, I have found that Christ is always there.

Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Scripture Readings

There are 3 million fewer people calling themselves Catholic today than in 2007. As a result, the share of the U.S. population that identifies as Catholic dropped from approximately 24 percent to 21 percent. Catholics are not the only ones experiencing this free-fall.Every major Christian denomination, including non-denominational Christians, is experiencing it. The only population growing is the “Nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation. 23% of the American population identifies itself as “Nones. This percentage is frighteningly close to the 21% of the Catholic population.