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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. 

The Resurrection of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Pardon me, for my Easter homily is going to begin with Good Friday. After all, if there was no Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday. A parishioner was grappling with faith questions. She said, “Why did Jesus have to die? I understand that the Old Testament teaches us that the blood of animals was offered as sin offering. Could not God have saved us without the shedding of the further blood? Is our God a vengeful God who cannot be placated without an atoning sacrifice?

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Scripture Readings

Since I have been back from India after visiting my father who was seriously ill, numerous people have asked me about my trip. As I told them my story, many people shared their similar experiences. They talked about the time their parents were ill or about the time they took care of their parents. Some of them even cried about the time they lost their father or mother. In the strangest way, my story became theirs and their story became mine. It is almost as if by telling each other our stories, we were finding comfort, hope, and peace. 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Most of you know that I rushed home to India last week to see my father. This is the the third time in five months that I have travelled nine thousand miles. Behind my frequent visits is a fear - the fear that this might be the last time I get to see my father. It is a crippling fear. It is not that I do not believe in eternity or that I lack hope in the face of death. My fear has got to do with the utter grief that death bring brings. My fear has got to do with the physical absence of the person I love. In so many ways, death changes things permanently. 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

I visited the Montgomery County Jail a few years back to hear a confession. When somebody makes a life-changing confession, I often remind them that the person who came into the confession is not the person who was going out. In other words, a person comes into the confessional a sinner but leaves a saint. But I could not say that to this man, because he was not going out anywhere. In spite of his confession he would still be in jail. In fact, I would be the one who would be going out. As I left the doors of the jail, I had that weird sense that even though this man was incarcerated, that at this moment he was more liberated than I was. Talk about irony, talk about light and darkness, talk about sin an holiness, talk about blindness and being able to see… it was truly weird.

Third Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings 

(My homily today i a little different. It is an exercise in imaginative prayer. I have tried to enter into the mind of the Samaritan woman and narrate her experience first person). 

You know what the worse thing is? They treat you like a piece of furniture - the cheap ones. The expensive ones… they got handled better than I did. I married five of them. Not one of them did it for love. I gave it my all. I cooked, I cleaned, I served, but was never loved. I even drew water from the well by myself. Chivalry is extinct! Neither was there any gratitude or appreciation. The man I live with now is no better. I was hoping that sixth time was the charm. I am the kind of girl whose dreams never come true. You think I would learn. 

Second Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Some Catholics are facing a huge conundrum this Lent. St Patricks day falls on a Friday. “How can we not eat bangers and mash?” “Can I have green beer, even if I have given beer for Lent? “OMG! What are we going to do?” Someone sent me an e-mail asking if the archbishop was going to give a general dispensation this year. What do I say? I could say, “Jesus did not transform stones into bread in the desert!” Generally my answer has been, “Its up to you. What does your Lenten abstinence mean for you? What are you trying to accomplish through your Lenten abstinence?” 

First Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings 

Each year, we keep aside fourty days out of 352, for fasting, abstinence, penance, and prayer. If we really think about it, it seems strange that an entire people would put themselves through artificial hardships. The rest of the year, we try to make life easier. The rest of the year we strive to avoid hardships, inconveniences and pain. And yet, for fourty days, we freely and willfully submit ourselves to the Lenten penances. Why? Why are we putting ourselves through these hardships? Merely because of tradition? Or is it guilt? Is there a deeper meaning to our personal Lenten penances? 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We continue with our reflection of the Sermon on the Mount in today’s gospel reading. Jesus has been contrasting the Old Testament Laws with his New Laws. He said, “You have heard that it was said of old… but I say to you….” In the same way, Jesus now contrasts paganism and Christian discipleship. We heard Jesus say last week, “And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” On the contrary, Jesus asked his disciples to love enemies and pray for those who persecute. And then, when he teaches them how to pray, he asks them not to babble like the pagans. In today’s reading he says, “So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.’ (Mt 6:33).