Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ez 34:11-12,15-17; I Cor 15:20-26,28; MT 25:31-46

A second grade teacher tells her class that she's a big “Los Angeles Lakers” fan. She's really excited about it and asks the kids if they're Lakers fans too. Everyone wants to impress the teacher and says they're Lakers fans too, except one kid, named Josh. The teacher looks at Josh and says, "Josh, you're not a Lakers fan?" He says, "Nope, I’m a Christ the King fan!" She says, “I have never heard of a state basketball team by that name! Well why you are a ‘Christ the King’ fan, and not a Lakers fan?" Josh says, "Well, my mom is a Christ the King fan, and my dad is a Christ the King fan, so I'm a Christ the King fan." The teacher's not real happy. She's a little hot under the collar. She says, "Well, if your mom were an idiot, and your dad were a moron, then what would you be?!" Josh says, "Then I'd be a Lakers fan!"

Today is the feast of Christ the King. The Gospels assert that Jesus was of royal blood, descended from the House of David, the king. He was a king of a different order than all the other earthly kings. What king was ever like Jesus, born in a stable not a palace, with no place to lay his head, and buried in another man's tomb. His accession to the throne was his entry into Jerusalem, the royal capital, riding on a donkey rather than in a state coach. His royal robe was a spittle-covered purple rag, his crown was of thorns and his sceptre a reed. He made his royal progress weak and bleeding through the streets, to the jeers not the cheers of the populace. At Calvary he was enthroned on an executioner's gibbet.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1: 32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.” The magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt. 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.” During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk.19: 38) “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn.18: 37) “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus made his assertion, “You say that I am a king,” then went on, “For this I was born and came into this world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” Luke’s gospel tells us (19: 19), that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” and Jesus (Luke 23: 42-43), promised paradise to the repentant thief on the cross, who made the request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Today’s gospel on the Last Judgment presents Christ the King coming in his heavenly glory to judge us.

The Feast of Christ the King was established nearly 85 years ago by Pope Pius XI. After the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, the inhuman atrocities and untold misery, made people lose their hope and faith in the just world. Then, the Pope reasserted with the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King, that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus remains the King of all history, all time, and all creation and of the entire universe. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title, and he assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the kingdom. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14). In Christ's kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

There is only one king in the whole of history who had served his followers. Approximately 2 billion Christians in the world today declare him to be their king. His kingdom is everlasting, because it is built on the everlasting principles, of love and service.

Christ the King has nothing in common with earthly rulers, so his kingdom can be nothing like an earthly kingdom. In his realm there are no masters because everyone is a servant. Even the King came to serve and not to be served. Those who would be greatest in the Kingdom are those who make themselves the least. The reward for service is not promotion and financial gain but to be given further opportunities for service. To be his follower would mean hard work, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are very grand and out of this world.

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ, and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."

In the parable about the separation of sheep from goats in the Last Judgment, Jesus reminds us to get ready to answer “yes” to his six questions based on our corporal and spiritual acts of charity. “I was hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned; did you help Me?”
Blessed Mother Theresa explains that they are, "hungry, not only for bread, but hungry for love; naked not only for clothing, but for human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise." Jesus lives within these hurting people, behind their eyes, their tears, and their pain.
This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions or in the family to use it to serve Jesus. Let us examine our own consciences asking the following questions: Are we using our God-given authority in order to serve others? Are we using it to build a more just society rather than to boost our own egos? Are we using our power in any way that could help alleviate pain instead of causing pain? Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings to the best of our abilities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

XXXIII-Ordinary Sunday-A Cycle

XXXIII Sunday- A Cycle.
Prov. 31:10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Mt. 24:36, 25:14-30

This parable of the talents has a number of messages for us. First of all it tells us that God gives man differing gifts. One man received five talents, another two, and another one. It is not a man’s talent which matters; what matters is how he uses it. God never demands from a man ability which he has not got. He is not someone who gathers from where he did not scatter, as the man who got one talent was afraid of.

Men are not equal in talent; but men can be equal in effort. It is quite remarkable that the man simply entrusted the talents to the servants. He did not tell them what to do with them. Neither did he tell them that he would demand them back on his return. The servants drew conclusions for themselves. Two of them decided to take risk and put them to use. While the third decided to play safe, burying it. As the man expected his servants to be fruitful we are also expected to be fruitful. We are also expected to appreciate all of the gifts that we have received, not only appreciate them but also use them to their greatest potential.

Our history is the history of a few who put their talents to use, and who have applied effort for their realization. We remember Socrates, Hippocrates, Alexander the great, Julius Caesar, Helen Keller, Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Gandhiji, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and a few like them. Because they tried to do something. Gandhiji could not wipe out violence from the face of the earth, Martin Luther King could not wipe out apartheid, or Mother Theresa could not wipe out poverty, but they put their effort to realize their dreams. That made them different from others. Many people asked Mother Teresa, do you think you are able to save all the poor people ? She said I will do what I can.

There is a little story that comes from a book called the Star Fisher. An elderly man is walking along the edge of the water and stops occasionally, picks up something, and then tosses it into the ocean. He then walks a few steps more, picks up something, and tosses it into the ocean. A young jogger is running along and has been watching the man. Finally his curiosity gets the best of him and he stops and goes over to the old gentleman and asks: "Excuse me, what are you doing?"

The man answered: Well, I am saving the life of these star fish. The storm washed them ashore last night, the sun will be up in thirty minutes, and then they will all die. I am throwing them back into the water to save their lives.

The jogger was a bit astounded. Old man, he said, don't you know that you have thirty miles of beach ahead of you and that millions of those star fish were washed ashore last night. What possible difference do you think that you are going to make. The old man took another step picked up a star fish, and with all his might hurled it into the ocean, then turned to the jogger and said: "Well, son, I guess I made a difference in that one's life."

We are all gifted with some strength. The small size of the hummingbird, weighing only a tenth of an ounce, gives it the flexibility to perform complicated maneuvers, such as beating its wings 75 times a second. This enables the humming bird to drink nectar from flowers while hovering, but it cannot soar, glide or hop. The Ostrich, at 300 pounds, is the largest bird, but it can’t fly. However, its legs are so strong that it can run at up to 50 miles per hour, taking strides of12-15 feet.
Some people discover their unusual talents accidentally. Mohd Ali at the age of 12, discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. Ali started working with Martin to learn how to box, and soon began his boxing career.

Many of us in the church are like this third servant. Because we do not see ourselves as possessing outstanding gifts and talents, we conclude that there is nothing that we do. There was a woman who loved to sing but she would not join the choir because she was afraid she was not gifted with a golden voice. A young man would like to spread the gospel but was afraid he does not know enough Bible and theology. Imagine if only those birds sang who only sang very well, the woods would have been terribly silent.

This parable lays down a rule of life which is universally true. It tells us that to him who has more will be given, and he who has not will lose even what he has. Its meaning is simple. If a man has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. If he has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will inevitably lose it. It is the lesson of life. Talents – use them or lose them.

Some people don’t use their talents and abilities but just let God do everything for them, even the things that they can very well do themselves. A man got mad with God. "God," he said, I have been praying daily for three years that I should win the state lottery. You told us to ask and we shall receive. How come I never received all these three years I have been asking?" Then he heard the voice of God, loud and clear. "My dear son," says God. "Please do me a favor. Buy a lottery ticket."

The only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of our fellow men. Some of us are clearly very gifted with valuable abilities, but there is no one, absolutely no one, who can say he has been gifted with nothing. Stop crying about what you do not have, and start concentrating on what you do have.”
All of us in the church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of faith. Our responsibility as men and women of faith is not just to preserve and "keep" the faith. We need to trade with it. We need to sell it to the men and women of our times. We need to promote and add value to faith. This is a venture that brings with it much risk and inconvenience. But, unless we do this, we stand in danger of losing the faith just as the third servant lost his talent. The way to preserve the faith, or any other talent that God has given us, is to put it to work and make it bear fruit.
Let us discover our special talents. It may be to sing, to dance, to draw, to write, to do farming, to sympathize with others, to be a good listener, to teach or to serve. When we earnestly try to cultivate them and use them for the good of our brothers and sisters, God will tell us, “Well-done good and faithful servant, come and enter into the joy of your master.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

XXXII-Sunday in Ordinary TIme. (A)

First Reading: Wisdom 6: 12-16; 1 Thes 4: 13-18;Gospel: Matthew 25: 1-13

There is an old legend about a man who had a rather stupid servant. The master often got exasperated with his servant. One day in a fit of frustration he said to the servant, "You've got to be the stupidest man I've ever met. Look, I want you to take this staff and carry it with you. And if you ever meet a man stupider than you are, give him the staff." So the servant carried the staff. Often out in the marketplace he'd meet some pretty stupid people. But he was never sure they were worse off than he. Years passed with the servant carrying his staff. Then one day, he came back to the castle and was ushered into the bedroom of his master. His master was quite sick. In the course of their conversation, the master said, "I'm going on a long journey." The servant said, "When do you plan to be back?" The master said, "This is a journey from which I'll not return." The servant said, "Sir, have you made all the necessary preparations?" The master said, "No, I have not." The servant said, "Could you have made preparations?" The master said, "Yes, I guess I've had my life to make them, but I've been busy about other things." The servant said "Master, you're going on a journey from which you'll never return, you could've prepared for it, and you just didn't?" The master said, "Yes, I guess that's right." The servant took the staff he'd carried so long and said, "Master take this with you. At last I've met a man more stupid than myself."

Through the parable of the foolish maidens, Jesus emphasizes the fact that each and everyone of us should be prepared, stay awake, because we do not know the day or the hour when we will be summoned to answer before the Lord God. This parable, found only in Matthew's Gospel, probably served as a warning to early Christians who hoped for a speedy return of the Savior. Matthew is telling them that the return of the Lord may be delayed beyond their expectation and that they should, therefore, prepare for the long wait by providing enough oil for their lamps. Many details of the parable make good sense when seen against the framework of this principal theme.

The virgins represent the Church that is waiting for Christ’s Second Coming. The bridegroom is Christ. The wedding feast is the great and joyous occasion in which Christ comes for his Church (Rev. 19:9). The delay of the bridegroom corresponds to the delay of the Second Coming. The bridegroom's arrival in the dark of night is the Second Coming itself. The closing of the door is the final judgment.

This parable warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. It is far too late for a student to be preparing for the examination on the last day. It is too far late for a man to acquire a skill, or a character, when some task offers itself to him. To be prepared is half the victory and the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. Talent alone won't make us successful; neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless we are ready. The most important question is: 'Are we ready? Are we well prepared?' Remember, “Luck favors the mind that is prepared."

We go on living as if we think this earthly life will go on forever. Nothing is further from the truth. Death is not a distant point in the future, an endpoint of our lives. Rather, it accompanies us each step of the way and could come upon us at any time.
It’s possible to get this lesson wrong in two ways.
First, we can lull ourselves into thinking that “the day and the hour” won’t come for a long while yet. We can think we will have plenty of time to worry about our relationship with God later. That is the more common mistake, and Jesus is doing his best today to shake us out of that self-delusion. But there is another possible mistake too.
We can become so obsessed by the second coming that we start getting kind of superstitious, and we see signs everywhere that it will be such and such a day or such and such a year. This too is a mistake. Our Lord says plainly that we should always be ready because we know neither the day nor the hour. We simply need to live each moment as true, authentic Christians, and not get fixated on empty predictions and waste our time watching the clock.
If you tend to fall into this second category, take a lesson from Thomas Edison, the great inventor. Shortly after he opened his first plant, he noticed that his employees were in the habit of watching the lone factory clock. To the inventor, who was a tireless worker, this was incomprehensible. He did not indicate his disapproval verbally. Instead he had dozens of clocks placed around the plant, and he set them so that none were keeping the same time. From then on, clock-watching led to so much confusion that nobody cared what time it was.
If we are overly worried about the date and time of Christ’s Second Coming, we need to practice living fully in the present moment. There is absolutely no better way to prepare for the final call than to learn to spend each day in the company of Jesus, remembering his assurance, "I am with you always."

The second point in this parable is the symbolism of oil. Perhaps, the best explanation is that the oil stands for our personal relationship with God who is the source and power behind our good deeds or "fruit-bearing". It is not something that one can attain overnight or borrow from someone else, as the foolish virgins attempted to do. This “state of grace” is the gift God offers us which we must, personally and freely, accept and use. Oil stands for character and Christian values, which we cannot buy or borrow.

What matters is not the occasional or the last-minute burst of spiritual fervor but habitual attention to one’s responsibilities before God. At the final judgment, there will be no depending upon the resources of others, no begging or borrowing of grace.
A man was once in financial trouble. He could barely support himself and his family. Then he got an idea. He would go back to Church and ask for God’s help. He was a little nervous at first, but he finally made it through the doors. He knelt down in the back pew and prayed: “God, if you’re up there, please help me win the lottery so I can support my family.” He came back day after day and made the same prayer. But nothing seemed to happen. Weeks passed, then months. Finally, on a Friday, he was making his regular visit and praying his regular prayer: “God, if you’re up there, please help me win the lottery.” And much to his astonishment, the ceiling opened and a thunderous voice from heaven answered him: “OK, fine. But will you at least please buy a ticket?!”
How often we are like that! We want all that God promises he will give us, but we refuse to do our part; we are too lazy or fearful to take the little risk of learning to pray, or going to confession, or studying the faith with as much interest as we study the sports page.

We cannot depend on a Sunday morning service to provide for all our spiritual needs, nor on Christian fellowship to provide us with spiritual development. These things come through routine, mundane attention to ordinary spiritual disciplines, and ensure that we will have enough oil or spiritual fuel. We need to develop some holy habits in our life which take precedence over other interests and claims. As these habits become developed, they cease to be a struggle and begin to be a source of strength and blessing. They make our life powerful against the onslaught of the world. And the light of our lamp will keep burning without flickering or going out due to shortage of oil. Let’s keep vigilant and watchful, eyes fixed on the arrival of the Lord with a lamp burning with full of oil in it.