Friday, April 27, 2012

Acts 4: 8-12; 1 John 3: 1-2;Gospel: John 10: 11-18 GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY. There is the story of a particular census taker who went to a poor home in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many children she had. The woman began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Jacky, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie. The census taker interrupted her and said: "No, ma'am, that's not necessary. I only need the humans. "Ah," she said. And began to pronounce the names of the children. Once again, the census taker interrupted her and said, "No, ma'am, I just need the numbers." The old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today's gospel Jesus the good shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name. The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday and we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, devotedly taking care of his flock. In the Old Testament, the image of the Shepherd is often applied to God as well as to the leaders of the people. The book of Exodus several times calls Yahweh a shepherd. Likewise, the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compare Yahweh's care and protection of His people to that of a shepherd. Ezekiel represents God as a loving shepherd who searches diligently for the lost sheep. The life of the shepherd in biblical times was one of personal self-giving and sacrifice. His work was that of watchful care and closeness to the flock. There were two kinds of shepherds. There was the hired hand for whom keeping the sheep was just the available job. He moved from flock to flock depending on the conditions of service and he would not risk his life for them. Seeing wolves or thieves coming, he would flee for dear life and leave the flock at the mercy of the invaders. Jesus said that he is not that kind of shepherd. Then there is the shepherd-owner of the flock who grows up with the flock and stays with the same flock all his life. He knows each and every sheep in the flock individually. He calls each one by name and could tell you the personal story of each one of the sheep, when and where it was born, the problems it has had in life, its personal characteristics, etc. He attends to the individual needs of each and every one of them. He knows which ones are likely to lag behind after a long walk and he would carry them in his arms. He knows which ones were likely to stray from the flock and he would keep an eye on them when they came to dangerous places. He knows which ones are pregnant and need special food. When attacked by wolves or thieves he would risk his life and fight to defend his flock. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In the New Testament Jesus introduces himself as the good shepherd of his flock, who knows each one of us, our needs, our merits and our faults. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations. The greatest expression of his love was his death on the cross. On every page of the gospel we find Jesus seeking out these marginalized people: public sinners, lepers, Samaritans, the sick, the tormented…. He stood up to the authorities for their sake, he defied the systems that made them outcasts, he laid down his life rather than turn his back on them. A little girl reciting the 23rd Psalm began, "The Lord is my shepherd; that's all I want." Maybe she missed the wording, but she sure got the theology right. To have Jesus as our shepherd is indeed a blessing. As he moves towards the cross, Jesus holds up this model of the good shepherd, reminding his listeners that a good shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep. A pastor was taking a group of parishioners on a tour of the Holy Land. He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillsides just as in Jesus' day. He wanted to impress the group, so he told them what every good pastor tells his people about shepherds. He described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them. He barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside. There was only one problem: the man wasn't leading the sheep as the good pastor had said. No, he was behind the sheep and seemed to be chasing them. The pastor turned red. Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, “I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep -- out in front. I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep.” The man replied, “That's absolutely true... you're are correct. But I'm not the shepherd. I'm the butcher!” Jesus is the good shepherd who walks in front. He never leads us to where he has never been. He is leading the Way. Way is always in front of us, not behind us. We can not walk or drive if we don’t see the way in front of us. Jesus is the only way to the Father. He is not only our good shepherd but he is our pasture too. He is our food. He feeds us with his own body and blood. Jesus the good Shepherd laid down his life for the flock, that is, the church. In a general way he invites everyone in the church to share in the work of caring for the flock in our own little ways. But he also calls some people from among us to a life-long commitment to the work of shepherding the flock of God. These people are called to share more closely than the rest of the believers in the life and work of Jesus the Good Shepherd. If today you should hear God's voice calling you to this way of life, harden not your hearts. And if you do not hear God calling you to this way of life, then do everything in your power to encourage those who are called to it and who struggle even with faltering steps to follow the footsteps of Jesus the good shepherd. Today is World Day of Prayer for Vocations, a day that Christians are invited to reflect on the meaning of God's call and to pray for vocations. We are asked to encourage and pray for our young men to respond to God’s call to serve His Church in the ministerial priesthood. Most of us here are shepherds in one way or other. Every one who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials and politicians are all shepherds. Since, shepherding a diocese, a parish, a civil community or a family is very demanding, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and vigilance are needed every day on the part of the shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. All the shepherds need to be careful of their duties by becoming role models for under their care by leading exemplary lives. Let’s stay close to Jesus the Good Shepherd as a branch remains in the vine so that we may be defended by him and we may defend and protect those who are sheep under us.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


EASTER- 2012
One lady wrote in to a question and answer forum. "Dear Sirs, Our preacher said on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered.
Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his side...put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens." Sincerely, Charles.
The most contented tenet of Christianity in the early church and even today is the fact of Resurrection of Jesus. Because it is the only basis of Christian faith. Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. Some people think, it is Christmas the greatest feast of Christians. No. It is Easter that gives Christmas its meaning.
You want proof? In all the New Testament no major doctrinal point is ever built upon the virgin birth of Christ. Not one. It's true; it happened. But it's never discussed or mentioned. In fact, two gospels don't even say anything about it. But the resurrection? That's a different story. In every part of the New Testament, it comes up again and again. Read the sermons of Acts. When the first Christians preached, they didn't mention Bethlehem; they talked about the empty tomb. They never got over the fact that on Easter Sunday when they went to the tomb, Jesus was gone.
The resurrection is the greatest of the miracles, proving that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9), was the central theme of the preaching of the apostles because Jesus prophesied it as a sign of his divinity: “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). In fact Jesus made the comparison between His resurrection and the life of Jonah in the belly of the fish, similarly the Son of Man would be resurrected from the dead after three days (Matt 12:40).

The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has. His is the only tomb stone which does not bear any engraving on it like “Here lies Jesus of Nazareth. The occupant of that tomb has overcome death and came to life again. Among the vast array of humanity's greatest heroes, only about Jesus Christ can we say: "He rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures."

Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist, said, "After more than 700 hours of studying this subject and thoroughly investigating its foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history."

The resurrection is not merely important to the historic Christian faith; without it, there would be no Christianity. It is the singular doctrine that elevates Christianity above all other world religions.
With this in mind, D. James Kennedy said, "The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been examined more carefully than the evidence for any other fact in history."

Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body, so the truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of the gospel truth. Again, without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation.

In the Resurrection, reality becomes more wonderful than myth. Only the reality of the Resurrection can explain the reality of the history of the Church: A few weak, non-influential, and uneducated fishermen from Galilee, frightened out of their wits when Jesus was arrested and executed, suddenly become world travelers, phenomenally successful preachers, and valiant martyrs. And the Church they spread continues to spread after they die, holding fast to the exact same doctrine they preached, century after century, in nation after nation. Only the abiding presence of the Lord can explain this, and only the resurrection explains the abiding presence of the Lord. This is what makes us, as Christians, different.

The Risen Lord proved that the stone could not have held him prisoner in the tomb. Its removal was a sign of the resurrection, not a condition for it. Bede the Venerable wrote, “The angel rolled back the stone not to throw open a way for our Lord to come forth, but to provide evidence to people that he had already come forth.” In fact I believe that the stone was rolled away after Jesus came out of the tomb, not before, of course he was able to pass through closed doors.
We are able to seal our minds and hearts with impenetrable stones of prejudice, hatred and fear. “To behold the resurrection, the stone of obstinacy must first be rolled away from our hearts.
John whom Jesus loved, writes of himself: He saw and believed” (Jn 20:8). Through his faith he realizes that the empty tomb and the linen cloths lying flat and the napkin rolled up in its place, were all signs God had been there, signs of the new life. Love can see signals where others cannot, and small signs may suffice. His love drove away all the fear and prejudice from his mind and heart.

Only in Christ's resurrection does love prove that it is stronger than death. In Christ and in his resurrection, a new hope dawns for all mankind, the hope that if we stay united to him through faith and grace, we will rise with him, rise from our very tombs, and live with him forever in the never-ending adventure of heaven.
No one else offers such a hope, because no one else has risen from the dead to be able to offer it - only the Lord.

Though we have followed Jesus through the last week of his life, it was not the same for us as it was for the Apostles. As we went through Holy Week over the past few days, we knew how the story would end. The Apostles did not. All along we knew that on the third day he would rise again. They had no such comfort. For them, his death was the end; they would never see him again. They had let him down at the very moment when he needed them; and now they would never be able to ask his forgiveness.
The Gospels do say he warned the Apostles that he would suffer and die, and then rise again. But the Gospels also say that they simply did not understand what he meant. Many, though not all, of the Jews at the time believed in resurrection from the dead; but they were thinking of a general resurrection in the future, when God would finally establish his Kingdom on earth and all the righteous would be gathered together in eternal bliss. They never imagined that one person would be resurrected ahead of all the rest.
Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the real presence of the risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.
Good Friday narrative is not the last chapter of the gospels. If that were the end of the story that would be a bad story, a tragedy. Death is not the end of the story. There is one more chapter. This is the most important chapter because, as the saying goes, they who laugh last laugh best. And in the last chapter of the story of Jesus we see him rise from the dead in all glory and majesty.
Darryl Stingley was a receiver for the New England Patriots. He was injured in a game against the Oakland Raiders. It left him paralyzed chest down. He could use only one hand and moved about in an electric wheelchair.
Darryl insisted that in some ways his life was better now. Recalling his playing days, he said, "I had tunnel vision. All I wanted was to be the best athlete I could be. A lot of other things got overlooked. Now I've come back to them. This is a rebirth for me." That statement by Darryl showed the power of the resurrection at work in people's lives today--a power so strong that it can bring forth life from death.

Can we recall a tragedy in my life that ended up a spiritual rebirth?
We are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions. It gives us the good news that no tomb can hold us down anymore - not the tomb of despair, discouragement, doubt nor death. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).

Thursday, April 5, 2012



Two brothers lived together in the same apartment. The older brother was an honest, hard-working and God-fearing man and the younger a dishonest, gun-totting, substance-abusing rogue. Many a night the younger man would come back into the apartment late, drunk and with a lot of cash and the elder brother would spend hours pleading with him to mend his ways and live a decent life. But the young man would have none of it. One night the junior brother runs into the house with a smoking gun and blood-stained clothes. “I killed a man,” he announced. In a few minutes the house was surrounded by police and the two brothers knew there was no escape. “I did not mean to kill him,” stammered the young brother, “I don’t want to die.” By now the police were knocking at the door. The older brother had an idea. He exchanged his clothes with the blood-stained clothes of his killer brother. The police arrested him, tried him and condemned him to death for murder. He was killed and his junior brother lived. He died for his brother.

What do we feel when we hear this: we should feel grateful and admiring. Jesus taught us the price of love: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Our Christian faith is not just the reverential relationship to a distant and even abstract God we know nothing about, but the adhesion to a Person, true man like us and, at the same time, true God. The Invisible one became flesh of our flesh and assumed to be a man until death, a death on the Cross. But, it was a death accepted as a ransom for us all, redeeming death, death that brings us life.
As we look up to the cross today and contemplate Jesus dying to make the full payment for our sins, let us thank him, and let us promise him that our whole lives will be one unbroken song of thanksgiving to him who gave his life to make full payment for the immeasurable debt we owe to God. Every time we come before the cross, or make the sign of the cross it should remind us of this great love of God.

Just as he loved us enough to come into this fallen world and take a share in our crosses, so we should bring his love to those around us by helping them carry their crosses. There are people all around us who are out there trying to bear their heavy crosses all alone. They don't know that Christ has died for them, or they have forgotten it, or they are too frightened and ashamed to accept it. Jesus is yearning to strengthen them. He just needs hands and feet and tongues to help him. We each know at least one person who is struggling to carry their cross.
What better way to thank Christ for his gift to us than to promise him to lend that person a hand: to pray for them, to accompany them, to relieve their burden a little bit, to show them through our own confidence in God that there is hope, that Christ can give meaning to their suffering.

Today when we gaze on the Cross, the instrument of victory over sin, when we kiss the Cross, we should thank God for this great gift, the mystery of Christ's cross that has rebuilt the bridge of trust. We should let it penetrate our hearts. When we come up to kiss the crucifix, we should do so with that in mind.
Now when the wood of the Cross is unveiled before us on which has hung the Savior of the world. Let’s Respond to the Church's call: "Come, let us adore."
Let’s adore Christ, and we praise him, because by his Holy Cross he has saved the world.