Saturday, June 30, 2012

XIII- Sunday- Religious liberty
Wis.1:13-15,2:23-24; MK. 5:21-43
As Americans and Catholics preparing to celebrate July 4, Independence Day, we are observing this year a Fortnight for Freedom through prayer and special church services. Never before has our precious religious freedom been so threatened in this country. Our Bishops are united in calling us to daily prayer from June 21 until July 4.

The readings for this 13th Sunday in Ordinary time fit so well with our right to religious freedom and life itself. God created us for happiness, freedom, and life to the full; "God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living," the Book of Wisdom declares.

In the gospel, Jesus revives a dead girl and heals a chronically-sick woman. The woman is desperate having tried everything and had exhausted her finances. Jesus was her last resort, and death would be her final end without His saving solution. She had made a gesture of faith and by her faith in Him, she was healed.
God is the author of life. It is God who created the world, no body else. Therefore God has the right to decide what is good and evil. The first sin itself was man’s attempt to decide for himself what was good for him against God’s commands. He thought the forbidden fruit would bring him happiness and eternal life; would make him like God. But he was wrong. So the whole world suffers from that wrong choice.
Jesus came to reverse man’s wrong choice and give us fullness of life. He said: I came that you may have life, life in its fullness. Man may have been able to go to several planets, but that doesn’t mean that he can claim the authority of life in any sense. Man may be able to altar life, making man out of a woman or woman out of a man, but never been able to create a life from nothing. Therefore the power of creating is the sole power of God and he uses parents, a man and a woman united in love, to share in that power. Therefore morality, decision of what is morally good and wrong is the prerogative of religion, not the state. The Chinese government tells abortion is right, as does the US govt. There was a news this week that 9 months pregnant woman was forcefully taken out of her home in China and her baby was aborted and even her uterus was removed. The Indian government says that selective abortions is wrong. Because they kill a lot of girl babies there. Therefore sex determination test is unlawful in India. Now who can decide between these nations who is right and who is wrong ? Is it the govt or the religion. Morality is for all people not just for a nation. Religion is for all and not nationalistic. And therefore moral issues are the concerns of religion. As far as I know, no religion teaches that abortion is right. Knights of Columbus did a survey recently and in that nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) agreed that religious leaders should speak out on issues of religious freedom.
George Washington famously said that there can be no law without morality, and no morality without religion. Saint Augustine said that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’… A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law of God.  An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
As we all know the US bishops and catholic organizations around the country file lawsuits to protect their First Amendment rights from the government’s health care mandate. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Now, the HHS mandate is a clear violation of the first Amendment right. Freedom of religion is the foundation of all our freedoms. According to the Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, the survey found that nearly three in four Americans say that freedom of religion should be protected, even if it conflicts with other laws.

For if you are not free in your consciences, in your religious faith, in your corporal works of mercy, then all your freedoms are fragile. When the government commands us to do what God commands us not to do, the American heritage of freedom is imperiled. And a responsible Christian citizen would refuse to obey an unjust law.
Our bishops have identified several attacks on religious liberty. The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services that all employers, including Catholic agencies, provide health insurance for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, is a national assault on religious liberty without precedent in history. Recently the state of Alabama passed the immigration bill which stated that if you help an illegal immigrant in any way, say for instance, you give a stranded illegal immigrant a ride, or baptize an illegal immigrant, or administer any sacrament, allow him attend the Church, you would be doing a criminal offense. Doesn’t it violate the freedom of religion ?. Religion caters for all people, irrespective of citizenship or nationalism.
The HHS mandate defines religious institutions in such a narrow way that it excludes, for example, Catholic Universities, hospitals, food pantries, publishing houses, and social services. According to HHS definition, the St.Vincent De Paul Society and the Knights of Columbus wouldn’t qualify as religious institutions. Indeed, according to the federal rule, if we serve people who are not Catholic in our agencies, or educate them in our universities, or employ them in our institutions- we cease to be religious. If we provide for the needs of the sick and the poor, but don’t ask whether they are Catholic or teach them catechism- we are not religious.
It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith here?
For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. So, don’t think that our fight is against Obamacare, no. It is against limiting religious freedom. The political concept of religious freedom, is more likely to end in freedom from religion—imposed by force, if necessary.
When the Government mandates that we cannot do what our faith mandates us to do, then we should refuse to obey unjust laws. Our liberty is not something we have invented for ourselves, much less is it the generosity of the government. It is God’s gift. We have been set free in Christ for freedom.
Let’s pray that all Christian disciples may have the fortitude to stand up for our faith and for our freedom. In standing fast for our faith, in standing fast for our freedom, we know that we may have to suffer and to sacrifice. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

XI SUNDAY: MK 4: 26-34

I have a riddle for you:  “What is stronger than God, more evil than the devil, poor people have it, rich people don’t need it, and if you eat it, you’ll die?” (Repeat)

If you do not know, don’t worry, only 17 percent of Stanford students could answer it, though 80 percent of the kindergartners were able to give the answer.
The answer is: “Nothing.”  ( Nothing stronger than God, more evil than devil, poor people have nothing, the rich need nothing, if you eat nothing, you will die)

Literally, the word parable means “a riddle.” They are stories that leave the listener with the responsibility of figuring out just what they mean. Jesus told more than 40 parables during his ministry, and he only explained one of them to his disciples, so, that left the disciples with a lot of figuring out to do. And then Jesus took the answers with him when he ascended into heaven. So here we are, some 2000 years later, still pondering what Jesus must have meant when he told the parable of the Mustard seed.
Jesus so often uses Illustrations from the growth of nature to describe the coming of the Kingdom of God. Nature's growth is imperceptible. Even if we watch we cannot see the daily growth of the plants. But we notice them slowly over a period of time. The spread of God's kingdom takes place in the same way in human lives from very humble beginnings.

In the gospel, Jesus compares the growth of the kingdom of God to the germination of a wheat seed and that of a tiny mustard seed. Both have very small beginnings. The wheat seeds, by gradual but steady growth help the farmer to get a bumper crop. In the same way, the life principle in a tiny mustard seed enables it to grow into a large bush. The reign of God in human hearts and the growth of the Church in the world also have small beginnings. But the Source of all life, God the Holy Spirit, gives to both a steady, persistent and gigantic growth. So we must be paying attention to the little things in our spiritual growth. They will eventually help us grow as spiritual giants. It is not in doing great things, but doing trifles with great attention and care.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was one of the greatest artists, poets, and sculptors of all time. One day a visitor came to his studio in Florence. The visitor looked at a statue that was in the making and commented, "I can't see that you have made any progress since I was here last time."

Michelangelo answered, "Oh, yes, I have made much progress. Look carefully and you will see that I have retouched this part, and that I have polished that part. See, I have worked on this part of the statue, and have softened the lines here."

"Yes," said the visitor, "but those are all trifles."

"That may be," replied Michelangelo, "but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle."  So, the kingdom of God grows in little measure, in trifles, assisted by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s not focus on the size of what we have or the status we have in the Church to measure our growth in spiritual life. That is a folly.

A small fellow, not much over 5 feet tall, applied for a job as a lumberjack in Alaska. The foreman, thinking to discourage him, gave him a large ax, set him before a tree hundreds of feet tall, and yards in diameter, and told him to chop it down. Within minutes the tree had been felled. The amazed foreman asked him where he'd learned to chop trees so powerfully. The little fellow replied, "When I worked in the Sahara forest." "You mean, the Sahara desert." "That was after I got there," said the small lumberjack. 

The point of the story is that size is less important than spirit, or intelligence, or courage -- a point made when King David was selected at a young age: "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

So, we need is not to look at the size but to cooperate in the growth of God’s kingdom: The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. The seed of faith lies dormant within each of us. When we permit the Holy Spirit to nurture it with TLC (tender loving care), it grows miraculously into gigantic proportions. The growth is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But the seed grows by using
the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the word of God, the Mass, the sacraments and prayers. As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s kingdom on earth which will be completed in our heavenly life.
The kingdom is God’s kingdom, not ours. We will only get energized to do useful and creative work if we first learn to welcome the miracle of the kingdom over which we have no control.

The conviction that growth of the kingdom of God is the work of the Holy Spirit with our humble co-operation, should make us optimistic in continuing our work of witnessing. We should continue sowing tiny seeds in the form of words of love, acts of encouragement, deeds of charity, mercy and forgiveness.

Let’s be faithful in little things, and we will be put in charge of great things." Matthew 25
Today is Fathers’ day, a day to remember that human fathers share in the love and concern of the heavenly Father. In the New Testament, Jesus introduced a new name for God – Father. It is the name that Jesus referred to more than any other and the name that He invites us to use to address the Creator of the Universe. - Daddy!
“For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new and better than the Old, is summed up in the knowledge of the fatherhood of God.” 
No one on this earth may have had a perfect earthly father, but always remember that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us dearly and has our name written on the palm of His hand.
He said, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).
Let’s thank our heavenly Father who loves us as His precious children and share his love with us through our human fathers, so that we may learn to trust him and be obedient to him.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Today we are celebrating the feast of the Body and blood of Christ. This feast reminds us of the great sacrifice of Jesus and His command to his disciples, "Do this in memory of me." From the time of the election of the Israelites God's presence was manifested in various ways among them. Moses received 10 commandments on mount Sinai. As he brought it to the people they made a Tabernacle and placed the Tablets in it. The presence of God lingered over the tabernacle. God's presence has always been with His people in various ways.  Through the voice of the prophets, through the wisdom of the sages, and finally God manifested Himself in human form through Jesus. Jesus at his departure instituted the Eucharist to continue his presence with his people.

In addition to the presence of God, through out the Old Testament  God expresses His concern for the people. During  the exodus when the people craved for food God sent them the heavenly bread, "Manna" which people ate and were satisfied. When they were thirsty God asked Moses to strike the rock and water gushed forth. 

In the New Testament we have numerous instances where Jesus expressed his concern for the poor and hungry.  The miracle of multiplication of bread to feed the crowd is an instance of Jesus' concern for them.

The great 14th-century mystic, Julian of Norwich, not only called God our ‘mother’, but she called Jesus our mother!  This may seem very strange, even weird.  But, as always, she meant something luminous, and she had profound reasons for saying it.  She did not mean to say that Jesus is like our mother; she meant the reverse: our mother is like Jesus.  Our mother fed us from her own body.  Our mother’s care for us may well be the best image we have of God  -  and of Jesus.

During the words of consecration, the humble, normal substances of bread and wine are changed into Christ's living body and blood. The substance of the bread is changed into his body, and the substance of the wine is changed into his blood; this process is called "transubstantiation." They are truly changed; Christ becomes truly present in them. This is the first miracle.
The second miracle is that although the substance of the bread and wine has changed, their appearance remains the same. After the sacred words of consecration, they still look like bread and wine, but under those appearances, Jesus is truly present. This is why we treat the Eucharist with such reverence: it is not just a symbol; it is a sacrament, a mystery of Christ's real presence. It is not a thing, it is a person. These two miracles are performed at every Mass, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second miracle gives us the opportunity to accept Jesus in faith. But every once in awhile, God allows it to become more dramatic, just so we don't fall into routine. There have been several Eucharistic miracles where the body looked really like body and wine looked really like blood.  If all the time when this transubstantiation takes place, if the body and blood really looked like body and blood, we would need no faith to accept him. And all the people in the world invariably would believe in this mystery without exception. Then there wouldn’t be any other religion in the world. Every one could see and verify and accept. But there is no faith needed, because faith is belief in things not seen. You would not need faith to believe. Then our freedom also is curtailed. No freedom to believe in any one other than Jesus.

By making himself present in us, he heals and sanctifies us, but he also reaches out to heal and sanctify every one around us, every part of the world that is connected to us. But this doesn't happen automatically. When we eat natural food, our bodies digest it and derive nourishment from it automatically, without our having to do anything consciously to make it happen. But since the Eucharist is supernatural and spiritual food, it will only nourish us if we allow it to. By willingly accepting it.

When we receive the Holy communion we become the tabernacle where Jesus is present. So Maximilian Kolbe says, ' If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." Hence, it is binding on us that we should keep the tabernacle, ourselves, holy.  St Francis de Sales preached to the people, "When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage, welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence."

The ancient practice of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has been encouraged by recent popes. We have the adoration every Tuesday soon after the morning Mass. And we have 40 hour adoration every first Friday till Saturday 4.00 pm. If you can spend one hour before the Divine king, you can sign up for that. And when you are there, pray for the whole world, people in our parish and finally for your own needs. Some times you may not have any thing to speak. Just keep looking at the Lord and he will speak to your heart. St. John Mary Vianny found a farmer sitting before the blessed sacrament for hours. One day he went up to him and asked, what do you say during this long hours. He replied, I don’t say anything. He looks at me and I look at him. The Blessed Sacrament is not a thing to be adored but a person to love and who loves us. When we take the Blessed Sacrament out of churches and process through the streets we are making a clear statement that Christ is for all people not just for those who go to church. There is a Eucharistic procession at the Cathedral at 2.00 pm today.

In support of the practice of Holy Hours and Benediction, our present Holy Father quotes St. Augustine as saying "No one should eat this flesh without first adoring it. We should sin were we not to adore it."  When we come to receive the king of kings, we should make a throne for him by placing our right palm under the left and receive him in the left hand reverently and take with the right hand and consume and commune. Showing just one hand like this… is not the right way of receiving communion. As we process in the line to receive the communion we should be praying a welcoming prayer to the Lord. Or just repeat the words of the humble centurion, Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say a word and my soul shall be healed.

St Philip Neri, the famous Apostle of Rome in the 1500s, known for his sense of humor, understood this due reverence especially well. And he did his best to help the people of his parish understand it too. One lady used to come to Mass regularly, but she wouldn't stay to the end; after receiving Holy Communion, she would walk out the door. St Philip noticed this, and was worried that she had forgotten how sacred Holy Communion really was. So he decided to remind her. The next time she came to Mass, he had an altar server get ready with a candle and a little bell, and put him beside the exit that she usually used. After receiving Communion, sure enough, she headed for the door. But as she took her first few steps out onto the street, the acolyte was right on her heals, ringing the bell for all to hear, and holding the bright candle for all to see. Shocked and embarrassed, she turned and asked what he was doing. He answered, "Well ma'am, you just received our Lord, so you are like a walking Tabernacle, and we have to show him due honor." She got the message and humbly returned to Church for the rest of the Mass.
Leaving the church as soon as you receive the Lord in holy communion is dishonoring the Lord. When you go to a wedding, as soon as you finish eating you don’t just run out of the reception hall. You wait and say thanks to the host. Doesn’t the Lord deserve a few words of thanks for bringing his holy and great presence to our heart ?. I can well understand when people come late for mass. You may have been held longer at traffic lights,  or you got some important calls when you were ready to leave, or it took long to get the kids dressed up, etc. Ok, but what is the justification we can tell for running out of the church soon after you receive the holy communion ? I don’t think there is any. If you have any intention of leaving early from mass, please don’t show up for communion, leave before that. By saving one minute or half a minute what are we going to save ? The Lord who gave us 24 hours a day to enjoy, expects us to honor him and thank him for giving us one more day in our life.

Today, as we thank God for this awe-inspiring gift of the Eucharist, let's express our gratitude by praying with St Augustine: Lord, make us holy by our sharing at the table of Christ. As members of his body, help us to become what we have received.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Most Holy Trinity.

Deut 4: 32-24, 39-40; Romans 8: 14-17 ;Gospel: Mathew 28: 16-20

The bishop was questioning the children in preparation for Confirmation. He asked one lad what the Holy Trinity means. The boy answered in such a soft tone of voice that the bishop could not hear what he said."
"Son," said His Excellency, "I can't understand what you are saying."
The boy spoke up: "Well, bishop, the Trinity is a mystery. Nobody understands it."

"Who can understand the Trinity?" wrote St Augustine in the 5th century.  "Rare are the persons who, when they speak of it, also know what they speak of…."  Then with all due qualifications and apologies, he suggests a way that might throw a little light on it.  Look at yourself, he says; you see that you exist and that you have a heart and you love.  These are three dimensions of your reality, and yet you are one. You are not your heart, your heart is not you, your love is not you, but all these three make the total you.  You are a kind of trinity: three in one and one in three.  It is just an image. The doctrine of the inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one, cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery.

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork.
As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I'm drawing God." 
The teacher paused and said, "but no one knows what God looks like." 

Without looking up from her drawing the girl replied, "They will, in a minute."

The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. He said that the Father had given the Son all that he has and that the Son in turn has given to the Holy Spirit all that the Son has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity.

In the story of salvation we usually attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, though they are distinct as persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever exists or acts in isolation from the other two persons of the Godhead.

The importance of this doctrine lies in this:  we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God, the more we can understand ourselves.  St. Paul tells us that through sufferings, endurance, the forming of character and hope, God's love is poured into our hearts through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore the celebration of the mystery of Holy Trinity reminds us that we have to grow in unity like the perfect Unity that exists in Trinity.

Jesus knew very well that the disciples and his listeners were not able to understand the meaning of his message. Jesus expressed it in today's Gospel. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Jesus revealed himself to the people gradually and as understandable to them. First He taught them to recognize in Himself the Eternal Son of God. When His ministry was drawing to a close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in His place. Finally after His resurrection, He revealed the doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them "go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus, the Son of God, has revealed to us the Blessed Trinity. As we allow ourselves to be drawn into the life, the love, of the Triune God we discover the mystery that is ourselves, and, indeed, the mystery of one another! It is the sweet mystery of life and of love. We have found this, or better, it is God’s supreme gift to us.
Note that the love of God is poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit. Christian life is, therefore, not possible without a relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit. This is one big difference between the Christian religion and other religions. Whereas other religions present salvation and godliness solely as a matter between the individual believer and God, the Christian religion agrees that it is indeed a matter between the individual and God and adds that we have two heavenly advocates on our side. First we have our Lord Jesus Christ who redeems us and reconciles us to the Father. And then we also have “another advocate” who carries on the work of our sanctification.
The business is not over, the moment we believe in Christ and are justified before God. In fact the business of being a Christian has only begun. From then on, the rest of our lives should be devoted to the business of sanctification, the process of being holy as God is holy. This is where the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of whom we celebrated last Sunday, becomes the guiding principle of our lives. Through the Spirit God’s love is poured into our hearts, through the Spirit we learn to love God and our neighbour as Jesus teaches us.

Like Augustine we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the god they worship. People who worship a warrior god tend to be warmongering, people who worship a god of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking, people who worship a god of wrath tend to be vengeful, and people who worship a god of love tend to be loving. Like a god, so the worshippers. Therefore, the more important question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?
It is surprising, absolutely extraordinary, that God who does not need our company actually wants us to enjoy his company…here and now, in our present earthly existence; for Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Remain in me, as I in you,’(Jn.15.17).

God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing. God is not a loner. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness (Matthew 5:48) must shun every tendency to isolationism.
True love requires three partners. Taking an example from the human condition we see that when a man A is in love with a woman B they seal the loving by producing a baby C. Father, mother and child -- love when it perfected becomes a trinity.
We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only in a relationship of three partners. The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with others and a vertical relationship with God. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people. May the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of self-centeredness in our lives and to live in love of God and of neighbour.

As we celebrate the greatest mystery of our faith let’s be reminded that we have the Spirit of adoption that leads us to lovingly cry out "Abba, Father!" (Rm 8:15; Gal 4:6). Today we realize all over again that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are with us always (Mt 28:20).
When we go through struggles let us know that we are not alone in the struggle. God the Father is on our side, Jesus Christ the Son of God is on our side, the Holy Spirit the Power of God Most High is on our side. Now this is hope, this is hope that never disappoints. So let us give ourselves completely to the triune God.