Saturday, March 30, 2013


On Good Friday we saw how Jesus was scourged, mocked, nailed to the cross where he dies after a few hours and hastily buried in a tomb. If that were the end of the story of Jesus that would be a bad story, a tragedy. But glory be to God, it is not. Death is not the end of the story of Jesus. 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. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. Jesus regains his eternal glory with the Father.

Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves 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 His Resurrection as a sign of His divinity:  “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.  Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). 3) 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 in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, and gives strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears. 

No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place (like Jesus in the tomb) where hope cannot be seen. When we are going through very difficult times: through betrayal, unjust discrimination, lies, misrepresentations; and when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives, Easter will come live to us. Easter is the last thing we are expecting. It's about more hope than we can handle. Easter promises us more than the stars in our darkness.

Easter tells us that the tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn."
Jesus built a bridge to death with his Cross, so that men might pass from the land of death to the land of Life.  Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark "but the darkness did not remain. The dawn broke. God's Son had risen.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was never meant to be proved but experienced. As a matter of fact it cannot be proved, as none of us was there. We have to take the word of others who were. Those early witnesses were very passionate about their testimonies. Many were to be martyred in defense of their convictions. The most convincing evidence of the Resurrection of Christ is the transformation of the people who know Jesus and believed in Him after his death.
You do not say: resurrected Christ, appear to me and then I will believe. It is just the opposite. The resurrected Christ appeared only to those who did believe. He did not reveal himself to the Caiaphas and Pilates and Herods of the world.

The evidence of resurrection is overwhelming, and life makes no sense without it. Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  The Twelve apostles  were not going to give up their lives to simply perpetuate that which they know to be a hoax.
Islam religion believes everything about Jesus, including his miraculous virgin birth and his life full of miracles, except his death on the cross and his resurrection. Because it is the central point of Christian faith- Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. Of course Muslims believe too that Christ will come again.

For most of us, believing that Jesus rose again from the dead becomes a little like believing the earth is round and that it orbits the sun. Once upon a time people didn't know that. They thought the earth was flat and that the sun orbited the earth. It caused quite a stir when this view had to be revised. But that was a long time ago and now we accept that picture of our solar system without much thought. Sure the world is round and we orbit the sun, but what does that have to do with anything? It doesn't change what you have to do at work tomorrow, does it?

Easter has somehow become part of the "routines" of this world. Easter is no longer shocking for us--it surely does not make us re-evaluate everything else we think we know. But, unless it changes everything in our life, it makes no sense. This is not some fact we can ponder just once every twelve months. This should change everything.... and on EVERY day. And we should witness this resurrection of Jesus among people who live as though God doesn’t exist or is dead for them.

Billy Graham responded to someone who shouted out "God is dead! God is dead!" Dr. Graham with tenderness replied, "That's strange because I just talked to Him in prayer a few minutes ago." Yes, the day you really believe in the resurrection is the day you change your life, change your universe.

The most important thing of Easter after acknowledging and believing in the resurrection is to share in the victory of resurrection. How can we do that ? Jesus said ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you can have no life in you’. If so, only by sharing in the Eucharist with believing faith can we share in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus vanished from the physical sight of the disciples going to Emmaus when he broke the bread. He hid himself in the bread so that they could receive him spiritually. Let’s receive the resurrected Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and be empowered by him to witness his power everywhere we go today and tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

PALM SUNDAY [C] IS 50: 4-7; PHIL 2: 6-11; LK: 22: 14-23 - 23: 56

Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court.  So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: "If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the king and ruler of our lives and our families.
Accepting Jesus as king requires surrendering to his demands. The owner who lent him the donkey accepted his Lordship. What would have happened if he had refused to lent the donkey ?

Maybe we would have no the story of the triumphal entry, at least not in the way Jesus wanted it. No matter how unknown a person is, he or she can still play a crucial role in the unfolding of God's plan. The Lord needs each one of us as he needed the unnamed owners of the donkey in the reading. We are not told who these owners of the donkey are but the fact that they understood that "the Lord" refers to Jesus and voluntarily gave up the donkey shows that they could be his secret disciples or admirers. Otherwise one would have expected them to answer, "But who is this Lord who needs my donkey?"

A donkey was a very big thing in those days. The donkey was the equivalent of a car, a truck and a tractor, all in one. It was a car because people used it to move around and do their shopping, a truck because it was used to carry load, and a tractor because it was used in cultivating the land. Adding to this the fact that the donkey had never been ridden, means it was brand new and had a very high market value. You can see that giving up the donkey just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice. It was a generous and heroic act of faith.

Max Lucado reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. Here is his reflection on using our donkey for the service of the Lord:
Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak a foreign language or write a check. Whichever, that's your donkey.

Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: "If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, you are to say, 'Its Lord is in need.'" So, what is the name of your donkey? The Lord has need of it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

LENT IV (C): JOSH 5:9, 10-12; IICOR. 5: 17-21; LK 15:1-3, 11-32

The agony that we experience when we lose something is very great. In 2004 the Earthquake in the Indian Ocean washed off the shores of India. Thousands of people were found missing. It was a common sight on the beaches, that mothers were  looking for their sons, wives were waiting for the return of their husbands; and fathers were frantically searching for the life beat of their children. All waited in eager expectation that the lost ones would come back. The expectations of some were realized, and others continued indefinitely.  And many miracles happened.  The missing people returned after days and weeks. Jesus gives a more touching story of the “home coming” of a son, and the joy of the father on receiving the lost son.

It is difficult for us to see something new in the parable of the Prodigal son. We have heard the story so many times we believe that we have squeezed it dry of meaning. When we hear the opening words of the parable once again, "And there was a Father who had two sons," we greet the words with ho-hum. Heard it. Heard it. Heard it.

Today I would like for us to re-examine this familiar story from a different angle. Usually when
we read the Bible, we basically think we are spectators looking out of a window at something that is happening out there to others. But when we think of reading the Bible as more like looking into a mirror, when we too are very much in the picture we are caught up and involved in the story. We can assume the role of any one of the characters.

It is primarily the story of the Father, though it is kind of named as the parable of the prodigal son. It is the Father who showed prodigality with the riches he had. He lavishes his wealth on the squanderer when he came back. If he did not accept him as his son, or accepted him just as one of his hired servants he would have been a normal, unexceptional father. That is what the world and society would expect from a normal father. But he is the heavenly Father who accepts the sinner unconditionally.
 The father promptly forgave him, kissed him on the cheeks, and healed the broken relationship between them.  He ordered a bath for his son, gave him new garments and a golden signet ring (sign of authority and trust).  By ordering sandals for the feet of his son, the father signaled his reacceptance of his son. The killing the fatted calf, specially raised for the Passover feast, meant that the entire village was invited for the grand party given in the returned son’s honor. He doesn’t even allow the son to make his full confession of sins. He was so busy getting the celebration started that he did not listen to any of the apology of his son. God is so forgiving that he doesn’t raise any accusing finger on us sinners.
There is a story about a woman who had upset her pastor because she claimed that she had conversations with God. She had attracted quite a following in the church and every day people gathered at her house, got on their knees, prayed, and listened to her describe what God was saying to her.

The pastor thought all this was getting out of hand, so he went to visit her. "I know you say you are talking with God," he said, "but what you hear is your imagination talking back at you. Just to prove it, I want you to ask God to name three of the sins that I confessed this morning. Then tell me what God said. If you can name those sins, I'll believe that you really are talking with God." The woman sat there for a long while, praying. Then she looked up and said, "I asked God to name your three sins, but God said, 'I forgot.'"

God doesn’t keep an account of our sins. He says: Even though your sins are like scarlet, they'll be white like snow. Though they're like crimson, they'll become like wool. (Is.1:18).
It is God who takes the initiative in restoring our relationship,  not us. It is God who finds us, not we finding him. Before the younger son spotted the Father, the Father spotted him and ran to him and embraced him. It is the classical prototypical Christian experience: I once was lost and now am found”. Our job is to allow God to disentangle us from our mess from which we cannot get ourselves out. If we could save ourselves from our sins Jesus would not have to come to save us.

The sign seen in a textile mill was: "When your thread becomes tangled, call the foreman." A young woman was new on the job. Her thread became tangled and she thought, "I'll just straighten this out myself." She tried, but the situation only worsened. Finally she called the foreman. "I did the best I could," she said. "No you didn't. To do the best, you should have called me."  Do we call God to do our best, before we make a more mess of it…?

Let's step back outside with the older brother, for a while, still in need of a shower, standing there with pouted lips. The elder son had no feelings of sympathy for his brother.  He was resentful, bitter and angry.  He cannot even bring himself to acknowledge his brother with a name -- "this son of yours." He was so jealous of his younger brother that he never wanted to see him again. In fact he bonded with the Father only after his younger brother left home.  Instead of honoring his father by joining him in accepting his brother and playing an appropriate role at the meal, the elder son publicly insulted and humiliated his father (vv. 28-30).  
We are much like the elder brother who preferred justice to mercy. We have earned God's favor (or so we think) by "staying at home." We have merited his acceptance by the good life that we live. So how dare God receive and accept our sinful brother who has returned home saying he's sorry.

So where are we at parable's end? Are we inside the party celebrating? Or are we standing outside with our arms folded, refusing to come in? The father passionately invites the older son inside, "pleads with him" to join in the welcome. Curiously, however, we are never told what the older brother decides to do. The story ends but it doesn't end. In a world where God does not play fair, this parable forces us to make a choice.

We are all sinners. Whether your sins are more visible like those of the younger son or more hidden like those of the elder son, the message for us today is that we all need to repent and return to the father's house. The younger son needs to turn back from his frivolous lifestyle and return to the father's house and be a responsible and obedient son. The elder son needs to turn back from anger and resentment and learn to share the house with the apparently undeserving younger brother.

Lent is a time to "pass over," from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. The story of the prodigal son asks each of us an important question: Will you accept the Father's   forgiveness and partake of the banquet, or will you remain outside?   The message of Lent, therefore, as St. Paul tells us, is:  “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God."  The first step, of course, is to do as the younger son did: "When he came to himself, he said: 'I will break away and return to my father, and say to him, "Father, I have sinned against you." Am I still in pigsty feeding pigs ? Have I come to my senses ?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lent-3 Ex 3:1-8,13-15; 1 Cor 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9

All three of today's readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in disciplining his children by occasional punishment and giving them a second chance in spite of their repeated sins.  
In today’s Gospel Jesus quotes two disasters.  The massacre ordered by Pilot and collapse of a tower in Jerusalem. Popular opinion at that time drew a direct line of causality from people's sufferings back to their personal sins. By this logic, the Galileans who were killed by Pilate's soldiers must have deserved it because of some particularly heinous sins.

Scholars are not in agreement about the incident being referred to by Jesus. Many think, however, that it was Pilate's violent suppression of a demonstration in Jerusalem. Demonstrators had gathered in the Temple area to protest Pilate's use of Temple money to construct new aqueducts. Pilate then sent armed soldiers among them in disguise. At a signal, the soldiers dispersed the mob with clubs, killing many more than Pilate had anticipated.

Likewise, those who were killed in the construction accident in Siloam were believed to be paying the penalty for their sins. But Jesus takes a different angle. He does not answer to reasons of their sufferings. But he emphasizes that everyone who refuses to repent will stay separated from God. And if they die in such a state of alienation (and death can come at any time), they will continue in it for all eternity: "If you do not repent, you will all perish."

Jesus reminded his listeners that they would be judged by the opportunities they had. No generation in human history enjoyed so much of comforts and convenience as that of ours. No generation had so much of medical facilities as that of ours. No generation had the opportunity to see and speak to the people living in the other end of the world. No generation was able to traverse continents and oceans in great speed as we do. And no generation had so much of opportunities and chances as that of ours. Hence our responsibility too is greater.
The parable of the fig tree imparts the message of a second chance. Usually a fig tree takes 3 years to produce fruit. If it doesn’t produce fruit by that time it is unlikely to produce any fruit. However, the fruit tree was given one more chance. We too are given chances time and again through constant reminders by natural events, word of God, and the prophetic  words and deeds of our brothers and sisters. Every calamity, every tragedy, every natural event has a message for us. It is a sign, a reminder that our time is limited and hence, repent and make ourselves socially useful. Never fail to read the signs of time and accept their message.

Some people have a wrong concept that it is others that need repentance and conversion, not me. That was the attitude of the Pharisees and that is why Jesus came heavily on them.

A young and fearless preacher had a problem with a somewhat worldly parishioner who would remark sarcastically every Sunday as he shook the preacher’s hand at the door, "You got them today preacher!" Sunday after Sunday this fellow never seemed to feel that he needed to repent and always felt that the sermon was for everybody else. Then one Sunday there was a bad snow storm and the preacher and this one fellow were the only ones that could show up. The preacher seized the opportunity and preached his entire three point sermon on, "Hell, Fire, and Damnation." Well, the one congregant again walked out the door and shook the preacher’s hand and said, "If they had been here today preacher, you would have gotten them real good!"

We all need to be reminded of the need and importance of repenting for our sins. And repentance should be total, and complete. We cannot repent for half of our sins. Genuine repentance is total. That is why when we make a confession,if we deliberately hide some grave sins, the whole confession is going to become invalid and false.

One man sent a check to the government for back taxes with a note attached that said: “I felt so guilty for cheating on my taxes that I had to send you this check.  If I don’t feel any better, I’ll send you the rest.”  
 As Catholic Christians, we are blessed with a very clear, concrete way to repent, as often as we need to. In the sacrament of reconciliation, when we live it from the heart, we climb back into the arms of our heavenly Father, hiding nothing, freely admitting our need for him. Confession opens our souls wide to Christ's grace. It gives him room to work in our lives. In confession Jesus purifies our hearts, heals our wounds, and enlightens our minds.
Confession gives us the assurance of God's forgiveness and grace that we need. He wants us to hear his words of forgiveness and encouragement not just in our imagination, but with our ears. We had the reading the parable of the prodigal son for yesterday’s reading for Mass. At the end of the reading the Father tells every one: let’s celebrate this coming back of my son. We need to celebrate the forgiveness of God in our life. We are not to keep it quiet to ourselves.We have our Parish reconciliation service this Tuesday at 7.00 pm. We will have 7 priests hearing confessions so that we won’t have to wait long. It is our celebrating together.

One of the ways the Church encourages us to give repentance its proper place in our life is by making an examination of conscience every night before we go to sleep. Christians have had this habit for centuries. It's a way to make sure that we never let a sin or a habit of selfishness take root in our hearts and obstruct God's plan for our life. A nightly conscience exam is like brushing your teeth. It doesn't take much time, but if you do it every day, it makes a big difference in your health (and in your breath).

Lent is an ideal time "to dig around and manure" the tree of our life so that it may bring forth fruits of repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and deepened sensitivity to the feelings of others.  We need to make the best use of the "second chance" God gives us.  Our merciful Father always gives us a second chance.  During Lent, we, too, are given another chance to repent and return to our heavenly Father’s love. During this mass, let's ask God to help us give repentance its proper place, so that  he can do wonderful things in us.