Saturday, May 27, 2017

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20)  

Many years ago there lived a very poor family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina by the name of Carpenter. The oldest boy went to the city to get an education. His father arranged for him to board with some family friends, who generously financed his studies when he decided to become a doctor. He graduated with honors, but declined all job offers to practice medicine in the city. He said he was going back to the mountains, where there were many sick people and few doctors.
For many years he ministered to the sick. Some paid, most couldn't. He gave his very best and helped everyone he could. In his old age he was in broken health himself and almost penniless. Two small rooms above the town grocery store were his home and office. At the foot of the creaky stairs leading up to his office was a sign with these words: "Dr. Carpenter is upstairs." One morning someone climbed those stairs to find the devoted doctor dead. The entire community was plunged in grief. They wanted to erect some kind of monument to him. But they decided to simply write these words on a large tombstone: "Dr. Carpenter is upstairs."

Jesus is the Divine Doctor of our souls. He is "upstairs" in Heaven, where he ascended after his Resurrection. But he is still alive and eager to help us through the Sacraments, the Bible, and the Church. Every time we turn to him in prayer, we climb the stairs to his office. Because he is upstairs, Dr. Jesus is always in.

The Ascension and Pentecost, taken together, mark the beginning of the Church.  Jesus’ Ascension is both an ending and a beginning.  The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end. Now begins the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed. Although risen and ascended, Jesus is still with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Bible, in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and in the praying community. 

Before ascending Jesus gives his mission to all the believers: "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” This mission is not given to a select few but to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.”

The critical moment in a relay race is the passing of the baton from one runner to another. More relays are won or lost at that moment than at any other. The feast of the Ascension might be compared to the passing of the baton in a relay race. On this day over 2,000 years ago, Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to his followers. Jesus commissioned them to complete the work he had begun. How do you and I, in the 20th century, carry out Jesus’ commission to be his witnesses to the world and his teachers to the nations? There are as many ways to do this as there are Christians. We can do what Albert Schweitzer did. At the age of 30 he abandoned his music career in Europe to study medicine and became a missionary doctor in Africa. We can do what the baseball coach of Spring Hill College, Alabama, did a few years back. At the age of 35 he resigned his position and began his studies for the priesthood. We can do what a Poor Clare cloistered nun, Mother Angelica, did. In her 50s she began a Catholic religious television channel, EWTN.

As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in Heaven – His Ascension -- we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives.

On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, "living in a manner worthy of the call we have received.”

Friday, May 19, 2017

EASTER VI [A] : Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, I Pt 3:15-18, Jn 14:15-21.

Our history shows that there are many schools of thought that sprouted up, flourished a little while, and sank into oblivion with the death of the master. There were many religious movements that exerted influence for a short while, disappeared forever with the extinct of their leader. Many kingdoms were established, but they failed to survive after the death of the founding king. Many empires were built but they disintegrated with the extinct of the emperor. One of the greatest examples is that of Alexander, the Great. Alexander established a massive empire. It extended to the boundaries of the then known world. But the empire was short lived. After his death it was divided and lost its prominence.

In the whole of history there is only one empire that grew from strength to strength after the physical disappearance of its leader. That is the empire Jesus. Jesus founded his church and entrusted it to a group of insignificant men. They were insignificant in every sense of the word. They were not educated. They were not well versed in martial art. They were not wealthy. They had nothing of worldly glory to boast of.

During His life time, Jesus himself had not crossed the boundaries of Judea. He has not sent envoys to the kings and emperors. He has not set up diplomatic ties with the East and the West. He had no business treatise with any nation. Instead, He entrusted his mission to a group of insignificant men.  It was up to them to take the message of Jesus to the ends of the world. In order to enable them for that mission Jesus had promised a helper, the Paraclete.

The Holy Spirit did all these in the life of the Apostles. When the Apostles were bound and set before the court of law, the Holy Spirit was with them putting the right answer in their mouth. He spoke through them.  In difficult situations, where the Apostles were not able to take some crucial decisions, He was with them serving them with the right decisions.  When they were discouraged, and depressed He was there to revitalize them. Thus the helper, promised by Jesus was with them always.

According to today's Responsorial Psalm (Ps 66), the Spirit causes believers in every age and place to experience personally the same marvelous acts of Divine liberation. 
Today’s first and second readings show us how the Spirit worked in the everyday activities of Jesus’ first followers. The First reading describes the success of Philip, the Deacon, among the despised Samaritans. Owing to the vigorous persecution which began in Jerusalem after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the disciples had been dispersed. Philip turned the dispersal into an opportunity to preach the Gospel message by taking it to Samaria.

Philip gives us a very valuable message. Every situation in our life is planned by God. It is up to us to see the hand of God in it and make it into an opportunity to do something good. As the Apostles took the message to the ends of the world, it is our responsibility to take the message of Jesus to our contemporaries.
Just as Philip brought many people to Baptism, we can help others to prepare for the reception of the sacraments of Christian Initiation. We will begin our next year’s RCIA classes in September. We need to do our part in leading people to Christ.

James 5:20 says, if one of you bring back a wandering brother to truth you will save his soul and you will cover a multitude of your sins. Several parishes in the diocese has started a movement to bring back people who fell way from the practice of the faith. I would like to encourage you to bring at least one person to faith this year, and lead him or her to RCIA. I am going to reward you besides your spiritual benefit. I will take you out for a dinner or will give you $50.00 dollars for bringing one family to RCIA. Some people gave me some gifts for the Jubilee. I would like to use that for this purpose. If we are ashamed to share our faith, Jesus will be ashamed of us too before the Father. Even if you get a rude or negative reply from someone for asking them to join the faith, take it as a reward. And feel proud about that because you are doing it for Jesus. If we really appreciate our faith we cannot but to share it. If we refuse to share it, that means we really don’t appreciate our faith but just happened to be a Christian and just that. So, decide to challenge your own faith by asking someone or encourage someone to come to join the Church. It’s exciting to accompany people as they discover the beauty of the faith for the first time, just as the first disciples did.
The Spirit of God was with the Apostles to help them. Now the Spirit of God is with us to help us. Recognize it and open our hearts to the Spirit of God, and allow it to work through us.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

EASTER V [A]: Acts 6:1-7, I Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12

Karl Barth was lecturing to a group of students at Princeton. One student asked the German theologian "Sir, don't you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?" Barth's answer stunned the crowd. With a modest thunder he answered, "No, God has not revealed Himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed Himself in His Son." In no uncertain terms let me say to you this morning that there are three great religions in the world today: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. But there is only one Son of God; only One through whom God has revealed Himself and only One whose teachings stand above all others. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life for all men and women.
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  In fact, Jesus took three of the great basic concepts of the Jewish religion, and made the unique claim that in him all the three found their full realization.  This means that he alone is the surest way to God.  He alone can authoritatively and flawlessly teach us truths about God and he alone can give God’s life to us. John’s central message is that Jesus is both the revealer and the Revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God. 

Among all the words that Jesus spoke, these are also some of the most controversial and debated. Notice — Jesus did not say, "I am one of the ways." He did not say, "I am one of the truths among others." He did not say, "I am a life among many others." No, he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
The great Catholic theologian, Thomas à Kempis, caught the meaning of Jesus' words and said this about them, "Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living. For Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.' "
He is not a physical path, nor a program, but a person whom we know.  We have seen him on his way: it is a way of forgiveness, love, hope, justice.  No one can come to God by force or violence, by tricks or shortcuts….
"I am the Truth," he said.  The truth is not abstract, then; it is living with the eyes and mind and heart of this Friend.  We cannot reach it simply by thinking, nor even by agonizing about it; it is not a formula or a theory; it is word made flesh. 
"I am the Life," he said.  Not just survival, nor half-life, but life to the full. 
"Lord, show us the Father," said Philip.  His request echoed that of Moses, who said to God, "Show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18).  He believed that Jesus was capable of organizing an experience for them such as that of Moses or Isaiah.  There was daring in the question: God had replied to Moses' request, "You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live" (Exodus 33:20).  His reply to Philip has shaped Christian awareness of Jesus' identity, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (see also John 10:38).  He does not simply represent the Father, he presents him.  His words and actions have the Father as their source. 

We need to know Jesus the Truth and walk Jesus the Way: Jesus asked Philip: “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” He is asking us the same question: “Have I been with you all this time –  in the Mass, in the Sacraments, in the Bible in the worshiping community – and you still do not know me?”  If we really believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, then we will find fresh and creative ways to keep alive his memory. Jesus asks us to keep alive his memory by reading and praying the Scriptures, by gathering in Jesus’ name and celebrating the Eucharist “in memory” of him, by handing on the great tradition of Christian Faith and by living according to his wise teachings.  Our actions, our words and our life should be a testimony to the contemporary world that we walk in the right path.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

EASTER IV [A] : Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20-25; Jn 10:1-10 

The night before a camping trip one boy was staying at the home of another when suddenly he realized he forgot his fishing gear. "Let's run to my house and get it," he said.
"Isn't it too late?" asked his friend. "Everybody will be sleeping."
"We'll sneak in," said the first boy. "Come on."
When they got to his house all the doors were locked. He decided to pry the screen off his bedroom window and enter that way. He tried to be quiet, but the noise woke his parents. His dad grabbed a baseball bat and went to investigate. The boy had one leg in the window when his dad yelled, "Stop, or I'll hit you!"
The boy froze. "Don't! It's me, Dad!" he said.
His father flicked on a light. "Why didn't you ring the doorbell?" he said. "You didn't have to try and sneak in."
Many people are this way with heaven. They think they can sneak in by doing good, attending church, or by making profession of faith. But salvation is never up to us. It is only in and through and by Christ for He is the gate.
Jesus says: I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. Without going through Jesus no one is going to enter heaven. He is the only Way to the Father. We cannot get to the Father by our own strength. Even those who do not accept Jesus as the Savior will have to go through the same door. Because there is only one door and that is Jesus.
By identifying Himself with the sheep-gate, Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters the pen through Him will be safe and well-cared-for. Jesus is the living Door to His Father’s house and Father’s family, the Door into the Father’s safety and into the fullness of life. It is through Jesus, the Door, that we come into the sheepfold where we are protected from the wolves of life. There is safety and security in being a Christian. There is a spiritual, emotional and psychological security and safety when we live within Jesus and his Church, within the protectiveness of Christ, Christian friends and a Christian family.

Today, the Church calls us to reflect on the meaning of God's call for each of us and to pray for vocations to the priesthood, the deaconate and the consecrated life because the entire Christian community shares the responsibility for fostering vocations.

Our parish and our society can foster vocations only if we have good Christian families, where Christian values are cherished. We can have vocations only if our young men and women are given a chance to understand and experience the fundamentals of Christian life. Hence, our young men and women should be encouraged to participate in activities of the parish, and they should be inspired to accept the invitation of Jesus to continue His work. Sometimes we don’t approve of all of what a priest does. And when the parents criticize that in the hearing of their children, they will never develop a liking for that way of life. Therefore it is important that even if we don’t like a priest or a religious we shall not criticize them in the hearing of our children. With ordination God does not give the power of infallibility to a priest or bishop or even to pope. The pope is infallible not from his personal sins, but from the promulgation of dogmas.  No miraculous power over sin is obtained by the clergy. God did not make a priest like an angel. Each priest completed his formation at home. When you point a finger to a priest it is a pointer to our own families.

Don't attend to a priest's personal worth but to his office. Therefore even if he is a flawed person when he is acting on behalf of the church the action is valid and effective. Even Peter the head of the church was a person who defected from his faith once.  Therefore believe that our Lord Jesus is present when invoked at the prayer of the priest.
On 19th of this month there are two priestly ordinations in the diocese and both are from St.Augusta parish. A small parish, smaller than ours is contributing to the diocesan need for vocations.      

In a massive study conducted by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago, dozens of jobs and professions were ranked, by, which were the happiest and most satisfying fields. The study, the most comprehensive of its kind to explore satisfaction and happiness among American workers, found the #1 job with the highest levels of both happiness and satisfaction were religious vocations. 
The Top 5 Happiest and Most Satisfying Careers:
Physical Therapists 
Special Education Teachers

While to the secular culture this may come as a bit of a shock, for men and women who have answered a calling to a religious vocation, this is no surprise. No other calling offers the same great opportunities to live and work out of a person’s deepest convictions and share their passion for faith, compassion, and service. The religious life is not a life of loneliness and seclusion, but one of great joy, happiness, and fulfillment. 

No other lifestyle gives true freedom like one where you give your life to God completely. 
Parents need to encourage their children, including their teenagers and young adults, to participate actively in the children’s and youth activities in the parish. They also need to encourage and actively support them in becoming altar servers, gift-bearers, lectors and ministers of hospitality.  On this World Day of Prayer for Religious Vocations, let us begin, or continue, to pray and encourage for more vocations to priesthood, deaconate and religious vocations.