Homily

12th Sunday, Year A

“Do not be afraid”

If we look into the history of all organized religions, we will find that in some or other phase of their growth they have used force to spread their faith. Although it is incompatible with authentic religious principles, the social and political wisdom has managed to get upper hand to make religion an instrument of aggression. It happens also today. The human tendency is to victimize others, in order to be victors. Christianity also has its shameful past of aggression in the name of faith. If we look into the Gospel, we find that Jesus took position with the victims, not with the victors. The teaching of Jesus is consistently non-violent in its content. Jesus opted for the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed groups of people. He came to liberate and reconcile the fallen humanity with God.

In today’s Gospel (Cf. Matthew 10:26-33), the Lord Jesus, after calling and sending His disciples on mission, He instructed and prepared them to face the dangers and persecutions they would encounter. He knew very well what was going to happen and the challenges they had to encounter. Thus He exhorts them: “Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (vv. 26-28). They can only kill the body, but they do not have power to kill the soul: have no fear of them. Jesus’ sending the disciples on mission does not guarantee them success, as it does not shelter them from failures and sufferings. They must take into account be it the possibility of rejection be it that of persecution. This is somewhat frightening, but it is the truth. So He exhorts them to grow in faith and be committed to their mission.

The disciple is called to conform himself to Christ’s own life, who was persecuted by men, knew rejection, abandonment and death on the cross. Christian mission has to be dominated by tranquility. Difficulties and tribulations are part of the work of evangelization, and we are called, to find in them the occasion to verify the authenticity of our faith and of our relationship with Jesus. We must regard these difficulties as the possibility to be even more missionaries and to grow in that trust of God, our Father, who does not abandon His children in the hour of the storm. We have to build our house of rock, so that it could withstand rain and storm. In the difficulties of Christian witness in the world, we are never forgotten, but always helped by the Father’s loving concern. Therefore, in today’s Gospel, for a good three times Jesus reassures the disciples saying: “Have no fear!” but look beyond the earthly realities of our life.

Today there is more persecution against Christians than it ever had in the earlier centuries is a matter of great concern for all of us. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and we praise God because, despite this, they continue to witness their faith with courage and fidelity. Let their example help us to not hesitate in taking a position in favor of Christ, witnessing Him courageously in everyday situations, even in apparently tranquil environments. In fact, a form of test could also be the absence of hostilities and tribulations. However, in all of this the Lord continues to say to us, as He said to the disciples of His time: “Have no fear!” Let us not forget this word: When we have some tribulation, some persecution, something that makes us suffer, we must always listen to Jesus’ voice in our heart: “Have no fear! Have no fear; go on! I am with you!”  Have no fear of one who derides you and mistreats you; and have no fear of one who ignores or honors you “before” others but “behind” you combats the Gospel. There are so many that smile before us but behind us they combat the Gospel. We all know them. Jesus does not leave us alone: each one is precious for Jesus, and He accompanies us.

The necessity of loyalty in Christian life: If we are loyal to Jesus in this life, Jesus will be loyal to us in the life to come. On the other hand, if we are too proud to acknowledge that Christ is our Lord and Savior, He will not acknowledge us in the next life. In the early Church, Christians had the courage of their convictions, knowing very well that this might result in their losing their lives. Hence, we must not deny God through our silence, whether in word or deed. Denial by deeds arises from actions that do not match our profession of Faith. We must not be ashamed to behave as people of Faith and proclaim our Christian convictions when necessary.

Trust in God will keep us in good stead even in a turbulent world. What we need to do is to turn to our spiritual center and regenerate our energy. All those external factors, which frighten us will have no effect on us, as long us our foundation is firm. The loss of the center is a terrible experience that can happen in human life. The temptation to fortify the boundaries, the external securities is a sign of a weakened center. People depend on wealth and power, followers and supporters to substitute the center, the inner core, when it gradually become empty and dry. This betrayal of the center has grave consequences in life. Nobody can hide behind the walls of security for long. Times will come when the emptiness will be revealed as the walls fall. Jesus warns us against these disastrous happenings, which are incumbent in the lives of those who forget the Lord of life.  Whoever denies me before world; I also will deny them before the Father who is in heaven.

Revelation of hidden things and triumph of truth: “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed and nothing secret that will not be made known,” This is not a threat that God will expose some sin we had forgotten. Jesus speaks these words as Good News, as a reason not to be afraid of persecution. These verses promise that the evil motives and the wickedness of the persecutors will someday become a matter of public knowledge.   At the Last Judgment, the persecutors will not be able to hide their sin. It will eventually come to light and to judgment. When that happens, those who have been persecuted will be vindicated before God and before the world. Verses 26-27 promise the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness. We are challenged to trust in the loving God who continually saves us in the events of our lives. We are sheltered, protected and wrapped in God’s love. It helps us to bear witness to Him and be the agents of evangelization.

May the Virgin Mary, model of humble and courageous adherence to the Word of God, help us to understand that, in witnessing the faith, successes do not count but fidelity, fidelity to Christ, recognizing in any circumstances, even the most problematic, and the inestimable gift of being His missionary disciples.

Feast of Corpus Christi

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

The feast of today is the combination of three events together: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus in this Sacrament.  Corpus Christi is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes:  1) to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Eucharist and to honor Him there; 2) to instruct the people in the Mystery, Faith and devotion surrounding the Eucharist, and 3) to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice.

I have come that you may have life, life in its fullness (Jn.10, 10). The very purpose of incarnation and God’s dwelling with us is to be seen in the light of love and reconciliation of the fallen humanity. God is love and he manifests himself in giving and sacrificing for the benefit of the loved. He has created us to love him, to serve him and to be with him. So the Lord Jesus having lived a human life here on earth accepted the plan of the Heavenly Father to offer himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. He instituted the Eucharist, to thank and praise the almighty father and to nourish us with his own self that we will continue to live with him, in him and through him. The Eucharist is the living presence of Jesus with us. The church is build up by the Eucharist and it is the community of the faithful that celebrates the Eucharist.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread came down form heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. ” We have within our human nature, the body and soul, that is to say the material and the spiritual. When Jesus says that I am the bread of life, it is first and foremost regarding the food for our soul, which is nourished and sustained, by the Lord himself in its fullness of life. It also depends on what is predominantly important and what are our priorities. What does it profit a human being if he/she gains the whole world and in the process looses his/her soul?

As human beings, we suffer from many types of hunger. There is a hunger for ordinary bread. Unless this is satisfied, no life is possible. There is hunger to love and to be loved and unless this is fulfilled, a person will always be in anguish. There is hunger for meaning and unless this is satisfied, there will dissatisfactions.

Let us look the various kinds of bread that Jesus offered to the people, thus satisfying their many hungers.

To the people who followed him into the desert, and who were starving, he offered ordinary bread and satisfied their physical hunger. To Mary Magdalene, the public sinner, a public sinner, he offered the bread of forgiveness and thus satisfied her hunger for acceptance. To the lonely woman at Jacob’s well, he offered the bread of companionship, and so satisfied their hunger for self-worth. To the woman of Naim, who was burying her only son, and to Martha and Mary who had just buried their brother Lazarus, he offered the bread of sympathy, and he showed them that even in death we are not beyond the reach of God’s help. With Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector who had robbed the bread from the table of the poor, he began by inviting himself to his table. Then having awakened within him a hunger for a better life, he got him to share his ill-gotten money with the poor. To the thief who died at his side he offered the bread of reconciliation with God, thus bringing peace to his troubled soul.

We can see that Christ shared himself with the others in many different ways and under many different forms, before offering himself to them as food and drink at the last super. We also see that there were people who refused to accept the bread of life offered by Jesus.

The rich young man to whom he offered the bread of discipleship, but he refused it because it was difficult for him to part with his riches. To the Pilate he offered the bread of truth, but he had no appetite for it because it meant to put his position at risk. To the people of Jerusalem, to whom with tears in his eyes, he offered bread of peace, but they refused it with the result that their city was destroyed. The scribes and Pharisees, to whom he offered not once, but several times, the bread of conversion, but they refused even a crumb of it.

To everyone, regardless of any status, he continues to offer the bread that will ultimately satisfy our hunger, which our Heavenly Father has placed in our hearts, namely, the bread of eternal life. The Lord alone is the person who can satisfy and fulfill the hunger and thirst of our hearts. St. Paul is a person who was completely transformed by the person of Crist. It is not I who live but Christ lives in me.

We are called to be Eucharistic people because we believe in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. We should be spirit filled people, because the reception of Jesus into our life should transform us. If the reception of the sacrament does not transform us, then we are unable to bear fruit of the presence of Jesus in our life. We are a community people, because Eucharist empowers us to see the face of Christ in everyone. This enhances our relationship with the others and caring community is created and lived for the Lord.

Feast of the Holy Trinity

“The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, the Holy Ghost is Love” (St. Augustine).

Today’s feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are three divine persons, sharing the same divine nature in one God. The doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost. All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Throughout the world, church bells ring three times a day inviting Christians to pray to God the Father (the Provider); God the Son (the Savior); and God the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier). We bless ourselves with the sign of the cross invoking the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”

The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament: Since Yahweh was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books make only indirect and passing reference to the Trinity.  Gen. 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  Genesis 18:2, describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.  In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language.”  These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity as seen in the New Testament

  1. a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38) describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, to announce to her that God, the Holy Spirit, would “overshadow” her, and that God, the Son, would be made flesh in her womb.
  2. b) During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:  16-17), the Holy Spirit is shown descending on Jesus in the form of a dove, while the voice of God the Father is heard from the clouds.
  3. c) John (Chapters 15 through 18) presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.
  4. d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commands them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”(Confer also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30, 14:26; 2 Corinthians 13:14.). St Paul mentions the Trinity 30 times in his letters.

The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church: The word “Trinity,” referring to Three Persons in one God, One in divinity yet distinct in Person; is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible although the doctrine on Trinity is mentioned about forty times in the New Testament without using the term “Trinity.”  The early Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity when she developed the revelation, which she had received from Jesus in faith. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed, which has served as the basis of catechetical instruction and as the baptismal confession of faith since the second century.  Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea (325 CE), stated the doctrine more explicitly.  This Creed; was introduced into the western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in 589 CE. It was Jesus who revealed to us the three separate functions that are carried out by the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of creation; to God the Son, the work of Redemption, and to God the Holy Spirit the work of sanctification.

The Trinity in our Life: The entire Christian life is accompanied by the presence of the Trinity and it is the “fabric” of our life. In fact, we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and “we are called to participate in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here in the darkness of faith, and beyond death in the eternal light” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 263). All the other Sacraments of the Church are conferred with the sign of the Cross and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, we have been confirmed with the anointing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the Sacrament of Penance, we are forgiven for our sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Again, in this name the bride and groom are united in marriage and their love is lifted up to that of God, who is the guarantor of their mutual loyalty. In the Eucharist, it is though the action of the Holy Spirit bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.

In the priestly ordination, the new priests are consecrated in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks to this, the priest is placed in the Trinitarian dynamics with a special responsibility. His identity stems from the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments that is in essential relation to the mystery of the saving love of the Father (Jn. 17,6-9,24, 1Cor 1,1, 2Cor 1,1), along with the priesthood of Christ, who chooses and calls his own minister to be with Him (Mk 3:15), and with the gift of the Spirit (Jn. 20:21). In illness and in the last hour, when the priest will anoint us, he will recommend the soul in the name of the Father who created us, of the Son who has redeemed us, and of the Holy Spirit who has sanctified us. In this way, all of our Christian existence is under the irradiation of the Trinity, who lives in us in a state of grace: “We will come to him – Jesus promised us – to make our home in Him.”

Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we the baptized Christian believers experience the ineffable goodness of God and are called to mirror in our lives the divine benevolence. By our efforts to awaken and cherish new life, we participate in the Father’s work of creation, generation, and maintenance. By our human works of healing, reconciling, serving, promoting the cause of justice and right, we reflect the divine Son’s own work of reconciliation and redemption. By pursuing the wisdom of heart and good inspiration, by responding to the call of holiness, by promoting community-communion, we give witness to the animating movement of the Holy Spirit. The functions of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity intertwine, influence and complement each other.

 

 

Feast of Pentecost. 2017

Feast of Pentecost

On this joyful day of the feast of Pentecost, we commemorate the birth of the Church as a living and witnessing body of Christ. On Ascension day, just before he was taken up, Jesus had promised You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Just as Adam’s side was pierced and Eve was drawn out the Church drawn out of the pierced side of Christ became vivified with the life and mission of Christ when the promised Spirit was breathed into her. That is the event we celebrate today in the liturgy

Today’s gospel, tells us that Jesus breathed on the community of his disciples), and said …Receive the Holy Spirit… The action of Jesus recalls Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam s life comes from God, so now the disciple’s new spiritual life comes from Jesus’ breath. The community is the proper receiver of the spirit of Jesus. The report of the Pentecostal event in the first reading amplifies this act of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on his disciples. The Charismatic experience of the first Christian community receiving the spirit is characterized by a noise from the sky like a strong wind and each individual within this community receiving a share of the spirit in the form of a tongue “as of fire” as well as the gift of tongues. Everyone in the community was given the spirit, but to no one outside of it. The Spirit is a gift given to the community and only within the framework of the believing community each member receives the Spirit.

On 26th May 2014 Pope Francis was in the Upper Room during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These are his words: It is a great gift that the Lord has given by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.
In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30). To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and action that reveals their true meaning.
The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.

The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.

The Upper Room reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (Jn 14:3) Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room; however, also reminds us of pettiness of curiosity – “Who is the traitor” and of betrayal? We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here? It is like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven. These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room; the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church. From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus; the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!

The first task of the Spirit is to be with us always (Jn. 14:15). St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in our body as in a temple (1 Cor. 6:19). Henceforth we are never alone; always accompanied by the presence of the Spirit deep with in us. In lonely moments of life to recognize and turn to this divine presence can be immensely comforting. In the last analysis there is no human relationship, however intimate and enduring it might be, that can once for all soothe our aching heart. St. Augustine immortalized both the ache and the balm in the words, our hearts are made for you O God; and they are restless until they rest in you.

Secondly the Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, which has a range of meaning as the one who exhorts, the one who comforts, the one who helps and the one who makes appeals on our behalf. For those who make their hearts raw to feel the breath of the Spirit these helps are always available when they are most on need.

Thirdly, the Paraclete will testify to Jesus (Jn. 15:26) and teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has told us (Jn. 14:26). He will convince us of the true nature of sin not simply as external evil actions we do but as a spiritual condition we suffer from because we give our hearts to be ruled by the powers of this world and not by Jesus (Jn. 16:9). He will convince us of what true righteousness is that is, all that Jesus stood for in his life, rejected and condemned by this world climaxed in his crucifixion, but vindicated by God as indicated by his return to the Father (Jn. 16:10). Think for a moment the suffering and darkness in the heart of those who are anxious about the uncertainties of tomorrow and cannot trust in God those who wallow in resentment and anger and cannot forgive, those who fear death because they cannot believe in the resurrection. These are the concrete experiences of condemnation.

Fourthly, the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13); into that truth of God, which will set us truly free (Jn. 8:32).

Fifthly St. Paul tells us that when we let the Spirit have his way in us, he would generate the following fruits: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In addition, as Jesus words in todays gospel announces, the immediate effect of the Spirit in the community is the experience of forgiveness and the peace that flows from it. In a heart where hurt, anger, resentment and vindictiveness ferment so much emotional noise the silent work of the Spirit may never be felt.

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter -A

“Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Today we move on to the great chapter 17 of John, which contains the final part of his discourse and Jesus is still with his disciples at the Last Supper.  It consists of the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, which has three parts:

Jesus prays for his own mission;

– He prays for his immediate disciples, who are with him as he prays;

– He prays for all those who in later times will become his disciples.

The time has come for Jesus to offer himself completely to the will of His Heavenly Father. We see how painful it is going to be as He sees the passion ahead of him. He says in the garden of Gethsemane; if it is possible let this chalice pass away from me, but not my will but your will be done. He had spoken to his disciples the baptism that he had to undergo and how eager he is to fulfill it. Knowing the pain and agony, Jesus prays to the Heavenly Father the strength to carry out the Divine Mandate in order to save us from the darkness of sin and alienation form God. He prays that, through his passion, death and resurrection, he may find glory.  In John’s gospel Jesus’ glory begins with his passion and the high moment is the moment of his dying on the cross, which is also the moment of resurrection and union with the Father.  This glory is not for him but to lead people to glorify God, of whom Jesus is the Revealer and Mediator.

He prays that all he does may lead to people everywhere sharing in the life of God. And what is that life?  Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” To know God and to know Jesus is to acknowledge their unique place as the source and end of all we have and are.  To know the Father and Jesus is to have as full as possible an understanding of Jesus’ message and to have assimilated it into one’s whole life. The Gospel speaks about the intimate union between the Father and the son. At the Baptism and Transfiguration the Spirit descended and proclaimed; that “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

To know God in the Gospel sense is to have a deep personal experience of God Who is working in our lives. It involves a close and intimate relationship, which matures eventually into a mutual love and trust.  Christian Faith is essentially a ‘believing in’– a total surrender.  Jesus is encountered and experienced in a personal relationship. Jesus is the source of life for us and He is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to the Father except through me. Eternal life is the result of imbibing the Gospel values and establishing a deep personal relationship with Jesus and growing in it by our life of total surrender.

Jesus now prays for his disciples, the “men you took from the world to give me”.  Although it was Jesus who chose them, ultimately they are the gift of the Father to help Jesus continue his work on earth.  Jesus thanks God that they have recognized that he comes from the Father and that they have accepted his teaching.  And, because they belong to Jesus, they also belong to the Father and through them Jesus will receive glory.

Finally, they have been chosen from the world and yet will remain in the world, though not sharing in its values.  In fact, they will give glory to Jesus precisely by challenging the values of that world and leading it to the ‘eternal life’ which they have discovered through Jesus and which they have already begun to enjoy.

We thank Jesus for his disciples. We thank them for handing on to us the secret of life. We thank them for the giving of themselves, sometimes through a martyr’s death, to share that secret with us.  We recognize that they, like us, had many weaknesses but Jesus still worked through them and through them the world came to know Jesus.

Peter challenges his early Christian audience to accept sufferings as opportunities to identify themselves with Jesus.  “Rejoice,” he encourages the newly baptized, “to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.  Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but should glorify God because of the Name.”  Both the Jewish and the Gentile Christians had to face persecutions and inner suffering.  The Jewish members had to give up many of their long cherished traditions and to suffer the loss of their Jewish friends.  The Gentiles had to struggle to give up some of their old ways, such as magic and idolatry, which were incompatible with the Gospel.  Although they all considered Jesus the restorer of the kingship of David, they soon discovered that his throne included the cross and suffering as well as joy.  Peter is not suggesting that greater Faith will make one impervious to suffering, but that, properly accepted, it can render that suffering salvific.  Jesus, the Messiah, that is, the restorer of the glorious kingship of David, a monarch above all suffering, had the cross for His throne, and found his strength in his submission to the evil others did to him.  Hence, the believer needs and is meant to use suffering to give meaning to his life by identifying himself with the suffering Jesus.

We need to center our Christian life on prayer: Prayer is one of the most essential elements in order to grow in our relationship with God and be in communion with him. We should try to set aside some time each day to spend with God in prayer.  If we are convinced of the presence of God within us, we can talk to him even while we are busy with our daily activities. Our talk with God can include praise and thanksgiving, pleas for forgiveness and prayer for our needs.  A few minutes spent in reading the Bible is a good way of listening to God.

We need to glorify Christ by the lives we live: When we live ethical lives, that is, lives of integrity in which our performance is in harmony with our profession of Faith, we are glorifying Jesus. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, a fair deal on a product, a truthful, trustworthy guarantee – all these reflect our integrity. When others see Christians who will not cheat on their income tax, who will stand up for peace with justice, who will love even when it costs, who will stand with the poor and oppressed, who will use their money as a gift from God to bless other lives, who will use their money to guarantee that the Gospel is preached all over the world, we glorify God. We also glorify God by our prayer life and faithful observance of the Lord’s Day. We glorify Jesus by humble and selfless service. Finally, we glorify God by speaking kind, merciful, loving and encouraging words to everyone we encounter in our daily lives.

 

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter A

“If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

The Gospel is about the final testament before His passion, death and Resurrection. Jesus knew well that His disciples would be at a lost and needed lot of courage and strength to persevere in their life of commitment to Jesus, their master. He prepared them for a new era in which they would have to face new challenges and assume new tasks, without the constant support of his presence and his advice. Foreseeing their difficulty, Jesus consoles the disciples he was about to leave, promising to send them his Spirit. He would not, therefore, leave them abandoned. He would no longer be with them in body as he had been until now, but he would be available to them spiritually in a new and permanent way.

He speaks to them about the importance of their fidelity and commitment. That is why He says if you love me, you will keep my commandments. In other places He says that whoever loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode within him (Jh.14, 23). One of the conditions Jesus specifically speaks is the unconditional love of God that we should have in our lives. How do we express our love of God and have that as the primacy of our lives. The book of Deuteronomy speaks about “the Lord our God is the only Lord! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk. 12, 29-30) There has to be convergence of all these four elements in order to love God totally and completely. Here it is very specifically points out the various dimensions that contribute to the fulfillment of this great commandment. There has to be a combination and integration of the heart and mind, because we love with our heart and not with the intellect. The intellect gives us the knowledge and this information when combined with the heart it comes to its fullness.

Loving Jesus therefore is not just something emotional; loving Jesus means changing our lives, reforming our lives, working on our personalities and characters, overcoming sinful habits, stretching ourselves to love as Jesus loved. This calls for a total transformation of our life in Christ and we need to possess the person of Christ totally and completely. No wonder St. Paul says writing to the Philippians “For me to live is Christ and die is a gain.” We need to be ruled and governed by the person of Christ and His Gospel, which are his own words, which are powerful and effective. Again the words of Jesus are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We cannot have both a pure love of Jesus and sin in our lives at the same time. As Jesus said in Matt 6:24, we cannot be the slaves of two masters. Truly loving Jesus leads us to give up whatever in our lives draws us away from Jesus. Truly loving Jesus leads us to making changes in the way we live and think and act. When we keep the commandments not only do we love Jesus but we also have the love of God in us. At the end of our Gospel excerpt today we heard; anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

The Gospel gives us certain guidelines in order to comply with the commandment of Jesus.

Let your light shine before the people. If your deeds are good, do not hide them and let the others see and glorify your heavenly Father in Heaven.

Love your enemies; you have heard that love your friends and hate your enemy, but I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you will become the children of your heavenly Father, who sees everything that is done will reward you.

Forgive everyone who sins against you. The Lord is merciful and kind and he expects us to forgive others in order that we may receive forgiveness form him. We cannot be recipients of mercy unless we ourselves are merciful and kind. The Lord says give and it will be given back to you in full measure, pressed down and flowing over will be poured into your lap.

Clean inside the cup and dish and the outside will take care of itself. It clearly refers to the cleanness of our own inner self. Psalm 50 would say a pure heat create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me, do not cast me away from your spirit nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit.

Love one another as I have loved you. If you do this, then I will know that you are my disciples. Look at the early Christians that their life was clearly an example of this great commandment. If we really loved him, we would make his will the norms of our existence until they are imprinted in our hearts. The proof that we love him in his absence is that we do his will. If the will of Jesus is the norm of our lives, we will not feel abandoned and left alone.

I have come to serve and not to be served. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand the greatness of this virtue that He himself washed the feet of his own disciples.

Repay evil with good, in this way you will be called the children of your Heavenly Father; for he brings down snow and rain on the good as well as the bad. Nothing is achieved by retaliation except to pile darkness upon darkness. Do not judge and you will not be judged; Do to others what you want them to do to you. God is the righteous judge and He knows the intentions of our heart well compared to anyone in the world.

Do not store up treasures for yourself here on earth- money, property, goods and so on. These are like chaff in the eyes of God and will be blown away by the first wind of judgment. Do not worry about food, drink and clothes as if they were the most important things in life. Your first concern is to live a life worthy of a child of God and all the rest will fall into place. Let our life be permeated and predominated by the love of God and expressed in loving and caring for our brothers and sisters

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter -A

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Actions speak louder than words. We have heard these words many times and our reactions could be either in conformity with it or it does not affect us at all. Today we live in a world dominated by Technology and progress. These are human achievement and they need to be appreciated, but there is a question that we need to answer whether we have forgotten God, who is the author of everything. If we have lost sight of the gospel values and the person of God form our lives, then we need to introspect and see where we are going and what we want to achieve in our life. We need to realize that all the progress is a means for us to achieve the end for which we are created. St. Augustine says that we have been created for God and we cannot rest until we rest in him. Esmeralda Solis was the beauty queen of Mexico in 2016. At the age of twenty she had everything she wanted, but she felt within herself that God is calling her to follow him closely. On 25th March 2017 she becomes a novice of the Poor Clares of Blessed Sacrament.

The disciples are gathered together with Jesus on the last Thursday night of his life in the Upper Room for the Last Supper. The departing Jesus instructs them about how they may preserve his memory and carry on his mission. As his final hours on earth approach, Jesus prepares his disciples by explaining to them the full significance of what will happen. He will return to his Father and send them the gift of the Holy Spirit. And after dedicating their lives to leading others to Faith through the power of that Holy Spirit, they will be reunited with him in his Father’s house. “I am going to prepare a living space for you, a mansion, a place for you for all eternity… I will come again and take you to that place.”

The early Christians had to face persecutions and were struggling to maintain their Christian identity. John in his message was attempting to give courage and hope to people who found themselves in the midst of a very nasty fight with their passionate and fanatical Jewish neighbors in the Synagogue. It is clear that John’s aim was pastoral, an attempt to comfort those friends of his who were afraid and who needed assurance. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me… “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
”My Father’s house:” When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily. “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in Heaven as my heart is there.” “I will drive you from your people, and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor. “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in Heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
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. “The Jesus of the Gospel does not only show us the way – his life of humble and generous service is the way; he does not just philosophize about a concept of truth – he is the perfect Revelation of the truth about a God of enduring and unlimited love for his people; he is not just a preacher of futuristic promises – he has been raised up by God to a state of existence in God to which he invites all of us. In embracing the Spirit of his Gospel and living the hope of his Word, we encounter, in Christ, God Himself.”
Jesus is the Way. We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus and we call Jesus the “Way” because he is the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his Heavenly Father. The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides. Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.” Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana,” but he was not sure if these would lead one to God. Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it. However, Jesus claims that he is the only way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure way to God is the narrow way of the cross. It is the least-traveled way of humble, loving, self-giving and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus reveals to us. It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus. The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis the author of Imitation of Christ explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” thus: “Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.”
Jesus is the Truth. Gandhi said, “God is truth.” Jesus is the Truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God. He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father. He also teaches us the truth that our Triune God lives in each one of the believers. Jesus is the Truth also because he has borne testimony to truth, demonstrating through his life and death the love of God for human beings. Truth here is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person. Jesus is the Truth, the Word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So we pray the 86th Psalm, “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth.” For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a “fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.
Jesus is the Life. As God, Jesus has eternal life in himself. In addition, he is the one who gives us his life-giving Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the Sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God.
If we had more of Jesus in our lives we would have less fear, worries and anxieties. We would still have problems. God never promised that we would not have problems. Jesus himself had a big problem; he was sentenced to death as a common criminal. But Jesus rose on the third day and Jesus will help us rise above our difficulties also because as the second reading stated Jesus is the “living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4) If we try to live without Jesus, life will not go nearly as well for us as when we have Jesus at the center of our lives. We can overcome problems better with Jesus in our lives than without Jesus. If we turn our backs on Jesus how can we expect to succeed? Let us focus on Jesus and not on the problems. Again as our second reading stated, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:6) When we have problems, let us turn to Jesus who is always waiting for us.

Homily, Fourth Sunday of Easter.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly”

Yahweh, the Good Shepherd: The Jewish people, for a long time had used the image of the Good Shepherd for God. The usage goes all the way back to Genesis 49:24, which says that Joseph was saved “By the power of the mighty one of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel and the God of your father…” Such imagery was used by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah, and of course by David in his Psalms. The psalmist addresses Yahweh as his Shepherd.  Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd; nothing shall I want.” (Compare also Psalms 77:20, 79:13, 97:7).  “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Ps.95:7).  “Like a shepherd, He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Isaiah 40:11).  Ezekiel foretells what the Messiah will do as Good Shepherd.  “I myself will tend My sheep …I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34: 15-16).  In short, God is the ultimate Shepherd of the people, providing guidance, sustenance and protection (Psalm 23), and He intended their Kings and other leaders to be their shepherds as well.

The prophets pointed out the main duties of the Good Shepherd: 1) The Good Shepherd leads the sheep to the pasture, provides them with food and water and protects them.  In Palestine, the shepherd went in front and the sheep followed behind.  2) He guarded them, not allowing them to get lost in the desert or become victims of robbers and wild animals – preventive vigilance.  3) He went in search of the lost ones and healed their wounds – protective vigilance.  4) He was ready to surrender his life for his sheep – redemptive vigilance.

The first parable in today’s Gospel: The first part of today’s Gospel contrasts Jesus, the true Shepherd, with fake shepherds, thieves and robbers. Jesus gives us warning against false shepherds and false teachers in his Church. Jesus’ love and concern for each of us must be accepted with trust and serenity because he alone is our Shepherd, and no one else deserves our undivided commitment. As a true Shepherd, he leads his sheep, giving them the food and protection only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can provide, and he protects us and leads us to true happiness.

The second parable: In this second parable Jesus compares himself to the Shepherd and to the Gate. The first title represents His ownership because Shepherd is the true owner of the sheep. The second title represents His leadership. Jesus is the Gate, the only Way. He is the One Mediator between God and mankind. All must go through Him, through His Church, in order to arrive in Heaven. 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.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis was in Egypt last week and in one of his talks highlighted the 7 temptations that are prevalent today.

  1. The temptation to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead. The Good Shepherd has the responsibility of guiding the sheep (cf. Jn. 10:3-4), of bringing them to fresh pastures and springs of flowing water (cf. Ps 23). He cannot let himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism: “What can I do?” He is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken-hearted. He is a father when his children show him gratitude, but especially when they prove ungrateful (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Our faithfulness to the Lord must never depend on human gratitude: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).
  2. The temptation to complain constantly. It is easy to always complain about the shortcomings others, about the state of the Church and society, about the lack of possibilities… But we are called to turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse! The person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work. It was for this reason that the Lord said to the pastors: “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb. 12:12; cf. Is. 35:3).
  3. The temptation to gossip and envy. It is a great danger when persons, instead of helping the little ones to grow and to rejoice in the successes of their brothers and sisters, allow themselves to be dominated by envy and to hurt others through gossip. When, instead of striving to grow, they start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value. Envy is a cancer that destroys the body in no time: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mk 3:24-25). In fact, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). Gossip is its means and its weapon.
  4. The temptation to compare ourselves to others. Enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us. Comparing ourselves with those who are better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness. Those who are always comparing themselves with others end up paralyzed.
  5. The temptation to become like Pharaoh that is to harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters. Here the temptation is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve. It is a temptation that, from the very beginning, was present among the disciples, who – as the Gospel tells us – “on the way argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). The antidote to this poison is: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).
  6. The temptation to individualism. This is the temptation of selfish people: along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves. The Church is the community of the faithful, the Body of Christ, where the salvation of one member is linked to the holiness of all (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Lumen Gentium, 7.) An individualist is a cause of scandal and of conflict.
  7. The temptation to keep walking without direction or destination. We need to remain always focused on what we want to achieve that is eternal life; otherwise there is a possibility that we take the broader road rather than the narrow road. They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful! Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission. The quality of our consecration depends on the quality of our spiritual life.

Psalm 23 is a personal application to enjoy the comfort and security of the relationship with the Lord

The Lord is my Shepherd…THAT’S RELATIONSHIP!

I shall not want… THAT’S SUPPLY!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…THAT’S REST!

He leads me beside still waters…THAT’S REFRESHMENT!

He restores my soul…THAT’S HEALING!
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness… THAT’S GUIDANCE!

For His name sake…THAT’S PURPOSE!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…THAT’S CHALLENGE!

I will fear no evil… THAT’S ASSURANCE!

For thou art with me…THAT’S FAITHFULNESS!

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…THAT’S SHELTER!

Thou preparest a table before mein the presence of mine enemies…THAT’S HOPE!

Thou anointest my head with oil…THAT’S CONSECRATION!

My cup runneth over… THAT’S ABUNDANCE!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…
THAT’S BLESSING!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord…THAT’S SECURITY!

Forever…THAT’S ETERNITY!

Homily, Third Sunday of Easter (A)

“Did not our hearts burn within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?”

Jesus once walked on the earth and his walking was far more important than walking on the moon. The Gospel of today is one of the most compelling narratives in all of the scriptures. So fascinating is this scene, in fact, that the gospel writer Luke includes it in detail near the end of his gospel writing. It is a story known well and beloved in the church – the story of two disciples walking down a dusty road to the village of Emmaus, the evening of that first Easter day.

The two disciples of Jesus were returning to their hometown and their talk centers around the crucified, dead Jesus. Their words come out slowly, almost painfully, as they trudge their way along, their feet heavy and their hearts broken. “I can hardly believe it,” one of them says. “In fact, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. He is dead. He is really gone.” “What should we to do now?” the other asks. “Life seems hopeless.” And just then a stranger joins them – perhaps he has come up from behind, unknown to them. Perhaps he has walked along with them for a while without their noticing him. But suddenly he is there. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but I couldn’t help but overhear you. What are you talking about?”

They stop and turn to him. Other travelers step around them, anxious to reach their destination before night falls. The three of them stand there in the middle of the dusty road and talk. “Where have you been the last few days,” one of the disciples asked the stranger. “How is it you haven’t heard anything about Jesus of Nazareth?” And so the two of them tell the stranger what they know. The two beloved disciples of our Lord were filled with sadness and despair, grieving at the death of a friend, telling that stranger how the last nail has been driven into their hope for the future. And our Savior himself, unknown to them, patiently listening to them, his nail-scarred hands undoubtedly buried deep within his robe to keep them from recognizing him. As he heard those words of grief and sadness, there is no doubt his heart must have been touched by their pain.

Encounters with God: The Old Testament describes how the Chosen People encountered God in unexpected ways. Gen 18:1-15 describes how Abraham, at Mamre, entertained angels unaware. Running from his troubles, Jacob laid his head on a stone while he slept and saw a stairway to Heaven.  He is presented as wrestling all night with a manifestation of God in the flesh. Moses turned aside from his flock of sheep to see why a bush would burn and not be consumed and heard the Voice of God from it. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Temple. Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Jesus got Saul’s attention by knocking him to the ground and striking him blind. God’s Self-disclosure to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was unexpected, but in a radically different way from the encounters mentioned above.

The Jewish custom required that Cleopas and his companion invite Jesus to dinner.  Hence, they invited Jesus for a night’s rest in their house–and Jesus accepted the invitation.  During the meal, when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, the disciples realized that this stranger was Jesus, the risen Christ, and Jesus immediately vanished.  Later they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?”  Since they could not keep the Good News to themselves, the Emmaus disciples walked back seven miles to Jerusalem to share their story with the other disciples.

The Fathers of the Church note how well the details of this Emmaus episode match our process of coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  First, there are questions and a search for answers.  Then comes a moment of discovery when our eyes are opened and our hearts within begin to burn with longing.  Finally there is the desire to tell the story to all who will listen.  Jesus began revealing himself through the Scriptures (vv. 25-27) and completed the revelation through the Eucharist (vv. 30-31). This means that Christ still reveals himself to us through Word and Sacrament. The word “companion” derives from two Latin words, “cum” meaning “together with,” and “panis” which means “bread,” implying that companionship is the result especially of eating together, breaking bread together, something which is at the heart of the Eucharist.

Luke’s Emmaus story teaches us that (1) Jesus’ death and Resurrection fit God’s purpose as revealed in the Scriptures; (2) the risen Jesus is present in the Word of God and especially in the Breaking of the Bread; 3) suffering is necessary for the Messiah “to enter into his glory;” and 4) we have a risen Savior, One Who personally walks with us in our daily paths, talks with us through His Word and with Whom we can talk through prayer.  He is the One, Who opens our minds to understand and respond to His Word.

Jesus meets us on our Emmaus Road.  The risen Lord meets us on the road to our Emmaus in the ordinary experiences of our lives and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us.  We, too, have hopes and dreams about better health, healing, financial security and family relationships.  These dreams often get shattered.  The story promises us, however, that Jesus will come to us in unfamiliar guises to support and strengthen us when we least expect our risen Lord.  Emmaus moments come to us when we meet the risen Christ on our life’s journey through rough times.

The road to Emmaus is a road of companionship. The risen Lord desires that we walk with Him and with one another: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3).  He wants to join us in our travels of life: “I am a Companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalms 119:63). “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).   We meet Jesus on a daily basis in our life’s journey. When we meet our risen Lord through the Word of God, we commune with him. We renew our relationship with Jesus through prayer. These two meetings will enable us to meet the risen Jesus living in all the people we meet and to do them humble, loving and selfless service.Do our hearts burn when we listen to the Risen Lord in the Bible? Christ comes to us most clearly in the Word. Our tradition teaches us that the reading of the Scriptures, the study of the Scriptures and the proclamation of the message of the Scriptures are the primary ways in which we meet God. Abraham Lincoln, whom many consider the best President of the United States, said: “The greatest gift that God gave to human beings is the Bible.” Another President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, said that it was a principle of his to read the Bible through each and every year. Yet another great President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” Goethe, the great German philosopher, said that the beauty of the Bible grows as we grow in our understanding of it.

Second Sunday of Easter

“Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”

Twentieth Century has witnessed significant scientific and technological invention, progress and development, but it is equally true that there were miseries and sufferings caused by the world wars, economic depression and political ambitions of selfish people. St. Faustina was chosen by the Lord to be an apostle of the Mercy of God, by letting the world knows about the love and compassion of the Lord. She was called to intervene in the lives of these people that they may find mercy of the Lord and experience forgiveness and healing of their souls.

St. Faustina lived only for 33 years, which is equal to the years of the Lord and most of her life was spend in convents in Poland. Yet her life has made an impact upon the world. In 1931 she had a vision of Jesus as the King of Divine Mercy, wearing a white gown and having white and red rays flowing from His side. She was told to paint this picture and under it put the words, “Jesus, I trust in you.” St. John Paul II said in his canonization homily that St. Faustina was told that the two rays coming from Jesus’ heart represented blood and water. Blood referred to the sacrifice of the cross, and the gift of the Eucharist. Water referred to the gifts of baptism and the Holy Spirit. Jesus told her, “My daughter, tell people that I am love and mercy personified.”

St. John Paul II said: This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer “Jesus, I trust in you”, which Providence initiated through Sr. Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life.

The first part of today’s Gospel (verses 19-23), Jesus appears to them in the Upper Room and greets them “peace be with you.” He breathes on the apostles the Holy Spirit and entrusted to them His mission of preaching the “Good News” of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation. It is through the church this mission of Jesus is continued in the world.  It also teaches us that the Church needs Jesus as its source of power and authority, and that it becomes Christ’s true messenger only when it perfectly loves and obeys Him.  The risen Lord gives the apostles the power of imparting God’s mercy to the sinner through the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy.   In the liturgy, the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God for centuries through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Gospel text also reminds us that the clearest way of expressing our belief in the presence of the risen Jesus among us is through our own forgiveness of others.  We can’t form a lasting Christian community without such forgiveness.  Unless we forgive others, our celebration of the Eucharist is just an exercise of liturgical rubrics.

The second part of the Gospel (verses 24-29), presents the fearless apostle St. Thomas in his uncompromising honesty, demanding a personal vision of, and physical contact with, the risen Jesus as a condition for his belief.  Thomas had not been with the Apostles when Jesus first appeared to them. As a result, he refused to believe. This should serve as a warning to us. It is difficult for us to believe when we do not strengthen ourselves with the fellowship of other believers. When the Lord appeared to Thomas later, He said: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”  Thomas was able to overcome his doubts by seeing the risen Jesus.  Modern Christians, who are no longer able to “see” Jesus with their eyes, must believe what they hear.  That is why Paul reminds us that “Faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17).

The unique profession of Faith: Thomas, the “doubting” apostle, makes the great profession of Faith: “My Lord and my God.” Here, the most outrageous doubter of the Resurrection of Jesus utters the greatest confession of belief in the Lord Who rose from the dead. This declaration by the “doubting” Thomas in today’s Gospel is very significant for two reasons. 1) It is the foundation of our Christian Faith.  Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Jesus as proved by His miracles, especially by the supreme miracle of His Resurrection from the dead.  Thomas’ profession of Faith is the strongest evidence we have of the Resurrection of Jesus.  2) Thomas’ faith culminated in his self-surrender to Jesus, his heroic missionary expedition to India in A.D. 52, his fearless preaching, and the powerful testimony given by his martyrdom in A.D. 72.

Breaking down barriers: To be witnesses of Jesus in the world, knowing that we have been sent to bring pardon, it is not important to have seen him, but to know that he is alive. Bringing peace and reconciliation is the practical and effective way of believing in the resurrection of Jesus. We will know that Jesus is alive without needing to touch his risen body, and we will feel in our hearts his life-giving breath, if we live by the pardon we have received and if we give life through deeds of reconciliation among men. The Christian who has used his hands to pardon has no need to touch the Risen Lord. He lives by his Spirit and for his mission. Nothing else is needed in order to believe. Happy are we if we know that Christ is alive. We live at peace in ourselves and we bring peace to the world!

The Christian who cannot forgive is not a living witness of the resurrection. It does not matter what evils the world may have caused him, because his capacity for forgiveness does not depend on the evil suffered but on the mandate of Jesus and the gift of his Spirit. The pardon we succeed in giving and the peace we restore will be the best proof of the resurrection of Jesus. If there is one thing needed in our world, in our society and in our hearts, it is to live reconciled, inwardly at peace, healed in the very depth of our being. Only the Christian, certain as he is that Jesus is alive, can count on the power and the duty to forgive others. If we Christians today do not take seriously the mission given us by the Risen Jesus, we lose not only his Spirit but also the very reason for our being in the world.

The spiritual Fathers prescribe the following traditional means to grow in the living and dynamic faith of St. Thomas the Apostle:  a) First, we must come to know Jesus personally and intimately by the daily and meditative reading of the Bible.  b) Next, we must strengthen our faith through personal and community prayer.  c) Third, we must share in the divine life of Jesus by frequenting the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Mother Teresa presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.”

As we celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy today may our celebration of the Holy Eucharist enable us to experience deep within the unfathomable mercy of Jesus flowing from his heart to each one of us to become ministers of mercy to our brothers and sisters in our homes, parish, society and the world at large.