Sunday Sermons

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A - August 10, 2014

“Have no fear!” Faith in Jesus solves all human problems. Homily: In his book “Angels,” Billy Graham tells that his wife was born and raised in China. She recalls when lions used to roam the foothills of china: One day, a Chinese mother and her two children were walking along a narrow foot path. Suddenly a lion sprang upon the mother and sank his claws into her shoulder and arm. At this point this mother recalled something a missionary Priest had taught them many years ago: “Fear not! Jesus is always ready to help you in time of trouble.” Immediately she cried out: “Jesus, help me!” And instantly, the tiger left her, turned toward the forest, took to his heels into the hills! Today’s readings of our liturgical celebration remind us that the Lord is always with his people, ready to help them in times of need: “I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them and I will not forsake them (Is 42:16). To this day, God in Jesus continues to fulfill His promise. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus’ disciples were caught in high winds and rough seas, but Jesus came to their assistance with the assurance: “Fear not ….” Looking at the story, one may think it is not a true story, or it has no relevance to the modern times of great discoveries in medicine, science and technology. Typically, modern life with its emphasis on secularity and of its distrust of the unknown is skeptical of faith in God. As Matthew’s Gospel relates the miracle, the incident is symbolic. “Walking on water,” is a symbol of something that is impossible to unaided human beings to do or to believe. The symbolism is this: The boat represents the world: Jesus’ disciples, the church in the world. Thus Jesus’ disciples, the church, will be beaten by the winds and the waves of persecution, trials and tribulations, but will not be abandoned by Jesus. Even as individuals, at some time or the other, every disciple of Jesus will be faced with very trying circumstances, very difficult decisions, very great sorrows and very great powerful temptations. When these things happen, Jesus is asking us to “walk on the water,” – “Come on with strong faith. Do not give up!” A few of the trials that may come to us as Jesus’ disciples, Christian, may include, for instance – a temptation: At a train station, you pick up a wallet with a lot of money in it. You may not have enough money in your purse. That “pick up” of money is not “manna” from heaven. Jesus immediately tells you, “Walk on the water,’ – that is, “Return the money to its rightful owner.” Or, again, you are a policeman, or a top government official. A drug dealer offers you a large sum of money to turn a blind eye to his crimes and activities. It is very tempting! Or yet, again, you are a woman looking for a job. The Boss to offer the job wants sex as a condition for getting the job. Then you will hear the tiny voice of Jesus telling you, “Walk on the water,” – that is, “Do not participate in evil or corruption.” In our trials and tribulations, temptations, misfortunes, etc., Jesus may not physically stand there, but he stands deep down in our spirit. Remarkably, in the story of the storm, Jesus was not physically with his disciples at the time. He came walking on the sea to assist them. He calmed the storm and brought them peace. Thus, at our times of need, he comes to the need of his loved ones, and with his presence calms the turmoil and brings peace. The incident of Peter sinking and being rescued by Jesus points to lack of faith. Peter represents a typical Jesus’ disciple in trial or tribulation, caught between faith and doubt. Jesus’ rebuke: “Man of

little faith! Why did you doubt?” was directed to Peter, but also to all Jesus’ disciple who may doubt the mighty work of God that may take place in times of crises. Peter was human like any of us. It is comforting for us to see that even Peter to whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom lost faith. Some people think that if you have faith life will be a bed of roses. But this is not always true. For instance, faith does not give immunity from death. Otherwise all faithful people down through history would be alive to this day. Abraham, our father in faith would still be living today. Faith does not always shield us from the blows and the punches of life. What faith does is to strengthen us to face them. A faithful man indeed has source of strength and inspiration, especially when crises come. The Prophet Elijah in our first reading, for example, was a man of great faith. Because of his opposition to idolatry, Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him, so he fled to the desert and took refuge in a cave. Here, he encountered God and regained strength to continue his mission. He also learned that God’s ways are different from human ways. Perhaps it may be right to say that, in times of crises some people come closer to God. This time they turn to God in prayer for help. Typically, it is in our weak moments that we experience the strength of God. If we do not feel ourselves going down, we may never know the rescuing power of God. But many people also blame God for human misfortunes, and think that God has abandoned them. This is not true! We must have faith. A person without faith has nowhere to turn to when disaster strikes. He is alone, without comfort and without inspiration. Thus, our Gospel story of the storm at sea portrays what Jesus does for his disciples when disaster strikes – He promptly comes to their rescue. In difficult times, as above, we are encouraged to draw strength from Peter. He represents the typical Christian who is caught between faith and doubt. The early church, the apostolic era, which we regard as the time of great faith in Jesus encountered great trials and tribulations. Like peter, they thought the Lord had abandoned them and their faith wilted. Later they discovered that even though the lord was not physically with them, his spirit was with them, and could still come their assistance. This belief revived their faith and goaded them to further their missionary activities. In sum, the whole life of a Christian is like “walking on the water,” – walking always through storm but with faith and relying on the words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid.” Jesus is God’s word. For those who know how to listen, God’s gentle voice can make itself heard – in the midst of a storm, trials and tribulation of life. Just like, over the waves and the storm, the apostles heard the gentle voice of Jesus saying to them, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid,” so also will the faithful people hear Jesus’ voice. To live by faith is to trust God and rely on his power. Indeed, we are God’s children. There is an unbreakable bond between us and God. That bond is faith in Jesus!


Readings: Acts 12: 1-11, 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 27-18. Mt 16:13-19.

 

Theme:

 

The cost of discipleship is high, but the reward is great: “Eyes have never seen, nor ears heard, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 

Homily:

 

There is a famous poem titled “Footprints.” It tells about a man in a dream, walking along a beach with Jesus. In the dream, scenes appeared from the person’s life.

 

For each scene two sets of footprints appeared in the sand - One belonging to Jesus, the other belonging to the person. But what confused the person was that during most of the suffering times in his life only one set of foot prints appeared. Now, the person asked Jesus why he abandoned him during the suffering times. But Jesus replied, “I would never abandon you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you on my back.” Thus, Jesus followers may suffer persecutions and trials, but Jesus never abandons them. So it was with Peter and Paul, so it is with all of us.

 

The first reading tells how threat of punishment for fidelity to Jesus was constant for Jesus’ followers.  The blood of martyrs flowed: James, the brother of John, the son of Zabedee, was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in AD 44. After him, Peter’s life was threatened. While James was martyred Peter’s life was spared. But he was imprisoned. The story of Peter’s deliverance from prison is quite dramatic and calls for lively storytelling. He was guarded in chains with soldiers surrounding him. The details of how closely he was guarded and of the number of chains and guards around him attest to the truth of a divine intervention: The chains fell away and an angel gave Peter prosaic orders to dress up and prepare to be led away home. Peter, himself, could not believe God was taking direct action on his behalf. He thought he is dreaming or experiencing a vision. But the church prayed fervently for him and the Church’s prayers were answered in the form of an awe inspiring angel. It was only when the Angel had left Peter, after, safely leading him to his way home, did he realize that he was not dreaming. Then he declared that God was his advocate recurring him from imminent death.

 

The second reading re-iterates the “high cost of discipleship” of Jesus: As Paul faced death, he spoke of death, but unreservedly in poetic terms – “being poured out like a libation.” He reviewed his entire life beginning with his pre-conversion hatred and persecution of Christians; and ending with his own imprisonment on account of the faith he once persecuted. He looks back with gratitude on his dedicated life in spreading the faith he once persecuted: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And he gave all the credit to Jesus, “The lord who stood by my side and gave me strength…..”Paul is perhaps history’s best example of human response to divine call, grace and its power.

 

Today’s solemnity is one of the most important and necessary feasts of the entire Church year. It reveals the humanness of the founding pillars of the Christian church – Peter and Paul. They were chosen not because they were already Saints. No! They were frail and were capable of sinning like any of us. This fact of their frailty must be the source of much consolation and encouragement to many church men and women today. Thus, it is important to realize that the work of becoming a Saint is the work of receiving Jesus into our lives and allowing him full power over us and over our hearts. Thus, after his potential failures, and denial of Christ, Peter at last was able to say, “Lord, you know everything. You know well that I love you” (Jn 21: 17).

 

Peter and Paul are great pillars of our Christian faith in Jesus. They are different and have strong characters. But they were so united by the call of Jesus to discipleship; and were capable of big undertakings. We see this in their openness to God’s grace which little by little transformed them. This same God’s grace can transform us too if we are open to God’s grace; and can also make us saints.

 


Today feast in particular, honors Peter for the incomparable role he was given by Jesus and which he faithfully played till his death as head of the Christian Church. Several Gospel events and Jesus’ dialogues establish Peter’s primacy among the apostles, as Jesus’ chosen leader. More importantly, today’s Gospel reading speaks more significantly than all others when Peter spoke out in answer to Jesus question: “But who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16). Jesus’ response: “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you …….You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. …… And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…..” (Mt 16:16 -19). Forever, this authority given to Peter by Jesus confirms Peter’s claim of leadership over the Christian church.



Readings: Ex 34: 4-6. 8-9, 2 Cor 13:11-13, Jn 3: 16-18.
Theme: God is One in three Divine Persons: The Father, the Son and the Spirit.


Homily:

A little girl in an orphanage was a problem child. The headmistress of the orphanage did not like her behavior. One day the headmistress saw this child walk out of the main gate of the orphanage. It was forbidden to do so by the rules of the house. The little girl walked to a tree down the block and tied some pieces of paper to a tree. “Aha,” thought the mistress, “now I have got her. I will punish her severely.” She went out and retrieved those pieces of papers. On them the little girl had written: “To whoever finds these papers, I love you.” The Headmistress was dumb-founded about what she read from those papers. Gradually her hate turned to love for the little girl. Now, she learns that loving relationships form the essence of unity of persons as loving relations form the essence of the Trinity. The Trinity is the most graphic image of a loving relationship!

The doctrine of the Trinity is one doctrine many people want to know about. They want to make it come alive in their daily lives. Unfortunately very few articles and homilies are devoted to it. The few articles and homilies devoted to the Trinity are sometimes tedious to read. The reason for this is obvious. When we talk about the Trinity, we are dealing with a mystery. It is important for us to understand that trying to grasp a mystery, of God, the Trinity, etc., is like trying to “empty an entire ocean into a hole dug in the ground.” 

But, we can grasp a mystery within the context of its nature, of its being, of ourselves, of world events, or of work of art, etc. For instance, when we look at any work of art, a painting or a statue, it is impossible not to think of an artist or a painter, the maker of the work of art. So it is with creation and God. But “nobody has ever seen God,” says St. John. “It is His Son who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known” (Jn. 1:18). God remains a mystery and we would not reach him unless He reveals Himself to us, and unless we open ourselves wholly to Him. 

Thus, to look on the created world and not see a creator is to be blind to the meaning of the whole of creation and of ourselves. Yet many people look and still see nothing. The truth is that it is possible to know the existence of God by our reasoning. At the sight of something, any thoughtful man will know that the thing in question does not exist by itself. There is a force behind anything that exists. From the scripture (the Bible), we learn about the existence of God, the Trinity, etc. Today’s first reading says that “God is a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness,” (Ex 43: 4-5). The Gospel also says that, “God loved the world so much that he gave His only Son …,” (Jn 3: 16). St. John’s Gospel especially talks about the Father of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself spoke about God as a merciful and forgiving Father. He spoke about himself as the Son of the Father. And he sent the Holy Spirit to us to help us live as his disciples and children of God. 
Perhaps the best known reference of the Trinity in the Bible is found in St. Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus tells his disciples, “Go, then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize then in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Mt. 28:19). That is not all! The most graphic imagery of the Trinity took place at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River: a dove-like form hovered over Jesus and a voice from heaven was heard saying, “You are my own dear Son,” (Mk 1:11). It is clear enough that the voice, the dove and Jesus – these three images create a vivid portrait of the Trinity. To cap it all, St Paul in the second reading today encourages the Corinthians to live in peace and love. He concludes his exhortation with a Trinitarian blessing which we still use at Mass today, “The grace of our lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” (2 Cor 13:13).

St. Luke is not left out in this matter. His Gospel puts Salvation history – a chronology of God’s encounter with humans in a sort of Trinitarian perspective. For Luke, the Old Testament times is the era of the Father, the New Testament is the era of the Son, and the Post-gospel times (Our time), is the era of the Holy Spirit. The credo – the Creed we recite after the Gospel reading at Mass reflects this pattern.

Today’s lesson of the Trinity is clear: God is One in three Divine Persons: The Father, the Son and the Spirit. He is one but lives in the communion of three. Jesus says, “He who sees me sees the Father.” He is not speaking about the unknown god of the Greeks, but a God who has revealed Himself in the person of his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the face of God, the heart of God, and the word of God, (J 1: 1). The Son is inseparable from the Father as the Father is inseparable from his Son: “No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too.” One question stands out clearly: Though the Trinity is a mystery, how can we make the Trinity come alive in our lives? St Patrick of Ireland used three leaves of one clover to convey the idea of the Trinity and unity. Trinity is a symbol of unity of Persons in one God. Thus the central message of today is God’s love. He so loved the world that he sent His only Son. By giving us His son as a free gift, God also wants us to give ourselves to each other as gifts. Jesus says, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A – August 3, 2014.

 


Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A – August 3, 2014.
Readings: First reading Is 55: 1-3:, Rms 8: 35.37-39, Mt 14: 13-21:
Theme: God feeds the hungry and puts a smile on the faces of the downtrodden. He is generous and loves a generous giver. 


Mother Theresa of Calcutta told this story: Of how one day she came across a poor Hindu family that had not eaten food for some days. She took a small quantity of rice and gave it to the family. Then what happened next surprised her: Without a moment of hesitation, this mother of the poor Hindu family divided the small quantity of rice into two. Then she took one half of it to a poor Moslem family next door to feed them. Seeing what this woman had done, Mother Theresa asked her, “How much will you have left over? Will this be enough for your family? With a smile on her face, the woman replied, “They also have not eaten for days.” This story makes any true follower of Jesus cry with tears of love! Thus, God, down through history has cared for the needy – the hungry, the sick and the downtrodden. 


Beginning from the Old Testament times, God has always cared for His people: In the desert he fed them with manna and water from the rock. In the first reading today, He gives an invitation to the exiles in Babylon to a banquet. This banquet stands for God’s love and friendship with His people. Also, Matthew in today’s Gospel reading re-iterates the Old Testament lesson of God’s care for His people - the “manna” in the desert. He tells how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. In the New Testament, Jesus represents the new Moses who still feeds God’s people. Jesus shows compassion to people by healing their sick and feeding them. Thus, no matter what hard times we go through as humans, we are to remain undaunted because God loves us, and through Christ He comes to our rescue.

 
Mother Theresa’s story (above) bears some resemblance to the miracle of five loaves and two fish in today’s gospel reading: Jesus had just learned that his cousin John, was murdered. He needed peace and quiet. So he and his apostles crossed to the far side of the Lake to snatch some rest. But immediately he stepped out of the boat, he found a throng of people waiting to meet with him. They had followed him to this lonely place forgetting everything else, to listen to the word of God and to be healed of their sicknesses. One would expect Jesus to be angry and send them home. But he did not. Rather he had compassion on them and gave them the great gift of himself – his presence. Jesus cares!


Like the poor Hindu family who fed another hungry family from a small amount of rice Mother Theresa gave them, Christ fed five thousand people in a lonely place with five loaves and two fish. St. John’s Gospel says that the five loaves and two fishes came from the launch box of a little boy. Everyone got as much as they wanted and still there were twelve baskets of food left over. It was an astonishing display of compassion and generosity on the part of Jesus, and the little boy whose five barley loaves and two fish made the miracle possible. In like manner, from the small amount of whatever we have, we can also help others in need.


Today’s Gospel reading suggests that one person can make a difference: When Jesus told his disciples to give food to the people, they said, “All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.” Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish from the boy’s launch box, prayed over them, miraculously multiplied them; and with them fed five thousand people. Jesus’ teaching here is that sometimes a small deed takes on an importance far beyond its actual value. A response like this, the freewill donation from the little boy can trigger off a wider response from people in the world.


Also, by analogy, Jesus portrays that just as the miraculous growth of wheat takes place in a wheat farm at harvest time, because single grains of wheat give up their own existence and die; so small gifts can feed thousands. In this case, the survival of the human race depends on the principle of self-sacrifice. One concerned person can be the instrument of a miracle, or an instrument for helping and feeding thousands of people. For example, Mother Theresa began her wonderful work of feeding and caring for the needy with almost nothing except her willingness to work for God .But today, she has more than 5000 Nuns and volunteers carrying out her dreams world-over. She has more than 500 centers taking care of over 90,000 people in need. And because of the story of Mother Theresa, and the one that I have just told, many people world-over have learned to help and to feed the hungry. It carries an all important message: That when we give our small amount of food, talent, love, etc., to Jesus, he uses it to feed thousands!


There is a tendency today to go in for big gestures and neglect the smaller gestures. Some people also may be tempted to think that their contributions are small, and so, will not make any difference. By so doing they excuse themselves from doing something good. But every contribution, not matter how small, helps and every contribution counts. A small crumb here and a small crumb there make up a full loaf of bread. Some Biblical scholars have tried to rename the feeding of the five thousand, “the miracle of generosity.” Generosity, they say, is not only about giving things. It is primarily about giving of oneself and one’s time: Recall that Christ had come to a quiet place to rest. The crowd needed him, and so came looking for him. He did not send the away. He attended to them and their needs. Giving of material things may be easy, but giving of oneself and one’s time is not easy: “Mo greater love than this that a man gives his life for love of his friends.”


This story of the feeding of the five thousand people was treasured by the early Christians. It recalled the Old Testament story of manna in the desert and God’s protective care for his people. It is also seen as an anticipation of the Eucharist we celebrate every day and every Sunday. The gesture and words used are those of the last Super: “He took the bread ….blessed it …broke it … and gave it to them. In the Eucharist we taste the love of God. The Eucharistic on its part anticipates the final banquet in the kingdom of God (first reading). Thus, this miracle involved a lot more than giving food to the people. It is an expression of the love of God for his people, and a symbol of the life God wants his people to have in the afterlife.

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2014

Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2014 Readings: Acts 1: 12-14, 1 Pet 4: 13-15, Jn 17: 1-11 Theme: Prayer that comes out of life experience comes from the heart and is practical prayer. Homily: One day, St. Bernard was saying his prayers, as he rode on his horse. At a point, he was lost in prayerful thought. A beggar accosted him: “Hey, Bernard you are lost in thought!” St. Bernard admitted to being lost thought, but that he was saying his prayers. He added also, that sometimes he would also be distracted in prayer. Now, the beggar laughed aloud at him, and bragged saying: “I can never be distracted in my prayers.” St. Bernard said to him. “You think that saying prayers is easy? If you can say the ‘Our Father’ without distraction, I will give you my horse as your reward.” The beggar said, “That’s so easy. It is a bargain!” Now the beggar began to recite the “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...,” At this point he paused, then looked and admired the saddle on the horse; and looking intently on St. Bernard, asked him, “After saying the ‘Our Father …’, without distraction, would you also give me the saddle on the horse?” Now, St. Bernard reminded him that he was already distracted and would lose both, the horse and the saddle. Thus prayer is a conversation with God that puts us in an attitude of humility, trust and love; and puts our destiny in the hands of God. Prayer figures in all of today’s readings: The first reading from the acts of Apostles tells how the disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper room, anxiously waiting in prayer, for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised them by Christ: “If you love me you will keep my commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always….,” (Jn 14: 15ff, Acts 1: 7-8). In the second reading, Peter exhorts the newly baptized to praise God in prayer for his blessings. Lastly, in the gospel reading, we see part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at his last supper with his disciples. He prayed for himself and for his disciple, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…….I revealed your name to those whom you gave me. ….. I pray for them.” (Jn 17:1ff.) In both cases, the prayers emanate from of life experience. For the most part, when prayer comes out of life experience, it comes from the heart. It is sincere and practical. The death of Jesus left the apostles sad, lost and wounded in Spirit. But his resurrection revived their faith in him. Before leaving them to go back to the father, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room. The upper room became a waiting room. A waiting room is familiar to us – the waiting rooms at train stations, airports, hospitals, etc. We are also familiar with some peculiar atmosphere that is prevalent in waiting rooms that make us apprehensive, nervous, joyful, etc. Thus during the nine days between the Ascension and the Pentecost, Jesus disciples assembled daily in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer – a real prayer. It is the oldest and the most important novena in the Christian Church. It prefigures the present day novenas of the church. No matter how long one waits, the waiting room may be a gracious place. Waiting is part of lie and of nature – for instance, the earth waits for rain just as the farmer waits for spring or the rainy season. Thus the Apostles had to wait. As they waited, they prepared themselves in prayer for the coming of the Spirit. No doubt, the disciples were in the Spirit of prayer. They were having a heart to heart conversation with God. To be in the habit of prayer is good; but to be in the spirit of prayer is better. Perhaps, some of us have had experiences which make us painfully aware of our weaknesses.

Think of when we have thought we are great and strong, but some sudden illness or some brush with death proves us vulnerable. Experience teaches that we come face to face with our powerlessness and mortality when disaster strikes. When this happens we are no longer capable of anything – not even capable of saying the simplest prayers. However, far from being moments of damnation or of crisis and hardship such a situation can become the moment of enlightenment and salvation. Phenomena such as sickness, death, disaster, etc., convince us of our weakness and our need of the spirit. The Spirit is the core teaching of Jesus today. He says, “The Spirit will guide you … and lead you to all truth” (Jn 16: 112-15) When Christ died his apostles were like sheep without a Shepherd. They needed strength - the Spirit to breathe new life into them to lift their up spirits. This kind of experience is not uncommon in daily life. For instance, we talk about a person being dis-spirited, or low in spirit, or being in the wrong spirit; or a person giving a spirit performance or having a joyful spirit. These are but common instances that exemplify the importance of the spirit in humans. The Spirit is the greatest source of energy in humans. Typically, the human spirit can become easily broken or crushed. It can also be energized and nourished in the same way as failure shrinks it, and success enlarges it. Characteristically, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the human spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us strength as he gave the disciples!Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2914 Readings: Acts 1: 12-14, 1 Pet 4: 13-15, Jn 17: 1-11 Theme: Prayer that comes out of life experience comes from the heart and is practical prayer. Homily: One day, St. Bernard was saying his prayers, as he rode on his horse. At a point, he was lost in prayerful thought. A beggar accosted him: “Hey, Bernard you are lost in thought!” St. Bernard admitted to being lost thought, but that he was saying his prayers. He added also, that sometimes he would also be distracted in prayer. Now, the beggar laughed aloud at him, and bragged saying: “I can never be distracted in my prayers.” St. Bernard said to him. “You think that saying prayers is easy? If you can say the ‘Our Father’ without distraction, I will give you my horse as your reward.” The beggar said, “That’s so easy. It is a bargain!” Now the beggar began to recite the “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...,” At this point he paused, then looked and admired the saddle on the horse; and looking intently on St. Bernard, asked him, “After saying the ‘Our Father …’, without distraction, would you also give me the saddle on the horse?” Now, St. Bernard reminded him that he was already distracted and would lose both, the horse and the saddle. Thus prayer is a conversation with God that puts us in an attitude of humility, trust and love; and puts our destiny in the hands of God. Prayer figures in all of today’s readings: The first reading from the acts of Apostles tells how the disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper room, anxiously waiting in prayer, for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised them by Christ: “If you love me you will keep my commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always….,” (Jn 14: 15ff, Acts 1: 7-8). In the second reading, Peter exhorts the newly baptized to praise God in prayer for his blessings. Lastly, in the gospel reading, we see part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at his last supper with his disciples. He prayed for himself and for his disciple, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…….I revealed your name to those whom you gave me. ….. I pray for them.” (Jn 17:1ff.) In both cases, the prayers emanate from of life experience. For the most part, when prayer comes out of life experience, it comes from the heart. It is sincere and practical. The death of Jesus left the apostles sad, lost and wounded in Spirit. But his resurrection revived their faith in him. Before leaving them to go back to the father, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room. The upper room became a waiting room. A waiting room is familiar to us – the waiting rooms at train stations, airports, hospitals, etc. We are also familiar with some peculiar atmosphere that is prevalent in waiting rooms that make us apprehensive, nervous, joyful, etc. Thus during the nine days between the Ascension and the Pentecost, Jesus disciples assembled daily in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer – a real prayer. It is the oldest and the most important novena in the Christian Church. It prefigures the present day novenas of the church. No matter how long one waits, the waiting room may be a gracious place. Waiting is part of lie and of nature – for instance, the earth waits for rain just as the farmer waits for spring or the rainy season. Thus the Apostles had to wait. As they waited, they prepared themselves in prayer for the coming of the Spirit. No doubt, the disciples were in the Spirit of prayer. They were having a heart to heart conversation with God. To be in the habit of prayer is good; but to be in the spirit of prayer is better. Perhaps, some of us have had experiences which make us painfully aware of our weaknesses.

Think of when we have thought we are great and strong, but some sudden illness or some brush with death proves us vulnerable. Experience teaches that we come face to face with our powerlessness and mortality when disaster strikes. When this happens we are no longer capable of anything – not even capable of saying the simplest prayers. However, far from being moments of damnation or of crisis and hardship such a situation can become the moment of enlightenment and salvation. Phenomena such as sickness, death, disaster, etc., convince us of our weakness and our need of the spirit. The Spirit is the core teaching of Jesus today. He says, “The Spirit will guide you … and lead you to all truth” (Jn 16: 112-15) When Christ died his apostles were like sheep without a Shepherd. They needed strength - the Spirit to breathe new life into them to lift their up spirits. This kind of experience is not uncommon in daily life. For instance, we talk about a person being dis-spirited, or low in spirit, or being in the wrong spirit; or a person giving a spirit performance or having a joyful spirit. These are but common instances that exemplify the importance of the spirit in humans. The Spirit is the greatest source of energy in humans. Typically, the human spirit can become easily broken or crushed. It can also be energized and nourished in the same way as failure shrinks it, and success enlarges it. Characteristically, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the human spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us strength as he gave the disciples!Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2914 Readings: Acts 1: 12-14, 1 Pet 4: 13-15, Jn 17: 1-11 Theme: Prayer that comes out of life experience comes from the heart and is practical prayer. Homily: One day, St. Bernard was saying his prayers, as he rode on his horse. At a point, he was lost in prayerful thought. A beggar accosted him: “Hey, Bernard you are lost in thought!” St. Bernard admitted to being lost thought, but that he was saying his prayers. He added also, that sometimes he would also be distracted in prayer. Now, the beggar laughed aloud at him, and bragged saying: “I can never be distracted in my prayers.” St. Bernard said to him. “You think that saying prayers is easy? If you can say the ‘Our Father’ without distraction, I will give you my horse as your reward.” The beggar said, “That’s so easy. It is a bargain!” Now the beggar began to recite the “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...,” At this point he paused, then looked and admired the saddle on the horse; and looking intently on St. Bernard, asked him, “After saying the ‘Our Father …’, without distraction, would you also give me the saddle on the horse?” Now, St. Bernard reminded him that he was already distracted and would lose both, the horse and the saddle. Thus prayer is a conversation with God that puts us in an attitude of humility, trust and love; and puts our destiny in the hands of God. Prayer figures in all of today’s readings: The first reading from the acts of Apostles tells how the disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper room, anxiously waiting in prayer, for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised them by Christ: “If you love me you will keep my commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always….,” (Jn 14: 15ff, Acts 1: 7-8). In the second reading, Peter exhorts the newly baptized to praise God in prayer for his blessings. Lastly, in the gospel reading, we see part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at his last supper with his disciples. He prayed for himself and for his disciple, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…….I revealed your name to those whom you gave me. ….. I pray for them.” (Jn 17:1ff.) In both cases, the prayers emanate from of life experience. For the most part, when prayer comes out of life experience, it comes from the heart. It is sincere and practical. The death of Jesus left the apostles sad, lost and wounded in Spirit. But his resurrection revived their faith in him. Before leaving them to go back to the father, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room. The upper room became a waiting room. A waiting room is familiar to us – the waiting rooms at train stations, airports, hospitals, etc. We are also familiar with some peculiar atmosphere that is prevalent in waiting rooms that make us apprehensive, nervous, joyful, etc. Thus during the nine days between the Ascension and the Pentecost, Jesus disciples assembled daily in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer – a real prayer. It is the oldest and the most important novena in the Christian Church. It prefigures the present day novenas of the church. No matter how long one waits, the waiting room may be a gracious place. Waiting is part of lie and of nature – for instance, the earth waits for rain just as the farmer waits for spring or the rainy season. Thus the Apostles had to wait. As they waited, they prepared themselves in prayer for the coming of the Spirit. No doubt, the disciples were in the Spirit of prayer. They were having a heart to heart conversation with God. To be in the habit of prayer is good; but to be in the spirit of prayer is better. Perhaps, some of us have had experiences which make us painfully aware of our weaknesses.

Think of when we have thought we are great and strong, but some sudden illness or some brush with death proves us vulnerable. Experience teaches that we come face to face with our powerlessness and mortality when disaster strikes. When this happens we are no longer capable of anything – not even capable of saying the simplest prayers. However, far from being moments of damnation or of crisis and hardship such a situation can become the moment of enlightenment and salvation. Phenomena such as sickness, death, disaster, etc., convince us of our weakness and our need of the spirit. The Spirit is the core teaching of Jesus today. He says, “The Spirit will guide you … and lead you to all truth” (Jn 16: 112-15) When Christ died his apostles were like sheep without a Shepherd. They needed strength - the Spirit to breathe new life into them to lift their up spirits. This kind of experience is not uncommon in daily life. For instance, we talk about a person being dis-spirited, or low in spirit, or being in the wrong spirit; or a person giving a spirit performance or having a joyful spirit. These are but common instances that exemplify the importance of the spirit in humans. The Spirit is the greatest source of energy in humans. Typically, the human spirit can become easily broken or crushed. It can also be energized and nourished in the same way as failure shrinks it, and success enlarges it. Characteristically, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the human spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us strength as he gave the disciples!Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2914 Readings: Acts 1: 12-14, 1 Pet 4: 13-15, Jn 17: 1-11 Theme: Prayer that comes out of life experience comes from the heart and is practical prayer. Homily: One day, St. Bernard was saying his prayers, as he rode on his horse. At a point, he was lost in prayerful thought. A beggar accosted him: “Hey, Bernard you are lost in thought!” St. Bernard admitted to being lost thought, but that he was saying his prayers. He added also, that sometimes he would also be distracted in prayer. Now, the beggar laughed aloud at him, and bragged saying: “I can never be distracted in my prayers.” St. Bernard said to him. “You think that saying prayers is easy? If you can say the ‘Our Father’ without distraction, I will give you my horse as your reward.” The beggar said, “That’s so easy. It is a bargain!” Now the beggar began to recite the “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...,” At this point he paused, then looked and admired the saddle on the horse; and looking intently on St. Bernard, asked him, “After saying the ‘Our Father …’, without distraction, would you also give me the saddle on the horse?” Now, St. Bernard reminded him that he was already distracted and would lose both, the horse and the saddle. Thus prayer is a conversation with God that puts us in an attitude of humility, trust and love; and puts our destiny in the hands of God. Prayer figures in all of today’s readings: The first reading from the acts of Apostles tells how the disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper room, anxiously waiting in prayer, for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised them by Christ: “If you love me you will keep my commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always….,” (Jn 14: 15ff, Acts 1: 7-8). In the second reading, Peter exhorts the newly baptized to praise God in prayer for his blessings. Lastly, in the gospel reading, we see part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at his last supper with his disciples. He prayed for himself and for his disciple, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…….I revealed your name to those whom you gave me. ….. I pray for them.” (Jn 17:1ff.) In both cases, the prayers emanate from of life experience. For the most part, when prayer comes out of life experience, it comes from the heart. It is sincere and practical. The death of Jesus left the apostles sad, lost and wounded in Spirit. But his resurrection revived their faith in him. Before leaving them to go back to the father, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room. The upper room became a waiting room. A waiting room is familiar to us – the waiting rooms at train stations, airports, hospitals, etc. We are also familiar with some peculiar atmosphere that is prevalent in waiting rooms that make us apprehensive, nervous, joyful, etc. Thus during the nine days between the Ascension and the Pentecost, Jesus disciples assembled daily in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer – a real prayer. It is the oldest and the most important novena in the Christian Church. It prefigures the present day novenas of the church. No matter how long one waits, the waiting room may be a gracious place. Waiting is part of lie and of nature – for instance, the earth waits for rain just as the farmer waits for spring or the rainy season. Thus the Apostles had to wait. As they waited, they prepared themselves in prayer for the coming of the Spirit. No doubt, the disciples were in the Spirit of prayer. They were having a heart to heart conversation with God. To be in the habit of prayer is good; but to be in the spirit of prayer is better. Perhaps, some of us have had experiences which make us painfully aware of our weaknesses.

Think of when we have thought we are great and strong, but some sudden illness or some brush with death proves us vulnerable. Experience teaches that we come face to face with our powerlessness and mortality when disaster strikes. When this happens we are no longer capable of anything – not even capable of saying the simplest prayers. However, far from being moments of damnation or of crisis and hardship such a situation can become the moment of enlightenment and salvation. Phenomena such as sickness, death, disaster, etc., convince us of our weakness and our need of the spirit. The Spirit is the core teaching of Jesus today. He says, “The Spirit will guide you … and lead you to all truth” (Jn 16: 112-15) When Christ died his apostles were like sheep without a Shepherd. They needed strength - the Spirit to breathe new life into them to lift their up spirits. This kind of experience is not uncommon in daily life. For instance, we talk about a person being dis-spirited, or low in spirit, or being in the wrong spirit; or a person giving a spirit performance or having a joyful spirit. These are but common instances that exemplify the importance of the spirit in humans. The Spirit is the greatest source of energy in humans. Typically, the human spirit can become easily broken or crushed. It can also be energized and nourished in the same way as failure shrinks it, and success enlarges it. Characteristically, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the human spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us strength as he gave the disciples!Seventh Sunday of Easter: Year A – June 1, 2914 Readings: Acts 1: 12-14, 1 Pet 4: 13-15, Jn 17: 1-11 Theme: Prayer that comes out of life experience comes from the heart and is practical prayer. Homily: One day, St. Bernard was saying his prayers, as he rode on his horse. At a point, he was lost in prayerful thought. A beggar accosted him: “Hey, Bernard you are lost in thought!” St. Bernard admitted to being lost thought, but that he was saying his prayers. He added also, that sometimes he would also be distracted in prayer. Now, the beggar laughed aloud at him, and bragged saying: “I can never be distracted in my prayers.” St. Bernard said to him. “You think that saying prayers is easy? If you can say the ‘Our Father’ without distraction, I will give you my horse as your reward.” The beggar said, “That’s so easy. It is a bargain!” Now the beggar began to recite the “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...,” At this point he paused, then looked and admired the saddle on the horse; and looking intently on St. Bernard, asked him, “After saying the ‘Our Father …’, without distraction, would you also give me the saddle on the horse?” Now, St. Bernard reminded him that he was already distracted and would lose both, the horse and the saddle. Thus prayer is a conversation with God that puts us in an attitude of humility, trust and love; and puts our destiny in the hands of God. Prayer figures in all of today’s readings: The first reading from the acts of Apostles tells how the disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper room, anxiously waiting in prayer, for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised them by Christ: “If you love me you will keep my commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always….,” (Jn 14: 15ff, Acts 1: 7-8). In the second reading, Peter exhorts the newly baptized to praise God in prayer for his blessings. Lastly, in the gospel reading, we see part of Jesus’ solemn prayer at his last supper with his disciples. He prayed for himself and for his disciple, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…….I revealed your name to those whom you gave me. ….. I pray for them.” (Jn 17:1ff.) In both cases, the prayers emanate from of life experience. For the most part, when prayer comes out of life experience, it comes from the heart. It is sincere and practical. The death of Jesus left the apostles sad, lost and wounded in Spirit. But his resurrection revived their faith in him. Before leaving them to go back to the father, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room. The upper room became a waiting room. A waiting room is familiar to us – the waiting rooms at train stations, airports, hospitals, etc. We are also familiar with some peculiar atmosphere that is prevalent in waiting rooms that make us apprehensive, nervous, joyful, etc. Thus during the nine days between the Ascension and the Pentecost, Jesus disciples assembled daily in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer – a real prayer. It is the oldest and the most important novena in the Christian Church. It prefigures the present day novenas of the church. No matter how long one waits, the waiting room may be a gracious place. Waiting is part of lie and of nature – for instance, the earth waits for rain just as the farmer waits for spring or the rainy season. Thus the Apostles had to wait. As they waited, they prepared themselves in prayer for the coming of the Spirit. No doubt, the disciples were in the Spirit of prayer. They were having a heart to heart conversation with God. To be in the habit of prayer is good; but to be in the spirit of prayer is better. Perhaps, some of us have had experiences which make us painfully aware of our weaknesses.

Think of when we have thought we are great and strong, but some sudden illness or some brush with death proves us vulnerable. Experience teaches that we come face to face with our powerlessness and mortality when disaster strikes. When this happens we are no longer capable of anything – not even capable of saying the simplest prayers. However, far from being moments of damnation or of crisis and hardship such a situation can become the moment of enlightenment and salvation. Phenomena such as sickness, death, disaster, etc., convince us of our weakness and our need of the spirit. The Spirit is the core teaching of Jesus today. He says, “The Spirit will guide you … and lead you to all truth” (Jn 16: 112-15) When Christ died his apostles were like sheep without a Shepherd. They needed strength - the Spirit to breathe new life into them to lift their up spirits. This kind of experience is not uncommon in daily life. For instance, we talk about a person being dis-spirited, or low in spirit, or being in the wrong spirit; or a person giving a spirit performance or having a joyful spirit. These are but common instances that exemplify the importance of the spirit in humans. The Spirit is the greatest source of energy in humans. Typically, the human spirit can become easily broken or crushed. It can also be energized and nourished in the same way as failure shrinks it, and success enlarges it. Characteristically, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the human spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us strength as he gave the disciples!

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter: Year A – May 26, 2014.


Theme: “Love one another …By this will all men know that you are my disciples.” Homily:
One day, a woman, Dorothy, was driving to a grocery store and listening to a Christian radio station. A preacher was talking about kindness - saying: “I wonder how many of you listening to me on your car radio and thinking of how you can be kind while you are driving? Dorothy began to think about what she just heard. About fifty yards away, she saw a woman waiting in her car, apparently thinking of how to come out of her driveway. Traffic was heavy and she had hard time coming out. Dorothy slowed down to let her out to join the cue. This woman drove out, smiled and waved at Dorothy.
When Dorothy got to the store, she saw an empty parking space. As she was pulling in to occupy it, another car on the opposite side was also pulling in to occupy it. Dorothy backed out to find another parking spot. As they both got out of their cars, the women smiled at the drama that had taken place between them. The woman said to Dorothy, “I cannot believe what you just did. Anyone else would have occupied that spot before me.
Dorothy now explained to the woman what she had heard on her car radio concerning love. As the two women talked, Dorothy discovered that the woman had just moved into the area, did not know any one, and was looking for a church to worship in, the next day. Dorothy invited her to worship in her church, and even came the next day to bring her to church – and “a strong friendship blossomed from their chance meeting and small act of kindness.” (Story Almost Too Big to Tell, in Dynamic Preaching (6):42. Mar. 1991. Thus Spirit-life blossoms in acts of kindness. Of all religions, Jesus alone planted that seed of unconditional love – love even of your enemy. 
The Gospel of today underscores the Spirit-life of Jesus and reveals that Jesus gave his Apostles hints about his death, but did not speak of it in the sense of “life ending.” He spoke of it as going away “to the Father.” The Apostles did not understand him and did not ask. They thought that he was abandoning them. But, he said something that consoled them: “I will not leave you orphans. Will come to you,” (Jn 14: 18) He spoke about coming back to them, assuring them that he would be with them, “even to the end of time.” Surely, the parting of friends is never easy. Some partings are more painful than others. For example, when someone dies, the finality of this parting makes a great difference. 
There is also a parting which is good for the one parting and those left behind. For example, a person is leaving home or friends to secure a better job or leaving them to come back after accomplishing a task. Jesus’ departure comes into play here – for the betterment of his followers. He goes to the Father “to prepare a place for them,” (Jn 14: 3-4) He will come back to take them with him. He promised not to leave them orphaned or desolate. He would send them the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them, (Jn 14: 15-17). 
In a similar way, Jesus does not leave the present-day disciples orphaned or desolate. He is present to them in many ways. First of all, he planted the seed of love that has become the pillar of his church. A number of times, in his teachings and especially his farewell discourse during the last super, Jesus said these words to his disciples. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (Jn 14: 15). Elsewhere, he added, “By this will all know men that you are my disciples.” Clearly enough, he was not talking about the Ten Commandments; he was talking about his guidelines for his followers to adopt – a new spirit, new values and attitudes toward God, neighbor and life. He spoke of the “essentials of Christian discipleship,”- how his followers are to live after his departure. The greatest of them all is his “unconditional love,” - love even you enemies!
It is not easy to live the life of Jesus’ “unconditional love” in our modern world. For example, Jesus said, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek…” (Lk 6:29). Many in our world today will look at this as a restriction of our freedom. It is something not many people will like to do. But Jesus says, “Do it!” Many people will teach offenders that they cannot push us around. Nikita Khrushchev, a former Russian leader once said he admired many teachings of Jesus, but he disagreed with the one of turning the other check: “If someone wrongs me,” he said, “I would not turn my check. I would hit him so hard that his head may fall off.” 
Many also will ask, “Why forgive our enemies?” It is not easy, and it was not easy even in the time of Jesus. But one thing is clear, that when one makes enemies, or holds a grudge, or refuses to forgive, and seek revenge, one hurts oneself as much as one hurts the so-called enemy. A wise man once said that the sword we use to hurt our enemy passes first through our own body. Thus, Jesus command to love our enemy is a guide to a way of life, of health and welfare. For this very reason, Jesus has given his church the Holy Spirit, to guide, enlighten and comfort his disciples in times of darkness, sorrow and weakness, Jn 14: 17). 
More interestingly, nowhere do the disciples of Jesus feel so close to him and to one another as in the “breaking of bread,” – the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, they are in communion with Jesus. He nourishes their bodies and hearts with his love. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives his followers an invitation to love, “Take and eat, all of you…..Take and drink from it……, as often as you do this; you do it in memory of me.” Basically, Jesus expresses this commandment as an opportunity for them to him and to love one another. Thus, we may not understand why we should forgive one another or turn “the other check,” but we do so because we love Jesus: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples.” In this way too, it is the noble mission of every Christian to preach the word and witness to it in word and deed: “You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but through Judea and Samaria, and in deed to the ends of the earth,”(Acts 1: 7-9). 
The Gospel today has special relevance to today’s turbulent and free-for-all society, where commandments are looked upon as oppressive and suppressive; regulations and laws as burdensome and restrictive. Jesus issues a new meaning and interpretation of the commandments: Keeping the Commandments of God should be viewed under the umbrella of love. God as Father loves His children. He wants them to become “children of love” and “of light.” Thus the commandments are dynamic means of helping God’s children to realize true love which makes us free. That true love is the love of God and of neighbor. Jesus sums up the Ten Commandments as love, and teaches that they are to be his disciples’ expression of their way of life. To follow Christ’s way, faith and obedience are needed. Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. One who obeys God believes in Him; one who believes in God obeys Him. In the same way, obedience to the Christ’s Commandments in the Christian context is obedience to God’s Ten Commandments: “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15)

 

Third Sunday of Easter: Year A - May 4, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter: Year A - May 4, 2014
Reading: Acts 2: 14. 22-28, 1 Pet 1: 17-21, Lk 24: 13-35.
Homily:


A Peasant had a horse. One day the horse ran away. His neighbor said to him, “What a bad luck that you lost your horse. It was so valuable.” The Peasant replied, “Bad luck or good luck? God alone knows.” The next day, the horse came back bringing with it a dozen wild horses. The same neighbor saw them and remarked, “What a lucky man you are! Your horse escaped, then came back bringing a dozen more horses with it? That’s the gift of God.” The Peasant again said, “A lucky man, the gift of God? God alone knows.” 


The next day, the Peasant’s son broke his leg while riding one of the horses. That neighbor came again to say, “What a terrible bad luck that has visited you. It is awful.” The Peasant said to him: “Terrible, bad or good luck? Who can tell but God?" The next day, the army came to conscript his son to join the army. They could not take him away because he had a broken leg. All other boys of his age were carried away. The same neighbor lastly said, "Give thanks to God. You are really a lucky man. Aren’t you?" The Peasant replied, “I do not know. God alone knows!” 


This story of the Peasant replicates our human experience. Life is not a bed of roses, but is full of “headaches and pimples,” – happiness today and sadness tomorrow. Thus Christ calls us to live by faith. When we go beyond appearances, we come to know the assurance, faith and joy of living in the risen Lord. It is by dying on the cross that Christ earned glory. St. Paul exhorts in the second reading: “The benefits we enjoy as Christians were won by Christ through the shedding of his blood.” The episode of two of Jesus’s disciples on the road to Emmaus exemplifies this truth: 


After Jesus’s death, two of his disciples were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they set out, their hearts were cold, wounded, disappointed and numb with grief. They talked about Jesus’s death, just as we would talk about our loved ones after their death: Jesus had filled their lives with meaning, hope and joy. They had firmly believed that he was the Messiah. But his death and, particularly, the manner of it – a humiliated and crucified Messiah – had reduced their hopes to fragments of confusion and despair. Now that he was dead, they were haunted by his absence and plunged into gloom. Their dream about him as the long-awaited Messiah was no more. In this manner – utterly disappointed - they shared their sorrow as they went along on the road to Emmaus. For them, the whole thing was unthinkable! 


As they talked about this, Jesus joined them as a stranger. Thinking Jesus was really a stranger, a Pilgrim in Jerusalem, they opened up, poured out their story and their disappointment concerning what had happened. At the end of their story, Jesus took up where they had left off and taught them the new way of looking at that episode of the coming Messiah and the Scripture: He told them how all the Prophets had foretold that the Messiah would suffer, die and then enter into glory. Thus, no one can attain that glory except through suffering and sacrifice. He taught them that in a similar way, through sacrifice and suffering his disciples would equally attain glory. In this vein, Jesus’s new teaching brought new light to their minds about a suffering Messiah. New light and warmth illumined their dark cold hearts to understand the scriptures.


Among the loveliest stories in the New Testament is the Emmaus episode: a story of how the Risen Christ joined two of his disciples on their road to Emmaus. Like the two forlorn disciples, the Emmaus episode speaks to all Christians. Even though we may never go to Jerusalem, all of us, at one point in time, may have the Emmaus experience. It represents the road of disappointment, of failure and grief, etc. We may go on a sad and lonely road of life and are lost in thought and disappointed. We suffer agony, grief, trials and tribulations. We wonder if God is real or if Jesus's promise is real. Then something happens! Something, someone changes our perspective. Gradually, we begin again to feel some presence of hope, of love, of someone who loves us. In times like this and in this manner, the risen Lord always walks with us like the two disciples. Our eyes are opened, a process of healing begins to go on inside us – and we begin to hope and to be loved again.


The Emmaus story of the two disciples is typical of our Christian experience. Sometimes sad experiences come our way, and later turn out to be good lessons for us. When we have them, we learn from them and from our mistakes. It is true that we do not expect to find good in pain, but some pains are good – they educate us and heal our wounds. Or, again, a lot of sorrows can be borne if we tell a story about them. This is true of the Emmaus episode of the two disciples of Jesus when the death of Jesus plunged them into grief and gloom. But in their encounter with Jesus, about whom they told their sad story, Jesus the risen Lord became for them a Pathfinder. He corrected their mistaken belief about the Messiah – “it was written that he would die and rise again.” This is how it is in real life. We may not know at the time what is happening to us. But sometime later, perhaps long afterwards, our eyes are open to what had happened and we begin to understand our experience of the past. 


It is said that we live our lives forward but we understand them well backwards - experience is the best teacher! This is why it is important to reflect on our experiences. Only so can we can truly tell a story, or truly hear it. When we see it, it appeals and applies to us. Then and only then does it come alive to us. 


However, a great import of the Emmaus story is that it replicates our Eucharistic celebration. Each Eucharistic celebration for us is an Emmaus experience: Jesus reveals himself to us when, as a community of disciples, we celebrate the Eucharist. In the readings he explains the Scriptures and reveals himself in the Eucharist “the breaking of bread.” The “breaking of bread” in the New Testament is a technical term for the celebration of the Eucharist: "Jesus took bread, blessed, broke it and gave to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat …' ” Thus, the Emmaus episode is a sophisticated Eucharistic catechesis – a liturgy of the word and of the Eucharist.

 

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