Thursday, January 21, 2016

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Unerring Guidance

There are two things Jesus is completely different from us although he is completely human like us. One is that he is completely sinless while we are completely sinful. The other is that he was and is completely guided by the Holy Spirit while we are guided by so many other influences besides that of the Holy Spirit. We are guided by our reason, by our taste, by our perception of the need to be attended to, by the requests of other people. Some of us are even guided by the horoscope. Others are guided by their traditional beliefs and supersitions. But Jesus was guided only by the Holy Spirit. And it was an unerring guidance. The Holy Spirit could not commit a mistake in guiding Jesus. And Jesus could not commit a mistake because he completely followed this guidance.

This is what we find in our Gospel reading today. We heard that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee. It means that the Holy Spirit guided him to return to Galilee. It was not because Jesus wanted to display his miraculous power also in his hometown that he went back there. It was the action, or as the Gospel says, it was the power of the Holy Spirit which led him to go back to Galilee.

In the synagogue Jesus read that portion in the prophecy of Isaiah which says, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. The Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit was always with Jesus to guide him unerringly so that he never committed any mistake in his life.

In the discourse during the last Supper Jesus called the Holy Spirit Paraclete (John 14:16). The word "paraclete" comes from the original Greek word "parakleytos" which basically means "called alongside or beside", like an advocate in a court trial, called to defend the one accused. It has come to mean "comforter" in other translations of the bible. But our bible translation has preserved the Greek sounding word, parakleytos.

What Jesus meant was that this Paraclete would be beside us to guide us. As he himself said, the Paraclete will guide us to all truth (John 16:13). This was the Spirit who guided Jesus to return to Galilee from Jerusalem. This was the Spirit who was upon Jesus to make him proclaim in the synagogue that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.

There was no occasion when Jesus could have said, I should not have done that. Even in his choice of Judas as an apostle he did not regret it as a mistake. He did not say and could not say, I should not have chosen Judas because he would betray me. He was completely guided by the Holy Spirit in his choice of his apostles as in all his other activities.

As the second person of the Trinity Jesus was always united to the Holy Spirit. But as man it was a different matter. He was not a robot. He was human. He could have committed mistakes, like us. But he never committed a mistake because his human thoughts and desires were always guided by the Spirit of God.

Jesus is still human but he is now exalted as Lord of all. This is what is meant when we profess in our Creed that he sits at the right hand of God. He governs the universe now and he still has this unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. He does not commit a mistake in governing us.

Some people may think that he has forgotten us or is not doing well as Lord of all because of the evils we experienced in history and the increasing evils today. No, Jesus is in complete control of our world. 

A friend of mine, Rene Awitin OCDS, sent me an SMS or text which gave the word DEATH as an acronymn for the evils we experience today. He said that DEATH means the evils of divorce, euthanasia, abortion, terrorism, and hedonistic birth control. Yes, these evils are increasing every day. But it does not mean that Jesus has lost the unerring guidance of God's Spirit to take care of all these evils.

Jesus already predicted that evil would continue to multiply (Mt. 24:12). Evil is like fire. It goes on with greater and greater conflagration as long as it has material to burn until it consumes itself.

Today as in the time of Jesus' earthly life we can join the crowd who exclaimed, "He has done all things well" (Mk. 7:37).

The same unerring guidance that Jesus had from the Holy Spirit is still ours today if we allow this Spirit to guide us. I like that prayer which our sociology professor Fr. Leo Cullum, S.J., always recited before his class. We will say that prayer as we end this reflection.
Let us bow down our heads to pray. Direct we beseech you, O Lord, all our actions by your holy inspiration and carry them on by your gracious assistance so that every thought, word and work of ours may always come from you and by you be happily ended. Amen.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

A Word Not Well Understood

There is a word in our Gospel reading today which we do not well understand. If we really understood it this word would change our life for the better in a way most of us have not even imagined is possible.

We use this word when we say our vocal prayers. It is a kind of marker when we say the Rosary. It tells us the 10 Hail Marys have been recited already. During our Morning and Evening Prayers if we use the Liturgy of the Hours this word tells us that the Psalm or a portion of it has ended. We sing it in the Mass after our confession of guilt and asking for God's mercy. We also sing again or recite it after the prayer following the Our Father in the Mass. We even use it as a name. Many women have this word as their name. The word is "glory" or "gloria".

In the Gospel today John the Evangelist ends the story of the miracle of water turned into wine by saying, "Thus, did he (Jesus) reveal his glory and his disciples believed in him."

Today let us ponder on the glory of Jesus which he revealed by turning the water into wine.

The Greek word in the original gospel which is translated as "glory" is "doxa." Originally in the Greek language doxa means expectation or judgment or opinion. Then it meant good opinion which extended to reputation, praise, honor and our English word glory. In the Greek Old Testament which is also called Septuagint doxa has come to mean visible brightness, splendor, glory.

John the Evangelist is fond of this word. In the beginning of his gospel he tells us, "We have seen his glory, the glory of an only son coming from the Father" (1:14). In the prayer of Jesus found in John, chapter 17, Jesus utters this word 10 times. He asks his father God to give him glory so that he in turn may give glory to his father. Then he affirms that he has given glory to his father. In verse 4 and 5 Jesus says, "I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Do you now, Father, give me glory at your side, a glory I had with you before the world began." Then praying for his disciples Jesus says, "I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one, as we are one" (v. 22).

In the book of Revelation which John also wrote it is written "The city (new Jerusalem) had no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gave it light" (21:23).

This glory then is with God, with Jesus, and Jesus gave it to us. How did Jesus give glory to us? Jesus glorified us by his life, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven. By these mysteries of his life he made us like himself by giving us himself as our life.

One of the favorite themes of Blessed Columba Marmion was Christ our life. And he wrote a book with this title Christ Our Life. Because Jesus is our life we are filled with the glory of God. Most of us do not realize this.

Jesus has glorified us. By his passion and death he took away our sins. By his resurrection he gave us a completely new life. By his ascension he put us in the heavens as Paul the apostle affirms, "Both with and in Christ Jesus he raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens" (Ephesians 2:6).

Our Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches quoting St. Thomas Aquinas 'The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.' (460) Jesus has given us a share in his divinity so that we are truly like him, divine. This is our glory that we have been made into the image of God himself, thanks to the power and love of Jesus. This is what he meant when he said that he has given his glory to his disciples.

C. S. Lewis was an Anglican lay theologian, a famous writer. He wrote in his book Mere Christianity, "If we let Him (Jesus)--for we can prevent Him, if we choose--He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course on a smaller scale) his own boundless power and delight and goodness."  

This is our glory, the nature of God within us so that we look like God himself, made real and actual by the Spirit of Jesus in our life.

When we say therefore Glory be to God, we are actually saying if we understood this word, "May our life shine with the splendor and beauty and brightness of God so that human beings and other creatures around us wonder and praise God for what God has done in our lives."

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

O glorious Jesus, you have made us glorious like yourself by giving us your glory as you said in your prayer. Make us aware that when we say glory to God it is the beauty, the splendor and the brightness of God in us which glorify you. Thank you for this gift of glory. Amen.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Baptism of the Lord Sunday Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Sinless and Yet Guilty

When a person suspected of a crime is brought before the court he is asked to make a plea of guilty or not guilty. If he doesn’t make any plea the court enters for him a plea of not guilty.

Usually such a person would enter the plea of not guilty. Only in rare cases would a person say before the court that he or she is guilty. This is because before the court a suspect is considered innocent until proven beyond reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty. Even if he knows that he is guilty he pleads that he is innocent.

But in the Gospel reading for today we see the case of a man who is completely innocent but he pleads that he is guilty. He tells the whole world that he is guilty by submitting himself to the baptism of John the Baptist, which is a baptism for those who have committed sins and are enjoined to repent or change their lifestyle. We heard from the reading today, “. . . and Jesus was at prayer after likewise being baptized”. In another Gospel story, that of Matthew, we read that John the Baptist refused to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted that John baptize him to “fulfill all of God’s demands” (3:14-15).  

By his baptism Jesus is telling us the truth which Paul the Apostle teaches in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For our sakes God made him who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God” (5:21). Peter also affirms that Jesus was completely innocent. He says in his first letter, “He (Christ) did no wrong; no deceit was found in his mouth” (2:22).

The question that we ask now is, How did Jesus become guilty since he was sinless, because his baptism which we celebrate today affirms that he is guilty?

The answer to that question is that Jesus became a guilty man by joining himself to guilty humanity. If he were to use logic he would say following the premise Paul gives in Romans 3:23, 'All men have sinned. I am a man. Therefore I have sinned and am guilty.'

In other words Jesus’ baptism is a clear affirmation of his humanity. He is a human being. He is a man. And because he is a human being he has acquired what human beings have acquired. And one of these is guilt.

This truth that Jesus is a human being is worth pondering upon today. This is because many of us think of him only as God. In fact probably in our catechism classes we were taught that because Jesus was God he was able to perform the miracles recorded in the Gospels. Perhaps we were told that Jesus acted as a human being when he was hungry, when he cried, when he was tired, but that he acted as a divine being, as God, when he performed miracles.

The baptism of Jesus which tells us that Jesus is a human being also tells us that when Jesus performed those miracles he was not really acting as God but he was still acting as man. In fact Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his claim to divinity. In his letter to the Philippians he says, “Though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (2:6-7). 

Jesus was truly God and remained God throughout his earthly life. But he was also truly man and remained completely man throughout his earthly life. He acted as a man even in the performance of his miracles. He said he did this by faith.

When Jesus told his disciples to heal and to perform miracles on their own, he did not tell them that first they have to be divine like him. All that was needed was faith. In Mark 12:23 we read, “I (Jesus) solemnly assure you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and has no inner doubts but believes that what he says will happen, shall have it done for him.” Again in another passage, Jesus says, “Everything is possible to a man who believes” (9:23). He did not say, “You must first be divine like me and then all things are possible to you.”

Jesus is telling us today: “You have all that it takes to perform miracles because you are a human being like me.” Thus, if today we do not perform miracles it is because we do not believe. We cannot tell Jesus, “We cannot perform miracles because we are only human beings”. We trust in our learning, in our education, in our wealth, in our social status, in all other things but we do not trust in God. We do not believe God can work wonders in our life.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, pardon us for not really believing that you are truly a human being like us. Your baptism is your affirmation that you are also guilty because you have joined us, guilty human beings. Teach us to value our humanity as you value it. Teach us to completely believe in God who is able to perform wonders in our life if only we truly believe. Amen.