Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Feb 26, 2017 Views 268 Listen 12 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (49:14-15)

Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9)


(R) Rest in God alone, my soul.

Only in God is my soul at rest; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all. (R)

Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from Him comes my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed. (R)

With God is my safety and my glory, He is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before Him. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (4:1-5)

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (6:24-34)

Jesus said to his disciples: "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Lean from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, "What are we to eat?" or "What are we to drink?" or "What are we to wear?" All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given your besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

One morning Death was walking into a city when a man stopped him and asked what he was doing. Death answered, "I'm going into the city to kill 500 people." The man replied, "That's terrible that you would kill 500 people." Death responded, "Taking people when their time has come is my job. Today I have to get my 500." Later, as Death was coming out of the city, the man met him. Again, he was furious. He said, "You told me this morning that you were going to take 500 people, but 3,000 died today." Death answered, "Don't get mad at me. I only took 500. Worry killed all the rest."

Worry is a natural human phenomenon. It is a normal response to uncertainty. It may help us feel more prepared for the worse. However, excessive worry is a silent killer and, it is more dreadful than any physical illness. It deprives us of peace, joy and happiness. It is said that worry is like a rocking chair; it keeps you busy but gets you nowhere. The American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) wrote, "The reason why worry kills more people than work is because more people worry than work."

We all know worry has a negative effect on our health. It makes us tired, feel stressed, and leads to anxiety and depression and even death, yet everybody worries about something in their life. We worry about family, relationships, job, money, security, health, the past, the future, others' opinions and so on. There is a story. Two friends happened to bump into each other after more than ten years. One asked the other, "How come you have lost so much of your hair? "Because of worry", the friend replied. Worry? What do you worry about? The friend said, "I worry about losing hair." For some people, worry has become so ingrained in their personality that once the old worries are gone, they look for new ones. Some people worry that they worry too much.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers not to worry or be anxious. First of all, let us remember that Jesus directed these teachings to His disciples whom He had called "the salt of the earth", and "the light of the world" and, to whom He commanded to keep every Old Testament law in the spirit, in its attitude and purpose.

Jesus began his sermon on worry by saying, "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Jesus reminded His followers that they simply must choose between serving God and serving mammon. In the New Testament "mammon" is commonly thought to mean money or material wealth, which some people worship as a god. Here Jesus Himself affirmed that just as a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time, His disciples may not be able to serve both God and money at the same time. That's to say, a person who preoccupies himself with the things of this world will then spend his time worrying and fretting about everything else in his life. He will tend to pursue selfish interests; ignore the needs of his neighbor; keep silence before evil, and will not be able to truly and freely devote himself to God and His teachings.

Therefore, Jesus said, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"

Here, Jesus did not downplay the necessities of life - food and clothing - as normal daily concerns. He only wanted His disciples to be focused on what really mattered. In particular, they did not need to wonder about where they would get their food and clothing. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothing. That's to say, life is not given primarily for physical pleasures, and the body is not given primarily for displaying clothes, but for something greater - for the fulfilment of God's purpose.

Jesus then drew lessons from nature. He said, "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they?" Jesus told His followers to observe the "birds in the sky", the lowest of God's creatures, to learn a lesson from them. The birds do not plow fields, plant crops, harvest nor accumulate food in a barn for future use, for they are not capable of doing all those, yet the Lord provides for them. Whereas His followers, who could work and toil and plan ways to provide food for themselves to eat, had less reason to worry. Moreover, Jesus reminded them that they who were created in God's image were far more valuable than birds, so He would certainly provide for them.

Furthermore, Jesus said, "Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?" In other words, Jesus was telling His disciples that worry or anxiety would not get them anywhere. It would not do them any good. It would not add a single moment to their life let alone make them live longer or better. Hence He said, "Learn from the way wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them." But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will He not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?"

Jesus gave another reason why His followers need not worry. He told them to look at the wild flowers, which probably surrounded Jesus and others as He spoke. Wild flowers did not need to toil or spin, yet God's provision for them caused them to be more beautiful. They were adorned with beautiful form and color. Jesus then said that even "Solomon in all his splendor" was nothing compared to the splendor of a wildflower. Solomon was the richest and most magnificent of all the kings of Israel, whose grandeur, and glory, exceeded all the princes of the earth, yet even he, in "all" his glory, when clothed in his royal and richest robes, with his crown on his head, and seated on his throne, could not match the beauty of a wild flower.

Jesus went on to give more assurance to His followers by pointing out how well God even dresses the wild grass which is short-lived, and seemed to be a thing of no value, and which was cut down, and used as fodder or as fuel. He wanted them to know that God who provided for the natural world would also provide for them. Instead of worrying about their food and drink and clothes which "pagans" or "non-Christian believers", tend to primarily focus on, Jesus admonished them to do three things:

  • He told them to trust in God's providence. The disciples were not faithless or unbelieving, but their trust was weak. In moments of anxiety, they lacked the courage which led them to rely implicitly on the love and wisdom of their God the Father.
  • Jesus exhorted them to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to them", Matthew (6:33). Jesus was telling His followers that the focus of their lives should not be on material things. Instead, they were to set their hearts on God and His kingdom, and then every need and desire they had would be met.
  • Jesus told them "not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil". The word evil in the Greek New Testament of the Bible is kakia. It refers to a reality that is inherently evil. The word in Aramaic is bisha which Jesus used to refer to Satan or the enemy. Jesus was telling that "evil" or "trouble", or "enemy" is going to be just as present tomorrow as it is today. So, instead of worrying about tomorrow's evil, Jesus told them to courageously deal with the "evil" they were facing.

Jesus' commandment to not to worry was not meant just for His truly devoted disciples, the original twelve who followed Jesus, or for priests and missionaries, but for anyone who desires to be Christian. Jesus tells us not to live a life of worry because God who clearly sees the state of our life will also see to its necessities very well. To worry is to distrust God who has created all the great things and just right conditions for us to survive and prosper. Worrying, therefore, about the availability of these basic needs of life is foolish and an insult to God.

Through the examples of the "birds in the sky", "wild flowers" and "grass of the field", Jesus teaches us how God, our Father in heaven, loves and cares for each one of us individually, personally and perfectly. He also points out that worry and concern about the future are futile and serve no beneficial purpose in our lives. Worry will not make us live longer or better. It will rather rob us of our joy, peace and contentment. As long as we give God our Father His honor first in everything we do and, live a life of holiness and justice according to God's values and standards and not our own, we can be confident that He will provide for us and meet all our needs.

We do not know what the future holds and we have very little control over it. Hence, instead of worrying about the future let us look forward to it calmly and courageously and confidently deal with today's trouble. Each day has enough trouble to keep us busy. Let us not bring forward tomorrow's trouble into today in the form of anxiety. Let us believe in God's promise of provision every day and protection from evil tomorrow.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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