Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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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!

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Mar 5, 2017 Views 349 Listen 6 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7)

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, "You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die."" But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil."

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; So they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17)


(R) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness. In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and from my sin cleanse me. (R)

For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always. "Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight." (R)

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. (R)

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (5:12-19)

Brothers and sisters: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, in as much as all sinned - for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.

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

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (4:1-11)

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." He said in reply, "It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone." Jesus answered him, "Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." At this, Jesus said to him, Get away Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall your serve." Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

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

Homily

There are seemingly two different creation narratives in the Book of Genesis. According to the first narrative, it took God six days to create heaven and earth, light and darkness, seas and rivers, sun, moon and stars, plants and animals and finally man and woman in His own image and, on the seventh day, He rested, Genesis (1:1-2:3). In today's first reading, Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7), we take the second narrative which seems to suggest that God created everything in a short period of time and, after creating heaven and earth and before any grass or shrubs had sprouted from the earth, God made man, Genesis (2:4-6).

It is written, "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being", Genesis (2:7). That's to say, like a potter shapes an earthen vessel, God formed man from the very clay or dust of the ground and, He breathed His own breath of life into man. This distinguishes man from all of God's other creatures. Man is more than the "dust" or physical substance that he is made of. He has a spirit. He has the very breath of God to sustain him. Thus, with the breath Spirit of God in him, man became a living being with a living soul.

The Lord God, then, fashioned a garden and caused all kinds of trees to grow in it. And He placed the man there. The garden was solely for the man's comfort and enjoyment. It was a place of peace and beauty, where food and water was abundant. There were two important trees in the garden - "The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil", Genesis (2:8-9). God gave the man freedom to eat all the fruits of the garden except the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis (2:16-17). Then God created animals and birds from which man could choose a companion. Since no animal was suitable as a partner for man, God made a woman out of a rib of the man to be his partner, Genesis (2:18-25).

Then we read how the man and the woman were tempted to disobey God. It is said, "Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman: Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?", Genesis (3:1). Serpents or snakes are not evil creatures. The "serpent" here mentioned in the text is merely a symbolic representation of evil or Satan because of its cunningness. The conversation between the woman and the serpent reveals Satan's deviousness. The serpent carefully twisted what God had said by putting a seemingly innocent question to the woman.

God had told them, "You may eat of every tree in the garden but not of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil", Genesis (2:-16-17). But the serpent asked her, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" With this question, the serpent covered up his intent to deceive the woman and thus led her to doubt God. He gave her the impression that God was not really that good to them. God had given them freedom to eat from every tree in the garden but placed only one restriction on them. God's permissions to them far exceeded His restriction, Genesis (2:16-17). But the serpent made it sound as if God had permitted nothing and restricted them on everything. Thus, the serpent deliberately distorted God's goodness.

Then the serpent went much further by exaggerating that God's command is attributed to His own selfish motives. God had told the man, "You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die." But the serpent blatantly contradicted God's word and said to the woman, "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad", Genesis (3:4-5). He beguiled the woman by saying that God had put the restriction, not for their welfare but to prevent them from becoming God like - knowledgeable and powerful. The woman listened to the lies of the serpent and finally gave in. She ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, which she then shared with the man. She invited the man to join her in her disobedience, which he did. Now the fallen woman had become a temptress herself.

After doing so, they did not die immediately but were made subject to death and eventually died. Their eyes were opened, but not in the way they had anticipated. They were now aware of things they were not aware of before. They were aware of being naked and were ashamed and were filled with guilt for what they had done. They became a little like God, in knowing good and evil, but not in the way they had expected.

What does "the tree of knowledge of good and evil mean"? "The tree of knowledge of good and evil" refers to the ability to tell right from wrong, to make judgments and decisions on one's own behalf. God had made human beings in His likeness but placed a limit on them. He wanted to keep the knowledge of good and evil to Himself. They could know many things, but God, the Creator, alone had the power to decide what is best for them. God Himself is the ultimate source of what is right and wrong. But human beings overstepped the limit imposed by God and appropriated that knowledge. Henceforth, they had to make choices and decisions on their own but without the wisdom and vision of the Creator. In other words, by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, man had taken upon himself the role of a judge of what is good and evil.

What do we learn from this Genesis account of creation?

There have been many debates and much controversy going on for many years about the creation story in the Bible. This is because, first of all, it appears there are two accounts written at very different times by different people. However, it has been pointed out that they do not contradict each other, on the contrary, they complement each other. Secondly, most scientists say that the Creation theory in the scriptures is false, unscientific and improbable and the Evolution theory is much more practical, logical and probable.

We by no means need to debate over these differences. What is important and definitely fundamental to our Christian faith is that we believe God created heaven and earth and the universe. Any belief that undermines, belittles, or weakens the Biblical doctrine of creation thereby undermines, belittles, or weakens our faith in the existence and nature of God and the Bible as God's word.

From the Biblical account of creation we learn the following:

  • Going back to our roots in the Book of Genesis we realize that dust is what we started out as, and dust is what we'll end up one day. But the breath of God which is called the "soul" would be alive. The soul is the most important thing that sets man apart from animals and the rest of creation. It allows us to live even after we die. It is the soul that appears before the throne of God. It is to redeem this soul, which is corrupted by sin, that Jesus came. Lent is an opportunity to cleanse our souls, restore our hearts, and strengthen our spirit with the breath of God.
  • Everything that man needed to live life to the full was in the garden. There was not any external or internal threat to Man's life. His life was innocent. He knew no pride, anger, guilt, malice, or vanity. He was satisfied. He was safe. He felt no opposition from within or outside. His life was without pain, worry, fear, sickness, or sin. He lived a perfect life of peace, ease, and the satisfaction of having his basic needs met. God provided him all this. But then he lost all of it because of his disobedience. So also, as long as we are in the garden where God has placed us we will feel safe, content and peaceful.
  • The conversation between the serpent and the woman is still used by Satan to tempt and ensnare us today. He began the temptation with a question: "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" His question insinuated that God had an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda, for forbidding the man and the woman from eating from the tree of knowledge. It was to make them doubt God's word or question what God had said. Our temptations also usually come in the form of questions about things in the Bible.

    Sometimes it is factual questions such as, "Did Jesus really walk on the water?" Or other times it is doctrinal questions such as, "Do you really believe that Mary, a virgin really conceived the child within her by the Holy Spirit?" Or moral questions such as, "Where in the Bible does it specifically say premarital sex is wrong?" If such questions are raised out of a sincere desire to know the truth then it is fine. But often times, such questions are asked to throw us into doubt and confusion, with no real desire for the truth.

    Many questions were asked of Jesus in this way. As Christians, it's important that we are fully aware of Satan's evil plans, and hold on to the Word of God, even if circumstances seem to contradict it, 2 Corinthians (2:11). We must resist the voice of Satan, constantly questioning and challenging us. We must never allow any negative thinking of God's Word to creep into our mind.

  • The woman's greatest mistake was that she readily allowed herself to engage in conversation with the serpent. Satan took control of her, once she started speaking to him. Learning from the mistakes of Eve, we must heed the apostle Paul's counsel and not give the Devil a chance, Ephesians (4:27). To be safe we need to shy away from talking to the tempter. If not, it only gives Satan a foothold in our lives. He will continue to misrepresent and distort God's Word to plant a seed of doubt in our mind and confuse us.

    The only way to resist the devil is to quote God's Word like Jesus did during His temptation. We must say to the enemy, "It is written in the Scriptures". Satan wanted to conquer the Son of God. But when he became fully conscious that there was no possibility of taking control over Jesus, Satan left Him alone. So, as the apostles Peter and James tell us, if we "give into God; stand firm in the faith and, resist the devil, he will run away from us", 1 Peter (5:9) and James (4:7).

  • Finally, the woman gave in to the lust of the flesh. Seeing the fruit was good for food, nice to look at, and also desirable, the woman took a bite out of it; she also gave some to the man to eat, Genesis (3:6). After they had eaten it, they became ashamed, and realized that they were naked; they felt guilty, and covered themselves with fig leaves, Genesis (3:7). We are reminded today that temptation is all around us, testing us as even Jesus was tested. No one is above temptation or the potential to sin, 1 John (1:8). Temptation comes in many forms, often through those near and around us. When we give into temptation and sin, we often have to pay a high price. We lose our freedom, dignity, honor, peace and joy.

Therefore, let us not allow ourselves to be seduced into falling into the many traps that Satan lays for us.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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