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!

Easter Sunday (Year A)

Apr 16, 2017 Views 339 Listen 21 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans (6:3-11)

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Solemn Alleluia and Psalm (118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23)


(R) Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! (Sung)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever. Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever." (R)

The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. (R)

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. (R)

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (28:1-10)

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: "He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." Behold, I have told you."

Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."

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

Homily

Sometime ago a magazine had published a list of the most common complaints wives have about their husbands. One of the top complaints is that their husbands forget things. They forget to pay the bills. They forget household responsibilities. They forget to buy a birthday present for their wife. They forget Mother's Day. They forget their wedding promises. They forget their wedding anniversary.

A young man had even forgotten that he was married. He did not suffer from any memory loss. It seems that after returning from their honeymoon, the husband was two hours late getting back home from work one evening because he absentmindedly had gone to his mother's house instead of going home to his wife. The moral of the story is that married couples should not forget that they are married. That's to say, they should not forget their marital vows or commitment.

Forgetting one's own wife may be something rare in the realm of marriage. But it is fairly common among Christians whom Saint Paul says, are "married to Christ" but forget that they are "married" to him. In other words, they forget their commitment to Jesus Christ. The Church is never explicitly called "the bride of Christ" or "the spouse of Christ" in the Bible. But Paul gives us some inkling of the relation between Christ and the Church by comparing it with the spousal relationship of a husband and wife.

For instance, in his letter to the Ephesians, he compares the union and relationship between husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church and, calls on the Church to imitate Him, who gave Himself up for her in love, Ephesians (5:1-21). "The Church" here, does not refer to the "hierarchy and institutional structure of the Church" but to the "community of believers" which include "you and me" as Christians.

Saint Paul also points out in the same letter that we are joined to Christ as His bride and so we are now members of His body, Ephesians (5:25-33). In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the Corinthian Church as being espoused to Christ and therefore, the church must keep herself as pure as a virgin, Corinthians (11:2-4). And in his letter to the Romans, Paul seems to suggest that the Church is married to Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead, Romans (7:4). Thus, from Paul we learn that our union with Christ is just like a marriage to be built primarily on commitment and holiness.

Just as a husband "is joined to this wife," and becomes "one flesh", meaning "one in unity", "one in purpose", and "one in mind", in the marriage bond, we are also similarly joined to Jesus Christ in baptism, Genesis (2:22-24). Just as a bride and groom leave behind their past lives and start a new life together on their wedding day and, so similarly on the day of our baptism, freed from our sin, we too start a new life with Jesus Christ.

But often times, we forget that we belong to Him and choose to go on sinning. Of course, baptism, even when received with faith and devotion, does not make us perfect immediately. In reality, we still remain as sinners. Even though Baptism washes away original sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents and of the whole human race and any sin we may have committed up to that point, the strong inclination to sin - pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, greed, selfishness, and every kind of impurity - remains even after Baptism. Knowing our ongoing struggles in the faith, in his letter to the Romans which we read today, Paul reminds us of two things, Romans (6:3-11).

First of all, Paul reminds us that when we were baptized into Christ, we were also baptized into his death. In other words, he tells us that in baptism, we, symbolically and spiritually, undergo the death and resurrection of Christ. By being baptized in water we have all our past sins washed away and we begin a new life. Therefore, He exhorts us to truly believe that we have been "absolved from sin", and that "we shall also live with him", Romans (6:7).

Secondly, he reminds us that we must see ourselves dead to sin. In order to understand what this "dead to sin," is, we must first understand what it means to "be dead". None of us has experienced death yet we all know what "death" means. Death means a separation, an end to the physical life. When a person dies, the physical body ceases to function. The dead person not only ceases to have any relationships with the body and others but also the person no longer can enjoy the pleasures or good things of life that he or she had once cherished.

Similarly, when a person is dead spiritually, he or she has no fellowship with God. Paul writes in Ephesians that before we become Christians, we are all "dead in our transgressions and sins", Ephesians (2:1). He further describes the alienation from God as being dead in sin and, reckons that a person who has no relationship with God and Christ Jesus is spiritually dead, Ephesians (2:2-5).

Instead of being "dead in sin" or "spiritually dead", Paul wants us to consider ourselves "being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus." What is "being dead to sin?" Being dead to sin is obviously the opposite of being dead in sin:

  • "Being dead to sin", first of all, means being free from the guilt and power of sin. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we are no longer controlled by the tyranny of sin. Due to our human nature, we may not be able immediately to stop sinning completely; but as Christians, we must try to avoid sin the best we can and strive to live a life without sin. That's to say, sin should no longer be the habit and practice in our life.
  • "Being dead to sin" also means being free from worldly pressures. When we are dead to sin our attitude towards life and the world would change. We tend to think differently, act differently, and understand our life and ourselves differently and more deeply. We would not give in to fears and pressures to conform to the wicked world.
  • "Being dead to sin", finally, means being free from the fear of death and dying. The fear of death means many things. Sometimes we fear our own death. Sometimes we are not so much afraid of our own death but we are afraid of the deaths of our dear ones. Our beliefs about death enormously impact our lives. So many people go through life haunted by the fear of death. But we must realise that fear of death affects our entire life. It affects our social interactions and relationships. It increases the fear of intimacy, alienation from others, spiritual emptiness. But when we are dead to sin, we are no longer slaves to the fear of death and dying.

Yes. When we are dead to sin, we have a new attitude toward life and death. When we are dead to sin, we take on a new attitude toward ourselves and others, toward the world and God. Saint Paul says that once we were dead in sin and now through Jesus' death and resurrection we are dead to sin and we are alive. That's to say, we had no purpose in life before we became Christians but now we have a purpose and motivation for living. Therefore, he says that we can "live for God in Christ Jesus".

Many of us have not yet really experienced the "life for God" that Paul talks about. Some of us perhaps know what it means to be dead, but do not yet know what it means to "live for God". "Living for God" means three things:

  • Living for God means living a transformed or new life.
  • Living for God means living in partnership with the creative purpose of God.
  • Living for God finally means rising above circumstances to triumph in time of trouble. To put it another way, let us not live in sin as we used to live because we are not the same person that we were. Before, we were dead in Adam's sin. Now we are in Christ. Before, we were dead in sin. Now we are dead to sin through our Lord Jesus Christ and are alive to God.

Therefore, let us truly believe and act courageously and confidently on the basis of our new identity and not our old.

(P) Amen.

I wish you all a Blessed and Happy Easter.

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