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!

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jan 20, 2019 Views 260 Listen 12 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (62:1-5)

For Zion's sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you "Forsaken." Or your land "Desolate," but you shall be called "My Delight," and your land "Espoused." For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10)


(R) Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless his name. (R)

Announce his salvation, day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds. (R)

Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name. (R)

Worship the Lord in holy attire. Tremble before him, all the earth; say among the nations: The Lord is king. He governs the peoples with equity. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (12:4-11)

Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

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

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (2:1-11)

There was wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him. "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from, although the servers who had drawn the water knew, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then, when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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

Homily

There is an old saying, "Do not bite the hand that feeds you". This saying highlights the fact that one should not be unkind and ungrateful to the person who provides. But many of us do disregard or ignore such wise counsel. We not only tend to forget those help and support us, but treat them with great scorn and much contempt. However, while we human beings might behave in an ungrateful way, God is not like that. God is faithful. When we say God is faithful, it means that He is totally trustworthy and dependable. God's faithfulness is true and has been proven many times. The Bible is full of God's promises and reminders that He is faithful, and that He cannot lie, nor can He break a promise, Hebrews (6:18). More than any other writing prophet, Isaiah repeatedly speaks of God's perfect faithfulness, and today's first reading contains a similar message.

Before going any further, let us briefly look at the historical context of Isaiah's time. About 900 years before Jesus, after King Solomon's death, the Kingdom of Israel had been split into two: The Kingdom of Israel, which was made up of ten tribes of the Israelites and Samaria as its capital in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah, which consisted of two tribes and Jerusalem as its capital in the south. Isaiah, one of the greatest of the prophets, lived in Judah and prophesied in the days of four Kings of Judah - Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, 700 years before Christ, Isaiah (1:1). It shows that Isaiah appeared at a critical moment in Judah and Israel's history.

There were many wicked kings of Judah but Ahaz was easily the most wicked. He was distinguished for idolatry and contempt of the true God of Israel, "Yahweh". He even sacrificed his own children to pagan deities. However, his worst mistake was that he rejected the counsel of the prophet Isaiah and sought help from the king of Assyria, to fight the kings of Aram and Israel who had allied to wage war against Judah. He also built idols of Assyrian gods in Judah to find favour with Assyria. The Assyrians captured the kingdom of Israel and carried away the ten tribes into captivity.

But over the years, Judah also fell victim to the power struggles between Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, with Jerusalem eventually destroyed around 587 BC. In fact, since the time of Ahaz, the Lord allowed many nations to attack Judah and its people because of their sin. He let their enemies plunder their possessions, demolish their houses, destroy their city and the Temple.

When the whole land of Judah, including Jerusalem was becoming a waste land without inhabitants and utterly desolate, the people of Judah began to wonder if God had forsaken them and done away with the covenant that He had made with Abraham which was to give them the land of Canaan and to be a blessing to the rest of the world. It was during these times of distress that the Prophet Isaiah started proclaiming that the Lord still loved and cared for them, that He had not forgotten His promises to Abraham, and that He would someday restore them as a nation.

Today's passage is part of the assurance which God gave to the Israelites concerning their future deliverance from Babylon and ultimate glory: it contains imageries or metaphors consistent with the figurative style of Isaiah's prophetic utterance. The passage begins by saying, "For Zion's sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch", Isaiah (62:1). Here, the personal pronoun "I" refers to God, and "Zion" refers to Mount Zion on which the city of Jerusalem is built. The Temple is built on Mount Moriah. Both names "Zion" and "Jerusalem" are interchangeable: both refer to Israel as the people of God.

Thus, speaking in the voice of God, the prophet assured the Israelites that, though they had deserted God and His ways, He had not abandoned them. Rather, God would continue to speak and work on their behalf until they had "vindication" and "victory". And that is, until they are cleared of blame and restored to their former glory, until their relationship with God and others is re-established. Moreover, the restoration and transformation of the land and the people of Israel will be highly visible, like the sun at dawn or like a burning torch.

Isaiah continues, saying, "Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord", Isaiah (62:2). In other words, the Prophet assured them that not only Israel as a nation would be restored but that it would also be a visible reality and, even more so, it would be known to all the people - both to Jews and Gentiles, to ordinary and powerful people, even to the "kings" themselves.

Moreover, the Prophet told them that the Lord would give them a new name befitting Israel's new, redeemed, righteous status and position, just as He changed the name of Abram to Abraham, Genesis (17:5), and Jacob to Israel, Genesis (32:28). Besides, the Prophet says, "You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God", John (62:3). In other words, Israel and its people, because of their righteousness and holiness, would be God's crown and one of God's proudest possessions, which He holds in His hands before the nations; and no one would therefore be in a position to harm them.

Then the Prophet uses the metaphor of marriage to testify of God's great love for Israel. He says, "No more shall people call you "Forsaken", or your land "Desolate", but you shall be called "My Delight", and your land "Espoused". For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse, John (62:4). The Lord had already said that Israel would assume a "new name" designating its future royal status. Now, the Lord revealed to them what the name would be. While they had been known as "Forsaken" and "Desolate" so far because of their sin, shame, humiliation, rejection, and abandonment, the Lord said that they would be known in the future as "My Delight", and their land "Married One", and finding delight in their life, He would marry their land.

Elaborating further on Israel's marriage relationship with God and the land, the Prophet says, "As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you", John (62:5). In other words, the Prophet said that God would delight in Israel as a bridegroom delights in his new bride, because Israel would no longer be forsaken and desolate but a fruitful delight.

What is the message for us?

  • Even though Isaiah had revealed the Lord's plan for a grand restoration of Israel and Judah 700 years before Jesus, the process of rebuilding the Temple and the city of Jerusalem began only around 539 BC, when the Israelites returned from the Babylonian exile on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great, following his conquest of Babylon. This was about 150 years after Isaiah's prophecy. However, the Lord's plan for Israel's restoration would be something far greater than their return from exile - the re-establishment of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple. It, rather, includes the spiritual restoration to God which was made necessary because of the fall of the first man, Adam.

    Ironically, God had to prove Himself to those He had chosen. Therefore, He sent His Son Jesus Christ as a human person, who was also perfectly one with God, John (1:1; 14); Colossians (2:9); Hebrews (1:8), pre-existent with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit before Adam lived, John (8:58); Micah (2:2), holy, blameless, and pure, Hebrews (7:26), into the world as the Last Adam not merely to restore us to what we were before the fall, "a living being", 1 Corinthians (15:45) but to "make us righteous as He is", 2 Corinthians (5:21).

    And Christ honoured the authority of God the Father through complete obedience. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He restored what was lost and guaranteed that we would never lose it again. Even at this very moment, despite our wretchedness and complete lack of merit, Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us, actively working for our greatness and comfort; our righteousness and salvation. We must not forget that Jesus lived a holy life and then paid the price for sin through His death on the cross; and He is now also interceding on our behalf.

  • Because of what Christ has done and is doing for us, we now have the opportunity to be in right relationship with God. Through baptism, God has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, and has given us a new name, "Christian" - that is, either from the name of Christ Himself, or perhaps, like Peter, the Lord has given us a brand new name that represents the character or the change He has brought or wants to bring about in us. Thus, a new name also reminds us of our new relationship, new life, new character quality, and new purpose, 2 Corinthians (5:17).

We never have to be ashamed of our name, but we praise God that we bear that name, 1 Peter (4:16). God has given us a name so that we may make known among the gentiles the glory of God, that "we may set our hearts on heavenly things, not on earthly things", and that we may become "a glorious crown" and "a royal diadem" in His Hand, Colossians (1:27); Colossians (3:1-2). As a matter of fact, and regardless of what we have been in the past, God delights in making us His spouse for we have been made clean by the blood of Jesus.

God knows all our faults, even better than we do. Yet, God wants us as His bride. He rejoices over the thought of having us as His bride, just as a young man rejoices over his bride when he is ready to get married.

Today, we shall pray that we may allow Jesus to clean up our life; that we will be prepared to be married to God; that we will know God's great love for us; and that we will rejoice with God in our relationship with Him as He rejoices with us.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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