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!

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Feb 3, 2019 Views 213 Listen 11 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Jeremiah (1:4-5, 17-19)

The word of the Lord came to me saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But gird your lions; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; first it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: Against Judah's kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17)


(R) I will sing of your salvation.

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me. (R)

Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the land of the wicked. (R)

For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength. (R)

My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (12:31-13:13)

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding going or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became an adult, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (4:21-30)

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them. "Surely you will quote me this proverb, "Physician, cure yourself." And say, "Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum." And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land.

It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Isreal during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. "When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

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

Homily

One day God called out to Abraham and his people to enter into relationship with Him. He took them to a land prepared for them - the land of Canaan. He promised them that they would be His covenant people as long as they trusted in Him and obeyed Him. He protected them from threats both from inside and outside the community. He further strengthened the "promise covenant" with Isaac and then with Jacob, whose new name was Israel. He provided for them during famines, Genesis (12, 42). He preserved them in their afflictions during the 400-year sojourn in Egypt.

Then again, God entered into a unique and fresh covenant relationship with them as they were being led by Moses in the wilderness for forty years. He repeatedly told them to follow carefully all His commands so that they might live and prosper, Deuteronomy (6:3; 8:1; 12:28). He brought them back to the land of their forefathers, and gave them some specific instructions on how to live in their land. He made them into a nation, Israel, and wanted it to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation", Exodus (19:6). They were God's people with a very special calling. He also gave them wonderful human leaders or judges, like Joshua, to guide the whole nation, and lead them in righteous living.

It was Joshua, known as Moses' second in command, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land after Moses' death, and allocated the land to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Numbers (13:1-16). But after Joshua's death, the nation had no proper leadership; they cried out to God for a king. However, they did not ask God for a king that He would choose, but wanted a king like other nations had. For the first thousand years of Israel's history, they had no human king because God himself was their King, and He was a perfectly faithful King, 1 Sam (12:8-11).

Hence, God had warned them about the foolishness of wanting a human king to lead them, but they persisted. Eventually, He in His kindness gave them a human king to teach them a difficult lesson. That is to say, God gave them a king of their desire, and his name was Saul, Deuteronomy (17:14-20). Saul had the look of a king, but it didn't take long for him to show that he didn't have the heart of a king. He disobeyed God and, as a result, he lost God's favour and his kingship.

After Saul, God gave them a new king called, David, "a man after God's own heart", 1 Samuel (13:13-14); 1 Kings (14:8); Acts (13:22). What does that mean? It means that, though David was not without his failings, he was a man who had a deep desire to follow God's will; had a soft, repentant heart; honoured God and enthroned Him as king; and loved God and His people. Pleased with David's love and faithfulness, God blessed him with abundance and gave Israel peace from its enemies. And God also blessed David's son, Solomon, who had succeeded him as king of Israel, with wisdom, glory and riches as long as he remained faithful to Him.

Gradually, however, after the death of Solomon, many of the Israelites had rebelled against God and no longer followed God's elected Judahite kings. Rivalry and conflict among the tribes led to the division of the nation "Israel" into two: Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 years before Christ, and most of the people belonging to the ten tribes of Israel were taken away as slaves, and about 150 years later, Judah too ended up falling to the Babylonians.

In the midst of these tumultuous times, God sent prophets to both Israel and Judah, pleading with the Israelites to turn away from their sin and return to fellowship with Him. Now, who is a prophet in the Bible? The Hebrew word for prophet "nabi" means the one who is entrusted with a message. The message could be a message of repentance or hope or encouragement or direction or correction or warning. Thus, a prophet is a man or a woman who speaks on behalf of God; a messenger of God. A prophet's message is not his own but God's, and ought to be delivered with the authority of God.

God often asked the Old Testament prophets to do some difficult things. He asked them to convey evil tidings to the backsliding Israelites, who had greatly corrupted their ways before God. He instructed them to reprove people for their sins, and to forewarn of the judgments coming on the land for their covenantal unfaithfulness, disobedience and wickedness. He commanded them to tell the people that it is evil and bitter for a person to have left the Lord and not to have in him a fear of God, Jeremiah (2:19). These messages of divine wrath would be so unwelcomed to many people. Therefore, no one really wanted to be a prophet, particularly a bearer of bad news. Jeremiah was one of the prophets who understood what it means to be given a hard assignment. He was born in a priestly family belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, and he was a prophet in Judah during the last 40 years of its existence.

In today's first reading, we learn about Jeremiah's struggle with the call to become a prophet. In the first part of the text, Jeremiah recounts his own call to prophetic work. He says, "The word of the Lord came to me saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you", Jeremiah (1:4-5). Though Jeremiah had biological parents, God made it known to Jeremiah that He Himself had fashioned him and knit him together in his mother's womb, and therefore, He "knew" him, and that He also set him apart for the purpose of being a prophet. How amazing it is to know what God had done for Jeremiah before he was even born. It demonstrates two things very clearly:

  • God possesses the power to do whatever He chooses.
  • God gives life to human beings in order to make them what He wants them to be.

Then, the reading skips 10 verses - 6 to 16. What do those verses speak about? When God called Jeremiah to do prophetic work, he tried to argue with God by telling Him that He was not a good speaker and was too young. Of course, we can understand Jeremiah's reluctance because being a prophet is never an easy calling, then or now. Especially in Jeremiah's day, he knew that the people of Judah had no respect for God; that his message to them would be unpopular, and that he would be dismissed and ridiculed or even killed. But the Lord refused to accept Jeremiah's reasons for resisting His call. Instead, God assured him of His protection.

In the latter part of today's reading, the prophet recalls God's promised protection. The Lord said, "Gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them", Jeremiah (1:17). Here, in order to prepare Jeremiah for a hostile reaction to his messages, the Lord instructed him to get himself ready for action, to move freely, and to work without any stricture. He must be bold to tell the people all that the Lord would command him to say. In other words, Jeremiah was not to hold back anything. If he did accordingly, God promised to be with him and to protect him. But if he failed to do so, he would be punished.

The Lord further said, "For it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah's kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you", Jeremiah (1:18-19). God commanded Jeremiah to be steadfast in the face of coming opposition, specifically from kings, princes, priests and people, and need not fear whoever would be against him. Because the Lord said that He had already made Jeremiah an impregnable fortified city, with strong iron pillars and impenetrable brass wall. That is to say, he need not worry, because the Lord had made him equal to the task, and he would enjoy the Lord's strength and the Lord's protection, and he would prevail.

At that particular moment, Jeremiah probably did not feel like a fortified city nor an iron pillar nor a brass wall. But he believed in God's word and acted upon it. As we will read later in the Book, God's promises came true. Jeremiah's enemies did not prevail against him. He lost all fear and, despite persecution, ridicule, beating and imprisonment, he boldly proclaimed the truth and served God for forty years until the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and for a short time thereafter.

What is the message for us?

  • God is the creator and giver of life. Like Jeremiah, God has made us and even fashioned us while we were still in our mother's womb. Therefore, He knows each of us individually and loves us personally. Moreover, just like Jeremiah, God's plans for our life did not start the moment we were born but even before conception. He has chosen us even before we chose Him because He has created each one of us to fulfil a special purpose. He has set us aside for a particular purpose, which is to have a special Father-child relationship with Him. Christian faith is all about having a personal relationship with the God who created us.
  • Every Christian has a calling. There is a general call, of course, to believe in Jesus Christ. But everyone who believes in Christ also has a special calling to a particular sphere of obedience and ministry. Just as Jeremiah was set apart to deliver God's message to people of his day, so are we set apart to share joyfully the message of salvation in Jesus Christ with people of our generation.
  • Just like Jeremiah, we are sometimes called to deliver a message that is both difficult and unwelcome - to remind people of their past sin and their imperfections. When we persist to preach a message faithful to God, we might encounter great opposition and interference. At times like that, we, like Jeremiah, can take our complaints straight to God, allow Him to bring justice, place a renewed confidence in Him, worship Him during hard times and maintain hope in God's compassion.
  • When God assigns us a demanding task, Jeremiah's excuses are often also our excuses for not heeding God's voice. However, it is comforting to know that God's promise to Jeremiah is also a promise to those who are faithful to Him. He does not give us a road map to follow and then leave us to our own resources; rather, He walks with us and delivers us through His Son Jesus Christ.
  • God expects immediate obedience. Immediate obedience is the only appropriate response when God calls. If we don't obey God immediately, we are in danger of God's wrath. Therefore, each time God calls upon us to do something, we shall respond with immediate, loving obedience to God's will for us, for we have the promise of God's power.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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