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!

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Feb 17, 2019 Views 211 Listen 10 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (17:5-8)

Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (1:1-2, 3-4, 6)


(R) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night. (R)

He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers. (R)

Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (15:12, 16-20)

Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

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

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (6:17, 20-26)

Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way."

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

Homily

One of the best - known teachings of Jesus is called the "Beatitudes". The word "beatitude" derives from the Latin word beatitudo, which means "blessed". In the Bible, the Beatitudes are a series of "blessed be" statements that Jesus spoke at the beginning of His public ministry, and they are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (5). A similar teaching is also found in Luke's Gospel, which today's Gospel passage recounts, Luke (6:17, 20-26).

There are five striking differences between the Beatitudes in Matthew and those in Luke:

  • Matthew's version of the Beatitudes was addressed to a crowd of people on a mount. While Luke's account was directed at Jesus' disciples on a plain at the foot of a mountain.
  • Matthew's narration contains eight beatitudes, compared to Luke's four.
  • Matthew's are stated generally in the third person, whereas Luke's is presented in the second person, "you". However, the question of whether they were delivered in the second or third person, has been debated at length by biblical scholars.
  • Luke's beatitudes are spoken of in a literal and physical sense, whilst Matthew's are described in a more spiritual sense.
  • Luke's four statements of blessing are followed by corresponding woes whereas in Matthew, there are no corresponding woes, Luke (6:24-26).

Now, let us go back to the text. At first reading, the words of Jesus are incredible. It would seem as though Jesus has said that all who are poor, hungry, sorrowful, and rejected are blessed, while those who are rich, well-fed, happy and honoured are cursed. But, in fact, it is not. Jesus, knowing fully well that His disciples would be subject to great strain or difficulties, wanted to teach them already at the start of His ministry, how they were to live in order to achieve the fullness of life and happiness that is God's will for all people.

Looking up at His disciples, Jesus declared four times "Blessed are you...". In the Bible, "blessedness" is also commonly interpreted as "happiness". However, it transcends the normal and modern connotation of happiness; that is, being delighted, or being in a good mood, being cheerful, or having a pleasurable feeling. In the scriptures, "blessedness" is a state in which one finds oneself being really fortunate because of the inner joy and peace that comes from being righteous or upright in God's sight.

The first beatitude is, "Blessed are you who are poor; for the kingdom of God is yours", Luke (6:20). "Poor" here refers to the economically impoverished or materially poor. The world might consider the poor, as "unfortunate, unhappy, miserable, or pitiable" but, Jesus calls them "blessed". Here, Jesus is not glorifying the poor or poverty. He says that the poor are blessed not because of their poverty but because of their natural inclination to trust in God. However, the "poor" here does not refer to the poor in general, but the poor disciples, who had "left everything" to follow Jesus.

As you may recall from last week's gospel that after the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus had called the fishermen - Simon, James, and John and others - promising that He would make them fishers of men and, they upon their return to shore, "left everything and followed Him". It implies that the fishermen forgot themselves and all earthly things, forsook all their cares and belongings, including their boats and nets, which were their means of livelihood, to follow Jesus. In doing this, they had become powerless and helpless, and were more disposed to trust and depend only on God. Therefore, Jesus assured them that they would have the reward of being a people belonging to God's kingdom, that is, in the age to come, they would be honoured by God.

The second beatitude is, "Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied", Luke (6:21a). In a world where physical starvation is real, this saying of Jesus may appear insensitive. Even the most insensitive people are moved by the physical hunger. Physical hunger is one of the most compelling needs every human being or every creature can experience. Often, we are satisfied after a meal. By the next meal, though, we are hungry again. More so, in Jesus' time, hunger was an obvious and pressing reality. Jesus Himself knew about physical hunger first hand. After He had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, we read that "He was hungry".

Remember, Jesus was God in human form. He embodied all the attributes of God. Yet, He was a man who walked upon the earth, breathed our air, and felt our pain. The Gospels record several instances of Jesus, moved by compassion, feeding the hungry crowds. He met their physical needs in a generous manner so that, with their physical hunger satisfied, they could hear the word of God preached to them. So, Jesus was not saying that to be starving is a blessing. Rather he wanted to awaken His disciples to the needs of those whose lives are threatened by a lack of food. He wanted to remind them that their following included sharing of their goods, especially food, with those who did not have, instead of storing or accumulating them, and rely on God for their needs, instead of on themselves or on one's possessions. As a reward, Jesus assured them that their needs would be fulfilled.

The third Beatitude is, "Blessed are you who are weeping, for you will laugh", Luke (6:21b). We all weep when we feel the pain of disappointments, loss, rejection, or struggle. It is a natural emotional response to sadness and hurt. But what Jesus is talking about is a different kind of weeping than just from pain and struggle. He is not saying that everyone who weeps is blessed but those who weep for His sake and for the sake of His gospel. Remember, Jesus was talking to the disciples who had resigned themselves and were following Him with absolute detachment and were, more so, feeling the pain of sacrifices and renunciation. To such disciples, Jesus promised laughing; not indeed the noise of laughter from the mouth, but a pure gladness and joy.

The fourth beatitude is, "Blessed are you when others hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way", Luke (6:22-23). Here, Jesus is not saying that all those who are hated are blessed but only those who are hated "on account of the Son of Man".

In other words, speaking of the disciples who would come under physical, mental, or emotional persecution for their uncompromising devotion to His teaching, Jesus said that they need not be ashamed of it, but justly rejoice in it. Because they would be granted an abundant recompense and dignified position in the Kingdom of God, for the people would precisely treat them in the same way as their ancestors had treated the true prophets before them. Israelites had hated the prophets when they stood up and spoke for God; when the prophets called them to repentance which they did not want.

Jesus, then, effectively cursed people who were the opposite of those he had declared blessed. The first woe is, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation", Luke (6:24). This declaration was meant to warn the disciples on the perils of greed and attachment to things. Here, Jesus does not condemn anyone for having riches or material possessions but compassionately bewails the condition of the persons, whose hearts are attached to world's goods. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus later in Luke is an illustration of both the blessing and the curse, Luke (16:19-31). The rich man was not condemned to hell because of his riches, but rather for his missed opportunities. He had every opportunity to show compassion to the poor man at his gate but failed to do so.

The second woe is, "Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry", Luke (6:25a). This saying was a sober warning to the disciples of the temptation to ignore hungry people's plight while feeding themselves well, and end up empty on judgment day, because of their callous hearts.

The third woe is, "Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep", Luke (6:25b). This pronouncement was meant to caution His disciples against their human tendency to show indifference to the pain and suffering of others while they find excessive happiness in the things of the world. Obviously, here, Jesus is not against laughter but rather against a certain group of people who seek their own pleasures more and, might be uncaring and unsympathetic toward others.

The fourth and the last "woe" of this sequence is, "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way", Luke (6:26). By this saying, Jesus pointed out to the disciples of the danger of falling under the charms and desires of a flatterer and, as a result, compromise the essentials of their own faith. Jesus warned them that that was how their ancestors had treated the false prophets. All human beings are desirous of compliments and of being well spoken of. However, it is easy to get absorbed in the praise rather than put oneself in the place of the truth and principles.

Finally, we are not told what that these woes entail, but it must surely be the opposite of the "great reward in heaven" mentioned above, Luke (6:23).

What is the message for us?

Jesus has given us these blessings and woes to remind us of the choice that we, as His followers, have to make between two ways of life. We can either choose to be poor and detached from wealth and worldly goods; generous in sharing the riches with others; compassionate to people in suffering and distress; resilient in times of insults, hardships, persecutions, troubles and abuse for Christ's sake, that will bring genuine joy and inner peace in life, or choose to be rich and attached to material things; ungenerous and unsympathetic to other people's pain; dependent on others' praise and compliments, which can lead to sadness, distress and unhappiness.

The truth is that we cannot follow Jesus, if we do not make a choice. Christian discipleship begins when we make an active choice to know and follow Jesus ourselves. It is not enough that we believe in the existence of heaven and that we aspire to be there one day. We also must take these pronouncements, both the blessings and the woes, seriously and walk this path to achieve true happiness. If we live according to this plan of Christ, we shall have a foretaste of the happiness of heaven already in this life and a "great reward in heaven".

We shall pray today that the Lord our God may satisfy our deepest hungers, protect us from the lure of wealth and power; move our hearts to seek first His kingdom, so that we may be the security and joy of those who place their trust in Him.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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