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!

The Baptism of the Lord (Year B)

Jan 10, 2021 Views 131 Listen 35 Downloads 1
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (55:1-11)

Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David. As I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of nations, so shall you summon a nation you knew not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the Earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the Earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (12:2-3, 4, 5-6)


(R) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior. With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. (R)

Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim His name; among the nations make known His deeds, proclaim how exalted is His name. (R)

Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the Earth. Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel! (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint John (5:1-9)

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by Him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth. So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord. If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater. Now the testimony of God is this, that He has testified on behalf of His Son.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (1:7-11)

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

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

Homily

Today's second reading is taken from the first letter of Saint John. John was the son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman. John and his brother James were among the first disciples of Jesus. From John's own gospel we learn that he was "the disciple whom Jesus loved", the one who reclined beside Jesus at the Last Supper, and the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his mother Mary, as he stood beneath the cross, John (13:23; 19:26; 20:2).

In the New Testament of the Bible, one Gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation are all attributed to John. The first letter of John was probably written between the years 95-110 AD when John was old and living in Ephesus. That is approximately 50-60 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. However, the authorship of these writings remains uncertain. Let us put the controversy and disagreements aside over the origin of these works and just examine the text for its message.

It appears that John was quite anxious that some leaders of the church had moved away from the faith and were teaching wrong things. Many people who were primarily attracted to Jesus were coming under the influence of these false teachers. One of the wrong ideas was that Jesus came to Earth as a spirit without a real body of flesh (4:2). That's to say, they rejected the belief that Christ was really human. And some others were teaching that Jesus was merely human but not really God. Whereas John believed and preached that Jesus was God, born as a real human person; lived his life here on Earth and died as a man and, rose again from the dead. When he became aware that some teachings were profoundly opposed to the essence of the Christian faith, he wrote the letter to those who were already believers so that they might reject the false ideas, love God and adhere to His teachings; avoid sin and live right as Jesus lived and be good as God is good. John himself declares in the letter, 1 John (5:13), that the purpose of the letter is to make them know that they have eternal life.

Observing the form and personal character of the letter someone calls it "a loving and caring sermon" of a pastor who loved his people and was anxious for them to know the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that those who truly believe in Jesus are children of God. As children of God they can possess fellowship and enjoy a special relationship both with God the Father and the Son Jesus, 1 John (3:10). They can call God, Father because as children of God they all will share the eternal life that the Lord Jesus promises them. All throughout the letter John urges all Christians to stand firm in this truth. Today's text is a piece of John's exhortation on the truth he believed and proclaimed. In the text he emphasizes three characteristics of a Christian.

  • The necessity of faith in Jesus Christ as God and Man.

    According to John, a true Christian is someone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Savior, and he has come in the flesh, as the Son of God. This kind of faith is necessary not only to make the believer, the child of God, 1 John (5:1), but also to conquer worldly temptations, 1 John (5:4-5). He believes that denial of Jesus either as the Christ or as the Son of God makes the believer a liar and an antichrist, 1 John (2:22), and makes fellowship and relationship with God the Father and the Son impossible, 1 John (2:22-23). Matthew affirms the belief in his gospel, Matthew (11:27), "Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal himself."
  • The necessity of loving God, loving people and keeping God's commandments.

    For John, a true Christian is someone who displays his or her love for God by loving His people, including those who are generally considered hostile and, displays love for people by loving God. Loving God also means learning to love what God loves, and to hate what God hates, like the psalmist says "loving uprightness and detesting evil", Psalm (45:7). John also believes that loving God and others, and keeping His commandments are not a burden, 1 John (5:3b), but the manifestation of the true faith in Jesus Christ.
  • The necessity of accepting Jesus Christ to whom God testified through water, blood and the Spirit.

    According to John there are three distinct witnesses for Jesus Christ: the Spirit, water and blood. "Water" is the symbol of cleanliness and of new life and, it refers to Jesus' baptism. The "blood" is the symbol of sacrificial death and, it refers to Jesus' painful atonement for sin on the cross. The "Spirit" is the representation of the presence of God from the time of creation but revealed fully in Jesus Christ at his baptism, transfiguration and throughout his ministry on Earth and, it continues to be present in the Church. Particularly in his baptism, when the Spirit of God came down from heaven upon him, and the voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". All these are in accordance with the prophecies concerning the very same one and only Jesus Christ to whom God Himself gave testimony. So for John, a true Christian is someone who acknowledges Jesus Christ to whom God Himself gave testimony through water, blood and the Spirit. Today our Church considers the Spirit, water and blood as an allusion to the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.

At the end, John urges all Christians to accept the testimony of God who has testified on behalf of His Son for God's testimony is greater than human testimony.

What is the message for us?

Like the false prophets of old and the false teachers within the early church, false teachers and antichrists continue to be a threat to all of us. They can appear in many different forms. They may appear in the form of unbelievers, secularists, intellectuals, concerned friends and colleagues. They may even appear like godly Christian believers and kind parents and neighbors but who truly do not know that the Lord Jesus is their Savior or who teach false doctrines or who discourage us to accept the fundamental doctrines of the Church. There are many people creeping in unware. We need to be aware of those who challenge our Christian faith and life.

There are many opportunities for us to deviate from our basic beliefs and so we end up getting trapped in sin. For instance, when we deny Jesus as man and see him only as God, do we not tend to excuse ourselves saying that we cannot and will not be able to imitate him in the offering of compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love? Or when we deny Jesus as God and see him only as man is there not a tendency in us to ignore and disobey his commandments because there is no one to punish us? It is important therefore that we truly believe in and accept Jesus Christ as God and Man in order for us to become the children of God. Our true belief will certainly lead us to examine who we are and what we do. When we hear the voice of God let us courageously choose to do good and act right - by loving God, others and keeping his commandments. And finally let us accept Jesus Christ to whom God Himself gave testimony through water, blood and the Spirit which are today commemorated in the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Let us then renew our baptismal promises, participate in the sacrifice of Christ and, live in the presence of the Holy Spirit only through whom will we obtain peace and joy on the Earth and attain eternal life.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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