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!

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Aug 13, 2023 Views 541 Listen 1 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the first Book of Kings (19:9a, 11-13a)

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord - but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake - but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire - but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14)


(R) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord - for He proclaims peace. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land. (R)

Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the Earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. (R)

The Lord himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (9:1-5)

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (14:22-33)

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

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

Homily

There is a story of a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long way to where God lived, so he packed a bag with some bread, cupcakes, fruit juice and water and started on his journey. When he had walked about a mile, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park, looking at plants and observing birds. The boy sat down next to her and opened his bag. He was about to take a drink when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a cupcake. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so beautiful that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a drink. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted. They sat there all afternoon eating, drinking and smiling, but they never said a word. When it had begun to grow dark the boy wanted to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, "What has made you so happy today?" He replied, "Mom, I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know Mom? She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old woman also happily returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace and joy on her face and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?" She replied, "I had lunch with God in the park." But before her son could reply, she added, "You know, he is much younger than I expected."

Friends, the closest thing to a physical description of God in the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible is in the Book of Daniel. In Chapter 7, verse 9, God is portrayed as an old bearded man, dressed in white sitting on a throne and, is surrounded by bright light and an army of angels. However, we are reminded today that God being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, can manifest Himself in our daily life and in any situation.

In today's first reading we hear the story of the prophet Elijah meeting God in a most unexpected way. Let's take a brief look at the circumstances surrounding his encounter with God. The name "Elijah" means "Yahweh is God." He lived during the reign of the sixth King of Israel, Ahab, nine hundred years before Christ. Ahab was married to Jezebel, a Phoenician whose culture and religious practices include the worship of Baal. The worship of Baal revolved around idolatry, sexual, immoral and perverse fertility rituals as well as the practice of magic and witchcraft. So, King Ahab after his marriage to Jezebel banished the worship of Yahweh, the true God of his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and replaced it with the worship of Baal. Many prophets began to preach against the worship of Baal and called the people to set aside their sinful desires and turn to the true God of Israel. The preaching of the prophets greatly angered Jezebel, so she had the prophets killed. But Elijah endowed with God-given courage, confronted and rebuked Ahab for leading the nation astray and into idol worship and, warned him of the divine punishment. When Jezebel heard the news, she was furious. So she reacted with vengeance and threatened to have him killed by the next day. Elijah fearing for his life fled Israel. After travelling forty days and nights, Elijah found refuge in a cave at Mount Horeb, which is also known as Mount Sinai, the said mountain on which God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, and where his ancestors first encountered God.

While hiding in the cave, God appeared and asked him what he was doing there. God knew the answer to this question, but thought it was good for Elijah to pour out his heart to Him. It seemed unfair to Elijah that he and many of the faithful servants of God should be made to suffer so much. He thought he was the only true believer left, and that his life was in great danger. In fact there were over seven thousand others who had never bowed to Baal. Elijah was just fearful, scared, exhausted, depressed and wanted to hide in that cave and die, but God didn't let him. God knew what Elijah needed at the moment. He needed a personal encounter with God. So God came to the cave and told him to go outside and stand on the mountain while He passed by. First God showed him where He was not. He was not in the strong wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire but in a tiny whispering sound. We do not know how long each event lasted but the final act was a marked contrast to the previous manifestations. Yes. Elijah met God in the quiet whisper of a voice. Immediately, he sensed the special presence of God and humbled himself by hiding his face in his cloak.

Friends, in Elijah's story we may just see a little of ourselves in our reaction to what happens around us and, when we are in our need for God's protection and hope. Despite our devotion and deep faith in the Lord, like the prophet Elijah, we all could feel frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, upset, hurt, scared, isolated, alone and a bit hopeless at times. Sometimes we find ourselves in a cave of harshness, and perhaps even in a state of spiritual and emotional depression. At such times we probably do not want to talk to anyone, let alone God.

Sometimes we turn down God's invitation to open our hearts to Him. Sometimes we hear the voice of the Lord, but He often speaks in ways that we aren't expecting. We perhaps look for God in dramatic manifestations. Friends, we do not need to witness extraordinary acts to feel the love of God. Certainly, God sometimes appears in such magnificent ways but more often than not, he appears in less dramatic ways and in more humble surroundings. One thing is very clear and that is God wants to talk to us always particularly in difficult times. He wants us to know that He never abandons us. He wants us to come out of that cave so that we can see Him and hear Him speak. He wants us to draw near to Him so that He can whisper in our ears, "Come out. Come out, wherever you are!" Let us keep our minds, hearts, eyes and ears open to His manifestations. Our God is not missing or absent or silent but rather is very clearly present even in the simplest thing - in a still and silent voice, where we would least expect it. If we step out of our cave of depression, of fear and doubt, and follow the call of God, with trust in Him, we will find Him in places beyond our imagination.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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