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!

First Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Feb 18, 2024 Views 365 Listen 6 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Genesis (9:8-15)

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the Earth."

God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. When I bring clouds over the Earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings."

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)


(R)Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth, to those who keep your covenant.

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me in your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. (R)

Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (R)

Good and upright is the Lord; thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice and teaches the lowly His way. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Epistle of Peter (3:18-22)

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the day of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (1:12-15)

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

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

Homily

Saint Anthony the Great, also known as Anthony of the Desert or Anthony of Egypt, was a Christian monk who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. He is distinguished from other saints named Anthony, such as Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things, and Anthony of Antioch. Saint Anthony the Great came from a wealthy Christian farming family in Egypt. At the age of 20, after reading Jesus' exhortation to "sell everything, and give to the needy and then come, follow me," in the gospel of Matthew (19:21), Anthony sold all of his family's property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and then went into the desert to live an ascetic and solitary life. Although he was not the first hermit or ascetic, he is generally considered as the "Father of Christian Monasticism," or "Father of All Monks," for he organized his disciples into a community, and later was the inspiration for similar communities throughout Egypt and elsewhere. There are many stories surrounding his life and the lives of early Christian monks who lived in solitude in the deserts of Egypt.

One such story is about a young monk who lived in a cell and in solitude, but was struggling to find inner peace. No matter how hard he tried, he seemed to be constantly disturbed by something. One day, he told an older monk about his trouble. The older monk said to him, "Brother, go and be more humble in your aspirations, place yourself under obedience and live in a community rather than alone." After a few weeks, the young monk came back to the older monk and said, "Brother, I followed your advice and lived with others and yet I can't find peace." The older monk said to him, "Ooh! Young man!" If you are not at peace either alone or with others, why have you become a monk? Is it not to suffer trials? Tell me, how many years you have worn the habit." The young monk replied, "For eight years." Then the older monk smiled at him and said, "I have worn the habit for seventy years and I have not found peace yet. And you expect it in eight years?" At these words, the young monk went away strengthened.

We may have had many Lenten journeys hoping for a change or transformation or conversion in our life; to walk away from sin, vices and whatever that displeases God; to achieve order and peace within ourselves, in our families, and with the people around us, but probably ended up disappointed. As we begin the season of Lent, we are encouraged to never give up but keep trying, always trusting in God to carry us to the other side of adversity. Lent is not about accomplishing a list of stated goals perfectly. Lent is never about perfection. It's rather about recognizing that we are called to something more in the midst of our imperfection. So, whether we are new to the Lenten journey or have participated in Lent for years, or simply need to face hardships and challenges in our life, today's gospel teaches us that we can walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Today's gospel from Mark (1:12-15) presents us with a short version of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert. While Matthew and Luke give many more details, such as three-fold temptation of Jesus from Satan - turning stones into bread, bowing to Satan, and putting God to the test, and Jesus' quotation of scripture after each temptation, Mark simply states, "The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him."

What is interesting to note here is that it was "The Spirit" Who drove Jesus into the desert. In other words, this was not Jesus' idea to go into the desert, it was God the Father's. He went there freely in accord with the will of the Father and by the direction of the Holy Spirit. The question is why the Spirit led Jesus into the desert for temptation.

First of all, the temptation of Jesus occurred right after His baptism by John the Baptist. Although Jesus did not need the baptism of repentance because He was without sin which John himself had declared, these two events - baptism and temptation - teach us much. The truth is that when we choose to follow Christ and live out the baptismal promises in our daily lives, we receive the gift of grace, or divine life and new strength to fight evil. As a new creation in Christ, we have all the grace we need to conquer the evil one, sin and temptation. Jesus, therefore, set for us an example to teach us the truth. He was baptized and then was driven into the desert to face the devil so as to tell us that we too can defeat the devil, resist his schemes and conquer him.

Secondly, as Jesus was in the desert enduring these temptations the Spirit of God was with him every moment of those forty days and nights. At no time did God the Father abandon or leave Jesus alone. God was always with His Son Jesus. Furthermore, "the angels ministered to him," thereby meeting Jesus' needs. The same is true with us. The Lord does not leave us to wrestle with temptations alone. Rather, He always dispatches His angels to help us defeat the devil, Psalm (91:11). Michael, the archangel and our guardian angel assigned by God constantly help us, encourage us, and fight against the wickedness and snares of the devil although we may not see them or even be aware of their presence. Saint Padre Pio was said to have regular communication not only with his own guardian angel, but also with other guardian angels, who informed him when their humans were in need of prayer. He also used to encourage the faithful to develop the habit of always thinking of their guardian angels being near them, guiding them, protecting them, and consoling them especially in their saddest moments.

What is your greatest temptation? If you know it, you can fight against it. Perhaps you struggle with a sin over and over again. Perhaps it's a temptation of the flesh, or a struggle with anger, resentment, hostility, self-righteousness, dishonesty, greed, or something else. Whatever our temptation may be, we can be confident today that we have all we need to overcome it - The grace that we have received at baptism, the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, the power and strength we receive through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and the angels. Besides, there are hundreds of saints, especially our own patron saint or baptismal saint to call upon for intercession and protection.

There is another interesting story. A junior monk had prayed to God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told a senior monk, "Brother, I find myself in peace, without an enemy." The senior monk looked at him and said, "Go, pray to God to stir up warfare so that you regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress." So, the junior monk returned to his monastery and prayed to God just as he was told. And when the warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but rather prayed, "Lord, give me strength for the fight."

Let us not pray that God may just take the temptations away from us but rather, in the midst of any temptation, pray that we can overcome it through Him and by His strength. Let us daily turn to God with our struggles so that He will be victorious in us.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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