Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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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!

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Feb 25, 2024 Views 396 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Genesis (22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18)

God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!", "Here I am!", he replied. Then God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as holocaust on a height that I will point out to you."

When they came to the place which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord's messenger called to him from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!", "Yes, Lord", he answered. "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the messenger. "Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son." Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the Lord's messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the Earth shall find blessing - all this because you obeyed my command."

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19)


(R)I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted." Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. (R)

O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. To you I will offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R)

My vows to the Lord will I pay, in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:31b-34)

Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with him?

Who shall bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died - or, rather, was raised - who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (9:2-10)

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on Earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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

Homily

Today's second reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:31b-34) was written at a time when hostility toward God and faith was growing among believers in Rome. Paul wrote these words to ensure that the believers had a solid foundation in essential doctrines - such as sin, justification, sanctification, and the role of the Holy Spirit - which would enable them to remain steadfast in their faith and be effective witnesses to those around them. In today's text, Paul raises four rhetorical questions. And this is not unusual for Paul. He uses questions in all his letters as a way to get us to think and to see with greater clarity what we probably already know. As we read the questions in today's text, we all can stop and allow ourselves to be challenged by those questions.

Paul's first question is, "If God is for us, who can be against us, Romans (8:31)? If we are asked the question, "Who can be against us?", What would our answer be? More often than not, we tend to consider those we do not get along with or those who treat us badly or those who oppose us to be our "enemies." That enemy might be neighbour or a coworker or an employee or even a member of our own family. Right? But Paul reminds us that people are not our enemies. Our real enemies are "the rulers, the authorities, the power of this dark world and the evil forces", Ephesians (6:12). In other words, there are three primary enemies in our life: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The "world" doesn't mean people but rather the world system that opposes the existence and authority of God. It means anything that is a threat to our faith in Christ such as, materialism, narcissism, atheism, consumerism and so on. The "flesh" doesn't simply refer to the physical part of us, that is, the body with skin and bones but rather the physical body that is driven by selfish wants and desires, such as impurity, sexual immorality, jealousy, anger, greed, drunkenness, and so on, Galatians (5:19-21). The "devil" refers to the destructive or evil forces, such as skeptics, those who feed us with negative and ungodly thoughts, those who entice us to sinful living, and so on. However, Paul confidently tells us that no matter how powerful our enemies are, no one can destroy us because God is for us and He is with us. There is no one who could possibly be more powerful than God, the Creator of the Universe.

However, it's possible that we might remain unconvinced that God is on our side. This is more likely when facing hardships in life, or feeling disconnected from God, or crumbling beneath our fear of failure, or struggling with sinful thoughts, sinful attitudes, sinful habits, and sinful desires. To combat this discouragement, Paul raises the second question. "He who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over to us, how will he not also give us everything else along with him, Romans (8:32)? That's to say that God has already given us the greatest gift He can give, that is, His only Son, Jesus Christ. God could have prevented His son from suffering the death as the sinner's substitute. He could have sent His angels to strike down His opponents. But He did not do so, because this was the only way possible for us to be freed from sin and brought into a relationship with Him. God's plan to end our alienation from Him required Him to suffer. He chose to save us rather than spare Himself of pain. So, Paul reminds us that if God has met our greatest need for salvation and new life, and did so at a personal cost, He would also provide everything else we need. He will meet all our needs - physical, emotional, social, material, and spiritual. He will provide us comfort and hope in times of grief and loss. He will bring peace and satisfaction to our restless hearts during hard times. He will give us guidance and direction when we are confused. He will renew our strength when we are weary. He will be with us till the end.

Paul's third question is, "Who shall bring a charge against God's chosen ones? And he himself answers, "It is God who acquits us", Romans (8:33). "God's chosen ones" refers to the New Testament or Christ believers, that is, us. We are the undeserving sinners whom God has already chosen in keeping with His plan and purposes. God is on our side and we are His chosen ones. Even so, many people do bring charges against us. They accuse us of being offensive, extreme and judgmental, when our preaching of the gospel does not "suit their desires and please their itching ears", 2 Timothy (4:3). They charge us of being hypocritical in something or not practising what we preach. They are quick to point out our sins and underscore our struggles, and criticize us for not being "Christlike." Now, many of the accusations against us are probably true. Some of them actually come from within us. Sometimes we see our own contradictions, inconsistencies and struggles, and we self-condemn by saying that we can't possibly be the true children of God. But Paul reminds us that no one can accuse us, for God justifies us, meaning, He declares us "not guilty" because of our faith in Christ. In God's courtroom, we are all guilty and deserve punishment but God in His mercy and love remits our punishment. Though He was sinless, Christ took our guilt upon Himself and paid for our sin once and for all. All our sins, past, present, and future, have been already fully prosecuted in Christ on the cross. There may still be consequences when we do wrong, even as believers. But the death of Jesus was sufficient sacrifice to exempt us from eternal punishment.

Paul's fourth question is, "Who will condemn?" Paul himself answers, "Christ Jesus, it is who died - or, rather, was raised - who is also at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us", Romans (8:34). Here, Paul is not saying that Jesus Christ condemns. Rather, he is saying that Jesus Christ is the only one who could condemn, but far from condemning us, Jesus died, and rose from the dead, and now intercedes for us at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. That is to say that each time we stand before God for judgment, Jesus comes to our defence and pleads with God the Father on our behalf and reminds Him that He was already condemned in our place, just as we produce a payment receipt as a proof of our payment on an invoice for a service or product. Jesus has already taken our condemnation on Himself so that we might be forgiven, purified, and strengthened for holiness.

Over all, Paul teaches us two things:

  • It is important that we remember that every one of these promises is only for those believers who, having acknowledged their own sin and rebellion and have turned to Christ alone for their salvation. Therefore, if you feel trapped in shame for your sin or if you're still handling persistent feelings of guilt over sins that you have already confessed, or if you feel as though you're condemned not only by others but also by God, or if you feel yourself the target of God's anger each time you have failed, or even when you read the Bible, the words often sounded angry to your ears, then remember that Jesus died for those very things that haunt you. You don't have to be afraid of rejection or judgment. God is not angry with you. He is for you, not against you. He has already removed the guilt. There may be people who keep score of your mistakes, and remind you of your past sins and failures but because of your faith in Christ, even though some of the charges may be true, in the court of God, you have been set free, declared innocent, and made new.

  • These questions are not given to us as an academic exercise but rather to point out the reasons to be confident, not in ourselves but in our salvation and in the sovereign God who is accomplishing it. Those who put their trust in Christ will never be cast away. We will have our enemies. We may stumble and fall but God's love will always remain. So, let us not become discouraged. Let us not allow our sins to hold us captives. Instead, let us keep our eyes focused on His promises. Let us surrender everything our guilt, shame, and condemnation to God, admit we were wrong, and ask for His grace and forgiveness that He promises to give lavishly.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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