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!

Third Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Mar 3, 2024 Views 306 Listen 1 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Exodus (20:1-17)

In those days, God delivered all these commandments: "I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the Earth below or in the waters beneath the Earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain."

"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you."

"You shall not kill."

"You shall not commit adultery."

"You shall not steal."

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not cover your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (19:8, 9, 10, 11)


(R) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord of trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (R)

The percepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye. (R)

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. (R)

They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (1:22-25)

Brothers and sisters: Jews demand "signs" and Greeks look for "wisdom", but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (2:13-25)

Since the Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: "Zeal for your house consumes me." At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He himself understood it well.

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

Homily

Today, the ancient city of Corinth in Greece lies in ruins but at the time of Paul, it was part of the Roman empire, a centre of trade, and a place of worship. It was renowned for its cultural and religious diversity for it had a mixed population of Romans, Greeks, Jews, Syrians, Egyptians and others. There still stands an impressive temple dedicated to the Greek and Roman god Apollo. Paul spent about eighteen months in Corinth and established a Christian community, primarily composed of the converted Jews and Greeks? Acts (18). Later, having heard about "divisions" among the believers in Corinth, during his stay in Ephesus in modern day Turkey, Paul wrote his first letter to them in an attempt to restore the community to its foundation - the gospel of Christ.

According to Paul, the real problem behind the "divisions" was that some people saw Christianity as just another "philosophy," which means "love of wisdom," and the teachers of the faith were in competition with one another for leadership. They used their knowledge and wisdom to divide the community and to promote themselves. They highly valued mind power and human wisdom. They took pride in following people with rhetorical skills and eloquence. Initially, they had not trusted human wisdom for their salvation but after a while they had begun to undermine the gospel of Christ for such wisdom.

It was in response to this situation that Paul, in today's text, 1 Corinthians (1:22-25), writes about the two primary cultural forces of his day: religious Jews and intellectual Greeks. He writes, "Jews demand "signs" and Greeks look for "wisdom", 1 Corinthians (1:22). Throughout their history, the Jews had demanded signs from God as evidence of His presence or approval, and He did send them to help their unbelief. For instance, God gave signs through Moses to convince the Jewish people to leave Egypt, Exodus (4:1-9). All through Jesus' life, they asked him for supernatural signs from heaven to prove His claim to be the Messiah, Matthew (12:28) and John (6:30). One such occasion was when Jesus chased the merchants and the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem about which today's gospel of John (2:13-25) narrates. So, Paul pointed out that the Jews of his day too wanted signs as verification that God was at work. But unlike the Jews, the Greeks were interested in sharing ideas and knowledge about belief systems and practices. They wanted to hear something "new" and something that sounded "logical, rational and wise". They gave importance to human wisdom and a life dedicated to looking for it.

In contrast to the standards of judgment used by Jews and Greeks, Paul says, "Christ crucified" is the most essential truth of the gospel but that is a "stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles" 1 Corinthians (1:22). That's to say that of all things Christ's death on the cross was the thing that caused the Jews not to accept Jesus as their Messiah. They had been expecting a messiah who would destroy all their enemies and establish a powerful earthly kingdom for them. So, in their eyes, a crucified Messiah was a shame and failure. That meant God was not with him.

And for the Greeks or the Gentiles, "Christ crucified" was foolishness. A crucified Messiah made no sense to them. They could not understand the idea that God appeared in flesh and lived among human beings for a while and then suffered and died at the hands of human beings. So, there were two radically different views of the same gospel. But Paul points out, "Christ crucified is God's power and God's wisdom for those who are called", 1 Corinthians (1:24). In other words, for those with understanding and faith, the crucified Christ is "God's Power" to forgive and set them free from sin's dominion, from divine judgment, and eternal death and as well as He is "God's wisdom" which enlightens all who believe, including Jews and Gentiles.

In the conclusion of his message, Paul contrasts human wisdom and strength with the wisdom and the strength of God. He writes, "The foolishness of God is wiser than (human) wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength", 1 Corinthians (1:25). Here, Paul was not saying that God contains any foolishness or weakness, at all. Instead, he was saying that the gospel of Christ which the unbelievers consider foolish and weak is in fact real wisdom, and it is much wiser than what humans could ever imagine, and it is stronger and more trustworthy than all the powers of the world. Prophet Isaiah puts it this way, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," says the Lord", Isaiah (55:8-9).

What is the message for us?

  • We are not much different from the early Corinthian Christian community. Like the ancient Jews, some of us seek after signs from God. We want God to work miracles to "prove" His presence with us or His love for us. We say, "If only God would perform a miracle, then I would believe!" Saint Augustine, in his book, "The Confessions" says, "Even devout Christians can be guilty of being curious when they crave miracles and signs from God, in a kind of spiritual thrill-seeking." Yes, we want the supernatural intervention of God in times of crisis. All of us needed a miracle in the past, need one now, or will be need of one in the future. But Paul's exhortation in today's text is a great reminder to us that the truth, that is, God's love for us, despite our sinful nature, has been proved many times, through signs and miracles, in our own personal lives and in the lives of those we love, such as miracles involving births, deaths, healings, job and financial security, besides those in the Biblical times and in the history of the Church. Most of all, Christ's death on the cross puts beyond doubt the fact that God loves us. Therefore, we do not need more miracles. What we need is to believe in the miracle of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Like the Greeks, some others are obsessed with debates and arguments about the character and nature of God. We tend to judge our relationship with God based more on knowledge empowered by logic and reason than faith. We want new revelation, new interpretation, and deeper meaning to something that doesn't exist in the Bible. But today, we are reminded that nothing else needs to be revealed to us about God or His plan for us. God has already revealed all of the things which we, human beings, need to know and as well as believe in order to be saved, and what we must do in order to please God. In others words, God's Word is complete and sufficient for our belief and behaviour. As such we have no need to receive more words than has already been given, thus no need for any "new" revelation in order to live our Christian life well. We need only a little faith, "as small as a mustard seed", Matthew (17:20-21), and as well as a little effort to understand what the Scripture says, and then apply that truth to our lives.

  • However, there is nothing inherently wrong with our desire for more signs, wonders, and miracles and new words of wisdom as well. In fact, both signs and wisdom are essential components of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is fine to ask God for miracles. God is pleased to hear from us, His children. And just as a good parent listens for the signs of sadness in their children, so too, does God want to listen, and to comfort us when we are hurt, heal us when we are ill, guide us when we are confused, save us when we are lost, and to provide all our other needs as well. Jesus gives us an amazing promise: "Whatever you ask in my name, I'll do it", John (14:13). As the body of Christ, we can also pray for knowledge and wisdom for ourselves and for other believers. Saint James says that if we do lack wisdom (which many of us do) we are to ask of it from God who gives generously to all, James (1:5). In the Old Testament time, the Lord was happy that Solomon asked for wisdom, 1 Kings (3:10-15).

Signs and miracles will certainly aid us in coming to faith and to strengthen our faith. And wisdom and revelation will no doubt help us know God in Jesus Christ better, Ephesians (1:17). At the same time, let us keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said to his disciple, Thomas, after His resurrection, "You believe because you see me; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe", John (20:29). So, better than seeking after a new sign is taking God at His Word. Simple faith is more pleasing to the Lord than a reliance on a sensational experience. Revelation and wisdom would be powerless if they are not rooted in, and manifested through, the love of God and the observance of His commandments - loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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