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!

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Mar 10, 2024 Views 179 Listen 8 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Second Book of Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23)

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord's temple which He had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His warnings, and scoffed at His prophets, until the anger of the Lord against His people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah: "Until the land has retrieved its lost Sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled."

In the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: "Thus says Cyrus, King of Persia: "All the kingdoms of the Earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and He has also charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of His people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!""

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6)


(R) Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the aspens of that land we hung up our harps. (R)

For there our captors asked of us the lyrics of our songs and our despoilers urged us to be joyous: "Sing for us the songs of Zion!" (R)

How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten! (R)

May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (2:4-10)

Brothers and sisters, God is rich in mercy. Because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, He brought us to life with Christ - by grace you have been saved. He raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, to be our way of life.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (3:14-21)

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light; and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

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

Homily

Of the forty-six books in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Book of Chronicles is part of the so called "historical books", and it is divided into two. These books are believed to have been written by Ezra, a temple priest, around 430 years before Christ, while the Jews were returning to their homeland after the exile in Babylon. We all know from the Bible that ancient Israel consisted of all the twelve tribes of Israel, and it lasted for about a hundred years under Saul, David, and Solomon. But it split into two after the death of Solomon. Ten tribes seceded and established the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, while the other two, namely Judah and Benjamin, formed the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. However, almost immediately, because of bad and corrupt leadership, the people of Israel fell into apostasy and idolatry. God repeatedly told them through His prophets to refrain from sin, but they did not listen. As a result, they were alienated and estranged from God, and He permitted the Assyrian armies to conquer Israel and to take the people to captivity as punishment, Isaiah (10:5) and 2 Kings (17:21-24).

Unlike Israel, Judah was led by rulers who were a strange mixture of good and evil. They were all from the family line of David, through which the promised Messiah would eventually come. Josiah was the last righteous king of Judah and he was followed by four bad kings during whose reigns the moral and spiritual standards of Judah drastically declined.

Today's first reading from the second book of Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23) tells us the story of the downfall of Judah and the hope for its future restoration. The first verse of the passage summarizes the situation of the day: "In those days, all the princess of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practising all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord's temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem", Chronicles (36:14). That is, all the inhabitants of Judah, including the political and religious leaders, piled sin upon sin. They violated the basic principles of God's law and made the temple unfit for worship. Their sins were so great that they were no different from the other nations of the time. Their three serious sins amongst many others were "rejection of God and His law, worship of other gods or idols, and leading others astray by lies", Amos (2:4) and Jeremiah (17).

However, God did not leave them without warnings and appeals. Through His prophets, God often admonished them and warned them that unless they repented, they too would suffer like Israel. But instead of heeding God's warnings, they ignored, mocked, persecuted and even murdered God's prophets. Eventually, their sins grew too great to tolerate and God allowed the Babylonians to ravage their land, destroy their temple, and take them captive, Chronicles (36:15, 19-21). Thus, more than 130 years after Israel's exile, the people of Judah were removed from their land, Jeremiah (3:7-11; 25:1-12) as chastisement. This tragedy is mourned in today's responsorial psalm, which includes such famous lines, "By the streams of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion... and our captors urged us to sing songs of Zion to make merry! How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?", Psalm (137:1-6).

Nevertheless, out of grace and mercy, and to fulfil His promises to their forefathers, God did not forsake them. While they had done everything in their power to disappoint God and annul their covenant with Him, God wanted to maintain and renew the covenant, even if it meant using an outsider. So, at the end of seventy years, God chose Cyrus, the King of Persia, to be His agent to deliver the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity. Just as God intended, after the defeat of the Babylonians, Cyrus freed the captive Israelites and issued a decree, giving them permission to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem, Chronicles (36:22-23). The point here is that just as He had used the foreign and non-believers from the Chaldeans, Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline the Israelites when they refused to repent of their sins, God now used Cyrus, a foreign ruler and a non-believer of the God of the Hebrew scriptures, Yahweh, to save them. Now, neither their exile nor their return should have come as a surprise to the Israelites of Ezra's day as they had been foretold by the prophets, Isaiah (45:1-7) and Jeremiah (20:27).

What is the message for us?

  • Even after two thousand five hundred years, we too commit the same sins as the ancient Israelites. We rebel against a loving and caring God who has created us and provided us with everything we need - both physical and spiritual. Most of all, He has given us His only begotten Son. He has guided us through life from conception all the way to this present moment. He has protected us in may ways. His love has been steadfast towards us at all times. And yet, we all rebel against Him. We disobey His commands. Sometimes we act as if He doesn't exist. Some of us are like children who think they know best. We ignore His warnings and admonitions. We mock biblical preaching, church teachings and godly pastors. We disdain voices calling for reverence, righteousness, repentance and reform. We justify our actions and our sins. By willfully and deliberately sinning against God and others, we defile the church "the Body of Christ", and as well as the building, where we offer our worship and prayers. We take God's love for granted, and yet God still loves us and wants to save us.

  • In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters. Sometimes, without even realizing it, we might even be falling into modern-day idolatry. This age-old sin has taken new forms but its essence remains the same - placing something or someone above God. We no longer explicitly bow down to golden statues and idols. Instead, we worship celebrities, social and media influencers. We put too much importance on material possessions, success, or even relationships. But today the story of the Israelites reminds us that the elevation and glorification of anything other than God eventually leads to personal emptiness and separation from God and others, and therefore, we must avoid idolatry, and flee from it in all its forms, and put God at the centre of our life instead.

  • God calls all of us to serve the cause of Christ, that is, to lead others to the point where they bring glory and honour to God by the way they think and feel and act. While the Church - with its hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals, and pope - is responsible for leading and teaching and as well as caring for the spiritual and emotional well-being of the community, and of the congregation, parents are responsible before God for the spiritual and emotional well-being of their children. A good spiritual leadership is necessary not just for the Church or a community but also for a family. Spiritual leadership at home has been God's plan from the earliest days, when He first instructed the Israelites to "impress" His commands on their children, Deuteronomy (6:4-9). So, besides meeting the physical, material and emotional needs of our children as parents we must also care for their spiritual well-being.

The story of the Israelites is a great reminder to us that because of His immeasurable love for His children or His believers, God does not take kindly to anyone who leads them astray or cause them to sin. This reason is enough to be careful in our words and conduct lest we cause others to break God's law.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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