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!

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Mar 17, 2024 Views 468 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Jeremiah (31:31-34)

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it in their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sin no more.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15)


(R) Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and from my sin cleanse me. (R)

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence. And your Holy Spirit take not from me. (R)

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners shall return to you. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews (5:7-9)

In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (12:20-33)

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. I am troubled now, yet what should I say? Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake, but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the Earth I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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

Homily

The gospels reveal that prayer was an integral part of Jesus' life on earth, and He prayed regularly. He often withdrew to solitary places and prayed. He prayed before performing miracles. He prayed at important events in His life such as His baptism, His transfiguration, before choosing His disciples, before His arrest, and before His death on the cross. So, Jesus prayed not only for others but also for Himself. In addition to this, He taught His followers how to pray, especially the most well-known prayer, "The Lord's Prayer", and encouraged them to "keep praying and not to lose heart", Luke (18:1).

In today's second reading, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrew Christians recounts one of the occasions when Jesus prayed for Himself, and that was in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest. The writer says, "In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence", Hebrews (5:7). Here, Jesus did not pray in silent meditation nor by uttering words, but "with loud cries and tears".

The gospels mention three instances when Jesus shed tears. The first one was at the tomb of Lazarus just before raising him from the dead, John (11:35). Jesus wept for greater reasons than just His sincere sorrow for Lazarus and his sisters. He grieved over man's sin and the death it brought which man feared and considered evil. Jesus came to earth, of course, to help man overcome his fear of death by accepting the eternal life that He gives to all those who believe in him. Another time Jesus wept was over the people of Jerusalem for their unwillingness to accept His message of peace, and the destruction that would come upon them as a result, Luke (19:41). And the third time Jesus cried out to God was before His arrest about which we read today. So, we cannot ignore the fact that Jesus did not just pray during his earthly life, but even cried out in pain, and wept in sorrow. However, it was not a cry that a person produces deliberately at chosen times or occasions, but a cry that cannot be held back. It was a cry that is wrung out of a person because of an overwhelming ordeal. More importantly, Jesus cried "to the one who could save him from death". In the Bible, "the One" refers to God the Father almighty. So, knowing well the extraordinary power of God, Jesus prayed to God to save him from death. But despite Jesus' prayer, God allowed him to be put to death.

Now the question is, if His death was not averted, then how can the writer say that "he was heard", meaning God answered Jesus' prayer? Jesus loved all human beings and wanted to save them, and so He did not back down. He certainly experienced anxiety over His coming torture and gruesome death. However, He also prayed not just once but three times, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will", Matthew (26:29-45). So, the writer says that Jesus was heard because of His devotion and reverence to God's will. In other words, the Father answered the Son's prayer - not by removing the cup of suffering and death but rather by empowering Jesus to complete the plan made before time began. Jesus was saved from death by going through it and being brought back to life; that was the reason He had come, Hebrews (2:14-15).

The writer further says, "Although He was the Son, he learned obedience from what He suffered", Hebrews (5:8). It implies that as the Son of God, Jesus did not have to suffer, but as the Son of Man, suffering was required so as to learn obedience. It does not mean Jesus was disobedient before. Rather He simply learned to behave in a godly way in his humanity. Learning, suffering and death are necessary part of human experience. Therefore, as a child, Jesus obeyed His parents, Luke (2:51); as an adult, He obeyed the Law, Matthew (5:17). He was sinless, and yet obediently subjected Himself to baptism - a rite instituted to cleanse sinners. He submitted Himself as a full human being to the unmitigated power of temptations but refused to yield to sin against His Father. The same way, when the time came for the suffering and death for the sins of the human race, He willingly said yes to God's will. By fulfilling God's will unto death, the writer says that Jesus was "made perfect". Here, "perfect" means "complete", as in finishing a full course of training or education. In Jesus' case, having gone through a complete understanding and experience of human frailty and suffering, Jesus fulfilled the qualifications of being able to represent humans before God. In this way, Jesus "became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him", Hebrews (5:9).

What is the message for us?

  • If Jesus, the Son of God, had relied heavily on prayer for guidance, strength, and wisdom, how much more should we? We must pray regularly, fervently, seriously and reverently. We can pray in silence. We can pray by using words. And we can also pray with loud cries and tears. However, we must avoid being super emotional or superficial. While it is not always necessary to cry during prayer, we must not forget that God desires a "contrite heart". He wants our prayers to be an expression of who we are and not simply something on the surface. We must pray with our heart not just with our mind. Our prayers must overflow from a heart of love for God and for others. In other words, prayer should encompass our whole being, even praying with our emotions, allowing God into every aspect of our lives. When we pray, we must be also moved by the things of which we pray. We must understand how weak we are and how desperately we need God. Often times, we tend to be overly casual in our prayers, missing the wonder of whom we are praying to. Today's text in the Letter to the Hebrews is a reminder that we must bear in mind the nature and the character of the One to whom we are praying, that is, God's power, His holiness, His glory, His wisdom, His love, His mercy, His faithfulness, His discipline, His priorities and His promises. We must pray with reverence and awe and confidence knowing that regardless of God's response to our prayers, the results can be trusted.

  • Sometimes we look at our suffering and say that it is too much to bear, and that we cannot accept it. But we must remember that Jesus, God incarnate, suffered much more than any of us. In fact, He not only suffered more than us, He also suffered for us, sinners. Hence, despite trials and tribulations in our life, we can always take comfort in knowing that God is with us through all of life's ups and downs, and that Jesus, who was well acquainted with pain and tears during His life on earth, understands what we are going through and intercedes to God the Father on our behalf. Therefore, let us be also encouraged by the example Jesus set for us whenever we face a situation that calls for submission to God's will.

  • We must not allow our suffering in this life to push us to disobey God or indulge in evil. Sin is never acceptable because we are having a hard time. Though God can speak to us in many different ways, our sufferings often give us the greatest opportunities to learn. Of course, God our Father hates seeing us, His children, suffer, but we live in a fallen world. Whether we follow God in this life or not, all of us will experience much suffering. We must, therefore, give our lives over to Him, so that He can use our suffering for greater purposes: to teach us how to better follow Him; to take our eyes off this world and turn them to the next; to prove to us that our faith is real; and to draw us to Himself so that we will cling to Him.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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