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!

Palm Sunday (Year B)

Mar 24, 2024 Views 236 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (50: 4-7)

The Lord God has given men a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24)


(R) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads: "He relied on the Lord; let Him deliver him, let Him rescue him, if He loves him." (R)

Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me; they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. (R)

They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. But you, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me. (R)

I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: "You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him; revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!" (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians (2:6-11)

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (11:1-10)

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village straight opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?" reply, "The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once."

So they went off, and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blesses is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!"

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

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark (15:1-39)

For the full version of the text see our previous Palm Sunday » posting.

Homily

Today, on the sixth Sunday of Lent, we begin the holiest week of the liturgical year - the commemoration and celebration of our Lord's Passion, with the observance of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to his death and the reading of the Passion Narrative from the gospel of Mark. On the day Jesus set out for Jerusalem a diverse crowd of people, including his disciples, enthusiastically welcomed him by waving palm branches, laying cloaks on the ground and singing songs of praise to honour him. The significance of the event is underscored by the fact that it is recorded in all four gospels. The people may not have fully recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but they had certainly recognized him as a teacher, a prophet, a healer, and a miracle worker. And now they saw him as a king who had come to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and take his father David's throne in Jerusalem and establish his kingdom on earth.

It was not the first time the people hoped Jesus would bring an end to Roman rule. On one occasion, after seeing Jesus miraculously feeding a large crowd with five loaves and two fish, they wanted to make him king by force, but he deliberately walked away from them, John (6:1-25). However, when the people sang "blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord" on the day of his entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees were outraged at all they heard and they told Jesus to rebuke his disciples. But he responded, by saying, "If they keep silent the stones will cry out", Luke (19:38-40). Here, Jesus was not saying that the stones and rocks would actually come alive and shout with conscious praise. Rather, he was saying that he is worthy of all praise and therefore, he accepted and welcomed their acclaim. He also meant that even if his disciples rejected him as King, the rest of creation would bear witness to his greatness. As Christians, we can rejoice in the joyful welcome and praise aspect of this event in the life of Jesus. However, this event was not only a triumphal entry for Jesus, but also one of the key teaching times for his disciples.

Through many common sayings, parables, miracles, and events Jesus had already taught his disciples some important life lessons that included morality, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, perseverance, loving God and others, and so on. Yet, He taught them a few more powerful transforming lessons during the last days of his earthly life. Especially, on the occasion of grand public acclamation, He taught them the importance of humility, obedience and service.

Jesus chose to ride on a donkey rather than a horse which all the earthly kings in that era rode. Although He had several reasons for choosing the donkey, the primary reason was to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah about the Messiah five hundred years before the time of Jesus which said that the King would come humbly, and riding a donkey, Zechariah (9:9). As for the donkey, John in his gospel simply notes, "Jesus found a donkey and sat on it", John (12:14). Whereas, the other three gospel writers recount that Jesus gave specific and detailed instructions to two disciples. It shows that Jesus got his disciples involved in the whole process. He wanted them to go to a nearby village to find a donkey that was tied up and when they found it, they were to bring it to him. But before they left, He explained what would happen when they arrived. If anyone asked about it, they were to say that "the Lord needs it" and that "it will be returned at once". In other words, they were just borrowing it for a while.

Now imagine how the disciples must have felt about being told to march onto a stranger's property, and untie his donkey, and lead it through the street. Remember the disciples were Jesus' chosen people among so many followers. They had the opportunity to see him, converse with him, and share his wisdom and understanding every day. Moreover, they had the power to preach and heal the sick in Jesus' name. All these probably had made them popular, famous, respectable and recognized persons in the society. So, being a disciple of Jesus must have been something prestigious and glorious. But at the same time, being a disciple of Jesus must have been hard and challenging as well.

No doubt Jesus demanded things of his disciples. He commanded them to leave behind their families and belongings to follow him. He wanted them to be ready to die for him and his gospel, Matthew (10:5-8; 10:16-22). And now, instead of preaching, working miracles and healing the sick, he told them to do what was apparently an unimportant job - to fetch a donkey from a nearby village for him to ride. Nevertheless, Jesus would not have asked them to do anything that he would not have done himself. In fact, a few days later, he would show them that he also was willing to do the job of the lowest servant in the household and wash their feet, and in doing so, Jesus did something even more humbling than the disciples fetching a donkey, John (13:3-5). Although the whole exercise seemed strange to them, the disciples didn't hesitate to respond. They neither questioned nor doubted what they were hearing, they simply obeyed. They went and did as Jesus had directed them. Since no one had raised any objection, they brought the donkey to Jesus and placed their garments on it. Jesus then seated himself on it and proceeded to Jerusalem.

What is the message for us?

  • God calls us "the chosen people" for we have answered the call of His son Jesus Christ to come out of darkness, 1 Peter (2:9). It is a wonderful blessing to be called by God, His chosen people, and to have access to all the saving benefits Christ merited by His life, death and resurrection. As believers in Christ, we have the opportunity to fellowship with Him and to listen to Him talk. We can turn all our worries and problems over to Him. We can seek and ask for strength, sight, wisdom, and everything else we need. So, today we thank God that as His chosen people, we are blessed.

  • At the same time, God calls us "the chosen people" to continue His work in the world, and His plans for humanity. Sometimes He calls us to tasks that seem greater than our capabilities - to preach His gospel and to be a channel of His blessing to others which in turn may increase our reputation, status, honour, influence, fame, and even wealth. Other times He calls us to go somewhere or do something which is scary and hard or challenging and even undesirable. He calls us to do things which the world despises, considers ridiculous, unimportant, ordinary and to be nothing. It could be speaking up or for defending the rights of the destitute, the less fortunate, the poor and needy. It could be caring for the sick, the terminally ill, the elderly patients, or the outcast, such as lepers, despised, victimised, persecuted, ignored and rejected.

  • We do not have to fear when our Lord Jesus asks us to move or do something hard or unimportant or undesirable in His name. Because He never asks us to do something alone nor asks us to do what He did not do Himself. Therefore, today, along with our loud declaration that Jesus is our King, let us also respond to His call, to serve others as He did, with humility, courage and faith. Let us pray that He may give us the strength and perseverance to overcome any obstacles or challenges that may come our way, and help us to remain steadfast in our commitment to follow Him.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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