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!

Easter Sunday (Year B)

Mar 31, 2024 Views 1134 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (10:34a, 37-43)

Peter proceeded to speak and said: "You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23)


(R) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever. Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever." (R)

The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. (R)

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians (3:1-4)

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on Earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (20:1-9)

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial clothes there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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

Homily

Once a man who had committed a serious crime was brought before a king to receive his punishment. The king told him, "You have a choice of two punishments. You either choose to be hanged by a rope or take the big, dark, scary iron door behind you". The man quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked. "By the way, my king, just out of curiosity, I want to know what's behind that door"? The king laughed and said: "You know, it's funny. I offer every convict the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope". Pointing to the noose around his neck, the man said, "My king, obviously, I can't tell anyone. Please tell me. What's behind that door"? The king paused then called him to come to closer to him and whispered into his ear, "Freedom". Yes. He said, "Freedom is behind that door, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope".

This story is a powerful reminder of our natural tendency to cling to what is familiar, even if it proves disastrous for us. This is what, St Paul speaks of in today's second reading of his first letter to the Corinthians. He uses the imagery of leaven or yeast to provide us a stark warning about the dangers of clinging to our familiar sins. We all know what yeast is. It's a substance we use to make bread. We only add a small amount of yeast to dough and it makes the whole batch of dough rise. The bread that is made without yeast is called "unleavened bread" which remains flat and dense.

The Bible tells us that the Israelites ate only unleavened bread every year as part of the Passover celebration. It was a symbol of the Israelites' haste when they fled Egypt during the Exodus. They had left so quickly that they didn't have time to prepare the bread using yeast. God then commanded them to eat the unleavened bread also known as "the bread of affliction," for seven days and remember His goodness, grace, and provision of freedom. Since the unleavened bread was meant for the sacred purpose of remembering God and His actions, the people made special effort to clean out of their homes all yeast, even the products that contained yeast, Deuteronomy (16:3), Exodus (12:8-14, 29:2), Numbers (9:11).

Paul used this imagery to remind the Corithian Christians of the effect of sin in their life. In the Bible, yeast represents the corruption of sin. Just as a tiny bit of yeast can affect the whole dough, even a little sin can affect the whole of a person's life and therefore, Paul exhorted them to "clear out the old yeast, so that they may become a fresh batch of dough", 1 Corinthians (5:7a). In other words, he urged them to carefully examine every part of their lives and remove every sin. Paul then said something surprising: "In as much as you are unleavened", 1 Corinthians (5:7b). That is to say that they didn't actually have the yeast of sin. And how did it all happen? Paul said, "For our Paschal Lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed". Because of the death of Christ on the cross, their sin had already been removed from them. Thus, Paul linked the observance of "the unleavened bread" with another Passover observance - the killing of a male lamb and offering it as a sacrifice to God.

While the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they cried out to God for rescue, Exodus (2:23). And God who had not forgotten His covenant with their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, heard their cry and determined to deliver them through Moses' leadership. He sent ten plagues on Egypt to try and persuade Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The last of the ten plagues was the worst. God passed over the land and struck down the first-born child of every household in Egypt. But in order to spare the Israelite children from this plague, God had told them to slay a lamb "without defect" and put its blood on the door posts of their houses, which they obeyed. In this way, God freed the Israelites from slavery and led them to their Promised Land, Exodus (12:1-13:16). Just as they were bought with the blood of a lamb, Jesus was offered as a sacrificial lamb to atone for the sin separating humankind from God. Therefore, Paul pointed out to the Corinthian Christians that they must continually celebrate the feast of Passover, not with "the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth", 1 Corinthians (5:8). Here, celebration of the feast of Passover does not mean that they should observe it the way the Old Testament Israelites did. Instead, they should always be in a spirit of celebrating the truth that Christ's blood had already paid for their sin. In other words, Paul wanted the Christians who celebrated the forgiveness of their sins by the blood of Jesus not to do so while still being evil and sinful, which is like eating leavened bread; but rather being pure and truthful, which is like eating unleavened bread.

What is the message for us?

  • The resurrection of Christ is not just an event that occurred at one time in human history and has been passed from generation to generation but an event that continues to impact and change lives. Jesus' resurrection has proved that He was not just a great prophet or a moral teacher or a miracle worker, but the Son of God who holds the power to set free all mankind from the bondage of sin and death, to change their eternal destination from hell to heaven, and to open the way to a fresh beginning and new forgiven life. He now presents them with a clear choice between two ways to live on this earth - either to come to Him and ask for the forgiveness and freedom from sin that leads to eternal life or become slaves of sin and darkness that leads to eternal death.

  • While many still choose to turn away and walk through this life doing things their own way, we, as believers, have chosen to walk daily in the powerful forgiveness and freedom that Jesus provides. We are already "unleavened" because we are in Christ. Our sins have been forgiven, and we have been delivered by the blood of Christ. Therefore, we have now the opportunity to remove the sin for which Christ died, and to make efforts to live a righteous life.

  • However, so often we miss out on the fullness of life and the fullness of freedom that God intends for us because we cling tenaciously to some sinful or addictive habits. We hold on to past hurts, injustices, anger, resentment, bitterness, and other negative feelings for years, and keep them alive even long after the death of the offender. We don't realize that small sins, such as arrogance, conceit, cold or hard heartedness, lack of spiritual discipline, loss of awe, lack of reverence, self-centredness, impatience, hypocrisy, coveting, compromise and tolerance of immoral thoughts or actions etc. infiltrate our lives and grow, so affecting our spiritual lives, and ultimately destroying our souls. Unfortunately, many of us live our lives choosing the familiarity of our rope - familiar sins - and are fearful of going for the unknown alternative offered by Jesus Christ - which can lead to a new life of freedom, happiness and peace.

Following the advice of St Paul, let us celebrate the Passover in a bit of a different way. Let us constantly examine ourselves to remove and avoid all types of sin and live genuinely by God's commandments in all areas of our life. And at the same time, let us pray that the forgiving blood of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, may give us the power to get rid of our lives of sin and live a new life under His grace.

I wish you all a blessed Easter filled with hope and new beginnings!

(P) Amen.

Happy Easter, Alleluia! God Bless You!

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