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!

Second Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Apr 7, 2024 Views 453 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35)

The community of believers was one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them to the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (118:2-24)


(R) Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love is everlasting.

Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever." Let the house of Aaron say, "His mercy endures forever." Let those who fear the Lord say, "His mercy endures forever." (R)

I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and has been my savior. The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. (R)

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the First Letter of Saint John (5:1-6)

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by Him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments.

For the love of God is this, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.

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

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to John (20:19-31)

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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

Homily

There is a story of a woman who after waking up one morning told her husband, "I dreamed last night that you gave me a pearl necklace for our anniversary. What do you think it means?" The husband replied, "You'll know tonight." That evening, the husband came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it to find a book entitled, "The Meaning of Dreams."

The description of the charitable activities of the early Christians in Jerusalem about which we read in today's second reading may seem a surreal dream for us, but this was all true. The New Testament of the Bible is mostly a collection of ancient letters, such as the letters of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John. Besides there are four gospels at the beginning and the Revelation to John at the end. In between the gospels and the letters there's a book called The Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as "Acts." It is also known as the "Second Gospel of Luke," for Luke continues his gospel story beyond the resurrection of Jesus. So, it is fitting that the assigned readings for the Easter season include passages from Acts. It shows that the resurrection story did not end with Jesus rising from the dead but it was just the beginning. Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at this story, to see its implications for our Christian life.

During the final spring festival known as Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Passover, just as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles as they were all together in a place in Jerusalem, and the Church was born. As the word of God continued to spread, and the number of believers began to grow as a result of the apostles' preaching and healing, two of Jesus' disciples, Peter and John, were arrested and threatened for preaching Jesus Christ and His resurrection but were released by the leaders of Jerusalem, Acts (4:1-22). This inspired the believers to pray, as well as to preach the gospel of Jesus with clarity, compassion and courage Acts (4:23-31). And that brings us to today's second reading.

After the resurrection of Jesus, many astonishing and incredible things happened over a period of forty days. For instance, Jesus appeared to many people in different ways and various places before His ascension to heaven. Jesus helped his disciples catch plenty of fish after a night of fruitless work, John (21:1-13). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the fearful apostles and gave them the power and the courage to preach the gospel in different languages. As a result, about three thousand people were converted and baptized, Acts (2:1-40). Many people having witnessed the first miracle of the healing of a crippled beggar by Peter in the name of Jesus became believers in Christ, Acts (3:1-10). However, today's passage from the Acts of the Apostles shows us perhaps the most astonishing visible difference the resurrection of Jesus made.

Luke writes, "Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they had everything in common," Acts (4:32). Luke says that on the day of Pentecost people from different countries, speaking in different languages, belonging to different classes and educational backgrounds were gathered together, Acts (2:5-12). The gospels tell us that Jesus' disciples were often arguing about which one of them was the greatest, and Jesus taught them that the "greatest" in the kingdom is the one who humbles himself like a child, Luke (9:46-47, 22:24-27). But after the resurrection of Jesus, they were of "one heart and mind". To be of "one heart and mind" means to be of "one accord", or "to be united in intent and purpose." In other words, in spite of their language and social, political, and personal differences and desires, they were more unified and their sense of unity spread to the entire church. Moreover, their unity was not merely internal. It was manifested in a marvellous external way. They recognized that all they had come from God, and they started to share their possessions with one another generously. No one forced them to give. Instead, they voluntarily met the needs of others.

Luke further writes, "There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need," Acts (4:34-35). That is to say that the believers were so committed to serving and supporting one another that some of them even sold their possessions, such as land and houses, and entrusted the management of the whole to the apostles so as to distribute it according to one's need and as well as to ensure that no one was in need of anything.

Sandwiched between the lines about the material sharing among the believers was the declaration of the primary mission of the apostles. Luke says, "With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favour was accorded them all," Acts (4:33). In other words, while the believers shared their goods, and met one another's needs, the apostles stayed on their mission. They continued the most important task of proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thereby, obtaining God's blessings for all who embraced their message.

What is the message for us?

  • The early believers' witness to unity remains essential to what it means to belong to the Church even today. As the body of Christ, we too are called to be united for the purpose and glory of God. But today, in many circles, we are known for being more contentious than unified. We are divided over not just doctrinal issues but also trivial things. There are the old jokes, unfortunately with some truth to them, about parishioners fighting over whether or not to use chairs/pews/benches, whether altar servers should wear albs or dress clothes, whether we should allow people wearing hats for Mass, whether we should ban certain songs and musical instruments during worship services, whether hangings and tapestries are appropriate for the season, and so on. In this way, the unity has been fractured beyond belief since the day the Church was born.

  • However, the remarkable unity and generosity displayed by the early believers serve as a powerful reminder that our primary vocation is to unite together all people in a communion of love in the Church. Unity among all Christians is fundamental to effective witness and mission. It is our greatest testimony to the world. Our Lord Jesus does expect all who claim allegiance to Him to be one. That's why He Himself prayed for unity among us. He wants our unity to demonstrate the truth of His claims to an unbelieving world, John (17:20-21). One of the keys to unity is leadership. When clergy and lay leaders are united, it helps others be united as well. But it should be a comprehensive and a spiritual unity - a unity of commitment to the mission and gospel of Jesus.

  • Secondly, we should encourage and promote not just in our communities but even in our own families, a shared sense of purpose, a deep bond of fellowship, and commitment to loving and supporting one another. Sometimes, we should be even willing to sacrifice our own needs in consideration of others. But to be generous to others, we should first acknowledge that ultimate ownership of everything we have and inhabit is not ours, but God's, and that we are only stewards of God's possessions and we have a moral obligation to the poor and needy. While some of us are called to go to the lengths of selling our lands and houses to help those in need, others are not. But all of us, as Christians, are called to the charity of sharing or almsgiving, which is very significant for this day because today is also observed as Divine Mercy Sunday. Giving to those in need is one of the corporal works of mercy. Secondly, we should become more, not less, aware of people and their needs. It may be money or possessions or time or attention.

Whatever it may be, a mature Christian must be attentive to the needs of the people around. Giving begins with caring enough to know the needs. However, everything we do may become meaningless, pointless, fruitless, empty, and useless if we do not preach boldly Jesus' atoning death and victorious resurrection. Because, without a proper focus on God and apart from Jesus, every path leads to eternal death. Hence, to be effective witnesses of Christ on earth and to cope with whatever life deals us, we should pray most earnestly for God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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