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!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Year B)

May 26, 2024 Views 587 Listen 4 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (4:32-34, 39-40)

Moses said to the people: "Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the Earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any God venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testing, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must know now, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on Earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever."

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

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22)


(R) Bless the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.

Upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the Earth is full. (R)

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it was made; He commanded. And it stood forth. (R)

See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him, upon those who hope for His kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)

Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:14-17)

Brothers and sisters: Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

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

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (28:16-20)

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

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

Homily

One day, a terrified, disturbed young man climbed up a tall coconut tree and refused to come down. Throughout the day, his family, friends and village elders tried to persuade him but in vain; he still refused to go down. Finally, the people called their village priest and requested him to speak to the man. The priest went and stood under the tree and without any word, looked up and simply raised his right hand and traced the shape of a cross in the air, as a blessing on the man. To everyone's surprise and delight, the man immediately hurried down. Everyone thought that the priest was able to summon God's grace with the simple gesture that made the man come down, so they thanked him. But the man said, "Oh! I did not come down because of the priest's blessing. I thought he was telling me, "If you do not come down, tracing a vertical line, I will cut down the tree, tracing a horizontal line in the air.

Today's gospel from Matthew (28:16-20) is a continuation of the resurrection story. In the verses before today's text, Matthew writes that very early on Sunday morning after Jesus had been crucified, two women went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. An angel of the Lord appeared and told them not to be afraid but to go and tell the disciples of Jesus that He was risen and that He was going ahead of them to Galilee. Frightened, yet filled with great joy, the women immediately hurried to give the disciples the angel's message. But on their way Jesus Himself met them. When the women realized that it was Jesus, they fell at his feet in worship. Then Jesus told them not to be afraid but to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee where they would see Him, Matthew (28:1-9). The disciples, who had been hiding behind locked doors in Jerusalem for fear of the Jews, heard the wonderful news from the women and left for Galilee, to a mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. The result of their obedience was that when they were there, Jesus showed up just as He had said. They were only eleven out of the twelve original disciples because Judas Iscariot was gone by then.

During this encounter Jesus makes a powerful declaration that "all power in Heaven and on Earth" has been given to Him and therefore, He commissions them to go out and to make disciples of all nations on the earth, baptizing them in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as well as teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them to do. Matthew ends the gospel with Jesus' promise to be always with them, Matthew (28:18-20). But, in the midst of this Great Commission Matthew gives us another really important piece of information about the disciples at the beginning of this passage which many of us probably have overlooked. Matthew tells us, "When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted," Matthew (28:17).

We do not know the extent of the disciples' doubt. Imagine the disciples went to Galilee and were waiting for Jesus because of their belief in the message of the women and yet when Jesus appeared they doubted. It doesn't mean that they had no faith or that they did not believe. Rather, it was still hard for them to accept that it was really Jesus after all they had been through. The resurrection of Jesus was almost too good to be true. As it was something outside their experience and normal expectation, they were unsure how to react when Jesus appeared. But they worshipped Him anyway. Matthew included this experience in his gospel account so that one day all believers may be encouraged in their own struggles between faith and doubt.

As Christians, we all wrestle with doubt and disbelief at times in our faith journey. Especially when we are faced with trials, hardships, pain, suffering and evil, we are tempted to reconsider our convictions or even give up on faith altogether. Sometimes we doubt God's love. Other times, we doubt the existence of God, or the identity of Christ. Some other times, we doubt the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible. We also ask whether it is possible to worship or have faith and have doubt at the same time. However, in those moments of doubt, we need not feel bad or guilt or shame. Because we are not alone when it comes to doubt about faith.

Everyone has doubts. Even the great prophets and saints struggled with doubts. Particularly, the first disciples of Jesus weren't spiritual giants. They weren't scriptural scholars. They weren't gifted beyond the ordinary. They were just average people like you and me. They were fishermen, craftsmen, and tax collectors who, despite their ignorance or lack of understanding of Scriptures and of Jesus' true purpose, a sacrificial Messiah, were prepared to take risks. They were prepared to step out in faith because they trusted God to do the work through them. And Jesus recognized their trust in God. That's why when Jesus noticed their doubts, he did not rebuke them or condemn them. Instead, He commanded them to go out into the world and carry on his work by making disciples. And they did just that. They travelled to the very ends of the earth, preaching, and healing the sick. Imagine the preparations we make nowadays before travelling abroad for the first time or to another country with a different language, culture and beliefs. We do a little research about the place and people. We talk with family or friends familiar with the countries we'll be visiting. We learn some basic words and expressions. But the apostles did not have the conveniences such as technology, world travel and common languages that we have today. They simply relied on God for guidance, strength and protection.

The experience of the disciples is a reminder that doubt is not a sign of lack of faith but an integral part of our faith journey. If so, how do we deal with the doubts? First of all, it is important that we ask the hard questions and wrestle through our doubts in order to make sure that what we believe is really true. We should press into them, and seek out answers. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of God promising us that if we seek Him with our heart, He will let us find Him, Jeremiah, (29:13). Jesus Himself commands us to continually ask and seek with confidence so that we will receive and find, Matthew (7:8). The Bible is the primary source for answers to our questions. Therefore, we should not just rely on the knowledge and interpretation of others but rather we need to read the Bible for ourselves as often as we can or as often as we need to. At the same time, we must be careful not to read the Bible like any other Book or just for the sake of doing it but to read it lovingly, reverently, and prayerfully. We do not necessarily need the help of a priest or an expert to understand the Bible, as it is written in a language that can be comprehended by most believers. However, when we do not understand things, we can also speak with our priests, elders in our community, or a trusted friend or even our own parents. Whereas the believer who gets the opportunity to explain or answer the questions regarding faith must do it with "gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience," says St Peter in his first letter to the early believers, 1 Peter (3:15). The result of our seeking will certainly lead to finding, which will lead to the dispelling of doubts and the strengthening of faith.

Secondly, it is important to bring our doubts to God in prayer. God wants us to turn to him in times of doubt and despair, not away from Him. He wants us to be confident in His love, watchfulness, and protection. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of God calling us to call upon Him in prayer. When we cry to Him, He promises to answer us and shows great and hidden things that we have not known, Jeremiah (33:3). Therefore, in moments of doubt, we can envision God extending the same invitation to us, affirming His power and presence in our lives. His promise is a beacon of hope, a gentle whisper that even in our uncertainty, God draws near to us in a way that we don't deserve.

Thirdly, it is necessary to trust in the Lord no matter what the outcome may be. There is always hope when we choose to trust God despite our doubts. Doubt opens up the possibility for trusting God more. Trusting God even in the face of our doubt is what faith or following Jesus really means. Calling and helping others to trust God in the face of their own doubt is what making Jesus' disciples means.

Finally, in times of doubt, it is crucial for us to remember Jesus' promise to be with us. Making disciples is the primary task Christ has given us and it is not something we can do on our own. However, we do not have to be afraid. Jesus' promise to the disciples on that day is the same to us today. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is still with us here and now. His promise will sustain us as we seek to make disciples and live as His representatives on earth, no matter what trials or difficulties or challenges come our way, even to the end of the age.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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