Monday, July 31, 2017

July 30th 17th week Jesus is the treasure

If someone asks me how I became Franciscan friar? I give whole credit to my grandpa. He was a secular Franciscan. He passed away the year I was joining the seminary. He used to take me every to the church, especially during vacation time. 
In India every house has a prayer room or a place for prayer. Usually in that place or room, there will be picture or statue of sacred heart, Mother Mary. It's a must. My brother recently renovated his home and spent $ 600 for prayer place in his home. I shouldn't have asked this, but I inquired him, why do you spend that much money for a prayer place? He said, yes, without God's blessing I wouldn't have a life like this. God must be given importance in home.
And in the same way my grandpa's home has a prayer place as well. In the prayer place, I grew up seeing a picture of St. Francis. I didn't know who he is but the picture fascinated me. It was a picture where St. Francis stepping on the globe and embracing Jesus. One day, after church I asked my grandpa. Grandpa, who is that on the picture? What does the picture mean? I remember grandpa told me. That's St. Francis of Assisi, a great humble Saint. He left everything in his life to hold on to the great treasure in the world- Jesus Christ the crucified. You are seeing in the pictures St. Francis embracing the great treasure- Jesus.
Yes. I was learning about St. Francis for the first time. Then I learned,  he started a religious life with 10 friars and later so many people followed him, and he became an icon of love for nature, love for poor and love for Jesus. And the world changed because of this humble man of Assisi. I believe it's my grandpa who inspired me to become a Franciscan. At the age of 4or 5 my grandpa planted a seed in me. If you are a grandma or grandpa who is listening to me, please don't forget you inspire your grandchildren, may be more than parents.
Yes, St. Francis was leaving everything that he had, wealth, business, dream to become a knight, everything to follow the great treasure that's Jesus. I can't think of any other Saint than St. Francis to explain today's parable. 
I found a special way in my life to treasure Jesus by giving up my dreams of having a family, wife, children, dream job. I renounced these things for the great treasure, Jesus. It doesn't mean that you have to renounce everything like me. But each one of us has to find our own ways to treasure Jesus in our lives. And as we hear these parables, we have to reflect, how we treasure Jesus in our daily lives? How we value heavenly treasures? 
In today's parables both farmer and merchant sells everything to buy what's precious- the treasure. And we all know the treasure and pearl mentioned in the parable is Jesus himself. World is the field. We are the farmer or merchant. We have many things that's not of Jesus in the world. The choice is ours. If we treasure Jesus we will be part of the kingdom of a God. 
Both merchant and farmer  gave up everything in order to have this treasure. Today as we hear the Gospel we have to find out What we have to give up to have a life with Jesus. It may be attachments, may be addiction, sins. 

Close your eyes, let us say this prayer: 

"Lord Jesus, reveal to me the true riches of your kingdom. Help me to set my heart on you alone as the treasure beyond compare with any other. Free my heart of any inordinate desires or attachment to other things that I may freely give to you all that I have in joy and gratitude for all that you have given to me. May I always find joy and delight in your presence."
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 9 Come to me..

We are living in a world of stress. I do not know what stress are you right now going through, what burdens you are carrying right now. It may be a death that recently happened in your family, sickness, old age, fear of loosing Job, financial crisis, children and grandchildren not growing to your expectations. There are overwhelming list of things. We have created most advanced technologies to ease our stress. Smart phones, faster cars, gadgets, faster kitchen equipments. But do they really ease our stress? When we look at the news and television we fear about terrorism, war and violence, hatred. Some people have stopped reading news and watching television. 

Among all these stress, burdens, and bad news, today, we have just heard very relaxing words from Jesus, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Jesus has set us an example on the Cross to follow. Look at Jesus on the cross. Every part of his body is in pain, he is thirsty, he can't breath, the worst kind of suffering that human being has seen. But Jesus says in all those suffering , Lord, in to your hands God I commend my spirit.  And theologians say Jesus died as a child sleeping in the hand of a father. Yes, Jesus has set us an example. Whatever stress you have in your life, you can rest in his hands as he rested in His father's hand. 

When I was a seminarian my superior asked my two classmates and myself to wait one more year to be ordained as subdeacons. We were so angry, why he is asking us to wait, it was a humiliation for us. We thought of leaving the seminary. I shared with one of our elderly friar that I am leaving. This friar passed away when he was 41. He listened me, and said, John leave seminary within a week, but right now go to the chapel and share your pain with Jesus. I did because he asked me to do. And dear brothers and sisters I spent an hour in the chapel, that was most relaxing, I accepted the decision of my superior. I changed my mind. If not you wouldn't have seen me here. Many times we do not see the beautiful peace and rest that Jesus has prepared for us. 
When you are burdened it's not alcohol, drugs  that give you peace, it's our Jesus who gives you peace. When you are in sin, don't be depressed, Jesus is there to forgive our sins and give us rest and peace. Jesus says each one of this morning, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Let us try to live peacefully with the peace Jesus is giving us. 
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 2nd Love Jesus more than anything

When I was a child pastors, parents, teachers always reminded me love your parents, love your parents. And that was very important thing to follow. And today's Gospel says, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. When I read this passage  in my childhood, I couldn't understand what does it mean. I was confused. I read again and again. Let me be frank, I didn't understand. Is Jesus asking to hate parents? I was confused again. I asked one of my religious teachers. She said, John, to understand this passage you have to understand Jesus' time. When Jesus started his ministry, we are talking about 2000 years ago, many people started following him. This created confusion among many family members. Take example of a family: Mother started following Jesus, then her husband and children started hating her for following Jesus. The house became divided. So in that situation, Jesus wanted to encourage his people to love Jesus more than parents, children or siblings. 
This is the reason Jesus says, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Jesus is not saying hate parents, children or siblings. Jesus is saying give preference to him when you come across the matter between God and relationships. We all know if we really love Jesus, it's natural that we will live our parents, siblings, children. 

Opting for Jesus, preferring Jesus more than anything is still a challenge today. You might be experiencing this in your work place, family. You must be experiencing hatred from family, friends, colleagues and society for loving Jesus. 

We have friar priest named Manilal Christian. He was a Hindu, he must be the only Hindu I know who became a catholic priest, and he knew Jesus when he was in high school. He left the family to join the Franciscans. His family didn't like him doing this. They thought he is betraying their faith. But he was strong. He is still with us, he is guardian of our provincial house. He preferred Jesus more than his parents and siblings. 

I remember another story of a father of a Franciscan priest. He has two sons and one of them came to USA for work and he realized Jesus's calling him. He left job and joined capuchin franciscans. This priest's father was managing a  bar attached restaurant - serves alcohol. Alcohol is a social evil in India. Many of our men is alcoholic and abuse their family. It's so heartbreaking to see it. This man made much money from selling alcohol, and he was rich in his town. As his son's ordination date approached, he sold the bar attached restaurant. He said Jesus is more worthy than making money. Jesus is worthier than anything else in the life. 

If we really love Jesus, we may have to make choices like this. That's known as the cost of our discipleship.  Today let us reflect how much preference are we giving to Jesus. Are we taking challenges to love Jesus. Are we taking our crosses to follow Jesus? 
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18- Corpus Christi

Happy Father’s day!
I was reading an article about family life. The article speaks about three tables in family life. The first table is the Altar where we celebrate Eucharist as divine family, second table is dining table where the whole family shares their life as human family and third one is bed where husband and wife share their love. The article concludes with a recommendation that we must approach these three tables with respect and due importance. Do not clutter your dining table, make it clean. If you are not faithful to your spouse stop it.
 Today we are celebrating the first table where we receive life from Jesus in the form precious body and blood. Church calls it feast of Corpus Christy.
In the book of Genesis, we read our problems started with a bad meal of our first parents. By eating a fruit from a forbidden tree, they lost paradise, they became sick, they lost relationship with God.  When Jesus came to the world, he regained it, he reestablished a meal. Jesus took bread, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. And this meal give us life, life in abundance, and a close relationship with God. 
If you have read any stories of pilgrims and pilgrimages, we know that they carry with them a bag of food for their Journey. In Sanskrit, it’s called padheyam- food for feet. As Catholics, we believe we are pilgrims on earth until we reach our destiny. During this pilgrimage, we need spiritual nourishment. And it is the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ that gives us strength and life. When we are in sickness, sadness we know that Eucharist is the place to go for comfort and care. Today we must thank God for this wonderful meal that God is preparing for us on this altar. There is Spanish saying, ‘bread and wine will take you to your destiny’. Yes, this precious body and blood of Jesus will take us to the destiny. Jesus says in today’s gospel "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." Dear brothers and sisters when we are spiritually down, when we are spiritually sick, remember God has given us this great healing medicine- Eucharist.
A young student asked a priest: "Why are you a Catholic?"
The priest answered: "Because of the Resurrection." The student pressed the question: "That explains why you are a Christian, but why are you a Catholic?" 
"Because of the Eucharist," he replied. Yes, EUCHARIST makes us different from other Christians, we believe in the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus in the wine and bread priest consecrate.
During the Eucharist a big miracle happens. Theologians call it as transubstantiation. Which means the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration. We have crucifix in the church, when we look at the crucifix we see the image of Jesus but his presence may not be there. If we look at the bread that priest consecrate we may not see the image of Jesus but he is really present in the bread. That’s why we always light a lamp near the tabernacle and we receive the Eucharist with due preparation and reconciliation. Pope John Paul second who was so much devoted to Eucharist said, “in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Saviour, who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life". Jesus lives among us in the form of precious body and blood.
This feast, feast of precious body and blood must be celebrated in our lives. How? In the old testament sacrifice they offered first fruits, it can be grain, fruits, lamb.. When we see the sacrifice in the new testament we see Jesus offering himself on the cross. Here the offer and the offered is the same person.  What does it mean? It means we cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist. We have to be offer and offering.
 Eucharist become meaningful when we offer ourselves to others, to our children, parents, spouse and those who need us.  Life with Eucharist is personal. Eucharist never ends here in the church; Jesus wants to take him to others. A priest said Eucharist become like an ornament, we wear it on Sunday and remove it for the rest of the week. This cannot be that way. Our communion must transform in to love, if not the celebration of Eucharist is useless. Remember the first thing Mary did after consuming Jesus, she went and helped her cousin Elizabeth. That’s the best example what we should do after communion.  Mother Tereasa of Calcutta and her sisters daily spend one hour in front of the Eucharist before they went to the street to help people. As a conclusion of my homily, I leave to questions to reflect: how much I love the Eucharist? Am I turning receiving Jesus’ body and blood in to love?

Fr. John Pozhathuparambil OFMConv.

June 11 Pentecost

Pentecost

It’s a joyful day in the church because on this day of Pentecost, we commemorate the birth of the Church. This Celebration of Pentecost brings us to the joyful conclusion of the Easter season. 
Today’s scripture tells us what had happened on the day of day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as flaming tongues. The frightened apostles were transformed into flaming preachers and were given the gift of tongues by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. The listeners experienced a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through the apostles’ gift of tongues and some speaking in their native languages. And the early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for their Faith in Jesus.
Holy Spirit has given ten gifts in our life. Everyday the Holy Spirit enlightens us with these special gifts. Those ten gifts are the three gifts that we received at our Baptism, namely faith, hope and charity and the seven gifts we received at our Confirmation namely wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
We need to remember again those ten gifts on this feast day. The gift of faith allows us to see the invisible in the visible world.  Hope gives us the ability to trust in God who is our Father.  Charity provides us with the grace that we need to love God and to love our neighbor.
Wisdom detaches us from the things of this world and causes us to desire only the things of Heaven.  The gift of understanding helps us to penetrate the truths of our Catholic Faith.  Counsel enables us to see and choose correctly those actions that will help us give glory to God and ensure our own eternal salvation. Fortitude gives us the strength to overcome those obstacles our life on. The gift of knowledge shows us the path to follow and alerts us to the dangers that we must avoid in order to attain eternal life in Heaven. 
Piety enlightens us with a tender and filial confidence in God and allows us to joyfully embrace our discipleship with Christ. Finally, the gift of fear of the Lord fills us with a deep respect for God and makes us fear anything that may offend him.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our Christian life:  As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples. As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations.  As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the Sacraments:  He makes us children of God and heirs of Heaven through Baptism. He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of the Faith, through Confirmation. c) He enables us to be reconciled with God by pardoning our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  He gives us spiritual nourishment through the Holy Eucharist. As a teaching God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray. 
 Dear brothers and sisters, on this Pentecost we need to open our hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How this can happen in our life? We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives by constantly remembering His holy presence and by praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and addictions. We need to ask the help of the Holy Spirit to do good for others and to be reconciled with God and others every day. In this Eucharistic celebration we shall pray to the Holy Spirit to abide so powerfully in our hearts that our souls so that we would wake up to his presence.


Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8th Good Shepherd

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30th: Way to Emmaus

Today we heard a beautiful story of encountering Christ.
Cricket is the sports in India and cricket players are like “gods. When I arrived in USA in 2010, it was the time of Cricket world cup and India was on the final game. That was “the news” in India, people were so excited and we were thinking all the world is watching India and cricket. As I arrived, I asked the friar who picked me up from the airport, may I know the cricket score. He said yes, let us stop on the way. He stopped at a cricket store where they sell cell phone connections. Then I knew that in America not many people know about the game cricket and not one television channel airs cricket game. This broke my heart. What was so close to my heart, what I thought the whole world knew was not matter in America. This exactly what the disciples felt when they started sharing the resurrection experience. 
Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
One of them, named Cleopas,asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked. This question what things? broke their heart. They realized what matters to them was not a matter to others. And they learned a lesson that this is what Jesus feels when someone says, Jesus is not matter to him or his suffering, crusifixion, death and resurrection not a matter. 
 As they walked further, on their pilgrimage these disciples learned something else in the presence of this stranger that their faith was not deep enough to accept that happened in Jerusalem and they were running away from facing the reality of faith. They thought everything ended with crucifixion of Jesus. They were saddened by the things happened to Jesus. Their eyes were blind folded to see the mystery of faith and to understand risen lord or resurrection. 
We read in the scripture, these two disciples were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 
According to the readings Emmaus is a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. It says Emmaus is 7 miles away from Jerusalem but archeologist couldn’t identify were Emmaus is. We do not know where Emmaus is. Emmaus, therefore is a symbolic place; a place of crisis of faith. They were going from Jerusalem ( A place of God’s presence) to Emmaus( a place crisis of faith). It means they were taking a wrong way in the life of faith
Who has not experienced in life a moment like this?"  “Sometimes our faith enters into a crisis because of negative experiences and makes us feel abandoned and betrayed by the Lord. 
Today we are also witnessing many people are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, some of them expressing serious doubts about teaching of the church, some due to scandalous behavior of the clergy, some of them left to Emmaus thinking God abandoned them when they had a crisis. We might have travelled from Emmaus or may be right now we are feeling we are on the way to Emmaus. 
After the death of  Mother Teresa of Calcutta, some personal letters were made public in a book. In one of her letters, she wrote an undated address to Jesus, "Where is my Faith - even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness - My God - how painful is this unknown pain - I have no Faith." This letters are shock to many but this was her road to Emmaus. We know she survived her faith by her love for Jesus, scripture and Eucharist. The story of Emmaus suggests that it is possible to encounter the risen Jesus "still today". 
On the way two things help them; Scripture and Eucharist. We read, "So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. In this crisis they knew that they need more Jesus in their life and learn to trust him.
Dear brothers and sisters, the road to Emmaus is a symbol of our journey of faith, in our life time, we may take wrong way of faith, we may have crisis: there are two indispensable elements that Jesus has given to us: the Scriptures and the Eucharist to meet the Lord. 
Pope Benedict says, for these two disciples the road to Emmaus becomes the way of a purification and maturation of our belief in God: the encounter with the risen Christ gives us a deeper faith. In other words our life crisis are to help us to grow in faith. 
We may face or facing  Emmaus experience in our lives we do not need to be stressed out, Jesus can help us. We may not get an answer from human wisdom but Jesus can help us through scripture and Eucharist. 
Pope Benedict says, "Still today, Jesus speaks to us in the Scripture; still today Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood.
Pope Francis says, "This Jesus, he is the Risen Traveller that journeys with us. And Jesus is here today, he is here among us. He is here in his word, is here on the altar, journeying with us,” 
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil