Tuesday, November 14, 2017

32 Sunday Nov.12 Prepare

We often hear  speculations about end time from people and religious leaders. You may remember this, before the beginning of the new millennium 2000 there were speculations from preachers of different religious organisations that the world will come to an end in the year 2000.  September 27th was the latest end time prophecy, but world didn’t end in September 27th. We are all alive! Congratulations! 
For many people it is scary to hear it, but as Christians we must live constantly aware of the end time. For us, Catholics end time must be exciting thing because it is the time where we will be uniting with Christ. We regularly pray in the prayer our father- thy kingdom come, usually we don’t mean it. 
We hear in today’s gospel about the end time, not knowing this hour, jesus asks us to be prepared.

Today we are presented with an interesting series of readings which related with wisdom, end time and judgment. In the first reading from the book of Wisdom, we find an exhortation to seek the gift of wisdom and to practice it faithfully. What is wisdom. Wisdom is different from knowledge. The book of wisdom says, wisdom is the perfection of prudence. We may have  knowledge but may be lacking wisdom. Whenever I need to compare knowledge and wisdom, tv show Big Bang theory comes to my mind. Character Sheldon of the Big Bang theory has knowledge but has no wisdom. 
We have to pray to Holy sport to give us wisdom and understanding. 

The second reading, from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The early church was waiting for the second coming of Christ. And the people of Thessalonica expected Christ to return before the present generation had passed and they expected Jesus coming and carry them to heaven. As the waiting time is lagging, they were concerned that some of their loved ones had already passed away. Paul tells them not be shaken, be hopeful, whenever Christ returns both the living and the dead will share in the resurrection. Paul’s Christian wisdom and the hope lifts up the Thessalonians’ worried spirits. Hope remains the same after 2000 years after, we are also expected to wait. And we have to wait with wisdom and prudence.

How do we wait? That is the question addressed by Jesus' parable for today. 

The ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, are attendants at a wedding banquet, responsible to greet the groom when he arrives. When the groom arrives much later than expected, the five foolish virgins are left without enough oil for their lamps. 
The wise virgins were well prepared to welcome the bridegroom with enough oils in their lamps; the foolish virgins were ill-prepared and did not make adequate preparation to welcome the bridegroom.
The story tells us, while we wait for the second coming of the Lord, we should keep our lamps stocked with oil, that is to say, we should pray,  love, do the works of mercy, and keep vigil. Oil stands for our good works. In doing so, we are ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom.

The lamp reminds us there are three categories of Christians:
Some Christians have their lamps shining very brightly and everyone can see that light. Those whose lights are shining brightly are those who are constantly aware that they are in the world but not of the world; these set of Christians are very focussed in their love of God and neighbour and are willing to use all that they have for the promotion of God’s kingdom in the world. In addition, they see each day as God’s special gift and as the last day, which they have on earth.

THOSE WHOSE LIGHTS ARE DIM: There are those whose lamps are very dim. The light is burning but the light is so weak that it is difficult to tell whether it is extinguished or still burning. This set of Christians are baptised, made their First Holy Communion, confirmed and wedded in the Church but they do not practice their faith actively and so their lives are dominated so much by material things. There is very little faith in this set of Christians who come to God only when they are in trouble. Their love for the material world is much stronger than their love for spiritual growth. Such people sometimes, wait for the eleventh hour before they begin making preparations for heaven. However, not all of them are lucky enough to reach the 11th hour, as some would breathe their last at the 10th hour. This is the reason why Jesus says stay awake for you do not know the day or the hour.

Finally, there are people whose lamps have no oil and whose light is completely extinguished. They are people who were once Christians but presently they do not believe in anything outside the material world and to make matters worse, some of them have turned out to be anti-Christians – challenging the message of Jesus and supporting anti- Christian ideologies and all forms of occultisms. For these set of people, the parable of being ready and prepared for life after death makes no sense and the challenge of keeping their lamps burning is meaningless. It was Mother Teresa who said: ‘To keep a lamp burning, we must continue to put oil in it.

The virgins represent the Church who are waiting for Christ second coming. The bridegroom is Christ. The delay of the bridegroom is delay of the second coming. The closing of the door is judgement. 

It also warns that there are certain things that we cannot obtain last minute. A good relationship with God, merits from good deeds. We may think we can obtain this after turning 90 years, or after retirement. No, you can’t.

As we live out the days of late autumn and look ahead to Advent, let us prepare ourselves by seeking the gift of wisdom so as to have no fear of death or judgement, and to live ever more joyfully the life we have at present, in firm hope of the life to come. Let us be sure our lamps are ready for the end of our lives.
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil

Monday, September 18, 2017

24th Sunday Sept. 17Challenge of the day is forgive

This is a real story. As a preparation for my ordination in 2001, I was reflecting and spending time near a river, very close to my home. I had an epiphany moment where I realized I had an unforgiveness in my heart. It was to my superior of my formation program. God was telling me, John, how can you forgive others in the confessional without forgiving your own superior? How can you receive God's forgiveness without forgiving others? That was an aha moment for me. That day I did forgive my superior. Let me tell you, I enjoyed freedom that night and this decision gave me happiness in the future.  
The Gospel that just heard is about parable of two debtors; the first gets pardon from his master for all his huge debts. Shortly afterwards, he run in to someone who owed him a little debt, but he was unable to be merciful.  He failed to share his master's mercy with others. 
As you hear my homily, somebody may be coming to your mind, whom you need to forgive and you have difficulty to forgive. 
Peter asks jesus, how many times I should forgive, Jesus says, infinite time. We can't keep unforgiveness and be Christian. Forgiveness is core of Christian life.
Forgiveness is based on simple logic: If God has forgiven us, we have to forgive others. God has forgiven many of our faults and sins. If we don't forgive, we become prisoners of our own unforgiveness. Cross is the powerful symbol of forgiveness. Today we look at the Cross, how much suffering, hatred Jesus went through but he did  forgive everyone. Looking at the Cross how can possibly keep unforgiveness? 

Jesus teaches us through this parable that by forgiving someone I am assuring God that I am a good person and I am worthy of His forgiveness. 

We are celebrating Mass and the theme of forgiveness is expressed in few places. The first instance of forgiveness is in the General confession of sin which begins the Mass. asking - Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. 
The second instance where forgiveness shows up is in the Nicene Creed: “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
The third instance of forgiveness in the Mass is during what is called the Words of Institution. Holding the prepared Chalice, the priest repeats the words of Our Lord: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood,
the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins".
The fourth and final plain instance is in the Our Father prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Here we it's our turn to forgive others because God has for given our sins in the Mass or in the confession. 

Dear brothers and sisters, forgiveness is central theme of Christian life. We can't be Christians keeping unforgiveness. 
Pope francis speaks about 3 words that we should repeat in our lives. Sorry, excuse me( may I) , and love you. These words will help us constantly live in good relationships. 
Whatever unforgiveness you are holding today in your hearts, forgive and get free. How can we not forgive someone when God has forgiven all our faults? Challenge of the day is to forgive someone. I invite you to the freedom that comes from forgiveness. God bless!

Friday, September 8, 2017

22 Sunday - Where are you going?

There is an ancient legend about Saint Peter, which became the basis for a famous book and motion picture. At the time of the great persecution under Nero, the Christians of Rome asked Peter to leave and find his safety! Peter hurried out of town as fast as he could. On the Appian Way, he met Jesus Christ who was going toward Rome. Peter asked him in Latin, "Quo vadis, Domine?" "Where are you going, Lord?" To which Jesus replied, "Back to Rome, to be crucified with my people. Jesus asked peter, Where are you going, Peter?"  Peter realized that he is running away from suffering. He turned and walked back to Rome, where, according to tradition, he was crucified head downward, feeling that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as had his Lord. Jesus' question to Peter comes to us also. "Where are you going?" 
And this question must echo in our lives as we hear the Gospel today. Where are you going? We may be going away from God and  we may be running away from Cross and suffering.
If you remember last week Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples who Do you say that I am? Peter says, Jesus you are the Messiah, the Son of God. And Jesus was happy and told Peter, you are the rock up on which I will build my Church. In today’s Gospel, Jesus realized that although he taught  about suffering, his disciples were not attentive on his class. They were thinking of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. Peter got a bad grade from Jesus for not understanding the idea of a suffering Messiah. It was then that Jesus rebuked him, "Get behind me, Satan,” 

I do not know about you but many times I am like Peter. I do not see the things in the way God wants to see, but things in the way I want to see. Like Peter, I too miss Jesus' mission sometimes. I fail to see God in my sufferings. What I like about this story is God still loves Peter. Who Jesus called go behind Satan later leads the church. It's amazing story. 

After correcting Peter, Jesus declares three conditions for his disciples: 1) deny yourself 2) take up your cross and 3) follow me. 

1) To “deny” yourself means to say “No” to yourself and “Yes” to God. Someone hurts us, our natural reaction is to lash back, to get angry. But the path of discipleship is “not my will but yours.” It is humbly submitting my will to God’s will. Instead of getting angry, we realize that God is calling us to forgive even our enemies. When Jesus was praying in the garden, he said to God his Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” It is what millions of Christians have prayed for centuries when they repeat what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.” “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”( Matthew 6:10).

 2) Carrying the cross means, follow him during the trial and suffering.  Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. I remember a story after an earthquake in India years ago. A survivor was asked, are you sad about the situation? He said, I am not sad, God gave my life back to save people who are trapped inside buildings. He was following the Cross in his suffering. He was turning his suffering into love. 
Remember, many saints struggled with Cross, they gave up, but they took energy again to Carey the Cross. We may be running away from the Cross and life of discipleship. The story of peter gives us energy that God, with his grace, we can change our lives. God can transform our weakness into strength. Even when I mess up, God can still use me.  God can be glorified even if we are week.

Finally Jesus asks- Follow Me!” Jesus said these words to 12 men, 2,000 years ago .... and it changed the world! Today, you are given the same invitation: “Follow Me. Following Jesus means that, as disciples of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God by obeying Jesus' commandment of love 24/7. The decision to follow Jesus can change the world.
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil

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.