Fr. Rudy's Homilies

31st Sunday in ordinary Time
01-11-2009
All Saints Day

[From this Sunday onwards the homily page will not carry the Sunday Readings - Thanks and God Bless
- Fr. Rudolf Valerian D'Souza]

Long time ago, there was an Emperor who told his horseman that if he could ride on his horse and cover as much land area as he likes, then the Emperor would give him the area of land he has covered. Sure enough, the horseman quickly jumped onto his horse and rode as fast as possible to cover as much land area as he could. He kept on riding and riding, whipping the horse to go as fast as possible. When he was hungry or tired, he did not stop because he wanted to cover as much area as possible.

Came to a point when he had covered a substantial area and he was exhausted and was dying. Then he asked himself, "Why did I push myself so hard to cover so much land area? Now I am dying and I only need a very small area to bury myself."

The above story is similar with the journey of our Life. We push very hard everyday to make more money, to gain power and recognition. We neglect our health, time with our family and to appreciate the surrounding beauty and the hobbies we love.

One day when we look back, we will realize that we don't really need that much, but then we cannot turn back time for what we have missed.

Life is not about making money, acquiring power or recognition. Life is definitely not about work! Work is only necessary to keep us living so as to enjoy the beauty and pleasures of life. Life is a balance of Work and Play, Family and Personal time. You have to decide how you want to balance your Life. Define your priorities, realize what you are able to compromise but always let some of your decisions be based on your instincts. Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of Life, the whole aim of human existence.

So, take it easy, do what you want to do and appreciate nature. Life is fragile, Life is short. Do not take Life for granted. Live a balanced lifestyle and enjoy Life!

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character .

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny I hope that you enjoy the above story and moral.

"Any man's life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day."

Not so long ago, a new pastor was assigned to a parish that was quite divided over the issue of what it means to be a good Christian. One faction was very upset with the previous pastor who did not, in their opinion, give enough vocal support to every pronouncement that came from Rome and who spent way too much time encouraging parishioners to consider issues of social justice. In addition this group wanted at least one Mass a Sunday in Latin and wanted the pastor to preach about the evils of birth control and divorce, forbidding the sacraments, including Christian burial, to those known to be sinning in those matters. The other faction was also upset with the previous pastor because they thought he didn't go far enough on issues of social justice and spent far too much time encouraging people to pray and meditate and to follow the example of Mary. Representatives of both factions were constantly coming to the rectory to register their complaints. After one knock down drag out session with representatives of both factions, the new pastor wearily wandered into the reception area of the rectory. The teenage girl who answered the phone looked at him sympathetically (because, of course, she had heard much of the shouting match he had just endured) and said, "You know Father, my grandpa always said, "Love God and love your neighbor. That's what it's all about." The pastor smiled, thinking wouldn't it be great to have her give the homily one Sunday?

WE ARE APPROACHING THE END of the LITURGICAL year. And, in the gospels of these Sundays, we are looking at the final phase of Jesus' life before his suffering, death and resurrection. He predicts certain things that announce the end of times.

Last week we saw Jesus leaving Jericho on the last stage of his journey to Jerusalem. He healed the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who, once he regained his sight, saw that the only thing he could do was to go with Jesus on that final journey. Today's story takes place in Jerusalem itself. The context of the story is important. "Sacrifice" is mentioned in both the Second Reading and the Gospel. There are clear links with the Temple, the Old Testament and Jewish Law. A Scribe approaches Jesus. He is an expert in interpreting the Law. There were more than 600 laws, too many for an ordinary person to grasp. He asks a question which was much-debated among scholars of the day: Of all these many laws which was the most central, the most basic, the one that summed up all the others?

Unlike other occasions, there seems to be no sense of hostility or of a trap being set here. The man just wants to know Jesus' opinion as a rabbi and teacher.

Positive response

Note how Jesus receives the man. Usually Scribes and Pharisees are presented as hostile to Jesus. It would be natural for Jesus to be on the defensive, to react negatively. But Jesus always takes the person as he or she is. He does not indulge in stereotyping about "typical Scribes and Pharisees" and tarring all with the same brush. We do this so easily with classes, races, age groups (teenagers, older people). We use so many labels. We even stereotype individuals we know before they have opened their mouths, based on our previous experience with them. Jesus accepts and responds to this person here and now as he is. An example which we can all follow and which would save a lot of wear and tear in our relations with people, if we did so.

A new development

To answer the man's question Jesus quotes from the Jewish scripture, the Old Testament. In answering the question, Jesus begins from where the man is, in an area which will be both familiar and acceptable to him. But he takes two distinct texts and puts them together as one. This is a significant development and one that is absolutely central to the Christian vision. In today's First Reading from Deuteronomy, one of the books of the Jewish law, one can see that one is urged to love God with all one's energy and to "keep all his laws and commandments". There is no mention here of the "neighbour". That appears in a separate text in a different book of the law (Leviticus 19:18).
The Scribe is obviously pleased with the answer. And he further adds that these two commands are far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.
And it is this dual approach which makes Jesus the perfect priest mentioned in the Second Reading. The priests of the Law were men subject to weakness. "Death put an end to each one of them." While Christ, "because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood". Jesus is the "perfect" Priest and now the only Priest, because absolutely perfect in his love for the Father and in his love for us.

Like Jesus, we cannot separate our love of God from loving ALL those around us. Sometimes we see our sins just as offences against God, even when action is directed against another person. We may go to "confession", get forgiveness and feel the matter is finished. We go to God for forgiveness, when what is also needed is forgiveness from and reconciliation with the person we have hurt. If we cannot love the neighbour we can see, how can we love the God we cannot see? (cf. 1 John 4:20) And who is my neighbour? For the people in Jesus' time, it was a fellow-Jew. Others, even though physically near, were not. Following the teaching of Jesus, however, it is anyone who needs our love, our concern, or who shows love and concern for us, transcending all barriers and independent of like or dislike, approval or disapproval. But some of us can sympathise with the complaint of comic strip character, Charlie Brown: "I love humanity; it's people I can't stand!"

Loving others, loving ourselves

We are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. That sounds very demanding. Actually it is often part of the problem. Many, if not most of us, do not love ourselves very much. Many, most would not like others to know us as we feel we really are. Our feelings are echoed in the title of two books by Jesuit John Powell: Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? and Will the Real Me Stand Up?

We go to great lengths to hide our inadequacies, our weaknesses. We spend a lot of money on houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, dining out. Image is all. We need status symbols to prove we are "someone". Teenagers looking and sounding very "with-it" but actually hiding behind currently fashionable clothes-styles, hairstyles, language, being "cool" and "hip". Very few people are really themselves in front of others. In computer jargon we say, "What you see is what you get [WYSWYG]". In other words, what appears on the screen will also appear on a print-out. For people it should be, "What you see is what there is." This requires total self-acceptance (not the same as self-approval) and integrity, wholeness. Self-acceptance means that I fully acknowledge both my strengths and weaknesses and I am not ashamed of them and I don't mind if other people know them. Because such a person knows that the key to being loved is to have one's real self accessible to others.

God and our Neighbour:

Conventionally we say we should first love God. Then, for his sake, we love others. Lastly, self should be denied, sacrifices should be made. We should not be selfish, self-centred. Actually it may surprise us to be told that we cannot not be self-centred. Everything we do is self-centred. We need to go the other way: learn to love and accept self fully. Then, and only then, are we free to look out and reach out to others in love non self-consciously. When I have nothing to hide, it is easy to be myself. And, if others do not like what they see, that is their problem, not mine. And we will then discover that, when we have learnt to love genuinely and unconditionally, we will be loved in return - though not by all. We cannot be loved by all because there are many people out there who are not able to love; it is not because there is anything wrong with me. To want to be loved by everyone is simply unattainable. And when we know what really loving and being loved is (by direct experience), then (and only then?) can we talk about really loving God. All this, says today's Gospel, is more important than any ritual or sacrifice. It is no good being in church every hour of every day if I am not a loving person.

Discipleship

Jesus said the Scribe was "close to the Kingdom" because he had touched on the essence of living: loving God and loving others as a single but distinct reality. But he is not quite part of it yet. He was not and apparently did not become a full disciple of Jesus. And what makes such a disciple? By this will all know that you are my disciples - that you love God? That you never miss Mass? That you have special devotion to Our Lady? No, none of these by itself. What is essential and sufficient is to love God in loving others and to love others in loving God.

Late Pope John Paul's daily slogan "do not be afraid" helped him to combat his way towards great heights in sanctity and heightened successful performance during his 26 years of papacy. His humble beginnings as Pope and his rising popularity and a rare combination of his humour, smiling face and attractive personality won him great appreciation and acceptance across the globe. The worldwide media branded him as a 'hard working and courageous Pope'. I had the most rare opportunity to assist him during the last three days of his agonizing hours of life. He struggled till the end to keep himself serene and lucid and the media people were wondering at how he could resist and be so strong till his last breath and were able to say boldly "amen" to the Lord.

In the early nineteenth century, a young man in London aspired to be a writer. But everything seemed to be against him. He had never been able to attend school more than four years. His father had been thrown in jail because he couldn't pay his debts, and this young man often knew the pangs of hunger. Finally he got a job pasting labels on bottles in a rat-infested warehouse, and he slept at night in a dismal attic room with two other boys from the slums of London. He had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of the night so nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. Finally the great day came when one was accepted. True, he wasn't paid for it, but one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. He was so thrilled that he wandered aimlessly around the streets of London with tears rolling down his cheeks.

The praise, the recognition that he received through getting one story in print changed his whole life. If it hadn't been for that encouragement, he would have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories. You may have heard of that boy. His name is Charles Dickens

In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays.. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, 'Case dismissed!'

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, 'Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah...yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!'

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, 'Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists' holiday!'

The lawyer pompously said, 'Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists just when that holiday might be, your Honor?'

The judge said, 'Well it comes every year on exactly the same date - April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as 'April Fools Day,' consider that Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!!

 

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