Friday, September 30, 2011


When my 2 year old nephew started crying, I gave him my mobile phone with the caller tune on, and he immediately stopped crying. I looked at him with a sense of achievement. He started playing with it for sometime. I was bit scared because the mobile phone was not safe in his hands. He could break it at any time. When the time came for me to move away from the place, I tried getting it back from him. He again started crying. He told me in his broken phrase that the phone was his. It was rather an embarrassing situation. At the end of it, my brother had to pull it away from him which made him cry all the more. This would have been the experience of most of us. We try to make the child happy by giving it whatever we have with us, but the moment the child receives the object it thinks that he/she becomes the owner of the object. In the case of child it is understandable because it is not aware of the situation but in the case of adults it is different story altogether.
The leaseholders knew it very well that they were not the owners of the vineyard. Yet they want to become the owners of the vineyard. They go even to the extent of killing the heir of the owner.
The exegesis of the parable is quite simple. The owner is God the Father, the vineyard is the kingdom of God, the tenants are the people of Israel, the different batches of servants are the prophets, the son is Jesus Christ and the new batch of tenants are the Gentiles. This parable gives the summary of the whole salvation history. God created the whole world and made human beings at the stewards to take care of the created world. The human beings due to their disobedience and with a desire to become like God, sinned against Him and broke the covenant. God did not stop here; He sent the judges, kings and the prophets as His messengers. But the people did not listen to them. They humiliated and even killed God’s messengers. God thus finally sends His only Son to redeem the world. But they did worse things to him and crucified Him.
Lessons for today
God has entrusted us with a lot of gifts and talents that could be used for the enhancement or our life and the life of society at large. We are only the stewards of the gifts not the owners. Our houses, house hold articles, our income, bank account, property, health, relationships and every other thing we possess are the gratuitous gifts of God. Whenever we think that we are the owners and whenever we use the gifts and talents for our selfish motives or purely for self promotion without sharing it with our neighbours we would be committing the same mistake of these wicked tenants.
Our lives are largely guided by pragmatism and utilitarianism. Whatever is practical, feasible or useful are considered as the truth. We tend to make use of the people only for our selfish motives. There are a few who will begin a conversation with others only if they want some favours from the individual concerned and once the work is done they move away from that person as if they had not seen that individual at all. What can we say about this? This is the simple example of Utilitarianism. Whenever we want only the benefits and whenever we exploit people for our ends, we commit the same mistake the wicked tenants committed.
This we see it everywhere. Many children abandon their parents in their old age, forgetting the amount of sacrifices the parents have made in bringing up their children. It can also happen in religious settings. Once the person steps down from the power, people tend to ignore them and act as if they have nothing more to do with that person. This happens almost in all the types of relationships. Are we not trying to act like the wicked tenants through our ingratitude and selfishness?

Friday, September 16, 2011


You know what happened on the second day? After receiving their wages, those who came early on the first day, were still angry with the Landlord. “That was too bad on his part. He tells us that we are envious because he was generous. Was he really generous? If yes, why didn’t he give us more? Anyway we shall go late tomorrow”. They came very late the following day, but they were surprised to see those people who came late on the first day were already at work. They were impressed with the landowner who gave them job opportunity and who was very kind to them. They wanted to pay him back with their hard work. The late comers joined them worked till the close of the day. The landowner told the manager, ‘Call the labourers and give them their pay beginning with the first one and then going to the last.’ When those who came early, he gave them the usual wage and some bonus money appreciating their work.  Then when the late comers came, the owner calculated their duration of work and gave money accordingly which was lesser than the daily wage. When they received it they grumbled against the landowner saying, ‘Yesterday when we worked from early morning, you never gave us any bonus and now, you are giving them the bonus and cut short our money. Again the owner told them, I am not doing anything wrong. You are again envious because I am generous with them. I have paid what you deserve. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?

This second day is only my imagination, but still it tells us, what Jesus wanted to tell us today. I used to think, why did the landowner treat everyone equally? He should have been bit more generous with those who came early.

During exam days, there are students who prepare their time table bit early and start studying for their exams. We also see others who seem to have good time and just study the previous day. When the results come, the latter may score same marks and sometimes even more marks than the former. It is not the duration that matters but the result. These workers who were idle in the market might have felt hurt. They were regarded useless by the landowners and were not hired for the work. When our protagonist gives them a chance to work, they prove their worth. They would have done the same amount of work as did the others.  The possibility could be, the owner being a far sighted man wanted to attract his workers right at the beginning itself so that these workers may contribute more in the future. Therefore we have no right to question the landowner because he has not done injustice.

But somehow his action seems to be not okay. We feel that something is wrong in his approach. What is that makes us to grumble against the landowner? It is the attitude of comparison. Sadly we are brought up in an atmosphere, where we are either compared with others or we keep comparing ourselves with the other. We are not comfortable with ourselves.

I remember in our earlier seminary days, when there is Bible Quiz or Marian Quiz, there will be some people who study so well and answer. At the end of the quiz, the team that gets first place is awarded with nice prize. Now, all the members of the winning team get the same prize. There will be also a few of us, who get the prize without knowing one single answer. This could easily irritate the ones who study well. ‘We study and answer and these get the benefit of it.’ This argument sounds justifiable. But who are we to question the Lord and His generosity. He can do whatever He wants. He has not done injustice to any. But our attitude of comparison makes us feel bad.

There are several ways of understanding this parable. There are 5 batches of workers coming to work in the field which is compared to the five different stages in the history of salvation namely Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, Moses to Christ and Christ to present day. Some are of the opinion that Jesus attacked the Pharisees by comparing them with the workers who came early to work as against the tax collectors and Gentiles who came at the close of the day. But it is more fitting to understand this parable as an occasion for Jesus to teach his disciples to overcome the sin of comparison. The disciples were fighting for the prominent place, there was envy, jealousy among them. God’s standards are different. We do should not teach God lessons on justice.

‘Why do we find it so difficult to rejoice over the good that enters other people’s lives, and why do we spend our time calculating how we have been cheated?’
‘For most of us injustice is what happens to our disadvantage, while what happens to our advantage is good luck’

We can imitate others and we can follow the footsteps of great people, these are the positive ways of learning from others but comparing ourselves with others will not help us in anyway. Let us not make our life miserable by comparing ourselves constantly with others. God is the author of our life and He has every right to do whatever He wants.

St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (10: 12) beautifully summarizes this message by saying "But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense."

Thursday, September 15, 2011


The women supported a preaching ministry. Preaching was Jesus’ business; it was what He came to do His primary call and mission. Right after the banquet, he got up and went about His primary task, that of the preaching and proclaiming the gospel. The point is this: the women supported a solid preaching ministry.

Much of the untold misery and suffering which tormented the old world has been at least alleviated in great measure by the labours of the women of Christianity. Several of these kindly grateful souls here allude to evidently belonged to the wealthy class; some even occupied a high position in the society of that time. It was by their gifts, no doubt, that Jesus and his company was enabled to live during the 30 or more months of the public ministry. He had given up, as had also his companions his earthly occupation, and we know that he deliberately refrained from ever using his miraculous power to supply his daily wants.

In the contemporary Jewish culture of the time of Christ, as well as in many other cultures, the social status of woman was not anything remarkable, nay often it was rather degrading. In this background Christ’s own attitude and dealings with women are surprisingly different. These women disciples provide for His needs out of their own resources. This is an aspect that is not at all mentioned in regard to the men disciples.

A note on these women

Mary Magdalene: She was delivered from seven demons (Lk 8:2); was one of Jesus’ primary financial supporters; was among the women who courageously stood at the cross and was one to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1, Jn 20: 11)

Joanna: He husband Herod’s steward, was the court official who looked after the king’s estate and financial interests. Such was the task of the steward. The very nature of his job shows that he had to be most-trusted official (Lk 24: 10)

Susanna: There is no other reference to Susanna. She represents the prominent disciple who is known by everyone but serves in a capacity that few ever notice. But note: she was such a devoted servant in giving, her name is known.

Many Others: These represent the unknown and quiet, but all-important, followers of the Lord. They serve completely in the background, never up front; therefore, they are totally unknown. But note: they are faithful and do serve consistently and faithfully.

They supported Jesus out of devotion. They were grateful for what He had done for them. Each of them had been reached and healed by Jesus. They had received a very special touch from Him and as a result they were helping to support them out of their means.

Jesus teaches a great lesson for all the men folks who seldom respect women. Women have played a vital role in the life and mission of Jesus. His attitude towards women should be a model for all of us. Women are not objects to be used but persons to be respected and loved. In spite of growing awareness of gender justice there are several instances of harassments and abuses. Let Jesus Christ be our model, who recognized their
absolute necessity in his life and mission.


The Preacher’s Outline and the Sermon Bible

The Pulpit Commentary

The Anchor Bible Series

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


1.      Seven sorrows of our Lady is also called the Seven Dolors of Our Lady, and seen as a n expansion of the five sorrowful mysteries.
·         Mary accepts in faith the prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2: 34-35)
·         Mary flees into Egypt with Jesus and Joseph (Mt 2: 13-14)
·         Mary seeks Jesus lost in Jerusalem (Lk 2: 43-45)
·         Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary (Lk 23: 26-27)
·         Mary stands near the cross of her Son (Jn 19: 25-27)
·         Mary receives the body of Jesus taken down from the cross (Mt 27: 57-59)
·         Mary places the body of Jesus in the tomb, awaiting the Resurrection (Jn 19: 40-42)

2.      In Central Europe there is feast known as Schmerzensfreitag. On this day popular devotions are held, and a special soup is served for dinner. The soup is made of seven bitter herbs (watercress, parsley, leek, nettle, sour clover, primrose, and spinach) and is called Siebenkrautersuppe.

3.      ‘Here is your son’ here is your mother’: In this revelatory formula, the one who speaks is revealing the mystery of the special salvific mission that the one referred to will undertake; thus the son ship and motherhood proclaimed from the cross are of value for God’s plan and are related to what is being accomplished in the elevation of Jesus on the cross.

4.      We cannot but reverentially admire the self forgetfulness of the crucified redeemer: We know that the Lord Jesus was exquisitely sensitive to suffering, Yet even amidst the aguish of body and of mind, which He was then enduring, the Saviour was able to turn away His thoughts from Himself to her who gave Him birth, who had often shared the honour and the trial of His ministry, and who had now, with notable fortitude and sympathy, come to witness his death.

5.      The Church Fathers like Athanasius, Ephiphanius and Hilary so interpreted the episode to prove Mary’s perpetual virginity: if she had other sons, Jesus would not have entrusted her to John son of Zebedee.

I still cherish my recent spiritual experience in Basilica of Blessed Mother in Shivaji Nagar. When I saw the Mothers crying loud to the Heavenly mother asking for several intentions, I was deeply moved. Almost all their intentions were for their children and their spouses. Since I was present very close to our Blessed Mother’s statue, they all asked me to pray for their intentions and they specified their intentions too. There were mothers who have lost their sons and daughters, there were mothers who suffered misunderstanding, there were mothers who cried due to their insecure situations, and there were mothers who cried for peace in the family. We might not understand their prayers but certainly our Lady will understand their pain. After all she underwent all these pains during her earthly life.  No wonder why so much people come and get healed because only those who were wounded know the need and necessity of healing. Let us all go to our Blessed Mother with little more faith and confidence, she will surely send us back with smiling faces.
Our Lady of Sorrow – Pray for us

The Pulpit Commentary
The Anchor Bible Series – Raymond Brown
Sacra Pagina Series

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


1.      In the year 313, the Roman Emperor Constantine began the long process of conversion to Christianity. His mother, the devout and pious Express Helena – St Helena- had already become a Christian. Helena, who lived in the Roman capital of Constantinople, made a pilgrimage to the Holy land. In Jerusalem she arranged for the erection of a great Church dedicated to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We know this Church today as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

2.      According to tradition that has come down to us the Empress Helena discovered somewhere in Jerusalem the true cross on which Christ died. This occurred on Sep 14th, 320. The new Church of the Holy Sepulcher was dedicated on Sep 14th 335. On this occasion the relics of the true cross were held up or exalted for the veneration of the people. Gradually this event was observed annually on Sep 14th throughout the Eastern Church as the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Only in the 7th century this feast in honour of the cross began to be observed in Western Latin Church.

3.      The cross can preach to us the great message of Christianity. The vertical beam represents the love of God and the horizontal beam represents the love of neighbor. What more sermon we need than to just look at the cross intently?

4.      This feast denotes the great joy of salvation Jesus brought to us through his cross. That is the reason this feast is not celebrated during the Lent which usually focuses on the sorrows.

5.      There is no Christianity without cross. As Jesus gave a new and nobler meaning to the cross which was a sign of great shame and insult, let us also strive to give new meaning to our hurts, wounds, misfortunes by looking at them as the ladders which takes us closer to Jesus.

‘Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross’ – Judeline D’Souza – Awakening Faith – Sep – Oct 2009, Volume 22

Monday, September 12, 2011


I read an article by Rita Ariyoshi in the journal Liguorian (v 96, 2008). I would like to present to you some excerpts from the same. She names the widow as Talma and the young man as Azarias the skilled carpenter. The mother is presented as the one who always complained about so many things. She had so many reasons to grumble. Her husband who was deep religious man failed to provide sufficiently for the family due to his poverty and died all a sudden. The son kept postponing his marriage which meant she had no daughter in law to help her with house chores. It was at this stage the son died leaving her all by herself.
As the coffin is carried towards the burial ground, Jesus came with yet another crowd in the opposite direction. The funeral crowd expected the other crowd in the opposite direction to give way to them but the leader came straight to Talma and told her, ‘ Do not cry’. Many thought she was going to blurt out to this person who asked her to stop crying, because she had every right to cry for her son. But she stopped crying and looked at Jesus gracefully.
Jesus touches the coffin and restores life in Azhariah. He gives back the biggest treasure of this poor widow, which she thought she had lost forever. The young man comes back to his earthly life. But what happened to him after gaining new life?
‘He did work more slowly. A certain peace had come upon him since the day he had died. It settled on him like a blanket, drowsily creeping into every muscle and pore so that he noticed each passing moment of his life with a detached bemusement.
How long Yahweh, until you call me again? He wished for lions to tear him apart, thieves to murder him. Then gazing down the long, empty road ahead, he thought of those unforgettable eyes upon him’
He looked back at the town and ahead at the road and knew that the only way to paradise lay in Nain. ‘How long O God?’ His tears were most bitter
Further Explanation
The passage recalls the raising of the son of the widow of Zarephath by Elijah 1 Kgs 17: 8-24. Jesus comes to a town (Nain as did Elijah; a widow is met at the gate of the town (17:10); the son of the widow is restored to life (17: 22). The only difference between the two episodes is, Jesus raises the widow’s son by a command of his powerful word, whereas Elijah had to stretch himself over the child three times.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


A couple of days ago we were at the Basilica of Mother Mary in Shivaji Nagar. We witnessed the simple faith of people. The non-Christians were also present in big number. Quite a few non-Christians after receiving blessings from us the deacons touched and kissed our feet. This humble gesture of faith of these non-Christians truly impressed me.  This was also the case with Jesus. No wonder, of all the people the Syro-Phoenician woman and Centurion are exalted by Jesus for their deep faith.

I would like to reflect with you the leadership qualities of Centurion which could be very useful for all of us. Like it or not all of us would be leaders or already leaders in various capacities. The leadership quality of centurion is worth admiring.

He was dearly concerned for his slave who really does not deserve such a treatment. He was surely living in a time when slaves were treated worse than objects. A true leader does not undervalue anyone. The dignity he crowns on his slave can be a real lesson for all of us. Do we not call the elderly workers by name, just because we are ordained priests and are placed in charge of the workers? We pay for the work they render and we actually do not pay for the harsh words and disrespect we sometimes manifest.

As soon as he heard that Jesus was entering Capernaum, he sent the Jewish elders as the delegates. A Roman seeking the help of Jewish elders is unthinkable. A true leader should be willing to work with people from different states and cultures. He did not share the same prejudice which every Roman had towards the Jews or vice versa. In our dealings, we cannot always expect to work with people of our own culture or language. We need to rise above the petty prejudices we carry about other people.

In his act of sending the delegates he teaches us an important lesson. We need to share our responsibility. We need not carry the whole burden on our head and it also needs certain humility to ask the help of someone. When as a leader, we realize that a particular work can be done by someone better than our own selves; we need to seek the help from that person. Naturally it would be easy for the Jews to approach Jesus than the Romans.

When Jesus gets impressed by the delegates’ testimony, he decides to meet the centurion. Before he could reach him, the second batch of delegates are sent by the centurion. This time it was his friends. He does not want Jesus to take too much of trouble on his behalf. He confesses his unworthiness through his friends. He is not ashamed to explain his situation through friends. This shows how the centurion is transparent in his dealings with his friends. Every leader should be transparent in his dealings.

Centurion is not ashamed to acknowledge his capacity and power. True humility is accepting one’s strength and weakness. If a person who can sing well pretends to be a non-singer it is not humility, it is humbug. This is the false humility we learnt from wrong sources. True humility is acknowledging one’s situation. A leader should acknowledge his capacity and weakness.

Finally, those words of deep significance ‘ I am not worthy to receive you’ Every day we pray it in the Eucharist. These words bring in the element of deep faith. This is the most important quality of a leader. If a leader is not deeply rooted in God he will be a failure.

Now we realize what it means to get good name from Jesus!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011- Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Matthew 18: 21 - 35

A few weeks ago one of my friends asked me, Is it not difficult to forgive? When I forgive someone they instead of seeing my virtue think I am weak and they even take it as an advantage and keep hurting me” I perfectly agree with my friend. Several times we try to be nobler and nicer to people trying to follow the teachings of Christ, but all that we get in return is hurt and insults. How to understand Jesus’ words?

Is there a limit for forgiveness? This question itself is wrong. Forgiveness and limitedness are contradictory terms. True forgiveness is unlimited. Jesus tells Peter, that one should be ready to forgive any number of times. Jesus lived a life of forgiveness. He was hurt by several people. His own people rejected him, his country men were against him, his own disciples abandoned and betrayed him, the ones who received several favours from him, condemned him, The Pharisees and Saducees wrongly accused him, the soldiers spat, slapped, flogged and crucified him. If Jesus had to keep a list of those who hurt him, it would have been the longest list of all the human beings. But he forgave everyone whole heartedly. In his weakness He manifested the great strength of God. Therefore we should not begin asking this wrong forgiveness.

But can we go on getting hurt? Forgiveness is not merely allowing someone to hurt us. If a person deliberately hurts us, we should tell the person concerned to stop hurting us. We have the right to get the protection from getting hurt. A wife who gets beaten up by her husband everyday for no reason, should tell the husband to stop hurting her. Jesus himself questioned the one who slapped him for no reason. He asked him for the reason. By questioning the offenders, or by taking measures to protect us, we are not going against the spirit of forgiveness. We condemn the act, not the person.

Jesus gives us the beautiful parable which explains everything. The king cancels the debt of his servant who owed him 10, 000 talents. Do you have any idea of how much a talent costs?  A talent was a very high measure of money, worth between six thousand and ten thousand denarii, when one denarius was a day’s pay, so ten thousand talents is an astronomical sum (like a billion dollar for us), a debt so large that the servant could never repay it. It is said that the money the fellow servant owed can be put in one’s pocket, while the money this unforgiving servant owed to the king can be filled in a train which is 5 miles long. The simple lesson is, if God is willing to forgive us generously and unconditionally, why are we so unwilling to forgive the offences our friends commit against us?
If we look at our situation as it is, without pretending, we will find the following two universal truths.

One: We have all been hurt, often by those who are nearest and dearest to us.  We have suffered injustice, partiality, calumny, misunderstanding, perhaps physical abuse, neglect, cruelty.  Every one of us has had, to some degree, such painful experiences in our homes, schools, churches, places of work.  There is no human journey without pain.  We all have things to forgive.

Two: We ourselves have caused others pain.  Most of the sufferings we have undergone, have also been passed on by us to others. Which of us is totally free of indifference, rash judgments, partiality, harsh words or gestures, thoughtless  behaviour, and perhaps, of more serious harm done to others? Each of us, then, is a person who needs forgiveness.

No wonder we were told in the first reading: “He who exacts vengeance, will experience the vengeance of the Lord.  Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.  If a man nurses anger against his brother, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?”
Can any of us honestly refute this argument: “Showing no pity for a man like himself, can he then plead for his sin?” Based as it is on these two universal truths, Jesus' demand allows no exceptions: Forgive!
This command, however, needs explanation, for this central teaching of Jesus is often misunderstood. Well many persons will tell priests in confessional, “But, father, I cannot forgive and forget!”
Forgiving does not mean forgetting.  If a neighbour cheated my family in a business deal, forgiving the person does not mean pretending that such an event did not take place.

Forgiving does not mean having nice, warm, pleasant feelings towards all. Virtue or sin is not found in our feelings, but in our decisions.  Just as we feel spontaneous attraction to those who are kind, friendly, generous or charming, we spontaneously dislike those who cheat or are unfriendly.  Christian love does not imply having the same feelings towards everyone.  Such universality of feeling would be an impossible human ideal.
Forgiving does not mean pretending that everyone is nice and friendly and reliable. We know this  is not  the case. There are people who cheat, exploit, murder, corrupt children, sell drugs, exploit the poor. The world is not made up of only angels and saints. 

What, then, does forgiving mean?
Forgiving is a decision, not a feeling, and involves two choices:
(1) The choice to do good to the person who hurt me; (2) The choice not to pay back evil for evil.
The choice to do good is illustrated by the example of a Belgian family whose fourteen year old son was crushed by a German tank during the Nazi occupation of Belgium in the Second World War.  After the War, the parish priest of the village made this announcement one Sunday: “There are many orphans in Germany.  Those of you who are willing to keep some German children for a few months or years (till Germany can rebuild its homes and factories), please meet me in the sacristy after Mass.” The parents of the murdered fourteen year old were among those who volunteered.  They had a farm, kept two German boys with them, treating them like their own son.

Most of us do not have to over-come such intense pain, and reach out in such a heroic way.  But we do have minor (or major) hurts to overcome.
Secondly, forgiving means not paying back evil for evil (“She spoke ill of me; I'll show her!”  “He cheated me; wait till I get a chance!”). Such vengeful attitudes poison our own life and the world we live in.

Viktor Frankl, who suffered extreme atrocities in World War II (family destroyed, property lost, starvation and cold in the concentration camp) came out of it with a remarkable lack of bitterness. He had seen the best  and the worst of human nature in the camp.  He wrote, “Man is the being  that built the gas chambers; he is also the being who went to his death with the “Hear, O Israel” or the Lord's prayer on his lips.”

A Catholic nun from Chennai went to a Hindu ashram to practice yoga and meditation.  On seeing her, the guru asked her to recite the Our Father. When she finished, he said, “Sister, you have just said, 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. If you can sincerely say that, that is all you need to learn.  There is nothing in meditation beyond this.”

Let us spend a few minutes in silence, try to recall the persons who have hurt us. Let us whole heartedly forgive them and lets us also ask pardon for the times we have hurt others. God will surely help us in this effort of us. This could help us to recite the Our Father in a meaningful manner. Amen.

Sunday Homilies Collection – Cycle A