Lent IV ( Match 14th Sunday)

LENT IV [March 14th Sunday]  (Eight-minute homily in one page)

Introduction: The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Lætare (Rejoice) Sunday, from the first words of today’s liturgy. As on Gaudete Sunday in Advent, rose-colored vestments may replace violet, and flowers may grace the altar, symbolizing the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection of Our Lord. The central theme of today’s readings is that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to us sinners through Jesus, His Son. The readings stress God’s mercy and compassion and remind us of the great love, kindness and grace extended to us in Christ.

The Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, taken from the Second Book of Chronicles, we learn the compassion and patience of God. God chose Cyrus the Great, a pagan conqueror, to become the instrument of His mercy to, and salvation of, His chosen people exiled in Babylon. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 137), the Psalmist voices the pain of exile the captives of Judah suffered. In the second reading, Paul tells us that God is so rich in mercy that He has granted us eternal salvation and eternal life as a free gift through Christ Jesus.  Today’s Gospel provides a theme that parallels the Gospel, but on a much higher level. Jesus, the Son of God, becomes the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful nation but for the sinfulness of the whole world. Through John 3:16, the Gospel teaches us that God has expressed His love, mercy, and compassion for us by giving His only Son for our salvation. Nicodemus, the wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, meets Jesus by night and begins a long religious discussion. Jesus explains to him that he must believe Jesus’ words because Jesus is the Son of God, and, by referring to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent (Nm 21:1-9), further explains God’s plan of salvation. Just as God saved the victims of serpent bite from death through the bonze serpent, He is going to save mankind from its sins by permitting the crucifixion and death of His Son Jesus, because the love of God for mankind is that great.

Life messages: 1) We need to love the cross, the symbol of God’s forgiving and merciful love: As a forceful reminder not only of God’s love and mercy, but also of the price of our salvation, the crucifix invites us to more than simple generosity and compassion.  It inspires us to remove the suffering of other people’s misery.  It encourages us not only to feel deep sorrow for another’s suffering, but also to try our best to remove that suffering. Hence, let us love the cross, wear its image, and carry our own daily cross with joy, while helping other to carry their heavier crosses. 2) We need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving, and merciful. Let us try to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities in sharing our love with others during Lent.  3) Our rebirth by water and the Spirit must be an ongoing process. That is, we must lead a life of repentance and conversion which will bring us, with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, to an ongoing renewal of life through prayer, Bible reading, frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, and doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

LENT IV (March 14) II Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21 

Homily starter anecdotes:# 1: J 3: 16: the “umbilical cord” of space walking astronauts: The famous Bible verses given in today’s gospel passage, John 3: 16 and John 3: 17 took an extra special meaning for many Christians when they were displayed in an astronaut program in the TV, a few  years ago. Space engineers were shown as designing space suits  for the command module pilot and the lunar module pilot. A part of the design of each space suit was an umbilical cord, consisting of a long flexible tubing. Its purpose was to supply oxygen to the astronauts  when they walked in space or passed from one module to another. The suit receptacle into which the command pilot’s cord fit was called J 3: 16 and that of the lunar pilot was called J. 3: 17. Designer Frank Denton said that he named the two suit receptacles after the two gospel passages, John 3:16 and John 3: 17. His reasoning for doing so went like this. Just as J 3:16 and J 3: 17  supply the astronauts with what they need to survive in their journey from one module to another, so John 3:16 and John 3: 17 supply us with what we need to survive  in our journey from earth to heaven. That is why Bible scholars call Jon 3: 16 the gospel in the gospels or the miniature gospel, explaining  why God sent His own Son into our world to die for us and save us, thus demonstrating God’s unconditional love for us.  (Mark Link S. J.). 

#2: “The Hound of Heaven”: “The Hound of Heaven,” written by Francis Thompson, is one of the best- known religious poems in the English language.  It describes the pursuit of the human soul by God. The poem tells the story of a human soul who tries to flee from God, as it thinks that it will lose its freedom in the company of God. This is the story of Thompson’s own life. As a boy, he intended to become a priest. But the laziness of his brilliant son prompted Thompson’s father to enroll young Francis in a medical school. There he became addicted to opium that almost wrecked his body and mind. He fled to a slum and started earning a living by shining shoes, selling matches, and holding horses. In 1887 Francis sent some poems and an essay to Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, the editor of a Catholic literary magazine called Merry England.  The editor recognized the genius behind these works and published them in April 1888.  Then Meynell went in search of the poet. He arranged accommodation for Francis, introduced him to other poets and helped him to realize God’s love. How Francis tried to run away from God, how God “hunted” him, how Divine love caught up with him – these are the themes of his stirring poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” Once we realize, as did the poet Francis Thompson, and as do all the saints, that God, in His Infinite love for us, will pursue our souls to the ends of the earth and beyond, then we will try to return to that Love , allowing the Hound of Heaven to “catch” us. Today’s Gospel tells us about the breadth and depth and height of the Divine love of the Hound of Heaven for each one of us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: Glimpse of God’s love in the Amtrak tragedy: Near Mobile, Alabama, there was a railroad bridge that spanned a big bayou. The date was September 22, 1993. It was a foggy morning, just before daybreak, when a tugboat accidentally pushed a barge into the bayou. The drifting barge slammed into the river bridge. In the darkness no one could see the extent of the damage, but someone on the tugboat radioed the Coast Guard. Minutes later, an Amtrak train, the Sunset Limited, reached the bridge as it traveled from Los Angeles to Miami. Unaware of the damage, the train crossed the bridge at 70 mph. There were 220 passengers on board. As the weight of the train broke the support, the bridge gave away. Three locomotive units and the first four of the train’s eight passenger cars fell into the alligator infested bayou. In the darkness, the fog was thickened by fire and smoke. Six miles from land, the victims were potential food for the aroused alligators. Helicopters were called in to help rescue the victims. Rescuers were able to save 163 persons. But one rescue stands out. Gary and Mary Jane Chancey were waiting in the railcar with their eleven-year-old daughter Andrea. When the car went into the bayou and began to fill rapidly with water, there was only one thing they could do. They pushed their young daughter through the window into the hands of a rescuer, and then succumbed to their watery death. Their sacrificial love stands out especially because their daughter was imperfect by the world’s standards. She was born with cerebral palsy and needed help with even the most routine things. But she was precious to her parents. We, too, are imperfect – our lives filled with mistakes, sin and helplessness. But we are still precious to God – so precious that He sacrificed his Son Jesus to save us.  Today’s Gospel tells us how a perfect God sent His perfect Son to save an imperfect world. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 4: AA’s twelve steps and today’s readings: You do not have to be an alcoholic (or compulsive gambler or sex addict) to recognize that the famous twelve steps of AA reflect the essentials of the human experience of redemption. It is all there: the profound awareness of need for rescue by Another; the abandonment of self to God; the admission of one’s own responsibility for the moral harm of one’s behavior; commitment to prayer, reflection, and outreach to others. The fact that the twelve steps are a “we” statement in the past tense testifies that it is an expression of a community which shares the experience of the healing power of rescue from evil by a caring God. That makes it a kind of Credo or confession of Faith. More accurately, it is a proclamation of sacred history: Here’s how God has acted in our lives. AA’s twelve steps can help us get to the heart of this Sunday’s readings. The first reading tells us how God has worked through Cyrus to rescue the Babylonian exiles from exile and “restore them to sanity” by bring them home. The same sense of rescue by “a Power greater than ourselves” is spelled out powerfully in the passage from Ephesians. Like the twelve steps of AA, this passage is the celebration of a community who have “turned their will and lives over to the care of God as they have come to know him” in Christ Jesus. The Gospel passage for this Sunday is another classic confession of Christian experience of Divine rescue in Jesus. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”( Dennis Hamm S. J. ). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Lætare (Rejoice) Sunday, from the first words of the day’s liturgy [the Introit]. Since this Sunday occurs in the middle of Lent, as Gaudete Sunday is celebrated midway through Advent, Lætare Sunday reminds us of the Event we look forward to at the end of the penitential season. As on Gaudete Sunday, rose-colored vestments may replace violet, and flowers may grace the altar. In Lent, these outward signs symbolize the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection, a joy which cannot be contained even in this penitential Season, though we still refrain from Alleluias and the singing of the Gloria until the magnificence of the Easter Vigil.

Scripture readings summarized: The central theme of today’s readings is that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to us through Jesus, His, Son. The readings stress God’s mercy and compassion and remind us of the great love, kindness, and grace extended to us in Christ. As an act of love and gratitude to God Who is “rich in mercy,” and as an expression of our Faith, we are invited to share Jesus’ sufferings by doing penance during Lent so that we may inherit our eternal salvation and the glory of his Resurrection in Heaven. As we continue our Lenten observance for the fourth week, the Sacred Liturgy invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s grace, mercy, and salvation. In the first reading, taken from the Second Book of Chronicles, we learn the compassion and patience of God. God chose Cyrus the Great, a pagan conqueror, to become the instrument of His mercy and salvation for His chosen people exiled in Babylon.  Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 137) presents the sad picture of weeping Jewish exiles in Babylon, refusing to sing the joyful songs of Judah because —through their own infidelity — they have been exiled in a pagan Kingdom, and everything they have held dear has been taken from them. In the second reading, Paul tells us that God is so rich in mercy that He has granted us eternal salvation and eternal life as a free gift through Christ Jesus.  Today’s Gospel has a theme, parallel to the gospel, but on a much higher level. Jesus, the Son of God, has become the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful nation but for the sinfulness of the whole world. Through John 3:16, the Gospel teaches us that God has expressed His love, mercy, and compassion for us all by giving His only-begotten Son for our salvation.

First reading (2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23) explained: Today’s Gospel contains this lament of St. John the Evangelist: “The Light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to Light.” The chronicler in the first reading says the same thing about the chosen people long ago: “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His warnings, and scoffed at His prophet.” He also reports, “early and often did the Lord God send messengers to the people out of deep compassion for them (2 Chr 36:15). 2 Chronicles describes the history of the period from the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul, (1030 BC), to the end of Judah’s exile in Babylon (550 BC)., presenting both the successful periods of Israel’s development (God’s reward for fidelity), and the tragedies and military defeats (God’s punishment for the people’s infidelity). Today’s passage shows us how the people’s infidelities also caused them to lose the Temple, their homeland, and their language until they “came to their senses,” recognizing their own sinfulness and crying out to God for mercy. It was then that God came to their rescue, by choosing to work through the pagan king Cyrus the Great of Persia, in order to return them to their homeland and to help them rebuild His Temple there. This short, sad summary with a hopeful ending is told from the viewpoint of a conviction that right worship will restore a people and that God is willing to use desperate measures, even the heartbreak of his people, not to hurt them, but to save them and bring them back to Him as His Chosen People.

Second Reading (Ephesians 2:4-10) explained: Both the second reading from Ephesians and the Gospel periscope remind us to focus on the mystery of salvation as a gift to sinners. Paul teaches us that, although we don’t deserve anything from God on our own merits, God has chosen to love, save, and give life to us – both Jewish and Gentile Christians – because of His great mercy and love. In the first half of his letter, Paul says that Divine grace does three things for us: a) brings us to life in Christ, b) raises us up with Christ, and c) seats us in the Heavens. The sole purpose of these Divine deeds is to show the immeasurable riches of God’s grace. In the second half of the reading, Paul contrasts what we can achieve spiritually on our own (nothing), with what God gives us as undeserved grace (everything). Paul also reminds us that all our goodness is God’s gift to us and, so, is nothing for us to boast about. Our goodness, such as it may be, is His goodness shining through us. “By grace we are saved through Faith, and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 4:8-10). The second reading thus reveals “the great love [God] had for us.” Further, while this reading affirms that we are “saved through Faith,” it also makes clear that this Faith itself “is the gift of God,” given to us freely “because of the great love He [has] for us.

Gospel exegesis:  The context: Nicodemus, the wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, meets Jesus by night and begins a long religious discussion. But Jesus interrupts him, stating that rebirth by water and the Spirit is an essential condition for entering the Kingdom of God. Jesus explains to him that Nicodemus must believe Jesus’ words because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus further explains God’s plan of salvation by referring to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent. He also reveals the Good News that God will show His love for mankind by subjecting His own Son to suffering and death.

A) The uplifted serpent: John refers to an Old Testament story given in Numbers 21:4-9. On their journey through the wilderness, the people of Israel murmured and complained, regretting that they had ever left Egypt. To punish them, God sent a plague of deadly serpents. When the people repented and cried for mercy, God instructed Moses to make an image of a serpent impaled (and so killed), on a pole, and to hold it up in the midst of the camp, so that anyone who looked upon the serpent (and so obeyed this command of God given them through Moses), might be healed through the power of God. In today’s Gospel lesson, Nicodemus learns that, like Moses’ bronze serpent, Jesus, too, must be “lifted up” (a contemporary euphemism for being crucified), and that the act of His being “lifted up” will similarly bring about salvation. This is the first of three references in John’s Gospel to Jesus being “lifted up” (cf. 8:28, 12:32-34). Specifically, this reference foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus who carried with him the burden of the sins of the world. When humans turn their thoughts to their crucified Savior and believe in him, they too will find eternal life.  Jesus was lifted up twice: on the Cross and at his Ascension into Heaven. Just as the cross was the way to glory for Jesus, so it is for us. We can, if we like, refuse the cross that every Christian is called to bear.  It is an unalterable law of human life, however, that without the cross, there is no crown.

B) Believing in Jesus: This includes three elements: 1) the belief that God is our loving Father, 2) the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, tells us the truth about God and life, and 3) the belief that we must give unquestioning obedience to Jesus. “I believe in ” means, “I put my trust in Jesus and I seek to obey Him.” The Faith of which our Lord speaks is not just intellectual acceptance of the truths He has taught: it involves recognizing Him as Son of God (cf. 1 Jn 5:1), sharing His very life (cf. John 1:12), and surrendering ourselves to Him out of love, thereby becoming like Him (cf. Jn 10:27; 1 John 3:2) (Navarre Bible). The Catholic doctrine teaches that salvation is “by grace through Faith unto good works” (Eph 2:8-10). We must do “good works” if we have been truly saved. In other words, if we are saved by our Faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, good works will follow as our acts of thanksgiving.  This favor from God is constantly being offered, and our challenge is to respond to it gratefully by leading a good life. Thus, we will receive from God eternal life, the very Life of God Himself.  Then we will experience peace with God, peace with men, peace with life, and peace with ourselves.

C) The Gospel of the Gospels: John 3:16 is probably the best loved verse in the Bible and it has been called “everybody’s text” and the “Gospel of the Gospels.”  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is the summary of the Gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus. This text is the very essence of the Gospel. It tells us that the God takes the initiative in all salvation because of His love for man. As St. Augustine puts it: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. It is our God who brings us to greater belief in our daily struggles and temptations, and leads us to eternal life, thus demonstrating the depth of His love for us.

D) Love of darkness and God’s judgment:  When we walk according to the teachings of Christ, we are walking in the Light. If we oppose these teachings, we oppose Christ himself; hence, we are walking in darkness. In today’s text, we are told, “Light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” There are many dark corners in our world.  These dark corners include, among many others, addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, and sexual immorality,  environmental irresponsibility, and a lack of purpose  burdening many of us especially among young people.  It is very easy to pretend that these dark corners don’t exist.  When we do, we act like the   desert nomad in the story who woke up hungry in the middle of the night. He lit a candle and began eating dates from a bowl beside his bed. He took a bite from one and saw a worm in it; so he threw it out of the tent. He bit into the second date, found another worm, and threw it away also. Reasoning that he wouldn’t have any dates left to eat if he continued to look for worms, he blew out the candle and quickly ate the rest of the dates!

Our lives matter to God, and He knows all about the dark corners in our lives. He wants us to stop hiding our sin in the dark and demands that we expose every dark corner to His Light of life, so that we will be able to receive what He is giving to us — the Light that not only shows up the dirt in our lives but cleans it away. He died so that we could be made new and clean. Freely, the Light of His forgiveness shines into our lives, brightening up every corner, forgiving every sin, and restoring our relationship with God, renewing our lives.

Life messages: 1) We need to love the cross, the symbol of God’s forgiving and merciful love: The crucifix – the symbol of the “lifted up” Jesus – holds a central place in our Churches because it is a forceful reminder not only of God’s love and mercy, but also of the price of our salvation.  Hence, no Christian home should be without this symbol of God’s love.  The crucifix invites us to respond with more than compassion; it inspires us to remove the suffering of other people’s misery.  It encourages us not only to feel deep sorrow for another’s suffering, but also to try our best to remove that suffering. Hence, let us love the cross, wear its image and carry our own daily cross with joy.

2) We need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving, and merciful. Let us try, with His help, to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities as we share our love with others during Lent, for in them we love and serve Him.

3) Our rebirth by water and the Spirit must be an ongoing process. As Christians, we are meant to lead a life of repentance and on-going conversion, bringing us to a renewal of life with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us. The renewal of the Spirit comes when we work with Him to be liberated from the bondage of evil habits by using the Divine strength we receive from Him through prayer, Bible reading and frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

4) Let us be bearers of Jesus’ Light and carry it to other people. When we allow the Light of God’s forgiveness to shine in our lives, it brightens up every corner, forgives every sin, restores our relationship with God, and renews our lives. Whoever follows Jesus will not walk in darkness. We will experience the joy and peace of sins forgiven, of new attitudes and of new relationships with God, family and friends. Jesus’ Light of truth, justice, holiness, and charity shining in our lives is meant to bring blessing to others. We are to let this Light of Christ shine through us into the lives of the people around us.  The Light we give to others can dispel the darkness of their lives and bring them to a completely new outlook. Let us not underestimate what the Light of Christ can do through us. As Jesus said: “You are the light of the world…. your light must shine before people so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven” (Mt. 5:14, 16).

JOKES OF THE WEEK: #1: “For God so loved the world that” He sent His Son to Israel: A Jewish father in the U.S. was concerned about his son. He had not truly raised him in the faith of Judaism… So, hoping to strengthen his son’s Faith, the father sent him to Israel so that the boy could experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. He said, “Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers. It was wonderful and enlightening. However, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity.”

“Oh (groan) what have I done?” the father thought. So, in the tradition of the patriarchs, he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” stated his friend. “I, too, sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian.” So, in the tradition of the Patriarchs, they went to the Rabbi. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” stated the Rabbi. “I, too, sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons? Brothers, we must take this to the Lord,” said the Rabbi. They fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.

As they prayed, the clouds above opened, and a mighty voice stated, “Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel…” (Jewish Jokes)

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

# 1: 56 Adult Faith formation lessons & RCIA classes by Fr. Tony: http://frtonyshomilies.com/ http://stjohngrandbay.org/wt/client/v2/story/WT_Story.cfm?SecKey=233

# 3: Catholic News Service: http://www.catholicnews.com/

# 4: Catholic World News: http://www.cwnews.com/

# 5: Gospel of John (video presentation) https://youtu.be/4iqN-4v8E5U

#6: Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

#7: Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs https://lectiotube.com/

31- Additional anecdotes:

1) “I beheld only the face of the man who would die for me.” On the southern border of the Persian empire of Cyrus, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds and completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him. Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded Cagular, captured him, and brought him to the capital for execution. On the day of the trial, he and his family were brought to the judgment chamber.  Cagular, a fine-looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him was a magnificent specimen of manhood. So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance that he said to Cagular, “What would you do should I spare your life?” “Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home and remain your obedient servant as long as I lived.” “What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?” “Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you.” So moved was the emperor that he freed them both and returned Cagular to his province to act as governor thereof. Upon arriving at home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. “Did you notice,” he said to his wife, “the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you notice the tapestry on the wall as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the chair on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold.” His wife could appreciate his excitement, but she only replied: “I really didn’t notice any of that.” “Well,” said Cagular in amazement, “What did you see?” His wife looked seriously into his eyes and said, “I beheld only the face of the man who said to the emperor that he would die for me.” — Today’s Gospel presents before us the face of God’s Son who was sent to die for us, demonstrating God’s mercy and love for each one of us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) “Gee, Mom, she thinks I’m real!” There is an old story about a family consisting of mother, father, and small son who went into a restaurant. As they were seated at the table, the waitress sailed up. You know, the particular kind of waitress who moves as though she were the captain of a ship. She sailed up, pad in efficient hand, looked, and waited. The parents ordered. Then the boy looked up and said plaintively, “I want a hot dog.” “No hot dog!” said the mother. “Bring him potatoes, beef, and a vegetable.” The waitress paused for a moment, and then looked at the boy squarely and said, “Yes, sir. What do you want on your hot dog?” “Ketchup – lots of ketchup – and a glass of milk.” “One hot dog, coming up,” said the waitress and sailed off toward the kitchen. The boy turned to his parents said, “Gee, Mom, she thinks I’m real!” — One reason that we are real is because God thinks we are real. He created all of us to be His children. That process of becoming God’s children may be for us as radical as being born anew, as Jesus told Nicodemus, but it is precisely that for which we were created. For Christians, to be real is to allow ourselves to be loved by God, and to love God in return, which, according to St. John, means living the truth. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Nicodemus in art and history: One of Rembrandt’s most famous etchings portrays the scene. The limp, dead body of Jesus was slowly taken down from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, dressed as the person that he was, in all his finery, stands close by. In the darkness, further away, veiled in shadow as only Rembrandt could do it, with his face lined in sorrow, is Nicodemus. He is holding in his hands the linen cloth in which Jesus’ body would be buried. The Gospel says that Nicodemus also brought with him a mixture of spices, myrrh and aloes, “about a hundred pounds”. One wonders what Nicodemus must have been thinking as he stood there, waiting for the body of Christ to be taken down from the cross. Obviously, much was going on in his life — this wealthy man, bringing fine linen and a bountiful supply of expensive spices to anoint the body of one who had died as a common criminal. Was he still mystified as he had been when Jesus told him that he must be born again? Was he still puzzled by the response of Jesus when he pressed his question about how one could be born again? Jesus’ answer had been totally unsatisfying for his rational mind: “The Spirit blows where it wills — you feel it, and you hear the sound of it — but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Emergency Night call: One of the things that pastors, doctors, fire-fighters, and police have in common is that they all receive occasional night calls. And most pastors would agree that some of our most significant opportunities to help people have come in response to night-time calls, usually of an emergency nature. However, not all of our night calls are that significant. Dr. Robert Ozmont of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta received a call one night about 2:00 AM. He did not know the lady who called; she had found his number in the yellow pages. She had a problem. By any objective measure it was not an emergency; certainly it could have waited until morning. Nevertheless, Dr. Ozmont tried to offer what advice he could. Then he asked, “Ma’am, do you belong to a church in Atlanta?” “Yes,” she replied. “I am a member of Calvary Presbyterian.” “Why,” asked Dr. Ozmont, “didn’t you call your pastor about your problem?” “I thought about that,” she said, “but my pastor works so hard that I just hated to bother him in the middle of the night.” — The Gospel of John tells us about a night-time call Jesus received from a prestigious Jew named Nicodemus. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “Believe in the God Who Believes in You.” Mother Teresa was interviewed on American television years ago. She said, “It is very, very important, that the families teach their children to pray and pray with them.” Then she added, “And we have enough reason to trust God, because when we look at the cross, we understand how much Jesus loved us. It is wonderful to be able to come to Jesus! That’s why God made Him – to be our bread of life, to give us life! And with His life comes new life! New energy! New peace! New joy! New everything! And I think that’s what brings glory to God, also, and it brings peace.” Then she said, “I’ve seen families suffer so much, and when they’ve been brought to Jesus, it changes their whole lives.” [Robert H. Schuller. Believe in the God Who Believes in You. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), p. 126.] — I have also seen lives changed by the power of the cross. Have you? Today’s Gospel gives a parallel between the bronze serpent erected by Moses to heal the Israelites bitten by snakes and Jesus raised on the cross to save mankind. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “Release this guilty man.” King Frederick II, an Eighteenth-Century king of Prussia, visited a prison in Berlin one day. The inmates jumped at the opportunity to plead their cases directly to the king. All except one. One prisoner sat quietly in the corner. This aroused the king’s curiosity. The king quieted the other inmates and approached the man in the corner. “What are you in for?” he asked. “Armed robbery, your honor.” The king asked, “Are you guilty?” “Yes sir,” he answered. “I entirely deserve my punishment.” The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man. I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people!” — How ironic! Only when we see and admit our guilt to ourselves, can we repent and return to God to receive the forgiveness and so wash that guilt away. One of the greatest promises of Scripture is this one: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” Recognition of our sin and Repentance are the first steps toward the new birth mentioned in today’s Gospel. Think for a moment. Is there some failing in your life that you have never admitted to yourself or to God? Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) Only five percent of people are able to dream in color: Did you know that a glass of hippopotamus milk contains eighty calories, or that only five percent of people are able to dream in color? Facts are intriguing, but they are easily forgotten. The recent knowledge explosion has had a great impact upon technology. With that technological “know how,” we thought we had a blank check on the future. Then came the new bullies on the block: environmental pollution and computer impersonalism. The marriage of knowledge and technology was not creating the utopia we had hoped for. The yellow brick road to the future emptied into that old dirt path of breast-beating. It didn’t break any record for moral progress, either. Many of us have to agree that any quest for knowledge as a thing in itself can be a dull date. Knowledge must ripen into truth. Okay, but what is the truth? To answer that adequately, we must recall Nicodemus. If ever a man were dead certain of himself, it was the Pharisee. For him all was quiet on the western front until he met Jesus. The Nazarene became the burr under his saddle. His intellectual absolutes shook like Jello. His neatly spun web of Jewish theology slowly began to unravel. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “Well, Sarah, that is exactly right.” A little girl went to the doctor for a check-up. When the doctor came into the examining room, she held up both hands to get his attention and then she said: “Doctor, I know what you are going to do. You are going to do 5 things. You are going to check my eyes, my ears, my nose, my throat and my heart.” The Doctor smiled and said: “Well, Sarah, that is exactly right. Is there any particular order I should go in?” Sarah said: “You can go in any order you want to… but if I were you, I’d start with the heart!!!” — That’s what Jesus did, wasn’t it? He started with the heart. He started with Love… and that is precisely what he wants us to do! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “God, I ain’t got nothin’ against nobody.” Anthony Campolo tells about a mountaineer from West Virginia who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the town preacher. The gruff and tough man one evening looked deeply into the eyes of the preacher’s daughter and said, “I love you.” It took more courage for him to say those simple words than he had ever had to muster for anything else he had ever done. Minutes passed in silence and then the preacher’s daughter said, “I love you, too.”  The tough mountaineer said nothing except, “Good night.” Then he went home, got ready for bed and prayed, “God, I ain’t got nothin’ against nobody!” — Many of us know that feeling. To love and to be loved — what joy that simple emotion brings into our lives! Then to realize that the very nature of God IS Love is almost more than you or I can comprehend.  (Rev. King Duncan; quoted by Fr. Kayala. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) Chain of love: Before we are able to give love we must receive love. Let me give you a powerful example.  Once years ago there was a little girl in an institution who was almost like a wild beast. The workers at the institution had written her off as hopeless. An elderly nurse believed there was hope for the child, however. She felt she could communicate love and hope to this wild little creature. The nurse daily visited the child whom they called Little Annie, but for a long time Little Annie gave no indication she was aware of her presence. The elderly nurse persisted and repeatedly brought some cookies and left them in her room. Soon the doctors in the institution noticed a change. After a period of time, they moved Little Annie upstairs. Finally the day came when this seemingly “hopeless case” was released. Filled with compassion for others because of her institutional experience, Little Annie, Anne Sullivan, wanted to help others.  It was Anne Sullivan who, in turn, played the crucial role in the life of Helen Keller. It was she who saw the great potential in this little blind, deaf, and rebellious child. Anne loved her, disciplined her, played, prayed, pushed, and worked with her until Helen Keller became an inspiration to the entire world. It began with the elderly nurse, then Anne Sullivan, then Helen Keller, and finally every person who has ever been influenced by the example of Helen Keller. (Jeffrey Holland in Vital Speeches) — That chain of love goes on forever. Before it began with that elderly nurse, though, we have to go all the way back to the beginning when God first loved His creation and then created it.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “I resolve to compose no more.”: One day in his later years, the composer Johannes Brahms reached a point in his life when his composing almost came to a halt. He started many things, serenades, part songs and so on, but nothing seemed to work out. Then he thought, “I am too old. I have worked long and diligently and have achieved enough. Here I have before me a carefree old age and can enjoy it in peace. I resolve to compose no more.” This cleared his mind and relaxed his faculties so much that he was able to pick up with his composing again without difficulty. —  Many of us are a bundle of anxieties. That is why we accomplish so little. What we need is to relax in the knowledge that we are loved. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him…” Do you believe in Christ? Then what in the world are you worried about? Accept His love. Lay your deepest concerns at the foot of the cross. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) Driving Miss Daisy: Miss Daisy drove her Packard into her neighbor’s backyard. Boolie Werthan, Daisy’s son, thought that such an incident was sufficient evidence to warrant the end of his mother’s driving; she needed a driver, a chauffeur. Hoke Coleburn, a middle-aged black man, was Boolie’s choice for the job. Daisy, however, would not accept this restriction, this change in her life; she was not open to being transformed. Boolie may have hired Hoke, but that did not mean that Miss Daisy had to use him. As Hoke stood idle, Miss Daisy took the street-car wherever she went, to the hairdresser or the grocery store. Hoke Coleburn was being paid for doing nothing. That is exactly how Miss Daisy wanted things. As stubborn as she could be, Miss Daisy ultimately did change her attitude. One day she needed a few things from the store. She left the house and began to walk toward the streetcar. Hoke decided that Miss Daisy’s refusal to use his services needed to end. As she walked down the sidewalk, Hoke slowly drove alongside in the new 1948 Hudson Boolie had purchased for his mother. “Where are you going?” scowled Daisy. Hoke replied, “I’m fixin’ to take you to the store!” Although still not content with the arrangement, Daisy agreed to get into the car; her conversion had begun. Daisy did not approve, but Hoke had become her chauffeur. Whether it was to the temple (you see Miss Daisy was Jewish), the store, or a trip to Mobile to visit relatives, Daisy and Hoke went together. As the years passed, their relationship as driver and passenger grew; they bonded together. Then one day Miss Daisy’s conversion became complete. The process had been long and sometimes difficult, but now it was finished. She could finally say, “Hoke, you are my best friend.” — Alfred Uhry’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Driving Miss Daisy, tells more than the story of a relationship between a black chauffeur and an elderly, rich, Jewish widow. It is the story of a challenge to be transformed in mind and heart from rebellion into a sense of acceptance in one’s life. Lent is a season when the Church calls us to reflect upon our lives and see how we need to be transformed, to enter into a stronger relationship with God. Daisy’s experience is one illustration of a reality for all – transformation takes time, and shortcuts to its end-product only lead to problems and disappointments. Today’s popular and familiar passage from John’s Gospel challenges us, as it did Nicodemus, to be transformed by Christ. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) “I can’t imagine dividing love by eight.” One of the “ministers” (that means lay persons), of a local Church was delivering meals as part of his work with a “Meals on Wheels” mission. He took the meal to a home of a woman whose only child was visiting that day. He congratulated the woman for having such a nice son, and said, “I have eight children of my own.” “Eight kids,” exclaimed the woman. “I love my son so much that I can’t imagine dividing love by eight.” “Ma’am,” the man said gently, “you don’t divide love–you multiply it.”– Jesus’ Love is not zero-based: the more you give, the less you have. Jesus’ Love is eternity-based: the more you give, the more there is to go around. Jesus’ Love is other-based: we are to reach out in love to “all people” and “especially to those of the family of Faith” (Galatians 6:10). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) A baseball story: Those who are “born again” claim Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Let me share a sports story told by the outstanding Christian coach at Florida State University, Bobby Bowden. Back in the 1920s there was a great major league baseball player named Goose Gosling. His team was in the World Series one year. In the bottom of the 9th inning of the final game, the score was tied. Goose came to the plate. He got the kind of pitch he wanted and hit a solid line drive over the shortstop’s head. It rolled all the way to the wall. The left-fielder fumbled the ball as he tried to make the play. Goose rounded second. As he neared third base, the coach was waving him toward home. The ball reached the catcher a half- second before Goose did. Goose lowered his shoulder as he had been taught and hit the catcher as hard as he could. The ball squirted loose and Goose Gosling stepped on home plate. The fans erupted in pandemonium and poured onto the field. In all the confusion no one noticed the first baseman retrieving the ball, racing to first, and tagging the base. He then appealed to the umpire, claiming that Goose had never touched first base. The umpire agreed with the first baseman and called Goose out. — Many people are like Goose Gosling. They seem to be altogether successful. Everybody is cheering for them. They glitter with success. But if in the course of living, they never repent and claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, they never even make it to first base. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) “I have lived my life the best I could.” Perhaps the most powerful movie I have ever watched is Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hanks, as Captain Miller, along with a ragtag squad of soldiers in World War II, give their lives in search of Private Ryan so he can be returned to his parents. Private Ryan’s parents had already lost their other sons in that terrible war that some of you know first-hand. As they move in the search of Private Ryan, they argue with one another and sometimes fight with one another, “Why on earth are we risking our lives for Private Ryan? He is probably not worth it anyway.” Still, they push on. Finally at the big battle at the bridge, one by one, they give their lives for this no-named person called Private Ryan. Finally there is Captain Miller, lying wounded and taking his final breaths, looking up into the eye of the Private, saying just two words, “Earn it.” — The movie fast-forwards and now Ryan is an old man. Once more he goes to the rows of crosses that help us remember the high price of our freedom. He finds the grave of Captain Miller and falls to his knees, saying, “Every day I think about what you said to me that day at the bridge. I have lived my life the best I could. I hope that was enough.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) Miracle of new birth: One rainy Sunday afternoon, a little boy was bored and his father was sleepy. The father decided to create an activity to keep the kid busy. So, he found in the morning newspaper a large map of the world. He took scissors and cut it into a good many irregular shapes like a jigsaw puzzle. Then he said to his son, “See if you can put this puzzle together. And don’t disturb me until you’re finished.” He turned over on the couch, thinking this would occupy the boy for at least an hour. To his amazement, the boy was tapping his shoulder ten minutes later telling him that the job was done. The father saw that every piece of the map had been fitted together perfectly. “How did you do that?” he asked. “It was easy, Dad. There was a picture of a man on the other side. When I got him together right, the world was right.” — A person’s world can never be right until the person is right, and that requires the miracle of new birth. Don’t you dare stop asking God for the experience of new birth until you can shout from the housetops, “Through Jesus Christ, God has fundamentally changed my life!” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) Coming Home: John Voigt and Jane Fonda play the lead roles in the movie, Coming Home, which is about an American soldier crippled for life because of the Vietnam War. The film focuses on the psychological as well as the physical ordeals of this paraplegic – how he struggles with the help of a woman to accept his handicap, reconstruct his dreams, and create a future for himself. — This Vietnam War vet’s situation is very similar to that of the Jews in the first reading. God often sends people to help us through a crisis: parents and children often intervene to assist each other; a true friend comes through when no one else will; sometimes it is a pastor, a teacher or a parishioner who bails us out. Like the Jews in exile, or like that Vietnam vet in Coming Home, we endure small deaths in many ways. Nonetheless, we can find new life because of our faith in the Lord Jesus. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) A life that makes a difference: Several years ago a bomb was detonated outside the huge oak doors of a Greek Catholic Church in Jerusalem. The heavy doors were blown inward so that they careened up to the front of the sanctuary and destroyed the chancel area. Windows were blown out, pews were destroyed, and the balcony collapsed. Dr. Ken Bailey, a Presbyterian missionary scholar and friend of the priest of the Greek Church, stopped by to assess the damage. It took little time to determine that the priest was in shock and unable to make necessary decisions. So Dr. Bailey took it upon himself to ask seminary administrators at the school where he taught to close classes, and he invited students to join him in helping the priest. They cleaned the church and boarded the windows to prevent looting. The next day, Bailey again called on his friend. The maid confided in him that the priest did not cry at the bomb’s destruction. However, she added, “He did cry when you and your friends helped clean up the mess it made.” — Dr. Bailey has since remarked, “I did not teach any theology that afternoon — or did I?” If theology is about love in action, he held one of his best classes that day. The truth is…faith is never so beautiful as when it has its working clothes on. (Steve Goodier; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Snakes and Ladders: Aboriginals in India have an indigenous and ingenious way of curing snakebite. Once in Magathara village, South Gujarat, a little girl Nimmi (8) was bitten by a cobra. The girl wept bitterly. Makhabhai, Nimmi’s dad, the village leader, made an incision near the snakebite. He then caught a hen and pressed its rectum on the spot where blood was oozing out. The hen’s rectum worked like a suction-pump, and it began to struggle. I saw the hen slowly turning blue. Nimmi was saved. The hen died. In childhood, I enjoyed playing ‘snakes and ladders’. The dice are cast and one hopes to reach ‘Home’ before the others by avoiding snakes, ascending ladders. Some of those snakes were big; some, small. Even close to ‘Home’, one could suddenly be bitten by a snake and tumbled down. — Life’s like that! As the bronze–serpent signified salvation for the Israelites, the cross, like a ladder, leads us God-wards. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) Bought with a price: During the years when slavery was legal in the United States, a gentleman happened upon a slave-bidding in a crowed street. As he watched from the edge of the crowd, he saw one slave after another led to a platform, their arms and legs shackled with ropes as if they were animals. Displayed before the jeering crowd, they were auctioned off, one by one. The gentleman studied the group of slaves waiting nearby. He paused when he saw a young girl standing at the back. Her eyes were filled with fear. She looked so frightened. As the auctioneer opened the bidding for the girl, the gentleman shouted out a bid that was twice the amount of any other selling price offered that day. There was silence for an instance, and then the gavel fell as, “Sold to the gentleman” was heard. The rope, which bound her, was handed to the man. The young girl stared at the ground. Suddenly she looked up and spat in his face. Silently, he reached for a handkerchief and wiped the spittle from his face. He smiled gently at the young girl and said, “Follow me”. She followed him reluctantly. When a slave was set free, legal documents were necessary. The gentleman paid the purchase price and signed the documents. When the transaction was complete, he turned to the young girl and presented the documents to her. Startled, she looked at him with uncertainty. Her narrowed eyes asked, what are you doing? The gentlemen responded to her questioning look. He said, “Here, take these papers. I bought you to make you free. As long as you have these papers in your possession, no man can ever make you a slave again. The girl looked into his face. What was happening? Slowly, she said, “You bought me, to make me free? You bought me, to make me free?” She fell to her knees and wept at the gentleman’s feet. Through her tears of joy and gratitude, she said, “You bought me, to make me free….I’ll serve you forever!”– You and I were once bound in slavery to sin. But the Lord Jesus paid the price, to make us free, when He shed His Blood at Calvary. How often have we spat in our Master’s face – He who paid His all, for our freedom? (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Lifelines: A number of years ago, these two verses, John 3:16 and John 3:17, took on extra-special meaning for many Bible readers. You may recall the episode. It involved our astronaut program. Space engineers were designing space suits for the command module pilot and the lunar module pilot. A part of the design of each space suit was an umbilical cord, consisting of a long flexible tubing. The purpose of the umbilical cord was to supply oxygen to the astronauts when they “walked” in space or passed from one module to another. The suit receptacle into which the command pilot’s cord fit was called J 3:16. Designer Frank Denton said he named the two suit receptacles after the two gospel passages: John 3:16 and John 3:17: [16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.”] Just as J 3:16 and J 3:17 supplied the astronauts with what they would need to survive in their journey from one module to another, so Jn 3:16 and Jn 3:17 supply us with what we need to survive in our journey from earth to Heaven. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) God so loved the world that He gave…Once a certain Saint asked God to show her the difference between Heaven and Hell. So God asked an angel to take her first to Hell. There she saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them were eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, “Why are you not eating?” And he showed her his hand. A long fork about 4 feet long was strapped to their hands such that every time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. “What a pity!” said the Saint. Then the angel took her to Heaven. There the saint was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting around a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with four-foot forks strapped to their arms. But unlike hell the people in heaven were happy and laughing. “What!” said the Saint to one of them, “How come you are happy in this condition?” “You see,” said the man in Heaven, “Here we feed one another.” — Can we say this of our families, our neighborhood, our Church, our world? If we can say that, then we are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) “I’ve got a newfound glory and it shines out in all I do.” During the American depression (1929-1939), a ferry-boat captain managed to eke out a modest living for himself and his family by piloting his boat up and down the Mississippi. His boat was old and in poor repair. The engines were grimy, spewing forth soot and smoke as the boat made its seemingly endless shuttle on the river. The captain was as unkempt as his boat, his manner with passengers often surly and rude. As it happened, the captain was proselytized by one of his passengers, a traveling missionary who introduced the captain to Christ and to the Gospel. The captain’s conversion was profound and authentic. One of the first things he did was to clean up his ferry-boat and repair its engines. The decks and deck chairs were freshly painted, and all the brass fixtures were polished. As to his personal appearance and demeanor, the captain was utterly transformed. Clean-shaven, and with a smile, he greeted his regular customers who immediately remarked about the pleasant changes he had made. In reply, the captain said, “I’ve got a newfound glory and it shines out in all I do; that’s what Christ does for a person. He gives him a glory!” — In his letter to the Christians of Ephesus, the author of today’s second reading described a similar transformation that had taken place in his readers because of Christ. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) A serpent on a pole and a man on the cross: According to Greek mythology, Hermes, messenger of the gods carried a caduceus as a symbol of peace. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, it became the badge worn by heralds and ambassadors signifying their inviolability. Originally the caduceus was a rod or olive branch decorated with garlands or ribbons. As time passed, the garlands were interpreted as two snakes, intertwined in opposite directions with their heads facing away from each other. A pair of wings, representing the swiftness of Hermes was attached to the staff above the snakes. The similarity of the caduceus to the staff of Aesculapius, the healer, (a single serpent twined around a staff branched at the top), resulted in the adoption of the caduceus as a symbol of the physician and as the emblem of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Serpent-signs of healing, like these, played a main role in mythological and religious traditions throughout the world and were known to our ancient Israelite ancestors as well. According to the narrative from the book of Numbers (21:4-9), the wandering Hebrews were instructed by Moses to look upon the bronze serpent entwined on the staff as he held it aloft. Those who looked at the serpent were healed. St. John incorporated this event into today’s Gospel pericope and offered the raised serpent-sign as a type or pre-figuring of the lifted up and crucified Christ. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) Forgive and be Forgiven: Some time ago a woman wrote a letter to Ann Landers describing the terrible relationship that once existed between her and her brother. It took the death of their father to get her to forgive him and to treat him as a brother again. Sometime after their reconciliation, her brother had a heart attack and died in her arms. She ends her letter with this moving paragraph. “I am grateful for the years we had together, but I could scream when I think of all the years we missed because we were too bull-headed and short-sighted to try to get along. Now he is gone and I am heartsick.” — Today’s Gospel is an invitation to review the relationships in our lives and to bring them into line with Jesus’ teaching. Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Inability to Forgive: The singing career of Grammy award winner Marvin Gaye ended in tragedy on April 1, 1983. He was shot to death by his own father. Gaye’s close friend David Ritz wrote Gaye’s biography a year later. He called it Divided Soul. Gaye was indeed a divided soul. He was part artist and part entertainer, part sinner and part saint, part macho man and part gentleman. Gaye’s childhood was tormented by cruelty inflicted upon him by his father. Commenting on the effect this had on Gaye, Ritz says of his friend: “He really believed in Jesus a lot, but he could never apply the teaching of Jesus on forgiveness to his own father. In the end it destroyed them both.” — That story of an unforgiving father and son contrasts sharply with the story of the forgiving father and son, which Jesus tells in the Gospel. And the contrast between the two stories spotlights a growing problem in modern society. It is the inability or unwillingness of people to forgive one another. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

27) Mutiny on the Bounty: Mutiny on the Bounty is one of the most adventurous maritime episodes in history. Captain Bligh sailed in the ship to Tahiti in search of breadfruit plant for the West Indies. He was proud and ruthless, and many of his crew were against him. While returning from Tahiti, most of the sailors rebelled against him and a mutiny broke out. The captain and 17 of his sympathizers were forced into a small boat and were left on the high sea.  The mutineers, 15 of them with the ship Bounty went to Tahiti. Gathering with them some men, women and children, they reached a small Island called Pitcairn in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and South America. Afraid that they might be found out if they had the ship, they saved whatever they could carry and burnt the ship. This group of undesirables perpetuated their evil lives of drinking, revelry and murder. Within ten years of their landing on this island only one survived. His name was John Adams, and he was no better than the rest who died. However, he had to take on the responsibility of the Island’s folk. One day as he was checking the goods salvaged from the ship before it was burnt, he found an old Bible. Though he was not interested in it, it was the only book on the Island, and he began reading it. The Word of God began to work in him, and eventually, he changed his, life and became a new creation in Christ. He built a school-cum-Church and began to lead the children in Christian experience. For years the only book they had was the Bible. Years later, a strong Christian community was formed on this Island. The warm and pleasant behaviour of the people on this Island attracted the ships sailing through the Pacific. In 1980 when a census was taken, all the inhabitants on the Island were Christians. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).


28) Coming out into the Light: The shortest journey to the Light is by doing the good/right thing. The following true story beautifully illustrates this. In the Lithuanian city of Kovno there lived a Jewish professor. Though he had been an agnostic all his life, the professor began to be more and more troubled by the sad, neglected condition of the Jewish graveyard in the city. Since the holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis and the harassment of them by the Soviets, no one had taken care of their graves. So out of the goodness if his heart, the professor himself decided to do so.  Whether or not he was aware that tending graves is a ‘mitzvah’, that is a traditional good deed, we do not know. In any case, the old man acquired a spade, a sickle and shears, and began the job of making the graveyard worthy of those buried in it. At first, he was on his own, but as some weeks went by other Jews joined him in the work. Most of these were once observant Jews but had become agnostic like the professor. Eventually there were some two hundred of them, all doing a good thing. As they worked a beautiful thing happened. Their Jewish Faith came alight in them. Practically all of them became observant Jews once more. — We have to accept that there is darkness in our lives and in our world. How many of our deeds are done in the Light? How many of them could bare the scrutiny of the Light? Alas, we disciples of Jesus sometimes prefer the darkness to light. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) Salvation through faith … God’s gift: In the wars of religion that followed the Protestant Reformation, both Catholics and Protestants sometimes treated each other with a cruelty we would like to forget. Especially cruel was a group of fanatical Calvinists who waged war upon the Catholics of Holland. They called themselves the “Ragamuffins.” In 1572 these guerrillas rounded up nineteen Catholic priests and friars in the town of Gorkum, both because they despised their beliefs, and because they hoped the priests and brothers would reveal where their Church “treasures” were hidden. The captors made public mockery of their “hostages” and then put them “on trial,” demanding that they deny the authority of the Pope and the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Meanwhile, the Prince of Orange, head of the Calvinist army, sent an order that the captives be released. The Ragamuffins ignored their leader’s order. Herding the captives into a shed, they prepared to hang them from its beams, unless they would finally deny their Catholic faith. When all nineteen refused, they were hanged and their bodies were mutilated. Now, although there were some saintly men among the victims, two of them did not have good records. James Lacops, a member of the Norbertine Fathers, had made light of the rule of his order, and when rebuked had resisted his superiors. Fortunately, he had made amends. But Andreas Wouters, a secular priest, had scandalized many by flagrantly ignoring his vow of chastity. Yet, when these unlikely men had been asked to deny their Faith, they had stood firm. Far from being “other Christs” in their lives, they had truly become “other Christs” in their deaths. With the rest of their fellow martyrs they were canonized as saints in 1867. — God’s grace is always free. The human mind can never appreciate the extent of His generosity “. . . Salvation … is not your own doing … neither is it a reward for anything you have accomplished so let no one pride himself on it.” (Ephesians2:8-9). Today’s first reading). (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

30) “Create him not:” Jewish legend has it that when God was about to create man, He consulted the angels about His throne: “Create him not,” said the Angel of Justice. “For he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellowmen; he will be bad and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.” The Angel of Truth said, “Create him not, for he will be false and deceitful to his brothers and sisters ,and even to You.” “Create him not,” said the Angel of Holiness. “He will follow that which is impure in Your sight and dishonor You to Your face.” Then stepped forward the Angel of Mercy said, “Our Heavenly Father, create him, for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I’ll take him tenderly by the hand, speak loving words to him, and then lead him back to You,.” And God indeed created man, following the counsel of the Angel of Mercy. — This story shows to us the message of Christ in today’s Gospel of Fourth Sunday of Lent in the B Cycle. And the verse John 3:16 has been called a summary of the Bible, and a summary the entire Gospel as well. Maybe because we can find the acronym, GOSPEL Let us listen very carefully: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, so that whoever who believes in Him should not Perish but have Eternal Life.” (3:16). (Fr. Benitez) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) In heaven for three days: Three men died and were standing at the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter asked what have you done to deserve Heaven?     First guy was a police officer. He said I enforced the law, fought crime, you know, cop stuff. Peter said, “okay, go on in.”     Second guy was very wealthy and gave lots of money to charitable causes. Again, Peter said, “okay, go on in.”     The third man was the director of an HMO. He told Peter he had helped save millions of dollars for health care and insurance companies. He had helped cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. So, Peter said “okay go on in, but you can only stay for 3 days.” We have all heard jokes about people showing up at the Pearly Gates seeking entrance into Heaven. While many of these jokes bring a smile to our faces, behind most of them is the notion that WE do something to get into Heaven. Our nature desires something we can do to merit God’s favor and achieve whatever we imagine about heaven. But today’s gospel tells us that we will be in heaven only because God so loved us that He sent his Son to save us. L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 20) by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under CBCI or  Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604