Homilies

WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE

(Wis 7:1 - 11; Ps 89:12 - 17; Heb 4:12 - 13; Mk 10:17 - 30)

To leave from Basingstoke and drive to anywhere in England or Europe is very easy even when you don’t know the direction or the road to your destination. To go anywhere on earth has been simplified for us today with discoveries in technology. We now have Google map, Tom Tom, and SATNAV which we just need to type in our location and our destination and we shall be there without any stress. In the days of Jesus, it was not possible to have such an easy access to satellite navigation appliances as we have today because technology had not advanced as we have it today. In that sense, people depended on others to look fo r their directions or on maps.

Our Christian journey also suggest we get spiritual SATNAV or Google maps to help take us wherever we want to. A man in the gospel passage of today wants to get his. We are told that he comes to Jesus, just as Jesus was se tting out for a journey, and asked him: “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). This question was very important because the man needed to decipher the best road he had to use to navigate on his earthly spiritual journey. It is a lso very important for us as Christians today to search as he did and to search in the right places as well. So therefore, each and every one of us must be ready and willing to ask the same question toda

What must I do to inherit eternal life or to live as a Christian? Three weeks ago, precisely on Sunday masses for the twenty - fourth Sunday of this year, I said here that there are four basic philosophical questions which when answered correctly give us a sense of direction in life. These questions as I s aid centres on the question of identity, the question of origin, the question of purpose or mission and the question of destiny. The man in the gospel of today who came to Jesus, in my judgment, had understood the question of destiny so well that he wanted to situate this within the context of his every day existence in a bit to live out the question of purpose or mission. Since he knew his destiny, he could conveniently carry out his mission to arrive at that destiny. He needed guidance and so came to Jesu s. In answer to his worry as to what must be done to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks him to keep the commandments. I am very pleased to hear the man respond that he had always kept the commandments right from his earliest days. In a way, he had never kill ed, never committed adultery, never stolen, never bore false witness or defraud someone and has always honoured his parents. I cannot count the number of times I have transgressed some of these commandments of God, even as a priest.

When Jesus heard the ma n, we are told he looked at him steadily and loved him. I am sure he could have said to him as he did to Nicodemus; here is another Israelite incapable of deceit. But since Jesus was God and all knowing, he realized that it was not just enough to keep to t he commandments. There was something much more important than physical keeping of the commandments which this man had to do. In this light he then told him that there is one thing left for him to do: go sell all you have, give the money to the poor then co me follow me. He couldn’t give up riches in other to follow Jesus. He gave up the whole plan of life with God because of earthly riches.

One thing that stands out clear is that it is not enough to keep the commandments of God. What is far more important i s concern for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially the poor, lonely, rejected, suffering, marginalized, less privileged, etc. In the days of Jesus, it was possible to keep all the commandments and still be far away from God. The commandments of God had been broken down by the Jewish religious leaders into more than six hundred laws which they were expected to keep. At the end of the day, the law was limited to ritual practices which they kept daily. The Pharisees did this perfectly well but were not true servants of God. That is why they always went into open confrontations with Jesus because they kept the laws entirely but ended up being hypocrites. So, for the rich man to say he had kept the laws from his earliest days but could not turn his eyes to attend to the needs of the poor was a normal thing among the Jews. This also accounts for why in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man kept the laws but failed to empathize in the plight of poor Lazarus. He ended up in hell for not taking ca re of the poor.

My dear friends in Christ, the question of what must we do to inherit eternal life must resound in the ears of every Christian today. Ask this question to yourself, to your friend, family member, etc. without an answer to this question and a sincere response, we shall not be different like the man in the gospel of today. It is in this light that I will suggest four things to help us in answering the above question adequately.

1. Pray for wisdom

Prayer is the key that opens for us any door. So, whatever we must do on earth, we must pray for divine inspiration. Ask for the grace to give a sincere answer to this question which can help shape the rest of the course of our lives in the direction of heaven. The kind of prayer I suggest today is to pray for the gift of wisdom. We all need to pray for this gift just as the author of the book of Wisdom prayed in today’s first reading. In this reading we hear: “I prayed and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her all gold is but a pinch of sand, and besides her silver ranks as mud” (Wis 7:7 - 9). This prayer is very important dear brothers and sisters in Christ because once we pray and have the gift of wisdom, it is going to help us to choose wisely. It is going to help us to give up whatever may stand in our way to Christ. We need this gift because the wisdom o f this world prefers earthly things to heavenly things. It glories in precious metals like gold and diamond rather than true wisdom, it goes for the wisdom of this world. When we look at the world today, we really find earthly wisdom in displa

2. Detachment

Once we are too attached to something, we think that we cannot live without that thing and in the long run can even deny the promptings of the Holy Spirit because we are not ready to detach. That is exactly what happened with the man in the gospel. T o inherit eternal life or to live as a Christian, we must learn to detach from the precious things that may distract us from following Christ and allow God to replace these with His will. Detachment is a very painful and difficult process because it entail s denying even what is legitimately good for the sake of a higher good or for the sake of others. What is essential today is to ask ourselves: what is there in my life that keeps me from working faithfully towards eternal life: is it a wrong relation, a wr ong ideology or philosophy of life, the wrong company, wrong environment, greed, lust, gadgets like phone, TV, leisure, etc. We need to identity what exactly it is and detach from it/them

3. Surrender

If we have managed to decipher what exactly keeps us from inheriting eternal life, what we need to do next is to surrender these things and ourselves to God. Surrender or trust in God is the only way we can truly serve him. It brings us to the understanding that whatever is holding me from being a true disci ple, I am giving it up to God trusting in his providence and guidance. I do this knowing fully well that it is a painful exercise, but that God is going to show me the way. For whatever reason, we should not be afraid to give - up what may stand in our relat ionship with God. Even as devoted Christians, everyday gives up the opportunity to check the things we must give up if we are to serve Christ well and to inherit eternal life

4. Word of God

We must allow the word of God to help us in this whole proces s. The second reading tells us that “The Word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double - edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the se cret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him;...” (Heb 4:12 - 13). So let us allow the word of God to shape our discussions as to what we need to give up or deny in order to serve Christ best in our brothers and sisters especially in the poor . It might be supporting them, praying for them, visiting them, etc. may we have the strength and graces to seek what will help us inherit eternal life, Amen

FOCUS ON YOUR DREAM AND GOD WILL SEE YOU THROUGH

(Jer 31:7 - 9; Ps 125:1 - 6; Heb 5:1 - 6; Mk 10:46 - 52)

I got a video this week of a lady called Tererai who is one of Oprah’s all - time favourite guest. She was born in a village in Zimbabwe. Her father believed young girls should not go to school. So, to keep busy, she taught herself how to read and write. Soon, she was doing her brother’s homework for him. When his teacher found out, he begged her dad to let her attend school. Her father finally agreed and Tererai was sent to school. However, this did not last because at the age of eleven, Tererai was married off in exchange for a cow. Now married and expecting her fifth child, she felt stuck in a life th at she never wanted, but she never gave up.

Once, an aid worker visited her village and asked women about their greatest dreams. She said her dream was that she wanted to go to America, and have a Masters and a PhD. Impressed by her ambitions and dreams, the aid worker told her something that became Tererai’s life motto: if you believe in your dreams, they are achievable. Inspired, she wrote down her dreams and sealed them in a tin and buried them under a rock. Later, even against her husband’s wish, she enrolled in classes determined to get her school diploma. She toiled in the night to study after the children have gone to bed to study with candlelight. Even though she failed her course twice, she never gave up and finally graduated eight years later. So on after, she was accepted by an American university to do her university studies. Despite all the struggles she went through to feed the family and study in America, she finally made her dream come true: she had her Bachelor, Masters and PhD. Today she st ands as an icon in Zimbabwe opening schools and sending many to school because she never allowed her dreams to be buried. From this story, I can only conclude that we should always focus on our dreams and never let anyone or anything or any circumstance to derail us from that dream. Once we focus on our dreams, God is going to see us through.

This is the message the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus wants to bring to us today. Never allow anyone or anything to distract you from your dreams; be i t your husband or wife, a friend, brother or sister, a teacher, a situation in your life, etc. We are told that Jesus has left Jericho, surely on his way to Jerusalem, with his disciples and a large crowd with him. As they moved on, Bartimaeus, was on his normal schedule at the side of the road begging. He had surely heard of the many healing miracles of Jesus. The gospel tells us that as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he realized that this was the opportune moment for him to achieve his dream of seeing again. As such he began to shout: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” (Mk 10:47). He knew exactly what he wanted from Jesus and could not allow anyone to derail him from achieving his 2 dream. As he shouted, the crowd instead of taking pity on him, scolded at him and asked him to be quiet. Each time I read this story, I get cold at this verse. How can a blind man be asking Jesus to heal him and others are instead scolding at him and asking him to be quiet? Was he too not a son of Abraham who nee ded God to act in his life? Why should people be that quell? Thank God Bartimaeus was a very courageous man who could not be shaken from his dream just as Tererai in the story above. The more they asked him to be quiet, the more he shouted all the louder. Eventually, Jesus stopped and said: “Call him here”. The same people, may be, who have been ushering him to sit quiet are the are the ones who turned and said to him “Courage, get up, he is calling you”. The question is: why should they be nice only when J esus took notice of him? But that’s how many of us are. Could these people not have been the ones to bring Bartimaeus to Jesus without the man shouting to attract Jesus’ attention?

The same drama that happens in the above passage happens every day in life . People try to dissuade us from our dreams especially when they see that it doesn’t tally with what they are doing or what the ordinary men and women of society are doing. Worse of it, if they find out that what we want to do is going to make you better t han them, they struggle to dissuade you from continuing in that dream. Never allow yourself to be carried away by such people. If you do, then you become a coward because the same people will laugh at you when you give up. But if you eventually succeed, th e same people will come to praise you and pretend that they knew you were going to succeed.

When Bartimaeus was called up to get to Jesus, he treated this as a matter of urgency. He sprang up and immediately went to Jesus. In a soft and gentle voice, Jesu s asked Bartimaeus what he wanted him to do for him. Bartimaeus response was straight to the point because he knew his dream was to be healed. He immediately told Jesus that he wants to see again. And immediately, Jesus told him to go because his faith has saved him. Thereafter, he could see again because his sight returned. Rather than go his way, he followed Jesus along the road, surely singing and praising God for the wonders he has done to him through his son Jesus.

Dear friends in Christ, in his blind ness, the only dream of Bartimaeus was to see again someday. He saw in Jesus, the man who could help him accomplish that dream. That is why he never hesitated when he heard Jesus was passing by. He knew the moment of his deliverance had dawned. In deed he received his sight, despite the stumbling blocks that seemed to come from the people who were moving with Jesus. They wanted to derail Bartimaeus from realizing his dream, but he never allowed himself to be taken by that.

What about you the elderly persons in this chu rch today? What were your dreams? Did you accomplish them or still working on them? Or are you one of those who buried their dreams or allowed others to derail them from their dreams. The truth is that once we don’t achieve our dreams in life, life becomes miserable because we spend our time regretting instead of moving ahead. So, never allow anyone or anything to derail you from your dreams.

To the young boys and girls in this church today, life is very beautiful and swift as well. It comes with too many offers. Sometimes, our dreams are clear in our minds. At other times, they become clouded especially because of dissenting voices from peers, family members, the world and mass media have to offer. When I moved along the streets and see the many street men and women, I asked myself: they had no dreams? I don’t think so. For some of them, they allowed temporal enjoyment and pleasure to cease that dream away from them. For whatever reason, don’t allow someone or something to cease your dream away from you. We leave today in a world where there are many things that can distract us from our dreams: the smart phones, the TV, our friends, false hopes in pleasure, etc. These things steal our study and work time and leave us only with momentary satisfaction. The tim e for our studies or work is therefore not utilize and that cannot help us in realizing our dreams.

What we must learn today from blind Bartimaeus is that our dreams must always be surrendered in God’s hands. Pray about them, ask God to direct you and leave the rest to Him. He heard Bartimaeus and is ready to hear you as well. God heard him. Therefore, all our dreams, should follow our passions and what we are good at. Leave all in Jesus’ hands and he will see you through. We must be quick to res pond like Bartimaeus because just a minute delay can ruin everything.

May we pray for the graces today to pray for God to show us our focus or dreams and for the graces to focus on these without letting anyone or anything take us away from that dream.

  - Fr. Rinda

PREPARE FOR CHRIST'S COMING

(Jer 33:14-16; Ps 24; 1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36)

Today we begin our new year in the Church by celebrating the first Sunday of Advent Year C. Advent is a time when the Church gives us four Sundays to use in preparing for a twofold coming of Jesus: his coming to us in the flesh at christmas and his final coming to judge the living and the dead. We therefore need to prepare ourselves to embrace both comings of Jesus Christ.

More than two weeks ago, I was shocked that going to the shopping mall in Basingstoke, places were already set for Christmas. The new market stands had been built with new shops opened; the Christmas lights and decorations already up; and many families already doing Christmas shopping. This was surprising to me because where I come from we only start thinking about Christmas midway or more into Advent. Reflecting about this, I saw it as a good sign of early preparations, if only the business overtones are not stressed.

We need to use this period of Advent to prepare for the coming of Christ. Jesus uses the gospel passage of today to advise us to watch ourselves and see that our hearts are not coarsened with debauchery, drunkenness and the cares of life. He says so particularly because if we do not watch ourselves, the master's return either at Christmas or his final coming will not meet us ready. Therefore for us to prepare adequately, he prescribes two things for us:

1. Vigilance: Vigilance simply means we mount guard always over our senses and the sources of temptations so that we do not fall into sin. It also means we stay awake at all times making sure that nothing comes to stain us as we await the masters coming. I will therefore recommend as part of vigilance the need to reconcile with those who have hurt us, those we find very difficult to forgive. Let's start by removing in our hearts anything that might block, us from receiving and giving forgiveness. We also need to check our thoughts and words and this moment to see that what we think and say should be of benefit to others.

2. Prayers: It's often said that a prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. I have come to discover the truthfulness of this statement in my own life. When I neglect prayer in anyway, I see how weak I become in other things. We therefore need to take up time to pray sincerely as part of our preparations for Christ's coming. If you have not had a regular prayer schedule, this is an opportunity to develop one. Since Christmas is a family feast, let us learn to pray as a family; be it in the morning or before we send our children to bed. Family prayers is very important because a family that prays together, stays together.

As we prepare for Christ's coming at christmas, my one prayer for you all comes from the opening words of St. Paul in the second reading of today: "May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all the saints." (1 Thess 3:12-13).

May we all have a happy Advent celebration as we strive to prepare for Christmas.

  - Fr. Rinda

SOWING THE WORD - Trust in GOD

(1 Kgs 17:10 - 16; Ps 145:6 - 10; Heb 9:24 - 28; Mk 12:38 - 44)

Today is celebrated in all Commonwealth countries as Remembrance Sunday. It is the day when we remember all those who lost their lives during the First World War. Our celebration today coincides with the centenary of the end of World War One. As we remember them in this mass and praying for them, today’s readings invite us to learn to trust in God n o matter how desperate our situations in life might be. This is done by presenting to us two widows in the first reading and in the gospel.

In the first reading we have the story of the widow at Zeraphat. She had the last food item to prepare and eat with her child and then wait for death to take her over since there was nothing left. Widows in Jewish time were living in horrible conditions of neglect and marginalisation especially if they had no grown up son to defend them. She had just a little son and was about to prepare food so that they eat and wait for death. But the prophet Elijah demands two things from her to be saved: trust in God and hospitality. She was to serve him first and then herself and the child later. How would she have trusted th is stranger, Elijah if not of trust in God? She had every reason to rationalise her way out: by refusing to give him the food on grounds that it would not be enough for herself and her son. But she trusted that jar of meal shall not be spent and jug of oil shall not be emptied. In deed it came to be as she had trusted.

This is the same case with the poor widow in the gospel passage. She gave her all to God in the offertory as opposed to the rich who gave their surpluses. Any normal person will try to ration alise and argue out her stupidity. But anyone with the eyes of faith sees differently. We might say she gave all because it was small. But it takes trust in God and a generous heart to be able to do that.

We should learn to stop to rationalise and tr ust in God. He takes care of us. We can only do this if we start to realize that whatever we have is not ours but Gods'. In this way, rather than be like the Pharisees in the gospel who who swallow the property of widows and at the same time go ahead to m ake a show of lengthy prayers, we should rather start helping the poor and the marginalized around us.

Let us learn to give freely to alleviate the situation of those around us and those far from us who need outer help. Do not count what you have to be too much or too small to give. Do not be also like the rich young man who could not trust in the way God was calling him too because he trusted in his riches rather than in God

I will like to present to us St. Francis of Assisi as one of those who trusted entirely in the Lord in everything. He abandoned riches to become a beggar and today we are celebrating his life as a spiritual giant. We are told that in his days whatever remained in the evening from what they begged from the people that day was given to the poor. He knew that God will take care the next day.

We should learn not to follow the current situation where many dont care about the plight of the poor but go a long way to steal and cheat from them. We should rather strive to protec t the rights of the poor and the marginalized. Our capitalistic world blinds us from this. We should not be concern about our own selves like the Pharisees in the gospel but concern about the plight of the poor

May we learn to trust in the Lord and g ive without measure to God and the poor.

  - Fr. Rinda

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