Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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Visitation of Mary
Pentecost 2007
May 27, 2007 - Year: C
Acts 2:1-11; Rom 8:8-17
Jn 14:15-6, 23b-6

He will give you another Advocate.

First Reading...
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because all heard them speaking in their own languages.

Amazed and astonished, they asked, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts, Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." [Acts 2:1-11]

Second Reading...
"Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

So the, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." [Rom 8:8-17]

Gospel Reading...
"Jesus spoke to the disciples: 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come in them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.'" [Jn. 14:15-6, 23-6]

God made a covenant with the people during the time of Jeremiah (31:30-31) writing the law on the hearts of people. Then he renewed it pouring his Spirit in the hearts of people (Ez 36.26). Then we have Jesus saying that the time has come that the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth (Jn 4.23). St. Paul said the fruits of the Holy Spirit are (Gal 5.22-23) love, peace, joy, faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, kindness, humility and self control. How does the spirit in our life work? He works in various ways, he is alive and active and is there right at the moment you need him.

John's account of the giving of the Holy Spirit on Easter differs from the account of the Pentecost event in the Acts of the Apostles. Still, his short account with its double salutation of 'Peace be with you" gives that common greeting new significance for the early followers of Jesus and for us today. Coupled with the commission of being sent forth as Jesus had been sent by the Father, it sets the stage for their reception of the Holy Spirit with its power and responsibility of forgiveness.

A young man, who had been raised as an atheist, was training to be an Olympic diver. The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend. The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend's sermons, but he heard them often.

One night the diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended. The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright - there was plenty of light to practice by.

The young man climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall.

The shadow of his body, was in the shape of a cross. Instead of diving, he knelt down and finally asked God to come into his life.

As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.

The pool had been drained for repairs.

Today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the glorious arrival of the Holy Spirit as Advocate, such being with Almighty power. This all began when "After His suffering Jesus presented Himself alive to His disciples by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God. While staying with them, He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father." [Acts 1:3-4]

In obedience to Jesus, the disciples gathered together in Jerusalem. [Acts 2:5] Then suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [Acts 2:2] "Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." [Acts 3:4-5]

Naturally, the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit drew many to the house where the disciples were gathered. And as we heard, those who came, they witnessed the disciples speaking in all languages to the extent that no matter what language anyone spoke, they could understand the disciples preaching about God's deeds of power.

When speaking of the gift of tongues through which the disciples preached about God's deeds of power, it has to be realized that this gift of the Holy Spirit was not learned knowledge and understanding. It was not like when someone has to go to school and learn something until he understands it and then he is able to explain it to others. The gift of speaking in tongues is manifested in such a way that while the one who is speaking in tongues may be speaking in his own language, those who are present, while they may speak five different languages, each and everyone of them can understand what is being said in their own language. As such, the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit is not only working through those who speak in tongues, but only through those who hear, each hearing in his own language.

During today's Second Reading from The Letter of Paul to the Romans, we heard that those who are in the flesh, they cannot please God. [Rom. 8:8] These Words from the Holy Gospel affirm the Sacred Words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman. "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." [Jn 4:23-4]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, "
if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." [Rom 8:13] "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit." [Rom. 8:5]

In other words, "No one can serve two masters: for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." [Mt. 6:24]

There comes a time when we must ask ourselves, "Am I spending more time towards my spiritual growth than I am spending towards gaining wealth?" If our minds are continuously preoccupied with fame, pleasures and wealth versus adoring, seeking and knowing God and obeying His commandment of love towards our neighbours, then we have a serious problem that can lead to our condemnation. There comes a time when we must allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God in order to qualify to be called children of God. Through our faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we received a spirit of adoption so we may qualify to be called children of God and heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ. To inherit these titles, we must be ready to "suffer with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Him" [Rom 8:17].

By allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify us in Christ, He who dwelled in Jesus and who raised Him from the dead, surely, by dwelling in us, He will raise us also by giving life to our mortal bodies. In thanksgiving for the blessed hope that awaits us, we are indebted to the Holy Spirit.

During today's Gospel Reading, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." [Jn 14:15] In other words, if you do not keep the commandments of Jesus, then you do not love Him.

Those who keep the Words of Jesus, they are privileged to enjoy the indwelling of the fullness of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. [Jn 14:23] Not only do they enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but Jesus promised that the Father and He would come and make their home in them.

Dear friend, in Christ, Jesus and the Father gave us the Holy Spirit so we may be sanctified. Our sanctification is achieved through our daily personal communion with God and the Church. As we spiritually grow in Christ, God is pleased and the Holy Catholic Church benefits. If we receive gifts as the disciples received gifts on Pentecost, it is for the benefit of the whole Body of Christ. Through the growth of the Body of Christ, we grow alongside the other faithful members of the Church. If the Body of Christ suffers because of the neglect of some, we all suffer.

I hired a carpenter to help me restore an old farmhouse. He had just finished a rough first day on the job: a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, the electric saw quit and now his ancient pickup refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me to meet his family.

As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterwards he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied. "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

"Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick "them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

During this week, let us reflect upon the purpose of the Holy Spirit in the Church. As Advocate, what can the Holy Spirit do for the Church and for each and every one of us? In view of what He can do, let us ask ourselves if we have allowed the Holy Spirit to freely flow through us so He can guide and teach us according to the purpose that He has been sent by the Lord God. We need to be in his presence and leave the rest in his hands. End this homily with a story that tells you and me that we are one Church in the Holy Spirit and we cannot be saved until all are saved:

Buddha reached the gate of heaven. Of course, the people there were waiting. They opened the door, they welcomed him, but he turned his back towards the door looked at the world - millions of souls on the same path, struggling, in misery, in anguish, striving to reach this gate of heaven and bliss.

The doorkeeper said, "Come in, please. We have been waiting for you."

And Buddha said, "How can I come when others have not reached? It doesn't seem to be the right time. How can I enter when the whole has not yet entered? I will have to wait. It is just as if my hand has reached into the door and my feet have not reached yet. I will have to wait. Just the hand cannot enter alone."

It is said in this beautiful story that Buddha is still waiting. He has to wait - nobody is an island, we make a continent, we are together.

I may have stepped a little further than you, but I cannot be separate. And now I know it deeply, now it is not a story for me - I am waiting for you.

Now it is not just a parable, now I know that there is no individual enlightenment. Individuals can step a little ahead, that's all, but they remain joined together with the whole…

“when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (John 16:13)

In our days we see some guided by the Spirit of truth and others guided by a different spirit.  In our second reading, Paul also wrote about the difference between those guided by the Spirit and those who are not.

…live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other…(Gal 5:16-17)

Paul went on to give examples of exactly what he meant.  About those not guided by the Spirit Paul wrote, the works of the flesh are obvious:

“immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” (Gal 5:19-21)

How can such people really be happy?  What a mess to be in.  Let us pray that people who live that way today may come to find the Lord and leave that way of life behind.  But Paul says those who have the Spirit have these fruits,  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,  faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23)

Traditionally the Church has also added another three fruits of the Spirit – goodness, modesty and chastity - giving us a total of twelve fruits of the Spirit.  Those showing these qualities in their lives are obviously happy people, not people without crosses and trials and sufferings, but happy people because they have opened their hearts to God and are receiving God’s blessings.  What Paul wrote to the Galatians is precisely what we see in our world today, there are those guided by the works of the flesh and others who have opened themselves to God and have the produced the fruits of  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.


Visitation of Mary
May 31, 2007 Year: C
Zeph. 3:14-18 or Rom. 12:9-16; Lk. 1:39-56
Mary set out and went with haste

First Reading...
"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it."[Zeph. 3:14-18]

Second Reading...
"Beloved; Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are."[Rom. 12:9-16]

Gospel Reading...
"Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.' And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations shall call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

The Lord's mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

The Lord has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home."[Lk. 1:39-56]

Monsoon rains are round the corner. We wait in hope that this heat of the day may be reduced with the showers of cool rain. When we celebrate this feast of visitation, we always remember God’s love for his people and His visits to comfort them. Some religious people believe that the arrival of monsoon is a kind of visit by God to the expectant farmer and to the scorched land that waits for water on earth.

The Wise Woman:
A wise woman, who was traveling in the mountains, found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. "I've been thinking," he said. "I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone."

Mary visited Elizabeth in spite of her own preoccupations with regard to her becoming the mother of God. Visit is always a kind gesture that helps us to re-bridge relationships, strengthen and rejuvenate our love and concern. Jesus visited Martha and Mary and he visited multiple others like Peter, Zaccheus, and other people’s houses.

We feel happy when relatives visit us, friends visit us, and we prepare our surroundings and keep everything in order.

I remember in my own life, when I visited people how overwhelmed were they and filled with joy. I experienced the same thing when someone visited our house and we were all preoccupied as to how we should be available to them.

There are various types of visits. Friendly, intimate, loving, caring, understanding, etc.

Mary’s visit marks the beginning of God’s generosity. One who has God with him/her that person becomes generous. God is generous.

Parish Situation
How can we visit our friends around us in our parish? First of all giving a little bit of time to organized programmes in our parish like frequenting SCC meetings and prayer sessions; faithfully attending the annual Zonal Eucharistic celebration or community get together once a year. Moreover, visiting the old and aged in your neighbourhood, trying to reach out to them with words of consolation, encouragement and trying to help if they need any real help.

Examples in our Parish
Leena has been a great help to our parishioners. Always concerned about others and always visiting families and helping them out. Bridget, another wonderful lady is never tired of taking Holy Communion to the sick. Always ready to help. She says that she never gets tired taking the Holy Eucharist to the old and the aged. At times she has taken communion to 12 people a day. O how wonderful is that woman, a hidden saint in deed.

Visiting our own Family members
All may not have such a charism constantly visiting neighbours, yet we can afford to visit some of our own relatives, can’t we? At times our relatives live a life of total abandonment and helplessness. Rosy, told me that her sons and daughters are all abroad and she never receives a consoling phone call from them, even during big occasions like Easter and Christmas. Yet, she is happy that two families in the neighbourhood always take care of her brining her food, and giving her company at times of pain and solitude.

Gospel Reflection Continues
The narration of the Gospel Reading [Lk 1:39-56] that we have just heard reminds us of the Feast that is being celebrated today, the "Visitation of Mary." Immediately after the archangel Gabriel had appeared to the Mother of God to announce that she would give birth to the Divine Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary left to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Christ's forerunner.

As Elizabeth reported, the unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped with joy in his mother's womb when he found himself in the presence of Our Lady. Three months later, Mary returned to Nazareth, most likely accompanied by St. Joseph. By this time, Joseph must have had peace of mind regarding the pregnancy of Mary because of his vision of the angel in a dream. [Mt. 1:19-25]

A Bit of Historical Background
Now one would think that traditionally, this feast has been celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, and this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389.

On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.

In today's Gospel Reading, we find the origin of the "Magnificat" which is also known as the "Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary." It begins with "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (My soul doth magnify the Lord). As one of the three "evangelical canticles," it is included in the Roman Breviary for Vespers daily throughout the year and prior to Vatican II, it was often sung on solemn occasions. The Magnificat was recited by the Blessed Virgin on her visit to Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel had announced to her that she was to become the mother of Christ. [Lk. 1] In style, it resembles the Canticle of Anna [1 Kgs. 2:1-10].

"The Magnificat is the crown of the Old Testament singing, the last canticle of the Old and the first of the New Testament. It was uttered (or, not improbably, chanted) by the Blessed Virgin, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth under the circumstances narrated by St. Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel. It is an ecstasy of praise for the inestimable favour God bestowed on the Virgin, for the mercies shown to Israel, and for the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham and to the patriarchs." [The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Volume IX, Copyright (C) 1910 by Robert Appleton Company]

As we proceed with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus and His Mother to continue to visit the Catholic Church so that it may bloom as an aromatic flower for the glory of God.

Practical Suggestions
As we celebrate this feast of the
Visitation, let us focus our attention on various types of visits we can pay to people around:

Visit through Prayers: We can always pray for those who are in need of our prayers, not just dry prayers, but praying and doing a bit of sacrifice to help them. When we pray for missionaries, we try to help them on certain occasions contributing our mite. When we speak of 1% contribution to the parish to help the parishioners, we can do it with our little sacrifices.

Visit through a letter: Writing letters has become old fashioned today. Yet, some people still cherish reading a letter and keeping it as a souvenir. We speak of especially aged members, how happy are they when we write them a few lines of appreciation and love.

Visit through a Phone call: In this world of highly advanced technology of communication media, we often use mobile phones. Well, it is really pleasant to call some one whom we really love. But what about others who are neglected? Well, at times it can be a joy to call and speak to a person whom we have forgotten long back. Phone call visit can revive our relationship.

Visit through an email message: Today you just spend nothing sending an email message. Just forget if you do not receive a reply, but be sure you have done that noble task of keeping in touch. We all need one another at one time or the other. This easy means is a kind of visitation we can experience.

Visit through a kind remembrance: There is nothing like remembering our people. I just remembered you. I just called you because I remembered you. I just prayed for you, because I value you. All these ways of remembering can enhance our health, memory, relationship and love.

Visit through a smile: You have a capacity for this, just smiling or keeping a smiling face. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of relax. Just do it and you will see. When I was absent from the parish, a few parishioners told me when I returned, ‘father, we missed your smile, during mass and in our campus’. I was happy to hear that, and was happy of people’s appreciative ways.

Visit through a kind word of encouragement: Try always to encourage others, at home, in the school, in the working place and when you travel. You may meet a Good Samaritan who will encourage you during you travel, or will help you to find your way as you are lost in finding your destination. This has happened to many a people, and you can also at times take time to help others. This is another way of visitation.

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Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 




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