Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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First Sunday of Lent
March 1, 2009 Year: B

Ash Wednesday
February 25, 2009 Year: B
Jo. 2:12-18; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18
Be reconciled to God

First Reading...
"'Even now,' says the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.'

Who knows whether the Lord will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him; a grain offering and a drink offering to be presented to the Lord, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, 'Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'

Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people." [Joel. 2:12-8]

Second Reading...
"We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For the Lord says, 'At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.' See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!" [2 Cor. 5:20-6:2]

Gospel Reading...
Jesus said to the disciples, 'Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrite; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on our head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.'" [Mt. 6:1-6, 16-8]


There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves.

So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.

Christ having, in the former chapter, armed his disciples against the corrupt doctrines and opinions of the scribes and Pharisees, especially in their expositions of the law (that was called their leaven, 16:12), comes in this chapter to warn them against their corrupt practices, against the two sins which, though in their doctrine they did not justify, yet in their conversation they were notoriously guilty of, and so as even to recommend them to their admirers: these were hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness, sins which, of all others, the professors of religion need most to guard against, as sins that most easily beset those who have escaped the grosser pollutions that are in the world through lust, and which are therefore highly dangerous. We are here cautioned, 1. Against hypocrisy; we must not be as the hypocrites are, nor do as the hypocrites do. 2. In the giving of alms (v. 1-4). 3. In prayer (v. 5-8). We are here taught what to pray for, and how to pray (v. 9-13); 4. and to forgive in prayer (v. 14, 15). 5. In fasting (v. 16-18). 6. Against worldly-mindedness. In our choice, which is the destroying sin of hypocrites (v. 19-24). 2. In our cares, which is the disquieting sin of many good Christians (v. 25-34).

Verses 1-4
As we must do better than the scribes and Pharisees in avoiding heart-sins, heart-adultery, and heart-murder, so likewise in maintaining and keeping up heart-religion, doing what we do from an inward, vital principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be applauded of men; that is, we must watch against hypocrisy, which was the leaven of the Pharisees, as well as against their doctrine, Lk 12:1. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, are three great Christian duties-the three foundations of the law, and by them we do homage and service to God with our three principal interests; by prayer with our souls, by fasting with our bodies, by alms-giving with our estates. Thus we must not only depart from evil, but do good, and do it well, and so dwell for evermore.

Now in these verses we area cautioned against hypocrisy in giving alms. Take heed of it. Our being bid to take heed of it intimates that it is sin. 1. We are in great danger of; it is a subtle sin; vain-glory insinuates itself into what we do ere we are aware. The disciples would be tempted to it by the power they had to do many wondrous works, and their living with some that admired them and others that despised them, both which are temptations to covet to make a fair show in the flesh. 2. It is a sin we are in great danger by. Take heed of hypocrisy, for if it reign in you, it will ruin you. It is the dead fly that spoils the whole box of precious ointment.

Two things are here supposed,

I. The giving of alms is a great duty, and a duty which all the disciples of Christ, according to their ability, must abound in. It is prescribed by the law of nature and of Moses, and great stress is laid upon it by the prophets. The Jews called the poor's box the box of righteousness. That which is given to the poor is said to be their due, Prov. 3:27. The duty is not the less necessary and excellent for its being abused by hypocrites to serve their pride. It is true, our alms-deeds do not deserve heaven; but it is as true that we cannot go to heaven without them. It is pure religion (Jam. 1:27), and will be the test at the great day; Christ here takes it for granted that his disciples give alms, nor will he own those that do not.

II. That it is such a duty as has a great reward attending it, which is lost if it be done in hypocrisy. It is sometimes rewarded in temporal things with plenty (Prov. 11:24, 25; 19:17); security from want (Prov. 28:27; Ps. 37:21, 25); succour in distress (Ps. 41:1, 2); honour and a good name, which follow those most that least covet them, Ps. 112:9. However, it shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just (Lk. 14:14), in eternal riches.

This being supposed, observe now,

1. What was the practice of the hypocrites about this duty. They did it indeed, but not from any principle of obedience to God, or love to man, but in pride and vain-glory; not in compassion to the poor, but purely for ostentation, that they might be extolled as good men, and so might gain an interest in the esteem of the people, with which they knew how to serve their own turn, and to get a great deal more than they gave. In their desire for popularity they chose to give their alms in the synagogues, and in the streets, where there was the greatest concourse of people to observe them, who applauded their liberality because they shared in it, but were so ignorant as not to discern their abominable pride. Probably they had collections for the poor in the synagogues, and the common beggars haunted the streets and highways, and upon these public occasions they chose to give their alms. Not that it is unlawful to give alms when men see us; we may do it; but not that men may see us; we should rather choose those objects of charity that are less observed. The hypocrites, if they gave alms to their own houses, sounded a trumpet, under pretence of calling the poor together to be served, but really to proclaim their charity, and to have that taken notice of and made the subject of discourse.

Now the doom that Christ passes upon this is very observable; Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. At first view this seems a promise- If they have their reward they have enough, but two words in it make it a threatening.

It is a reward, but it is their reward; not the reward which God promises to them that do good, but the reward which they promise themselves, and a poor reward it is; they did it to be seen of men, and they are seen of men; they chose their own delusions with which they cheated themselves, and they shall have what they chose.

It is a reward, but it is a present reward, they have it; and there is none reserved for them in the future state. They now have all that they are likely to have from God; they have their reward here, and have none to hope for hereafter. It signifies a receipt in full. What rewards the godly have in this life are but in part of payment; there is more behind, much more; but hypocrites have their all in this world, so shall their doom be; themselves have decided it. The world is but for provision to the saints, it is their spending-money; but it is pay to hypocrites, it is their portion.

What is the precept of our Lord Jesus about it, v. 3, 4. He that was himself such an example of humility, pressed it upon his disciples, as absolutely necessary to the acceptance of their performances. "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand does when you give alms." Perhaps this alludes to the placing of the Corban, the poor man's box, or the chest into which they cast their free-will offerings, on the right hand of the passage into the temple; so that they put their gifts into it with the right-hand. Or the giving of alms with the right hand, intimates readiness to it and resolution in it; do it dexterously, not awkwardly nor with a sinister intention. The right hand may be used in helping the poor, lifting them up, writing for them, dressing their sores, and other ways besides giving to them; but, "whatever kindness thy right hand does to the poor, let not thy left hand know it: conceal it as much as possible; industriously keep it private. Do it because it is a good work, not because it will give thee a good name." That we must not let others know what we do; no, not those that stand at our left hand, that are very near us. Instead of acquainting them with it, keep it from them if possible; however, appear so desirous to keep it from them, as that in civility they may seem not to take notice of it, and keep it to themselves, and let it go no further. That we must not observe it too much ourselves: the left hand is a part of ourselves; we must not within ourselves take notice too much of the good we do, must not applaud and admire ourselves. Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride, as dangerous as vain-glory and ostentation before men. We find those had their good works remembered to their honour, who had themselves forgotten them: When saw we thee an hungered, or athirst?

What is the promise to those who are thus sincere and humble in their alms-giving. Let your alms be in secret, and then thy Father who sees in secret will observe them. Note when we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes most notice of them. As God hears the wrongs done to us when we do not hear them (Ps. 38:14, 15), so he sees the good done by us, when we do not see it. As it is a terror to hypocrites, so it is a comfort to sincere Christians, that God sees in secret. But this is not all; not only the observation and praise, but the recompense is of God, himself shall reward thee openly. They who in their alms-giving study to approve themselves to God, only turn themselves over to him as their Paymaster. The hypocrite catches at the shadow, but the upright man makes sure of the substance. Observe how emphatically it is expressed; himself shall reward, he will himself be the reward giver, Heb. 11:6. Let him alone to make it up in kind or kindness; he will himself be the Reward (Gen. 15:1), your exceeding great reward. He will reward thee as thy Father, not as a master who gives his servant just what he earns and no more, but as a father who gives abundantly more, and without stint, to his son that serves him. He shall reward you openly, if not in the present day, yet in the great day; then shall every man have praise of God, open praise, thou shall be confessed before men. If the work be not open, the reward shall, and that is better.

First Sunday of Lent
March 1, 2009 Year: B
Gen. 9:8-15; 1 Pet. 3:18-22; Mk. 1:12-15


First Reading...
"God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 'As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.'

God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations; I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.'" [Gen. 9:8-15]

Second Reading...
"Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison. In former times these did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you - not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him." [1 Pet. 3:18-22]

Gospel Reading...
"After Jesus was baptized, the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'" [Mk. 1:12-5]

There is a true story told by Stephen Covey about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull.

He went to this physician who found nothing wrong with him

physically.  The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal.  He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else.  The doctor then handed him four prescriptions - one to be read at 9 AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3 PM, and the final one at 6 PM.  The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.

At nine AM he opened the first prescription, which read. “Listen carefully.”  For three hours do nothing but listen???  Our friend was annoyed, but decided to obey.  At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf—predictable beach sounds.  But then he found himself listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as n child—patience, respect, the interdependence of the different parts of nature.  Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.

At noon he opened the second prescription, and it said, “Try reaching back.”  His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.

At three he opened the third prescription.  This one was harder.  It read, “Examine your motives.”  Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life - success, recognition, security - and found satisfactory explanations for them all.  But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment, that those motives were not enough, that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life. 

“In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right.  It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney.  It is only when you are serving others, that you do the job well and feel good.  This is a law as irrefutable as gravity.”

At six PM he read the final prescription.  It said, “Write your worries on the sand.”  He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away, never turning back.  He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his anxieties would be washed away.”

My friends, The Wilderness - the aloneness - the solitude that the wilderness affords - the hardship - is an opportunity - a blessing - from the Spirit of God.  It is a place where we can be tested - a place where we can grow into the maturity that we require so that we can indeed face the world, in both good times and in bad, and do there those things there that God would have us do.

Lent is a short season of six weeks intended to prepare us for the great celebrations of Easter.  The word Lent comes from the old Anglo-Saxon and Old German words for spring marked by days that lengthen.  The idea of penitence and fasting during Lent may have begun in earlier, hungrier times as a means of spiritualizing real shortages of food at this time of year.

The Gospel of today narrates how Jesus triumphed over Satan. While in the wilderness for forty days (this being a symbolic number), Satan tempted Him. Jesus did not allow Himself to be seduced by Satan. He came on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came on earth to reclaim God's Kingdom that was rightfully His, but stolen by Satan through sin.

Jesus concludes in this passage the announcing in Galilee, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'

As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.

Doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the salvation that we shall inherit as children of God.

Jesus - had the Word of God - and He had prayer as his tools for surviving in the wilderness.  He had used these tools before - in fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness.  So Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence - or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in today’s scripture.

With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him - to help him in the wilderness.  With it Jesus was able to resist giving in to the Devil.

When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are good to eat and which are poisonous. 

Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself.  He knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the things that God wanted him to find.

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