Fourth Sunday Homily in Ordinary Time Year B

Fourth Sunday Homily

Reading 1 DT 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”

Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 1 COR 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Alleluia MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death,
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Homily – Fourth Sunday Homily in Ordinary Time Year B

Sexuality, Chastity and Celibacy

“Give your undivided attention to the Lord” (Paul)

            Sundays, it’s not easy to preach solely on the second reading, more so when it deals with celibacy and chastity. Clerics have been tight-lipped about sexuality and marriage either because they believe that the laity have more experience in such matters or because they find these topics too hot to handle. But, a friend, Dr. Leela Francisco suggested: “Francis, you priests must speak about chastity from the pulpit. People need to reflect on this important area of Christian living.” Today’s second reading provides good material to reflect precisely on this.

            Paul sounds, at best, as if celibacy is the ideal vocation most pleasing to God, and, at worst, as if married life is imperfect and meant only for lesser mortals. Both conclusions are unfounded, for Paul’s passage must be read boldfacing the last line: “Give your undivided attention to the Lord!”

            Every ‘religious’ in the Catholic Church vows poverty, chastity and obedience. However, I’ve heard comments like, “You religious take the vows, and we, married people, keep them!” Indeed, I know many married couples that keep these vows perfectly. So, first, let’s rectify the mix-up between ‘chastity’ and ‘celibacy’.

            The ’vow of chastity’ really refers to ‘celibacy’, which is the renunciation of marriage for ministerial motives. Contrarily, ‘chastity’ is that virtue which enables us to integrate our sexuality within our whole personality according to our life’s vocation. Thus, chastity applies not only to celibates, but also to married couples and ‘singles’.

            In his Constitutions, like every good cleric, St Ignatius, Founder of the Society of Jesus, has little to say: “The vow of chastity need not be spelt out, for it is obvious that it calls for an unambiguous fidelity by our striving to be single-hearted like the angels.” This succinctly summarizes the ‘heart of chastity’ with the words fidelity and single-heartedness; yet, it seems overly spiritualistic with the simile “like angels.” Do angels have bodies? Hearts?

            Ignatius probably meant, “just as angels give their undivided attention to God, so must you!” Likewise, in the light of Paul’s ‘Body of Christ’ Church imagery (I Cor 12:12-30; Eph 5:30-33), each of us – married, single or celibate – must LOVE others and God with fidelity, undivided attention, single-heartedly!

            God gave everyone one heart. Thus, wife loving husband, father loving daughter, neighbour loving neighbour, ‘religious’ loving orphans, priest loving parishioners, single-heartedly, means being ‘loving-networks’ or ‘love-cells’ of One animated, active Christ’s Body, the Church, historical sacrament of God’s Love.

            Indian society is hypocritical in matters sexual. Two recent ‘hot topics’ are revealing: (a) south Indian actress Kushboo bore brooms and brickbats for her views on sexuality that allegedly insult Indian women, and (b) Teenaged tennis star, Sania Mirza, feared a fatwa from Sunni mullahs who deemed her dress un-Islamic. Why do we always blame and browbeat only women for ‘sexual’ matters when, usually, men are guilty of sex crimes like rape, incest and ‘flesh trading’?

            Paul’s compartmentalizing of the “Lord’s affairs” (for celibates) and “world’s affairs” (for married people) seems untenable, today. Experience indicates that many moneymaking married women are selflessly involved in the ‘Lord’s affairs’ whereas clerics sometimes cloak other affairs while professedly busy with God’s. Indeed, is not every human enterprise “God’s affair’ to be undertaken single-heartedly?

            As priest, single-hearted loving means unconditionally loving more and more people, more and more deeply. l believe that’s the only way l can love God. The ‘models’ of committed loving are, obviously, Jesus, and also my own mum-dad, family members and friends who’ve loved me deeply. Yes, celibate chastity and marital chastity are difficult, yet supremely satisfying with human effort and God’s grace.

            Today’s cyber-world, rife with spouse swapping, cybersex and casual sex, challenges the ‘Church to be ‘Body of Christ’ comprising married women, celibates and singles who are passionate and compassionate, caring and daring, undividedly mindful of the world and single-heartedly consecrated to God.

            Said Kabir, “What good is it if the guru pores over scriptures but his chest is not soaked dark with love? What use are sadhus’ saffron or priestly whites if they clothe not hearts aflame with Love?

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