Daily Synopsis of the Great Novena Preaching

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Great Novena – Day 1

    “Our God is a God of surprises.” This in a nutshell was the theme of the first day of the Great Novena.  By delving upon a personal experience Fr. Shane brought out the truth that God springs surprises when surprises could least be expected in the given situation.  He then moved on to impress upon the credo: “When God is near, there is nothing to fear.”  His homily thus hinged on the truth that God can be trusted at all times and that He is sure to meet us wherever we are in life.  And when He meets us, He will comfort us, restore us, heal us and lift us from the depths of our despair and trouble – all of which will bring us surprises beyond our wildest dreams!


Great Novena – Day 2
    Can suffering bring meaning to our lives?  How do we cope with sudden calamities?  Where can we seek solace when our lives are jolted with adversities? What sense can we fathom when our dreams and hopes for a happy life come crushing down in front of our very eyes?
    All these pertinent questions that lurk in all of us at some point of time or the other as we face the vicissitudes of life were very eloquently and convincingly answered by Fr. Shane. With a real-life illustration of a parishioner he met as a then young and newly ordained priest way back in his vocation, he threw light on how a sudden misfortune can actually bring meaning and purpose to our lives. The parishioner, a young woman, who on her honeymoon had to face the grueling experience of seeing her husband meet with an accident, swings back to life to face the challenge that is thrown at her. 
    Fr. Shane elucidated on how a verse from the Letter of St. Paul that she read on a wall as she was on the verge of giving up, gave the young woman strength and courage to overcome her distress and to learn to trust in God. Though the accident had left her husband completely paralyzed for life, she is able to live her life with zest as she learnt to trust in God, he concluded. 
Trust in God and meaning to life will unfold by itself was thus the moving take-away of Day-2 of the Great Novena, 2020.


Great Novena - Day 3
    Shifting focus from the obvious facts of life such as surprises and sufferings, Day 3 moved to the more subtle subject of sin.  By defining sin as an act which distances men from God, Fr. Shane spoke on the various facets of sin and how it brings about a gap in the glorious relationship men could otherwise enjoy with His maker. Our first father Adam, the mighty Samson and the celebrated King David, were some of the protagonists of the Old Testament whom he cited as examples who distanced themselves from God through their sin. He further brought to the forefront the nuances of sin – and its rationalization - in the contemporary world. 
    “It’s not telling lies but misrepresenting facts; it’s not stealing but shop-lifting; it’s not abortion but terminating a pregnancy,” he stressed highlighting the danger of masking a sin behind fancy words.  All sin however puts us in burning fire, the hell and thus we ought to avoid them, were his sound admonishing to the congregation.  By turning to Mother Mary, who constantly inspires us to get close to God, as she did on Her apparition at Lourdes in France to three small children, we can fight the evil of sin and turn to God, concluded Fr. Shane most effectively and emphatically.


Great Novena - Day 4

   “Do whatever He tells you!” These compelling words of Mother Mary uttered just before Jesus was to perform His first (of the many) miracle (s) at the wedding in Cana, form the theme of the Great Novena preached by Fr. Joseph in Tamil. He draws a fine picture of the real life implication that this scene in Cana represents - the jars represent God’s people, the water that is filled into the jar just before the miracle represents the Holy Spirit, the old wine represents God’s people with the stain of sin of our first Father Adam and the new wine that is drawn from the jar after the miracle represent God’s people washed clean with the blood of Jesus. With this allegory Fr. Joseph’s preaching for the first three days centered on God’s rejection of the human race (on account of the sinful nature we inherited from our first father) and His subsequent redemption of the human race through His Son, Jesus.

    On Day 4, Fr. Joseph focused on the Holy Spirit and how His presence in our lives can guide us to “doing whatever He tells us.” He stressed on the need for us to thirst for the Holy Spirit with the same urgency that a thirsty man lost and weary in the dessert of Rajasthan would. This he insisted forms the “ABC of our Christian faith” without which we have no hope for an enriched Christian life. However when we yearn and thirst for the Holy Spirit, a God who is gracious and loving will fill our cup, from which we can draw the ‘best wine’ we’ve ever ‘tasted’ in our lives, concluded Fr. Joseph.

    The Day 4 message blended and flowed with ease and eloquence of the messages of days 1, 2 and 3. Among others, it impressed upon the listeners the need to imbibe the words of St. Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” in order to “do whatever He tells us.” Fr. Joseph’s inspiring and brilliant references to the Bible along with his clear and concise interpretation of Biblical events on Day 4 were enlightening, moving and a life-changing experience for his listeners!


Great Novena - Day 5

    On day 5, Fr. Joseph began the next and absorbing part of his preaching at the Great Novena. In it he set the tone for a blue print for all Catholics to truly become Catholics. He contended that it’s not in our baptism certificates that we can claim to be Christians, though our baptism certificates are needed; rather it is in our way of leading a Christian life. He then went on to lucidly explain how we can begin this journey of leading an authentic Christian life. He suggested that we live in communion with the Father as Jesus did throughout his life, even on the cross; that we truly believe that by Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been detached from the stain caused by the sinful human nature; that we put our faith in the truth that with Jesus there is a new way of life devoid of any danger that will befall us through hereditary curse; and that we lead a life where every waking hour is fearlessly put into the hands of our God in heaven.

    Day 5 was filled with some of the basic tenets that will make our Christian journey a joyful and rewarding one.  Fr. Joseph continued with his persuasive preaching, drawing fitting references to Bible passages and building up on his simple - and yet profound - message of “do whatever He tells you” (that forms the theme of the Great Novena) on day 5.  His sustained effort, flawless preaching and complete empathy are all an inspiration, one that moves a listener toward renewed faith and fresh perspective.


Great Novena - Day 6

Day 6 saw Fr. Joseph continuing with his Great Novena theme of “Do whatever He tells you” as he sought to offer effective ways for an enriched Christian life to the devotees of Mother Mary. Centering his preaching on the life of Jesus Christ he illuminated the minds of all present with the simple – but insightful – theory that in order to live an enriched Christian life all it takes is to (try to) live as Christ did in His 33 years of earthly existence. If our objective is to be Christ-like then we only need to seek the objectives that Christ sought in his earthly life; thus making the same priorities as Christ did while he was here on earth is the only way to start a journey towards growing and maturing in our Christian lives, contended Fr. Joseph adding that many of us continue to live without any growth in our Christian life.  Just as when an infant does not grow we would remark that “something is wrong,” so also when we cannot - and will - not grow in our Christian life “something is surely wrong,” concluded Fr. Joseph and went on to give a thoroughly moving sermon on how we can grow in our Christian life.  In short it can be paraphrased as below:

Doing the will of the Father was always Christ’s priority. Likewise aligning God’s will with our will ought to be our priority too. Probing, praying and being open to God’s voice were the ways in which Christ understood the Father’s will in his life. By surrendering His will for the will of the Father, Christ accomplished the Father’s mission for which He came into this world.  And He invites us to do the same.   If we were to doubt that this call is impossible, humans as we are, then it would tantamount to calling Christ a liar and a cheat and an imposter. However we know that Christ is not a liar or a cheat or an imposter.  We know for sure that He is real; He is the way, the truth and the life.  Therefore we have only one choice before us if we want to grow in our Christian life, which is, as Christ Himself said, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny Himself, take up His Cross and follow me.”  The cross in this context is not the wooden cross that Christ bore on His shoulders at Mount Calvary. It is rather the daily cross, (that Christ Himself bore for 30 years before His ministry), that comes as trials, tribulations, temptations and troubles - a small price to pay for the big (eternal) glory that Christ has obtained for us through His cross!


Great Novena - Day 7

The theme that is reflected by the preacher in Kannada is Sin and Confession. Sin is a disease. Man has lost the sense of sin today. The reason is Ego which has set in every one’s life - Eliminating God Out. We have lost peace. We lead a life that is against God. Sinful life does not please God. Anyone who comes back to God, experiences God’s Mercy with the assuring words “ Go. Sin no more.”  We all need conversion like St. Paul. All are called to be conversion and live like Mary Mother Most Pure. She was chosen by God from the beginning and protected her from original sin. We are called to imitate her in purity of life to experience God and to be with God as His loving children. The only way that Mary shows to us all is sacrament of Confession. Let us make a good confession and become the loving children of Mary. 

Fr. Anthony Swamy CSsR


The main focus of Fr. Shane’s preaching on Day 7 was the Eucharist while Fr. Joseph continued to elaborate on his theme, “Listen to whatever He tells you.”

Fr. Shane elaborated on the Eucharist as an illustration of God’s unconditional love, the gift given to us through Jesus Christ. Beginning with a moving real-life story that happened in China where a little girl braving the threats of the soldiers to kill her if she refused to spit on the strewn host, wipes the host with her veil and kisses the host after which she is killed brutally. Earlier the soldiers had forced themselves into the chapel where the Eucharist was in progress and upon desecrating the altar demanded at gun point that all gathered were to leave the chapel after spitting on the hosts that got scattered.  But for this little girl everyone falls prey to the blasphemous act of spitting on the host to escape death. Through this incident Fr. Shane brought out the moving love and devotion for the Eucharist of a little girl and built his sermon on all the other significant sanctity of the Eucharist. He spoke at length on the need for us to nurture respect, love and devotion for the Eucharist.

Fr. Joseph’s sermon had all the facts and Biblical references to impress on the devotees the importance of leading a spirit-filled life. He noted that only a life lead by the Holy Spirit can make us Christ-like and help us to make the right choices in our lives.  Even Christ made the right choices in His life by relying on the Holy Spirit he observed.  Yet, a thirst for the Holy Spirit is an absolute necessity and unless we thirst for this Spirit-led life we will never find it.  On the other hand when we thirst and yearn and seek for the Holy Spirit we will receive Him as “rivers of living water” from which will flow a new and fulfilling and spirit-led life.  This life, Fr. Joseph confirmed was akin to the ‘best wine’ that was served at Cana; it is the new life that Jesus has gifted to us by His death and resurrection. It is this life we all need to go after, one day at a time, throughout our entire lives was the important and meaningful message of Day 7.     


Great Novena - Day 8

‘A genuine Christian life’ and ‘being aromas of Christ’ formed the theme of Day 8 preaching of Frs. Joseph and Shane.

On Day 8, Fr. Joseph, further to his theme of “Do whatever He tells you” centered his sermon on ‘what makes a Christian life’.  Christianity is not a religion but a way of life, he asserted. Religion takes the form of mere activities, such as walking to the altar with knelt knees; offering many masses and saying many rosaries, done to please God. But a way of life goes beyond these mere external shows. And these activities and external shows, however good they may seem, seldom please God. He drew upon an apt parallel of referring to a delicious piece of cake being offered by a leper with festering wounds.  The cake by itself is delectable but the hands that offer it, oozing with blood and bacteria make the piece of cake repulsive.  Similarly when we offer to God our good deeds but with corrupt hearts and souls they will be become repulsive to our God.   However when we lead, clean and spirit-filled lives that by itself becomes our pleasing offering to God!  God looks for a “Genuine Church, not a perfect Church” was the profound take away of Day 8.

Fr. Shane spoke deeply on the topic of being an “Aroma of Christ” on day 8. He cited several real-life illustrations on how this aroma of Christ, the fragrance of Christ can be spread by us.  He began his preaching with words of Pope Paul VI, who said, “Today the world is not looking for preachers or teachers; the world is looking for witnesses.” Fr. Shane observed that from a renowned person as Saint Mother Theresa to lesser known person like his 6th std. class teacher, they managed to spread the aroma of Christ to the world around them by their lives and devotion to Christ. Likewise we also should also spread the fragrance of Christ and be His witnesses in our world, he asserted with several moving illustrations and suggestions on how we can achieve this end of being a witness of Christ and spreading His aroma to the world.


Great Novena - Day 9

The last day of the Great Novena, Day 9 saw moving and passionate homilies by Frs. Joseph and Shane as they spoke at length on “Life to its fullest” based on John, Chapter 10 (Fr. Joseph) and the solemn words “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Fr. Shane).

Life to its fullest is the life that we experience when we live as genuine Christians rather than trying to pose as perfect Christians.  Abstaining from alcohol or certain kinds of food during Lent only to devour the same after Lent or to admonish a quarreling neighbour that he will settle for peace now and take out his wrath on his return from his pilgrimage to Vellankani are clear indications of a falsehood and pretense of a good Christian life. God looks for our attitude towards sins (and not on sins by themselves).  Thus we will do well to keep a genuine, sincere and pristine attitude towards sin and our way of leading a Christian life.  A life thus lead, upon its extinction, will be received by God as a precious life similar to the burnt out wicks that were used at the altar of the Lord and that will be preserved in a box made of pure Gold (Book of Exodus) after its use. With these profound insights Fr. Joseph concluded his reflection for the day and for the 9 days with a heart-warming prayer for all those gathered and gave them his final and whole-hearted blessings.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, Mary will hold you as close to Her heart as She holds Her son,” was the promise and message of Fr. Shane in his day 9 homily. Beginning with his own personal experience of how when at a tender age of 16 years he left home for the seminary, nervous and apprehensive, the assurance that his mother gave held him in good stead through his seminary life and in the years to come.  This assurance was about Mother Mary and Our Mother of Perpetual and in Her perpetual and constant help in our lives.  Just as she reached out to others in the Gospel She will reach out for us and intercede for us in all walks of our daily lives.  As a woman who abides by the Father’s will despite Her own doubts and fears, she will guide us through our doubts and fears.  We can count on Her, on Her prayers and on Her constant intersession. She is the “perfect daughter of the Heavenly Father, the disciple of Jesus and the true spouse of the Holy Spirit,” he concluded, ending his reflection for the day and for the 9 days of the Great Novena.