Sunday, July 24, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016 - St. James, Apostle. James was willing to die for his lord? Are you willing to live for the Lord?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt. 20:20-28

St. James is described as one of the first disciples along with his brother John to join Jesus (Mk 1:19-20). He was one of the three whom Jesus took with him when he raised Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk 5:35-43), on the mountain of transfiguration (Mk 9:2-9) and at Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). The Acts of the Apostles 12:1 records that Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast of St. James is from the Gospel of Matthew.  In order to spare the disciples, whom Matthew usually represents as understanding, Matthew replaces the disciples’ own request with one represented by their mother and does not name the “sons of Zebedee” here. The request for seats at the “right hand and left hand” reflects the rule of the Son of Man from his throne. In his reply to the request the Matthean Jesus focuses on the image of the cup which is used as a symbol for suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and even violent death. Though they express confidence that they are able to drink the cup, Jesus knows better. However, even martyrdom will not gain the disciples special places. That is God’s prerogative and grace. Jesus then takes the disciples to another level and perspective of leadership where to be a leader is not to dominate or dictate but to serve. 

Christian leadership may be defined as service. James understood this after then death and resurrection of Jesus as was evident in his martyrdom. He followed his Lord and Master to the end and did indeed drink the cup courageously.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Audio Reflections of Sunday, July 24, 2016

To hear the Audio Reflections of Sunday, July 24, 2016 click HERE

Sunday, July 24, 2016 - Prayer is Action

To read the texts click on the texts: Gn 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk11:1-13

What is prayer? If all the books that could be written to answer this question were written, it would be difficult for the world itself to contain the books that could be written.

There is an old story of a monk who was bothered by mice playing around him when he prayed. To stop it, he got a cat and kept it in his prayer room so the mice would be scared away. But he never explained to his disciples why he had the cat. One day, the monk walked down the corridors of the monastery and noticed that each of his disciples had a cat in their prayer room. After seeing their master with a cat, they thought having a cat was the secret to powerful praying.

Prayer had been defined as “talking with God”, “listening to God”, “petioning God” “intimate communion and communication with the Lord” and so on. However, a definition that makes the most sense to me is “Prayer is action”. This is because all too often Prayer has been relegated to theory and verbosity. It has often been understood to be sterile. Not too many of us who pray believe that our prayers will be answered and this is proved when we are often surprised and even astounded when we get what we pray for. However, in Jesus’ definition, prayer is not the last but the first resort. When we need something we go first to our Heavenly father who is the primary cause.

The Gospels contain only one instance of Jesus’ teaching his disciples on Prayer. While the text of today’s Gospel is also found in Matthew and is known popularly as the “Our Father”, it must be noted that there is no “Our” in Luke’s version of the prayer which seems to fit the historical context better than Matthew’s version. It is more likely that Jesus taught his disciples the meaning of prayer and how to pray when he was praying.

There are many aspects to the Lord’s Prayer in Luke which contains five petitions. The first and second petitions concern God directly. They are both a petition for God’s sovereignty to be established. They petition for the full coming of God’s kingdom and for the time when all creation will acknowledge and celebrate the holiness of God. The term “Father” is not static but dynamic and indicates an endearing relationship, a relationship of trust and confidence.  It is imperative that one approach God with confidence and conviction much like a trusting child approaches its trustworthy parents. The third petition is for bread, for sustenance in our everyday life. This is an indication that God in concerned with even the mundane, ordinary things our daily lives. Fourthly the prayer is for forgiveness of our sins in the same way in which we forgive others their sins against us. One who will not forgive cannot receive forgiveness; mercy flows through the same channel, whether being given or received. There is no quid pro quo here; however, the ability to forgive and to be forgiven is part of the same gift. We stand in need not only of daily sustenance but also of continual forgiveness. The final petition is a climactic one that underscores our relationship to God as a Father to whom we can appeal for protection from any circumstances that might threaten our lives or our relationship to and for protection during the trials or tests accompanying the full manifestation of God’s kingdom.

Though not part of the prayer that Jesus taught, the instructions that follow the prayer in Luke are as important as the prayer itself and must be seen along with it. The core of these instructions is that God does answer all prayer. What is required is perseverance and persistence. This is the kind of persistence shown by Abraham in the first reading of today when he keeps petioning God who finally grants him what he asks for. Indeed, God exhibits no disapproval even as Abraham is direct and resolute. As Abraham continues to keep petioning, God responds in a consistently positive way. Abraham’s concerns are matched by God’s. God will go to any extent to save the righteous. God’s will to save outweighs God’s will to judge. God does take Abraham’s thinking and petitions into account before deciding what the final outcome will be. God does take prayer seriously.

This is shown in the last part of the Gospel text for today when Jesus assures his disciples that God does answer prayer. To be sure, the answer may not be as we expect or even want, but God does listen and God does answer and without a doubt, what God gives will be infinitely better than what we want for ourselves. A striking example of this is Jesus’ own prayer in Gethsemane. As persistent as Jesus was that the cup be taken away from him so he was that God’s will be done. While the first part of the prayer was not answered and God did not take the cup away from Jesus, the second part that God’s will be done was certainly answered. Though he did not “hear” his Father respond, Jesus rose fortified from his prayer. He was ready now for action, he was ready to face the cross. It is evident today two thousand years later that this was infinitely the better answer. It is very likely that if God had taken the cup away, Jesus would have lived for a few more years. However, if this were the case, then Jesus would not go to the Cross, there would be no resurrection and Jesus would have been remembered as yet another good and holy man. The fact that God’s will was done is the reason why Jesus died and was raised and lives even today.

Paul speaks of this fact in the second reading of today when he reminds the Colossian community of believers of who they have become through the death and resurrection of Jesus. They who were dead have become alive to God through the forgiveness they have received in Jesus’ resurrection.

This is thus what prayer means: We petition God with confidence and persistence, free our minds and hearts of every negative and unforgiveness that will prevent us from receiving his bountiful grace and believe that every prayer of ours will be answered. Our prayer like that of Jesus must fortify us and prepare us to face the realities of the world.

Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 23, 2016

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 23, 2016 click HERE

Friday, July 22, 2016


Audio Reflections of Thursday, July 23, 2016

To hear the Audio Reflections of Thursday, July 23, 2016 click HERE

Saturday, July 23, 2016 - Are there some whom you deliberately exclude from your circle of friends? Why?

To rad the texts click on the texts: Jer 7:1-11; Mt 13:24-30

This is a parable found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not clear whether this parable existed independently as a parable or whether it was conceived as an allegory from the beginning. Those who think that the parable existed independently interpret the parable to mean a statement against building of boundaries and so excluding some. The building of boundaries and forming exclusive communities is not the business of human beings, but is God’s task.

Like the field in the parable there is good seed and there are weeds even in the world in which we live. There is both good and evil. We are called to take only what is good and not focus too much on the evil or bad. This does not mean passivity in the face of evil but a call for a discerning mind and heart. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Audio Reflections of Friday, July 22, 2016

To hear the Audio Reflections of Friday, July 22, 2016 click HERE

Friday, July 22, 2016 - Mary Magdalene - Will you be an apostle of the Ascension of the Lord as Mary was?

To read the texts click on the texts: Canticles (Song of Solomon) 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-2,11-18

Except for Mary, few women are honoured in the Bible as Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned by all four evangelists as being present at the empty tomb. In the Gospel of John she is the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.

After Peter and the beloved disciple see the empty tomb with the linen cloths, they return home. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20,22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (1:38). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground. Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.

Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so. Jesus will not allow this. Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.

Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension. For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.

Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.

Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.