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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014- Twenty Second Sunday of the Year - Why must I suffer? Why must God’s son suffer?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 20:7-9; Rom12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27

Today’s readings begin with an example of what is called in scriptural writings a lament. The prophet Jeremiah laments about unbearable pain, and misery at unspeakable horrors and uncontrollable events that surround him in his life as a prophet of God’s Word. He is hostile towards God whom he believes has “seduced” or “duped” him, and he is convinced that he will no more mention God or speak in God’s name. Yet, even as he says this, he realizes that he cannot abandon his prophetic mission which is a fire burning in his heart, imprisoned in his bones. He is compelled from within to proclaim God’s word. The Word of God that comes to him, in response to his outburst of rage, is disquieting. He becomes aware that the misery is not going to stop or go away. There will be no respite from his torments and horrors. God simply assures Jeremiah of his presence, to strengthen him to withstand more misery. Jeremiah must continue to believe even in his unbelief, he must continue to have faith even in his lack of faith.

Peter’s objection to Jesus’ words of his passion, death and resurrection in the Gospel text of today sound like the first part of Jeremiah’s lament: Why must God’s son suffer? Why should he die on a Cross? Peter states emphatically that this can never be. Surely there is another way. However, in his response to Peter, Jesus realizes, like Jeremiah, that it has to be this way. This is why Peter is called “Satan” which here is to be understood as one who intends to take Jesus away from his mission and so the will of his Father. Peter is a stumbling block, and Jesus will let nothing and no one stand between him and his Father’s will. He realizes that God’s word and will for him is so compelling that he cannot but fulfill it. It burns in his heart too like a fire that cannot be quenched. Though common sense and reason would rally against going to the Cross, to the Cross he must and will go.

Inspired by this example of Jesus, Paul, writing to the Romans, urges them to imitate the Lord who did not conform to this world but dared to offer his body as a living and holy sacrifice to God.

Like Jeremiah and Peter, every one of us comes across something that is, for all intents and purposes, unbearable. Millions of people all over the world do not have enough to eat and are malnourished, while others have more than they will ever need. Numerous people have no roof over their heads while others build mansions. A baby dies at birth, another is born deformed. Sooner or later, bearing the unbearable, we realize how little control we have over so much that damages our society and ourselves. Grief, rage and fear flash to the surface of consciousness and we wonder then about the kind of God that we believe in. Can this be the God of love? Can this be the God who demands justice? Can this be the God who makes no distinction between persons? Can this be the God of the poor and downtrodden? Why must the world we live in be filled with so much misery and pain?


When we are bearing the unbearable and are not able to fully understand it, we need a God who has suffered the depths of weakness, hopelessness, helplessness and even despair as we ourselves do. No other God can be trusted to understand, and this is the Good News of God in Christ. Whatever the unbearable suffering, whatever the uncontrollable events that afflict and grieve us to the core of our being, God has seen it, known it, experienced it and taken it into his own life in Jesus who was crucified, who died and who was raised on the third day. This is why we must not take suffering out of the Jesus story, since it says to us that God has not obliterated or removed every misery that seems unbearable, that God has not taken away all cause of pain and anger in human life, not even that God controls all things, but that God is the one who bears the misery, pain and helplessness with us and for us. By bearing the unbearable, God overcomes it and faithfully keeps the conversation open for life.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014 - What are the talents that God has given you personally? How will you use them for his greater glory today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 1:26-31; Mt 25:14-30

A talent is a large sum of money, equal to the wages of a day labourer for fifteen years. (In Luke 19:12-28, the figures are much smaller. There are ten servants and each receives a “mina” which was only one sixtieth of a talent, and worth 100 denarii and translated “pound”) In Matthew, however, there are three servants and they receive different amounts. 

The first receives five, the second two, and the third, one. The first and the second use the money to earn similar amounts in return. The third, buries it in the ground. The point that the parable seems to make here is that we are called not merely to “passive waiting” or strict obedience to clear instructions, but active responsibility that take initiative and risk. Each must decide how to use what he/she has been given.


Often times, our understanding of Christianity has been one in which we are content if we have not done “any wrong”, but rarely ask whether we have done “any right”. We are content like the third servant to give only grudgingly, and not with the freedom that we are meant to have. 

Friday, August 29, 2014 - The Beheading of John the Baptist - Does it make sense to lose your head?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 1:17-19; Mk 6:17-29

Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.

While Mark has mentioned Herodians before (3:6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2:1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14,1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34).

Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. The daughter of Herodias is not named here or anywhere in the Bible, nor does the Bible give her age. According to Mark a drunken Herod is trapped into fulfilling a rash vow and so has John beheaded.


Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice and truth are the ultimate victims in such situations.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014 - Is there enough oil in the lamp of your life? If not what will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 1:17-25; Mt 25:1-13

In the parable of today we will hear of the ten bridesmaids, five of whom were prepared and five unprepared, five of whom had oil and five of whom who did not. 
We are told that five were foolish and five were wise right at the beginning of the parable, because we cannot tell this just be looking at them. All ten have come to the wedding; all ten have their lamps burning; all ten presumably have on their gowns. The readiness is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish. Five are ready for the delay and five are not. Five have enough oil for the wedding to start whenever the bridegroom arrives; the foolish ones have only enough oil for their own timetable.


It is easy to be good for a day if goodness is seen only as a means to an end. It is easy to be merciful for a day if mercy is seen only as a means to an end. However, if we see goodness and mercy and everything that is positive as an end in itself, then it is possible to be good and merciful and positive always. We are called then to be like the wise ones with our lamps always burning so that we will then be able to welcome the Lord whenever he comes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - If Jesus were to call you to himself now, would he find you ready? If yes,Why? If no, Why not?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51


We will hear for the next few days’ readings from Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which are known as the Eschatological Discourse. 
The word Eschatological comes from the Greek word “Eschaton” that means “the last things”, “the things of the afterlife”. 

In these chapters, Jesus speaks to all the people about how they must behave in the present, if they are to expect to be judged with mercy in the future. In the text of today, the disciples are asked to “stay awake”, because no one knows when the hour of departure will be. The disciples are called to be busy with the assigned mission not with apocalyptic speculation. The wise servant is the one who obeys not calculates.


Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we may associate goodness with being serious and sombre and not enjoying every single moment of life. On the contrary, goodness means exactly the opposite. It means that one is in the present moment and so living it as fully as possible. It also means that for a person who does this there is no need to worry about the day or hour when he/she will be called simply because such a person is always ready.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - How will you ensure that your being is good today so that your works too might be good? Your clothes may be in the right place, your hair might be in the right place, but is your heart in the right place?


To read the test click on the texts: 2 Thess 3:6-10,16-18; Mt 23:27-32

The text of today contains the sixth (23:27-28) and seventh (23:29–36) woes begun in 23:13. The sixth Woe concerns “whitewashed tombs”. As a public service, tombs were whitewashed to make them more obvious, since contact with the dead and with graves, even if unintentional, transmitted ritual impurity (Num 19:11-22). This was especially important to pilgrims at Passover time, who would not know the places they visited. The point that Matthew makes is “ostentatious exterior, corrupt interior”. The seventh and final Woe extends the tomb image and modulates into the concluding theme: The rejection of the prophets God has sent.
The challenge then to each one of us is to bother less about what we ought to do and think more about what we ought to be, because if our being were good then our works would shine forth brightly.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - If your being is good, then all you do will also be good. How will you ensure that your being is good today?

To read the texts click on the texts:1 Thess 2:1-3,14-17; Mt 23:23-26

The fourth (23:23-24) and fifth (23:25-26) woes against the Pharisees are about focussing on the insignificant matters and externals while forgetting what is significant and internal. 

The Pharisees were extremely particular about tithing and to ensure that they did not err in this regard, tithed even small garden vegetables used for seasoning which Matthew mentions here as mint, dill and cumin and probably in order to correspond with justice and mercy and faith. 
Gnat and Camel, which the Matthean Jesus contrasts in 23:24, were the smallest and largest living things in ordinary experience. While the Matthean Jesus does not state that what the Pharisees are doing is wrong, his critique is that while focussing so much on these insignificant items, they lose sight of the larger picture. 

Too much focus on the external can also lead to forgetting the internal. What is on the outside is merely a reflection of what is within.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014 - How often has the impression of others over your own values, determined the way you behave?

To read the texts click: 1 Thess1:1-5,11-12; Mt23:13-22

The text of today contains the first three of the seven Woes that Jesus pronounces against the Pharisees of his time, because they gave more importance to human laws, rules and regulations than to the law of God, which was the Law of Love. The polemic is against placing too much value on the way one appears to others, which can be a form of idolatry. So understood, hypocrisy is not merely a transgression, but represents a lack of trust in God, a turning away from God toward what others think as the point of orientation of one’s life. This was the reason for their single-minded focus on the law and it blinded them to all else that really mattered. Consequently, the human person was relegated to the far extreme. Jesus seeks to correct their understanding and ours, by asking them and us to focus not so much on law but on love, not so much on self but on God.

The first of the three woes (23:13) is also found in Luke 11:52, but whereas the Lucan Jesus pronounces the owe because the Pharisees “take away the key of knowledge”, The Matthean Jesus pronounces the woe because they “shut the kingdom of heaven against men”. They do not enter themselves, nor do they allow others to enter.

The second woe (23:15) is exclusive to Matthew, and continues the imagery of the first woe. Here the Pharisees are accused of converting others to their beliefs, but this results in the converted being worse than they were before.


The third woe (23:16-22) accuses the Pharisees of trying to find loopholes in the law in order to suit themselves. They interpret the law to suit their convenience.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014 - U R IN CH CH

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 22:19-23; Rom. 11:33-36; Mt. 16:13-20

A story is told of John XXIII who was Pope during the turbulent 1960s when it seemed that everything in the Church was falling apart. There was a crisis in the priesthood, in religious life, in married life, in faith, indeed in the Church. The Pope worked long and hard hours trying to address these problems. One evening, after an exhausting day in the office, he went to his private chapel to do his daily Holy Hour before retiring but he was too exhausted and too stressed out to focus or pray. After a few minutes of futile effort, he got up and said, “Lord, the church belongs to you. I am going to bed.” Yes, the Church did and continues to belong to Christ. He is the builder even if Peter and each of us are the rocks on which the Church is built.

There is a striking parallel between the first reading from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel text of today. The prophet denounces the master of the palace, Shebna, and says that the Lord will place another, the more worthy servant Eliakim, in his place. Eliakim will have binding authority over David’s House, and the Lord will make him secure. He will be a father to all. The text from Matthew portrays a similar investiture of power and authority. Simon is renamed Peter which is translated “Rock” and on which foundation the Church of Jesus will be built. Though there is still some debate about whether it is Peter or Jesus who is the rock mentioned in the text, if one remembers that it is Jesus who builds, then one will not have too much difficulty with accepting Peter as the rock on whom the Church is built by Jesus. Peter will also receive the keys of the kingdom and be given the power to bind and to loose, which will be ratified in heaven. The foundation for such authority and confidence is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Somewhat paradoxically, having altered Mark to enhance the role of Peter in making him the recipient of divine revelation and the foundation of the Church, Matthew leaves virtually intact the subsequent misunderstanding of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection by Peter, whom Jesus rebukes as a “Satan” who “is not thinking as God does, but as humans do.” This is an indication of how weak the foundation can be. The same Peter who was declared “blessed” a few verses earlier is now regarded as being against Jesus and all that he stands for. The whole story portrays blessedness on the one hand and brokenness on the other. It portrays insight on the one hand and lack of sight on the other. Without the whole story the dangers are enormous. The church has always been in danger of becoming one of the powers that it has been called to confront. That reality is lived out in history - on a grand scale, but also in each of us. The will to power and pomp and glory is very seductive.

Thus instead of this incident celebrating a turning point in recognizing who Jesus is, as in Mark, it has become in Matthew a celebration of what the church is.. Peter is representative, but it is significant that it is precisely Peter who represents. He appears to have been chosen as a leader, but he and the others are to be the church, the community, who will be called to feed the multitudes, walk on water, and who bring God's compassion into confrontation with the destructive powers of life. That will sometimes mean having to say, no, having to exercise discipline within the church.

They will also be the community who will often fail and fall short of what it means to be “Ekklesia” or “those who are called out”. They will sometimes side with the powerful against the weak and with the “haves’ against the “have-nots”. They will sometimes sink because of the fear that overwhelms them and because of their lack of faith, but they continue nevertheless to be called to be that “contrast community” who will show by their words and actions that the community of Jesus continues to be alive and that negative forces or evil can never overcome it. What Jesus is stressing in these words to Peter is continuity namely that the historical and spiritual reality that the church Jesus is creating is his and his alone. No one can create another church. Christ’s church can be built on no other foundation, with no other living stones than those he names, and with no other cornerstone and chief builder than Christ himself. We constantly re-live this Gospel story. As we like Simon say to Jesus, “you are the Christ,” he says to each one of us “you, too, are Peter, you too, are a rock, and with you, also, I am building my church.” What happened to Peter continues even today and it includes us.

Paul is clearly aware of this and so in his hymn to Divine Wisdom he affirms that it is only because of the active wisdom of God working in the world that the Church can continue to be faithful to the promises of Christ, the Lord.  The depth of God’s wisdom and purpose are a marvel. God’s action for the most part, goes beyond human understanding.

This idea is reiterated by the Psalmist who acknowledges God’s unfailing love and faithfulness and his immediate answer to the prayer of a humble heart. God, in Jesus is a God who constantly stretches out his hand to save the lowly. He is a God who will not abandon the work of his hands.


Thus the idea that comes through powerfully from the readings is that it is indeed God who builds even if on weak human structures, and without his sustenance nothing can really stand. The weak are made strong, sinners are forgiven, the sick are healed and the incomplete is completed. He remains the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014 - Will you let people hear what you do rather than what you say? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 43:1-7; Mt 23:1-12

Moses’ seat is a metaphorical expression representing the teaching and administrative authority of the synagogue leadership, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemns only the practice of the scribes and Pharisees and not their teaching. Matthew makes three points. The first is that they say but do not do, the second is that they burden while failing to act themselves and the third is that they act for the wrong reasons: to make an impression on others. “Phylacteries” is the term Matthew uses for the tephillin, which were small leather boxes containing portions of the Torah (Exod 13:1-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-32) strapped to the forehead and arm during the recitation of prayers in literal obedience to Deut 6:8. The “tassels” were attached to the prayer shawls, and the most important seats in the synagogue refer to the place of honour at the front facing the congregation, occupied by teachers and respected leaders. The term “Rabbi” was a title of honour.


The point that the Gospel reading of today makes is that there must be a correlation between our words and our actions. It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what you say but what you do.