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Friday, February 12, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016 - How will you celebrate today your call to be a disciple of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32

The call of Levi the toll collector and his response to that call is the text for today. Toll collectors like Levi was were those individuals who paid the Roman authorities in advance for the right to collect tolls. Since they decided the value of the goods being brought in, they could abuse the system and many did. Due to this also because they were seen as colluding with the Romans, they were despised by the people and made targets of scorn and ridicule. The calling of Levi is a revolutionary act on the part of Jesus. When almost everyone else would have seen Levi as a thief and corrupt individual, Jesus was able to see him as a potential disciple. This is an indication not only of the deep insight into  people that Jesus had but also of God’s grace which is given without any merit on the part of the individual. It is a gift and not earned but gifted.

Levi on his part accepts this call. He leaves “everything” for the privilege of following Jesus. Luke’s Gospel alone mentions the word “everything” to stress the total sacrifice that Levi was called to and made. It is an indication that he left his old way of life behind to take on a new kind of life that Jesus was calling him to. He then arose and followed Jesus. The sequence of the actions of Levi is interesting. He gets up and follows, only after giving up.

Levi then gives a feast in his own house to celebrate his call. The scribes and Pharisees complain about the scandal of sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners. By doing so those who sat at table with them were making themselves unclean, but they were also showing social acceptance of a group that was considered as outcasts. Jesus’ response is in and through a proverb and a statement. It is obvious that the services of a physician are required by those who are sick not be those who are well. The mission of Jesus is very clearly directly to those who need him: the sinners. Repentance is not the condition for following Jesus; it is his purpose for coming into the world. He has come in order that sinners might be transformed.

The call which Jesus made to his disciples and here to Levi is startling brief: “Follow me”. This is because his call was a call to a personal commitment to him. It was not a call to a set of values or principles. It was not a call to any kind of philosophy or theology. It was not a call to a particular political programme. It was a call that had as its base and origin Jesus himself. The only reward that one could expect from such a following was that others would be drawn to Jesus because of one’s own commitment and perseverance.

The call is made here to Levi, who was considered as an outcast and one who was beyond the bounds of God’s mercy. This indicates that no one is excluded from the Mission of Jesus. Everyone has a place, all are called. Like Levi it is important to give up the former way of life and then to get up and follow. This requires God’s grace surely, but also human response.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

SOMETHING FOR LENT


Friday, February 12, 2016 - Do you often do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa58:1-9;Mt 9:14-15

The question of fasting is raised by the disciples of John the Baptist. They want to know why they and the Pharisees follow the rule of fasting, but the disciples of Jesus do not. Jesus’ first response is that the guests at a wedding do not fast at the wedding. It would be absurd to do so. Since the coming of the kingdom has often been portrayed as a messianic banquet, Matthew seems to want to insist that Jesus is the messianic bridegroom and with his coming the wedding feast has begun. There will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away and that will be the time to fast. The “taking away” of the bridegroom refers to the death of Jesus.


The book of Ecclesiastes points out wisely that “there is a time for everything”. There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. But here is the rub: To know which time is for which. Even as we discern about the times for suitable actions, we must keep in mind that rules and regulations can never be ends in themselves. They are only means to an end. All rules are at the service of humans no matter how good or noble they may be. If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thursday, February, 11, 2016 - At the end of today will you consider your life as having been one that has been worthily lived?

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25

On the day following Ash Wednesday, the church makes explicit through the choice of the readings what the overarching theme of the season will be. It has to do with suffering, the cross and death, which here, is not primarily physical death, but death to self and the ego.

This is seen clearly in the first passion and resurrection prediction in the Gospel of Luke which is part of the text for today. Like in the other two synoptic gospels, the prediction in Luke appears immediately after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Immediately following Peter’s confession Jesus sternly commands the disciples not to tell anyone of this. This is because he does not want to be misunderstood as a glorious and triumphant Messiah or as one who will come conquering, but as a Messiah who will suffer and die. This is because God has ordained it and Jesus will always be obedient to God’s commands.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must be of the same mind. The first saying on discipleship which follows emphasizes not so much the readiness to die for Jesus as much as the courage to persevere in following him. This is why Luke adds the word “daily” after the call to take up the cross. It is in spending oneself for the good of others rather than pursuing one’s own selfish ambitions that true joy, peace and fulfillment can be found. Paradoxically, spending one’s life for others results in gaining one’s life. The final saying of the Gospel of today cuts the ground from under our preoccupation with material and temporary wealth. What will we have gained, even if we acquire all the possessions in the world, but lose ourselves in the process? This saying reminds us that there are dimensions of life vital to fulfillment and happiness that are not satisfied by financial security or material wealth.


The impulse to succeed in a given profession, to acquire material possessions, and to prosper is powerful. In a materialistic culture we are easily seduced by the assumption that security and fulfillment are achieved by means of financial prosperity. We strive for things that do not last and in the process of our striving, are not able to see the beauty that life has to offer. We exist without really having lived. The challenge is to seek for that which brings real fulfillment and not illusory happiness.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

BLESSED LENT


Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - ASH WEDNESDAY - How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts please click on the texts:Jl2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is derived by counting back 40 days {not including Sundays} from Easter day. Ash Wednesday is so called because of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, which serve as a reminder of the call to repentance and to believe in the good news. The period of Lent is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before taking up the mission he received from his Father at his baptism.

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves. The focus thus is on the motivation with which one does what one does. If the motivation for doing good is to win the admiration of human beings, then that action is selfish and self motivated and so does no good at all. If the action is done out of a sense of duty or obligation, it cannot be called pure and is instead diluted. However if one does the action and accepts that the reward is in the performing of the action itself, such an action can be salvific. This is the challenge not only of Ash Wednesday, but of the whole season of Lent, “to give and not to count the cost, to labour and to look for no reward.”


For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love. When there is love then all our actions come from our hearts and spontaneously without counting the cost. Almsgiving becomes generous and spontaneous, prayer becomes union with God and leads to action and fasting is done in order to show our dependence on God and not on earthly things.

The Season of LENT - Let's Enter Newness Today

Lent is a period of repentance. Repentance does not mean being sorry for one’s sins. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell people they must be sorry for their sins, but he keeps calling people to repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, heart and vision. It is a call to look at everything anew. It is a call to leave the negative behind and take on the positive of God’s newness.

The Monday in the First Week of Lent with the call to act rightly because that is how each of us will be judged sets the tone for the meaning of repentance. The week continues with Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray and also the meaning of prayer and perseverance. He exhorts them to interiorize the law rather than merely observe external observances. This means that the action that one performs must always be an action motivated by love. It also means that even if the action is a holy one namely the offering of sacrifice but is not accompanied by love, then it is not a worthy action. Love must always motivate all actions of the Christian.

The Second Week of Lent begins with the invitation to imitate God who is compassionate. God’s compassion is shown in his reaching out to those in need especially the lowly. This is why the disciples cannot strive for places of honour but must only strive to serve. The greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves. This service is to be shown in action in the care and concern that one expresses towards those who live on the margins of society. Indifference to and ignorance of the needs of others is also rejection of them and will lead to condemnation, just as selfishness shown in wanting to keep all the fruits of the vineyard and not give God and others their due. Yet, God who is Prodigal Father keeps making every attempt to get the wayward to come back to him.

In the Third Week of Lent the teachings of Jesus focus on forgiveness not seven times but as often as is needed. This is how Jesus fulfills the law and invites his disciples to do the same. There is only one commandment, namely the commandment to love God by loving neighbour. If love motivates the actions of a person then prayer will be answered.

In the Fourth and Fifth Weeks, the Gospel readings are all from John and bring out various aspects of the personality of Jesus. Jesus is the one who heals and makes whole, he is one who reaches out to Samaritans and outcasts, who condemns no one including those who condemn others. He is from above and though cannot be fully known will keep revealing himself to those who wish to see and encounter him.


In Holy Week leading to Maundy Thursday, we read about the anointing of Jesus is preparation for his death and burial and also the predictions of his betrayal and denial by his own. Though Jesus knows all that is going to happen to him, he goes to his death willingly so that all of humanity might be saved.

Monday, February 8, 2016

MORNING OFFERING


Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - Is your “worship” lip service or heart service?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 8:22-23,27-30; Mk 7:1-13

In the text of today, the Pharisees and the Scribes see that the disciples of Jesus eat with unwashed hands, and so ask Jesus a question concerning what they consider as defilement. In his response to them, Jesus takes the discussion to a higher plane, by focussing not merely on what defiles or does not defile a person, but on true worship, which stems from the heart. The quotation from Isaiah 29:13 is an apt description of the sham worship offered, when God wanted heart worship. To illustrate his point, Jesus gives the example of Corban, in which the Pharisees’ would dedicate, something to God, and so not allow anyone else including their parents to use it, but would use it themselves. In case others wanted to use it, their answer would be that they could not allow them to do so since it was “Corban” (dedicated to God) and so belonged to God alone.


There are times when we find way and means to get out of fulfilling our obligations to others. We come up with flimsy excuses when we cannot keep a commitment, and try to absolve ourselves of our responsibility. At these times we too can be accused of lip service.