Wednesday, 1 February 2023
Thursday, February 2, 2023 - The Presentation of the Lord - How will you show that the presence of Jesus has changed your life for the better? What three actions will you perform to show that the coming of Jesus has made a difference to your life?
To read the texts click on the texts: Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40
Until 1969, the ancient feast of the presentation of Our Lord, which is of Oriental origin, was known in the West as the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and closed the Christmas season, forty days after the Lord's birth. However, today the focus is more on the Lord than his mother and hence the feast is named The Presentation of The Lord.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today consists of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the purification of Mary and the Song of Simeon.
According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean on the birth of a child. During this time, she was not permitted to enter the Temple or touch any holy object. On the eighth day the child was circumcised, after which the mother was unclean an additional thirty-three days—sixty-six if the child was female. At the conclusion of this period, the mother offered a sacrifice, either a lamb or, if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons. That Luke does not mention a lamb but refers to two turtledoves or pigeons may indicate that Jesus was born to the poor of Israel. In addition, the first son was to be presented to the Lord as a reminder of the Exodus, and then, bought back with an offering. Luke does not mention that Jesus was redeemed either because he was not aware of this requirement or because he wanted to convey that Jesus was constantly devoted or dedicated to the Lord. In this part Luke emphasizes that the law of the Lord was fulfilled in all respects at the birth of Jesus.
Simeon is introduced immediately after the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. He too like Zechariah and Elizabeth is described as “righteous”. He is also “devout”. He looked forward to the restoration of the people and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive work. The Spirit, who had revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw the anointed one of God, is the same Spirit who rests on him and gives him utterance to speak.
His hymn of praise of God is known as the “Nunc Dimittis” (“Now Dismiss”). It is only loosely related to the occasion of the birth of Jesus. It declares the praise of God for faithfulness and the redemption of the people. Though some interpret “now you are dismissing your servant in peace” to mean that Simeon was now prepared to die, it can also mean that he recognizes that he is being released from his mission to watch for the coming of the Messiah because he has now seen the coming of the one who will bring salvation. His blessing relates the birth of Jesus to the fulfillment of the promise of salvation and looks ahead to the inclusion of all peoples in the experience of the blessings of God. Even as the parents of Jesus wonder at what is being said by Simeon, he blesses them and then addresses Mary, the mother of Jesus. He speaks about the coming rejection of Jesus. Not everyone will want to see the light, not everyone will want to receive the salvation by God for all peoples. Not everyone will recognize God coming in Jesus. Jesus will be rejected and treated as someone to be opposed. Even his mother will have to share in his sufferings.
Jesus came not to make us comfortable but to wake us up from our sleep and this is what Simeon had prophesied. He came to challenge our way of looking at the world. This challenge is not easy to accept because it means that many of our preconceived ideas and notions will have to be given up and we will have to start anew. It is easier and more comfortable to live the selfish and self-centered lives that we are used to rather than be concerned about others. It is easier to be caught up in our own small worlds, rather than get out of our wells and see that life is much more than simply having more.
Tuesday, 31 January 2023
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:4-7,11,15; Mk 6:1-6
Jesus’ visit to his hometown is not a pleasant experience. While in Mark he is designated as a carpenter, in the parallel text in Matthew (Mt 13,53-58), he is designated as “the carpenter’s son”, since Matthew wants to portray Jesus as son of Joseph and so son of David. His status as a carpenter would have been lower than that of a member of the educated class, and the villagers would probably have resented the position that Jesus reached and the status he has acquired. By designating Jesus as “son of Mary” rather than “son of Joseph” they may have intended to insult Jesus, and so cut him down to size. Jesus’ response to his townspeople is in the form of a proverbial saying. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among his own people. Mark adds strongly at the end of the episode that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief” which indicates that Jesus was rendered incapable by the lack of faith of his own.
Monday, 30 January 2023
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - How easily do you give up when this do not go your way? Will you persevere today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:1-4; Mk 5:21-43
In the text of today, Mark has used what is known as the sandwich construction. This means that he has introduced the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill (5,21-24), interrupted it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood (5,25-34) and continued again and completed the incident of the curing of Jairus’ daughter (5,35-43). The reason for this sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry but hurry if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can indeed raise even the dead.
In these miracles, both of those who are healed are female, and the number twelve appears in both. The woman has been ill for twelve years and the girl is twelve years old. In both, the cure is the result of faith. These incidents indicate that Jesus has power over both life and death. He is indeed Lord of heaven and earth.
Sunday, 29 January 2023
Monday, January 30, 2023 - How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:32-40; Mk 5:1-20
The healing miracle of today is known as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. The man is so utterly possessed, that it seems almost impossible that he will be healed. Addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the demon attempts to possess Jesus. However, Jesus will have none of it, and silences him with a word. The name “legion” used by the demoniac may mean on the one hand that he did not want to give his name and so be cast out by Jesus, and on the other hand may also refer to the Roman occupation of Palestine. The presence of pigs suggests that it is Gentile territory, because Jews considered pigs as unclean animals, and would not have them near. Some have raised questions about the destruction of nature because of the fact that the herd of pigs is drowned after the demon is sent into them. However, it may also be interpreted as the extent of concern that Jesus had for the man. In other words, the salvation of a human being is worth any price. The healed man becomes an apostle.
Saturday, 28 January 2023
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Cor1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12
There is a tendency even today among some of us to project the solutions to all our problems into the future. This may be termed as “a pie in the sky when you die” kind of theology. While it is true that till the coming of Jesus projection into the future alone made sense, after his coming what must spur us on is not only the future but the present and all that it offers.
This is why it is understandable that Zephaniah, writing probably around 640-609 BCE, promised that God would preserve a remnant, To this humble remnant or anawim belongs the promise of a secure future: “They shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (3:13). This oracle announced the future realization of an ideal.
However, in the case of Matthew, who is writing after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the “secure future” of Zephaniah is first present in the person of Jesus in a unique way, and secondly is also in the future. This means that the beatitudes that Jesus pronounces at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount do not merely describe something that already is, but also bring into being the reality they declare. They are a declaration of who disciples are already and who they must continue to be.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the nine beatitudes. Called “blessed”, are the poor in spirit who have surrendered self-will and self-reliance and every other base of security to welcome the reign of God. Also “blessed” are those who are gentle, mourners and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice. These are basic dispositions of the believer who accepts his needs before God and his openness to receiving his gifts.
The second group of four which speak of the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and those persecuted in the cause of justice seem to reflect the attitude of humans to each other. These identify with Jesus in his person and mission.
In what many consider as the ninth beatitude, Jesus speaks to the disciples directly. These are blessed even in the abuse and persecution that they will encounter because of their association with Jesus.
The key feature of blessedness is that it involves living a deliberately chosen and cultivated sort of life, which does not get involved in the power and violence of the world, and which, because of this fact, makes the ones living it immensely vulnerable to being turned into victims. That is the centre of the ethic as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
If we then turn to the end of the Eschatological Discourse – Jesus’ last discourse (Mt 25:31-46) before his passion, we find something similar at work. In the famous passage of the last judgement, the judgement is defined not in terms of belonging to this or that group, or believing this or that dogma. The judgement is presented in terms of the human relationships towards victims – those who hunger, thirst, the naked, sick, or imprisoned. Those who are rewarded are those – whether or not they know anything of the world which is blind to its victims, and have reached out to help them. It is here, the crucified and risen victim who is the judge of the world, and the world is judged in the light of its relationship to the crucified and risen victim.
For Matthew the arrival of Jesus and his proclamation of God’s kingdom create the conditions by which the world can be changed. The promise to the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for justice, that the kingdom of heaven is “yours,” might better be translated as “on your side” or “for you.” The dispositions and action praised by Jesus provide an alternate vision to contemporary, destructive attitudes and trends.
The beatitudes generate trust in God in difficult circumstances, not simply enable us to endure hard times. None of us can avoid the traumatic experiences that life so frequently presents. In Africa and Asia millions of our fellow human beings suffer disease, poverty and the effects of war and natural disasters that some of us have never experienced or even imagined. The challenge of Christian faith is to accept and live a sustaining relationship with God in the most trying circumstances.
The beatitudes define the way that Jesus himself lived to the point of death as a rejected religious evolutionary and unjustly condemned criminal. The spiritual power to live the life of the blessed comes not through our most noble human efforts, but through the gift of grace that the Spirit gives us. Paul realized this when he said that God those the foolish and weak of this world to shame the wise and the strong, Are Jesus’ praises and Paul’s declarations really too much for us to believe?