Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - Do you believe in Jesus? How will you show that you are a “believer”?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 32:7-14; Jn 5:31-47

The text of today contains the second part of the discourse of Jesus in response to the outrage of the Jewish leaders because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. It can be seen to be divided into two parts. The first part speaks about the witnesses John and the Father who testify to Jesus’ claims and the second part about the rejection of Jesus and the unbelief of the leaders.

The witness that Jesus offers is not his own since no one can legitimately or validly bear witness on his own behalf. The first witness Jesus mentions here is John the Baptist who in the Gospel of John is portrayed more as a witness rather than as a precursor or Baptist as he is in the Synoptic Gospels. In witnessing to the truth John witnessed to Jesus since Jesus is the truth. However, John was a mere lamp and not the light so though his testimony is true there is another witness far greater than John and that is the works that Jesus has accomplished after being sent by the Father. “Works’ here seems to refer not just to the miracles that Jesus worked but to the whole of his ministry. These works are the works of the Father and so bear witness to him and to the relationship that Jesus shares with him as Son. Since Jesus as Son does what God as father commands him to do, Jesus completes the Father’s own works. The third witness is the Father himself. God himself cannot be seen, yet, he has been made visible in Jesus and the Jewish leaders have refused to believe the God made so visible.

The scriptures also testify on behalf of Jesus and though the leaders search and study the scriptures because they seek life, they refuse to believe what they learn there, namely that Jesus is the one who gives life and life in abundance. This is because they are unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. It is not Jesus but Moses himself who will accuse them of unbelief. This is because Moses also testified to Jesus and despite his testimony, they have refused to believe. If one believes what Moses wrote, one has to believe in Jesus, there is no middle ground here.

It is not easy to believe in Jesus, because such a belief calls for a radical change in one’s life’s orientation. Belief in Jesus will mean a movement from selfishness to selfless, domination to service and fear to love and not many are inclined to make this change. Most of us are content to live our lives insulated from others and preferring to live as islands rather than as community. We pretend not to know who we are and what our calling is. It seems easier this way. However, as the Gospel text makes clear there is no middle ground and if one is not willing to live the kind of life that Jesus invites us to as his disciples, then one is a non-believer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - Jesus revealed the Father through all that he said and did. Will you reveal Jesus by what you say and do today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30

These verses contain the first discourse in the Gospel of John. It is made up of many closely related themes. The Jews are outraged that Jesus has healed on the Sabbath and in answer to this outrage Jesus answers them in the following verses. To the charge that Jesus was making himself equal to God, Jesus answers that he as Son can do nothing apart from the Father. He is completely dependent on the Father and merely does the Father’s work. The Father reveals all that he does to his Son including raising the dead and giving them life. Thus the Son shares in the life giving work of the Father. The Son has also been given the power and authority to judge. This implies that everyone is under the Son’s reign and rule, and thus must confer on him the same honour that is conferred on the Father. The one who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father since it is the Father who has sent the Son.

To hear the Son’s word and believe in God opens the gift of eternal life. The alternative is judgment. This judgement will be based on the response to the Son in the present. Those who accept him and do good will be granted the resurrection of life whereas those who reject the Son and thus do evil will go to the resurrection of condemnation. The now will determine the later, the present will determine the future. This part of the pericope ends with an idea expressed earlier namely that the Son can do nothing on his own and will do nothing on his own, because he seeks only to do the will of his Father.

March 20, 2023 St Joseph Husband of Mary Homily

Monday, 20 March 2023

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 - Homily

  In which areas do I need a new Vision, a new way of looking at Persons/Things/Events? Am I able to see others point of view in different situations? Do I feel threatened by differing points of view?

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 - In which areas do I need a new Vision, a new way of looking at Persons/Things/Events? Am I able to see others point of view in different situations? Do I feel threatened by differing points of view?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 47:1-19, 12; Jn 5:1-16

The miracle of the healing of the paralytic is exclusive to the Gospel of John. The story is set in Jerusalem and the miracle occurs during one of the Jewish festivals though John does not specify which one. Later in the narrative we are told that the day of the festival was also the Sabbath and this adds to the significance of both the festival and the Sabbath and thus the miracle and the controversy that follows. Festivals in John are used as a platform for a deep revelation of the person of Jesus and this festival is no exception.

John gives a detailed description of the place where the miracle was performed as if encouraging the reader to place him/herself in that place. Three kinds of invalids are mentioned: the blind, the lame and the paralyzed. These are at the pool waiting for the stirring of the water. Popular belief was that an angel was responsible for the stirring of the water and thus for the inexplicable bubbling at the surface. Of these one is singled out. He is a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years, which symbolizes that his illness is almost permanent. At this point the text does not tell us what his illness is. Jesus picks out this man and again we are not given a reason. Did he come across to Jesus as the one most in need? Was he the only one who did not have someone to help him? We are only told that Jesus “knew that he had been there a long time”. Jesus initiates the miracle by approaching the man. Yet, he does not force his healing on the man as is evident in the question that he asks him; “Do you want to be made well?” The man does not answer the question but begins his litany of complaints. He has already set limits to what he believes can be done for him. He does not expect the impossible. Jesus responds to the man’s complaints with three imperatives: “stand up, take your mat and walk”. That Jesus’ words are effective and transformative is evident in the fact that the man was made well. He obeys Jesus’ commands to the letter: “He took up his mat and walked”.

Immediately after the miracle, there is an objection on the part of “the Jews” (which here refers to the Jewish authorities who oppose Jesus and not the Jewish people in general) because the man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath and this constituted work which was not allowed on the Sabbath. The man responds that he is simply obeying what Jesus asked him to do. The Jewish leaders prefer to focus not on the fact that he had been made well, but on the one who told him to violate the Sabbath. The man cannot respond to the question of the Jewish leaders about who Jesus is, since he does not know Jesus.

At this point Jesus reenters the story and finds the man in the temple confirming that he has been made well and speaks to him about sin. He invites the man to move from the mere physical healing to spiritual healing. The man on encountering Jesus again, announces to the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. While some see these words of the man as pointing Jesus out to the Jewish leaders, others interpret them as an announcement of the man about who Jesus is. Again the leaders refuse to focus on the positive action of the man being made well and focus instead on the violation of the Sabbath. This is why they decide to persecute him.

Two issues are brought out in this story. The first is that of illness. While we may be able to see with the eyes of our head, it is possible that we too like many of those who were at the pool may be psychologically or spiritually blind. We may not be able to see another person’s point of view and imagine sometimes that ours is the only correct viewpoint. We may also be blind to the sufferings of the numerous people around us and close ourselves in on our own small worlds. We may have the facility and use of both of our legs, but may have given in to lethargy or laziness. We may have lost the desire and drive to do what we have to do. We may be able to use all our limbs and move about freely, but may have given in to fear. We may also be carrying resentments, bitterness, anger, jealousy and even rage in our hearts because of which we are paralyzed and not able to move freely.

The second issue which the story brings out is that of law versus love. Like the Jewish leaders we are also guilty sometimes of focusing too much on the law and not enough on love. Like they were not able to focus on the man’s wholeness but only on the violation of the Sabbath, so we are sometimes prone to focus on the negatives rather than on the positive. We prefer often to give a negative interpretation to a person’s actions and words rather than a positive one.

The miracle thus calls each of us to give up the blindness of our heart and the lameness of our mind and the paralysis of our spirit and to focus on the positive of God’s unconditional healing and love made visible in Jesus.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Monday, March 20, 2023 - St. Joseph, Husband of Mary - When in a dilemma do you usually do the right thing or the loving thing? Would your life have been any different if Jesus had not been born?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:4-5a,12-14a,16; Rm 4:13,16-18,22; Mt1:16,18-24a

Devotion to St. Joseph became popular from the 12th century onward and in the 15th Century the feast of St. Joseph began to be celebrated on March 19 every year. Devotion to St. Joseph as foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary grew tremendously in the 19th Century and continues till this day

The Gospel text for the feast of today includes one verse of the genealogy, which specifies that Joseph was the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born. The verses that follow narrate the story of his birth. Since Mary and Joseph were engaged, they were legally considered husband and wife. Thus, infidelity in this case would also be considered adultery. Their union could only be dissolved by divorce or death. Though Joseph is righteous or just, he decides not to go by the letter of the law and publicly disgrace Mary, but he chooses a quieter way of divorcing her. God, however, has other plans for both Joseph and Mary and intervenes in a dream. Joseph is addressed by the angel as “Son of David” reiterating, once again after the genealogy, the Davidic origin of Jesus. He is asked to take Mary as his wife and also informed that is the Spirit’s action that is responsible for her pregnancy. He is told that he is to give the child the name “Jesus". Jesus (Iesous) is the Greek form of "Joshua" which, whether in the long form yehosua, ("Yahweh is salvation") or in one of the short forms, yesua, ("Yahweh saves”), identifies the son, in the womb of Mary, as the one who brings God’s promised eschatological salvation. The angel explains what the name means by referring to Ps 130:8. The name “Jesus” was a popular and common name in the first century.  By the choice of such a name, Matthew shows that the Saviour receives a common human name, a sign that unites him with the human beings of this world rather than separating him from them.

Matthew then inserts into the text the first of ten formula or fulfillment quotations that are found in his Gospel. This means that Matthew quotes a text from the Old Testament to show that it was fulfilled in the life and mission of Jesus. Here, the text is from Isa 7:14 which, in its original context, referred to the promise that Judah would be delivered from the threat of the Syro-Ephraimitic War before the child of a young woman, who was already pregnant, would reach the age of moral discernment. The child would be given a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence “God is with us” (Emmanu‘el) corresponding to other symbolic names in the Isaiah story. Though this text was directed to Isaiah’s time, Matthew understands it as a text about Jesus, and fulfilled perfectly in him, here in his birth and naming.


This birth narrative of Matthew invites us to reflect on a number of points. Of these, two are significant.  First, many of us are often caught in the dilemma of doing the right thing which might not always be the loving thing.  If we follow only the letter of the law, we may be doing the right thing but not the most loving thing.  However, if we focus every time on the most loving thing, like Joseph, it is surely also the right thing. Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.

Second, the story also shows us who our God is.  Our God is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other. This God does not come in power, might, and glory, but as a helpless child. As a child, God is vulnerable. He is fully human and in his humanity, is subject to all the limitations that humanity imposes on us. Yet, he will do even that, if only humans respond to the unconditional love that he shows.

St. Joseph - Model of faith, hope and love

     I.            Introduction: St. Joseph is one of the very few Saints who has two feast days to honour him. The scriptures do not say much about this silent saint. As a matter of fact, St. Joseph does not speak in the scriptures. His voice is not heard. This is to be expected because St. Joseph was a man of action more than words.

 II.            Inspiration from St. Joseph: As we celebrate a year dedicated to St. Joseph we can draw inspiration from him in many areas of our own lives.

1)  Attentive listening: Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who places Joseph on the centre stage in his Infancy Narrative. The angel appears to Joseph in a dream on four separate occasions. (Mt 1:20-21; 2:13; 2:19-21; 2:22). 

Before (Mt 1:18-19) the first of these dreams (1:20-21) Joseph had already made up his mind to follow the law because he was righteous. He became aware of the pregnancy of Mary - to whom he was engaged or betrothed - and possibly suspected her of adultery. The only logical explanation of the pregnancy was that Mary was guilty of adultery.  Joseph had the choice to pursue a legal trial for adultery (Deut 22:23-27) or draw up a bill of divorce. Joseph chose the latter option because he did not want to publicly shame Mary and it would attract less attention.

Hearing with the ears of our head and seeing with the eyes of our head is only one way of hearing and seeing. True hearing and seeing require that we hear and see also with the ears and eyes of our hearts.

2)  Trusting God’s word: The angel explains that the child conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20) and Joseph must take his pregnant betrothed as his wife. Not only is he to do that, he will also not have the privilege as the foster father to name this child. This name has already been chosen by God as communicated by the angel (1:21). His trust in God’s word shows in his action.

When things go the way we want, it is easy to believe and trust God’s word. However, when God’s word calls us to act the opposite of the way want, it is not easy to accept and follow.

3)  Action more than words: Joseph’s trust in God’s word does not end with his acceptance of Mary and Jesus as his wife and son respectively. In the three dreams that follow the first (2:13; 2:19-20 and 2:22), he is asked to perform actions which are extremely difficult. However, since it is God’s plan and God’s hand is at work, Joseph acts in obedience.

In the first of these dreams, Joseph is asked to go to Egypt hastily. He obeys. In the second, when the family is in Egypt, he is asked to go to Israel (2:19-20). Once again, he obeys. The choice of Nazareth and not Judea in Israel as the place of residence of the family is also attributed to Joseph’s obedience (2:22-23).

We sometimes look for God only in miracles or extraordinary events. Yet, God keeps revealing God’s power, might and love in the ordinary events of our lives. Like Joseph we must open our hearts wide to see.

4)  Acting without expectation: In most of our relationships with others including members of our families, we act with some or other expectation. Sometimes, we expect those to whom we have been generous and kind to also be generous and kind to us in return. At others times, we expect a word of gratitude and even praise for reaching out. At still other times, we expect that those to whom we have reached out will not be ungrateful. With Joseph, there were no expectations whatsoever. He did what had to done.

Each of us is also called by God in our own way to be God’s instrument of love and peace. God does not expect that we do extraordinary things to reveal this love. If like Joseph we can reach out to another even in a small way, we will have done well.

5)  Model for workers and the sanctity of work: The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a carpenter (13:55). He does not state whether Jesus followed his foster father in this trade. In his Gospel, he refers to Jesus as “the carpenter’s son” (13:55). The Gospel of Mark, however, informs us that Jesus did follow Joseph in this trade. When Jesus goes back to his hometown, the townsfolk identity him as “the carpenter” (Mk 6:3).

The celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, the worker on the first day of May each year – when Workers Day or Labour Day is celebrated in many countries of the world - is a celebration of the saint and his work ethic, but also a celebration of the participation of humans in God’s work of creation. In this Joseph becomes an inspiration and model to workers of the meaning of hard work and earning one’s living through the sweat of one’s brow.

6)  Model of discernment and faith: Obedience to God’s word required a lot of discernment and faith from Joseph. He was aware that he would not have been able to recognise immediately whether he was indeed doing God’s will. The dreams could have been the result of his own imagination. It required discernment to know that they were not. All decisions that he had to take - the hastening to Egypt, remaining in Egypt when the threat to the child was still alive, and the return to Nazareth - were life changing decisions. They would affect not only his life, but also the life of his wife Mary and Jesus. This is why he had to be convinced of that which he could not see and hope that his actions were in accord with what God wanted him to do.

One important rule of a good discernment is that we do not make decisions when we are upset or even elated. This is because these decisions will be based only on emotion and not discernment. We have to be at equanimity before we make important decisions and in this regard, Joseph is a model to be imitated.

7)  Protector of the family and of the world: In his role as foster father of Jesus, Joseph was protector of his family. The safety of his family was of prime importance to Joseph and he placed their needs and safety above his own.

This quality of Joseph can be extended to include his protection of the whole world. As he kept the interests of his family uppermost, so he keeps the interests of the world uppermost in his intercession for the world.

When we are tempted to live self-centered and selfish lives, Joseph’s selflessness comes as a breath of fresh air inviting us to be other-centered and to make a difference to the lives of others.

III.            Conclusion: In the play Hamlet, there is a scene in which Hamlet says to his friend Horatio “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet 1.5). One understanding of this is that while there are many things that the human person does know, there are possibly more things that we do not yet know.

One such happening is the Covid-19 pandemic. While theories abound about the origin of the virus and how best to respond to it, the fact is that we are still groping in the dark. This is why like St. Joseph we are called to listen attentively.

We live in times where many of us would prefer to see before we believe. If we are of this mind, then there is no need for faith. St. Joseph teaches us to believe even without seeing. He also teaches us to believe even when we cannot see. This is because like him, we too must realise that God’s will for the world will always be better than what we want for ourselves. We must learn from St. Joseph how to make our will subservient to God’s.

Our actions in most cases, even the seemingly altruistic ones are often with our eye on the reward. St Joseph teaches us that we must learn to find the reward in the doing of the action.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Sunday, March 19, 2023 - Homily

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye"

Sunday, March 19, 2023 - Loss of Vision - "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

To read the texts click on the texts:1Sam 16:1, 6-7,10-11,13; Eph 5:8-14; Jn9:1-41

Some time ago, a young man came to see me to pour out his heart. He admitted he was a workaholic, because of which he was increasingly distancing himself from his wife and two children. His marriage was on the verge of breaking up, since he could not find time to spend with his family. He was caught in a vicious circle. He worked hard in order to provide for his family and the harder he worked and the more time he spent in the office, the further was he moving away from his family

As he poured his heart out, I simply listened. His job had become his obsession. He wanted to give his wife and children things he had never had as a child and this effort to gain all things for his family became an enemy of the persons he loved most. He finally looked up at me and exclaimed, “I’ve lost sight of everything that matters most!

The fox says something similar to the Prince in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The young man realized that he had lost his vision, the heart vision. He had not lost his external sight or vision, but the inner vision, the heart vision, which enables one to see clearly. He left my room with a promise to set his priorities right and thanked me for listening

The loss of vision, which the young man experienced, is similar to the one experienced by both Samuel in the first reading of today and Pharisees in the Gospel text. In the case of Samuel, the reason for the loss vision is due to mistaken perception and judging by outward appearances alone. However, God makes it clear to him that he judges not by the external but looks at the heart. In the case of the Pharisees, the loss of vision was caused by their set opinions and understanding. They wanted to follow the law as thoroughly as they could, but did not realize that they had mixed it up with their interpretation and preconceived ideas and thus had shut the door to any kind of revelation that God was constantly making in Jesus through his Spirit

They were so sure of everything – that God did not work on the Sabbath, that Moses was God’s only spokesperson, that anyone born blind and anyone who broke the Sabbath had to be a sinner,  that God did not work through sinners, that God did not work on sinners and that furthermore no one could teach them anything. In this context, it must be noted that John makes abundantly clear in this text that physical illness is not the effect of sin. Rather sin here is connected with spiritual blindness and anyone who rejects the true light who is Jesus is guilty of sin and so is spiritually blind. This is an even more dangerous blindness than the physical one

The man born physically blind comes to both physical sight and spiritual sight in his being able to see and recognize Jesus as the one who is sent. Through opposition and persecution the blind man moves from a confession of “the man Jesus,” to “prophet,” to “one from God” and finally to a confession of Jesus as the Son of Man and the Lord.

The second reading of today reminds the Ephesians and us, that like the man in the Gospel who represents all of us, we were also blind and stumbling in darkness, but now we live in the light of Christ and his Good News, and that light is seen in the way we behave. In the way we relate with other people in “complete goodness and right living and truth”. Our lives are to have a transparency where there is no darkness, no hidden behavior which we would be ashamed to reveal to others.

So we must think about our darkness, our blindness. Of course, acknowledging our own spiritual blindness can be embarrassing, painful, and threatening. To confess our own groping darkness and howling demons within, our frustrations, fears, and failures, unnerves us. Such a confession may be unsettling. We may be also anxious of what others might say, think or do.

Tradition, jealousy or legalism, blinded the religious leaders and prevented them from seeing the obvious. What blinds us to the truths that we should be seeing? Regardless of what it is, Jesus offers to remove blindness and show us the light.

We have been “enlightened” through baptism and are commissioned to confess and witness to our faith. Imitating the journey of the man who finally recognized Jesus, we should progress to an inner enlightenment, so that we can confess the crucified one as the Son of Man, who, when lifted up, will draw all things to himself.

Friday, 17 March 2023

Saturday, March 18, 2023 - Homily

 Does the content of your prayer include despising or condemning others? Has pride prevented you from encountering God? What will you do about it today?