Saturday, 25 June 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Kgs. 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62
"Rejection” seems to be one word that summarises, at least partly, the readings of today. Other words are “perseverance, determination, and commitment.” As soon as Jesus sets out for Jerusalem where he will be finally rejected, he faces rejection in a Samaritan town. However, he will not be deterred. His face will be set like flint for Jerusalem because that is where the will of God will be finally accomplished. This is all that matters for Jesus: to do God’s will no matter the consequences. He is determined to see the completion of the task assigned to him. He is committed till the end. He will persevere.
The response of Jesus to James and John, who want to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, is a double response. On the one hand, Jesus is not Elijah and so will not call down fire from heaven like Elijah did. On the other hand, Jesus’ response makes clear that his mission is not to pull down and destroy but to build up and enhance. He has come not to condemn but to save.
Though the mission of Jesus is not to win through domination and subjugation, but rather through unconditional and continual love, he will demand from his disciples an unconditional following. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because his way is more challenging than the way of conquest and invasion that there can be no half hearted or lukewarm response to his call. Unlike Elisha, who is allowed to go back and say farewell to his father and mother, Jesus demands radical and total commitment. This kind of commitment can result in being able to fulfil the task of discipleship. It is a decision that is not made lightly, but after much thought, consideration, and contemplation.
Jesus does not use coercion or force to gain disciples. He only invites. However, even as he invites, he makes it abundantly clear to those who dare to follow what the consequences will be of their following. They will have to be as ones who have no security of home or hearth. They will have to be as ones who have no family to call their own. They will have to be as ones who are ready to face opposition, hostility, and conflict. They will be as ones who profess total and complete detachment. This is the kind of detachment that Elisha shows when he slaughters his oxen and uses the equipment that comes with them for fuel. Through this act, Elisha, though allowed to say farewell to his father and mother, demonstrates that he is prepared for an unconditional following of God through his mentor, Elijah.
The work of the kingdom which Jesus inaugurated is heavy and demanding work. It requires a persevering commitment. It is easy to get discouraged and want to give up in the face of trials and difficulties and what sometimes seem to be insurmountable odds. It is easy give up in the fact of rejection. It is because of this that Jesus states, in unambiguous terms, what it entails to follow him. The disciple who follows will have no place to lay his/her head.
Following Jesus will mean, as Paul explicates in the second reading of today, the desire to communicate love and to do it constantly, even in the face of fear and rejection. Love indeed sums up the whole law. Those who decide to follow will have to show through both word and deed this love which Jesus manifested when he was on earth. This means first, living by the spirit and not by the flesh. This means that any kind of behavior which makes the self more important than others is unacceptable and not part of the kingdom. This means that, even in the face of haughtiness, arrogance, pride, and conceit, the disciple will always respond with modesty, humility, and love.
Like Elijah before him, Jesus knew that if the work of the kingdom had to be carried on, he had to choose disciples who would do this. To be sure, the disciples would not be perfect. They would stumble and fall numerous times and would pick themselves up again and again. Yet, the work of the kingdom would go on. Even Elijah, who had experienced God’s providence and power, had his moments of darkness. He had been blessed with much success, but at the slightest sign of a reversal of fortune, he was ready to quit. He was quick to blame others for the situation in which he found himself. On numerous occasions, he felt all alone. Yet, just as in all these situations he was consoled by God and invited to carry one, so too will the disciples of Jesus who feel alone be consoled by him. They will feel the presence of God in Jesus even when they and their message are rejected and go unheeded. On their part, they must make it their constant endeavour never to give up, but to carry on with perseverance, determination, and courage. Rejection of the message of love must not be a hindrance to the disciples task of spreading this love to everyone they meet. They had been set free by Christ. Now it is their responsibility to set others free from the bondage of fear and self centeredness. Now it is their responsibility to free others for the true freedom of love.
Friday, 24 June 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022 - The Birth of St. John the Baptist - Will you speak God’s word to at least one person today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66,80
The Birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24 each year. The reason for this is the mention in the Gospel of Luke that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when the Announcement was made to Mary (Lk 1:36) about the birth of Jesus. Thus if Christmas is celebrated on December 25 each year, John the Baptist who was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah had to have been born six months before Jesus.
According to some, John is born when the days are longest (June 24), and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest (December 25), and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3:30).
The Gospel text of today is from the Gospel of Luke. Luke does not give us too many details about the birth of John, and he narrates it with a short sentence. He focuses more on the events that follow the birth and, through them, show that God’s word spoken through the angel, Gabriel, is being fulfilled. Elizabeth does bear a son and the people rejoice at the birth because of the great mercy shown by God.
Circumcision of the child on the eight day was in accord with Gen 17:9-14 where God makes circumcision on the eight day a sign of the covenant with Abraham. It was the father who normally named the child and, in doing so, recognized the child as his own. Sometimes, the child was named after the father, especially if the father was a person who was highly esteemed. Objections were raised to the name “John” (“God had been gracious”), chosen by Elizabeth. That the people made signs to Zechariah to ask him what he wanted to name the child indicates that, besides being dumb, he was also deaf. The moment Zechariah writes the name “John” on a writing tablet, Zechariah regains his speech. Once again, God’s word comes to pass. The fear and amazement with which the people respond to these happenings is an indication that they experienced God’s awesome power. The question that the people ask, about what the child would turn out to be, is answered in summary form by Luke when he ends this narrative by stating that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”
God’s word is a word of power and will come to pass, no matter how many obstacles we may put in its way. It is a word that enhances and builds up, a word that gives life. To be sure, we may not always be able to understand and accept it for what it is, but in the final analysis, it is always a word that is for our good and for his glory.
Thursday, 23 June 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Ez 34:11-16; Rom 5:5-11; Lk 15:3-7
Ever since the seventeenth century when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was granted visions of the Sacred Heart and asked to spread this devotion, the Jesuits represented by her confessor St. Claude de la Colombière, played a fundamental role in spreading this devotion. Colombière, spoke with Margaret Mary a number of times and after much prayer, discernment and reflection became convinced of the validity of her visions.
In recent times, one of the most loved and admired Generals of the Society of Jesus Fr. Pedro Arrupe was instrumental in reviving this devotion and placing Jesuits once again at the forefront of spreading this devotion. This devotion according to Arrupe was “the centre of the Ignatian experience”. It is an “extraordinarily effective means as much for gaining personal perfection as for apostolic success”. Arrupe was aware of the fact that the devotion had to be spread using newer symbols and made every attempt to do so.
According to one of the visions made to Margaret Mary, Jesus made twelve promises to those who would have devotion to the Sacred Heart. Of these one is of special significance. It reads “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy”. This promise is totally in keeping with the message of Jesus on every page of the New Testament. Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, was consistent and constant in his message of the unconditional love of God. His inaugural proclamation as he began his ministry in Galilee was that the kingdom had indeed come, that God’s love and mercy and forgiveness was being given freely to anyone who was willing to open their hearts to such love. His table fellowship with “tax collectors and sinners” (who were regarded as outcasts and so not to be associated with) was tangible proof of this promise. Jesus even went as far as to say “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:17). The parables like those of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and ‘Prodigal Father’ (Lk 15:1-32) are further confirmation of this promise. As a matter of fact a clear connection is made between the murmurings of the ‘Scribes and Pharisees’, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2) and Jesus’ telling the parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:3-7). Thus, while “sinners shall find an infinite ocean of mercy” in the Sacred Heart is not a new teaching, it is an important reminder to us of how gracious God is, in the heart of Jesus.
What then does the Feast of the Sacred Heart mean for us today? First the heart is a symbol of the whole person and so the Sacred Heart of Jesus represents the whole Christ who is and will always be unconditional and eternal love. This love of Christ is given freely, without reservation and measure to all who open themselves to receive it. Second, the feast reminds us of the constant care and concern that God has even now for each one of us and the whole Universe. By celebrating the feast we make present the self-sacrifice of Jesus for all humankind. Our God is a God ‘with us and for us’. God is Emmanuel. Third, the feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the intimate connection between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Eucharist was that pivotal event in the life of Jesus when he showed how much he loved the whole world. Just as the bread was broken so would his body be and just as the wine was shared so would his blood be spilled. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist we receive the real, whole and risen Christ, so in the devotion that we profess to the Sacred Heart we relive this encounter.
The feast is thus not only a privilege and grace, but also carries with it a responsibility. First, the love that we receive from the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a private possession, but one that must be shared with all. Just as the Father makes no distinction and makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good (Mt 5:45), so must we in our sharing of the love of Christ. Second, the concern that God has for us and our Universe must be a concern which we must show to our world. The wanton destruction of nature, excessive and abusive use of scarce resources like water, indiscriminate cutting of trees for selfish gain, unlawful and criminal killing of wild animals are signs that we are working against God’s concern. If God cares for us so much, must we not care for our world? Third, the intimate connection of the Sacred Heart and Eucharist reminds us that just as Christ is so easily available to us, we must also be to each other. The Eucharist and the feast of the Sacred Heart ought not to be private and passive devotions, but celebrations that make us ready to reach out in service and availability to anyone who needs us
Wednesday, 22 June 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Kings 24:8-17; Mt 7:21-29
While the Sermon on the Mount began with Jesus calling his disciples to him and sitting down like a Rabbi to begin to teach them (5,1-2), it ends with Jesus addressing the crowds as a prophet (7,29). The last part of the Sermon, which forms our text for today, is about action rather than words. Prophesying in the Lord’s name will be of no help if one is not willing TO DO the will of God. The examples of the one who built his/her house on rock and the one who built his/her house on sand reiterate this point. The Sermon calls everyone to action.
If the foundation of our lives is strong, then what we build on it will also be strong. If we have a strong sense of values and know what our priorities are in life, we can continue to be focussed on what we have to do.