To hear the Audio reflections of Tuesday, January 17, 2017 click HERE
Monday, January 16, 2017
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 6:10-20; Mk 2:23-28
Today’s text is a pronouncement story. In such a story, the saying of Jesus is of central importance. In this story, it appears at the end where after Jesus pronounces that it was the Sabbath (rules and regulations) that was made for the human person and not the other way around, he identifies The Son of Man as Lord even of the Sabbath.
The Gospel of Mark does not explicate what the Pharisees are complaining about. They surely could not be complaining that the disciples of Jesus were stealing because they were plucking ears of corn, since Deut. 23:25 permitted a person to pluck ears of grain when he/she went into a neighbour’s field. Luke 6:1 seems to indicate that the objection of the Pharisees was that the disciples of Jesus were rubbing the heads of grain they had plucked in their hands which could be considered as threshing and therefore work, which was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod 34:21).
As he often does in his responses, Jesus takes the objectors beyond the immediate objection to a higher level. Here, he focuses not just on the question of work on the Sabbath or the incident that is questioned, but beyond: to the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is at the service of the human person and not the human person at the service of the Sabbath. In other words, human needs take precedence over any rules and regulations. This must be the primary focus.
There are times in our lives when we treat rules as ends in themselves. One reason why we do this is because we have an image of God as a policeman who will catch and punish us if we do not follow the rules, as we ought to. Another reason could be that we expect that God will be gracious to us and bless us if we are faithful in following the rules. It is possible that sometimes we are so focussed on following the rules that we believe God has set for us that we might lose sight of human persons whose needs we must respond to first.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Monday, January 16, 2017 - How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 5:1-10; Mk 2:18-22
The text of today is a controversy story, and concerns one of the three important traditions of the Jews: fasting, the other two being alms giving and prayer.
The question of the people compares the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples with that of John’s disciples and the Pharisees. The latter fast whereas the disciples of Jesus do not. The law required that people fast only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Num 29:7-11), though there were other reasons why a person might fast including as a personal expression of sorrow or repentance (1 Kgs 21:27; 2 Samuel 3:35). The Pharisees were said to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12).
Since the people considered Jesus as a prophet or religious teacher, they would have expected his disciples to fast as other sects did. In his response to the people, Jesus clarifies that with his coming the new age has dawned, which is an age of freedom. He does this first by using the analogy of the bridegroom, and states that those who fast at the wedding are seriously insulting the host or bridegroom. However, even though there is the element of celebration in the analogy of the bridegroom, there is also a sombre note, which speaks of the bridegroom being taken away, and seems to refer to the death of Jesus, which will be an appropriate time to fast. The unshrunk cloth and the new wine refer to this new age, whereas the old cloak and the old wine skins refer to the old age. The two are incompatible. An attempt to patch an old garment using a new or unshrunk cloth will result in a worse tear; just as to put new wine into old skins will result in a great loss. The conclusion of the saying of Jesus emphasises that the presence of Jesus brings newness and to understand him one will need to give up the old categories that one has.
If we can talk of a rule or regulation that Jesus gave his disciples, it would only be the rule of love. All the actions of Jesus’ disciples must be motivated by love. This means that one may or may not fast, but that one will always and every time only love.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:3.5-6; 1 Cor1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
A few years ago, after the Std X results had been declared, I went to visit some friends of mine whose daughter had just appeared for that examination. I knew her to be a girl who has always got good marks all through her academic career, and so was surprised when her mother on opening the door to my knock began to tell me how she felt so let down by her daughter. The manner in which she was moaning her fate led me to conclude that the girl had failed. I responded with what I thought were words of consolation saying that failure was not the end of the world and that her daughter could apply to have her papers reevaluated and that if that did not work, she could appear again and surely pass. She was taken aback when I mentioned failure and informed me that her daughter had passed and has scored 86% marks. This time I was surprised and asked her what she was complaining about. She replied that she was complaining because her neighbour’s daughter had scored 86.50%. After being stunned for a moment, I asked her whether she would have been happy if her daughter had scored 75% (less than the marks she had actually scored) and her neighbour’s daughter had scored 74.50%. She replied with an emphatic “Yes, I would have been very happy.” The moral of this incident is that comparisons are extremely dangerous and will tend to consume the person who engages in them. It is related to the Gospel text of today.
The example of John the Baptist shows us that true personal fulfilment and greatness lies not in how we may compare with others but in how faithful we are to our God-given roles in life. John is a rare example of someone who was clear about what his role in life was and went about fulfilling that role with sincerity and courage. He was able to identify Jesus and witness to him, because he was secure in himself. This security and self acceptance led him to see in and witness to Jesus the Lamb of God, the preexistent one, the vehicle of the Sprit and the Chosen One of God. John was content and satisfied with playing the second fiddle rather than vying with Jesus for the limelight. He did not feel the need to compare himself negatively with Jesus and thus feel bad about himself. He could do this because he knew exactly the reason for him being in the world. He knew why he came into this life: “but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to
he knew the reason for his existence and his place in the world, John could
tell when he had done what was required of him. He could tell when it was time
to hand the baton to another. Israel
In the second reading of today Paul states that the call of each one who is Christian is to be a saint. A saint or someone who has been sanctified literally means someone who has been set apart. This means that no matter how tall or short we are, or how thin or fat we are we are called like the Psalmist of today to keep responding, “Here I am, Lord! I have come to do your will.” If we do not realize this, the chances are that we will spend the whole of our lives chasing after everything and nothing, in a rat-race of envy, jealousy and comparison with those we perceive as better than us. Instead of living and working in harmony and cooperation with others, those who do not know the reason for their being are often driven by rivalry and competition.
Nature offers us a very practical lesson in this regard. A dog does not try to be a cat, nor does a sunflower try to be a rose. Each is what it is. Each has its own beauty and uniqueness and glorifies in it. John the Baptist is before us as a great example in the Ordinary time of the year of what it means to be ordinary and of what it means to know our unique place and role in the world. In Jesus, however, we have a better example than even John. Conscious as he was that he was God’s chosen one, he was also aware that like the prophetic figure whom Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today, he would become so by being servant. In this manner he would complete his role on earth which was to restore the tribes of
and become the light to all
Friday, January 13, 2017
Saturday, January 14, 2017 - When you look at an egg will you see the eagle? Has your stereotypical way of looking prevented you from seeing people as they are?
To read the texts click on the texts:Heb 4:12-16; Mk 2:13-17
If in 2:1-12 through the incident of the healing of the paralytic, Mark portrayed Jesus as one who had the authority to forgive sin, in the text of today, he shows Jesus as reaching out to tax collectors and sinners. There are two episodes, which are connected. The first is the Call of Levi and the second is the dinner in Levi’s house during which Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.
In Matthew 9:9, the tax collector who is called is named Matthew, but in Mark (and Luke 5:27) he is called Levi. However, the name Levi does not appear in any list of twelve whereas Matthew appears in all the lists. The tax collector at the time of Jesus was a person whose duty it was to collect tax or duty on goods crossing the border. They were accused of charging more than the required amount and so were considered as thieves and seen as dishonest. This is the kind of person called by Jesus to discipleship. The structure of the call of Levi is similar to that of the first four disciples in Mark (1:16-20). Here too, it has five parts, Jesus passes by, sees Levi at his work, calls to him, Levi leaves his work and follows Jesus.
Immediately after the call and following, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for a meal during which many tax collectors and sinners sit at table with him. This leads to the scribes of the Pharisees complaining probably that Jesus was not observe that higher standard of holiness that would be expected of him. Jesus responds to their objection in two parts. In the first part, he states what many regard is a common proverb of the time (“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”). In the second part of his response (“I have come not to call the righteous but sinners”), Jesus states explicitly the reason for his coming: to call sinners. The force of this mission statement of Jesus will be understood better when we realise that the righteous referred to those who were zealous for the law and tried to live it out as completely as they could, whereas sinners meant those who deliberately flouted/flaunted the law and paid no heed to it. Jesus has come to seek those who everyone considers evil.
Many of us tend to look down on those who may not come up to our expectations or behave the way we want them to. We may also often judge others by what we see and be too quick to do that. The challenge for each of us is to realise that our way of looking may be a stereotypical way of looking and that we may be looking with a prejudiced view.