Thursday, May 5, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016 - What causes sorrow in you? Can you be described as primarily a “happy” person? If No, why not?

To read the texts click on the texts:Acts18:9-18; Jn 16:20-23

Jesus explains in these verses how the disciple’s sorrow will turn to joy. The metaphor of child birth is used to explain the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. Just as the birth of a child turns the pain of the mother into joy, so the in-breaking of God’s kingdom will turn the disciples’ sorrow into joy. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his death will be the cause of their sorrow turning to joy. This joy will not be temporary, but permanent, and no one or event will be able to take it away. This is because the whole of life’s perspective will change and the disciples will become a new people, a new creation. On that day, all the questions of the disciples will cease because nothing will need to be explained. It will be as clear as it needs to be.

Sorrow and joy are common everyday experiences of all humans. Sorrow is caused when things do not go the way we expect them to or when people do not respond in the way we want them to. When our expectations are not met, we feel sad and upset. However, after the resurrection of Jesus and his presence among us in his Spirit, sorrow can never be an enduring experience for a believer. It is always temporary. Joy is permanent. This joy is not caused by the happening or not happening of events, it is not caused by our expectations being fulfilled, but by a realization that, in Jesus, God always wants what is best for us and will never do anything that is not for our good and for his glory. It is a realization that, in Jesus, we are loved unconditionally by a God who is Father and who always wants what is best for his sons and daughters.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016 - Can you be courageous even when it seems that the whole world is conspiring against you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts18:1-8; Jn 16:16-20

In the first verse of today’s reading, 16:16, the focus is turned back from the Paraclete to the impending departure of Jesus and the response of the disciples to that departure. The first “little while” in this verse refers to the time before his death, which Jesus sees as fast approaching, whereas the second “little while” refers to the events after his death to his resurrection appearances and even beyond. The disciples are not able to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and keep questioning among themselves what they mean.

Though they have not addressed Jesus with their questions, he is aware of what they are discussing. Yet, he does not answer their question directly, but moves the question to a new direction. A new teaching is introduced by the use of the words, “Amen, amen”. There will be contrasting responses to the death of Jesus. The disciples will weep and mourn, whereas the “world”, which here must be translated as those opposed to the revelation of God in Jesus, will rejoice.  However, this will only be a temporary response. The pain and sorrow of the disciples will soon turn to joy.

It is easy to be happy and believe that God is on our side when things go the way we want. However, when we are faced with obstacles and difficulties, when we do not get the due we think we deserve and, when the road is steep and the going is difficult, then we begin to wonder if God is on our side. The text of today is a call to believe, even in the most difficult circumstances. It is a call to know that there will be joy, even in the midst of pain, and happiness, even in the midst of sorrow. It is a call to have faith and see the risen Jesus, even as he hangs on the cross, and to see in the crosses that we have to carry every day, our own resurrection. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 - What contemporary symbol describes Jesus for you? How will you share this symbol with at least one other person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts17:15,22-18:1; Jn 16:12-15

The Paraclete is mentioned for the last time in the Farewell Discourse in these verses. Jesus has taught the disciples all that they are to know and understand about the present time. There is nothing more about the present that he can say to them. What they need to know about the future will be revealed to them at the appropriate time and when the Spirit that is sent comes. This means that, even when they are faced with the future which is uncertain, God’s presence will be with them. They are not alone. The Paraclete is the “spirit of truth” since he comes from Jesus, who is “the truth” and will guide the disciples into the way of truth, into the way of Jesus. Since the Paraclete will be sent by Jesus, he will only explicate and make clearer what Jesus has already said. He will not give a new teaching but will continue what Jesus has begun. As Jesus taught what he heard from God, so the Paraclete will teach what he hears from Jesus.

He will also declare “the things that are to come” which here means the preparation of the disciples for the time after Jesus. This also indicates that the words of Jesus are not time bound, but available anew for every succeeding generation of disciples. The Paraclete always makes the teachings new and relevant for the times. Just as Jesus made God visible through his words and actions, so the Paraclete will make Jesus present through the inspiration and support he provides to the disciples.

The Paraclete thus makes Jesus present even after his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. He is the teacher and witness of all that Jesus has said and done. That is, the Paraclete enables the Christian community, at any time in its life, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” and bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. However, the Paraclete’s role as teacher is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.

The Paraclete that Jesus sent two thousand years ago is the same Paraclete that is available to us today. The presence of the Paraclete will be seen and felt when we make the teachings of Jesus relevant and alive today. The idiom, symbols, and language that we use have to be understood by contemporary hearers. All too often, language about Jesus is too pious and even outdated and so, does not touch the lives of many. If we open ourselves to the working of the Paraclete in our lives, we will be able to make Jesus present even now.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - If people heard you speak and saw your actions today, would they recognize you as a follower of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 16:22-34; Jn 16:5-11

These verses continue the farewell Discourse which was begun in 14:1. Since Jesus had been physically present to the disciples, he did not need to give them instructions about the time when he would not be with them. However, since that time has now come, they need to be informed about how they are to handle the future without him. They are dismayed and troubled, even though they know that he is going to the Father. They must realize and accept that it is to their advantage that Jesus goes. If he does not go, the Paraclete cannot come. Jesus’ departure, which means his death, resurrection, and ascension, must precede the Paraclete’s coming. When this happens, Jesus will have completed the work given to him by the Father and the Paraclete will continue the work begun by Jesus.

The Paraclete’s work in the world will be to bring people to trial. This, however, is only one of the many functions that the Paraclete performs. It will bring out into the open the true meaning of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the “world”, which here means those who rejected Jesus, will be held accountable.

The “world’s” sin is exposed because they have not believed in Jesus as the one who was sent from, and by, the Father. This means that the focus is not on one particular act, but on the attitude of rejection. Though the “world” might assume that Jesus’ death is the end, it is mistaken and, in this is righteousness exposed. Jesus’ death is not the end; rather, it is the completion on earth of the work entrusted to him by the Father. It is to be seen in the context of obedience to his Father’s will for him and the world. The final judgment will be that of the “ruler of this world”. By his death, resurrection, and ascension, the devil, the embodiment of all that is opposed to Jesus, will be judged. It will be proved, through this decisive act, that God has triumphed in his Son.

The “world” continues to be opposed to Jesus and to love. However, Jesus continues to be present to the world in his Spirit, made manifest in his disciples. It is the task of the disciples inspired and guided by the Spirit to continue to expose the sin of the world and bring the world to judgment. While this may be done by verbal proclamation, it must also be, like in the case of Jesus, a proclamation that is shown in action.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monday, May 2, 2016 - Will you persevere in love today? When you are repaid with ingratitude for your kindness, will you continue to love?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts16:11-15; Jn 15:26-16:4

This is the third promise of the coming of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John. Jesus had made the first promise in 14:16-17, and the second one in 14:26. The Paraclete or Advocate is sent by Jesus and the Father. The Paraclete is sent by Jesus, but is sent from the Father. The Paraclete is sent here to testify or bear witness to Jesus. This means that the teaching of the Paraclete will not be new teaching but a confirmation of what Jesus has already taught and done. Just as the Paraclete bears witness, so must the disciples, since they have seen and heard Jesus from the beginning. The Paraclete will give strength to the disciples in their time of trial so that they will not fall away. The Paraclete will work in and through the disciples. The work of Jesus continues through the Paraclete working in the disciples.

Because of this work of Jesus, the disciples will have to face persecution from those who do not accept them. As a matter of fact, those who engage in such persecution will think they are right and, by so persecuting the disciples, will think they are, in effect, worshipping God. This is because they have not understood the meaning of the incarnation and so, have not been able to recognize God’s unconditional and gratuitous love made manifest in Jesus. Jesus predicts these happenings, to both prepare the disciples in advance for what is to come and also, to warn them about the consequences of following him. Their perseverance and standing firm, even in the midst of persecution, will reveal their love for him and the Father and will be the tangible expression of their faith.

Believing in Jesus is not easy. It is one thing to verbally profess faith in him and another to live out all that he taught and did. It is especially difficult to follow him when things do not go the way we want them to and when things happen contrary to our expectations. When those to whom we are good repay us with goodness, we are not surprised, because we expect them to do just that. However, when those to whom we have reached out in love are ungrateful and sometimes openly hostile to us, we get shocked at their behavior, simply because we did not expect them to react in that way. It is at times like these that we must remember the predictions of Jesus made here. His love for the world, shown in the most tangible manner on the cross, was spurned by most of his contemporaries, yet that same love continues to be made new, even today, two thousand years later. We, too, are called not to fall away but to persevere in love.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Audio reflections of Sunday, May 1, 2016

To hear the Audio reflections of Sunday, May 1, 2016 click HERE

Sunday, May 1,2016 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Are we living out the message of love?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14:23-29

A priest was invited to a meal by one of his parishioners during the season of Lent and on a Friday. He sat down at table and was surprised when most of the dishes placed in front of him contained meat. He remarked to the parishioner that they were in the Lenten season and, even more significant, that the day was Friday and meat could not be eaten. The parishioner replied, “Do not worry, father. I sprinkled some holy water on all the meat, baptized it, and called it fish.” Did the meat become fish? Did the priest eat the “meat”? Was he guilty of sin if he did eat? Was the parishioner making a joke of the whole Lenten season? These are questions for which we find responses in the readings of today.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion of rules and regulations. More than once, Jesus encountered people who had made rules and regulations ends in themselves. And, more than once, indeed often, in his responses to such people, he would ask that the focus be on love rather than on law, that it be on the person rather than on the rule, and that it be on the heart rather than on the body. Yet, it seems that, more and more, we continue to focus on the external rather than on the internal.

This is evident in the first reading of today when, a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the first Christian community is debating about what makes a Christian and a disciple of Jesus. However, even as they debated, they realized that this is not what Jesus had intended at all. The Spirit inspired them to change their focus to the internal, to the heart. This is the same spirit that Jesus promised the disciples in the Gospel text of today. This Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and so, will not teach something different from what Jesus taught. Rather, the Spirit that Jesus sent, and continues to send, will reinforce and confirm all that they have been taught by Jesus. By listening to this Spirit of freedom, they will be empowered to keep the word spoken to them and enable Jesus and the Father to make a home with them. The word spoken to them by Jesus was not a set of rules and regulations. The word spoken to them was not a list of commandments. The word spoken to them was not, primarily, a word about the law. It was always, with Jesus, a word of love. This is why the gift that Jesus leaves with the disciples is the gift of peace, which means wholeness and well being. The focus of the gift is the heart.

Since this is so, the Book of Revelation, in the second reading of today, can speak of the apostles as being the foundations of the new Temp0le and of God and Jesus being the Temple. There are no bricks and no walls that make up the new Temple. It is a Temple which has as its cornerstone, Jesus himself. This new Temple will not need external light. It will not even need the sun and the moon. Jesus will be all the light that the Temple needs.

Why is it that, almost from the “foundation” of Christianity, and continuing even today, the Church has focused on externals and on what constitutes and does not constitute sin? There could be a variety of reasons for this. The core reason, however, seems to be that, like Jesus was misunderstood so often in his lifetime, he was misunderstood also after his death and resurrection Instead of being content with living out the message of love, the Church became more interested in converting others to Jesus. Instead of showing, in and through the reality of love, what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus, the Church focused, on merely proclaiming the word. Instead of concentrating on Jesus and his Spirit, the Church shifted the focus to everything else. We moved our gaze away from the crucified Jesus and risen Christ.

What must we do to bring back this focus? What must we do? Only one response is required: the response of love. As Jesus lived out throughout his life, and in the face of all opposition, the reality of unconditional and absolute love, so we, as Church, are called to do so today. We need not concern ourselves so much with numbers and statistics, but with living out the message that Jesus brought. We need not concern ourselves with external conversions, but must focus more on the conversion of the heart. We need not worry so much about eating or not eating meat and fish and thus, what goes in, but must concentrate instead on what comes out from within. Then, that Temple, which John speaks about in the second reading of today, will become a reality. Then, its light will be the glory of God and the Lamb. Then, the Spirit that Jesus sent, and continues to send even today, will not be stifled and will  be free to transform our lives and the lives of those we encounter and so, win them over to love.                                 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Audio Reflections of Saturday, April 30, 2016

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, April 30, 2016 click HERE

Saturday, April 30, 2016 - How often has your comparison with what others have led you to feel jealous of them? Will you realize that you can be the most contented person if you so decide today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 16:1-10; Jn 15:18-21

These verses of the Discourse on the Vine and the Branches focus not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.

The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.

The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives.  Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them.  Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.

In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labeled as crazy and out of touch with reality. Possession of things has so possessed us that we do not even realize that, most of the time, it is things that possess us rather than the other way round. We are held by the things we want to possess and they will not let us rest. Often, it begins with a small possession and then goes on to something bigger and soon gets so big that we lose control of ourselves and who we are. Our identity is linked with what we have and what we have achieved. In a situation like this, we need to take stock and decide when enough is enough. We need to ask ourselves whether we will live our lives moving from one possession to the next, often not even having the time or energy to enjoy what we possess.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Audio reflections of April 29, 2016

To hear the Audio reflections of April 29, 2016 click HERE