Thursday, December 12, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013 - Do you regard yourself as a contented person or are you a constant complainer?
In the text of today, Jesus uses an analogy to show his view of the present generation. One group wants to play a happy game, a game of joy, a game of a wedding celebration, but the other group will not join. The first group then agrees to change the game to a game of mourning, a game of sorrow, a game of funerals, but even with this change, the other group will not participate.
The latter option corresponds to the gaunt and ascetic figure of John, whose message of coming judgement was too threatening, and whose life-style was too unworldly for the sophisticates of “this generation.” But when Jesus came in meekness, announcing the peaceable kingdom of unconditional love and forgiveness and celebrating the goodness of life with all, he was rejected as not “spiritual” enough. “This generation’s” description of Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard is reminiscent of Deut 21:20, suggesting more than merely an insult: Jesus is a rebellious Israelite worthy of stoning, one who should be executed in order to purge evil from the midst of the covenant community. For you, “the Baptist is a madman because he fasts, while you want to make merry; me you reproach because I eat with publicans, while you insist on strict separation from sinners”. You hate the preaching of repentance, and you hate the proclamation of the Gospel. The change of “all her children” found in Luke, to “her actions” in Matthew is probably because Matthew wants to identify Jesus as Wisdom incarnate and not merely as one of Wisdom’s messengers. Wisdom is proved right by her actions since they are the actions of Jesus himself.
The mother of a young boy of 10 was at her wits end when it came to dealing with him. Nothing she did would please him and he would always complain about something or other. If she fried an egg for him at breakfast, he would refuse to eat it and ask for a boiled one instead. If she boiled one the next day, he would ask for a fried egg. This went on and she had reached the end of her tether. One morning before breakfast, she thought she would be able to win and so fried one egg and boiled another. The boy came to the breakfast table, looked at both eggs, and said to his mother; “You fried the wrong one”.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013 - What one action will you perform today to make Jesus known to someone who has not encountered him?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15
John the Baptist is clearly a precursor in the Synoptic Gospels. He is the one who goes before the Lord to prepare his way. In Matthew, John has a borderline role. John is the last and greatest of all prophets until the time of Jesus. He is indeed the one who, alone among the prophets of the Old Testament, was the forerunner of the Messiah and this is what makes him the greatest human being.
Even so, John does not belong to the new era of God’s rule inaugurated by Jesus. While on the one hand, the content of his proclamation about the kingdom is the same as that of Jesus; on the other hand, even the least in the kingdom is greater than John.
The “least” in the kingdom, who is greater than John, while it may refer to Jesus (who came after John and was “younger” than him), here seems to refer to the disciples. These are greater than John because they have the privilege of seeing the inauguration of the kingdom which John was not privileged to see. They are also the ones who recognize the Messiah and point to him more clearly than John could hope to do.
From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the kingdom has been forcefully advancing. The Prophets and the Law prophesied until then and, implicitly, prophesied this new era. And from that time on, the fulfillment of the prophecy, the kingdom itself has been forcefully advancing. This advancement cannot be seen by those who have closed themselves to this kind of revelation and thus, the text ends with the invitation to hear.
The kingdom that Jesus inaugurated continues to advance today despite many setbacks. It is not a kingdom that advances by force or by any kind of pressure. It is a kingdom that wins over opponents by that unconditional love with which Jesus began it. We in the present generation are the fortunate ones who have been privileged to witness the kingdom. Now, it is our responsibility to point to him and make him known to those who have not yet had the privilege of encountering him as we have done.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - Are you carrying the burden of unforgiveness, guilt, resentment, jealousy, or anger in your heart? Will you lay down that burden on Jesus’ shoulders today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30
The verses that make up the text of today are exclusive to Matthew. They are an invitation from Jesus to all those who are burdened. The burden referred to here is most likely the burden of religious obligation. This often became an obstacle in one’s path to God. While “yoke” generally meant obedience or even servitude, here the yoke is Jesus’ own yoke. Thus, this is not the yoke of the law; rather, it is the yoke that will deliver one from the artificial burdens of human religion. The “easy yoke” of Jesus is not an invitation to a life of ease but to a life of freedom. This is why it is important to “learn” from Jesus as a disciple learns from his/her teacher. This learning is not imitation but is learning from the revelation of God made visible in Jesus. When one recognizes who God really is, after learning from Jesus, one realizes that God is indeed a God who desires that all men and women be free and serve him only in freedom rather than from any external compulsion.
Jesus invites anyone who wishes to come to him to do so. No one is excluded. What are required are openness and a desire to see a new revelation of God. It is a revelation that only Jesus is competent to make because he alone knows the Father, as father, and reveals him as such. This revelation is of a God who will not burden people with sets of rules and regulations. It is a revelation of a God who is unconditional love and who can be recognized only when love abounds.
Monday, December 9, 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14
The Gospel text of today is taken from the fourth discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, known as “The Community Discourse”. It is addressed primarily to members of Matthew’s community and not to outsiders.
The parable of the lost sheep is found also in the Gospel of Luke. The context in Luke, however, is quite different from that in Matthew. While in Luke, it is told as a response to the murmurings of the Pharisees because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew, it is part of the Community Discourse.
Thus, the concern in these verses in Matthew is clearly for members of the community who stray. The point is pastoral care and sanctification rather than evangelism and justification. The sheep that is lost is not more valuable than others, but has strayed and needs to be brought back. The finding and the return of the lost sheep cause joy. Every individual in the community is important and it is the responsibility of the community to seek out those who stray and bring them back into the fold. Mature disciples are to live their lives with the spiritual welfare of others in view. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. Every Christian is a Christian within community.
In a world in which individualism seems to be the order of the day, and when each is concerned only about him/herself, the parable of the lost sheep comes as a breath of fresh air. It challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and our selfish ways of living and live instead, lives that are other centered. It informs us that we are, each of us, our brother’s and sister’s keepers; each of us must accept responsibility for them. We are not individuals but one community that must be a community of concern for the other and a community showing this concern by reaching out in love.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Monday, December 9, 2013 - The Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother - Will you say YES to all that God wants to do through you today even when you fully cannot understand why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Gn 3:9-15,20; Eph 1:3-6,11-12; Lk 1:26-38
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, was established as a universal feast in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. He did not define the doctrine as a dogma, thus leaving Roman Catholics free to believe in it or not without being accused of heresy; this freedom was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The existence of the feast was a strong indication of the Church's belief in the Immaculate Conception, even before its 19th century definition as a dogma.
The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. The Catholic Church believes that the dogma is supported by Scripture (e.g., Mary's being greeted by the Angel Gabriel as "full of grace") as well as either directly or indirectly by the writings of Church Fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Ambrose of Milan. Catholic theology maintains that since Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, it was fitting that she be completely free of sin for expressing her fiat. In 1904 Pope Saint Pius X also addressed the issue in his Marian encyclical Ad Diem Illum on the Immaculate Conception.
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today relates a scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given. It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.
Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history. Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.
In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.
The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.
Today, many assume that those whom God favours will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favoured one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favoured,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.
When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us, that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to all that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Saviour in our hearts.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
READ THE TEXTS HERE