Saturday, October 10, 2015
To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk10:17-30
Today, more than ever before, it is being brought to our attention what greed and a desire for more can do, not only to us, as humans, but also, to our environment. Global warming, changing weather conditions, the melting of glaciers, intermittent rain, lack of water and other basic necessities in so many parts of the world, the growing number of those who go to bed hungry every day, are only some of the consequences of the greed of a few. Even today, when some have more than they will ever need, others are struggling to get even the little that they require to live. The excess consumption of some deprives others of the resources they need just to survive. The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing larger with each passing day. Our world seems to be closing in on itself. The readings of today address these issues.
In the Gospel text of today, Jesus offers a challenge, not only to the rich man, but to each of us as well. To be sure, the rich man has obeyed all the commandments. He has kept the law. It is precisely because he has kept the law to such perfection that Jesus issues the challenge. Surely, a man who has been so true and so faithful will rise to the greater challenge. Surely, a man who has been so observant of what the law requires him to do will dare to go further. Surely, a man so close to God will walk that extra mile. Sadly, however, this does not turn out to be the case. The rich man cannot make the leap of faith. He cannot give up what is required to be given up by him. It is not so much that he possesses riches but rather, that riches possess him. It is not that he owns things but rather, that things own him. Because things own him and riches possess him, they will not let him be free to make a decision. Things obstruct his hearing, and his vision. Things will not let him see, or hear, or act.
This problem is at the root of what is happening in our world today. There are so many of us who are controlled by things. So many of us have let our riches control us and have power over us. We have given in to selfishness and self centeredness to such an extent that we are not able to see beyond our noses. Each one of us, in his or her own way, is responsible for setting himself or herself on a destructive path.
There is one prime reason why the possessions of the rich man control him, and why we have set ourselves on a similar path of self destruction. The reason is because, while he and some of us possess external riches, he, and we, do not possess the most valuable of all riches: wisdom. Solomon realized this well which is why, in the first reading of today, he prayed to God, not for external riches, but for one gift and one gift alone: the gift of wisdom. He did not selfishly ask for riches, or honour, or glory. He did not selfishly ask for things to satisfy only momentarily. He did not selfishly ask to satisfy his own desires. Solomon understood, unlike the rich man, and unlike us, that wisdom is superior to all riches. It is superior to power, superior to precious stones, superior to even health, beauty, and light. This wisdom made Solomon realize his own finitude and so, his identity with the rest of the human race. It also led him to a desire not to close in on himself but to keep hoping, searching, and reaching out. It led him to pray and to call out to God, not in desperation, but with confidence and courage.
This he does because he knows that God’s word is, as the letter to the Hebrews points out, a two edged sword. It is this word which knows the thoughts and innermost desires of each one of us. It is this word that will call each of us to account for our every word and action. It is this word that questions and challenges us. It is this word to which we must answer.
The answer that we give to this word, which is alive and active, will depend on our response to the challenge which Jesus poses to us through the Gospel of today: “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” What are we being called to in such a summons? How do we respond?
Different people respond in different ways. Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola interpreted these words literally and so, divested themselves of every form of external riches and also the internal riches of the ego and the self. Environmentalists respond by making people aware of the dangers of the degradation of the environment and the ill effects of such acts on the whole of humanity. Social workers respond by making the poor aware of their rights and giving them the courage to fight for them. Even if most of us are not called to such radical sacrifice, what we are called to is a reflection on our life style. Has the consumer culture of the world taken such hold of us that we, too, like the rich man, are possessed by things? Have we converted our wants into our needs? Is our excess consumption responsible, in some way, for the fact that others have less? Will we dare to give up, and to follow?
Friday, October 9, 2015
Saturday, October 10, 2015 - How would you define “God’s Word” today? Do you put this “Word” into practice in your life? How?
To read the texts click on the texts: Joel 4:12-21; Lk 11:27-28
The words, “While he was saying this” connect what follows to what has gone on before. Jesus has just challenged his listeners to fill their lives with the
, and now a woman
in the crowd blesses the mother of Jesus, because of the beauty she sees in
Jesus. While Jesus does not deny that his mother is indeed blessed, he uses
this opportunity to extend the blessing to anyone who like his mother will hear
the Word of God and put it into practice in their lives. kingdom
If the woman in the crowd was able to bless the womb that bore Jesus, it was because she could see and experience the goodness in Jesus. This goodness was manifested not only in what he said but in what he did and was therefore visible in his person. If we like Jesus hear the word of God and act on it, then others will pronounce the same blessing on us.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Friday, October 9, 2015 - Which is the demon that has possessed you and does not leave you free? Will you attempt to get rid of that demon today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Joel 1:13-15;2:1-2; Lk 11:15-26
The onlookers respond to the exorcism of a demon that made a man mute, in different ways. While there are some who are amazed, others attribute Jesus’ power to cast out demons to Beelzebul. This is an indication that no one doubted Jesus’ power to exorcise and heal. They attributed it to different sources. In his response to this charge, Jesus says that since exorcisms represented a direct assault on Satan’ power and kingdom, it is clear that he cannot be on Satan’s side.
Also, if Jesus’ exorcisms’ were performed by the power of Satan, the same would have to be said of other exorcists belonging to their community. Instead Jesus’ works indicate that the kingdom of God has indeed arrived. Through his exorcisms, Satan’s power is broken. In the simile of the strong man and his castle, Jesus explicates that he is the stronger one who overpowers Satan who had guarded his kingdom well till this time. Finally Jesus invites his listeners to take a stand for him. The saying here is strong. If one does not positively opt for Jesus, one has opted against him. The time now is for decision and choice.
Once he has answered his critics (11:17-23), Jesus moves on to exhort his listeners to fill their lives with the kingdom of God, because it is possible that despite the exorcism, if a person persists in his old ways, he will be possessed once again and this will be ever worse than before.
While there is no doubt that Jesus did exorcise people who were possessed by demons, we must avoid getting caught up with exorcisms ourselves. Rather, today there are many subtle forms of “possession” which are more dangerous than “external possession”. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, ignorance and a better than thou attitude. We need to ask the Lord to exorcise these demons from our lives.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Thursday, October 8, 2015 - Do you give up easily when your prayers are not answered? Will you be shameless today? Will you persist today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Mal 3:13-20; Lk 11:5-13
Luke 11:5-8 is exclusive to Luke and deals with the assurance that God will answer prayer. This point is implicitly made through the parable in these verses. It is a parable from common experience. If the Greek word anaideia is translated as “shameless” (which is it literal meaning), then the parable is stating that it would be unthinkable in the setting of a Galilean village that a neighbour would not get up to give his friend what he wants even if it meant disturbing the entire family at midnight to oblige his friend. The reason why he would do this is to avoid being shamed. However, it can also mean that the one who makes the petition is shameless for going to the friend’s house at midnight to beg for bread.
If the translation of the word anaidea is “persistence” or “boldness”, then the point is that it is the persistence of the one who asks for bread, which will get him what he wants. The friend who gives the bread will be tired out by the persistence of the one who is asking.
In 11:9-13, we have a three-fold admonition, “Ask, search and knock” (11:9-10), followed by two rhetorical questions (11:11-12) both of which elicit the answer “No, there is no one”.
The final verse of this section 11:13 contrasts evil human beings with the heavenly Father. If humans evil as they are will still give their children only what is good, then the heavenly Father will do more than that. He will give the greatest of gifts, the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
To be without shame is also to be without ego. The one who is shameless is also one who can persevere since he/she has nothing to lose. Perseverance is indeed the key to open the door to God’s heart.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 1:12-14; Lk 1:26-38
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was formerly known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Legend has it that Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic in 1208, and gave him the Rosary to be used as a tool against all kinds of challenges.
Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in relation to the Rosary. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is October 7. It was formerly known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. The development of the Rosary as a form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. On October 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima told the children, “I am the Lady of the Rosary”.
The text chosen for the feast 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.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - Will you depend on yourself today or will you show your dependence on God? How?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 4:1-11; Lk 11:1-4
Luke gives more importance to Jesus’ practice of praying than do any of the other Gospels. The only prayer that Jesus’ explicitly taught his disciples was the “Our Father”. This prayer appears only in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. While in Matthew, the prayer appears as part of the Sermon on the Mount; Luke explicitly has Jesus praying himself when he is asked by his disciples to teach them to pray.
The following elements of the Matthean prayer are not found in Luke: “Our … who art in heaven…Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven… but deliver us from evil. This has the effect of making the prayer simple and direct in Luke. Both Matthew and Luke understood the prayer as a prayer of the community and have use the first person plural to stress this. While the prayer in Matthew contains seven petitions, the prayer in Luke contains only five. It is agreed by many that the Lukan version is probably closer to the original prayer that Jesus taught. By petitioning God for the most basic of our needs like “bread”, the prayer is basically a prayer of dependence. It is an acknowledgement of the fact that we cannot manage even this simple task on our own, and we need God’s goodness to provide it to us.
Just as we need bread we also need God’s forgiveness, because if He were to keep a grudge against us for every time we sinned, we would be lost. In this context it must be noted that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell us that we must be “sorry” for our sins if we want forgiveness. Rather if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive. Our forgiveness of others opens our hearts to receive the forgiveness that God constantly gives. The prayer is therefore not merely a prayer therefore, but an attitude, a way of life.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - Will you like Martha, presume to tell Jesus what he ought to do, or will you like Mary listen to what he would like you to do?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 3:1-10; Lk 10:38-42
This text, which speaks of the encounter of Martha and Mary with Jesus, takes the form of a pronouncement story (a story in which a saying of Jesus stands out and is the focus of the story). While the Gospel of Luke explicitly mentions women disciples of Jesus, here Mary is even sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his teaching, something unthinkable at the time of Jesus. By sitting at his feet, Mary is acting like a male, and in doing so neglects her duty of helping to prepare the meal. This action of Mary also results in bringing shame upon her house. Though justified Martha’s protest is put negatively by her. It is clear that her focus is not the Lord, but herself. She is concerned not with her service of the Lord, but the trouble that it is causing her because she is left alone to serve.
The response of Jesus to Martha is the main point of the story and the pronouncement. The repetition of her name is a mild rebuke. Her “cares” have prevented her from unhindered devotion and attention to the Lord. Mary has chosen the one thing necessary and that is the Lord. Martha presumes to tell Jesus what he should do; Mary lets Jesus tell her what to do.
There are times when we do things not because we are convinced that they have to be done but because we want the approval of others or we want others to know how hard we are working. These are selfish acts and do not bring grace. The act that does bring grace is when we do what has to be done simply because it has to be done and expect nothing in return.