Sunday, November 29, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015 - St. Andrew, Apostle - How will you respond to the call of Jesus to YOU today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22
Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter (Mt 4:18; Mk 1:16; Jn 1:40; 6:8) and along with his brother was a fisherman. According to the Gospel of John, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and was one of the first to follow Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark state that Andrew and his brother were the disciples to be called by Jesus to become “fishers of men”; a phrase which was used to probably link it with their trade.
Though not in the group of the three disciples (Peter, James and John) who seemed to have a special place in the ministry of Jesus, it was Andrew who brought the boy who had five barley loaves to Jesus in the Gospel of John (Jn 6:8) and who along with Philip told Jesus about the gentiles (Greeks) who wished to meet Jesus (Jn 12:22).
Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras. His crucifixion is believed to have been on Cross that was shaped like the alphabet X. This Cross is commonly known as “Saint Andrew’s Cross” today.
The Gospel text for the Feast is the call of the first four disciples as narrated by Matthew. It is Jesus who takes the initiative in this story and come to the brothers, Simon and Andrew. Jesus’ invitation is also a promise. The invitation which is “to follow” him, will result in the brothers becoming ‘fishers of men and women’. It is an invitation to participate in the saving work of Jesus.
The response of the brothers is immediate. They leave everything to follow Jesus. While it was surely a risk to act in such a manner, it is also true that the call of Jesus was so compelling, that they simply could not refuse.
What does it mean to follow Jesus and accept his invitation to follow? It means that one is willing to accept the challenge to see God in all things and all things in God. It therefore means continuing to follow when everything is going the way we want it to and also when our plans go awry and we cannot understand why things happen the way they do. It means trusting at every moment that we have to continue to what is required of us and leave everything else (including the worrying) to God. It means trusting that God will never let us down and that all that happens to us is for God’s glory and our good.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 33:14-16;1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
There are very clearly two responses to the signs that precede the coming of the Son of Man on the cloud. One response is to be so frightened and paralysed by far that one faints because judgement is near at hand. The other response is to stand up and raise one’s head, because redemption is near at hand.
Why are there two responses? What are the factors which will determine people’s response? The answer to these questions is contained in the texts that have been chosen for this first Sunday in Advent.
No matter how invincible we may think we are, and no matter how many strides we may take in the fields of science and technology; death is a certainty. Our life here on earth is limited and temporary. There is no doubt that we will all pass from this world some day. Since this is the case, some respond by adopting the philosophy of the Epicureans or the Crvkas in which the core theme is “Eat, drink and make merry, for tomorrow you die”. This philosophy is based on the belief that pleasure is the sole good. The Epicureans and the Carvakas live lives centred on themselves and on their wants alone and will not care about the needs of others. It is logical then, that when these are faced with the prospect of death, they will be frightened.
There are, on the other hand, those who will walk the way Jesus has shown. They, too, know that life on earth is temporary and passing and hence, they will do everything in their power to make the lives of others on earth a little more meaningful. They will focus, not on themselves but, on others and in doing so, make even this passing world a heaven on earth. These will be able to hold their heads high and be unafraid when the Son of Man does come. However, since they are prepared all the time, they will neither focus too much on that day when he will come nor will they speculate about when that day will arrive. All that matters to them will be to live fully and completely in the present.
The first reading of today, from the prophet Jeremiah, makes this point clear, While earlier, Jeremiah had named the king whom God would send as “The Lord is our righteousness”, here, it is the city in which God’s people dwell that is called by this name. This is because the king, himself, will show the way by living a righteousness life and he will challenge others who dwell in his city to do the same, Those who dwell in this city must ensure that they live up to its name. This they will do by making certain that justice, honesty, and integrity prevail among them.
The prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled in its entirety only in the coming of Jesus, who is the incarnation of justice. It was through his words and actions that he brought justice and righteousness to everyone whom he encountered. Even as he did so, he challenged all who came in contact with him to live the kind of life that he lived and to reflect that kind of life in every action and word. He was able to convince his disciples that this way was the only way to live. He was also able to convert a Saul into a Paul.
It is the same converted Paul who explains to the Thessalonians, in the first reading of today, that their community must be one in which love is shown in action. He himself learnt this from the crucified and risen Christ and he has taught it as he learned it. They must not become complacent or give in to mediocrity.
Many of us live in the future rather than in the present. We want to know what will happen tomorrow and, in the process, do not live fully today. This obsession with the future is because we are frightened. We are frightened of what the future holds for us. We are frightened of whether the future will be better than or worse than our present. The readings of today call for a total living in the present and doing what we have to do in the here and now, without useless worry about what the morrow may bring. This is what it means to be ready at all times.
However, we will only be able to have such confidence to continue doing what we are doing. If we give up the negative things that we might be doing and the negative attitudes that we might carry. We need to substitute the negative with everything that enhances, that builds up and that is positive. Being good and doing good are not to be looked upon as burdens. They are to be seen as something that comes naturally to the Christian who, because of Christ’s life, mission, death, and resurrection has moved from darkness to light and from fear to love. We must show, through this kind of positive and fearless living, that we are, indeed, children of the light. We must show that we have, as inspiration, the person and message of Christ.
We will become that city of righteousness to which everyone will look and learn the Lord’s ways. Those who look will learned that to be obsessed with what is not yet, is to fail to appreciate fully the present moment. They will realize that it is better to be positive than negative, better to enhance and build up rather than pull down and destroy, and better to live fully and completely rather than die without ever having lived.
Friday, November 27, 2015
Saturday, November 28, 2015 - How would you define prayer? Can it be said of you that your life is prayer?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 7:15-27; Lk 21:34-36
These verses are the conclusion of the Eschatological Discourse, and in them, Luke composes an exhortation that stresses constant watchfulness and prayer as opposed to drunkenness and dissipation. The reason for alertness is because the day can come at any time.
The final verse introduces a positive exhortation. The opposite of sleep and dissipation is vigilance and prayer. The final verse of the discourse calls for constant alertness and prayer, so that one will be able to stand before the Son of Man with dignity and honour. Life itself must be prayer.
Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we wrongly associate with seriousness and a lack of joy. On the contrary, a good person and holy person is primarily a joyful person. Such a person enjoys every moment of every day and lives it fully. Such a person leaves nothing undone and therefore will be ready at all times.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
To read the texts click on the tests: Dan 7:2-14; Lk 21:29-33
The parable of the fig tree found in these verses is the last parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel of Luke. This parable is found also in Mark 13:28-29 and Matthew 24:32-33, but whereas Mark and Matthew speak only of the fig tree, Luke speaks of “the fig tree and all the trees” (21:29). When people can see for themselves that these trees have come out in leaf they know for themselves that summer is near, so when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud (21:27) they will know that the kingdom is near.
Since Luke probably thought that the end would come soon, he has added the last two sayings about what will not pass away until “these things” have taken place. They are “this generation” and the “words” of Jesus. These pronouncements must serve as a reminder of the assurance of redemption for the believer.
Our job as Christians is not to bother about when the end will be but to live fully in the present moment. If we do so then no matter when the end comes we will always be ready.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Thursday, November 26, 2015 - If the end were to come today would you be able to hold your heal high fearlessly? If No, what will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 6:12-18; Lk 21:20-28
The text of today, continues the Eschatological Discourse, but speaks now of the destruction of Jerusalem and other cosmological signs which announce the coming of the Son of Man. Josephus the Jewish historian recorded the horrors of the Jewish war, which lasted from April until August of the year 70 C.E. It was a terrible for all the inhabitants and many were killed during it. The Romans razed the whole city to the ground. Once this happens and the other signs have come to pass signalling the end that is at hand, the Son of Man will appear in a cloud, with great power and glory.
When this happens others might faint from fear, but the disciples are asked to hold their heads up high, because their salvation has indeed come.
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 4:1-8; Lk 9:57-62
John Berchmans SJ Born in Brabant (Netherlands/Belgium) on 13th March, 1599. He joined the Society of Jesus on 24th September 1616 when he was 17 years of age. After his first vows he was sent to Antwerp and a little later to Rome to study Philosophy. He was in his third year of Philosophy, when he was seized with a violent fever and died on 13th August, 1621.
Though he was a Jesuit for only a short period of time and was not ordained a priest, he was known even as a young Jesuit for his piety, devotion and focus. He learned the secret of living in the present moment. He was known to do even the most ordinary and mundane tasks as if it was to be the last task of his life. It was said of him that he did ordinary things extraordinarily well. Because of his devotion to the Eucharist and his regular service at the Altar he is the Patron of Altar Servers.
He was declared Blessed in 1865, and was canonized in 1888. His statues represent him with hands clasped, holding his crucifix, his book of rules, and his rosary.
The Gospel text for the feast is from the Gospel of Luke and is about the would-be followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ warnings about what discipleship will entail.
To the first would-be follower who promises to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus responds by stating clearly that unlike even the foxes that at least have holes, he does not have anywhere he can call his own. If the would-be follower is ready for this insecurity, he may follow.
The second person is called to follow by Jesus, but responds by asking for permission to bury his father. This was a duty that was binding on all devout Jews. Jesus’ response is harsh and demands that the disciple be primarily concerned about the kingdom.
The third would-be follower puts conditions to his following namely that he wants to say farewell to his family. However, here too the response of Jesus is clear. Looking back while ploughing leads to a crooked furrow.
In total contrast to the three examples of persons mentioned in the text, John Berchmans was one who was ready to follow his Lord in total poverty, and did not once look back once he put his hand to the plough. He was focussed on the kingdom and kept that focus till the very end.
While it is not necessary to give up the state of life one has chosen in order to follow Jesus, what is to be understood is that following will necessarily mean changing one’s style of life. It will mean a move from selfishness to selflessness, from acquiring material possessions to sharing them with others and from anything negative to everything that is positive.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - If someone witnessed your actions all through today, would they conclude that you are a disciple of Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28; Lk 21:12-19
These verses are part of Luke’s Eschatological Discourse. The Greek word “Eschaton” is translated as “the last things”, “the things of the next life”.
The main point of these verses is to prepare the disciples for the coming trial by exhorting them to regard trials as an occasion for bearing witness. The text begins by telling the disciples what they (the persecutors) will do namely arrest you, persecute you etc. It then goes on to advise the disciples what they must do in the face of this persecution, namely that they must bear witness but not be obsessed with the anxiety of preparing their defence. The reason for this is because of what Jesus will do, namely, give the disciples wisdom to counter any argument of the opponents. The text ends with an assurance of God’s support and protection on those who endure.
The persecution of the disciples, however, does not exceed what Jesus himself will experience. He, too, will be arrested and brought before Pilate and Herod. It is Jesus himself therefore who will give the disciples the content of what they are to say.
The gospel offers not a way of predicting the end of the world but the spiritual resources to cope with the challenges of life. In times of distress the disciples of Jesus are called not to throw their hands up in despair, but to be unafraid. It is a fact that following Jesus who is The Truth will have repercussions and consequences, some of which may be disastrous. However, it is in these circumstances that perseverance and endurance is called for. This is the test of our faith and courage in the promises of the Lord.
Thus we can opt for one of two ways of proceeding. One is to focus so much on prophesies of the future, that they frighten us into idle speculation and inaction. The other is to dare to commit ourselves and actions to make a difference here and now.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - Are you so concerned about the next life that you are not living fully this life?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 2:31-45; Lk 21:5-11
Luke follows Mark 13:1-8 quite closely in these verses, though he also makes some changes. While in Mark 13:1 Jesus comes out of the Temple and predicts its destruction when his disciples point to it magnificence, in Luke, Jesus is within the Temple when he predicts its destruction when some (not the disciples) speak of its magnificence (21:5-6). This is why unlike in Mark 13:3 he is not on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, but within its precincts when he is asked about when this will take place (21:7). Mark 13:3 has Peter, James, John and Andrew who ask this question; Luke has the people pose the question. Jesus responds by stating not the hour when this will take place, but by issuing a set of three warnings. The first warning is not to allow oneself to be led astray and be led into believing that the ones’ who come in his name are the Messiah. The meaning of this warning is broad and encompasses being led to sin, being taught false teachings, and being deceived regarding apocalyptic events.
The second warning follows the first: the disciples of Jesus must not go after these false Messiahs.
The third warning is not to be terrified when they hear of wars and insurrections, because they are part of God’s plan in bringing about the kingdom and must out of necessity happen before the final coming.
However, idle preoccupation and speculation of what will happen at the end times is not called for. It is a distortion of the Gospel message of Jesus who asks that we concern ourselves not with gossip and guesswork, but in how we must do what we have to do in the present.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Monday, November 22, 2015 - Miguel Augustin Pro SJ (1891-1927) - Live fearlessly because the Lord is in control of every situation.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Mt 10:26-33
In 1911, twenty-year-old Miguel Augustin Pro (1891-1927) joined the Jesuits as a novice in Mexico. A year later a revolution erupted and by 1914 the Jesuits were forced to flee. Via Texas, California, Nicaragua, and Spain, Miguel received his seminary training en route to Belgium, where he was ordained in 1925.
The Jesuits sent Padre Pro to Mexico City in 1926, hoping a return home might relieve the priest’s chronic stomach ailment. Just twenty-three days after Padre Pro arrived, President Calles banned all public worship. Since he was not known as a priest, Padre Pro went about clandestinely—sometimes in disguise—celebrating Mass, distributing communion, hearing confessions, and anointing the sick. He also did as much as he could to relieve the material suffering of the poor. In a letter he gave this faith-filled account:
We carry on like slaves. Jesus help me! There isn't time to breathe, and I am up to my eyebrows in this business of feeding those who have nothing. And they are many—those with nothing. I assure you that I spin like a top from here to there with such luck as is the exclusive privilege of petty thieves. It doesn't even faze me to receive such messages as: “The X Family reports that they are twelve members and their pantry is empty. Their clothing is falling off them in pieces, three are sick in bed and there isn't even water.” As a rule my purse is as dry as Calles’s soul, but it isn't worth worrying since the Procurator of Heaven is generous.
People give me valuable objects to raffle off, something worth ten pesos that I can sell for forty. Once I was walking along with a woman’s purse that was quite cute (the purse not the woman) when I met a wealthy woman all dolled up.
“What do you have there?”
“A lady’s purse worth twenty-five pesos. You can have it for fifty pesos which I beg you to send to such-and-such a family.”
I see God’s hand so palpably in everything that almost—almost I fear they won’t kill me in these adventures. That will be a fiasco for me who sighs to go to heaven and start tossing off arpeggios on the guitar with my guardian angel.
In November 1927, a bomb was tossed at Calles’s car from an auto previously owned by one of Miguel’s two brothers. All three brothers were rounded up and condemned to death. The youngest was pardoned, but Padre Pro and his brother Humberto were executed by a firing squad. Calles had news photographers present, expecting the Pros to die cowardly. But Padre Pro refused the blindfold and welcomed the bullets with his arms extended in the form of a cross, crying out, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Although Calles outlawed any public demonstration, thousands of Mexicans defiantly lined the streets, honouring the martyr as he was carried in procession to his grave.
The first reading for the feast from the Acts of the Apostles tell us of how the first disciples led by Peter were willing to suffer everything for the sake of the Lord. In the Gospel text from Matthew's Mission Discourse the disciples are exhorted to fearlessness because the Lord is always in control. Miguel Pro lived fearlessly because his trust was in the Lord.