Wednesday, October 1, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 23:20-23; Mt 18:1-5,10
The English word Angel comes from the Hebrew ‘malakh’ or the Greek ‘ángelos’ which means messenger or envoy. The Angel is regarded as a being which bears messages from God and communicates what God wants to communicate. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a reminder that our God is not a God who created the world and left it to its own designs, but a God who is constantly involved with and in the world. It is a reminder that when we need succour or help, we can always call on God’s angels.
The Gospel of Luke narrates how Angel Gabriel carries God’s message of birth to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, when speaking of the ‘little ones’ in Community, Jesus says, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 10:18)
The Feast was placed in the General Roman Calendar in 1607 by Pope Paul V. The papal decree establishing the feast was co-signed by Robert Bellarmine, which has led some scholars to speculate that the feast was created under the influence of the Society of Jesus.
The Gospel text for the memorial is similar to the one for the Feast of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. However verse 10 is added and speaks of the angels of the ‘little ones’ who are constantly before the Father.
In a world where challenges constantly come our way, we need the assurance that the decisions we make are the right ones. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a reminder that God (through the Angels) is willing to be constantly available, whenever we make a decision to turn to God.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - What is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts:Job 9:1-13,14-16; Lk 9:57-62
While part of this text is found also in Matthew, the latter part (9:60b-62) is exclusive to Luke. It concerns 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.
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.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of your time and irritates the pig.
To read the texts click on the texts:Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23; Lk 9:51-56
The section of the Gospel of Luke beginning from 9,51 and ending at 19:28 is known as the Travel Narrative or Journey to Jerusalem. Beginning today and on all weekdays till the feast of Christ the King, (except on feast days) we will be reading from this section of Luke’s Gospel. It is therefore important to have an understanding of what this section means.
Luke begins this travel narrative by telling us that when the days drew near for Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem in 19:28 marks the end of this section. One important reason for this section where Luke diverts from Mark, is so that Luke can add here material from his own special source and also material from the source known as “Q” which he and Matthew have in common. In this section we will also find many parables, sayings meal scenes, controversies and warnings, through which the Lucan Jesus explicates his way of life.
In the text of today, we will read of the opposition that Jesus encounters already at the beginning of his journey. A Samaritan village refuses to welcome him. This rejection of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry coincides with the rejection at the beginning of his ministry in Nazareth (4:16-30). This foreshadows the rejection that Jesus will face in Jerusalem. In response to the rejection, James and John want to react and destroy the whole village. Jesus’ rebuke of James and John is an indication that he will not use violence in his ministry, but will win people only through love. The last verse of this text where we are told that they went on to another village also makes clear that Jesus will not force his teaching on anyone who does not want to listen to it.
Sometimes we are faced with opposition with regard to an idea that we may put forward or a suggestion that we may offer. When we identify with that idea or suggestion and feel rejected when it is rejected, then we might be tempted like James and John to react. The attitude of Jesus invites us to detach ourselves from all that we propose, so that we can continue to stay calm and collected.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 7:9-10,13-14; Rev12:7-12; Jn 1:47-51
The three Archangels Michael (Who is as God? or Who is like God?), Gabriel (Strength of God) and Raphael (God heals) are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture. However, ancient apocryphal literature mentions others beside these three, but the names are spurious.
Archangel Michael is invoked for protection against evil and regarded as a Champion of God’s people. Gabriel is mentioned four times in the Bible. Of these the most significant are in the New Testament when he makes the announcement of the birth of john the Baptist and Jesus to Zechariah and Mary respectively. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit and is the one who heals Tobias’ blindness. Raphael is not mentioned in the New Testament, but is invoked for healing and acts of mercy.
The choice of the Gospel reading from John is because of the mention of angels in the last verse of the text. Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though skeptical, he is willing to be convinced. Jesus addresses Nathanael as an “Israelite” which signifies his faithfulness to the law and is used here in a positive sense. He is without guile because though he has questions and even doubts, he is open and receptive and willing to learn. Jesus’ intimate knowledge of Nathanael and the revelation that he makes to him leads to a transformation in Nathanael and he comes to faith. He responds to Jesus with a confession and though he begins with Rabbi, he moves on to recognizing Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.
However, Jesus responds by pointing out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning of the revelation that Jesus makes. If he continues to remain open he will experience even greater things. By means of a double “Amen”, Jesus points out to Nathanael and to others there that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth. Through the phrase “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51) which combines images from the descent of the Son of Man as narrated by Daniel (7:13) and the ladder of Jacob’s dream in Genesis (28:12), Jesus states that Jacob’s ladder is replaced by the Son of Man. He will be that place and person in whom the earthly and divine encounter each other. He as Son of man will make God known. The Son of Man becomes the place where the earthly and the heavenly, divine and human, temporal and eternal meet.
When looked at from this angle, the feast of the Archangels seeming to be saying to us that our God is not merely in the heavens. Our God is not merely a God who has created the world and left it to its own design. Rather our God is a God who is intimately connected to the world and present to and in it. Our God is a God who is concerned about our world and ever willing to lend a hand whenever any one of us requires it.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32
A priest friend was telling me how during the time of heavy rains in his town because of which many people lost a lot of their belongings, he made an appeal during his Sunday homily for people to come and help him reach out to those who were affected by the rains. When he asked people to raise their hands to indicate if they would come, about 70% of the 500 people present raised their hands. He fixed the following Saturday as the day on which they would go out to help. When the day came, five people turned up. They said, but did not do. They had words but no action.
There is an intimate connection between all three readings of today. In the reading from Ezekiel, the prophet calls the people to realize that it is not God’s ways that are unfair but their own. He asks the people to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions and not lay the blame on God’s door. It is not God who punishes or condemns, but punishment is the consequence or result of a person’s wrong doing. The ones who persist in their evil ways condemn themselves. Ezekiel’s portrayal is of a generous and forgiving God who wants everyone to come back to him. Anyone who turns back to God will be accepted and forgiven.
This theme of acceptance and forgiveness is affirmed by Matthew in the Gospel text. At the end of the parable of the two sons he says that those who turn to God after renouncing their former evil ways will indeed be saved. This turning to God has be a turning that is shown in action and not mere words.
It is important to understand the immediate context. It is placed in the Gospel almost immediately after Jesus has entered the temple in Jerusalem and “cleansed” it. This action leads the chief priests and elders of the people to question Jesus’ authority. It is in this context that the parable is told and the audience continues to be the chief priests and the elders. It brings out powerfully the fact that these who just questioned Jesus’ authority are themselves rejecting the kingdom.
The first son initially refuses his father’s request. It was culturally unacceptable, so afterwards he does go and do what his father asks. Thus his initial refusal is followed by eventual obedience. The second son not only agrees to go but also reinforces this agreement by addressing his father as “Lord”. However, he does not go and his initial agreement is followed by eventual disobedience. Though the answer to Jesus’ question as to which son did the will of the father is obvious and the Jewish leaders answer correctly. What shocks and offends them is the application that Jesus makes. They are compared with the son who was ready with words and even words of respect, but with what remained mere empty words. Though God spoke to them through the Law and numerous prophets, they had merely heard and not obeyed. The tax collectors and prostitutes on the other hand, who are likened to the first son, are the ones who are entering the kingdom and receiving salvation because they dared to do so, even though they may have initially refused to listen.
The second reading from Philippians provides the Christological foundation of such conversion. Jesus himself is the model of the truly obedient son, who says yes to his Father in the most radical and action oriented way. His actions match his words. There is no dichotomy. In this he goes one better than the first son in not only doing but also saying. The initial verses of the hymn explode with verbs of action. Jesus did not grasp at equality with God; he emptied himself; he took on the form of a slave; he came in human likeness; he was obedient to the point of enduring the ignominy of death in one of the most shameful of ways: on a cross. This is the attitude that true followers of Jesus are challenged to adopt. In the second half of the hymn, the verbs then shift. God becomes now the actor or doer exalting Jesus and giving him a name above every name. Doing the will of the Father, for Jesus, was more than simply a matter of words; it is always a matter of deeds. Appropriate and relevant action, accompanying the words, is the way of a true disciple of Jesus.
The repentance that today’s texts call for is a radical change of heart, mind and vision that is seen in denying self and reaching out to everyone in need. It is true that there will be times when, like the first son, we may say an initial “I will not”, but when we dare to look at the example of Christ that continues to shine brightly before us, we are challenged to imitate him and have that same mind and heart. We are called to realize, like him, that if we dare to open ourselves to obedience, even though it might not seen at first glance as the best option, we too like him will conquer death and be that example which the world so badly needs today.