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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Do you desire to see God? What is preventing you from doing so?

God is available and patient. If there are two qualities of God that stand out in the readings of today, they are availability and patience.
The first reading from Wisdom stresses that it is God’s compassion and patience that makes God overlook all the shortcomings of humans. It is God’s availability that makes him accessible to those who seek and search for him. God does not hide from the earnest seeker and he is there, waiting to be found.
The story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, which is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke, brings out both these qualities of God. It is the last encounter of Jesus with “outcasts” before he enters Jerusalem. It takes place when Jesus is passing through Jericho, on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is the name of the tax collector who, Luke informs us, is “rich” He desired to see Jesus, though we do not know why. However, there were obstacles to his desire. The first was the crowd and the second, his short stature. These are interconnected. If there was no crowd, his short stature would not have mattered. And, if he wwas tall, the crowd would not have mattered. Zacchaeus did not allow these obstacles to hinder him because his desire was genuine. He took steps to overcome these obstacles. He did what no grown man at his time would normally do: he ran. And even worse: he climbed a tree. He was willing to face ridicule and being mocked by the crowd in order to do what he had set about to do. He gave up his self-importance and his dignity. All that mattered to him was to see and to encounter Jesus. He was an earnest seeker and his search was rewarded. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but it was Jesus who really saw him.
On coming to the place where Zacchaeus was perched, Jesus called to him. The call was a call to intimacy and companionship. It was a call to stay at Zacchaeus’ home and be his guest. It was a call to friendship. Zacchaeus’ response was dramatic, especially since Jesus did not ask for a conversion or change. Jesus made no judgement about the past or present behaviour of Zacchaeus. Jesus did not call Zacchaeus to repentance. Jesus made no demands at all. The response came from the deepest recesses of Zacchaeus’ heart. It was an inner transformation that manifested itself in his repentant action and in his becoming a whole new creation. From that moment, Zacchaeus’ life was changed.
This transformation and change was the result of having encountered, even in that brief moment of contact with Jesus, total acceptance, recognition, and unconditional love. This is the love that the first reading speaks about. This is the love that loves everything that exists. This is the love that loathes nothing and no one. This is the love that sees, in every person, the image of God. This is the love that does not attempt to correct the faults of others but which results in persons correcting their faults because they have experienced this love.
Since God loves first, the exhortation of Paul to the Thessalonians, in the second reading of today, is to live lives worthy of this love and the call to which they are called. It is a call to manifest the same love that they have received so that through it, they may be able to reveal the available and patient God made visible in Jesus.
So many are seeking for God today and cannot seem to find him. The irony is that God is everywhere if we but open our eyes, ears, and hearts to see. The irony is that God wants to be found. There are a few requirements that each of us must keep in mind if we are to find God. The first of these is a genuine desire to see, to encounter, and to touch God. We will know if this desire is genuine if we, like Zacchaeus, do not give up in the face of obstacles but instead, persevere. Our desire is genuine if we do not let external obstacles get us down. It is genuine if we will not wait till tomorrow, but are determined to find God “today”. It is true, however, like in the case of Zacchaeus, that we do not really find God. Rather, God finds us. When God does find us, we must be attentive and listen rather than be anxious to speak. God will make no demands of us. God will not ask us to change. God will simply keep revealing that, in Jesus, he is unconditional love. An experience of this love in Jesus will lead to a transformation in our lives like it led to a transformation in the life of Zacchaeus. Like Zacchaeus, we will surprise, not only others but even ourselves with the response we will make to God and others. We will become more generous, more loving, more concerned, and more willing to give so that others may have and live.


Only others can know if you are humble.

Since the text of today includes 14, 1, which spoke of a Sabbath setting, this text must be seen in that light. The text is set in the context of a meal, and contains instructions on behaviour to guests who were invited. Meals were important social ceremonies, and very little was left to chance. In his instructions, Jesus advocates what may be termed as practical humility, with words from Proverbs 25,6-7. It must be noticed that when the host asks the guest to move down from the place of honour, no term of address, respect or affection is used, whereas when the host invites the guest to move up, the guest is addressed as “friend”. The future tense that is used in 14,11 (“will be humbled”, “will be exalted”) points beyond the immediate situation to the reversal of values that is characteristic of the economy of God’s kingdom. When one realises that God accepts one unconditionally, the result is practical humility.

It is not impossible to choose the lowest place or be the least if one is confident that soon one will be asked to move up higher or become great. To continue to make this choice even without that hope is the challenge.

Do you agree with this statement, “Humility is a funny thing, once you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it”? Why?
Will you dare to continue to sit in the lowest place even if there is no hope of being asked to move up higher?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Do the right thing and you will be good.

The scene described in the Gospel text is the third scene describing a healing on the Sabbath (see 6,6-11; 13,10-17). However, in this scene the setting is a meal rather than in the synagogue. The issue, however, is the same namely whether a person’s needs takes precedence over rules and regulations.
The man in the story suffers from dropsy or edema, which is “the abnormal accumulation of fluids in the body”. It is a symptom of serious physical problems. Unlike in the previous Sabbath healings, here there is no dialogue with the man (as there was with the woman in 13,12) or questioning by the Pharisees (as there was in 6,8; 13,14). Instead Jesus poses the question of whether one is allowed to heal on the Sabbath. The healing is narrated simply, and hence the focus is removed from it and placed on the second question of Jesus, which is connected with the first. Since there is the mention of “son/child” who has fallen into well, the point seems to be the urgency of the situation and not as in the case of the question asked in 13,15 where the argument is from the lesser to the greater. The silence of Jesus’ opponents to both questions concedes the victory to him. The point has been made; human need even if not urgent takes precedence over rules and regulations.

Do you “try to be good” or do you “do the right thing”?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Do not cave in. Persevere.

The text of today begins with the Pharisees informing Jesus of Herod’s plan to kill him. In his response to this information Jesus makes clear that he will not die out of season just as another victim of Herod, but that he will finish the work that has been given to him by God. In his reference to Herod as “that fox’, Jesus indicates that Herod is sly and cunning and seeks only destruction. His demonstration of the fact that the kingdom is present is found in his acts of making people whole. The reference to three days may refer to the death of Jesus in Jerusalem when he completes the work given to him.
The second part of this pericope (13,34-35) has a parallel in Matthew (Mt 23,37-39) and contains Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. He wanted to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her brood. In other words he wanted to offer her his love and protection, but she refused and rejected him. Since this is the case, they are responsible for their own fate, which is destruction, for those who reject God.

To be faithful to what we begin and see its completion even in the face of adversity requires perseverance and courage. It also requires openness to the grace of God.

When things get difficult in life, do you like Jesus continue to persevere or do you cave in?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Will you take the road not taken?

The first verse of today’s text 13,22, reintroduces the journey motif, which began in 9,51, where we were told that Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem. In response to a question of whether only a few will be saved, Jesus responds not with a direct answer, but by placing the onus of entry into the kingdom on each individual’s shoulders. This is because while the door is open it does not necessarily mean that anyone will enter it. God will not force a person to enter if he/she does not want to do so. While Jesus does not explicate what striving to enter through the narrow door entails, he states clearly that once the door has been shut, it will not be opened to those who presume that the Lord knows them. This means that the believer is challenged to do what he/she has to do and not presume or take for granted that salvation is assured and especially if one is not willing to receive it. God’s grace is abundant but can only be received by those who want to receive it.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I …. I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost)

Will you take the road “less travelled”?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hope, hope and hope even more


In the two parables that make up the text of today, we once again find the mention of a man and a woman. While in the first parable of the mustard seed, it is a “man” who sows, in the second parable of the yeast; it is a “woman” who mixes it. The parable of the mustard seed is found also in Mark and Matthew, whereas the parable of the yeast is in Matthew but not in Mark.
The Lukan version of the parable of the mustard seed is the shortest of the three. It lacks the description of the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds (Mt 13,31; Mk 4,31) or the mature plant as “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mt 13,32; Mk 4,32). The point that Luke seems to be making by omitting these details is that rather than compare the kingdom to a mighty cedar, he describes it is terms of an insignificant seed. The emphasis is not on future glory, but on the present sign of its presence, even though it cannot be seen as clearly as some would like to. In Luke, it is a parable of the beginnings of the kingdom and not on its final manifestation. The people expected a spectacular, extra-ordinary cedar, but Jesus preferred to bring the kingdom as insignificantly as a mustard seed.
The point of the parable of the yeast in Luke is not the same as the point being made in the parable of the mustard seed. In this parable it is a clearly a case of small beginnings contrasted with great endings. While the quantity of yeast is not specified, the use of the word “hid’, indicates that it is an extremely small quantity. In contrast the three measures of flour that are leavened are the equivalent of fifty pounds of flour, enough to make bread for about 0ne hundred fifty people. The kingdom like the yeast will eventually leaven the whole of humanity.

While the parable of the mustard seed dramatises the presence of the kingdom in its insignificant beginnings, the parable of the yeast reminds us that even small beginnings are powerful and eventually change the character of the whole.
When we realise that with the motley crew that Jesus chose he could achieve so much in the world, then we realise that his words in the parable are indeed true. The kingdom does have insignificant beginnings, but even this insignificant or small beginning has resulted and will continue to result in great endings.

Have you sometimes been tempted to give in to despair
when you look at the injustice, corruption and negatives around you?
Will these parables help give you hope?

"Love and do what you will"

n Luke, scenes involving a man are often balanced with scenes involving a woman. The healing of a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years which is our text for today is paralleled with the healing of a man with dropsy (Lk 14,1-6). Like this healing that one too occurs on the Sabbath and in both there is a controversy with a leader of the synagogue. In both miracles there is a pronouncement as well as a healing and in both Jesus invites his opponents to reason what they should do for a fellow human being from what they would do for an ox. This is the last time in Luke that Jesus enters a synagogue, though he will continue to teach even in later chapters. In this incident, the main point that is made is that concern over the suffering of fellow human beings takes precedence over obligations related to keeping the Sabbath. Love takes precedence over rules and regulations. The number eighteen (the number of years for which the woman was sick) does not seem to have any special significance except that it is a long period of time and is probably to link this scene with the previous one in which eighteen persons perished when the tower of Siloam fell (Lk 13, 4). Jesus heals the woman by both a pronouncement and by laying his hands on her. The latter may also be taken to indicate the conferral of a blessing on the woman. The leader of the synagogue does not address Jesus directly, but speaks to the crowd and expresses his indignation that a healing took place on the Sabbath. His focus is not on the wholeness of the woman but on the breaking of the law. Jesus too, in his response addresses the crowd and challenges his opponents to reason from the lesser to the greater. Since a bound animal would surely be unbound even if the day were a Sabbath, a human person who had been bound would most definitely be unbound. The result of Jesus’ pronouncement is that all his opponents were put to shame. It seems that while the woman was only physically crippled, the leader of the synagogue was spiritually crippled.

It is possible that because of our myopic vision we might sometimes lose sight of the larger picture. While it is good to have our own point of view, we must also keep in mind that ours is one point of view and there will be others, and therefore ours will not necessarily be the correct one.

Has your adherence to rules and regulations sometime blinded you from love?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Self righteousness is a sign of lack of awareness


The Parable that is popularly known as that of the Pharisee and Tax Collector is not so much about these persons as it is about the disposition for prayer in any person. This parable is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke and is addressed, not to the Pharisees but to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. This could be a description of any self-righteous person. There is a great difference between being righteous and being self-righteous. The righteous person knows that he/she is dependent on God and can do nothing without God’s help. The self- righteous person, on the other hand, is so filled with self importance and pride that he/she cannot see beyond his/her own nose. These self-righteous assume that God is dependent on them.
The defect of the Pharisee in the Parable is not that he gives thanks for what God has done for him. This is laudable. The defect is in his prideful disdain for others. He contrasts himself to a rash of unsavoury people—the greedy, the dishonest, adulterers—but saves the tax collector for the end. His very position of prayer betrays his pride. He steps apart from the crowd, as if God could not notice him wherever he is. The tax collector, however, simply stands at a distance and will not even raise his eyes to heaven. His bodily posture is itself a prayer. His plea to God, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner!” confirms this. He goes home, made just in God’s eyes. The justice of God accepts the unjust and the ungodly. The parable summons us to a prayer of love and trust in God’s mercy. It frees us from the need to tell God who is a sinner and who is not. It summons us to realize that, even when we are righteous, it is because of God’s grace that we can be so.
Only those who can acknowledge their own weaknesses feel the need to turn to God in prayer with sentiments of humility. They know that any goodness they might exhibit is itself a gift from God. But those who stand before God and others with an attitude of “Look what I have made of myself” will hardly realize the need to ask for God’s help in doing good. They presume that they can manage it by themselves. These are the ones who expect reward because they have been good. These are the ones who do not realize that their ability to be good and to do good is itself a reward from God.
The Pharisee in today’s Gospel very likely did live a life devoid of greed, dishonesty, and adultery. He probably did fast and tithe. But he did not realize that it was the goodness of God that lifted him up so that he could act in this righteous manner. He believed instead, that it was his own goodness that raised him up above others. On the other hand, in order to gain a livelihood, the tax collector likely did extort money from taxpayers. He was a sinner, and knew he was a sinner. But, he also knew that only God could lift him up. It was the tax collector’s humble demeanour that earned God’s grace.
The second reading of today shows that, in some ways, Paul resembles both the Pharisee and the tax collector. Like the Pharisee, he boasts of his accomplishments. He has competed well; he has finished the race; he has kept the faith; he has earned a crown of righteousness. Paul never denies the character of his commitment or the extent of his ministerial success. But, like the tax collector, he knows the source of his ability to accomplish these things. He says, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” For Paul, all the glory belongs to God. Paul believes that he will receive "a crown of righteousness." However, his attitude is radically different from that of the Pharisee in the Gospel. Paul knows of, and realizes, his nothingness. All the good that he has been able to do, to "fight the good fight" and to "run the race to the finish," has been made possible by God’s help. Although he seems sure of being rewarded, he recognizes the reward as coming from God, not from himself. His affirmation at the end of the reading summarizes this attitude. It is the Lord, and not his own accomplishments, who will give to him the crown of righteousness.
In Christianity and in the following of Jesus, there is no room for arrogance. We are all limited human beings, with weaknesses that can trip us up if we are not vigilant. We are all poor and lowly, in need of the protection and strength that come to us from God. We are all sinners, dependent on divine mercy. It is indeed foolish and vain to think that we are better than others. It does no good whatsoever to treat others with disrespect or disdain.
The last words of the Gospel reading are a warning to us all. They alert us to God’s tendency to turn human considerations upside down. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. Those who trust in their own righteousness will regard others with contempt. Those who regard others with contempt cannot bring themselves to rely on God’s grace. Therefore, persons who exalt themselves over others and boast of their virtue before God will discover that they have cut themselves off from both. Persons who are aware of their need for grace and forgiveness will be unable to disrespect or despise other people.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Priorities are so important in life. What are your priorities? Let one of them be to make another smile everyday because of you.

The warnings and admonitions regarding the coming judgement that began in 12,1, reach their conclusion here with a call to repentance. Jesus uses two sayings to make the same point. The first is about the calamity that occurred when Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and when the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people. Though no other historical reports narrate these incidents, there may be some historical background to the first one. Josephus the Jewish historian does narrate many incidents, which confirm that Pilate shed much blood. In the incidents that Jesus narrates, however, he makes clear that what is required on the part of the human person is not the focus on sin and its consequences but on repentance, which means the acquisition of a new mind, a new heart and a new vision.
Near Eastern wisdom literature contains stories of unfruitful trees and the story of the barren fig tree is similar to the stories found there. While in the story as told by the Lucan Jesus there is mercy, it is still a warning of the urgency of repentance.

Each new day brings with it new hope and a new opportunity to right the wrongs that we may have done, to say the kind word that we ought to have said and to do the good that we ought to have done.

If you were given only one more day to live, what are the things that you would do?
What is preventing you from doing those things today?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Meet most people halfway. "Carefront" rather than confront

The warnings about the coming judgement continue in the Gospel reading of today. The text contains two clusters of sayings addressed to the crowds. They are charged with hypocrisy in the first of the two clusters for not being as observant of the signs of the coming judgement as they are of the weather. If they pay attention to the slightest sign of change in the weather, then they must also pay attention to the present time, which is the time of Jesus and his works and words.
In the second they are warned to make every effort to settle accounts so that they may be blameless when they are brought to court.

While we must keep in touch with what is happening around us so that our responses to different situations can be adequate, it is also important to keep in touch with what is happening in us. This means that while we need to take good care of our physical and material well being, we must not do it at the cost of our spiritual well being.
"Carefrontation" is better than confrontation. When it is not a matter of one’s principles or when one is not called to do something against one’s conscience then it is better to "carefront" rahter than confront when some conflict arises. This approach saves energy, time and money.

Where in the scale of “attention to detail” does your devotion to the teachings of the Lord rank?

Face opposition with equanimity and courage.

The verses of today contain three pronouncements regarding the nature of Jesus’ mission. The first is that he has come to cast fire on the earth. Fire is used as an image of God’s judgement, but ironically when it comes on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts, 2,3), it is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the crisis of judgement is never far away.
The second is about his own baptism, which may be an allusion to his death or to the conflict and distress in which he would be immersed. This governs his whole life. Until he completes his mission, he will not be satisfied.
The third is about the division that his mission will cause. Although the kingdom of God is characterised by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that kingdom is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. Though this announcement will indeed cause stress and division, Jesus will not shy away from it because it is the Mission given to him by his Father. Anyone who commits him/herself to Jesus must also then be prepared for the opposition that they will face.

The reason why the announcement of the kingdom brings division is because it calls for a radical change of heart and mind. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.

Will you do good today even in the face of opposition? How?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Be good because it is good to be good

WEDNESDAY – Eph 3,2-12; Lk 12,39-48

The text of today is the one immediately after Jesus has begun to exhort his disciples’ to watchfulness (12, 35-38). Based on instructions given in earlier contexts, however, readiness here means trust in God as a heavenly Father, putting away all hypocrisy, handling one’s material possessions faithfully, obeying the ethic of the kingdom, and making life a matter of constant prayer. Peter’s question regarding whether this “parable” was for the disciples alone or for everyone, does not receive a direct answer from Jesus. However, in his response to the question, Jesus responds with another “parable”, which is about the faithful and unfaithful servant/slave. While there will be a reward for the faithful servant, there will be punishment for the unfaithful servant. God will seek much from those to whom he has given much, because everything has been given in trust.

Each of us has a specific role to play in the world, which is confirmed by the fact that we are unique and that there is not one else exactly like us anywhere. Since this is the case, we have to be faithful to that to which we are called. If we do not do what we have to do, no one else will do it and it will remain undone. Besides this it will also mean that we have been negligent in our duty and not appreciated enough the uniqueness of our creation.

Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward, or are you good because it is good to be good?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Live in the present


The sayings in the Gospel verses of today are a call to watchfulness and readiness. The call to be dressed for action would mean literally to draw up the longer outer garment and tuck it into the sash around one’s waist so as to be prepared for strenuous activity. If the servants/disciples are so ready, they will be prompt in responding to the master’s knock, and will be blessed. This blessing will take the form of a reversal of roles. The master will become servant/slave. The time of the coming of the master is not known and he may come at any time, but if the servant/disciple is always ready, he/she will be blessed.

It is not difficult for us as Christians to relate to this reversal of roles, simply because our God in Jesus has already become slave. It is now left to us as servants to be ready at all times.

Do you live one moment of one day at a time or are you living only in the future?

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Feast of St. Luke

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

The Gospel of Luke is generally regarded as the third of the four canonical Gospels. Almost all scholars agree that the author of Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

The Gospel is known by many names. Some see it along with Acts as narrating the history of salvation, which is divided into three parts. This first is the time before Jesus where everything is old. This is possibly why Luke has changed Mark 8,28 which has “one of the prophets” as one of the answers of the people regarding Jesus’ identity to “one of the old prophets” (9,19). The second is the time of Jesus who inaugurates the kingdom (4,16-30) and the third is the time of the Church (The Acts of the Apostles), which continues the work of Jesus.

Others see it as a Gospel of Prayer because when compared with Matthew and Mark, the Lucan Jesus prays oftener. There are seven accounts of Jesus praying that are exclusive to Luke. (3,21; 5,16; 6,12; 9,18; 9,29; 11,1; 22,32).

Still others see it as a Gospel of Women since Luke gives special importance to women in his Gospel. In Luke’s Infancy narrative, Mary rather than Joseph is an important figure. Only in Luke do we find the miracles of the raising of the widow’s son (7,11-15) and the healing of the woman with a spirit of infirmity (13,10-17). Luke alone tells us that Jesus had women disciples who provided for him out of their means (8,1-3).

Some also see Luke as the Gospel of Great Mercy or Pardon. This is because the Parables of the Good Samaritan (10,30-35) and the Prodigal Son (15,11-32) are found only in Luke. While hanging on the Cross, it is in Luke’s Gospel alone that Jesus forgives those who crucified him (23,34).

The Gospel of Luke begins with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah followed by the announcement of the birth of Jesus to Mary. Immediately after this announcement Mary goes to meet Elizabeth who will be the mother of John the Baptist in order to share the good news with her. Luke alone of all the Evangelists narrates an incident in the early life of Jesus after his birth where he is found in the Temple. Jesus begins his public ministry immediately after his Baptism and in the Synagogue at Nazareth where he reads from Isaiah what may term as his own manifesto and plan of action. He chooses disciples to help in his mission, which he continues in Galilee.

A large part of the Gospel (9,51-19,27) has been termed as the Journey to Jerusalem during which Jesus both preaches and heals. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he cleanses the Temple but continues to teach in it even after this incident. During this time he is questioned about his authority and other matters of the law and most of the questions are with a view to trap Jesus. It is one of the Twelve, Judas who betrays Jesus to the Jewish leaders. He is tried, and condemned to death on a cross where he dies forgiving those responsible for crucifying him.

The last part of the Gospel begins with an episode of the empty tomb in which the women who go to the tomb are asked why they look for the living among the dead. Jesus then appears to two disciples when they are on their way to Emmaus and chides them for their lack of faith. Finally Jesus appears to the eleven, gives them a commission and then is then taken up to heaven. The disciples return to the Temple in Jerusalem with great joy.

Some of the characteristics unique to Luke’s Gospel are as under:

  1. The Gospel of Luke is the only Gospel, which narrates the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, and his birth. The birth of Jesus is announced to Mary (not Joseph as in Matthew). Luke alone narrates the ascension of Jesus into heaven.
  2. Only Luke narrates the incident of Jesus being found in the temple (2,41-52). This is the only incident from Jesus’ childhood that any evangelist narrates.
  3. Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Adam the first human being (3,38) unlike Matthew’s, which begins with Abraham. Luke alone gives us the age of Jesus when he began his ministry (3,23).
  4. In Luke alone we find the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Publican and the Pharisee who went to the Temple to pray, the rich man and Lazarus, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the unjust steward, the rich fool who would tear down his barns and build greater barns in order that he might store his goods, and the story of Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree in order that he might see Jesus. Each of these parables and stories illustrates what Luke regards as an essential characteristic of Jesus’ work.
  5. Compared to the other canonical gospels, Luke devotes significantly more attention to women. The Gospel of Luke features more female characters, features a female prophet (2,36), and details the experience of pregnancy (1,41-42). Prominent discussion is given to the lives of Elizabeth and of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Ch. 2).
  6. Luke portrays Jesus as extremely concerned about the poor and those who were considered social outcasts. Already in the Sermon on the Plain, the Lucan Jesus pronounces a blessing on “the poor" (6,20) unlike the Matthean Jesus whose blessing is pronounced on the “poor in spirit” (Mt 5,3). Three parables in Chapter 15 (the Lost sheep, the Lost coin and the Lost Son) are told one after another because the Pharisees and scribes complained about Jesus’ table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners.
  7. Luke mentions the Holy Spirit more than the other two synoptic gospels, Matthew and Mark. John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born (1,15); next, John's mother Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (1:41); before long, John's dumbstruck father Zechariah is also filled with the Holy Spirit (1,67). Jesus is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (1,35). The Holy Spirit reveals to the aged Simeon that he will see the Messiah (Christ) before he dies (2,26-27). John the Baptist announces that the powerful one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (3,16). When Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends on Him in bodily form as a dove (3,22), as God the Father confirms from heaven that Jesus is "My Son, whom I love". At this point Jesus is "full of the Holy Spirit" (4,1), and is "led out by the Spirit into the wilderness" (4:1), where the Devil tempted Him for forty days. Having successfully resisted the Devil as a man (4,4.8.12), Jesus returns to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit" (4,14). Luke uses all these references as a build-up to Jesus reading the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me" (4,18-19). 'The Anointed One' is 'the Messiah' in Hebrew, 'the Christ' in Greek. The total involvement of the Holy anointing Spirit at every step of the way (conception, babyhood, childhood, extended family, baptism, temptation and inauguration to ministry) proves that He, Jesus, is the Anointed One, the Messiah, and the Christ.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

God is only LOVE

The text of today begins immediately after Jesus has spoken the woes against the Pharisees and scribes. Though there is a large crowd, which has gathered, Jesus speaks first to his disciples cautioning them against the yeast of the Pharisees.
The yeast of the Pharisees is identified as hypocrisy only in the Gospel of Luke. To be a hypocrite originally meant to wear a mask or to play a role. The point that is being made is that at the judgment, everyone’s true character will be revealed. There will be no masks, and everyone will be seen as he or she is. Even the sparrow which is so insignificant when compared to human beings is looked after by God therefore, there is no need to be afraid, because a God who is and will always remain, Father, will judge us.

Though Jesus constantly revealed God as unconditional love, many of us still relate to him from fear. This is the reason why we wear masks before him and consequently before others. We are afraid to be ourselves. If we begin to realise that our God is a God who primarily wants to save, we can improve our relationship with him and with others.

Are you still afraid of a God who is only Love?
What will you do about your fear today?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Stumbling blocks

The text contains the second (Lk 11,47 – 51) and third (Lk 11,52) woe to the lawyers spoken by Jesus. The second woe deals with the attitude of the lawyers to the prophets whom their ancestors killed and the lawyers approve of that killing by building monuments to the same prophets. In this way they are accomplices to the murders.
The final woe condemns the lawyers because though they possessed knowledge, they did not use it as it was meant to be used, nor did they allow others to use it. They acted as stumbling blocks in others way.
The woes that Jesus pronounces do not go down too well with the Pharisees, who began to ask many questions in order to catch Jesus on the wrong foot.

We too can become stumbling blocks in other’s way to God by the things that we say and the things that we do. When we point out the negatives in others and in the process forget all the positive qualities they possess we cause them to stumble.

Have you through your words or actions been a stumbling block in the way of others?
What will you do about it today?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Causes of Scandal


The first of the four woes of the Gospel reading of today, continues the contrast between the inner and outer, but also adds the contrast between the important and insignificant. Jesus criticizes piety that observes external obedience while neglecting justice and the love of God. In the second woe, Jesus emphasizes that true piety does not seek praise from others, and in the third Jesus returns to the contrast between the inner and outer. Since the inner corruption of the Pharisees is not visible, others are defiled by their influence. (Contact with a corpse rendered a person unclean (Lev. 21,1-4.11; Num. 19,11-22). Graves had to be marked, therefore, so that persons would not unwittingly defile themselves by contact with them). The Pharisees are like graves that cannot be seen/are hidden and consequently result in corrupting others.
The fourth woe (11,46) is the first of the three addressed to lawyers. Here the woe is in response to the lawyer’s allegation that in condemning the Pharisees, Jesus is condemning them as well. Jesus responds by pronouncing a woe on them for imposing legal restrictions on people but doing nothing to help them. The law, which was meant to be a pointer and help, has been made into a burden and an end in itself.

There is the danger that when we read these woes, we might think that they apply to Pharisees only. However, they could just as easily apply to anyone today who like the Pharisees focuses on what is not essential and in the process forgets what is really important. When a person makes physical attendance at the sacraments more important than spiritual or internal attendance, he/she is also as guilty. When anyone focuses too much on sin and not enough on love, that person is also as guilty.

How often have your external actions been a cause of scandal for others?
What will you do about them today?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Believe without signs

Jesus’ debate with the crowd following the exorcism of the demon that made a man mute continues. The response of Jesus is not to give in to the demand of some for a sign. While a similar saying is also found in Mt. 12,38-42 which indicates that both Matthew and Luke have taken it from the “Q” source {Mark also has the episode of the demand for a sign and Jesus’ response (Mk 8,11-12), but it is much shorter and does not have the details found in both Matthew and Luke}. However, Luke has so formulated the response of Jesus, that it forms an inclusion. It begins and ends with Jonah. Through this, Luke has associated Jonah’s preaching with Solomon’s wisdom. Since Luke makes this association, for him the sign of Jonah was not Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights (Mt 12,40), but the call to repentance that Jonah preached. As the people of Nineveh repented after the call by Jonah, so Jesus calls the crowd to repentance after his proclamation. He refuses to give the crowds any other sign, because any demand for a sign means that they have not understood what Jesus is about, and what his mission is. Jesus also knows that for those who believe, no sign is necessary, whereas for those who do not, no sign is sufficient.

The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus. If one persists in the old way of looking which is a way of finding God only in miraculous and spectacular events, one will miss him. Now he can be found in all things and all things can be found in him.

What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without this sign?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Gratitude is an attitude

The Parable of the Gospel text of today has often been called “The Parable of the Ten Lepers”. Most interpretations of the Parable focus on the ingratitude of the nine and on the gratitude of the Samaritan. Thus, the main point seems to be that one must be grateful to God for the mercies we receive. Although this is certainly true, there is more.

If Jesus had wanted to focus on ingratitude alone, there would have been no need to single out “this foreigner”. Therefore, Jesus was pointing out more than mere gratitude or ingratitude. He was asking his hearers to look beyond. The mention of the words “this foreigner”, which in the context must be contrasted with the words “the chosen ones”, seeks to make a stronger point. It is that the proper response to God’s saving mercy is not a presumption that it is deserved. The proper response is untainted gratitude and pure praise of God. The Jews of Jesus’ time looked on the Samaritans with distain. The Samaritans were considered as outcasts and as not belonging to the “chosen people”. Many Jews considered blessings from God as their right. They believed that merely being Jews entitled them to receive all privileges. However, God’s mercy, compassion, and grace cannot be merited, earned, or deserved. They are given freely. The only response that one can have in the face of this unconditional gifting on the part of God is acceptance with an open heart and gratitude.

This is possible only when one realizes one’s state. In the first reading of today, Naaman realized when he was healed that his healing was a result of the grace of the God of Israel. He did not know this God. He worshipped other gods and yet, when his healing took place, he was able to boldly acknowledge that he had been graced. This is why his response was first, to praise God and then, to offer to his intermediary, Elisha, a gift like the gift of the Samaritan in the Gospel text of today. He, too, first praised God, the origin and source of his healing and then, prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him as the one who brought that gift of grace and healing.

As long as one keeps thinking in terms of what one merits, one will not be able to appreciate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is what Paul asks Timothy to do in the second reading of today. The Gospel and the Good News is that salvation has already been obtained by Jesus and all we have to do now is be grateful for the gift and the privilege that we have received. No matter how much we consider ourselves “chosen”, we will never be worthy.

Alas! We keep thinking like the nine healed lepers in terms or merit. We forget grace. We keep thinking of privilege. We forget responsibility. We keep thinking of advantage. We forget duty. We keep thinking selfishly. We forget gratitude. Jesus, however, was able to see and think about the need of the lepers. He acted to meet their needs. Naaman was able to see his healing as a sign of God’s mercy. The Samaritan leper was able to see that he was healed and returned to praise God and fall on his face before Jesus. He knew about grace and responsibility and gratitude. He knew that what he had been given was an undeserved gift unlike the other nine who probably thought that they deserved more than they got. This is likely why the Samaritan returned and other nine, the Jews, did not.

To encounter this gracious God was something that Naaman and the Samaritan leper never thought possible. This is why they responded with such wonder and enthusiasm. For the other nine, God was “familiar”, and so they did not think it necessary to return to give thanks.

Unfortunately, this also happens with the God we believe in as Christians. Our life is filled with a multitude of unmerited blessings – health, food, family, and friends, our faith, even our very lives. God’s providence and goodness, in the form of these ever present gifts, leads to familiarity and expectation. We think we have earned them because we have been good. We think we deserve them because we have fulfilled obligations. It seems natural to us that God responds to our prayer. So we often forget to say a sincere "Thank you", or to offer the homage of our hearts in worship, praise, and adoration. The result is that we take God for granted.

The secret to perceiving the Giver and his gift anew is to awaken our sense of wonder, to reflect upon what God has done, and is doing, in our lives. God has done all that was required to be done, in Jesus. We respond, not by demanding what we wrongly imagine is our right but, by recognizing and acknowledging that all that we receive is given to us from unconditional love and mercy.


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 kingdom of God, and now a woman in the crowd blesses the mother of Jesus, because of the beauty she sees in him. 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.

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.

How would you define “God’s Word” today? Do you put this “Word” into practice in your life? How?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Am I possessed by things or do I possess them?

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 states that he is the stronger one who overpowers Satan, the strong one 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.

Which is the demon that has possessed you and does not leave you free?
Will you attempt to get rid of that demon today?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was feast instituted by Pope Pius V in 1571 in honour of the Blessed Mother Mary and to spread devotion to the Rosary. The Gospel reading is about the call of Mary by the Angel Gabriel (El is strong of the strength of El) to be the Mother of Jesus. Mary says a resounding YES. This is her strength and it can also be ours.

When things do not go the way you want them to go today, will you like Mary also say "YES"?
Happy feast to all of you.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dependence on God

By petitioning God for the most basic of our needs like “bread”, the prayer that is commonly called "The Our Father" 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 God 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 not merely a prayer therefore, but an attitude, a way of life.

Will you depend on yourself today or will you show your dependence on God? How?

CWG

The CWG has got off to a great start. More power to the people!! We will need to keep on keeping on...
Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ

Martha or Mary?

The Martha's of the world presume to tell the Lord what to do whereas the Mary's of the world listen to what the Lord would have them do.
Which are you?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Province Days from November 3-5, 2010

The Jesuits of Mumbai will meet at St. Mary's Villa, Khandala from November 3 to 5 2010 to discuss issues regarding how we are responding to the needs of our times. We need prayers and support. I am sure I can count on all of you who will read this.
It will be a great moment for our Province and will in many ways affect the way we respond to the needs of our people.

CWG and Ayodhya

I am delighted that the Common Wealth Games are under way. The Press has not been as responsible as it had to have been with so much of sensationalism and negative reporting. However, it is good that now things seem in place and the country can host this event.
It is also good that some sort of compromise formula has been worked out regarding Ayodhya and all parties concerned have taken the decision in a mature manner. This is the way to unity and growth. We need to learn to be united even in our diversity.