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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Will someone go hungry today because you have more than you require? Will you dare to share at least a little with one person today?

The Feeding of the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish in which seven baskets are gathered.

While in a similar context, Mark narrates the story of the healing of a deaf man with an impediment in his speech, (Mk 7:31-37) Matthew omits this miracle and instead, introduces the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand. While the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand is the only miracle narrated by all the four Gospels, this miracle is narrated by Mark and Matthew. While it is clear that Mark wanted to show two separate feedings, the first and more abundant for the Jews (Mk 6:35-44) and the second and less abundant, for the Gentiles (Mk. 8:1-10), this cannot be Matthew’s intention, because in his Gospel, there seems to be no scope for a Gentile mission. This is why Matthew has altered Mark substantially. All of Mark’s references, to show this as a Gentile feeding, have been omitted or altered by Matthew. Thus, Matthew omits Mark’s Gentile location in the Decapolis, as well as the Markan note that some had come from a great distance. Matthew’s picture is thoroughly Jewish—the “God of Israel” who is praised in Matthew’s conclusion, is not a Gentile acclamation but is in the language of Israel’s own liturgy (Pss 40:14; 71:18; 105:48; Lk 1:68). In addition to preserving it simply because it was in Mark, Matthew seems to welcome another picture, useful in this section that portrays Jesus acting compassionately for Israel while in conflict with the Jewish leadership. In Matthew’s retelling, the two feedings have been assimilated to each other, so that he emphasizes the similarities between the two feedings rather than the differences between them. The Messiah of Israel, typically, almost stereotypically, heals and feeds.

A number of interpretations have been given to explain this miracle. The main ones are:

(1) A miraculous event of feeding hungry people actually happened in the life of Jesus. Jesus was such a charismatic figure that people went away from his presence healed and filled.

(2) A symbolic meal was conducted by Jesus for his followers, foreshadowing the messianic banquet. This was later elaborated into a miracle story in which the numbers were exaggerated.

(3) Jesus gave the people a lesson in altruism or unselfishness by sharing with others the little food that he and his disciples had with them. This action of Jesus motivated others to do the same and there was enough for all.

(4) The story is not fact, but symbol. It summarizes the life of Jesus. His was a life of selflessness and service, a life of giving to everyone who was in need.

However the story may be interpreted, what comes across strongly is the concern and compassion that Jesus has for the crowd. It is a practical concern, one that shows itself in action.

The abundance of the remains, even after such a large number of people have been fed, stresses the generosity of God, revealed in Jesus. Our God is a generous God who gives not only bread to the hungry, but even his very self. He showed this through the Incarnation and the ministry of Jesus. However, this was shown in the most perfect of ways on the Cross. The miracle is thus a call to accept the generosity of God and to show that we have accepted it by the generosity we show to others.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday”

In the oracle of salvation from the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 2:1-5) speaks of the elevation or exaltation of Zion, the mountain of the Temple of the Lord. This elevation will result in the establishment of peace and justice among all nations. The people will make a pilgrimage to Zion to learn the Lord’s ways and walk in his paths. They will go to God’s holy mountain to learn from him. This instruction will result in the instruments of war being turned into farming tools. Peace will reign and so there will be no need to train for war.

In this part of his letter to the Romans (Rom. 13, 11-14) Paul exhorts his readers because of the urgency of the times to wake up and live in the light rather than darkness. This is done by giving up things done under the cover of the dark and daring to appear in the light. Christians must express through their words and actions the very presence of Christ.

The text from Matthew (Mt 24, 37-44) is part of his Eschatological Discourse (24-25). To the question “When will Christ return?” Matthew’s answer is “No one knows” (24, 36). As in the time of Noah life went on as usual with no sign that judgement was going to come, so will it be at the Parousia (literally “presence” but taken to mean the second coming of Christ). However, this lack of knowledge about the exactness of the hour instead of becoming a cause for concern must be the motivating factor to be ready at all times. In the metaphor of the thief who breaks and enters the house, the point being made is that it is the one who knows that the exact hour is unknown will be the one who will remain vigilant and awake.

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 basically we are frightened. We are frightened of what the future holds for us, we are frightened of whether we will be able to cope with what the future brings and we are frightened of whether the future will be better than or worse than our present. The Gospel text of today is calling for exactly the opposite of this way of living. It is calling for a total living in the present and doing what we have to do in the now, with no useless worry about what the morrow will bring. This is what it means to be ready at all times. A story is told of St. John Berchmans {a young Jesuit who died when he was 22 years old} who when asked what he would do if he was told that he was going to be called by the Lord at the moment when he was playing football is said to have replied, “I will continue playing football.” The Latin phrase “Age quod agis” “Do what you are doing” sums up his attitude and the attitude expected of each of us who profess to be followers of Christ.

However, we will only be able to have such a kind of 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 and substitute them instead with everything that enhances, builds up and is positive. Being good and doing good are not be looked upon as a burden but something that comes naturally to the Christian who has experienced the move from darkness to light and from fear to love through what Christ has done through his life, mission, death and resurrection. We must show through this kind of positive and fearless living that we are indeed children of the light and have as inspiration the person and message of Christ.

If we dare to live in this manner then the prophecy of Isaiah which was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago will also become a reality once again today. We will become that mountain of the Temple of the Lord to which everyone will look and learn the Lord’s ways. They will learn that to live in the future is futile, 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, to enhance and build up rather than pull down and destroy, to live fully and completely rather than die without ever having lived.

St. Peter's and Mukesh Ambani's Electricity Bill.

I am moving to St. Peter's Parish, Bandra from tomorrow and so will not be able to post on my blog for maybe a couple of days.
Having said that I must admit I was shocked to read about the Monthly Electricity Bill of Mukesh Ambani's house. In a city where we need to conserve every bit of energy that we can, here is an example of blatant disregard of any kind of concern or responsibility. It is shameful and horrid to say the least. I do hope that better sense prevails and that he will realise that millions of people in the city and country will not have electricity because of the amount he uses. While it is true that it is he who is paying the bill, one must not always consider the purchasing power of an individual but whether he really needs to use it. God grant him wisdom.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

How would you define prayer? Can it be said of you that your life is prayer?

The verses of the Gospel text of today 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.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Will you live today as if it were your last day on earth?

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, 24 November 2010

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?

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.


If someone witnessed your actions all through today, would they conclude that you are a disciple of Jesus?

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.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Are you so concerned about the next life that you are not living fully this life?

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 second warning follows the first: they must 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.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Will you forego one meal this week and give what you save to someone less fortunate than you?

Jesus’ comment on the widow’s offering follows immediately after his condemnation of the scribes, who “devour widow’s houses”. Luke omits most of Mark’s introduction to the widow’s offering (see Mark 12,41). In the new scene, which Luke brings about by his comment that “He (Jesus) looked up and saw”, Luke introduces two sets of characters: the rich contributors and a poor widow. The action of both is the same. However, the size or amount of the gifts of the rich contributors is not mentioned, but it is explicitly stated that the widow put in two lepta, the smallest copper coins then in use. It would have taken 128 lepta to make one denarius, which was a day’s wage. Two lepta would therefore have been worthless. In a twist reminiscent of many of Jesus’ parables, Jesus states that the widow who put in what seems like a worthless amount has put in more than any of the rich contributors. The following statement clarifies how this could be. They contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty. They contributed gifts she contributed herself.

Will you forego one meal this week and give what you save to someone less fortunate than you?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Will we ready our minds and hearts to receive our King?

The feast of Christ the Eternal King was introduced through the encyclical Quas Primas – (“In the first”) of Pope Pius XI on December 11, 1925. One main purpose of the encyclical was to communicate hope to a world which seemed to be giving into despair. Another purpose was to give the world a whole new idea of kingship, dominion and authority. There could be no better model of kingship which the Church could put before the world than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the servant king.

This feast is celebrated every year on the last Sunday in Ordinary time. It brings to a close the Ordinary time of the liturgical year and it begins the preparation for Advent and the coming of the redeemer child at Christmas.

The readings for today all speak of Kingship. The first reading tells of the kingship of David who had been anointed king over Judah and now, over the northern tribes of Israel. Thus, David becomes king over all of Israel. However, even as he is anointed king, he is reminded of the kind of king that the Lord wants him to be, namely a Shepherd king. He began life as a shepherd of the flocks of his father. Now, he is shepherd over the people. Like the shepherd looks after his flock and leads them, so David will look after his people and lead them. The anointing of David as king is not something done on a mere whim. It is the Lord who ordained it. It is the Lord who said that David would be shepherd and rule over Israel. David had shown his care for his people when he led them out and brought them to the glory that they now experience.

The kingdom that God established in David promised newness. The shape of power in this kingdom will be governed by shepherding and covenant making. Israel’s future hope has, for the moment, become its present hope. This present hope was made even more visible when God chose and anointed Jesus to be king, not only over Israel but over the whole of humanity. Like David before him, Jesus would also be a shepherd of the people. The covenant that he made with God would be a covenant on the Cross. It would be an eternal covenant, one that no amount of negatives could ever erase.

The Gospel text of today brings out this truth powerfully. Through the irony of the taunts of the leaders and soldiers, Luke highlights both Jesus’ real identity and the true meaning of his death. The leaders and soldiers think that they are ridiculing Jesus. They think that they are making fun of him. However, even as they do this, they are unaware that this is exactly the kind of king that he has come to be. Just as Jesus had taught that those who lose their lives for his sake would save them, so now he is willing to lose his life so that all might be saved. Jesus’ death did not contradict the Christological claims; it confirmed them. For him to have saved himself would have been a denial of his salvific role in the purposes of God. Both what is said and what is done at the cross, therefore, confirm the truth about the one who is crucified: He is the Christ, the King of the Jews, the Saviour of the World.

This salvation that Jesus effected on the Cross is made even more visible and more tangible in the response of Jesus to those crucified with him. Though rebuked by one of the thieves, Jesus does not react negatively. He is willing to accept even this taunt. The pronouncement that Jesus makes to the thief who asks for remembrance is solemn. It is the last of the six “Amen” sayings in Luke and the only one addressed to a person. It is also the last of the “Today” pronouncements. That “Amen” and “Today” have been used together is an indication that the pronouncement is emphatic and that there is to be no delay. What Jesus promises will happen now.

The salvation pronounced to one of the thieves on the Cross is also the salvation being pronounced to each of us who are willing to receive it. This is because, through his passion and death, Jesus has rescued us, as the letter to the Colossians points out. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and sin. He has transferred us into the kingdom of light and all that is good. It is therefore, in the visible image of Jesus Christ that we can comprehend who God is and what God wants to do for each of us. God wants the whole of creation to be reconciled in Jesus. God wants all of creation to be saved in the shepherd and self-sacrificing king.

As we come to the close of another liturgical year, and as we prepare to welcome Christ our eternal king, we need to realize that our king can come only if we are willing to open our hearts and minds wide to receive him. We can do this by removing from our minds and hearts anything that will prevent us from receiving and accepting him. We can do this by removing selfishness and self-centeredness that makes us seek only our own good rather than the good of others. We can do this by reaching out in love and forgiveness as he did, even when on the Cross. Will we ready our minds and hearts to receive our King?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

If you were told that your life after death would be determined by the life you live now, what changes would you make in this life?

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who did not believe in the resurrection. The question they ask Jesus assumes the practice of levirate marriage, where according to Deut 25,5, the brother of a deceased man was to take his brother’s widow as his wife. The Sadducees extend the situation to the point of ridicule by speaking of seven brothers who marry the same woman. The question is whose wife she would be in the resurrection. While in Mark, Jesus first rebukes the Sadducees, in Luke he begins to teach them immediately. Jesus’ response is that life in the resurrection will not simply be a continuation of the life, as we know it now. In the second part of his response, Jesus calls the attention of the Sadducees to the familiar story of the burning bush, in which the point is that God is not God of the dead but of the living.


Friday, 19 November 2010

If the Lord were to come to the Temple of your heart, would he find selling and buying or would he find himself there?

The cleansing of the temple is one of the few incidents that are narrated by all four Gospels. However, the distinctiveness of Luke’s account stands out more clearly when it is compared with Mark. In Marks account, Jesus enters Jerusalem and the temple, and then withdraws for the night to Bethany. In contrast, Luke has Jesus proceed directly to the Temple. The cleansing in Luke is greatly abbreviated, omitting Mark’s references to those who were buying, overturning the tables, selling doves and forbidding anyone to carry anything through the Temple. While in Mark Jesus’ action is part of his prophetic announcement of the destruction of the temple, in Luke, the cleansing prepares his “father’s house” to serve as the site for Jesus’ teaching in the following section (19:47 – 21:38). While in Mark Jesus leaves the Temple definitively after the cleansing, in Luke, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple even after the incident. Since the people were spellbound by the words of Jesus, the chief priests, scribes and the leaders could do nothing to him.


What keeps you from recognising the Messiah?

The text of today dwells on the theme of Jesus’ rejection by the religious elders. The city Jerusalem, whose name contains the word peace, does not recognise the King of Peace, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ tears for Jerusalem are because she did not recognise that if she accepted him as Messiah, true peace would indeed reign. The numerous attempts of Jesus to win over the people were met with stiff resistance. They had closed their minds and hearts to anything that he had to say because it did not fit in with what they had already set their minds to believe.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How will I show through my life that I have opted for Jesus the king?

The parable in the text of today is from the common source of Matthew and Luke known as “Q”. However, Matthew (Mt 25,14-30) presents it differently. While in Matthew there are three servants who are given five talents (a talent was equivalent to 20 years wages for a common labourer), two and one talent respectively, in Luke there are ten servants who are given one mina each (a mina was about three months wages for a common labourer). The amounts in Luke are much smaller than in Matthew. Though there are ten servants, we are told only about three. The first of the three has earned ten minas with the one he was given, the second has earned five and so these are given charge of ten and five cities respectively. The third returns the mina to the king because he was afraid of him and knew him to be a harsh man. After berating the man for not putting the mina into the bank, which would have earned interest, the king commands that his mina be given to the one who already has ten.

The point, which Luke seems to make in this parable, is that responses to Jesus the king have a decisive role in human destiny, for responses to him determine life and death. There is no “safe” position. The only road to success is to take risks as taken by the first two servants.


Monday, 15 November 2010

What one action will you perform to show that you have repented TODAY?

The story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke and is the last encounter of Jesus with outcasts before he enters Jerusalem. It takes place when Jesus is passing through Jericho and on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is the name of the tax collector who Luke informs us is “rich” (19,2). He desires to see Jesus, but there are obstacles to his desire. The first is the crowd and the second is his own short stature. These are interconnected. If there were no crowd, his short stature would not have mattered and if he were tall the crowd would not have mattered. Zacchaeus does not allow these to hinder him and does what no grown man at his time would do: he runs. Worse: he climbs a tree. Through this Luke indicates that Zacchaeus was willing to face ridicule and being mocked by the crowd in order to do what he had set about to do. He gives up his self-importance and dignity, because all that matters to him is to see and encounter Jesus. When Jesus comes to the place where Zacchaeus he asks him to hurry and come down. Zacchaeus obeys instantly. The reaction of the crowd is to grumble that Jesus would go to the house of a sinner. Zacchaeus on the other hand responds with generosity and uses the visit of Jesus to redeem himself. Jesus responds by confirming Zacchaeus’ status as a “son of Abraham”, not because he was born one, but because of his repentance. In the last verse of the story, Jesus pronounces salvation on the house of Zacchaeus and reaffirms his own mission as Son of man: to seek and save the lost.

The desire of Zacchaeus to see Jesus is a genuine one. He shows it is genuine by his willingness to overcome any obstacles that come in the way of his seeing. He is willing to persevere and do all that is required of him. His perseverance is rewarded by his meeting Jesus and being transformed by him.


What is it that prevents me from seeing good in others? Do I want to receive back my sight?

The text of today is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, but whereas in Matthew there are two blind men and in Mark the name of the blind man is Bartimaeus, in Luke there is one blind man who is not named. However, what is common to all three Gospels is that the blind man/men cries out to Jesus with a messianic title, “Son of David”, and perseveres in his plea despite being told by the people to quiet down. Though the question that Jesus asks the blind man seems redundant, it is necessary for Jesus to ask the question to indicate his respect for the freedom of the man. While on the physical level the man is blind, on the spiritual level he has insight because despite his physical blindness, he is able to recognise that Jesus of Nazareth is also the Messiah, which those who have physical sight are not able to do. Jesus attributes the recovery of his sight to his faith.

We might tend sometimes to close our eyes to the good that there is in others, and we might also prefer to close our eyes to the injustice that we see around us. We might close our eyes to the suffering of people around us and we might prefer to close our eyes to the needs of others. Having eyes we might prefer not to see.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Are you ready to welcome the King?


One Sunday before the end of the liturgical year, when we ready ourselves to receive Christ the Eternal King, the Church invites us, through the readings of today, to reflect on our preparedness for the coming of the king. Even as she does so, the Church does not expect that we will only gaze into the future. Rather, she expects that we will realize that it is our present that determines our future. On the one hand, this Sunday’s readings focus on the future coming of the Lord and the end times. On the other hand, the readings point out that our future is in the present and we must live that present fully so that we will do the same with our future.

The expectation of something that is unknown can bring up two kinds of feelings in the hearts of the ones expecting. For those who expect that the coming event will result in some reward, the feelings will be of joy, hope, and expectation. For those who expect that the coming event will bring judgement and maybe punishment, the feelings will be of fear, trepidation, and apprehension.

These are the feelings that Malachi speaks about in the first reading of today. He states that the day that is coming will bring, for the arrogant and the evildoers, judgement and punishment. It will be a day that will burn them. However, for the righteous, he states that it will be a day of joy and hope. It will be a day of healing and elation.

These are also the feelings that Jesus addresses in the Gospel text of today which is part of Luke’s Eschatological Discourse. The disciples might tend to get frightened, even terrified, when they hear about the last things. They might tend to fear when calamities befall them, but they are not to do so. They must remain unfazed by the events that signal what might seem like the end time. What is required from them is endurance and perseverance. What is required of them is fearlessness and courage. The reason for this is that the end time will be for them, a day of vindication and victory. It will be a day of triumph and accomplishment. Even in the face of all odds and evidence to the contrary, they are called to believe.

Through these instructions, Jesus offers his disciples, not a way of predicting the end of the world, but a strategy to use so that whenever that day comes, they will be ready. Consequently, the disciples have to focus, not so much on what is to come and when it will come but, on what they have to accomplish at the present moment, in the here and now.

Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians in the second reading of today says just this. Paul sets himself up an example of what it means to do what one has to do in the here and now. Paul worked night and day, doing what he was called to do. He was not a burden to anyone. He did not engage in idle speculation about the future and what it might bring. He lived and worked in the present moment.

The challenge to live fully the teachings of Jesus and to bear the consequences of such a life continues to confront us today. It is easy to speculate about the future or to project a “pie-in-the sky-when-you-die” to those who are undergoing adversity. However, to face these challenges squarely is another matter.

Is there a plausible response that the readings’ of today give to those for whom life seems, at most times, a burden? Do the readings of today address the problems of how we must handle difficulties when they come our way? Do the readings of today give us an insight into how we are to prepare for the Lord’s coming? The answer to all these questions is a resounding “yes”.

First, life is only as burdensome as we want it to be. One important reason why life becomes burdensome is because we often live in the future rather than in the present. We keep thinking about what we could have rather than what we do have. We fret about wanting more rather than using what we have joyfully. This is why Jesus tells his disciples not to be led astray and look for salvation in this or that fad or this or that thing. Salvation comes only from the Lord.

Difficulties in life are only difficulties if they are seen as such. We can instead look on them as opportunities to show that we can persevere. We can look on them to show that, no matter what the difficulty might be, our response will be one of courage and fearlessness. We can look on them and know that, even in the face of the most severe persecution which may even result in death, not a hair of our head will perish.

Thus, as we get ready to welcome Christ our eternal King, the readings of today invite us to see that it is Christ, present in the here and now, not Christ who is expected in the future who continues to shape and inspire our lives. He is not a king of the morrow or of later, but a king of today, a king of now.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Do you give up at the slightest sign of trouble or will you keep on keeping on no matter what the day might bring?

The call today is to persevere and never give up no matter how difficult the going might get. It is easy to persevere when things are going the way we want them to go. However, when things go contrary to our expectations and when the going gets tough, to persevere requires courage and fortitude.

Friday, 12 November 2010

If the Lord were to call you at 6.00 this evening what are the three things you would want to do before you go? What is preventing you from doing them

Today's Gospel text speaks about the fact that none of us knows the day or the hour when the Lord will call us. This is why it is important and prudent to be ready at all times and at any time. The way to be ready is to do at any moment what one is supposed to do. It is also to give up any regrets about the past (if there are any these must be rectified and not carried) and any obsession with the future. We do not know what the future holds but we know who holds the future. That is enough.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Kingdom of God is within YOU!!!!

The Gospel text of today makes a startling revelation and it is that the Kingdom of God is within YOU. This means that we must first look into ourselves to find the kingdom. It is not out there, but within me. I can decide what I want that Kingdom to be. If I want to fill my heart with generosity, selflessness and unconditional love, then that is the Kingdom that I will manifest. Do I want to do that today?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Raining in Goa

It has been raining in Goa and I wonder what the farmers will do. The crops need sunshine to dry. Please pray that the farmers will realize that all that happens is for the best.
I have begun my course in Institute Mater Dei and there are 69 students attending it. The first day was great and the students seems very interested.
I intend to visit my Jesuit brother Francis Xavier and will say a prayer for all you at the Church of Bom Jesu.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Course in Old Goa

I leave for Goa this afternoon for my Annual course on "An Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels" at Institute Mater Dei (IMD) situated at Old Goa above Bom Jesu (where the relics of St. Francis Xavier SJ are kept). I will bne back in Mumbai on November 17, 2010. However, I will continue to update my blog even from Goa.
Keep me and the participants of the course in your prayers.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Your life in the future is determined by you NOW!

What happens to us after we die? Do we continue to “live?” Is it only the “soul” which continues to exist? Does the body also exist in some other form? These related questions have been fodder for much theological and philosophical discussion for centuries. The Sadducees of Jesus’ time had such questions and, two thousand years later, we continue to have similar questions.

The response to these questions cannot be made by trying to answer each one separately. All these questions arise from a more important one, namely: Who is your God? The answer to this question, as Jesus points out to the Sadducees in the Gospel text of today, determines our belief about the afterlife.

For those, like the Sadducees, who are not able to reconcile with the idea of God as a living God, it is not possible to believe in the Resurrection. For them, everything ends on earth. There is nothing to come later. However, for those who are fortunate to encounter the God made visible in Jesus, the resurrection is not only possible but a fact. This is because the revelation of God is of a God who lives and who wants all to continue to live forever. It is not a revelation of a temporal God or of a limited God. Rather, in Jesus, God is revealed as one who raised Jesus from the dead and who will, in Jesus, raise the whole of creation.

Precisely because Jesus said so little about the nature of life after death, his words in this text are extremely significant. The ones who die in God are children, not of death, but of the resurrection. This is why they will never die again. This is why they will live forever in and with God.

The resurrection from the dead is spoken of also in the first reading of today. The seven brothers are unafraid to face death because they know that, for them, death is not the end. Their image of God is of a God who will raise them. They remain faithful in this life and thus, are sure of God’s fidelity to them in the next life. Rather than place their trust in humans and in temporal rewards, they are willing to die for what they know will be their eternal reward.

Though the scriptures do not tell us about the “how” of the Resurrection, all Evangelists speak of the Empty Tomb and of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. This must be enough for us. However, more than worrying or wondering about the resurrection, we must be concerned about our lives in the here and now. This is why Paul, when writing to the Thessalonians in the second reading of today, exhorts them to be faithful and to keep on doing what they have to do. They need not concern themselves about the future, since through Jesus Christ, God gives eternal comfort and good hope. The hope is that that Lord is faithful and the Lord has shown his fidelity in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

To be concerned about our lives in the here and now means living fully in the present moment knowing full well that the future is in God’s capable hands. Though we do not really know what the future holds, we know who holds the future and this must be our motivation and inspiration. Too much speculation about things that are beyond us can lead to unnecessary worry and tension. It prevents us from doing what we have to do. If we keep in mind that our present will determine our future, then instead of worrying about tomorrow and the afterlife, we will ensure that we live fully today and in this life.

This is why for us, as disciples of Jesus, death is not something to be feared or dreaded. It is only a transition from this life to the next. Even Jesus had to die in order to be raised. It is a necessary condition for us to enjoy the eternal life that God has in store for us. Though there is nothing in us as humans that is naturally or inherently immortal, God’s gift of life after death makes us immortal. This is why we also can say, like the 17th Century poet, John Donne, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

Following in the footsteps of those who have gone before us to eternal life, we trust in the indestructibility of the bonds of love that join us with God. Since it was God who invited us into this covenant relationship, surely God will see that this bond endures through death and beyond, whatever that beyond might hold. We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Province Days

The Province Days that 130 Jesuits had a Khandala (November 3-5, 2010) went off wonderfully well. God's hand was with us right from the start and we were able to have some animated and good discussions. The weather was conducive for hard work and all Jesuits present were involved in every way.
We discussed issues like Identity and also Environment, Fundamentalism and Inter-religious dialogue and Migration and Displacement. Though we have not come out with "solutions" we know where we are and where we have to go. The process and journey is as important as the outcome and destination. We are moving forward.
Thanks for all your prayers. We are optimistic about the future of the Society of Jesus in the Mumbai Province.

Do your best and that will be enough

These verses are found only in the Gospel of Luke and continue what was begun in 16:1-8, but also make a new beginning with the phrase, “and I tell you” in 16:9. The disciples are called to use wealth to make friends. If they use their wealth to help others, they can be assured that they would be welcomed into their homes when their wealth is all used up. The person who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much. However, one who is unfaithful in little will also be unfaithful in much. And, if a person is not able to manage honestly that which is given in trust he/she will surely not be given what actually belongs to him/her. If that person cannot be faithful with worldly wealth that has been entrusted to their care by God, how can God give them their treasure in heaven? While wealth must be used, it must never be allowed to control a person or use him/her. Wealth must be at the service of human beings not be served by them. God alone is the one to be served.

Will you do all that you do today to the best of your ability?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Out for Province Days

I will be out for the Province Days, so there will be no new post till I get back on November 6, 2010.
Stay well all you who read my blog. God will keep blessing you.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

MUMBAI PROVINCE DAYS

123 Jesuits of the Mumbai Province will gather in Khandala from November 3-5, 2010 to reflect on and pray about one of the Questions that our General Congregation 35 has asked us to reflect on. The question is: WHO ARE YOU THAT YOU DO THESE THINGS AND THAT YOU DO THEM IN THIS WAY. This question has to do with our IDENTITY as Jesuits, with our MINISTRY and with OUR WAY OF PROCEEDING. The Outcome of these deliberations will impact our work in numerous Schools, Colleges and other works that we do in Mumbai.
Keep us all in your prayers.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Death thou shalt die!

“Death thou shalt die”

Whenever The Commemoration of the faithful departed (All Souls) falls on a Sunday, the following Sunday is the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Each of these days in its own way is an invitation to reflect on the meaning of God’s people gathered to be church.

The Commemoration of the faithful departed reminds us that we are still one with those who have gone before us into eternal life, and that death is not and can never be the end. Since they are alive we still owe them love and support in Christ’s name, even beyond the grave.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome is the "Mother Church" of all churches throughout the world because it is the Cathedral of Rome. It, not St. Peter’s, is properly the Pope’s own church. And so it is very fitting that we commemorate the day of its dedication, which took place in the fourth century, because we are celebrating an important aspect of our heritage as God’s people.

While the readings for both days may be chosen from a great variety found in the Masses for the dead and the common of the dedication of a church I have taken the ones mentioned above. This gives us an opportunity to look at the mystery of death and the new life that Christ has won and promised for all of us who believe.

The question of where we go when we die is a question that has puzzled and continues to puzzle the minds of many. It is a question that brings out the fact that we realize that this life has to end and all of us no matter how strong we are, no matter how rich or poor have to die some day. Death has been and will continue to be a mystery. While we know that we have to die and today with the advancement of science and technology can delay death by a few days, months or even years in some cases and can tell how a person may have died, what we will never know, what will always remain a mystery is why a person must die at a particular moment in time. The feast of the Commemoration of the faithful departed does not provide the answer to this question, but informs us that for us as believers, death is not and can never be the end.

If in the past the focus of the feast was on praying for the deliverance of the “souls” in purgatory who were regarded as the “Church suffering” and needed our prayers so that they could join in heaven the saints and add to the number of the “Church triumphant”, today the focus is different. This focus is brought out through the readings suggested for this day.

It is quite amazing to find a text like the first reading of today in the Old Testament in which we do not find any clear theology of the resurrection of dead. During most of the time before Christ, only a vague idea of afterlife is found: and "abode of the dead" called Sheol, whose inhabitants had only a shadowy existence. God’s favor or disfavor was understood in terms of the present life only. However, as hard times and tragedies befell the Jewish people, ideas of life beyond this life began to emerge. Isaiah saw this as eternal restoration of the nation where death would be destroyed and the whole people would live forever. The text comes from within the block of material known as 'The Isaiah Apocalypse' (Isa 24-27). The view of the future within these chapters is universal in outlook and speaks of God's power in the cosmic as well as the earthly realm. An invitation to a feast is also issued in the first reading from Isaiah. Those who will heed the call are invited to the mountain of the Lord, Zion. Here is the choicest of food and drink which is served in abundance. It is an invitation to feast and rejoice and an assurance that all tears will be wiped away and the people who come will be accepted. All reproach will be removed and God will reveal himself as a God who saves. This salvation will be shown in the most tangible of ways in that death itself will be destroyed.

The Gospel text is addressed to all those who accept the message of Jesus unlike those in Chorazin and Bethsaida. To understand it fully, two points must be kept in mind. The first is that it is placed by Matthew after three “negative” passages which begin at 11:2. These are the response of Jesus to the disciples of John the Baptist to their question whether Jesus was the Messiah, the exasperation with the crowd who do not recognize John nor Jesus, and the denunciation of the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Indeed, this entire section of Matthew’s Gospel seems to lean on a sense of apparent “failure” on the part of Jesus to measure up to the expectations that all around him had in terms of what a “Messiah” would look like or act like. The second point is that this text is clearly a Matthean composition and is made of three elements. This first two of these are found in Luke but in different contexts and the third is exclusive to Matthew. In Matthew the audience is clearly the crowds and so the words of Jesus here are meant for all. The passage appearing as it does in this context seeks to state that despite so much of doubt and negativity, that despite so much of blindness and closed attitudes, this is not the last word. Despite the fact that Jesus’ message has been questioned by John the Baptist, rejected by many and especially the wise and understanding and not paid heed to by the cities, yet the invitation and message will find acceptance among the open and receptive of which there are still some left. There is no arbitrariness in this. Rather, it is simply true that for the most part the wise tend to become proud and self-sufficient in their wisdom and particularly unreceptive regarding the new and the unexpected. On the other hand the childlike are most often unself-conscious, open, dependent, and receptive. They are willing to let God work in their lives. They have not decided in advance how God must act and are willing to let God be God. They are willing to believe that in Jesus, God has indeed brought salvation from sin, failure and even death itself. Jesus himself is an example of such openness, which allowed him to receive everything directly from God. It is his intimacy with the Father and not his religious genius, which is responsible for this grace.

Even as we commemorate the faithful departed we must remember that the readings opf today do not focus on death at all rather they focus on life and life in abundance. In writing to the Thessalonians Paul makes clear that we cannot behave as a people who have no hope. Our grief has to be a controlled grief. It has to be a grief that has its basis in the hope that all who have died in Christ are sure to rise with him. After God has spoken in Jesus, death is seen only as transition from one kind of life to another. In the words of the sixteenth century poet John Donne: “Death, thou shalt die”.

All Saints Day

“I want to be in that number when the Saints go marching in”. These words from the popular spiritual song “When the Saints go marching in” can be regarded as one of the two important reasons why we celebrate the feast of All Saints.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a new chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all saints on November 1, and he fixed the anniversary of this dedication as the date of the feast. In the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration of All Saints for the entire Church and since then, the Church celebrates the feast of all Saints on this date.

While the celebration of this solemnity may be seen on the one hand as a remembrance or memorial of the numerous courageous men and women who lived lives of selfless love, it may also be seen on the other hand as an event which makes each of us aware that we too as those who have gone before are capable of living such lives. It is a celebration of possibilities, potential and promise. They could, we also can.

This possibility and potential is brought out vividly in the first reading from the Book of Revelation. While on the one hand there are the chosen one hundred and forty four thousand made up of twelve thousand each from the twelve tribes of Israel, there is also on the other hand, the great multitude from every nation and tribe and language. This great multitude is a demonstration that the possibility of being sealed is a very real one and that everyone who desires it can receive it. While it is true that the choice is made by God, we as humans can desire it by being willing to be washed in the blood of the lamb. This means the willingness to undergo persecution, trials and tribulations and resisting the pressure to conform to values of the “world” which include selfishness and self centeredness.

This willingness not to conform is precisely the reason why in the Gospel text of today, Jesus can declare as “blessed”, those who in the eyes of the world might seem as those who are cursed. This declaration is a confident assertion of the reality that is now and here. The beatitudes are not a “wish list” nor a projection of the future state of what is to come. They are not conditions for discipleship or preliminary requirements for an initiate. Rather, they describe those who belong to the community of the Lord. They describe the Saints.

The nine pronouncements or declarations are thus not statements about general human virtues. Rather, they pronounce blessing on authentic disciples in the Christian community. All the beatitudes apply to one group of people. They do not describe nine different kinds of good people who get to go to heaven, but are nine declarations about the blessedness, contrary to all appearances, of the eschatological community living in anticipation of God’s reign.

“Poor in spirit” definitely includes being economically poor, but goes further than literal poverty. It refers also to an absence of arrogance and the presence of dependence. It refers to an absence of ego and a presence of awareness that one’s true identity is found only in God. The “mourning” of disciples is not because of the loss of something personal or because of the death of a loved one. It is a mourning that is outward in that the mourning is because things are the way they are. The mourning is because God’s will is not being done and represents also a desire to do it. It is mourning because of what is not and also because of what can be. Meekness in the third beatitude represents not a passive attitude of endurance or as is sometimes understood: gullibility. Rather it is an active disposition that will refuse to use violent means. This refusal does not represent inability, weakness or impotence. It represents instead a deliberate choice of one’s way of proceeding. This is also what is meant by the desire or hunger for righteousness or justice. It is the courage to do God’s will here and now with the confidence and optimism that the kingdom is indeed now and here. The disciples are pure in heart or have a single minded devotion to God and will not be swayed by things that are temporary and passing. They will not be divided or serve two masters. They will serve the Lord and the Lord alone. This single minded service of the Lord will also enable them to work for peace and reconciliation. They will bring together people of different experiences, races, religions, and languages not through any kind of coercion or force, but through the example of consecrated and selfless lives. All this they will do with a deep sense of joy, because they know that this is really the only way to live fully and completely the life that God in his graciousness has bestowed.

It is the same God who calls them his children and to whom he is Father. The disciples know that this is indeed what they are because they live lives that are in keeping with their call.

The elder who invited John to identify those robed in white continues to invite us not only to identify them today, but also to have the confidence that we if we dare to live as Jesus has lived and shown us and as the Saints who have gone before us have lived, then we too can be counted in that number.