Translate

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do I possess riches or do riches possess me? Do I use things or do things use me?

This text is made up of two parts. The first is the story of the rich man who is unable to accept Jesus’ invitation to discipleship (10,17-22) and the second part contains the sayings of Jesus on the danger of riches (10,23-27).
The rich man addresses Jesus as “Good teacher” and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus shifts the focus from himself and makes God the focus. In Mark, Jesus cites six of the commandments of the Decalogue (Ex 20,12-17; Deut 5,16-21). The response of the rich man is to affirm that he has followed all of these. Only in Mark does Jesus look at the man and love him. This love results in the issuance of an invitation: the invitation to follow Jesus. The invitation is to forego even the privilege of alms giving for the sake of sharing Jesus’ life style by depending on god while at the same time proclaiming his kingdom. The rich man is devoted to God’s word, but cannot bring himself to accept the invitation. His riches become an obstacle to his following.
After his departure, Jesus turns to the disciples to instruct them on the danger of riches. Jesus uses a metaphor of a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. Even this impossible as it might be to imagine is possible and easier than for a rich person to enter the kingdom. The amazement of the disciples while understandable also brings out powerfully the obstacle that riches can pose to seeing rightly.
We are living in a world, which keeps calling us to possess more and more. We are bombarded from every side with advertisements inviting us to be owners of land, property, houses, and electronic and other goods. While we must use things and plan properly for own future and the future of our children, we need to be careful that we do not become so obsessed with the future that we forget to live in the present.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Has your narrow mindedness led you to pigeonhole God and place him in a small compartment? Will you realise that God is much bigger than you can ever imagine him to be?

The text is really about the kingdom of God and what kind of people can expect to be a part of it. When people bring children to Jesus, the disciples try to stop them from doing so showing once again that they have not been able to understand what Jesus and the kingdom are all about. The kingdom is for everyone and is inclusive not exclusive. Jesus is emphatic in his response to their action that the kingdom does indeed belong to children and that anyone who does not become like a child can never hope to enter it. The point is not so much that one will be excluded but that one will exclude oneself. The kingdom is a gift and must be received as a gift. No human power can create or force it. The kingdom of God will come when we behave like little children.
A childlike attitude means not only that one will be humble and spontaneous as children are, but also that one will acknowledge like a child has to do, his/her dependence. Many of us like to be independent and for some asking a favour of someone else is extremely difficult because they do not want to acknowledge their dependence on that person and so be indebted. We must realise that we are all interconnected and while we are dependent on each other in some way or other, we are primarily dependent on God.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Am I faithful to the commitment that I have made in my state of life?

The school of Hillel (60 BCE – 20 CE), permitted divorce literally for any cause – even if the wife spoiled a dish or if her husband found another fairer than his wife. However the school of Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE) permitted it only for adultery.
In Deut 24,1-4 the institution of divorce is taken for granted, & concerns only the procedure to be followed and that after the woman has married a second time, the first husband cannot remarry her. The Law of divorce was a concession not a commandment.
The question of the Pharisees is asked by them in order to test Jesus. This attitude becomes clear when in their response to Jesus’ question about what the law says on divorce, they seem to know it quite clearly. In his response to them, Jesus quotes Gen 1,27 and 2,24 as arguments for a permanent state of unity created by marriage. Jesus goes beyond the Law to Creation. Divorce according to the law of creation would be like trying to divide one person into two. Mark’s formula is a near total prohibition of divorce. Mt 19,9 contains the exception contained in 5,32 – unchastity (Porneia, Hebrew-Zenût = prostitution) understood in the sense of an incestuous union due to marriage in their forbidden degrees of kinship (Lev 18,6-18). Such a union would not be true marriage at all and would not require a divorce but annulment.
Many families today are breaking up and there are various reasons why this is happening. However, it seems that one of the important reasons why marriages and families break up is because of selfishness. Due to this there is unwillingness on the part of the members to adjust with each other or the inability to understand. Each wants to go his/her own way and do his/her own thing. Concern for the others needs and feelings seem to be on the wane. Psychologists today are quite convinced that a healthy family background is an absolute requirement for the healthy growth of a child and a happy child is the result of a happy family.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Am I a part time Christian? Am I a fair weather Christian?

This pericope contains a series of sayings against those who cause scandal and others to sin. Anyone who scandalises or causes someone else to stumble is a danger to those who believe. Jesus’ language here seems harsh, but he is not asking individuals to maim parts of their body. Rather he is using these striking metaphors to drive home powerfully the point he wants to make, namely: that no one and nothing must be allowed to compromise the kingdom. The metaphors reflect how important striving for the kingdom is. A disciple of Jesus must be prepared to forego anything for the sake of the kingdom.
Our behaviour in public sometimes results in leading others away from God and Jesus. Those who see our behaviour and know that we are disciples of Jesus are not inspired to follow him. Mahatma Gandhi himself was inspired by Christ, but he was quite clear not by Christians. Christ today is made visible and tangible through the words and actions of those of us who believe in him and so we have an enormous responsibility to make him known and draw others to him. People must be able to see him in us.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Do I feel threatened by people whom I think are more talented than I am? Will I rest secure in my selfhood? Will I glory in my selfhood?

John comes to Jesus hoping to be commended for stopping an exorcist who was using the name of Jesus to exorcise. In his response Jesus advocates openness and allows anyone who wants to exorcise in his name to be free to do so. Since the man is using Jesus name, it is clear that he is not against Jesus and so will not speak ill of Jesus. Since he is not against, he is for Jesus.
One of the many qualities of Jesus that stood out in his life and mission was the quality of openness. He was willing to accommodate and believe even in those whom others had given up on. This is shown in his call of Levi.Matthew the tax collector and his reaching out to sinners and outcasts. In our understanding of Jesus we sometimes do him a disservice when we become too parochial and narrow-minded and imagine that he is the exclusive property of those of us who are baptised. We communicate this attitude to others when we reject their symbols of God and worse treat them as idol worshipers. We are being called through the attitude of Jesus in the text of today to make him available to all with our openness and acceptance of others and of their way of relating to God.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The world seems to be saying, “If you are not No. 1, you are NO ONE. Jesus. However, is clear in what he says: If you want to be No. 1, be NO ONE.

The text of today contains the second Passion, death and resurrection prediction that Jesus makes on the way to Jerusalem and Jesus’ explanation of his way of life to his disciples after they misunderstand what his kingdom is all about. In this second passion and resurrection prediction, there is a change in the verb from the first where the verb was the passive “be killed” (8,31) to the active “they will kill him” (9,31)
If after the first passion and resurrection prediction it is Peter who misunderstands, here, it is the disciples as a whole that misunderstand because "on the way" they are discussing who the greatest among them is, when Jesus is speaking about service and being the least. Before his teaching on what discipleship means, Jesus sits down thereby assuming the formal position of a teacher. He speaks first of a reversal of positions and status in the kingdom, and then places before them the example of a child. In the oriental world of Jesus' time, the child was a non-person, and so by this example, Jesus derives home the point that they will have to lose their identity, become non-persons if they want to gain entry into the kingdom.
Authority as understood in Christianity can never be for domination but is always for service. Management experts today are advocating more and more the advantages of using authority for service and leading by example. In this manner the leader can get more out of the ones he lead than if he/she tries to dominate.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Is there something that you have been struggling to achieve but have not? Will you pray about it today?

The text of today deals with an exorcism after Jesus has come down from the mountain of transfiguration. It is the only exorcism story in the second half of Mark’s Gospel. The disciples are engaged in attempting to cast out a demon, but are unable to cure the boy and the father of the boy pleads with Jesus for the cure. However, the father's request expresses doubt and lack of faith. Jesus responds to the father's request by first chiding him for his lack of faith. The father responds in what may be words that each of us can connect with, "I believe, help my unbelief." The father of the boy includes himself in the unbelieving generation whom Jesus has chided, but insists that even in his unbelief, he believes. Even this inadequate faith is enough for Jesus to work the miracle. The cure takes place in two stages. After the command to leave the boy and never enter him again, the demon does come out but leaves the boy “like a corpse” (9,26). Jesus then takes the boy by the hand and lifts him up, which seems to be an indirect allusion to the resurrection.
When asked by his disciples why they were not able to cure the boy, Jesus points out to prayer as the instrument that must be used when we need something from God. Prayer is to acknowledge one’s dependence on God.
We sometimes think that we are acting independently and all that we have accomplished is the result of our own efforts, forgetting that God is always in the background guiding our way and lighting our path. If we ask for God’s assistance before we start a task or even become aware of his presence in the midst of our “doing”, what we do will become more efficacious and even effective.

Friday, 18 February 2011

If you were on the mountain with Jesus, what would your response to the Transfiguration be? Why?

The transfiguration is an event, which appears in all the Synoptic Gospels, but each narrates it differently. In Mark, it follows after the instructions that Jesus gives to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi and after six days. The event is a confirmation by God of the fact that Jesus is indeed Messiah, beloved Son. Most think that the reason for the choice of Elijah and Moses is that the Jews considered them as being alive in the presence of God. Jesus is superior even to these figures.
In Mark the order is Elijah and Moses. In Matthew, the order is Moses and Elijah (so Luke) to emphasize the two personalities of the OT who received revelation on Mount Sinai (Ex 19,33-34; 1Kgs 19,9-13) and personify the Law and the prophets. While in Matthew Jesus is the New Moses and Luke emphasizes the approaching passion, Mark sees in the transfiguration the glorious manifestation of the hidden Messiah. Briefly the disciples experience the heavenly quality of Jesus. Jesus is no less Messiah when his Messianic glory is hidden in the passion, than he is at the Transfiguration.
Elijah was regarded as the prophet who would come before the Lord (Malachi 3,24-25; 4,5) as his messenger. Jesus’ reply in Mark suggests that since Elijah has indeed come in the person of John the Baptist and Jesus comes after John, Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

There are times in our lives when everything goes according to plan and at those times it is easy to see that God is on our side. However, when we are faced with trials and when things do not work out, as we want them to, then the transfiguration is a reminder to us that even when carrying our cross we are still beloved by God.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

How often did you put the “I” in the centre yesterday? Will you do it at least two less times today?

The sayings that make up the text of today are addressed not merely to the twelve but to the crowds. The denial of self is an absolute requirement if one desires to follow him. The reason for this is that as long as the self remains, following will be half-hearted and incomplete. It will always come in the way of following. This denial thus, is not limited to situations of persecution alone but also to those situations in which personal likes and dislikes will get in the way of the proclamation of the Gospel. The sayings are difficult to put into practice but Jesus never said that following him in Mission would be easy. The final saying in this section in 9,1 speaks about some who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God has come with power. While this reiterates that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated (1,14-15) is indeed a fact and is indeed near, the referent for the saying has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some see the referent as the event of the Transfiguration (9,2-8), that is the recognition by Peter, James and John that Jesus has received the Father’s approval and all power. Others see it as the Passion especially the event of the tearing of the veil of the temple and Jesus acknowledged as Son of God by the centurion (15,38-39). Still others see it as the Resurrection of Jesus.

Our ego often comes in the way of our discipleship. Too much importance to the self leaves one unable to follow, as one ought to.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

When troubles come your way, do you ask God to remove them or do you pray for the strength to face them squarely?

The story that forms part of our text for today (8,27-30) is titled by many as “Peter’s Confession”. The place where Jesus asks his disciples questions about his identity is termed by Mark as “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” which Matthew corrects to “the region of Caesarea Philippi” (Mt 16,13). The first question of Jesus concerns the opinion of people or the common opinion. The views expressed are already in 6,14-16, namely: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. This obviously is an inadequate description of who Jesus really is, and this is why the disciples as a group are asked about Jesus’ identity. Peter replies on behalf of the group that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. In Mark, we come across yet again the command to silence after this confession, which is concerning not making known that Jesus is the Messiah. The reason for this seems to be that since the confession is made before the passion, it will not have taken into account that aspect of the life of Jesus. This is why immediately after the command to silence Mark has the first of three passion and resurrection predictions (8,31). For the first time Mark informs us that Jesus “said all this quite openly” (8,32). On hearing Jesus speak about his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter who had earlier confessed that Jesus was Messiah begins to rebuke Jesus. The meaning is that Peter thinks that Jesus is insane and needs to be exorcised of the demon that has possessed him. Jesus in turn calls Peter, Satan. This is because in his confession, Peter had not included the suffering and death of the Messiah. Jesus will remain obedient to God even if it means laying down his life in total surrender and no one can come in the way of that obedience.

It is not easy for us to accept that suffering is a part of life itself and that there will be times when we are tested and tried. However, as Christians we must also note that suffering can never be the end and that since God wants only what is good for us, we are loved unconditionally even in our suffering.

Have you seen and met the Risen Lord? If no, what is preventing you from doing so?

The miracle story that is our text for today is the second of the two miracle stories in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The first was in 7,31-37 in which Jesus cures a deaf man with an impediment in his speech. By placing this miracle immediately after Jesus poignant question to his disciples about their lack of understanding (8,21) and just before Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (8,27-30), Mark probably intends to hint to the reader that the disciples too will understand. Their blindness will also be healed. The healing takes place in two stages to probably correspond with the two answers to the questions of Jesus (8,27-30) about his identity. The first is the response of the people who say that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets (8,28) and this seems to correspond to the first stage in which the blind man can see people but who like trees walking (8,24). The second is the response of Peter on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ (8,30) which seems to correspond to the stage where the blind man can see everything clearly (8,25). At the end of this episode, Mark leaves his readers with the question of whether the disciples like the blind man will also be able see.
Some of us have a tendency to pigeon hole God and put him in a compartment. This leads to seeing him merely as one who fixes things for us or one to whom we go only in need. We might fail to see that he is always there and is much bigger than anything we can ever imagine.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?

The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4,1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4,35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6,45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6,51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8,21).
While the disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ nedd. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.
Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.

CLAUDE LA COLOMBIÈRE – February 15, 2010 Eph 3:8-9,14-19; Mt 11:25-30

CLAUDE LA COLOMBIÈRE, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d'Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.
It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he "had a terrible aversion for the life embraced". This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.
At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.
In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV's Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.
His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.
Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.
The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.
He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St. Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.
On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors' knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and send her "my faithful servant and perfect friend" to help her realize the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.
After Father Colombière's arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude's spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary's confessor, Claude's fidelity to the directives of St. Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of his love.
After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York - a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.
In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: "I could write a book about the mercy of God I've seen Him exercise since I arrived here!"
The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.
Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates "papist plot". After two days he was transferred to the severe King's Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude's health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.
During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

How often have you used your tongue to demean people? Will you attempt to speak only words that enhance today?

The text of today is a miracle that is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The friends of the man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech bring him to Jesus. This is the first of two miracles in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The other is in Mark 8,22-26. The healing occurs immediately and the confirmation of the healing is shown in the man’s beginning to speak. Jesus gives the crowd a command to silence, but it is disobeyed and his reputation keeps spreading. The comment of the crowd indicates that they are becoming aware that with Jesus the messianic age has dawned, since according to Isaiah 35,5-6, healings of the blind, deaf and persons who were disabled were signs that the messianic age had indeed dawned.
We can use our faculties of hearing and speaking to hear selectively and to speak unkind and demeaning words, or we can use them to listen attentively to the world around us and to speak words that are kind and result in building up others.

When at first you do not succeed, will you try and try again?

At the beginning of today’s reading we are told that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. His reputation seems to have preceded him because though he did not want anyone to know that he was there, his presence cannot be kept secret. When the mother of a girl who is possessed by an evil spirit makes a request for healing, Jesus responds that the Jews (children) must first have their fill (Jesus’ reaching out to make whole) and only then can the dogs (Gentiles) be fed. While in Mark the response of Jesus accepts the possibility of a Gentile mission even if after the mission to the Jews. In the parallel text in Matthew (15,24-26), it is clear that Jesus’ mission is exclusively for the Jews and not Gentiles. The woman is not deterred and responds in a manner that bests Jesus’ response. In Mark, the concluding saying of Jesus makes explicit that the daughter of the woman is healed because she has won the argument. She has turned the metaphor to her advantage.
No one has the power to hurt or insult you unless you decide to give the person that power. When someone says something, I need to decide whether I will sulk because I find it insulting or whether I will use what he or she has said to learn something about myself and so use it to my advantage.

Have you focussed more on your “doing” than on your “being”? Is your “being” good?

The text of today continues the discussion of the earlier text, which was read yesterday (7,1-13). If the earlier part was a response to Jewish teachers, this part is addressed to the crowds. Jesus asserts that nothing from outside has the power to make one unclean. Instead of being concerned with externals, Jesus challenges those who listen to him to focus on the internal, since uncleanness comes from within. Mark presents this teaching of Jesus as a parable and so there is a need to explain it. In his explanation to the disciples, Jesus makes clear that what goes into a person from outside enters the stomach and not the heart and so cannot defile. It is what comes from within, that is from the heart that defiles and makes unclean.
Sin comes from within. While external circumstances do have an effect on us and influence us, we cannot put the blame for our actions on these. The actions that we perform are ours and we must accept responsibility for them.

Is your “worship” lip service or heart service?

In the text of today, the Pharisees and the Scribes see that the disciples of Jesus eat with unwashed hands, and so ask Jesus a question concerning what they consider as defilement. In his response to them, Jesus takes the discussion to a higher plane, by focussing not merely on what defiles or does not defile a person, but on true worship, which stems from the heart. The quotation from Isaiah 29,13 is an apt description of the sham worship offered, when God wanted heart worship. To illustrate his point, Jesus gives the example of Corban, in which the Pharisees’ would dedicate, something to God, and so not allow anyone else including their parents to use it, but would use it themselves. In case others wanted to use it, their answer would be that they could not allow them to do so since it was “Corban” (dedicated to God) and so belonged to God alone.
There are times when we find way and means to get out of fulfilling our obligations to others. We come up with flimsy excuses when we cannot keep a commitment, and try to absolve ourselves of our responsibility. At these times we too can be accused of lip service.

Will you like Jesus make at least one person whole today?

The text of today is a summary statement of the activities of Jesus, but deals only with his healing activity. Numerous people sensing that Jesus was able to make them whole came to him from every part of village, city or country. All of them were healed. Through this Mark brings out both the need of the people for healing and the willingness and ability of Jesus to make people whole.
A kind word or an enhancing action on our part is enough to boost the spirit of people. Sometimes a short visit to someone who is sick or in pain, a positive word of encouragement to someone who has experienced failure or a word of praise to someone who has done well and succeeded will do wonders in helping these to become whole and glory in their selfhood.

Retreat to Priests of the Mumbai Archdiocese

I will be giving a Retreat to the Priests of the Mumbai Archdiocese from Sunday (February 6, 2011) night till Friday (February 11, 2011) afternoon. Please pray for me and them. God be with you and Mary will always intercede for you all.

Friday, 4 February 2011

How would YOU define “mission”? Are you engaging in mission now?

The text of today is about the successful return of the disciples from the mission to which they were sent by Jesus, and forms a sandwich construction with their sending (6,7-13). The verses that come in between are about the death of John the Baptist. Through this structure, Mark wants to indicate that the fate of John the Baptist will also be the fate of Jesus and of his disciples. Nevertheless, the disciples are to continue to engage in mission, confident in the knowledge that their Lord and Master will see them through.
Success and failure is often measured in terms of results. However, what is even more important is the amount of effort that each one of us puts into what we do. If at any given moment we can say that we have done our best and all that is required of us, then we do not need to be too bothered about the outcome.

Are you like John de Britto ready to face the consequences of standing up for the truth?

John de Britto was a native of Lisbon, Portugal. He was born on March 1, 1647, and was martyred in India on February 11, 1693 when he was forty-six years of age.

He was dedicated at birth to St. Francis Xavier, and was a noble friend of King Pedro. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of fifteen. In his effort to promote conversions among the native Indian people as a missionary to Goa, he wandered through Malabar and other regions and even adopted the customs and dress of the Brahmin caste which gave him access to the noble classes. His dress was yellow cotton; he abstained from every kind of animal food and from wine in an effort to be one with the people he wished to serve. In 1683, John de Britto had to leave India but returned in 1691. He advised Teriadeven, a Maravese to dismiss the many wives he had and keep only one. However, one of Teriadeven’s wives was the niece of the king. Due to this, John de Britto began to be persecuted. On February 11, 1693, he was taken to the capital Ramnad and from there led to Oriyur a small village in Tamil Nadu, where he was tortured and put to death by beheading.

He had wrought many conversions during his life, established many stations, and was famous for his miracles before and after his death. He was beatified by Pius IX, 21, August, 1853.
Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1947.

The Gospel text for the feast of John de Britto is from the Discourse of Jesus on the Vine and the Branches. The focus here is not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.

The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.

The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives. Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them. Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.

In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labeled as crazy and out of touch with reality. John de Britto was not afraid to do this and was ready to face the consequences. He was ready because he was part of the vine to live and die as Jesus did. He stood up for the truth right to the very end.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Do you often make promises that you cannot fulfil? Will you do what you promise today?

While Mark has mentioned Herodians before (3,6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2,1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3,1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14,1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6,7-13) and their return from Mission (6,30-34).
Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18,16; 20,21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. The daughter of Herodias is not named here or anywhere in the Bible, nor does the Bible give her age. According to Mark a drunken Herod is trapped into fulfilling a rash vow and so has John beheaded.
Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up.

How often have you given up when the results of your action were not as you expected? Will you keep on keeping on today? How would you define Mission? Will you engage in Mission wherever you are today?

The text of today contains what may be termed as the “Mission Discourse” according to Mark. Jesus sends his disciples out on mission, and instructs them about the content of mission and provides a strategy for mission. The content combines word and action, proclamation and deed. The Kingdom is not merely a spiritual enterprise, but connected intimately with the whole of life. The strategy that Jesus gives may be summarised in one word, which is “detachment”. Jesus instructs them to be detached from material things and even from the outcome of mission. The job of the one who is sent is to engage in mission and not bother about the results. The results will be taken care of by God.
The Church has two patrons of Mission St. Francis Xavier and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, whose lives were quite different from each other. While St. Francis Xavier was active moving from place to place with the hope of baptising as many as he could, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus spent her religious life as a Cloistered Carmelite and never went from place to place but remained where she was and still did mission. By placing these two different individuals and lives before us, the Church is pointing out to us that Mission is one: namely working to make the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated a reality. This may be done through various ministries or apostolate. While one kind of ministry may be prayer, another kind can be preaching.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Be careful of saying “I Know”, you may miss the Messiah.

Jesus’ visit to his hometown is not a pleasant experience. While in Mark he is designated as a carpenter, in the parallel text in Matthew (Mt 13,53-58), he is designated as “the carpenter’s son”, since Matthew wants to portray Jesus as son of Joseph and so son of David. His status as a carpenter would have been lower than that of a member of the educated class, and the villagers would probably have resented the position that Jesus reached and the status he has acquired. By designating Jesus as “son of Mary” rather than “son of Joseph” they may have intended to insult Jesus, and so cut him down to size. Jesus’ response to his townspeople is in the form of a proverbial saying. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among his own people. Mark adds strongly at the end of the episode that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief” which indicates that Jesus was rendered incapable by the lack of faith of his own.
Often we deal with others in a stereotypical way and label people all too easily. This does not allow us to encounter them in their uniqueness and freshness and we may miss a great deal.