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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Persevering faith - Wis 1:13-15;2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15; Mk 5:21-43


“Everyone wants to go to heaven but, no one wants to die”. This statement of a wit brings out the fear that many have of death. However, the readings of today, though they speak about death, regard death as something that is not to be feared if one believes in a God who is the giver and sustainer of life.
The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, makes this point emphatically when it states that death cannot be part of God’s plan because God does not act only to see his work end in corruption. The purpose of creation is not death, but life, and the natural orientation of all created things is life. This is true especially of humans who alone are created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, death is not natural and comes about when one stifles the life that God gives.
That God gives life and sustains it is brought out even more powerfully in the Gospel text of today. Mark uses here what is known as “sandwich construction”. He introduces the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill and even at the point of death but, he interrupts it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood. Then, he continues the incident of Jairus’ daughter, who is now dead, whom Jesus raises from the dead. The reason for the sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense for the reader. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry, but hurry, if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries because he knows that the basic orientation of the human is not death, but life, and that God’s power over death will prevail. Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can, indeed, raise the dead. Jesus tarries because he knows that he is the giver of life. This gift of life is given, not only to Jairus’ daughter but, also to the woman with the flow of blood who, though not dead, had reached a stage when she was tempted to give up on life. She had reached the end of her tether; her last hope was the Lord.  She was not disappointed. She received healing.  She received life.
The Psalmist sings the words that the woman, Jairus, and his daughter, would have wanted to sing. They have indeed been rescued by the Lord. He has liberated them from all bondage. He has saved them from death.
What is responsible for this turn of events? Is it the power of God alone? Is it God acting of his own accord and solely according to his will? The answer is an emphatic “NO”. It is evident, in both the first reading and in the Gospel, that it is faith in God’s life giving and sustaining power, and in the action of God, which is responsible. This is made so clear in the Gospel when Jesus attributes the healing of the woman to her faith and exhorts Jairus not to fear but, to believe.
That the force of faith and the power of God become manifest in the life of Christians is narrated in the second reading of today. Indeed, thanks to the power of faith, they were able to overcome ethnic and cultural barriers and express their fraternal charity to others.  They were able to reach out and take concrete action to address other’s material needs in imitation of Jesus. It is a faith that manifested itself, not only in words but in action.
The challenge of the readings of today may be summed up in the words “persevering faith”. This means that there may be numerous times when we are faced with death-like situations. These are situations when, like the woman in the gospel story, we have done all that is required of us and there seems to be nothing more that we can do. These are situations when, like Jairus, we have nowhere to turn. It is at times like these when we may tend to give up and give in. However, like the woman, and like Jairus, we are called never to give up or give in because the God we believe in is a God of everything that is positive, a God who never gives up on us, a God of life.  Since he is also a God who gives and does not hold anything back, we who are created in his image and likeness cannot live selfish, self-centered lives.  Like Paul invited the Corinthians, we, too, are invited to live lives filled with faith, a faith which is shown in action.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Does Jesus Christ have faith in you? Lamentations 2,2.10-14.18-19; Mt 8,5-17


The text of today contains the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. The healing of the Centurion’s servant is also found in Luke (7,1-10) and John but with variations. While in Luke the centurion never makes an appearance personally, in Matthew he addresses Jesus as “Lord”, which is an address only believers use in Matthew. The response of Jesus to the Centurion’s need is seen by some as a question rather than a statement, “I should come and heal him?” This is in keeping with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus who is sent as Messiah only for the lost sheep of Israel (10,5-6) and not for Gentiles. The Centurion is not deterred by Jesus’ question, and responds with faith. The healing takes place from a distance. The focus, however, is not on the miracle but on the faith of the centurion and through his faith the faith of “unbelievers”. The centurion does not claim to have faith. It is Jesus who testifies to his faith.
We can get deterred and lose our focus when things do not go the way we want them to. At these times we may blame our family, our neighbours and even God. The Centurion’s attitude is a lesson to us never to get deterred from what we have to do and continue to keep our sights fixed on what we want to achieve confident that our perseverance will pay rich dividends.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul - Acts 12:1-11; Ps 34:2-9; 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt 16:13-19


There is an old story about the death of St. Peter in Rome during the persecution of Nero. Peter heard about Nero's plan to burn the city and blame the Christians. He figured as the one who presided over the church in the city he would be arrested and put to death. So he did the sensible thing - Peter was always a sensible man - he got out of town, and at night. The Appian Way was dark for awhile as Peter snuck down it. However, as the night wore on the sky was illuminated by the flames rising from the city. Peter hurried on and eventually was far enough away from the city that it was dark again. Then he saw someone coming in the opposite direction, someone who even at night seemed familiar. It was the Lord himself. What was he doing out at night and walking towards Rome? “Where are you going, Lord?” Peter asked him. “To Rome”, Jesus replied, “to be crucified again in your place”. Peter turned around and returned to Rome and according to tradition was crucified there.
Though this story does not agree with what is narrated in the first reading of today from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we are told that Peter was imprisoned, it does agree with what the Gospels narrate about Peter’s denials, and brings out an important facet of the meaning of the feast: Jesus did not choose strong, brave and courageous individuals to continue the work that he had begun. He chose weak, frail and cowardly humans. He chose individuals who would falter and fail. This is the Peter who confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and to whom the Jesus handed over the “keys” of the Church, knowing full well that there would be times when the lofty confession would turn into a base denial.
Paul’s conversion story is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles and Paul himself speaks of it in some of his letters. His commission as an apostle of Christ began with a divine revelation of the identity of the Lord Jesus. He reports the events surrounding his recognition of Jesus as the Lord of glory and his appointment as apostle to the gentiles. Felled to the ground by a brilliant light from heaven and hearing a reproachful voice addressing him by name his first need was to know who it was who broke into his life with such awe-inspiring power. Just as Jesus told Peter that he would assign to him the charge of leading his Church once the Peter recognized his master's true identity, so also Paul's task was given to him only after Jesus revealed himself as the glorified Lord.
The apostles' mission thus grew out of their loving knowledge of the person of Jesus, the Son of the living God. Their work, indeed their whole life, was to follow from this surpassing knowledge of Christ which became the basis of all their dealing with others. They were given to the whole Church to teach us not only what Christ revealed and taught but also how to live as he himself had put into practice the things willed by the Father.
Today we marvel at the transformation of these previously weak human leaders. Peter’s newfound passionate commitment to his Lord and to the fledgling church resulted in his imprisonment. Paul too was jailed. He did not see this as failure, but as the destiny that was his in consequence of his commitment to the Gospel. He had fought the good fight, he had run the race, and he had kept the faith. He faced death, and he knew it. That was the price they had to pay for their commitment and fidelity to the Lord.
Their personalities were very different, their approaches to spreading the Faith were very different, and their relationships with Christ were very different. Although the two were both Apostles, there were moments of disagreement and conflict between them. And yet, they are bound together on this single feast, as they were bound together by the one Faith, confessing the one Lord, shedding their blood for him and his mission of peace, justice and love.
Within the recent past, the church has been tossed to and fro in storms of controversy. Not one storm, but many storms, and not in one country, but in many countries. It has been the target of fierce persecution from without, and it has also allowed evil to corrupt it from within. Whether in circumstances of harassment or scandal, the lives of many have been diminished, their confidence undermined and their faith tested.
Without minimizing the suffering in our current situations, we should remember that dire trials are really not new to the church. From its very beginning it has faced opposition. The first reading for today’s feast describes one such situation.
Despite its trials, however, the church has survived and even flourished. This is not due to the strength and holiness of its members. Though Jesus told Peter that the church would be built upon him, the church’s real foundation was and continues to be Jesus Christ its Lord. He is the one who commissioned Peter; he is the one who assures the church of protection. He is the one who stood by Paul and gave him strength to bring the Gospel to the broader world. The church may have been built on Peter the former denier and spread by Paul the former persecutor, but it is the church of Jesus Christ, and it will endure because of his promise.
Today we celebrate the fidelity of Peter and Paul, sinners like us all. Initially, they were both found wanting. When they eventually repented, they were forgiven by God in Christ. Though they were victims of persecution, their commitment to Christ and to the church made them heroes. Their victory is evidence that the gates of hell shall not prevail. Their victory is evidence that we shall indeed overcome.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Do your actions speak louder than your words? 2 Kings 24,8-17; Mt 7,21-29


While the Sermon on the Mount began with Jesus calling his disciples to him and sitting down like a Rabbi to begin to teach them (5,1-2), it ends with Jesus addressing the crowds as a prophet (7,29). The last part of the Sermon, which forms our text for today, is about action rather than words. Prophesying in the Lord’s name will be of no help if one is not willing TO DO the will of God. The examples of the one who built his/her house on rock and the one who built his/her house on sand reiterate this point. The Sermon calls everyone to action.
If the foundation of our lives is strong, then what we build on it will also be strong. If we have a strong sense of values and know what our priorities are in life, we can continue to be focussed on what we have to do.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Is your being good? What will you do to make it better? 2 Kings 22,8-13; 23,1-3; Mt 7,15-20


The text of today is from the latter part of the Sermon on the Mount. In it Jesus asks his listeners to focus on the internal i.e. the heart from which everything else flows. If the heart is pure, then everything that a person does or says will also be pure. The external is only an expression of the internal. A person's actions or words flow from what is in his/her heart.
Our actions do not often coincide with our words, because we do not always mean what we say. Sometimes we say one thing and do another. There is a dichotomy between our words and actions. We are called to synchronise the two.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The words that you use to complete this sentence will give you a fairly good idea of how you treat others: People are usually …………………… 2 Kings 19,9-11.14-21.31-36; Mt 7,6.12-14


The first verse of today (7,5) introduces a new subject: holiness. The point that seems to be made here is that holy things have their place and should not be profaned. 7,12 has often been termed, as the Golden rule, which the Matthean Jesus states, is a summary of the law and prophets. Here it is stated positively. One must treat others in the same way that one expects to be treated. This also means that one must take the initiative in doing the loving thing that does not wait to respond to the action of another. In the final two verses of this pericope (7,13-14) the point being made is that it is the narrow gate that leads to life and salvation and the broad or wide gate to damnation. One must make a choice for one or another.
We wish that people would be kind and understanding with us but we are seldom kind and understanding towards them. Often the behaviour that we find revolting in others is the behaviour we ourselves are guilty of. When we criticise others for being too harsh, we need to ask whether we have not been so.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Do you know that when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you? 2 Kings 17,5-8.13-15.18; Mt 7,1-5


The absolute prohibition of judgement found in 7,1 is unparalleled in Jewish tradition. When the individual comes to stand before God for judgement, he/she will be judged according to the measure that he/she has used for others. Those who have been merciful will receive mercy. One must be aware that one is not in any superior position, which gives one the right to judge others. If one is aware of one’s own weakness and frailty then one will be careful of pointing out the faults of others.
Judging others comes too easily to some and often we judge only by externals. It is important to realise that it is possible that we might not be aware of all the reasons why a person behaves in a particular manner and so mistaken in our judgement. If we can give the benefit of the doubt to the person concerned and find reasons for his/her behaviour we will have done well.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST - Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66.80


Luke does not give us too many details about the birth of John, and he narrates it with a short sentence. He focuses more on the events that follow the birth and, through them, show that God’s word spoken through the angel, Gabriel, is being fulfilled. Elizabeth does bear a son and the people rejoice at the birth because of the great mercy shown by God.

Circumcision of the child on the eight day was in accord with Gen 17:9-14 where God makes circumcision on the eight day a sign of the covenant with Abraham. It was the father who normally named the child and, in doing so, recognized the child as his own. Sometimes, the child was named after the father, especially if the father was a person who was highly esteemed. Objections were raised to the name “John” (“God had been gracious”), chosen by Elizabeth. That the people made signs to Zechariah to ask him what he wanted to name the child indicates that, besides being dumb, he was also deaf. The moment Zechariah writes the name “John” on a writing tablet, Zechariah regains his speech. Once again, God’s word comes to pass. The fear and amazement with which the people respond to these happenings is an indication that they experienced God’s awesome power. The question that the people ask, about what the child would turn out to be, is answered in summary form by Luke when he ends this narrative by stating that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”

God’s word is a word of power and will come to pass, no matter how many obstacles we may put in its way. It is a word that enhances and builds up, a word that gives life. To be sure, we may not always be able to understand and accept it for what it is, but in the final analysis, it is always a word that is for our good and for his glory.

Friday, 22 June 2012

How often do I try to be in two places at the same time or at two times in the same place? 2 Chronicles 24,17-25; Mt 6, 24-34


The text of today begins by stating a general rule that undivided attention can be given to one person alone at a time. If there is more than one, then the disciple’s loyalty is certainly split. One must decide whether one will allow oneself to be controlled by wealth and the things of this world, or whether one will realise that they cannot bring true happiness. The prohibition, “Do not worry” dominates the rest of this pericope and is used six times in it. The call to look at nature (the birds of the air and the lilies of the field) is a call to learn how God in his providence provides for them. This does not mean that human beings do not have to work for their living, rather it means that even after working as hard as they can, humans must realise the life is much more than simply work and earning a living. It has also to do with being.
There are indeed many distractions in life, which sometimes can take us away from where we ought to look and focus. While planning is good and desirable, what is undesirable is useless worry or anxiety. When we stir the sugar in our coffee or tea every morning we are already thinking of drinking it. When we are drinking our coffee or tea, we are already thinking of washing the cup. When we are washing our cup, we are already thinking or drying it When we are drying it, we are already thinking of placing it on the rack and when we are placing it on the rack we are already thinking of what we have to do next. We have not stirred the sugar, nor have we have drunk the coffee, nor have we washed it nor placed it on the rack. If one takes one moment of one day at a time and gives of one’s best to that moment, life will be well lived.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

If you were given the chance to take just ONE THING with you when you die, what would it be? 2 Kings 11,1-4.9-18.20; Mt 6, 19-23


The section that begins in 6,19 concerns knowing where one’s priorities lie. Treasure stored on earth is of not much use because it is temporary and passing and gathers rust and also can be stolen. Rather heavenly treasure is permanent and eternal. A person’s attention will be concentrated on where his/her treasure is. Thus instead of concentrating on the temporary it is better to concentrate on the eternal, the impermanent. If one does not perceive correctly, one’s whole orientation will be incorrect and one will live a life of futility, concentrating on what is really not essential.
Sometimes we lose focus in our lives and waste so much time on trifles. We are so concentrated on gathering up for tomorrow and the next day, that the present day passes us by and we find that we have live it unaware. An occasional examination of our priorities is required to bring back our focus on what is really necessary.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

PRAYER OF ST. ALOYSIUS GONZAGA TO MOTHER MARY


My Mother

Holy Mary, my Queen, I recommend myself
to your blessed protection and special keeping,
and to the bosom of your mercy,
today and every day and at the hour of my death.
My soul and my body I recommend to you.
I entrust to you my hope and consolation,
my distress and my misery, my life and its termination.
Through your most holy intercession
and through your merits may all my actions
be directed according to your will and that of your Son.
Amen.
Aloysius Gonzaga SJ