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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What would you give in exchange for your life?


If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 15:10.16-21; Mt 13:44-46


The parables of the hidden treasure (13,44) and the fine pearls (13,45-46) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. In both the parables the one who finds, goes and sells all he has for the sake of what he has found. However, the one who finds the treasure in the field finds it by accident and is not actively looking for it, whereas the merchant is in search of fine pearls. This is probably why the one in the field is filled with joy whereas the merchant knowing that he has found what he is looking for is not filled with joy, but is willing to give up everything for the sake of the pearl that he has found. Though some may find the action of the man in the field who hides the treasure questionable, it must be noted that the parable does not legitimise the man’s action of hiding, but focuses on his action of selling all that he had. The point of the parables seems to be that the dawning of the kingdom calls for reflection on one’s values and leads to action that brings on a new set of values.
We might become so used to doing things in a particular way that we are unwilling to change even if someone shows us a better way of doing the same thing. These parables are calling us to Newness and to sacrifice what we are for what we can become.

Monday, 30 July 2012

ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA - FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS OR THE JESUITS


Today we celebrate the feast of the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.  One quality that characterized his life above all others was his deep personal life for the person of Jesus Christ. Ignatius was so taken up with Christ that he was willing to do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone as long as he could imitate Christ. As a matter of fact, the first years of his conversion were spent only in imitating Christ in all his poverty and humility.  For Ignatius, Jesus Christ was the way, which leads all people to life. This personal love for Christ was not merely theoretical in the life of Ignatius, but characterized his whole being. He showed this tangibly by naming the Society he founded, the Society of Jesus.
In our world characterized by self-centred fulfilment, extravagance, and soft living, a world that prizes prestige, power and self-sufficiency, to preach Christ poor and humble, with fidelity and courage is to expect humiliation and persecution like Ignatius did. Yet through the intercession of St. Ignatius we know that we can move forward resolutely out of our desire to resemble and imitate in some manner our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Small beginnings will have great endings. Well begun is half-done.


If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 13:1-11; Mt 13:31-35

There are three parts to the text of today. The first is the parable of the mustard seed (13,31-32) then is the parable of the yeast (13,33) and finally the reason why Jesus speaks in parables (13,34-35).
While the parable of the Mustard seed is found also in Mark 4,30-32, Matthew follows the Q version more closely. While in Mark, the mustard seed becomes more correctly a shrub which puts forth large branches (Mk 4,32) and the birds of the air make nests in the shade of the shrub (Mk 4,32), in Matthew, the mustard seed becomes a tree (13,32) and the birds of the air makes nests in its branches (13,32). The tree motif probably has references to the symbol of the imperial tree mentioned in Ezekiel 17,23 and 31,6. The point, however seems to be to contrast the present lowliness of the kingdom with its ultimate greatness.
In the parable of the yeast, we are told about the act of a specific woman in hiding the yeast in three measures of flour, just as the mustard seed had spoken about the act of a specific man in sowing the seed. Yeast, here is used in the positive sense, whereas generally it has negative overtones. The reason for the use of yeast as a symbol for the kingdom is to probably shock the listeners. The quantity of flour into which the yeast is hid is three measures, which would produce enough bread to feed about 150 people, and is indeed a large amount, brings out the aspects abundance and extravagance. The kingdom at present seems small and insignificant, as is the yeast, but it will be revealed in its fullness later.
Though Mt 13,34 parallels the conclusion of Mark’s parable discourse (Mk 4,33-34), which states that Jesus spoke to the crowds only in parables, Matthew has added in 13,35 the eight of his formula or fulfilment quotations. The quotation is from Ps 78,2 and Matthew probably uses it because of the word “parable” found in it, though the context in the Psalm is not about hiding but about revelation.
We might tend to get discouraged sometimes when we cannot see clearly the results of our actions. We have striven hard and at times all that we have to show for our hard work seems negligible in comparison. The parables of the mustard seed and yeast are calling us to continue to sow and mix or in other words to do what is required of us to the best of our ability.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


If you wish to read the text click here : 2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish in which twelve baskets are gathered and which is the Gospel text of today is the only miracle that Jesus worked that is found in all four Gospels (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:35-44; Lk 9:10-17). While each evangelist narrates it slightly different from the others, the numbers that are used are the same in all four Gospels.  A variety of explanations have been offered as to what really happened. While some think that there was a miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish though it cannot be explained how, others think that when people saw Jesus and disciples sharing the little they had, they were also motivated to share their own food with others. Still others give a sacramental explanation to the miracle. There is no need to deny the historicity of the miracle simply because we have never witnessed a miraculous multiplication of food. At the same time, however, the literal, historical miracle of Jesus on this occasion is full of ongoing and important significance for John’s community and for us, and this it is necessary to go beyond what happened to the import and meaning of the miracle.
There are several aspects of the miracle that are exclusive to John and these serve to bring out clearly the meaning as John may have intended. It is only in the Gospel of John that there is a reference to the Passover and this serves to bring to mind the Exodus. This is made even more explicit when Jesus instructs his disciples to gather up the fragments so that nothing may be lost, much like Moses asked the people not to leave any manna around after they had eaten. While in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says the blessing over the bread; in John he “gives thanks”. This serves to emphasize the Eucharistic element of the miracle and the discourse on the Bread of Life that follows. This idea is further accentuated when Jesus gives the bread to the people himself and not like in the Synoptic Gospels to the disciples who give it to the people.

The miracle while it may be seen as the supernatural provision for the physical hunger of a large crowd on a specific occasion is much more than just that. Indeed, the miracle is a deed filled with symbolism at more than one level. The primary symbolism is that of messianic provision, which both points to the reality of present fulfillment and foreshadows the blessings that will continue to flow in the future. This provision takes place in the wilderness, just as manna was provided in the wilderness. It is a kind of messianic banquet in which the people recline at table. Jesus is the messianic provider. He is the Bread of Life.  People go away from his presence healed and filled. The hungry are healed and filled now as they will also be filled in the future. The miracle typifies the full and complete blessing of humanity in the meeting of human need and the experience of ultimate well-being, universal shalom or wholeness. The feeding of the multitude is thus the harbinger of good news for the Johannine community and also for people of every era. God is not far away and aloof from us. God is not simply a God up there in heaven. Jesus shows us that God does not stand outside of life, but is right here with us, beside us in our broken and troubled and suffering world.  It is an indication to all peoples who dare to see and experience that the Messiah is in their midst. Not only will God offer bread but also the choicest of gifts and these will be given freely and gratuitously. These will be in abundance just as the abundance at the feeding of the five thousand. There will be enough and more. God gives them freely because of his unconditional love. His love was shown in a variety of ways to the people of Israel. Like he provided manna to them in the desert, he also provided bread to them through the prophets as narrated in the first reading of today. However, this love was shown in the most perfect way in and through the sending of his Son, Jesus Christ. In doing so he provided not only for their physical needs, but ensured that every human need was sated in Jesus Christ.

This does not mean, of course, that those who believe in Jesus will have no problems or misery. But it does mean that God will give us the grace and aid to bear the load as we overcome and move through whatever may befall us. Ours is not a faith of easy answers and unrealistic solutions. Jesus entered life and died on the cross for us, showing us that in whatever we experience, in whatever may trouble us, in whatever distress or threat we feel, we need not fear because God is in it with us. God will lift up in our midst what we need to make it through.

This is the perseverance and courage to which the second reading of today calls the Ephesians and us. Our call as disciples of Jesus is a lofty call and we must live out that call in and through our words and deeds. Like the disciples of Jesus we sometimes find that our care and compassion is limited to prayer and good wishes. Like the disciples we wish people well but have no intention of taking positive action to help the situation. And, again like the disciple, what prevents us from taking positive action is often the realistic assessment that the little we are able to do is not really going to make any appreciable difference.

But in the gospel we are challenged to see that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little we are able to do is multiplied by God's grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. In whatever crisis or issue we face in life, in whatever trouble may come our way, the power of God’s love will provide what we need. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Are there some whom you deliberately exclude from your circle of friends? Why?


If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 7:1-11; Mt 13:24-30 


This is a parable found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not clear whether this parable existed independently as a parable or whether it was conceived as an allegory from the beginning. Those who think that the parable existed independently interpret the parable to mean a statement against building of boundaries and so excluding some. The building of boundaries and forming exclusive communities is not the business of human beings, but is God’s task.
Like the field in the parable there is good seed and there are weeds even in the world in which we live. There is both good and evil. We are called to take only what is good and not focus too much on the evil or bad. This does not mean passivity in the face of evil but a call for a discerning mind and heart. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What prevents you from listening to what God is calling you to do? What will you do about it today?


If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 3:14-17; Mt 13:18-23

These verses contain what is known as the allegory of the parable of 13,10-17. Unlike Mark who does not give it a name, Matthew names it the Parable of the Sower (13,18), and in doing so concentrates attention on the Sower. While in the Marcan interpretation there is confusion as to whether the seed is the word (as in Mark 4,14) or the hearers (as in Mark 4,16. 18.20), Matthew rewrites Mark to avoid this confusion but does not succeed fully in this endeavour. Matthew also specifies that the word that is sown is the word of the kingdom. While in Mark collective nouns are used focussing on a group of people, Matthew emphasises individual responsibility by changing the nouns to the singular. Despite these changes, Matthew essentially adopts the interpretation of the Parable as in Mark 4,13-20 where it is understood as the Church’s reflection on its bearing witness to the Gospel that Christ inaugurated.
Christianity is both an individual and communitarian religion. Each sacrament has both the individual and communitarian dimensions. This means that while on the one hand we are each responsible for the other, we are also responsible for ourselves and need to make our commitment individually. We cannot disown this responsibility or thrust it on the community.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Do you consider yourself a disciple or are you an outsider? How does your discipleship show in your life?


If you wish to read the texts click here: Jeremiah 2:1-3.7-8.12-13; Mt 13:10-17

This text concerns the reason for Jesus’ speaking in parables. While in Mark (4,10-12) a larger group asks about the parables, in Matthew, it is the disciples who ask Jesus why he speaks to “them” in parables. Understanding the parables of Jesus is not simply a matter of using one’s intellect, but a grace given by God himself. It is given to those who acknowledge their dependence on God. Only those who have committed themselves to follow Jesus are given an insight into the mysteries of the kingdom. Since they have Jesus as their teacher, they will be able to understand all there is to know. The closed attitude of those who do not wish to follow is what is responsible for their lack of understanding. Matthew quotes Isaiah 6,9-10 completely here, and regards the lack of understanding as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Since the disciples are open and receptive they are indeed blessed. They are able to see and hear and understand what mere human knowledge can never hope to understand.
Humanity has taken great strides in the areas of science and technology, and yet there are many things that we still do not understand. We can use technology to communicate with someone who is thousands of miles away, but technology cannot explain to us why we cannot communicate with a neighbour who lives by our side. This must lead to the realisation that when all is said and done we will still fall short of understanding all the mysteries there are and have to depend on God.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

St. James, Apostle - When trouble comes your way, will you like St. James face it squarely or will you keep complaining and blame God and others?


If you wish to read the text click here:  2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt. 20:20-28
St. James is described as one of the first disciples along with his brother John to join Jesus (Mk 1:19-20). He was one of the three whom Jesus took with him when he raised Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk 5:35-43), on the mountain of transfiguration (Mk 9:2-9) and at Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). The Acts of the Apostles 12:1 records that Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of St. James is from the Gospel of Matthew.  In order to spare the disciples, whom Matthew usually represents as understanding, Matthew replaces the disciples’ own request with one represented by their mother and does not name the “sons of Zebedee” here. The request for seats at the “right hand and left hand” reflects the rule of the Son of Man from his throne. In his reply to the request the Matthean Jesus focuses on the image of the cup which is used as a symbol for suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and even violent death. Though they express confidence that they are able to drink the cup, Jesus knows better. However, even martyrdom will not gain the disciples special places. That is God’s prerogative and grace. Jesus then takes the disciples to another level and perspective of leadership where to be a leader is not to dominate or dictate but to serve. Christina leadership may be defined as service.
James understood this after then death and resurrection of Jesus as was evident in his martyrdom. He followed his Lord and Master to the end and did indeed drink the cup courageously.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Is Jesus pointing to you as his brother/sister? If yes, Why? If no, why not?


If you wish to read the text click here: Micah 7:14-15.18-20; Mt 12:46-50

The text of today contains a pointer as to who make up the true family of Jesus. Unlike in Mark, where the “crowd” is pointed out to as the true family of Jesus, in Matthew, it is the community of disciples who make up the true family. The point being made in this text is not so much about the mother or brothers and sisters of Jesus, but about who will be regarded as true members of Jesus’ family. The action of stretching out his hand has been used earlier to portray Jesus as compassionate (8,3) and also an act, which will be used later to show him as the great deliverer who comes to the aid of his disciples (14,31). In the concluding statement, the Matthean Jesus makes clear that discipleship and being a member of his family is not merely a matter of verbal profession even proclamation, but doing the will of God. This aspect makes anyone a brother or sister of Jesus.
We may imagine that because we have been baptised into the faith we can take for granted that we are members of Jesus’ family. This need not be so, since we need to keep renewing our commitment to Jesus and his cause every day. While verbal proclamation does have its place, it alone is not enough. We must show through our deeds whom we believe in. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

What sign have you been seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in his presence even in the absence of signs today? How? Micah 6:1-4.6-8; Mt 12:38-42


If you wish to read the text click here : Micah 6:1-4.6-8; Mt 12:38-42

The text of today is continuation of the earlier text (12: 25-37) in which Jesus makes a series of pronouncements regarding the coming judgement. The Pharisees respond to these statements of Jesus by demanding a sign. In Matthew only disciples address Jesus as Lord, and the address “Teacher” here by the Pharisees indicates that they are not disciples. The sign they demand is a proof of Jesus’ identity. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ demand is to make another pronouncement. In this pronouncement he regards them as an “evil and adulterous generation” which means a people who have closed their hearts to the revelation that God is constantly making. The sign of Jonah here refers clearly to the resurrection of Jesus. Further, it is the Gentiles (people of Nineveh) who will rise up and condemn the Jews. It is a clear reversal of roles. Jesus is greater than both Jonah and Solomon.
The manner in which some of us mourn and weep at the death of a loved one seems to indicate that we do not believe in the resurrection. This is the only sign that Jesus continues to give. If we keep looking for other signs of his presence we might find ourselves in the same position as the Pharisees of his time and miss him who makes himself available and visible at every moment of our lives.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


If you wish to read the texts click here:  Jer 23:1-6;  Eph 2:13-18;  Mk 6:30-34

The contrast between the Shepherds spoken about in the first reading of today and Jesus who is portrayed as Good Shepherd in the Gospel text of today could not have been clearer.

The kings, who were meant to be shepherds, have failed miserably in their responsibility. They were meant to watch over the flock, protect them from danger, keep them united and care for those who were hurt in any way. However, instead they have destroyed and scattered the flock. Where there was meant to be justice and economic stability for all, there is instead injustice and economic oppression of the poor by the rich. The incapable and incompetent kings are responsible for this state of affairs. Despite this, however, the Lord has not given up on the flock. They remain his people and his flock and he will not abandon them. He will gather them together and bring the stray sheep back to the fold. This he will do through a descendant of David. The primary characteristic of the reign of this king shepherd will be righteousness, and this is why he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness”. This righteousness will manifest itself in the manner in which the king will deal with God and his people. Though some think that because of the reference to righteousness King Zedekiah was meant, it is clear that even he could not fulfill the promises made by God in the manner that was expected of him. It was only in Jesus that these expectations were fulfilled in the most perfect way.

While this is shown in numerous instances in the Gospels, it is brought out strongly in the Gospel text of today. Even as the disciples narrate the success of the mission on which they were sent, Jesus’ response is not one of excitement and elation. Rather it is concern for the disciples and their physical needs, much like a good shepherd would care for his sheep. However, neither the disciples nor Jesus could get the food and rest they require, because the crowd continued to follow them and would not let them be. Yet, despite the fact that Jesus and the disciples did not have time to be by themselves and even to eat, his concern for the crowd is so great that he regards them as sheep without a shepherd and assuming the role of the Good Shepherd, he begins to teach them many things and so satisfies their need for spiritual nourishment. A few verses later we are told of how Jesus also satisfies their physical hunger with more than they can eat.

Whereas the earlier kings who were meant to be shepherds did not attend to the flock because they were concerned about themselves, Jesus cares not for himself but for his sheep. Whereas the flock under the earlier Shepherds was frightened and dismayed because of this lack of care, the flock of Jesus is confident because they know they have a Shepherd whose primary concern is their welfare.

This concern the second reading of today tells us was shown by Jesus in an emphatic way on the cross. While through his death on the cross he showed on the one hand that he was the obedient shepherd, he also succeeded on the other hand to reconcile all peoples everywhere. Division between people has been transformed into unity, dividing walls have been broken and war and strife have given way to peace and reconciliation. This is what God promised and this is what God was able to accomplish in Jesus.

The injustice, oppression and selfishness that God accused the kings of in the first reading of today continue even in our day and time. Two thousand years after Jesus the Good and True Shepherd showed us the way; we have not yet learnt what selflessness and reconciliation mean. So many even today prefer to live selfish and self-centered lives with no concern for the needs of others. So many today continue to have as their prime purpose in life the accumulation of wealth for themselves and often even through dishonest and corrupt means.  So many today have made “having more” as their life’s aim rather than “being more”.

The readings of today and especially the attitude of Jesus is a call and challenge to anyone who is willing to listen and learn what it means to live a selfless life. It is a call to place the needs of others above my own. It is a call to realize that giving is more beneficial than receiving, that giving others their rightful due is the only way to live and that a life which places the concerns and needs of others above one’s own, is a life truly well lived.

Friday, 20 July 2012

How do you usually react to stressful situations? Will you learn from Jesus’ response today? Micah 2,1-5; Mt 12,14-21


If you wish to read the text click here: Micah 2:1-5; Mt 12:14-21

The reason why the Pharisees conspire against Jesus, how to destroy him is because he healed a man with a withered arm on the Sabbath, and though at first glance it might seem that this is an overreaction on the part of the Pharisees, when looked at in the broader context of the Kingdom of heaven which Jesus represents and the Kingdom of Satan which is represented by the Jewish leaders and which continues to oppose the Kingdom of heaven, then it is easier to understand the reaction of the Pharisees. The response of Jesus to this conspiracy is to withdraw from that place. However, it is to be noted that Jesus does not withdraw to run away or from fear, but to continue the work of healing and making whole. In this withdrawal is strength and not weakness and it explicates the response of God (Jesus) to human violence and plotting of destruction. Even in his making people whole, Jesus does not want to be known or acclaimed and so commands those whom he has healed to remain silent about their healing and not to make him known. This attitude of Jesus leads to the quotation from Isaiah 42,1-4 which is the longest scriptural quotation in the Gospel of Matthew. It is about the suffering servant of Yahweh whose primary mission is to accept those who have been rejected by others as is shown in his not breaking the bruised reed or quenching the smouldering wick. Also, he does this without much fanfare, and yet his ultimate goal is to bring justice to those who place their hope in him. He will ultimately triumph.
Our response to challenging situations or to situations that threaten us is sometimes to run away from fear, and sometimes to use defence mechanisms. Neither of these ways is advocated by Jesus whose way would be to face the challenges head on.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

How often do rules rule you? Will you try to rule rules today?


If you wish to read the text click here : Isaiah 38:1-6.21-22.7-8; Mt 12:1-8

The story, which forms the text of today, may be termed as a Sabbath controversy. Matthew refers here to Sabbath for the first time in his gospel. The point of contention is not very clear in Matthew, because the law permitted a person passing through a neighbour’s grain field to pluck heads of corn and eat them (Deut 23,23-25). The point here seems to be whether such an act could be done on the Sabbath. While in Mark the Pharisees ask a question, in Matthew, they are clearly hostile and make a charge. In his response to the Pharisees, Jesus quotes refers to the story of David in 1 Samuel 21,1-6, where David went beyond the rule to the need of his men. If David could do such a thing, then Jesus who is greater than David can do so even more. The Matthean Jesus also refers to the text from Numbers 28,9-10 where the priests in the Temple sacrifice there on the Sabbath, indicating that sacrifice is greater than the Sabbath. Since mercy is greater than sacrifice, it is surely greater than the Sabbath.
Reaching out in love to anyone in need takes precedence over every rule, law and regulation. It is the human who must always come first. The rule, law and regulation follows. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What is it that is tiring you and stressing you out? Will you lay it down at the feet of Jesus? Isaiah 26,7-9.12.16-19; Mt 11,28-30


If you wish to read the text click here: Isaiah 26,7-9.12.16-19; Mt 11,28-30

Jesus invites all those who are burdened to come to him for rest. The burden in this context seems to be that of the law and its obligations. When Jesus invites the burdened to take his yoke, which is easy, he is not inviting them to a life of ease, but to a deliverance from any kind of artificiality or the blind following of rules and regulations. The disciple must learn from Jesus who is in Matthew “the great teacher”. The rest that Jesus offers is the rest of salvation.
We can get so caught up today with wanting to have more that we might lose sight of the meaning of life itself. The desire to acquire more and more and be regarded as successful based on what we possess sometimes leads to missing out on so much that life has to offer.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Is your pride preventing you from encountering Jesus? What will you do about it today? Isaiah 10,5-7.13-16; Mt 11,25-27


If you wish to read the text click Isaiah 10:5-7.13-16; Mt11:25-27

This text is addressed to all those who accept the message of Jesus unlike those in Chorazin and Bethsaida. Jesus begins his prayer here by giving thanks to the Father. It is openness to the revelation of God that Jesus makes which is responsible for the receipt of this enormous privilege. Acknowledging Jesus is not a matter of one’s superior knowledge or insight, but given as a gift to those who open themselves to this revelation. 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. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

If you were a resident of Chorazin or Bethsaida how would you respond to the woes? Isaiah 7,1-9; Mt 11,20-24


If you wish to read the text click here: Isaiah 7,1-9; Mt 11,20-24

The woes pronounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida are because of the refusal of the people in them to repent. The people of these towns did believe in the miracles, but this belief did not translate into a change of mind, which was the primary purpose of the miracles that Jesus worked. Also, the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon that were regarded as biblical symbols of evil would fare better on the day of judgement that Chorazin and Bethsaida.
The miraculous and extra-ordinary cannot always sustain faith, which is a gift from God to anyone who wants to receive it and is willing to open the heart and mind. More often than not a kind word or a gentle touch can lead people to repentance.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL - Is Jesus pointing to you as his brother/sister? If yes, Why? If no, why not?


If you wish to read the text click here Mt 12:46-50
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. The first Carmelites were Christian hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The Carmelites built a chapel in the midst of their hermitages on Mount Carmel which they dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
The readings of today are from the Gospel of Matthew and  contains a pointer as to who make up the true family of Jesus. Unlike in Mark, where the “crowd” is pointed out to as the true family of Jesus, in Matthew, it is the community of disciples who make up the true family. The point being made in this text is not so much about the mother or brothers and sisters of Jesus, but about who will be regarded as true members of Jesus’ family. The action of stretching out his hand has been used earlier to portray Jesus as compassionate (8,3) and also an act, which will be used later to show him as the great deliverer who comes to the aid of his disciples (14,31). In the concluding statement, the Matthean Jesus makes clear that discipleship and being a member of his family is not merely a matter of verbal profession even proclamation, but doing the will of God. This aspect makes anyone a brother or sister of Jesus.
We may imagine that because we have been baptised into the faith we can take for granted that we are members of Jesus’ family. This need not be so, since we need to keep renewing our commitment to Jesus and his cause every day. While verbal proclamation does have its place, it alone is not enough. We must show through our deeds whom we believe in. 

Does Jesus Christ have faith in you? Isaiah 1,1-10; Mt 10,34- 11,1


If you wish to read the text click here Isaiah 1,1-10; Mt 10,34- 11,1

These verses make up the conclusion of Matthew’s Mission Discourse. The choice is a difficult one to make and sometimes it may be between even family and one’s conscience. Loyalty to Jesus has priority over loyalty to anyone else or anything, indeed even over life itself. If one is willing to share the cross of Jesus, one will also be given the privilege of his authority. The discourse ends with the affirmation that the disciple is always a representative or ambassador of Jesus and any good done to the disciple will be considered as good done to Jesus himself.
We must keep in mind that the only Jesus that people today can see and touch is the Jesus that we make known through our words and actions. He has allowed us to share in his mission. This is also an enormous privilege, but entails a tremendous responsibility. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mission is where you are. Mission is what you do.


If you wish to read the text click Am 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13


The Church has as its patrons of Missions, two Saints whose lives, at first glance, are diametrically opposite each other. They are St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, also known as the Little Flower, and St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit Saint.
St. Theresa was a cloistered Carmelite nun, who never left the four walls of the Convent from the time she joined it, at the age of 15, until she died at the age of 24.  Francis Xavier, however, was a Saint who literally rushed through the Asian Continent, anxious to preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.
By choosing these two Saints, the Church wants to give us a message that Mission is not a place. Also, Mission is done not merely through active preaching, but also through active prayer. Mission is activity, surely, but mission is also silence. In other words, Mission is where you are, Mission is what you do. Every disciple of Jesus is called to Mission. Every disciple of Jesus is, in fact, a missionary.
This fact is brought out powerfully in the first reading of today when Amos, who was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore trees, is called by God to be a prophet and a missionary. He has no experience of mission work. He has no special qualifications. He has no special education or training. Yet, when God calls, and sends, Amos goes. He does not let threats, intimidation, or any other kind of hindrances come in the way of the mission entrusted to him by God.
This is also the case with the disciples whom Jesus sends in the Gospel text of today. They, too, have no special gifts or talents. They, too, are inexperienced in what the Mission will demand of them. They, too, are raw. Yet, they are called, and sent, and they go.
First, the disciples are sent with the authority of Jesus. They will bear in mind that it is his mission, not theirs. They must proclaim his message, not theirs. It is a mission or commission they receive from the Lord and they must be faithful to it and to him. The content of the Mission on which they are sent is dual. It is to say and to do. It is to preach and to heal. It consists of word and of action. This is an indication that Mission is not merely a spiritual enterprise but extremely practical. It touches, and must touch, every aspect of the life of those to whom the missioner is sent. It also means that they must do what they say and that there must always be a synchrony between their words and actions. Even as they go, Jesus provides them with a strategy. This strategy may be summed up in one word: Detachment. They are to be detached from material possessions, they are to be detached from family ties, and they are to be detached from a particular place. They are also to be detached from the outcome of Mission. The disciples follow the instructions of Jesus to the letter and so are able to do Mission.  They are able to do what Jesus has commanded them to do.
The main reason why they are able to do this is explicated by the second reading of today in which the Ephesians are reminded about the foundation of their lives. Grace upon grace has been poured out on those who have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world. It is God who accomplishes all things, in and through the actions and words of the disciples. God’s plan is that the Gospel, the good news of salvation, be preached throughout the world to everyone who is willing to listen. It is an inclusive plan; no one is excluded.      
This mission that Jesus inaugurated and sent his disciples out on two thousand years ago is a mission that continues even today. It continues to be an all inclusive mission, a mission that includes both word and action. It is still a mission to proclaim the good news that God is, even now in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.  Mission shows this reconciliation in action. Every follower of Christ, every disciple, is called to engage in this mission. It is not done merely by those who are called to the priesthood or religious life. It is not done merely in the villages or “mission stations”, but is done by all and in every place. Whenever and wherever an enhancing word is spoken and a loving action is performed, whenever and wherever reconciliation is wrought and wounds are healed, whenever and wherever love replaces fear, hope replaces despair, truth replaces untruth, light replaces darkness, and life replaces death, then is Mission done again and again and the Mission of Jesus continues.
Even as the Mission continues, the missioner must always keep in mind that detachment from the outcome of mission is an absolute requirement. The Mission is the mission of Jesus and he will, in his own way, and in his own time, ensure that it meets with success. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Do you give up or give in when difficulties come your way? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Will you continue to persevere and trust today? Isaiah 6,1-8; Mt 10,24-33


If you wish to read the text click Isaiah 6,1-8; Mt 10,24-33

In the verses of today, a parallel is drawn between the disciples who are sent by Jesus and Jesus himself. The disciples will share the same fate as their master. His response to negative assessment of his mission was equanimity and this must be the response of the disciples’ as well. They must not retaliate, but continue to persevere in the firm hope that they will eventually succeed. They are asked to be fearless in mission. The command “not to be afraid” is repeated twice in these verses. The reason for their fearlessness is that the Father is in control even if all evidence is to the contrary. If they remain faithful they will show themselves to be true disciples.
We often begin things with a bang and then end them with a whimper. This is because sometimes our enthusiasm runs away with us. What is required is perseverance and this is more likely if we start slowly and steadily (as Jesus himself did) and then let things build up gradually than if we start with much fanfare, which soon fizzles out.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. What do you make of this statement? Hosea 14,2-10; Mt 10,16-23


To read the text click Hosea 14,2-10; Mt 10,16-23

The sayings found in Matthew’s Mission Discourse here are found in the Eschatological Discourse of Mark (Mk 13,9-13). This is an indication that for Matthew, Mission is already eschatological. The punishment, which is referred to here is not random, but official punishment from members of organised authority. Even in this difficult situation the disciples are offered encouragement. They will depend not on their own strength, but on the Holy Spirit. They are to be missionaries even in the courtroom. Their imprisonment and trial must be regarded as an opportunity to make mission known. Mission takes priority even over family ties and if family ties have to be broken because of mission then so be it. The affirmation of the coming of the Son of Man is probably meant to provide succour to the missionaries in their distress.
Jesus is not calling us here to be sadists and look for suffering, persecution and pain. Rather he is challenging us to go about doing what we have to do, to be as prudent as possible about it and if despite that persecution, suffering and pain come, to be prepared and ready for it and not to be afraid.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How often have you focussed on the result rather than on the action? Will you focus only on the action today? Hosea 11,1-4.8-9; Mt 10,7-15


To read the text click Hosea 11,1-4.8-9; Mt 10,7-15

The text of today, which is part of the Mission Discourse of Matthew contains the instructions for Mission. Three points may be noticed. The first is that mission is not only words but also action. Jesus sends the disciples not only to preach but also to heal. The second is that Jesus provides a strategy for mission which may be summarised in one word namely, DETACHMENT. The call is to detachment from anything, which will hold a person up or prevent him or her from engaging in mission. The third is that Jesus calls the disciples from a detachment even from the outcome of mission. They must not be concerned about the results or the fruits, but simply do what needs to be done.
Often, too much of focus on the results of our actions do not allow us to focus on the action itself. Consequently, our action is neither effective nor efficacious. If we continue to keep in mind that the Kingdom is not ours but His and we are only called to do our best in striving to make this kingdom a reality in the lives of others, then our action will be both effective and efficacious. Detachment even from the results of our action is an indication that we are aware that God is always in control.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

How would you define “your” mission today? Are you engaging in mission? Hosea 10,1-3.7-8.12; Mt 10,1-7

If you wish to read Hosea 10:1-3.7-8.12; Mt 10:1-7



The text of today is what may be termed as the Introduction to the Mission Discourse of Matthew (10:1- 42). It is only here that the Twelve are called “apostles”. This may be because of the context of the “sending” of the Twelve. Matthew has arranged the list into six pairs of two, by using the conjunction “and” after the first of each pair. The statement of Jesus to “go nowhere among the Gentiles” (10:5b) might seem harsh, but it must be kept in mind that even historically, the disciples were reluctant to go to non-Jews even after the resurrection and it took considerable time for the Church to realise that it had a universal mission. It must also be noted that this Universality is present at the end of the Gospel of Matthew when the risen Jesus commands the disciples to go to “all nations” (28:18-20).
The Mission of the disciples is both to preach and to heal, to say and do, word and action.
Our Mission as disciples of Jesus is not merely a spiritual enterprise and not only to a select view. It is a practical mission, which includes the material, economic and tangible areas of people’s lives, and must include all. As disciples called to Mission we are called to make the world we live in a better place for everyone.

St. Peter's Church

Monday, 9 July 2012

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Do you agree with this statement? Why? Hosea 8,4-7.11-13; Mt 9,32-38


To read the text Hosea 8,4-7.11-13; Mt 9,32-38

Our text for today includes the final miracle in Matthew’s Miracle Cycle. The response to the same miracle is two-fold. On the one hand, the crowd seeing the miracle are amazed, and speak of their amazement, but on the other, the Pharisees’ the power that Jesus has to Beelzebul. What follows is a summary statement of the words and deeds of Jesus, which is very similar to the summary statement in 4,23 before the Sermon on the Mount. By repeating the summary statement here after the Miracle Cycle, Matthew shows that Jesus is Messiah not only in words (as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount) but also in deeds (as explicated in the Miracle Cycle).
Often the external stimulus is the same for two persons and yet each responds differently. This is an indication that it is not the external stimulus that is causing the response, but the person him/herself. In other words, each of us can decide how we want to respond. We can look at the half-filled or half-empty part of a bottle. We can look at the black spot or at the white wall. It depends on what we want to see and how we see.

On a scale of 1 to 10 where would you mark your faith? Why? Hosea 2,16-18.21-22; Mt 9,18-26


To read the text click Hosea 2,16-18.21-22; Mt 9,18-26

In the text of today, which Matthew has taken from Mark, the sandwich construction is maintained. This means that the first incident is interrupted by the narration of another incident complete in itself, and after this the first incident is resumed and completed. The story that is inserted into the story of raising the ruler’s daughter is the story of the healing of a woman with a haemorrhage. While Mark gives us the name of the leader of the synagogue, Jairus (Mark 5,22), Matthew omits his name. Matthew also omits a number of Marcan details namely Jesus’ question about who touched him and the disciples response, the fear of the woman about being found out and her falling down before Jesus. In Matthew it is very clear that the woman is healed not by a magic touch but by faith. While in Mark, the messengers come to inform Jairus about his daughter’s death, this whole scene is absent in Matthew, because in Matthew, the girl is already dead when the ruler comes to him. This has the effect of the ruler professing resurrection faith in his entreaty.
In Matthew, the story becomes a confessional statement of faith in the power of the resurrected Jesus.
In the first few days or even weeks of a terminal illness, the person who is ill continues to hope that he/she will get well. As time goes by and the healing does not occur, soon hope begins to dim. Finally the person gives up and gives in. The woman’s attitude in the story of today is calling each of us to perseverance, hope and faith and to develop an attitude of never giving up. That we must cultivate such an attitude is made clearer when we realise that Jesus could raise even those whom others gave up for dead.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Does Jesus Christ have faith in you? Isaiah 1,1-10; Mt 10,34- 11,1


To read the text click  Isaiah 1,1-10; Mt 10,34- 11,1
These verses make up the conclusion of Matthew’s Mission Discourse. The choice is a difficult one to make and sometimes it may be between even family and one’s conscience. Loyalty to Jesus has priority over loyalty to anyone else or anything, indeed even over life itself. If one is willing to share the cross of Jesus, one will also be given the privilege of his authority. The discourse ends with the affirmation that the disciple is always a representative or ambassador of Jesus and any good done to the disciple will be considered as good done to Jesus himself.
We must keep in mind that the only Jesus that people today can see and touch is the Jesus that we make known through our words and actions. He has allowed us to share in his mission. This is also an enormous privilege, but entails a tremendous responsibility. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Be careful of saying “I know”. You may miss the Messiah. Ezek 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6



 To read the text click Ezek 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6 


When I go to a place where I am not known, the first question I am often asked is “Father, where are you from?” I reply to this question not in words, but by pointing my thumb and looking upwards at the sky. The person who asks the question will look at my thumb and glance upwards and then respond, “Father, we have all come from heaven, but where are you from?” My response is to continue to point upwards without saying a word. One important reason why I do this is because of what we hear in the Gospel text of today. 
The Jesus, who has come to his hometown, is a Jesus who has been mighty in word and deed. He is a Jesus who has exorcised a demon, healed numerous people including a leper, a paralytic, and a man with a withered arm. He is a Jesus who has calmed a storm, healed a woman with a hemorrhage and even raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He is also a Jesus who has spoken mightily through his word and revealed in simple language that even the unlettered can understand the secret of the kingdom of God. Yet, when he comes to his hometown, instead of being welcomed like the mighty prophet that he has shown himself to be, the people respond with disbelief. This is, first of all, because they “know”. They “know” who Jesus is.  They “know” where he comes from and what he is capable of. They cannot believe that this man, who is one of them, can be capable of all that he has done. They refuse to believe. This is made explicit in the statement, “… and they took offence at him”. Their negative response to Jesus had a tremendous impact on Jesus and on them. While, on the one hand, they rendered Jesus incapable, on the other hand, they missed out on all the graces they could have received if only they had remained open to the revelation that he was making. Thus, Jesus “could do not mighty work there”. However, this did not completely immobilize or paralyze Jesus. He continued to go to places where he was needed and taught.
A similar situation is addressed in the first reading of today. Ezekiel is asked to go to his own people and address them. He is to alert them of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple if they continue to live as they do. He is warned, however, that they are stubborn and impudent. He is warned that they are rude, disrespectful, and closed. Yet, the message has to be communicated and when it has, they will know what they have missed if they refuse to hear.
There are two dangers that the readings of today warn us about. The first is that of our familiarity with the Lord. Since we may be cradle Christians, we may tend to think we know everything about the Lord and thus, set limits on what he can and cannot do. This danger is pointed out to Paul in the second reading of today in which God instructs him to let God be God. He is a human and must trust that God’s weakness is stronger than his strength and that God’s foolishness is wiser than his wisdom. Paul realizes this and therefore can boast about his weakness because he trusts in God’s strength.
The second danger that we are warned about today is Stereotyping. Stereotyping people is common among many today. We stereotype on the basis of country, state, religion, and caste. We tend to categorize people on these bases and so, prejudge them much like the people of Jesus’ hometown did. We lump all of one kind together and look at them with prejudiced and jaundiced eyes. We do not give them a chance to reveal their uniqueness, because once we “know” where they are from, we think we “know” all there is to know about them. We close our minds and eyes and ears and refuse to see and hear. We refuse to change our opinion because of what we already “know”. “They are always like that”, “they will never change”, and “what else can you expect from them” are some of the responses which reflect this closed attitude. This kind of attitude leads to a loss on both sides. We lose out on the individuality of the person we have judged and he or she is not allowed to be the person that he or she is because “We know”.  Be careful of saying “I know”. You may miss the Messiah.

Friday, 6 July 2012

How often have you made rules and regulations ends in themselves? What will you do about it today? Amos 9,11-15; Mt 9,14-17


If you wish to read the text click Amos 9,11-15; Mt 9,14-17 

The question about fasting is raised here by the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus’ first response is that the wedding guests do not fast during the wedding. In other words the time of Jesus is considered as a time of celebration, it is the time of the presence of the Kingdom of God. The second and third responses are about the new cloth and old garment and about new wine in old wine skins. The point here seems to be that both have their place in appropriate settings and must not be mixed up. Fasting does have a place in spirituality, but must not be made an end it itself.
It is possible that even our good actions might take a hold of us and so become ends in themselves. There is only one end: God and all else that we do even if it is good can never be an end. We must use them as means to reach God. This means that if something helps me, I use it, if it hinders me I give it up. 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Is your “usual” way of looking a “negative or pessimistic” way? Will you look at persons, things and events positively today? Amos 8,4-6.9-12; Mt 9,9-13


To read the text click here Amos 8,4-6.9-12; Mt 9,9-13 

The text of today contains the call of Matthew, and Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew that the tax collector is called Matthew. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi. However, in the lists of the Twelve in both Mark and Luke, the disciple is named Matthew and Levi does not appear. It is unlikely that Matthew and Levi refer to the same person. It was rare for Jews to have two different Jewish names. The reason for the author choosing the name Matthew remains unknown. However, in the text what strikes one is that whereas most people who passed by the tax office would see a corrupt official; Jesus was able to see a potential disciple. It was Jesus’ way of looking that led to the transformation and the response of Matthew to the call. In his response to the objection of the Pharisees, Jesus responds with a common proverb about the sick needing a doctor, and also quotes from Hoses 6,6, which here is interpreted to mean that the mercy of God in Jesus is extended to all humanity and takes precedence over everything else. All else must be understood in this light.
There are times when we judge people too easily and many of these times our judgement of them is negative. This is also how we often look at the whole of creation and because we put labels on things, people and all else in creation, we may miss out on the uniqueness that each possesses.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Do you believe that God has forgiven you all your sins? Will you now extend the same forgiveness to at least one person whom you find it difficult to forgive? Amos 7,1-10; Mt 9,1-8


To read the text click Amos 7,1-10; Mt 9,1-8 

The miracle of the healing of the paralytic who was let down from the roof which forms our text for today is found also in Mark (2, 1-12) and Luke (5,17-26). Matthew has omitted some details from Mark and thus shortened his narrative. Through these omissions, Matthew allows the reader to focus exclusively on Jesus and his words. It is unusual that Jesus does not respond to the paralytic’s immediate need but first forgives him his sins. The healing of the man is done later and only as demonstration of the fact that Jesus has power and authority to forgive sin, because the scribes consider Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness of sins as blasphemy. Since Jesus heals by the power of God, he can forgive sins by the same power. In Matthew, the crowd does not praise God for the miracle like they do in Mark and Luke, but for the authority to forgive sins attributed not only to Jesus but to human beings (“such authority to human beings” – Mt 9,8).
Most doctors today are convinced that there is an intimate connection between negative feelings and especially unforgiveness and physical ailments and advice a positive attitude and forgiving and letting go, for quicker healing. If we persist in our unforgiveness, we will continue to have a variety of ailments and sometimes no amount of external medicine will help at all. Forgive it is good for health.